open thread – February 5-6, 2016

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 :)

{ 1,181 comments… read them below }

  1. Ineloquent*

    I had an interesting interaction with a coworker yesterday. It really illustrates why people with close outside work relationships can be difficult to work with and can cause problems.
    I have a contractor, Michael, whose brother, Oscar, works in a separate but related department in my company and referred him to my group initially. Michael’s been with us for slightly over a year, and gave his (six week) notice earlier this week. We’re genuinely sad to see him go – he’s kind, hardworking, and fun to work with. He doesn’t really pick up extra projects, but he handles day-to-day tasks well. In fact, before he gave his notice we were taking steps to make him a regular employee with all the benefits associated.
    Anyway, yesterday was our all hands meeting where the various managers gave a general summary of their groups’ accomplishments for the last year. I personally received a lot of praise – I had a lot of really noteworthy accomplishments and had done a lot of above and beyond special projects on top of day to day duties (Note that I don’t shirk this work – my regular work output is consistently double that of any other person in my immediate group, with an amazingly low rate of error.) Michael, on the other hand, apparently did not feel like he had been appropriately recognized and texted Oscar telling him, also stating that he feels like we’ve never wanted or valued him. Oscar sent me an email sharing the text and berating me and my group for not doing enough to make Michael happy and for treating our contractor like a lower class human. (This is particularly galling because Oscar’s group has a coworker who regularly comes to me looking for advice because her group treats her terribly – she’s been in tears more than once and I really can’t blame her given the toxic crap she’s dealing with.)
    I had never known that Michael was unhappy – he never mentioned it to me, or to my knowledge, our manager. In fact, I regularly give Michael positive feedback on his work, the one special effort he had worked on was praised in our all hands meeting, and I had thought of us as work friends. I had thought we had made it clear that we were pushing for him to be a regular employee, and that we were genuinely sad he was leaving (and we really are – I’m going on maternity and I was really counting on him stepping up and pulling the department through, aside from all the personal reasons). I’m blindsided and dismayed by this, and kind of annoyed that a) Michael his brother got involved and b) Oscar went to me rather than my manager about the issue.
    I’m not sure how to make Michael feel better, since he’s already leaving the company. I really think he should have more aggressively advocated on his own behalf instead of running to his brother with his problems, since that’s how one gets greater recognition in general. I’m not sure how to interact with Oscar going forward, but this really diminishes my view of his professionalism overall. I forwarded the email to my boss, since this stuff is really his job to deal with, but he’s an off-site supervisor (and kind of delegates the keeping an eye on stuff part of his job to me) so I feel like I do have to step up more to make sure other employees feel valued. I’m socially awkward so this is particularly hard for me.
    What do people think? How would you handle this given what I’ve told you? What are ways to make contract employees feel like their contribution is valued, especially if they do ok-but-frankly-not-fantastic work?

    1. Ineloquent*

      You can tell I’m really bothered by this as I was anxiously waiting for the open thread so I could post…

      1. Susie*

        I would circle back to Michael and tell him that Oscar brought this information to you, that you are sorry he didn’t feel more publicly praised for his work and you wish him the best of luck at his next position. I would not look at this as a potential opening to keep him. He’s shown you a lot with the fact that he did not go to you directly with his concerns, and the fact that he needs that much artificial praise for his performance. He will probably be embarrassed and say something about how he was just venting to Oscar and he didn’t want Oscar to do anything about it. Then I would approach Oscar and tell him that while you appreciated his concern for your team, Michael seemed embarrassed when you approached him with this information and you hope that your direct approach hasn’t harmed their personal relationship. Hopefully that will make Oscar think twice about acting like that again. Sometimes people need to vent, and their friends should listen and be sympathetic and move along. This was one of those cases. That Oscar took it upon himself to tell you about it is professionally inappropriate, but also a violation of their friendship. And the next time (if there is one) he tries to do something similar, I would stop him in his tracks by asking if the information was shared in a personal or professional capacity. Since there was no direct report link between Oscar and Michael, it was clearly a personal discussion, and tell him you don’t want to get involved in your employee’s personal lives.

        1. Artemesia*

          Good advice Susie — people who violate fundamental professional boundaries like this need to be held accountable. The way you suggest makes it seem caring on the part of the OP BUT puts Oscar on notice that he is behaving in a way that has negative consequences for the way he is perceived and may cause his brother problems as well. And Michael is being told that he is a WATB without you coming right out and saying it.

    2. Lillian McGee*

      You could maybe reach out to Michael and tell him you’d hate to see him leave with a bad impression of the company and can he be more specific about why he felt undervalued? Or ask him point-blank what he feels you could have done to make him feel more valued.

      I’d still take his advice with a grain of salt, since his work wasn’t worthy of especially effusive praise, but he’d have a chance to have his say and you might get some valuable feedback.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Hit submit too soon. Was going to say, sometimes, people just really want an opportunity to be heard.

      1. Ineloquent*

        This is very good advice. I’m always a fan of being proactive when I can, and this might help in the next situation.

    3. some1*

      I would reply something like, “Hi Oscar, I’m sorry you guys feel that way. I enjoyed working with Michael, thought he was doing a great job, and hoped that he was going perm before he resigned. I can’t speak to why [Manager’s Name] didn’t mention his accomplishments in the meetings because that’s not something I am ever privy to.”

      If either tries to push it, I would just reiterate what you already said or ignore it. This really isn’t your problem.

      1. A Definite Beta Guy*

        This seems like the best approach. None of this seems like the result of any of your actions or any of your decisions at all.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I don’t think it’s appropriate to respond to Oscar’s complaints at all. You have to shut this down immediately and say you don’t discuss these things with outsiders.

        1. Ineloquent*

          Dang, I wish I had. I responded to Oscar with something along the lines of some1’s suggestion, but if he comes back with a response I will shut it down (and if it doesn’t feel like it’s feeding the drama too much, CC his supervisor).

          1. Honeybee*

            Honestly, what you said wasn’t too different from that if you followed some1’s suggestion. It’s essentially I like Michael, I don’t see any problems, and I don’t know anything. If he persists you can always follow up with the suggestion to let him know that you don’t discuss personnel matters outside your department.

        2. F.*

          I concur with KtF. He is not entitled to discuss another employee or contractor’s working relationship regardless of whether or not they are a relative.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      This one is simple:

      For Michael – make sure he’s appropriately recognized, but otherwise you don’t need to do anything. It’s normal for people to rant about work – you weren’t supposed to see that so you should disregard it.

      For Oscar – respond and CC his supervisor that you don’t discuss performance or other issues with third parties.

      1. Vicki*

        Could it be that Michael was not overly recognized at this meeting because he has already turned in his notice? I’ve worked at companies where people who turn in their resignations have become persona non grata – up to and including being excluded from meetings and execs acting like I’m invisible when they (refuse to) see me in the hall.

        Your managers may have seen no reason (in their minds) for calling out special praise to Michael in this meeting. After all, he’s leaving. For many managers, that means he’s not deserving of praise (and barely deserving of informal recognition).

    5. jpixel*

      If it were me, I’d certainly tell Oscar that it’s not appropriate for the two of you to be discussing Michael’s work. He’s out of line here. You could tell him that Michael is/was a valued employee if you want to, but you don’t owe him any explanations, especially since Michael is choosing to leave. If Michael has a problem, he should address it with you or your manager. And you should bring your manager in if Oscar continues to be a problem for you.

      Just curious, did Michael tell you why he is leaving or what he is doing from here? Maybe I’m just out of patience lately but I wouldn’t be rushing to make him “feel better” at this point. It was his decision to leave, after all. I don’t think I’d mention Oscar’s comments to him either. That feels like too much drama for someone who is leaving. You can absolutely thank Michael for his service and wish him well in the future, especially if you have several weeks of working together ahead of you. But if he starts coming to work with a bad attitude from here, I’d definitely consider whether he needs to finish out his notice period.

      Do you have any reason to think that other contractors in your group aren’t happy? One thing I’d recommend for the future (if you’re in a position to do this – maybe talk it over with your boss) is having check-ins with contract employees just like you would with staff people, whether that’s monthly, quarterly, at contract renewal, or whatever is appropriate. Make sure you’re both on the same page on whether they are meeting or exceeding expectations or if they have areas they need to work on and ask them about what their goals are. I think this is especially important if these are people who could be considered for permanent jobs in the future.

      1. Ineloquent*

        He didn’t give us any indication that it was because he was particularly unhappy here – just said he didn’t really want to make this type of work his career and had found a job more in line with his goals.

        I’m not a manager, so my check-ins are various informal versions of ‘How’s everything going? Is there anything you need from me right now?” and they happen practically daily. I do suspect/know some of the other folks in my group are less than satisfied, between not getting promotions that they feel they deserve (frankly, I’m with management on those) and having a hard time with the work – I left a comment in last week’s thread about that.

        1. Steve*

          You seem to have a pretty high opinion of yourself and a pretty low opinion of everyone around you.

          1. Ineloquent*

            I do. I don’t deny it. I have a number of excellent coworkers, but I can recognize that I’m very good at what I do and that there are a couple of my coworkers who are simply less than great at the work they handle. I do not apologize for this fact.

          2. Lady H*

            Sometimes that’s warranted, though. We can only take other commentators at face value, and going off what Ineloquent has described, they’re proud of the work they do and have results to back that up. There may be something helpful to expand upon in your comment about the way you’re perceiving them as coming off and how that might translate to the workplace, but as written, it strikes me as going against the good faith policy here.

          3. Honeybee*

            Maybe Ineloquent just genuinely is better than everyone in her department. There’s nothing wrong with being frank about your own accomplishments.

    6. plain_jane*

      In my opinion, Michael didn’t really get his brother involved (I’ve made similar comments to work friends in the cone of silence). He didn’t ask for Oscar to escalate to you. I’d tell Oscar that you’re sorry Michael feels that way, and that you’d been happy with Michael’s work – even having it mentioned during the All Hands. I’d probably suggest to Oscar that if Michael had suggestions for better recognizing contractors that he should talk to his manager. Don’t play into the telephone tag.

      Frankly, at most all-hands meetings that I’ve been at, contractors aren’t invited or mentioned. And for him to have gone after giving notice, _and_ his thing still got mentioned, I’d say you were doing a pretty good job of recognizing his accomplishments.

    7. New Math*

      It all sounds like a lot of drama to me on both parts. Probably nothing you say or do will improve the situation, and you did nothing to create it. Stop feeling bad!

  2. Red Rose*

    My company is in the midst of a two-part move. Right now, we are getting ready to put everyone into half the space we have had (most are changing offices and a few are losing offices entirely), and within a year we will find and move to a new building which may or may not be near our current location. Telecommuting is not an option. So at this point we are dealing with inconvenience in the short run and uncertainty in the long run. All while continuing to produce our usual good work. Although I am not in charge, those who are have a history of listening to good suggestions. So my question is, what would you do to keep morale up in a time of inconvenience and uncertainty?

    1. NotASalesperson*

      I would ask them to be flexible in other ways and see if there’s room in the budget to provide other perks. Some suggestions:
      – Flexibility on hours in the office – if it’s really crowded and makes it more difficult for people to work in tight spaces or with a lot of people around, some people may choose to work during off-hours if possible.
      – Food provisions – lunch or snack subsidies with healthy options available can help morale
      – Increased benefits – transportation/commute subsidies, better health insurance, other things like that can help increase morale, make a significant impact, and offset some of the painful parts of a transition
      – Acknowledgement and validation – management pretending that everything is “just dandy” won’t help anyone
      – If the new location won’t work for certain people, things like generous severance packages would likely be something people would appreciate
      – Transparency – the rumor mill is likely going to work overtime on this because it affects so many people, so keeping everyone in the loop about progress is something I would have liked

      I’m sure there are more, but when my office was in transition, those were the things I know I would have appreciated.

      Good luck!

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      When a lab I used to work for moved one of their locations to somewhere much less commuter-friendly, they offered bonuses for those who were still with the org 6 months after the move was over. Sure, a fair number of people left after they got the bonus, but some learned to live with it, and the drain on our staff was both spread out and lessened from the mass exodus we were expecting.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      This happened at my last job — TPTB decided to cram 100 more people into the same space, so everyone who was in cubes lost their cube in favor of rows of desks and those in offices had to double and triple up (with the exception of a few senior management).

      1) I wish senior management had been willing to take smaller offices (since they didn’t have to share) instead of keeping theirs, which were the largest in the company, and then asking people to triple up in a TINY office.
      2) They handed out good-quality headphones, which is nice.
      3) Provide privacy screens and physical barriers between desks whenever possible. It’s not like we goofed off ALL the time, but it SUCKS when the moment you choose to read AAM is the moment a coworker decides to tap you on the shoulder with a question.
      4) Provide ways for people to work uninterrupted and have conference room space. Senior management did allow use of their offices as meeting rooms whenever they were traveling, which helped but did not entirely alleviate the problem of not having anywhere to do a conference call or work without frequent interruptions.

    4. AnotherFed*

      1) Do everything you can to separate quiet space and louder space – maybe keep one row of cubes reserved for silent/uninterruptible work, keep plenty of conference rooms (especially the small ones that people can take 2-5 person discussions into easily), and invest in sound-proofing where feasible or give people free/subsidized headphones.

      2) If people are losing kitchen space, try to at least find a way to preserve the fridges, microwaves, and coffeepots, even if it means giving up a cube for them, or one set of printer/copier machines – nothing plummets morale faster than taking away coffee!

      3) Don’t make people hot desk! Even a tiny corner that is reliably yours is better than nothing,

  3. Eager Job Seeker*

    A couple weeks ago, I had a phone interview for an entry-level position at a small, feminist PAC associated with a nonprofit. A few days after, my interviewer asked me to come in and meet with the director of the PAC. I took a half-day off from my current job to have the interview. When I arrived, my interviewer told me that the director was in a meeting and she’d join us later. The interview lasted about 25 minutes (my carefully prepared questions weren’t all applicable and I was thrown because I’d prepared to ask more managerial questions), at which point she left to see if the director was available. I was told the director was still in a meeting and I said that I wasn’t in a rush because I’d taken time off for the interview.

    I sent a thank you note that night and also mentioned my disappointment that the director couldn’t meet with me, as well as my understanding of the situation (feminist PAC, interview on caucus day…of course she might be busy). I then followed up the next day by leaving a voicemail with the director asking if it was possible to reschedule.

    My father (touts his 40 years of business experience; always claims to know better) said I should not have sent a thank you note because they “wasted my time” and I should have said I was staying and waiting until the director was available. He also said that they’re unlikely to hire me and that the director wasn’t really in a meeting, but that this is a “game” companies “play” with candidates they want to get rid of. Anyone have advice/similar experiences? I’m absolutely miserable at my current admin position in a toxic work environment.

    1. TowerofJoy*

      The director may have really been busy. Things come up, and insisting on staying and waiting for the director would have made you seem very out of touch and petulant. You did everything right. Don’t let your father get into your head on this.

    2. Swarley*

      I do think that some companies plays game like this, but I’d assume that they were acting reasonably when they told you that the director was in a meeting unless you have good reason to think otherwise. Did they apologize for the wait and/or make you feel like your time was valued? Did they mention a timeline for getting back to you or scheduling another interview? I think the thank you note was fine, and you followed up again with a call, so at this point I’d leave it to them to reach out. But I wouldn’t put too much effort into thinking it was some sort of weird test.

    3. Eager Job Seeker*

      As a follow-up, I have not received a response to the email I sent on Monday or the message I left on Tuesday.

        1. Eager Job Seeker*

          An apology for inconveniencing me (unrealistic, I know); on the more realistic side, maybe an email from the director either saying there’s no need to reschedule or her proposing a phone call or rescheduled interview.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I think here you’re reacting a little too much like your dad.

            Just be patient.

            And some people don’t view this sort of thing as needing an apology.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          I wouldn’t be too concerned. You left the message on Tuesday, and it’s Friday now. I certainly would have gotten back to you, but not everyone is me. Especially when you are busy with other work, it can be easy to let the hiring-involved work take a back seat.

          And, yes, even if they’re blowing you off, there isn’t any use worrying about it. If they contact you, yay! If they don’t, boo! It’s not worth speculating as to whether they were playing games or whatnot. Just go on with your job search, and you may be pleasantly surprised later.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      My father (touts his 40 years of business experience; always claims to know better)

      Was your father’s “business experience” working in a PAC? Every business is different. In fact, sometimes even different positions or departments within a business are different. My father would always say master’s degrees were worthless and just consolation prizes for people who couldn’t get doctorates, which may or may not be true in his field. In my field, a master’s degree is a desirable terminal degree.

      I have friends who work in tech and bounce around jobs all the time without getting the “job hopper” label. In fact, based on what I’ve heard from them, it can actually work against you to stay too long in one place. I, on the other hand, work in schools, and you definitely don’t want to be a job-hopper in education.

      I’m sure what your father says applies to his very specific experience. Take what he said with a grain of salt.

      said I should not have sent a thank you note because they “wasted my time” and I should have said I was staying and waiting until the director was available.

      A thank-you note is always a polite thing to send after you interview. Even if they did “waste your time,” you’re being the bigger person. That shows class.

      He also said that they’re unlikely to hire me and that the director wasn’t really in a meeting, but that this is a “game” companies “play” with candidates they want to get rid of.

      This is just ridiculous. If they wanted to get rid of you, they would have just canceled the interview before you got there, or not have scheduled it in the first place. If they wanted to make sure you were okay before interviewing with the director, they wouldn’t even have to say you were interviewing with the director. They could have just interviewed you and then, if they liked you, said “Oh, let me introduce you to the director!”

      Anyone have advice/similar experiences? I’m absolutely miserable at my current admin position in a toxic work environment.

      I won’t say you’ve got the job. No one can guarantee you got a job based on your accounting of an interview experience, but based on what you said, I don’t think you can conclude they were game-playing or that you’re definitely out of the running. You did what you’re supposed to. Just keep applying for jobs. Maybe this one will work out. Maybe it won’t.

    5. Violetta*

      Your father is pulling things out of thin air and I don’t see why, speculation isn’t helping you here. It’s way more likely that they were being straight with you. Your last contact with them was only three days ago and they’re probably in a really busy period with the caucus, give them some time! I’d put it out of your mind as much as possible – don’t follow up again, they’ll reach out to you on their own timeline.

      1. Florida*

        I don’t think the father is pulling things out of thin air. I think he is relying on what he learned when he was looking for a job 40 years ago. Forty years ago, his advice was probably on target. I can recall a story where my grandfather demanded to speak to the mayor and sat in the lobby all day until the mayor made time for him. That type of thing worked forty years ago.

        Recognize that your father means well, but his advice is extremely outdated. BTW, I wouldn’t recommend trying to convince your father that his advice is outdated. It’s probably best to say, “Thanks for the tip, dad. I’ll consider it.” Consider it for about a nanosecond, then forget it.

        1. Observer*

          Even 40 years ago, most of this advice would have not been valid. You can “insist” on speaking with elected officials sometimes and get away with it, but not prospective employers, and you couldn’t do that 40 years ago either.

          Also, why would any company waste the time to bring in someone they wanted to get rid of?

    6. hbc*

      My advice is to stop giving your father so much information about your work life. It’s hard with someone you care about, but all it’s accomplishing is putting doubts in your mind and (I’d bet) making him frustrated that you won’t follow his words of wisdom. From now on, your interviews are “Fine. Standard interview stuff.”

      As for the company, that’s pretty poor planning to schedule you on a day so obviously busy, but it’s not a definitive sign that they hate you or you should run screaming. Just keep it in mind.

    7. Lily in NYC*

      No, your dad is wrong and you did the right thing. At my first interview at my current job, I was supposed to meet with the chief of staff and then the big boss. The big boss kept me waiting for 2 hours and then couldn’t even meet with me and was leaving on vacation the next day. We rescheduled for three weeks later and I sent thank you notes immediately even though I had already half-decided I wouldn’t take the job because she was a flake. But it turned out she had a last-minute work crisis that first day and couldn’t meet because she was called to City Hall and there’s no way she could have said “no, sorry, I’m interviewing someone”. I ended up really hitting it off with her during the interview and she offered me the job on the spot. It’s the only time I accepted a job right away. And I’m still here 12 years later.

    8. plain_jane*

      Ignore your Father. Don’t assume people are playing games, most people don’t have time for those at work. I have an employee who is convinced we are playing games. It is not helping his career to be actively defending against games that are not being played.

      And frankly, what good would come out of demanding to see the director? You told them you were willing to wait. Interviewees who demand things and assume that I’m not being honest when I give them answers do not get to the top of my list. Based on what you’ve said, you handled things correctly. If they _were_ playing games, you want to fail, because that is the mark of another toxic job.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I grew up around a lot of that negative thinking- people are playing games, they are users, etc.
        Now, I tend to think that people are just plain stretched too thin both personally and professionally.
        It is wise to use good judgement and view things from many angles including angles we may not like, BUT one example does not “prove” anything. Now if you went there two or three times and the interview was canceled each time, I’d say that might be a problem.

        Also, I’d point out that while “they are playing games” sounds like a sophisticated and insightful thing to say, it’s really not that helpful. You still see enough that you would like a chance at the opening and you would like to forge ahead anyway. This is fine. Telling you that they are playing head games based on almost no evidence, does not give you pointers on how to move ahead nor does it offer an reassurances. (“The big bad world will eat you up, too!”)

        I tell myself, when in doubt, or if the setting is totally unclear, put things in the best possible light and speak in a sincere manner. And this is what you did. It will never, ever hurt you to have this habit.

          1. Florida*

            Thanks for posting this. I have heard of this before, but I need to be reminded of it because of some things I’m dealing with right now. Also, I never knew if was called Hanlon’s razor. I’ve heard the phrase, but didn’t know it had a name. Thanks.

    9. some1*

      I probably would have reached out to the interviewer to ask to reschedule vs contacting the director directly. That being said, I’d keep up the job search and let them get back in touch if they want.

    10. Oryx*

      I’ve had this happen, where the director of a library was unavailable for my phone interview at the last minute and I was convinced that her not being there meant I had no hope.

      I ended up getting getting to the next round of interviews (although ultimately they hired someone else) but don’t assume that the director being absent means anything other than something came up.

    11. Jade*

      I had a similar experience at a job interview once. The HR lady that started the interview made it clear that the hiring manager would be joining us for most of the interview, but he didn’t show up until the last 2 minutes. I could see the HR lady nervously checking her email for a message from him and calling his extension, all while mumbling things like “So-and-so should be here any minute now…” He showed up in a flurry, asked me one question, and then excused himself. That was the end of my interview. I emailed and called over the next few weeks to follow up, and never heard back from them. Sometimes things just don’t go as planned at interviews. While it was disorganized and an inconvenience to me, I don’t believe they did it on purpose to toy with me.

    12. Observer*

      I highly doubt that what happened reflects anything about your candidacy. And, I’d also say that your father’s reaction is the most unhelpful and unrealistic that I could imagine.

      Having said that, I would take it as a bit of a red flag that warrants caution going forward. Of course there could be good reason for the director to not be able to meet with you. But, if it was something related to the day’s caucus, that’s pretty ridiculous, as they were the ones who scheduled the interview and they should have known that things would probably be quite hectic. Also, not getting back to you, even to apologize and say something like “Hey, things are crazier than anticipated, so we’re going to have to put this off for a couple of weeks.” doesn’t sit well with me, either. Yes, you are a job applicant, but you took a half a day of work off to meet them. This, without knowing more, does not prove that this is a bad place to work, but it’s enough to signal the you really want to look closely at how they operate and how they treat staff.

  4. CrazyCatLady*

    I am only 4’11” and 100 lbs, but curvy. Petite sizes don’t always work because of my hips and chest. Anyone have suggestions on where to buy work clothes?

    1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

      I just end up altering, as petite sizes don’t fit right (the thighs never have enough room!), and regular sizes are too lengthy.

      1. CrazyCatLady*

        I don’t mind altering the length but I usually have the hardest time with the distance between the waist and crotch – it’s too long and always bunches up. I’ve tried to have that altered before too, without much success, but maybe I need a better tailor!

        1. Sophia Brooks*

          My second job is costume making, and that is just an almost impossible alteration because you need the crotch to be higher, but there is no fabric there. The same thing happens with arm holes. The only think you can do is change the curve of the crotch by taking in the thighs, or taking off the waistband and zipper and moving everything down (at which point you might as well have made the pants from scratch! I just only wear skirts now.

        2. Sunflower*

          I have this issue too – I’m looking at you LOFT! I’ve ended up just wearing lower rise pants.

        3. Boop*

          I know some people don’t like them, but you could try wearing more skirts/dresses. I never like the way pants fit me, but I enjoy the relative ease of skirts. Tights/leggings during winter help keep you warm.

          1. Also curvy and short*

            I love how easy and free skirts feel. However, BECAUSE I’m curvy and short, most *professional* styles don’t look good on me. (I’m looking at you, pencil skirts!)

        4. Clever Name*

          It sounds like you need a lower rise. Try looking at pants that say low rise or even ultra low rise. Banana Republic pants seem to be lower rise (which is why I never buy pants there- I prefer mid-rise)

    2. Drea*

      They’re on the pricier side, but I’ve had good luck with eShakti, which allows you to enter custom measurements for a small fee. (I think it’s somewhere around 7$) Their style may or may not work for you, but as someone who also has a shape that clothes aren’t designed for, I’ve found them to be incredibly useful.

      1. Alittleanon*

        I came to make the same suggestion! I also don’t have an easy-to-fit frame and love having things made to my measurements plus having the option of adding a sleeve or a higher neckline, etc. They also have a “refer a friend” program now where you’d get $40 off your first $70 order and I’d get $40 credit too… no pressure at all, but if it works for you: (I hope that’s not breaking any rules- sorry if it is! Feel free to delete.)

      2. Alittleanon*

        I came to make the same suggestion! I also don’t have an easy-to-fit frame and love having things made to my measurements plus having the option of adding a sleeve or a higher neckline, etc. They also have a “refer a friend” program now where you’d get $40 off your first $70 order and I’d get $40 credit too… no pressure at all, but if it works for you, it’d be share-eshaktiDOTcom/x/5MPijY (I hope that’s not breaking any rules- sorry if it is! Feel free to delete.)

      3. blackcat*

        I got this recommendation here. I only buy stuff on sale, and I haven’t found it too pricey at all when I do that. I think I’ve averaged paying $35 or so per dress. Everything I’ve ordered has fit perfectly.

    3. Laurel Gray*

      Ann Taylor has a “Kate” pant in a variety of styles and they come in petite. Smaller contoured waist, room in the hips and butt. I am a tall curvy size (4/6) but chestically challenged so I don’t do their tall tops. I recommend their regular tops if you are a busty petite. I love their Kate fit pants. No gaping at the back and they have a great rise – not too low, not too high. I have to buy all my pants from them online as they don’t carry tall sizes in stores. They have a pretty decent in-store petite section and they will order anything for you online if it is not in store and ship for free. Also, I highly recommend waiting for a 40-50% off sale – they happen fairly often.

    4. Sunflower*

      I always recommend the Limited. I have a bigger chest and hips but a smaller waist and their stuff always fits me pretty well. You’ll have to find a good tailor if you don’t already have one. I’m 5’2 and any short/petite pants are still slightly too long on me even with 4 inch heels.

      1. Sunflower*

        FWIW just because a pant is part of the ‘curvy’ line doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you. I have yet to find a pant in a stores curvy line that has fit me better than their classic fit. At the limited I wear Cassidy and Drew fit

    5. Mike C.*

      If you’re talking suits and whatnot, Nordstroms does low cost (free maybe?) tailoring on suits and other clothes purchased there. I’m build like a rectangle and it was a huge improvement, so I could imagine it would be all that much better for you.

    6. Lily in NYC*

      Welcome to my life. I am so glad I can just wear nice jeans here but when I dressed up more I found that Ann Taylor petites fit me really well. I also like Not Your Daughters Jeans for work pants but they are a bit overpriced and I think the quality has gone down lately. I think nicer department stores like Bloomingdale’s have good petite sections and there’s always stuff on sale. Oh, and Lands End/LL Bean have such a huge range of sizes and they have some work-appropriate pants. Lands End will even hem them to your exact length for free. I have learned not to buy anything that needs to be altered because it will just sit in my closet unaltered forever.

      1. Also curvy and short*

        Yup! I don’t know how many times I’ve bought a pair of pants because they fit me PERFECTLY (and it’s soooo hard to find pants that fit perfectly), but are too long and I just tell myself, “I’ll hem them later.”

        “Later” never comes.

    7. TotesMaGoats*

      I’m 4’11” as well (and wish I was 100 lbs) but I’ve had a lot of luck with the Tahari Petites and Anne Klein petites. I usually have to buy up a little to fit my chest but the rest of the fit is good. I almost always get all my pants hemmed regardless of length. Those are good quality brands and last me a long time.

    8. Rougaroux*

      It can be a challenging and time consuming process trying to find work clothes that fit, especially pants. I’m 5’0″ and had to buy new pants because I’ve gained some weight over the past year. I’m around 125 lbs and have an hourglass-ish figure with a short waist. I ordered a bunch of different sizes and styles from various stores – Ann Taylor Loft, The Limited, Express and The Gap. I tried on a ton of pants and sent back what didn’t work, which was a lot.

