open thread – November 27, 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 :)

{ 708 comments… read them below }

  1. anon consultant

    Applying for some freelance/consultancy jobs in an industry I’ve not worked in since 2013. For personal/family reasons moved back to home country and got a ‘day job’ in a wholly unrelated domain. Wondering how to handle that in resume? Seems odd and misplaced to put my current job, but can’t have the first job I list ending 2013. I don’t want to use a lot of my cover letter going into all that. Thoughts/suggestions? (I’m just sort of thinking ‘aloud’ here.)

    1. anon consultant

      (Could I just list ‘Relevant Employment’ on the resume, and explain current work in one line in cover letter?)

      1. jem

        That’s what I do. Because I have some directly relevant experience and then piles of tangentially relevant experience. I want to keep it on there because it makes me more rounded but don’t want to belabor the point of listing accomplishments since they aren’t that relevant.

    2. AMD

      I might still keep your current work on the resume, in an “Other Experience” section. If you can demonstrate and achievements in current job that would apply to jobs you’re seeking that would be a bonus.

  2. Mirilla

    I’m in a tough spot right now. I’m currently employed but job searching and worked over 10 years at my last company. My old boss was a great reference for me, but I’m having trouble reaching him, and I think he may even be not working anymore in our field. He was always tough to pin down for anything but a great all around guy and so without him I’m stuck. My supervisor at same job wrote me a glowing reference but I didn’t use it on last job search (for current job) because she was very moody, and depending on what mood she was in, I didn’t know what she would say. By moody I mean there were some days I couldn’t even talk to her at all, all day. If I can’t reach old boss, should I provide her written reference and ask that they don’t contact her? It’s going to look weird. This sucks.

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      Yeah it will look weird, I think it will raise lots of questions if you provide a written reference and ask them not to call her. Maybe you can talk to your old supervisor and ask if she will be a reference for you and see what she says.

      1. Mirilla

        I’d love to do that but our friendship fizzled out after I left, and last I remember, she holds grudges for a very long time. I always knew I wouldn’t be able to use her as a reference anyway (due to her unpredictable personality) which is why I never offered her written reference when searching for current job. I have old boss before that job and I can use current boss also so I may just have to do that but I have a 10 year gap there with no reference.

    2. BuildMeUp

      I ahree that only offering the written reference would raise too many questions.

      Is there anyone from your old job who might have stayed in touch with your old boss and have a better way to get in contact with him?

      You might also try having a friend call your old supervisor posing as a reference, just to see what she says.

  3. Former Diet Coke Addict

    I think plenty of American office dwellers are off today, so here’s a non-American focused question I’ve been wondering.

    For non-Americans: What is some advice or are there situations that are unique or only applicable in your country that wouldn’t work anywhere else? (No need to bash the States, though! Just to focus on what’s different and unique in different countries, which is eternally fascinating to me.) For example, I’ve heard that in the UK plenty of offices will have a tea cart available, or the dabbawalla in India–do these present unique challenges or issues that we wouldn’t be aware of if we weren’t there?

      1. Weekday Warrior

        Apparently my Canadian uni had tea carts in the 60s and 70s. :). Retired faculty were very nostalgic for how the carts and tea ladies “drew us all out of our offices”. Long gone alas and I’ve never seen the like in any Canadian workplace in my time.

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          There’s a guy I worked who must be in his late 60’s now who when telling me about the tea service referred to the tea ladies as “Trolley Dolly’s” that made sad for the past not nostalgic.

        2. ella

          Well now I want to be a tea lady. It reminds me of the witch on the Hogwarts train in Harry Potter who sells sweets and things to the kids. I wonder if my job will notice if I start pushing a trolley of foodstuffs around.

          1. Hornswoggler

            I was a tea lady for a while. Actually it was a job doubling as tea lady and cleaner in a big office in a very old building. I used to have to carry a tea tray up a sweeping staircase and then once everyone had a cup, I’d have to clean the kitchen and the loos and sweep the stairs after everyone had gone home.

            And I’ve never heard of a ‘tea-cart’ – it’s always a tea trolley. I didn’t have one due to having all those stairs and no lift.

            1. Panda Bandit

              Saying trolley instead of cart is pretty much a regional thing. They’re both wheeled devices for putting tea stuff on.

        3. Loz

          I did a stint in a large bank in KL about 15 years ago and they had a tea cart. That was my first and only gig thete so not sure if that was still a cultural norm or an anachronism but it was kind of bizarre. You could smoke at your desk too.

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      Tea cart’s used to be a thing in the UK back in the 70’s or 80’s from what I hear (that was well before I was born) I’d be shocked if there were any companies who had them.

      1. Carrie in Scotland

        I see, I was only born in the mid 80’s. I’ve seen them in films but never in reality. I guess it’s been succeeded by the tea/coffee run that (occasionally) happens.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I would so be the one who messes up everybody’s tea. “Let’s see; did Simon want extra milk, or was that Tom? And Dolores had 1-1/2 sugars–oh rats, that was 1/2 sugar! Now I’ve got to start over!”

      2. Emily (UK NP)

        I volunteered at a Hospice which introduced tea carts. I left shortly after that… I couldn’t stand being forced to bring patients tea on “the tea cart schedule” instead of when they wanted one or when they could do with a chat.

        Didn’t actually know it was a real thing. Just got annoyed with the ward manager!

    2. Susan

      Well, in Germany (and I think I’ve mentioned that before) it’s apparently still common practice to put a photo on your resume/application. Other absurdities, like church affiliation and a bizarre amount of information about your familial situation/background, are fortunately only alive with the crustiest of employers, if at all.

      (And not to hijack this thread, but I’d encourage people who have good resources for their respective local job markets to share those too, because I imagine I’m not the only one fretting about where disagreements between my college career coaches and AAM are legit cultural differences, or just them being, well, college career coaches)

      1. GiantPanda

        The “science” of employer testimonials is probably also unique to Germany. An employer will give you a testimonial – what you did and how you performed on the job – when you leave. (The testimonial serves the same purpose as references, which are quite uncommon). It needs to be written both truthfully and nicely – and people do sue over the fine points of wording.

        The result is that there is a whole “secret language” around these – phrases that sound one way but mean just the opposite.
        E.g. “She tried to …” is the worst grade one can get because it implies that you didn’t succeed . “She got along well with colleagues” is very bad – managers and customers are missing. “She was social and improved the atmosphere in the office.” – by drinking and gossiping on the job.
        If you have been a good employee the testimonial should end with the employer’s regret over your leaving and wishes for continuing success. If “continuing” is missing it means you haven’t had much success at that job.

        Whole books have been written about this…

        1. fposte

          Wow, this is absolutely fascinating to me–I think because I’m an academic, and there’s a lot of delicate parsing of the academic written reference along the same lines.

    3. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

      The closest I’ve heard to the tea cart is some sort of drinking cart that goes round for employees to have a free drink on the company. I don’t think that’s terribly widespread though (I have learnt of it on the grapevine)

      I would like to think that umbrella spaces is something unique to the British and our weather, but alas I suspect not!

      I’m not really sure what would be unique to Britain and only Britain. Pummeling my mind, but nothing’s springing to it. I’ll come back if I get some inspiration!

      (I seem to remember we once joked about electrical safety testing in the workplace, but that can’t just be Britain?)

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        When I worked in Australia (about 10 years ago) on a Friday afternoon the boss would pass round tins of beer about 15:00 – 17:00 we’d all have a couple of drinks before going to the pub. My supervisor would even drink his beer whilst driving the forklift truck in the warehouse.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Apparently, this used to be a thing in my company (I’m in the US) long ago, but because everybody here drives, it’s a bit of a liability issue. I suppose that’s why they discontinued it. It’s certainly not the norm. But I have worked other places where we all went to a pub later for Happy Hour, usually on Fridays.

      2. teclatrans

        Not familiar with electrical safety testing being a common thing in US workplaces. I don’t think I had ever heard of it.

    4. Ruth (UK)

      (ps. hahaha a tea cart?)

      In the UK, the law gets a lot more involved in employment stuff. A lot of ‘is this legal’ questions where the answer is ‘yes’ for the usa, it’s ‘nope’ for the UK. Things like firing employees – it’s much harder to fire someone here as they can claim they were fired unjustly for a lot more reasons than just discrimination.

      Because every job has a contract (and has to have one), it also means the law is involved in notice periods. If you don’t work your notice period when leaving a job, your employer may have grounds for legal action against you. In the states I gather it’s more of an etiquette / burning bridge issue. (however many jobs like retail etc have 0 hour contracts which is almost the same as not having one).

      I think we just have a lot of business / etiquette norms in general that differ in some way than in the states.

      (ps. my colleague has just walked up behind me and said ‘a tea cart! I’d love a tea cart! What’s a tea cart? I’d like to try one of them…”

      Ohyeah, also since we have the NHS, it’s unheard of for workplaces to be involved in medical stuff like health insurance in any way (except maybe some situations I haven’t thought of). As above, the law is also just more involved in regulating stuff – like min. break times, holidays, sick leave, etc etc which means that in a lot of cases, you can go to your council over things where, in America, the answer would be ‘that’s unfair, but legal’.

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

        Re: medical stuff. I love how uninvolved companies get to be in my medical decisions! That said, I know a lot of private companies offer private medical insurance, and of course there’s occupational health which can get involved and make medical recommendations to your company. It’s definitely a lot more private than the US though!

        1. Elizabeth West

          You would haaaaate the way we do it here. My company’s insurance contract means we have to do biometric screenings (they weigh you–I always refuse, do a blood pressure check, and take down a health history). If you do it, you get a small discount off the insurance cost that comes out of your paycheck. If you don’t do it, it costs more. I do it, but I hate it.

          They also give you another discount if you don’t use tobacco. And if you lose your job, there goes your insurance.

          1. asteramella

            In the U.S., it is actually legal to charge up to 30% more for health insurance (for the cost of employee-only coverage) for employees who refuse to participate in an employer-sponsored “wellness program.”

    5. LSCO

      Holidays/vacation. In the UK we get at least 28 days paid annual leave (for full time workers) – guaranteed by law. But there are few companies (at least in my experience) which will let you roll over any unused leave – it’s take it or lose it. The thinking behind it (as I understand) is it encourages people to actually take the time off work rather than keep it banked and thus undermining the point of granting annual leave in the first place. It also means there’s also little-to-no stigma or guilt attached to taking time off from work – it’s just a cost of doing business.

      (I suppose it also helps that we get statutory sick pay if you’re off sick for over 5 days – there’s no need to use annual leave entitlement to cover long periods of sickness).

      1. Quirk

        Most places I’ve worked (UK, software) let you roll your holiday days over up to a maximum (anywhere from 5 to 14 days) – it may be field dependent?

        1. Apollo Warbucks

          It’s not field dependant, you must by law meet the minimum legal holiday which is 20 days (plus 8 public holiday) my company gives me 25 days (plus 8 public holidays) so the company at their discretion could let me carry over 5 days in to the next year.

          As far as I can remember the law changed around 2009 so the obligation on employers to make sure holiday was taken was stricter

          1. Quirk

            Well, I know people who’d accumulated holiday over the course of a few years who were quite possibly working the full 28 days and rolling over the rest, but my comment on it being field dependent was responding to LSCO’s suggestion that few companies let you do that – obviously LSCO’s experience differs from mine.

          2. Merry and Bright

            Yes, they closed a kind of loop hole so now the 20 guaranteed days from your employer can’t include the statutory/public days in the 20. Sometimes politicians do something nice…

          3. EvilQueenRegina

            I get the 25 days plus 5 added on since I hit 5 years continuous service, also if I have up to 5 days left over at the end of the year I can carry them over.

            1. Alanis

              I’m in public sector and 7 months away from my 10 years service which will bump me to 33 vacation days (not including the 8 stats). I can.not.wait! Currently it seems like you can roll over up to 5 days with no fuss, but more than that goes up the ladder for approval.

      2. Anita Newname

        American here (actually do have to work today!) I’ve always wondered how paid holidays worked for people like police officers, hospital workers, or other occupations similar to that that have to work holidays. Do they get a different paid day off or are they paid double for holidays?

        1. Ruth (UK)

          when I worked shift-based fast food, we used to get paid time and a half when we worked on bank holidays (incl boxing day etc), but then they stopped that. We still got double for xmas day though. I don’t know how it works for police jobs etc. I imagine they accrue holiday pay and count it in hours rather than working days?

        2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night

          My husband works at a 24/7 TV station. He can either get double time or take another day off. He chooses to take the days off, so he had 12 floating holidays to use throughout the year (on top of 4 weeks of vacation!).

        3. Loz

          Australia has something called ‘leave loading’ whereby you get paid 17% more during paid time off to compensate for missed overtime opportunity!

          I think it’s largely a thing of the past but you occasionally see it on job descriptions for government or ex government organizations.

        4. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

          In New Zealand, you get paid time and a half for working on a public holiday, plus you get an extra day’s leave to be taken at another time IF that day would have otherwise been a working day for you. So if I usually work Tuesday-Saturday, and I get asked to work a Monday that’s a public holiday, I get paid 1.5x my ordinary rate, but I wouldn’t get the additional holiday.

        5. SaraV

          I worked in health care in the US, but in an office setting. So the office/non-urgent care clincs would be closed on six federal holidays, but the hospitals/urgent care were open. ALL of our PTO came out of one bucket, including federal holidays. You’d accrue x amount of hours per pay period, that amount increasing the longer you stayed with the company. After the first year, I was nearly accruing a day a pay period. This did bite me on my behind since I started the week before Thanksgiving, and I didn’t have enough PTO hours accrued to use for all three end-of-the-year holidays. Not to mention I got terribly sick on Christmas Day that same year and I could. not. afford to take an unpaid sick day.

          Even with that medium-sized speed bump to start my job, I kind of liked that type of PTO. Office/clinic workers could use the PTO for federal holidays, but the hospital workers wouldn’t miss out on days off if they had to work a holiday.

        6. Cordelia Longfellow

          For police, at least where I work in Canada, a few front-line officers might be able to take a holiday off if they request it far enough in advance and/or have senority. There are definitely minimum staffing threshholds for Halloween, New Year’s Eve, etc., so there’s also lots of overtime opportunities for officers who aren’t scheduled to work. Otherwise, officers working can usually choose between time-and-a-half or banking a day’s leave. Growing up with police officers as parents, we’d often just shift the holiday to their next day off.

          For officers in investigative units (which typically work regular-ish business hours), I’ve seen units saw that officers have to work two out three of the next holidays to ensure coverage.

        7. Edacious

          Hospital worker here in Canada. If I work a holiday I get paid either double or more per hour. If the holiday falls on my day off, then I get another day off paid.

      3. Special Snowflake

        Oh my! I am from the UK and took all those wonderful perks for granted! I live in Canada now, and employment law and benefits here seem to be way more generous than in the US, but still, compared to the UK are still fairly meager. I do, however, recall a company I worked for back in the eighties, where there was indeed a tea and coffee trolley, and also it carried various snacks. It wasn’t free, but it was heavily subsidized. Those were the days!

    6. Quirk

      There are so very many things, and Ruth’s done a good job of mentioning a few. I’ll throw one in of my own.

      Contracting seems to work entirely differently in the US than the UK, at least from the vibe I’ve been getting from the board here.

      In the UK, it’s not uncommon for high-end professionals with skills in finance or business or software to have a personal service company – a limited company which contracts with the client. Provided the contract falls within certain slightly ill-defined constraints, this is considered a proper business-to-business relationship, and the contractor benefits from being able to extract money from the company as dividends at a tax-efficient time. Contracting in high-demand fields is vastly more profitable than working in a permanent job, and recruiters joke and grumble about the difficulty of persuading contractors that accepting a permanent job would be in their interest.

      I get the impression that the US is rather different, and that people who’re on contract are mostly very keen to become permanent employees.

    7. misspiggy

      You don’t get tea carts these days, more’s the pity, but you do have to make tea runs for the people who sit nearest you in most UK offices – I mean a run to the kettle, not to the cafe. You have to memorise everyone’s strength, milk and sugar preferences too. Spreadsheets have been known to happen.

      1. Apollo Warbucks

        I’m sure it’s a sackable offence in most offices not to offer to get a round in!

        I’ll post a link below for a solution to the strength problem

        1. Violet Rose

          I frequently joke that I was literally sacked for not making the tea often enough.

          The sad thing is, it’s not completely a joke – except it would be far more accurate to say I was sacked for smiling at my computer. Because the only reason anyone ever smiles at their computer is if they’re on Facebook, don’tchaknow. There really is no crazy like small business crazy.

      2. Ruth (UK)

        People in my office are very particular about their tea preferences! The last time we hired I remember one of the first things I did for them was make a list of how everyone takes their tea, which new employee did not find to be the slightest bit odd. I also know the tea preferences of all my friends, housemates and past housemates… I think making someone’s tea incorrectly in my office would be a bigger deal than a work related error…

        1. Ruth (UK)

          Apologies for the double post but my boss has been known to say to me ‘we have some visitors soon’ and then hand me a post it with something like:
          2 x w, 2l, strong
          1 x b, o, strong

          Etc. Ie.. 2 teas with 2 lumps (sugar), strong. One black, no sugar. Etc.

        2. Not So NewReader

          Silly question…. Why doesn’t every just fix their own tea if it’s a big deal for someone to make an error?

          1. Ruth (UK)

            I think it’s difficult to explain but… I think british people enjoy to fix tea for people. Everyone in my office makes the tea incl the office manager and director. We’ve gotten into “who would like a cup of tea?” “no, you made it last time, please allow me” “no, that’s ok, please sit down” “honestly, I haven’t made it yet today” etc.

            I also think it would be a tremendous slight to boil the kettle and and only make one for yourself, and not offer round. It’s just… sort of a thing :D

            1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

              It’s an etiquette thing for sure. Plus, I am convinced that British people just can’t start a conversation unless it involves tea.

              When you visit a house, the very first thing any host will do is offer you a cup of tea, so it’s a really inclusive, friendly ritual; only making tea for yourself is almost… hostile?

              1. Ruth (UK)

                I have also been offered a cup of tea at most job interviews I have gone to (even including the one where I interviewed for the job I worked at in a fast food store. It was in a fast food cup though :D). One of my previous jobs was door-to-door and I was offered cups of tea by strangers who were not interested in signing up for the thing I had to be trying to get people to sign up for – but were perfectly happy to give me a cup of tea!

            2. Tau

              Interesting to know that’s a British thing in general, I’d thought it was a my-office thing when I started and realised this was how it was done.

              I also find it handy if I need a break, because we don’t seem to do breaks outside of lunch and getting tea for five people is a good, legitimate excuse to get up and wander round and stretch a bit.

          2. Ruth (UK)

            by the way, if you’re ever serving tea to a british person and they have NOT specified how they want it made, the default is white, no sugar.

            People who want it black will almost always tell you, and if they don’t inform you, they’ll understand if you put milk in. Sugar is added last anyway so it’s best to default to none unless it’s asked for, as it can always be added later.

            (milk first in the cup if you’ve already brewed in a teapot), water first if you’re doing it straight into the mug from the kettle. Water must be at boiling point at the time it touches the teabag).

            1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

              No, no, no! Sugar first so the water dissolves it. Unless you add the milk on top of it first – which I think is supposed to be the “posh” way to make tea, but which is also A Bit Wrong absent teapot (milky tea before the water’s added just takes all the strength out of the tea)

              1. Ruth (UK)

                ok, sugar DOES go first if you know someone wants it, but it’s not a terrible crime to add the sugar last (however it IS a terrible crime to give someone a cup of tepid water and a dry teabag and I literally applauded maggie smith when she had that rant about this exact thing in the movie the second best exotic marigold hotel but i digress…)

                1. Tau

                  The tepid water and the teabag! Coffee shops tend to be terrible about this, I’ve found. Even if they put the teabag in first – I don’t know what they do or if their water just isn’t quite boiling or what, but you can’t get a decent cup of tea at Starbucks or Caffe Nero or the like for love or money. *grumps*

                2. Swoop

                  @Artist Formerly Known as UKAnon – I’d call it a tossup between microwaved tea and reheated tea myself…and the true abomination being microwaved tea that’s reheated by being microwaved again *shudder*

                3. The RO-Cat

                  I never could understand why anyone would put anything in tea and coffee, let alone milk and sugar! (though I accept different people have different tastes, some I can wrap my head around, albeit with some effort; some, not so much).

                4. Elizabeth West

                  Ewww, tepid water; that’s disgusting. I also don’t like it when people pour milk in when the tea bag is still in the cup, but I just fish it out and don’t say anything.

                  My preference is teabag (or loose tea in infuser), boiling water, one sugar, milk. If it’s really nice tea, I use less sugar. I’m trying to wean myself off it. :)

                5. Kora

                  @Tau – they’ll often get the hot water out of the coffee machine, which will generally do 80° (better for coffee), instead of 100° (better for tea).

                6. Kimberlee, Esq.

                  Non-americans might be interested to know that there have been lawsuits here about serving people boiling water (it’s often waved off as a “frivolous” lawsuit, but there was one woman who got coffee at McDonald’s and it spilled on her lap, and burned her so badly she had to get skin grafts). So, there’s a threshold above which you can’t serve hot beverages in America, and I suspect that’s got a lot to do with all this!

      3. Carrie in Scotland

        We don’t do tea runs in my office. We make our own. Which has been the same in most places I’ve worked at.

        In my last job my manager made the tea(!!)/coffee.

        @Ruth – I’ve never once been offered tea in an interview either! :( (just water)

      4. SaraV

        As an American that started drinking tea before coffee at a fairly early age here in the States (8? 9?), I LOVE this discussion so much.

        1. misspiggy

          There is a great tea thread on The Toast at the moment that everyone in this discussion should visit!

    8. The RO-Cat

      Romanian here (so, under lot of European laws regarding labor). Off the top of my head and with the caveat that my experience might not be always valid elsewhere in the country:
      – work contracts are mandatory. The “default” document spells wage, PTO (a minimum of 21 days/year, IIRC), working hours, protection / working gear if needed;
      – written Job Description mandatory;
      – written, formal evaluation at least 1/year mandated by law;
      – also mandatory are a document we call ROI (regulations valid for the company employees, including offenses and fireable offenses / gross misconduct) and also the company organization chart;
      (as a side note, although firing someone is a pain, the law has a loophole where a company has the right to fire an employee on the spot for “gross misconduct”, as long as the dastardly deed is laid out in the above-mentioned ROI document. Employers are starting to cram all sort of things in the “gross misconduct” section, to be covered in case of lawsuit or Labor Dept audit)

      Non-law:
      – bigger companies have some sort of free / paid drinks (at least water fountains), smaller ones not so much
      – coffee is a Big Thing here – even with free coffee machines people will group and buy “real” coffee; we seem to looove our coffee!
      – office politics seem to be a never-ending plague at all levels, more so in medium- and small-sized companies
      – owners seem to love to micromanage the business to the ground, generally
      – we have a lot (a lot!) of paid public holidays, and when one falls close to the weekend we get the intermediate days free also (like this year, Dec 1-st – our national holiday – is on a Tuesday, so Monday is also free for a 4-days-long mini-vacation)
      – public health sucks big time. It’s supposedly free (we all contribute by law), but …
      – the state takes a humongous amount in taxes, contributions a.s.o. For 1 RON (our currency) paid in net to the worker, the company pays 0,8 – 1 RON to the state
      – prices for consumers always include all taxes (I was shaking my head finding that Americans have to do quick in-store calculations to see how much they will ultimately pay)
      – inter-employees gift / cash giving for birthdays seems quite common; also, cookies and juice, but rarely alcohol
      – the general atmosphere in local companies is more paternal – there are owners who like to see themselves as “pater familia”. Bigger companies, multinationals etc are not included here.

      If I remember anything more, I’ll call back.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Taxes on purchases. Sometimes our taxes have taxes. So even if they tell you it will be plus tax there is more than that. I remember one time, my father played around with the numbers on his utility bill. He found $2 unaccounted for. He called. The utility company said that it was a tax and by law they did not have tell people they were paying it. I won’t talk about what happens when you buy a car.

        1. The RO-Cat

          Sometimes our taxes have taxes

          He he! The fuel price here is made up of 3 different things: the fuel itself (about 45% to 50% of the final price), an excise tax and, on top of all, VAT. Excepting that they apply VAT to the excise tax in the process! Man, fuel prices are wild down here!

      2. The RO-Cat

        Also: free Wi-Fi almost everywhere (gas stations, restaurants, bars, hotels, even groceries). Romania is in the top 3 or 5 countries with regard to Internet quality and availability, IIRC. Company offices (usually) have a Wi-Fi password, but regular guests / partners do get it.

        Romanians will be quick to proudly show their language skills to foreigners. As an American / Brit (or French, for that matter) you’d have little to no trouble living, working or shopping here, language-wise.

        We seem to prefer a more indirect / polite / soft approach to almost everything. Many of Alison’s proposed wording would be perceived as impolite / abrasive here, in many cases (I know generalizations are tricky, I use “we” as a shorthand for “many people here”).

        1. Jen RO

          Most Romanians *say* that “we” (as a people) speak good English, but in my experience it’s mostly a myth. When I started getting involved in hiring for my job I thought I’d find tons and tons of young people who speak perfect English – boy was I wrong! And, even here in Bucharest, many people seem intimidated, if not downright scared, of people who speak foreign languages. I do hope that things are getting better with the internet generation!

          And +100 for Cat’s last point – you could cause a serious rift here if you used most of Alison’s scripts.

          1. The RO-Cat

            Well, I only said they’re “quick to proudly show their language skills”. I never said what those skills amounted to ;-)

      3. Jen RO

        TIL that yearly evaluations are mandated by law.

        But we actually don’t get the intermediary day off if a holiday falls in a convenient spot, they simply made St. Andrew (Nov 30th) a national holiday last year.

        1. The RO-Cat

          It’s one or two years; the difference is in the monthly… allowance (?) the state pays. You get more, depending on your salary, if you return after a year; you get less (a fixed amount? maybe) if you choose two years. Decent amounts, both, as I’ve been told (I’m a man, so my knowledge isn’t quite up to date).

    9. Blurgle

      That outside the US the employer has little to no say as to whether a dismissed or laid-off employee gets unemployment insurance benefits.

      That it’s quite possible outside the US to earn a good living covering maternity/parental leave. Some larger companies actually have full-time mat leave floaters on staff.

      That at-will employment is not the norm outside the US, and that doesn’t mean you can’t ever fire someone; it only means you can’t fire someone for no reason and not give them severance pay.

    10. The IT Manager

      I worked for SHAPE in Belgium in the early 2000s. One of the organizations based in the Netherlands (not mine; I only saw this while TDY) did have tea cart still going around. There was tea and cookies (I think the Brits would call them biscuits) on a cart rolled through the corridor.

      Back at home in Belgium, my British colleague brought in a hot plate and would announce twice a day (mid-morning and mid-afternoon), “I think it’s tea time” and proceed to make hot water for tea.

      Also the cafeteria (a true cafeteria) served alcohol for lunch with wine in single serving bottles to be poured into wine glasses. And, well, in Belgium the beer must be served in the glass designed for it.

      1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

        We have cookies! But we distinguish cookies and biscuits (and cakes, if it’s a Jaffa Cake biscuit-that-may-not-be-a-biscuit)

          1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

            Yep. They are, in fact, a cake with biscuit-like qualities, and therefore you pay less VAT on a jaffa cake (it being a necessity) than on tampons (they being a luxury). THAT surely has to be a British thing.

            1. Merry and Bright

              Yep! The tampon VAT is like a tax on being female. Why is it not classed as a medical item? Random stuff like cake decorations are VAT exempt. Grrr.

              1. Elizabeth West

                They do that here too (US). It’s super annoying. I really want to sit in their chair without a pad some time. “Oh well you said it was a luxury, so I guess I don’t really need it! Sorry about your upholstery!”

                Also Jaffa Cakes are FABULOUS. I love the raspberry ones. :)

            2. Finny

              Not totally. Up until earlier this year we had to pay GST (Goods and Services Tax, if I remember correctly) on feminine hygiene products here in Canada.

            1. Liana

              I’ve lived in the US my entire life and never heard anyone call it a scone (rhyming with on). Is that a thing?

                1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

                  Ha, I thought it was the other way round. Liana, I used to waitress, and I can promise that pronunciation was 50/50 split of ‘own’ v ‘on’.

            2. Merry and Bright

              Not sure about posh, but I say it to rhyme with “own” just because it’s more phonetic.

          1. Panda Bandit

            Nah, biscuits from the US are savory and have different uses. Sometimes they’re sliced in half and put to work as sandwich bread, sometimes they’re meant to mop up gravy and sauces with your meal.

            1. Artemesia

              Biscuits in the US are sort of like scones but rarely sweet and usually not quite as hard as scones, but sometimes. They are served as dinner rolls, as sandwich bread for sausage or egg sandwiches for breakfast, as a base for creamed sausage (sausage gravy) which is a big thing in the south but not the north and are accompaniments at breakfast eaten with butter and jam and honey etc.

              1. Panda Bandit

                That’s a great description. Lumping biscuits in with scones is a pet peeve of mine, ever since the time I made a batch of lemon scones for my family and they treated them like biscuits.

          2. mander

            An American biscuit is not quite like a scone, but a savoury scone is the best approximation I’ve come up with when trying to explain biscuits and gravy to British people.

            Also I can never decide how to pronounce scone, so I wind up saying “skown, skon, whatever, one of those things” and point at it.

    11. Merry and Bright

      I think tea trolleys were common enough in many UK offices way back but since I’ve been working (1980s) kitchens and vending machines are much more normal. (Not to mention takeaway coffees from Stsrbucks or wherever).

      For the record, going by AAM, kitchen and fridge issues seem to be identical in the UK as in the US so I feel in good company :)

    12. IrishGirl

      In Irleand, it’s very very hard to fire someone (for anyone who’s permanant and been working for more than two years).

      You can be deemed to be “unfairly dismissed” even if there is no doubt that you committee a fireable offence, but if there is any irregularity with the dismissal procedure. Irish employers have an almost legal-esque burden of proof.

      Several employees have recently won unfair dismissal cases against the supermarket they used to work for, when they were dismissed for selling alcohol to someone under 18 (punishable by a court-order closure of several days and a €1000 for the shop). In both cases the fact that what they did was illegal was not challenged, not the fact that they did it; one won because the company hadn’t allowed her an internal appeal and one won because they company hadn’t provided an interpreter, and it was deemed that this was unfair treatment as the person in question was not a native English speaker.

    13. Worker Bee (Germany)

      Having worked in the US as well, two things appeared odd to me in the sense it was so different to what I was use to from Germany. The first one was mentioned before. The vacation days. Very bad surprise when finding out I had 5 days for the whole year! Legal minimum in Germany is 24. A positive surprise was the fact that the organization I worked at would close a weekday if a banking holiday was a weekend day. Would never happen in Germany. But I am aware that this was my organizations decision and not an overall thing.
      The other thing is paternity and maternity leave. It’s a huge part of German employment law. I hear a lot of Americans would like to have it. Which I get. But there are so many downsides to this. Because of these kind of strict laws gender discrimination is a much bigger issue still in Germany. Right now i would be considered a risk by an employer if I were job searching bc I am of the age for having kids. Also promotions are hard to get bc of the risk that a woman might be gone for a whole year soon. Frustrating for a Lot of women.

    14. Ruth (UK)

      I’ve been thinking further about this other than tea and the legal side of things.

      I think English people are, in general, more private than American people. At least in my office, personal gossip is a lot less than I seem to gather it is in the workplaces of other people posting on here. I know VERY little about the personal life of my colleagues (of which I have 8, in an open plan office). I often don’t even know if they’re single/dating/married/have kids/etc.

      My boss is an extremely private person. She is quite expressionless as well and though she is very pleasant (and has shown on occasion to be fairly witty) I think she tends to come across as serious and a bit cold unless you know her well. I think the same can be said of quite a lot of people I know in a work-setting.

