open thread – December 4, 2015

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

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

{ 1,457 comments… read them below }

  1. Nervous Accountant

    Any accountants from Canada here? I’ve been waiting all week for this thread bc I’d really do need advice/input.

    I’m toying with the idea of moving to Canada (specifically Toronto) sometime in the future (as in….3-5 years). I don’t think this is the right place to talk about the non work factors, but career is a big one to take into consideration. (May save the non work stuff for the other open thread this weekend).

    To give a quick background–I’ve been working as a tax accountant in the US for a year now. I got a bachelor’s in a completely unrelated field but bc I started out with volunteer work, internships and ultimately obtained a professional license (Enrolled Agent), I got a job as a Tax Accountant. I enjoy what I do, and I consult clients all the time as part of my job and my license is currently active, so I have no desire to switch careers or fields. Prior to this, I had a string of volunteer/seasonal jobs with a spotty work history in between (pt/temp jobs that aren’t on my resume). This is the longest job I’ve had so far.

    Biggest question:
    What would I need to do in order to be able to continue my career in Toronto, in terms of education and training?

    Other questions that I understand might not be answered here, but would love a nudge in the right direction:
    What is work life like? I work 45 hours a week on a regular basis, and that goes up to 60 during tax season (January-April). What’s the standard there?

    I know absolutely 0 about taxes in Canada. Any forums/groups I could join to get more detailed information?

    Appreciate any and all information. Thanks!

    1. Ruby Tuesday

      If you already have education and training in accounting – I think you’re safe.
      To move here – as an accountant, you should take a look at the Canadian Chartered Accountant site. They should give you a low down on everything. There are tax courses you can take here to get up to date with Canadian Tax Law.
      Work life is not terrible…it should be similar to what you experience now. My biggest peeve living here (in Toronto) is the commute…it is the absolute worst. I hate the time I lose while travelling to and from work.
      But other than…its a lovely city, with lovely people and if you do decide to move – do it in Winter – it kind of sets your expectations going forward.

        1. Talvi

          I don’t know about that. U of T is one of the grad schools I’m applying to and I’m dreading the thought of Toronto summers waaaaay more than the winters. Of course, I also grew up in Edmonton, so while I can do the winter thing just fine (I’m in Vancouver right now and I miss Winter), it’s the summer humidity that I expect will get me if I do end up in Toronto.

          1. esra

            It’s actually not too bad, since we’re on the water. Although UofT has that giant astroturf field now.

            Just hang out in Chinatown and drink cold tea all summer.

      1. JMegan

        Yes, the commute is a bit ridiculous – apparently it’s comparable to what it is in LA, in terms of time spent getting to work and back. Public transit is decent, but capital and infrastructure expenditures are not keeping up with population growth, so I don’t expect it to be any better than “decent” for the near future.

        On the plus side, there are about eleventy million condos available downtown, so the commute time may not be an issue for you!

      2. Nervous Accountant

        Thanks everyone for the feedback!

        I’m in NY, so I’m familiar with rough winters and long commutes. My current commute is 3 hours ra day (1.5 each way) via public transit..although I did get my license recently so hopefully I’ll be driving rather than taking the subway. so not a whole lot would change.

        1. esra

          Come to lovely Bloor West Village and you can trim that commute down to 1.5 hours total. (Oooh, aaaah!)

          1. Felicia

            That’s where I live Esra! But my commute is 30 minutes total (15 mins each way) because I live in Bloor West Village and work in south Etobicoke :)

            1. esra

              Jealous! I work steps from St Andrew/Union. I just love the west end though. Cheese Boutique 4 life.

              1. Felicia

                My next job will likely be in the St. Andrew/Union station area just because so many places I’d like to work have offices there. I currently work steps from Royal York station, and lucked into the ideal office location really.

                Is it weird I’ve never been to Cheese Boutique? I’ve only lived in this neighbourhood just over a year.

                1. esra

                  It’s not just cheese! They have an amazing selection of jams, salsa, chocolate, pasta, cured meats… I love weird chocolate, they have one with potato chips in it, and another with pop rocks that are two of my faves. Their sweet chobai is fantastic, and they have this new house made black bread with espresso and chocolate in it.

                  Some of the best restaurants in the city get their cheese from the Boutique’s cheese cellar, which is open to the public and smells amazing and I want to live there.

                  Cheese.

    2. Anon.......

      I’m not in Canada but, the firm I work for has Canadian member firm there are few tax jobs advertised at the moment (including an Toronto based US tax analyst) you might like to have a look at to see what professional memberships they require and then you can see if there is anyway of getting that body to recognise your current body and grant you membership, I know some overseas bodies will recognise my accreditation if I apply (and pay a small fortune).

      http://www.grantthornton.ca/careers/experienced/current-opportunities

    3. jhhj

      You can get a CPA -> CA transfer, but you will need to take some reciprocity exams. (It will depend a bit on what state you’re in. Relevant link to follow.)

      Work life is pretty much the same, though the tax season usually starts a bit later and ends a bit later. Lots of companies have CPA/CAs to deal with dual citizenship etc, so it might well be easy to get a job.

    4. Book Person

      Canada would love to have you, I’m sure! We’re a friendly bunch overall.

      As I understand it, the terminology is pretty different on tax stuff (TSFAs, RRSPs, and all that jazz), but broadly speaking I think the structure is similar? (Note, I am not an accountant, but I know an American accountant who helped me figure out my Canadian taxes despite the terminology difference.)

      I’d make a pitch for perhaps looking into a smaller city in Canada first, too, unless your heart is set on Toronto. Toronto has a very high cost of living, your salary would be in CDN $ which is a lot lower than US in practice, and with so many huge businesses and great universities in Toronto attracting a lot of applicants, competition might be steeper there than, say, in London or Hamilton. A lot of trained professionals move away from the Maritimes to Ontario, too, so Fredericton or Halifax may also be good starting places.

      1. jhhj

        A place — like Toronto — with lots of Americans working who need to do two sets of taxes (and companies who work in both countries) might be very happy to hire someone with US tax experience.

        1. Book Person

          Good point! I was coming from an academia perspective where you’re meant to hire Canadians first if they have the same qualifications. I imagine more than a few Canadians or dual citizens have brushed up on their American tax knowledge to make themselves attractive candidates as a result.

        2. Dynamic Beige

          Yes, there is a need for people who have US tax experience. I would also like to point out right here that if you are a US citizen, the US is one of three countries in the world that does taxation based on citizenship, not residency — so you would be required to file your taxes with both the Canadian and US Governments. Odds are you won’t wind up paying anything to the US because taxes here are higher but it’s one more thing you have to do.

          I would suggest that if you’re considering moving, come for a visit first. Check out the price of rentals, the neighbourhoods etc. It is possible to live outside the city and commute in by train or car, lots of people do it. They are building a condo tower in my city right by the train station for the commuter set. I mean seriously, there is the train station on one side and a giant Walmart on the other. Whoever buys there won’t even need a car :P Which is actually good, because I have no idea where they would park them.

      2. Book Person

        (not to say you aren’t a trained professional or couldn’t make it in Ontario, of course! I don’t know what the tax world is like in terms of hiring, but in academia, we [nominally] have a requirement to hire Canadian applicants first over American ones if all other things are equal [looking at you, U of Toronto]. That’s why I suggest places where there may be less competition from Canadian applicants. That advise may be completely off-base for this field, however).

    5. I'm Not Phyllis

      I’m not an accountant but I am in Canada (Toronto, in fact!) so I can tell you a bit about the labour laws. Not very many years ago there was a law passed which makes it difficult for employers here to force you to work more than 48 hours in a workweek. It’s not impossible, though. And for an accountant, I’d be willing to bet that you’d have to put in a good amount of overtime during the tax season … how the employer would handle that would be by paying you overtime or giving you time in lieu. There’s still that 48-hour rule but most companies find ways around it, I’ll be honest. Standard work weeks here are generally about 35-40 hours (normally you don’t get paid for lunch).

      Toronto is pretty awesome (I’m biased but still …) but I agree with Ruby Tuesday, the commute can sometimes be on the long side. I take public transit to work from the west end to the downtown corridor and I usually plan on an hour each way (but that’s my decision – I know people who both live and work downtown and they walk to work in ten minutes or less).

      The Canada Revenue Agency (Canada’s IRS) has a ton of information online re: taxes if it’s something you’d like to take a look at before you make your decision. Their website is fairly comprehensive.

      1. Felicia

        I’m in Toronto too, hi! I also think Toronto is awesome, but I live and work in the west end.

        In addition to that although you don’t have to worry about things like paying to go to the doctor or hospital in Canada, there are things that are not covered by OHIP (which is the provincial health insurance programs, but colloquially, Canadians tend not to think of it or refer to is as insurance) . So for things like going to the dentist, or the eye doctor, or getting perscriptions, or supplemental things like chiropractors , massage, physiotherapist, etc., you’re still going to want and need supplemental insurance which you’re likely going to get in pretty much any office job, but the quality varies. So knowing that that’s a thing, it’ll be something you want to evaluate when choosing a job offer. Also there are laws about how much vacation you have to get at a federal level, which as I understand it is not a thing in the US. A lot of “Is it legal?” questions here, the answer for the US would usually be yes, it is, but in Canada for the most part, the answer to those same questions is actually “no, it’s not”.

        The cost of living in Toronto is higher than a lot of the country, but I love it , and there are neighbourhoods that aren’t quite as expensive but still nice/transit accessible, but compared to NY it should be fairly comfortable for you in terms of you being used to that sort of thing.

    6. Pixel

      In Canada and and accountant (not in Toronto, though, but 2 out of 3 ain’t bad).
      I had US CPA colleagues who transitioned to Canadian CA, I’m sure the rules are similar with the recent re-structuring of Canadian CPA. http://www.cpaontario.ca/ has all the info.

      I have found this site incredibly helpful with “Cliff Notes” on Canadian tax. As a very first starting point, look through the CRA website and study the T1, T2, T4 and T5 forms just to get a general idea, and also read the section on GST/HST/PST.

      As for work/life balance, I’m lucky enough to live in a place where leisure/family time is almost sacred. I work 37.5 hour weeks plus lunch breaks, other offices have 8 or 8.5 hour days with Fridays off during the summer, or an option for a half-day off every two weeks. February, March and May are quite busy, April is insane, June is slightly less insane but still very intense with many December year-ends that need to be filed by June 30, and the filing deadline for self-employed taxpayers on June 15. June 30 is a tough day but July 1 we sleep in, have a BBQ and go see the fireworks. We don’t have Target here, though :-(

    7. Pixel

      In Canada, and an accountant, although not in Toronto (2 out of 3 is reasonable!)

      CPA Ontario has already been mentioned as a resource of information on transitioning between US and Canadian CPA. As for resources, http://www.htkconsulting.com/ is a treasure trove of Cliff Notes and it helped me tremendously while completing my course work (I’m only missing a few months of professional experience to earn my CPA). Also, if you start at the CRA website you will find plenty of information. I would start with looking up T1, T2, T4 and T5 forms to get acquainted with the terminology, as well as GST/HST/PST. It actually has quite a bit of information.

      As for work-life balance, I’m glad to be living in an area where leisure time is a serious thing. I work 37.5 hour week, other offices work 40-44 hours/week but offer free Friday during the summer or half a day off every other Friday. It depends on the individual office, of course, but I found small offices offer a more relaxed environment.

      I’m also a newer convert to accounting, with an M.Sc in an unrelated field and several temporary/part-time/contract jobs that were tangentially related to my original field. I transitioned to accounting a few years ago and it’s been a great fit for me. Glad to hear others have had this experience as well.

  2. AVP

    Hey, was there ever any confirmation that BLS will raise the overtime threshold for 2016? I can’t find any information on that online dated past this summer, and now I’m doing budgets for next year and it seems like something we, like, should probably plan for.

    1. pandq

      I’ve been paying attention to this as well to inform budgets – I found one article that says the business community that is worried about the cost has been able to lobby and get the effective date to July of 2016. Sorry, I didn’t save the link. I hope someone with more knowledge will weigh in on this. I have a few nonprofit clients that love to have exempt employees way below the proposed threshold.

      1. AVP

        Interesting. It will only be a difference of ~$10K for me to make that change so I’m planning as if it will happen in January, but it would be great if they put out a clearer directive!

        1. OfficePrincess

          The difference for me would be about 10K as well, but I really don’t know which way my company would go. I’m hoping the headache of trying to track all the questions I field from home and times where I leave, come back, leave, log back in from home, etc.

    2. fposte

      It’s not confirmed yet. There was the discussion period, which is over, and then they, I don’t know, think about it for a while? It was anticipated that any announcement would happen in 2016, last I looked.

      I’m wondering if the utter lack of impact of this proposal is because it’s really not likely to be enacted–if it is, a lot of people are going to be really thrown.

    3. BabyAttorney

      The process takes a long time. No final rule has been published and there is usually always several months lead time before it goes into effect. I highly doubt it will have an effective date of 1/1/2016, even if the final rule was published tomorrow. (Not particularly likely.)

    4. ILurkaLot

      No confirmation, but I was curious about this earlier this week – here’s the (sort of) recent articles I found helpful:
      http://hrprofessionalsmagazine.com/flsa-regulations-changes-are-on-the-way/
      http://www.yourerc.com/blog/post/questions-answered-about-the-proposed-flsa-overtime-rule-change.aspx
      http://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=f2749f9b-0b8b-4fd0-88fc-322bcdd7cbb7

      Basically, not happening as soon as we might’ve originally thought – probably won’t be in effect until late 2016, at the earliest.

    5. Retail Lifer

      Looking for updates on this as well. I work in a mall with 150+ stores and that will affect almost 100% of the store management in the mall. There are a couple hundred of us in this building alone that will have vastly different lives once this passes (we’re normally expected to work a ton of hours as exempt employees but most retailers forbid overtime so I have no idea how anyone will handle this).

      1. Elizabeth West

        I’ve been non-exempt my whole working life, and most companies I’ve been with don’t encourage any overtime for non-exempt workers. In a couple of places, we had to get permission to work overtime (or it had to be something our manager instigated). My guess is that no one will get any, to avoid paying it. But it will be interesting to see what happens.

        1. Retail Lifer

          Almost every retailer is used to taking advantage of the free extra labor their salaried managers give them, and almost all of them make way below the proposed new threshold. This will definitely be interesting.

          1. AVP

            This is why I’m curious – it’s possible that some employers will just say “no overtime!” but companies will have to make up that work somehow. Either by hiring more people (potentially more expensive) or by pushing it onto people above the threshold, and possibly raising some salaries above the threshold so they can do that.

            But it’s also possible that the eventual rule will be very complicated and watered down! Who knows…

      2. Angela

        I’m not in retail, but it’s the same here with literally one exempt person (our GM) who won’t be affected. I think the exempt here think that their salary will get broken down to an hourly rate equivalent (so $30k, would be about $14.42/hr) and then come out ahead because their 45-50 hour weeks will now have OT, but I suspect that a much more likely scenario will be that they adjust the hourly rate down so that they still end up at $30k per year with their OT factored in. Closer to $12.15/hr if my math is right for my example.

    6. louise

      Here’s a headline from a SHRM article posted yesterday:
      DOL’s Final Overtime Rule Expected in Latter Half of 2016 – Conflicting estimates on when to expect the final rule.

      And an excerpt from that article:
      The Obama administration has indicated the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) highly
      controversial rule that will expand the number of workers who are eligible for overtime pay—by
      changing many currently exempt workers’ status to nonexempt—will not be issued before July 2016.
      According to the Fall 2015 Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan
      (http://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eAgendaViewRule?pubId=201510&RIN=1235AA11),
      published on Nov. 20 by the Office of Management and Budget, the earliest the final rule could be
      released would be in July, but DOL officials have indicated that the rule is likely to be issued
      sometime closer to the end of the year while still leaving time for the rule to take effect before the
      president leaves office.

      I’d post a link to the entire article, but I believe it has members-only access.

      1. asteramella

        Keep in mind that typically final rules allow 60 days between publication of the rule and effective date.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Does anyone in a position to opine have an opinion on whether this will actually happen? Some of the coverage is very “when this happens…” with no discussion of how likely it is to actually go into effect. Anyone know?

        1. Theresa T

          I’m not in a position myself, but I do work with a lot of lobbyists for an industry that would be very affected by this, and their focus has been on mitigating terms: slightly lower salary threshold over a longer period of time, accommodating for the fact that a salary in NYC doesn’t mean the same thing as a salary in rural Kansas, redefining the duties test for the white collar exemption, etc. so my guess is if the lobbyists have given up on the idea that this will never go into effect, we’ll probably see it happen (just maybe not in its current form, and depending on those changes, it still might not make much of a difference from the status quo.)

        2. louise

          Alison, I’ll email you the name of an employment attorney out of Kansas City who spoke at a local SHRM meeting I attended in August. We all asked point blank “So do you think this will happen?” At that point in time, he said he had no doubt it would. He would be an excellent resource for an interview or guest post.

      3. onyxzinnia

        While I would appreciate the opportunity to strong arm my employer into giving me a nice raise to avoid paying me overtime, I am admittedly a little worried about this passing.

        Does anyone know if the change from exempt to nonexempt will affect an employee’s eligibility for things like healthcare benefits and 401k plans? While I don’t think they would take away my current plan, I am concerned becoming nonexempt would make me ineligible to enroll next year.

        1. Observer

          There is nothing in the regulations that would require that. And taking away benefits from non-exempt employees is not likely to work out well. Health, especially since there a some regulations that govern who needs to be offered health benefits and the penalties for companies that don’t.

  3. Giving Tuesday & End of Year Giving

    I’m going to ask you to hold this for the weekend non-work open thread since it’s not strictly work-related. Thank you!

  4. Dawn

    Happy Friday! Friendly encouragement to everyone to remember that it’ll get better, if it’s bad it’ll change, you’ll find another job, and everything’s going to be great!  Happened to me and can happen to anyone!

    1. Lizzy

      I am coping with a job layoff from last month and find your words very encouraging. Thank you for this!

      1. Dawn

        Dude I got laid off last August and it rocked my world- totally ROCKED my world. I was devastated. Convinced that I’d never get another job, I’d never find anywhere as great as where I was, etc etc etc.

        Well lookit me here a year and some change later, I’m in a good job doing what I want to do and things are great! Yeah it took time, took a lot of time in fact, but I came out the other side and am better for it.

        Keep on keepin’ on is tough, it’s T-O-U-G-H, ain’t gonna lie and anyone who says differently is selling something. But it’s always, always worth it to keep on keepin’ on.

        1. Bailey Quarters

          Dawn, you are so right! Losing my job felt devastating to me too, but I found another one and, better yet, I’ve ended up in a perfect job that I woul not have gotten without having lost the first one. True story.

  5. AmyNYC

    I’m leaving my current company of about 30 people and joining a huge one of 300 people (in the NYC office, they’re 3000+ worldwide)
    All my experience has been small companies – does anyone have advice for transitioning to a larger one or general advice for working at a large company?

    1. Kyrielle

      I have never been in a company that small, but I recently transitioned from one that was around 250-300 people to one that’s 5000+ people and international. Mostly, I just paid attention to the culture, the processes, and my team, and that seemed to work pretty well. I don’t know if the same would apply moving from 30 to 300, though – that’s almost more of a difference from 300 (already large enough to be rather “corporate”) to 5000.

    2. Lucky

      I’ve got this, as I’ve recently made a similar transition. It takes a long time to meet people, which is especially important for me as an in-house attorney here at big job. I’ve found that I have to get used to introducing myself to “new” people even months into the job, because there are so many people here. So, try to be more outgoing than normal – in the hallway, in the lunch room, etc. I often found myself taking notes when I got back to my office like “tall blond bangs = Jane Doe, marketing”.

      Also, ask reception if they have a map of the office show who sits where. My office doesn’t, and I still have to wander around to find new people.

      1. GOG11

        This. At my job, we’re not huge, but we’re on a campus with quite a few buildings so it’s rare for staff in one “division” to get together much less across divisions or the company as a whole. We have an all-staff meeting once a year in an auditorium so it’s hard to know who is who there, but I try to be extra outgoing there. Also, this is my fourth year here and I’m still meeting people in accounting, president’s office, etc., who I usually talk with over the phone and email. I make sure to introduce myself and let them know that it’s nice to finally put a face with a name.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Same exact thing here. I’ve been at my current job for nearly three years, and there are still people on my floor whose names I don’t know, and I sometimes see people I’ve never seen (they do move people around and hire contractors a lot). Say hi to people and ask their name.

          I would also add that bigger companies have a LOT of processes smaller ones don’t–for example, you may have to requisition something formally, where at OldJob, you just shot an email to Bob and asked if you could order a new stapler. But they will usually let you know all that.

      2. SJ in PA

        I should have taken notes on physical appearance and names when I started at my job. I was introduced to people during my first week who I didn’t see again for a month or more, and I’d totally forgotten who they were by the time I met them again.

      3. Beth Anne

        I feel like this is a good time of year for this as many companies have company wide christmas parties. I remember I worked for one large company and started in March…in December at the christmas party I was still meeting people.

    3. asl

      Since you’re going from a place where everyone knows who you are to a place where you won’t know most of the staff, make friends/allies in the other departments that you need to work with! My post-its of phone numbers in different sections of my org are a lifesaver when I need a quick question answered, or help with something. It’s so much faster to just call up the person you know than to send a request through the formal process into the void.

      Congrats on your new job :)

      1. Jules the First

        Key to making this transition is to make at least one personal contact in each department (so you have somewhere to start when you need something) and not being afraid to ask people to remind you who they are…because I’m a redhead and one of the few people who work cross-department, most people know who I am, but forget that I haven’t the faintest who they are. Also – make nice with reception, because they’ll be invaluable in learning who everyone is and where they sit.

    4. AnotherHRPro

      One of the biggest things to me was going from an organization where you knew everyone to one where you will never know everyone. To get things done, you need to know who to connect with. Ask people for help. Having trouble getting something through legal? As a colleague who has been there for awhile for a contact. Leverage other peoples’ networks.

      Also, all of the cultural norms. Don’t assume that how things were done in your small company will transfer over. Things at larger companies tend to move slower and have more bureaucracy.

      1. Jez

        This is going to sound snippy, and I’m so not intending it to be, but here goes:

        As someone who is in-house legal for an org of about 40K, please do not just “ask for a contact” in legal if you need help getting something through. If you’ve got something in process with legal, stick with the contact you are given! Assignments within legal at a large organization are generally made with very specific issues in mind (business unit expertise, workload timing, conflicts of interest, etc.) and asking for another contact is really just creating an unnecessary to-do list item for that person. On behalf of your legal department – we are working on it!

    5. LQ

      I never really had the choice to make “work friends” before though the place I came from was closer to 3 than 30. I’ve gone to a place that is a division of about 300 within an org of thousands within a bigger org of more thousands.

      I’ve tried to cultivate the “work friends” or very collegial colleagues relationships both in my division and across other divisions with people I who do similarish jobs. So when I go to a meeting for SharePoint I may meet people who do things that are like what I do except in different divisions or departments. These relationships are something I would have never thought about but they make a ton of difference. They will also be key if I ever want to transfer out of here.

      Transfer is another thing that came as a shock to me. It is incredibly common for people to transfer around within my bigger org, it’s still a job interview but different, and often much easier to get. And the Big Org is very happy about it, so they strongly support you interviewing with other departments and moving around laterally or slightly vertically to another place.

    6. periwinkle

      My last two jobs were at single-location companies with 13 employees and 30+ employees. My current position is with a company that has over 150,000 employees in multiple regions; my region has multiple campuses and my campus has multiple buildings. The IT department alone is bigger than many Fortune 500 companies.

      The most important thing I learned about working here is the power of networking. I can’t just walk over to Finance or IT to talk with someone because they’re in a different building, campus, or state. Build a good relationship with a few people who have been around a while. One big advantage with our extra-huge company is that a lot of people have spent most of their working life here and quite a lot of them have had multiple careers within the company. I know some people who know lots of people who know other people. If I don’t know who to contact, I hit up my well-connected colleagues… it’s very Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon around here. Even a classic shy introvert like me can build up a solid network with a little effort.

    7. Jake

      I went from 50,000 to 90 and what I saw is big companies have more support staff, meaning I went from being a field engineer to being the field engineer, accounting clerk, submittal clerk, project manager and office engineer all at once.

      In the big company I was expected to be the subject matter expert and use my coworkers to handle a lot of the support functions. In the small company it is do whatever it takes to survive, meaning my knowledge base is much wider, but much shallower.

  6. Applesauced

    Kind of just venting here – the office manager sent around a poll to find the best date for our Holiday party. One option was the day before a big deadline (our team is typically in the office until 10 or 11 on deadline eves) and I made note of that in my response. Ultimately, that’s the day that was chosen.
    I understand that no date will work for everyone, but if a whole team (3 people in a 25 person office) can’t go to a WORK party due to a WORK commitment, don’t you think that should be considered differently than just someone having other plans?

    1. Laurel Gray

      Yes, I do. The last time I planned a holiday party, we were a team of about 25, everyone allowed a +1. Because that only comes down to 50 people, we did our festivities at a local bar/restaurant where we ordered trays of apps and had a tab for unlimited drinks. Some of the consultants traveled internationally and some people had family travel so around October, I would send an email to the entire staff and throw out random December dates and ask for them to reply back with any conflicting dates. I would finalize the dates in early to mid November and book the spot. Everyone ends up attending. Fun times are had by all. 3 out of 25 is 12% of the staff, that may not seem like a big deal to the people planning it but the absence of an entire team at a company event can seem strange.

    2. Dawn

      Yeha that’s tone deaf as all hell. Maybe go back to HR and point out that you three will have to totally miss the party do to, you know, WORK, and see if you can’t get the hook up with something cool like at least free food while you’re working that night?

    3. themmases

      Yeah, that is pretty rude. This is the kind of thing that leads to teams having their own separate celebration, which (unless you work in a huge organization where even the departments are quite large) is pretty much the opposite of the goal of a company holiday party.

    4. pieces of flair

      Yeah, that sucks. Maybe the organizer misunderstood and didn’t realize your department would actually be unable to attend because of the deadline, but just thought it would be less than ideal?

    5. Lizzy May

      That’s awful and really demoralizing. It would probably be pretty hard to have the date changed now, but I’d still speak up again just so the office manager understands how her choice will impact your team and to avoid it happening in the future. And then, I’d make sure the team ordered amazing food that night to eat while your working towards that deadline.

      1. Windchime

        Yeah, I agree. I would send back and email and say that your entire team will be unable to attend. Maybe she already understands, or maybe she just needs to see it spelled out.

    6. F.

      While not an ideal replacement for the holiday party, how about suggesting a nice, company-paid, catered supper in the office that day for your team?

    7. Lily in NYC

      It’s not very nice of them. My office tends to do whatever works for the president’s office and the rest of us just have to make do (although I would be thrilled to have an excuse to miss our holiday party because we are going ice-skating. Outside. In NY. In December).

      1. Chocolate Teapot

        At a previous job, nothing had been said about the Christmas party until early December when a lot of people had booked flights/made travel plans. (It was something like Friday 18th December so you get the idea). There was even a group of 8 people who were on an external training programme who could not attend!

        Apparently, it was not a good evening as the venue and food were terrible.

  7. Sascha

    Poll: What do you think is the more unprofessional behavior on the part of a candidate: cancelling an interview at the last minute (received the email on hour before interview time), or making everyone sit through an interview for a job you know you don’t want, because the salary is too low?

    Happened to me yesterday, me and the other hiring committee members are divided. I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts.

    1. Mike

      I’d prefer the candidate cancelling. While both are unprofessional, at least I get an hour back on my schedule. Don’t be unprofessional AND waste our time.

    2. Cambridge Comma

      I’d be grateful if someone didn’t waste my time. But they should have called rather than mailed for such a last-minute cancellation.

    3. Mimmy

      I’d say canceling at the last minute, but just by a hair. I figure the candidate who went through the interview in the (probably unlikely) event that there will be something about the job that will allow the candidate to consider moving ahead despite the pay being lower than they want.

    4. Kyrielle

      Neither is good; ideally the cancellation would be far more than an hour in advance. The only advantage to sitting through an unnecessary interview, though, would be that the people you would be meeting with might *never know*. I mean, the candidate could go, waste their time and everyone else’s, and unless they were made an offer and felt the need to say why they were turning it down or make it obvious, no one would ever realize the time was wasted except the candidate.

      On the other hand, imagine you interview the candidate, LOVE them, make the offer, and discover their salary expectation is so far out of scope that there never was a chance to come to terms. How in that case do you feel about the time spent?

      The advantage to calling off – even an hour in advance – is that the people who would have been interviewing can use that time to *get other work done*. More notice would be more courteous (unless they’d just learned the salary range for the position when they canceled), but…I still think I lean toward canceling being kinder. Going and never letting the issue surface is probably going to give the candidate a better image, but it’s not as kind.

    5. mskyle

      I do wonder why it had to be a last-minute cancellation? Did the candidate get information about salary or duties shortly before the interview and they had to make a decision on the spot? I think cancelling is always better than going through with an interview for a job you’re no longer interested in, but obviously the sooner you can cancel, the better.

      1. Sascha

        The salary was posted on the job listing, and the hiring manager always mentions in the interview invitation that the salary is set, so that we can let people self-select out before setting up an interview. I think this might have been a case where the candidate thought it would be okay, but the more she thought about it, the less okay it was.

    6. Sarah

      Wasting people’s time is generally worse…so the cancellation is the more professional move, even though sitting through the interview may *seem* more professional to the interviewers. Of course, the cancellation should have come earlier, but we don’t know the circumstances. For first-round interviews for entry-level or mid-level positions, I wouldn’t really bat an eye over a last minute cancellation here and there. If this is a senior position or a second-round interview, I would be more miffed.

    7. The Cosmic Avenger

      I think it depends on the circumstances, but if I had to pick, I’d say cancelling is potentially more excusable. It really depends on how they handle it. The cancellation could be handled very well, if you call as soon as you realize you have been unavoidably delayed by factors completely beyond your control or prediction. The other thing…well, I could see giving it a shot, seeing if they had more flexibility in salary, but that’s more of a reach, IMO.

    8. Lizzy May

      I’d prefer cancelling. An unplanned hour is still more useful than sitting for an hour in an interview that won’t go anywhere. Neither is great, but with an hour I can answer emails or power through a few small tasks.

    9. Lizzy

      A last minute cancellation can be annoying initially, but the silver lining is that it allows you to reallocate your time elsewhere. The interview with the begrudging job candidate not only takes away from your time, but it I think the bad taste it leaves lingers longer.

    10. Sascha - Edited to Add

      Thanks everyone! More details: The salary was posted up front, and the hiring manager who extended the invitation reiterated in the invite that the salary was fixed (public university, not much room for negotiation, especially for lower level positions). It is a lower level, almost-entry level IT position. I think this was just a case of someone who, the closer it came to interview time, realized the salary wouldn’t work for her after all.

      I myself prefer the cancellation at the last minute, at least I get that hour back, as others have said. I was just curious what other people thought, as others on my hiring team flipped their lids that someone would cancel at the last minute. While neither is that great of a thing to do, I think it’s just part of hiring…life goes on.

      1. Minion

        I’m curious to know how you’d feel about that particular applicant applying for a different position later that may be in line with their salary requirements. Would you go through with another interview or would you remember the last-minute cancellation and nix the interview altogether?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          It depends on how it was done. A brusque cancellation with no acknowledgement of the inconvenience? I’d remember that, sure. But I’d have no problem with, “I’m so sorry about this because I realize it’s last-minute, but I’ve been thinking about the salary and finally concluded I just wouldn’t be able to make it work. I really wanted to because I love what y’all are doing, but I don’t want to waste your time.”

    11. Brett

      I’ve actually learned a heck of a lot from interviewing someone whose salary requirements were too high (though really well qualified). Made me refine my interview style to hone in on highly qualified candidates, and how to talk about non-compensation benefits of a position. Also was useful in making the point to reclassify the position after we had to drop down to our fourth choice to hire anyone (and they left in less than a year).
      I am not bothered that much by cancellations either, but I have to drive in 35 minutes each way to our personnel department for interviews (and have to get there at least 30 minutes early for HR briefing), so I’m going to waste more than an hour that way too.

    12. Ask a Manager Post author

      Good god, definitely worse to take up people’s time if you’re sure you wouldn’t take the job. I’m fine with someone canceling an hour beforehand if it saves me an unnecessary interview.

    13. pieces of flair

      I would absolutely prefer the cancellation, though it would obviously have been better to cancel earlier.

    14. Red Wheel

      I think wasting everyone’s time would be more objectionable ( by sitting through an interview for an unwanted job), but I don’t get why the hiring committee is pondering the candidate’s unprofessionalism. It is what it is. Move on.