      My current favorite is the Modern Boot Cut from The Gap. When I wear them with heeled ankle boots they are the correct length for me. I also have two pairs from Ann Taylor Loft that are petite, but shorter length so I wear those with flats.

      If pants fit in the hip and thighs, then you might just need to get the waist altered. Or if non petite sizes fit the rest of your body, then you can get them hemmed.

      In addition to the stores I mentioned, try Lands End, Nordstrom, Old Navy or Banana Republic. I find reading the reviews helpful to get a better idea of how things fit.

      Also check out the fashion blog You Look Fab or Wardrobe Oxygen. They might have some suggestions in the archives. You Look Fab also has a forum section for readers to post questions.

    9. Triangle Pose*

      Hmmm… this isn’t a recommendation for where to buy clothes as much as it is making clothes that work for your body work for work. I am slightly taller and probably not as curvy, but I find that I can be more comfortable at the office when I expand my idea of work clothing. For example, instead of button up blouses and pants (which sound like they would be difficult to buy for you) I wear silk blouses under knit or ponte pencil dresses. Dresses made of those fabrics come in office appropriate cuts now (Nordstrom and Gilt/MYHABIT have a lot of them) and that way they stretch slightly to accommodate your chest and hips. Similarly, ponte pants (Eileen Fisher for office appropriate, I am in my 20’s and I have great stull fromt here) can be great work-arounds for petite cut slacks that don’t fit. Good luck!

    10. attornaut*

      Loft has a fairly large petition section online, and almost all of their (pants, at least) come in a “curvy” fit, including in petite sizes.

    11. Beck*

      So if you’re in the US, buying clothes abroad might seem intimidating but I urge you to give it a shot. Most of my recommendations cater specifically to the chest part of your question. Companies like Pepperberry, Urkye, DDAtelier, and BiuBiu make clothing specifically for women with a larger bust to ribcage ratio than the average clothing company. Tops are sized based on the ratio of bust to ribs, with different options depending on your size, so it’s really easy to find clothing that looks well customized for you without paying exorbitant tailoring fees.

      I haven’t personally ordered from Pepperberry and DDAtelier because of price and BiuBiu because it’s not my style, but I recently made an order from Urkye and I will definitely be buying from them again. I got two dresses and a top – they fit me perfectly. Imagine a simple t-shirt that actually fits your waist and your bust without any unflattering puckering or bagging. I did have to alter the dresses because I’m also quite short, but that was easy and relatively cheap. I paid less than $100 for all 3 items and received them (from Poland) within a couple weeks.

      Here is a page with some other similar companies:

      Also I think it’s worth mentioning Eshakti, an Indian company with a million different styles and for a flat fee they will perform a ton of custom alterations for you (something cheap like $7). Thing like neckline, sleeve length, skirt length, waist and hip measurements, etc. I’ve heard mixed review – some custom items fit like a glove and some just are sooo off base, but at least for those I’ve heard that the company will work with the customers to make sure they get the issue fixed. They have sales pretty frequently and take about a month to ship to the US (after alterations) since they’re in India.

      For work I also like wrap dresses, you can cinch them at the waist to accommodate larger chest and hips. I wear those a lot. And I wear skirts (though it takes forever to find the perfect pencil skirt with my proportions) with wrap tops or other tops that actually fit.

      And last thing, I’ve actually had great luck with pants from Target. I get those awkward above-the-ankle pants that end up fitting me how regular pants should lol. Plus they’re very comfy, have pockets, and are cheap!

    12. Anonsie*

      I’m the same size and shape. I have yet to find a solution.

      For a while I got stuff altered at great expense, but nothing really still ever seemed to work very well and the costs are extreme when you’re talking about reconstructing *all your clothing.* And then it’s double the cost to have something that kind of fits but still doesn’t look fabulous.

      For brands that can work (can but don’t always) I tend to find Ann Taylor petites, the regular ones not Loft, work out more often than anyone else. I have mixed luck with Gap petites but that’s probably the second largest chunk of my wardrobe after AT. Neither of them work most of the time– I end up shopping a lot, basically, in the hopes of scoring when items rotate through. This works out but it’s time consuming and frustrating.

      1. Beck*

        I’m going to repost this in reply to your comment because you might find something relevant here.

        So if you’re in the US, buying clothes abroad might seem intimidating but I urge you to give it a shot. Most of my recommendations cater specifically to the chest part of your question. Companies like Pepperberry, Urkye, DDAtelier, and BiuBiu make clothing specifically for women with a larger bust to ribcage ratio than the average clothing company. Tops are sized based on the ratio of bust to ribs, with different options depending on your size, so it’s really easy to find clothing that looks well customized for you without paying exorbitant tailoring fees.

        I haven’t personally ordered from Pepperberry and DDAtelier because of price and BiuBiu because it’s not my style, but I recently made an order from Urkye and I will definitely be buying from them again. I got two dresses and a top – they fit me perfectly. Imagine a simple t-shirt that actually fits your waist and your bust without any unflattering puckering or bagging. I did have to alter the dresses because I’m also quite short, but that was easy and relatively cheap. I paid less than $100 for all 3 items and received them (from Poland) within a couple weeks.

        Here is a page with some other similar companies:

        Also I think it’s worth mentioning Eshakti, an Indian company with a million different styles and for a flat fee they will perform a ton of custom alterations for you (something cheap like $7). Thing like neckline, sleeve length, skirt length, waist and hip measurements, etc. I’ve heard mixed review – some custom items fit like a glove and some just are sooo off base, but at least for those I’ve heard that the company will work with the customers to make sure they get the issue fixed. They have sales pretty frequently and take about a month to ship to the US (after alterations) since they’re in India.

        For work I also like wrap dresses, you can cinch them at the waist to accommodate larger chest and hips. I wear those a lot. And I wear skirts (though it takes forever to find the perfect pencil skirt with my proportions) with wrap tops or other tops that actually fit.

        And last thing, I’ve actually had great luck with pants from Target. I get those awkward above-the-ankle pants that end up fitting me how regular pants should lol. Plus they’re very comfy, have pockets, and are cheap!

    13. Vulcan social worker*

      TotesMaGotes suggested The Limited and I second that. I am about an inch taller than you and wear petites in almost everything, but I find that their regular pants fit me better. I love their Exact Stretch pants. I have a pair of Cassidy fit and a very old pair of Drew fit and I’m just meh about each of those. I have to get everything hemmed anyway so what’s the difference between cutting off two inches or eight? Bonus for wearing regular there is that they have them in-store, because they only have petites online/catalog and their returns are horrible. You can do them in store, but if you got something on sale and it no longer is, they don’t want to give you an even exchange but want to charge you the higher price. I’ve never heard of another store doing that. (I didn’t actually pay the higher price the one time I did it, but I had to get a manager and argue about it and be willing to walk out with no pants, which I was because I knew they would go on sale again before long and it wasn’t like the lower half of my body was naked.)

      Ann Taylor Loft used to be my favorite place for work clothes but I can’t remember the last time I found anything I liked there. They got new designers a few years ago and I feel like the quality just went down.

      I love this thread. I already know some of these brands don’t work for me, but there are also some new ideas. It’s really hard to find clothes when you are not just petite, but four inches shorter than who petite is designed for!

    14. Also curvy and short*

      I just recently discovered Worthington brand pants (I found them at JCPenny) that have sizes that are labeled both petite AND curvy. The “curvy” ones have more room in the hips and thighs, while keeping the waist in. And “petite” just means that the legs are shorter. (I think that’s called the inseam?) I am 5’2″ with a .7 waist to hip ratio and these pants fit PERFECTLY.

      I will also be following this thread for future reference!

      1. Vulcan social worker*

        It’s supposed to be that for pants that short means the legs are shorter, while petite means there is a shorter rise plus shorter length. I can think of a very few brands that make both, but it’s usually one or the other. I don’t think that’s always the case that petite has different measurements (i.e, sometimes it’s really just short leg length), and if I’m ordering online and there aren’t measurements listed for the petite, I’ll call and speak to a representative and ask for the measurements.

  5. FutureLibrarianNoMore*


    Thank you for responding to my last minute questions about librarian job hunting in the thread last week. I wasn’t sure if you would be back, so I figured I would post it up here. I appreciate all of your advice, and have been doing a lot of thinking because of it! Thank you!

    Everyone in Open Thread:

    Also, to keep this on-topic:

    Is a two page CV awful for a recent grad? Everyone seems to have 4/5+ pages, even those who haven’t been out of school for long!

    1. Pokebunny*

      There’s just not much experience for recent grads to have 2 pages, unless you have been working for many years already. 4-5 pages is definitely waaaaay too many outside of an actual academia CV.

      1. Butter Tooth Callahan*

        Isn’t a CV a record of your entire work history? If so, it’s as long as it needs to be, 2 pages or 7. If hiring managers are only looking at the first 2 or 4-5 pages why ask for a full CV to begin with, why not just ask for a resume?

        I’m asking because, I’m about to graduate from grad school, I’ve been working since the 80’s, many years in tech start-ups and my resume is legitimately 7 pages long.

        1. J3*

          This might technically be true, but almost any empl0yer outside of academia is just using “CV” as a synonym for resume.

      2. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        I should have offered some additional clarification in my post, I apologize!

        I’m going into academia, so 2 pages is (at least in my research!), on the very short side.

        I graduated (undergrad) and worked in two (relevant) full time jobs before returning to school. I also did…a lot? (I guess) during grad school that is relevant to my degree. I left off a lot of stuff, as well, as I definitely didn’t want to pad it.

      1. So Very Anonymous*

        Was just coming here to say this. If you’re applying for an academic librarian position and you have enough solid, relevant experience to go past 2 pages, that’s one thing, but don’t pad to make it longer.

      2. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        Very much relevant! I didn’t go to graduate school right after college, and every position wants extensive customer service experience, which is from those in-between jobs. In addition, I did a significant amount of “other stuff” during graduate school that is relevant.

        This is a position in academia, just to note that. I apologize, I didn’t provide enough information in my post!

        Thank you for your feedback!

        1. SunnyLibrarian*

          If they weren’t library-related, I don’t know that I would mention them on my resume. (or a lot of them) I might however, mention them in my cover letter. Example; I have over fifteen years of customer service experience.

          1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

            I only have two that aren’t in libraries, actually, but they’re both related to the specialty I am interested in. Would that make a difference?

            1. Bibliovore*

              When I was a hiring for librarian positions- any customer service/ customer facing positions were a plus. The hiring committee always gave points for retail experience, display experience, pr etc.

              Anything that shows that you can handle stress and work with the public would be applicable.

    2. NotASalesperson*

      When I did hiring, I often wouldn’t look at resumes or CVs longer than two pages. If you’re applying to academia or another type of field that requires longer CVs, keep it as concise and easy to read as possible.

      Out of curiosity, who is telling you that you need 4/5+ pages on a CV?

      1. MLIS holder*

        While not the OP, I have heard heard academic librarians tell MLIS students, “you’re in grad school! You MUST have a multi-page CV.”

      2. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        Haha, unfortunately, the advice is from the internet. I did a lot of research (and asked around from people I trust), because CV advice is ALL over the board. It’s frustrating! So, I looked at a lot of sample CVs that people shared on their academic websites, and kind of tried to glean what I felt made the most sense.

        It is in academia, but I am definitely going for concise. I have reduced stuff to keep it at two pages, because that felt…less ridiculous to me!

        Thank you for your advice/feedback!

          1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

            Yes! One had a resume attached, and I so hoped for a CV example, but nothing.

            I’ve had the most luck just Googling “example Librarian CV”, and checking out people’s CVs on their school websites.

            However, I have looked at their letters for examples many times. They are such a great resource, and I am sad to see it isn’t getting any updates!

    3. Violetta*

      Definitely too much! What in the world is a recent grad filling 5 pages with?! I’d stick to 1 page if you can (and if it’s appropriate for the position – I don’t know about academia)

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        People seem to do a lot of publishing in graduate school, as well as conference presentations.

        I didn’t really have that, so I was feeling a bit unprepared.

        It is academia though, where everything is longer!

        Thank you for your advice :)

    4. MLIS holder*

      I have a MLIS, although I work in a non-traditional position. I think this answer depends on your experiences and the type of library you are applying to. If you have three years of internships, have published in major journals, volunteered AND you’re applying to an academic library, then you’re going to have more than one page even for a recent grad. But if you have no experience other than school, no other jobs, and you’re not applying for academic, then you may want to keep it to one page.

      If you can provide more details that would be great!

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        Thank you!

        For details: I graduated undergrad and worked in roles with very transferable skills for several years; volunteered and worked in multiple libraries in different specialties; did extra work outside of grad program related to libraries (special project); etc. I also am working part-time right now at two libraries, and am hopefully getting hired for a third possibly one-off or possibly part-time gig doing library-related work at a senior center.

        I am addicted to libraries. I like to spend all my time in them if possible!

    5. ModernHypatia*

      Glad it helped!

      Depends on if you actually mean an academic CV, and if you actually have publications/etc. to fill it out. (A lot of librarians, even academic librarians, don’t necessarily, even starting out: I got my degree in 2007, and only just did my first peer-reviewed article, which is hilarious now that I’m not working in an academic library.) If you’re looking at academic library jobs that treat librarians as faculty, or require publications for tenure or promotion, then it’s more of an issue, but there are tons of academic library jobs out there that don’t.

      My actual resume is 2 pages, and if I went to a CV, it’d probably only be 3 or 3.5 pages, maybe. (Article, half a dozen presentations, and some expanded descriptions of a couple of particular projects to give a better idea of the scope.)

      I mention non-library jobs on my resume, but very briefly (like a line for the job, and a sentence or two describing the relevant tasks at it, focusing heavily on the library-transferable skills), and a very brief mention of the kinds of volunteer projects I’ve done (event/convention planning). I pull examples from non-library jobs more often in cover letters and interviews, partly because I have a couple of great stories about ‘how did you deal with an unexpected event’ from volunteer work.

      1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

        Thank you again, really and truly. :)

        This makes me feel much better. I don’t understand how people publish so much, when I can’t imagine publishing anything I’ve written yet (coming from someone with a BA in English, too!). I give a bit more space to my non-library stuff because I have only two, but they are (thankfully) extremely relevant, and show skills that are asked for in job postings, but might not be mentioned elsewhere. Otherwise, it is heavy on the library stuff!

  6. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    How old is a reference before it’s no longer useful?

    We’re attempting to hire for a mat leave cover (1 year) at my work, and the top candidate in a weak pool has offered references from people he worked for in the 80s–a year in 83 and 89 or whatever, and are now personal friends or hockey buds or whatever. I tend to think we’d be better off contacting managers from the more recent jobs on his resume, but my boss believes this is illegal in some indefinable way. So: How old does a reference have to be before it’s not useful any more?

    (I agree that the bigger problem is that these are his friends now, but the whole hiring process here is manifestly idiotic, starting with how my boss inserted a bunch of unnecessary requirements in the ad and then complained that nobody with all these qualifications was looking to work for minimum wage. Shocking.)

    1. TowerofJoy*

      I doubt references from 30 years ago are very helpful. Heck sometimes 10 years ago they aren’t very helpful. But if they’re all a person has for some reason (time off from that field or out of work) then I’d use them and keep it in context. If the restrictions your boss placed are that tight, you might just have to start the person and see how it goes and consider relisting if it doesn’t work out.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t know where the line is, but references from the ’80s are on the wrong side of it. Unfortunately, it sounds like you’re stuck with a horrible hiring situation, so that may be the least of your worries.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        “references from the ’80s” has me picturing these references as either being a shoulder padded, cone heeled, hair spray coiffed woman or an Easter-colored polyester leisure suit and mullet sporting man. My imagination refuses to believe that these people have changed their style since they haven’t changed from being this person’s professional reference. :)

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Out of my control (my workplace is a disaster), mostly due to the fact that my boss believes that he gave us six references and it’s “illegal” to ask for more or to seek out any other ones. This is more of a general-information question for myself.

        1. lulu*

          Yikes, I see. I’m afraid you’re stuck then. I wouldn’t even bother with these old references, and tell your boss that it’d be a waste of time to contact them.

        2. Violetta*

          Can you ask your boss why she thinks it’s illegal…? I’m curious what law she would reference!

            1. Audiophile*

              That’s a tough situation to be in. Is this the only person who made it to the reference stage? Can you continue the search and keep this guy on the back burner a few weeks?

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Can you try “Good news! I checked with the department of labor, and it’s actually totally legal to request as many references as you want! So let’s definitely get some references from managers in the last decade since these other ones obviously aren’t what we need.”

    3. Beezus*

      I’d really be interested in the last five years or so, with sharply declining interest from that point to about 10 years, after which my interest level would be zero.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Reference from 30 years ago are definitely too old. It is not illegal to contact anyone you want. You could make the argument that it’s unethical to contact the applicant’s current manager without permission (tipping off his boss that he’s looking for a new job), but anyone else is fair game.

      Even if the person has been working at the same place for 40 years (sounds as if that’s not the case, since you mention specifically ’83 and ’89), it would then be recent references from that place and not references from 30 years ago.

      Honestly, though, if it’s a weak pool, the real issue is—do you want to settle for one of these weak candidates… or extend the search?

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Oh, I know that all. My hands are tied, but the reason for the rush is that my coworker only has another six or seven weeks of work and my boss will be out for three or four of those, and he’d like to have her do some training before she goes off for the year. We may end up extending it anyway, because what I personally believe will happen is that my boss will hire someone who will quit in a few months and then we’ll get on this roller-coaster again.

    5. BRR*

      I think you have two options:
      -Realize the job posting was terrible and this is what you get with a crap job posting
      -Ask the candidate if they have more recent references and I’m not sure how you know they’re personal friends but you can also ask for references from jobs because you are looking for an unbiased reference.

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      While I also agree that those are too old, I hope that former co-workers becoming friends won’t completely taint them as references. My best reference would be my supervisor from LastJob, and we had lunch yesterday because we’re friends now. She would be the one who knows my work best, other than people from my current job.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        I don’t necessarily think it would in the case that the work was relatively recent. I think what’s more worrying is that the guy only worked for each company for a year or so, but the friendship is twenty or thirty years old, which makes me think the reference is going to be way out of date plus colored by 20+ years of friendship.

    7. Bluebell*

      I’m in a related situation now. A past boss of mine has been using me as a reference. We worked together for 3 years in the mid 90s. I now have a good position in our profession, so maybe that makes me a good reference, but my thought is that she really should have more recent references. However, I’m not comfortable telling her no (even though I no longer need to use her as a reference).

  7. Audiophile*

    I’m having a tough time with a change at my job. My manager recently announced that I’m being moved to a shared office space. The move isn’t bothering so much, as the way the message was delivered. I was emailed on Wednesday, by my manager and notified that I may be switching offices. Then we spoke about it on Thursday. To me, it seemed like a step backwards. It was only mentioned once before, I think on the first day of work and then never mentioned again. So I incorrectly took that to mean the the move wasn’t happening. Maybe I shouldn’t have. This was almost 2 months ago.

    So to get an email suddenly that I’m being moved was jarring. Needless to say, I didn’t take it as well as I could have. Now I feel like I should apologize.

    There’s other things going on, unrelated to the job. This week was the 2 year anniversary of my grandmother’s passing, so it was just a bad week. My mood has definitely been affected by that.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. Those anniversaries are always so hard.

      I’d be super frustrated if I had to share an office. Like, frustrated enough that I may quit. I wouldn’t have accepted the job under those circumstances, and – depending on how much I liked my work, and what other opportunities I had elsewhere – I would definitely think long and hard about it.

      That being said, I don’t think the way you found out is at all problematic. If I’m understanding you correctly, they told you it was a possibility a couple of months ago, gave you a heads up about a coming change by email, and then discussed it with you in person. I’m not sure what else they could do to make it go down easy, given that it’s inherently bad news.

      1. Audiophile*

        I’m realizing more that it wasn’t so much a “if” thing, as it was a “when” thing. If that had been made more clear, I might have felt differently. I think that’s part of what’s bugging me. Like you said, if you knew, you probably wouldn’t have accepted the job, but up until my first day it was never mentioned. And it’s never been mentioned again until Wednesday. I had forgotten all about it, I think most people would. Initially I took it as an indication that they were unhappy with my performance, because this office is closer to my manager. I don’t think that’s actually the case, it just there’s very few offices and this is the only one where there’s space. I’ll share it part-time with the woman who works in there now and possibly a Director, should one be hired at some point. It’s a large office, but I wouldn’t say it’s going to be a comfortable space for 2 people and certainly not 3 people.

        I don’t think I can afford to quit after 2 months, certainly not without something lined up. And I’ll be hard pressed to explain why I’m looking again so quickly. I feel really stuck at this point.

        1. misspiggy*

          Why don’t you give it a go and see whether it’s bearable? I hate moving spaces, but it’s very much the norm. In my experience and that of my friends, it’s common to be moved with very little notice. You could look for something else if you find the new space awful, but you’re right that you’d probably need to come up with another reason to give potential employers.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It sounds like they told you when you started that this could happen though? And that you hadn’t talked about it before starting, so you actually could have been in a shared office from the beginning? If that had been the case from the start, would you be so bothered by it? I think that if it’s something you’d really change jobs over, it’s important to find out before you accept the job — so I’m thinking that since you didn’t, maybe it’s more about the change than the thing itself? (Apologies if I’m wrong.)

          1. Audiophile*

            Thanks for chiming in!

            I was told once, the first day probably. But it was framed a certain way that made me think it may not happen. The reality being, I think this was in the works for a while. Now if it had been framed differently, I think I’d feel less blindsided by it. I truly had forgotten about it in the two months since.

            This does make me wonder if my manager would go to bat for me. That may seem crazy to some to turn a simple office move into a question of support, but the way my manager has been acting saying that it wasn’t her idea and acting as if it was forced on her. She’s high up on the food chain, almost nothing can be forced on her.

            It’s over and done with now, I’ve officially been moved (that explains her rushed email on Wednesday morning) but it’s making me more aware of other things as the poster above said. It’s making me wonder if there’s a larger pattern that I may have failed to notice.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am not saying it’s right, so please don’t read that into my words. It is jarring to have your space moved suddenly. But because you have only been there two months it could be that this is the way the company operates. “Oh we are getting a new coffee pot.” And you don’t see the new coffee pot for 2-3 months.

      Additionally, grief can give us a feeling of restlessness or exasperate feelings that are already in place. Is this the first time they surprised you with something or is this one in a string of surprises? I know that I will half-observe a behavior several times and I will let it go. Then one day I see a variation on the same behavior and it hits me between the eyes. How come I missed this behavior the last 3-4 times it happened? I dunno. But it dawns on me “Oh wait, this is not the first time they have done X, now I am catching on that X is a way of life around here.” Maybe they have routinely been giving you unsettling little surprises and you have been pushing it off to one side and ignoring their surprises. May or may not apply to your setting, just a thought to kick around for a moment.

      1. Audiophile*

        I think for the next few months, I’ll just have to watch what happens. I’ve definitely ignored behaviors with people I felt a liking to (acquaintances, friends, supervisors, etc) until I reached a point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore. It just continued to grate on me, as I became more aware of how this was playing out and why. I’m working on letting it go and being over it by Monday.

    3. Rebecca*

      I’m sorry. I got sandbagged last week, too. On a Thursday, I was told the next day I would be moving to the office next door, away from my office mate of over a decade, to start training a new person who started Monday. I had to move my own office, computer and all, the next day. I had no choice, and I didn’t expect to, and I just hope my alleged manager isn’t lying to me when she says it’s temporary. I know I’m just a serf out in the field with no rights or say over where I work, but sheesh, a little warning or human kindness would have been nice.

      1. Audiophile*

        Ouch, that’s tough. I at least had a little warning. I hope your move is temporary, as well. There’s also no reason that you can’t occasionally stop in and chat with your former office mate. I’m sure they’d like that.

  8. JennyFair*

    Hi, all. I’m about to apply for a really exciting job, and I wanted to share my cover letter and see if anyone has red-flag type concerns. I know it’s a bit unusual and somewhat casual, and those I’m okay with–but is there anything *concerning*? TIA :)

    Dear Ms. X,
    I have been following the work of AwesomeOrg for several years with great joy, so even though I wasn’t seeking a job change, when I saw your opening for Project Coordinator I knew I had to apply.
    At a previous job, my quality of work and willingness to assist my co-workers caused people to lament that I couldn’t be cloned. My current manager has stated that I’m the most efficient admin he’s ever had, and the only one to effect process improvements and take on additional work in our lab. Outside of work, I’ve helped deliver three babies other than my own—one unexpectedly—so it’s probably safe to say I’m good under pressure.
    While my time outside of the US has been limited to a trip to Guatemala with NeatOrg, I have worked with ESL students both in college and an ESL school, lived many years in a highly ethnically diverse area, and worked virtually with colleagues all over the globe. I’ve studied linguistics, learned a second language, and even completed a course on Spanish for Math Professors, giving me an understanding of the kind of effort required to communicate across language barriers.
    I’ve been a successful cog in various machines, but I would love to be a cog in a machine that has a heart. I hope you’ll grant me the opportunity to help AwesomeOrg succeed in its mission to improve the lives of those who need it most.

    1. TowerofJoy*

      Don’t mention babies or delivering them. It derailed your cover letter for me as a reader. Now I’m thinking about totally non-work related stuff and the fact that you have a kid, which is not what I want to be doing when I’m considering you as a candidate.

    2. InterviewHell*

      May I suggest that you perhaps make a direct connection between your passion and AwesomeOrg’s mission?
      In the past, I have consistently received positive feedback from nonprofit hiring managers about including reference to their respective missions and the populations they serve.

      Also, do you have any newspaper or other topical information about why your skills, background and dedicated outlook would be of particular importance to the org at this time?

      Keep in mind that these are only suggestions from a stranger reading your post online.

      Happy Friday!

    3. CrazyCatLady*

      I agree with TowerofJoy – don’t include the part about delivering babies. I don’t know the details of the organization, but I would possibly skip the part about your time outside the US being limited to a trip to Guatemala and focus on the rest of your international/language experience.

    4. Judy*

      I’d make sure that it’s truly in your “voice.” I’m not that fond of the “caused people to lament that I couldn’t be cloned.” just because I’m not sure I’ve used the term lament in spoken language.

      I also don’t like the delivering baby line.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      There are a few things that would concern me:

      – The mention of delivering babies. (This really stopped me in my tracks – I went back to read about whether this was a nursing job, but it doesn’t sound like it is.)
      – Starting your discussion of your international experience by pointing out your limited travel abroad. You could instead deliver that message as “I have traveled to Guatemala with NeatOrg, worked with ESL students in both college and k-12 environments, and studied languages on my own. All of this has given me an understanding of the challenges of communicating across language barriers.” (Note that I did not include the ” living in a highly ethnically diverse area,” which sounds weirdly self-congratulatory for something that many people simply call “living,” or the Spanish for Math Professors class, which is covered under your own language study).
      – The “cog in a machine” language. I know what you’re getting at, but that carries some negative association.

      1. JennyFair*

        I really like your more positive positioning of my international experience. Thank you.

        Although I understand what you mean about the ethnically diverse area, the area that I live in, and which the organization is in, is extremely homogeneous. Annoyingly so, in fact. Around here, people would not actually call that simply ‘living’ :(

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I get it, but I’d still leave it off. Maybe I’m just bringing too much of my own stuff here, but it would really put me off. Living with people who look different from you is not an accomplishment, you know? If it sounds like you think it is, that would make me uncomfortable.

    6. BRR*

      I like how it’s more casual. Part of this is difficult because I can guess what type of position it is by the cover letter but I’m not sure if I am right. Also thank you for putting this out here, I know it can be difficult so hopefully we can help.

      -Not to pile on but unless it’s relevant leave out the babies.
      -I would also leave out how you’re international travel is limited. If you can phrase it as “I did X with Neat Org in Guatemala” and it’s relevant than I think that would be good.
      -In your first part I feel like it’s telling rather than showing, can you provide any examples of what you have done?
      -It might end up being a little short. I’m not saying cover letters should fill every inch (in fact please don’t do that) but depending on how it shows up in Word, you might have some more room to talk about how awesome you are :).

    7. Glasskey*

      1. Change “great joy” to “interest” and include some specifics about their activities that compelled you to apply.
      2. Drop the reference to wanting to be a cog in a wheel; with or without a heart, there’s no way to make that sound good. Focus on ways you think this organization gets employees OUT of that rut.
      3. I can’t tell whether the 3rd paragraph is an effort to compensate for something mentioned in the job requirements (overseas work experience?). If so, I’d leave it in. Better if you could preface it with something like, “Although I have not worked in another country, I have experienced (X, Y, Z).
      4. I agree with the others about dropping the reference to babies-expound a little bit more on talents not in your resume that address this organizations needs.
      Hope that helps. Good luck!

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        How about “piece of the pie” or something similar to replace the “cog” references? Cog sounds very passive – like you’re only doing exactly what you are told in an automatic way.