      I think the way we handle ourselves means that whatever an issue may be, it manifests and turns out, happens and is dealt with in quite a different way. I have an American mother and have visited the states many times in my life. Personally, I find Americans to be more forward (in general), much more direct, and much more chatty in situations where I would definitely sit/stand in silence or exchange only a greeting. Though I often like Alison’s ‘be direct’ approach to many things, I think it is a lot less likely to be followed in a British office where people will be too afraid of being labelled by their coworkers for being too forward, or aggressive about things.

      If you’re ever trying to guess the motive of a brit, it’s this: they’re trying to be, or at least appear to be polite.

      So in short, I think it’s less about tea-trolleys and things and more about how different mannerisms and behavioural norms in different cultures means that issues get addressed and dealt with in different ways, and different things become issues.

      1. Jen RO

        Huh, I was going to say that *Americans* seem very private at work judging by what I read here. I know almost everything about my (close) coworkers, from their weekend plans with their SO to their latest doctor’s appointment. I think the only thing that is not openly discussed is sex (but we do make a lot of “that’s what she said” type jokes!).

    15. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

      Everyone has to have a written employment agreement. It’s non-negotiable and they’re really starting to crack down on people who don’t.

      Coming up to Christmas, public holidays are a big one! We have 10 national public holidays, plus your regional anniversary, each year. If you don’t work those days, it’s a free paid day off (your employer actually legally cannot deduct any type of leave for a public holiday). If you do work it, you get paid time and a half, plus if you would normally work that day you get an extra day off (called an “alternative day”, sometimes referred to as a “lieu day” although that’s old terminology) to take later.

      Christmas/New Year holidays are transferrable, as are our national days (Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day). Meaning: if they fall on a Saturday or Sunday and you don’t normally work that day, they move to the following business day and you observe them then. If you do normally work the Saturday/Sunday, they’re observed on the day. Great scheme, but I work in payroll in an industry with non-regular rosters. Working out which day is to be observed as the public holiday can be a bucket of fun.

      We have 3.5 days per year with very strict rules around who can open. Basically only essential services are allowed to be open, except for a few towns with “tourist destination” exemptions. Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day, and until 1pm on ANZAC Day. Easter Sunday is the one that bothers people, because it’s not a public holiday (Good Friday and Easter Monday are the holidays). So, anyone who works those days is forced to take a day’s annual leave, which some people get grumpy about.

      Vacation/leave! 20 days annual leave, 5 days sick leave by law. Plus bereavement leave: 3 days for an immediate family member, 1 day for anyone else you had a connection to. There’s no such thing as “use it or lose it” vacation. It stays until you take it. That said, if you’re not taking leave (I think after a couple of years) your employer can force you to take it. We’re a country that likes to travel, though, and so most people have no issue taking their leave. On that note, we’re a lot more inclined to take long vacations than many other places — because everywhere else is so far away! I just booked four weeks’ vacation for next September, and no one thought that was over the top.

      Parental leave! 16 weeks paid by the government (18 weeks from 1 April 2016), but only up to around $500 per week. Unpaid parental leave of up to a year and your employer has to hold your job unless they can prove it’s a key role and hiring someone to fill it for a fixed term isn’t possible. The law is pretty strict about this, you can’t just claim it’s a key role willy-nilly. Lots of larger organisations have a scheme whereby if you return from parental leave for x months, they’ll pay you a lump sum of up to x weeks full salary.

      We have a whole section of the law around people’s rights to request flexible working arrangements. Lots of people do them informally, but there’s a whole formal process. It used to just be for people who had care of another person but earlier this year it was extended to everyone. You basically describe the arrangement you want, whether it’s temporary or permanent, how it will help you, how it will affect your workplace/colleagues and how you’re planning to mitigate that. Your employer has a month to respond, and only a strict set of reasons for outright refusal.

      Anything else people are curious about? :)

    16. Silver

      I work in Australia but occasionally spend a week in our Honk Kong office *(multi-national co).
      I’ve noticed a few differences between the office cultures.

      In HK everyone takes their lunch hour and leaves the building.
      In AU a large number of people only take a half hour and some even eat at their desks.

      In HK people start around 9-9.30am and leave around 6pm.
      In AU you start anywhere between 7;30am and 9:30am and work to anywhere from 5 – 7pm depending on workload and when you arrive etc. The expectation is that you do about 8 hours of work a day salaried (which may be why some people curtail their lunch break to get out earlier). Although many people will work longer if the workload requires it.

      In HK there is a cleaner on duty at all times who will come and pick up your coffee mugs at certain times during the day and so on.
      In AU if you don’t wash your own mugs (or put in a communal dishwasher) you will face the censure of your peers quite quickly. (The cleaners come at night to empty bins and vacuum but don’t usually clean your dishes).

      And finally if you start working for a multi-national in AU it might be a good idea to get your passport renewed. I’ve been to meetings in our regional head office a few times in the last two years and i’m nowhere near C-level.

  4. Ruffingit

    Last day at work today. It’s just me, the doc, and my boss in the office. Very quiet in my office today since I’m alone here. I came in to a lovely very personalized gift from a friend who works downstairs. Such a nice way to begin the last day.

      1. Ruffingit

        It was! The doctor I work with took me to lunch and I finished everything up in time to leave a bit early. Felt strange leaving even though it’s a good move for me.

  5. Art education

    Well, I got into the art education program as a second-degree student! Input from people online is 100% “this is a bad idea” and from people in person 100% encouraging. I have about a week left to make my decision. Any thoughts?

    Notes
    -I would be a second-degree student because I went to college immediately after high school, when for health reasons I shouldn’t have been in school. I graduated, but it wasn’t pretty. I think of this as going back to what I should have done in the first place.
    -This is possible for me to afford, but not easy. Helps that there is some money saved for this and the first school I went to was extremely inexpensive.

    1. danr

      Hopefully as a second degree you have your career plans laid out in front of you. You’ve made your new worker mistakes and are ready to move on. Both my wife and I went back to get degrees in different fields than we started out it. In our cases, they were graduate degrees, but they were the minimum entry level degrees for the fields. I’ll say that we were much happier in our new fields and they provided good employment through the years.
      So, if you’re sure… do it.

      1. Art education

        Thank you for your comment. It’s good to hear how a career change via school has worked out for you.

    2. Artemesia

      The schools my kids attended in two states basically have gotten rid of art education before high school; at one school parents raised money to pay for someone part time for art and for music. The school my grandchild attends in another city has no art teachers — budget. High schools still have art classes and teachers but there is a glut of people with those qualifications; my daughter’s SIL is an art teacher in a high school so the jobs do exist but they are few and far between. What is the record of the school you plan to attend in placing graduates? How many jobs like this are available each year in the area you are living? Are you free to move anywhere in the country there might be an opening.

      1. Art education

        Hey, thank you for responding! I really like your comments on this site.

        The job placement rate of the college is good, but I haven’t checked for this specific program. I’ll check that out today.

        The school district here has strong arts programs. I grew up here, too, and I’ve only seen the art classes and schools expand. Everything in the district is expanding: they’re building new schools as fast as they can to keep up with a growing population.

        But I would also be very happy to move somewhere else.

        1. ella

          If you’re in an area that is into charter schools, there may be charter schools that focus on art education. I don’t know about the process/likelihood of getting a job there, but it’s out there.

          I have a couple of cousins who are art therapists, but I don’t know if that’s anywhere near what you want to be doing.

          1. Artemesia

            Alas the primary purpose of charter schools is to generate profits for grifters and pay teachers as little as possible. Not always — but usually.

      2. Sara

        To add to this, I see a lot more openings for part time art teachers in public schools in my area than I do full time postings (I’m an elementary/ESL teacher), but full time jobs are definitely out there. (Can’t speak to how competitive those are though.) My school (large public K-8 in a large urban district) has two full time art teachers, and it’s not uncommon for schools in the district to employ a full-time art teacher plus another part-time art teacher, or for art teachers to split time between two buildings. I don’t know what turnover in the arts is like, but overall my district is really good about moving part-timers or subs into full time jobs if appropriate positions open (as opposed to hiring in new people who haven’t worked for the district).

        1. Sara

          Also, my current district and the one I used to work for are MAD for specialist subs who actually have knowledge of the content area, so be on the lookout for maternity/paternity/etc. leave sub positions for art teachers as you move through your program – it’s more experience and the chance for a good recommendation, or even a foot in the door.

    3. Seal

      I got 2 masters degrees in my early to mid 40s that I have parlayed into a very successful career as an academic librarian. Like the OP, I went to college straight out of HS, but I floundered around and took the scenic route to graduate with a degree in something I found only marginally interesting. However, I have always viewed my returning to school for an MLIS as a natural progression from being a paraprofessional in academic libraries for 18 years. Plus I worked my backside off from the minute I started my first professional position to get to where I am today, and plan to continue to work at least that hard to reach my goal of being an administrator. For me, it was very much worth the time and effort is took to get additional degrees; the one thing I struggle with now is why I didn’t do it sooner.

      My advice to the OP is if you are planning to commit that much time, energy, and money to another degree, make sure you have an end goal in mind. More importantly, make sure you take advantage of all of the options available you in school – such as internships, volunteer opportunities and the like – to build your skills and your network. Your primary goal is not necessarily to get the degree but to get a job that requires this particular degree; consider pursuing this degree as a means to an end rather than the end itself and you’ll do fine.

    4. ella

      My second-degree plan didn’t work out for me, but I did the reverse of what you did–did pretty well in college the first time around, but went back the second time (various reasons why I went for a second bachelor’s instead of a master’s or some such), got overwhelmed by mental health issues and didn’t graduate. The fact that you say you can afford it makes me feel better (hopefully you don’t mean, “I’m getting student loans to cover all of this,” because, well, don’t do that.)

      Definitely put a lot of focus on networking and getting yourself prepared (mentally and logistically) for what you want to do after school. I feel like for a lot of jobs these days, what you do outside of school is just as/if not more important than what you do to get your degree. Best of luck!

  6. Diluted_TortoiseShell

    This is the weirdest problem I have ever had at work, but it is really starting to get to me.

    Most of my office workers are very vocal about the fact that they hate cats.

    For the most part I have tried to ignore the cat hate in the office because I figured that showing them that it irritates me would do nothing but escalate it. However, they seem to be feeding off of each other so the cat hate has seriously escalated.

    Examples of work cat hate conversations that always seem to find my ears …

    “I saw a cat cross the street this morning … I sped up but I”m afraid I missed.”

    “Hey Diluted_TortoiseShell, have you found a home for those stray cats yet? If not I could use some target practice.”

    “The only good cat is a dead cat.”

    “No one in this office likes cats.” “Doesn’t Diluted likes cats?” “Well Diluted is stupid because cats are freaks.”

    There have also been visceral drawings of dead cats put as screen savers, toy cats put in abusive poses (think hanging from nooses or left in pools of ketchup) and other similar “jokes”.

    We have a small office of about 10 people. At least 5 different people are participating including one of the managers.

    Help! Is this as big a deal as I feel it is or am I just really skewed because I love my cats so much? I don’t even bring up cats because I know where they will go with it and I am pretty new in the office so I don’t want to make waves.

    Should I just tell them firmly I don’t want to hear things like that at work? Should I talk to my supervisor? It’s such a large portion of the office and we have a prank culture here. I could care less if my desk is doused in water, glitter, or confetti but talking about animal harm really pisses me off!

    Ugh. Sorry for the long post.

    1. the gold digger

      I don’t have an answer but I want to know what people say. I have a facebook friend (have never met in person) who almost always has a nasty comment when I post about my cats (which I do frequently).

      I don’t make a point of making nasty comments on other peoples’ posts. If I don’t like something, I ignore it. I find her comments rude. I am thinking that the next time she says something, I will write, “Wow, Friend! This is news to me that you do not like cats! :)” but I am thinking that might be too subtle.

      I am waiting for an answer on this!

        1. Karowen

          Seriously! I would’ve unfriended her – anyone who is being that rude over a post about animals (seriously, it’s not like it’s something offensive!) needs to go.

      1. BRR

        I would either block her or reply “what is your goal in being so negative on my post versus just not replying?”

      2. Book Person

        Holy crap. In some ways that seems worse to me than just general conversation, because she’s specifically coming after your posts. I would either filter/block her or, if you want to Return the Awkward to Sender, reply to her comment with “I get it. You hate cats. You don’t need to remind me on every happy post I make, thanks.”

        1. the gold digger

          “I get it. You hate cats. You don’t need to remind me on every happy post I make, thanks.”

          I like this and will use it. Thanks!

          I haven’t unfriended her because her husband and my husband are really good friends and I don’t want to create drama. But I don’t mind writing a blunt comment to her – I just didn’t know what to say. That is perfect!

          1. Book Person

            So glad to help! I hope it works out for you. I’ve filtered people from my feed without straight-up unfriending them, if you find you need to go to the next step after trying the blunt approach.

    2. Mirilla

      W T F. Seriously. That is really weird. I worked in an office where the guys didn’t like cats and it was a rare occasional joke (like twice a year!) but nothing like that. I’d talk to your supervisor because that would make me uncomfortable.

    3. voluptuousfire

      Wow…that’s super creepy and weird. Hating cats is one thing but simulated animal abuse is uncalled for and not to mention highly unprofessional.

      I have no advice to give, just solidarity as a fellow cat person.

      1. Artemesia

        This just feels like targeted bullying and of course is around something that will make the OP look foolish if she complains. I don’t see a winning play on this one. I’d be inclined to just try completely ignoring it — not making a show of ignoring it, just not responding and I would not have cat stuff or pictures on my desk. If they move on to other ways to torment the OP then she might have some more leverage to deal. This might be silliness that got out of control and got old – but it might also be bullying like that of kids who drive their bikes as close as possible to another kid and then say ‘I didn’t do anything; I didn’t even touch him’ when the person complains.

    4. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      That’s horrible and not funny.

      Joking about killing animals is not cool or funny.

    5. AnonLibrarian

      This is horrible! My parents make these kinds of comments all the time about my cats, and they suck. So I feel your pain. I would just be direct about it and say how offensive it is to you. If they continue, talk to your supervisor about it. My parents never do anything I ask them to do, so I’m stuck there, but I feel like at work, something should be done. Although I have never worked in a place that has a “prank culture.” So ugh.

    6. CrazyCatLady

      What the hell, this is so strange and disturbing! I would probably just say something directly to them.

    7. Diluted_TortoiseShell

      Well at least I know I’m not being overly sensitive about this.

      I find cat hate really weird. I mean, I don’t like dogs but I wouldn’t say things like that about someones pet dog or decorate the office with dog toys in compromising positions. Yet it seems to be a thing people think are OK doing/saying about cats.

      Sigh. Thanks for the support.

      1. justsomeone

        Wow. I would be so uncomfortable. Is there someone you can go to and tell them “the talk of animal cruelty is too much” because that’s what it is. The “I missed” and “target practice” comments especially. There are really people who do that kind of stuff and it is flat out animal cruelty. It doesn’t matter if “they’re just joking” jokes about animal cruelty are just as unfunny as jokes about rape and spousal abuse – they’re not. I would be *so* uncomfortable if I had to hear that kind of thing on a daily basis. Seriously, talk to a supervisor!

      2. The Toxic Avenger

        Hi, Diluted – I’m with you. I don’t like dogs, either…but I would never in a million years express my dislike for them this way. It’s over the top, and frankly creepy.

        I also like fposte’s suggestions for a script to say to the most reasonable person.

      3. Book Person

        The jokes wouldn’t bother me so much in isolation, to be honest (though anything repeated ad nauseum wears on you after a while), but the drawings and the toys posed to look like they’re dead takes this to a whoooooole ‘nother level. If you’re comfortable with having a conversation with the most egregious offenders, maybe they’d dial it back or redirect to other pranks. Like “I get that you’re trying to get a rise out of me / we’re cool with pranks around here, but this has reached a level that is making me seriously uncomfortable, and I’d like you to stop. Thanks.”

        (and repeat even if you get “oh but it was just a joke” /”why don’t you have a sense of humour”: “you may have meant it to be funny, but it is now making me seriously uncomfortable, and I’d like you to stop.”)

        1. Ife

          “you may have meant it to be funny, but it is now making me seriously uncomfortable, and I’d like you to stop.” — This is perfect, I’m memorizing it!

      4. eh

        Dislike of cats isn’t particularly weird. A lot of people dislike them, myself included. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are just as many people who hate dogs and make those feelings very known. People who take someone’s non-sociopathic dislike of their favored animals personally are a bit too sensitive and tend to be more biased about negative comments about their pets.

        Making jokes about killing animals and decorating the office with pictures of dead or tortured animals is completely different, though, and very much not okay. If your coworkers were just saying they didn’t like cats, I would say you’re being too sensitive, but in this case I think you have every right to speak up and say their actions are not only awful but make you uncomfortable. Abuse to any living thing is horrendous.

        1. Diluted_TortoiseShell

          When I was referring to cat hate I was talking about being cool with abusing/death threats against cats. Not the dislike of cats, which I totally get is a normal and OK thing to have.

          To me though, there is a big difference between saying things like.

          I don’t like dogs.
          Dogs suck.
          Dogs are smelly and dirty and I don’t like them.

          VS

          I saw a stray on the road today, I swerved but oh well maybe next time.
          The only good dog is a dead dog.

          ETC.

          I’ve NEVER head anyone ever say anything about killing dogs casually in the office, on Facebook or anywhere else but I”ve seen this sort of thing directed at cats pretty frequently. I think that’s weird.

          1. catsAreCool

            Yeah. I love cats and dogs, but I don’t expect everyone else to feel that way. I do expect them not to make a lot of “jokes” about killing or injuring animals.

          2. Lindsay J

            I totally have heard people say terrible things about dogs. :(

            Me and my boyfriend were out having lunch with some people we thought might be new friends. Somehow they got into the topic of annoying neighborhood dogs they had killed. (Poisoning them for going through the garbage. Shooting them for getting in their yard.)

            I left as soon as I could and haven’t contacted them again.

    8. fposte

      Ugh. I have a pretty high tolerance for dark jokes of that kind, to be honest (I find it hugely amusing to cuddle an animal while telling it it’s an annoying money pit), but this is now a Thing.

      A few possibilities. This is a bit of a group phenom, and if you can single somebody out to talk to, that might help. So find the person who’s the nicest aside from this and say privately “Dude, I know it’s just a joke to you all, but the animal-torture game is freaking me out, and I don’t want to be freaked out by my co-workers. Can you stick to glitterbombing and spread the word on this?” (I think a term as visceral as “animal torture” has some value here in that it makes it harder to claim lightheartedness.)

      I might also respond in ways that make it clear this isn’t working as a dark joke. “Wow, Bob. That’s…Dahmeresque.” Look alarmed and concerned, not disgusted. If any of them have kids, make a deal. “We both have small mammals at home. Let’s make a pact that we won’t joke about harm coming to either of them, okay?”

      But I think this is a tough one, because they’re having a lot of fun, and I might end up with the supervisor. Good luck, and yes, it’s weird.

    9. neverjaunty

      Sounds like you have a horrible bunch of coworkers and need a new workplace for starters.

      Sometimes, when people think it’s funny to say things they know will upset you, you can try asking them straightforwardly and calmly “I’m not sure why you keep joking about that when you know it bothers me. Could you explain?” When they inevitably sputter and say they were just joking and where’s your sense of humor, you just repeat variations on “but I’m still not hearing why you keep doing that, knowing that it bothers me.

      Very few people will come right out and admit that they enjoy hurting others, so almost always they shuffle off mumbling excuses, and you don’t hear about it again until they move on to the next way of harassing you.

    10. Doriana Gray

      What kind of sociopathic nonsense?! Look, I don’t like cats (or dogs), but there’s no way in the world I’d sit around talking about killing them either especially around someone I know who loves them. Your colleagues are assholes, I’m sorry.

    11. Bea W

      Why are people such wanks? The “jokes” you describe aren’t funny. That’s more not-good-natured tormenting. Maybe they don’t mean to be insensitive, but…ugh how can people not know that is totally insensitive?!

    12. FiveWheels

      I have no good advice but I’m rather afraid that if I was in your office I would physically harm your colleagues. Animal abuse, especially against cats, is a red button for me. I’ve adopted rescue cats who were horribly abused.

      I’m told when I’m angry I can be quite terrifying without doing anything you could pin down as threatening, but that’s not always a good idea in work.

    13. Anita Newname

      Damn. I’m mean and I like to poke bears so I’d probably 1. Make a big donation to a favorite cat charity in your honor of your company/department and then let everyone know about it. and 2. Put up one of those cutesy signs you see at art fairs that says “Never trust anyone that doesn’t like cats”

    14. Observer

      You need to take the way less personally. Not because it’s ok – it very much isn’t. But, it’s really not about you. And, I suspect, it’s not even intended to upset you. More like “cat’s are so horrible that I can say / do what I want and if it upsets you that’s YOUR problem.”

      I do agree that you should shut comments to you down, though you should do so dispassionately.

      Also, do outsiders ever come into your office? If they do, you might want to point out to your supervisor that most people would find these pictures and toys pretty off putting or worse. And, I’m not talking about animal lovers. I’m not too fond of cats at all, but that’s not the point. No one likes flies, but most people recognize that people who pull their wings off have some serious issues.

      Fpost mentioned using the term “cat torture”. I agree. I’d also probably use the term “wing puller”. The issue here is not that you love cats, so this is really hard for you to hear. It’s that this stuff is gross enough to put off most regular non-cat lover people. And, secondarily that they make these jokes TO YOU SPECIFICALLY, knowing that you love cats. (I wouldn’t joke about the awful effects of tea to someone I knew loved tea…)

      1. LizB

        I agree that it might be more effective to bring up that the general public would likely find these comments gross and off-putting, but I can’t blame Diluted_TortoiseShell for taking them personally. Some of the examples listed are pretty darn personal — especially “Diluted is stupid because cats are freaks.” And asking for stray cats for target practice?! I seriously can’t see how that’s not intended to be upsetting. If they have a prank-happy culture, I could see people intentionally trying to annoy the one cat lover in the office with these kinds of nasty comments as a personalized prank.

        1. Observer

          I don’t BLAME her for taking it personally. It is absolutely true that knowing how she feels about this, they should try to not say this stuff around her, much less not directing it at her. And, while some of it is clearly personal, in the sense that it’s directed at her, it seems to me that it’s a spillover from hating cats, so anyone who likes cat’s is missing a screw rather than “Let’s get diluted so we’ll hate on cats.” In other words, even the stuff that is directed at her is not really about her but about this insane fixation with cats.

          Given that reality, taking it personally is just not useful. Anything that smells of “this is gross / disturbing / upsetting to me” is going to be met with “That’s YOUR problem. You can’t expect people to be nice about gross disgusting things because of YOUR weirdness.” That’s stupid, to put it more kindly than they deserve, but it gets you no where, if you want this to shut this down.

          Pointing out some of the things people here have mentioned – eg that animal torture is often linked to child abuse – in a calm manner can be far more useful. It might get the followers to realize that these jokes really are potentially problematic.

          Also, from what it sounds like, it doesn’t seem like the higher ups care much about decency so I doubt that they would care that Diluted is upset. But, the idea that it might turn outsiders, especially potential customers, off is something that would very likely get them on her side. But, again, given the attitude that seems to pervade the place, if there is any sense that it’s personal the reaction will almost certainly be totally useless.

        1. Bea W

          Curious as well, because when people leave this stuff on your desk, send it to you personally, or mention your name in the conversation, it’s pretty personal.

        2. Observer

          Because it’s not about you – they make these comments when you are not around, and they would play these “jokes” on you if you were a plastic mannequin. They are not after YOU they are after cats, and anyone who DARES not share that obsession.

          That does NOT mean it’s ok. And I certainly agree that you are right to be upset. So much so, that I agree with others who say that they might be job searching over this.

          1. Diluted_TortoiseShell

            But I never said it was about me or that I am even particularly taking it as a ploy to agitate me – which is why I am confused that you think I am taking this too personally?

            All I stated above is that I am starting to lose patience with these jokes and I’m curious if others would also find these jokes weird/uncomfortable and if so what would they do?

            So thus I’m not sure why you think I am taking this particularly personally. Even the comments directed at me specifically I took with a grain of salt. Name calling in this office is pretty normal. It’s a weird office culture to be sure.

            1. Observer

              It read a bit differently to me. I apologize.

              And, yes, I TOTALLY agree that these jokes are beyond out of line, and should be shut down if at all possible.

    15. Not So NewReader

      Yeah, this is too much.

      “Studies show that there is a correlation between animal abuse and child abuse. People who are willing to abuse animals are more apt to abuse children. I don’t think that is where you were going with those comments, Bob, but you might want to be aware of this fact. So although the jokes are funny to you, other people may find these jokes concerning for this reason.”

      “For some reason, I don’t think we are actually talking about cats any more. Can someone tell me why so many people here are so angry?”

      “Killing a cat. Hmm. Is that worth going to jail for?”

      I have listened to a lot of dead cat jokes. sigh. It could just be me, but, my guess is that there is one person driving the jokes. If that one person stops, probably everyone else will, too.

      1. fposte

        To be fair, this is kind of a pre-internet meme. There was a best-selling book in the 1980s called “101 Uses for a Dead Cat,” for instance. And presumably some people here are familiar with dead baby jokes, popular in that boundary-pushing adolescent stage of life. I don’t think these are people who are genuinely contemplating animal pain with joy.

        1. Observer

          Even during the “boundary pushing adolescent stage of life”, dead baby jokes are not all that popular, nor terribly appropriate. For any adult in the workplace, it’s well over the top. And, while I haven’t seen the book, presumably it wasn’t about torturing and killing cats.

          1. fposte

            YMMV–dead baby jokes were *hugely* popular in my youth, partially because they were so inappropriate. And this wasn’t the sort of book that distinguished between accidentally dead and purposely dead cats. This is more like the way people say “DIAF.” It doesn’t mean they’re literally contemplating the fiery death of people they’re talking to.

            I’m not saying this is workplace appropriate. I am saying, however, that people in on the joke aren’t automatically sociopaths.

            1. Biff

              I love dead baby jokes but holy cow, I wouldn’t tell one at work. *cue surprised/shocked laughter* I don’t even know how I’d respond to hearing one at the office.

            2. Observer

              OK. So in some circles they may have been popular DURING ADOLESCENCE. But, when you get past that stage, it’s much more disturbing.

      2. Diluted_TortoiseShell

        No. They may be immature and unprofessional but I doubt anyone in my office actually harms cats or intends to harm them.

        1. Myrin

          I gotta say, that’s at least a tiny bit… reassuring? Comforting? That sounds too strong but I don’t really know how to phrase it.

          (For me personally, I find talk of animal cruelty, especially towards cats, extremely triggering. Or, I guess it’s not technically a “real” trigger since I thankfully don’t have any personal experience with animal cruelty whatsoever but I react exactly the same to talk of abused animals as I do to my one “real” trigger. So if something like this happened around me I’d probably start panicking and completely freaking out. Not sure if that would make it better or worse, tbh.)

    16. Rebecca in Dallas

      I love cats (all animals, really, but cats the most) and I have some friends/coworkers who don’t like them and occasionally make a comment but nothing like that! That is crossing a line to me. I agree with whoever above likened it to joking about rape or something, just not cool.

      No advice to give other than what people have already suggested, but good luck.

    17. Amy Farrah Fowler

      Yikes! That is seriously morbid. Especially in an office setting. I’m more of a dog person than a cat person admittedly (probably at least partially influenced by my allergies. I usually tell people that I like cats… from a distance) and I have been known to say that some cats are jerks, but I’d never joke about endangering or harming any animal on purpose. I did almost hit a cat once on the road (It appeared out of nowhere, and there was nowhere I could swerve without going into oncoming traffic!) but it really shook me even though we both survived the encounter.

      I don’t really have advice but I hope you find a way to get them to stop.

    18. Cat lover 2000

      There was an episode of the Jordan Jesse Go podcast a while back where Jordan discussed the comedians’ credo, that no topic is ever ‘off-limits’ for jokes. But, he said he realized, once he got his own cat, that he couldn’t stand his coworker’s dead cat jokes. And he talked about how maybe everyone has their own topic that they don’t want to hear jokes about, like children’s safety, or racism, or something else.

      And so I don’t think you’re wrong to be upset, but I don’t think your coworkers’ jokes are inherently out of line either. Doesn’t mean you can’t fight back though.

      1. Observer

        Sorry, that doesn’t fly. Even as a comedian that “credo” has some serious holes. And, to the extent that you take that seriously, any honest comedian will admit that how you joke and the point you are making makes a difference. In any other context than performance art, that “credo” is meaningless. And, on top of that. what’s being described here goes beyond what might be acceptable in art in two ways.

        Firstly, harping on a “joke” to someone who is clearly uncomfortable with it is never appropriate. The extreme to which this is being taken is ridiculous, even had the topic been totally innocuous. This is not about someone expecting people to dance around her sensitivities. This is people shoving this stuff in her face, deliberately and repeatedly. That’s sick.

        Secondly, for something to have a chance at being considered comedy, there needs to be some point. Maybe, a social issue is being addressed. Maybe just getting you to think about something in a different way. Or just a clever “catch”. Pranks are not humor (although they can be, if done correctly.) Nor are effigies of torture, decapitation, hanging etc. Those are just horror images.

    19. Eva

      I wonder if you can ignore the general cat-hate comments that are discussed within the group of cat-haters (e.g. “the only good cat is a dead cat”), but if someone directs a comment at you (e.g. “Hey Diluted_TortoiseShell, have you found a home for those stray cats yet? If not I could use some target practice.”) then you could say something like “please don’t involve me in your cat discussions” really blankly and then get back to your work. Perhaps if they know that they can’t bother you with it anymore it will cease being funny to them over time and they will change the topic…

      On a big-picture level, these people suck and I personally do not enjoy spending time with people who talk in such hateful negative ways about anything. It generally makes me dislike the person/people a lot. Sorry you are dealing with this. I hope they do change the topic soon.

    20. Mando Diao

      It sounds like an office culture thing that snowballed in a weird way. For all you know, the person who originated that line of “joking” isn’t even working there anymore. It sucks and it’s annoying, but it sounds like this is a primary source of bonding and letting off steam for this group.

    21. Cheeto

      Are you coworkers my former middle school classmates? They used to tell me they were going to come to my house and stick dynamite up my cats’ asses and blow them up.

    22. Biff

      The occasional joke is funny, in a dark humor way, but the chronic trend is weird to me. I think you should speak up. Something as simple as ‘the cat-hate jokes around here are getting to be overkill’ should do it.

      1. Observer

        Sorry, that sounds way too demanding.

        I meant to say that most of us would be very curious to know, some time down the road if you are able to put stop to this, and how things went. It’s just so bizarre.

  7. Carrie in Scotland

    Right so a job has opened up back in my home city that I’m very interested in.

    Obviously (if you’ve been following my posts over the past while) I don’t live there anymore but still currently retain my flat there. At the moment I’m working in Stars Hollow University (for example). What can I say about my reasons for moving in my cover letter/application? (since the actual motive is I’m broke, I spend more than half of what I earn on rent/mortgage, I’m miserable where I am etc and other truths that I can’t actually say)

    Thanks for any help/advice.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      I think wanting to move back to your home city is a pretty common thing.

      I used to see it a lot on cover letters.

      1. Carrie in Scotland

        I’ve only been where I am for a few months (6 max) so if they ask why I’m leaving this job, I’m a bit stuck on what to say. Although it is in line with my interests more than current job so could say that?

        1. Cristina in England

          If your work history is otherwise solid, then I think it should not hurt you to change jobs so soon. I think everyone gets an “oops that was a bad idea” pass at least once. You could say in your cover letter that you want to move back to be closer to family or your home city generally, and if asked in an interview you could say you missed your home very much. I think that if you can find a positive reason to write about how much you want to move BACK, instead of a negative one about how much you need to get out of new city, it would make employers more comfortable.

          1. Biff

            Definitely this. I’m also working on moving back home and I simply use the excuse that “I’m anxious to get back home.”

        2. Apollo Warbucks

          “I took a 6 month contract job to see if I liked living in new city, it turn out I don’t so now I’m back in old city”

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

      I think it would be ok to say something like “I have been considering moving back to [city] due to being unable to sell my previous home, and when I saw [job opening] I knew that I would love to apply. I would be more than happy to return to take up an opportunity which [reasons why you’d love the job].”