    15. Tomato Frog

      Basically, the candidate has the option to lie to you and waste your time, but save their own face; or be considerate of your time while potentially looking bad to others. I don’t feel they should be judged for taking the latter option (but hopefully they were appropriately apologetic).

    16. Felicia

      I think the sitting through an interview is worse just because it’s actually wasting peoples’ time, but the cancelling would actually be viewed by me as more unprofessional because i would have no way of knowing the person sitting through the interview was wasting my time (not like they’d tell me), so I wouldn’t actually know they were doing something bad in that case.

      1. Windchime

        I’m just confused by the comments about canceling an interview being unprofessional. An interview is just another business appointment and it’s not crazy or unusual for those to be cancelled. I think a polite, apologetic cancellation is just fine and it sure wouldn’t burn any bridges with me if the wording/tone was similar to what Alison said. I’d much rather have a cancellation than sit with an unqualified, apathetic, or uninterested candidate.

    17. Lia

      Making everyone sit through the interview.

      We are required to interview a certain number of candidates for jobs, and sometimes we are splitting hairs between candidates. If you know that the jobs isn’t for you, don’t take an interview slot. Worse, those ones who know they won’t take it are often highly qualified, and we might wind up making an offer to them and by the time we can offer to someone else if they decline, we might lose that second choice person (this is academia, where search processes can drag on for eternities, and we lose candidates due to this with some regularity).

      1. Honeybee

        You’re probably already aware of the myriad of problems that encourage this behavior. When I was a doctoral student, my advisors encouraged me that if there was even like a 10% chance that I might take a job as a nuclear option, I should follow the interview process through. I’ve followed academic forums like the CHE ones and candidates there often get berated by fellow academics for refusing to interview in places they know they don’t want to live or work for a variety of reasons. People say things like “This may be the only interview you ever get. IN YOUR LIFE.” The culture is very much “you should fall down on your knees and thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster if anyone so much as hints they may want to hire you.”

        With that kind of pressure, sometimes it’s difficult for students and postdocs to turn down interviews even for places they don’t want to work; they often trick themselves into believing that they could actually consider a location or university or setting. Then after the offer comes through, it becomes more concrete, and the “oh shit” moment happens.

        1. So Very Anonymous

          This is so true about academia. The market is so bad that you feel like you HAVE to take whatever job is offered, and then once you do, it’s so much harder to get out then if you need to.

    18. Jake

      Id prefer the cancel by a mile.

      My time is valuable, and the cancellation respects that more than just going through the motions

    19. Student

      What exactly is the point of sitting through an interview that will 100% certainly not result in someone taking the job?

      One doesn’t sit through an interview out of politeness – you’re not attending your spouse’s favorite opera. You’re performing a business function first and foremost. Being rude is undesirable social behavior, but it has very little impact on all concerned when you have no intention or interest in maintaining any sort of relationship with someone, as in this case. It was much more practical and respectful of the business’s resources to cancel at the last minute than to continue.

    20. Blurgle

      Making them sit though the interview.

      I can off the top of my head think of a good half dozen reasons why someone might cancel on an hour’s notice. The most obvious is that they accepted an offer tendered an hour and a half ago, but there’s also illness, transportation issues (e.g. weather delays), a previous interview running longer than scheduled, or the candidate learning something about the company or job that they didn’t like. For the last I might not admit that, and might instead give another excuse – such as “the pay’s too low”.

  8. Windchime

    Please hold for the weekend open-thread since it’s not work-related. I think the holiday threw everyone off!

  9. Carrie in Scotland

    I got snarked at by a member of teacher staff today about not handing them re-submissions. The thing is, about a month ago I’d asked them “oh this assignment is something totally different to these, what do I do with it?” and the response was “keep it”. Sigh.

    OTOH, I applied for a job back in home city and am part way through a second one. So there’s that, I suppose.

  10. Bekx

    Just a rant about politics in the office, and employee surveys. So my company is really dependent on certain political issues. I manage the intranet and newsletter, and I’ve had one of the VPs email me to post things about political issues. Usually this hasn’t been too bad. Like, “Get this bumper sticker to promote harvesting Cinnamon and Apples for our Fall Tea customers.” During the latest election in November another Executive asked me to post things about the issues on the ballet. They also sent out a company email on the subject. This was a bit more invasive, but they basically said things like “Here’s what the Teapots Association has to say about these issues. My personal opinions and the company’s tend to agree with Teapots Associations views for the most part.” and then some really simple explanations of the issues were attached. It was definitely aligned to a particular “Vote yes, vote no” thing and it made me uncomfortable (I’m independent, politically), but it wasn’t too bad.

    Today I was asked to post something that’s really over the top political. It was an opinion piece by a Senator or something, and it was really ridiculous. This post isn’t about the political issues themselves, so I don’t want to go off into a tangent about it, but a few people read the article and went wtf. The exec also wanted me to send them reports on how many people clicked on the link, viewed the article, etc.

    This is just making me all sorts of uncomfortable and I’m concerned with next year’s election. I post it because I do what I’m told, but I don’t exactly like having this culture. We do employee surveys every year and I’m tempted to post something on our survey. It’s done by a 3rd party (IBM) and HR also stresses that it’s anonymous. There’s only 3 of us to my direct manager, so since it’s less than 4 it gets rolled up into her manager. I believe it’s also rolled up depending on age group and gender, too.

    Part of me wonders if it’s even worth commenting about. They say that they take this stuff seriously, and I know we have meetings about the surveys. It’s really only two executives that are doing this and I am hoping that maybe if I say something they’ll think twice about how it comes off.

    Has anyone had any experience with this? Or any way I can phrase it so it won’t raise pitchforks (I don’t think it will, but who knows!). I like my company a lot and this is just one thing that just feels icky to me.

    1. Case of the Mondays

      I think you should talk to them directly and say something like “I know that our organization relies heavily on political support and that elections are critical to our well being. I’ve found though, we get more support and better response when we post things that are more factual than ranty. We have people that support us that aren’t necessarily on the same political side as us and we don’t want to alienate them either. In particular, I’ve received negative feedback about Senator piece but positive feedback about Fact Sheet. We should keep this in mind for our future postings.

      Then, when they give you another rant you can say something like “this is the type of thing I was talking about when I said we should probably not post X. If you still want me to post it, I will but I don’t think we will have as positive a response than if we posted Y.

      If you are their social media person they didn’t hire you just to hit “post.” They want your feedback on what gets positive publicity and what gets negative publicity. What gets you SEO, etc. Not all attention is good attention when you rely on votes. I’m sure you have studies to back that up.

      1. Bekx

        I should clarify- this is all internal. Nothing gets seen on the external side about this. We do post some industry news like “Tea bag pricing is at a low thanks to extra funding!” on social media but everything else is completely internal.

        You’re right about speaking directly to them. I guess I’m hesitant since I haven’t been here long, and I’m low on the totem pole.

    2. Brett

      “The exec also wanted me to send them reports on how many people clicked on the link, viewed the article, etc.”
      That is the part that squicks me out. This is shaving far too close to investigating _who_ read the article (which is very easy to do with most intranets). It is already a general political litmus test for the office to get those stats; what if it turns into a litmus test of personal politics?

      1. Not So NewReader

        Just because they clicked on it does not mean they read it. Just because they read it does not mean they agree with it. Just because they say they agree with it only proves they don’t like the lines at unemployment. sigh.

        Why not ask your boss what his goal is here? Or perhaps you can figure it out on your own. Then see if you can find a more transparent/above board way to get to that goal, approach the boss with your idea. Be patient with yourself if an idea does not immediately occur to you.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Whoops. wanted to say: Let’s suppose he wants people’s opinions on wtf’ery. Maybe you can suggest rather than just sending the article send an email asking them, “How do you think people in your life would react to this?” OR “What is your reaction to this?”

      2. BuildMeUp

        It’s possible that it will turn into that, but checking the clicks/stats for a newsletter is pretty common! They could easily be focused on what types of material get the most clicks or what topics employees are most interested in hearing about.

        1. Brett

          And that would make sense if they did that regularly, but from what Bekx wrote it sounds like this was a specific unusual request from the execs for this specific article.

          1. Bekx

            Yes, it was a really strange and out there request. My reply was basically “Well, 10 people have accessed the page but I can’t tell you for sure if they read the article or not. They might have been looking at another article on that page.”

            1. BuildMeUp

              That is strange if it’s the first time he’s requested it. Maybe you could use that to your advantage? If you check the stats for other things and it turns out that the over-the-top thing generated lower interest, you could mention that his request led you to look at other recent stats, and it looks like employees are more likely to click if you post about X and Y instead of the ridiculous thing.

      3. AllieJ0516

        Ooooo, this one really burns my tush. Here in FL, there was a VIPa (very important pompous a$$) who employs thousands of people who actually threatened that he would have to fire staff if Obama got re-elected. Earlier he had the NERVE to survey his entire staff – if they leaned right, he encouraged them to register and get out and vote – if they leaned left, he did nothing. Total ridiculousness. POLITICS HAS NO BUSINESS IN BUSINESS. It alienates co-workers, customers, potential customers. Everyone is entitled to make their own choices, and not have to be judged based on those choices. If it continues to offend, can it be taken to HR? I know you say it’s at the direction of VPs, but surely they have to follow workplace rules like everyone else…

    3. animaniactoo

      I’m new around here, but I would tend to say that the approach you want here is that you would like to clarify what kinds of things you can be asked to put into the newsletter or on the intranet by who.

      Because if there is an agreed company stance by the upper management on those issues, then yes, it’s legit to ask you to put those items in. However, if it’s one or 2 people who think everybody should see this and agree with it/get on board with it and are asking to have it distributed without consulting the rest of their management level and above on that, then it represents *their* stance and not the company’s. Which goes against the setup of using a wider company resource to spread it around. In those circumstances, e-mailing it around personally is the appropriate message delivery.

      I would feel free to note that you are concerned that political items are potential landmines and you think it is better to make sure that such pieces are agreed to represent the company’s views on the matter, and that this particular distribution is a good thing for the company to do.

      Basically, you’re just flagging this as something that you feel may be an issue, and you want them to consider and clarify as this is something that you haven’t been asked to do (this way) before. What they do with it after that is up to them. But personally (to answer the rant question portion of your post lol) I think it’s self-destructive to use company resources this way for anything that is not a major issue for the company that people should be aware of because it might affect the company in some way. And even then, it should be a personally written piece that says “This is why this is an issue for our company.”, not a repost of something somebody else wrote.

      1. Bekx

        The company is owned by one person, and then there’s people below him that are execs. The owner sent me the voting stuff. Presumably, the other exec sent the article to the owner (Wakeen) for approval. I’m way too far down on the totem pole to ask if Wakeen approved it before posting. I think that would be very out of touch in my company, unfortunately.

        I completely agree with you, here, and I think that’s what makes it so icky to me. When I told my boss about this, and she rolled her eyes and expressed her disdain for it. She’s actually the one who told me that it can get bad around the election season. They don’t outright tell you how to vote, but it’s pretty obvious who they want you voting for.

        I think why I was leaning towards the employee survey was because it could potentially be coming from anyone in the company. Not just the person in charge of publishing this stuff.

  11. The Cosmic Avenger

    Ugh. That offer that I was told to expect? Hiring has been suspended because of the game of chicken that Congress is playing with the budget. >:|

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      [The Cosmic Avenger falls to his knees, raises his eyes and his fists to the sky, and cries “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”]

    2. Anxa

      I lost two short-term jobs offers due to state politics and one internship stalled due to a hiring freeze that didn’t thaw ’til I left the state.

      It’s…..frustrating.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger

      Thanks everyone…at least there is a decent chance that there will be a new Continuing Resolution by next Friday.

  12. Folklorist

    Anti-Procrastination Post!! What have you been putting off post-Turkey-Day?

    Here’s your reminder to do it. Just one little thing. (Then maybe another). Then come back here and brag to us in the comments, basking in the warm radiance of having Gotten S&*$ Done.

    1. AndersonDarling

      I have one final paper to write to get my degree. I pushed through all my classes and other papers, but now that I know this is the last task, I’m really having a hard time getting started. I have until the end of January, but if I did it, I’d be done, all done. Ugh.

      1. Christy

        OMG you can do it!! Go start right now! I’ll even build my table and stop procrastinating by reading this thread if that will help you. I’m so excited for you–I remember completing my degree and it was the absolute best feeling.

      2. Folklorist

        DO IT, DO IT, DO IT! I’ll join AndersonDarling by returning a weird email that I can’t figure out and transcribing two interviews if you start that paper now! (Actually, I’ll do those things today anyway; I’ve been putting them off too long–but know that you’re in good company!)

        1. Folklorist

          Oops, and I looked at the wrong thing. I meant I’ll join Christy in joining you. ::Ducking out to go do stuff now::

      3. Amy M

        Baby steps! My husband is in the same boat, he has one paper/project left to complete his masters degree, and I found him in the living room the other day (when he should have been working on his paper) just walking in circles kicking his feet out. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was avoiding his homework, he just has no more left to give. I gave him a timer and set it for 45 minutes, all he has to do is concentrate on his paper for 45 minutes and then he can take a break. Then maybe he will do another 45 minutes, or maybe he will wait a day to do another 45 minutes, but eventually the paper will be done. This is how I got through my degree. You’ve got this!

      4. cuppa

        OMG. The worst part about getting my masters was writing that last paper. I could do it, I knew I could, but I. did. not. want. to. write. that. last. paper. It was all mental but it was so hard. Good luck!

      5. ALP

        Same. Boat. My professor pushed the deadline back a week but I’m starting my job on Monday and I MUST FINISH.

    2. Kyrielle

      I will wrap the kiddo’s birthday presents. That, um, I need to give to him tomorrow. (At least I got them!)

    3. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

      I have a grant I want to finish today. I have written 4 pages this morning. Like 3 more to go. I’m just BORED. This is my break then I’m knocking out the last three pages.

    4. Lizzy

      Sending out job applications. Since my layoff from my small nonprofit job last month, I have lost a lot of passion for the field and I am really on the fence regarding my next career move. It doesn’t help that none of the job postings out there are piquing my interest (even though I qualify for quite a few of them).

    5. Amy M

      Well….I just finished a project I have been dragging my heels on for months. Today I scanned the last of the “Terminated Employee” files to be filed online – no more hard copy employee files! It was tedious (think staple removals, paperclips, double sided copies, single sided copies, confidential medical records, etc) and took several months but I finally finished it. There were a few hundred files, and this morning I scanned the remaining three. Now I need to find something else to occupy my occasional “I have absolutely nothing else to do” time.

      1. Jules the First

        I have some deadly dull yet absurdly complicated data entry (creating 10 year old projects on our three year old database so finance can track something no one actually cares about) sitting on my to do list…hopefully it will be done before next week’s open thread!

    6. Adam

      Going through all my old X-Men comics and figuring out which to keep and which to give away (decluttering is my goal of 2015). I have a couple hundred, so it takes a while.

      Also job hunting…but my comics are currently all over my floor so they take up more space in my eyes.

    7. OfficePrincess

      I have a training video to watch that, while topical, looks very similar to the one I just did last week.

      And I have to make a batch of fudge today for a party tomorrow night, but that one at least has a tasty bonus at the end.

    8. Felicia

      I just have to write about 600 words about this one thing! This one thing I’ve always struggled with, but it’s not long and I know more than I think I do .

    9. Red Wheel

      Networking emails. Cleaning my office of excess paperwork which involves filing. Neither will happen today.

    10. mondegreen

      I’ll refresh my memory on this ~25-page guide that I haven’t opened in a couple months, then use the advice I know is in it somewhere to write the plan I need to write for the rest of the year.

      1. mondegreen

        Read it, took notes for an outline, need a couple hours to finish the plan and do a quick proof-of-concept test. Thanks for the push, y’all.

    11. Talvi

      That one chapter of my thesis that I knew would be messy to beat into coherence! There’s a reason I’ve been putting off this particular chapter.

    12. Folklorist

      Argh. Awkward email returned, but fail on the interviews. Got some other good stuff done, though! I don’t know why I always put off transcribing interviews; they’re so easy to bang out.

      (That’s a lie, come to think of it–I hate hearing myself ask people questions. Especially since I have to sllllooooooww the audio down for the transcription, which makes awkward questions in my obnoxious voice that much more terrible!)

  13. Michelle

    Just got my first raise in 4 years and I’m thrilled. However, I’m supposed to not be “overly enthusiastic” about it at work, even though everyone got a raise. So, we all get raises but we’re not supposed to enthusiastic about it? Way to blow the morale you just built up.

    1. Cruciatus

      We were told something like this about our merit raises every year. We assumed everyone would get one so what’s the big deal? Turns out not everyone does. So maybe some people weren’t included on the raise list? Or maybe yours is way above other people’s? (Congrats by the way!)

      1. Jennifer

        I’ve been on the “didn’t get a raise” list. Yeah, I really wanted everyone else to shut the hell up about their raises.

      1. themmases

        That is way more charitable than what I was thinking: “Are you sure that everyone really did get one?”

      1. Michelle

        I’m not really sure. Everyone came out of the executive director’s office smiling (I’m his assistant and sit right by his office).We’ve always been “discouraged” about sharing how much we make. We have never gotten yearly merit or performance raises. It’s usually a couple of years between raises and can be up to $2 per hour for hourly (nonexempt) employees. I fall within that category and got $2.

    2. INTP

      My guess is that not everyone got the same raise. They don’t want the people who got 10% raises killing the morale of people who were told there was only money for a 1% raise, or got a 3% despite an excellent performance review.

    3. danr

      There are ways to convey a nice raise without sending up fireworks. Although I know of one person at my old job who always complained that he never got a raise, and I found out afterwards that not only did he get raises, he got very nice ones. So don’t go in that direction either.

    4. F.

      FWIW, in the USA under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it is illegal for employers to forbid or limit discussion of wages as that is part of job conditions. However, sometimes it is in the employee’s best interests as far as coworker relations go to keep the good news to themselves. And Congratulations! on the raise.

      1. Michelle

        We’ve always been “discouraged” from discussing how much we make.

        Thanks to everyone for their congratulations!!

        1. Hlyssande

          I think it might be in my employee handbook that I “can’t” do such things, at a giant global industrial company.

          Of course, this is the same company wherein one of the head honchos at my division posted a letter to everyone on the internal site heavily implying that we all needed to vote for McCain, or else. That guy has been rotated out and thankfully we didn’t get one during the last elections. I still wish I’d saved the first, though.

      2. Perse's Mom

        Yep. My old position (part-time) had a pay cap. When the company eventually got rid of it, they made it clear that it meant raises would be implemented with the next performance review. The people who had really been working their tails off despite the cap were pulled aside individually and given immediate raises… and were told not to say anything because only a few people got it and the concern was exactly coworker resentment – toward management and toward those that got the early raises.

  14. Snarky McSnark

    Why is it so hard for people to start a new pot of coffee when it gets low or empty? It takes 1 minute to empty the old grinds, put in a new filter and open the presized bag of coffee. 3rd time this week I have gone in there to find it basically empty or less than half a cup left.

    1. Christy

      Trust me, I get it. I recently realized that I could empty the dishwasher while I wait for my breakfast sandwich to microwave and now it’s always taken care of! It took me a year to realize this. Before I’d just be angry it was still full of clean dishes.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        If you don’t have a Keurig and don’t want to play maid to your coworkers, you could get a funnel cone coffee maker. For about $10 you can make your own coffee, one cup at a time, all you need is a hot water tap — like for brewing tea; most faucets won’t get quite hot enough. Usually on the coffee machine or water cooler.

        Link to follow.

        1. Izzy

          Whoa, I wish I had thought of that before I retired! I use one at home and never thought to get one for work. I frequently found all the carafes empty – sometimes even watched as someone took the last cup and then walked away as if his (usually) time was too valuable to take a minute of it to start the next pot. If you take a cup and start a pot, it takes almost no extra time. If you have to wait for the pot to brew before you can get yours, you have to be away from your desk 5-10 minutes. Which sometimes I didn’t really mind, nice excuse for a break, but still…

          The housekeeping lady used to fill all the pots in the morning when she cleaned the break room, even though it was not part of her job. Then someone griped at her that she wasn’t making it strong enough (one of those types who uses one and a half or two packs per pot). So, she stopped making it altogether. Smart move, bigmouth!

            1. Snarky McSnark

              I’ve seen the burner turned off during normal rush coffee hours (7:30-9:00 in our office), which implies they knew it was empty and still decided not to make a fresh pot for the next person.

            2. Michelle

              Oh, yeah, we’ve had a couple of pots explode. We also get the ones where they leave like an ounce of liquid in the bottom and it bakes on the pot.

        2. themmases

          I may have to get that for myself! We have a carafe and coffee maker at work but I’m not in very much and it’s hard for me to tell if the coffee there is fresh or if I’ll have to clean out the whole thing to make coffee because it’s been sitting. Because I know it sometimes does sit, I’m not confident anyone will drink it if I make it… Basically my excuse for being one of the many who doesn’t make coffee.

          I keep instant here but it’s not great.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger

            It’s a lot faster to clean up than a French press, although the quality isn’t quite as good. Still, just dump the filter and the grounds, give it a quick rinse, and you’re done. So it’s kind of a poor man’s French press. :)

        3. Windchime

          My boss has one of these. He has a little electric water kettle on his desk and while that heats up, he grinds up a few beans and puts it in his little cone gizmo with a filter. Then he makes a single cup of coffee. I think he can make a cup almost as fast as he could walk to the kitchen for a cup of the office swill.

      2. Observer

        The cone Cosmic mentions is nice. I use that one at home. At work, I have an Aerobie Aeropress. If you shop right, is also comes with a nice sized pack of filters. It’s easy to use, and also only needs access to hot water.

        Links to follow

    2. asl

      Gah. I don’t get people like that. Do they think the magical office kitchen fairies do it? Who makes the coffee at home? Does their spouse secretly hate them for being so unhelpful?

      In my office the equivalent is that some people bring in treats and some of the treat eaters either leave the wrappers on the counter or take the last piece of whatever and don’t clean/throw away the dish. Of course those two groups don’t overlap – there’s the treats-bringers and then there are the people that never bring treats and also never clean up after themselves. Drives me nuts!

    3. SJ in PA

      I would add: why is it so hard for people to put a new roll of toilet paper on the roll when they finish one?

      1. fposte

        One of my favorite moments from the old sitcom _Mad about You_: the wife storms into the room, says to the husband fiercely, “Watch me!” She removes the empty roll from the TP spindle and puts the new full roll on, says “Voila!” and stomps back to the bathroom.

        1. Tomato Frog

          I was talking to a coworker about how we didn’t like Mad About You, and she said “There was one scene I really liked…” and before she said anything else I knew that she was talking about this scene.

        2. Kelly L.

          Wasn’t there also a Friends where someone mimed the process to someone else, without the actual roll?

      2. LQ

        This is sort of hilarious. I live by myself. I almost never have guests. And I basically never put the new roll on. But I have at least once had someone else put it on when they are at my house. Sometimes when they are just washing their hands. I think it is adorable. I try to remember to put the roll on the holder when I have guests, but I just don’t bother most of the time alone. (I’m a very neat person, my place is always super clean, this is just one thing that doesn’t bug me to leave undone.)

      3. Rebecca in Dallas

        OMG yes. They will unwrap the roll and just put it on top of the empty thing! *And* leave the wrapper on the ground or also on top of the empty roll. This is a women’s restroom, there is a teeny trash can right behind you!!!

      4. Violet Rose

        My housemate does this – I’ve entered the bathroom to find an empty roll in the holder with a freshly unwrapped roll sitting on the back of the toilet so many times, it’s gone past the point of “annoyance” to “surrealist comedy.” (Perhaps he’s afraid to break the already-cracked toilet paper holder completely? Perhaps he knows I recycle the old cardboard tubes and doesn’t want to throw them into the regular trash? I legitimately have no idea, and it’s not like I really mind so I never bother to ask.)

        1. bearing

          Maybe, like me, these people have lived with a toddler who is very interested in unspooling TP if it is on the spindle (one yank and THERE IT GOES!) but uninterested in ruining rolls that are merely propped up on the back of the toilet. At least, that is how I acquired my habit of not spindling new TP rolls.

    4. Book Person

      No one will make more coffee in my office, because I’m apparently a magical coffee-pot cleaning fairy and no one else understands how to dump out old grounds and rinse out the pot. Seriously, I’ve come back from business trips and have found fuzzy green grounds in an old filter because people bought coffee while I was away instead of making it/cleaning the machine.

    5. Adam

      Related: if the office dishwasher is clearly full after you put your dish in, is it REALLY that difficult to put some soap in it and push a button as well?

      1. Adam

        I’m putting this here as a personal accountability measure as I’m pretty sure I’ve been guilty of this at least once.

      2. Rebeck

        When the office recently replaced the domestic dishwasher with a catering grade one and did’t give anyone instructions on how to use the new one… Yes. It is too difficult.

    6. cuppa

      Probably for the same reason no one will refill the ice cube tray.

      Signed, one half of a couple that once had a three week standoff with one ice cube left in the tray so no one would have to refill it. (now we have an automatic ice maker. it saved our marriage.)

    7. Elizabeth West

      I used to make coffee while waiting for my tea to steep, just to be nice, but I don’t even drink it! I still do it, but not as often as I used to. I will take the empty pot off the burner or turn the burner off.

    8. NJ Anon

      Why is it so hard for people to pop out the k-cup they just used to make coffee and throw it out? I mean, it would take about 2 seconds!

    9. Lia

      One of my co-workers refuses to do this because co-worker feels it is “beneath their station” to do things like refill the coffeepot, wipe out the microwave after using it, or replace the empty paper towel roll. We had notes up in the kitchen reminding people to clean up after themselves, and co-worker got deeply offended by being “ordered” to do “domestic work” because we pay the admin assistants to do that.

      Never mind that the senior leadership in our area get their own coffee and clean up after themselves….

      Now guess the gender of my co-worker.

        1. Lia

          That is almost exactly what our admin said — minus the chauvinistic part, because my co-worker — is female.

          1. Chocolate Teapot

            The vending machine at work sells horrible coffee, but thankfully there are Nepresso and Senseo machines and a supermarket just down the street with a whole aisle full of pods, caps and bags. I have calculated that a packet of Senseo pods and some small pots of UHT milk works out cheaper per cup than the machine by about a third.

            I always tip out the drip tray, but I think I am the only one!

    10. ScarletInTheLibrary

      Granted this is my office’s situation and not others, but it can be difficult to know who is “cutting down” on the coffee in a given week and who needs that extra jolt. Multiple departments share a break room so we may not know who is in and who is not in other departments. Making a new batch of coffee before 10 am is a no-brainier. Determining if people have stopped for the day when someone takes the last bit at 11:45 is less obvious. We have developed some unspokens (like don’t make a full pot after ten so it doesn’t sit and if you want coffee after a certain time, then you make it), but sometimes people get screwed.

  15. AFT123

    I’m getting a job offer shortly for an amazing company!!!! They have shared the offer details with me already, just doing background checks now before it’s official. HUZZAH!!!

  16. rhinoceranita

    I just started a new job and the wait to enroll in the 401k is 1 YEAR!!!!!

    The match is 100% up to 3% and then 50% for the next 2% (essentially if I deduct 5%, I would get a 4% match).

    I only had a 401k for the last year so it’s got maybe $10k in it. Should I roll it into a Roth IRA and make contributions on my own?

    What to do!

    1. Audiophile

      I think the 1 year wait is pretty common. They want to make sure you’ll be around.

      That match percentage is great, if you ask me. The company I’m currently leaving only matched a certain percent and it never came close to 100%. Unless you worked for the company for more than 20 years, in which case you could get 75%. I have a 403b that I’ll eventually roll over. I don’t really have any advice, sorry. I’ll be in a similar position soon enough.

      1. rhinoceranita

        At my last job it was 100% up to 5% and previous it was the same as my current job and the wait time was 90 days of employment.

        1. Audiophile

          Wow. I think almost every job I ever had, had a 1 year waiting period. And no job offered 100%, it was usually between 4% and 6% based on my contributions. Only one potential job offered 6% based on salary and then if I contributed they’d match a certain percentage.

          1. LBK

            I think you’re misinterpreting how people are describing the matches – when you say “I get a 100% match up to 4%,” that means your company will match whatever you contribute up to 4% of your salary. So if you contribute 2% of your salary, they’ll match all of it. If you contribute 10%, they’ll only match 4%. Only matching 4-6% of what someone actually contributed (and not 4-6% of their salary) would be absurdly low; usually it’s 100% up to a certain percentage, then some companies do an additional 50% match for a few more percent of contributions. I worked with 401(k)s for three years and never heard of anyone matching only 4-6% of the contribution amount.

            There are some companies that make contributions regardless of whether you contribute or not, but those are rare and they’re usually voluntary profit-sharing contributions, which means the amount isn’t fixed or guaranteed.

            1. Audiophile

              I’m not sure if that’s directed at me. I was a little off on my numbers, but from one of their handbooks: 0-9 Years – 10% match of employee contribution. In the case of this job, eligibility was after 6 months of employment. And you have to stay the entire calendar year in order for them to contribute.

              1. LBK

                That’s…really weird that it would only match 10% of what you contributed. I have to assume that’s just phrased vaguely and they mean a 10% match, otherwise that really is an uncommonly terrible plan.

                1. Audiophile

                  I asked, they mean 10% of what an employee contributes. So unless I was contributing 75%, it really was worthless. Add to the fact that their contributions wouldn’t go in unless you worked through the final calendar day of the year and it became even more worthless. My first post-college job, I signed up for the 403b and contributed about $20 a paycheck. I forget what they matched, but it was better than this company.

            2. Mary (in PA)

              The university I worked at gave you 8% of your salary with no personal contribution required, though you had to work there three years to be fully vested.

              That’s the best one I’ve ever seen (and it’s highly atypical).

              1. LBK

                Was it a public university? Those are usually 403(b)s and (like Kerry’s below) they’re usually way better than 401(k)s because they have lower administrative requirements, hence they’re cheaper to maintain and the savings can be passed on to the employees.

                1. fposte

                  We have no match in the 403b and 457 because we have a pension (or a self-managed plan, if you’re in that), but they’re still really, really good 403bs and 457s; the fund costs are considerably lower than retail in most cases.

          2. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)

            I have a 403(b) with no waiting to enol, no vesting for the 4% match, and if you are signed up they take it from every dollar they give you. It is fantastic.

      2. Ann O'Nemity

        Is a year wait really that common? I’ve seen waiting periods of 1-6 months, but never a full year.

        1. OfficePrincess

          I’m pretty sure mine was a year as well. AND changes/enrolling only takes effect at the start of each quarter, so it could easily be closer to 15 months.

        2. Cruciatus

          Mine was a full year at my old job (a year for 403b and vacation time–at least for staff that wasn’t faculty). Current job started right away, which was weird to me at first, but it’s also mandatory here. You had to pick between the state retirement plan (vested after….10 years!) or TIAA-CREF. I went with the latter since I can’t guarantee I’ll be here 10 years from now (though it’s a better deal in the end if you do stay that long).

        3. Red Wheel

          If a potential employer required a one year wait before enrollment, I would only accept the offer if they offset that in some other way financially or if I were desperate. I am horrified that a one year wait is common.

        4. Honeybee

          I had no idea that waiting periods were even common; I didn’t have one at my position. I could see waiting to start matching, but not waiting to allow you to contribute your own money.

        5. Oryx

          Obviously anecdotal evidence doesn’t mean much, but of my last 3 jobs (including current) 2 out of those 3 had a 1 year wait. Current job had 90 days.

        6. NewCommenterfromDaBronx

          My (very small) company has a 1 year wait. No match but every eligible employee receives a 3% contribution annually whether they contribute themselves or not. It is called a safe harbor contribution. We also have an employer profit sharing contribution annually at the company’s discretion.

        7. Charlotte

          My small company had a one-year-of-employment wait for the 401(k). Seemed like a long wait to me, but it’s part of the enrollment plan they have with the funds/advisor, so there wasn’t anything I could do about it but wait. Have to pick your battles, and this wasn’t one for me. I put money into a roth that year, which isn’t the same, but it’s better than nothing. I also didn’t get my match for 2014 until September 2015, but it was a lot higher than I expected (12% salary match). Being at a small company sometimes means less transparency and some slower movement, but I’ve been lucky that they ultimately treat me very well.

    2. fposte

      Unless your old 401k is amazing, you’re likely to be better off rolling it into an IRA so that you have a wider choice of what to invest in and can choose low-cost investments at places like Vanguard, Fidelity, Schwab, etc.

      If you want to roll it into a Roth rather than a traditional IRA, there can be tax considerations; usually the thing to do is roll it into a traditional IRA and then do a Roth conversion on it, where you’d only pay taxes on the gain between the opening of the traditional IRA and the conversion. But that depends on what else you have lying around, your income, etc., so I don’t want to say for sure.