        For the record, I sometimes screen for people who are happy being a piece of the pie – the (social services) work with do with clients is not wrap-around. For people with a background in case management, this can feel really incomplete and unsatisfying, because they can’t case manage the client’s whole situation here. What we do is really specific and focused, and I need people who still find that satisfying work.

    8. Lily in NYC*

      I screen resumes as part of my job and I would LOVE this cover letter if I received it. I do see what people are saying about the baby line but if it somehow has something to do with their mission, then I think it’s fine to leave it in.

      1. JennyFair*

        Well, it’s very much who I am, if that makes any sense, and the organization is medical in scope. But I’m pondering another way I might make the same point :)

        1. CrazyCatLady*

          If you have job-related anecdotes about why you’re great under pressure, I think those would be better to use :)

          1. JennyFair*

            Yeah, I worked in a highly proprietary field for a very long time. It’s difficult to explain the things I did to people who haven’t worked there, much less without violating NDA type things. I’m still working on remembering some, though :)

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Unless the job is working with midwives or something else where it’s really relevant, I’d leave it out. It doesn’t actually say “good under pressure at work” to me — I figure it’s a different skill set, rightly or wrongly — so I think it ends up just being distracting.

        3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Are you a midwife or otherwise trained to deliver babies? Assuming not, it sounds like something that could be seen as negative, not just irrelevant – especially if this is a medical-related charity, you might be inviting concern. I’m making some big guesses here – but let’s imagine you are a home-birth advocate. Lots of people disapprove of that. So if it’s not relevant to the job that you personally would be doing, and you don’t know if the organization would promote whatever role you have with childbirth, then avoid the problem by not mentioning it.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            At least 2 of them were more work related than not, although not part of her regular day job. They are my god-grandchildren, and the most recent turns 1 today. Hi JennyFair!

            1. JennyFair*

              Delivering babies is *always* work, lol.

              Cristina, I am just now getting back to AAM, I’ll try and post in the upcoming weekend’s free for all :)

    9. Bubba*

      I like your letter. You sound like a human being. I even like the baby part! Although I don’t think you need to say “other than my own.” Also would leave out that your time outside the US has been limited. Just say “I’ve worked with ESL students, worked with colleagues all over the globe, and traveled to Guatamala with neatorg. Agree, leave off the neighborhood reference. Good luck!!!

  9. Lily Evans*

    I had an interview two weeks ago that I thought went really well. I got a call from the hiring manager on Wednesday and they told me that they had offered the position to another candidate but they really liked me and wondered if I would be interested in another position they had available. I said I’d take a look at the posting for that position and get back to them, and it looked like it would be a good fit for me so I emailed them that night letting them know that it was something I would be interested in and that I’d enjoyed interviewing at the company and I asked if I would need to fill out another application for the new posting. But it’s been almost two days and I haven’t heard anything back and I know that’s not a long time but it just feels horrible and limbo-y and I just need to talk about it because I’m still super disappointed about the job that I originally applied to and I don’t want to get my hopes up on this one.

    1. regina phalange*

      this exact same thing happened to me. I can’t remember how long I had to wait to hear back about the other job, but I was just as anxious as you are. I think I had to apply for the other job online (which I wound up getting) so I don’t think they’d mention it to you if they truly didn’t think you were a fit. Good luck!

    2. Pokebunny*

      Not much you can do. I would go ahead and submit another application, since they’ve invited you to apply, and then follow the same etiquette as your first time applying. I would be careful not to assume that you’d get some sort of “bypassing” special treatment just because you were invited to apply again.

      If I were you, I would submit an application, send a short note thanking them for letting you know about the position and then you submitted an app, and then the ball’s in their court now. You don’t want to be pesky. And of course, hope for the best but prepare to be rejected again, i.e don’t stop applying to other places just because you were invited to this one.

      1. Lily Evans*

        I didn’t want to make an assumption as to whether or not to apply again online because while the online application was the first thing I did for the other position, I also had to fill out an application by hand to bring to the in person interview. And since the positions are very similar and I’ve already had two phone interviews and one in person interview I don’t know how to come up with a cover letter that isn’t completely redundant.

        1. misspiggy*

          Just submit again even if it seems silly, and let your contacts know that you’ve done that in case it’s necessary to be formally considered for the other job. It’s safe to assume it’s a hoop you should jump through, even if the people recruiting already know this information about you.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          It might be worth applying again online. Where I work, we only have access to view candidates from our own dept.’s job postings. We get specific passwords related to specific postings. And don’t worry about two days! I know, easier said than done.

    3. BRR*

      I can easily see this just being the first hiring manager first trying to connect with the second hiring manager (if there is a second) about you. I can also easily see this being how to handle a candidate who has already applied. It might be HR saying you need to apply again and the hiring manager saying it’s ridiculous or HR trying to figure out if need to apply again at all.

      1. Lily Evans*

        That’s what I’m wondering about since I did speak with the hiring manager and a rep from HR at my in person interview. It’s probably HR that dictates the process and in a place where multiple openings don’t happen frequently in the same department (I kept it vague in my first post but it’s in academia and these positions rarely open) it might be an unusual question.

  10. Kairi*

    I’ve been in my current administrative position for almost a year now, and I love the company I work for. One of my colleagues in the marketing department told me about an open position and recommended that I reach out to the hiring manager. Even though I wasn’t a fit for that particular role, the hiring manager just got approval for another one that he thinks would be a better fit for me. I’m talking to him on Tuesday about it, and then hopefully that will open up the door for me to officially apply. :)

    Does anyone have any recommendations on the best way to let my manager know that I’m applying for an internal opportunity? If I don’t get the position, I’d like to keep my current position here as I love the culture and people. I also don’t want her to think I went behind her back by scoping out the role as I wanted to ensure I was a good fit before applying.

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

      Perhaps ask the Hiring Manager what the protocol typically is regarding applying for internal positions and notifying your current manager?

      1. Kairi*

        Good point! If I think it’s a good fit by the end of the call, I’ll definitely ask him about the protocol.

        1. Sadsack*

          My advice is to check with HR. I once had a hiring manager tell me that I only had to notify my current manager if I get an interview. This was apparently not so, I was told later by my manager that I should have told him when I applied. I confirmed with HR at that point that my manager was correct. I was very apologetic to my manager and explained that I had been misinformed, but still it didn’t look that good. Good luck!

          1. Kairi*

            I’ll probably see who the recruiter for the position is and reach out to see what the policy is! I’m hoping that my manager will support me through the process, so I’d want to tell her when I apply. It’s definitely a good point to confirm all of the steps I’d have to cover along the way, including when I need to formally tell my manager.


    2. Slimy Contractor*

      When I was in this situation, here’s what I did:
      The hiring manager, Jane, worked in a division adjacent to/related to mine, so I already knew her and she knew my. My manager, Bob, was not the best manager I ever had. I approached Jane and said, “I’m interested in this new position you have, but I don’t want to spin Bob up and worry him if it’s not a good fit. Could I talk to you about it, and if we think it’s worth moving forward, I’ll let Bob know I’m applying internally.” She was fine with that (she knew Bob too). We talked, decided it was worth me applying officially, and then I told Bob right away that I was doing it, so he wouldn’t feel betrayed or like I was sneaking around. (Besides, how could you keep it a secret in the same office?)

      I ended up getting the new job, and, though I’m not there anymore, Jane is still the best manager I’ve ever had. It was so good to get out of Bob’s division, too. I wish you the best of luck!

      1. Kairi*

        That sounds very similar to my situation! I definitely don’t want to keep it a secret, and I’d rather it come from me than anyone else.

        Luckily, the colleague who told me about the position gave me a great recommendation, and will also help me gauge if I’m a fit or not. If I decide I’m ready to apply internally, I’ll let my boss know right before I do it.

        Thank you!

      2. Doriana Gray*

        @Slimy Contractor This is what I did too when I applied to another division within my current company. I had already been unofficially offered the job in the new division (my current home), so it gave me more confidence to just tell my former boss what was what (and per my company’s policy, you have to tell your current manager before you post for any internal positions anyway).

  11. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    It’s my last day at a job I love and I’m torn about leaving. I’m having a lot of trouble holding it together. Any strategies for coping with moving on, even when you don’t feel ready? (I have major imposter syndrome about the new job, plus fear it will be a bad fit, plus general sadness and anxiety at leaving my work friends and colleagues here.)

    1. Kairi*

      I’ve always struggled with leaving especially when I really liked the people. The way I cope is to let myself feel sad about leaving friends behind, but also reminding myself that I made a professional decision to go to a new job. It’s hard, but it sometimes help to think logically about it rather than emotionally.

      Also, if they have social media, try to connect with them to at least get updates on how they’re doing.

      Good luck on the new job!

    2. Tardis*

      Oh man, I feel this one so bad. The last time I changed jobs (4 years ago) I cried at my own going away party because I was so terrified of the future. I don’t have advice for coping per se, but here’s some perspective that may be useful:

      I think everyone has these fears and, to some extent, the anxiety. This is definitely a normal reaction to trading in a known environment for an unknown environment, even when that trade was your own choice. Change isn’t comfortable! So it’s okay to be nervous. I dreaded my job change for probably at least a month (I had a long notice period) and, in fact, for a while afterward, even in my new role. And that’s okay. Even though it was what I thought was a “dream job,” it was still terrifying. The Imposter Syndrome is so real.

      And you know what? I was still uncertain even after I started my new role. For at least 6 or 8 months, I doubted my decision, I missed my friends, and the future felt so unknown. But don’t forget that it takes a while to get the hang of a new organization and a new position, so it is *totally okay* to still be asking those “what if?” questions in your new role. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it!

      On the note of friends: I had a great work friend (work spouse, actually) who got me through the day at Old Job. I’m really introverted and knew making new work friends in the New Job would be tough, since the environment was so different. So Work Spouse and I made a recurring weekly happy hour at the bar we always went to at Old Job. And we still meet for that recurring happy hour, four years later – except now I bring Mr. Tardis, and he brings Future-Mrs.-WorkSpouse. It relieved a lot of anxiety to leave the door open to maintaining those friendships even when I changed my job. Maybe a similar arrangement would work for you?

      Best of luck. I know how scary and sad it can be to leave good friends behind at an old job! I am sorry for your loss, but excited for your future. You can totally do it.

      1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        This is really helpful! I definitely want to remain friends with the colleagues I’m leaving. It will be a little hard, since my new job is in the city where I live, and the job I’m leaving is a serious commute away. Mostly I’m just sad and trying to figure out how to get excited about the new opportunity and not terrified and feeling like an imposter.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Take one situation at a time…. or try to take one situation at a time.

      Today focus on your leaving and saying goodbyes in the way you want. Focus on tidying everything up. Decide that over the weekend and on into Monday you will console yourself about the new job jitters. Try to focus on the moment you are in and worry about tomorrow, well… tomorrow. Easier said then done, you might have to prompt yourself, “No, I decided to think about the new job tomorrow. I will not be thinking about it today. Today I am focusing on doing last day activities at this job.”

  12. Blook*

    As a manager, do you compare your employees requests for time off?

    I’m a little over 10 months into a new job. I was hired at the exact same time as one other person. We started the same day, have the same benefits, and work closely together. There is only one other person under our manager and he is in a different office. Our company has an “unlimited” vacation policy. The general guideline to follow is 20 days per year but they are flexible if you need more time for medical or other extenuating circumstances. We also get our yearly anniversary day off, 8 sick days separate from the vacation time, and when I started 3 personal days but they did away with tracking the personal days when the year rolled over. We have to track our sick days but not our vacation time. There are also 12 paid holidays so in total we get about 44 paid days off per year.

    Since starting, I have taken 12 days of vacation (starting after I was 6 months in), 4 sick days and 2 personal days. My coworker has taken 4 vacation days and 2 sick days. (I’m not keeping track, we just work so closely it’s hard not to notice, and we have talked about it.) I have also taken time to go to doctors appointments, while she hasn’t. She also works 9-10 hours every day without taking lunch or breaks, while I am in the office the same hours but usually take 20-60 min of break time throughout the day.

    I am 10 years older than her, married, and have a child, while she is single with no children. Not that I think that means she should take less time, but in my opinion it accounts for her lack of interest or need to take as much time as I do. I’m basing this on conversations I’ve had with her. She has said she doesn’t take time off because she won’t do anything with it, among other reasons. In fact, she told me she didn’t even ask about vacation time when she was offered the job.

    So, here’s my concern. She believes we should not take as much time off as we are offered during our first year because it looks bad. I believe that benefits are given to us to use. Otherwise they are not benefits. I also feel that it can even be a concern to a manager to have an employee that doesn’t take any time off. That said, I also can’t help but compare myself to her. I wonder what my managers perspective is with two employees taking drastically different amounts of time off, especially in a situation where we are so easily compared against each other.

    This is my first job that includes paid vacation, so I am not experienced with navigating this type of thing. Should I be concerned about that? Is my coworker right that we shouldn’t use our full vacation time during our first year? Am I taking too much time off or is it ok to take all that is offered to me (with exception to the sick time which obviously plan to only take if I am actually sick)? I’d really like to take the rest of my “unlimited” vacation this year since I have 8 days left. Or at least be comfortable taking it in future years. But is my manager comparing us? Would you as a manager compare two employees like us?

    If it makes any difference, my manager does take time off herself. She’s taken several weeks since I started and has a week off coming up. So she does seem to value time off.

    1. fposte*

      I think you worry a lot more than you need to about your co-worker :-). Is your time off okay with your manager? Then it’s okay, no matter what your co-worker does.

      1. Blook*

        You’re right I do. She seems to think I take too much time which is what made me think about it. But good point.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          How does your manager react when you ask? I would try to read her face — if she says yes but grimaces a little, or says “weeeeeelllll, but we might be busy then,” she might be unhappy about how much time you’re taking. (Which still doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t take it, but you might have to draw her expectations out into the open.) If she says, “Sure, do it!” then I’d take that at face value.

    2. TowerofJoy*

      Benefits are given to you to use, and presumably your company has a very generous vacation policy because they want you to use it. That said, there is a bit of an unwritten rule culturally speaking about being careful how early and often you use it since the first 6mos-1 year you’re getting used to each other and settling in to the job. I don’t think you’d actually be punished for it in any way, and I’d hope that your superiors would say something to you if they truly thought you were taking too much too soon. Plus, you did wait 6 months originally so you’ve already been considerate of it.

      Comparisons wouldn’t come up for me. You’re two different people, even completely separate from the married/non-married child/no-child dynamic and will have different priorities, interests, and lives.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I’d compare. And I’d be annoyed at your coworker.

        So there’s that–you might come out on top in the comparison!

        The measure of productivity and “value to the office” is not found in the number of hours you are in the office.

    3. edj3*

      We have the same sort of vacation policy. I manage a large team and all I pay attention to with regard to vacation time is:

      ~Are you getting your work done on time accurately and effectively?
      ~Have others already asked to be out during the same time?

      That’s it. If you are getting your work done and meet our performance standards, and I have enough coverage, then you are good to go.

    4. ThatGirl*

      There’s sort of an unwritten rule that you shouldn’t take vacation time in the first 90 days or so of a new job, unless it’s unavoidable (previously planned, illness), but otherwise, the benefit is yours to use. As long as your work is getting done and your manager is OK with it, I see no problem. Our vacation time is use it or lose it, so we’re encouraged to use it – just not all at once/the same time.

      It’s also possible your coworker is making herself look sorta bad by not using much time off.

    5. Dawn*

      Talk to your manager! They’re the only person in this situation that can set the record straight for you.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        Yes! Just let your manager that you want to check in with her on how you are scheduling vacation days. The “unlimited vacation days” thing is out of the ordinary enough that I’m fairly sure that your boss would not be surprised that you want some clarification. For what it is worth, based on your description, you are taking almost 2 days off a month plus time away for doctors appointments and not counting company holidays. As a manager, this might seem a little high to me (especially for a new hire) but not high enough where it is a problem. But only your manager can tell you what they think about this.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      I think you’re both right, depending on the circumstances.

      First of all, what is the culture of your company? Is it extremely cutthroat? Does upper management put a lot of stock in face time? If so, your colleague is probably right, and you should use as little of your “unlimited vacation” as possible.

      What about your manager? When you ask her for time off, does she seem reluctant to give it to you (“What? You want that day off? Okay, I guess”) or more enthusiastic (“Take it off! We’ll see you on Tuesday!”). My manager now has made a big point of telling us to take time off when we can (we don’t have unlimited, but I’ve still had other managers with non-unlimited be far stingier). He’s said “I officially have to approve vacation time, but pretty much any time you ask for it, I’ll approve it,” and he’s backed it up. If I call in sick, he isn’t asking for a doctor’s note or asking me symptoms or details, just “We’ve got it covered. Feel better soon.” If your manager treats you like an adult, you’re probably fine.

      I don’t know your manager, but if I were your manager, I’d probably be fine with whatever you’re doing, mainly because you’re even concerned about it at all. If I had an employee who seemed as if she was taking every opportunity to not do work, then I would be concerned. Also, if you have an “unlimited vacation” policy, it seems disingenuous (even though I know this happens at some companies) to them penalize people for using the time off.

      1. Blook*

        The culture is pretty good. Many people take extended vacations and they seem to encourage and value personal time. My manager isn’t huge on face time and I work remote to almost everyone else. Usually when I ask for time off she just says yes. Shes not hesitant or enthusiastic about it. I probably wouldnt worry so much if I didn’t feel like I was asking for time off right beside someone who never asks for time off. Logically I know we are different people and that shouldnt matter, but I get inside my head sometimes.

    7. Lily in NYC*

      I’m going to be honest – you’ve been there only 10 months and have taken more than 3 weeks off. That would reflect negatively on you where I work, but we don’t have unlimited vacation time (but it’s generous, I get 6 weeks). But it really depends on what your boss thinks, if s/he doesn’t care than go for it.

      1. Blook*

        Hmm, see, this is what I worry about. With your 6 weeks off, would it have reflected poorly if you took all of it within the first year? If so, did they offer 6 weeks and say “but not within the first year” or is it an untold expectation that you’re just supposed to know without anyone telling you?

        1. Lily in NYC*

          We get 3 weeks off when we first start and it increases every two years. Most people in my office don’t take much more than a week (or two at the most) their first year. I think it’s one of those “untold expectations”. We aren’t supposed to take any time off during the first 6 months but they make tons of exceptions to that rule once someone has built up goodwill and proven themselves to be a decent employee. We work our people hard for very little money so we are more easygoing about vacations than anywhere I’ve worked.
          I can think of one person in my dept. who uses her vacation days the moment she accrues them – she is a stellar employee who was promoted to VP faster than anyone I’ve seen here so no one cares that she takes so much time off. Her job is insanely hard and she deserves it. That’s why I think the only thing that matters is how your boss feels about it. And I wouldn’t compare myself to the coworker who rarely takes time off at all – she kind of sounds like a martyr (every office has that person who thinks the office will fall apart if they take a lunch break).
          What about other people who’ve been there for about a year? Have you noticed how much time is taken off by them? It might be good to get a better “sample size” than just that one coworker. How does your manager react when you ask for time off? Is s/he lukewarm about it?
          I would not be able to handle unlimited vacation time. It’s too stressful to figure out the “right” amount!

          1. Blook*

            Figuring out the right amount is definitely the stressful part! But its better than not having any vacation. My manager has very little reaction to requesting time off. It’s usually done over email and is quickly approved with a “Sure, just add it to the team calendar.” She has never seemed bothered by it, but then we barely get any feedback from her of any sort.

            I don’t personally care how much time my coworker does or doesn’t take off. I just don’t want to look bad by comparison. It’s hard to get a sample of others because I don’t work in the same office as anyone else in my department. Sometime I know when they take vacation, but often I have no idea because I don’t communicate with all of them all that regularly. Generally I’ve seen people take off 1-2 weeks at a time and many of them are in Europe and I have noticed some of them take off a whole month at a time.

      2. Camellia*

        I wonder if that ‘no more than a week the first year’ perception came about because many places only offer one week of vacation the first year? That’s how it was the first place I worked, with two weeks given the second year, then staying at two weeks until you complete your fifth year, at which time you would get three weeks a year until, like, 20 years or so.

      3. Doriana Gray*

        Yeah, it wouldn’t look good where I work either, Lily. Not for someone brand new who hasn’t yet built a reputation for solid, consistent work anyway.

        But that said, I just moved to a new division in my company (so technically have only been with them three weeks), and I’ve already been approved for a week’s vacation at the end of the month. I typically wouldn’t have asked for vacation so soon at a new job, but I have to use my rollover hours from last year or I’ll max out of my allowed PTO accrual for the year, and I haven’t even finished accruing the hours I’m entitled to this year! (Plus, I haven’t had a real vacation since August 2014, so I think I need the time off or I’m going to have a nervous breakdown.)

      4. Maybe Tomorrow*

        3 weeks in 4 months! She didnt start taking time off until after she had been there for 6 months.

        If I were the manager, I’d be concerned.

    8. Angela*

      I’ve found this varies widely from company to company or even manager to manager. My last manager (at this same company) would act as if the world was ending when we wanted time off (even a standard week scheduled well in advance). My current manager truly values the importance of recharging and using vacation time. I do tend to rollover the maximum allowed (we have a set number of days earned each year and then can only roll so much over to the next year), but that’s just because I like having a cushion in case something comes up where I really need more time. I’ve never worked at a company with unlimited time, but I’d guess that if they gave you a guideline of 20 days per year that you can take them at their word.

    9. AnotherFed*

      What seems a little much to me is that you haven’t taken 3 weeks off over the year, you’ve taken 3 weeks off in the last four months. Whether that will impact you or not depends on your overall work, reputation, and office culture – if you’re otherwise getting your work done and you aren’t causing disruptions for other people, it’s likely not a big deal at all.

      A side note about comparisons with your coworker – if she’s generally working that many more hours than you, she’s either fairly slow (and needs the extra time to do the same quantity and quality of work you do), or she’s taking on more work/going above and beyond on some things. If it’s the second, that may get her recognized for the extra effort in awards, raises, promotion, etc. As a manager, I wouldn’t be comparing the two of you in terms of time on vacation, but I might in terms of work output. It’s not that you’d look bad, it’s just that I’d be right to recognize her for going the extra mile.

    10. Fleur*

      Do you think your coworker is saying this to you as a roundabout way to mention that your time off is negatively impacting her? I know you two have the same role, but I don’t know how interconnected your work is. I always dread my team lead going on vacation because then me and one other developer get his work split between us and it’s challenging because obviously he does bigger and more difficult stuff.

  13. InterviewHell*

    Thanks for the support!

    Everyone, thank you for your kind words of encouragement last Friday.

    The interview with the rushed HR representative must have gone better than I expected because I was invited for a second-round interview that concluded with formal ask for references and a writing assignment to be submitted by 10 a.m. Monday

    I’m ecstatic about the news and truly appreciative of this wonderful online community.

    Thanks again!

  14. Bowserkitty*

    I’m having a ridiculous time getting some documents together for an employee’s job appointment that’s getting renewed later this year. Her secretary was bitched out for reminding said employee to get documents in even though we’re way past schedule, and the document we need is a personal statement and can therefore only be written by the employee in question.

    I don’t understand, I know she’s a busy woman but when the secretary was only doing her job I don’t understand why she was reamed for it. I was CCed on the reminder email and thought it looked fine.

    After all of that, the secretary called me up for a status update and suggested perhaps the employee does not want to be renewed….

    bah. Just blowing off steam. I’m going to be happy when all paperwork is processed.

  15. Lillian McGee*

    An odd thing that happened this week + need some advice on managing my manager…
    I left about 10 minutes early one day this week to try and get to the train before the sidewalks got too crowded with umbrellas (February thunderstorms, go fig). The next day I came in to a missed call from my boss at 4:55. Oops. Later, she sent an All Staff email “Final Warning” about absenteeism during business hours.

    Obviously it was partly about me, so I was feeling sheepish. I spent much of the day preparing my apology for our weekly 1:1… only to have her scoff and say, “Oh that wasn’t about you. I did look for you but I would never call YOU out for leaving 5 minutes early!” Uh, I was stunned to say the least. It seems I can do no wrong!? I am her favorite, which comes with its own difficulties, but her intended targets were a few people who have clients and interns that should be able to expect them to be here until 5.

    So, this raised a topic I’ve seen discussed here before, which is not addressing issues with the people who are actually the problem and just blanketing the office with warnings and punishments. I know I can’t manage my manager, but I did mention that some other staff came to me worried about the email… people who were definitely not intended targets! One of them (who has an official adjusted schedule) even went directly to the boss to make sure it was still all right!

    The boss seems to think that “they know who they are” but I’m not sure they do. Is there anything else I should do? She doesn’t want to deputize me and have me monitor people, and she doesn’t want time clocks installed, she just wants people to take responsibility for being in the office and available to their own clients and interns during office hours. I think she needs to speak directly to them about these expectations, but I don’t think I can tell her that…

    1. Nicole*

      Are you sure you can’t broach the topic with her? It sounds like she would value your input. I’d be tempted to say something to her about how emails to everyone about what just a few people are doing makes the conscientious workers feel paranoid and can turn into resentment. I just had to deal with something similar and it really rubbed me the wrong way that the email was to the tune of “it’s unfortunate that a few people have caused us to implement this new policy”. Yes, it’s unfortunate you know who the problem people are and you choose not to discuss it with them but then implement policies that will negatively impact the people who are doing nothing wrong. Ugh, it just irks me and smacks of grammar school when we all had to write “I will not talk” 500 times when only one person was talking!

    2. LawCat*

      I don’t have anything to add other than commiseration. This kind of thing makes me crazy. It sounds like you already broached the topic by pointing out how other people took the mass email.

      I had one boss tell me (when I was clearly burning out from long hours with no reprieve and still feeling like butt-in-seat was required during slow times so I spent a lot of time just spacing out in my office during those times and worrying) that “no one was watching my time” only to have another boss the next day send out a reminder about hours and asking for everyone’s schedule accounting for when they come in, eat lunch, go home (we’re salaried, mind). I DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME. If an email goes to everyone then I assume it applies to me and I’m not going to be guessing if it really doesn’t apply to me when I am getting totally different messages in writing vs. verbal from different people. I have seen people who are the targets of these things get disciplined when they did not understand the email was about them. I would not have broached it with my managers because they’re terrible managers and I had other options. I have a different position now (one of the other options I spoke of) who does not do this kind of nonsense and deals with employees as individuals.

    3. BRR*

      If you can bring up an example that you know would go well you could try “Jane came to me really worried about the email you sent out which we both know doesn’t apply to here as she comes in early and stays late every day.” Then something about those people don’t know who they are.

    4. Windchime*

      Gahhh, the “team chew-out” statements are the worst. We’ve been undergoing this lately. We keep getting chastised at team meetings about not having all of our X tasks done in a complete and timely manner. I keep going over my stuff and it looks OK to me, but I still feel stressed out. What else should I be doing? Should I really keep working, since it seems that turning items over to department Y this close to the cutoff date seems to be cause them trouble?

      So I spoke to a friend in management, and it turns out that it’s one or two people who are causing the problems. There are eight of us in this position, and we are all getting chewed out constantly because of one or two people (who probably don’t even realize that they are causing the problem). Managers, PLEASE stop making vague and general statements to the team when it’s only one guy who is doing things wrong. It causes a lot of stress and confusion to the rest of us.

      1. Steve*

        And per your example and others, often the actual targets don’t know they’re the targets, or maybe they do know but don’t care.

      2. newish manager*

        a few months ago another person in my small company sent an email out to all staff complaining about something. one of my reports expressed concern (to me!) that it was directed at him. I had to reassure him that if he had been making the mistake, I would have addressed it with him directly. I hate blanket vague emails

    5. Not So NewReader*

      You could just send everyone who asks you about her broadcasts to her rather than trying to answer yourself or even speculate with the person. If she sees that people are coming in one by one to say, “Do you mean me?”, she might get the idea.
      Other than that, the next time she does a broadcast just ask her if she thinks the people she intends it for are getting the message or does she see on-going problems with the same people.
      You can just say that people you talk to seem confused as to what is going on.

    6. Camellia*

      Be cautious! With my manager, it’s always about you until you ask about it, and then it’s never about you.

      The reason I know about this “about face” is that, in addition to her other lovely qualities, she has no filter/discretion and will talk about anything and anyone to anybody. Sometimes I take advantage of this by dropping a name (usually my boss’s boss) casually in a conversation and then just sit back and wait. She just can’t resist; eventually she will start talking and often I get news of upcoming stuff before it’s announced, etc., We all know to be very guarded about what we say to her because we know it will be repeated as frequently as possible.

  16. Adam*

    I could use some advice on how to critique cover letters. Thanks to AAM I’ve become something of a job search guru among my circle of friends. I refer people to Alison’s website often, but people will often come to me directly with advice and I think it’s helped at least one person land a job in the past few months!

    I have a friend who has a hard time writing cover letters. He’s very much stuck on the idea that he has to “sell himself” in them. I’ve given him plenty of pointers and sent him links to examples on AAM that are good, but he still has a hard time not being so stiff and formal in his letters, plus he tends to naturally just reiterate the stuff on his resume.