      Sorry, you probably need to work on the phrasing a bit, I’m super-sleepy this afternoon, but I think that the general sentiment would be fine for a cover letter.

    3. misspiggy

      You could spin it that the job itself really attracted you, and that you wanted to pursue it because you still have a home base there and haven’t fully established yourself in the new city yet.

    4. Not So NewReader

      I had the opposite thing come up, I took a job away from home. Went back home. The next year I was invited back to the job. I simply said, “It did not work out well financially for me, so I am not able to work at Big Employer this year.”

      In a more tailored way for your setting, “Yes, I lived in X for 6 months. It did not work out well financially for me and I have returned home to stay.”
      If pressed for more assurances, just talk about your family in the area, you grew here, and other things that show you have roots in the area. Those roots motivate you to stay in Home City.

    5. TheLazyB

      Why not just “the move didn’t work out and I’m excited to move back home”?

      Honestly I think you’re overthinking.

      Good luck mate xx

  8. AppleToApple

    Lately I feel super demotivated at work due to low morale. My managers don’t check in with me on the projects I’m working on yet I see them check in with other coworkers multiple times during the week. Right now, my managers only check in with me or give me feedback when they notice something is going wrong.

    I feel like my work is not valued. I plan to ask for a more formalized feedback process but any other tips you want to offer?

    1. Mirilla

      No, but I understand where you’re coming from. My current boss gives me almost no feedback unless I’m doing something wrong, as in I did 99 things correctly and missed 1 thing. It can be frustrating. I think this is how some people operate and so I try to feel good that I’m not being micromanaged but some positive feedback once in a while would mean a ton to my morale.

    2. Tex

      It could mean 1) they trust you to do the right thing and that you proactively bring problems to their attention when needed OR 2) the others are working on higher profile projects with tighter deadlines.

      If they have praised your work in the past, then it’s probably #1.

    3. Nonya

      Unfortunately, I can only commiserate. This has been an increasing trend in my role as well. While it’s easy to think “I’m not valuable” and “my boss must not like me,” the truth is, I’m good at my job. He doesn’t have to micromanage me in the midst of the projects he’s coordinating. Of course, knowing that mentally doesn’t help when my external perception is opposite.

      I’ve found that as long as I’m not getting negative feedback, the new hands-off approach just reflects that I’m lower-maintenance than some of the other moving pieces at that time. My manager’s time is limited, so during the pressure of a project, only the items that need the most attention get it.

      The main thing I’ve found useful in adapting to this shift has been to ask specific, open-ended feedback questions at the end of major projects. We have semi-regular weekly check-in meetings where we debrief and I have the chance to do this. When the particular project comes up, I mention how I think it went and ask if he has any take-aways that he’d like me to focus or work on. My boss typically needs to be asked first, but is honest and will tell me if there is. Of course, Ymmv based on your boss’s communication skills/preference.

  9. super anon

    Apparently one of my coworkers (CC) took another to task for “acting too white”, saying that she spends too much time caring about white issues rather than helping communities. The reason? Coworker A went to Nordstrom to buy a tie as a present for a guest speaker. CC also thinks she’s entitled to getting more money even though she literally does absolutely nothing all day (last week she came in at noon, went home for “lunch”, and then took a nap until 4:00 when she left), and is very vocal about it too. Coworker B went to Nordstrom and saw a $8000 coat, and crazy coworker told someone else that if Coworker B bought that coat she would have quit asap because “no on at our job should be making enough money to buy things that expensive – our dept should be using that money to pay her a better salary”. She’s consistently telling me she lives in a “slum” (she lives in the most prestigious/expensive neighbourhood in the city), that she is living in abject poverty (while she wears brand new $$$ clothing), and that her entire life is falling apart. Oh, and she makes 15k a year more than I do to take naps all day while I work! Oh, and she’s also accused me more than once of lying about my race to get my job. There’s never a dull moment with her around!

    So, in honour of general Black Friday craziness, tell me your crazy coworker stories! Let’s bond in the insanity of inappropriate and unbelievable workplace behaviour together.

      1. super anon

        Our directors are off-site, and her direct manager moved her to our office from the satellite location when she was causing drama/not getting along with coworkers there instead of doing any actual managing. Whoo.

    1. fposte

      Agreed with Anoners, but I think you’re taking the right tack by viewing her as an interesting show to watch rather than taking it to heart.

      (My crazy co-worker stories aren’t that exciting, I’m afraid, so I don’t have much to offer there.)

      1. super anon

        A friend once asked me if I’d rather have good things happen or interesting things. I answered good and she answered interesting. I can only imagine how much she would enjoy working at my current office!

    2. TheLazyB

      I used to work with someone who wouldn’t eat fish because they swim in the water they poo in.

      She had the same first name as me. I was really, really glad when she left.

    3. F.

      Sounds like CC is a racist and needs to be dealt with by management as such. Comments about anyone’s race, regardless of the race of the commenter, are not appropriate in the workplace.

      1. Artemesia

        There are a fair number of professionals including people in education who argue that blacks can’t be racist and defend the ‘right’ of black people to be blatantly racist. It is nonsense that needs to be dealt with as this example illustrates. People who do this blur the distinction between institutional racism and personal racism.

        1. Mando Diao

          Academics want to change the word “racism” so it means something different than how the rest of the world uses it. And then they’ll act like everyone else is stupid for not knowing this still-somewhat obscure definition that you really only learn in higher-ed classrooms. Insisting on knowing the “institutional racism” definition is classist in its own right, which is a funny and ironic turnaround on the whole issue.

    4. KD

      I have several crazy co-workers. I think it’s a byproduct of haveing too many engineers in one place.

      One of my mentors is brilliant and it has earned him more operational freedom than he should probably have. For instance he got away with holding a staff meeting at a strip club. (It was before my time but the legend remains) Appearntly I was the first intern in 6 years to go the summer without breaking down in tears when he said something insulting or inappropriate (and I’m too accustomed to it now to even think of any examples).

      Another coworker is so negative I can’t even figure out when something is actually a problem. I’ve never seen him smile without following it up with a sarcastic remark. Most of the younger folks in the office are outright afraid of him because he never says anything nice. Which drives me nuts because he is actually a nice guy. He’s developed this persona so the contractors we work with wouldn’t walk all over him.

      And last but probably my least favorite crazy co-worker is the one who tells me at least once a week I should buy a house right now. This is of course after I have explained to him repeatedly why now is not the right time to buy a home for my family. Ok maybe he’s more irritating than crazy. But he also makes unreasonable last minute requests that have been forcing me to work a lot of overtime recently.

  10. anooooooon

    Our office has a vacation policy where half of the department needs to be in the office, so if 5 people are out on vacation, there needs to be at least 5 people in to cover for them. This is usually fine except around the holidays since everyone wants more time off. Vacation is usually first come, first serve, but this year our department manager decided to let winter holiday vacation days be picked by people with kids first, partners/spouses second, and everyone else gets to pick afterwards.

    Not only is this really unfair, but it implies that single people don’t have family and friends they want to visit over the holiday, or that just because someone doesn’t have kids or spouses, they don’t want time off around the holidays. I’m really, really annoyed by this policy and I know I’m not the only person in my office who thinks this is unfair (even worse is that I have a few coworkers who have said that it’s fair because single/child-free employees will get the same treatment once we get married or gave kids, which is a completely different type of infuriating for so many different reasons)

    1. Carrie in Scotland

      I would hate that, I’m with you. And WTF at your coworkers!? That is quite “smug married” as Bridget Jones would say.

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon

      Ok, that’s officially a) thoughtless or b) downright nasty. I would definitely be firm with your coworkers in the moment – “Wow. I don’t think you realise how hurtful that is.” – and I would consider approaching higher ups if you think you could make your views known without suffering any retaliation. It’s a bad policy, it’s unfair and as someone with a SO I am still outraged on your behalf. Ugh.

    3. Artemesia

      In fact single people may need the time more than families because they may need to travel to be with parents or other relatives. Totally unfair. And first come, first served is as well. With a rare resource like seasonal holidays, there needs to be a plan where there is rotation — half the people get Christmas this year and half next. Those who get Christmas this year don’t get Thanksgiving this year. This is so obvious. Seniority can be factored in but one’s marital status should not be.

    4. neverjaunty

      Wow. I have a spouse and kids, and I would be furious at a manager who tried to implement this policy.

    5. Ask a Manager Post author

      Can you complain to someone above her manager? There’s a pretty good chance that the person over her would see this as ridiculous and disgusting (bonus points if you say something like “I’m concerned that we’re making employment decisions based on marital and family status, which has legal implications”).

      * Note that federal law doesn’t explicitly prohibit discrimination based on those two things, but doing so has ramification that can — depending on other factors that may or may not be present — end up in legal stickiness, so I think you’d be safe saying that.

      1. Not So NewReader

        LOVE this. Thank you, thank you.
        How about throwing out the suggestion of asking for volunteers to stay and work the holidays by offering time and a half OR comp time. I’m widowed, no kids. I wanted TG off for a volunteer work but I would volunteer to work a double on Christmas. Hey, it worked out for me. I said I would work New Year’s also. The boss said that New Year’s was someone else’s turn and I was to stay home.
        My point is that when you throw it out there that people can volunteer it is amazing the responses you will get. My boss would put up a chart with the hours and number of people required for each time slot. People would sign their names next to the time slot they were volunteering for. It worked.

        Your boss’ thinking is either old-fashioned or she has not thoroughly thought through what she is saying. Please use examples of widows/widowers or people who cannot conceive as among the many reasons people do not have spouses or children. Perhaps she does not realize just how many people she is punishing for what is simply the hand they have been dealt in life. Tell her you do not think she means to be judgey but that is how she is coming across. Heaven forbid she should ever end up with an employee that lost their spouse and child in an accident/fire. She’d look like she has no clue about life at all.

      2. anooooooon

        Oh, thanks, that’s a good phrase to use. A few other coworkers and I were trying to come up with an approach that didn’t make us sound too….whiny, I guess? But I think we were all so infuriated that we couldn’t think of anything that didn’t come off as super aggressive. I’m going to try this approach!

    6. Not working out

      Completely agreed with The Artist Formally Known and Artemesia. Implying that the value of your free time is somehow less because you don’t have kids is incredibly rude and insensitive. I’ve worked with people who have been married with kids who couldn’t wait to get back to the office after four days off at Christmas and have likewise worked with single people who use the holiday season as the only opportunity they have to see all their relatives. And, wow on your co-workers as well – I can understand them being grateful for getting a free pass on the holiday season but statements like that are just smug and horrible.

      Rotas are probably the fairest solution. I would probably suggest trying to explain all of this rationally to somebody but, to be honest, I’m not sure how far you’d get.

    7. Anon.....

      That’s complete bullshit, of course people without kids or partners still have friends and family of their own and might want to make plans around Christmas.

      I found out last week that my Granny hasn’t got much longer to live try telling me that the few days I’ve got off over Christmas to go and visit her isn’t important and I can’t say I’d have a a good reaction.

    8. INFJ

      Ooooooh helllllll noooooo. You should really say something, and get as many coworkers as you can to, too.

    9. Ad Astra

      Whoa. It’s like your manager was looking to divvy up vacation in the least reasonable way possible. It’s completely unfair and gross. Is there still time to push back on this idea? I would think even some of your married-with-children colleagues will agree this is unfair.

      1. Artemesia

        Absolutely – I am married and raised kids during my working years and would have been horrified at this.

    10. mander

      Wow. I’m married with no kids, and this really makes me mad. Why should I get priority over someone else just because I have a spouse? That makes all kinds of nasty assumptions about single people and those without kids.

      If I worked in your office I’d come with you to talk to the higher-ups. This is just not cool.

  11. Over Development

    Has anyone had experience switching careers without taking a huge pay cut?

    I fell into fundraising ten years ago, and have been miserable in my last two jobs. I want to do something else (I love my organizations mission, but hate the work).

    I’ve been reading up on switching careers, but everything is about being financial prepared to take a huge hit. I took a 20% pay cut totaled my current position and am just barely back to where I was before.

    Looking for any stories of hope or suggestions!

    1. Diluted_TortoiseShell

      I think this really varies by field.

      I was in research before I switched to a more mainstream office position and I actually took a huge step up in salary despite going back down on the “totem pole” so to speak.

      My understanding with non-profit fundraising jobs is that you are not paid very well. So if you are looking to switch into something more commercial you might make more money.

      1. Over Development

        I would love to be able to stay in NP, but just doing something that doesn’t involve fundraising.

        I have had a run of horrible bosses (everyone in my current office hates working for our CDO and is actively looking), and it seems like everyone I know is in a similar bad management situation.

        1. Diluted_TortoiseShell

          My experience with Non-Profits was similarly horrible. If I had to put my finger on it I would say it’s do to a high concentration of power and power vacuums along with little structure or oversight. Add to that “out mission is paramount” and it’s a recipe for disaster.

    2. lionelrichiesclayhead

      I made a career switch this year from working in finance to working on HR systems for a retail company and while I was concerned about the same thing, I came away with a 25% increase (plus other amazing benefits) and cannot begin to express how much happier I am as well. The key for me was identifying skills I had that did cross over to the new industry and identifying jobs that needed those skills. For example, while I was a finance person and had worked for finance related companies my entire career, when I took away the finance-specific stuff I realized that what I was doing was basically business analysis, project management, and account management. I liked doing those things, I just didn’t like doing them with financial information, so I looked for business analyst and project management jobs. I also changed my resume to highlight those skills in that general way vs. focusing on the financial side of what I was doing. Then I did my research on salaries for that position (I was lucky to have a lot of info because the company I now work for is a very large one so there was plenty of specific information for them) and realized that I could end up making a lot more than I was. I set my salary expectations accordingly and ended up with a super raise plus many more amazing benefits.

      While many people do take a pay cut to change careers and some of it may depend on where you are in your career/what types of jobs you will be looking for, I would definitely not get discouraged because it is absolutely possible to not backtrack. I would just take a fresh look at what you have been doing and see if it can easily translate into another field. I think many jobs translate across different industries but sometimes it’s hard to see that when you are already knee deep in one particular industry.

      1. Over Development

        I think this is part of the problem, I’m really not sure what my skills translate to.

        My friends keep saying sales or business development, but honestly that’s too close to what I do now.

    3. skyline

      I almost doubled my salary when I became a librarian, but I didn’t get to enjoy that pay increase immediately. There were two years of grad school, student loans (now paid off), and low paying internships in the middle there.

      1. Over Development

        I have a masters that I’m going to be paying on until I’m 80 (expensive, useless degree). So I’d like to avoid going back to school.

        I really wish I had done a Masters of Library Science. Being a small town librarian is my dream job!

  12. Tiffany

    I’m considering grad programs and I could use some advice.

    My undergrad was just a Bachelors of Applied Arts and Sciences, so no specific concentration. I did have professional development concentrations in Nonprofit Management, Volunteer Management, and Accounting. I’d like to do non-profit work, specifically something like a program coordinator but eventually I want to work my way up to CEO. I originally considered an MPA (not sure what concentration, non-profit mgmt probably) but recently I’ve been looking at MSW programs that have a macro concentration. I don’t know which is the better route, or if I even need it. My instinct is that I should get a Masters (honestly, my Bachelors has so far been pretty worthless, but I only graduated 6 months ago, so maybe I need to give it more time), but maybe I’m wrong. Any advice?

    1. jem

      I’d say to definitely work before considering your masters. If I hadn’t, I would have done something totally different and been a lot less happy.

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

        I would echo Jem.

        When you picture yourself as CEO, what type of organization do you picture yourself at? Is it something where an MSW would be mandatory.

        Also, a lot of my friends with their sights on a c-level position did an MBA with a concentration in Non-Profit management.

      2. Tiffany

        I’ve thought about that…but my concerns are that 1) it took me a long time to get my undergrad…I’m almost 28 now. I don’t want to wait too long to start a Masters program and 2) Financially, I’m in a good position to get grants right now. My income this year has been poverty-level low, so FAFSA would be good to me if I were to start a program next fall.

        1. misspiggy

          In that case really work to find out what skills are missing in the field you’re interested in, and pursue a Master’s that will give you those skills. For example, I work in education for developing countries, and we need people who can design and measure education programmes in emergency and conflict affected settings. There are Master’s courses for that specific discipline, and people with those and some relevant dissertation and volunteer experience generally do very well.

        2. CMT

          Need-based financial aid is not nearly as prevalent for masters and professional degree programs as it is for undergraduate education. (At least not in the programs I looked at when I was applying to grad school.) So, I don’t know that applying now to take advantage of your low-income is going to be that helpful.

          1. fposte

            While that’s true, ed degrees offer more grants than some professional degrees (like LIS)–however, they usually involve a commitment to teach in a particular field (science is obviously a hot one) or region/population.

            So investigate thoroughly to see if there are any, because there might be if you can be flexible, but don’t assume that there will be.

    2. Stephanie

      I’d work for a couple of years, just so you can get a clearer picture of your career goals. If you’re interested in advancing in Big Corporate, you may need an MBA (or at least a lot of experience). It’s hard to get into any decent MBA program without any work experience.

    3. Artemesia

      There are few jobs that require these masters degrees so if you can work in the kind of organization you hope to make your career in and then acquire the masters as you go, you will be in a better position to not have wasted your time and money. And people who get a masters while working often get more out of their studies as they can anchor what they are learning in what they are doing. Masters degrees can enhance skill and promotability; they seldom are useful entrees to entry positions.

    4. Graciosa

      If the graduate program is not 100% paid for (scholarships and grants that do not need to be repaid, not loans), then you need to do a cost-benefit analysis and figure out objectively whether or not the ROI of the degree is worth it. There are many, many people who assume that additional degrees will make them more qualified or expedite the progress of their careers when that simply isn’t the case.

      Too find out more about yours, evaluate the qualifications of multiple people who have the jobs to which you aspire. Judges are going to have law degrees, and the surgeon general will have a medical degree, so those are pretty straightforward, but there are many, many career paths for which a bachelors degree is the only requirement (more so now that most large companies require them for professional positions).

      What sets you apart after meeting the entry level requirements is your performance – not your “extra” degrees. Someone spending time in school is not developing useful work place skills (practical ones) or racking up an impressive resume of business achievements. While you’re in school, the people who will compete with you for promotional positions will be actually accomplishing something in the work place – solving the Teapot production problem, finding a great new source of cocoa, or improving sales by more than 20% in the Bern region.

      I can tell you truthfully that I have no idea who (outside the law department) in my large company has an advanced degree. This literally never comes up. Achievements are discussed all the time, and inter-personal skills become increasingly important as you advance. I have never heard “But candidate X has [advanced degree] as a deciding factor in either hiring decisions or performance reviews.”

      So figure out whether this is a requirement for the jobs you want, and then take a hard look at what kind of return you will make on your investment in acquiring this degree. You need to consider both the financial cost and the opportunity cost (lost salary and lost opportunities to build your resume witch actual work accomplishments), as well as what you can realistically expect (if anything) in additional income throughout your career.

      This is also a great opportunity to network with industry insiders (a much better use of informational interviews than as a backdoor way to a job interview). Tell them your dilemma and ask for their advice on whether the degree is worth it.

      But treat this as a business decision, and make it based on as much objective information and advice as you can get. Do *not* go to graduate school because it seems comfortable (you’re probably more familiar with an academic environment than a working one at this point) or because of an amorphous idea that more education will always be worth it. It isn’t.

    5. Ask a Manager Post author

      Honestly, you don’t need those degrees for the career path you’re looking at. It’s possible that you’ll discover at some point that one of them would be helpful for some specific reason, but you’ll have no way of knowing that until you’ve worked for a while and it becomes clear that it’s the case for your specific situation. But — and I say this as someone who has done a lot of nonprofit hiring and used to run the day to day management of a nonprofit — for the path you’re describing now, you don’t need them and by getting them you risk them even making your job search harder in some cases (because they’ll take you out of the job market and you’ll be competing against people who have been working that whole time, among other reasons).

    6. BRR

      Working on nonprofits my suggestion would be to try and get a job to start at the type of nonprofit you hope to be ceo of and work hard. A degree is not going to get you a job. Along the way get a masters through employer programs but really the degree isn’t going to help you as much as your work history. Any one of those fields will be fine for your goals. There really isn’t an advantage to one degree over the other. When hiring, it’s more “oh look what they’ve done in past jobs” vs “we will hire the person with the mpa over the person with the msw.”

    7. CMT

      Wait. If for no other reason than quite a few masters programs want people who have work experience, so getting in will be more difficult.

    8. doreen

      Unless you want to do work that requires a specific master’s degree (such as being a clinical social worker) , you are better off working for a while before starting a graduate program. It’s not necessarily easy to see just out of college whether a master’s will be useful or which one.

      Lots and lots of people at my job have master’s degrees – nearly all in social work , although they are not actually practicing clinical social work at this job. I briefly considered getting an MSW long ago – and then I realized that while the people with MSWs had an advantage when trying to get certain specialized assignments and even certain promotions , they did not have an advantage when it came to moving into management. And now that I am in management, I can see that an MSW would not have been useful to me at all. The parts of the job that lean toward social work can be picked up through experience in the roles with direct client contact , but those roles didn’t even expose me to accounting, budgeting, policy analysis and implementation, etc. The master’s degrees that would have been useful ( but still not necessary) would have been an MPA, MPP or even an MBA.

      And that FAFSA thing- don’t count on getting grants. Grad students only report their own income on FAFSA, so my daughter’s income was super low – apparently, there isn’t much in the way of Federal grants for graduate school, only loans. There are other grants available in some fields, but they don’t necessarily depend on the FAFSA determination of need.

      1. Artemesia

        Masters degree programs have very little financial aid except loans. Colleges use them as cash cows; they are cheap to deliver and the tuition is gravy for the institution. PhD programs have significant financial aid and IMHO you should never pursue one without a full ride (you are unlikely to get an academic job if you don’t get them from a prestigious institution where grad students are generally supported) It is fairly easy to get into masters programs even at very prestigious institutions where both the under grad and PhD programs are highly selective. (obviously a bit of an over generalization e.g. a Harvard or Yale MBA is selective as well as hella expensive) Only get a masters when you know for sure it advances your career; most don’t especially if done BEFORE employment in the field.

    9. LizB

      At least in the nonprofit field in my city, experience is much more valuable than education. You can get a program coordinator-type role with just a BA if you have the right experience, and it’s very common for people start as entry-level staff (usually in direct service/client-facing roles) and then work their way up to a coordination or management role. There are a few positions out there that would require an MSW, but mostly that’s if you’re looking to be a counselor or certain types of case manager. To me a program coordinator or volunteer coordinator, you almost certainly don’t need a Masters degree.

    10. FutureLibrarian

      Have you spent a significant amount of time working in non-profits? If you have not, I would not plan to get a Masters to focus in that area until you have. I understand your concerns about age, but nonprofit work is for a particular type of person. It would be best to know if you are suited for it before spending a lot of money.

  13. jem

    I had a few interviews with a big multinational firm (trying to make the jump from a small local firm doing the same thing). They called references last week so of course they only got in touch with one person. But they indicated to that reference that they were prepared to make an offer. SO I’m assuming that they get in touch with my remaining references next week and I get an offer sometime this month.
    I had to put salary expectations into their online system when I submitted my application. Since then two BIG things have come to light:
    1) Its 25% out of town travel; one week per month and
    2) I would be working 80% on national projects as a team member but 20% of my work would be focused regionally and I would lead those projects including business development.

    The travel is problematic for me but I’d be willing to do it for a price. I know that my brother, who works for the Army Corps of Engineers gets a standard salary adjustment based on his metro area. I called him hoping that there was some calculator for adjustment based on travel % but there isn’t to his knowledge.

    For the record, I put $62k in with my application. I was planning to ask for $65 when I heard about leading my own projects. Am I out of line to ask for $70k with the increased travel??

    1. misspiggy

      I think the best thing would be to work out how many weekend days and evenings you’re likely to spend travelling outside of work hours, work out how much that would cost at the initial salary rate you gave, and then give a figure slightly under that with that justification – unless they allow you to claim all travel time back as leave.

    2. neverjaunty

      Nope. Travel that much ends up being expensive in a lot of ways you don’t think about – you’re not out of line to ask. ESPECIALLY given how common it is that “you will travel X days” ends up meaning “X days is the minimum amount and it will probably be more.”

      1. jem

        Following that reasoning, is this an instance where it is ok to talk about personal expenses to justify salary? Like, say, boarding a pet or the possibility of sometimes needing overnight child care if my husband works night shift? Also, how else does it end up being expensive? I can’t think of any other reasons (but the child care issue looms large for me if I can’t get my mom moved in with me).

        1. TL -

          I would imagine eating out more, having to buy if something breaks or gets dirty (if your heels snap, you can’t grab your extra pair from home), sending clothes out for cleaning if it’s especially long, things like that.

    3. Dan

      You don’t give enough info for us to say one way or the other. You have to figure out this stuff on your own or giving us really specific details about your field, experience, and location. Case in point: I work for a non profit, independent contributor, no travel, and make way more than that.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Agreed — it really depends on the specifics of the job, your background, and the location. Your best bet is probably to talk to people in your field who know the market rate for these jobs.

        1. jem

          $65k feels high/fair based on many data points from people in my field and a year of job searching. I’m just not sure about the added travel component. I guess, more generally, I was wondering if increased travel (to totally boring places too) is a real reason for asking for more salary. Because the reason I want more money is because it is personally inconvenient and disruptive. But I’ve read plenty of threads here about things like an office moving and commute time doubling; the consensus is that it doesnt really warrant asking for more money because it isn’t relevant like, say, experience or skill level.

          1. Dan

            IMHO, (opinion, not experience) regular travel is a wild card that throws most norms out the window. In reality, *all* pay is based on market rate, and the market is a combination of both employers and job seekers. The job pays what two parties agree on.

            A regular travel job thins out your competition, which in theory automatically raises the salary required to get someone to fill the position. It’s positions like these that allow for “above market” pay.

            But your question is by how much. I think that answer depends on whether other positions like yours regularly require travel, or if you are a one off. If the former, there is more or less a pre-determined rate, but if the later, almost all bets are off.

            IMHO, if you get to name your own price, you’re not asking for much of a travel premium. $5k in salary is about $300/mo after taxes. That covers my dog’s kennel for two weeks, let alone the inconvenience of travel.

            Btw, if you’re valued enough, you most certainly can ask for a raise if your company switches locations and your commute sucks.

            1. jem

              Thanks. Those are good points. The travel is a one off in our industry but the norm for this firm and they said that most people who leave do so because of the travel. All of my data points are for jobs without travel. That’s why I was hoping to find some kind of calculator/benchmark similar to the many cost of living calculators out there. It is a total mystery to me.

              I’m really combing my network for someone who would know what the billable rate for this position at this firm would be. My question would essentially be answered if I knew that.

          2. Liza

            Jem, I think the disruption caused by travel falls in a different category than disruption caused by an office moving, and I think it’s fine to ask for a higher salary for a job that involves a lot of travel. However, I started to explain why I think so and I came up blank–can anybody else here help me out on that?

  14. JulieB

    The last few years I’ve given my employees chocolate and a $50 gift card (out of my own money, not company sponsored). This year I really do not feel like doing this, as one employee has been an absolute brat and I don’t want to reward that, though I realize I need to gift equally if I do anything at all. Do I keep the status quo since it may be expected, do nothing, do something smaller, etc? I realize I may sound like a horrible person.

    1. Artemesia

      I think if you are making a change to expectations, the way you do it is to do something else entirely e.g. take people to lunch rather than a gift or bring in pizza to the office one day.

    2. Liana

      I second Artemesia’s idea of doing something entirely different that’s more of a group activity (I especially like the idea of taking your employees to lunch). I think if you’re right in wanting to gift equally, since excluding someone from gift-giving (even if they’re a PITA) is going to come off incredibly petty. And for what it’s worth, I don’t think you sound like a horrible person. Sometimes people are just really difficult to work with, and it can be frustrating to have to deal with that on a constant basis.

    3. QualityControlFreak

      You sound like a kind person who doesn’t want to let one bad apple spoil it for everyone. Artemesia nailed it.

      1. JulieB

        Thanks all! I thought about the lunch idea but that would actually cost more than the gift card idea (3 direct employees receive gift cards and candy in the past, while 4 indirect employees got candy). If I do lunch I would really need to take all 7 out as that is something I do fairly regularly after really busy periods or as a thank you.

        I wonder if I could switch to a gift that is a little less expensive – like a mug with coffee in it or something, to still do something but not shelling out $150 on gift cards.

    4. FutureLibrarian

      Fifty dollars, at least in my experience, is very high!

      I would be happy with a $10 giftcard to someplace like Target or a local grocery store/gas station, but that’s just me. Maybe cut the amount in half? That would save a significant amount I imagine!

    5. Mando Diao

      It’s good that you’re not punishing all of your employees because of one bad one.

      $50 is a substantial gift, but it’s not the sort of big-ticket bonus that people tend to factor into their incomes. If I got a $50 gift card one year, I wouldn’t be upset to get a $20 card the next year, especially if you’ve already been generous and fair with raises in the past year.

  15. Brett

    Cool thing for this week… a local publication that tracks tech startups just came out with their 2015 startup ecosystem map. It has seven sectors of startup community support, ranging from venture funders, to talent and training, to community builders. The volunteer group I co-founded three years ago was placed in three sectors, the only group in the whole metro region to do that!

    My boss was actually impressed, particularly since a multi-millionaire dollar group put together by our chief executive only made one sector. He is going to send it up our chain of command and see if there can be more internal support or recognition for what we are doing.

    1. fposte

      Yay, Brett! It’s nice to be recognized for your work, especially when your employer seems to be unable to do that.

      I’d also never heard of a startup ecosystem map, and I’m having fun exploring the concept.

      1. Brett

        Yeah, it was a relatively new concept to me, and I realized it could be useful for a company or organization to make their own ecosystem map. I’m actually working on an article for our group that does just that (and illustrates how the influence of what we do extends to other reaches of the local startup ecosystem).

  16. CrazyCatLady

    Has anyone here taken the APICS CSCP exam? I’m studying for it and the text makes me feel so stupid! Obviously I expected to encounter things I didn’t already know but some of it confuses me quite a bit. I’m nervous because you need to score 85% or higher to pass.

    Anyone have words of encouragement or experience with this test?

  17. onnellinen

    AAM Hive Mind! I am hoping to get some help with good phrases or scripts to approach a problem. I have recently hired an intern, who started about 2 weeks ago. So far, things are going well. However, I recently heard through an acquaintance that at a previous internship, she had to sign an additional confidentiality contract partway through, because she was occasionally sharing sensitive work information externally.

    Her previous internship was 2 years ago, and I want to give her the benefit of the doubt on having learned a lesson, so I don’t want to raise the specifics of what I’ve heard. But, particularly since she’s new, I think I have a good opportunity to be a bit pro-active with this, framing it as “I’m not sure what information you got from HR on confidentiality, but here’s what I need you to know”… I’m just having trouble phrasing anything beyond that. We work in a field that is often in the local news and there are lots of local blogs (some critical of our organization, some supportive). I don’t want it to look like she can’t talk about work at all with family and friends, it’s more the detail that should stay at office.

    Any suggestions?

    1. overeducated and underemployed

      Are you interacting with her regularly for training or progress monitoring? If so, just frame it in terms of scheduling to meet for half an hour or whatever for training on confidentiality policies in your organization, or even in your industry more broadly, and what’s appropriate to say to family and friends vs. what’s protected. This can easily just be part of the educational benefit of the internship.

      1. fposte

        Yup, absolutely. This is no big thing–the information about her past is just a nudge for you to do something that it sounds like should be part of an internship at your workplace anyway.

      2. Not working out

        This would work. Or I’d slide it in next time you’re handing her a project or task. I’ve had somebody do that to me before (not, I would like to add, because I was sharing trade secrets and more because it was an extra sensitive piece of work). Something like, ‘Hi X. I’d like you to do Y for me but the work is highly confidential so I thought I’d take the opportunity to give you a run through of what we do and don’t expect of you on those grounds.’