      1. LBK

        usually the thing to do is roll it into a traditional IRA and then do a Roth conversion on it, where you’d only pay taxes on the gain between the opening of the traditional IRA and the conversion.

        Admittedly my knowledge of this is a little rusty and Investopedia won’t load for some reason so I can’t confirm, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. Typically any time you convert from traditional to Roth, the entire amount will be considered part of your taxable income. Maybe you’re thinking of a Roth withdrawal? When you withdraw Roth funds you’re only liable for taxes on the gains and only if they’ve been invested for under 5 years, but I don’t think that’s true for converting from traditional to Roth.

        1. fposte

          No, it’s just on the gain; I converted both last year and the year before. Hence the popularity of the backdoor Roth. It’s a funky and wonderful little loophole, and it can work to great advantage when you’re rolling over from a 401k. Qualified rollover to traditional IRA; conversion to Roth with taxes only on the interim gain (which will be nothing or virtually nothing). It gets more complicated if you have other traditional IRAs, because you hit the pro rata rule, which I have lived my life to avoid understanding.

          Generally the people at the place getting the IRA, like Vanguard, can walk you through it, too.

          1. toa

            If you do this, does that mean you aren’t getting taxed on the money going in OR on the money going out (except the small gains during the few days between IRA conversion and Roth conversion)?

            I have old 401ks that I’ve never seen the point in rolling over – guess I better start researching!

        2. fposte

          Bugger. I looked again and you’re right when you’re talking conversion from a pretax rollover. The backdoor Roth is for post-tax traditional IRAs when your income doesn’t put you in the Roth bracket.

          Sorry, all, LBK is right–you do want to check what taxes you’d owe, and as could be anyone notes you want to cover the taxes from *outside* the account, not diminish the assets in the IRA by pulling the tax payments from it.

          1. LBK

            This actually used to sort of be my job – I did sales support for a rollover education center whose sole purpose was fielding calls from people who were looking to make 401(k) withdrawals and I’d often have to answer questions like this while making follow up calls. I’m just relieved that I haven’t totally forgotten everything I learned in the 2 years since I left!

            1. fposte

              The backdoor Roth is so, so cool if you can do it that it sort of drowned out all my other thoughts.

    3. could be anyone

      If you have the money to pay the taxes on it I’d go for the Roth. (you’ll need 15 or 25 percent depending on income)
      Don’t use money from the Roth for this as you’ll have a penalty for not converting all the money in addition to the taxes. I would definitely transfer to an individual IRA at least.

    4. BRR

      It depends on how much you made in 2015/will make in 2016 and what you expect to earn in retirement. You want to consider what tax bracket you would be in each year and explore rolling it over in your lower earning year. If you have a high income in both years you might want to just leave it and open a separate IRA.

      Also BS on the 401k, I just found out something similar but not as bad and it’s BS.

      1. rhinoceranita

        Yeah, I am going from 75k to 90k with no home or children so I am worried about taxes and my student loan deduction goes POOF this year.

        1. fposte

          Do they have decent options in the plan? Because they’re still really worthwhile places to put your money if so, match or not, and that would be a good thing to do with a big salary jump like that.

    5. Ann O'Nemity

      I think rolling the old 401k into a rollover IRA or Roth IRA is probably your best bet. Like fposte says, it’s hard to know which of those would be best for your specific circumstance.

      Another option is to determine if your new employer’s plan allows you to consolidate your old 401k with theirs, and if your old plan allows you to stay on it for a year. (There may some some special benefits to doing this and tracking may be easier, but generally I’d probably recommend an IRA instead.)

    6. bridget

      I’d open an IRA in the meantime. You could also open a traditional IRA instead of a Roth, if you’d prefer, which has similar tax benefits as a traditional 401(k). They don’t come out pre-tax, but you deduct the contributions, so it ends up the same at tax time. (Of course, do a bit of research and figure out whether a Roth or traditional IRA is better for you tax-wise. You’ll have to take into consideration your current tax bracket, your prediction on whether that will be higher or lower in retirement, and how long you have before you retire).

      I’d recommend opening one up at Vanguard; super easy and extremely low fees. The downside is that you usually need $3,000 to start the account, which is the main inconvenience to starting your own retirement fund versus an employer 401(k) (plus the lower contribution limits, if you were going to exceed $5500 in your 401(k)). If you can start one, then I would immediately amend your direct deposit form so that a certain dollar amount or percentage of your paycheck automatically gets sent to your IRA, so that you have the same “set it and forget it” convenience of a 401(k).

      1. bridget

        Gah, missed the part that you have $10k in the old 401(k). Yeah, I’d roll it over, start an IRA (either keeping it as traditional or converting it), and then contribute to that for the year.

      2. NewCommenterfromDaBronx

        Contributions to a traditional IRA are not tax deductible if you have a retirement plan at your employer. Also, there are income limitations to the deduction even if you don’t have a plan.

        1. NewCommenterfromDaBronx

          Correction. Sorry! If you have a plan at work, you can deduct your IRA contribution, but it is subject to income limitations & the deduction is phased out over a range of income. If you have no plan, it is always fully deductible up yo the maximum contribution. If you are married & spouse has a plan, rules change again & are a little more comicated.

    7. Foster Friend

      It could be worse – one of the places I interviewed at required you to work at the company for six or seven YEARS before you could enroll. Even then, they only matched 1%.

      I have a 401K through my current company, and I also opened one on my own, just for diversification’s sake. If you roll into a Roth IRA, make sure you do it as soon as possible so you don’t incur any penalties.

    8. Master Bean Counter

      If you roll it to a Roth you’ll have to pay income tax on it. I would just roll it to a traditional IRA and open a separate Roth if you want to contribute on your own.

    9. F.

      Not qualified to advise you on what to do, so I won’t. Our 401(k) has a six-month waiting period to enroll and graduated vesting up to 100% at six years. It’s a moot point anyway, as they haven’t paid a match in at least the last six years or so. Then they wonder why almost no one participates. smh

      1. fposte

        If it’s a decent 401k, it’s still very much worth doing even without the match; I don’t know if you’re in a part of HR that advises people, but if so, that’s a point worth making if you know that you’ve got low fees and decent providers.

        But yeah, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a vesting policy if there’s no employer match to vest.

        1. LBK

          Agreed – even ignoring all the tax benefits and potential for growth, a 401(k) is a much more reliable savings plan than a savings accounts in most cases, because a) the money goes straight out of your check so you don’t even think about how much you’re contributing, and b) there are legal restrictions/penalties to discourage touching it before you’re supposed to. A savings account at your bank basically operates on willpower.

          1. fposte

            Yup. And between two accounts (403b and 457) and a variety of add-ons, my AGI is like a dime.

            You do have to watch for those real dogs of plans with huge fees, but they have to get pretty high before it’s not worthwhile.

        2. F.

          I do not advise on the 401(k). The company owner’s brother (talk about conflict of interest!) has a financial advisory company, and he is the one to guide the employees in their investments. I find it rather interesting that his own son, who also works for us, will not trust his father with his money. Our plan is through a well-known insurance company, but it does have some hefty fees and load funds.

    10. Lily in NYC

      Actually, these days that’s really good! It was a year when I started here 10 years ago and now it takes 4 years to get 100% vested.

    11. Agile Phalanges

      The (tiny) company I work for doesn’t match at all, and also has a one-year wait. Between that and the fact that it’s administered by a company that has high fees and doesn’t get high ratings at least made my decision to just roll all my 401(k) from my last job into a personal IRA easy. *wry smile* I have no idea what to advise you–check with a financial advisor of some type. But I’m guessing you should put your current funds into a personal IRA (it would only need to be Roth if the 401(k) was Roth), then just start anew with your new company when you become eligible. Probably doesn’t make sense to roll the old funds into the new one when it becomes possible.

    12. grumpy career changer

      I am going to post a link with some background information about 401(k)s that I came across today. It’s a Frontline interview with Teresa Ghilarducci, at the New School. It brings up important issues about choosing a fund thoughtfully, as well as thinking about how much you can or want to save.

    13. NewCommenterfromDaBronx

      If you roll over to a Roth, you will pay taxes, both federal & state, on the full rollover amount. Better to roll over to a traditional IRA to avoid the tax hit all at once now. You can then gradually convert the IRA to a Roth each year.

    14. Menacia

      With regard to rolling over your 401K to a Roth IRA, you might have to pay taxes. Unless you have a Roth 401K, then you can roll it over to a Roth IRA tax free. The other option would be to roll your 401K over to a traditional IRA, which is also tax-free. I’m considering doing this myself as I have an old 401K that I would like to put in a centralized location with the rest of my personal investments.

  17. Audiophile

    I start my new job next week! I couldn’t be more excited.

    I have today and tomorrow off, I’m working on Sunday at the current/soon-to-be old job and had requested Monday off last month, because my sister was supposed to have surgery. Now that that’s been canceled, I have a free day.

    I’m trying to get myself organized, debating buying a physical calendar and notebook or just using Google Keep to keep myself organized. I’ve bought a few calendars previously and almost never used them. My mom was religious about using her calendar, she still does and she’s retired now.

    1. Kyrielle

      Do you have a smart phone? There’s also a plethora of calendars and other tools for those, and integration to Google and other platforms, and on and on.

      I love having a physical day planner, though. I _use_ it, and it somehow feels easier to flip ahead/flip back, and I can add notes easily, and…I have no idea why. Because the app can do all that too and I will have the app in my pocket when the day planner has been left at home or in the car. But I like the day planner.

      (I totally use Trello and Habitica for organizing some things, though. Habitica is surprisingly fun.)

      1. Audiophile

        I’m getting a “smarter” phone in a few weeks, the Moto X Pure. It’s been shipped soon. I’ve been using a GoPhone with an old version of Android, since I broke my LG G3 a few months back.

        I only recently discovered Google Keep, though I use Google Calendar pretty regularly. I was thinking it couldn’t hurt to have a physical day planner. I tried using Trello for a bit and I didn’t love it as much as some people. Never heard of Habitica, I’ll have to look it up.

        1. Kyrielle

          Habitica is no substitute for a day planner, but it’s great for keeping you on-track with habits and tasks…assuming you enjoy a roleplaying/fantasy game like gamification of those.

        2. Kyrielle

          …just realized one reason I like a physical day planner is that I’m often talking on the phone when I need to schedule an appointment, which makes checking to see if there’s *already* an appointment in the calendar on that day a bit awkward. (The phone supports it, but, “Hang on, can you wait a second while I look at this other app on my phone?” is not comfortable in a phone exchange, IMO.)

          1. Audiophile

            I’ve been that person, Kyrielle. I will often tell people to hold on, while I punch away at my phone’s touchscreen to open Google Calendar. “One sec, still checking my calendar. Hehe, sorry it takes a while to load.” It takes a good chunk of time when you’re running Android 4.41x or something. Yeah, I can’t wait to get my new phone.

          2. NorCalHR

            And this is exactly the reason I still use a physical day planner!! It also helps in seeing if I can accommodate a request by rescheduling — especially as I block project time in my Outlook calendar in an often-vain attempt to get through my ToDo ToDay list!

    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      With Google Calendar can choose to send yourself emails or texts as reminders for calendar events. Plus you can invite other people, share certain events or the whole calendar with specific people…it’s pretty flexible.

      1. Audiophile

        I usually do pop up reminders to my phone, which is useful if I don’t archive them lol. It comes in handy for paying bills and when I had interviews scheduled way in advance.

        I think it might be useful for me to have something physical, as well as digital. The act of writing it down, will help me remember it.

      2. OfficePrincess

        Yes I love Google Calendar. I can sync both my work and personal calendars to my phone, have my personal display at work, and also use it to keep track of my husband. Some may be annoyed by getting an invite to drive their husband to the airport, but it’s the only way I’ll remember where he’s going and when to pick him up!

      3. F.

        Is Google Calendar word searchable? I keep a paper & pen work diary/to-do list, but had to go back through months of entries today looking for everything on a particular employee situation. It would have been so much easier being able to search on a certain word electronically, especially with my terrible handwriting.

    3. Bellen

      I always wanted to be a calendar person, but I’ve actually found the best results (meaning, I actually use them) from a combination of Bullet Journalling (daily+weekly tasks) and using the calendar on my phone for appointments or any reminders more than 2 weeks out.

      I remember the smaller/daily tasks better when I write them down on paper, which is why the Bullet Journal method has worked well for me. I buy a moleskin twice a year and I’ve tweaked the method along the way, to create something that works best for me. Plus, there’s nothing better than a fresh moleskine journal!

    4. Trixie

      Because I have an older phone that wont’ work with new apps, I stick with monthly planners. I’ve had really good luck finding $1-$2 cute ones at Dollar Store, Walmart, Walgreens. The monthly style is easy to read, and I keep with me for meetings, appts, etc.

  18. themmases

    I was late to yesterday’s update about learning to code, but I wanted to share a technique I learned since the original letter was up. Hopefully it will help others.

    That tip is, after the fact flowcharts. When I inherit a piece of code from someone else and want to understand what they did, I just make a flowchart of it and highlight anything important to me such as where a particular variable was created and what it means. I do this with my own work too, if I’ve had to take a break from a project or have done all I know how to do and am not sure what to do next. I take some time to make a chart of my work so far and it often makes my next step clear.

    Having a work log in a separate document is also great if you want to keep track of your own work as you go. For some reason it works better for me than commenting code, because it’s too easy to slip into thinking it’s obvious what this procedure does if I just give it a title. If I’m writing in a separate document where the code isn’t there unless I call it out, it’s mentally easier to give enough context.

    You can make flowcharts easily and for free with draw.io. (I don’t work for them, I’m just obsessed with them.)

    1. Anonymous Educator

      Yeah, with code, understanding the workflow is way more important than the actual syntax of the code. Still, I prefer, once I have my flow worked out, to still comment my code so I can easily know what’s going on if I have to tweak a particular section.

      1. themmases

        Oh yeah, I comment mine too. And having a log has actually made me kind of better at it, now that I see what information I go back to the log for.

        I like going back too once I know what I’m doing worked. Someone who inherits my code doesn’t need to see all my procedures that didn’t work quite right, or that I was only doing to check something. Being an hour or two removed from it also makes it less “obvious” to me what it all means.

  19. Ineloquent

    So, i am paid 60000 a year, but I have been told by a previous manager that I am underpaid for my payband and i do extremely excellent work. My current payband goes from 55 to 85k. I am being promoted to a payband that ranges from 60k to 105k. I am considered a rockstar, and my current manager would like me to apply for the next higher grade next year, since I am, in his words, already performing at that level. I have been told that they would like to groom me for management for my group. I know that all of the people in my group in the new payband make about 75-85k. Would I be totally tone deaf to try to negotiate 80k on this offer?

    1. Christy

      Hell no! Frankly, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t negotiate for 85k if you’re a rock star and they want you to be a manager.

    2. AnotherHRPro

      You should definitely negotiate, but moving from 60,000 to 80,000 is a 33% increase. I’ve never seen someone get a 33% increase for what looks like a one level promotion but this will depend on your company. I think a 10,000 increase is more reasonable (17%).

      1. OfficePrincess

        I have actually gotten a 33% increase for a 1 level jump (granted, $ figure was lower), so if the manager is saying that’s what it should be, it’s certainly worth trying to negotiate for.

      2. Been there

        Dont’ let the % freak you out. I was promoted from 90k with a 7% bonus to 110 with a 22% bonus, then 110 to 130l with a 30% bonus. Those are 22% and 18% jumps in base alone and they were in consecutive years.

        I was promoted up to the next level and given the bottom of the salary band/market rate. This year I’m getting promoted again and it will likely be another big jump. Honestly, I have had the 20-30% jump in responsibility YOY to justify it.

        The last thing they want (in most scenarios- there are exceptions!) is a leader/mgr who makes substantially less than the groups s/he is managing. I actually now manage someone that makes 150 (but my bonus is higher) so I assume my promo will land me approx there since it’s the bottom of the next salary bracket anyway.

    3. CharlieCakes

      Go for it! But be aware of what your company policies are. In my company and internal transfer or promotion can only result in a 25% max salary increase unless signed off by Jesus himself.

      Good luck!

    4. Menacia

      When you are viewed as being a rock star, that means you have leverage, so use it to your advantage! I remember when I was first hired at my company, I was fine w/the salary, but my manager got me a 20% increase after 2 years because she saw my worth and wanted to make sure I stayed. Go for it!

    5. Askley :)

      Also, remember it’s a negotiation–start high so that if they come back low you’ve got some wiggle room if you’re happier with 80k but you would be annoyed with less.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      OMG! You should request that after every Xmas song that’s played in the office, they have to play Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song! XD

      1. Creag an Tuire

        Aw, great, now I won’t be able to read anything involving the words “Hanukkah Balls” without imagining it said in the incredulous voice of George Takei.

        Really killing my ability not to laugh at work, here. :P

        1. Savannah

          I’m been trying all day (since 9 am when she put it out) to get a picture, I might wait around until she leaves to snag one for AMA.

      1. So Very Anonymous

        I think the traditional “Second Christmas” ornament is a reindeer, isn’t it? Or is just a horsey?

    2. LBK

      What perfect timing! A huge Christmas tree appeared in our building’s lobby today, decked out in ornaments, garlands and lights and replete with wrapped gifts under it…and then there was one sad little menorah on the front desk. I couldn’t help but think of the Hanukkah balls. It’s the thought that counts, I guess?

      (FWIW I’m not remotely opposed to holiday decorations in the office and I actually quite like the company getting into the spirit, it was just funny that someone was clearly like “I guess we should also acknowledge that other thing that happens around this time just in case we have some Jewish people at this huge, multinational company.”)

      1. literateliz

        You know, we have the same thing (giant Christmas tree next to a little menorah), and I noticed it and kind of thought the same thing as you, but then I wondered, what would be better? A giant menorah? Genuinely interested in thoughts on this.

        1. literateliz

          To clarify, not interested in yes/no votes on the giant menorah because that would clearly be ridiculous (right? I think?), but in thoughts on how to make it seem like less of an afterthought given that Christmas is in general much more overcommercialized and given to giant displays on a scale that would look weird for a menorah. (I did not look closely but I think there were also a couple dreidels, and the menorah might actually be one of our products which is kinda cool)

          1. Eugenie

            When I lived in DC there was a giant (like bigger than a house) menorah near the national Christmas tree — go big or go home?

          2. OriginalEmma

            Not a giant menorah but at least put it on a nice table covered in a nice table cloth with some culturally appropriate accessories. I hope it’s not literally on the floor because what says “lower priority” than literally placing it on the ground.

        2. fposte

          At least it’s actually in time for Hanukkah. What’s really awful is when they put it out afterwards.

        3. Ask a Manager Post author

          Hanukkah isn’t a major Jewish holiday. Honestly, it’s more irritating to see people trying to treat it like it is in the interest of giving equal time. Speaking as a Jew (not that I speak for all Jews), I’d rather see them skip the menorah altogether than do silly tokenism or treat it like “Jewish Christmas,” which it is not.

          1. Savannah

            I very much agree. I would really rather my boss just recognize that I don’t celebrate Christmas and I have no intention of doing so in the future. Bringing Hanukkah into the mix just seems so misguided. At least she held back on the K-cup switch this year.

          2. AvonLady Barksdale

            Hear hear. “Are you going home for Chanukah?” “Nope.” “That’s so SAD!” “Ask me again during Passover.”

            1. Felicia

              I got a similar thing when people were shocked that I was working on Hanukkah. They wouldn’t believe me (the only Jewish one in the group) when they told them it was a super minor holiday.

          3. LBK

            Huh, I actually never knew that it wasn’t a major holiday – I guess I kind of just assumed it was based on its proximity to Christmas. And this is coming from someone who grew up in a very Jewish neighborhood with many Jewish friends.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale

              Chanukah is all about… marketing. Not the holiday itself, but its perception. It’s a minor holiday, but since it’s so close to Christmas, and there are presents (which I think is because of the proximity to Christmas), it grew into this THING that many people– even Jewish ones!– think it’s like Jewish Christmas. In other words, you’re not alone.

              Chanukah is a fun festival that comes with lovely candles. If you’re a kid, it comes with lots of chocolate and presents and games, and sometimes it coincides with your winter break from school and is therefore awesome. If you’re any person in my immediate vicinity, it comes with the Best Potato Latkes in the Whole World.

              1. Elizabeth West

                I wish you could email food. Or that we had Wonkavision. I’d love to have a potato latke. And cheese knishes.
                I also want to try carrot tsimmes. I posted that as a word on one of my blog vocabulary posts, and the picture made me drool.

                1. Chocolate Teapot

                  Oddly enough, quite a few of the Christmas markets around here sell something very similar to potato latkes.

          4. Felicia

            As a Jew also, I totally agree. The only reason they call it the “Holiday season”, and made Hanukkah into such a big deal even though it’s such a minor holiday is because of Christmas.

          5. Katie the Fed

            you also wouldn’t believe how many times I have to explain to people that Ramaddan isn’t a winter holiday, because they like to list it with Christmas and Hanukkah to make sure their bases are covered.

            1. Kelly L.

              Yeah, the Muslim holidays move, correct? I know Eid was in December a while back, but isn’t currently, I think.

              1. Katie the Fed

                Yes it’s a lunar calendar. There are also different Eids – Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha are two of the most prominent. But I’m not a Muslim so I don’t want to speak for them.

                Oddly, Diwali never gets mentioned and that’s a super fun holiday.

                1. Marzipan

                  We have a Diwali celebration at work, with fireworks and dhol drummers and dancing. It’s loads of fun. (It’s not on quite the same scale as the Chinese New Year celebration, though.)

              2. mander

                Yeah, this detail in Serial really confused me until I realized that Ramadan is not tied to the solar calendar (duh!). At the time I was listening to it they were talking about Ramadan observances in January at the time of the murder, but it was summer and I knew Ramadan was actually happening at that time.

                1. AvonLady Barksdale

                  I was JUST about to say that Ramadan was in the winter in 1999, and I only know that because of Serial. :)

            2. Ad Astra

              I feel like Ramadan coincided with Christmas (or at least with the month of December) some time in my formative years, because I always think of it as a winter holiday and I’m often wrong.

          6. Arielle

            One of my Jewish coworkers suggested to me today that we light candles in the office next week at sunset and invite anyone who wants to come. I thought that was a super nice idea, especially since it gets dark so early that lighting candles at work is the only way to actually do it at the right time.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale

              I think that’s a very nice idea. For my part, I put a meeting on everyone’s calendar indicating that I will bring in latke-making ingredients late next week and fry in our (full) kitchen. No one objects to potatoes.

          7. Anonsie

            I’m not Jewish but the Hanukkah stuff has always struck me this way. Wanna be inclusive? Maybe acknowledge the other holidays people actually care about throughout the year and skip all this tokenism bunk around Christmas time.

          8. katamia

            I’m Jewish, too, but I do like the tokenism. It’s definitely tokenism, but when you get totally blanketed with Christmas stuff everywhere and it’s totally inescapable, sometimes just getting an “Oh, yeah, you exist too” is nice even if it’s a pretty tone-deaf one.

        4. AnotherHRPro

          We have a giant Christmas tree with a GIANT menorah right next to it. Seriously, it is as tall as I am!

          1. Audiophile

            The office building I used to work did this as well. They had a giant Christmas tree (though one year they had one giant-ish tree and two smaller trees AND poinsettias, that did NOT go over well) and a giant menorah, a nativity scene and Kwanza candles.

        5. mander

          I don’t know what would be better, but somehow I’m now imagining someone making menorah and dreidel shaped ornaments to put on the Christmas tree in some kind of misguided effort to be multicultural…

          1. LBK

            I think this is actually a thing, because I remember Alison saying it’s one of her pet peeves (and is vaguely offensive).

      2. Artemesia

        I live in a high rise and many of my neighbors are Jewish. We always have this cute little electric Menorah on the table in the lobby near the elevators where notices and obits are posted in a frame from time to time (also an ‘old’ building — we get a lot of obits). There is a Christmas tree in the living room part of the lobby. It isn’t size that matters here, but acknowledgement of both traditions.

      3. Turanga Leela

        The tree with the little menorah was standard in my apartment building, where most of the residents were Jewish. I think it’s fine; menorahs are pretty little most of the time, and I’m happy with the gesture toward Judaism. I mostly notice if they light the candles on the right day and in the right order.

      4. Sparkly Librarian

        I was put in charge of holiday decorations at my branch this winter (my first year here). There was a stash of boxes in the supply room, and I brought some extras from home – have been doing it in bits and pieces all week, as it’s easier to get involved when the doors are closed before we open. As we’re a public library, I wanted to be inclusive and informative, and I wanted to reflect our patrons’ religious and cultural backgrounds. But no Hanukkah balls!

        The main display case up front has the candelabras of the season – a menorah, an Advent wreath, and a kinara. (Can’t actually light the candles, but there’s a rich purple theme echoed by the hanging quilt fabric I found in the boxes.) There’s also a large bulletin board in the children’s area that now says Happy Holidays in glitter script, and has letters spelling out Chanukah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and Yule, with a selection of children’s picturebooks on those holidays. I put up notices about branch holiday closures / end-of-year service changes on the same board.

        Today the tree went up (because there was one of THOSE in the supply room!) in the front entry and I topped it with a Santa hat. Red and gold plastic globe ornaments and clear plastic dangles (not glass, so we don’t have to fret about accidents). We’ve got poinsettias placed strategically. I’ve also dropped clots of tinsel/pinecones and evergreen branches/bows here and there and enlisted patrons in creating cut-paper snowflakes to hang. Today I’ll finish up with a papel picado workshop for teenagers — if I’m lucky they’ll get hooked into it long enough to make a few extras I can hang on the reference desk!

    3. Turanga Leela

      Can you write a song about them?

      “Oh Hanukkah balls, oh Hanukkah balls, you are so big and shiny…”

    4. cuppa

      !!!!!!!!!!
      It’s a tight race between this and Duck Club, but this is now my favorite AAM day of the year.

    5. Jillociraptor

      This is so classic, thank you for bringing this story to my life.

      Brb need to look up the Hebrew word for “balls” so I can change the Chanukah blessings on Sunday…

  20. Anonypants (for this)

    I have an in-person job interview next week, woohoooo!

    I wasn’t looking, but they contacted me and they seemed like a great place. And since my contract ends at the end of the month, it seems like a great time. I like where I work, but being a contractor isn’t great, even if I’m being payrolled through a 3rd party and get some benefits – no paid time off, and my I only ever get 2 month extensions which means a tiny panic attack every other month. My manager is great and seems to appreciate me, although she doesn’t anticipate making me a full-time employee anytime soon, and one of my coworkers drives me bonkers and there doesn’t seem to be a solution (manager’s repeatedly tried to remind her I’m not her assistant, but it never seems to stick). I’m now under pressure to fork over money for a gift for our manager which makes me cringe.

    So yeah, a change sounds pretty darn good right about now. I feel really good about this job, not only will the benefits be better but I’d have a senior title! Woohoooo! It sounds like they really value what I do and feel there’s a real career path in it. Not a lot of places I’ve spoken to feel that way, so this is really exciting!

    But I’m going crazy because while the hiring manager definitely wants to bring me in to meet the team, the confirmation e-mail is taking forever. I’ll feel so much better when it’s definitely on the schedule.

  21. Ruby Tuesday

    This is more about getting a discussion rolling than anything else. I read quite a few blogs (it’s part of my daily ritual during my commute) and I recently ran into one about “Cover Letters vs. Pain Letters”. I had sent it to Alison as…what do you think? But I’d love to hear what other people thing as well. Everything I read on this blog goes against the grain of what I know (and what I’ve read here) but I can’t deny that it did cause me to think a little.

    1. Dawn

      If you’re talking about the advice from Liz Ryan, keep in mind she’s extremely motivated to get people to start using Pain Letters because she’s selling advice to get people to use Pain Letters. She’s monetarily invested in people using them, so of course she’s going to say they’re better.

      That being said, really it’s just a new, short and sweet to the point way to write/format a cover letter.

      1. Allison

        Yes, she seems like someone who uses her blog as a way to sound like an expert so people will want to hire her as a consultant.

      2. themmases

        I kind of liked Liz Ryan for a bit– I can always use a reminder to relax and not sound like a robot when writing for something I really want. But the pain letter advice made me really start to question why I was listening to her about anything.

        The best I could say about them is that maybe they are totally appropriate in some other industry that just definitely isn’t mine.

    2. SL #2

      Liz Ryan and her Pain Letters… I started reading her stuff around the same time I started AAM. I much prefer Alison’s advice! I see no difference between Pain Letters and cold-calling a business to see if they’re hiring.

    3. Dr. Doll

      Just had to google “pain letter.” If I got one of those directly in my email or at my desk I would mentally tick the candidate as “high maintenance” and tell them thank you for your interest, according to university policy you must apply via HR. And I’d only be allowed to look at the materials submitted at that point, which if it included the pain letter would just remind me that they were high maintenance.

      (Not for faculty; the process is different.)

      1. Anonymous Educator

        I Googled it and read a short snippet from Liz Ryan, and I don’t really see how it’s different from a cover letter. So you just send it directly to the hiring manager instead of jobs@company.com or something?

        1. Dr. Doll

          It’s like a cover letter but you focus on how you address “pain.” Like…hm, uh, oh: If I had an opening for a lab tech: “My organizational skills will solve the pain caused by messy grad students and unsafe lab procedures.”

          1. Anonymous Educator

            So it’s a cover letter with a particular focus? I don’t see why that deserves its own name. I mean, isn’t the whole point of hiring someone that she’ll do her job and improve the organization / troubleshoot if necessary?

    4. F.

      I’ve gotten a few of those, but I never knew they were a *thing*. (I had to Google it, too.) I can tell you that I found every one of them to be phony sounding and smarmy as all heck, and they all were put in the “No Way in Hell” file. As an HR Manager, I can also add that even if you go to the possible hiring manager at my small company, ALL resumes and applications have to go through me anyway, so you’re not doing yourself any favors and you’re pestering someone who doesn’t want to be bothered (that’s part of the reason why they pay HR!). Please stick to being professional. Please. (YMMV, of course)

    5. Voluptuousfire

      You never actually see any comments on her articles on LinkedIn where people used her advice and say it worked.

      1. Nanc

        She just posted another fun one on LinkedIn called The Real Reason Qualified People Don’t Get Hired.

        A few pearls of wisdom:
        Ignore the job ad and reach out to the person who heads up your function at any employer you choose. That person is your hiring manager.
        There is no need to confine your outreach to managers who have current job ads posted. Every manager has Business Pain.

        I feel awful for the folks who follow this advice–it’s so bad. There are problems with recruiting systems but honestly, ignoring the process completely probably wont’ result in a job and if it does, do you really want to work for that person?

        1. esra

          Her pieces always appear promoted on LinkedIn and they’re just the worst. It’s like they were written by an alien who can’t quite figure out how hu-mans work.

    6. nep

      Crazy timing. I only just learned about this concept of a ‘pain letter’ yesterday, then I poked around in AAM’s archives to see whether there had been discussions about Liz Ryan and her advice. As I came across this today I had to check the date to be sure I wasn’t somehow in the archives again.
      I am not a manager or hiring manager but I can say that a letter with this tone / approach would go straight into the Hell. No. basket.

  22. Katie the Fed

    Question for everyone:

    Do you think a manager who requests a doctor’s note for an absence is indicating he/she doesn’t trust you?

    I was asked for one for the first time in my entire career. Now granted, I’ve been out a lot this year with some serious medical issues. I didn’t invoke FMLA because it wasn’t an issue to take leave, but a new manager just asked me for a doctor’s note after I was out three days last week.

    I was kind of shocked – I’ve never asked any of my people for doctor’s notes. I generally trust them.

    1. Anie

      I could see it if the absences start to become somewhat regular.

      At my work, if you’re out you’re out. BUT I have seen the COO ask a sales person for a doctor’s note after a third day out. The office manager immediately told the sales woman privately not to bother and to continue resting (which I agree with), but enough in a row for a vital position and I’d ask for a note if only to make sure the person is taking their absences seriously.

      Do they know why you’ve been out? If that’s the case, that explanation should’ve been enough in my eyes.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Yes, they know. I’m very open about it. I mean, I was in a wheelchair for a while – it’s not hidden. And I’ve burned all my sick leave so it’s not like I’m just taking leave because I don’t feel like coming in.

        Maybe it’s just this manager’s quirk, but it feels really personal.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Is it worth asking them about it? Like, “I’ve never been asked for a doctor’s note in my working life, nor asked an employee for one, and I’m wondering if this signals any concern that you have about my use of leave?”

          1. Katie the Fed

            I did actually. And my boss just said “oh no, after three days we’re supposed to request them and it’s just to make sure everyone’s covered in case there are questions.”

            Which struck me as vague and strange, because we CAN ask for doctor’s notes after three days, but you don’t have to.