    I’ve said he could try imagining the cover letter is his side of a two-person conversation, like he’s already in an interview and each paragraph is an answer to a question (why he’s excited about the prospect of working there, why he’s so good at X, etc.). I’ve also recommended he try reading it aloud to himself, and if it sounds like he’s reading from a textbook or giving a statement to the public he should see if he can rework his material so it flows more naturally.

    I’m trying REALLY hard to not just flat out rewrite it for him. It’s not that what he writes is bad. It’s perfectly fine but kind of dull and not memorable. Any thoughts?

    1. misspiggy*

      I think sometimes one has to do a flat-out rewrite so that people can either see what you’re getting at or adapt your text for future applications. I wouldn’t find it dishonest as a recruiting manager if I knew that someone had got a friend to write their cover letter, as long as the job itself wasn’t a writing job. I’d be happy to have the person’s qualities put across as clearly as possible.

      1. Adam*

        He’s very receptive to whatever I tell him. I think he just hasn’t reached that “Ah Ha!” moment where it all makes sense. His writing is ok; just basic. The grammar and such is fine, but he tends to write very simple sentences with periods rather than using commas and such to string thoughts and ideas together.

        1. Tris Prior*

          Boyfriend does that too. I am honestly not certain whether more complex writing is something one can teach? Well, it probably is but I am not a writing teacher. I’ve tried to help him often with cover letters but he just hasn’t had the lightbulb moment. Especially regarding duties vs. accomplishments. To him, they are the same thing. :/ Probably because he’s always had the kind of job where the accomplishments aren’t easily quantified, plus bosses that give him exactly zero feedback of any kind.

          Honestly, I HAVE rewritten cover letters for him – which I know is a horrible thing to do, but, well, the jobs he’s applying to do not involve writing of any sort. I didn’t see another way to get my point across to him.

    2. BRR*

      I’ve had success telling my husband to put down his laptop and look at me and tell me why he’s interested in the job and why he would be good at it. Some people can convey things better verbally.

      1. Adam*

        I may give this a try. He’s a pretty interpersonal guy, so maybe doing a “live cover letter” will help him out.

      2. Saro*

        I pretend like I’m speaking to my good friend about why I am interested and why I would be good for it. It really does help. I had a huge mental block in the past but think I have finally found something that works.

    3. Mrs. Psmith*

      If you don’t mind investing the extra time this idea entails, why not take the advice you gave him already about imagining it’s a conversation one step further. Have him act out that situation with you and transcribe his answers. From there you can show him how to clean it up and convert it into the cover letter that is more conversational.

  17. Jubilance*

    This week I was offered a paid writing internship and I’ve accepted it! I’m super excited – I love to write, though I have no formal training as a writer. My goal is to develop the skills to start freelancing.

    1. Stephanie*

      Congrats! How’d you land this? Interested in doing something similar–I’ve been always told I am a good writer, so I was curious if there’s a way to get a little extra income. (Unfortunately, I know people don’t want to pay for writing a lot of times…)

      1. Jubilance*

        It’s through an existing website – they run a writing internship each year so they have a regular process of applications and working with interns. I applied and originally it was an unpaid internship but they decided to switch it to paying me a small amount. Really the money isn’t part of equation for me, I was going to do it when it was unpaid. I’m just excited that I was chosen!

        Are there websites that you love? You can try reaching out to them and seeing if they do anything similar or can recommend any outside programs.

        1. Christy*

          YAY!!! I know what this means! I can’t WAIT to read your writing on that other site! And it sounds like you’re gonna learn a ton.

    2. Recent Grad (and a writer)*

      Congrats! That’s exciting! You don’t mention what kind of writing you’ll be doing (marketing copywriting, publishing, something else?) but regardless, read a lot of their previous work, look for common threads, and build your voice within that framework. You’ll be fine :)

      If they follow a specific style guide (like AP or Chicago) make that your best friend for the first few weeks. I used to read the AP manual during my lunch breaks as an intern and it’s helped me tremendously.

      1. Jubilance*

        Thanks for the suggestion! I’m going to be writing for a website, but I get to vary the type of writing I’ll be doing – personal essay, opinion, sponsored content, roundups, etc. The plan is to give me experience writing different type of pieces, all for the web, so that I’m ready to start pitching when I’m done. I will definitely ask about the style guide and start studying, thanks for the suggestion!

  18. Burned Out Indefinitely*

    How long does burnout last?

    Some background: It’s been three years since I quit a job that was taking over my life. It was so bad that I quit without another job lined up but eventually found a job several months later making a lot less. It’s part-time, but my partner’s salary is high enough that all mine goes into savings.

    Meanwhile the new job is rather boring and repetitive but at least it’s not stressful, so my anxiety and depression stay relatively under control.

    What I’ve noticed, however, is that any hint of an increased workload instantly fills me with dread and my anxiety spikes to the point I start mentally planning how I’m going to quit. I have zero tolerance for anything that even remotely seems like unfair treatment and will (professionally) push back.

    I was such a rockstar at my old job and now I feel like I’m wasting my potential in my current position while at the same time unwilling to work harder or look for something more fulfilling because I have no desire to work full-time. I refuse to put in much of an effort. I realized I goof off more at this job than I ever have in past jobs (although I still get great reviews and raises). In other words, I just don’t care all that much about work anymore which is really not like me. But the me I turned into at my old job wasn’t a pleasant person to be around, so I’m not sure I want to go back to that, or if it’s possible to be highly motivated while still staying relaxed and pleasant to work with.

    TD;LR I feel like my last job broke me and destroyed my work ethic to a certain degree and was wondering if anyone can relate to this. Also curious if I’ll ever feel motivated again.

    1. NotASalesperson*

      I’m very much in the same boat as you and sympathize here. I’m much less motivated than I used to be, my work ethic isn’t great, and because my manager isn’t very hands-on, I tend to manage my own workload so it’s small and not volunteer for assignments anymore.

      I’m 25 and burned out. [sarcasm] This bodes well. [/sarcasm]

      Best of luck to you, and hopefully other readers on here will be able to offer more useful advice than sympathy.

      1. OhNo*

        Same here. I find that all I want to do at work is browse the internet. If my workload was entirely under my control for setting deadlines and coming up with projects, I don’t think anything would get done.

        I’m hoping someone here will have some good advice, too. I could sure use it.

    2. Bye Academia*

      I totally relate to this, but I’m still at the end of the toxic job and won’t be free until the fall. Please someone tell us it gets better!

    3. ThatGirl*

      Are you seeing a therapist? If not, I would recommend it – even if your anxiety and depression are under control, a skilled therapist can help you push through any lingering PTSD and work through the burnout and decide what you really want out of a professional life.

    4. Drea*

      When I left my first job out of college that did essentially the same thing, the one thing that I found most helpful in getting my work ethic back was to practice having one on a project that was just for me. I’d been working on a couple short stories sporadically that I wanted to finish, so I set a schedule and deadlines, etc.

      I found it helpful as a means of getting back into the rhythm of deadline/goals without having the pressure of it being work.

    5. J.B.*

      Really that sounds not too far off from PTSD. If you aren’t in counseling already it might help. At the same time there is a difference between being a young enthusiastic go getter and in doing a job to support your life.

    6. the sugar plum fairy*

      You’ve clearly been living inside my head, because I could have written this same post. I left a highly toxic job five years ago and am still recovering. I have a pretty boring corporate job and make more money than I ever did at old job, but I’m not challenged at all. I have been in counseling on and off for years because of it.

      You seem like a go-getter (me too) and I think it’s about finding a balance. I’m not really stretched by my currebt day job so I look for other outlets. For example, I’m a freelance writer and that allows me to really flex my creative muscles that I don’t really use in Day Job.

      I can promise you it does get better. Hang in there.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      How’s your health doing? Don’t answer here, this is just something to think about. My toxic job drained me of vitamins, minerals, etc because my on switch was always on. Not only did I have nothing left of my brain to give, I had little energy in my body. To get myself back I had to get eating healthier, watching my sleep habits and drinking water regularly etc. The hard part here is having the motivation to even do this much.. there were lots of days where I could have just given up and curled up in front of the tv.

      Yeah, if we are low on energy, eating crappy, not sleeping right, it’s really tough to get the thinking out of the latrine. And if something nasty happens, it’s almost impossible to shake it off, or move beyond it (whichever response would appropriate for the situation).

    8. LQ*

      The thing that made all the difference for me was that my new job engaged me.
      Things were tight financially so I had to jump on the first job offer when I got done with burn out job, but that job was boring, repetitive, and had constrained hours. It was just as bad. Once I got a job doing something which really pulled me in and made me feel like, oh! Hey! I like doing this! I was able to pull back around. Some days will always be hard, but overall being engaged made a world of difference. (As does the I never have to stay extra hours.)

    9. AnotherTeacher*

      I read a couple of questions/issues here, though, of course, I may be off base.

      The first pertains to your question “How long does burnout last?” which seems like a concern about burnout and PTSD (as has been mentioned). You’re bored but also have triggers that create negative reactions to your job and workplace. In both cases, a combination of efforts may help.

      Do you see a counselor? Counseling can help us examine patterns in behavior and provide tools to work through PTSD triggers. Whether you tackle them on your own – there are many resources, from books to podcasts – or with a professional, you’ll manage them in your own time.

      For burnout, it may be that you need to adjust what “rockstar” means to you. You say, “the me I turned into…wasn’t a pleasant person.” I get this. We have multiple “mes,” and maybe, at this point, another version of yourself can match your knowledge, skills, and energy. It may be that you need to seek other opportunities, if not professionally, then in your personal life. Maybe there’s an issue you feel strongly about and there are volunteer opportunities where you can apply your talents or learn new ones? Maybe you have a hobby that can turn into a second job?

      It sounds like you are a motivated, conscientious person. I hope the advice here (everyone’s advice) helps.

    10. Burned Out Indefinitely*

      My biggest issue has always been that I fell into my “profession” because I never really planned what I wanted to do as a career, and despite having thought a lot about it since leaving my stressful job, I’m no closer to a revelation. I am, however, working on possibly building up a side business doing something I enjoy more.

      That being said, I think I’d be happiest not having to work at all, at least not in an office. I’m so tired of the bureaucracy. Perhaps it’s due to my age (40’s), but I feel like there’s more to life than working. I asked about burnout length because I’m not sure whether my change in attitude is due to my prior experience or just a new perspective.

      Oh, and I have seen a therapist in the past. I saw one twice a month when I was in the stressful job because sometimes it was all that could get me through the frustration. My insurance changed and I could no longer afford to see her, so I found a new therapist but at that time my biggest issues were around personal relationships (since I had already quit the job) and she and I agreed it didn’t seem necessary to see her anymore.

      I’m still toying with the idea of going on medication for my anxiety and depression because I’m not sure how much that is contributing to my lack of motivation as well. I tend to procrastinate even at home on things I enjoy doing.

      I really do appreciate everyone’s comments and advice. Thank you!

  19. Sunflower*

    So I’m 4 months into my new job. So far so good but still struggling with being a newbie. Now I’m at a point where I’m getting more comfortable so when someone asks me something, I start thinking ‘crap is this something I should know but don’t or something that it’s okay for me to not know.’ I also feel like every time I get an email where someone corrects me that they are thinking ‘damnit why hasn’t she figured this out yet’ I know this is mostly all in my own head bu tugh it’s just a struggle. My last job had no training and at this point I basically knew how to do everything. I also worked super independent from my boss so I feel the need to be a little more meticulous now that she is involved in the same things I do. My boss gave me all exceeded expectations at my 90 day review and she is sooo helpful and never gets frustrated with me so I know I’m doing fine

    Not looking for advice- just looking to vent. Despite this I really like things so far and I will say it feels pretty good to not be waiting til the open thread pops up so I can ask yet another question about how to deal with my terrible work place!!!

    1. misspiggy*

      I think the period between three and nine months into a demanding new job is the worst. You’ve learned what can easily be taught through training and reading, you feel that everyone expects you to be up to speed, and you’very picked up enough to realise that what you don’t know is huge. Try not to worry – any reasonable colleagues will expect this and be supportive.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I agree. I think at 8 months you will feel a little differently and at 12 months you will find your feelings have changed yet again.

        Be patient with you. Listen to the kind things your boss says and review those things in your head. Just like today is not as bad as it was 4 months ago, things will just keep improving. Watch your self-talk, insist that you speak kindly to you. Even mistakes can be addressed in a kindly manner, “Self, I made this mistake once. I am writing down the correct info here and we will not make this mistake again, because we got it this time.”

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Such great advice. I’m in the same boat as the OP (except I’m three weeks into my new job), and I’m trying to stay positive. My boss told me today he’s going to start working me into the assignment rotation beginning Monday, and when he saw the look of panic on my face, he assured me that he wasn’t going to give me anything crazy, and that he understands I’m still training, so he’ll walk me through things when I need help (though he doesn’t think I will).

          The whole “be kind to yourself”…yeah, that’s a new one for me. I’ve got to work on that.

    2. NewTraveler*

      I’m in the same boat! I’m 5 months into my new job, and it’s a huge learning curve. My head tells me the same things that yours is in regards to making a mistake, so you’re not alone! I always feel like I should be doing better, should be able to do everything without asking questions by this point, but we’re still both new.

  20. Mona Lisa*

    I’m trying to figure out what to do about a minor situation at work. My boss has just returned from maternity leave, and she informed my co-worker and I that she would be using her office to pump a couple of times a day while she’s nursing. She also let us know that she would probably be wearing headphones during these times because she doesn’t like the sound of the machine.

    When faculty, staff, students, or cleaning crews have swung by our office to talk to the boss when she’s in her office with the door closed, if I notice them first, I usually say, “Oh, Jane isn’t available right now.” My co-worker then always pipes up with “She’s pumping.” More commonly, she notices people first since she’s closer to the door, and she’ll say, “Jane’s not free right now because she’s pumping.”

    Many of these people haven’t been to our office before since it’s new, and several have never met my boss and don’t know that she recently had a baby. I don’t mind the situation at all, but I think it’s a big overshare to inform them of the boss’s state. If I were the one on the other side, I don’t know if this is the first introduction I’d want people to have to me or that I’d want it discussed with students or faculty. I don’t know how to address my co-worker directly. Should I say something to her? Should I tell my boss what is happening when the co-worker isn’t around? Should I ask a dumb, “How would you like us to address this?” question for the benefit of the co-worker? Advice is greatly appreciated!

    1. SunnyLibrarian*

      If you have a good relationship with your coworker, you might say something. Or you can ask your boss in front of your coworker how she would like it handled and then follow that.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        My co-worker and I have a decent relationship; she talks a lot more than I’m comfortable with and shares a lot more than I would. She’s super apologetic about everything and takes it all personally, and I’m much more blunt, which is why I’m concerned about bringing it up with her directly.

        I was thinking about asking the boss in front of the co-worker with the sample question above. That’s the best solution I’ve been able to come up with by myself, too.

    2. Lillian McGee*

      I think you should leave it be. Or see if your boss is willing to put up a Do Not Disturb sign so neither of you have to say anything.

      1. Sunflower*

        I agree. I’d be more annoyed that every time someone came by you’d have to explain anything to them. TBH it sounds easiest for everyone involved to just have the boss hang a not on her door.

    3. Analyst*

      That’s a little odd how coworker wants to make damn sure everyone knows the boss is lactating away. A quick check-in with your boss on what she’d like the message to be sounds fine.

      Now I wonder what my staff told everyone when I was off pumping. Oh well. I wasn’t ever the type to talk a lot about it but I certainly wasn’t embarrassed. Just didn’t want to leave room open for questions about the details of pumping to come up in casual work conversations, that’s all.

      1. mander*

        Yeah, why not just say she’s busy right now and leave it at that? I don’t see the need for the extra details.

        1. Mona Lisa*

          The co-worker is a chronic over-sharer (I know way more than I would like to about, say, the state of her marriage) so I think it’s in her nature. She’s also a decade older than me, which confuses the dynamics a little bit. If she were younger, I don’t think I’d have a problem using this as a learning opportunity, but it seems odd to coach someone significantly older.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I would just say to the colleague, “You know, I don’t think people need to know all the details of why Jane’s door is closed. I think it’s best not to mention that she’s pumping. Just say she’s busy.”

  21. Stinky Librarian*

    I think my former workplace is bad mouthing me, but I have no idea how to find out or what I can even do about it if that’s the case.

      1. Stinky Librarian*

        I was let go after the probationary period, it was a really bad fit. But my supervisor was a super bully who would frequently yell at me for no reason and not give me basic information about my job. As a last resort, I went to HR and they were not receptive and in general, my dealings with them were very unprofessional. Upon my leaving, I was given a paper telling me why I was being let go, there were many false items on the paper. It sucks, but I have moved on.

        1. CrazyCatLady*

          I hear that it was a pretty bad fit and experience, but what makes you think they’re bad mouthing you? Have you heard that they are from former coworkers? Have they given a bad reference? Have you not been getting job offers? Suggestions on how to deal with it will be easier knowing that information.

    1. North*

      Bad mouthing you internally? To clients? To those who might call for references? You can have someone pose as a client or a potential employer if the latter.

    2. Terra*

      I’d start by calling them. Say that you’re concerned they may be sharing inaccurate information and you’d like to get it straightened out. Verify who usually handles reference calls (HR or your former manager) then ask to speak to that person. Ask what they’re saying. If they won’t tell you or if it’s bad say that you understand they feel an obligation to provide information to reference requests but you feel this information is inaccurate. Try to negotiate what they will and will not agree to say. You may be able to get them to say that they do not provide references or something similar which is better than a bad reference.

      If you get stalled at any point in this (them refusing to talk to you or refusing to negotiate) wait some time then have someone or yourself call and pretend to be a reference checker. Record the call if you can without them knowing. Afterward send a cease and desist letter (you can find templates online). You can quote inaccurate information, misrepresentation, etc. Most places will stop giving references at this point and just tell people that ask that “they can’t say anything due to legal reasons”. You’ll probably want to warn people in advance that this might happen.

      After some time call or have someone call again to verify what they’re saying. On the off chance they’ve doubled down and are continuing to give a bad/untrue reference you can’t do much except take them to court. A better choice may be to just try and explain the situation in advance to any interviewers.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        Be careful about recording the call, though – in some states it’s illegal to record another person without informing them.

  22. North*

    Is it ever possible to get past b*tch eating crackers stage with a coworker, or once you’re there has the ship pretty much sailed?

    I have a coworker I have to work with regularly. Our working styles do.not.mesh. Which I’ve encountered before, and whatever – except on top of that she’s genuinely terrible at her job. I hate myself for wishing she would be let go, but every email, every phone call, and every request I get from her has me gnashing my teeth. There are several of us who simply work around her to get things done. My boss is well aware of this, but coworker is in a different dept, so she has no real power over the employee except to work with managers on her level & communicate to the director of the organization. (Which I believe she’s done, but she’s not the best communicator.)

    1. afiendishthingy*

      I think maybe it is possible for some very mature people to move past this stage, but I am not one of those people.

    2. CrazyCatLady*

      I have gotten past it before. We both had different work styles and would clash constantly and there was always friction. I ended up having an honest and direct conversation with her. It turns out she felt as frustrated with my style as I did with hers. While it didn’t really change things as far as work styles went, it led to more of an understanding between us, and I think we became closer because of it.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      IMO it is possibly, but it’s a lot like breaking any other habit, like smoking. You have to monitor yourself closely, do a little mental “pause” or “reset” when you feel that reaction, and ask “How would Alison and the peanut gallery advise me to handle this?” Of course, you will know the answer, but in cases like these in order to find/acknowledge/use it you need to ask yourself in a way that kind of puts it outside of yourself, which lets you circumvent that first reaction you have.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Yeah, I think the smoking analogy is really appropriate. I’ve thought of it before like a drug or fast food. For me there’s a temporary high/thrill with thinking the mean thoughts, and a bigger one if I start gossiping – “Omg this is terrible, I shouldn’t be saying this, but can I tell you what Rachel said today?” Then I feel gross and regret it – but then complain about the BEC to someone else 3 hours later, because I’m more focused on the immediate release/high then on the icky delayed guilty feeling. I wonder what it activates in the brain? I would like to see a study on this :)

        So I guess I’ve never wanted to get past this stage enough to really commit to quitting the mean thoughts cycle. I actually get along well with most people, and thankfully the last coworker who drove me bananas didn’t work in our office long. So it’s a really small number of people who have activated this cycle for me, but it’s pretty intense when it does happen.

        1. New Math*

          If you truly want to get past it, you will probably need to find a way to feel compassion for this person. Consider ways in which she is less fortunate than you, and think of those things when you are feeling frustrated and tempted to gossip. This may help you act from a place of grace. Also, remind yourself that every time you gossip, you become the less fortunate one, as it is far better to be inept than mean.

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            Yeah, I hear you. But she was much meaner than she was inept, and I realize I lost some high ground gossiping about her, but I only started after about the fifth time I witnessed her being rude/insensitive/ignorant/a bigot. And now she’s gone so yay

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          Holy crap, I have a fellow student who signed up to be in all the same classes with me this semester (because she thinks we’re besties, or something, even though she is a painfully immature 23-year old and I’m a jaded 49-year old), and her name is Rachel. She gets under my skin so much that when I come home the first thing out of my boyfriend’s mouth is, “So, how was Rachel today?’ [For instance, she was on my Marketing team last semester and presented us with 3 pages of stuff that needed to be only 1-2 paragraphs (the whole assignment, for a team of 5, was to be no longer than 2-3 pages). When we told her she’d need to edit it down, she started crying and said it was clear how much we all hated her. WTF?]

          I’m not at the BEC stage with her, yet, but she just annoys the crap out of me. Thankfully we’re in different degree programs, so I don’t think we’ll have to take any of the same courses after this. But she’s on a team with me in an Org Behavior class, and I dread working with her and being part of the final presentation with her. In Marketing, for her part of the presentation (4-5 slides), she said the word “wonderful” dozens of times. As in, “Welcome to our wonderful presentation! These are my wonderful teammates: A, B, C, and D! Here’s a screen capture of the wonderful app we created, in our school’s wonderful colors! With this wonderful app you’ll be able to do wonderful things! etc.” And all of that was said in a fake [seriously, not her real voice] squeaky, high-pitched breathlessness that just *exuded* over-the-top enthusiasm, coupled with Vanna White-esque arm gestures. It was like watching a cartoonish version of a train wreck.

          And, gah, she collects “Tsum-Tsums”, watches cartoons, loves anything Disney, wears Disney-branded clothing that would be more appropriate for elementary or junior high kids (not that it’s cut small, but it’s definitely meant for younger customers) and hopes — after getting her expensive degree from business school — to work in one of the retail stores at Disney World. Not as a stepping stone to something larger, but as her “dream job” end-goal. Also, she bites off her split ends in class and doodles, instead of paying attention. And she never studies, but then bitches about how unfair the teacher is. She never has a good day; she’s always complaining about something. She’s always bored and is very vocal about it. Drives. Me. Bonkers. We have two 1.5 hour breaks between classes on Tue/Thur, and I’ve started going to The Pub on campus to study just to get away from her, because she doesn’t like going there. (Heck, unless I’m drinking beer, I’m not a big fan of the place either because it’s so noisy, but at least she’s not there yammering at me non-stop).

          P.S. Thank you, everyone, for letting me rant about her here. :-) I should be good to go for another few weeks. (Or I could just save up my stories and share them here every week on the Open Thread). ;-D

          1. afiendishthingy*

            Thank YOU for helping me feel like not the only petty person in this thread. I especially thank you for this: “Also, she bites off her split ends in class and doodles, instead of paying attention.”

    4. OwnedByTheCat*

      I’ve gotten past it. I have a coworker who wields a significant amount of power in my office, and who for the first six months I started. I was very obstinate (internally) about it too. My inner child said “I can’t just suck it up and be nice to her, or she wins.” Luckily my adult self got over that and I am, for the most part, able to have a great relationship with her.

      I credit a pretty intensive meditation practice, and she’s the ONLY person I’ve successfully come around to so it also might be a fluke. There’s a woman who I am in class with for a training program I’m doing who drives me so batty I get riled up just thinking about her!

    5. Lily in NYC*

      Ha, I am not allowing myself to contact our budget dept today for this very reason. I know I will say something I regret even though they are the ones at fault for not responding to any of my emails for over two weeks. GRRRR.

    6. Beezus*

      I’ve gotten past it a few times. Most of them involved having a direct and honest conversation, like CrazyCatLady mentioned. One time involved going through a miserable work disaster together (a very poorly handled transition to a new service provider). We didn’t have the luxury of not working well together, we had to figure it out or go down in flames. Developing a nemesis in common (the service provider, lol) helped a lot.

      I’ve also chosen not to get past it before. If my problem is that someone has a glaring personality flaw or is genuinely terrible at their job – not just mismatched priorities or different personalities – and I’m getting some signals that they might be on their way out the door, then I don’t bother. I’ll be civil, but I’m less likely to invest in a short-term relationship like that.

    7. CharlieCakes*

      It took me about 5 months. It was a looooong five months. It didn’t help that *I* was the BEC for her too. Ha.

    8. Dirk Gently*

      I wouldn’t say I’m past it exactly, but I’ve managed to dial it down a few notches. Here are the two things that worked for me:

      1) If you’re venting to other people about her – try to stop. I used to always vent with my work bestie about our mutual BEC, but then bestie left, and I soon found that BEC was bothering me less. It’s easier to let the little things slide when you’re not instantly telling someone “OMG can you believe what she’s done now?” – the venting can actually just make things worse.
      2) Try to recognize when your BEC does something right. It’s way too easy to only notice the annoying stuff. So if she asks a good question in a meeting, or sends a helpful email, take a moment to think “oh, that was a good contribution”.

      The latter approach is also good for other situations, e.g. if you often get really annoyed at cyclists / pedestrians / drivers / users of whichever mode of transport you’re not currently using. If you find yourself thinking that “all” those people are “always” breaking rules / almost killing you, take a moment to really notice the ones that aren’t doing anything wrong, are following all the rules, etc. It breaks you out of “all cars are trying to kill me”, or any other “all X-ers are Y”, mode.

    9. NicoleK*

      My own personal experience. Nope. I didn’t like and didn’t respect BEC coworker. For context, she was immature, unprofessional, had lousy judgment, and didn’t deliver. My job was stressful enough, having to work with BEC coworker was more than I could handle. I simply hated working with her and hated having to work with her. I left the company and am so much happier.

  23. afiendishthingy*

    Unexpected work from home day – Up until about 7 pm last night they were predicting 2-4 inches ofo snow here, then it changed to 5-8 of wet slippery grossness. Had to cancel 4 client visits plus 1 planning meeting with a coworker. I wouldn’t really mind except I scheduled nothing at all yesterday in anticipation of running around all day today. I’ve still got plenty of stuff I can work on here, but I’m so unmotivated to stare at my computer all day today!

    Anyone else not feeling it today?

    1. NotASalesperson*

      Yes. The weather in Boston today is so much better for sitting on the sofa with tea and a book than sitting at my computer wondering if there will be T delays when I’m trying to get home.

    2. LC*

      I live in CA, and the weather was actually pretty nice today, but that did not help me get out of bed at all. The only thing motivating me at all is that the weekend is so very close, so I might as well suck it up and roll into work for one more day.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      We’re having a Super Bowl potluck today, and I need to keep stirring my chili, don’t I? It’s that or working on a testing document.

    4. hermit crab*

      I have been working from “home” (like, telecommuting, but not from my actual home) all week and I did SUCH a good job the first few days. I really hate working from places other than my office — I just find it really hard to focus — so I was so pleased with myself for actually billing hours and getting stuff done. And then yesterday afternoon I was just like NOPE and I decided to take a couple hours of PTO and read a book on the couch instead.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Sadly we’re only allowed to take full days of PTO, and we don’t get very much of it. I’ve gotten better at working from home for a few hours a few times a week, but I just wasn’t mentally prepared today.

    5. Ama*

      I’ve basically been on the verge of calling in sick for three days, but I am on deadline for a publication and I had to run an important conference call so I gritted my way through it. This morning when we were still getting snow in NYC and the crane fell over less than a half mile from my workplace I *really* wanted to turn around and go home, though. (My boyfriend, who leaves later than I do, did turn around because the subways were a mess by the time he started out.)

    6. overeducated and underemployed*

      Yes. I had to travel 60 miles for an event that could not be rescheduled, so instead of a 90 minute drive in awful conditions i had a 150 minute bus, subway, and train trip. Now I am on the way home but I am barely going to make it before my kid’s bedtime. Not a good day for a storm! Almost any other day I could work from home.

    7. another anon for this.*

      I haven’t been feeling it at all this week. A long term relationship ended Sunday night and the ex posted all about his wonderful new girlfriend on fb Tuesday. So working through that was extremely difficult.