    2. Dan

      IMHO, you’re over thinking this. The conversation needs to be had regardless of her history. It doesn’t need to be soft pedaled or tread lightly.

      I work in a field that gets a lot of national press, and my boss is very clear on these things. Sometimes we have a department wide quiz on what types of thinks are acceptable to talk about.

    3. Not So NewReader

      I am agreeing with other who have said this is normal stuff. I have had several jobs where confidentiality, how to handle the press and so on, was a conversation that was part of the new hire process. It was dressed up under the heading of “here is what is expected of us”. It’s a great time to take the preemptive steps of telling her what to do if a situation arises, you can use examples of what to do if she encounters situation x or y, where x or y are typically problematic in your arena.

    4. brightstar

      Like others have said, just approach it as part of new hire training. I also work at a place that gets press, and it’s part of training about confidentiality, how to handle it when reporters call (transfer, transfer, transfer), etc. You don’t have to mention her past or what you heard, just as” we deal with confidential information, this is what you do.”

  18. Demoralized

    How do you, as someone who doesn’t have managerial clout, handle being demoralized by turnover?

    My team grew from 6 developers to 30+ very quickly over the past few months, and we’ve completely lost the tight knit feeling we used to have. And with that came the turnovers, people who leave while lying about having done their work, leaving the rest of us to pick up their slack on a short deadline, losing our more senior developers who get sick of the disorganization, etc etc.

    I know there are lots of resources for managers to deal with retention issues, but what about the rest of us peons? The one bright side to all this has been the overtime pay and me getting positive attention from higher ups for my work in picking up the slack. But at the same time, I’m exhausted and constantly worried we’ll lose more good people and no one we hire to replace them have the skill and knowledge to pick up where they left off.

    1. Susan

      If your relationship allows that, and it sounds like it might, maybe just talk to your manager about your concerns. If the problem boils down to incompetent people getting hired and driving away the good ones, to be replaced by more incompetents, it sounds less like a retention and more like an acquisition problem! So maybe even float the possibility of getting yourself, or some other senior team member involved in the hiring process? I’m under the impression that that’s fairly common with technical roles.

  19. anonymous #90071

    Hello! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.

    This is a two-part question.

    Has anyone here had HireRight do their background check? I am curious as to what they discover. Is there a way that I can get the report they got about me?

    Related to that, I have this crazy fear of an offer being rescinded. Can anyone share stories of offers being rescinded?

    Thanks :)

    1. Going anon as well

      I’m going anon for this as I actually work for one of their competitors and don’t want to say too much.

      Anyway: Anything that is public record and happened within a certain timeframe is reportable, but what they will be looking for, where they will be looking, and how far into the past they will be looking, depends on what their client (your potential employer) has requested. If they find adverse information, the employer has to tell you (and provide the report). If you live in one of a few states (e.g. California), they have to send you the report. There should also be someplace on their site where you as the consumer can request a copy of the background reports they’ve performed on you.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      If you have a crazy fear of an offer being rescinded, you don’t want people to share stories of that with you; it will increase an already pretty irrational fear. It’s true that in rare cases, an offer may be rescinded — but that’s absolutely not something that happens frequently. If you conduct yourself professionally and pleasantly, and you’re clearly enthusiastic about the job, this isn’t likely to happen to you. That doesn’t mean it won’t — just that it’s very unlikely, and you shouldn’t let the fear of it guide you.

    3. Fleur

      I was able to request a copy of their report after they finished it. It was free and came in the mail as a huge packet.

      The main thing about HireRight is that they’re lazy as hell. Be prepared with paperwork from your past jobs to prove you held them if your former employers don’t answer their phones or give them the info they want. To that extent, it might be better to give a non HR number if you want to be sure they’ll remember you.

      1. Going anon as well

        That’s true of any screening company. They’re paid to get a report done in x days, if it goes past that they catch holy hell. If the previous employer (or whoever) isn’t answering, they have to do something to prove to the client that they tried.

      2. Lindsay J

        This. My background check with one of these companies (Sterling) is still “in process”. I actually think the Sterling part is done and it’s been handed back to the hiring company’s internal people.

        But I had to provide paystubs for four different jobs. Two of them I understood; one was a seasonal position I worked at for like a month for a location that no longer exists (think like a Halloween store that pops up for October in an empty store in a strip mall). The other I was hired directly into a hotel, but my employment was processed through a temp agency do the hotel didn’t have to process payroll or provide benefits.

        However, they then asked me to provide paystubs for a large national company, and a small business where I worked for over 2 years and can guarantee people would pick up the phone and remember me.

    4. BRR

      For my job, my reference check was messy (long story) and I spent a week being pretty stressed. However I was over thinking it and it was really no big deal. My point is there can be bumps in the process but they’re rare unless you hid something andoffers will still come through. Frankly if they do revoke an offer for something small you’re probably dodging a bullet.

    5. Lindsay J

      Ugh I am in background check limbo hell right now.

      It’s been 6 weeks.

      I was contacted 3 times to provide additional information for 4 different employers.

      My background is squeaky clean. I passed one of these (two, really!) less than a year ago.

      I shouldn’t be this nervous, but I am.

      Compounding my nervousness is my super common last name, and the fact that the background check company sent (but then retracted) an email addressing me as Oscar.

      I keep on worrying that somehow this is going to get screwed up and cost me the job.

  20. Mirilla

    When, during the interview process, is it too early to ask about vacation/sick time? I had a phone interview and 1st round in person interview already and nothing was mentioned. Only that they give the bare minimum of holidays (like those that they have to give by law) which didn’t sound promising.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      In the U.S., I’d wait until you have an offer or are in the very late stages of the hiring process. But I’m guessing you’re not in the U.S. since no holidays are required by law here, so the norms in your country may be different.

      1. neverjaunty

        Although sometimes people mistakenly assume that if a company gives the bare minimum of holidays off it’s because they “have to” and it’s illegal not to.

        1. Mirilla

          Actually I am in the US. So although it’s not legally required they do give the bare minimum which people usually have when working in offices (Christmas, etc..). Glad to know about the vacation question. I thought it was odd that they mentioned the holidays but not vacation time.

    2. Ann Furthermore

      They might do something like offer floating holidays, which is what my company does. The true paid holidays are pretty scant (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc) but then everyone is also given 5 floating holidays each year that can be used any time. There are certain groups that are staffed 24/7, so the rationale is that it would be unfair for those groups never to get the long Thanksgiving weekend while everyone else did. So you get those additional floating holidays, on top of your regular PTO.

      1. Mirilla

        That would be nice if they offer that, but I would have thought they would have mentioned it when they talked about holidays. In fact, I’m actually wondering if they offer any benefits at all with this position. I should find out this week when/if she calls for a second interview. It’s been an odd interview process and there have been a lot of red flags with this particular one. Family run company, uber-religious, no room for growth, dismal office environment, people looked miserable. My gut is telling me this isn’t the right place for me for several reasons. I’m just trying to get feedback for the next interview.

  21. Carrie in Scotland

    I’ve been in my current job for 14 weeks now. By next week I will have worked more time by myself than with my manager, during our busy period and there’s another one about to start again in time for mid-Jan :( Holding the fort is stressful, especially so when you’re majorly depressed.

  22. Stephanie

    And busy season starts today at work. I am vegging out on the couch until I have to go in at 2. I was assigned to a different role/location for the holiday season, so I’ve been supervising about 20 floor people (all seasonal hires), which has been…interesting. I’m just trying to hide that I only know slightly more than they do.

    1. Graciosa

      I may be overthinking a tiny throwaway comment, but I don’t think you should try to hide it at all!

      I made this mistake for a very short time in my first management role. It creates distance between you and your team, and it’s a missed opportunity.

      I got the most significant improvements in performance out of a later team when I had to admit I knew nothing about what they were doing and needed their help. I asked how we should approach certain projects, or improve processes, or what I could do to help them improve their performance. They told me, and I did it whenever I could.

      I learned a lot, and won their trust and loyalty – although the latter wasn’t the goal. I really did want to know what I could do to help, even if I had to admit to not knowing a lot.

      In more of a factory setting, I know one highly experienced manager who still speaks fondly of his first supervisory job as a relatively young man on the factory floor. The more senior workers pulled him aside and told him that if he would just let them know what needed to be accomplished, they would work out the most efficient system to get it done – he just needed to stay out of their way. He did, and they consistently exceeding their targets and outperformed the other teams.

      You’re in a different position because you probably do know more (at least a little) about your team’s work, but they will always have ideas and information you don’t. That’s just the reality of the numbers. It can totally work to your benefit if you give up the idea that the flow of information and ideas should only go one way.

      Sorry if that was a major soapbox moment from a tiny remark, but I’ve really enjoyed your participation on AAM and respect your work ethic and your persistence. I hope you get to enjoy vegging out this morning before heading back to the salt mines –

      Best wishes.

      1. Not So NewReader

        This. This. Oh so much THIS.
        Yes, do not hide it. You only need to know slightly more than they do. That is enough. You have the ability to make decisions (authority) and that is what they need, someone to make decisions. Go situation by situation and make the most reasonable decision possible for each one.
        You biggest asset is your ability to listen and your ability to talk things through. Your knowledge level is dependent on these two abilities. As you listen and as you talk things through your knowledge will grow. Meanwhile, you will have the reputation of being approachable. People do not care if you don’t know an answer, you can find out and get back to them. But if you try to pretend you do know the answers all the time that is a game changer. They will quickly figure out that you don’t know all you say you do. Better to be forthright, sincere and just work at it as you go along. People respect that.

        In the end, you will know more about your job than your bosses do. This gives you clout/power. Just roll through this awkward time, do the best you can and it will be okay after a bit.

        1. Stephanie

          Thanks for both your comments! I realized that was kind of what I was doing anyway. I admitted that I was there at the facility just for the holidays on special assignment and sort of let them tell me how to best do their jobs. It’s mostly worked (and I figured out who was good at what job and tried to staff them accordingly).

  23. Amy M.

    Just found out our office is closing at 2pm today instead of 5pm – this is after closing early (at noon) on Wednesday and having yesterday off, all with full pay. We were also all given a gift card on Wednesday to help pay for our family Thanksgiving meals. In my past life I was in management in the financial world, and there was no such thing as leaving or closing early. I am now HR in the medical world (not a hospital) which offers quite a bit more flexibility. I am extremely grateful to have such a great employer who really values personal and family time.

    1. LOLwut

      Be grateful. I work in a field (marketing/web development) where my work can easily be done from home. but we don’t get the day after Thanksgiving off, the department needs coverage (me), and our manager is on a massive power trip, so no working from home today.

      Managers, a little kindness and consideration for your employees costs you nothing, and it might even prevent them rushing for the exits. This is hardly the only thing wrong with my company, but it’s the last straw, and my resume is out.

    2. lionelrichiesclayhead

      This is great to hear and I’m so happy for you! I recently made a similar change (from management in finance to HR systems for a large retailer) and found similar to be true for me as well. I was given the go ahead at 11:45 am on Weds to go home and am working from home today. I understand what it’s like to go from the finance world where there is a good chance we would actually be working late on all the holiday eves. So to be allowed to go home early and also work from home when needed is just a huge, but obviously awesome, change for me too! High fives for companies who say they care and then follow that up with actions that support those words.

    3. Ad Astra

      I just got a new job and one of the most attractive perks was that the office closes early the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, and it stays closed for Black Friday as well as the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Really looking forward to it myself.

      1. SL #2

        We have the same holiday policy; it’s sooooo nice to be able to confidently make plans on, say, December 23rd, rather than being like “oh, I might get out of work early but I’m not sure yet!” Nope, 1 pm, I am out of there.

  24. J M e g a n

    I think we’ve talked a bit about ADD/ADHD here. I don’t have a formal medical diagnosis, but I’m working with my therapist on the assumption that it’s a possibility, and that behavioural strategies might be helpful as a first step.

    If I do have ADD, it’s definitely the inattentive type, rather than the hyperactive type. Basically, I have trouble prioritizing – I do fine if given a specific task with clear directions (Do this Thing by tomorrow), but anything longer term is a bit of a puzzle for me. I alternate between hyperfocus and no focus at all, and have a very hard time switching focus or transitioning between activities. And I procrastinate like the Olympic Champion of Procrastinating. I have been “getting away” with this for a really long time – partly due to my own ability to cover my tracks, and partly due to a series of inattentive bosses. (I’m not blaming them in any way, just providing that info for context.)

    But I’m tired of just getting away with it. I want to fix it, or at least learn to work around it in a way that allows me to feel productive at work. So, does anyone have any strategies for dealing with inattentive ADD at work? Any pros and cons for telling your boss versus just working it out yourself?

    1. YaH

      Try reading Delivered from Distraction by Hallowell and Ratey. My doc recommended it and Driven to Distraction when we were figuring out whether I have ADHD (I do). I wasn’t diagnosed until my early 30’s because I was like you- getting away with my inability to carry out responsibilities and my procrastination- until I started really messing up at work.

      1. J M e g a n

        Good grief. I went to look up those books on Amazon, got distracted by Facebook, and fifteen minutes later still haven’t done what I clicked away from this page to do. So yes, medical diagnosis or not, I think “inattentive” is a definite possibility!

        Thanks for your response, and fposte and BRR as well. Always good to know I’m not alone.

    2. fposte

      I suspect I have that as well, but I don’t know for sure and at this point in my life I have bigger medical fish to fry, so I’m not going to test or try medication.

      In general, you go to the boss when you have a proposal for accommodation or a trajectory she needs to be included in–you don’t just go and say “Hey, I have Brain Meltdown Disorder. See ya!” but “Hey, it looks like I have BMD and it would help me to work in the conference room in the afternoon so I don’t have distractions–would that be possible?” The company generally isn’t going to be familiar with the range of accommodations for most medical disorders, after all–that’s something the employee will know much better. (That doesn’t mean a sympathetic manager might not have some suggestions, but that’s not something you want to expect–it’s just a bonus.)

      And there’s a ton of stuff in AAM archives, especially in open threads, about organization methods and beating procrastination, so I’d just trawl through the archives for a while. The key is to create a system for yourself, as you’ve already noted–for me it was finding a way to create those clear directions myself and then following them as if I were two different people, basically. (That’s why checklists are brilliant.) Make prearranged plans that take the executive function out of the workflow itself.

      1. GOG11

        I second “mak[ing] prearranged plans that take the executive function out of the workflow itself.” I have ADHD and vacillate between no focus and hyperfocus, especially when I’m off my meds. Treat planning and prepping as different from actual doing. Break things down into tasks you could observe/see or hear and then just do the thing. It seems like a minor thing, but it’s been a huge help for me.

    3. BRR

      As someone with ADD I would only tell your boss if you’re asking for an accommodation (at least at first). I don’t think there’s much else for them to offer. One option is to get an apt for treatment wither a therapist or psychiatrist. You should also do the thing that’s hardest for you to focus on first. I’d also recommend making a list at the end of the day for what you need to do tomorrow.

    4. Helka

      Hello! Fellow ADHD-I sufferer here — let’s see if I can offer some insight and help.

      #1 – Check your lifestyle. When I started getting treatment for insomnia, my ability to manage task processing skyrocketed — insomnia turns my functionality right the heck off. If you’ve got anything similar — for example, if being hungry, being tired, wearing uncomfortable clothing, anything like that really tends to get you scattered, then that’s obviously something you can manage without necessarily having to bring your boss onboard.

      #2 – Setting incremental goals has worked for me. If I know that I need to get X, Y, Z, A, B, and C done today, then rather than just saying “Oh yeah that’s my daily load,” I’ll set goals throughout the day. “Okay, I’m going to have X handled by 8:3o, Y handled by 9, Z handled by 10:30…” Etc.

      #3 – Book recommendation: ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life, by Judith Kolberg. It’s based around the premise of finding organizational tactics that take into account the ways ADD/ADHD can affect your day to day life, and working with those effects instead of fighting upstream against them. I’ll link in a comment, and observe that it’s been profoundly helpful for me.

      #4 – Habit-building. That’s easier said than done with ADHD, but once you get a habit clicked into place, it’s a huge load of stress off your shoulders. By this point, my entire morning routine is an hour and a half of pure rote functioning that I don’t have to think about anymore. Do this, then this, then this, then this, and my mind can be skittering everywhere and anywhere, but it doesn’t matter because the rhythm of the morning is what it is.

      I wouldn’t recommend getting your boss on board, not unless you have some very specific and reasonable accommodations you can ask for. Fair or not, ADHD was the Asperger’s of the 90s, and there are a lot of people who still hang onto the notion that it’s not “real” or that it’s a way to slap a medical-sounding label on someone with poor self-discipline. I’ve also seen a lot of warnings floating around that ADHD is one of those things that ends not to wind up protected, since by the ADA’s definition either it’s going to fall into the “not serious enough to be covered” camp or the “serious enough to interfere with the performance of your core job duties” camp. (If anyone can think of a career that doesn’t require focus, concentration, or organization but also doesn’t consist of dull and repetitive tasks, please share!)

      That said, with enough strategizing, it’s totally possible to manage without going down the tricky medical route. And most of what I’ve enumerated above works just as well if you don’t have ADHD but do have some of the same behaviors.

    5. Ad Astra

      It sounds like you and I have similar symptoms, and I agree with the advice other posters have given you.

      What helped me the most is being sure to ask my manager (or whoever’s assigning work) “When do you want this?” or “How would you like me to prioritize this compared to [other project]?” I also use to-do lists, calendars, and day planners religiously.

      I’ve also switched to a new job with shorter deadlines, because I’ve found that’s where my work is strongest. I really struggle long-term projects or assignments that don’t come with a hard deadline, so I made sure to find a job where most assignments can be finished and handed off in one sitting. I don’t know if a job/career change is an option for you right now, but it’s something to consider next time you’re looking.

      1. JMegan

        Thank you! A career change is not an option for me right now, but I’m definitely thinking long-term as well. Ideally, I would have all these behaviours and strategies in place first, so I can be a rock star at my current job (instead of leaving before anyone notices that I’m not, not that I would ever do something like that, ahem.)

  25. Karowen

    Out of curiosity: Can anyone explain to me the difference between a functional resume and one that has relevant experience/other experience sections?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Two different things! A functional resume starts with a long list of what you’ve done and skills you have, but without saying where you did or when (in other words, it doesn’t link each bullet point to a particular job; it’s just a long list). It’s usually followed by a short bulleted employment history, but there’s nothing to indicate what responsibilities/achievements go with what job, so there’s no context for them. Employers usually hate them since it looks like you’re trying to hide something (that’s usually the case) and there’s no way of knowing whether accomplishment X was recent or from 20 years ago, or when you were managing the 1-person team or the 15-person team.

      1. Karowen

        I did know that they were two different things, but not the format of the functional one. That’s…bizarre.

    2. Arjay

      Generally speaking, the functional resume can make it difficult to discern when and where you acquired and used the skills described. It can be difficult to know if function X was something you did for 2 years 10 years ago or for the most recent 6 months instead. Relevant/other experience sections allow you to highlight the most important experience for the job you want, while still allowing you to account for all your time – you won’t have the appearance of employment gaps even if you were working outside your field.

      1. Arjay

        And I thought I didn’t have to refresh before commenting today since I’ve only been in the thread for 15 minutes. :)

        ::Waves to Alison::

  26. Not working out

    TL;DR – How do you turn around a job that isn’t going well and, if you can’t, how do you explain it to future potential employers?

    Long version: I’ve been in my new job for about two months now and I’m getting the sense that it’s not working out, both from my perspective and that of my boss. From my perspective, I don’t feel like I fit in there – nothing I can really put my finger on, just a distinct feeling that this company is not for me. That being said, it’s nothing serious and I kind of worry I’m having a ‘the grass is greener’ moment and, if I leave based just on company culture, the next place I end up at will be even worse.

    From my boss’ perspective, I think I’m probably under performing although I actually don’t have a clue what’s expected of me. There’s a lot of ‘rules’ – one of my colleagues has recently been making some remarks that it feels like he is expected to be non-stop perfect because of the sheer amount of them! Of course, the obvious solution would be to directly ask what’s expected of me/us but the feedback culture is also non-existent and every time I’ve tried this in the past I’ve just got a very vague response. I feel like I have to make a distinction between which rules are the musts (as in, do this or we’ll fire you) and which rules are the nice to haves (as in, we’d like you to do this but, if you forget every now and again, we don’t actually care), but how can I do that without feedback?

    To make matters worse, different managers appear to have different ‘rules’ on how things should be done – some of them contradict each other. We’ve got quite a flat structure so I can be feeding into one of any five or so people and sometimes the same person who gives me a project is not the same person who reviews it (and I won’t know this until I’m pretty much done either) so it’s not simply a case of following the rules of the person who handed over the work, which is how I’ve dealt in similar situations before.

    I kind of feel like I’m under qualified as well. There have been several moments where I’ve been treated like I was expected to know something I didn’t and then been treated like I’m stupid when I asked for help. This part kind of annoys me as I feel I was very transparent and honest about my level of experience at recruitment stage, even pointing out at one point that I might need a little more training, and now I feel like I’m being expected to work at a level I’m not capable of. I left a stable job to join this new company so, to be honest, I’d rather they’d told me to come back when I had a few more years in the field rather than decided to hire me to take a chance and test me out.

    Is there any way to turn this around? Although, if not, how can explain the situation in future interviews and in future job applications, particularly if they fire me before I resign?

    1. Girasol

      That sounds like a company I joined. I was panicked to think my boss thought I was underperforming because I was hardly doing anything. (Every time he assigned me something, someone else would say “That’s MY job, back off!” and he was okay as long as somebody was doing it.) I came to understand later that in the confusion of no role definition, no feedback, poor communication, and a confusion of random but stern rules, he didn’t really know what I was doing. My coworkers reported at year end that I was “nice” and that’s what turned up on my performance evaluation. Not exactly the professional and technical accolade I wanted but better than “sadly underperforming” I told myself. So I stayed and searched on my own for opportunities to be of service without stepping on toes. After several years of mostly purposeless thrash I left with a good recommendation (as well as coworkers offering great recommendations) and wished I’d gone for it sooner. My career hadn’t gone up and my attitude had been down so long it was harder to change than I imagined. I recommend not letting it go so far! Too much patience is as bad as too little.

      1. Not working out

        Ugh. That doesn’t sound good but glad I’m not the only one. I’m definitely wary of not letting things play out for too long if there’s clearly no way to save this but a) I’ve been burned in the past before by going from bad to worse positions and don’t want to do that again so would at least like to try and make this learn and b) my industry is very transparent so people sort of know where other people have been so there’s no covering up that you ditched/got fired from a job after only a very short period. Fortunately (at least in this situation!), we’re also quite high turnover so, if I could stick it out for even another few months, my departure wouldn’t look too unusual – I’m more worried about how it would reflect on me if I get told to leave now. But thank you for your advice.

    2. fposte

      Well, you’ve only been there for two months, so you’re definitely still learning. But still, I’d talk to your manager ASAP. Formulate some specific questions it would be useful to have the answers to: “I’m getting the impression I’m not working up to the level that’s desired at this point. Would you say that’s true? Do you think my learning curve is suggesting I will get to the desired level?” I don’t know if managers as unforthcoming as you describe will answer that, but that’s not a query about rules but performance, so they might.

      1. Not working out

        Thanks for the advice. I might keep trying for feedback but I’ve tried questions very similar to yours and I’ve only received either vague ‘You’re ok (well, actually, no you’re not but I feel uncomfortable telling you that)’ responses or ‘::sigh:: I don’t understand why this is so difficult for you. Just do what I say (despite it making no sense/being the exact opposite of what X said)’ tizzy tantrums. To be honest, it’s a classic case of people being promoted to managerial rules on technical skill rather than their ability to handle people (feel harsh saying that because they’re actually pretty nice people but….).

        1. fposte

          Okay, but where’s the “well, actually, no you’re not” in parentheses coming in? Because there’s a distinct possibility it’s in your head and not in theirs.

          I’m not discounting the possibility that there’s a real mismatch here, and it sounds like the communication there is pretty screwed up. But you’re also new and learning in a job and anxious to do well; if you’ve come from a job where you were doing really well, it can be tough to adjust to not excelling, even if it’s only for a short period.

          As far as looking early, it depends on your history. If it’s solid, I think you can get away with “It turned out they really wanted more of a senior technician in the role, and I’m a few years out from that yet.” Especially since it sounds like you’re in a high turnover field anyway.

          1. Not working out

            Ok, I concede that some of it could just be in my head. They seem really uncomfortable answering the question but it could, in fairness, be because they just don’t like being asked to give feedback at all rather than because they don’t want to say anything negative, although I still get the impression overall that my work isn’t up to standard.

            Thank you for your help.

    3. katamia

      I was in a sort of similar situation (job that wasn’t going well, although in my case it was more of a genuine bad fit issue than a bad work environment). Are there concrete things you could learn about on your own that would help you if you do wind up staying, like basic accounting methods or statistics? No idea what field you’re in, so I don’t know if those apply. It won’t help with the other issues, but it might help make you feel more qualified.

      I did wind up leaving (last day was last week, actually), and in future interviews I plan to emphasize the mismatch between my background and the position–it didn’t require a science background (which many jobs in this field don’t require, so this wouldn’t be a killer the same way that, for example, saying I wasn’t familiar with Microsoft Word–which is an absolute requirement–would be), but my lack of a science background really hurt my ability to be great at that job even though I had the basic skills. Is there something similar in your job/background?

      1. Not working out

        Thank you for the advice. I really like my field so try to do a lot of reading and learning of skills in my spare time. However, I feel the environment isn’t right for letting me do my best work. Actually, the feeling that I don’t know what is expected of me is leading me to produce some pretty substandard work in my books – like I’ll be so busy feeling pressured into looking out for minor things I’ve been told off for before that I’ll end up doing a much worse job than I know I’m capable of. It’s really demotivating.

        I’m hoping that in the future I’ll be able to explain this as being just a bad fit but I’m worried that it will come off looking like an excuse – like I’m complaining about managers to cover up the fact that I couldn’t do the job (I performed to a much higher standard in a similar job in the same field before so I’m confident I am actually capable of better quality work!).

    4. Liana

      I dealt with this same situation earlier this year – I moved into a new position in February, and really felt like it was a bad fit at first, and considered leaving after only six months. You’ve only been there two months, so it’s completely normal to feel this way, but if you’re still worried, can you ask for a 90-day review with your manager? That’s what I did, and it worked great – I received feedback on areas that I could improve on, but it was mostly just reassuring to hear from her that I wasn’t failing at my job and most of my fears were solely in my head.

      1. Not working out

        Thanks – I’m supposed to be getting a 90 day review anyway but, given the lack of feedback I’ve been given so far, despite actively seeking it out, I’m not positive it will help/they won’t ‘indefinitely postpone’ it.

        1. Liana

          I’d try pushing for the 90-day review as soon as it comes up. I had to ask for it – my manager is great, but she tends to forget stuff like this, so I just directly asked her if we could set it up.

  27. AnonLibrarian

    I’m just tired today and feeling stuck. I’m in middle management in public libraries, and there aren’t many opportunities to move up in the area. Even though I have a good reputation and maintain a lot of professional activity on the side, whenever I apply for an upward move, I’m the second choice. There will be an opportunity coming up next year that I would love to have, and I updated my resume in preparation (a little bird told me about it, so it’s not even posted yet). I feel confident about the position and my ability to perform in it, but I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t get it – back to feeling stuck and stagnant. My position here is great, but I’ve been here for 9+ years and feel like I’m not learning anything new or growing. I need to cultivate a better attitude and try to figure out how to challenge myself even if I can’t make a job move.

    1. ella

      No advice, but I feel your situation. I’m in public libraries too (though I’m stuck at shelving at the moment), and even though I’m in a metro area with plenty of opportunities, so many people apply for every single open position that it’s incredibly hard to move up. There’s nothing to do but keep trying.

      1. AnonLibrarian

        Ugh, I’m sorry to hear that you are stuck in shelving. I should consider myself lucky that I made it this far up the ladder! I was lucky to have received my degree during a time when there was a lot of room for movement. 2009 made everything harder.

      2. Bibliovore

        Hiring Management Librarian here. To get to be The candidate not runner up. Figure out what you are good at and what skills as a librarian that you enjoy using. Be a public presence in your specialty- mentoring? Collections development? Programs? Development? PR? Community engagement? Volunteer/Service/ Consulting- Become a name in reviewing, write for trade/ professional periodicals, serve on state or national committees in your area- ALSC. PLA. The competition IS stiff. Make sure your Facebook page is completely professional. That your on-line presence is clean.

        1. ella

          Thanks! Part of it is that I don’t have an MLIS and am not sure I want to get one, so I’m currently applying for positions like circulation clerk and others that don’t require an MLIS. Most of the library districts in my general area are moving away from hiring reference librarians, so even though I want to stay in libraries, at this particular point in time it doesn’t make sense for me to pursue it, and can probably go a good ways in my career before I really need one (I’m interested in teaching technology classes or potentially doing programming with teenagers, both of which I can do in my area without an MLIS. I’ve been told I was one of the final two candidates a couple times now, so I know I’m a good candidate, it’s just a manner of continuing to try.

    2. skyline

      I’m sorry you’re feeling stuck. Good luck on the opening TBA!

      Are you open to relocating? The thing is…I have friends who are hiring middle and senior managers in public libraries, and they are often re-posting openings because they’re not getting the caliber of candidate that they want. The general scuttlebutt is that management jobs outside trendy urban areas can be hard to fill. Another thing you might consider is positions at larger organizations that are lateral moves. (Not sure what size system you are in now?) Such moves may not seem like a move “up”, but they can be good stepping stones. Being a middle manager in a very large organization is often as complex as being a director in small one.

  28. Cruciatus

    This may be a more site-related post than anything…but it made me half wonder if Kunal Nayyar (Raj on Big Bang Theory) reads this site (OK, maybe not, but…)! So I’m reading his book and he’s talking about auditions and he says he learned that the interviewer is on your side. “Think about it. Let’s say you’re going to an interview for a job. The hiring manager wants to fill that job so she can recruit a kick-ass employee and grow her team. And she wants that employee to be you. She’s hoping that you’ll blow her mind. […] The truth is that they’re already on your side, because once they find someone they want, they can call it a day and go home.”

    Of course more than 1 person has had that thought before, but some of the wording is so very similar to advice here that it made me do a book double take (double read?). So if you needed another reason to like him, he’s at least very sensible and practical in real life!

  29. Anon for this

    I have worked in an extremely high turnover industry for 8 years, for the same company. We hire around 40 people per MONTH to maintain our headcount and anyone here more than 6 months is considered a “tenured” employee. After our company was purchased, my position is being eliminated and my last day will be in February. Due to the incredibly high turnover, I haven’t made a lot of work connections that I’ve known for any length of time. I’m really having a hard time coming up with references to use. I can use my immediate supervisor and my current coworker (we’re the only 3 people in our department), but I’m also a little hesitant to put it out there that I’m looking since we are receiving severance if we stay through February and I’m worried that they might pull the severance offer. (This company that bought us seems EXTREMELY shady). Should I reach out to my retired former supervisor? She was my manager for about 3 years, but I haven’t worked with her in almost 5 years, and she was my manager before I switched departments so she actually can’t speak to skills that I’ve acquired in this role and what I’m doing now is what I’d like to continue doing.

    I also realize that most people aren’t going to be calling references right away, but everywhere I’ve applied so far has an online system that asks for references upfront, so I’m hesitant to put anyone down without letting them know first.

    1. fposte

      Sure, reach out to her. And where’s the supervisor before your immediate supervisor? I’d reach out to her too. Don’t worry too much about duration at this point–it’s better to have short-time supervisors than empty spaces.

      Can’t advise you on the severance thing, I’m afraid. It seems crazy to me to pull it from employees who are job-hunting unless the severance is enough to live on forever, but “seems crazy” isn’t really a bar for corporate bad behavior.