            Then today he said he was surprised to see me at work and thought I’d be out. So…I have no idea. I also recognize I might not be thinking about this rationally because I’m a lot of pain and on a lot of medications, so…. yeah.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              If you have a chronic thing where it’s going to be a pain to keep getting doctor’s notes, I think it would be worth pointing that out and also pointing out that your understanding is that the notes aren’t required but rather are optional to request (and that you’ve never had to provide one previously).

              1. Katie the Fed

                Good idea. I might also request FMLA protection just in case, but I didn’t want to invoke that in case I get pregnant.

                At the end of the day I’m glad to work somewhere that I have lots of leave and legal protections, but I didn’t need to deal with this this week :/

                1. Anonsie

                  I would highly recommend that you set up the FMLA for your protections now even if you don’t think you need it, because if you need time away regularly you need that wrapped up before anyone has a problem with it. You won’t know you need the safety net until you’re about to hit the ground.

            2. Angela

              Hmm..If it’s a new manager and there is a policy somewhere that states something about a note after 3 days then perhaps they are just more of a stickler for the rules. I know that my incredibly awesome manager is very much a rule follower and had me bring in documentation to give to HR when I took a bereavement day and HR didn’t even want it. Said that the company “could request” but didn’t have to have it on file for the pay to go through.

            3. EmilyG

              Do you think this could be a confusion about CAN vs. MUST on someone’s part? Like everyone thinks it’s CAN except for some new HR person who’s telling your boss they MUST extract one from you?

              I’m anti-doctor’s note but got called out on the carpet on my previous job because I let someone come back without one. (He just had the flu!) I thought it was weird, but the explanation seemed to be 50% “we have to do this to CYA about treating all employees equally” (and there were some employees who they really did want notes from) and 50% that this was actually the first time I’d had an employee out for that exact number of consecutive business days–all previous illnesses were broken over a weekend or something, so I thought it was a new request but actually a unique set of circumstances.

              (It was still dumb.)

              1. Katie the Fed

                “Do you think this could be a confusion about CAN vs. MUST on someone’s part? Like everyone thinks it’s CAN except for some new HR person who’s telling your boss they MUST extract one from you?”

                I suspect this could be the case. But sometimes I overpersonalize things :)

              2. Katie the Fed

                OK, so I just raised it again and it’s this. He thinks he’s supposed to. I think he’s wrong, but whatever. He seemed genuinely surprised that I came in today, so I don’t get the sense it’s that he thinks I’m faking.

                1. Bagworm

                  I know I’m late to the conversation on this but just wondered if it might also have to do with other people in the organization. I work for local government and the whole agency I’m at is now having to enforce the “optional” disciplinary action for staff who take over a certain number of hours of sick leave a year because some people facing discipline for multiple issues including exceeding those number of hours are claiming the policy’s not consistently enforced. Very frustrating for me because I’ve been dealing with a few different health issues this year. Wasn’t a problem when I took leave but now it is and I don’t even have an FMLA option because they won’t approve it retroactively. (Ok, that turned into a big whine about my stuff. Hopefully most people have already moved on so I can be excused.)

                2. Katie the Fed

                  Bagworm, are you sure they won’t apply it retroactively? Because that’s the precise reason I didn’t – I didn’t want the 6 weeks I had to take off earlier this year to count against it.

            4. animaniactoo

              I think the key here is “new manager” – i.e. *He* thinks this is what he is supposed to be doing, given that is what he has said to you. You, as a longer employee of the company are aware of this as a “can” (and usually “don’t bother”) vs a “should”.

              I would tend to think that whoever trained him on protocols said “should”, or that this was the standard in his previous company and he’s carrying it through to here even though he was given “can” here.

            5. F.

              We have a similar optional three-day policy, but the only time we require a note is if the person has been injured or had surgery. We want to be sure the person is able to safely return to work. We are a small company and not covered by FMLA, either.

    2. Christy

      As a government employee, I’d be surprised and confused, but it would depend on the tone of the request. I know my boss trusts me, so it would be weird if he were serious about verifying.

    3. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

      Yes. I’d be shocked. More than anything it’s incredibly infantalizing and I’d be wondering if my manager/company cared about *me* at all.

    4. Cambridge Comma

      One possibility is that the culture of places people have worked before rubs off on them — if they had been asked often, they might see it as normal.

    5. Dawn

      Doctor’s notes are so infantilizing. Either I’m an adult and can handle my life just fine and if you have issues with my performance then talk to me about it like an adult, or you think I’m no more trustworthy than a college student and make me do the equivalent of going down to Student Health to explain why I’m daring to miss your incredibly important Intro to History 101 class because I can’t quit coughing up a lung because I have pneumonia.

      Also doctors haaaaaaaate wasting their time on that crap. Hate it.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Yes! It was actually pretty easy because I asked if I could email the e-receipt from my co-pay, and that was fine. But it does feel SUPER infantalizing. I don’t want to burn leave. I want to have a baby in the next couple of years – I was trying to hoard every last hour. Besides, it’s not like I don’t work extra hours and weekends normally.

        1. Elizabeth West

          In this case, the manager may just be trying to make sure he covers all bases, since he’s new.

          I agree, though; doctor’s notes are stupid, unless you need clearance to return for safety reasons (i.e. “Katie can perform all her duties [climb the 20-foot kitten rescue ladder]; she is no longer at risk of syncope”).

      2. Tau

        High school student, even. I never had to produce any doctor’s notes if I missed a lecture at university. (Which was lucky, because I had a lot of absences due to disability-related issues where going to a GP would have been completely pointless.)

      3. Hlyssande

        Ugh the college student thing. I had to get a doctor to browbeat the school nurses to let me withdraw from a class because I had honest to jeebs influenza. The nurses refused at first because they wouldn’t let me withdraw ‘over a cough’ which was how it first presented. Nevermind that I literally could not focus my eyes to read.

        I can understand how doctor’s notes could be useful in some ways, but as a general rule I totally agree that they’re infantilizing and place an unnecessary burden on both workers and doctors who have to waste time (and patients who might catch what the worker has!).

    6. Kyrielle

      I’ve always worked somewhere that required a doctor’s note after three or more days out, so I never found it to show a lack of trust from the manager; it was just policy. I’m not sure if the policy is founded on “you might be shamming” or “we need to make sure you should be working” – but either way I don’t like it.

      But I wonder – did the new manager come recently from somewhere that had that policy, and is just continuing what they know? (Or is it a policy where you are, but one that’s sort of optional, and the new manager is just sticking to the policy as written?)

    7. Nm

      We don’t ask for them – but technically, it is in the handbook that you need a note for an absence of three days or more. Your new manager may just be more by the book, or is used to that convention. I wouldn’t worry too much about it!

    8. squids

      Yeah, I’d be not cool with that. I’d see it less as they don’t trust me, as they don’t trust any of their reports; bit of a red flag for any issues coming up. Plus, that puts a huge burden on the medical system to provide this unnecessary service.

      1. Jules the First

        If I call in sick (as opposed to leaving sick) I have to fill in a form and get my manager and HR to sign it. Which is odd, because no one even wants to read the pitches I do for $30-40 million worth of business…

    9. Ad Astra

      I would absolutely take it to mean one of two things:
      1. This particular manager doesn’t trust you
      2. The company as a whole doesn’t trust its employees

      We all know there are tons of ways you can be legitimately too sick to work that don’t require the care of a doctor. Requiring a doctor’s note for a sick day encourages people to go to the doctor when they don’t really need to, which is a waste of everyone’s time and of the employee’s money. It’s a bad way to do things.

      BUT it is fairly common to require a doctor’s note after three or more sick days. Often, companies will phrase it as “We need a note saying you’re healthy enough to return to work” rather than “We need a note saying you were sick enough to miss work.”

      1. Granite

        “We need a note saying you’re healthy enough to return to work”

        This is ours. If you are out more than 3 days in a row they say you have to have a note saying you are good to return, but I don’t know whether it’s enforced. I got the impression it was more of a CYA that managers aren’t pressuring folks to come back too soon after surgery and the like.

        1. cuppa

          Yeah. We have a “manager may require you to give a note after three days policy”, and I usually request one. One reason is that I want to look like I treat everyone the same, but also I do think that, with rare exceptions, if you are sick for three days, you should probably see a doctor and make sure you’re ok and can return to work. It’s never been an issue to get one.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I think three days is too short–a bad cold or flu can knock you out for a week, and you don’t really need to go to the doctor for a cold. You might for flu if you have complications, but the majority of people just need rest. And they don’t like it at the clinic when you hack all over their waiting room.

            1. Katie the Fed

              I agree! I had swine flu and was out of commission for 8 days! Flu can be really serious. Although I actually did see a doctor, so…yeah.

              In any case, I maintain that it’s stupid.

            2. Anonsie

              This this this this this. Three days is way too short of a time to need to see a doctor, and the grand majority of the time it’s an infectious illness that your doctor doesn’t want in their office in the first place. Bad idea all the way around.

              There is nothing I want to do when I’m sick less than I want to bus/walk my butt all the way to my doctor’s office just to have them go “yep, that’s a sickness alright” because so many folks in management assume a couple days’ illness needs medical attention for some reason.

    10. Apollo Warbucks

      For me no it’s not a lack of trust, I can sign myself off for a week without a note, longer than that it’s a procedural formality that means a note is needed.

      Is there a policy where you work that says when a note is requiered?

    11. Dr. Doll

      We have an institutional policy that being out for 3 days triggers the need for documentation. No trust involved.

      1. Windchime

        But why a note then, if trust is not an issue? What purpose does the note serve, if not to prove that the employee has seen a doctor and the doc verifies that the employee was sick?

    12. F.

      Not necessarily applicable in your position, Katie the Fed, since I assume you work for the federal government in some capacity, but many municipalities are adopting mandatory paid sick leave policies. We have an office in one such city where the law is to take effect next year. This means we will need to keep more detailed records of why people are using Paid Time Off (sick leave, vacation and personal days rolled into one multi-purpose package). It is going to be a hug PITA. We got away from separate sick leave, etc. because we like to be able to treat our employees as adults. Besides, if someone is going to lie and say they are sick to get a day off, they’re going to lie under this new plan. I’m not sure how we are going to handle it exactly.

    13. OriginalEmma

      If the absences start become a regular occurrence AND if you’re not giving enough notice, yes. I’ve had to take an unprecedented number of single sick days for doctor’s visits (and I rarely took sick leave so I have years of the stuff) and fortunately have been able to schedule them out so that I’m not causing too much hardship. However, regularly telling your boss Friday that you have an appointment on Monday? That’s no bueno and I wouldn’t be surprised to be asked for a note.

      I have not yet been asked for a note re: my numerous appointments but I can totally understand my manager’s perspective if he did ask. I don’t believe I’ve taken more than 3 sick days in a row, which seems to be the threshold for requiring a doctor’s note.

    14. Not So NewReader

      Just throwing this out, FWIW. I worked at a non-profit. For various reasons, stemming from one event, I missed A LOT of time. It was a lot. I don’t think I have missed this much time TOTAL, from my working years previous to The Event.

      Check it out. Everyone knew the problem. They knew what was up and I STILL got called in the office. A verbal warning, I don’t get many verbal warnings so I was shook to the core. I have no doubt the drugs I was taking helped to exasperate my feelings and made everyone seem bigger and angrier. But I was still shaken.

      I took it one day at a time. I waited to see if their walk matched their talk. In my case, I had to make a stronger effort to not miss time. So, I did. The situation died down and went away. My suggestion is to get the doctor’s notes and see if that calms the situation down. It might be because some jerk five departments over is starting to whine about you. They want their ducks in a row because they are going to tell him to shove it. In order to do that they want to collect up notes- not to show him/her but to say, “We have been following that closely, we are satisfied with how KTF is handling things so we will not be discussing this.”

      My overall impression is that your work place likes you. I can tell you are a valuable employee. I would be shocked to find out there was anything of great concern involved here.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Thank you – this sounds very similar. It’s many things stemming from one incident. It’s just hard, and I don’t want to gripe too much but I just want to be well and not stressed about these things.

    15. DebbieDebbieDebbie

      Ahhh…the dreaded “doctor’s” note. No physician wants to write these is my practice group, so these requests often come to me–a nurse practitioner. None of the parties involved ever seem to know what the note should contain. The employee calls or visits asking for the note because the employer is requesting one from them. I’ll ask if the employer is wanting to know if the person is under medical care or asking if the employee is “cleared” to return to work. This is often met with a shrug. So I will write a rather bland note in the absence of any guidance from the employee. At least 25% of the time I will get a follow up call from a manager or HR to request additional information however if it is protected health information, I cannot provide that over the phone. And if it is clearance to return to work, I need information about what the person’s job duties entail. So then I need to phone the employee to either obtain their permission to write the more detailed note and at times get more info about their job. There are also a few selected businesses that are absolutely horrendous and request that I change the language in the note which is so bizarre to me. For instance, I have a patient with a chronic illness that has intermittent flares. His condition is chronic but an HR rep tried to argue with me that I needed to indicate that he only had the disease from March 2-4th. Um no. That was how long he was hospitalized for a flare up of his chronic, lifelong condition.
      Most people apologize when they ask me to complete an FMLA packet but truly, it takes me ten minutes and I have never, ever had a bounce back of FMLA paperwork so I am always happy to complete it. For my own patients, I ask at the time of discharge if they need a return to work note and we hash out the details before the person leaves so they don’t have to track me down later.
      Doctors notes for cold/flu/sprains/strains, etc are just simply beyond ridiculous but I think AAM has addressed this well.
      Katie this is probably just a misstep on the part of your manager but I would be irritated as well.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Whoa – asking you to change the details? THat’s insane! What is wrong with people? Have they heard of HIPAA? Basic ethics?

        They ended up being fine with a receipt for my co-pay, so that was fine. But I can’t help think that your kind of thing is a colossal waste of time and money. I wonder if you could charge the companies a fee for providing it?

        1. DebbieDebbieDebbie

          I think that’s why the docs turf it to me. I practice in a federal healthcare facility and none of my NP practice is billable. My physician colleagues could be using those 10-15-20 min blocks of time doing procedures that are reimbursable. In the “real world” of healthcare, there is no way I’d be able to see patients and bill enough to survive while dealing with that crap. I wonder if it gets pushed on nurses and office managers?
          Also, outside of physiatry/rehab medicine/PT/OT there is no training to medical providers regarding clearing a patient to return to work. I have had patients recover from a major heart attack and return to work in a week or two, others with more minor events years later are still pursuing permanent disability. Even after procedures that we do, some docs instruct their patients to not drive for 6 weeks, another doc lets the patient drive the next day. I have had zero success in trying to gain consensus amongst them.

          The hassle is hardly ever the patient’s fault, it’s usually some dumb policy or micromanager causing the kerfuffle but for sure the patient would be the one to suffer doubly to get in trouble at work while trying to recover from an illness. Really glad your situation got resolved and hope you are on the mend!

          1. LabMonkey

            My experience in Australia is that it’s very frequently the office manager signing notes, and as long as they were on letterhead with my dates of absence no one cared.

    16. calibrachoa

      Where I work, doctor’s notes are required to have paid sick days unless you have worked here for at least 2 years, and even then on day 3. And I know it is absolutely because they do not trust us, and I am not surprised at all. I work in a call center with contractor staff, most of whom are foreign and only here on short-term basis and treat this job with all the care and attention of a snot-nosed entitled suburban teenager who thinks they’re too good for flipping burgers. The lower down the food chain you get, the stricter this sort of a thing becomes.

    17. Tris Prior

      oh god, this JUST happened to Boyfriend. He got food poisoning and called in as he could not stray far from the bathroom. His work said that he would have to bring in a doctor’s note or take the day unpaid, as he’s already missed work for outpatient surgery and the required followups a few weeks ago. He still has sick days remaining, but I guess they expected him to bring his explosive diarrhea to the office? So he had to drag himself to urgent care and get the damn note. For food poisoning. Ridiculous. And we REALLY needed another medical bill after already struggling to pay for his surgery.

  23. Bye Scott

    I just started a new job recently. My boss keeps asking me if I have stuff to do. If I’m up from my desk I get the question, if I’m eating lunch i get the question, if I’m talking to coworkers I get the question…basically, any split second she doesn’t see me doing work. This makes me feel like crap because the assumption is that I’m slacking or that I’m not being assertive in asking for more work. Am I really suppose to be busy every second of the work day?

    1. Katie the Fed

      Well, it could be an innocuous question where he’s wondering if they’ve given you enough work since you’re new. But you can ask him why he’s asking you that.

    2. Ad Astra

      I would ask about it next time. Maybe something like “You know, Barry, you seem to ask me that a lot. Are you concerned about my workload?” In your place, I would be tempted to make the same assumptions, but it’s quite possible that the boss is just worried that you’re bored. A lot of people really don’t have enough work to do when they first start a new job.

      1. AnotherHRPro

        I agree. Start your relationship off with your new boss with open and honest communication. Ad Astra’s wording is perfect. As a manager, I have tried to make sure I’m keeping my new team members challenged and aren’t bored as I know when transitioning jobs you can get periods of time without much to do.

    3. CMT

      First of all, can you eat your lunch somewhere else? When you do have enough work to do, but you’re just taking a quick break or whatever, I’d recommend a cheerful “Yup! Just headed to the restroom” or “Yes, thanks for asking! I’m on my lunch break now”.

    4. Not So NewReader

      Is she a new boss? She might genuinely not know if you have enough work. And if she is trying to learn her job, she could be overwhelmed trying to figure out what you are doing, also.

      Is she a worrier? Does she constantly point out the same concerns over and over? “make sure when you do x that you remember to do step 3 and 5.” It could be more of the worrying thing.

      It could be that she does not want to interrupt your work to ask you if you have enough work. (That would look kind of silly. ) So she is looking for any cues she can find that would indicate you might be running low and it would be okay to start a conversation.

      This may or may not fit your setting: With my boss, I thought about the work flow. It’s just the two of us and we pass files back and forth. I brought a tray in and declared it my work tray. She puts all my work in my tray. That worked well 92% of the time. She knew I had work. To cover the remaining percent, I got a communication book. She writes down what she wants me to do. I don’t mind her leaving it “in my way”, so the book might be on my keyboard or on my chair when I come in first thing. When I see it there, I know that is my priority when I start up.

      I recommend looking at how you answer her each time she asks. Give her a strong answer such as:
      Yes, Boss, I have completed A and I am currently working on B, but I had a question so I am asking Sue. [You show resourcefulness.]
      Yes, Boss, I have plenty of work, I still have C and D which should carry me through until it’s time to go home. [You show that you have your work day planned out.]
      Yes, Boss, as soon as I am done eating I am going work on E, F and then G. Was there something in particular that you needed me to do before that? [You answer her question and then give her a question right back, to show you are thinking about her concerns.]

      I know it is tough, but try, try, not to personalize these questions. Assume this is what she asks every new employee. (Until you find out for absolute certain this is NOT the case.) Let her have a chance to prove herself as a good boss, just like you want a chance to prove you are good employee.

  24. Anie

    I’ve got a question about meetings!

    When I first started at my current place of employment, my position had recently been added to a social media team. In the beginning, I had little to contribute and the meetings were basically a half hour of everyone staring at each other and saying, “You’re still posting on Twitter now and then, right? Yeah, me too.”

    Well, like most people in a new position, I was learning a lot and sometimes feeling a bit overwhelmed while meeting tight deadlines. On one occasion when all of my deadlines happened on the day of a meeting (nothing of which was a surprise, but I only worked part-time at the time and meeting any deadline was a tight fit), I emailed the meeting lead and said I wouldn’t be available. Nothing ever came of it. They held the meeting without me. Lasted maybe 20 minutes.

    Looking back, I wonder if skipping the meeting was the best idea. That looks bad to co-workers and could make me seem unreliable or as if I don’t value the meeting content. I know the lead of the social media team never liked working with me (she’s moved on now), but I have no idea if this contributed. I think if someone tried skipping a meeting now, I’d likely look askance at them. A half hour is rarely enough time to make or break a deadline.

    But then, at the time, the meetings were largely useless and only occurred to show upper management that someone was thinking about the topic. The new social media lead has made the meetings engaging and every single person has new ideas and comments.

    Thoughts? Is it okay to skip a meeting if it’s largely a waste of time? Or always go anyway just to look dedicated?

    1. TB

      I would never expect a part-timer to always show up for this kind of regularly-scheduled meeting, especially if I knew it was basically pointless anyway. But I’m not a manager.

      1. Jules the First

        There’s a difference between missing one meeting because you have conflicting deadlines and skipping the meeting in general. I’d say you should go, on the whole, but it’s fine to send you apologies occasionally when you’re really busy.

        1. TB

          Well, yeah, I don’t mean “blow it off since you work part-time.” I mean “you work part-time, so it’s even less likely that you’ll ALWAYS be available for that particular meeting, so it’s not a big deal to miss it sometimes.”

      1. Anie

        Bahahahahaha. I have no idea why, but it NEVER occurred to me to ask the manager herself if that would be okay.

        Good point. Thank you.

        1. Oryx

          I did the same thing at ExJob. There was a quarterly meeting that a team I was sort of connected with would have, and Dept Head would always copy me on the emails announcing it but he never said anything about my not going. Then Dept Head became my manager and announced a meeting and I seriously was asking co-workers, like, “should I go” for days before, duh, I should just ask him if he wants me there.

    2. Katie the Fed

      You should tell your manager. I am a destroyer of useless standing meetings, and if they’ve outlived their value, it’s time to kill them.

    3. AnotherHRPro

      In addition to asking your manager, consider following up with the meeting lead to see if you missed anything important.

  25. Kiki

    How to deal with someone who uses buzzphrases to avoid things. As in “I feel threatened”, “I’m offended by”, or even “I have an action plan to” (when presented with things that need improvement). Years have gone by and nothing’s changed. Though there are some new buzzphrases. As a real life example of this…think Johnny Manziel. He seems to know what words and phrases to use to get people off his back.

    No response needed here, I just needed to vent a second. I feel much better now. Thanks for listening. :)

    1. Artemesia

      ‘We need to focus here on the need to get the quality of teapot handles on track. I expect you to have a .05% error rate or less by the end of next month. How can we support you in achieving that goal.’ Ignore the BS or ‘validate it’ and then move on to the specifics. How about ‘I can see how failure to achieve job goals leaves you feeling threatened since of course, it does threaten your continued employment if you cannot do the job.’ (probably too frank LOL)

    2. Katie the Fed

      “I understand this is a difficult conversation, but I would be doing both of us a disservice if I didn’t tell you what needs to be done.”

      Then try to make sure you’re focusing the conversation on the work, and not the person. It’s a lot easier for people to receive feedback when it feels like it’s not about them as a person, but about what they produce. I mean, you can tell me the paper I wrote needs work. But tell me I’m a bad writer and I’m going to mentally flip out at you.

      1. Elizabeth West

        People still flip out–that’s one reason I don’t want t be a manager, and I don’t critique manuscripts unless I know the person and know they can handle feedback.

        1. Katie the Fed

          Honestly, the longer I’m a manager the better I am with having straightforward conversations. It’s really a skill that takes practice, and I think as a woman I’ve been especially conditioned to not offend people. But I’m getting much more comfortable with it. I think the most important thing for me is to not wait until the problem has become A Big Deal. I just offer a little correction along the way and it never feels like someone is a failure then. But some people just really can’t handle it. I’m not great at taking criticism either. Ah well.

      2. Kiki

        It’s not so much flipping out as it is simply seeking a way to avoid the whole conversation. More or less a “whatever dude, I’ll say anything you need to hear together you off my case”.

  26. Jennifer

    Help!

    I desperately need out of my public service job. I originally got hired to work on a teapot program, which got discontinued and then I got transferred into where I am today. Now they are starting up a new teapot program and asked me to work on it part time, which I am happy about. (They will not under any circumstances transfer me out of public service, though, this is in addition to my other 25 jobs.) They are, however, hiring two people to work on the program permanently. It looks like only the two new people, me, and the other former teapot program guy are going to actually DO work on the program, for the record, everyone else on the “new team” is apparently too high and mighty or busy or whatever to be doing it beyond the initial training sessions.

    On the one hand: I NEED OUT OF THIS JOB, I have *very* few opportunities to apply for anything I actually qualify for and am getting nowhere applying for things outside of my area of expertise, and I really do want to work on this full time. I’ve been so happy this week being in literally all day long meetings over this because it’s more of what I want to do and none of what I hate doing.
    On the other hand: (a) my name is generally kinda mud here thanks to public service and the interview committee already know me so I’m probably not a new shiny by any means, (b) I’ve applied for two in-house positions before and someone else in house got hired over me and it really really sucks to have that happen and I felt like shit for months afterwards and swore I’d never do it again (except well, I have to, see “very few opportunities”), (c) new positions are waaaaay above my clerical worker pay grade so that’s unlikely, (d) it’s incredibly not to their advantage to hire me for the job because then they’ll only have three people working on the new program instead of four AND they’ll have one less person for public service, which is already short staffed on a good day as is. I really want the job, but why the hell would they hire me? I can’t see why they would.

    I think I’m going to regret it if I don’t apply, but I think I am REALLY going to regret it if I apply, don’t get it, feel like a damn FOOL for not being qualified enough to do something I worked on for a decade, and then have to work VERY CLOSELY with the entire interview committee and the people who get the job, feeling like shit the whole time knowing they all think I’m not good enough.

    What do y’all think I should do? Apply? Not apply? Sit myself down with the program manager and privately ask what my odds are of applying and if I should privately know better than to waste my time?

    1. A

      Apply. You’ll never know if you don’t try and, in the event they go with someone else, there are plenty of reasons they might select another candidate that have nothing to do with you. If you really find you can’t maintain a healthy relationship in that case, maybe it’s time to look somewhere else. It looks like you’re approaching that point, anyway.

    2. Argh!

      Go for it, and if you don’t get the job, remember lots of people hate their jobs. I bet no coal miner thinks he’s died & gone to heaven every day he goes to work.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, I agree. I think it would be good to protect yourself from more burnout. Have that conversation and if the answer is no, then find out what it would take to turn that answer to a yes. Sometimes when the chips are down, the biggest downer is not advocating for our own selves- that almost as bad as hearing NO. Take a step back and try to figure out what new ways you can advocate for yourself that you have not done in the past.

  27. A

    I have a supervisor who is retiring in February. I’d like to ask her for a reference because I think she can give the strongest one out of everyone I currently work with but (a) I’m not sure it’s the best idea to reveal that I’m job-searching and (b) she’s not retiring until February. That said, I am currently job searching for something that better fits my interests and will position me better for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program when I finish my master’s in May. I think I’ve made it fairly clear from the start that I plan to move on by the time I graduate (and I’ve been here just over a year), but I’m continuing to hesitate on asking her. When I do ask, I’m planning to also request she not mention it to anyone else. I’m a contractor, too, which complicates things somewhat. For the types of jobs I’m applying for, this person would be a great reference — my other references aren’t in the industry, so I really want to add her but…

    I’ve heard suggestions that I shouldn’t ask until I’m far enough into an interview process where it’s possible references will be called, but so many applications require references right off the bat. Thoughts? When should I ask relative to her retirement? Should I not ask at all? I’d like to have her as a reference for the future, anyway, and once she’s gone, I’m not sure I’ll be able to get in touch to ask.

    Happy Friday!

    1. fposte

      For me, here’s the math. Reference retiring + you getting ready to complete your masters = ask as she comes close to departure and request confidentiality.

      You’re already on the radar as likely to go, and you want to talk to her before she’s hard to contact, so I think you’re better off securing her agreement now then risking not getting it later.

    2. Jennifer

      I’ve asked people for references before they leave, it’s fine. I think she’ll understand if you’re a contractor and graduating, especially.

    1. Exhasperated

      Having this now – I tend to make a list of what needs to happen and create a water tight handover
      Also, countdown apps on your phone – gives you timings for how long you have left; both to get things done and getting closer to that light at the end of the tunnel :)

    2. Apollo Warbucks

      Would it help to focus on leaving a solid last impression what you don’t want is for people to associate unfinished poor quality or rushed work when they remember you.

        1. A Bug!

          Agreed! When you’re having trouble keeping motivated, put yourself in the position of the person who’s going to be finishing this work when it’s not yours anymore. Remember, if that person is a co-worker who’ll be minding that work (permanently or temporary), that work is likely going to be in addition to their current workload. If that person is a new hire, then that person is going to be struggling to get up to speed.

          As someone who’s been on the receiving end of this equation, I can tell you that it is less frustrating to inherit unfinished work than it is to inherit badly-documented or badly-done work. I don’t care if I have to finish up a few things that could have been done by you. I do care if I have to do a bottom-up review of a file to figure out its status and what needs to be done. I do care if I have to spend time fixing work you didn’t do properly and apologizing to others for your mistakes. (And if I have to do those second two things, then I’ve changed my mind about not caring about the first thing, too.)

          If my predecessor in that situation had spent her last two days writing brief summaries of the status of each of her files, with important background info, to-do’s, and waiting-on’s, it would have saved me weeks of work. A global summary with the most pressing tasks across all files would have also been strongly appreciated. So that’s something for you to consider if it’s applicable at all to the work you do. Earn some brownie points!

    3. Oryx

      Focus on making sure all your ducks are in a row before you leave and, more important, for your replacement.

      Assuming your job doesn’t already have these, I’ve been known to make master copies of important, create training manual, clean and organize desk space and files, create a list of important contacts, etc.

  28. Jerzy

    Just needed to share with everyone that today my boss brought his gfs dog into the office, and it quickly shat on the carpet in the empty cube next to mine.

    I love dogs, but right here is a very good argument against allowing pets in the office.

    At least my boss promptly cleaned it up himself, and isn’t the kind of jerk to make one of his underlings do that for him.

          1. Jerzy

            Yeah, it’s girlfriend, though I do like the idea of “German Effin’ Shepherd,” though, unfortunately the dog is so small my 2 year old son would probably call it a cat.

            1. hermit crab

              For tiny dogs like that, my dad would always say “That’s not a dog, that’s a decoration!”

    1. Robin

      In my last job, my boss got a new, adorable labradoodle puppy. Really, the cutest thing, hands down. The uncute parts were the crapping on the carpet and the biting staff members. Mind you, we were a nonprofit with children in the building every day and a 40 hour volunteer training that emphasized YOU CANNOT BRING YOUR PET HERE EVER. But, you know, rules are for peons. I really wished some kid or parent would have been allergic and complained, but then, they would only be complaining to the dog owner since she was the director of the agency.

  29. PX

    Aah, late. 2 questions:
    1. Anyone have some good phrases to ask about growth opportunities/increasing level of responsibility in a job interview? I have one coming up where the position seems great, but I worry about getting stuck in the same rut I am now where after about a year, I’ve learned the ropes and want to do more, but the position is very much geared towards ‘Just keep doing what you do. You’re good at it and we want to keep you doing the same thing over and over and over again…’

    2. What level of support/feedback/input do you expect from your manager with regard to setting goals/priorities/your general workscope? My current manager is extremely hands off and I think my expectations of what to expect are just skewed now….What should ‘normal’ look like? (For context, things like year planning, performance evaluation etc are just fantasies to me. I dont even have a formal job description really…)

    1. CrazyCatLady

      1. I would probably ask what the typical career path is for this role – or ask why recent people have left. If they’ve been promoted, that would be a good sign. If they left for better opportunities, maybe not as good of a sign for your growth within the company.

      2. I wish all of my past managers would be better at setting goals. I have no feedback on that ever. It’s a good thing I’m extremely self-motivated and driven by results, so I’m able to set goals for myself and measure my progress, but I can see a person floundering in companies that don’t set expectations or goals. I don’t know what normal should look like because I’ve never experienced it!

  30. Tiffany

    How do you figure out what kind of job you want to be doing?

    I’ve managed to gain a lot of different skill sets, knowledge areas, and interests. Even my degree is more of a jack-of-all-trades type (Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences with professional development concentrations in Nonprofit Management, Volunteer Management, and Accounting). When I first got laid-off and started job searching, I thought that’d be a good thing, because it’d give me a lot of places to look. Turns out, that’s not necessarily the case.

    For example, I mostly studied nonprofit management and had an amazing internship doing volunteer management, program coordination, research, etc. However, throughout my college years (there were a lot), I consistently worked in customer service tech support (call-center based). That experience led me to applying for a customer support lead position at a growing startup (I would have led the brand new customer support department), where I made it to the final round of over 200 applicants. I was really excited about that role. Even though it wasn’t non-profit, I could see how it would be a good position with the potential to gain a lot of experience in areas that would translate well to the non-profit work I want to do.

    So now I’m looking at rolls like that, in addition to volunteer management, program coordinator, etc type roles at non-profit, and even a couple civic engagement Coordinator type roles in schools distrcits. With all this, I may not ever be an exact match with the wish list of requirements, but I feel strongly enough in my ability to do the role that I think it’s worth applying. I’m getting interviews, and even making it to later stages often enough that I don’t think I’m off base in my self-assessment.