  24. Snowstorm*

    I have a new coworker who’s only been in our office for about seven months. I enjoy working with her now because she’s competent and friendly when you speak with her. The problem is that she’s socially awkward. She doesn’t speak at all unless you initiate a conversation. She doesn’t exchange pleasantries such as “Hello” or “goodbye”. In the beginning, I used to always say “good morning”, but she would just put her head down and continue walking to her desk. Other people have noted she does the same for them so I know this isn’t anything personal against me. She also rushes through social interactions and makes you feel like she doesn’t want to be near you. There are other examples but I’ll just leave it at this.

    Initially, I was bothered by her behavior because we’re a really friendly office and her behavior was so out of the norm for us , but now I’ve just accepted that this is who she is. The problem is that a manager in our office is pressuring our direct manager to force her to take take courses to improve her social interactions and communications (these managers are on the same level in our hierarchy). Apparently a number of people in our office of 11 have voiced complaints about her. Is this a good solution? I would personally be insulted if I were told to take social interaction courses and would start looking for a new job. Your thoughts would be appreciated!

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      If someone approached me for the first time about this and suggested a course right off the bat, I’d be insulted. Maybe her/your direct manager could have a conversation with her about it first – she may not realize how she’s coming across and her approach may have been the norm in old offices.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        This. OP, I’m your coworker naturally. It wasn’t until a very kind and patient boss sat me down and explained how I was coming across to others, and how she thought those perceptions would hold me back career-wise, did I actually start to take steps to get better at the whole speaking to coworkers thing.

        If her boss, and her boss’s boss, had sat down with her and demanded that I take courses, I would have been PISSED. Instead, my former manager empathized with me (she said her husband’s the same way), and she taught me some tricks to help me get through social interactions/small talk that made me uncomfortable (e.g. always asking people about themselves first because people love to talk about themselves and once they do, they don’t often realize that you haven’t offered up any information about yourself if you’re nodding and smiling along).

    2. Snowstorm*

      I should clarify the part about rushing through social interactions. I really meant just interactions in general. Training her was a bit difficult because it felt like she wasn’t paying attention and would frequently cut me off to end the training session.

    3. afiendishthingy*

      It sounds like her poor social skills are having an impact on her work and on others. A social interaction course sounds like overkill to me at this point – socially awkard’s direct manager should address the issues privately during 1:1 meetings, just like they would (should) for any performance issues.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        … and of course focusing on specific behaviors rather than “people don’t like you because you’re awkward, try to be more likeable.”

    4. TowerofJoy*

      I don’t know if its a good idea. Has the direct manager discussed it with her before in terms of a culture fit? Some people are just shy or uninterested in being friends with their coworkers. Unless its affecting her work, I’d be wary of this.

      1. Snowstorm*

        No, our manager recognizes that she’s a bit different, but doesn’t think it rises to the level of needing to have a serious discussion.

    5. OriginalEmma*

      Do you think she’d appreciate advice, if you gave it? In the context of a bigger conversation, you can help her work on manageable social goals – like, week 1, when someone says hello or good morning, smile while making eye contact. Week 2, do that while saying “hello,” etc. When you’re THAT awkward (and I feel for her situation, as I used to be wicked awkward), small goals are helpful.

    6. Allison*

      I have gotten that comment a couple of times and it was hard to hear. However, it reminds me the little things are important to make people feel good about your interactions. Luckily I didn’t have to go to a class but a kind manager let me know some simple things to remember to do….greet people in the morning, smile in the hallways, start emails with Hello or something and not head straight into the meat. I am just a focused introvert that forgets to be outwardly nice. :)

    7. Carrie in Scotland*

      Oh god this could be me! :-(

      It’s true I am usually shy until I get to know people and introverted and for a while I’ve been dealing with depression but I just feel so awkward with the people I work with. We just don’t mesh well and I don’t work with them much day to day. I’ve not been like this with any other workplace bar 1 where I lasted a week.

      But yeah I do know how to interact socially and would personally hate to be put on a course.

      1. Snowstorm*

        I’m with you! Usually, I’m the most awkward person in the room, which is why I guess I’m a bit more understanding towards this coworker.

    8. alice*

      She may have Asperger’s or high-functioning Autism. I worked with an Autistic guy once, and once I understood why he was a little awkward, our work relationship became much better.

      Plus, if she has Asperger’s or Autism, she wouldn’t have to go through social interaction courses.

    9. LC*

      This person sounds a little like me, and personally, I would be incredibly insulted. I don’t really say hello or goodbye unless someone else says it first, nor do I initiate conversation. I just like keeping to myself – I don’t have anything personal against anyone in my office, I’m just a shy, introverted person. And a lot of the time, when I hear people exchanging pleasantries in the hallway or something, they just sound like robots reciting a script.

      “How are you?”
      “Good. How are you?”

      I’d just rather not be a part of it. If you have any say in this at all, PLEASE don’t have them tell her to take a class. A friendly suggestion to maybe speak up more is ok though, if you have a good relationship with this person, and you seem to understand her.

        1. Jennifer*

          Yeah, you really do have to adapt to what others want in a workplace. If people are offended by you, they will never let you hear the end of it, and you will probably run into that at every job. I know how it feels, believe me, but….the eye of the beholder is always right. You will suffer if you don’t do what they expect.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      People have a right to whatever feelings they have. However, hopefully someone will explain to her that these are skills she will use at every job she has. It’s not a waste of time to master these skills and it will only continue to benefit her in the future. It sounds like the boss cares (he could have said “bad fit- you’re fired) and I would not doubt that she could feel tortured by the course.

      Would I do it? eh… Depends on how it was presented to me. If it felt like punishment or it felt like I would do the course and still get fired, then, no, I would be less inclined to tough it out.
      I might tough it out if it were presented to me as, “We really like your work and we want you here. But you need to work on how you interact with others. This is not a waste of time…[etc]”

      I know of other courses that seem remedial in nature and people have reported back that the course was actually good and they learned things. They did not feel they were being talked down to and they found it easy to follow along with what was being said. They did not tune-out. Maybe she will go to the course and actually gain ground?

      Do you know anything about the course, for example the success rates and how the rates are measured? I read somewhere about bosses being sent to “charm school”. The course was helpful but the comment was made that they have to be sent back to the course every few years. The course “wore off”.

      I almost think that people talking about how odd she is behind her back, is actually worse than sending her to the course. At least the course is an endeavor to fix the concerns.

    11. Oryx*

      So, in Susan Cain’s “Quiet” there is a section about how introverts often hate small talk. As an introvert, I’m like that — I don’t do small talk and avoid it if at all necessary. This means that I will only exchange pleasantries if someone initiates and I once had a colleague actually straight up tell me I should say Good Morning more often.

      Yeah, she got a major side eye from me for the entire rest of the time we worked together. Being told to take a social interaction course would make me want to quit right then and there.

    12. anon attorney*

      I’m interested that you say she’s “friendly when you speak with her”. Does this mean she can hold a conversation but just doesn’t do the small talk? It seems strange to me that someone capable of friendly conversation would need to be sent on a course but equally I have worked with people whose awkwardness has been painful to be around.

      Actually I work with someone just now who hardly ever says good morning/goodnight and I sometimes find that aggravating and even hurtful, but I also know that I’ve done the same, and anyway if I need to discuss a work issue with her I can bring it up and we will have a cordial conversation, and the work gets done. Another of my colleagues will barely make eye contact if we encounter each other in the office but will make chit chat at our desks sometimes and is always helpful with work. I have days that I can barely acknowledge the world around me myself. I don’t think any of us needs to go on a course.

      I think your office needs to work out why they want this person to chsnge and why that’s necessary to get the work done. That might solve it in the sense that she doesnt need to. If not, someone who this person would respect and feel comfortable with should talk to them about how they feel about small talk and suggest they might want to add a bit of it to their repertoire just to contribute to the kind of working atmosphere the majority want. Like any other conversation that involves giving feedback it should be respectful, direct and focused on giving her information that may help her.

  25. De Minimis*

    One of my departments needs a temp, and I’m having a really hard time working with various agencies to fill the role. They will seem interested at first and then nothing. One of them said they had “full employment” right now and were having trouble finding candidates—this recruiter has basically said I need to take the first person they offer me because “they will find another job tomorrow if you wait.” She wanted to just set up an interview with a candidate without showing us his resume. The other mentioned a candidate who seemed promising to me but then hasn’t responded to any follow up communication. I also tried with a third recruiter who has been good at placing people in admin type positions but his candidate pool doesn’t seem to work for this position, we’ve tried a few of his candidates for other assignments in this department and the team hasn’t been happy with them. I’m not sure what to do. I think the people in the department are also somewhat picky [they didn’t like the few candidates that have been sent because they didn’t have a lot of education and I guess lacked attention to detail, but then they were leery of the other agency’s candidate because “they seem overqualified.” Moot point I guess because I’ve yet to hear anything else from that recruiter. It’s just frustrating and I can’t believe it’s that hard to fill a position where they just want someone with a solid knowledge of MS-Office and good attention to detail. The economy is pretty strong in this location, but I still find it puzzling how difficult this has been, especially in working with recruiters.

    1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      I’ve always wondered if agencies jerk clients around as well as candidates. I guess they do. It’s possible they have no candidates because everyone in town is tired of their BS. One time when I was between jobs I was told I couldn’t be a temp because I didn’t have a solid enough work history at the time. For a temp job! In the midst of a recession! I hate agencies.

      1. OfficePrincess*

        Yes, yes they do. Just this week I had an agency send me two candidates to interview who couldn’t even work the shift I was trying to fill. I really feel like step 1 should be “Can the candidate physically be at the workplace during the required hours?” before even getting into qualifications. You could be a rockstar brain surgeon, but if you can’t actually come in for your shift, you’re not getting the job.

    2. Ama*

      Oh man, I do *not* miss being in charge of filling temp assignments. In my experience it really depends on the recruiter you work with — some of them actually seem to care about getting you a good candidate and some of them seem to think any warm body will fill any role. I think we only found a couple that came straight from the temp agency that we really liked — most of the time our best temps were referred by a coworker and then we had them apply through the agency (my employer at the time had contracts with two agencies in our area and we had to employee temps through them — but there was no rule against finding candidates for them).

      1. De Minimis*

        What is weird to me is that the recruiters are basically doing radio silence–they aren’t even giving me people to consider. The other guy who has given some good candidates for other positions at least has provided some candidates, but they haven’t been right for this.

        Our job posting functions on our website seem to allow for us to directly post temp positions, so I’ve asked if we might just do that, post a job for a long term temp position. I think we’d get a decent response.

  26. Grey*

    We just got a resume in our office that looked pretty good. Then I looked at the applicant’s email address (paraphrased for anonymity): wizardofdeath@…

    Seriously applicants, get a professional looking email address! Do you really want that to be the reason you don’t get an interview?

        1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

          Must be Charisma, he’d have to have a decently high Wisdom to be a wizard.

        2. Grey*

          See. I’m not into RPGs and I didn’t even get that her email address might be a WoW reference. Considering her actual email address, it probably was.

          Still, it’s not an ideal email address for a professional resume.

    1. Ad Astra*

      It’s like people don’t realize that email address are free, and you can have as many as you want.

    2. Boop*

      Pet peeve. I once saw an application with an email address that appeared to reference a favored sexual position. I thought it was hilarious, but would never hire someone who used that for a resume/application (unless I worked in a specific industry, I suppose).

      It’s not like email accounts are expensive and rare! If you’re really opposed to using a different address, get an account you use only for job hunting and have it forward all emails to your main account. Not hard!

    3. LizB*

      Lol. I finally convinced my boyfriend to get a firstnamelastname email address to use for job searching. His regular email looks like a normal firstnamelastname, but it’s actually the name of a video game character, not his name, so he got some confused questions about it. He eventually acknowledged that maybe it doesn’t look super professional to have to say to potential employers, “Actually, that’s not my name, but I’m a huge fan of [game franchise], so…”

    4. Glasskey*

      That’s hilarious. Except that it isn’t. I’d be tempted to bring this person in for an interview so I could ask about it:
      1. “Tell me about a time when you cast a mortal spell on a colleague and he ended up getting a promotion instead. How did you react? What do you think you could have done differently?”
      2. “I see on your resume that after becoming a wizard of death you got promoted to a job in the cafeteria of a large corporation. Can you describe some of your accomplishments that you think occurred because of your special skill set–Turducken, perhaps?”
      3. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years–Grand Vizier of Death? Archangel of the Unholy? VP of Change Management?”

      1. moss*

        And then the follow-up letter here, “All job candidates are being asked to cast a glamour on the CEO. How can I get out doing this?”

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Can this guy just get me a new printer? The Pope and Queen Elizabeth asked for me to get a new printer and they were told NO.

    5. Jennifer*

      We interviewed a guy whose e-mail had uh….a reference to something that comes out of your nose and a reference to a thing that frat boys do to each other’s heads in it, and it rhymed.

      Nice, handsome fellow (sadly for the handsome factor, we didn’t hire him), but I totally originally thought we shouldn’t interview him based on that e-mail address alone. Clearly my boss didn’t care about that, and actually the only reason why he didn’t get it was because the other person turned out to have more experience in the field.

    6. GT*

      My favorite was a letter of reference I received (academia, so we do letters). It came from the references’ firstname.lastname email account, but was listed as being “sent on behalf of” darthlordxy@…
      Amused me, and I felt bad for the guy who was clearly trying to be professional. (Didn’t hold it against his student, of course.)
      This is something that gmail does when you forward mail accounts. :P

    7. The Other Dawn*

      A friend of mine had one along the lines of “sallybear…” I told her to get another email address just for job searches. Sallybear is a little weird to see on a resume.

      1. Evan Þ*

        Actually, given that there’s an established writer named Elizabeth Bear… that could be someone’s real name.

    8. AnotherHRPro*

      I just had to tell a friend to ditch the address for his resume. First of all, unless you want them to think you don’t have any technology skills, ditch AOL. And secondly, stop with the group family email account. YIKES. That might be fine for emailing with your relatives, but not for your job search.

      1. LC*

        Ha! I was updating a database of email addresses the other day and was kind of shocked that there are still people with AOL email addresses. I almost want to get one just for the novelty of it. Does your friend still have the discs that offer 100 free hours of AOL service? ;)

        1. Lizh*

          I still have Had it forever, my personal account. I have a work email that is Since personal is only family and close friends, I don’t think about it much. And since so much of it is spam, I don’t care. Every so often I think about changing it, but then I think why bother?

        2. SusanIvanova*

          Every so often I log into a long-forgotten site and find that the password recovery link is going to AOL. That’s a good reason to never give up an old email address; a few years back spammers were going through the profiles of popular Livejournal accounts looking for email addresses that the LJ owner had given up but hadn’t realized was visible on the profile. The spammers would then go grab that address, do the password-recovery trick, then turn that LJ into spam.

    9. AnotherFed*

      Wizard of death is pretty good – no numbers at all means he’s the original! Don’t you want the original Wizard of Death working for you?

      I don’t much care about the email itself, but my pet peeve is when they don’t set up the display name to be their name. I had three candidates in the last round who all had their name set as “Gmail.” And then did not include their name in the sign off, so I had to go through resumes to match email addresses and figure out who they were.

  27. Heth*

    So I have just done two job applications and now have two interviews..yipee..I’m unemployed so do need a job! Only issue they are on the same day. There is enough time to get between them with breathing space for lunch/delays but now as well as interview nervous I’m worried something will go wrong with two so close together..eek

      1. Heth*

        Thank you I think I needed a voice of reason! Thinking about it more calmly they’re unlikely to mind and I’m maybe just a bit to desperate for work if I’m thinking that will rule me out :)

    1. Triangle Pose*

      If you can’t get it rescheduled, maybe this will make you feel better:
      Business school/MBA/law firm interviews are often like this, they are morning and afternoon interviews at different firms, with a lunch with the interviewers of the AM interview in between! People get through this over multiple days (some times in a row) in a grinding interview season and come through with offers.

      You can also try to frame it this way: You have to be “on” for interviewing for 2 periods, and now you can just stay “on” after the first one and go straight into your second one. No need to psych yourself up for the second one again, because you’re already in the right mindset!

    2. Blake A*

      Don’t worry! You already know there’s enough time, and in the unlikely event that you have a delay, you can call ahead to let the second interviewer know. Good luck :)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t know if you have the timing to do this but can you do a dry run on an earlier day?
      Drive to the interview place, then look around for where to eat lunch. Maybe you will decide to pack a lunch so you know you can eat something at any rate. Then drive to the place of the second interview. Each time look around and figure out where to park, etc.

  28. Elle*

    Does anyone have recommendations on how to screen resumes/interview interns? I’ve never managed at work before let alone hired but it looks like in a few months I’ll be a manger and need to hire an intern and I would love any tips you all have.

    1. Jubilance*

      What’s the goal of the internship – go give students some skills? Get their foot in the door? Are there some bare bones skills that the intern MUST have in order to do the work?

      I’ve hired a few interns when I worked in lab, and in my case it was really critical to find students who had at least taken some labs in school, so that they understood safety protocols and had some basic laboratory skills. Beyond the technical skills, I looked for interns who were curious, eager to jump in and learn, and had some basic office skills (decent writing, understood office norms, etc.).

    2. alice*

      Cosmic timing! I just interviewed my first potential intern this week, and I have another one today.

      A lot of the resumes we got were terrible, but they’re interns, so I didn’t let that factor in to the hiring process. My company is looking for someone with some experience, so I just looked for that on resumes. One thing I am screening for is some degree of professionalism. I got an email coverletter that did not include his name and was about two sentences long. He’s not getting interviewed.

      As far as the interview goes, I would ask a lot of questions to find out what he or she wants out of the internship. How many hours do they want? What kind of experience do they want? Are they interested in a full-time position?

      1. Elle*

        My first pass through resumes I was looking for interest in the type of work we’re going and either club or work experience that demonstrates some type of organizational skills

        It’s a project management roll which is primarily tracking progress and driving schedule so I definitely need to ask about their comfort calling up people and telling them projects are late.

    3. Nye*

      One thing I looked for when picking interns for a science position was if they had ever had any kind of unrelated “real” job. (E.g., summer or part-time work at a restaurant or store or such.) If they had only ever done science internships (which are often volunteer), I was leery of them. I figured if you’ve had the experience of doing something you don’t really like for someone you might not respect, you’ve learned a few things about how to be professional. It was my attempt to screen out delicate flowers who will only do what they want, when they want. Apparently this had been an issue with some interns in the past.

      Anecdata, I know, but both of my interns turned out to be exceptional. (One had worked as a lifeguard/swim coach, and the other had served as active-duty military.)

      1. AnotherFed*

        +1. I’ve also had the best luck with people who’ve been non-traditional students – they generally are going to school because they really want to be doing whatever degree program it is, and want to get as much as they can out of the internship (and recognize that it’s a great way to get a foot in the door for full time jobs after graduation).

  29. Drea*

    I am struggling with employment gratitude this week. I just moved across the country last month and was lucky to land a temp to perm position in two weeks. The area is rural and doesn’t have a ton going on, so landing this really is a stroke of luck. But my god, the last time I did anything remotely like reception was in college and I had forgotten how soul-sucking it can be.

    It’s not just getting yelled at by angry customers, or people refusing to answer their phones and respond to emails, or even replacing someone who was at the job for three years and feeling a constant need to apologize for not having the institutional knowledge that she has. It’s being interrupted by the phone every thirty seconds as I am trying to do anything else that’s driving me nuts.

    A job is a job and I am lucky that I got something? But man, it is a struggle not to snap at the next person who calls me, “baby,” or “sugar.” I am so very glad it is Friday.

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      You have absolutely no obligation to be grateful. Just because some people are unemployed does NOT mean you have no right to be upset that your job sucks.

      And as for responding to “baby” or “sugar” – I suggest very, very icy civility. As cold as you can get away with. Conveying that you see them as slime on the bottom of your shoe without actually saying or doing anything you aren’t supposed to. Or at least that’s how I’ve always dealt with that kind of crap in customer-facing positions.

      1. Lady Kelvin*

        My way of dealing with things like “baby” or “sweetie” is pretty simple (and maybe snarky) but I respond, I’m not your baby, please call me Dr. Kelvin/Lady or whatever professional title you go by. Then repeat until they learn that you don’t accept those kind of addresses.

    2. T3k*

      I struggle with the same feeling of “be glad you have a job” everyday. My job title is one thing, but because of a multitude of reasons, it’s really only 50% of my job. The other 50% are things like answering phones, dealing with walk-ins, and such, and as someone who HATES being interrupted, it makes me want to quit out of frustration. The only thing that keeps me from doing that is reminding myself how crappy I felt when I was unemployed for a year and that’s enough for me to keep pushing through, while still searching for a new job. Best of luck to you, and hopefully you’ll find something better.

    3. Lauren*

      Is it wrong to say ‘hey baby, hey sugar’ back in front of someone super important that would give you a talking to about YOU saying that? Then say that you are just following x, y, z’s lead since they call you that all the time. Apologize, then say ‘you know we really should get x,y, and z in here so they understand its not ok to do too”.

    4. Observer*

      If you are a receptionist, it might help to reorient your thinking – ie the phone is not interrupting your job. The phone IS your job, and all the other things are the interruptions.

      Why are people yelling at you? It’s never excusable, but if you know why it’s happening, you might be able to figure out some way to defuse, or have a conversation with your supervisor on dealing with it.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      When I made my big move, my first job here was the worst job I have ever had in my life. I cried going into work. I cried on the way home. The mistake I made was that I did not keep bumping along. I did not MAKE myself look for that next gig. And that was almost worst than the job itself. I had excuses- I was tired, did not know my way around, etc. The problem with this thinking is that when I won and I was right, I was actually LOSING.
      I know it’s rural by you, keep looking around. Don’t abandon yourself. You got this far, you can use this job as a stepping stone for something else.

  30. Lauren*

    How do I get over being paid less than market rate as a woman?

    Let’s face it, this is going to be a problem for the rest of my career / lifetime. There are always reasons and excuses why my companies and the ones I interview at won’t pay me equally to men with the same titles and experiences. Its a consistent thing at the agencies in my area.

    A part of me feels that the only real way to get to “even” is to keeping job hopping every year to incrementally make up for what I couldn’t get when being loyal to the companies of the past. If I get 5K each year, it would still take 4.5 years to get the average market rate of 111K, but in 4-5 years, market rate would have jumped even more as I gain experience.

    I’ve talked about this before on AAM. I make 88K. Market rate is detailed to the hilt by location, title, and number of years experience in my industry every year. Low is 83K, average is 111K, and high is 138K. I’m running out of places to apply to in my area and the places that I would move to. I don’t even make what my male boss was given when he was hired at my title and he doesn’t have anymore experience than I do. Every day I come into work depressed that I don’t matter enough for anything close to average. I can’t be promoted and evaluating my salary isn’t an option (already talked to my boss about options for being promoted, and while we are told their isn’t room in the budget for even COL even though we won a ton of new business). Market rate / equal pay just isn’t going to happen in my lifetime. I need to get over it, but how?

    For those that say 88K is amazing compared to min wage, please go easy on me – its like saying $10/ hr is better than a min wage of $8/ hr when everyone else gets $20/ hr except you. It would still make you feel worthless regardless of what the numbers you looking at.

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      Do you attempt to negotiate when switching jobs, or do you accept the offer as given? I know the wage gap is real but I think sometimes it’s because men are often more willing to negotiate at the job offer stage than women, so women leave money on the table. I’m not saying that’s the case for you, but worth looking into. Based on what you’re saying about your current job, it seems like the best way to get market rate/equal pay would be negotiate for the market rate at the job offer stage for a new job.

      1. Lauren*

        I do negotiate. It always ends up with only 3K more with excuses and some extra vacation time as consolation. I’ve started so many conversations that begin with ranges at averagre to high market rate, but then get to serious salary talks and its 20K lower than originally discussed. Since I can’t seem to get ahead salary-wise, I have focused on jobs that I would be happy at otherwise.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I don’t have any help, really. This just sucks for all of us (women).

      Two thoughts:

      1) Remind yourself that the range is a range for a reason. If the low end is $83, that means that someone is making that. Someone has to be at the bottom; in this role, it’s (almost) you.

      2) Fight like hell. Accept the tradeoffs that come with that, and decide that your values require that you raise hell anyway. It might mean fewer opportunities, a reputation as a complainer, even a lost job. But maybe that’s worth it. Sometimes we are called to sacrifice our individual hopes for the larger cause. I don’t know if that’s something that you could or would want to do – but it’s a real option.

      1. Lauren*

        I get that someone had to be in the low range, but low range in my industry is typically reserved for people with 3 years of experience, I have 10 years – so that should at least put me at average with my direct peers. Someone can be a manager with 3 years experience and someone can have 20 years experience, ie – the range.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Got it. That leaves with me option 2 (fight like hell, accept the consequences) or just live with it. They aren’t good options, but it’s what we’ve got.

    3. Journal Entries*

      I’m sorry, I have no advice, only commiseration. It is very frustrating and I truly hope that all women can one day rise up and end this horrible practice.

    4. Noah*

      I don’t know your industry, but I’ve always found salary surveys to be a bit inflated. Maybe you have better data. Anyways, it is also possible there are simply a lot more people in your industry making on the high end of the salary band because of the specifics of their company and role. That would skew the average higher.

      I also don’t have a perfect answer for you. Is it possible you were hired with less experience and are now stuck constantly below the average? It can be hard to recover from that because everyone seems to want to know your past salary history. Also, is it possible your thoughts about this are impacting your work?

      1. Lauren*

        It is totally affecting my work, but not in a way that management sees (yet). I am constantly given feedback that clients love me, value my work, told great job, and that I continuously impress the SVPs.

        The salary data is pretty psychotic put out by recruiting agencies and industry blogs galore on a yearly basis. Its accurate for men and some women in my area.

        This is an example; though I tend to use a different one –

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      I wish I had advice for you, but this is a known problem with no known definite easy solution. Women are in a bit of a catch-22, because if they negotiate too aggressively, people think less of them (consciously or unconsciously), which can damage their careers, and if women don’t negotiate aggressively, then they get underpaid. (Women should still negotiate, but the solution to the gender pay gap isn’t just “negotiate harder.”)

      If even the super-rich A-list white women in Hollywood get paid less than their white male co-stars, it is a huge problem! I know some men’s rights activists like to knitpick the 77% number, but no matter how you look at it, women’s salaries are too low and/or women’s work is undervalued as a whole.

      You have absolutely every right to be outraged and frustrated.

      That said, you really can’t compare making $88k to making $10/hour. $10/hour is not a livable wage in most urban areas. Once you make over $75k, you can easily pay for a nice place to live, work aggressively on student loan or credit card debt, save some money, and indulge in consumer gadgets, vacations, and eating out… how much more you make on top of $75k just ups how lavish your vacations are or how big your home is or how much more money you have in savings.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Please, please, please note that that that data is aggregate data. It doesn’t mean that every woman who negotiates will be perceived worse for it. It doesn’t mean that every woman who doesn’t negotiate will be underpaid. It’s about patterns and aggregates, and I really don’t want women feeling like this is the way it will definitely be for them, because it’s not necessarily the case.

        I negotiate aggressively now, and people seem to still think well of me.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          No, I get that. I just don’t want it to be a victim-blaming thing where people tell women “Oh, you just need to negotiate and that will solve all pay inequality” (i.e, there is no sexism or gender bias—it’s all women not “leaning in” enough).

        2. Terra*

          Definitely true, as a female CSR/Technical Writer I make more than some of the programmers at my job because I was willing to negotiate and walk away if I didn’t get what I wanted. The result is that one of our new programmers just found out that he makes $15 an hour to my $18.50 and got pretty upset but everyone he complained to told him it was his fault for jumping at the first offer.

      2. Windchime*

        The OP wasn’t equating $88k to $10/hour. She was saying that $88k feels bad in this situation because she believes that others are making $111 k, just as most of us would feel terrible making $10 an hour if all our other teammates with similar experience were making $20. Of course $88K is a very nice salary, but if you’re a woman and all the men with similar experience are making tens of thousands more for doing the exact same job, then it’s not fair. Period.

        1. Lauren*

          Thank you for articulating this better than I did. Wicked appreciate your detailed explanation of what I was trying to say.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          I fully agree it’s not fair. I just don’t think the comparison makes sense. Obviously you want to be paid what you’re worth, and men should definitely not be paid more than women for the same work, but bringing in $10/hour just makes no sense—that is below poverty level in many places in the U.S.

          1. Anonsie*

            It’s definitely not below the poverty level in *most* places, so let’s just assume for this as an example that it’s a perfectly fine wage in the setting of the example.

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Let’s not nitpick what was obviously meant as an example… especially since she used the example in order to ask that we not nitpick! Yikes. She’s underpaid for her worth. The fact that she works in a generally well-paid field is irrelevant.

    6. MaryMary*

      Have you tried negotiating for bonus and incentives instead of/in additon to base salary? If your clients love you and you’ve just gotten a lot of new business, maybe some sort of revenue sharing or bonus based on growth and retention would get you closer to the number you want. I feel like the salary budget sometimes is just for base salary and any other payouts are almost invisible. You might even be able to position it as cost neutral: if the organization had a bad year, you don’t recieve a bonus, if the organization does well, you get a share. I don’t know if it would work for your industry, but it’s a thought.