  30. overeducated and underemployed

    It’s holiday time! I realized at Thanksgiving yesterday that this is going to be the beginning of many repetitive conversations where people trying to be nice and keep in touch are going to be questioning me about my work situation. Yesterday I tried cheerily and matter-of-factly telling the truth (that I’m employed temporarily, and looking for something more long term), but then had follow-up questions about whether there ARE many more long-term opportunities in my field. Again, being honest, I have to say that it’s very specialized and incredibly competitive, so…no! And then I’m not sure how to end that line of conversation on a positive note beyond just saying “so we’ll see,” and then feeling really down on myself because it feels like even people I haven’t seen in a year can peg my job search as hopeless within about 2 seconds of conversation.

    1. overeducated and underemployed

      Um. I pressed “enter” meaning to start a new paragraph but I wound up hitting it twice and posting instead.

      Anyway, I KNOW I’m not the only person who’s dealt with this issue on this blog. Any foolproof tricks for a) redirecting the conversation to a more fun topic and b) not hating yourself and feeling like a failure for the rest of the day afterward? I know people mean well, it’s just hard to have these conversations over and over.

      1. neverjaunty

        “Nothing new, but I’ll tell you if I get good news!” followed by an immediate change of subject (“Anyway, how’s Aunt Drucilla?”)

      2. Not So NewReader

        hating yourself and feeling like a failure. No fool proof methods for this. Have several tools so if one is not working today you can bump to the next one. (Seriously, I do this.)

        If you can’t say it to a friend you cannot say it to yourself either. You would never dream of telling a friend she is a failure, right? When you catch yourself calling you a failure, quickly balance yourself with a positive uplifting statement about yourself.

        Ask yourself if you are projecting your opinion of what they think on to them. Don’t equate their silence or lack of anything to add as being the same as they think your job search is hopeless. People get overwhelmed very quickly when talking about finding jobs, they just run out of material for the conversation. It may be that they feel you are way smarter than they are and you will figure out something eventually.

        Put something into you every day to build yourself up. No one can do that for us and that is kind of unfair now that I think about it. However, it can be whatever you want, a salad, a long walk, a good book, do something simple, but restorative, every day. See, if we allow ourselves to be depleted daily, stuff like this gets verrrry hard, because we haven’t got much left inside us to help us cope.

    2. Mando Diao

      I think you’re overthinking it :)

      Unless you’re from a family that’s stuffed with overachievers, it’s sufficient to say that you’re employed but always have your eyes open for better opportunities.

  31. Arjay

    I’m grumpy today, and wearing my I’m Grumpy t-shirt to prove it. I have to be in the office for a couple hours today, but I got to come in at whatever time I wanted. I told my husband more than once this week that I had to work today. This morning right after I got out of the shower to get ready for work, he asked me if I was staying home instead because he thought it was somehow optional for me to come in. Grrr.

    1. intldevt

      Haha, I know this feeling. No, I can’t just take a day off whenever! And I’m not going to lie and call-in sick! My SO seems to find it like…REALLY difficult to remember my schedule.

    2. CMT

      I’m grumpy, too :( I really should have scheduled this day off, but I figured since I’m in town, why waste my PTO? But the holiday yesterday made me feel pretty down, and I’m a wee bit fuzzy from the drinks at dinner last night and I just do not want to be here. I’m going to get off this blog (I promise!), do the two things that need to get done today, and then see if I can leave early.

  32. Anon for This

    I need advice on how to deal with some boss difficulties.

    My boss has a habit of taking things personally and kicking the cat. The result is we get these false urgency emails (things that aren’t truly urgent, but have been blown out of proportion) and dramatic misinterpretations of emails or messages that have come to my boss. For instance, she took a benign reminder to ask employees to be sure to complete assigned trainings as a “failed” report card, and demanded we complete all outstanding training by the next day. The training assignments themselves had no deadline. There were no deadlines in the original email. There was no criticism in the original email. There certain was no mention of “failing” in the original email, but that is she interpreted it.

    She’s also made it difficult to plan certain meetings, because she personally dislikes one of the people who most often contribute ideas to the agenda, and so we routinely rejects the agenda I’ve put together or otherwise complains and says things like “We can’t run a meeting based on ONE person’s feedback.” The last meeting I had to organize, things were put on the agenda at the request of one of the internal project leads PLUS 2 or 3 outside people, and I was still met with this rant about Joe Schmoe and why is that even on the agenda when only Joe has an issue. It’s so frustrating. I HATE planning these meetings because of it. I don’t want to listen to people’s personal diatribes about other team members, and I feel like my boss is allowing that to overtake professional judgement in working with Joe’s group and interfering with my ability to run these meetings.

    What do I do with these things? Is there anything I can say or some way to approach it that will get my boss to stop and breathe for a few and THINK. She’s reasonable when she can separate personal from business, and after her personal reaction has had time to dissipate, but it sends the entire team into a scramble, and in some cases people will make half-arsed or down right terrible decisions with the aim of making her happy rather than considering what is the best thing to do for the task at hand. I’m in that bind now with my co-workers, who are likely annoyed because I am blocking their ability to move forward with a horrible decision that adds nothing of value to the work we do, makes things more difficult for us, but is something they are certain will just make the boss happy.

    I don’t get paid to make the boss happy. I get paid to do my job well. Doing my job well is what makes the boss happy in the end. I’m baffled experienced employees are totally missing this, baffled and frustrated.

    1. NicoleK

      A boss is suppose to remove obstacles in your path, not create them. You could try bringing it up once or twice. If nothing changes, then you need to decide if it’s a deal breaker for you. I don’t have any advice, just empathy.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      On the meeting agendas, you could try preemptively telling her (when first giving her the agenda), “This includes input from Jane, Joe, and Fergus,” so it’s clear it’s not all Joe-driven.

      But the broader issue of how she operates in general … yeah, I don’t think you can fix that.

    3. squids

      This sucks. I’ve dealt with a boss who has those tendencies, but it doesn’t sound like to the same extent.

      For the overreacting, you’ve identified the problem. That helps. You’ll know when she’s overreacting, and your co-workers are getting to know when she’s overreacting, and if you can take the extra 10 minutes to think & take a deep breath that she’s not capable of, maybe you can help yourself underreact to her messages. That might help even things out and minimize the damage (rather than letting anyone else overreact to her, creating a chain reaction.)

    4. Not working out

      Your last paragraph interested me. To be honest, I think most employees ARE paid to keep the boss happy and IDEALLY that should be by doing you job well, which ultimately makes their job easier. In reality, I think that also sometimes means having to ride through their irrational outbursts and give in to their illogical requests, which is possibly why others are more willing to go along with it….

      ….Not, however, that that’s the right thing to do. Having been in this situation, what you really need to do is ask if her behaviour is stopping you from doing fundamental parts of your job, which, if you can’t set up meetings that need to be set up because she’s throwing tantrums, it sounds like it kind of is. I’d then approach her and explain something along the lines of ‘Hey, I know that you really don’t like it when Joe requests X and Y for the agenda but other project leaders have asked us to set this up and Joe’s stuff is important to what we’re working on. If we don’t have a meeting on it, I’m concerned the project won’t work out the way we need it to.’ I find that usually once you’ve phrased it in a ‘Hey, I can’t get my work done if you keep doing X!’ way, most people have the common sense to let you do what you need to do.

      Alternatively, if there’s somebody above her, it might be worth going to them. I had to do this with a manager who sounds not dissimilar to yours, to the point where she’d forbid certain topics in meetings because she didn’t see them as important, despite the rest of the team needing to discuss it to get on with their work, and she also developed a habit of flying off in a panic, asking people to do one thing, before changing her mind and demanding you did the exact opposite, wasting hours of people’s time when we were already under pressure as it was. Problem was she was under a lot of stress herself so wasn’t really in the position to see that, actually, her behaviour was causing projects to derail. By getting some above her who wasn’t involved in the day-to-day of it all to explain what her actions meant for those working for her, she was able to start seeing the big picture and could adjust her behaviour.

      1. Anon for This

        Yeh, that’s the problem. Some of this impedes my ability to do my job or makes it difficult. The latest round where it’s me vs. 3 people being reactionary to the point they just want to shut her up instead of having an adult conversation with her is sucking up time,energy, and if successful will create problems down the line because the process they think will shut her up is so horrible and won’t actually shut her up. My boss is going to think this idea is horrible (it involves maintaining copies of document in 5 different places among other things.)

        I’ve had good results speaking with her in person after she’s settled down a bit. I want to teach my co-workers to do the same, and not be so afraid of doing it. At the least I want them to learn to not react in the moment. The sky won’t fall. If she calls or stops by your desk to follow-up, that’s the perfect time to have a conversation.

        Time to board my flight home!

        1. Bea W

          PS what I meant to convey is that my co-workers were soley focused on trying to figure out what would make the boss happy and not on the job at hand. That was the conversation in the meeting. It kind of scared me. These are people with 10-15 years of industry experience, not noobs!

      2. Artemesia

        Interesting. Years ago my boss was screaming at a difficult department head ‘it isn’t my job to keep staff happy.’ (it was an encounter when both of them were clearly and obviously in the wrong — she by how she approached the issue where she was actually right and he by having screwed up the issue and then reacting like a crazed wolferine when confronted badly about it) And my first thought was, yeah, THAT is exactly your job. It is sad when people have to do contortions all day to upward manage a childish boss whose job should be making their jobs easier to do and more productive.

  33. intldevt

    Any advice from AAM-ers on a “short-term pain for long term gain” scenario?

    I currently work in the non-profit world on the business development side. It has been a great jumping off point, but I think that I’m ready to transition to a new role. In the long-term, I see myself in a more technical stream in line with my education background (i.e. a role where I provide guidance and support on a specific subject area to a variety of project managers, conduct research, etc.). I think that in order to position myself well for this kind of role in the future, I need project management experience. I mean, how can I advise people on integrating a certain technical element into their projects if I’ve never managed a project? ….but the idea of managing projects and dealing with admin, budgets, people’s performance issues, etc for 2+ years while I build up that expertise is SO unappealing to me. I really don’t picture myself as a manager in the long term. Do I just have to suck it up and be miserable for 2 years?

    1. JMegan

      What you’re describing actually sounds more like “business analysis” – it’s similar to project management, but more technical, and it’s a discipline all on its own. You might find some helpful resources there as well (google Business Analysis Body of Knowledge to get yourself started.)

      In either case, BA or PM, I would recommend getting some training, and looking up professional organizations or networking groups in the field. See how much knowledge you can acquire on your own, without having an actual project to manage. Also focus on beefing up (or maintaining) your subject matter expertise. I think a lot of people get into fields like business analysis or project management by being SMEs first and analysts second, so if you have those two complimentary skill sets you should be fine.

      As for the short-term pain for long-term gain part – honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. Unless you’re really sure of where you want to go, AND that specific direct experience in project management is a requirement to get there, the short-term pain is more likely to drive you crazy than not. If you’re immersing yourself in something you know you won’t enjoy, then the end result had better be REALLY worth it, you know? Better to cross-train yourself while doing something you actually do enjoy.

    2. misspiggy

      I think more important will be using your business development role to build a network with people doing the kind of jobs you want to do. Set up lots of informational interviews to understand the project work in order to represent it well in business development, and to really help bring in money to priority areas that these people care about. Get involved in reviewing and developing proposals and the associated project designs jointly with project people, showcasing your donor and education knowledge. Casually drop your education background and interests into conversations with them. Socialise with them and make sure they know how you’ve helped their work and what you want to do next. If they feel you’re on their side, have good people skills, and can shape projects to suit donors without ruining them, they will love you. Then hopefully they will let you know if relevant roles come up. I made this transition that way!

  34. NicoleK

    Question: how do you maintain relationships with the contacts in your network? Especially former coworkers or contacts you met at trainings and other settings. I have no problems maintaining contact with colleagues who become friends after I leave the company. I struggle with colleagues who fall more into the acquaintance category. Every networking article I read suggests sending contacts in your network a link to an article. Does that work? Do people appreciate that? What have people utilized? I do connect with former coworkers on Linkedin but I’m hoping to build and maintain a more meaningful connection.

    1. Liana

      This might not be everyone’s thing, but for former coworkers of mine that I wouldn’t necessarily call friends, but am on friendly terms with, I’ve actually been connecting them on Facebook and then putting them on a restricted list. So for former/current coworkers who I genuinely like, but don’t want seeing every status updated, I have them under a specific “Work” list and I only post work-relevant articles, or very generic status updates to that list – everything else is posted to close friends only. I think Facebook better designed to keep in casual touch with people without seeming overly … network-y, for lack of a better word. I know some people have a very strict “no coworkers on Facebook” rule, which is also perfectly legitimate, but this seems to work well for me.

      1. Ad Astra

        I use Facebook for this as well. I actually don’t really care much for Facebook, so even though I check it daily out of habit, my posts are kind of infrequent and completely benign. I don’t even bother with restricted lists because all I really post is photos of my dog and questions about which vacuum I should buy. My Twitter account, on the other hand, contains actual opinions.

    2. Hellanon

      Oh, so that’s why my former students do this! Periodically one or another of them will email me a link to an article & I gotta admit that, unless that email also contains a question they would like me to answer or news I can congratulate them on, I delete those emails unread… I have enough to do keeping up with my own RSS feed. I couldn’t figure out why they’d do that, but stealth networking makes sense…

  35. anon consultant

    Another item today — I’d be interested in hearing people’s experiences asking for a raise. I have been putting off the conversation with my boss for far too long. Anyone else have trouble just getting over the hump and STARTING that talk? I’m being ridiculous and I just have to suck it up and do it. I need to know what his reaction will be for near-future planning.

    1. fposte

      How long have you been there, and what’s the basis for the request?

      In general, I’d say this is a routine conversation that doesn’t need to be a big deal. If you’ve been there long enough to ask for a raise, you’ve probably been there long enough to see your boss’s reaction to employees in various circumstances; if he flies off the handle easily, that’s one thing, but if he doesn’t, he shouldn’t about this.

      Arrange a time to meet, and then do it. “Boss, it’s been a year and a half since my last raise, and in that time I’ve saved the Ferguson account, doubled our productivity, and made the company a quadrillion dollars. In light of that increased value to the company, I’d like to discuss a raise of $Xk per year. Is that something we could make happen?” If the answer is no, the followup question is “Okay. Could we talk about what performance standards in my position would merit that raise? Because I’d really like to reach those.”

      1. anon consultant

        Thanks. I’ve read so many things on this site about this conversation — your suggestions and others I’ve seen on here make good points.
        It’s just the doing it. I think you’re right that I’ve just got to make it Not A Big Deal, initiate it, and do it.
        Context — No one works where I work for good money. I’m hourly. Been here nearly two years and I know I do excellent work. It’s to the point where I feel almost embarrassed for myself over how little I make. Absolutely love working here, but sometimes the negatives far outweigh the positives; and this is a huge negative. Again, it’s not a job in which one can expect to make big money but it would help a lot to get a bit of a boost.
        I especially like the follow-up of asking ‘well then if it’s no, what must I do to merit it?’ Of course if the answer’s no he may well say it’s budget / that he’s not in a position to grant it right now. But I think if something’s important enough to this executive, he’ll find the money.
        Anyway, I’ve got to just do it.

        1. fposte

          Yup. It’s also a thing that’s good for you, in the exercising/eating your vegetables kind of way; it’s an important work skill and you need to get practice in it. (I would argue it’s an important life skill, in fact, because it’s asking for what you want rather than getting frustrated because they’re not giving it to you without request.) And the more you do it, the less of a big deal it’ll feel like. And sure, he may say no. But he may say yes, and I bet you’ll be more annoyed if you never ask at all.

  36. Susan

    Reality check please: For a new M.Sc. graduate, is ‘helping spouse to get their own [unrelated field] business off the ground’ a legitimate answer to ‘why haven’t you done more internships’? How desperate would it look on a resume?

    1. fposte

      No. Very. (Caveat–I don’t think you’re in the U.S., and I’m answering U.S. based.)

      That said, there could be ways to do this. What work was this “help”? Were you working retail, handling customers, keeping books, getting funding, what? In other words, what work skills were operating? Obviously if “help” means doing all the childcare to free up spouse’s time, that’s not going to get you anything, but I bet you mean something that really does translate to work skills. That’s the terminology to use. “Help” sounds like you brought cookies. “I served as part-time accountant for my partner’s startup for the first year” sounds like you performed important workplace tasks that will have value to future employers.

      I’m still uninclined to include it in a resume, but I could be convinced if it was really quantifiable in terms of role, commitment, and duration.

      1. Susan

        Thanks! And sure, the wording here was a bit flippant (I’d like to think I’m actually quite passable at making things sound better than they are, I just wanted to go for ‘harsh reality’ here).
        The what I did was pretty much anything paper related for a construction/craft kind of business, i.e. bookkeeping, writing quotes and bills, handling insurances, permits and occasionally vendors, that kind of thing.

        So ‘no’ to the resume, but ‘maybe, if I sell it right’ to mentioning in an interview? :)

        1. fposte

          That’s a fair summary :-). I probably wouldn’t volunteer it an interview unless there’s a specific job skillset that it’s an indicator of that you don’t have elsewhere, but if you get asked something like the internship question, I think it’s a legitimate go-to.

        2. fposte

          BTW, in the US I think that would be an office manager position, if you’re looking for a short term.

    2. Stella Maris

      I wouldn’t put it on my resume unless I was (as fposte said below) doing specific work tasks, and maybe not even then. (Were you paid?)

      Certainly not as an excuse for why I hadn’t done something else.

  37. Cat Sandwich

    I arrive to work earlier than everyone else, and thus, I leave earlier. But, no one believes I come much earlier or no one believes I do any work while I’m there early. So, I get dirty looks when I leave before everyone. What to do?

    1. ella

      I think if all you’re getting is looks, and if you have the confidence of your boss and your work is well-regarded, let people look. It’s not your job to account for your actions to random coworkers. If people ask, I’d tell them what you worked out with your boss; if it starts to leak into your interactions with your coworkers or into your performance review, I’d bring it up with your boss.

    2. CMT

      Send emails in the morning when you get in? I don’t think you should have to defend yourself, but if you feel like it would help, this would make people know that you are there in the morning.

    3. SherryD

      As long as your supervisors and managers understand, don’t worry about anyone else. If someone makes a comment (eg, “Must be nice!”), explain (eg, “working 7 to 3 is my 8 hour day!” or “I came in a 7, and I only get paid for 8 hours. When they stop paying me, I stop working!”). As for the dirty looks, ignore them.

  38. Overtime?

    I’m a part-time employee who is supposed to work no more than 25 hours per week. I usually end up working 26-27, but I’m supposed to only record 25 and only get paid for 25. What can I do? Nobody who I work for seems to 100% grasp that whole “25 hours per week” thing. I’ve pushed back a few times and been snapped at.

      1. Overtime?

        Two bosses. I can’t do all of my work in 25 hours. I can come close, but not quite. They get upset when I can’t finish everything.

        1. fposte

          Oh, that’s not good. But let’s clarify a little–when you say your contract forbids overtime, does it forbid overtime, or does it forbid working more than 25 hours? Because 27 hours isn’t overtime–it’s just more than 27. (And I’m assuming you’re non-exempt, but please correct me if I’m wrong.) And is that limitation the company’s side of the contract, or is it something that’s for your protection? If it’s from the company, that gives you a little more leeway–you can say “Sorry, Bob, TeaCo is strict on the budget there.” And I think you always have the legal backup when you’re being asked to work unpaid of “I’d like to finish it too, but I don’t think any of us want to the company to risk legal trouble. If you can find extra money in the budget, I’m happy to legally work a few more hours [if that’s true].”

          1. Overtime?

            I’ll have to check it when I get home, but IIRC it forbids both. No idea why it’s in the contract. And yes, I’m non-exempt.

            What kind of legal trouble would this cause? Any idea what would happen?

            1. fposte

              If you’re non-exempt, you can’t work unpaid hours by Federal and, likely, state law. Labor law violation is a big deal. In fact, it’s also worth noting that in some states it applies to working more than 8 hours in a day, and any contract saying otherwise would be likely invalid.

              If 25 hours is in the contract and you work more, that’s a breach of contract. But my guess from the way you’re talking about it is that this is their contract that you signed, not your contract that they signed, so they’re not too worried about that one–it’s just their way of warning you this really isn’t a full-time job. So that one’s probably not worth your bringing up.

              1. fposte

                Sorry, in the first paragraph I mean some states’ labor law declares overtime to be hours worked over 8 in a day.

              2. Overtime?

                Oh, yikes. Would a company with this kind of problem end up in the news?

                Because, lol, I work for a newspaper.

                Anyways, I really don’t want to make any trouble for anyone. I just want to either only work 25 hours or get paid for 27. Yes, it’s their contract that I signed. I was a new graduate at the time and I should have questioned more.

                1. fposte

                  Probably not in the news–it’s a big deal in that government genuinely cares, but it’s not like a rare disaster unless it’s a big across-the-board thing.

                  One thing you might do is go to one of the bosses when this is isn’t a pressing matter, and say “What do you want me to do when this comes up in future? I think people may not realize that I’m non-exempt and that we’re risking legal trouble to extend my hours without pay. I’m fine just submitting hours that go beyond 25, though, and maybe that would solve the problem. Should I do that in future so things can get finished?”

                  [Note the structure here: the boss gets out of this conversation the quickest by saying “Yes” to the most reasonable course of action.]

                2. asteramella

                  Depends what you mean by “in the news.” If you google “Department of Labor wage and hour violations press release” you can find news about DOL enforcement actions against companies that failed to pay for all hours worked, failed to pay overtime, or committed other infractions.

            2. ella

              I don’t know if you’ve tried these methods of pushback or if they’ll work, but you could try a couple things:

              “I can stay late tonight and finish X, but it’ll probably take me an extra hour or so. Is it okay if I come in late tomorrow to even out the time?”
              “If I do this, it’ll put me over on time. Is payroll going to have a problem with paying me for the extra time?” (or some variation of that that applies to your particular company’s structure.)

              The trick is to find phrases with the built in assumption that either 25 hours is all you work, or if you get more, that you get paid for the time. If they’re not willing to pay you for the time, you don’t do the task. Period the end.

              If you aren’t keeping exact track of your hours (either on payroll software or a spreadsheet or something), I would definitely start. It’s possible (depending on how many people they manage and how full their plates are) that your bosses don’t totally realize that they’re asking you to stay extra.

              1. Overtime?

                I’m about to leave this thread for a few hours – busy this afternoon – but ella and Observer, I’ll get back to you later today. Great suggestions.

            3. Observer

              We’re assuming you are in the US, since you are using that term.

              The FLSA requires that your employer pays you for ALL of the time you work. And, if you work but don’t put it on your time sheet, or you clock out, that does not clear them. If they knew you were doing this, or should have known that you were doing this they are liable. And the back and forth about not getting your work done, and then suddenly it’s magically happening would indicate that they should have known it was happening.

              Besides having to pay your back wages, they could be liable for monetary penalties, and even criminal prosecution under some circumstances (if this is something they been doing to others as well.)

  39. ella

    It’s amazing how much fewer comments the entries have gotten this week with people not at work/out of town. How many of you are reading blogs at work?! ;)

    Staying on topic with a question: If you are applying for a job that you got rejected for once (I’m confident that the interviewers liked me and that I was a finalist, or I wouldn’t do such a thing), what should be the opening line of the cover letter? They won’t fail to recognize me/my resume, so I don’t want to not acknowledge it. I didn’t get feedback about why I didn’t get hired (though I asked) so I can’t talk directly about that. Once I get going I’ll be fine but I’m so stuck on the first sentence. “I wanted to apply one more time because…” “I wanted to apply again even though….” something. Something something something.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      To answer your first question: Yes! This is the second slowest week of the year, every year. The slowest is the week of Christmas. (It has me debating whether to publish the regular short-answers post at all tomorrow since I think few people will see it and I could use it for Monday instead and save myself some work. But my “but this is my regular schedule!” neuroses have me torn.)

      1. ella

        If it helps, I mostly read the blog through an RSS app, and only click through to this site if I’m interested in commenting. So it’s possible that plenty of people are reading (on their phones or whatever while waiting for a plane), but just don’t have the time/motivation this week to click through and comment. I actually read through like a dozen entries yesterday because last week was super busy for me so I didn’t get to my RSS feed at all.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’m basing it on traffic rather than comments (comments are actually always only a tiny sliver of overall traffic), but it’s true that traffic numbers don’t include people who read via RSS.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Nah — if my understanding is correct, the number of people who use RSS to read is a pretty small portion of the whole, so do not feel guilty! Plus, you should read how you like to read.

        1. CMT

          That was supposed to be save yourself *some* work, but I guess saving yourself from work is applicable, too.

      2. jesicka309

        I’m an international reader, so my perspective – please still keep the updates! Work isn’t worth going to when there is a U.S holiday and none of my fave websites update! If you can swing it, I’d definitely still like a post.

    2. fposte

      I don’t know that it has to be the opening line–what’s your usual opening line? But I also think you could–just I wouldn’t say “I wanted to apply one more time” because they already know you’re applying and it’s a little clunky. “As you know, I’m deeply interested in the work at Teapot Smashery , so I was pleased to see your new opening for Shard Picker.” Make it be about your interest in the job, not about the fact that you’ve applied there already.

      1. ella

        Ooh, I like “As you know…” I might use that. Usually my line is something like “I am please/excited/interested to see you have an opening for ______” which I know is not super imaginative, but gets me going. (Can we tell that opening lines are not my strong point? I really wish they were my strong point.)

    3. Rebecca in Dallas

      Haha, yep, reading at work! I volunteered to be coverage for my department today since I don’t travel for Thanksgiving. I love how quiet it is today, plus I get to take Monday off.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas

        However, it’s cold and rainy and my husband keeps sending me pictures of him and the dog in front of the fireplace at home. :(

        1. Overeducated and underemployed

          My husband is playing video games while I am at work and the kid is at day care. Photos would not make me happy!

      2. Elizabeth West

        I usually read at work, when I eat my breakfast and my lunch. Then I get sucked in. :)

        Now I”m at home but I have no life, so if I’m too tired / not doing anything else around the place, I”ll read and comment.

    4. brightstar

      I’m the opposite, I don’t have time beyond reading the posts at work to comment and am happy to have time to go through the entire open thread this week. But in general, even with the time, I’m not a prolific commenter.

  40. katamia

    I’ve always had this perception of sales as being a job that too many people and always having to be “on” and just really not something I’d like or be good at. But my last job was one that, on paper, I was perfectly suited for personality-wise, and I was completely miserable, so now I’m looking at options I hadn’t considered before, even if they’re a little off the wall.

    However, I don’t really know anyone in sales. So, people in sales, what does your average work day look like? Do you find that you need to be really extroverted to be good at it, or can someone who’s more introverted and terrible at small talk be good at it?

    1. the gold digger

      I used to be in sales. I am an introvert. Nobody would say I am salesy. What I am is a good listener and a problem solver.

      Good salespeople do not force people to buy things they do not want. They listen, identify problems, and try to figure out solutions. There were times when I told prospects my company could not do anything for them.

      I was not in an environment where I had to cold call. I worked with brokers who came to me to request bids. I would spend part of my day putting proposals together. I also took care of current clients, which meant taking clients out to lunch, visiting them in their offices, and doing what I could to ensure a good relationship so that when my company didn’t do something right (claims mixup, billing mixup), the client would call me instead of calling the broker. Everyone screws up – you want your customer to give you a chance to fix the problem and that is the purpose of the relationship building.

      1. INFJ

        +1 My SO is super extroverted and enjoys being a salesperson. However, one of his friends/coworkers is very much introverted and laid back, and that’s actually part of his charm as a salesperson- the customer doesn’t feel like they’re being swindled because he’s so down to earth.

        I also agree with the part about a good salesperson being able to listen to the customer and help them find what they need- something introverts are very good at!

    2. fposte

      If you can figure out a good search string, I know Wakeen’s Teapots has written about this here–her perspective on sales was very different than I’m used to.

    3. Former Diet Coke Addict

      I work in sales. It depends totally on what you’re selling!

      You definitely don’t have to be particularly extroverted or talkative. It can help, depending on what you sell, but there are plenty of salespeople who are more no-nonsense and straightforward that do just fine. Some sales is just about volume, while some is about connecting the end user with something that works for them.

      Currently I work in education adjacent sales, so I deal with lots of teachers and profs and school board members. It’s cyclical, but it’s very much not a schmoozy slimy buddy-buddy environment. People contact us because they need something, and it’s my job to figure out what it is and how we can help them. When I worked in bridal it was the same–people needed something and I was there to figure out what it was.

      You don’t have to be an extrovert, but having decent small talk skills helps. (Also, the two things are not connected–you can be introverted and still capable of holding up a nice conversation with someone you don’t know! I do it all the time and I live for alone time.) It does help to not have any fear of talking to strangers or fear of the phone, though.

      The biggest thing is whether you work for commission only or for base salary plus, and if your environment is collaborative or combative. At my work the salespeople have defined territories with no overlap and it’s great–we help each other, cover for one another, and never argue or have bad blood about who’s getting what. Some environments can be very cutthroat, so that’s something to think about too.

  41. The Other Dawn

    I posted last week about annual training I had to conduct in which a small portion, only 10 minutes, was applicable to a group of employees that were forced by another person, Sally, to attend. Some of the people had to drive in from our other locations–some out of state–and some of the locations are about 45 minutes away. So, my worry was how this would reflect on my department, even though it seemed clear the directive was from Sally, who is in another department. (I had tried several times to tell Sally that we would be wasting their time, which I phrased as, “I really don’t think they will find any benefit from this training and I plan to do department-specific training in 2016.” It was clear, though, that this was a box to check for Sally and that’s what mattered.)

    At the very first session this past Monday, the person running the overall training announced at the beginning that the portion of the training that pertained to them was only about 15 minutes long and they were free to leave afterwards. They all seemed OK with it. Sally, who made them attend, was also in the audience. So I did my thing and it was about 15 minutes for their portion. I then dismissed them and finished the rest of my session. I got back to my desk and about a half hour later, and I got an email from Sally: she had thought about it and decided that only those people who are in our building would have to attend. She didn’t think others should have to drive in for 15 minutes and didn’t think they would get a lot out of it. Those people could just sign off that they reviewed the procedures. Hmmm. Now, didn’t I try to say that last week? Several times? My guess is that she got “feedback” from someone higher up, or a number of people who drove it for Monday’s session.

    So, anyway, I worried for nothing.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      When dealing with the Sallys of the world, the key is making them think something was their idea.

  42. Brandy

    I hope this is work related enough…I am looking for a treadmill desk or similar to use in my home office. Essentially, I need to find a way to work exercise into my routine. Recommendations/warnings on certain brands? Can you tell if you have coworkers that have this setup and if so, is it distracting?

  43. performance reviews

    Favorite time of the year- performance reviews! 2 related questions:
    1. This year, i was promoted twice. I will be doing performance reviews for people that previously reported to me, but now report to my direct report (eg. they report to someone that took my old role when I was promoted). This change occurred about 2 weeks ago, so it doesn’t seem right to have New Person review people that I supervised all year. How should I include (or not) New Person in the reviews? Should I do the review and just share outcomes and goals with my direct report (who now managers this team)? Give feedback but let New Person administer the reviews? Ultimately, everyone reports to me/ my department and when I asked HR, she said it’s up to me how to handle it. So if you’ve been in this situation either as the manager or the report, what worked better? FWIW 5/6 reviews will be easy; there is one person who is and has been underperforming.

    2. I took on a new director and team in the reorg mentioned above. His former boss told me to do his review. So now I am reviewing someone that i”ve only managed for 2 weeks (but have worked with for years). Old Manager (my peer) offered to “weigh in” on the review but has yet to do so and it’s due Monday. Any thoughts on the approach here?

    1. Key to the West

      For your first question, I would completely include the new manager. It allows a completely transparent hand over of the management to them, and everyone will be on the same page on what was agreed.

    2. Aussie Teacher

      For #2, given you’ve worked with the guy for years, I’d write the review and send it to the Old Manager for any comments/suggestions before you present it to the guy. Doesn’t sound like Old Manager is going to be very helpful.

    3. Artemesia

      I would make notes on each of the people and then sit down with the new guy and get his impressions and then share yours and do the reviews collaboratively.