    However, maybe I need to be a bit more targeted in my efforts? I’m 3+ months into my search, which I know isn’t long, but I just graduated in May and had a great job lined up right away, only to get laid off at 3 months. Unemployment will run out next month and I’ve got to find something soon or I’m going to end up working at Kroger or something, which I really don’t want to do.

    1. ali

      Probably not helpful to you, but I’ve got a Master’s in Nonprofit Management, and I work for a big for-profit company (I’m sure you’ve heard of us) that supports Nonprofits. I have found that working for a for profit, I get the job security and salary I need, while still being able to feel good about what I do. I’ve got my hand in probably 100 different organizations at any given time and I love it. I don’t know what city you’re in, but we have offices all over the world. My name is linked to my email address if you want to know more about what opportunities we might have.

      Additionally, I volunteer on boards for organizations I’m passionate about – that has led me to both narrow my focus in what I want to do and put career opportunities in organizations I care about in front of me.

        1. Tiffany

          Got it :). I’m in DFW, but not really close enough to Dallas that I’d want to make the commute every day. It’s about 30 miles or so of ridiculous traffic and construction.

      1. Tiffany

        This is something I’ve considered and why I’ve applied to multiple positions that are for-profit, but heavily involved with non-profits and community involvement. I’m very involved with my local United Way, so I’ve also been checking job boards of companies they work closely with, since I know community involvement is something they care about.

        I’m not even opposed to for-profit work that isn’t involved with non-profit. I really enjoy serving on the committee’s I serve on, am looking for a board to join, and am involved with a couple local events. So, as long as I still get to do that, I don’t particularly care what my job is (to an extent. I want to enjoy the work I do of course and be gaining skills/knowledge).

        Mostly, I’m just feeling really indecisive. Even though I just graduated in May, I’m almost 28 and feel like I should probably have a handle on my life by now. I really have no idea what I want to do though. My major goals change every 6 months or so.

    2. Anonymous Educator

      How do you figure out what kind of job you want to be doing?

      I don’t know if this will help directly your situation, but I mainly figured it out through trial and error. I had one career path I wanted to do since elementary school. I went to college for it, went to grad school for it, did it for a few years, then quit…. then I had no idea what I wanted to do. So I just found whatever job would hire me. I learned random stuff there. Then I decided what I did was less important than where I did the job, so I found a school I loved and believed in and was a receptionist there for a while (my goal in life was not to be a receptionist, but I loved the school, and the work was thus fulfilling for a while). Then I managed to work my way into technology, and that’s where I’ve found myself happy.

      Again, not sure if that helps, but just in case it does…

      1. Tiffany

        It does. I guess I’m in the ‘find whatever job will hire me’ phase. I’m sure I just need to be more patient, but unemployment is horribly lame. I stay somewhat busy with volunteer stuff, but I also see the inside of my house way more than I care to.

        1. Windchime

          It’s really hard to tell, in the early phases of one’s career, whether or not you are on the right track. After I had my kids, I went back to school (“business college”) and learned some computer skills. I got hired into the Data Processing department of a clinic, and did mostly data entry and some work on accounts. I also got loaned out to the purchasing department where one of my tasks, strangely enough, was folding towels as they came out of the dryer (not sure whose towels they were or where they went after I folded them). I wanted to do computer work! That’s what I was hired for! But I had to do the stupid purchasing job for awhile anyway. I’m glad I didn’t quite, though, because the data processing job led to a job in the business office, and then some side work for IT, and finally an IT job that I love.

          It was a strange, meandering route that got me here, for sure. It was funny that I stopped being a SAHM to go back to work, and ended up still folding towels as they came out of the dryer during the day.

  31. Faith

    So, I have a job interview next week for a manager position. It’s an all-day kind of deal, and I will be talking to multiple people. One of the people interviewing me is an associate that would be reporting to the manager they are trying to hire. I have never been interviewed by someone in a subordinate role. And in the past, whenever my company was hiring a manager/director/supervisor, they would have the team take the candidate out to lunch so we would get a feel for them, but it wasn’t a formal interview. So, my question is, how do I make a good impression on someone who is evaluating me as their potential boss?

    1. A

      I had to do this as a Resident Assistant way-back-when — that is, interview potential supervisors. The things that made the biggest impressions on me were:

      – The candidate made a point to treat their potential subordinates as they treated their potential supervisors in the interview: with respect.
      – The candidate made it clear they valued our opinion and the time we’d already spent at the organization. They didn’t pretend to know more just because they had experience at other schools.
      – They asked us questions that we would have special insight to, such as the culture of the school.
      – The candidate made it clear they were excited about the position.
      – The candidate made it clear that they would listen to our concerns, etc. if hired.

      1. Jules the First

        I’ve asked future subordinates about what they look for in a manager, and what, in their eyes as a team member, makes someone successful in this manager role. In one case, at least, the answers uncovered that I did not want to manage this person, so I withdrew from consideration.

    2. Not So NewReader

      I think that a good chunk of management is service. The manager serves the subordinates by making sure they know the work requirements and what the company expects from them. From that perspective I’d want to ask questions about what a good manager would do to help her and her coworkers to succeed at their jobs. Maybe ask her to talk about something a previous manager has done that improved workflows, work areas, etc.
      It’s really a great opportunity to find out what the people feel is important to them to do their work.

  32. Rebecca

    I am trying to get a handle on what rates of turnover are normal in an average office-based job setting, versus when I should worry that something is wrong. Our ~40-person team has had a lot of turnover recently. How do we gauge what’s acceptable in terms of how long people stay and how many people leave in a given year?

    Clearly if someone leaves in less than a year after hire, something went wrong. But if someone leaves after two years, is that worrisome? Or is two years a fairly normal stint for someone to be at a job? I think younger staff get the itch to try new jobs and new companies, and really *shouldn’t* stay in the same position for more than 2 years. With managers or higher-level staff it’s a bit different. Should we expect them to stay for the entire span of a 5-year project, for example?

    1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

      I think it’s very industry dependent. The average fundraising tenure is about 18 months so I start getting itchy after about a year, and have stayed at all my last jobs for 18 months to two years. But I will says I was alarmed when we had about 5 people (not fundraisers) leave over the summer.

    2. ExceptionToTheRule

      Some of it is that in some industries, the job market is starting to open up, so you can see what seems like extreme turnover because there are jobs available to allow for movement.

      1. Jules the First

        When I’m evaluating tenders, I’m usually looking for turnover of between 10 and 15% per year. There might be good reasons why you’d have more than that (for example, you hire a lot of foreigners, you hire a lot of people who go on to higher education), but I’d want to see that reasoning and I’d want to know that your senior team turnover was a lot lower.

    3. Anonymous Educator

      Two years for an individual can be fine. If, however, you have 5-10 people every year all leaving after two years, that might be cause for concern. I’d also worry if there are mass exoduses. The few toxic work environments I’ve been in have led to mass exoduses (regardless of tenure). In one case, it was an office of 13 people, and 10 left within one year (some had been there 5+ years).

      Turnover rates really can vary a lot, though, depending on industry and office type. I used to work in admissions, and admissions tends to have a fairly high turnover rate compared to other offices.

    4. cuppa

      It depends.
      Turnover happens for both good reasons and bad in my environment. Some positions have good opportunities for advancement, and therefore good people get promoted or otherwise get better opportunities. Some of our jobs are just naturally built for turnover. It’s not that it’s a bad job, per se, but more that it’s a jumping off/foot in the door kind of position. Once you get the experience, you can move on to bigger and better things both internally and externally. Or, some positions or managers just suck and you see a lot of turnover. Sometimes you have to look at a bigger picture to tell for sure.

  33. Allison

    (posted this on Coporette yesterday, but had to post here because, seriously, who does this?)

    Yesterday I was microwaving my lunch, and someone came into the kitchen holding a container of food, walked right in front of me, stopped the microwave, opened the door, and reached for my food when I said “hey!” and she said “oh sorry, didn’t see you!”

    Apparently, stopping the microwave early to take someone else’s food out and put yours in is a thing that some (super rude) people do at work, especially if they think the person isn’t there or isn’t looking. Maybe she figured I would come back, see it out, and assume it was taken out after it was done.

    1. Laurel Gray

      This is so ridiculous that I probably would have said something along the lines of “you couldn’t wait the additional minute and a half?” or “please be patient and refrain from handling people’s lunch, it’s rude and gross”. I’ve always found that whenever people like this are confronted directly about their poor manners they are usually so embarrassed they won’t do it again.

      1. Allison

        actually, I felt like my reaction was rude. it would have been better to say “excuse me, I was using that microwave to heat my lunch, could you wait for me to finish? I only need another 50 seconds or so and then it’s all yours!”

        my manager was right there and I worried I might get in trouble for being rude to a colleague.

        I did call someone out on rude behavior, once. A man cut me in line at Whole Foods, and at first I politely informed him I was in line before he got there, but things escalated and it got really ugly. Maybe it’s a Boston thing, but in my experience people tend to get angry and defensive when called out.

        1. fposte

          I don’t think “Hey” is rude. It’s kind of an involuntary noise, really. “WTF?” would also have been appropriate.

          If your boss was annoyed with you for your response to this, that’s a real problem with your boss. Does she tend to police interaction that closely?

          (And does that mean that this person attempted the microwave switch in front of your boss, too?)

          1. Allison

            She didn’t seem bothered by it, but since I was fired from my first job due to an attitude problem I’m very careful about what I say to people at work and always worry that a comment I make in the office is going to get me in trouble.

            1. NotherName

              If I were your boss, I’d be more concerned about the behavior of someone who was rudely messing with someone else’s lunch than your involuntary reaction to that rudeness. (“Hey!” seems a pretty innocuous reaction to an unpleasant surprised compared to what you could have said. I mean, it’s in a “Schoolhouse Rock.”)

              1. Elizabeth West

                Interjections!
                Show excitement!
                Or emotion!
                It’s generally set apart in a sentence by an exclamation point!
                Or by a comma, when the feeling’s not as strong.

                Sorry, but it popped into my head and I had to finish it. :)

        2. alter_ego

          It’s funny, I live in Boston, and the last time I got rude at someone was in a Whole Foods (she was rude first). Maybe it’s something about the intersection of Boston and Whole Foods

          1. Allison

            Was it the one in Brighton, and did she was standing there when you got in line, and did you accuse her of having a cow? Did you then start cussing at her and calling her a b!tch when she got snippy and didn’t believe you when you said you didn’t see her?

            Because if that was you, I am sorry I snapped. I was cranky but should have dropped it when you let me take my spot in line ahead of you.

            1. alter_ego

              haha, no, I was in Dedham, and I was walking past her when I lightly bumped a hanging plant she had hanging off the side of her cart. I said “oop, sorry”, and she SHOUTED “you know, you should really say something when you bump into someone”. But of course, I a. had said something, and b. had bumped a plant, not a person. So I just sort of snapped “I DID say sorry. And it’s just a plant” And then we got to awkwardly stand next to each other while we checked out for the next 5 minutes.

              1. Allison

                I don’t know if it was Whole Foods, or maybe the time of day. I’ve definitely encountered more rude people at WF than anywhere else, but I’ve also noticed that people at grocery stores during rush hour tend to be cranky, because they’re tired from work and probably stressed out from the commute, and having to run an errand during the commute. I’d rather save my shopping trips for Saturday or Sunday morning, or maybe an hour or so after the peak of rush hour.

                1. Anie

                  As someone who has worked every shift possible in a grocery store for the last 5 years, I can tell you that the best time to grocery shop is a Wednesday or Thursday (any time), or any morning before 9.

          2. Rebecca in Dallas

            Hahaha, one of my friends (who, yes, has a bit of a temper) got into a yelling argument with a guy in a Whole Foods parking lot. What is it about Whole Foods?!

    2. Audiophile

      Um wow. How nice of her. I’ve never done that in my life. But I’ve mainly worked in places where there was more than one microwave or there was a crowd of people waiting to use it in an orderly fashion.

    3. Ad Astra

      Didn’t see you? As if this would be a perfectly normal thing to do if you had walked away? Lady, unless the food inside appears to be on fire, don’t turn off the microwave.

    4. Sadsack

      So how awkward was it after that while waiting for your food to finish cooking? Did she attempt any small talk, or just go away? I am betting that’s not the first time she’s done that.

      1. Allison

        She went over to a table to sit with her coworkers, who all brought salads that didn’t need to be heated up. I went over and told her I was done and she was free to use it.

        1. Harriet Vane Wimsey

          This is a little off-topic, but my good work friend put a foil-wrapped taco or something in the microwave. It lit up like a firecracker! She had no idea that you can’t put metal in the microwave. And she is like 50 years old!!! I was astounded.

          1. OfficePrincess

            More off topic, but don’t put your work gloves in the microwave either. Or take the flaming gloves and throw them in the trash can. Our building almost had to be evacuated for that one.

            1. Elizabeth West

              Oh holy crap!

              At Exjob, people would heat up their food and it would splat all over and they’d just go off and leave the splats. Of course, when you reheat the splats over and over again, they don’t smell so nice.

              1. Winter is Coming

                We have a guy who’s very persnickety. He will actually TRACK DOWN the offender and make them clean out the microwave. “WHO HAD SPAGHETTI TODAY??” We are a relatively small office, so he always finds the culprit. Needless to say that microwave is usually pretty clean now.

              2. Hlyssande

                That’s why I always put a paper towel over the top of my container if I think it might go splat like that!

            2. Gene

              As much OT as that, don’t try to dry your wet socks in the microwave. An Engineering Tech came in on a rainy day and did that. 15 years ago; and he’s still “That guy who tried to dry his socks in the microwave.”

        2. University Girl

          At least she didn’t throw her food in after you caught her and tell you that yours could wait!

    5. Izzy

      On the other hand, there are people who put their food in the microwave, go off and leave it well after it finishes, and then freak out if someone removes it. There was once someone whose office was next to the break room, and she frequently did this and went back to her office.
      So one day I see a baked potato in the microwave, which was off. I waited five minutes by the clock. I asked everyone in the break room if it was theirs. Then I took it out to cook my food.
      By then it had been sitting ten minutes. While mine was cooking, the potato owner showed up, got really mad, said the potato wasn’t done (apparently it needed to be turned halfway through or something), and stood there impatiently waiting for me to vacate the microwave so she could finish. She also would frequently heat up multi-stage meals, heating each dish separately and turning/uncovering/checking each one. And going back to her office meanwhile, so she didn’t have to waste her lunch break cooking. She treated the break room like her personal kitchen. We only had one microwave because it was an old building, and the wiring wouldn’t support two on the same circuit.
      We never bothered someone’s food while it was cooking, but if it stopped and the owner wasn’t present, it was removed, especially at noon. Too many other people in line, with a half hour for lunch.
      The microwave hog left, guess she went to work for your company.

      1. Allison

        Oh I agree, microwave hogs are really annoying. And so we’re clear, I do neither of those things! I don’t leave the kitchen while my stuff is heating, nor do I try to make a meal during the peak of lunchtime. I throw chicken and rice in for 2 minutes and remove it promptly.

        I don’t understand how people can be that inconsiderate. Where did they learn that this stuff is okay? Did this woman come into the kitchen one say, see the microwaves in use, and hear someone tell her “just take it out, it’s probably done and they’re not even here” so she figured it was okay to do? Or did her parents just fail to teach her to be considerate of others?

      2. University Girl

        My office is in the middle between my coworker’s office and the conference room which houses our Keurig, fridge, and microwave. My coworker constantly puts her food in the microwave and walks back to her office to continue working. It wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t let the food sit and the microwave beep for ten minutes after it’s done. All I want is quiet!

        1. Allison

          Is it possible she has no idea the microwave keeps beeping when it’s done? You could probably tell her the noise bothers you.

          1. TB

            You could call or email her and tell her “your lunch is ready.” :-D

            There’s someone in my office who microwaves half a cup of coffee and then leaves it in there until it gets cold again. Or, come to think of it, stores their half-drunk coffee in the microwave and doesn’t heat it up.

      3. Rebecca in Dallas

        Yeah, if the microwave has gone off and you check with the people in the kitchen, it’s free to take out. If they get upset about it, they’re the weirdos.

      4. skyline

        Yup, if I find food in the microwave and no one in the vicinity, I take it out and heat my own stuff up. Especially since I’m usually heating things up at noon during the lunch time rush.

        On the other hand, I have something that takes a really long time (like the frozen soup I forgot to thaw the night before), I will usually offer to let people with shorter heating jobs interrupt me. I’m exempt, so it doesn’t matter if my lunch is delayed a few minutes. But my offering to do that is quite different from someone taking it upon themselves to interrupt me!

        1. skyline

          Er, I should clarify that I will remove other people’s food from the microwave if the time is done. I never interrupt active jobs!

    6. Rebecca in Dallas

      Yes, this is a thing! I’ve seen it happen twice at my current job. Both times the offender got called out on it. I can understand if the timer has gone off and the food is just sitting in the microwave (especially during peak lunch hours), but even then you check with the people in the break room first to give them a chance to get their food.

  34. squids

    I have a job interview soon, that includes a dinner with the people making the hiring decision.

    The dinner is the evening ~before~ the rest of the interview.

    Any thoughts on what to definitely talk about, or definitely not talk about? I’ve always seen the meal after as a time to be social and more relaxed once the hard part is over.

    1. Jules the First

      Try approaching it the same way – they’re looking to get to know you as a person before they evaluate whether you’ve got good qualifications.

      Steer clear of politics and anything hugely contriversial, but also have a few topics ready like local events (ideally vaguely related to what the company does) or things you know the panel are interested in.

      1. Artemesia

        Also think about the personal things you might talk about that support the image you want to project. Often these things focus on personal chit chat. So what interests and hobbies do you have that are consistent with your work or show you to be energetic and focused or whatever.

    2. Dr. Doll

      Happens a lot in academia. Treat it like a combustible family dinner with a new romance: Ask people all about themselves, be a good listener, share interesting little anecdotes in response. If the conversation veers into dangerous territory (politics), be non-committal. Have extremely good table manners. Use the time to evaluate whether you even like them, too; watch for red flags.

      Good luck, if they are sane you should be fine!

    3. Elizabeth West

      All these are great, but like the office Christmas party, this isn’t really a social dinner even if you’re talking about non-work things. I’d steer clear of any alcohol if you think it might make you more nervous or too talkative. (That last one is me–I am a lightweight and the Drunk Who Never Shuts Up.)

    4. A

      I’ve heard some interviewers will speak with the restaurant beforehand and tell them to do your order incorrectly so they can see how you handle the situation. I have no idea how frequently this actually happens, but it may be something to think about ahead of time, just in case!

      1. Not So NewReader

        Even if they are not testing OP with the wrong/bad meal, they might be interested to see how OP interacts with the restaurant staff. You brought up a good point.

      2. Lindsay J

        Ugh, if I thought a company was doing this to me I would resign from the process.

        (And I think I do the “right” thing when I get the incorrect order; I *politely* inform the wait staff that that isn’t what I ordered.”)

        But there is no need for a company to test someone like this. That’s what reference checks and interviews are for.

        I doubt there is anything you will find out about a candidate from this (or similar tests like seeing how they behave while they sit waiting for the interview to start) that you could not find out from a normal, correctly conducted, hiring process.

  35. Tami Taylor

    So, I was really excited about my new job at an advertising agency but now I’m worried about the noncompete they want me to sign. It says I can’t “directly or indirectly perform, accept, or solicit to perform any services of the same general nature as those offered by [Company] for any client for which [Company] performed services.” The term is a year from termination of employment, and the document also includes nondiclosure and nonsolicitation elements that I have no problem with.

    Will this make it impossible for me to work in my industry if I quit or get fired? I emailed the company for clarification, asking if the agreement was meant to restrict which clients I can work for, or if it would also restrict me from working for competing agencies. It’s been several days and I haven’t heard back. I’ve already put in my notice at my old job and have a start date set for the new job. What can I do?

    1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

      I know nothing about noncompetes but it sounds like they’re saying you can’t jump ship to go work for a client. We have the same thing in place for our vendors: we work with consultants and part of our contract with them is that they can’t say, hire me within a year of me leaving my current company.

      It’s advertising – you could move to a new company and then they could land a client you’ve worked on before. There is no way to guarantee you could avoid that or even that you’d work on that client. If that noncompete were in place in Chicago no one would be able to work at all since the two big firms seem to just pass McDonald’s back and forth (with the same team) every few years! :)

    2. ExceptionToTheRule

      It’s meant to keep you from poaching clients if you leave to start your own firm, join another local firm, or just head out on your own as a freelancer. The way it reads to me (IANAL) is that you can leave and continue to work, you just can’t do work on behalf of clients of your former firm for a year (and have them know about it).

      As for whether non-competes are actually enforceable or not varies by state.

      1. Jules the First

        IANAL either, but that sounds pretty close to the one I had in my last job – when I left, there was a list of clients where I had to recuse myself if my new employer tendered.

        The important thing to check is what the consequences are…they might be minor, they might be unenforceable, or they might be very serious.

        In future, this is the kind of thing that you should make sure you get and check out before you say yes and give notice at your old job…

        1. Tami Taylor

          I’ve never been asked to sign a noncompete before, so it never occurred to me to ask if there was a noncompete before I accepted the offer. Guess I’ll make a mental note.

          A quick Google search suggests that noncompetes are enforceable in my state, and the consequence of violating the noncompete is, according to the document, an injunction and whatever “damages” they could recover. I’m hoping the contract just means I can’t jump ship to work for a client, which would be fine with me. My role doesn’t involve interacting directly with clients at all, so I doubt I could successfully poach a client even if I wanted to.

          1. Winter is Coming

            This could happen in the situations already mentioned, or it could also happen if you went to work for one their competitors. I would also want to know how far back they would go to consider someone a customer? What if they haven’t done work for them for five years, does that count?

            1. Tami Taylor

              As I interpret it, the agreement would apply to current clients at the time of my termination and any clients we had within the previous year.

              I’m freaking out a little, but the nature of my work isn’t strictly tied to advertising. I could definitely work in a different industry if I needed to.

    3. fposte

      Run it by a lawyer. It may not even be valid in your state, and you definitely want to know the implications.

      1. Tami Taylor

        Would it be expensive to run that by a lawyer? I’m supposed to start this job next week, so there’s a bit of a time crunch.

        1. JM

          I am working under a noncompete right now and trying to figure out how to leave. Please take it to a lawyer. I signed thinking it was really just focused on not poaching clients. However, I didn’t realize that our competitors are sometimes our clients because we sometimes team with other firms on big projects. I’m totally trapped unless I move out of the area.

          FWIW, I took mine to a lawyer a few months ago to figure out what my options were related to finding work in the area. He said that I could easily end up in court and/or losing a new job altogether.

    4. Natalie

      If at all possible, I would consider having a lawyer look over that non-compete before you sign it. In general, you shouldn’t trust one party’s representations as to what a contract means since there’s an obvious built in bias. Non-competes are further complicated because how enforceable they are rests heavily on case law, from what I understand.

      1. Tami Taylor

        So, if I run it by a lawyer and she says “This is a mess. Don’t sign it,” then what do I do? I feel like I have no standing to negotiate since I already quit my other job.

        1. Jules the First

          A lawyer won’t tell you to sign or not sign. A lawyer will help you understand the implications of signing, and what your options are if you do sign and then want to get out of it.

          You then need to decide whether you can live with the consequences, or whether you would rather be unemployed (either now or when you decide to leave this new job). However, it’s worth checking whether your non-compete would remain in effect if you got fired – mine doesn’t, on the grounds that if I’m lousy enough to get fired, they’d really, really, really like me to start working for their toughest competitor.

          And you avoid this in future by not giving notice until you’ve got all the contract documents.

          1. Jules the First

            Oh, and two more things – my home insurance has a legal advice line that covers this sort of thing (so check your policy); and don’t panic too much about the non-compete – your first one is scary, but they get easier every time you sign one. Plus this means you’re now good enough/senior enough to be a commercial threat! Congratulations!

          2. Tami Taylor

            Thanks for the advice. Is it normal to get a heads up about a noncompete before you give notice? This company gave me a verbal offer, which I accepted, and said my formal letter would be arriving by email soon. Then they just threw the noncompete in with my offer letter and summary of benefits, which arrived two days after we’d selected a start date. Is that standard? Some of the companies I’ve worked for don’t even do offer letters, so I really didn’t see the noncompete coming. I wasn’t expecting a contract of any kind.

            1. JM

              Now you will know, like I now do, to ask before you accept an offer. I was surprised by mine too. I got it on my first day of work.

            2. Jules the First

              I never resign my old job until I’ve got the letter, summary of benefits, non-compete, non-disclosure, and contract (if applicably). Until you’ve reviewed those and are happy with the contents, you don’t have a new job, you have an offer, and an offer isn’t worth losing your old job over.

              I’m also annoying and insist on something in writing from my new employer before I will officially say yes – never start work without some kind of written agreement about what you’re being hired to do and on what terms. It can be as simple as a letter, or as complex as a 60-page contract, but if it’s not in writing, you’ve got no recourse.

          3. JM

            Yes this!! The attorney I saw also pointed out some ways that my bosses could violate the terms of the non-compete since it was within a larger employment agreement (and thus invalidate it or at least poke big holes in its enforceability). This is probably less useful for you but is good stuff to know. Bosses don’t want to pay for my professional association dues??? Sure!! Let’s get that documented in an email, thank you very much.

  36. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

    So, this week we heard about Zuckerberg’s decision to give away 99% of his Facebook stock valued at $45B.

    …which cues my inbox being full of emails from our stakeholders and board members asking me “how do we get Zuckerberg’s money?”

    I literally wrote a stock email for our CEO to customize and forward. Every year we get the same question when some high profile person announces their philanthropy. Last year it was Michael Jordan.

    What’s *that thing* at your job? For fundraisers it always seems to be “have you thought about asking Bill Gates/Mark Zuckerberg/Oprah for money?”

    1. Kelly L.

      “We should do a survey!” Everybody wants to do a survey for everything in the universe. We can barely order lunch without using Qualtrics.

      1. Katiedid

        The surveys! For the love of all that is holy, the surveys! Sadly, I know you were kidding about lunch, but we actually did that!! We had a SurveyMonkey survey (how I hate that monkey!) on what we should order for lunch for an all day meeting, which was not even an all staff meeting. All that was missing was a survey of other similar companies to see what the industry norm was so that we could compare to determine if pizza was best practices or if deli sandwiches would be better!!

    2. Susan

      Not an answer to the question, but isn’t that Zuckerberg “donation” actually some kind of legal-but-douchey tax avoidance maneuvering, where no *actual* charity will ever see a cent? Or have the tin-hatters snuck into my newsfeed again?

      1. Lily Rowan

        There will eventually be donations, but he doesn’t get the bulk tax deduction up front that he would from putting it in a foundation. I think the truth is that the tax implications are similar with the LLC vs. a foundation, just at different times.

  37. Anon manager

    I need advice (or at least the ability to vent).

    I manage an employee who is extremely talented, but a nightmare from an interpersonal perspective. I’ve spent 2 years coaching and giving feedback to see absolutely zero improvement. Recently, he sent an email to my VP and me that proved this point. It was the single most unprofessional email I’ve ever seen – calling me names, blaming everyone around him for a lack of career progress, and issuing an ultimatum to my boss that he needs to be promoted or moved to another group. Not only was the tone unprofessional, the very content demonstrated the exact lack of self awareness that is causing his inability to progress.

    I requested that HR terminate him immediately. Insubordination and scorching the earth does not equate any working relationship worth salvaging. Our legal team vetoed the termination, saying that it could be viewed as retaliatory. WTF? Of course it’s retaliatory. It’s simple cause and effect. You lash out unprofessionally, there needs to be consequences.

    Needless to say, this does not sit well with me. He was put on a final warning, and any future unprofessional displays will result in dismissal. But this is why I’m really uncomfortable – I was advised (completely off the record, of course), to make his life a living hell so he will quit.

    Is this ethical? I really don’t have any idea what to do. I don’t want to give my employs an ultimatum to get rid of him or I’m gone, but that’s where my head is at.

    1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

      It sounds like he’ll make his own life a living hell and quit in a blaze of glory. He’s issued ultimatums…so if you don’t meet them, won’t he quit?

      It does sound quite yucky though. I’m sorry you couldn’t fire him!

      1. Anon manager

        Re: his ultimatums. My response was, “sorry you feel that way. When is your last day?”

        Of course, he backed off.

    2. Anie

      I would avoid ultimatums, though I understand the reaction toward one.

      I think , maybe, stopping helping. Stop coaching. Stop feedback. He’s made it clear he doesn’t want it.

      Stop being friendly. He’s made it clear he doesn’t deserve it. Just….avoid him. Not that that’s easy as you’re his boss. But still.

      Best of luck.

      1. EmilyG

        I would do the opposite of this, actually. Stopping being friendly is stooping to his level, and no coaching, feedback, or expectations is exactly what some bad employees want.

        I recently had a problem employee with a lot of attendance, attention, and productivity issues that my predecessor ignored. I started making lots of notes to myself about things to follow up on in our weekly meetings and asking him to send me regular email reports of his progress. I followed up if I didn’t get the reports. I asked detailed questions about them. If he wasn’t in the office by a certain time, I called with concern to find out where he was. The great thing about this strategy was that it was equally good whether it guided him onto the right path or drove him away. I took the high road, and he quit.

        Not really the same situation, but I feel like being passive is just going to drag your problem out rather than solve it. I’d rather endure a tense few weeks and then move on.

        1. Windchime

          This is such good advice. We had a championship-level slacker on our team. Not only was she a slacker, but she was really negative and behave so unprofessionally that she was unable to do anything but a fraction of her job.

          Cue new manager. New manager would not listen to complaints; instead, she asked for Negative Nelly to bring in a list of her tasks, organized by Those I Like vs Those I Don’t Like. The list never happened. When Nelly complained about not getting to do task X, Manager gave her an assignment using X. She was unable to complete it. Once Manager started holding Nelly accountable, Nelly decided to quit.

        2. catsAreCool

          Yeah, what Emily G. said. Taking the high road and holding the employee accountable – that’s the way to go.

    3. Jillyan

      Why would you make his life a living hell? Then you’ll be the unprofessional one. He’s on final warning so if he is as unstable as you say, he won’t last much longer in the company. Many people in that position also start job hunting so you may lose him soon enough. I know it’s frustrating and you seem to feel really strongly about this (hence, considering the ultimatum) but think with a cool head. If you aggravate the situation, it could end up backfiring on you, especially since HR is worried about being perceived as retaliatory or unfair.

    4. Kyrielle

      Wait, they wouldn’t fire him over his ridiculous action, but they want you to make his life a living hell? That’s _not_ good management.

      Honestly? I’d keep working with him exactly as you have been/would have been without that advice. He will shoot himself in the foot soon enough, if he doesn’t quit on his own, given his current opinions.

      Stay professional, handle it well. You don’t want to sink to that level – you have to live with yourself after. You also don’t want your other employees or coworkers to see you sink to that level – the mud will stick to you even in the minds of people who think he sort-of deserves it, and it will damage morale. Instead, let them see you being professional, giving him that actual final chance he was given, and trying to manage him as one would if they were trying to give him a genuine chance.

      I think the odds of his *taking* that genuine chance are slightly below that of a snowball fight in Satan’s living room, though there’s always the small chance I suppose. If he does, well, that’s sort of an awkward win. If he doesn’t, far more likely, you and everyone else will know it was *purely him* that cost him his job. There’s a lot of relief in that.

    5. CrazyCatLady

      I don’t think it’s ethical to push someone out by making their environment intolerable. Will your legal team terminate him if he does something again, after his final warning? He sounds awful.

    6. Anon manager

      Thank you! You are all awesome! I just need to be patient and let this reach it’s inevitable conclusion.

      It’s hard to be the bigger person when surrounded by toxicity, so thanks for the sanity check.

    7. Brett

      Our super awful employee in another unit behaves like this all the time. Sends accusations against people way up the chain of command cc’ing everyone along the way with emails riddled with threats, typos, and grammatical errors. Somehow he always survives attempts to fire him (thanks public sector merit process) and never leaves no matter how much his superiors have tried to “make his life a living hell”.

      Unfortunately, I think the guy has enough self-awareness to know he is an awful employee so the last thing he will do is quit. Instead, he made three different managers leave until he finally found one that for some reason loves him… and he got promoted by that manager into a newly created job class with a huge raise. I was qualified for the new job, but it would have meant being awful employee’s technical lead (wedge in between him and his buddy manager)! No one else qualified for it applied either (probably for the same reason) and he got it by default.

      IMO, you need to push back on HR to make sure that “final warning” sticks and they do not just keep waiting for him to quit.