      1. Lauren*

        Bonuses and revenue sharing doesn’t really exist in my industry – and I am not high up enough for it to be option for the ones that do it. As for incentives, I’ve tried to focus all negotiating on only 2 points – base salary and vacation time. I find that asking too many questions about incentives or extras like medical, dental, maternity leave and conferences, just extends the conversation away from base salary. My current job said I was a shrewd and difficult negotiator, but its not true. I accepted the salary (i know stupid) because I was in such a toxic place, I needed any out at the time and my friend worked here. Turns out when I kept asking for clarification on benefits, they saw it as negotiating. I saw it as BS since they kept giving me incorrect numbers and benefit plans – so I went through about 6 back and forth’s before we even talked salary. UGH.

        Lately, I’ve been doing this thing where when asked my current salary or what I am looking for: I say – that market rate for my current position is x in Boston client side, y for agency. market rate for this new position is x for client and y for agency. It really depends on where you fall in those ranges. They give a #, and regardless of the # 9which is always low) -I say – that seems low based on the market rates we just discussed. Can you tell me how you came to that #? (OMG, I got one place who originally said 105K and jumped to 118K in a matter of seconds). I didn’t get that job though. :(

        1. Lauren*

          That job also told me 105k, but I had 3 recruiters call me about the same job after I had applied and told me their range was actually 120 – 140K.

    7. moss*

      I think I deal with it by ignoring it and living in a LCOL area so my salary spreads farther.

      My last recruiter, when I told my salary, burst out “What IS IT with you people in the Midwest?!!”

      But I’ve been making less than men my whole career and I haven’t figured out how to handle it besides just ignoring it.

      1. NacSacJack*

        What did he or she mean by that comment? What is what with us people in the Midwest? We make less money than the rest of the country? Well, yeah, cause we don’t live in the land of $400K starter homes (California) or ridiculously expensive apartments (New York). We can live 20 miles outside the city center and still get to work in an hour or less.

        1. GreenTeaPot*

          I live in a part of the Midwest where $42,000 is considered a good salary and the average house cost well under $100,000. But, yes, I don’t have a long commute, crime is fairly low and my home is paid for. But I’d be embarrassed to job hunt in a high-rolling part of the country!

    8. Boop*

      You may not want to go this route, you may want to consider a lawsuit. I believe the Civil Rights Act and Equal Pay Act may apply. I’m not a lawyer, so definitely check with one if you want to pursue this course.

      On a personal note, I totally understand and sympathize. I work in a primarily female workplace, and somehow the men still make more. Plus I’ve been screwed regarding pay/promotions, although not based on sex, just because of stupid policies.

    9. J.B.*

      I live this every day. In my department the men at my level consistently make 20-30% more than the women, even when the women in those positions have accomplished a lot more than the men! Tried looking around, noticed the same pattern in most of the firms in the area. The men get the opportunities. I just try not to think about it, leave work at work when I leave, and sock away as much as possible so someday I can say go to “heck” with all of it.

      Also, go read some of Catherine Rampell’s recent columns. Yep.

    10. Terra*

      Stop job hopping, it isn’t hurt anyone but you. Also if you already have a job have you ever tried not caving in the negotiations? If the initial discussion is for +$20K and then the offer comes in at +$3K with excuses it may be worth it to just flat out say “no, that’s not acceptable and if I’d known that was the salary at the start of this conversation I wouldn’t have bothered.” Pushing harder may lose you the offer but it may get you what you want.

      Also, if you’re absolutely sure and have or can get proof that there are men with nearly identical job titles, jobs, skill, effort, and responsibility who work at the same company then take the job. Then as soon as you have passed your 6 month or whatever review and been made non-probationary you go to your manager or HR and tell them that you’re concerned that they could be seen as being in violation of the equal pay act and/or the civil rights act. Both of which equal pay regardless of gender. Tell them why and lay out as much information as you have. Ideally the HR people don’t want to be doing illegal things or get sued so they’ll find a way to get the compensation you deserve.

      Less ideally you can also sue based on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

      1. Lauren*

        My average is 4 years per job. It has hurt me though as I accepted excuse after excuse and believed I wasn’t ready for a promotion or it was never in the budget. I am getting better at realizing when my boss (past ones mostly) is lying to me, and trying to determine when I need to leave. I’ve also been cutting off job conversations that suddenly switch from acceptable salary to suddenly 20K less. ‘This isn’t the range we discussed, why did it change? (budget) that is unfortunate, thank you for your time, but I cannot continue unless you are able to pay market rate.’ So better at what I need to say, but again – running out of places to say it. Which goes to my theory of job hopping to get incremental increases. Its pretty common to job hop every 1-2 years in my field, there is actually a trend of people under 30 yrs old that leave every 6 -9 months.

        I don’t want to sue, just find a job that is fair to women.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          It sucks, but it sounds like you can’t have it both ways (not fight, and have a fair wage). If you’re saying that all employers underpay women in your field, then your only options are to a) accept it and navigate the system the best you can (it sounds like this is what you’re trying to do), b) change fields, or c) fight – which may involve suing.

          When a system is corrupt, someone has to kick it apart. If you can’t abide options a) or b), maybe it has to be you.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Also, suing is not the only answer. Write a piece for an industry publication. Ask pointed questions at conferences. Negotiate very directly with your own employers (e.g., “I’m aware that Vu and Muneer make 15% more than I do, although I have more experience and have generated more revenue than they have. I’ve noticed that across our field men are paid more than women, and that’s not ok with me. I’d like to see a 20% increase in my next salary review.”). Make yourself known as That Woman Who Won’t Shut Up About Unfair Wages.

    11. Seattle Writer Gal*

      I completely sympathize as I am in the exact same boat as you (underpaid, 10 years into career, tried moving jobs to increase pay…). I’ve enjoyed the added bonus of being called entitled, a bad person, wanting a handout, told I “don’t get to tell them what I get” and–my personal favorite–told that my manager “just wants me to be happy” as they shove me out the door/deny all of my requests for compensation/vacation/promotions/benefits, etc. The last one was actually the opening line in my termination letter from Toxic Job!

      My personal way of dealing with this so far has been as follows:
      1) Do not let this affect your sense of self worth. YOU ARE VALUABLE. The fact that these people refuse to acknowledge that has no bearing on this fact. It does not change the truth that you are a competent, worthwhile employee that others enjoy working with.
      2) Consider consulting/freelancing. I was very hung up on increasing salary through promotions. However, chronic job hopping makes this near impossible at most organizations, especially ones that value loyalty. I’ve also found that companies are much more willing to pay high salaries on contracts–even open-ended ones–than they are with FTEs. Some weird feeling of “ownership” they have over their employees.
      3) Accept that most women in their early to mid 30s are just not seen by executives as “management material” and learn to be patient (easier said than done, I know). And before I get flamed over this, let me state that I most definitely DO NOT AGREE with this statement, it has simply been my general observation. Some men in this age range start to see their careers really take off at this stage, not so for women. And frankly, most people (men and women) don’t have huge career progression at this time in their lives for whatever reason.

      1. Lauren*

        I’m past mid 30s lol. Thank you though. I do wish I could find a way to navigate the system without being labeled as difficult, which would hurt me more. I think I’m going to have an honest conversation with my new boss. And ask about a salary evaluation.

  31. Carrie in Scotland*

    Oh man. Help/advice/suggestions please.

    My manager wants me to give feedback to her since I’m leaving. I already said some things to our dept head but now she wants me to feedback.

    I’m just worried that I will be too negative and also she had this expression on her face when I gave her the heads up I was leaving…it was the ‘you ran over my puppy!’ face :-(

    I just don’t know how to be fair & honest. But I do want to make it better for the person following me into this role.

    1. edj3*

      Would you be able to phrase your feedback so it’s focused on the what, not the who? That gets to process, which keeps things from getting personal. It’s what I did when I left a culture that was not a good fit for me.

    2. ThatsTheSpirit*

      Be objective. State facts. Do it written, if possible. Ask someone to look it over, first. Good luck!

    3. Katie the Fed*

      If someone doesn’t take criticism well and I’m under no obligation to provide it, I usually just provide really generic, non-critical comments. It’s not like they’re going to be receptive.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I think we just don’t “get” each other. I’m not really planning on giving her as my reference as out of the 7 months I’ve worked there, she’s only been there for 4 (she was on long term sick leave). Which I will also point out, that we’ve haven’t worked together that long

    4. New Math*

      I would only share something if I felt in my heart that it would be received and helpful. Otherwise, keep it on the surface.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Can you focus on the company and skip by any issues with the boss? Or can you just restate what you have already told the department head?

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        The dept head I shared more personal feedback with regarding my manager so I think I’m just going to keep it light and say that since we only worked together for 4 months I could only say _

  32. Pokebunny*

    I’m about to send off my hopefully awesome cover letter and resume for a position I’m underqualified for (they want 4, I have 1). It’s hard to stay motivated. I keep having this image of them looking at my resume and wondering “why does this person think they have any business applying for this position?!”

    1. Triangle Pose*

      Try to focus on the fact that you put out an awesome cover letter and resume out there!

      I also apply for things that ask for 3-5 when I have 2-3-ish, maybe. The good news is, in my industry when they said 2-4, 3-5, they just mean “junior” in their heads and are not laser focused on the actual years. I’ve gotten interviews at those postings. Cheers and good luck to you!

    2. Jennifer*

      I try to think of it as giving myself life bonus points for practicing and trying. If that helps any.

    3. SusanIvanova*

      Include any time you spent on anything related – “1 year building teapots, plus 3 years designing teacups”. I got a job once that needed a computer language I didn’t really know – but I had 4 years with the company that had developed that language’s immediate ancestor.

  33. Redacted*

    I’m looking for new jobs but SO and I have a pretty significant vacation already planned for later this year. It’s 2 weeks out of the country. I assume the right time to mention is if I get to offer stage. I also assume I won’t have the vacation time yet to do it paid. Do you think this is problematic? I am okay with it being unpaid or having to use up whatever vacation time I will have at that point. I just really don’t want to have to cancel and be out the money. We also haven’t had a vacation in years so its important to us.

    1. Noah*

      Yes, wait until the offer stage. I wouldn’t immediately offer up to take it unpaid, but it can certainly help you negotiate it. Also, don’t worry too much, it is pretty common to have vacation planned when starting a new job.

    2. Triangle Pose*

      I’ve been asked this at the interview stage (the initial screen in fact!) And I’ve usually gotten around it by saying, “Well, I currently have travel plans for X weeks later in the year, but depending on the start date of the job, I am totally willing to work my training around it and juggle the rest of my schedule to fit it in.” This is the kind of thing that shows that even though you have it planned, you are taking into account the needs (start date, training periods) of the job while staying firm with your vacation plans.

  34. Stephanie*

    I got into grad school! (For an engineering masters.) I am undecided about whether to go or not (still waiting on results from a couple of scholarship applications), but the acceptance was some much-needed good news.

    1. OriginalEmma*

      Congratulations!!! That’s awesome. IIRC, you have an engineering undergrad too, right? You’ve been struggling over the past few years with work, I remember, and so this is great news!

      1. Stephanie*

        Yup, it is. So I did find a job, albeit not a great one. (Well, technically I am doing two jobs to total to like 45 hours a week.) So some of my trepidation is like “Ack, do I want to leave the workforce again? I’ve only been at this company a little over a year and that coupled with the rest of my work history…” They like me at my current job, but our promotions are pretty slow and political and I don’t make a ton of money (like I can’t even afford to move out my parents’ and I live in a relatively affordable city) so I do need to get out this job.

        I’ll see how the finances play out. The school might fund me and I’m waiting to hear the results of a fellowship application that would cover my tuition. I also have a couple of other programs I’m waiting to hear back from.

  35. Gwen*

    Anyone have experience working a shifted work week that includes Saturday & Sunday in your normal, weekly schedule? I’ve done retail or work that sometimes involved weekend shifts, but I feel like there would be a lot of unique pros and cons that involved always working Wednesday-Sunday. It would definitely be great for errands/appointments to have Monday/Tuesday as your “weekend,” but I feel like it could make it a lot more difficult to make social connections/do leisure activities.

    1. Ad Astra*

      I worked a similar schedule for about two years in my first job after college. The best part was being able to make doctor/haircut/cable installation appointments without using sick or vacation time. Also, drink specials at bars are usually better on Monday and Tuesday, if that’s your scene. The worst part was using vacation time to do normal things like attend my friend’s wedding shower, which was local. It was also hard to watch sports, since so many of the big games are on Saturday and Sunday. This schedule is definitely easier in a bigger city that has more going on. I was also working nights, so if your days are wacky but your hours are normal, you should be ok.

    2. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      You’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head with pros/cons. I’ve worked a “non traditional” schedule and so has my husband. The pros are that you’re off when most others are working which makes it easier to go to the store or get a doctor appointment. Or interview. ;) If you’re in a role where people need to get someone to cover there shift, it can be easy to find someone that wants your day off. The con part of that is that it’s almost impossible t get someone to switch their Saturday or Sunday with you. Other cons are that it’s hard to do things with your friends who work a more traditional schedule. I used to have Mondays off and every time there was a Monday holiday I got nothing extra for it. It’s also hard to coordinate with your spouse/SO if you need to do weekend stuff together. Not even social things but like when you both need to run to Home Depot. Everything has to get done in that one day instead of spread across two. Some people like it, personally I didn’t care for it.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I worked in newspapers (copy editor) for four years, and while my schedule changed a lot, I regularly worked Saturdays and Sundays (in the evening, even).

      The good news is it was actually really nice to be able to run errands, shop, make appointments, etc during the week and during the day – places weren’t crowded and it was just so convenient. But working evenings, especially, I didn’t have much of a social life. If you’re still free in the evenings you can probably go out after work, but yeah, it did make socialization a bit harder.

    4. Noah*

      You’ve pretty much got it. It is great to have a day or two during the normal work week to get errands and stuff done without taking time off work or cramming it into a lunch hour. However, working on the weekends can suck when all your friends and family are doing fun stuff.

      I used to work Thu-Sat nights from 7pm-7am and every other Sunday night. That was the worst for me but it became a bit easier when I moved to days because at least you could make plans in the evening. Now I work a normal 9-5 office job and really enjoy my weekends off, but I do miss having the easy ability to schedule a doctors appointment or something during the week.

    5. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I worked weekend evenings for seven years. My days off were Tuesday & Wednesday. Like with anything, there were pros & cons. You’ve nailed the big ones, but I’ll agree that it narrowed my social circle down some.

    6. Lillian McGee*

      My husband had a job where his “weekend” was Tuesday-Wednesday and you’re exactly right. Great for errands/doing stuff around the house. Terrible for fun with friends. His was a night shift too which doubled down on the no-drinking-or-fun-on-Saturday-night thing.

    7. LizB*

      I worked Friday-Tuesday evenings for about three months last year, and while there were a million other reasons I left that job, the schedule had definitely started to wear on me when I left. It was great to be able to make appointments and run errands on Wednesday and Thursday (my “weekend” days), but ultimately that didn’t outweigh the toll it took on my social life. I completely lost touch with all of my friends, and even though I live with my boyfriend, we almost never saw each other. Towards the end of my time at the job, I made the risky decision to go out with friends after work one Saturday even though I had to work the next day, and it was so nice to see people other than my coworkers and clients that I knew I had to make a change. It just wasn’t sustainable in the long run.

      A big part of my problem with the schedule arose because it was evening hours, not just weekends, so if you’re working a regular 9-5 on Wednesday-Sunday it might not be so bad. You can still have some social time in the evenings. I would really think hard about your priorities, though, and be very intentional about scheduling time with friends/family during the windows when you’re available. Spontaneous social interaction is much more difficult on a non-standard schedule.

    8. LCL*

      The people who have the hardest time with shift work are the same people who have a hard time saying no to family members. Once family finds out you have midweek days available, they will call and say ‘you’re off that day, why don’t you come spend all day with me doing this stupid home improvement project/help me move/wait at my house for the cable guy?’ You have got to be protective of your time off. If you can say no to family it will work out. If you feel obligated everytime someone asks for a favor you will be run ragged.

    9. Jade*

      I had a previous job where I would get every other weekend off. It was nice because one week you’d get 2 weekdays off to do the errands/appointments deal; the next week you’d get Sat and Sun off to make plans with friends or family, vacations, etc. The big downside to that was that in order to give everyone every other weekend off, it meant we each had to work a double shift on one of our weekend days to eliminate the need for additional staff to come in at those times. However, even the double shift had its benefit: it meant we got an extra day off during that week.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I think you will be surprised by how many people are around on your off hours. You might even be able to join a group and meet some more people. You might change your definition of leisure activities or you might add more activities to the ones you have. It depends on what you like to do and how much you are willing to explore new stuff.

    11. Pepper*

      Travelling to work at the weekend was a huge con when I worked a similar shift pattern. YMMV depending on your location of course, but the trains were always inexplicably late and packed, traffic was at a standstill and even the foot traffic could slow me down on a particularly bad day. I did have a lot of time to read though!

  36. whataweek*

    I am nearing the final stages of a lengthy hiring process for a job I’m very excited about! Yay! The only bad news is that if I’m successful, I will have to leave a very supportive former boss/long-time mentor behind. She recently invested a significant amount of money to send me overseas for a project, and the project resulting from this investment hasn’t been completed yet.

    If I’m the successful candidate for the other job I would try to ask for a lot of lead time so that I could finish up this project. But what if that’s not possible, and I am forced to leave the organization $5,000 poorer with a partially-finished project? Essentially, I suppose I’m asking for advice on how to assuage my guilt :S

    1. Glod Glodsson*

      In a past job, I’ve been able to negotiate a later start date than normal for a reason like yours. Part of the reason new job hired me was because they felt I had a very responsible and ethical personality type, so I basically told them that exactly because of that reason, I felt the need to wrap up the project at old job and that I didn’t feel great about abandoning my responsibility. They actually said that this spoke well of me and extended my start date by a month. Not sure how that worked our like it did :P

      And if you do have to leave early, you don’t leave them 5000 dollar poorer: I assume somebody else can take over and if you prep that person well, they’ll be able to finish up for you? They probably sent you because they thought you’d be the best at the job and because you have a good track record – that was a business decision. In the end businesses will always do what’s best for them, so you have to look out for yourself too!

      1. whataweek*

        I think I need to print out your last sentence on a post-it and stick it on the back of my hand so that I see it all day, every day! I’m having a hard time emotionally accepting that is the truth, even though I know it logically.

        I certainly am not the only one who could finish the project, but I have been the most involved throughout, and it can be tricky for someone else to step in. I intended to ask for a month so that I’ll be able to wrap up the project…fingers crossed that goes over well!

        1. Glod Glodsson*

          Haha, yes, I have to keep telling myself the same thing, as I’m also leaving a job with a great mentor (I’m waiting until I have my contract to tell her, which is hard). But I do think in the end my mentor will be thrilled that she enabled me to get a job outside of the scope of what my company could offer. Or that’s how I hope she’ll react :P

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If this boss is half the person you say she is, she will understand that you have to use your wings to fly.
      It could be that she would have ideas on how to bridge the gap you would leave and you are worrying too much.
      It could be that you might come up with an idea for who to hire to replace you.
      Many things could happen. Usually what we worry about the most never happens and what does happen is a much tamer version that is manageable.
      Remember- there is never a good time to leave a company. If you did not have this reason you would easily find a different reason.

      1. whataweek*

        I don’t think she’s anticipating me leaving…at all. But you’re right, there’s never a good time to leave and I have to do it when the right opportunity comes along. Thanks.

    3. Jade*

      I started a new job recently where my new boss asked how long I needed to wrap things up at my old job before coming over, and I told him it would take me more than 2 weeks. He said he understood completely and would give me that extra time, even adding that he “would hope I would do the same thing for them in that situation.” If your new job isn’t willing to give you extra time to part ways, then I would just give 2 weeks, as is the standard. You could potentially lessen your guilt and the burden on your old boss by offering to assist in the transition of the project to someone else.

  37. Xristi*

    Hi everyone, I’ve been a lurker here for a few months but this is the first time I’m commenting. I would like to get your opinions on something. My fiancee works at a company where he has clients. His main responsibility is creating reports for them using Salesforce, Veeva, SQL, etc. He’s been working INSANE hours lately, staying up into the wee hours of the morning almost every night to get things done that were due the day before or the next day. During the day, he has several meetings or calls that prevent him from doing the real work. Everyone on the team works hard, but not as bad as him. One report he couldn’t get done easily because it required a lot of SQL and he’s not strong in that area yet. But the other things are just because of his workload.

    Is it normal when you have clients to not be able to say “My slate is packed today, can I get this to you the next day instead?” Or is he just being a “Yes” man to his detriment? In addition, he assumes his managers would think he was incompetent if he tells them that the work is too much. Why can’t he push back at all? I would think that the managers care about his mental health and work/life balance, at least because they want to keep turnover down. And when the client asks for a report ASAP, is it possible that it’s not truly that urgent, but they just want to get their money’s worth from the person they’re paying for?

    I’m not sure he would listen to me because he says I don’t understand his line of work, but what could he say to the client or the boss about this? Thank you.

    1. Sascha*

      I’m a business intelligence analyst doing similar work, and I have some demanding “clients” (I work at a university so my clients are people in other departments). I guess “normal” depends on his company culture, but I don’t think so. I push back if I need more time.

      When I first get a request, even as “asap” request, I will respond with a estimated deadline, and I always build in some extra time into that deadline – because of exactly what you described. Also, like your fiancee, I’m not as strong in SQL as some of my other coworkers, so I’m still learning a lot and need some extra time to figure things out. I find that, even with my “always urgent” clients, if I lay out for them what I will be doing (in non-tech, overview terms), how long I expect it will take, and keep them in the loop with updates, they are happy. I’ve also worked IT support, and I have found that people appreciate honesty and being kept in the loop, so even if something takes longer than expected, they have patience because I stayed communicative with them. If they are just kept in the dark, they get impatient and antsy.

      As for his bosses, he’ll just have to talk with them about expectations. When I talk with my bosses about this, I tell them what I can realistically handle, and if they want me to take on more, then something has to give – AAM has a lot of great examples of this in the archives. It works wonderfully. Just tell them the consequences of each choice, and let them decide what is priority.

      I had a coworker this past week say that she thinks it’s demonstrating incompetence and “admitting defeat” to say no to your boss, or that you need more time. I don’t think so at all! There’s nothing wrong with saying you literally don’t have enough hours in the work day to handle everything. Trying to scramble everything together just creates unrealistic expectations and leads to burn out and resentment.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Normally, I would bring my workload to my manager and have him prioritize requests. Also, is there a workorder/ticket system? I make everyone put every request in a ticket so I can prioritize and then the user has to put their deadline and comments in the ticket. Taking email requests outside of the ticket queue creates chaos.
      In my experience, there are a few directors who think every one of their whims is a critical ticket and has to be completed in a day. My manager has had to step in to explain the “real world” to these directors. This has dramatically dropped the last minute requests.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yeah, not only do we have tickets, but in my weekly status report to my boss, I list what I’ve been working on, what I plan on working on, and then a summary of all my tickets: not yet started, working on, in testing, just completed. So my boss has a quick view of my entire workload.

        I can only do what I can do, and killing myself to do more isn’t useful to the company in the long run.

    3. Noah*

      I think the occasional insane hours are normal to meet a tight deadline. However it shouldn’t be a common occurence. If it is, your SO should talk to his boss about setting deadlines and prioritizing work. ASAP means nothing, I would want a solid date/time they need it by. With a date/time in place he can say if it is possible or not within his normal workday and/or speak with his boss about what it will take to make happen.

      I’m not a BI analyst but I do frequently create and edit reports in Crystal and SSRS. I also mess with Tableau a bit. Sometimes a report you think will be easy isn’t because of table structure or maybe how the data needs to be presented.

      1. A Definite Beta Guy*

        Sometimes a report you think will be easy isn’t because of table structure or maybe how the data needs to be presented.

        I really wish my managers understood this.
        “It should take 5 minutes.”
        My favorite was an account manager telling me something should take 5 minutes and publicly berating me on a conference call for not knowing “how to run a simple query.”
        After 4 hours, he realized that the query was impossible, and there is an entire department of 40 people dedicated solely to the “simple query” he was trying to run.

  38. I can't even*

    I need some advice on how to survive in a company that both praises and shames publicly.

    I’ve been at this company of about 350 people for 8 months. The floorplan is a giant square open office with manager/director/VP/executive offices lining the outer perimeter. Most everyone can hear what’s going on inside the square.

    The way this company deals with both praises and mistakes is through public announcements. If you do something well, your manager or another higher up will come out onto the floor and stand at your desk and publicly declare what a great job you did. But if you make a mistake and do something wrong, you will get yelled at in front of all your coworkers. It’s distressing and really humiliating. There’s never any follow up privately about why you made the mistake or how to prevent it, you just get yelled at and that’s that.

    Performance is evaluated on a point system. At random times, the executives will send out a stack ranking of every employee’s point score. The top 5 are gathered and paraded around the office and each handed $200 in cash as a reward. The bottom 5 are also paraded around the office but are made to wear dunce caps (I wish I were making this up). The bottom 5 goes on probation and if they are still in the bottom 5 the next time the ranking goes out, they’re fired.

    The last time the rankings went out I was in the top 5 and got the money, but I still felt embarrassed being paraded around like that and being made an example of. People were congratulating me for days afterward but I did NOT feel good or like I’d accomplished something.

    I am searching for a new job, but based on the scarcity of jobs in my area and field, I don’t expect to find one soon. I am having a really hard time dealing with this toxic environment and am about ready to flip a table and storm out. Any advice on surviving until I’m able to quit?

    And if you were wondering, they didn’t do any of this stuff when I was there for my job interviews.

    1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      I think the only advice I have is to recognize that their method of pointing out mistakes is their flaw, not yours. I would just keep working through it and not acknowledge it. But that’s me and I’m not exactly winning any career achievement awards over here.

    2. Jubilance*

      OMG this would be my nightmare. This sounds ridiculous. I have no idea advice other than try to stick it out to the 1 year mark if you can, and then look for a new job.

    3. Anne S*

      Probably you need to think about ways to detach as much as you can – one strategy I’ve heard is to treat the whole experience as if you were observing it to write a novel.

      1. I can't even*

        I’ve been trying to detach my emotions from the shaming but found that when I do that I’m way less effective at staying focused on my work and getting it done. Getting fired doesn’t sound like the worst plan though.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          Yeah, working on your tell-all memoir was the only solution I could think of. Christ. This is horrifying.

      1. I can't even*

        Technically they are party hats with the word DUNCE written on them. But yes. The CEO hands them out and makes the bottom 5 wear them all day.

        1. Jean*

          I hope that someday one of the people to whom the CEO gives a DUNCE cap will politely but firmly hand it back to him. Yeesh. What a jackass.

        2. Mephyle*

          Technically they are party hats with the word DUNCE written on them.
          Oh, okay, that makes it better. NO, it DOESN’T. This part is untenable.

        3. Honeybee*

          What the actual fuck? Does he think this is going to motivate people to achieve? It’s also stupid because it’s relative. Even if everyone is doing excellently there is always going to be a “bottom 5”. If the bottom 5 are slicing and dicing but still simply not at the top then you’ve got 5 great employees who are needlessly losing morale and a lot of time and effort wasted.

        4. Wendy Darling*

          Aaaaaand that almost makes it worse tbh. Because I’m imagining them all cheerful and possibly with sparkles, and DUNCE written in sharpie, and it’s just sad.

    4. Escalating Eris*

      Wow. If it was me, I’d just hand in my notice. But I realise that this may not be an option for you, unless you have another job lined up.

      Out of interest, what kind of work do you do?

        1. Escalating Eris*

          When I read your post, I thought you might work in sales or at a call centre – it would have been less surprising (though no less awful).

          Who the hell dreams up these ideas for “motivating” staff? Because I’d like to give them a (verbal) smack upside the head. In public, of course.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            If we named companies here on this forum that would be a pretty good public smack, I think.
            OP, this is what Glassdoor accounts are for.

        2. Washington*

          PM in technology are a great skillset combo. If you need to stay where you are geographically and there aren’t a lot of opportunities, you probably have options to work remotely for larger tech companies (the Yahoo fiasco notwithstanding).

    5. College Career Counselor*

      Did you at least get the Glengarry and Glen Ross leads? Seriously, though, that kind of public praise/punish environment sounds terribly brutal and long-term counter-productive. Advice: Don’t get too caught up in the highs and lows (ie, pretend they’re meaningless)? Someone said recently that they treat the workplace like an anthropologist, observing (and participating in) the ritual, but not being truly part of it. Perhaps that would help? I’m sorry I don’t have anything more concrete than that.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I thought of Glengarry and Glen Ross immediately! I am not convinced this isn’t a post from an alternate universe where that movie is happening for real.

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

      WTH kind of Mickey Mouse Club is this? Dunce hats…you are not in kindergarten! What happens if you opt not to participate in this “parade”?

      1. Observer*

        I don’t know of any kindergarten where dunce caps are used. In fact, I know of more than one school where pulling that would get the teacher fired!