      With the second one, I would do a preliminary review and then sit down and interview the old manager (preferably in person, but if necessary by phone) with a set of questions that will help you flesh out the review. Don’t require him to write anything, but document the process with a follow up Email.

  44. Gifts up and down and all around!

    Gift question.

    For most of the year, I managed 6 people directly, and had an overall team of 10. Two weeks ago, we did a major re-org. I now manage 4 people directly (3 are legacay; 1 is new to me) and 3 of my old direct reports now report to someone under me (“M”). My team is overall 21 people.

    For holiday gifts– do I gift EVERYONE? Do I gift only my current direct reports? Do I gift the direct reports I had for the majority of the year but who now no longer report to me directly? I am considering speaking with “M” who now managers my old reports and reports directly to me—but I don’t want to put her in an awkward spot thinking she has to give all these people gifts even though she’s managed them for 2 weeks! Other problem here is now I have 22 indirect reports– getting SOME but not ALL gifts seems awkward, even if everyone knows why.

    These people are spread all over the country, so I can’t do a group meal or shared food type thing. Sending everyone a $10 gift card seems stupid, since pre-re orgI would have given all my reports my standard $30-50 gift. I really can’t afford/ don’t want to afford/ think it’s silly to send my ENTIRE team of 25, some i’ve only indirectly managed 3 layers down for only 2 weeks, a $50 gift.

    help?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Do you have to do individual gifts at all? I’d start with that question, and I’d say the answer is no, unless you’re in a culture where there’s a strong expectation of it from managers and it would cause an issue if you didn’t. Think about a group gift instead (like food) or no gift. Do your part to end work gift-giving obligations!

      1. OP

        Well, I’ve managed this team for several years and have always sent gifts to my direct reports and cards of thanks to everyone (inc indirects). Those that have been with me for 4+ years may wonder what’s up. Also, I’ve gotten nice gifts from my manager(s) over the years. This team works their respective butts off and I’m happy to recognize that- just not sure about this last year and last minute switch up.

        As I said above this is a very spread out team (5 offices and several remotes) so a good thing isn’t really feasible unless there are options I’m missing?

        1. Not So NewReader

          Tell the employees who are used to your annual gifting, that because you now have 25 people the gifts are not doable any more.
          I think most people would understand that gifting 25 employees out of pocket is just not going to happen.

    2. Intrepid Intern

      Could you do a standard $30 gift for the people you worked with all year, and then a nice $10 thing for your new additions? Or just bring in food? I mean, I’m a serial intern, so I’m always new and that may color my perspective but I would be so thrilled to be included, period, and I’d completely understand why I’d get less for having been on the team 2 weeks.

      1. OP

        See above- cannot being in food as these people do not all work in the same place. Otherwise I’d taken’me all to lunch and call it done.

  45. Lu

    This guy at work is quite overly attached to me, he can act very clingy. He’s about 4 years younger than me, quite immature. I barely speak to him outside of work now, and try to avoid conversation. He joked about buying me underwear as a Christmas gift for Christmas. I responded ‘WTF give it to your girlfriend’ said he was creeping me out. My boyfriend was not best pleased let me tell you.

    We are on mutual terms now as we have to work together and my job is just too good to give up. I’m not giving that up. I think I’m just going to keep my distance. Not talk to him outside work, talk to him when I have to and leave it at that. Since I freaked out at him he has not been as clingy with conversation which is great. There is barriers there now!

    1. Ad Astra

      Your reaction to the underwear thing might be enough to shut this whole thing down. If it’s not, you’d be well within your rights to talk to a manager or HR about this. It’s totally inappropriate and you’ve made it clear that these comments are unwelcome.

  46. Liana

    This is partly work/school related, but also partly boyfriend-related, so I’m kind of torn on whether to post it here or in the true open thread Alison usually does on Saturdays. But, since it’s Black Friday and all the doctors I work for are out, I have nothing better to do, so here goes!

    I’m currently working as an admin assistant to several doctors (I started early this year, and it’s my second AA position). It’s fine, I like my docs and I like my coworkers, and I’m reasonably good at what I do, but it’s not something I want to do long-term. What I DO want to do long-term is social work, and I’m currently looking at grad school programs for an MSW. I’d like to go full-time, and since most programs start in September, I’d most likely quit my job in August. My main question is: if I decided to start grad school next September, would it look bad to future prospective employers that I only stayed at my current job for a year and a half (and my previous job for two years), if the reason for leaving was school-related? I don’t want to look like a flight risk, but I’m also pretty antsy to start building my career in the direction I want it to go.
    Secondary question: I’m also considering not starting grad school until 2017 so I can spend more time at my current job. As I said, I like it just fine, it pays well and is giving me some great experience. However, the plan my boyfriend and I have been discussing is that when I DO start school I’ll move in with him to make things financially doable. He’s gung-ho on the idea of me starting next September, so I can move in with him sooner, and when I casually brought up the idea of putting it off another year, he very obviously didn’t like that idea. We live in different states, so moving in with him would require me to quit my job. i’m just not sure how to handle … well, any of this really. Thoughts?

    1. fposte

      Grad school is a reset. “Left to go to grad school” is a get-out-of-consequences-free reason. And if you’re lucky and go into a field related to your grad degree, people probably aren’t going to pay all that much attention to what you did before unless you frame it as really relevant.

      I would not make grad school decisions based on your boyfriend’s desire to have you move in.

    2. Liza

      I think a year and a half is long enough not to raise any eyebrows, especially with school as a reason for leaving. I don’t have any advice on the boyfriend front, though.

      Good luck!

    3. Observer

      I agree with the others about not needing to worry about leaving your job, since you left to go to school.

      Your boyfriend, though…. If he honestly felt that there is no real reason to worry about it’s effect on your career that’s one thing. If he just didn’t care that’s another, and potentially serious, thing.

    4. Mando Diao

      It’s okay to come in short of the “two year rule” for jobs that are perceived as entry-level. For basic office jobs, one year is often sufficient to leave with a good reference and move on.

      That said, don’t make any major life decisions based on what a boy wants, even if its something you’re considering anyway. Forgive me, but I’m having some nasty flashbacks to my last relationship, where the guy wanted me to quit my job ASAP and move in. When you separate your boyfriend’s wording from the actual request he’s making, it’s a bit troubling.

  47. Doriana Gray

    I’m dreading going back to work next week. My anxiety about my two potential job opportunities is off the charts.

    I was given a verbal offer over the phone from the AVP of another division in the company I currently work last Friday (each division acts like its own company and only shares a few support services like HR). The offer wasn’t official because I hadn’t gone through the company’s official process of posting for the role and having the HR rep schedule an interview (I’d gone to lunch with the AVP and his boss, the VP, instead). However, my former manager spoke to both the AVP and VP after the AVP told me what they were offering (a title bump two pay grades above where I currently am and a potential 10% increase over what I’m currently making), and she’s convinced they’re going to start the process of getting my offer made official this upcoming week since they want to have all of the roles they were hiring for start around the 1st of the year.

    My thing is, I really want this job not just because it would be a fantastic opportunity for me career-wise, but also because I need to get out of my current division and away from my current boss. The woman has been trying to sabotage me ever since I posted for another internal position back in September, and I can’t work for someone I don’t like or trust. My fear is that she’s going to try to do something underhanded to ruin my chances with this other division, but my former manager swears the VP of this division listens to her and not my current boss (since former boss has placed about four or five of her former employees in his division and they’ve all worked out beautifully in their roles for him) so I’ll be fine. She said the only thing she’s concerned about is when I put in my two weeks notice – then she can see my current manager treating me even worse than she is now. But of course, former manager says, “It’ll just be two weeks. You can put up with her shit for two more weeks knowing you’ll be leaving for something better.” However, I don’t know how much more of her bull I can take.

    Then there’s the external job opportunity I have which, ironically enough, is in the same industry I left prior to coming to the one I’m in now and the one the internal promotion/transfer is in. I went to the interview Monday at the urging of folks here (thanks again, all!) and I’m glad I did in the event the internal move doesn’t happen for whatever reason. The hiring manager/AVP of the division used to be a lawyer at a competing firm from one I worked in for nearly three years. She was super impressed by the work I did there and she told me all about their benefits/pay structure during the interview with no prompting from me. She also said that since she’s hiring six managers and twenty consultants to work under those managers, she’s hiring in three phases so that she can slowly phase out the external vendor this new in-house team would be replacing. She told me that she’s looking to get the first group offers by December 14 and asked if that timeframe worked for me given that I’m currently employed somewhere else. I told her it does, but that I also have an internal group looking to possible hire me and I don’t know how fast the official process is going to go. The hiring manager told me to, “Please, please, please contact me before you make any decisions about [insert current company’s name here]. I really loved what you had to say today, and I really like your experience.” (The lack of advanced Excel skills seem to not be that big of an issue even though that’s a requirement for the job.) I emailed her the next day thanking her for her time and wishing her a happy holiday, and she emailed back asking me once again not to make any decisions without speaking to her first in the event that my current company makes me an offer.

    I really loved the sound of this external job, but once again, I feel like this too may not come to fruition. I was the second person she interviewed for this job (and I only applied to it after her HR recruiter found me in their applicant tracking system from applying to other positions within their company I didn’t get and asked me to do so) so it’s quite possible that she’ll move me to the no pile once she’s had a chance to speak with more people. And again, I think my anxiety with this is knowing that if I don’t get the internal job I officially applied for Monday, and I don’t get this, I’m stuck in my position with my insane boss until God knows when. I’ve reached my breaking point with her and the longer I stay, the more demoralized I become, which is going to affect how I present myself assuming I get anymore interviews.

    I’m so sick with worry and just wish this could all be over and done with soon.

    1. knitchic79

      Akkk I’m stressing out just reading this. I totally get not wanting to keep putting up with the nonsense (your boss sounds like a real prize) and you definitely don’t want to consider either of these opportunities a lock until you have an offer.
      I don’t know how to help you be less anxious, but I’ll send all the good vibes I can!

      1. Doriana Gray

        Thank you, knitchic79. I need all the good vibes I can get because I know I’m stressing myself out (not good for my celiac issues by the way), and I’m probably stressing out everyone around me too, which I don’t want to do.

        Thanks again :)

    2. Not So NewReader

      If you treated another being like this it would be called torture. Basically you are torturing yourself. Breathe. Think. Think about all the things you have done right, think about all the times you have excelled. Think.

      It sounds like you have two solid positions that you are looking at. Maybe you won’t entirely agree with me, but I think that you will definitely be on to your new job pretty soon- one way or the other. People are guiding you and helping you. Take them at their word. I’ll say that again- take them at their word. Sometimes we have to trust people if only because it hurts too much not to, as you are feeling now. So trust that they will do their utmost for you.

      Here, try this: Pretend you are not Doriana Gray. Read your post as if a total stranger wrote it. You know nothing about the situation, you are reading it cold. It’s totally new to you.

      Now. What is your knee jerk response? What is RIGHT in this picture? What does this poster have going in their favor?
      I will start you off here…
      1) DG seems to have advocacy in higher places.
      2) DG seems to have a good work record and a good reputation.
      3) Because of these things it seems logical to deduce that DG is actually really good at her job.

      Okay. your turn, GO. You don’t have to answer here but seriously think about what is going on here that is GOOD.

      1. Doriana Gray

        Wow, I really needed to read this if only to get more perspective. I have a tendency to focus on one little thing to the exclusion of everything else (my boss’s poor behavior in this case) that I completely lose sight of the big picture.

        Yes, I have massive trust issues. Not because my former boss has ever steered me wrong (in fact, she’s been right about everything so far including when she told me not to go to my current division – I should have listened), but because I don’t know all the other players involved all that well (AVP and VP). I know that they kept their word about bringing on another former colleague of mine when his respective division grew toxic, but there was so much drama attached to that situation that I thought, “Would they really want to do that again and for me?” Because there’s going to be drama – my manager can’t help acting like a petulant three-year-old when she doesn’t get her way, and I don’t want that reflecting poorly on me in some way.

        But you’re right – I have done things right here (my former manager said the same thing you did back in September). When I discussed leaving my current division with the AVP of same, I didn’t bring up my boss (though he said some things later that leads me to believe he knows exactly what the issue is) and he tried to help me get the internal position within my current division that I ultimately didn’t get. I also racked up a slew of designations in less than two years of being with this company (six to be exact), and those designations are what prompted the AVP and VP of this other division to take me to lunch to discuss my coming to work with them – they both told me they were highly impressed by it (they both have 20 plus years in our industry and only have two designations). It’s just so hard to remember the positives when you go to work everyday and are constantly made to feel incompetent.

        So thank you for breaking that down for me. I’ll have to save your comment to read again and again when I need some kindness in these next couple of weeks because I know they’re going to be a doozy, lol.

        1. Not So NewReader

          You accept a job somewhere else, your boss is defeated. It’s over. Boss no longer has any hold on you. Whatever the boss thinks of to do she is simply spitting into the wind. Make yourself have some positive mental images. Picture yourself accepting job A. Or picture yourself accepting job B. Picture the people involved. They are smiling and shaking your hand. They are giving you stacks of paper work to fill out… hahaha.

          Push the negative images out of your head and replace them with a positive image. Don’t let the negative movies play over and over…

          1. Artemesia

            And seriously consider the external job if you have a choice; organizations who allow toxic management deserve to lose good people.

            1. Doriana Gray

              I believe this, too. The great thing about the current company I work at is, each division operates independently of each other (like, they specialize in totally different niches of the same industry). The division that said they want me to work for them doesn’t even know who my manager is so I wouldn’t have to leave if I got the job with them. If this was just a different department in the same niche, then yeah, no question – I’d be gone and not even considering a transfer.

    3. Aussie Teacher

      Be encouraged – I know you can’t count your chickens until you have the actual job offers in hand (to mix a few metaphors), but both of these sound very likely to eventuate in offers, from the details you’ve related. Work out which one you’d like more (if you got offered both) and if you get offered your #2 preference first, get in touch with #1 and try to negotiate a quick offer. Good luck!!

      1. Artemesia

        Even if you don’t get either of these, be encouraged. The fact that you are in serious contention is a positive sign. Keep at it and eventually one of them will hit. I watched my daughter struggle with interviews and being a finalist and not being the final choice several times before she got a job with her current company; she is now running the place. She went from project management to top management in 3 years.

  48. Liz

    My current internship is ending soon and I am applying for new positions.

    One issue I’ve encountered is that some application require a reason for leaving positions. Most of them include a text box for explanation, but some have drop down menus with options that don’t fit (in this case: Terminated, Promoted, Resigned, Laid Off). It does have an explanation box also, so I can always expand, but it still seems like they are very constrained options.

    I’ve only been out of school for a year, and all of my positions have been temporary/internships, so the reason for leaving is either the program term ended or I graduated.

    Any suggestions as to which option to select?

    1. fposte

      Ugh. I’ll be interested to hear other responses on this, but you can certainly rule out Terminated and Promoted. I think Laid Off is technically closest, since you left because the company ended your time there, not because you chose to walk away. However, if anybody hires from something like this, I’d like to hear if the Laid Off label has any kind of halo that would make a hiring manager at all wary–if so, I’d go with Resigned.

      It’s going to look a little weird either way, since you’ll either have resigned or been laid off from a surprising number of jobs :-). But with a system like that, it won’t just be you, so they should be used to seeing that.

      1. Liz

        Laid off is what I was thinking of going with, and hopefully with the intern titles/explanation of programs ending it would all make sense. Thanks for your input :)

    2. Doriana Gray

      I’d go with Resigned and then explain in the comment section that the term ended and then you graduated. I worked all four years of college and have done this in all of my job searches, including my current one, and have not had problems.

    3. notfunny.

      I would probably select Resigned if there was no other option in the drop down. I would explain if possible, but when give then choice between terminated, promoted, resigned and laid off, I think resigned is the most appropriate.

  49. Ask a Manager Post author

    Site question for y’all. I’ve received a ton of updates, which I’m so excited about because I love getting updates. I have enough that I could publish one a day for the rest of the year and not run out.

    Would you be terribly disappointed if I replaced one of the regular Q&A posts each day with an update letter instead, every day through the end of December? Do you like updates enough for that? Or would you miss having the normal number of question/answer posts? (My thinking is that I’d replace the last post of the day — the 2 p.m. EST post — with an update letter instead.)

    To be clear, you’ll be getting these updates either way. I’m just wondering if they can replace a daily post rather than being an additional one.

    1. Liza

      I’d be fine with that! I’ll be happy with either. (I’m still slowly reading through the blog from the beginning, so if I really miss having more question/answer posts I can go read more older posts. I’m up to the middle of 2011!)

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        They don’t, interestingly! Maybe they’d normally go down, but the massive increase in the number of holiday and snow related questions makes up for it :)

    2. Apollo Warbucks

      I’d love it as an extra post but it wouldn’t bother me if you decided to replace another post with them.

    3. Ad Astra

      I usually prefer the questions to the updates, but it really depends on the topics at hand. Though, honestly, I don’t think the change you’re proposing would affect my AAM browsing habits much.

    4. Elizabeth

      I think that sounds like a great idea, especially if it relieves you of work. The update posts don’t generally (duck club aside) generate as many comments to moderate as the regular posts, so it should give you a little breathing space.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Definitely relieves me of work! The comment moderating is very little work (hardly anything goes through moderation, and I consider the reading of comments to just be fun,), but the writing of posts is work. So this would be a lovely break in that regard.

    5. Doriana Gray

      I’d rather see the same number of Q&A posts, but if it’s easier on you to replace one with the updates due to the upcoming holiday, go with that option, especially if holiday traffic on this blog is slow.

      1. BioPharma

        I would also like to see the same number of questions, but totally wouldn’t mind if they were recycled from a few years ago! (But allow for new comments). …but would also continue to be a dedicated viewer if you replaced with updates :)

    6. Tau

      I definitely like updates enough for that, I love reading them and would not mind fewer Q&A posts because of them.

    7. Jessica (tc)

      Honestly, you could replace all of them with updates for the next few weeks, and I’d be happy. I absolutely love reading update from OPs, and I look forward to the influx at the end of the year!

    8. Not So NewReader

      Only ONE update a day? Welll…. okay, then that will be great.

      I love the updates. If you did a day’s worth to give yourself a break on the holidays I would be just fine with that.

    9. The Cosmic Avenger

      I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed…in fact, the excitement of updates would more than make up for the possible smidge of disappointment I might feel. :)

    10. Claire (Scotland)

      I’m not at all interested in the updates posts, and would definitely prefer that they not replace other content, but it looks like I’m massively outvoted on that.

  50. stellanor

    Last week I had an interview I thought went well. The hiring manager told me I’d hear back Friday or Monday. Of course I heard nothing. On Tuesday evening he emailed me and said he’d like to call me that day or the following day, and I said I would be available any time both days. Of course he did not call.

    Normally I’d be less worried about this but it’s an interview for an internal job I applied to because my current job was eliminated, and my current job end date is next week. So I do actually have a hard cutoff.

    On the plus side since it’s an internal job, if I haven’t heard from him on Monday I can sic my very sympathetic current manager on him. In the meantime I’m assuming it’s a no.

    1. Doriana Gray

      Do follow-up Monday. Don’t assume it’s a no go (like I admittedly would) until the hiring manager tells you it is. It could be that the other position is trying to work some things out like budgets and reporting structure.

  51. EmmaBlake

    So I have a question about performance reviews. This will be my second review at my current company. Last year, the form had a bunch of different catagories to rate from 1 (poor) to five (excellent) and then a spot for comments. This year, they’ve changed the form to simply comments with one rating of 1 to 5 and then our manager must rate each person in his department from best to worst. So like Lucinda is #1, Jane is #2, Fergus is #3, etc etc down the whole department.

    Beyond the fact that I think this is a crazy system, I’m not sure this is the best way to keep morale or keep from hurt feelings. My supervisor told me earlier this week that he has rated me #1 in the department and gave me the highest individual grade. He wanted to let me know because his boss, who has to approve the reviews (which again doesn’t make sense because I’ve met this man maybe twice in the two years I’ve worked here), doesn’t believe in giving anyone perfect scores. He says it “deincentivizes people from doing better.” So my supervisor told me to be prepared for the big boss to change the rating slightly.

    So I guess this is a two part question, first how does it even make sense to never give anyone an excellent review rating and second, how awful of an idea is it to rate each person from worst to first? I can just see the drama now. How is so and so rated #2? I should be #2! I don’t deserve to be #5, etc… Shouldn’t reviews be based on individual performance and where one can do better as opposed to comparing everyone to each other?

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      The comparison is just crazy I totally agree that reviews should be based on individual performance and the idea of not giving the top grade is daft.

      Although I can see why the department head would want to review the grades across all managers so they can see make sure they are fair and balanced and all the supervisors have worked to the same standard.

    2. stellanor

      That kind of ranking was popular in tech for a while, with the additional factor of the lowest performing people often being fired. You were forced to rank a certain number of people low even if you had a team full of great performers, so no matter what some people got crapped on.

      It’s been falling out of favor because it’s HORRIBLE. Horrible for morale, horrible for retaining good employees, encourages infighting… just horrible in every possible way. I’m surprised that your company seems to be adopting something similar at this late date when people are finally starting to realize it’s not effective.

    3. The Other Dawn

      I think these practices suck. Also, it sounds like they make it known to employees what their ranking is in the group. is that true? If so, then I don’t really see how you can explain to people why they’re #5, or really any number other than #1.

      1. EmmaBlake

        I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to work. My supervisor simply told me he rated me #1 when we were having our weekly ‘update’ meeting. He should be actually meeting with us all to go over the reviews next week, I believe. So I guess he’s going to tell everyone their ranking? I’m not sure. I know our raises are based on our reviews each year so maybe #1 gets the biggest raise and it goes down from there? I’m not sure. I’ll update next Friday! Thank you all though. I thought it was just so so bizarre.

  52. Duckie

    So I’m curious how people would handle the awkward position I’m in work-wise. I graduated with my Master’s degree in May, took Job 1 in August, and was let go just recently at the end of my 3-month probation period. Normally, this would be a sign to evaluate where I’d gone wrong and fix it in the future, but in this case I was let go due to 2 things outside of my control. The first is that they wrote the position and hired it as entry-level and realized later that the job shouldn’t have been entry-level (I agree with them), and the second is that I’m having a flare-up and medication difficulties related to a chronic health condition (all signs point to MS, I had a flare up last year too). So not things I can do anything about.

    I’ve decided to take a couple of months at least to get better, as right now there’s no way I can work 40+ (let’s be realistic it’s usually 50/60) hours a week. Which is all well and good since I can swing it financially, but now I have to decide whether to include Job 1 on my resume going forward. If I do, then I might be asked why I left Job 1. If I don’t, I’m going to have an 8 month gap on my resume, which is also not good and I might be asked about it. Is there any way going forward I can get a job WITHOUT disclosing and without raising a bunch of red flags?

    1. Liza

      Duckie, I think you have a perfect explanation there in your first paragraph: “they wrote the position and hired it as entry-level and realized later that the job shouldn’t have been entry-level”. You can put a short statement about that on your resume if you want to include that job.

      I had one job I was only at for about 5 months. I don’t always put it on my resume, but when I do, I include a short line explaining that the position changed after I was hired and wasn’t a good fit for my skills anymore, and then I go on to say what I accomplished while I was there.

  53. Boogles

    Working on the day after Thanksgiving is such a pointless endeavor. Really corporate America, do we have to be that greedy?!

    1. Lizzy May

      As a Canadian, I never understood why a fixed “day of the week” type holiday was on a Thursday. Its not like Christmas or New Year’s that moves around. What was the reasoning behind that? Why not just have the holiday on the Friday?

    2. mt

      I dont see how its greedy to make someone work on a scheduled day. Maybe they should just give you the day off un paid

    3. Anita Newname

      I work for a company that legally can’t be closed more than two days in a row, not including weekends or if there was a disaster of some sort. So… it’s not really corporate greed here as we apparently used to get it off. And now I get Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, and Good Friday off, so I’m not complaining. I am bored stupid though.

    4. Florida

      You can’t blame corporate America. It’s largely the fault of consumer America. As long as American consumers conduct business on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the businesses will remain open. If we all took a lazy day and didn’t go to any stores or conduct any other business that day, most businesses would close.

  54. Connie-Lynne

    You guys, I started a new job about six weeks ago and I could not be happier.

    Every day I realize how fucked-up the old environment was, and I thank my boss (also at a new place) for straight-up being honest with me about how our CTO just hated my guts for no reason and I wasn’t going to advance because of that, no matter how hard I banged my head on his glass ceiling.

    I got out, and I am in SUCH a better place now.

  55. Nonimous

    The last few years I’ve either invited my staff to lunch or to an in-house “pizza party” holiday celebration (both on my dime). It sounds petty of me but they never express any thanks or appreciation for either. Maybe it is a larger managerial issue on my part or the general low morale we all are feeling that comes from above or that we are all introverts or that everyone works independently so there really is no team per se; I can’t tell exactly. But it’s not achieving the “building team spirit and good will” event I was hoping for. I am thinking of not doing anything this year. I feel sad. Not sure about my question but maybe … is this a good idea? should I try something else?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I bet they don’t realize it’s on your own dime and think it’s a company-provided perk.

      If they’re all introverts anyway, maybe try something new this year? Team potluck? Treats in the kitchen or in your office for 20 minutes? Notes telling them with specifics what you appreciate about each of them? (If there’s a morale issue, that last one might help.)

      1. peanut butter kisses

        If you do go the potluck route, try to not attach strings to it. We are having one at work where we have to bring a family recipe that reflects our background/childhood/ancestry/whatever. My mom was best kitchen friends with Betty Crocker, Swanson tv dinners, and Ragu. I like most of my co-workers but I don’t want to cook.

    2. misspiggy

      Not expressing thanks is rude. But when I was miserable at work, going to my boss’s house seemed like the office, with added angst about how breaking some unknown social rule on the boss’s territory would be held against me at work forever. Maybe you could organise a get together at a bar or cafe, and buy a couple of rounds of drinks and snacks (make clear you’re paying and it’s because you wanted to thank them personally for their efforts over the year).

      At that point, do some kind of review exercise which identifies the successes and strengths of the group. One of my bosses made up Christmas cracker kits which, as well as the standard silly hats and toys, had cards inside with different achievements from the year that she felt we had done really well on. Another made a drawing with beautiful coloured notes about what great qualities each person brought to the team, and gave us copies. This was at the end of a couple of very hard years, and we loved them for it.

      Then stick around and chat, but leave early enough that the rest of the team can relax and have a boss-free seasonal venting session to draw a line under the horrors of the work year.

    3. Mando Diao

      Hmmmm, this question brings up a lot of feelings surrounding office holiday parties, even if you intend it to be more casual. Maybe I’m just rude or have an odd way of thinking about these things, but when it comes to company events, it wouldn’t occur to me to express specific gratitude for an event that I was ambivalent about and hadn’t asked for. If it was an after-hours event and I ran into my boss on the way out, I’d say thanks by way of saying goodbye, but if it was “eat pizza at noon and then go back to my desk,” there’s not really a set-up for someone to walk up to you and thank you without feeling awkward.

      Although if morale is already low, there’s a possibility that your event feels like forced fun to them :/ If you want to do something that they’ll be grateful for, either let them choose what they want to order in, or give them a paid day off around the holidays. They’ll say thank you to that.

    4. Not So NewReader

      I ‘d try it one more time. BUT. This time I would try it with a new approach. I would decide to EXPECT that no one would thank me and I would decide to expect that it is not going to boost morale that much. I would change these two expectations and then forge ahead with the idea that I am going to look at it with eyes wide open and see what it is I see.

      Optionally, while you have them all together, you could ask them if they would prefer something else. Maybe you could offer that they all could leave an hour earlier instead of doing this.

      It could be that there is a problem on their side of the story or it could be that you are misunderstanding something. Maybe they like it but they are so flippin’ tired that they forget to say so. Take a look around with fresh eyes.

  56. aNoN

    My CPA angst has become one long year of test after test. Today marks one year after taking FAR and failing with a miserable 70. On the bright side I passed Regulation…I did however fail BEC three times. Crossing my fingers for audit in January! If I can be at least half way done with this then I will feel better about looking for a new job and tuning far away from my awkward situation in which I do not fit in. Note to self: don’t take a job you’re not totally sure about because a year and a half later you will feel some real regret.

  57. Intrepid Intern

    I got another job! It’s a 6-month thing, I’m hugely excited about the work, everyone says future-boss is a great guy to work for, it’ll develop the skills I want, AND I’ll finally be able to buy a second towel! And a coat hook! THE LUXURY.

    However, it is only 6 months.I want to do right by this job and make the most of it, but it’s only 6 months, and I also want stability. And a 401(k). And a $0 on my credit card.

    So when do I start job searching for the next thing?

    1. JMegan

      Congratulations, that sounds really exciting!

      I would start searching in January. 6 months isn’t a long time, and you may find that some recruitment processes take 3-4 months or longer. If you get lucky and get a job offer before your term is up at this job, you can negotiate what to do at that point. But 6 months before you need your next job is definitely not too early. Good luck!

    2. Audiophile

      Is there any possibility of it being extended? If not, would you feel bad leaving them before the 6 months is up?

      How long did it take you to find this job? I’d say you could reasonably start looking around month midway through month 4 and definitely by month 5. I’ve never worked a temp job like that, but I know I start looking by month 4 or 5, so it wasn’t too last minute.

      1. Intrepid Intern

        Thank you everyone for replying!

        Unfortunately, no, there’s no possibilityof an extension, and the team is so small that there almost certainly won’t be an opening during the time I’m there. I wouldn’t feel terrible about leaving before it officially ends, but I know future-boss is hoping that I’ll stay at least 3-4 months.

    3. A.J.

      Congrats on the new job! My advice would be to take a few weeks off from the job search to get settled in to your new position. But don’t actually stop looking. As someone who has unfortunately been jumping from contract to contract (I say unfortunate because my field isn’t really suited for short-term contract work, but its a new trend for these tech companies), you can’t ever really stop looking until you have something permanent. I just finished a 2 year contract which was over before I even realized it. I started looking 2 months before my end-date, and now 3 months after leaving I still haven’t found anything. I’m actually interviewing for a 6-month contract next week (crazy to think its only 1/4 the length of my last one), and really I think the best way to look at something that’s just a bridge to hold me over until I find a permanent position. Plus its less stressful to look for a job while you have one.

  58. Grey

    Has anyone taken any online college courses, or courses for a work certification? Is it unusual for my homework assignments to remain ungraded more than two weeks after they were submitted? I have already completed the courses and passed the final exams, but I can’t get a final grade because the instructor seems to be MIA.

    Should I speak up, or just wait it out? I hate to complain if this sort of thing is typical.

    1. fposte

      Happened to me in a brick and mortar grad school. Then the professor went out on leave for a tricky pregnancy. Eventually I just filled out my own change-of-grade form (we were all incompletes or something by that point), gave myself an A, and told her to sign it.

      1. EmmaBlake

        I take classes online and it’s required for professors to have everything graded in one week. It could be different other places, but I would definitely speak up.

      2. Not So NewReader

        You gave yourself an A.

        I am chuckling. You, of all people, probably actually had an A. But the word choice still hit me as funny.

        1. fposte

          I literally filled in the grade form and wrote down the A, so I really did give myself the grade. (I figured even if it wasn’t initially an A, there was accrued grade interest that would have pushed it up there.)

    2. Mando Diao

      I would write to the chair of the department. Every now and then you get a professor who justifies the iffy reputation that online courses have, and you absolutely have the right to speak up. However, you may not have reached the contracted deadline by which the school’s professors have to submit their grades. If you write to the chair, say something like, “When can I expect my final grade to be submitted?” Grading systems are automated and I can’t imagine a professor would get away with not submitting grades for an entire class, but there’s nothing wrong with you asking when your grade will be posted.

  59. Ad Astra

    I got a new job! I feel a bit bad about leaving my current job after only 7 months, but I knew early on that I would never fit in with my current company’s culture, and it just so happens that a great job with a better cultural fit fell into my lap this month.