      1. very anon for this one

        So when I documented to hr that my employee from hell (on a PIP for the last six months continued to miss deadlines, ignore requests, lie about work completed and blame others for her failings) failure at work was impacting our reputation with stake holders, I was asked to assign “fake” projects so that I could document her not meeting expectations and there would be no actual impact on the department. (except of course that real work wasn’t being done, but she wasn’t doing the real work anyway) How nuts was this?

    8. OfficePrincess

      From the sounds of things, continuing to set expectations and following up when he fails to meet them sounds like it would be considered “living hell” to this guy. “Anon is just so awful she won’t get off my back about the way I smear everyone and everyone and when I told her I’d quit if she didn’t stop, she asked when my last day would be. The nerve!”

    9. AnonAcademic

      Just as a slightly different perspective…the legal team may have information about this person that you don’t. I know of a situation where a person was being pushed out of their job (their boss was trying to get them fired) but this person had recently requested disability accommodations from HR. In order to avoid the firing seeming like retaliation/discrimination based on disability status they waited until a scheduled layoff and then offered the person generous severance. It delayed the termination by maybe 4-6 months but avoided the potential legal hassles.

  38. Nina

    AAM community- I’m so tired of Benin unemployed. I feel the longer I wait, the less desirable of a candidate I am. What can I do to stay positive during this time? It’s going on 6 months now. Im volunteering, honing my skills, but even those aren’t working and my volunteer period won’t be extended past this month. I have experience and a masters and I just don’t know why I’m not being hired (despite going on interviews to the Final stage.) help!

    1. Artemesia

      Have you had a very polished friend check your references to see if there is a land mind somewhere? Have you tried a temp agency? Why won’t your volunteer gig be extended? That might be something to explore to get a clue about the impression you are making. Have you gotten any interview practice or coaching? Sometimes making it to final interviews and then not getting hired is about how you interview and sometimes it is just the nature of this tight market, but you want to make sure you are at your best here. My daughter had several final interview/didn’t get the job experiences until being hired at a company she now runs. So it may be just time and frustration and you will get there, but take some steps to assure you are not being sabotaged and that your interview skills are first rate.

      1. Nina

        My references all check out I’ve had them checked. The volunteer thing was a favor from an old professor ; they have a grad student that starts in January.

        Thanks for your advice. I think after being unemployed for so long I’m lacking in confidence now which is something I can work on. I know I have a lot to offer so I’ll practice with a job coach at my old school and do some mock interviews,

        1. CheeryO

          Try to hang in there. You’re right that the confidence thing is huge. My self-confidence was shot towards the end of my unemployment (six months in 2014), but once I had a job again, I started feeling more confident. I kept looking and didn’t put the new job on my resume, and I had two great offers a few months later, even with what looked like a 9-10 month gap.

          In other anecdotal news, my BF got a job after being unemployed for two years. He wrote a great cover letter, got an interview and totally hit it off with the team, and they practically offered the job to him on the spot. Most people really do understand that it’s still tough out there and that there are a lot of factors that could lead to someone being out of work for awhile.

  39. Exhasperated

    I would just like to say a huge thank you to both AAM and the AAM commenters – thanks to your advice, interview questions to ask and guidance to ‘run, not walk’ away I have been able to:
    a) get a new job – promotion, industry I am really interested in and 33% pay increase
    b) finally complete my HR diploma
    c) handle my boss in such a way that I have negotiated an amazing reference, as well as continual work for an interest of mine which will increase my CV and add more strings to my bow without having to directly deal with former colleagues once I leave

    P.S. I found out about the new job and passing my qualification within 48 hours – have been celebrating since and feeling a little fragile

    It has been a crazy, emotional, hectic week and I don’t think that it would have happened had it not been for this site :D

  40. Anie

    OK, second question!

    I work for a subscription-based publication. I know it’s not kosher to GIVE people copies, but is it OK if I were to bring copies to interviews as a type of portfolio (because it’s a good representation of my work). It’s copy written content and I’m not the author, but this isn’t something that would reflect badly on me, right? That’s what everyone does?

    1. fposte

      There’s certainly no ethical problem with it. (I don’t know what you mean about giving people copies–I give people copies of my journal all the time.) How useful it will be depends on what exactly you did for the publication–it’s more common with writers and designers, but maybe there are other things in there that would display well as a showcase of your skills.

      1. Anie

        I’m an editor, layout assistant, and occasional unnamed contributor/maker of charts.

        I just have gotten an overall feeling that it’s not OK to give out copies in a professional sense. Maybe it’s the hard line of “People pay for this; don’t ever give it up for free or no one will buy it.” That idea blankets basically everything I do at work. But…in a portfolio sense, the people interviewing me wouldn’t necessary care about the content itself.

        Thank you!

        1. fposte

          Yeah, those are achievements worth showing off.

          We’re really careful about giving away paid *content* for free, but older print issues we’ll hand around like candy. Like leftover Halloween candy.

  41. Brett

    So, I found out who was hired for a job that I applied for (I tend to hear quickly about all the non-federal new hires in my area in my profession since there are only about 40 of us compared to about 600 feds). Turns out the guy was a foreign national from outside the region, so I knew he was probably an H1B hire, which means an LCA was filed. Since most jobs here are federal with TS/SCI required, H1B hires for what I do are extremely rare. I looked at it because I was curious what the company eventually paid. They never interviewed me; a company recruiter talked to me and seemed bothered by my salary expectations and potential post-employment restriction issues.

    I guess something was weird in the LCA viewer I used that day, because I now realized it gave me the wrong LCA. I read that they had classed the position as a Level IV Programmer paying about 30% more than what I asked. Level IV seemed really high, but programmer was completely appropriate since it was all algorithm development and required multiple languages.

    Well, this week I looked at it again because a thread on here reminded me of it… it wasn’t a Level IV programmer. That was the LCA for a different position. They made it a Level I Computer Operator. They are paying the guy about the same as what I make now for a position with way more skill requirements. This is no way it should be classed as a computer operator instead of a programmer, and as a computer operator it would have to be at least level III.

    But that is about the extent of my H1B knowledge. I will most likely have a lot of professional interaction with this person over the next 3 years (the company has a policy against sponsoring green cards and has a reputation for not renewing H1Bs). It bothers me that they screwed him over, even though he obviously willing accepted the terms of employment. It bothers me more though that this feels like something that could contribute to suppressing wages in our profession in this area.

    Really don’t think it is my place to say or do anything about this. I know the last two people in similar roles with this company left quickly because the responsibilities ended up much higher than advertised; this position was at least advertised correctly. I imagine he will be short term too when he realizes what they have done. I will just file this away as yet another strike against them and avoid them in the future.

    1. Laurel Gray

      I don’t know much about visas, I just have an opinion that there is some heavy abuse going on by employers and many in specific fields. I thought the original necessity for H1B visas was finding talent abroad for rare skill sets that were hard to recruit here. Disney and a few others have proven it is merely just a loop hole to find cheap temporary labor.

      1. Brett

        This company at least is not very H1B abusive. Only about 1% of the company. This was their third round of advertising the position (and they spent a couple of months convincing me to apply). I suspect they could not hire anyone because they are competing with local federal jobs that pay more than 50% higher than what they are paying, but they definitely had trouble finding talent.

    2. Giving Tuesday & End of Year Giving

      this is a common issue for h1b visa holders. they don’t have a lot of negotiating power to get more money and because they need their employer to sponsor their employment, they are often in a very difficult situation. as much as it sucks (and I agree that it totally does), it is somewhat common practice.

      1. F.

        I will add, though, that employers are taking a larger risk hiring an H1B visa holder. If that person does not work out, the employer is responsible for paying their expenses back to their home country.

        1. Brett

          This company is probably paying him about $24k/yr less than what the job is worth normally locally. The low end of my salary requirements was $7k more than what they are paying him, and I was aiming so low at my low end that I was worried that I was making them doubt my qualifications.

          The risk of paying his relocation expenses is probably relatively cheap in comparison. I tend to come out at the bottom of national salary surveys for my profession, and he is barely above me.

    3. Artemesia

      Just another way the business people who run our Congress have conspired to hollow out middle class jobs for Americans.

  42. Lunchtime Blues

    After reading the dog letter earlier this week, I felt like this group might help with a problem we’ve got. My office has a full kitchen that has long been the nerve center of the business. The owner stocks the basics and teams bring in extras to make lunches to share. People come in early and make breakfast, or bake treats in the afternoons. Meetings usually take place at the big table.

    Rather, they did. About three months ago my team was wowed in an interview by an applicant. We knew from day one she had a severe peanut allergy and we asked people to not bring in peanuts. A few weeks after she came on, our new employee went to the hospital after an allergic reaction. When she came back, she let us know that she was going to get more extensive testing since her allergies seemed to be getting worse. Since then, she’s identified a lot of food allergies, and has shuttled to the doctor or the hospital about once a week. She’s often gone. I brought up concerns about her absences, but she was very adept at steering the conversation away from that and making it about more accommodations for her allergies. I’m reluctant to provide more accommodations for several reasons:

    One, if we ban more foods our kitchen is going to basically become a showpiece instead of a usable room. Several people with dietary restrictions or other medical conditions have privately confided to me that being unable to cook at work, or eat certain things at their desk is really becoming a hardship to both finances and health.

    Two, I think this employee might be behind her allergies. I’m not sure as she is still learning job essentials and her training has been delayed by medical appointments and incidents. Her real value is hard to evaluate. Her references were really good – good enough that I honestly feel she should be more productive by now.

    I want to be compassionate and compliant with the law. But I also want to listen to my gut. In three months, my workplace has gone from a wonderful place to work to a place with a lot of morale issues. This employee really has significantly changed the company culture for the worse.

      1. CrazyCatLady

        Is this covered by ADA? I have had food allergies forever – severe ones – and had no idea that this could be a legally protected issue!

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          It depends on how severe they are; they’d have to “substantially limit one or more major life activities” (such as breathing, in the case of the recent OP with severe dog allergies). Run of the mill allergies likely wouldn’t be, but if they’re very severe with dangerous repercussions for you, they might be.

          1. CrazyCatLady

            There are very dangerous repercussions for me. I’ve gone into respiratory arrest (had to be on a ventilator in a mostly drug-induced coma for 3 days) from them. It doesn’t substantially limit my breathing unless I ingest it or am very close to being around it.

    1. CrazyCatLady

      I have a ton of food allergies – a TON. Also a severe peanut allergy. What do you mean that you think the employee is behind her allergies?

      I don’t think it’s a huge hardship to have the employee not cook in the kitchen, and just eat in her office – that’s generally what I do if someone is eating peanuts in the kitchen at work. I’m so used to my allergies that for the most part, I don’t expect people to go out of their way for me. I ask that people don’t eat peanuts in my office or bring them into my office. I can’t speak for her experiences, but if I go into the kitchen a bit after there has been peanuts, it doesn’t bother me. If she doesn’t have an office, is it possible to give her one, or set her up in an area to eat where she wouldn’t be exposed to allergens?

      1. Biff

        CrazyCatLady, I think the scenario here is that they are banning the foods that cause allergic reactions from the building entirely. That is, if the new employee can’t eat it, no one can. At least, not on the premises.

        1. CrazyCatLady

          I thought it was just the peanuts that were banned from the building right now. Maybe I’m misreading though … I have an awful migraine today, so totally possible! :) So to me, instead of banning ALL the foods, it would be good if they could set up a separate space for her to eat, and a different room to meet in. I don’t know the extent of the allergies, but I wouldn’t expect there to be a reaction if people were eating in an entirely different room. I think Alison’s advice to contact a lawyer is a good one, though. I never knew severe food allergies were covered by ADA!

        1. CrazyCatLady

          Oooh that makes so much more sense to me! My brain today… I thought she meant she was causing her own allergies or making them worse somehow!

      2. Lunchtime Blues

        The way we’ve handled it so far is banning foods, and the reason for that is our business is pretty small, we don’t have a lot offices, and the kitchen is the one large room in which teams can gather.

        1. catsAreCool

          Would it be too expensive to get this employee a small microwave and one of those small cubicle refrigerators? Then she could stay out of the kitchen and avoid a lot of allergy issues, and other people could bring in the food they want.

    2. Lizzy May

      I think the fact that you’ve combined your food space and your work space is a huge part of your problem. It was working for you but now its not. This woman could die if she’s exposed to the wrong thing. You can’t ask her to do work in a shared food space while still letting others cook or eat things she’s allergic to there.

      The easiest fix is to ban foods that she has serious allergies to and take all meetings out of your kitchen. And call al lawyer. Alison is right on that. You don’t want to open yourself up to a lawsuit because you didn’t know something.

      1. Carrie in Scotland

        Sometimes space doesn’t allow for the kitchen to be anywhere else though.
        The meetings on the other hand probably don’t need to be in the kitchen.

        1. Lizzy May

          That’s really what I meant, though obviously I was not clear about it. A kitchen is not going to move but the fact that work is done there probably needs to stop.

          1. Lunchtime Blues

            I said this up thread, but our kitchen is one of the few large rooms we have that can be used for meetings. When we designed the space, we basically had a choice of a meeting room or a kitchen, so we combined them.

            1. INTP

              It’s hard to make suggestions without knowing the details about her allergies, but would it be possible to give any meetings that she needs to attend room-choosing priority, and schedule any that absolutely need to be in the kitchen earlier in the morning before anyone has cooked for the day? (You could get an air purifier to run at night if that would make her more comfortable.) Allow her to skype or remote into the meetings otherwise? (I wouldn’t normally suggest solutions that rob the affected employee of major career things like face time, but it seems reasonable in cases when avoiding inconvenience to the affected employee means significant hardships to many others.)

    3. TL -

      What kind of accommodations is she asking for? Banning peanuts may be reasonable, but most food shouldn’t need to be banned, only kept separate from hers or not used on her appliances/dishes.

      Other than that, you do need to have a clear talk with her about goals and dates they need to be accomplished by, separate from an accommodations talk.

      1. Katie the Fed

        I worked briefly with someone who had a peanut allergy, and she said she couldn’t be around any tree nuts. Fine, but then she started staking out people’s coffees and asking if there was hazelnut flavoring in them because hazelnuts were tree nuts and could trigger her allergies. It seemed to keep growing to more and more potential things.

        1. TL -

          In the coffee? Were they sharing a coffee maker?

          I have mild nut allergies and can’t drink some coffees but being around them isn’t dangerous.

            1. TL -

              Um. Unless she had a habit of drinking other people’s coffee, that’s irrational.

              Did she also forbid Starbucks? Because they have a lot of blends where they add nuts to the beans for flavor.

    4. Xarcady

      Most food allergies require that the person eat or touch the food in question to provoke a reaction. Really severe peanut allergies can be triggered by the smell of peanuts, or peanut oil in the air (say if it is being used for frying), so maybe there are other foods that do this as well.

      But just having someone eating the food, or even cooking the food, in the office should not be resulting in doctor’s visits weekly.

      I agree with consulting a lawyer to find out how to handle this.

      I don’t mean to belittle allergies or people who have them, but this seems like an awful lot of new allergies, and very sensitive allergies if other people can’t even bring the food into the office, to have developed so quickly.

      At the very least, she needs to learn how to handle her allergies better. On another forum, there’s a poster with an extreme peanut allergy–she can’t go to restaurants that use peanut oil for frying, because just having that amount of exposure sets off a reaction. She works at an elementary school–and the school does not ban peanuts or peanut products. She has learned how to address the issue with her students.

      It would seem to me that your employee is taking the easy way out. Instead of asking for people to clean up carefully after using, say, dairy products, and using a bit of caution herself, she is asking for all dairy products to be banned from the office. That’s not the normal way adults go about handling allergies.

      1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

        Yeah, it feels like she needs to be part of the solution. Of course no one wants to have to eat in a separate room / keep their food separate/use separate tools but it does sound like a reasonable accommodation for her. Her office is doing what they can to make sure she’s safe; she needs to do what she can too!

        1. TL -

          But unless she’s really allergic to something like flour, it’s hard to imagine how going into the kitchen would be a problem – most foods don’t have a significant airborne component. (Dairy, for instance, tends to stay in its container.)

          1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)

            Even more so that she needs to be part of the solution! You’re right that unless she’s like…in the fridge slathering herself with dairy it shouldn’t really be an issue.

        2. cuppa

          I kind of agree. I have a cousin with a severe peanut allergy, where exposure can kill him.
          I don’t have a peanut allergy, so I don’t know how much weight this carries, but if I were in the situation, I think I would feel safest if I had a separate space to eat and prepare food and remove myself from the community kitchen all together. There’s too much risk and inconvenience otherwise.

          1. TL -

            I mean, peanuts don’t seem like a big deal to remove, but peanuts plus dairy plus nightshades would really start restricting the kitchen’s usefulness.

      2. OriginalEmma

        I don’t know if there is simply more awareness about allergies, more allergies or more people self-diagnosing themselves with allergies. Additionally, there may be a “scorched earth” policy going on re: diagnosing physicians who aren’t sure quite what’s causing the problem, or what level of consumption causes the problem, so they recommend the patient to just avoid the item altogether. Or the patient misinterprets the doctor’s recommendations and imposes their own ban. But IANAD.

        1. Ad Astra

          All of these things are things that happen, but usually with sensitivites to, like, gluten. Life-threatening allergies like this employee has are a whole different ballgame, and likely have been confirmed through testing with an allergist. And yeah, allergies and other autoimmune conditions are on the rise — possibly because of over-sterilizing babies’ environments, according to a lot of (but not all) scientists.

        2. blackcat

          On the scorched earth policy: I really do think that’s the case. For many allergens, we still don’t have good tests for them (peanuts, we do). The only real test is exposure testing, which is expensive and risky. Basically, you sit and eat things that you *may* be allergic to while medical staff keeps an eye on you and has medication at the ready. Many docs would prefer to tell patients to avoid the possible allergen rather than risk testing that could cause severe reactions. The legal liability is a big concern since even the most severe allergic reactions are highly unlikely to be fatal when there’s already an IV in the patient and drugs are prepped.

          When I found a doc willing to do it on me (I had to sign ALL THE WAIVERS), my insurance company initially balked at paying (I was in a hospital for 5 hours, so the bill was a lot more than a usual office visit).

      3. Cordelia Longfellow

        Just a quick point regarding allergies and weekly doctor’s appointments – if the LW is receiving injections for immunotherapy treatment, once- or twice-weekly appointments are the norm. It’s a PITA, and I’ve been doing it for five years, but it’s pretty typical.

    5. LisaLee

      I think you’ve got two issues here and you need to separate them in your mind.

      The first is the food allergies. You need to, as Allison said, talk to both a lawyer and the employee and discuss what is a reasonable accommodation. Banning peanuts isn’t that big of a deal, but if it’s gotten to the point where no food (or very limited food) is allowed then other employees are going to have problems. You mention that some employee have their own medical issues that are now being impacted–you have to make sure to balance the needs of all employees. I have some dietary restrictions due to a medical condition, and I would be pretty annoyed if I wasn’t able to bring food to work since it’s not easy for me to eat out. You also might have people in your office who need to eat every few hours or otherwise consume food at their desk.

      The second issue is the employee’s performance. Can you meet with her to lay out what goals she needs to meet to be on track? It’s not unreasonable to ask a new employee to get on track, even if they’re dealing with other issues in their lives.

    6. INTP

      Are the new food allergies that she has identified severe allergies where anaphylactic shock or other symptoms might be provoked by airborne particles or tiny amounts of the food? Or are they simply allergies to consuming food? That’s a major determinant in how you should proceed imo.

      First of all, while I admire you for wanting to be inclusive, I don’t think it’s even a good or safe idea to try to keep a communal kitchen allergy-safe. Not just because of the hardships that you’re creating for other employees, but for the safety of the person with allergies. There are zillions of tricky sources of cross-contamination (shared manufacturing equipment, tricky ingredient names, wooden spoons) and I think it’s unlikely that people who aren’t used to catering to allergies would not make mistakes. It seems unsafe to me to create a false sense of security by saying that the kitchen is allergen-free.

      That said, if there are airborne allergens, obviously you need to protect the employee from them. Given the space constraints, I think it would be fine to bring up the fact that other employees are finding it a hardship and ask if there’s anything else she could do, like wear a breathing mask in meetings, without pressure to say “yes.” If the new allergens are just about things she might touch or consume, then I think getting her some dedicated food prep equipment would be a good idea, maybe kept behind a lock that she has the key for.

      Regarding hiding behind her allergies, there could be another medical issue going on that hasn’t been diagnosed. Sometimes allergies might worsen when other immune activity is happening and there’s a current trend towards attributing vague symptoms to food intolerances. Having allergies, on the other hand, can trigger anxiety because you have to be constantly vigilant. So her poor performance could be due to something else that she doesn’t even know about yet.

  43. olympiasepiriot

    Anyone heard from AlligatorSky? Don’t need a detailed update but would like to know she’s soldiering on and getting out.

    :)

    1. Not So NewReader

      Maybe the two posters who offered help will see this and let AS know we are thinking of her.

  44. Coffee Ninja

    I just wanted to say thank you to Alison & all of you – the new person in my office tried to start a secret santa and I felt comfortable speaking up & excusing myself from participating. I really cannot afford it this year (even though it’s “only $25”), and most of the people participating are above me and make more money than me anyway. I think my boss was a little mad but oh well.

      1. mander

        Yeah, I’ve always thought Secret Santa could be fun (though I’ve never worked anywhere that did it), but I’d only go for $10 at the most. $25 is about the limit on what I spend on my parents!

    1. Windchime

      Good for you! I was really encouraged when I used Alison’s script to opt out of Boss’ Day gifting. I was really just wanting to not participate, but my comment ended up shutting the whole thing down. I bet you’ll find that a lot of your coworkers don’t want to do office Secret Santa.

  45. Beancounter in Texas

    My mother got an apartment in a desirable complex and it will be ready this month. She is moving about an hour from her current home to my city. Yay! Now she needs a job! I’m working on her resume with her, which is challenging, given her varied history.

    For 22 years, she managed the office for my father’s business, before they divorced. Then she pursued her massage therapy license and opened her own business, but didn’t attract many clients, so she closed it. She returned to school full time and worked an admin job, earning her BA in Social Work and getting her license in SW. She worked in SW for a little over a year before being fired, which came as a surprise to her. For almost a year, she lived on her savings and helped her sister (CPA) with data entry for a few hours each week. Finally, she accepted a job at Walmart, where she is currently a cashier.

    She wants to get away from retail, but the challenge with any admin job is her hearing. It’s bad enough that she avoids talking on the phone if she can, but it’s not bad enough to qualify as a disability. She is an awesome massage therapist – she earned a $45 tip on a $60 massage once! – but she’s lost her confidence at Walmart. She is so unhappy there, she is beaten down that she can do anything else well. Any tips on how I can boost her confidence and write her resume to attract a massage therapist job?

    1. Biff

      I wonder if she could look into local spas/chiropractic clinics for a massage job. I know they often rent a room to therapists, but they present a united front AND they shuttle clients to the therapist. So she’s a contractor, but she doesn’t have to run her own business or advertising. If you have a resort or golf course or country club nearby they may also have in-house operations for that sort of thing.

      1. The IT Manager

        My cousins owned his own massage therapy business, and now he works for a spa based in a casino and sometimes fancy hotels have spa services too. Perhaps a massage business like Massage Envy where she can be a massage therapist but not have to run the business herself. Not everyone is cut out to be a small business owner.

    2. OriginalEmma

      She might also trying offering her massage services to companies that do “worker wellness days,” which can feature a person giving hand, back and neck massages.

      1. Not So NewReader

        A friend built her massage business by going into nursing homes and offering free massages. I think the massages were like ten minute chair massages. I am not clear if she just offered it to the residents or residents and staff. Anyway, she had a designated day and time, she always showed up when she said she would. This worked out well for her.

    3. Sunny With a Chance of Showers

      Sounds like she would need 3 resumes: one for SW, one for massage and one for retail. Maybe if she sees how fabulous she looks on paper, her confidence will rise…?

      I wonder if there are social services to help those who need hearing aids but can’t afford them. Or a payment plan, perhaps?

      1. Beancounter in Texas

        She already wears hearing aids, but her hearing is getting worse, not better. Cranking up the hearing aids doesn’t help, she says, and she really only has trouble on the phone. She can read lips as necessary in person.

        1. Not So NewReader

          It might be a good investment of time to see if she needs new hearing aids or a different type. If she has not been in a few years then probably enough time has passed that the technology has changed again to make it worth her while.

          I am saying this because it looks like more than one thing is attacking her self-confidence. It’s in these low times in life that we should invest in ourselves to buoy ourselves up.
          (Some people believe that when the chips are down you spend the money you need to, in order to dig yourself out of the the bad situation. Then in good times, you rebuild your savings.)

          1. Beancounter in Texas

            I know it has been since 2010, because while at SW job, she tripped, fell and hit her head on an object, near enough to her ear to cause the aid to break. She had expensive aids – the kind that cost something like $2,500 – from when she was married. (She takes care of her stuff.) I know she could not afford an aid to replace it exactly. I will ask her the last time she has gotten her hearing checked. And maybe we should sign up for sign language classes if she’s already having to read lips too.

            1. Not So NewReader

              The tech is moving so fast. She might be able to find something that works better for a lot less. So while, not the top of the line, it would be an improvement over what she has. I guess, I am kind of feeling for your mom. Granted this s no where near what your mom is going through, but I just got new glasses after hemming and hawing for months. omg. These are the best glasses I have ever had. No break in time, no headaches, nothing. I think I am in love. When a change works well, it can change how you feel about yourself /your setting in tiny ways.

              1. Beancounter in Texas

                Yes! I know what you mean! I’ve resisted change for I can’t-remember-why reasons, only to finally take the leap and ask myself, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?!”

                My hubby & I are pretty much assuming we’re going to have to take care of our mothers (one or both), so this is kind of the beginning of that. I’ll add the “checking hearing” to the To Do List. I want her to be healthy, happy and independent.

            2. onyxzinnia

              Turning up hearing aids doesn’t help because it doesn’t make things clearer, just louder. I like to compare it to listening to the car radio. If you land on a channel with static, you don’t turn up the volume, you change the channel! She might not even need new hearing aids, but just have the settings adjusted by an audiologist after a thorough hearing test. If they are 5 years old though, I would upgrade them.

              As for the telephone, some hearing aids have a telecoil program which can aid users in dealing with phones. It might be worth reading up on her particular device to play around with the settings.

              I don’t know if you have a Costco membership, but if you do, you can bring your mom with you and get free hearing tests at their hearing center. They also offer a range of hearing aids that are at a lower cost than you might otherwise find (my understanding is that they buy them in bulk directly from the manufacturers). No affiliation with Costco, I just know from personal experience how difficult and expensive it is to upgrade hearing aids since it is very rarely covered by insurance.

              I hope your mom can find some answers, hearing issues can really affect a person’s confidence in the workplace and in social situations.

              1. Beancounter in Texas

                Thanks! We have a Sam’s Club membership (as does she, I believe, and if not, I have an extra slot that isn’t being used), so I’m sure the services are similar to Costco’s.

                I will definitely check out the telecoil! Part of her frustration is other people’s frustration & impatience in having to modify how they speak (slow down, enunciate better) for her to understand them, so anything that helps her is a worthy investment.

                Especially helpful is the analogy to the radio. I will pass that onto her as an explanation as to why it doesn’t help to “just turn up her hearing aids.”

    4. Beancounter in Texas

      I didn’t want to get too verbose in my original post, but her philosophy is that massage is therapeutic, not just meant to make you feel good and relax. She had worked at a spa, whose philosophy (at that specific location) was more about turning clients, and she had other problems with that spa too.

      I’m trying to nudge her back into MT, because she can earn double what she’s making at Walmart and it doesn’t require telephonic communication. I’m avoiding spas because she has been burnt by that one spa before; I realize it’s baggage, but I must work with it. I’m finding the occasional non-spa jobs, and I get excited about them, particularly when they express the same philosophy as she holds, but she lugs that baggage into the equation, shutting down the opportunity before she even tries. I’m working with her on this.

      That said, I think three resumes will be the ticket.

    5. Belle diVedremo

      One suggestion: Call around to find out about volunteering as a massage therapist in your city. Some hospitals have programs, sometimes cancer care places, sometimes social services outfits have programs. I assume that she has a current license, and has or can easily get insurance. My reasoning is that: she’ll be somewhere her work is valued, with a community of practitioners who know the local scene, can get a reputation/recommendations from the host group, and she’ll feel appreciated and useful during the job hunt process.

      You’ve given this a lot of thought, so if the rest may be duplicative.

      Massage resumes – you can browse around for websites offering massage to get a feel (if you’ll excuse the expression) for the terminology and the kinds of things people highlight in their experience. If your mom has any specialized training to add to her information that’d be useful, including in approaching places which might want that specialization. Eg, I have a friends with training in orthopedic massage, in manual therapies, pediatric massage, gerentology services, reiki, etc, etc. Some physical therapist offices have massage therapists, sometimes chiropractors do, there’s a medical practice here that has added massage therapy. Sometimes you’ll find a local outfit that houses a range of services – I’ve seen one with a shrink, a pt, a chiropractor, and a handful of massage therapists with different specializations – as independent practitioners but with a penchant for internal referrals. If her approach is primarily therapeutic rather than relaxation, she will have a different set of criteria for finding colleagues/employers than some.

      Is she connected with the trade associations? They’ll have information on local resources and communities as well as continuing ed. And I’d browse around for prices in your area so that she has some of that information coming in. Her massage school may have resources, too.

      If she’s a great office manager/bookkeeper, you might talk with her about her priorities for now. Does she want to look for full or part time work of that sort, and once settled develop her reputation as a terrific massage therapist? Once she has the rep and a clientele, she can look at the way things are going and see if she wants to shift the balance to part time bookkeeper and part time massage therapist, or if things are booming for her go full time?

      As for her hearing, two thoughts: can she hear a client speaking quietly while face down on the table? If not, how does that work for her? And, if she were fluent in sign language that opens the deaf community as a client pool. And a family thought: if sign language is going to become prominent for her, you and your hubby probably want to start learning too.

      Good luck to you both.

  46. Anon Cog

    I would like to hear the AMA community’s opinion on my work situation. I work for a company that is currently doing very well, has gone through a few mergers so we’re now a large company. Great team, great pay, great benefits etc. However a few things happened recently.
    – We got a new CIO because our old one retired (good so far)
    – CIO met with the rank and file (i.e. us) to talk to us about his plans for the department (again good so far)
    – In the last three seconds of the meeting, he all of a sudden said “and we’ll also need to decide how we’re going to structure our work with the offshore team” WE DO NOT HAVE AN OFFSHORE TEAM. Everyone just stared while he said “this meeting is adjourned, thank you for your time”.
    – So a couple of weeks later, I asked my direct manager about this and his response was “nothing to worry about, we’ll all keep our jobs, this is meant to help us out” and then he says “don’t you remember the CIO saying in the meeting that we’re shortstaffed, we need twenty more people, and it’s very hard to find that much talent in (my state)?” HE NEVER SAID THAT IN OUR MEETING. (I checked with other people and no one heard that.) He had other meetings that we were not invited to and he must’ve said it in one of them, and probably did not intend for anyone to leak that out. Also, while it is true that we are shortstaffed, it is not hard at all to find twenty qualified people in my line of work in my state, or any state, so that last part really sets off my alarm bells.
    Question to the collective hivemind: am I going to lose my job? Whatever is coming, will probably take at least a year to firm up, but, from what I told here, does it sound like the end result will be me getting laid off? I’m a sole income provider for my family, so I kind of need to know.

    1. Biff

      Two things: I was at a company that was all kinds of dishonest about upcoming changes. They were still actively interviewing people when they in the process of laying off 98% of our staff. I mean, it was ridiculous. They would promise people that their jobs were secure and then axe them a day later. It was a terrible experience and it unortunately looked a LOT like this.

      I’m also at a company that has talked about offshoring but never gathers any steam on it.

      I’d look around at other departments — are there a lot of offshore teams that collaborate with the company? If so, cool — your manager is probably right. If not…. if there are no offshore teams, I don’t think you need to worry about this coming to fruition. If there are offshore teams that basically took over functions — I’d buff my resume.

      1. Anon Cog

        There’s nothing that I know of, but we are very new. We just went through a long series of mergers and now a management change. The resume has been buffed, just to be safe. You’re right though, if there are no visible changes in say 4 to 6 months, that would probably mean that they’re not going to gather steam on it.

    2. Brett

      Where has the CIO worked before and what type of restructuring has he done there? What has been their cloud strategy and software deployment strategy previously?
      CIO and near-CIO people often have a very clear mode they use with regards to outsourcing (which also tends to carry over to SaaS/PaaS/IaaS strategies and sometimes COTS vs custom).

      1. Anon Cog

        This is a great idea. I’ll try to do some poking around the Internet over the weekend. Been thinking about doing it before, but then you get home from work and there are a million things to do, and you forget.