    7. BRR*

      Not helpful but I’d be tempted to shout “10 point to Gryffindor”

      Can you ask to not be paraded around or to deal with any issues privately in an office?

    8. Jade*

      Ugh, wow. Maybe you could try banding together with your coworkers and approaching your bosses as a group, telling them how demeaning and childish this system is, but I can’t really answer for you how well you think that would go over.

      If I were you I would stop playing along. I would refuse to parade the office as either a “winner” or “loser”. If your bosses don’t like it they can fire you, and then they can explain to Unemployment that you were fired for refusing to march around in front of your peers with a dunce cap on your head. That should go over well for them.

      1. Observer*

        The problem with this is that the only consequence for the bosses is that it affects their UI rating a bit. On the other hand, the OP would still be left without a job.

        Not a terribly good trade off for most people.

    9. LawCat*

      “The bottom 5 are also paraded around the office but are made to wear dunce caps. . .”

      I. Can’t. Even.

      It boggles my mind that there are people out there who think this is an acceptable way to treat other human beings.

    10. Doriana Gray*

      The bottom 5 are also paraded around the office but are made to wear dunce caps (I wish I were making this up).

      Oh, hell no.

      1. I can't even*

        No objections. I almost sent it to you but I don’t think my situation happens to many people so your answer would only help me and not other readers.

      1. SusanIvanova*

        Funny you should call them yahoos, because I was just about to comment on how the 5-point stack ranking is something Microsoft and Yahoo both have been publicly chastised for – the toxic failures of such a thing are well-documented if you google those companies plus “stack ranking”. I’d consider printing those out and sticking them where the people who came up with this plan can see.

  39. Tanith*

    Any advice on applying for new jobs during maternity leave? My baby is due in a couple of weeks. I like my current job and feel loyal to my team, but I am also interested in pursuing new opportunities. I originally told myself that I would go back to my current job for at least 6 months after maternity leave, but what if an amazing opportunity pops up before then?

    1) Will it burn bridges to use my maternity leave benefits and then give notice either near the end of ML or shortly after returning?
    2) Is it a bad idea to start a new job right after maternity leave, in terms of my own dedication and sanity? Will I be too exhausted and stressed to excel anyway?

    If you started a new job right after maternity leave, I’d love to hear how it went for you!

    1. F.*

      To answer your first question, yes, it will burn bridges. Only you can decide if that is a bridge you want to burn, though.

    2. Emmbee*

      That’s a tough call. I was interviewing when I was pregnant and then ultimately decided to stay (for lots of reasons). I don’t think leaving immediately burns bridges (when done well), but I do think it could potentially be a bad idea to start a new job right after mat leave. (Of course, it depends on how long your mat leave is.)

      For one thing, you’ll probably want to be at your best and most committed when starting a new job. And, from my experience, the couple of months after returning to work can be a tough transition that requires flexibility. You’ll likely be tired and stressed. Some women use work to escape the stressors of new motherhood; others find it exacerbates the stressors. And (unless you’ve been pregnant before) it’s hard to predict which one you’ll be! But the truth is, those first few weeks or months back at work can be brutal. (Obviously, not for everyone. But it’s a risk.) If you’re the primary parent, you’ll have lots of pediatrician appointments that first year. (Again, depending on how long your mat leave is, this might not be an issue.) And babies get sick, and mamas get sick when they’re not getting enough sleep, etc.

      I guess it depends on your current setup. I ended up staying partly because I like my job but also partly because I’m senior enough that I have lots of flexibility and my team has enough faith in me and my work to know that, if I couldn’t make it in one day because the baby had been up screaming all night, I could still be counted on to deliver.

      Good luck, whichever decision you make! Hoping for a smooth delivery!

    3. Mrs. Psmith*

      I think the first question really depends on your company’s culture. But I think it would burn bridges in a lot of jobs.

      As for the second, I personally would not want to start a brand new job right after coming back from maternity leave. When I started back to work after my leave (3 months), my brain was so fried from the lack of consistent sleep/total life-change of having a baby now, it was almost like starting my job all over again. It took a while to shift back into the work mindset and I was very glad I was doing it with people who were already familiar with my work ethic so they didn’t think I was normally like that. Plus I was going back to an office that I knew was very friendly to working parents and gave me plenty of time/space to pump as needed. I started to feel much more like my normal work-self when my daughter was about 8 months old, so would probably have been comfortable looking for a new job at that time.

    4. Analyst*

      Be careful about medical insurance – your current company may have a policy where if you don’t come back to them, for even just one day of work, then you are on the hook to pay them back the medical they paid during your leave.

      I was very much ready to leave when I came back from maternity too… but yes, it’s extremely hard at first to adapt to the sleep deprivation while trying to be a functioning worker in an office. I recommend you give it a few months at your current job until you feel like you’ve gotten a good grasp on your new reality. I needed 8 months, and then I jumped to a new job when my baby was 10 months.

      But that said if something is a truly amazing opportunity, sometimes you just have to go with it no matter what else is going on! Maybe new company will give a bonus to pay back the medical or what have you. Just know what your status is with medical before you move forward with this.

    5. Someone else*

      I started a job right after leave, and it went extremely well for me. I ended up with a company that years hard work, had a great mentorship program, and advancement plans, I in fact was promoted within my first two years. You just really have to weigh the pros and cons, and it basically came down to it being the opportunity that I could not turn down.

  40. Tris Prior*

    I got a job!! And am more than DOUBLING my current salary and getting generous PTO. Granted, I’m currently working in a tiny arts-related company that’s going out of business, so that is not saying much. But still, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. (matching 401k?! What?! :) ) And am still kind of shocked at the speed at which this happened. It definitely had a lot to do with knowing the right person and the timing being freakishly perfect.

    I was encouraged by my contact at the company to negotiate their initial offer, even though that would’ve been enough money. Boyfriend also told me I needed to woman up and ask for more, pointing out that I never ever negotiate and that’s how we got screwed on a house purchase and various other things in life. Which is true.

    I felt incredibly greedy asking for more, but I made myself do it. Then had radio silence from HR for two days and was certain they were going to pull the offer (as I read a post here from someone that had happened to). But I finally heard back and they gave me exactly what I asked for – and a start date that gives me some time off between jobs. Which I desperately need because Current Job is really wearing me out as we prepare to close our doors.

    I am still in shock that I got what I asked for. And I really credit the information that I’ve learned here in navigating this whole process, including finally writing a decent cover letter for probably the first time in my life. The team that interviewed me LOVED the “magic question.” Thanks, Alison!

    1. Raia*

      Congratulations! Coming from another former arts employee, it feels counter-intuitive to ask for more money even when we know we can cover “personal operating costs” with the original offer. In a bigger NPO/company, you don’t need to ask for the raise like you’re a charity! And clearly you have the skills and experience that was worth the raise! Congratulations again!

      1. Tris Prior*

        Yes, this exactly! It would have been so tone deaf to ask for any sort of salary increase at my current job because everyone knew we were running out of money. Part of me was thinking , what is wrong with me? This is more money than I have ever seen in my life and I am telling them it is not enough?! But I am so glad I did.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          I do wish people felt more comfortable negotiating! It’s not greedy at all to see if there’s any wiggle room. It’s establishing your worth and investing in yourself (or your house or whatever.) If the employer/vendor can’t afford it, they’ll let you know. And if you’re beating yourself up for asking for a little bit more, you’re not likely to be the type of person who makes wild, unreasonable demands.

          Here’s a phrase I used recently that resulted in a $5k bump in starting pay for a half-time position at a small arts nonprofit: “I realize for this position in a nonprofit this size, $xyz salary would be a stretch. But as close as you can get to that would be fantastic.” And they got closer to it than I had expected! I was very clear in my mind what I would accept and what I’d turn down, which can make such a big difference in tone and composure. I’m worth every penny, of course (and so are you!)

  41. Not searchable by name*

    We have a fun one going on right now. Our water treatment plant operates 24-7, typically with one operator on the graveyard shift as emergency dispatcher and to ensure the plant is operating. Someone noticed when he had his locker open that he had a rolled up sleeping bag in it and let management know.

    So, last week a couple of senior managers got up in the middle of the night and drove out to the plant. It’s in a remote area, a fully fenced, secure site with the gate that’s supposed to be locked and only opened by key card or remotely from the control room standing wide open. They went up to the control room and there, with lights off, on the floor snugly wrapped in his sleeping bag, head on his pillow, was the graveyard operator. The only thing missing was a FTB. Turned out he had the phone forwarded to his cell which was tucked under the pillow so he could answer without getting out of the bag.

    In private industry, he probably would have been fired on the spot; since this is a city, they are going through The Process. But he’s no longer working graveyard, and it looks like he might lose his state Water Plant Operator License, which means he won’t work again in the field he’s been in his entire work life.

    1. LCL*

      I think his employer, (unless there is history we don’t know) is over reacting. This is discipline worthy, but the security violation is much more concerning than the sleeping. Every control room I have seen has systems to monitor the plant and loud alarms for anything outside set parameters. He shouldn’t be sleeping on the job, and he should get some time off. But, people are going to doze off on nightshift, no matter how hard they try to stay awake, because night shifts are hard on the body. The person who reported seeing a sleeping bag should also get a day off, but he won’t. And forwarding the phone to your cell isn’t evidence of bad behavior, this is standard practice for people that have to inspect and operate large work areas. Cell phones made plant operation jobs much better, because you can handle a crisis at the equipment without having to run back to the desk.

      His management shouldn’t have went out there in the middle of the night. They should have told him they had this concern, and if they catch him he would be disciplined. It makes me very angry that managers who typically work bankers hours don’t make any effort to understand shift work and how hard it can be to adjust. And, by taking the employee off night shift, the have given the rest of the plant crew more night shifts.

      1. Gene*

        I’ve worked shift work, rotating shifts, 4 on 4 off, 4 on 8 off, etc. And I’ve awakened with keyboard face more than once. Dozing off happens, but the way I see this is that it was premeditated. He brought in a frelling sleeping bag and pillow!

        The person who reported seeing a sleeping bag should also get a day off

        Really? Sleeping on the job a water treatment plant puts the entire area population at risk, especially leaving the security gate open.

        If he loses his License, there’s no way he could work there as an operator anyway, definitely not alone on night shift. We had a poop plant operator lose his License due to falsifying training records. He stayed, but he was reduced to Laborer from Operator III; one can’t operate a plant without the License.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The person who reported it probably was working within ethical standards. If he failed to report it, he would have gotten a bunch of time off. I don’t understand why he could have been wrong here.

      2. LizB*

        But, people are going to doze off on nightshift, no matter how hard they try to stay awake, because night shifts are hard on the body.

        Yeah, people are going to doze off on nightshift, and if that happens accidentally that’s one thing. But when you’re on a night shift, a large part of your job is finding ways to keep yourself awake so you can do whatever else you need to do. This person didn’t doze off, he planned ahead of time to sleep through his shift — he brought in a sleeping bag and pillow and forwarded his calls to his phone! That, to me, is the big difference. If a night operator accidentally dozes off a few times, I agree that a few days off work is the better consequences, but this is a totally different situation. This is someone intentionally refusing to do a very large part of his job (staying awake), and in my eyes that’s much more serious.

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        What, so it’s totally okay for him to deliberately sleep through all his shifts and management is in the wrong for catching him out instead of giving him time to hide the evidence? I disagree.

        I also disagree that the other employee who reported the sleeping bag should be punished. What’s your thinking there?

        1. LCL*

          Technical employees should be empowered for their technical skills. If you empower them by responding full force every time an employee raises a complaint about someone else, you create a monster and make cliques and bullying and misc personnel issues worse. When I started working in my group, we had an employee that was a total bully to other employees. I was chastised for leaving a signed note over her anonymous one, my note said “no more anonymous notes” and I signed it. Her note was about something stupid like not moving a chair or somesuch. I was told we all knew employee had issues and I should have just left it alone.

          Safety issues and harassment issues and serious violations of policy have to be reported. Other stuff, it’s probably not your business, if the person is a bad employee they will out themselves eventually.

          It is impossible to create a respectful workplace for all if you pay too much attention to the employees that report on other employees, because the reporters are controlling bullies and like to have management dance to their tune. Don’t encourage bullies.

          1. Observer*

            Safety issues and harassment issues and serious violations of policy have to be reported.

            And, PLANNING TO SLEEP on this type of job totally qualifies as both.

          2. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Huh? I’m pretty sure deliberately planning to sleep through all your shifts as an *emergency dispatcher and security guard for a whole city’s water supply*, with the security gates wide open, counts as both a safety issue and a serious policy violation. “Stop snitchin'” is really not a policy to live by when the safety of other people is concerned. And the idea that his coworker who reported this ought to be punished for doing so is utterly bizarre.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Around the country, municipalities have been tightening up security around water supplies. If they feel they need someone there at night there must be a reason.

              I heard of a case where some kids climbed up a water tank. They got to the top and decided to go for a swim, so they jumped into this 100k tank. Well after a bit they got tired and wanted to get out. There was no ladder to get out. Eventually authorities found their bodies.

              If someone does not understand the seriousness of their job then they should be removed from their job.

            2. afiendishthingy*

              Yeah, and they didn’t punish him based on hearsay. They just went out during his shift to investigate. I would think it would be understood that supervisors could drop by any shift unannounced.

              (This may strike me especially wrong because the only time I fired someone, it was after a lot of progressive discipline. Two days after my coworker and I had told the employee “If you violate policy X again, you will be terminated,” I dropped by her shift to find her, yes, violating policy X. My staff work one on one with clients at different sites, and it is standard practice for people in my position to do site visits without announcing them beforehand. Nevertheless, the employee told me she felt she had been “set up” by this surprise visit. Apparently she interpreted the warning as “If you are caught violating policy X again you will be terminated.”)

      4. Ghost Umbrella*

        What? No. Work is not for sleeping, unless you’re a paid sleep research subject. I’ve worked graveyard before, and the adjustment sucks, but that doesn’t excuse this. And forwarding the phone to your (presumably personal) cell is only okay if it’s allowed by company policy.

        Even the security violation itself is firing-worthy, but the sleeping (and he didn’t just doze off; this was clearly planned and habitual, as evidenced by the bag) is even worse.

    2. Boop*

      I’ve heard of falling asleep on the job, but this takes the cake!

      Out of curiosity, what else would he be expected to do except answer the phone at night? I’m not defending him, but I know I would have a hard time staying awake if all I had to do was wait for the phone to *maybe* ring! Perhaps part of the problem is that he didn’t have any other duties or a way to keep himself entertained all night.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        See my comment above, about some people think it’s a play ground. There are other things to watch out for also, such as pumps, power failures, sudden leaks in the lines, low water levels and so on.

        1. LCL*

          The security violation, and the security situation in general, is the greatest concern here. If the gate is card keyed, with a remote button, isn’t it monitored? Why didn’t anyone know the gate was open until they drove to the plant? There have been two cases that I know of where a woman working in operations was abducted and killed. I have been in the control room at a remote site at night when a break in happened, it is scary. Bad guys can steal tools, or other items with company ID and use them for other crimes. And, stupid kids-Paris had days of riots after a teen entered an electrical station and killed himself accidentally.

          It is easy for management to focus all blame on the night shift guy, and he was wrong. But he should be given another chance, and your security policies need some help.

          1. Observer*

            The security policies need some help. But, why does that mean the a person who decides to sleep on the job (he didn’t just snooze off) should be given a second chance?

            1. LCL*

              Because if nightshift people are going to misbehave, sleeping is how they will do it. Employees who are otherwise good employees will do this in a weak moment. It is a wrong but predictable consequence of scheduling people for regular nightshifts. With all of the money the company has probably spent on his training, he shouldn’t be fired for this kind of bad behavior. He should be punished with time off, but not so much time off it causes others’ vacation to be cancelled.

              Showing up intoxicated? 1 chance to go to rehab and get tested regularly afterward, or he’s fired.
              Stealing tools? Fired, if it can be proven. One common thing that will happen with nightshift workers is that if something goes missing, nightshift gets the blame.

              Harassing other employees? If it is the bullying threatening favors type of harassment, fired. Snarling good morning or yelling during an Operations crisis or yelling at the manager about the schedule? Counseled.

              Violating safety policies? It depends. Forgetting to do something/mistakes of omission? Training and having to explain it in writing so all can learn from it. Cutting off a lockout/tagout device? Probably fired, unless he knew the person was unavailable to unlock it. (There are procedures for that involving supervisors.)

              Bad behavior doesn’t always mean the person should be fired. It is up to management to decide this. It is common in the technical fields to not fire people for low level flakiness. I wish that white collar employees, all employees everywhere, were treated the same.

              And if you are going to argue that he endangered everyone by his actions, you should know that plants have alarms and he would have known if an alarm came in. Humans can’t react fast enough when things go bad really quickly. For further reading, google the Northeast blackout of 2004, or 3 mile island. 3 mile island was a middle of the night accident, the human operator was awake and checking his readings and indicators, but one of his indicators was broken and he didn’t know it.

  42. Scout*

    I have an interview coming up which I’m very excited about. However, I don’t have any references, and it’s a government position so I’m sure there will be a formal reference checking process. I’ve been in my current position almost 3 years and my job is very specialized. I have references from my previous jobs, but they were a very different line of work (think of going from administrative assistant to teapot engineer). The only people who can speak to my skills in my current job are people who work at my company, and I don’t want them to know I’m job searching. How should I approach this?

    1. ThatsTheSpirit*

      In my experience, interviewers looking for references aren’t necessarily going to ask about your specific experience in that kind of work. They instead want to know how you work with others, how you respond to criticism, and other “soft skill” type questions. Provide the references you have from previous jobs and leave it to the interviewer to follow up if they need something more specific. Then you can explain and work out an alternative.

    2. Terra*

      Speaking from experience with government positions, plan on them asking to speak to someone at your current job. The best you can do is start planning for it now. If there’s a senior co-worker that you can trust not to tattle I would ask that person confidentially if you can use them as a reference. Also, when/if they ask to speak to your current employer you should have some room to push back about needing an offer before you can do that or allowing them to speak to your co-worker but saying that you can’t put your current job at risk without knowing that you’ll receive an offer. If they do make you an offer go to your boss first and explain the situation, be as conciliatory as possible. Good luck!

  43. ACA*

    Yesterday I was asked to co-present a student seminar on teapot design based on the recommendation of my former overboss. This would have made sense to do if I were still in the teapot central office, because it would have related to a large aspect of my job! And it sort of makes sense now, because I still have the knowledge (and I probably have the most knowledge, since my replacement has only been there a few months). It was flattering to be asked, and my current boss would have been okay with me doing it, but I would have felt really awkward saying yes. Namely because 1) that’s not my job anymore, 2) the subject matter definitely doesn’t merit a 90 minute presentation, and 3) that’s not my job anymore. It’s not fair to me or the students to present myself publicly as a resource person for all teapot design students when I should only be supporting the students studying vanilla teapots. So I said thanks but no thanks, and offered to help out behind-the-scenes instead – reviewing slides/materials for accuracy, suggesting topics, etc. We’ll see if they take me up on it.

    Has anything like this ever happened to any of you? What would you have done?

    1. Terra*

      I would do it unless it’s going to cause problems. You shouldn’t be ashamed of your knowledge and stuff like that can look great on a resume for the future. That being said if you were really uncomfortable then what you did is probably a good second choice.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      A few months? I probably would have said yes. But I would have said that it’s not 90 minutes of material.

  44. OwnedByTheCat*

    So, i’m a full-time fundraiser (grant writer, events, etc) and a part-time freelance writer (mostly grants, fundraising stuff, blogging about fundraising software). I love writing, and want to do more of it.

    I have this fantasy of quitting my job and freelancing full-time. It’s not out of the realm of possibility in the next few years, but not financially viable right now. I’m paid decently well and we’re saving for a wedding and paying off loans.

    I was thinking, after my wedding in June, of going down to 4 days a week at work so I could more effectively focus on my writing and blogging. But for some reason this idea seems way scarier than quitting altogether. My coworker has done it, but in order to go back to school.

    Any insight or guidance into how to successfully – and sustainably – navigate this kind of change?

  45. ThatsTheSpirit*

    I apply for a lot of jobs through neogov/ Often, the question of “how many years experience do you have in teapots?” or “how many years full time experience do you have in teapots?” appears. For the last year and three months, I’ve worked full time at Teapots Corporation and part time at Teapots Public. In May, I also started working lesser-part-time at Teapots Other Public. I’ve also been working on my master’s in teapots for a year-and-a-half (I’ll be done in May!).

    I hate to answer the multiple-choice questions with “more than one year but less than two” when the answer is more complicated than that and I feel that that answer doesn’t really cover the spirit of the question. At the same time, I don’t want to be called out as a liar when my resume doesn’t reflect the fact of the question. Some hiring professionals in the industry have said to answer in the spirit of the question and address it later if it comes up (so, even though I’ve got one year plus on paper, answer that I have two or three years plus) and others have said play it safe and answer in “fact.”

    I’m really concerned the second option isn’t representative of the reality of things, though, and is selling me short and costing me potential interviews. Typically, the option to add comments or explanations for multiple choice questions aren’t available and I’d rather not waste cover letter space on an explanation. What should I do?

    1. ThatsTheSpirit*

      Oh, and to be clear, those jobs are all in-industry, so I’m not trying to apply work in cat caring to a job specifically asking about experience in teapot design. I may try to shoehorn experience in being a coffee barista when the question allows for more general interpretations, though.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’ve always been told with the GovJobs site’s questions to use the most favorable interpretation, because the multiple choices are scored, and they will only interview or even look at applications with a certain minimum score. Once you talk to them you can explain your reasoning for that answer if it comes up, and as long as you feel comfortable presenting and defending that reasoning out loud, IMO it’s perfectly legit to use that answer on the application, even if it feels like it requires an explanation.

      1. ThatsTheSpirit*

        Yeah, the whole scoring thing is why I really dislike these automated application systems. They just don’t work with real life. Thanks so much for your input! The way you phrased it makes me feel better about answering the way I want to/feel is right.

    3. CMT*

      Government HR is pretty strict about this thing and they don’t really care about the spirit of the question.

  46. Coffee Ninja*

    I think I have to fire my brand-new direct report :( It’s only been a couple weeks but it looks like she isn’t working out. We work with kids, and she refuses to follow my directions on how to interact with the kids & the teachers (the kids have special needs, so there are specific tactics that are helpful). She also showed up late today and did not answer my calls or call me back (she’s placed with a client, I’m not on-site with her). We’ve also gotten complaints from the client this week about unprofessional behavior. This is the first time I’ve ever managed someone, let alone fired them. I also feel like this is going to reflect really badly on me, even though I didn’t hire her (my boss did, she routinely makes horrible personnel decisions, but that’s a post for another Friday!).

    1. some1*

      I think it’s natural to be upset about having to fire anybody, but from everything you told us I don’t see that you have much choice if she’s pulling all of this after two weeks.

      The bright side: maybe she can get a wake-up call about her attitude and a job that she is better suited to, and the other reports don’t have to watch their coworker screw up without consequences (which is NOT fun).

    2. Newbie*

      This is never a fun situation. In a previous role, I had to fire a recently hired direct report. She interviewed really well, but the reality was a different matter. Fortunately in my situation there weren’t kids involved – that really changes the dynamic.

      Don’t worry about her poor behavior or the need to let her go reflecting badly on you. You can’t control her behavior and you need to be concerned about the safety of the children. What you can control is how you handle the situation now. As long as you’re professional and follow the appropriate guidelines/laws for firing her, people should respect you for handling a tough situation.

    3. afiendishthingy*

      That stinks. I have only fired one person, she totally brought it on herself, and I still cried afterwards. I don’t think this will reflect badly on you, though. You didn’t hire her, and as they say, she’s really firing herself.

    4. Terra*

      Don’t jump straight to firing. Give her a warning first, it may be that she can still work out. I’d decide now, possibly with your managers input, how many warnings she gets before being fired and push for at least one, also think of what you need to see to accept that she’s doing okay. Then tell her all this as bluntly as you can. You may want to sugar coat it but it doesn’t do you or her any favors. If she still can’t do what needs to be done that’s her failing, not yours.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If you give a warning, it should only be one warning with (a) someone this new and (b) this type of issue, which is pretty black and white. But sometimes you just know early on with a new hire — even if this person makes a few improvements, this is not the behavior of someone who’s going to work at the level I need. If that’s the case, and especially since there are kids involved, I wouldn’t feel obligated to warn her.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I am not clear on which part will reflect badly on you. Do you think your boss will say you failed in training her?

  47. Dr. Johnny Fever*

    Found out this week that my husband and best friend of 20 years has prostate cancer.

    It’s early, we find out about treatment next week, but it’s a mindfuck. I’ll likely post this over the weekend for personal advice, but right now, I need some work advice:

    Obviously, my focus is fractured. I’ve got home and work covered, but I am not processing this new information and the affects fully. I feel like I want to take time from work to work through the personal part, however:

    – I don’t know how long
    – I don’t know the treatment
    – I don’t know the adjustment
    – I don’t know lots of things.

    I’m up for promotion and kicking ass with my team and working gives my brain something to do. I don’t want to be labeled “The One Whose Spouse Has Cancer” because that will effectively end my advancement options, including awesome projects. No one will want to “burden” me with that much.

    I know work will survive without me and I can transition everything while I’m gone and everything will get done. I’m not stressed about that. I just don’t know how to talk to my boss about this. No one knows any of this – I’ve been really good at hiding this for the last 6 months as he’s been going through tests and his biopsy but the cracks are beginning to show.

    Any advice?

    1. J.B.*

      I’m sorry. I would put in for FMLA so that you have the flexibility to use it when you need it. Also it may be time to talk to your boss, lay it out – you can ask him to be discreet about it. When you say this will end your advancement options are you sure? Are you saying you don’t want the hard stuff right now or that you are afraid if you say anything right now they won’t ever give it to you again. I really wouldn’t see something like this as a permanent death knell for your career.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I wasn’t sure if FMLA would apply since I’m not affected and not a caretaker. It’s worth looking into. My team knows I get migraines, so that would be a good cover.

        I want the hard stuff now. I want it always. It’s what I do :)

        In my corporate culture, I’ve seen many go through this. It takes a toll and news gets out, and people just react weirdly. I have a relationship with my boss that I could approach him, it’s more knowing what to say. Plus, I’m not taking time off to care for my husband now, but more for my own sanity (which, trust me, is even worse in the open).

        I saw a VP who beat colon cancer stagnate for 4 years before he finally left. He had a clear bill of health, but half his portfolio was taken away, and he would up working run of the mill, low-stress projects until he walked out the door. This story repeats.

        As for mental issues, well….I’ve seen too many shunned, ridiculed, and subjected to the “just cheer up!” commentary. Not to mention that these individuals tend to get managed out during reorgs. Never for performance, but always budget reasons. That’s worse.

        Essentially, once news gets out when more intense treatment is required or why I’m taking time off, I’m done. That’s why I feel stuck.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Your company kinda sucks, then. I mean, what’s more important to you, your husband’s health or your job? and more importantly, why does your company think the job should be more important?

          Depending on the stage, though, prostate cancer is usually very treatable. My dad had it about 18 months ago, and it was a surgical cure. He was out of the hospital in 36 hours and fully recovered within a month-six weeks. You need to take the time that you need to take, but this isn’t necessarily a year-long killer of your job.

          Talk to your boss. Let him know what you need. (Decide what that is first.) Hopefully you can take the time discreetly, but seriously, sidelining people just because they’ve taken time off to help care for loved ones is crappy.

          1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            I’m hoping the first question is rhetorical. Of course my husband’s health is more important – which is why, in the US, I’m thinking of my career options, salary potential, and insurance options to cover his eventual treatment. I apologize if I took the statement more aggressively as you intended as I’m a bit sensitive :)

            My company isn’t directly responsible for the actions of a few middle-managers, but I agree that it isn’t good treatment. Not indicative of official policy. I’m also in a different group, so I may be worried about an animal that doesn’t exist.

            My husband has two choices – do nothing for an indeterminate time, or have full surgery. The surgery itself isn’t bad, but it carries long side effects that neither one of us is keen about and could require close daily care.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I didn’t intend to insult you personally — it was more aimed at your company trying to make you feel as though your job should be more important than your loved ones.

              I am not a doctor here and my only experience with prostate cancer is my dad, as I mentioned, but – a lot of times it actually doesn’t require surgery. More men die *with* prostate cancer than *of* it. My dad had surgery because his was more aggressive than many.

              I wish you good luck and your husband good health. :)

            2. Observer*

              My company isn’t directly responsible for the actions of a few middle-managers, but I agree that it isn’t good treatment. Not indicative of official policy. I’m also in a different group, so I may be worried about an animal that doesn’t exist.

              I’m going to disagree with you here. When there is a consistent pattern, even in one department, it’s the responsibility of the company. When it’s across multiple departments, DEFINITELY the whole company.