    One of my biggest reasons for leaving, though, was the paltry vacation time my company offered. For the first two years, I would only accrue 5 vacation days per year — in an exempt, professional position that I’d say is about a step up from entry level. Since the standard in the U.S. seems to be 10 days a year, I suspect this disparity makes it hard to recruit job candidates who have options. We do a lot of marketing about what a great place this is to work, but it feels like kind of a sham when you’re expected to work 51 weeks of the year. Should I say something to HR about this or just let it go?

    1. JMegan

      Congratulations on the new job!

      I would definitely let HR know that the vacation time was the big reason you left – even if they can’t fix it in the short term, it might be good to put it on their radar in case they start thinking about employee retention in the future.

  60. Mina

    Help! My sister is completing her first fiction book and is almost ready to publish and market it. But how to go about it? Any advice? I know I’m biased, but she’s really good.

    1. fposte

      That’s a phraseology that suggests self-publishing. Is that what she’s planning? (I know something about the other kind, but not so much about self-publishing.)

      1. Mina

        We were thinking about self publishing if that’s how it has to be, but of course traditional publishing is best. But getting a contract, that seems to be very hard. Even just someone in the field to READ it is hard.

        1. fposte

          Right. If she’s doing that, she needs an agent. And she needs to know how to query an agent. Query Shark is a fabulous blog for learning about that, so if she’s interested she should read the full archives there.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I was just coming here to recommend Query Shark! I’m not even interested in publishing anything and I read it just because I enjoy it. (I am weird.)

    2. Lore

      My standard advice about agents is, do good research. Spend an hour in a bookstore or library browsing for things that seem to be similar to your book–in audience, in tone, in topic. Then read the acknowledgments. Most authors will thank their agent by name–that gives you data points of agents who are interested in this kind of thing, and helps you pitch queries to the right people, and to include “comps” in your query letters. That small step to understanding the market and choosing rather than blasting agents will put you ahead in the same way a targeted cover letter would for a job.

    3. Elizabeth West

      Not knowing exactly what completing means, if she’s just finished writing it, I would NOT query it until it has gone through at least a few rewrites and edits. I would definitely not self-publish it until it’s as polished as it can possibly be. The self-pub market is full of sloppy manuscripts–not that hers is, but it would be drowning in a sea of dreck.

      For traditional stuff, I got a lot of good advice off a blog called Author! Author! by Anne Mini. It covers everything she would need to know about publishing, formatting, querying, etc. Her posts are long and very dense though worth the read. It’s a bit old, but her advice is good. Once she she is ready to query, agency websites usually have a page of guidelines for how to approach their agents.

      Also, before submitting to or querying ANYBODY, check them out on Preditors and Editors (www.pred-ed.com). The site maintains a list of agents and book publishers with updated warnings of who and what to avoid. There is no real regulation, though agencies whose staff belong to the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) are usually pretty trustworthy. Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of American (SFWA) also have a good page called Writer Beware (hwww.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/) to help budding authors avoid scams.

      Good luck!

    4. I'm a Little Teapot

      Late to the party, but…small press published fiction writer here. Unless your sister already has a significant built-in audience (she runs a popular blog or webcomic, say) I would not recommend self-publishing. Lore and Elizabeth have good suggestions above. There are also some small presses that don’t require an agent, if your sister’s book is more niche or quirky in subject matter or likely audience; you’re not likely to make big bucks writing for these, but they’re more open to newbies than the big publishers. Read submission guideline pages (“Submissions” or “Write for Us” or the like on publisher sites, and make sure you are sending what they’re looking for. If a publisher only publishes romance, for example, you can send them the greatest mystery novel ever and it will still be inappropriate for their needs. I like writingcareer.com for finding submission calls; ralan.com also has a list of book publishers (only ones whose purview includes science fiction, fantasy, or horror, but some of them also publish other things). Writer’s Market is an annual reference book you should be able to find at your public library, which includes a lot of publishers (though keep in mind there are plenty more not listed there).

  61. Tuba

    I’ve been falsely accused of discriminating against an employee on multiple counts. Any advice about how to work with this person while various investigations (which may be lengthy) are conducted? Thank you.

    1. fposte

      I’m really surprised you’re not getting any guidance from your management on this. Can you go back and ask them?

      If they won’t, I’d go with “scrupulously civil and by the book, and at a distance when possible”; I’d also arrange to have somebody else do anything formal like discipline, performance evaluations, etc.

  62. Stargazer

    I have a question about adding a new spouse to my health insurance. I just got married last month. My husband works part-time in retail and only makes around $12,000 a year, and I work full-time in an office and make $35,000 a year. Before we got married my husband qualified for our state health insurance for low-income people. Now that we are married, does my income count as his income too? Will the state health insurance consider his income to be $47,000 (mine + his)? I’m wondering if he can keep his free low-income insurance or if I need to add him to mine (which will mean another $250 a month coming out of my paycheck…sigh…)

    1. Mirilla

      I think you’ll have to check with your state. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go by household income but it’s best to check it out.

      1. TCO

        I’d be very surprised if your state lets you exclude your income from your husband’s health insurance application. Keep in mind that the state’s income limits, though, will also be higher because you’ll be a two-person household. (They probably won’t be high enough to help your husband keep his current insurance, but you never know.) It might be a good idea to talk to a certified nonprofit ACA navigator in your area just to see if there are any other options.

  63. MsChanandlerBong

    My husband has been applying for jobs since September, and he just had his first interview Wednesday. I told him about Alison’s “magic” interview question, so he used it. He said the interviewer totally lit up and started talking more conversationally after that. Thanks, Alison! I’d appreciate some crossed fingers. The job starts at a higher salary than he made after almost four years of working for his last employer, and the duties are a lot more in line with his strengths.

      1. MsChanandlerBong

        Thanks to everyone who commented! MJ, thanks for letting me know the magic question has worked for you. I have a good feeling about this job, but I am trying not to have any expectations. I am a very optimistic/easily excited person, so I know all too well how much it hurts when you get your hopes up and then things don’t work out.

  64. Not Trained To Train

    Hello Hivemind – I need an outside perspective on something, and was hoping you all would be able to help.

    Recently, we have been trying to increase the number of people in the team. The second of the new hires (the first was hired and trained 6 months ago by a woman who is now on maternity leave) is a woman who is in her mid-fifties. She is lovely, and thoughtful, and really fits in with the team dynamic. We all really like her.

    Unfortunately, she’s really struggling with the job. I know from when I was hired that my manager is very misleading about what our job entails during the hiring process, and I think she was given the impression that this is a straightforward data entry job. It isn’t. We do a lot of little bits involving finance, audit, reconciliation and compliance, and we do a lot of work with Excel creating spreadsheets and generating management information.

    She left her last job because she was struggling with Excel, and from my observations she was not expecting a job that requires investigation and research skills. She has often blamed her lack of ability with Excel and her inability to learn the procedures on her age. I know she has gone on Excel courses before because she told me; it doesn’t seem to have worked.

    I am a lowly peon in the chain of command, but for a whole bunch of reasons I won’t bore you with I’ve ended up doing her training plan and generally taking charge of her as a mentor. I have no training in this, and most of what I can find on the internet consists of group activities and icebreakers, which don’t help. What can I do in this situation to help her?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Could you sit down with her for a sort of taking-stock of how the training is going, and say something like, “You’re doing well at X, Y, and Z. I think you’re still working to master A, B, and C. Ultimately, we want you to end up with (describe specific masteries she should have). What would be helpful to you in getting there?”

      If nothing else, it’ll get the topic out on the table to talk about it.

    2. F.

      Although I can offer no advice beyond saying that this appears to be a poor fit in the skills territory, please do not assume that all people over 50 are incapable of learning, despite her blaming her age. I am in my mid 50s and am more than capable of learning just about anything I put my mind to. You definitely need to be honest about the position with future candidates and maybe even give them a test in Excel to verify whether they have the skill level you need.

      1. catsAreCool

        My mom’s in her 60’s and does just fine with learning new technology when she is interested in it. She texts more than I do :)

      2. Older not yet wiser

        +10000. Many people over 50 have been using spreadsheet programs on PCs for thirty or so years. (I used Lotus in the 80s then Excel since the 90s). I have more advanced Excel skills than many of my younger coworkers. I also learn new applications very quickly. I get so frustrated with this stereotype.

    3. Not So NewReader

      One tip that I have found helpful for when people are just disconnected from their task (as she appears to be) is to let them steer the training. The reason for this approach is people can get so wrapped in anticipation of asking their questions that they never hear what is being taught. Let her fire some questions at you. Once you have answered some of her questions she will be more able to hear what it is you are showing her.

      Start the lessons by doing an actual example from her work. Tell her you are going to go through it together and she should ask whatever questions pop into her head. Continue on using real life examples, once you have completed the first example. This gives you a great opportunity to gain some insight as to what is missing from her knowledge pool.

      Don’t do the work yourself. Let her sit in front of the keyboard/mouse and let her do all the hands on work.

      Have her keep a note pad beside her so she can jot things down as she goes about her workday that she wants to ask you about. Yes, she is doing most of the lesson planning, not you and this goes back to what I was talking about initially, if she is guiding the subject matter of the lesson, she is probably paying closer attention.

      I am a fishing pole person. So when I train, part of what I show people is how to find their own answers. And I show people how to check their own work so they can know they are getting it right. Most people feel much better when they can verify for themselves that their work is correct.

      Don’t be afraid to take something all apart and tell her to do it again. “Do the exact same thing again.” Go get a drink of water or whatever so she has a moment to herself to think about what to do.

      Lastly, if she has taken Excel courses, ask her to bring in what she thinks is her best text book from those courses. See if you can match up stuff that she does at work to sections in the textbook.

  65. Amber Rose

    This is late but I could use some ideas on The Case of the Missing Camera.

    I am entrusted a camera for my job. The manufacturing team needs one for theirs too but they lost theirs and use mine. I don’t always see who takes it and I often don’t see it for days.

    Normally we’d get them another but they’ve lost like 3. If they can’t be trusted, and I can’t do my job sometimes because I need the stupid camera, I’m not sure what my options are.

    1. JMegan

      First, I would secure access to “your” camera. Don’t just let them take it without your knowledge. Lock it up, make them sign it out from you when they borrow it, and sign it back in when they return it. You can’t make them be accountable for their cameras, but you certainly don’t want to be on the hook for when they lose yours!

      If they resist, tell them that you are responsible for this piece of equipment, you need it to do your job, and therefore you need to know where it is at all times. (Don’t go into the issue of their own missing cameras, because that’s not the point. You’d be doing this for anybody who needed to borrow something of yours, regardless of their history.)

      I would also consider reporting their missing cameras to whoever issued them (IT? Communications?) Somebody must have paid for them, and would presumably want to know where they are! That’s up to you, of course – if you think you’d get serious retaliation from the manufacturing people, or if your office is so badly run that you really do think nobody cares, then you might decide it’s not worth it. In the ideal world, of course you would report it – but then again, in the ideal world the other team wouldn’t have lost three cameras without anybody noticing, so there’s that.

      But even if you don’t report, definitely CYA about your own camera, before it goes missing too.

    2. fposte

      If they can’t be trusted not to lose a new camera, why should they be trusted not to lose yours?

      On the other hand, if they need a camera to do their job, they need a camera whether they lose it or not. If you need a camera to lose your job, you need a camera whether manufacturing loses theirs or not.

      I mean, I think I get where your job is going–if manufacturing needs it sometimes and you need it sometimes, why do we need two cameras? And the answer is “Because only one isn’t working.” I’d go back to your boss, or whoever’s in charge of signing off on manufacturing’s cameras, or the boss of manufacturing, or some combination, and say “This sounded like a good idea in theory, but it’s turned out I won’t be able to meet my deadlines if I have to share with manufacturing.” Then lock the thing up so they can’t take it.

    3. WorkingFromCafeInCA

      In addition to keeping a check-out/return log, could you buy a Tile and track it that way? It’s a small physical object that sticks (or gets tied to) anything- then you link it to an app on your phone or ipad, and you can easily track its location. It seems like since the camera is for work use only, it would be a legitimate thing to track. They cost $25 each: thetileapp.com. (I’ve never tried using a Tile myself, but I’ve been thinking about it, because I lose things around the house all the time).

      Here’s a review from a photographer who describes using a Tile on the camera strap, and a camera itself.
      http://notsosternephoto.com/2015/02/02/tile-review/

    4. Not So NewReader

      Oh this looks like a management problem to me. I would go to my boss and tell her that our department camera goes MIA for days because manufacturing keeps borrowing it and not returning it. It cuts into my ability to do my job, I would say.

      Bare bones what might come out of that conversation is that your boss tells you not to loan out the camera any more. Your problem is solved. They will have to work out something on their own.

  66. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

    I started a new job around 7 months ago. It was a brand new role, brand new team (2 people plus team lead), and unfortunately I don’t think the reality has quite panned out the way they were envisaging. Which, shit happens, but I’m really unhappy in this job. There’s not enough work for two people to do, and the work I am doing is mind-numbingly boring. So, I’ve started looking around. I don’t really want to leave after such a short time, but I can probably get away with it for one job.

    Which is fine. Except my team lead told me yesterday that the other guy on our team has a job interview. And we’re on a hiring freeze until June, so if he goes we can’t replace him. So I fessed up that I am also looking (I really like my boss, and the issues with this role are not her fault at all). She’s now freaking out — I’m damn good at what I do and they don’t want to lose me. I have a meeting with her and her boss on Monday to talk about what they can give me to do.

    But… I feel like that will solve the short-term issue (not enough work) but won’t help, and will possibly exacerbate, the longer-term issue (I’m bored with the work I’m doing). However, I’m not sure how best to express this to them, or what my best course of action is here. Help!

    1. Not So NewReader

      I might be tempted to let them freak out a little bit.
      Tell them that you need more challenges to work on. Don’t make any statements about quitting. Just tell them that you need more than what you have. Bonus points if you have suggestions on what you could take over or add to your tasks.

  67. Lore

    My week at work: come back from vacation Monday to a massive deadline on my biggest project. In the middle of wrangling that, get an email from my direct boss criticizing my email style and asking me to be more concise, and to not offer so many solutions to problems (?). Tuesday at dept meeting, dept head tells us all to be more complete and include all relevant context in our emails and to “take ownership” of our projects and try to problem solve. I ask direct boss to clarify how I can do both at once and the answer is “well, it’s a fine line and I can’t really think of any examples of the problem.” I offer a few recent exchanges and on all of them, the answer was, “well, no, that seemed okay. Maybe just check with me first if you’re unsure.” I wasn’t unsure before! Now I sure am. Sigh.

    1. Thinking out loud

      I worked with a guy once who was very smart but incapable of taking ownership of an issue. When we assigned him a ironmen, he would do tons of research and then email us these huge emails with all of his research but no actual answers. We were on a tight deadline and needed work to get done, and he just wasn’t doing it – if anything, he was adding to our workload by having us read these huge emails. What I wanted was a short “I considered A, B, and C. Although [downsides of B], I ultimately selected B because [benefits].” Any chance this is what they’re trying to get at with you, and that a clearer decision (or strong recommendation) could solve the problem?

      1. Lore

        Hmm. Your solution sounds like what I usually try to do, and was (I thought) reprimanded for. My department head has historically been a micro-manager and resistant to us making decisions, so it’s generally been frowned upon for us to do more than present the information relevant to said decision. Honestly, I would love *nothing more* than taking ownership and solving problems, it’s just completely counter to how dept head usually operates, and I’d thought Monday that my direct boss (who usually gives a bit more leeway) was taking a cue from dept head in delivering that reprimand. So it was especially confounding to hear department head say the opposite the next day. Maybe they just switched bodies for the week!

  68. IratePM

    I’m a project manager. One of the functional managers, AZ, at my company is trying to convince the project teams and management that I’m incompetent.

    Here are a few examples of what AZ has said: “other project managers are superior”, “IratePM’s position is not value-add to the company”, “IratePM is not credible”. Other things: never responding to email or calls, not attending meetings, missing deadlines and saying things like “IratePM didn’t tell me to do this work”. I’ll pull out an email chain or meeting minutes to back up my position and AZ will say things like “see, I told you guys IratePM is out to get me”. The tone of voice used is generally more hostile than called for given the situation.

    AZ seems to have a unique ability to twist my words around and convince others that I’m in the wrong, or make it seem like I’m being too sensitive when I call them on their behavior. I mentioned the comments and lack of response on our projects to my boss and to AZ’s boss. My boss is powerless to do anything and AZ’s boss recommended that I look for the positive in the situation.

    I’ve been at this job for a few years, so I figure my best option is to find another job. Does anyone have any advice for dealing with this person until I can find another job? Is this something HR would want to know about? I feel odd about going to HR because there’s nothing illegal going on.

    1. fposte

      What do other people think of what AZ is saying and doing? It doesn’t actually sound like the kind of thing other people would believe to me. If you let go the blaming-it-all-on-you stuff, are the work failures themselves something you can deal with, or does it mean you have to spend a ton of time dealing with undelivered work? Is that kind of cat herding part of the job, or are you being essentially asked to manage in place of AZ’s manager? (And explain the hierarchy–is there any significant rank difference between the two positions?)

      Because I would focus not on the relationship aspect but on the missing work; that’s where, if nothing changes, I would consider going back to your and/or AZ’s manager. “As discussed before, I’m finding AZ isn’t meeting deadlines–the problem occurred on the spreadsheets, the lit review, and the abstract on the proposal. We’re not in a position to apply for this round of funding as a consequence. Is that something that you can help with?”

      1. IratePM

        It varies. Some people agree with AZ, some ignore, some think AZ is off base but roll with it because they want to maintain relationships or because they’re conflict adverse. I’m more of a cat herder with a bunch of responsibility and very little authority, and AZ is a team leader 1-2 levels above me. If someone doesn’t deliver their work, I have to spend a bunch of time trying to find a work around and then re-work the timelines to make up for the lateness. Often this means I have to reduce the time allotted to other departments which annoys people and re-enforces AZ’s position.

        The company culture is very much one of “just make it happen, just figure it out”. Not a ton of support.

        I’ll keep that wording in mind next time I talk to AZ’s boss. I talk to my boss about every missed deliverable, but probably worth talking to AZ’s boss every time as well.

        1. fposte

          In that case, I’m afraid it sounds like herding AZ may well be a legitimate expectation of the job, even though he takes too much herding; if AZ’s boss thinks there are just too many consequences to their failures, there might be a jerk of the leash, but this may also just be something they’re okay with since other staff can absorb the instability (in academics, this happens a *ton*). It sounds like not many people are buying into his craziness about you, so I wouldn’t spend too much time on that; I’d dismiss it as the absurdity that it is.

        2. BadC

          Maybe communication from your side on the impact of AZ’s actions. For eg. in the example youve given when you reduced the timelines of other teams, did you communicate it (subtly )the reason? Are you regularly highlighting when you dont get co-operation from him?

    2. Not So NewReader

      Is AZ saying this in emails? Is this something you can collect up and show your boss?

      I cannot see how undermining a cohort’s efforts/reputation is doing anything for the company. His attacks on you eventually undermine the company’s endeavors.

      I do know that some people have problems with cause and effect. My husband used to say, “You yank a chain on a toilet , you cannot blame it for flushing.” Simple cause and effect right there. But some people need to have a picture drawn for them. So you may have to give real time examples of where AZ has negatively impacted a project, which fell back on you to redistribute some where else.

      Conversely, maybe at the start you can state, “If X is not done by Thursday, then we will need to find an available person in Dept Y to help meet this deadline.”
      Here you state what is going to happen. Then when AZ whines, er, uh complains, then you say, “I said up front that it would go to an available person in Dept Y if it was not completed on time. Now I am asking for Dept Y to help us out.” Cause and effect.

      Whatever you chose to do, clue your boss in so he knows what is up.

  69. Gismara

    Any teachers here? I work as at tutor at a private after school institution.
    I usually teach three to five primary school children per lesson, which is fine, but I recently gut a new pupil with learning disabilities. He was signed up for our services even though I’m not really qualified for that, I think. The pupil is eleven but can barely understand excercises meant for five to six year old children. I’m not sure how much he will benefit from regular lessions and I’m planning to research a bit, but…any ideas how to approch this? I’m planning to talk to my boss about this, but she’s out for another week at minimum and the substitute isn’t informed about this pupil.

    1. LizB

      It really, really depends on what this student’s individual challenges are. When you say he can barely understand exercises for 5-6 year olds, what do you mean? If his reading level is very low, if you read him the instructions or text out loud (or had another member of the tutoring group read), would he be able to grasp the content? Would he benefit from verbally telling you his responses to questions, or drawing pictures or diagrams, instead of writing? Is he lacking in background knowledge (e.g. basic number sense or math fact fluency for math exercises, vocabulary for other subjects) Does his comprehension improve when he’s moving around (pacing at the side of the room, sitting on a yoga ball instead of a chair)? There are lots of things you can try, but it all depends on the student; “learning disabilities” can mean a million different things.

      1. misspiggy

        Yes. And what is he interested in? Giving him more of that, and helping him build skills within an area he likes, is often the way to go. Sounds like you may need to spend a little extra time one on one with him before each class, to find out the answers to LizB’s questions. Then you can build a series of activities for him that start where he is and gradually move him along, beginning with the areas he’s keenest on. Some of these activities could just be about helping him focus on a task, rather than any particular academic topic.

        Success will be about helping him continually improve, rather than necessarily getting him to a particular benchmark – but do record and share how his skills progress. This could be invaluable to his parents when they need to show other teachers/schools that he can learn. (Shouldn’t be necessary in this day and age but often is.)

        This type of experience will be invaluable when you come across other children who are struggling. Good luck!

        1. Gismara

          Indeed I’ve thought about looking for things he’s interested in. I’ve only seen him twice so far so I’ve only observed so far. Looking for excercises that will interest the children is what I try to do anyway, but he already seems to be very attentive and engaged, it’s just that he hasn’t shown much learning capacity. He’s attending a special school but he’s not learned much it seems. I wonder what I can do, if even (presumably) qualified teachers haven’t had much success. I will do my best of course.

      2. Gismara

        He’s not completely familiar with the alphabet yet and can’t read fluently. He is only familiar with numbers up to ten, if he has to add he has to use his fingers to count. He has trouble recognising patterns (e.g. that 4+2 is the same as 2+4)
        He has trouble ouside of schoolwork, too. Bad memory, for example. He has also trouble with problem solving in general. Our building, for example, has a door that can be pushed open even if it looks closed and despite explaining that to him he will just stand if front of it and won’t even try to open it. The first time I had to look for him outside. I reckon it would be more accurate to say he’s mentally disabled in general, it’s not just one area.
        I get along with him well and he feels comfortable with us. So far, I’ve given him excercises like adding low numbers, he asks many questions and needs to be lead through the exercises. I do my best to be attentive (I’ve only had him twice so far) but I have two other children (age seven and nine) in this course, so I can’t just focus on him.

    2. Mando Diao

      It sounds like the student was placed with you according to age, not abilities. Unfortunately, when it comes to learning disabilities, the student (or the parent) is the one that needs to broach the subject; you’re not really even allowed to ask the student if he has a disability. I would put the ball in your boss’ court. Say something like, “Has this student expressed a need for accommodations? I’ll do what I can, but I’m not trained in special education or for grade levels outside of the [x] range.”

  70. brightstar

    I’ve been hiring for a position, and out of nearly 100 applications, only 3 had cover letters. Even the director at a major university (who was extremely overqualified for this entry level position and it would have been over a 50K a year pay cut) did not writer a cover letter. When I mentioned my surprise at the lack of cover letters, they said those were going out of style. Which I just don’t believe.

    What are others experiences lately with cover letters or the lack thereof?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Did you ask for one in the job posting? I’d say I get cover letters 98% of the time, but less than 20% of the time are they truly personalized to the job, and less than 10% of the time do they do more than summarize the resume (which is why doing it the way I talk about here makes it stand out so much).

      1. Lesanon2

        No, the listing didn’t specify. And we do use a tracking system, so maybe those 2 things made a difference.

    2. StudentA

      I spent three years looking for a job, and I wrote fantastic cover letters. I was not getting good jobs, but that’s another story. A year ago, I stopped writing them, unless:

      –the ad specified to send one
      –the position was one I applied for previously within the company, and I had a cover letter handy
      –I was particularly passionate about the cause
      –it was a small and/or prestigious nonprofit, and they pretty much screen for cover letters

      To be completely honest, not writing them did not make a difference on whether or not I got a response. Except for those that specified to send one, obviously.

      I think you were told they may be going out of style because of the Applicant Tracking Systems. If a system is judging your candidacy and comparing you to other applicants, it doesn’t care how passionate your cover letter is. But a small company or a nonprofit would probably care, because the resumes are being reviewed by humans at the onset.

      Well, that’s a theory.

      1. Brightstar

        I think, based upon the responses here, it’s a combination of things. Using an applicant system, it’s an entry level position, and we didn’t request cover letters. It definitely made candidates stand out.

        I also looked for work for 3 years but continued to submit cover letters, but did slack sometimes in not personalizing them. Job searching can be so dispiriting!

    3. Mando Diao

      If you’re posting the listing somewhere like Craigslist, you’re not going to get cover letters unless you ask for them.

      If you’re posting somewhere that also posts ads for small businesses and start-ups, you’re pulling from a pool of applicants that isn’t accustomed to sending cover letters and might not have ever written one. Cover letters are a given in fields where HR departments and multiple interviews are the norm, but small businesses don’t always bother.

      If the job pays in the realm of $10-12 an hour, you’re not going to get cover letters without having clearly requested them.

  71. Ash

    Hello fellow readers!

    I’ve been looking for software tester positions with very little luck so far. Any advice on the keyword search? I see “developer” and things like that used a lot, but I’m looking to be the person that executes and tests/challenges the code, not the one that writes it (at least until I finish up my degree).

    1. Fleur

      Look for positions such as SDET, testing automation or specific testing frameworks.

      The problem with testing is that it’s a position with a lot of stigma against it, because people can’t tell if you’re doing something complex like testing automation vs clicking a bunch of buttons on an app until it breaks. It’s why places like Google and MS have changed their titles and sometimes even just give their testers the same software developer title.

      Is there a reason you are particularly keen on testing as opposed to normal dev work? Because I feel like by narrowing your focus so much, you are more likely to end up in a button pushing job by virtue of how nebulous job descriptions for testers are nowadays.

      1. Ash

        Hi Fleur!

        Thanks for the reply! I’ve been doing testing off-and-on for the past year or so as additional duties at my current job. I’m finishing up my MS in CS–Software Development. My undergrad wasn’t comp sci, and I’m not confident enough in my skills yet to be a coder. I’d love to be able to synergize my work and my schooling and I thought testing might work. What would you recommend in this case?

        A sideways move at the current job isn’t really an option for multiple reasons, so I’m looking at what’s out there.

        1. Fleur

          Honestly, I’d brush up on algorithms by studying the “Cracking the Coding Interview” book and go for the dev internships. I look at a lot of the entry-level coders – i.e. graduates – and any decent company won’t expect the world of them. At internships, this will be even more the case.

          Obviously, there are bad internships out there who won’t give you decent mentorship, but assuming you vet the company, you are much better off going for dev jobs to get some actual coding experience.

          By sticking only with testing, you either get stuck with a very nontechnical and boring role, or you get into automation/frameworks which pretty much require the same level of coding skill anyway. May as well expand your horizons!

    2. PX

      Late, but I would also recommend searching for something like systems engineer or (IT) data analyst. As I (unfortunately) know from experience, those titles are vague and broad enough that you see lots of different job descriptions under them, up to and including software testing.

  72. Squirrel!

    Anyone have any good job websites specifically for IT/programmer jobs? My partner is wanting to get out of his company because it’s going down hill and fast. He did not like Dice, Indeed isn’t “specific enough”, and Monster and CareerBuilder are both hit-or-miss and sort of spammy. He’s also updating his LinkedIn (and if anyone has any tips for that for tech-specific profiles, please share!), so that might help. He may eventually reach out to a local recruiter if he can’t find a decent site. Thanks in advance!

  73. Foxtrot

    Do resumes always have to be reverse chronological? I am still in school and working multiple internships and I would like to put the ones the align the most with what I want to do near the top. So if I really liked the work I did summer 2013 and summer 2015, can I list those positions before summer 2014?
    I’m not trying to hide anything…just highlight what I want recruiters to see first. Would it be more weird if I just didn’t list the internships that don’t appeal to me? I am set to graduate in December 2016 so I will be looking for 1 more summer internship and then full time positions after that.

    1. Trixie

      Keep it all chronological, easier to read and it’s clear you’re not hiding anything. Especially within a 4 year time period. Topic came up earlier in this thread if you want to search for it.

    2. Mando Diao

      You can omit jobs that are irrelevant to your field; list all of your internships but don’t mention the bartending gig. That’s a good way to make sure the important stuff gets on there.

  74. Jillociraptor

    Any recommendations for a CRM when you only need relationship management, not sales tracking?

    We’ve got about 500 constituents we need to keep track of (and that number will grow by about 50 per year). We’re tracking things like how much they have volunteered and on what, their satisfaction with our programs, their past and current jobs, and info like email, home address, etc. Most CRMs are heavily focused on tracking sales leads, which really isn’t relevant to us. I used Salesforce in a past job, which I liked a lot, but we’re hoping for something cheaper and more out of the box.

    Any recommendations or alternatives you can think of?

      1. Jillociraptor

        It probably would but unfortunately we are all on Macs! Is there an equivalent on OpenOffice or something Mac friendly? I think FileMaker Pro is a little too expensive.

        1. Jules the First

          FilemakerPro is only worth it if you spend a lot to customise it.

          I’ve not used it personally, but I’ve heard lots of good things about Zurmo…

    1. Observer

      Don’t go with something like Access or FileMaker simply because you would need someone to build the system you need.

      Are you working for a non-profit? If so, there are a number of good choices out there. Most of them are cloud based, so it doesn’t make a difference if you are on PC or Mac. Salesforce provides free and low cost accounts for non-profits, as well, so it’s worth looking at.

  75. nicolefromqueens

    How long is “too long” for a position like data entry? I’ve been in this position for 2 years. The work we do isn’t complicated, instead it’s quite repetitive and voluminous. So the trick is to streamline the workflow so that we don’t fall behind, which I’ve been able to help with a bit. I’ve been taking on more responsibilities, including training. But part of me seems stuck, especially since being taken permanent seems less likely as time goes on.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Two years is not too long, especially if you’re taking on more responsibilities. I was a receptionist for four years. Didn’t hurt my career any (I now work in tech doing sys admin’ing).

    2. Jillociraptor

      I think you’ve been in any job too long when you’re no longer adding meaningful lines to your resume!

  76. Tara R.

    Here is my school rant for the day.

    I want to major in math or statistics. I loved math in high school, I like data stuff, I’ve been thinking about going into data analysis or something similar. But now I just don’t know.

    Poli Sci – elective. Currently getting 97%. Completely fascinated, and already planning to take as many courses in it as I can. It’s thought-provoking! Relevant! The professor is someone with real, solid experience behind her and a great teaching style! I look forward to going every day.
    Matrix Algebra – the only math course I could take this term, second year level (I’m a first year). Currently getting somewhere in the 70s. It’s HARD, and I hate it, and I don’t understand the theory that everyone else seems to be picking up easily. The quizzes are all full of true/false or extending concepts way, way beyond what we learned (which is valid, I know this is a me problem not a class problem) and it doesn’t seem to matter how much I study for them. My performance is all over the place– from a 95 on one to a 40 (my first failing grade ever, joy) on the next. Going to this class makes me want to cry. I haven’t missed a single lecture, I take all the notes and do all the readings and all of the assigned practice problems– but it’s not helping me *get it*.

    I know this is one class, and it doesn’t have to mean doom. But I really, honestly am /hating/ this, and the idea of this term without the Poli Sci class is making me realize just how attached I am to the arts. I thought a lot about going into law in the past and decided against it, but now I’m starting to rethink how happy I would be sitting in front of a computer screen with excel all day. But what do I want to do with my life if not that??

    1. misspiggy

      Try doing as much online learning as you can, both in matrix algebra, to get through it, and in statistics, which would be key for many data roles. That might help you decide whether you hate just one branch of maths, or several, or none. Khan Academy is excellent for starting at the core concepts and working up at your own pace.