    3. Artemesia

      I foresee a future in which you and your colleagues ‘train your new offshore colleagues’ and then watch the jobs evaporate — or see them written off even before this event. This is how the US middle class is being destroyed. I’d be looking for something else so at least if this comes to pass you are among the first to look when other options are more likely and you are also prepared to go mentally and with resume in shape if things proceed in this direction even if you don’t start an active search now.

      1. RLA

        Yeah, I hate to be negative, but this is what happened to me two jobs ago. We built up an offshore team that was meant to “help you all with your work. They will do the grunt work and you can do the higher level stuff! It’s good for you we promise!”. Except that after a few months we were all asked to outline what out jobs entailed and how to do it, and a few people were even sent offshore to train those staff. Not a good sign…a few months later the company closed two offices (including mine) and we were all laid off/replaced with the offshore staff.

        1. Anon Cog

          I have a similar story, except it was a corporate office. My then-husband and his teammates were asked to document their work processes and their existing software to the last detail. They spent something like six months on that project. After they were done, management called a meeting and told them they had two weeks to find new work. We’d just signed an offer on a house, because he had not seen it coming.

          An OldJob lost something like 30 people to an offshore team last year, after the two teams had coexisted peacefully for about ten years, and the offshore team really had been doing grunt work. Then one day all of a sudden half of the local team got laid off. Again, no one probably saw it coming.

          Luckily for me, large corporations (which is what we now are) move very slowly in my experience. I’ve started re-reading my son’s CS college textbooks, will be reading Cracking The Coding Interview (that he also left me when he moved out) and such; and looking at job ads to see if something catches my eye. I’ve got plenty of time to get ready for the axe, if and when it falls.

          An old work friend taught me many years ago to walk into the office each day being fully prepared to be escorted out the door before the day is over. I found this a very good rule, that has helped me to survive in the corporate world so far. Not only survive, but grow professionally as well, because knowing that you may need to look for work tomorrow does keep you on your toes.

    4. Not So NewReader

      While I don’t know if you will lose your job or not, it seems to me that your intuition is running on overdrive here. This means prepare for worse case scenario. We are supposed to have intuition or “gut feelings” it’s necessary for our survival. Never be afraid of a gut feeling- it is to protect you and yours.

      Next, it costs nothing to start looking around. Time is on your side. Right now, probably not many are seriously looking at jobs. This means that for a little while, you can have the luxury of looking for a better position somewhere. You won’t have much competition and you know that you do have a little bit of time before anything serious happens.

    5. Jen

      I work for one of the biggest offshoring companies in the world. My company was acquired by Big Company about a year ago and we rapidly moved from an 80/20 to a 60/40 onshore model. We have finished making the major shifts/layoffs/decisions and are now working toward a 2 year plan to go 50/50 but with no plan for layoff. We are going to work on backfilling offshore, new reqs will be offshore only unless they are a very specific type of technical role etc.

      Our development team reports to me (well, the head of development for my BU reports to me) and this has been really hard for him. The other departments that report to me have not been nearly as hard hit, but even things like marketing are going partially offshore.

      If you are looking at new hires, I wouldn’t worry about your job. Clean up the resume just in case but pay attention to what’s happening and you’ll pick up. Also depending on your relationship you can probably ask the CIO or your boss directly. I get questions all the time.

  47. afiendishthingy

    A sampling of faux pas by my new coworker Rachel, all from the 1.5 weeks she’s worked in our office:
    “I’ve got like all these designer clothese with the tags still on, I’m trying to sell them on Poshmark, it’s not about the money, I just don’t want them to just go to Goodwill” (a lot of the women in my office are pretty into fashion but it’s more along the lines of “LOOK WHAT I GOT ON CLEARANCE AT BURLINGTON”)

    “Maybe this is like such a [Richwhitepeopleton Beach Communities] thing to say but like… I could NEVER live in [InlandWorkingClass FormerMillTown]” (in response to me mentioning I live in InlandWorkingClass FormerMillTown)

    “Why weren’t you guys into anything normal??” (in response to my other coworker Jamie and I talking about how Jamie’s daughter loves bugs and snakes, and I loved bugs as a kid, and Jamie and I both liked to catch frogs and toads)

    And many more. She’s clearly very insecure and is trying desperately to make us think she’s cool and she is failing badly, because every time she opens her mouth something dumb and/or vaguely offensive comes out. We’re a pretty loud, close, intense office so I understand we’re hard to break into, and I do feel a bit bad for her – but it’s also hard to feel too sympathetic when she’s constantly insulting people.

    1. Biff

      Oh wow. I’ve been the ridiculously bad culture fit in the past, and I think the only thing you can do is let her figure out on her own that maybe she should find another job.

      1. afiendishthingy

        Yup, this is what I’m hoping for. The kicker is she used to be a remote part-time Teapot Associate whom I supervised, and I really favored another internal candidate for the office-based Lead Teapot Associate position Rachel got. Rachel had some slightly better hard skills than Betsy, the other, but I knew Betsy would be a way better cultural fit. Unfortunately our director was really set on Rachel.

      2. Ann O'Nemity

        “Oh wow” is actually the perfect response to those comments. Accompanied by a judgmental eyebrow raise.

    2. Blue Anne

      As a weird hippie kid leaving the huge corporate behemoth because I’m a terrible culture fit, it’s kind of refreshing to hear about someone who’s a terrible culture fit in the other direction.

      1. MashaKasha

        As a nerdy middle-aged nerdy nerd who once came to a new job and found it filled with Beautiful People in their 20s, I find it kind of refreshing as well.

        Maybe Rachel used to work at a Beautiful People kind of place, and is socializing in the same way that worked for her there? just trying to give poor Rachel the benefit of the doubt.

        1. afiendishthingy

          From what I know of her background (mid-twenties recent grad, still lives with her parents in Richwhitepeopleton Beach, went to expensive private school not known for great academics, probably didn’t have a full time job before this) I think she probably is. I think she has a very very narrow definition of “normal” because of this bubble, and she is VERY anxious to fit into that category – and doesn’t quite get that most people in this office have different aspirations. I can’t quite figure out to what extent, if any, she understands that her comments are alienating people. I am going to try to find opportunities to give some gentle nudges about the social faux pas, and some slightly less gentle ones if she makes another thoughtless comment in front of my employee that undermines me (“So like do you have a plan, or are you just like waiting [situation] out?” I replied “I am waiting it out, that IS MY PLAN” very calmly. She no longer reports to me but she is definitely junior to me and it was her first time meeting a client I’ve been with for over a year. No no no. But that is a different story)

    3. fposte

      Oh, Rachel. Is she sheltered and newish to the workforce, or is this a hardened characteristic? If it’s the first, I might do her a kindness and try to give her some quick insight (“Rachel, denigrating statements like that make you sound really thoughtless, because they mean you don’t consider lives different than yours as being as valuable; I’d like to think that’s not who you really are”). If it’s the second, I might not bother.

      1. afiendishthingy

        She is definitely very sheltered and is in her mid-twenties. She added me on FB and I may have then stalked her extensively and… it’s pretty bad, in terms of 1)un-ironically admiring the Kardashians (2)countless more examples of classism (3) casual Islamophobia (4) glibly discounting examples of subtle racism in the media. So I think there may be some hope for her to grow, but I’m not sure she sees a need to.

        1. Biff

          Uhm. UHM.

          First off, I’d de-friend her. It sounds like that will be a source of fuel for a fire you don’t want at the office. I second the advice from Ann and Fpost.

          1. MashaKasha

            +1000 to defriending. I added tons of coworkers back in the day, and have regretted it since. Especially with a coworker like Rachel, I wouldn’t give her even the slightest chance (due to, say, a FB glitch that overrides privacy settinds etc) to see anything on your page or any of your activity.

          2. afiendishthingy

            but I kind of like to look at her FB for the same reason MOST people watch the Kardashians – it’s just such a train wreck I can’t look away.

            1. afiendishthingy

              … This is kind of an asshole move on my part. I 100% recognize that… but I’m not ready to give up the opportunity just yet

            2. catsAreCool

              You might try unfollowing her. If you do that, I think you can still check on her page when you want, but it’s not constantly in your face.

        2. fposte

          Though, you know, it’s okay to unironically admire the Kardashians. You don’t want to buy into the same classism stuff she has going and just take it in the other direction.

        3. jhhj

          There’s a lot to be impressed at from the Kardashians. I’m not terribly interested in them, but they’ve done impressive work in PR and running their own empire. The other stuff are problems, though, and I grant that most people who are impressed by the Kardashians aren’t impressed by their business acumen.

          1. pony tailed wonder

            I feel the same way about Paris Hilton. Not a bad life for a high school drop out with ADD. She knows what sells and she is driven.

          2. Afiendishthingy

            Ok, that’s fair. I shouldn’t have conflated non-ironic admiration of the Kardashians with general cluelessness/classism. It’s just that in this case. Many of Rachel’s Kardashian posts showcase Rachel’s total lack of awareness of the impact of race and class issues. And not for nothing… We work at a non profit human service agency!

    4. OriginalEmma

      “That’s a really rude thing to say about someone’s [hometown], [hobby], etc.” And let her squirm.

    5. Lillian McGee

      It was such an epiphany for me when I realized that behavior like hers comes from insecurity. I used to take comments like those so SO personally until I finally figured it out. Would have been nice to know back in high school…

      1. Windchime

        I used to work with someone like this. She came off as so snooty and uppity that she was not well-liked at work. She and I were hired at the same time and had kids the same age, so we were casual friends for a long time. We grew closer later because I really did think that her snooty demeanor was because of insecurity but later I realized…..nope, she’s just snooty. She goes into deep debt to buy expensive designer stuff that she can’t afford and truly acts like she thinks she is better than other people. I finally gave her the African Violet* when she said something callus about a close friend of mine who was going through a horrible, horrible time.

        *see Captain Awkward regarding the African Violet of friendship.

    6. Not So NewReader

      It might fly right over her head, but you could try something like this:

      “Rachel, when you point out how different people are from you it causes people to feel awkward. People tend to find affinity for people on the basis of what they have in common. Finding things in common with your coworkers is a good general workplace skill to have. You will find that it makes tasks and projects flow easier. It makes the workday less long and in some cases can even produce a better product/service. If you put the time into develop this skill you will find that you will use it for your entire working life.

      Additionally, every employee at any company is being compensated, in part, to get along with others. So every time you point out to people how you are different from them, they feel distanced from you. Overtime this can erode your work relationships and, in turn, impact your reputation. You may become known as awkward to work with or difficult to converse with, and this is not something you want.

      In short, Rachel, try to find things in common with other people instead of pointing out how different you are from them.”

  48. ali

    My manager left about a month and a half ago, and I’ve taken over about 1/4 of his duties until a new manager is found (and quite likely on-going after that). So at the moment, I’m expected to be doing my own job (and its our busiest time of year, we’re already backlogged until the end of January) in addition to this extra work, which isn’t easy work but there’s absolutely no one else in the company who can do it. I would have to train the new manager how to do it.

    At what point can I say to the interim manager (a senior VP who I’ve had virtually no interaction with ever) that I want more money if I’m going to keep doing this, or that we need to hire an additional person (or at least an intern) to take on the work that is getting dropped? Do I need to wait until the new manager is hired? That’s looking like mid-late January at this point, as apparently they don’t feel they have any qualified applicants yet.

    1. CrazyCatLady

      If they’re looking to hire someone by the end of January, that would be a few months of doing this extra work. I don’t think that’s enough time to warrant asking for more money. But I would talk to your manager about how the workload isn’t manageable right now and some things are getting dropped, and I would ask if they are still planning to hire someone new in January.

      1. voyager1

        You need to make sure that the new manager actually takes over these duties. If that doesn’t happen, then you need to have the “more money” convo. However they may not give you anything, be prepared for that and plan your next moves accordingly.

        1. ali

          yeah, I guess that’s what I mean, I think this is stuff that is going to end up on me permanently, regardless of new manager. I’m fine with continuing to do it if either my regular workload gets smaller (ie, jobs tasked to someone else) OR if I get more money. But if things are expected to continue as is for the unforseeable future, I’m not going to do it anymore.

          1. onyxzinnia

            What if you asked to move into the manager role full-time (and receive the raise that comes with it) and offer to help find your replacement? It’s probably easier to find a candidate to fill the more junior position.

  49. olympiasepiriot

    Need to vent about another company’s management: A friend’s office moved to my office neighborhood. We’ve had 3 (!) planned lunch dates in a week and a half get pushed off at last minute by “sudden emergency meeting during lunch that we only decided to announce at 10:45”.

    I work in an industry that can have actual emergencies and I have a handful of first responder certs of various types (no, not medical…but I know where to find info in the NIOSH Handbook really well) and Even We get to take lunch normally!!

    3 postponements in 7 workdays is a bit much.

    Keeping my fingers crossed for Monday.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      That used to happen to me ALL THE TIME. I would have a lunch planned, look forward to it for ages, then get a call at 9:30– “Can you present at a Lunch and Learn today?” “I have lunch plans” was not an appropriate response in that office. I feel bad for your friend– I’ll keep those fingers crossed for you both!

      1. olympiasepiriot

        Yeah, I feel bad for her, too. Plus, I always bring my own lunch unless a lunch out is planned…so this is 3 lunches I’ve had to go buy when I have something in the fridge at home I could have brought. Her boss owes me money!!!
        :-p

        1. Rebecca in Dallas

          That’s annoying! Can you bring your leftovers anyway? That way if she cancels, you have something to eat. And if she doesn’t, then you have lunch for tomorrow!

          1. olympiasepiriot

            I *will* be doing that on Monday. Of course, that’ll guarantee we DO get to go for lunch. (Like, if you need rain, pack a picnic!)

            She’s in a biz, though, that really shouldn’t be having so many emergencies… Makes me think Bad Time Management At The Top.

    2. Not So NewReader

      If you see something three times you have a pattern. Having an established pattern with a negative results each time, means change something that you are doing. If she fails to make this next lunch, ask her what the two of you will do differently so that you do not need all these last minute cancellations. It could be that you both bring lunches and eat together somewhere. It could be that coffee break at 2 pm works better than an entire lunch. And it could be that moving into the new office has caused more upheaval than she ever anticipated and you need to wait a month or so before trying again.

      1. olympiasepiriot

        Oh we’ve already strategized all that. Her company always has crazy deadlines (advertising, they loooove to mess with your life, this kind of last minute thing seems very common in that field, as seen from the outside) and because they’ve now moved close to my office, I offered to take her to local lunch places so she’d get to know the area.

        If it was just about us hanging together, we’d do that in our home nabe.

    3. Hlyssande

      If she doesn’t already, suggest that she block out her lunch time as ‘busy’ in her calendar every day. Sometimes people just don’t think when scheduling stuff.

      But also, yeah. A conversation is definitely needed between you two. If this is a sort of recent development in her work, she may also want to talk to her manager.

      1. olympiasepiriot

        Not recent, unfortunately. And, from what she’s said over the years, I suspect that blocking out time in her calendar would be overridden with a team of Percherons newly shod.

  50. Anonducator for this

    I supervise student workers at a University. One of my students, whom I’ve been supervising/working with for a few years, mentioned that they were living in their car over break. This person lost their single parent earlier in the year and the family home is no longer the family home (I hope that makes sense – trying to be intentionally but not unhelpfully vague). There isn’t really family in the area so this break is just long enough to be a problem but too short to justify traveling across the US to stay with what family they do have (and I don’t think they can afford to do that anyways). I’ve put out feelers and have been discreetly checking around for options so they aren’t stuck spending the much longer winter break in their car.

    So far, I’ve discovered 1. staying on break free of charge and putting together gift cards for local restaurants (if student life won’t waive the fee, I can get the fee covered; the deadline has not passed for them to request to stay over the break), gas cards/vouchers through an agency I used to work for to at least keep the car warm, and offering up my guest room. I thought about seeing if anyone would need a house sitter over break, but I’m not sure where to look for that (maybe I could suggest it and point them in the direction of …is there a website for that?) Other tips/options welcome! I get the sense that they don’t feel comfortable sharing their situation and don’t see traditional social service options as options.

    I would LOVE any tips about how to approach the conversation. Email or phone? We don’t work in the same building, so face-to-face conversations are rare and may come across as weird or overbearing. There is no EAP to refer this person to and there isn’t really one person who makes arrangements for situations like this that I could refer them to.

    1. A

      My school had a “secret” organization (in that the identities of the members were secret, not the organization itself) which had emergency funds for students who needed to travel home or had some other emergency fund need. They had to apply for it, but I heard it did well for those who needed it. If your school has something like that, maybe just say, “Hey, I remember you mentioning you didn’t have a place to go for break. If you’re in the same situation for winter break, I wanted to remind you about X. I’d hate for you to spend it alone.” And then leave it.

    2. Phyllis

      Check with your student life/affairs office–it may be that McKinney-Vento (federal law regarding homeless students) would come into play here. If so, there are resources available to assist.

      1. Alma

        There were students, who due to international travel, were not going to leave campus for fall break, winter break (a month long), or spring break. The University had a list of professors, other University workers, and members of the community who would welcome a student into the family during that time.

        That is not a bad idea for any reason – to have a list of families, perhaps solicited through community service groups, faith groups, and friends of friends who would be willing to be family to a student for several years. I would have loved to have a retired couple, a family with or without children, a widow, to have dinner with one night a week (and maybe run a load or three of laundry while I was at it!). I was 15 hrs (or an expensive plane ticket) away from home.

    3. GigglyPuff

      Could this person also find housing sitting/pet sitting jobs? I remember those were pretty frequently asked about at my undergrad.

    4. Brett

      Because I was a winter sport athlete, I had to be on campus nearly all of winter break (I only had Christmas day off). This was actually a really common problem for wrestlers and basketball players living in the dorms who had competitions throughout winter break while the dorms were closed.

      I found out that many fraternities on campus were perfectly happy to allow me to stay there for free and house sit during break. The one I stayed at most breaks even told me I could eat anything in the kitchen! I learned about this through other athletes who were in the fraternities, but if you have a campus greek organization they might be able to help look into this.

    5. MaryMary

      Yes, reach out to the student affairs office or whatever it’s called at your university. I worked for the Dean of Students’ Office when I was in college, and the Assistant Dean was awesome with situations like this. Your employee can’t be the only one who needs to stay on campus over break (I’m thinking of international students, maybe student athletes…), I’m sure student affairs or res life could come up with some sort of solution.

    6. Artemesia

      This is a bog standard problem; there will be students in this situation all the time. A random professor shouldn’t have to figure out how to invent the wheel here. Get with the Dean of Students, or Student Housing or whomever IS in charge of student issues and find out who to send the student to and /or what the options are.

    7. BuildMeUp

      Since they mentioned it directly to you (and you didn’t just happen to find out), I think you can just give them a call and say you got to thinking about their situation and realized you know of some resources that could help. Ask if it would be okay for you to meet up with them for coffee somewhere on campus, or for you to send them an email about it. If they say no, don’t push, but say the offer is open if they change their mind.

    8. Not So NewReader

      I’d check the local churches that have active congregations (people are doing things), see if the pastor has any ideas.

      If the pastor does have an idea, a way to present the idea might be, “My friend, Pastor Bob, came to me the other day because he is concerned for his friend (congregation member), Jane. Jane needs a [house sitter, pet caretaker, home health aid] over the break period and he was wondering if I knew anyone who could pitch in and help out. I thought maybe you would be at least interested in talking to Jane to see if this is something you’d want to help out with.”

      The trick here is to get Pastor Bob on board with how you are presenting this so you both are on the same page and saying the same thing.

    9. Schuyler

      I am just now reading this thread, so you may have already done this, but make sure you or the student speak with the financial aid office about this situation too. Students are required to report parent information on their FAFSA, and if your student did (if the parent was still alive when it was done) the office may be able to make changes to the FAFSA (taking out the parent info) which may or may not result in eligibility for more aid. While we can only do dependency overrides in certain situations this may well be one. There are some financial aid folk who are really uncomfortable in this area because we are used to requiring boatloads of documentation for compliance & auditing purposes, whereas dealing with unaccompanied homeless youth there’s a lot more ambiguity and often no documentation beyond the meeting with the fin aid staff. But if it results in a student getting a larger Pell grant or something, it’s worth it.

      The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children & Youth is a good resource for how to help support homeless youth, and the director of higher ed initiatives (Cyekeia Lee) may be able to help if you ever have questions about how you can start support students experiencing homelessness. Clare Cady has also done a lot to educate higher ed folk about students who are homeless or experiencing food insecurity, so you may want to search for her journal article(s).

  51. CrazyCatLady

    I asked this last week, but it was a slow week and I didn’t get any answers, so I’ll try again.

    Has anyone here taken the APICS CSCP exam? I’m studying for it now and am really struggling. I understand the material but the way they phrase questions in the practice exams is not intuitive at all for me. It’s making me feel so badly about myself because I don’t usually struggle with things! Just looking for some encouragement or tips!

    1. A

      If you can understand the question enough to rephrase it for yourself, do it. I used to do that a lot. Even if you can just pick out words, grab some synonyms, and rephrase it that way, it can lead you toward answering the question well.

      1. CrazyCatLady

        I try that and I’ve usually been pretty good at taking multiple choice exams. I guess it’s not so much the questions, but the answers that are really difficult to determine because so many seem correct and often, to me, one doesn’t even seem more right than the other. I can usually narrow it down to 2 answers by the process of elimination but I’m getting so stuck and discouraged.

    2. PEBCAK

      Make sure you are using the real-deal prep materials. There is a ton of stuff online that is utter garbage.

      Read the question and think about the answer BEFORE looking at the answer choices.

      Make sure you have the dictionary DOWN PAT. A large part of the exam is knowing the vocab used by APICS, which may or may not be the same thing used at your particular organization.

      1. CrazyCatLady

        Thanks! I am using the real prep materials – I actually haven’t finished all of it yet, but have tried the practice tests just to see where I’m at. I’ve only been scoring around 50% (I’ve only read around 50% of the material so far, though). There are some online flashcard tests that seem to be pretty accurate to the terminology in the dictionary that I’ve been trying. You’re right on about the vocab is not the same as what’s used in my org.

        The test questions I have a tough time with are the ones that ask a question, and then ask what would be reasons/solution/whatever… and they list 4 possible answers, and you have to pick something like: (1) answers a & b, (2) answers a, b, c (3) answers b and c and (4) a,b,c and d.

        1. PEBCAK

          Yes, I remember those, and they make it difficult to use a process of elimination. I’d try not to look at the final options, and look at a, b, c, and d, asking yourself yes/no for each one. THEN look at the final answer and hope there is one that matches the combination you picked :-)

  52. TotesMaGoats

    It’s been a great couple of weeks at work. Just knocking things out of the park with successes.
    Incoming applications up 26%
    Deposits up 23%
    2 major IT things completed within 6 months (that hadn’t been done in 3 years)

    Getting such great feedback from bosses and colleagues about everything I’m doing. Really enjoy work even with some folks with annoying personalities. Affirms that I do know how to do my job and do it really well. And while I don’t normally toot my own horn on social media and what not, I’ve absolutely been blasting this on my FB feed. My most immediate boss and my first boss at OldJob (who is once again the VP for the division I was in) are on my friend list. Immediate former boss screwed me over while on MAT leave and first boss is struggling to fill my old position. To both I say…neener neeener, your loss.

  53. Can't Breathe

    Over the last couple weeks one of my coworkers has started using really strongly scented Plugins. Our office is relatively small and the scent is triggering my migraines; they were under control and are back with a vengeance since the Plug In Dynasty began. I have one nearly every afternoon. I asked and coworker refuses to remove the plugins, and my boss won’t intervene. Any ideas?

    1. ThatGirl

      Wow, that’s jerky – if someone said my lotion scent, for instance, was triggering migraines I’d be apologizing all over myself.

      Would a small fan or air purifier help, is that allowed?

    2. Be the Change

      Oh my gosh, that is awful. Talk about uncollegial, even nasty and mean-spirited.

      I’d be tempted to start doing something obnoxious back (Smelly food? Loud phone calls?) and then negotiate! …recognizing that an arms race is probably not great solution.

      Maybe a doctor’s note?

    3. Biff

      Do you mean at the office or at home, and they are bringing the scent in?

      If it’s at the office, is it possible they are covering up a really bad smell and the real solution is to take care of the underlying issue?

    4. Sadsack

      I had an air freshener that caused my work neighbor headaches, and I immediately got rid of it when he asked. Your coworker is a jerk and so is your manager. I would tell them both about it again, maybe together. “Jane and Bob, as you both know Jane’s air freshener is causing me to have migraines. What are we going to do to resolve this?”

    5. Muriel Heslop

      My brother is a firefighter and demanded we get rid of all of ours because they are a fire hazard. I suggest going that route. Good luck!

      1. NotherName

        This! Also, do you have a company policy about strong scents/potential allergens? I would think this would fall under that policy. If you don’t have one and do have an HR department, you might want to discuss this with them.

        But the fire hazard route is probably best. Your headaches might slightly inconvenience them, but they really have problems to deal with if the building burns down. (Unless they’ve recently taken out a large fire insurance policy on the building and this is some sort of elaborate insurance fraud scam your boss and CW are working.)

    6. Xarcady

      I would go back to the co-worker and very clearly spell out what the problem was. “Co-Irker, the Plugins you are using make me sick. I am getting migraines daily because of them. Can you please stop using them?”

      If she won’t stop, go back to your boss. Address this as a productivity issue. “Boss, I have asked Co-Irker twice now to stop using the Plugins, as they are causing me to have a migraine on a daily basis. These migraines mean that my productivity is down, because I can’t [insert whatever fits here]. Can you ask her to stop using the Plugins, or can my desk be moved, or can you think of some other solution, so that I can do my work?”

      And if Boss still won’t do anything, I’d probably go to HR. But first, I’d try to see if there were any co-workers who also didn’t like the Plugins, so as to present a united front on the issue.

    7. LCL

      One more meeting with boss. Explain to the boss what a migraine is. Tell him you will be unplugging the plug ins if he doesn’t do anything. Then unplug them. To people that don’t get them, the first (uncharitable) thought when hearing about migraines can be ‘there goes Wakeen exaggerating about his damn headaches again. We all get headaches, what is the BFD?’

      Or you could open the breaker that supplies the receptacle that has the plug in. This is really last resort, because it will kill everything on that circuit. It will make your point.

      1. catsAreCool

        If a plug-in gave me even a minor headache every day, I’d think it was more than reasonable to ask for it to be removed or turned off.

    8. University Girl

      I got very concernedthat this might be a situation in my office. I recently brought in a Plug In after our offices were flooded by a water fountain right outside my office. Thankfully I’ve only heard good things about the scent (Mom’s Baking)!

    9. Sunny With a Chance of Showers

      I am very strongly against anything scented in the communal office space – a Plug-In (yuk), spray, those sticks, or perfume.

      99% of that stuff is all fake chemicals and so very nauseating. Why should I be forced to smell YOUR PlugIn?

    10. Rebecca in Dallas

      Ugh, that sucks. No advice other than what the others have suggested, but just wanted to say I feel your pain!

    11. Not So NewReader

      Ask the boss what the MSDS says for this product.

      I’d have a headache, too. While you are waiting for the dust to settle, can you bring in a fan or a small air purifier? I have had luck with setting out bowls of vinegar to absorb chemically smells- not ideal in your setting but maybe there is a product you can set near you to reduce the smell next to you.

      Can you open a window? Again, not ideal, but you can’t keep working like this either.

      Can the thing be moved to an outlet further away from you? (I mean that as a temporary thing, while you are impressing the importance of removing it entirely.)

    12. Windchime

      arrrgggh, Plug-ins are the worst. We’ve got people in our office doing those awful oil misters and that’s almost as bad. I am fragrance-impaird, somehow, so they all smell like patchouli or bug spray to me.

  54. INTP

    This is something that happened a few years ago, so it doesn’t really matter anymore, but I was thinking about it with discussions about holiday parties and such.

    Is it standard for office parties to include recently retired employees? I was in charge of organizing our office party at a previous job. I was given a list of all the employees as well as a selected list of vendors, clients, and contractors who should get invites, and sent invitations to all of those people.

    “Mary” had retired from the company a few months before after the death of her husband (I got the sense that it was an early retirement, but I started around the time she retired and didn’t know her well). She evidently stayed in touch with current employees and she showed up to the holiday party. I was distributing the meat/fish/veg cards and asked which she had ordered, assuming she was someone’s plus one. She told me “I couldn’t RSVP because I didn’t get my invitation.”

    Was this her faux pas or mine? It wouldn’t be the only time at that job that I was expected to read minds and just know someone should be on a list that wasn’t, but I can’t imagine showing up to a party that I wasn’t invited to, didn’t RSVP to, and not as a guest of someone invited (lots of her friends showed up solo, so I assume she could have come as a plus 1 and ordered her food and RSVPed her place to avoid causing problems).

    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      Well, it was definitely a huge faux pas for her to just show up when she didn’t get an invitation. You were given a list, and she wasn’t on it, so it wasn’t yours.

      Personally, I think maybe she should have been invited, since she’d been with the company for so many years, and she left on good terms. But then, people might wonder why Mary was invited but Fergus was not, or whether Mary would be invited every year or just that year. The company might need to have guidelines for that.

    2. ThursdaysGeek

      Our holiday party would certainly include recently retired, visiting executives. And I’m not sure how you would know, unless you knew to ask. I would expect that the recently retired would have tried to connect with the party planners ahead of time, to let them (you) know, and maybe she did, but it didn’t get all the way to you.

    3. Brett

      It is pretty normal for retirees to show up to our Christmas parties unannounced. We actually frequently get high management retirees from other divisions that have been gone for 10+ years. But we also way overplan on food (like RSVP + 50%). We pay for this all out of our own pockets though ($50-$100 each), so that is probably a big difference compared to a party that it sounds like was paid for by the company?

      1. INTP

        Yes, the company paid. It was at a restaurant, and we only gave them the number of people who had RSVPed with no padding. Luckily some people didn’t show up after RSVPing, and I guess it worked out since I never heard any complaints about there being no fish for a pescetarian or anything.

    4. LCL

      Our holiday parties always include retirees. But they are always potluck. The faux pas was committed by the person who was advising you that didn’t tell you about inviting the retirees.

    5. Not So NewReader

      There are lots of people who messed up here.
      The person who told you to plan the party neglected to mention to you to invite people you do not know and never heard of.
      The person who let Mary know where and when the party was should have told you to include her in the head count.
      Mary should have asked the person who invited her if she needed to RSVP with someone.

      She may have wanted you to feel bad and that could be why she framed her reply the way she did.

      I’d file this one under “mind reading skills”. Sometimes you can take something like this and use it later on. “oh do we invite retirees to these things?” And someone else will think that you have very good ESP. You just never mentioned how you learned to ask that question.

  55. LibbyG

    How important is writing, really, for professionals? I’m a college professor (not comp or even English) and I emphasize writing a lot: clarity and concision, but also basic correctness. I get a lot of pushback from students, especially those who claim that they just aren’t “good at grammar” and such is their immutable fate. I worry about these students graduating from a really good but not prestigious college going out there and being held back in their careers because their writing has a lot of minor errors (missing commas) or some bigger ones (sentence fragments, run-on sentences). Am I overly worried? Should I dial back my expectations?

    1. ThatGirl

      I’m an editor, so I’m biased here, but being able to communicate clearly IS important. Most people don’t notice or fuss over small errors (commas, a slightly wrong word choice) but when poor grammar or spelling, or an inability to sum your thoughts up concisely get in the way of making your point, it can be a problem. You’ll get much farther in life if you can communicate well, let’s put it that way.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      No, do not dial back your expectations. In many fields (although not all), writing is hugely important. They don’t have to be Tolstoy or perfect grammarians, but they need to write clearly and concisely and logically, with a flow that at a minimum isn’t distracting from their message.

    3. A

      I finished undergrad in 2014. I have a hard time taking people seriously and seeing them as intelligent people if they can’t write clearly/use Internet slang/unnecessary abbreviations (“thru,” “omg,” “wat,”). Grammar doesn’t have to be by-the-book. I know I make mistakes and there are instances of evolving language all over the place, so it’s not always necessary to write “correctly.” But writing well is important in a professional context.

      1. SevenSixOne

        I had a 30something, college educated, native English speaking boss who could not write at all. I don’t mean they were bad at spelling/grammar or never proofread anything, I mean their emails looked like:

        hey every1
        i need u all come 1 hr erly 2mrw
        thx
        boss

        No punctuation or capital letters, a line break after each thought, and full of text speak. It was so confusing, and it can be really hard to respect someone’s authority when they write like a dumbass.

        1. Audiophile

          Second to this is someone who write and clearly doesn’t understand the words they’re using. You know, because they don’t make sense in the sentence they appear in. I had a supervisor like this, he was nice but didn’t know how to write well and so would try to “punch up” his writing on his own and it just ended up looking ridiculous.