    2. Graciosa

      First of all, you do not have to know what you want to do with your life at this point. I’m not saying it’s not good to have a solid idea of a starting direction, but you will be amazed at how much things change from one decade to the next.

      Next, do not assume that one class that is not to your taste should cause you to change your major. Many people have one area that they struggle with in their major coursework – it’s totally normal. Apparently Matrix Algebra is yours. That should cause you to talk to your professor, or your adviser, or ask for help. It does not need to cause you to give up on math.

      If you continue in math but don’t want to work forever in front of a computer screen, I will share with you that some of the most influential staff positions in large corporations are on the finance team. If you like working with people, the ability to translate all the “finance stuff” and the “numbers” into actionable plans for the business is prized. I’m sure our senior finance team members did some less interesting work at the start of their careers – who doesn’t? – but they now have teams of people to do that for them so they can walk into a VP’s office and help set our strategy for the next quarter / year / decade.

      I’ve also seen finance folks transfer over to operational roles if that interests you, although my personal preference leans toward the more stable staff positions.

      Regarding law, I urge you in the strongest possible terms not to go to law school because you enjoy political science and can’t think of anything better to do with your life. The ROI on this investment is rarely worth it – it is crazy expensive, and the job market for newly admitted attorneys is terrible.

      If you are lucky enough to land a job that gives you even a decent chance of ever paying off your loans (assuming you’re not able to pay a six-figure tuition bill in cash) then the only reason they will be paying that money to you is because the firm will expect you to work all the hours you can remain conscious to make it worth their while.

      Many other recent graduates are not that lucky and find themselves doomed to bear the weight of a staggering amount of debt (that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy).

      I say this as an attorney with a political science degree, so please consider my warnings very seriously. I don’t regret my choice, but it was much, much cheaper and the job market was totally different at the time.

      It’s a little ironic that one thing a good lawyer needs is a the ability to carefully weigh the long term impact of various options – yet doing this would keep people with that ability out of law school.

      1. Tara R.

        Next, do not assume that one class that is not to your taste should cause you to change your major. Many people have one area that they struggle with in their major coursework – it’s totally normal. Apparently Matrix Algebra is yours. That should cause you to talk to your professor, or your adviser, or ask for help. It does not need to cause you to give up on math.

        Thank you. For all of this, but that in particular. It’s hard to keep things in perspective sometimes.

      2. Same Boat

        I have to second this idea that you don’t have to know what you’re doing yet. I started in one major — graduated and got a job in it. At 25 I was still asking what I wanted to be when I grew up. Did some side projects and other “extracurriculars” that gave me some experience in something only tangentially related to my job, and after 5 years that’s now what I do. Just be honest with yourself about what you like doing :-)

        1. Granite

          Haven’t you heard the joke about why adults ask kids what they want to be when they grow up? They’re looking for ideas!

        1. Tara R.

          Great idea, but I can’t afford it unfortunately, and all that’s left is the exam at any rate. I will try to get to office hours next week though (I have to skip another class to go, but I’m doing really well in that class so it might be worth it).

          1. Stephanie

            Your university might have a free or low-cost tutoring center you could attend. No luck with going to office hours?

          2. Not So NewReader

            Can you put together an informal study group? I did that for a few courses and it worked out well. I would pick people that seemed out-going and genuinely interested in learning the material. I kind of drifted away from the Negative Nancys in the classes. I enjoy small groups so a group of two to three people plus myself was plenty of people. We all kept each other going.

    3. Stephanie

      I used to work in law and it’s also a lot of sitting in front of a screen. The percentage of attorneys who argue in court is small.

      I wouldn’t go to law school nowadays. Job market sucks and if you do get lucky and land a big firm job, you’ll work crazy hours. One of my best friends works as a big firm attorney and we leave work at the same time. I work swing shift. He does not.

      1. Stephanie

        Also, you could look into operational roles at a plant or industrial facility. Those will want someone with an affinity for numbers and you’ll have some non-computer work.

    4. JenC

      Sociology? Quantitative methodology uses all kinds of statistical methods….might combine the two (math and more social science/arts subject) in a way you enjoyed? Just a suggestion…

    5. Harriet Vane Wimsey

      You sound like political polling might be of interest to you. I worked in it early in my career. Poli Sci is important, but you also use statistical, analytical, and communication (writing and presentation) skills. You could volunteer on a candidate’s campaign to get a taste for it.

    6. LabTech

      For what it’s worth, the concepts and theory behind matrix algebra is very hard. Maybe your class is filled with mathematical geniuses, but know that it’s not just you. Matrix algebra starts to deal with higher mathematics concepts, and they’re not easy to digest – and I say this as someone who likes math, and has bachelor’s in the subject. I don’t have much practical advice, but I got by browsing math textbooks in the library for additional explanations and example problems, then reading the passages over and over and over until it finally started to click, asking the professor follow-up questions.

      I just wanted to reassure you that the difficulty of the class isn’t you, it’s the material, so try not to get too discouraged.

      1. Stephanie

        For what it’s worth, the concepts and theory behind matrix algebra is very hard. Maybe your class is filled with mathematical geniuses, but know that it’s not just you. Matrix algebra starts to deal with higher mathematics concepts, and they’re not easy to digest

        Yeah, I’ll second this. Matrix algebra was the first math class where it got super theoretical and the concepts were harder than the plug and chug math. Not to minimize your struggle, that is. I found understanding the concepts and and their application than the actual inversion of the matrix or whatever (as that was often just arithmetic). It’s also pretty easy to make a math error if you’re doing everything by hand.

        And it can be pretty hard if you don’t have an instructor who’s good at demonstrating how to apply the theory to a problem. At my college, there were courses in the applied math department that were geared toward science and engineering majors. That being said, they were still way more theory heavy than most of us were used to–we were used to seeing, say a position function and taking the derivative to get the velocity function, so hearing “And we have an equation f in subpsace A” just confused the hell out of us. I’d imagine a lot of math profs prefer to talk in more general, theoretical concepts.

        I’d go to office hours and ask your instructor (or the TA) to break it down step by step. If he’s any kind of halfway decent professor (or TA), he’ll be glad that you’re there asking questions, even basic ones.

    7. Tau

      So like Graciosa said, you have to figure out what it is you want and make decisions based on that, and I’m not telling you *not* to switch majors, but I do have some input on struggling with maths as someone who has a PhD in the subject.

      So first off, mathematics is a really wide and varied subject and chances are that you will find parts of it to your taste and parts of it not. During undergrad, I excelled at courses about algebra, number theory, topology etc. and struggled quite a bit with the applied courses. Differential equations, for example, were not my friends, I think I’d already had two courses on them before the concept finally made *sense* to me. In fact, matrices are also not really to my taste (although if you abstract them away a bit, I do like linear algebra). Anyway, really don’t assume that struggling in one maths course means anything about your general ability. Especially when it could also be due to the teacher (just saying, matrices are an area that it’s pretty easy to teach terribly.)

      That said, I do have to add a word of caution: I’ve found maths to be a subject where you need a pretty high tolerance for frustration. It’s- so the biggest hurdle in any maths course is generally understanding the basic underlying concepts. Once you’ve got that, everything flows from there (I joke I did maths because I was too lazy for other subjects). But it does mean that the experience of not getting it can be incredibly frustrating because you’re lacking this basic understanding of the concepts in question and as a result everything is completely incomprehensible. Like, I’d guess that for most humanities subjects if I’m not following a lecture I’ll still probably have at least a basic idea of what the subject is, for maths the lecturer might as well be speaking a foreign language. And dealing with that and pushing through that despite how demoralising it is… not something you are going to be able to avoid when you do maths. This is not saying “you shouldn’t do maths” (quite the opposite, hi I am biased) but I think it’s worth keeping in mind.

      On the careers front! Maths degrees are not quite the immediate doorway into a job I’ve seen people talk about them as, but they’re pretty versatile and a lot of employers and fields like maths graduates. And those jobs don’t *have* to be sitting in front of a computer with excel. The most common areas I’ve seen people end up in are teaching (there’s apparently a dearth of maths teachers in many places), software (I went into software development post-PhD and about 80% of the programmers at my company are maths graduates) and finance. Also, I don’t have a particularly strong stats background but I’m pretty sure statisticians are needed in tons of places. One of the nice things about doing a maths degree is that it’s relatively marketable in many areas without forcing you into a specific career path.

      Finally, practical advice: is there any tutoring available through the course, TAs or the like that you could talk to? I did tutoring during my PhD and I would definitely have been willing to set aside some time to go through the material with a struggling student. You might try seeing if you can meet the professor during their office hours, as well. And a study group could also be very worthwhile.

  77. need advice about a co-worker

    I am currently dealing with a problem co-worker, PC, who has been a problem in the department for many years. PC is known for stirring up spit.

    I am the latest target because a new employee was doing very good on abc and bad on xyz and I let the boss know the new employee needs a reminder about xyz. A department wide memo went out saying “hey, just a reminder to all, don’t forget about xyz”. PC took offense and felt new employee shouldn’t have to do xyz. PC told the boss that the boss was full of it, started trash talking me to everyone, told new employee that I am a monster, etc because PC found out that I had spoken to the boss about how things were going. The thing is, the boss asked several other employees besides me about the new employee and has also observed the lack of xyz in person. PC thinks it is all driven by me but it isn’t.

    I am just tired of dealing with PC. I have my bi-weekly meeting with the boss next week and I am wondering if I should mention what is happening which might induce even more drama or should I just try to ride it out. After the explosion between the boss and PC, I am not sure if I need to pick at that scab again by letting the boss know of the additional spit stirring that is going on.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Why not find a middle ground and say something like, “PC’s upset over newbie’s problem with xyz, typifies a recurring type of behavior and I find I am distracted by it. It’s takes time out of my work day that could be used for… well… actual work. Is there something that I should do or can do that I may be missing? Or should I just ignore it?”

      Try, try, try to keep in mind that PC absolutely lambasted your boss, so you will not need to use a heavy handed approach on the subject as your boss is still probably reeling from it. But I see nothing wrong with asking if you could do something different.

  78. grad time!

    didn’t get many hits last week so reposting for advice:

    I have just finished my degree and my university hosts an industry night in December for students in my course to meet and network with industry.

    Do you have any tips for engaging with industry as a new grad? Getting into my chosen (small) industry is important to me, so I’m feeling nervous and not very confident. Should my conversation with industry reps be more about what i’ve achieved (at uni doing the degree, my professional work experience), or does this sound too salesy? Should i treat networking more like informational interviews and ask questions about their organisations, their positions, what they recommend for people looking to get into the field, etc? It seems hard to stand out amongst all the other grads and i’m not entirely sure what i should aim to achieve in attending the night.

    Also, what are your thoughts on having some basic business cards printed? With my name, phone number and email on one side? What about with a few dot points on the back with my degree name, my professional interests (for example, i would like to step into roles relating to sponsorship/funding, communications/marketing or to grow leadership skills, perhaps managing volunteers)? I already have business cards for my current workplace – but that’s not in the same industry and it’s not my personal email, it’s my work email – so that doesn’t make sense to hand them out.

    One last question about the business cards – my first and surnames are not pronounced easily by english speakers. Would it be a reasonable idea to have my name printed and then in wee letters have it written phonetically? In International phonetic alphabet, like at the start of Wiki articles?

    1. Stephanie

      Just be your (professional) self! Big things I would suggest are to do your research ahead of time and know who hires for what and to have a brief spiel prepared. I cringe at the phrase “elevator pitch”, but you do want something along those lines (albeit less salesy) summarizing your background and your interest in the company like… “I’m graduating with my MS in Teapot Glazing this spring with a concentration in low-temperature glazing failures. I did my thesis/research in ceramic glazing. I’m interested in working in QA for teapot glazing after graduation and saw Teapots LLC specializes in that. Can you go a bit more into Teapot LLC’s work?”

      Also, I don’t think any recruiter expects you to be perfect. I’d guess as long as you can concisely and clearly explain your background and your interest in that particular company versus just getting a job, you should be fine. These evening with industry things were always explained to me to be a less formal event for recruiting.

  79. Stitch

    Anyone still out there? I have a rant and hope for some advice.

    As background: Last summer, I had an internship at Teapot Insurance Co, and then completed my bachelor’s degree in a related field – it went really well (my reference from here is amazing), and I thought I was going to continue full time until it turned out they didn’t want me, for whatever reason. At that point it was too late to really apply to other positions, especially because I was on the other side of the world when I found out.

    So I end up going home, and I get a job at Teapot Dance Studio. I was elated! I’d wanted to teach dance but never thought I was good enough – how lucky I was for TDS to give me a shot! I started working admin while completing their training process. I bore through a number of questionable things (unpaid training and work, where training was very “sink or swim” on-the-job; Illegal classification of most employees as independent contractors; Wage that started insultingly low, and never got higher as promised raises as I completed continued training were ignored. Incredibly high turnover in the rest of the staff.) and continuously discover more and more issues (they constantly nickel and dime their underpaid employees; don’t pay for all hours worked; micromanage, berate, and insult employees frequently; ignore significant issues and then flail about saying “We’re a small business! We’ve tried everything and we can’t solve our [high turnover/scheduling problems due to lack of qualified staff/etc.]”) Somehow, all the above was not enough to scare me off – but recently (I’ve now been working here about 3 months), some safety issues have come to my attention (at the same time as I’ve been really butting heads with the owner trying to get these issues addressed) and I’m eager to GTFO.

    So, I’m looking for a new job. I’m unsure how to swing my experience to make this disaster look good. I’m trying to get a good ole 40-to-50 hour office/finance job that allows me to continue dance as a hobby – because, on the one hand, dance studios that will hire an inexperienced dweeb like me are probably all within a few degrees of the one above. On the other hand, the internship I had last summer was full of people who thought 55 hours a week, coming in on Saturdays, was a perfectly reasonable “work-life balance”. Anyway, I know employers are going to look funny at a 2014 grad who didn’t continue full time at their internship, spent half a year unemployed, and is now cutting the cord only 3 months into employment. I don’t have any significant length of employment other than a year-long stint as an admin while attending school (maybe being less than a year out of undergrad will be reason enough?) and so it feels like they could have a lot of potential worries about what kind of worker I am, how long I’d stay in the role, etc etc.

    Is there anything I should put in my cover letter/highlight in my resume to help make this look good? How should I answer the inevitable questions in an interview about why I’m not at Teapot Insurance Co/why I left Teapot Dance Studio/etc.? How do I convince them I’m not going to jump ship after 3 months?

    Tangential question: Would you GTFO now or wait until you had another job lined up?

    1. Jean

      Hmm. On the one hand it’s easier to find a job while still employed. On the other hand staying in an abusive workplace is rarely good for one’s future mental or physical health.

      If you can manage to stick it out (lower your standards? get more selective about which issues to clash with the owners? learn deep breathing?) you’ll have learned a really good life lesson about coping with unwanted crummy circumstances. We all get there sooner or later. Yes, it stinks; but also, yes, it builds character. Based on your paragraph beginning “So, I’m looking for a new job” I think you’re already aware that the best choice is to stick it out even if it’s not the most pleasant option in the short run.

      Caveats:
      1. I’m speaking as someone who spent several years job-hunting while not employed. Admittedly, my search was prolonged because I needed to find work that fit around my family responsibilities instead of the other way around, but speaking of unwanted crummy circumstances…!
      2. I’m also speaking as someone who is currently coping with another set of unwanted circumstances. (Although it builds character, it still stinks.)
      3. Take comfort in the fact that you’re young, and life is long. I am hopeful that you will eventually get yourself into a better situation. In the meantime, keep plugging away with integrity. Think back about your internship. Not to make you feel worse, but are there any lessons you can apply? (Was it not a good fit between you and the organization? Did they have to conserve cash flow by not hiring you permanently? Did you do anything particularly well, or not so well?)
      4. I’m about to take my own advice re plugging w/ integrity–and retrieve my laundry from where it’s been hogging the communal dryer for the past too-long amount of time!
      5. Life is still difficult and we still have to tame our worse instincts long after we’ve finished our schooling.

    2. Mando Diao

      There are a few different issues going on here, and the solutions may not all be compatible with each other.

      The good news is that it’s not unusual for a recent grad to work retail/serving/part-time in the months immediately following graduation. Most internships actually don’t bring their interns on as employees as a matter of course. It doesn’t look bad for you that you took an unrelated part-time job after school and your internship ended. You say, “Anyway, I know employers are going to look funny at a 2014 grad who didn’t continue full time at their internship,” but that simply isn’t true, so don’t approach it as if it’s something to be embarrassed about.

      The iffy news is that, from what I’ve heard and read, the culture of finance jobs “encourages” a 55+ hour workweek. It’s just the nature of the job/field. I’d suggest applying and interviewing and seeing what the typical schedules are, all the while thinking seriously about whether you want to be in this field if you aren’t willing to cut down on the time you plan to devote to other projects.

    3. fposte

      I’m with Mando–this is your first post-college job and it’s not in your field, and you’d really like a job in your field. That’s not a big deal. It’s unlikely anybody would ask with any seriousness why you’re not at Teapot Insurance–you had an internship there and the internship ended, which is standard, and a rollover to a permanent position isn’t the default. What feels like a disaster because you’re understandably unhappy at your current job isn’t a disaster on the resume–it’s just a short-term job out of your field. I’d start applying to places immediately.

      I will say it’s easier to keep it that way if you look while employed. If you leave it, you can’t say simply it was because it’s not in your field, because it wasn’t in your field when you started the job, either. You also don’t mention money. If you’ve moved in with parents that may not be as much of a factor, but I would still keep it in mind, and you certainly don’t want to let the lack of financial pressure drive you into a long unemployment period as you search for the perfect job. So I’d at least hang in there for a while–think about trying to make it to the new year, maybe, and generate a good pile of applications in the mean time.

  80. Trixie

    Working on my Linked In profile and i have such a small number of connections. Not looking to add to it just for the sake of more. It is what it is.

    1. Anon the Great and Powerful

      Mine is the same. I only have about 50 connections and some of them are just random people that connected with me.

  81. Anon4This

    Reading the “Do I have to go the the office Christmas party?” post in the holiday angst section has me thinking. We have a departmental lunch (this year it is in a restaurant – last few years, it has been catered at our office) for which we all pay our share. Has to be that way – we work for a state entity. That is not the issue.

    My issue is that we are understaffed and so underpaid that decent potential employees will not apply (or will have moved on before our tedious hiring process allows us to set up interviews). My time is precious to me. Any time I spend in a forced social setting is time that I cannot devote to completing my pile o’ work (and hence, eats away my time with my family). Upper management has made it clear that we are not getting any more staff, yet the new software and projects keep coming. I already work ~ 55 hours in a normal week – more if major projects are in implementation. I am exempt.

    Am I being a total jerk by not attending? I have attended at least once in the last 8 years – but it just really seems so forced. My lack of enthusiasm may be tangentially related to my ultra-small (3 people) family as a child and lack of holiday traditions/memories. Just not that into the “showy” part of the season. Would rather take the $20 that the lunch would cost and give it to the food bank, get my work done & go home to my husband without him watching me work from home for 3 more hours.

    Anyone have similar feelings? Should I just suck it up and go?

  82. AV

    I just went to a (small) after-work event and, honestly, I just realized that I have no interest in knowing these people outside of work. They are FINE as coworkers for the most part, but socially we have nothing in common. I’m not really sure how to detach myself from them. I want to be nice and cordial to them at work, but I really want to avoid the chance of future “friendships” (does this sound crazy??). The event was pretty small and unofficial, but I was so bored the entire time. I just don’t fit in.

    I still like attending larger staff events that most of the staff goes to, but I am going to avoid these small after-work gatherings in the future. Oh man.

    1. IT Kat

      Honestly, just always politely having plans everytime you’re asked to a social event should take care of that for you, really. I think you might be over thinking how to fend off ‘friendships’, it’s not that hard. Even if they push, it’s “Oh, I have so much to do after work I don’t think I can fit it in! You guys have fun!” whenever you’re asked what time/day would work for you, repeat ad nauseum. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to justify your plans, it’s no one’s business if you’d rather go to the dentist then to a work outing.

    2. Anon17

      I totally get this. I don’t think it’s crazy at all — it’s just like high school. I got along with everyone, but only had a handful of friends :-)

  83. Anon17

    I need some advice. I supervise a small group of people, but my manager has all of the authority. I was told recently that the group doesn’t like how I give reminders or ask for status updates. This isn’t the first mention of it, but apparently what I’ve tried to do differently hasn’t helped. When I asked for more concrete ideas of what else I could do, my manager told me it was on me to figure that out. My other problem is no one from the group directly mentions it to me, they either just go running to my manager to complain, or my manager encourages this complaining in their regular meetings. I think it’s more of my manager providing an audience, so the complaints continue. I’d like to ask my manager to support me more and stop providing that audience and instead ask the group if the complaints were mentioned to me — and if they weren’t, to tell them to talk to me first instead of going straight to her. Is this reasonable to request? How do I go about it? I’m thinking what I’ve tried hasn’t worked because the issues are misconstrued by going through my manager first (kinda like the game of telephone — she is told A, relays it as B, which makes me think I should do C instead of D). The other option is directly telling the group “I’ve heard you don’t like X and Y, but I still need to know Z, so how can I get that?” (I think this will come across as confrontational, which is why it’s not my preference — leading to complaints about being confrontational). Some of the group members like to complain anyways (even my manager said this), so is it reasonable to ask for the complaining to be shut down unless they directly address it with me? Or are these complaints managers should hear about frequently instead of having those involved resolve it amongst themselves?

  84. Jenny

    Two questions-

    I am currently interviewing for my first “office” job. I am in the running for two positions at two different companies.

    1. I had two interviews with Company A. The interviewer said a few times “I know I’m not supposed to do this”…but then did. Red flag? I should have my third interview this week.

    2. Company B contacted me this week and are trying to set up a time for me to come in this week. A gentleman texted me on Thanksgiving from his personal number trying to figure out time to come in.

    Does either of these things seem strange to anyone else?

    1. Sara

      What did Company A’s interviewer do that she prefaced with “I know I’m not supposed to do this…”? That’s not the potentially problematic part of the statement. The part that you might need to be concerned about is the second half. There’s a big difference between “…but I love your shoes, where did you get them?” and “…but if you give me $200, I can guarantee that you move to the next round of interviews.”

      The personal cell phone thing doesn’t scare me away, but I also work in a field where employees aren’t provided with work phones and where most hiring takes place during the off-season, when people are in the office less (and thus away from office landline phones). My gut reaction is that he should have called first, rather than initiating the exchange via text, but I don’t find this to be seriously concerning absent other major issues you’ve observed.

      1. fposte

        I’m totally with Sara. #1 is all about the part you didn’t say. On #2, I use my personal phone for most of my business stuff, and while I also raise an eyebrow at the texting rather than calling, it’s possible that he thought a text would be less obtrusive than a phone call on the holiday.

        So what is it that #1 thought she wasn’t supposed to do? My guess is that if you’re a regular AAM reader it wasn’t anything heinous or else you’d have mentioned it. If that’s the case, I think you’re maybe just a little jittery across the board, which is understandable for this stage. But you got two interviews, which is great!

        1. Jenny

          It was I know I’m not supposed to…talk about religion, personal life etc. He seems to be a good guy and regular “dude” who may not like the formality of an interview. He did say sweetheart twice, but is from a small town. Things that IRL wouldn’t bug me but since these would be my first corporate type job and this would be my supervisor so this may be his personality or I was wondering if they were red flags that would continue if I got the position.

          1. PX

            Well, as I know from reading too much AMA – technically there’s nothing wrong with asking about religion/personal life etc, but they should not be taken into account when making hiring decisions. And obviously the point is that for most people, asking about it can lead to thembeing taken into account (or to the perception that they were) – so then they just avoid them altogether.
            To me it sounds like someone who either doesnt know very much about (the legalities of) hiring or indeed, could be a yellow (to orange) flag on his management style/signs of poor office culture.

  85. Meeting Firm Event

    Hi,
    I need some advice on how to communicate in a Meet the Firms event in my graduate school.

    For this event, I want to practice my communication skills, professionalism, and to see how opportunities in those firms will fit in to my future career.

    To communicate, I was thinking along the lines of first introducing myself, then asking how was their day and how is it working at their firm, then proceed with asking what they like most about their firm, then ask them what types of candidates/workers the firm desires most, and then ask them what they would recommend for current graduate students.

    That is all I got so far. These meetings had always made me nervous, and I have not had any luck/got out of anything from it when I had these meetings when I was an undergrad. I have put off these meeting events for awhile because I feel that I do not possess the communication skills to be successful in those events. But currently, I wanted to give these events another try because I feel I need to learn how to network and to have resources to find other work opportunities in the future.

    Is there anything more that students can get/learn from these events? Are there any other questions that I should be asking in these events?

    1. fposte

      This sounds fine–but it also sounds like you’re really focused on presenting yourself, and it’s also okay to ask more about what you want to know. That’s why “What do you like about working at your firm?”, which you’re planning to ask, is a good question; it gives you useful information about whether this is a place that might work for you, or even a field that might work for you. So are there other things you might like to know? What about what kind of people do best at this firm? Do you think there are characteristics that make this firm stand out, and what are they?

      I would also encourage you strongly to listen very carefully to answers you get and build on them in followup questions. I’m guessing, but I suspect that these events, like interviews, are at their best when they’re like conversations, which means that you’re better off if it’s not simply a Q&A firmly limited to your preplanned questions. Think of it as two sets of guidelines: the questions you’re preparing, and the task to find something in what they’re saying that you’d like to know more about.

      I think your impulse to go to the event to develop experience is a good one, and I hope it goes well for you!

    2. Artemesia

      Petty — but don’t ask ‘how is your day’ or other time fillers like this. It is like getting a fund raising call where they start with this faux ‘interest in you’ — never smooth.

      You all are there for the same reason so launch into something more like ‘I am excited to meet someone from the Gerbil Exchange because I have been interested in a career in Gerbil Management. ‘ then your question about what they love about the Gerbil Exchange.

  86. Just Wondering

    Thanks to speaking up about my problems with my current position (and to AAM who gave me the courage to do so) I’ve recently got a title update/promotion and a 10% raise. The thing is, I started negotiating talking about the promotion during a salary freeze in my company, and me getting it happened at the same time as general raises throughout the entire company. Our acting manager told me that 10% was their cap. And frankly? It feels like too little. I was already really annoyed with the entire process of title update and felt quite humiliated by having to explicitly ask for this, and I know that I can’t just ask for another raise. It sucks.

  87. Jennefib

    So, I was talking to a place near where I’d like to be working. Everything sounded great, they sounded really excited about me. All was good….except they have a brand-spanking new open-concept office. Hearing that in the screen interview caused my blood-pressure to spike and my anxiety cranked up to ‘full.’ I did very poorly in the ‘bullpen’ at my current office and getting away from it has been a godsend. So I’m wondering:

    1. If they really value that kind of environment, does it make sense to continue talking to them?

    2. If yes, then when should I bring up that we’d need to work out a more private workstation?

    1. fposte

      Unfortunately, it’s not a question of a “need to work out a more private workstation.” Even if you’re talking a clinical anxiety diagnosis that means you’re formally and explicitly requesting accommodation under the ADA, all they have to do is offer an interactive process and reasonable accommodation, which may mean something like you getting access to a conference room sometimes. And if you’re not talking a request for accommodation under the ADA, they don’t need to work out anything; the approach is to inquire if there might be other possibilities for people who prefer a more private workstation.

      I think the answer to 1 is “Maybe not.” I don’t know the company and what “talking” means–it sounds like you had an interview? I think if they come back for a second interview or an offer and you really like other things about them, it’s fair to raise this as a discussion point, either as a formal request for accommodation, if you are prepared to self-identify as disabled, or as a talking point to explore the possibilities in case things might end up more mixed than they sound.

      However, if it looks like it’s a big open-plan culture, it could be a challenge to really be integrated into the group if you’re not right there in the scrimmage. If open-plan really is a dealbreaker for you and it’ a religion for them, I think I’d probably pass.

  88. Bellen

    I’ve been developing my career in the retail world for the last 5 years, store manager for two of them. I’m now at a point where I don’t want the retail career path, even though there are currently multiple opportunities on the table for me. My goal is to transition into a new career, and transition my skill set, so as not to start at entry-level. I think I’d be successful within the realm of HR, because people respond well to me, I’ve managed upwards of 30 people on a team, I’m good at understanding people’s strengths/drawing them out, and I’m good at anticipating/identifying problems or roadblocks + solving for them.

    The thing is, I’m not entirely sure I have a clear understanding of HR. I’ve spoken to a couple people in my network, but I’d like to know what makes people successful in the HR world. What are important skills AND personality traits? Is it possible to start above entry-level, coming from a different world? I’m not opposed to it, if it’s necessary to learn.

    Thanks from a mostly-lurker, sometime question asker ;)

  89. Camellia

    We had a great Thanksgiving but couldn’t help but talk about our worst Thanksgiving ever:

    Several years ago I took a six month contract in November, 800 miles away from home. My husband flew in for Thanksgiving and the manager for whom I was working invited us, and supposedly the other seven contractors, to Thanksgiving dinner at her new house, and supposedly they had all accepted so, come on and join us for a great Thanksgiving! Since, you know, you are all so far away from your families and such.

    When we got there we were the first ones to arrive and she asked me to help her hang a picture. Okay, I can do that. Then she asked me to help her hang another one. Ooookay. Then she asked my husband to set up her entire entertainment system. He actually kind of enjoys that and he is a helpful kind of guy, so he did. When she asked us to move furniture around I drew the line and said sorry, no can’t do, we both have bad backs. Nor can we assemble the bar stools or check the drip in the bathroom sink. I wish I was joking but I’m not. Apparently she had a whole list of chores that she wanted us to do.

    Oh, and in all this time no one else had showed up. When she served dinner it was obvious that it was only for three people. And it was the worst food we have ever had. Everything was basically inedible. The green bean casserole was burned black; even she didn’t try to eat that. I was trying to figure out how to politely spit out my first bite of the instant mashed potatoes, wondering what the heck was wrong with them, when she casually explained that she had made them with almond milk. The bread rolls were stale. The little thingie had NOT popped out of the turkey’s thigh so we were kind of afraid to eat it. Neither of us managed to eat more than a couple of bites in all.

    We made our excuses and got out of there as quickly as we could. When we got in the car we looked at each other and burst out laughing. When we could breathe again, he asked me what I wanted to do now. In unison we both said, “EAT!!!” Now this is a standing joke; whenever either of us says “What do you want to do now,” we both say “EAT!!!”

    And yes, it turned out that she was whack-a-do in many other ways. I can’t think of interview questions that would weed out her kind of crazy.

    1. Anon17

      That is THE BEST! I think there are about five times in your story that my filter would have failed and I would have said Lord knows what. I can’t even imagine actually living it, I would have been doomed.

      I want to know how she determined the Turkey was done? I believe those things don’t pop up until something like 175-180 (limitation of the spring loaded thing-a-mabob) but technically poultry’s done at 165 — yet I’m not imagining her using a meat thermometer. Did she eat the turkey? Was there a dessert? What was it like? How did you get out of there? I have so many questions, I love this story!

    2. Ruffingit

      DAMN! That is just…wow. How do you even have the balls to do something like that – asking your direct report to your home to do chores and then feeding them inedible and possibly poisonous (hello salmonella) food? GAH!!!

      I hope you found an awesome diner somewhere or something and had a good meal after that nonsense.

  90. Too soon...

    In 2013 Allison posted about signs that you may need to leave a job soon after starting. Well, I have been contending with all three of the signs that she mentioned.

    https://www.askamanager.org/2013/05/how-soon-can-you-tell-if-a-job-isnt-right-for-you.html

    I don’t want to go into details, but suffice it to say that the job wasn’t what was promised, the manager often cusses me out, and I feel like I just don’t fit in.

    But if I quit now, it will look bad.

    I don’t know, I think I might just go on my own. As it is, I have a number of connections with people who might be able to help me get a business going. I am active in the community, including with a number of professional groups.

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