        2. Windchime

          We actually had a Physicians Assistant (practically the same thing as a doctor) working on a project with my team once, and he wrote like this. He was the laughingstock of the entire team. It was so unprofessional.

      2. Tara R.

        Honestly, I have a hard time not rolling my eyes when people get judgmental about grammar. In external communications, obviously you want to send out a professional, tehnically precise message. But interally? If my coworker is awesome at her job, I’m not going to begrudge her an “omg”. The vast majority of my personal communications are of the ‘how u doin? lol im having a bad day sighhh’ variety, but that doesn’t mean I’m not an intelligent person. Tbh, I find it somewhat off-putting when I get text messages in an overly formal tone; it feels less like a conversation.

    4. Myrin

      Agree with all of the above and also, if it really is grammar that is the problem, well, that can be learned (or at least looked up) so it’s really not that good an excuse.

    5. Retail Lifer

      It’s not important in my field…apparently. At nearly every job I’ve had, we’ve gotten terribly written memos from people that make quite a bit more than me. In fact, at my last company, we had a communications specialist whose sole job was to correct the spelling and grammar of upper management before their memos were sent out.

      It’s really sad when your employees, who are making barely more than minimum wage, point out all the errors of your corporate staff. Not everyone is inarticulate, but there are way more people in upper retail management than you would expect.

    6. SL #2

      The majority of jobs I’ve applied to asked for writing samples after the phone screening, and use that + the phone call to determine whether or not the applicant makes it to the next round. It matters if you can write clearly, concisely, and personally, I judge when there’s no Oxford comma (which is optional depending on who you talk to), let alone when there are missing ones!

      Are your students in STEM departments, maybe? I’ve found that there’s less of an emphasis on strong writing skills in those classes, especially if the student is taking 3 STEM classes and then 1 class with writing just to fill a requirement.

    7. Ad Astra

      Being good at communicating clearly will always, always help you do your job — any job — better. Even jobs that don’t seem writing-focused will probably involve a lot of email, memos, etc. I would think the increase in digital tools (IM, texting, digital forms, company Intranets, etc) would likely make basic writing skills even more important.

      I expect professionals to have mastered things like your/you’re and there/their/they’re, understand when one sentence ends and another begins, and get most (but maybe not all) of their commas in the right place. It would also be nice if said professionals knew how to pluralize a word without adding an apostrophe.

    8. bridget

      What?! No, you’re not overly worried. Along with many other comments, I’m biased because my profession demands good writing. Flawless writing is basically what lawyers are paid for (although my internet comments might not often reflect that people actually pay me for that). As there are so many of us who are “biased” based on our professions, it strongly suggests that writing is basic competency issue in so many professions that students who try to ignore that are seriously limiting themselves.

    9. fposte

      I would look at it another way: it’s a huge, huge advantage to write well. It gives you a leg up. It makes you sound like you know more than other people whether you do or not. It earns respect, even when people don’t realize that’s what’s earning their respect. This advantage is available to you for *free*. (Setting aside mounds of cultural baggage about privilege and opportunity, of course). People who are looking for a magic bullet in hiring and are sending along chocolate and pictures of themselves–focus that time on writing well, because that may be the closest thing to a magic bullet around.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yes! I got lots of unearned respect early on just because I could write well; in my first couple of jobs, people thought I was much more skilled and competent than I actually was, solely due to the writing. (That may still be the case.)

        I actually owe my whole career to being able to write.

      2. dancer

        Yes! I find this is true even in technical fields. My manager has been happy with how clear, concise and organized my reports are.

        1. catsAreCool

          I work in a technical field, and being able to write well has been helpful to me. I think that people who goof up in well-known grammar sometimes have a harder time getting taken seriously.

    10. Bend & Snap

      Incredibly important in my field (communications). But really, it’s a skill that can only help people in the course of their lives, so I don’t get the pushback.

      I do see some terribly written emails from other parts of my company so it may just depend on whether you work with good writers/a field that values writing. But good writing is definitely a sign of intelligence IMO.

    11. Anonymous Poster

      Engineer here. The engineers that write coherently get along much better and go farther than those that do not or cannot. It hampers an engineer’s ability to collaborate with his or her fellows effectively, and no engineering happens in a vacuum anymore. Specifically in my field, good grammar, correct word usage, and technical clarity are vital. Why?

      Grammar – If I don’t understand what exactly you’re talking about, I cannot correctly diagnose/problem solve.
      Word usage – Engineering requires precision and technical correctness. Wrong words dramatically change the meaning of what’s being communicated.
      Technical clarity – I need to know exactly what’s being talked about, so be clear. Fewer words often help improve clarity, so be concise.

      1. MashaKasha

        IT here and I think it’s extremely important for two reasons:
        1) communication – everything you’ve listed. Tom from Office Space was not that far from the truth actually.
        2) marketing – there are a lot of people in my field who choose to work for themselves. I haven’t done it, but I imagine that, in addition to having the skills and the experience to deliver what the customer wants, they also have to be able to market themselves.

      2. dancer

        Yup, I completely agree. I hate reading poorly written technical reports because they can mask issues or make the described problem completely ambiguous.

      3. F.

        We hire engineering and geology/earth sciences grads. Our written inspection report *is* our product. All the work in the field goes into that document. A candidate with good grammar and spelling skills will stand out head and shoulders above the rest. Please continue to impress upon your students how very important these skills are, no matter which field they choose.

        A mini-rant here: I think it is a damn shame that grammar and spelling are not taught better in elementary school. This changed back in the 1960s when someone in education decided that it was better to just let students “express themselves” and that teaching grammar and spelling “held them back” from doing so. What earthly good is it to express yourself if no one can understand what you are trying to communicate?!
        (end of rant!)

        1. bridget

          I think this is a generational straw man. I went to elementary school in the 1990s, and good writing was pretty heavily emphasized. Whenever we wrote personal stories, or journaled, or whatever, it was really just a way to get us to practice writing a lot, because practice (in whatever form and with whatever content) is what makes you a better writer. It wasn’t just so that we could be little free spirits.

          I’m willing to bet that in the 1960s, a *smaller* proportion of the public had strong writing skills. In objective terms, things like literacy and public education tend to get better over time, not worse. We had a lot more agricultural and industrial jobs back then, so it was much less important for any random person to write well. I’d be surprised if my lifelong-rancher grandfather could write a cohesive paragraph (I’m sure that’s not representative; I don’t mean to crap on such jobs, they just didn’t require much writing in previous decades). Now office/thinking/communicating jobs are the majority of jobs, and even people employed in non-office environments need to present competently in an email.

          1. Kelly L.

            Yup. I went to elementary school in the 80s and high school in the 90s. We definitely learned grammar, diagrammed sentences, and wrote faux business letters and innumerable five-paragraph themes.

            1. mander

              Me, too. Same time frame. We even made mobiles of our diagrammed sentences in high school, just for fun!

          2. F.

            I was in the second grade in 1967 when the new English curriculum came out in our medium-sized city school district in a city with heavy ties to the aircraft industry. When I took Latin in 9th grade with a lot of other advanced students, the teacher was appalled that I was the only person in the class who knew English grammar. That was only because my mother taught me, and I was a voracious reader. She had to teach the rest of the class what they should have already known.

            My children graduated from High School in 2006 and 2009, so they were in grade school in a middle-income suburban district in the 1990s. I was dismayed at the lack of instruction in grammar and especially the lack of carryover of communication skills into other subjects. (Your experience was obviously different.)

            1. Kelly L.

              Well, schools vary, of course.

              And I think people are always surprised, when learning a foreign language, how much grammar they take for granted in their own, even if they’ve learned grammar adequately. One of my college Spanish classes assigned a book called something like English Grammar for Spanish Students, and it was all about how you’re learning Spanish and thinking “Subjunctive? What is this witchcraft?” but it actually exists in English too; we just don’t think about it. Really interesting stuff.

      4. Marcela

        Scientist here, and I absolutely agree with you. In our area, physics, we discovered it’s easier to get papers published when they are well written. The same happens with conference talks and abstracts. Considering the vital importance the number of papers has in a scientist career, sometimes my husband wonders how people send horrific papers to journals (that he gets to review). It’s not like it’s impossible to learn to write properly, or at least try to, like we do. There are even websites to check grammar, such as spellcheckplus.com

    12. Christian Troy

      My undergrad was very particular about writing, to the point people were regularly brought in for misconduct if something wasn’t cited correctly. During grad school, it was the complete opposite in that faculty members were never on the same page when it came to what standards to hold students to or if it was appropriate to critique their writing. This was a huge problem because as a student who was assigned to work on different group projects, I often worked with students who were at such deficits when it came to basic skills like citing sources, that I turned into a jerk by telling them what they were doing was a poor practice. I don’t think you should dial back your expectations because I think when professors take such a hands off approach or lower the bar, it sends a message that these habits are acceptable when they are sloppy and lazy.

    13. olympiasepiriot

      I am an un-civil engineer. Clear writing using good grammar and spelling is vital. We transmit information mostly in visual and mathematical form, but, everything gets a cover letter, a report, a transmittal form, a memo or some other written document containing information, distillation and recommendations.

      I even demand of my junior engineers that they *physically* write neatly — we have many field forms and, no, we don’t issue everyone iPads for documenting field conditions. If a sheet of paper with pencil or ball point ink gets wet or muddy or sprayed with grout, it can be gently placed somewhere to dry, brushed off and STILL be legible. Try doing that with anything less than a military spec tablet.

      I have bent the ear of more than one Civ Eng. Dept. head about reinstituting at least one semester of a hand drawing and lettering class at the undergraduate level.

      1. CheeryO

        I was a TA for a few junior and senior level civil/enviro engineering classes, and I was constantly fighting my bias towards the students with neat handwriting. I also really appreciated students who wrote their calculations out in a thorough, logical way. It made me feel a little softer towards my high school physics teacher, who was notoriously ruthless about formatting.

        But yes, even for us engineers, writing is so critical. I’m in government, and sometimes I feel like all I do is write things that other people (lawyers, the public, our regulated community) are going to be reading with a critical eye. Being able to pump out quality documentation that your overworked boss doesn’t need to edit is HUGE.

    14. OriginalEmma

      Nope! And you may be the only professor/class that helps them write the sort of documents organizations want and need. Clear, precise and brief! Not some 5-page bloviating exposition on the nature of socks.

    15. Anie

      My boss’s boss’s boss put up signs advising the company about the exact date of a huge event that takes place every 2 months. The signs where mostly for vendors of those who might not otherwise get an email about it.

      It was so poorly written. I mean, misspelled words, no punctuation…. It was basically incomprehensible.

      Sooooo, I took a red marker and edited it. Super boss saw the corrections, pulled down the signs, told everyone he ran into for WEEKS that he’d taken the note from a template (that I’ve never seen in the 5 years I’ve worked there, lol), and put up a “corrected” sign. That. Still. Had. No. Punctuation.

      It hurts me to see things like this, so it’s so prevalent. It’s tragic that such a well paid, exec-level man doesn’t understand how to use a period or comma.

      Brings me back to my college days working on student papers. I had so many people try to hand me work without a single period that I had to hand them back automatically and firmly say I wouldn’t look at any paper that didn’t use periods and capitalize the first word of the next sentence.

    16. Mike C.

      Smack them around with high expectations, especially if they happen to be STEM majors. They need it <so badly

      Pretty please. :)

    17. Elizabeth West

      No, it’s extremely important. You don’t have to be J.K. Rowling to learn simple grammar. In fact, having good communication skills, including and especially writing, can give them an edge over similarly qualified candidates who lack them. And you can tell them I said that. I’ve gotten jobs because of those abilities, including this one. I wasn’t born knowing how to write; I learned and so can they.

      Don’t dial back your expectations–you wouldn’t be doing them any favors.

    18. Not So NewReader

      Okay, I am going to seem to go against the grain a little bit. While I agree that expressing a thought clearly is absolutely critical, I also know that the profs drove me and others nuts with stuff.

      Never ever use a comma in this instance.
      Always use a comma in this instance.
      HUH?

      Start a new paragraph here.
      Don’t start a new paragraph here.
      wth.

      Try not to pick fly poop out of pepper. Remember that other profs are telling the students the opposite of what you are saying. They are swearing that what they say is gospel. Students write to suit the professor. They put commas in for one prof and leave them out for another. They know how each prof differs and they just do what is necessary for that particular prof.

      Getting my final paper through proof reading was very interesting. I don’t know how many times I redid it. I kept track of the changes. I was taking commas out for one person, and putting commas back in for the next person. I was unjoining sentences for one person and putting them back together the next reader. I went through months of this. I finally felt that no one had actually followed the content of what I had written, no one really made any comment on the thoughts that I had put together or where I went with what I had learned in the course of my research. Basically, I found their comments superficial. They were more concerned with making it look pretty than they were with thinking about the content. The final reviewer’s only comment was that this was the most highly edited paper he had ever read. What a waste of my time. It was 90 pages and it was some of my worst writing ever. In some ways, it made me question if my degree was real.

      When you give back a student’s work, they will be looking to see if you are actually following along with what they are talking about. Do your comments show, in some manner, that you have actually read and digested what they wrote? I had a prof for economics that would write half page comments at the end of our papers. I could not wait to see what he had to say on each paper I handed in. (We did one a week.) Yes, he had added commas and shortened sentences and all that. But he took the time to follow our trains of thought and his comments reflected that. He taught on two levels, he was not as concerned with “making it look pretty” to the exclusion of considering what point is the writer making and how does the writer get to their point.

    19. LibbyG

      Thanks, everyone! This thread really helps me strategize about what to focus on. Thanks especially to Not So NewReader for the contrasting perspective.

      1. Sophia in the DMV

        Late reply but I’m also a professor (assistant professor) and I think you can’t disentangle ideas from writing. I see writing as a way of thinking and remind them that I don’t know what’s in their head, and need them to clearly communicate

  56. ThatGirl

    I’m new to the open thread, so, hi!

    I’m an editor. I currently work for a large Fortune 500 wholesaler, so I edit product copy about teapots, tea cozies, hot plates, tea cups, saucers spoons, sugar, creamer, you name it. I’ve been here 8 years and used to be in journalism.

    I like my job but recently I’ve been approached by two different recruiters for jobs that would use my editing and content/project management skills in totally different ways. I’m basically waiting to see where this goes.

    My questions are really thus:
    a) how on earth do I answer “where do you see your career going?” when I never saw it going this direction, but I’m happy that it did and happy to go where life takes me next?
    b) how much better does a new job have to be before I know it’s worth taking? I guess that’s something only I can answer, but it’s not a thought I’ve had to consider before, and there are a lot of little things I would miss about my current job in a new one. Which isn’t to say a new one wouldn’t have its own perks.

    Hmph.

    1. Dawn

      a) think about that job and only that job when answering that question. So, if you got the job at that specific company, where would you want it to go? What division(s) seem interesting? What new stuff are they doing that sounds like something you’d want to jump on board with?

      b) I mean there’s always hesitation in taking a new job, ALWAYS. You can never be 100% sure of what you’re getting into. However, at some point in the talking/interviewing/negotiation phase you’ll either find yourself going “yeah, I’m excited about this!” or “Eh, whatever.” Don’t take the job unless you’re feeling “Yeah! Excited!!!”

      1. ThatGirl

        Thanks – B especially is helpful.

        With A, part of the problem is that I have no idea – these aren’t industries I’m familiar with, the jobs themselves are (in this case) niche positions, I’m not sure if there’s a clear stepping stone or ladder to follow. And they seem to be asking me, at least when it comes to recruiters, more broadly what I want my career to be.

        1. Dawn

          Research research research before you go into an interview! Get familiar with these industries! Spend a couple hours reading about the company and specifically pay attention to any news articles written about the company in the last six months. That should give you a good picture of what the company does and anything that they’ve done on a large enough scale to land on the news recently.

          OK so here’s an example. Let’s say you’re gonna go interview for a job at Procter & Gamble (another Fortune 500 but not a wholesaler). Alrighty, so 5 seconds on Google News shows me that they have just launched an Oral B toothbrush that connects to your smartphone and that the company is thinking about other ways to offer connected products. Let’s say that piques your interest. So when you get the “where do you see your career in 5 years” you can say something like “I have been reading about the Internet of Everything and am specifically interested in how everyday items can become ‘smart’ and connected to an app. I see that P&G is venturing into that space with your smart toothbrush! I’d like to [start doing stuff related to that topic][write stuff related to that topic][project manage stuff related to that topic]”

          When they ask that question they’re not saying “Alrighty I want a detailed 12 step plan for how you’re gonna spend your time between now and 5 years from now and exactly what you’re gonna do to get there” they’re just trying to weed out the people who are wishy-washy or who don’t show any aptitude or who are dumb enough to say something like “Working for [a totally different company/industry]!”

          1. ThatGirl

            Appreciate your thoughts, for sure – and I wouldn’t say “herding goats in Timbuktu” or anything :) This one possibility in particular is very niche and newly created and there don’t seem to be too many people doing it, so it’s hard to investigate. But it’s good food for thought.

    2. Jules the First

      On the first point: I answer that question by saying that I’m not much of a planner, which is a good thing because I didn’t know this job existed, so I’d never have gone looking for it. I then go on to explain what I want ouy of my career – to be challenged, engaged, and given a variety of changing reaponsibilities. It’s served me well as an answer so far.

      On the secod point: I make those decisions by asking myself what my resume would look like in a year if I took this job vs staying put. Another good one is what would I say at a party three months after starting the bew job when someone asked what I do?

      1. ThatGirl

        Love your first answer, thank you, that fits me fairly well – I stumbled into the career I have now, and if it served me well I’d happily stumble into a different line.

        Second answer is somewhat helpful – but I also value work-life balance and stability, and there is room to advance in this company if I stay, it’s pretty big. But I probably won’t be getting any more big raises unless I got a big promotion, for instance, whereas I would only take a new job if it came with a substantial raise – but I am paid decently now and am able to work from home part time so money is not the sole factor. You can see how I keep going around in circles.

        1. Jules the First

          I see. In that case, I recommend going to the interview, talking to a few trusted colleagues (ideally these would be people who know OldCompany and NewCompany), and then, if that all gets you far enough for a job offer, it’s Pros & Cons time: 60 seconds, write down all the reasons to stay in OldJob; then same thing for NewJob; then all the reasons not to stay in OldJob; and then all the reasons not to take NewJob. The only rule is that none of your reasons for one job should have anything to so with the other job.

          I thought this was cheesy and pointless when my coach recommended it, but actually when I sat down and did it, it uncovered a whole bunch of things I hadn’t thought about which were together enough to let me make the decision. (Reader, I quit…)

    3. Not So NewReader

      In answer to part b, I would take a look at my short term life goals. For example, years ago when I applied at one job I wanted to get a new-to-me car and a house. Then I started thinking about how the targeted job meshed with those goals. Well, if I want a house, I need a stable job with consistent levels of work because I need a reliable income. The job did not require me to move around, I would not be transferred three states over. And the hours were consistent- this meant I could have a dog because my schedule was predictable.
      Okay I had more thoughts that after this but I won’t bore you. The point is this is how I launched my train of thought. I started with my personal life goals and what is important to me. As my thoughts went on, I considered what I valued in a job and what types of things help me to stay with an employer. Every job has it rough times, is there enough going right in this particular setting that I would probably chose to ride out the rough times?

  57. Be the Change

    I have two things that are a little hard right now. I’m not sure I want or need advice, just need to write it out. (Also, these are totally first world problems, I so get that.)

    One person I supervise is just flat incompetent. Tons of mistakes, personal flightiness, etc. And in our environment, it’s honestly next to impossible to get rid of the person or even change their duties, trust me on this. So. Irritating. I know a couple of things I need to do, I’m just dreading the drama. And possible tears.

    Another person I supervise is extremely competent and good but I just don’t much like them (and vice versa), and I have made mistakes managing in the past. I did seek help and have changed the way I do things since then, but the memories certainly remain. We’re both perfectly professional and even cordial toward each other. It’s just uncomfortable and I hate feeling cold and detached from someone in my relatively small team. In part because it means that I “should” be more detached from others as well, because favoritism. …actually this one I don’t have good strategies for, so suggestions would be welcome.

    Hope everyone’s having a great Friday!

    1. fposte

      On the first, do the things and soldier through the tears. And when you say it’s next to impossible, that means it could actually be possible, so start identifying the ducks you’d have to line up and then start grabbing those ducks.

      On the second, you could also just give yourself a break and say you don’t have to like everybody. I’m generally really fond of my co-workers, so it is a little weird to me when there’s someone I haven’t clicked with, but I make a point of noting to myself when they’ve done something well, or enjoyably, and try not to simmer on the question.

      1. Jules the First

        On both points, my career coach is fond of reminding me that everyone is a rock star at something and as managers our job is to steer these people towards jobs that let them be the rockstar. I also find this helps me work with people I don’t like, because it encourages me to respect them for their talents, which makes it easier to relate to them.

    2. Artemesia

      If it is very difficult to fire someone, then manage firmly and provide feedback and hold the person accountable — not meanly, but firmly so that if they can’t improve their productivity they might move on. And if they continue to be terrible, you are documenting this so firing might be possible if you have better management at some point. Keep the pressure on, ignore the tears except ‘I know this is difficult for you, but we need to focus here on what you need to do to improve this.’

      1. F.

        And make the conversation about the job performance, not the person themselves. Don’t let them derail the conversation into accusations based on emotions: “You don’t like me!”, “You’re saying I’m a bad person”, etc. Keep it focused on facts and what the employee needs to do to turn things around.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Some of the tension between you and the second person might be reduced if you are able to get rid of the first person. Just a thought.

      However. regarding person number 2, all you need is to think something of them professionally. That is the number one thing you need, look at how it’s going with number one if you have any question on this. Hopeless, right? No professionalism going on there. So there is some hope with number two.
      If you are still not feeling it here, try thinking of it this way- there are different kinds of closeness/knitting together. In the case of Number Two, maybe the best to be obtained there is respect for her work ethic. Well, that is pretty huge, right there. I have worked with people that I would never sit and eat Sunday dinner with, but if something is going wrong at work then I almost start running to find this person. And that is because I think something of their work ethic and their abilities.

      In regard to person number one, decide that you can and will work through the tears should tears come out. I see over and over that people are afraid of others crying. I am not sure why in all cases. If you think they are crying to manipulate you, decide that you will not be manipulated and you will stay on track. If you think they are crying because they do not understand you, then decide to talk that through. If you think they are crying because that is how they handle inputs then have a talk about how to handle criticism in the work place in a professional manner.

      This may involve using some at home time to envision various responses and planning out what your response will be. Write out your “pretend” responses if you need to. Extra points for taking the responses you dread the most and writing out what you will say if you hear that dreaded response.
      Someone here had mentioned this earlier, and I think it’s a good idea. Have the chat later in the afternoon. That way the person does not have to sit in tears all day and they can go home to think through what you said.

      1. Bibliovore

        I feel your pain. And yes I trust you. What I did in the situation with employee number 1.
        Send an email scheduling a one on one.
        No surprises- describe content of the meeting=
        We will be reviewing your job description and expectations.
        Have a sit down with their job description.
        Break it down to actual expectations/ tasks/ due dates
        If employee tries to derail the conversation- that’s not how we always did it, that’s not how I work…
        Reiterate. Have them initial each task/ expectation. For example accurate weekly statistical reports are due by Monday noon.
        And hold to that.

        Tears and drama- Employee cries etc. Stop the meeting, excuse the employee. You seem upset. We will meet later in the day….tomorrow first thing… to finish this meeting.

        It is not true that every employee will “see the light” “shape up” What helped me on an almost two year period supervising a PIP was that HR and my supervisor reminding me that this IS a great job and there is someone out there who will want to do it and do it well.

  58. Airman/Officer --> Civilian

    In some random clicking this week, I clicked on an article about excessive prosecution by Air Force and the defendant in the case being referenced is one of my former Airmen. It was a shock to see a familiar name.

    Basically it sounds like the guy who was a manager in the office may have sexually harassed some junior Airman. I am not entirely shocked by those facts. When I knew him 10 years ago,the guy was kind of an immature bro – drink, party, chase girls – although he was very skilled in his art. And frankly, the culture we were in at the time probably encouraged it. The organization was tough, best of the best, and we knew it and told each other it.

    So in 10 years, it doesn’t sound like he grew up very much. OTOH he was originally threatened with 150 years in jail for his crimes! Woah! That’s excessive, maybe he should be demoted, discharged, not allowed to retire, etc, but years of jail time for what is described in the article as low level sexual harassment!

    1. Not So NewReader

      Some times articles do not convey the severity of the situation and the penalty does not sound like it matches the crime. Or there could be excessive charges, I know that in the civilian sector there is a theory of throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. Or it could be that the aim is demotion/discharge/loss of retirement and in order to get to that, they had to put the charges higher to allow negotiating room.

      And finally some reporters fail to grasp the situation entirely and only write the parts of the story they understand. Don’t ask how I know this.

  59. Retail Lifer

    For a minute, I thought about getting a real estate license so I could go into apartment property management. This is the one field outside of retail where I meet all off the requirements…except for the license part. Classes are only offered in person in my state, though, and you need to work banker’s hours, not retail manager hours, in order to attend any classes. Of course, if I could FIND a decent paying job with banker’s hours I wouldn’t be trying to take classes.

  60. MadameLibrarian

    Oooh, the comment up above about last-minute cancellations has me nervous. I have an interview on Monday for a job that the only way I’d take it is for significantly more than is posted (like, four or five dollars more an hour). It doesn’t say anywhere that the pay isn’t negotiable, but given that it was in the posting… I was thinking I should go through with it just in case/for practice at least, but now I’m not sure. Any advice?

    1. GigglyPuff

      If it’s a library job, I’d say go. It really depends on a lot of factors, I think, and if you try to negotiate that’s different than knowing you absolutely have a figure in mind they could not meet. But library jobs are sometimes hard to come by, and sometimes they won’t negotiate but sometimes they will.

      Like for my govt. job I was told throughout the entire process they were very firm on the salary and it was towards the low end of the range posted, and I would have taken it probably. But my manager actually got it raised on her own because she knew the job was worth that salary. So you never know.

    2. ModernHypatia

      Depends what kind of library, I’d think: are they the kind of institution that might have that kind of flexibility? (A large university system might prefer to hire at X, but might be willing to hire at X+3 or X+4). A small public library with a tiny budget may just not have the room to maneuver. And X+5 is a pretty big jump for hourly wage.

      Are there factors that might change the number for you? (Hours, schedule, work environment, benefits, vacation time, commute, etc?)

      I tend to think that if you’re sure you’re not going to take the job unless it’s substantially more money than they listed is a good reason to either cancel the interview, or call and say “Is there any flexibility on the salary”, but that if the other pieces might change the equation for you, going through with the interview is worthwhile.

      1. MadameLibrarian

        It’s a community college, and I’d have to move to take the job (I don’t drive and public transit won’t work). I’ve already taken the day off work and got a friend to drive me part of the way, so I’m inclined to just go through with it. (I also have no other promising job leads, so canceling my only interview feels icky.) There’s also the fact that it’s at 11am on Monday and it’s 2:30pm on Friday now. :( I hate not knowing what to do.

  61. Lizzy May

    I started a new job a little less than a month ago and I’m at that awful point where I feel guilty getting help. I’ve gone through this in new roles before and know that its still better to ask when I do get stuck, but my coworkers are all very busy and the training for my role is basically non-existent. I make an effort to try to find answers on my own but when I do need to ask for assistance, I feel like its wrong and after this point I should know more.

    I still ask, but its a workplace confidence killer. Still, I remember feeling this way last time I took on a role very different from previous ones and I know it will pass but its made for a bad week at work.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Hang on to the fact that feelings are not necessarily reality. Feelings are just feelings. You don’t indicate that anyone is upset with you. How are they responding to you, what is their overall tone/demeanor? It sounds like you are getting the answers you need so that is good sign.

      You can write stuff down and vow not to ask the same question twice. You can make sure you are not just asking the same person- so it does not feel like you are wearing them out. Annd you can ask how long it takes new people to catch on.

      And I have always thought that the first day is the WORST. I mean, I don’t even know where the bathroom is- that is the bottom of the barrel. Every day after that is a tiny bit easier. Try to think of ways you were a tiny bit more comfy in your job this week.

  62. Blue Anne

    Last night my husband and I finally faced the elephant in the room and redefined our relationship; we’re platonic life partners. For the moment. I’m going to move to the guest room and we’re going to see how this works for the next year or so.

    This morning I was, well, not in a great place to be doing good work. I mean it’s a good thing really and I’m not super upset, but obviously my brain is other places.

    I really wanted to sit by myself today. But I’m in my notice period, and today is the work christmas dinner, as well as the big department meeting where it was announced I was leaving. So I didn’t feel like I could do that, and I haven’t told anyone at my current workplace.

    Is there a better way to handle this? What do people think about taking time off work for this kind of thing? I feel like if I’d said to my manager “Sorry I’m slow today, my husband told me last night he wants a divorce” she would’ve said “WTF are you doing here”, but maybe that’s wishful thinking.

    1. AnotherAlison

      I personally prefer the distraction of work when going through those types of things. I don’t think I would sweat taking a day or half day, if needed, during the notice period, but I don’t think you should take much more than that unless you lay it out there for your manager and she’s okay with it.

    2. Ann O'Nemity

      I generally don’t go into specifics for this type of thing. If I need to take off time, it’s a “personal issue” or “personal emergency.” If I want to explain unusual behavior at work, it’s “sorry if I’ve been unusually quiet today, I have a bit of a headache.”

    3. Bend & Snap

      Since you’re leaving, I don’t think I would disclose it. I’m mid divorce and my higher ups know, but I’m not planning on leaving my company.

      Maybe just say you got some bad news and you’re going to skip the party or whatever you need to do.

      I’m sorry that happened.

    4. Elizabeth West

      I’m with Bend & Snap. I don’t see any need to share it if you’re already leaving. Plus I’m a big fan of the headache excuse–if I can blame allergies for that, then nobody thinks anything of slightly watery eyes and a pinkish sniffy nose.

      And I’m really sorry. *hug* That stinks.

  63. LiteralGirl

    Just found out that my regional company has made an agreement to be acquired by a national one. It’s subject to regulatory approval, but I imagine it will go through. It isn’t expected to be final for almost a year, but I’m not sure my job is one that would survive after completion. I do like the company that is acquiring us (similar mission, way of doing business, etc.), so I would be happy to stay on if possible.

    My question is this – do I ride this out and see where things land? Start looking now for other positions? Wait six months?

    1. ThatGirl

      If you are happy to stay on, and suspect your skills would still be useful in the new company, I would probably stick it out. You can always keep an eye on other positions in the meantime.

    2. Windchime

      My company was recently acquired, so I have similar questions. I’ve decided to just wait and see how things go for the time being.

  64. PEBCAK

    There is an opening in another department that the manager has as much as told me who will be getting it. A friend in another division applied, and HR told her they were interested, and asked her to do some work to prepare for the interview. It’s not excessive, but probably 6-8 hours of preparation to make a presentation. Should I tell my friend not to bother?

    1. Not So NewReader

      No. If you want to repeat what your manager said and let her draw her own conclusions then do that. But your manager could have been mistaken. Or if your friend applies the HM might change her mind after seeing the work your friend does. Give your friend the info and let her decide her next move. She may say, “thanks” and add that she found a job she liked much better and she will just focus on that next job.

  65. Ruth (UK)

    I have a type of personality and way I come across where it’s quite common for people to tell me I am ‘crazy’ or ‘weird’ (enthusiastic, fast talking, interested in things people consider boring or geeky, excitable.. Not sure what else but I do get the comment a lot).

    I think I have internalised it a little. The other day when talking to my boss I kind of random fact spewed on a tangent to the topic we were discussing (‘oh did you know…’) and then realised I was doing that and apologised with ‘sorry, I know I’m a bit crazy’ and she responded, ‘Ruth, you’re not crazy’ very seriously and sincere sounding. It’s sort of hard to explain but… It feels sort of.. Well, it was nice to hear.

    (Ps. As someone with a few mental health issues and knowing others with some, I also do not really like ‘crazy’ being used in the way i used it and how others have used it to me. But sometimes language gets used a certain way a lot and if you hear it used in that way a lot, it’s easy to slip out with it. It’s the exact term people typically use on me and as I say, i have sort of internalised that, hence why i probably ended up using that word to ‘explain’ and apologise for myself)

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      That is really lovely, and I totally get it. I’ve been in similar situations. When someone said to me, “That is so cool that you do X! I want to hear more about it!”, I was floored. Your boss sounds like she appreciates you as a whole person, and that is wonderful.

      1. Ruth (UK)

        If you mean the North East of the UK, sadly not. I’m in the not-quite-in-the-south. If you mean the NE of a different country then… I’m not :D

          1. Ruth (UK) <