              I’m not a lawyer, but I’m willing to bet that one day they are going to get sued and this pattern is going to come back to bite them. A good lawyer will probably be able to make the case that these “budgetary” and other reasons are pretextual. As it happens, firing someone, “managing him out”, or denying her good projects because of illness is illegal in this country. It’s not always easy to prove, but the more it happens the more open the company becomes to getting hit.

        2. ERug*

          First, I’m sorry you and your husband are going through this.

          Next, check out this pdf from

          “FMLA To care for the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent who has a serious health condition:
          An employee must be needed to provide care for his or her spouse, son, daughter, or parent because
          of the family member’s serious health condition in order for the employee to take FMLA leave. An
          employee may be needed to provide care to the family member, for example
          • when the family member is unable to care for his or her own medical, safety or other needs,
          because of the serious health condition or needs help in being transported to the doctor; or
          • to provide psychological comfort and reassurance to the family member with a serious health
          condition. ”

          I’d say wanting to be with your spouse of 20 years throughout the process should qualify.

          This part is anecdotal but my Mom used intermittent FMLA after my Dad was diagnosed because there was no way she was letting him go to those appointments alone.

          I would mention it to your supervisor and Human Resources sooner rather than later so that they have some heads up. Depending on your relationship with your supervisor, I would tell them that you’re willing and able to take on your usual amount of projects. As for the word getting out beyond those few people, since it’s your spouse and not you yourself, you might be able to keep it quieter and therefore not have as many professional setbacks as a result.

        3. TootsNYC*

          You’re a spouse. FMLA qualifies. “Providing logistical and emotional support” is a legitimate thing to put on the list.

    2. fposte*

      Oh, Dr. J, I’m sorry to hear that. Sucky time for both of you, that’s for sure. I found a link that gives a little more information about what it means to care for a family member; I’ll post it separately.

    3. Boop*

      Could you use some vacation time? It sounds like you’ve been very stressed out for a long period of time, which definitely takes a toll. Use some vacation time to get yourself sorted out. You may also want to see if there is a support group near you that can provide some emotional support. I went through a very stressful time that caused me to have a breakdown, and visiting a doctor and getting some medication helped ENORMOUSLY. That might be an option depending on how it goes for you.

      If you’re in the US and you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for intermittent FMLA for absences due to your spouse’s health condition – taking him to appointments, etc. You don’t have to tell your colleagues why you’re taking leave. When you submit the FMLA form, send it directly to the HR department and speak to your supervisor confidentially. Your supervisor does not need to see the FMLA form. If you’re worried that sharing the reason for your leave with your supervisor could impact your chances of promotion/future assignments, don’t share the reason. You can say that you have a family health condition that is going to require some FMLA leave, and be sure to follow all the rules/procedures for such leave. Your employer cannot discriminate or retaliate against you for taking FMLA.

      Here’s some info about FMLA:

    4. Terra*

      Don’t necessarily rely on FMLA leave since it won’t apply unless you’re a caretaker and if you get caught abusing it you can be terminated. If you have a higher up that you trust I’d talk to them and lay out in very generic terms that you are having a family issue that may require you to take some time off in the future. You’re not sure when or how long but you’ll keep them in the loop. You can tell them as much or as little as you like but telling them something will hopefully make the whole process smoother.

      Then go to his doctors appointments and talk to the doctor. Even if it’s not directly about him saying “I’d like to take some time off from work to help him but I’ll only be able to take so much and I want to use it as effectively as possible. Do you have any thoughts?” is a totally legitimate question and while they probably can’t give you absolute certainty they should be able to lay out, in broad terms, what the whole course of treatment is hopefully going to look like, when he’ll need the most help or have the most appointments, etc.

      Also if your insurance offers a nurse line try calling them. It’s confidential and they can be really useful when it comes to stuff like this since all they do is listen and offer advice. Again it’s totally reasonable to ask if they have thoughts or suggestions on when it would be best to take off work, what the overall treatment path is going to look like, what the likelihood is that he’ll react badly to treatment/medication and if so if there’s a likely timeline of that, etc. Medical personnel generally love to see family members involved in treatment because it means a better likely outcome for the patient so they’ll probably be glad to help.

      1. fposte*

        I think that’s taking the term “caretaker” more literally than the DOL suggests, though; they do say “Providing psychological comfort and reassurance that would be beneficial to a child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition who is receiving inpatient or home care” counts. That doesn’t mean that you just get to hang out with your spouse because he was in the hospital once, but it also doesn’t mean you have to be handling somebody’s oxygen and tube feeding before you’re allowed to take secondary FMLA.

    5. Student*

      Start by taking a mental health day (normal vacation day) off of work. See if and how that helps. Use it to think through what you need and think you can actually get from your company.

    6. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I’m really sorry.

      Like you, my first (second and third) preference is to keep my personal issues out of the workplace. Part of it is privacy and part of it is not wanting to show perceived weaknesses. “I’m not the person anybody else is going to need to give slack to!”

      There’s a time, though, to cash in all of those chips that you’ve accumulated from all the other times you could have asked for exceptions for other personal stuff and didn’t.

      You’ve built up goodwill. What I think is that you need to give yourself permission to use it. Consider telling your boss and then taking a week (vacation, FMLA, whatevs) to clear your head and plan your next step.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree. And really, I would give your company a chance to show they can handle this with compassion and sense. Maybe they can. But if they can’t, that’s not a place to stay long-term. Life is going to hit us all in various ways — there will be other illnesses, other crises. You want a workplace that won’t penalize you for being human. Hopefully your current workplace can be that — but if not, that’s about them rather than you, and you can eventually move (at whatever pace and timing is best for you) to one that accommodates people’s lives.

        And I’m really sorry you and your husband are dealing with this.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I’ll add to the chorus of voices saying your company sucks.
      But you asked about talking to your boss.

      Start with what do you want your boss to understand? When my father took sick I wanted my boss to understand that I needed random days off and the need would come up suddenly. So I explained that I was the only family my father had locally. If I don’t go to the hospital or return their calls, then no one would. I said I have no idea how long this is going to be or where it will land when it’s over. That is pretty much all I said.

      Like you are saying, I became a walking dart board for whatever people thought of to say. I reached an “awww, SCREW IT!” place in my head. All you can do is keep the boss properly notified of the types of things he can expect you to be needing. I could not prevent the running commentary.

      The one thing I can think of here, is that the example you give the person had cancer themselves. Maybe you will be treated differently because it’s not you, it’s your spouse? Or maybe there was some behind the scenes stuff where he actually needed his workload reduced?

      In short, we can’t prevent a company from treating us like crap. I decided to tread water until my situation changed. I also saw my company in a new light and it was not flattering. After my father passed and I got the estate cleaned up I worked a while longer and then quit. My values had changed, my goals had changed and the way I saw my company had changed. I simply could not stay. I had seen too much and been through too much. You might decide just to tread water for a while and see where it all lands.

    8. GreenTeaPot*

      I am so sorry. I have been through this, too. In fact, I had a board member – the president, in fact – trying to get me fired while my husband and I were waiting for test results. Then when my husband heard about my trials at work, he was so rattled he had a car accident.

      First, find an online support group. It helped educate me. Understand, too, that PC has many, many scenarios. But the worst one is not knowing things.

      I shared my situation with my Vice President, and promised I’d work as hard as I could to keep things going at work. We also had a huge extra project that year. We got through it.

      You will, too.

  48. Gillian*

    Does anyone have ideas for supporting staff during large organizational changes? We’re implementing a new system at work that’s affecting about 80% of the workforce in some way, and is involving lots of overtime, hard work, etc. The company is paying overtime/moonlighting rates where applicable and providing meals/snacks whenever possible, but what would make you feel better/appreciated when you’re being asked to work incredibly hard like this?

    I’m also interested in what could be done peer-to-peer instead of from a manager. I’m in a department that won’t be using this new system but helps support many of the users, and would like to be able to show my support for those I work with, but I’m not in their departments and don’t have any way to say, give anyone a bonus or extra time off after the new system’s fully implemented.

    1. MaryMary*

      Positive feedback is easy to pass on at any level. I had a friend who had Feedback Fridays once a month, and she would email positive comments to her coworkers and cc their manager. Even smaller things like “thank you for being responsive and letting me know you’re working on my request when you don’t have the answer right away” give people a little boost.

      Little toys can also be a nice morale boost. If you have the budget, something like stress balls, silly putty, or what I call “fidget toys” for people to use at their desk. I was on a team once who put a big puzzle out in a common area, and when people were frustrated or just needed a break, they could work on the puzzle for five minutes.

    2. Terra*

      Positive compliments/feedback are always nice. Is it possible you could see about setting up a time off rotation? Like everyone (barring emergencies) agrees to work overtime one weekend so someone can have it off and/or go home at a reasonable time. As long as everyone eventually gets a turn that can be nice. You can also have everyone contribute to a calendar of things they have planned so you can try and arrange for them to have off for those. Other than that you could offer to plan something fun for everyone like a happy hour or something. And if worse comes to worse sometimes just having a giant countdown to when this will all be over helps because it reminds everyone that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Look the other way if they take an extra break or get too many drinks of water, whatever it is they do. Pretend not to notice as long as the work seems to be moving along.

  49. Carrie in Scotland*

    Does anyone have any advice for applying to retail when your recent history(last 5.5 yrs) is admin/office?

    I do have recent experience in working in a charity bookshop so have used a till/stocked shelves etc in the last 6 months.

    Sigh. I just need a job so I can pay my bills and mortgage.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am in a fairly rural area, so it’s a big deal if you are comfy with a computer. Most cash registers now are computers. In my area you can jump over half the line of applicants by saying you have used computers at work before.

  50. Josine*

    I work in an industry that is currently dealing with layoffs, which is a situation I’ve never been in before. Does anyone have any tips on how to handle a family member who sends texts every time a business in the industry (not the one I’m working for) announces a layoff? So far I’ve either ignored the texts or just replied “good thing I don’t work there then”.

    1. Noah*

      If you find it distressing or upsetting I would ask them to stop. We went through that in the airline industry post-9/11 and also more recently when several carriers merged and HQ staff were rightsized.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        I would say don’t ask – tell them to stop. No need to be polite when they’re being anything but (even if they think they’re intending to be helpful – uh…no).

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Ask them what point they are trying to make.
      Tell them thanks for the warnings. To return the favor you are going to send them every prediction of bad weather you can find, just to reciprocate their concern for your well-being. At the rate the weather has been going, they are sooner likely to get hit with a bad storm than you are likely to be laid off.

  51. Allison*

    Gotta love that even though my coworker is “off” today, she’s been sending me e-mails all morning telling me exactly how she wants me to do my job. I’ve been working with this woman for a year and she still can’t trust me to do something well without constant micromanagement.

  52. anon in the middle*

    My office moved to an open office plan a month ago and am I’m absolutely miserable. The actual open office plan is not as bad as I thought it would be, but I’m stuck in a space with two other coworkers who are awful to be around. Coworker 1 takes a lot of personal calls at her desk instead of going into a conference room, plays music without using headphones, hums and talks to herself, complains out loud about every tiny thing from the weather outside to what someone is eating for lunch, and makes comments on other people’s conversations she overhears. Coworker 2 is an intense hoarder and has so many papers and computer equipment and plates and empty throwaway coffee cups in his space that it’s spreading over into my space and he refuses to throw any of it out when asked. I’m in the middle of them.

    I’ve asked my manager if I can move so I can actually focus on my work, but the request was denied because if one person requests a location change, everyone will want one. We’re not allowed to work from home either and I can’t book a conference room to get away for a few hours since management takes people to task for hoarding conference rooms.

    I’ve been looking for another job because I don’t think I can stand another month of this situation.

    1. Noah*

      It always seems to be worse when a company changes from a traditional office layout to open plan. With places that have been open plan for awhile the etiquette is more well known and in place.

      Besides asking Coworker 1 to take calls in a private space, use headphone, and generally just shut up and telling Coworker 2 to keep his garbage out of your space, I’m not certain what else you can do.

      FWIW, we’re not allowed to book conference rooms to use as private offices either and I appreciate that because it seems like there is never enough meeting or conference rooms for actual meetings. OTOH though we have a generally quiet work environment even with open plan layouts and people know to take phone calls in phone booths and use headphones.

    2. BRR*

      Have you asked number 1 to stop? I say something about I know we have to take business calls at our desk but I find it difficult to concentrate on my work when you’re having a personal phone call/listening to music. Keep it about you doing your work. Remember, she’s the annoying one. Don’t worry about any awkwardness because SHE doesn’t know how to behave in an open office.

      For coworker 2, if it’s spilling over into your space and he won’t do anything about it, at this point I would just shove it all back into his space.

      1. anon in the middle*

        I have and she said it was her right to answer phone calls or listen to music, but she’s a position higher up than me and tends to be very vindictive, so I’m worried that asking again will cause drama.

        1. BRR*

          Ugh this sounds like a no win. First I hope your manager knows why you asked to move. Maybe something about reaching out to the coworkers manager. But really it sounds like you’re SOL. I’m in an open plan office too, I’m sorry you have to go through this.

        2. Honeybee*

          Since you’ve already taken the step of talking to coworker 1 and she won’t stop, can you escalate a bit? Can you go back to your manager? You can explain that you realize not everyone can move and you’re trying your best to make it work, but the quality of your work is compromised because Janet takes personal calls at her desk all day and plays music without headphones at her desk.

          One of my coworkers (Iris) is a very neat person; she sits next to a messier person (Toby) who collects empty cans on his desk. When the cans get to be too much for Iris, she recycles them all. It’s kind of hilarious, but only because she and I both know that Toby is okay with it and finds it more amusing than anything else. Not sure how Coworker 2 would feel if you got rid of things that you absolutely 100% know to be trash like empty coffee cups.

          Anyway, they both sound like terrible and inconsiderate people.

        3. Observer*

          Have you spoken to your manager about what you can actually do about her, though? Like “Lucinda plays all this music and takes calls, but she won’t stop. I can’t really push her, but is there something you could do? Or could I have a good set of headphones, which would help block things out?”

    3. Jennifer*

      I work with your coworker 1 too. She literally must make a racket all day long, cannot stand quiet and complains if we’re quiet, and she only gets louder as the day goes on. And while we’re no longer in an open plan, we have a tiny office with her.
      She is out today and oh god, the quiet is so nice.

    4. Mephyle*

      That is sad – if one person was granted an environment they could actually work in, everybody would want one.

  53. Not me*

    I was unexpectedly let go from my job more than a year ago and was happy enough to leave — it was a really toxic environment, I wasn’t happy, and I landed in a great job in an industry I want to be in. Basically, your stereotypical blessing in disguise. Life is swell.

    Since I left, there’s been major turnover and former employees have been venting on Glassdoor about the company. Someone wrote a review that is clearly meant to look like it was written by me — but I didn’t do it. I 100% agree with everything in the review, but I’m wondering — could this come back to bite me in any way? I really just want to leave that company in my past, where it belongs.

    1. Not me*

      … I should add, the president of the company is a very mean-spirited, vindictive person, which is why I’m concerned. If someone were to retaliate, it’s him.

    2. alice*

      I can’t imagine this would hurt you in the future unless you are using the president as a reference. You can always call your past manager to make sure they are okay being listed as a reference (and try to determine if there are any hard feelings), but I wouldn’t worry about it.

  54. Holly*

    Good: I FINALLY told IT Guy to knock it off. He started the “what’s cookin’, good lookin’?” crap and I said “oh, no, no, no, try that one again!” in my best frustrated sarcastic tone. He replied with “…what’s up?” and I followed with “there, much better!” Not quite a serious talk or anything, but it got the point across.

    Bad: I got chewed a new one bad by my boss this week. Like, really, really bad. He told my entire team, in front of me, that I didn’t know what I was doing. He then called me into his office (to apologize for saying that) and told me that my work has been slipping over the past few weeks, I need to work on my project management, I’m acting incredibly unprofessional in meetings and he needs to know if there’s something personal going on that’s impacting my performance. It was hard. I may have cried. A lot. No sobbing or anything, just silent tears. I went home and thought about quitting. This was just a month after a stellar performance review and a raise, so I was like, “wait, what happened?” … I thought I was doing well. :/

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry that your boss did that!

      Do you think there was any validity to what he was saying or was it completely out of the blue? I ask because the same situation happened to me with an old boss and I couldn’t help crying either because it was so out of the blue and so harsh! After some time passed, I was able to see that it had far more to do with him and his stress levels at the time and I happened to be the person to get in his way on that particular day. I don’t know if that’s the case for you, but often times when you’re verbally attacked, it’s more about the other person.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am so sorry.

      When something like this happens I tend to think I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
      So maybe going back in on that conversation on a different day is in order. Just as you are saying here, “How did I go from stellar to slacker inside of one month?”

      Is it normal for the boss to chew people out in front of everyone? I had a boss that would do that then apologize later in private. Because she did this daily, it was a head game.

  55. Biglaw Stormtrooper*

    Hi all! I need a bit of advice (advice from people familiar with the context behind clerkships would be particularly appreciated). I am a junior associate at a very large law firm, and I’m trying to get out and clerk (for the non-lawyers, a clerkship is when you work for a judge for a year). My firm is pretty friendly towards clerkships; like most big firms in my market, it would hold my job open for me if I got a clerkship, and if I returned I’d get a substantial bonus and be at the same seniority level I would have been had I not left.

    However, I’m having an interview timing issue. Two judges in two different cities, neither of which is the city I currently live and work in, want to interview me next Friday and on the following Tuesday respectively. It is difficult to push clerkship interviews back for any amount of time and I wouldn’t want to (being interviewed earlier tends to improve your chances, and offers for clerkship positions are generally considered to be exploding offers), but one of my teams is very busy and in fact I was told not to take another (work-related) trip because we have so much to do. How do I get the time off for interviews, and for those who are in the legal field, is it crazy that I’m considering leveling with some people and telling them why I need it? I can’t just take a personal day without explanation at such a busy time without having given advanced notice, and faking sick will just seem odd given that 1. the interview dates are right around the upcoming long weekend, so it might look like I’m just trying to take a vacation without declaring it and 2. usually when we’re sick we work remotely at least part of the day, and I won’t be able to do that because I’ll either be in transit or interviewing.

    Any help would be appreciated!

    1. Triangle Pose*

      Hello fellow BigLaw junior associate!

      I’d just tell people. It’s the only way you’ll really be able to be out of pocket.

      I say this with a few assumptions: 1) I assume you’re in litigation. If you were in corporate it’d be harder to swing this because in the transactional world, there is not a lot of benefit in a clerkship and it would look weird to leave your job to do one. 2) The team you mention is not currently in trial. Like IN TRIAL, in trial, with a war room and everything. This is one of the only times that I think it’d be worth asking the judge to reschedule, and only if you know FOR SURE you can make the alternative date 3) Your interviews are with an Article III judges – if you were leaving at a busy time for a piddly state court clerkship, I think there would be side-eye glances cast at you. I say this without judgement, but I know that in BigLaw prestige would be a big factor in something like this. Firms looooove the prestige of having associates who have done these kinds of clerkships, but they discount state courts. and the like

      Assuming the above is true, I’d just tell people you have clerkship interviews and phrase it as a statement rather than a question, and do it in person. “Hey, I have clerkship interviews with Judge X and Judge Y scheduled for Friday and Tuesday of next week, so I’ll be out of pocket traveling or interview from [whenever] to [whenever]. I want to do everything I can to minimize the impact on the team, let me know if I should get someone else up to speed on any of my urgent tasks, or if you think there is anything I can to on the front end to make sure we are covered.”

      1. Biglaw Stormtrooper*

        Thanks for the support! This is almost exactly what I ended up doing, and it went well (your assumptions were right–I’m in litigation, we’re not in trial, and the interviews are for federal district courts).

  56. Ista*

    I’ve decided I want to revamp a version of my resume to apply for more retail/buying-type jobs, but my relevant experience is from high school and college (20 years ago) and a short seasonal stint as a phone rep for a very well known company this last Nov/Dec. I’m not sure how to integrate that into my resume given that it was a short stint and part-time—should I at all or maybe just address in cover letters? If it makes a difference, I left my last job a year ago and while I’ve done lots of fun things (and moved), it does help to say I was working end of last year!


    1. Terra*

      You can put the short stint on your resume if you want, though I would only do that if you have a reason why it was short (seasonal work/contract/etc.). You can mention both in your cover letter as well as talking about how your other experience hopefully applies to the job you’re applying to. Also I’d put the older stuff on my LinkedIn with all relevant accomplishments listed and make sure you include a link on your resume. LinkedIn’s are allowed to have older/more comprehensive listings on them.

  57. De Minimis*

    Other HR stuff….I’ve been involved in sending out the rejection e-mails, and get responses sent to an HR email account here. I get a lot of people asking for feedback. Of course, I’m not the one making the decision or doing the interviewing so I don’t have any feedback to give. So far only one person has seemed somewhat argumentative in tone.

    It’s weird to be on the other side of it. And when I look at resumes for positions in our department I find myself having the same biases that I used to complain about. “Won’t this person be bored in this position?”

    1. T3k*

      For me, I ask for feedback to know where I can improve, whether it’s skills, working on my interviewing techniques, or something else. It’s frustrating for me though, because nobody ever responds and I’m at the point where I almost want to go “I don’t care if it’s my art style, just tell me!” (And no, I don’t do that in the emails, I keep it short and polite). It’s hard to improve my chances of finding a new job when I can’t get feedback to know why I don’t make it further in an interview process.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’m not privy to their thinking, but my impression is it’s more that they like one of the candidates more than the others, and not that there is necessarily anything wrong with the other candidates.

        For us we respond with a form e-mail, but not until we’ve nailed down a start date for the selected candidate. I know for the most recent hire they made an offer to someone and that person decided to go with another job offer, so they ended up interviewing more people [they didn’t go back to anyone they interviewed before] and made a selection from that group.

        It’s been interesting for me since now I can see why companies can take a while to get back to people…but they always should.

  58. Marcy Marketer*

    I have this recurring problem and would love tips on how to handle it. I work in marketing, and have worked at this company for two years. My issue is that I still, after two years, get a consistent number of people who come to me to solve issues that are not my job– they are other people’s specific jobs. Like they’ll come to me to print photos, when our in-house photographer manages that, or to solve an issue with the contact software, which is handled by IT.

    I am really adverse to saying, “it’s not my job,” so I usually reply with something like:
    “From my experience, the issue might be X, but I’ve CCed Y on this email since they are the wizards in X!” or
    “From my conversations with Y, I believe this is the answer, but if you have further questions you should contact Y.”or
    “I’ve CCed Y on this email, who will be able to help you with this issue.”

    However, and here is the problem, I can say that 100 times, to the same people, and they will STILL come to me about problems relating to X. Some people in my department think our coworkers don’t care to contact the right person, or don’t care to learn. But regardless, I want a way to politely indicate to repeat offenders that it’s really a part of their job to make an effort to contact the right person about issues. I was thinking of something like, “Hmm… you know issue X is handled by Y. Have you reached out to them directly?” but I’m not sure that gets the point across. Also, maybe I’m just sensitive, and it should be a part of my job to answer questions/facilitate/troubleshoot about areas I don’t manage when people ask me, especially if we have a friendly working relationship and they think they’re just asking a favor. Thoughts?

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I think the problem may be that you’re solving their problems which enforces their behavior. I would do what you said in your last paragraph. I would say “X usually handles this type of thing, have you checked with her?” Or “I’m not sure – Y should have the answer, though!” If you stop answering their requests/questions, it will get the point across.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I think you’re being too indirect with them. You don’t have to say “It’s not my job” to say it’s not your job.

      The other thing is the whole way you’re phrasing this makes it sound like “I guess I could do them this favor, but I don’t think I should,” when really your thinking should be “I don’t want to step on so-and-so’s toes.”

      Honestly, if I were the IT department, I’d be pissed if you were troubleshooting software for other people instead of having them contact me. If I don’t know something is a problem, I won’t fix it. Maybe your “fix” is a temporary fix that fixes it for a short time. Maybe my fix is a more permanent fix… or if I know a problem affects 10 client machines, I can do a bulk solution for all 10 of them.

      You know your own workplace better than I do (maybe your IT department is lazy and doesn’t want to handle requests), but I’m just offering a different perspective for you to consider—the “not your job” piece is more like “you should go to so-and-so.”

      This happened to me the other day. Someone came into my office and said “Can you set up blah-blah-blah for me?” Technically I had the capability to set up blah-blah-blah, but it wasn’t my job. More importantly, it was someone else’s job (i.e., a critical part of that person’s job), so I just said “So-and-so handles that. You’ve got to talk to so-and-so.” Then that person left and talked to so-and-so.

    3. LCL*

      You’re in marketing? Use company resources to make a spiffy cheat sheet handout showing who does what, and hand it to everyone who makes those requests of you.

    4. Ama*

      Yeah, I said something similar on one of the short answer posts yesterday, but in my experience any time you say “Here’s the answer to the question you asked. In the future you should direct these to X” all the person remembers the next time they have a question is “Marcy answered my question last time.” I have definitely used the — “Jane is actually handling photo queries now, I’m sure she can help you with this” phrasing to really good effect. If it is one particular issue that comes up repeatedly and you can get the okay from your “Jane” you could also even cc her on that reply so they can have the email info right there.

      It will probably take a few rounds with the repeat offenders, but most will eventually get the message. Just think of it this way: you *are* providing support/facilitating/troubleshooting, by making sure your colleagues find the right person to help them.

      1. Beezus*

        In my experience, putting Jane in the cc has the same effect as telling them to go to Jane next time – they forget who they’re supposed to go to. Making them stop, turn around, and make their own separate approach to Jane reinforces that path better.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Can you be more direct? For example, “I’ve noticed you’ve been coming to me with these sorts of questions, but actually Jane is the one who can answer them for you!”

    6. Beezus*

      I’ve done this. You’re being too helpful. People email you because they know you will either figure out the answer for them or get the right person involved immediately, with no further effort required on their part. I stopped giving people answers for things that weren’t my job, stopped handing them off to the right people, and stopped responding lightning fast on this stuff. It took a little while, but it eventually drastically cut down on the number of people coming to me with things I shouldn’t be involved in.

  59. CryloRen*

    Hypothetical question! There was a job posting that I initially skipped over because the title (Teapot Project Manager) didn’t seem related to what I actually have expertise in – a typical title for someone with my responsibilities in my market would be Teapot Marketing Specialist or Marketing Manager – basically, something with “Marketing” in the title. However, I checked out the actual job description for the Project Manager role and it is indeed in line with what I do in teapot marketing – project management/trafficking wasn’t mentioned at all.

    If I did happen to score an interview with this firm, how would I approach this discrepancy in titles? *Is* this something that should be addressed during the interview?
    While I understand that titles can be extremely fluid, it still seems really odd to me that the title chosen for this role has such a disconnect with the stated responsibilities.

    Again, probably a moot point if I never get called anyway, but I am curious how other commenters here might handle/rationalize it.

    1. A*

      This is probably a great question for the question part of the interview. :) Something along the lines of, “I was surprised to see X as the title, when the duties are more in line with what I’ve seen called Y. Can you explain how this position came to be called X?” And if it’s something you’re concerned about, asking (later, when offered the job), “Is there any flexibility on the position title? I’m concerned it doesn’t represent what I’ll be doing and I’d like clients/etc. to have a clear idea of what my role is.”

      1. CryloRen*

        Thanks so much for the insight and advice for handling this! :) Having a script to go off of in case the opportunity to ask questions does come up is really helpful.

  60. sasha on shaw*

    To make a long story short, I was sexually assaulted a few weeks ago by a good friend. Needless to say, he is not a good friend anymore, and dealing with the aftermath has been incredibly difficult. I haven’t been sleeping well, and as a result have been late to work several times and not producing my best work. My question is – how do I address this? I’m well aware that I need to get to work on time, get my work back to it’s good quality, etc, but that’s currently easier said than done. My boss would be very sympathetic and understanding if I explained the situation, but it seems inappropriate. How do I acknowledge that I know I need to work on some things and it’s a result of a current rough situation without getting into all the details? For what it’s worth, I’m the youngest in this office by at least 20 years.

    1. Sunny*

      I am so sorry you’ve experienced this. I don’t have any terribly specific advice, but I would recommend checking with local resources that do not require reporting (if that’s what you’re comfortable with). They’ll have (free) counseling available to help you navigate this and anything else that comes up. In the meantime, stating that you’ve had something happen in your personal life that you’re aware is affecting your work and that you’re working to address it should suffice. If the boss pushes, maybe bring up a vague medical reason or simply say it’s private and you’re not comfortable speaking about it. INAL, but I imagine there’s some sort of protection in place here. Wishing you all the best.

      1. Analyst*

        Or maybe a vague explanation that you were the victim of a crime? I’m so sorry this happened to you.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Yes. You don’t have to mention the sexual assault, but do tell your boss you are a recent crime victim. Any reasonable person would totally understand you being off your game after something like that.

          I’m sorry that happened to you – it’s terrible.

    2. aNoN*

      You need to seek some sort of treatment like therapy to talk through your situation. If your employer offers employee assistance programs I would find out if they cover therapy. You don’t need to tell your boss what happened. You can simply state that due to personal issues, you’re experiencing stresss which is impacting your performance. Then take your time getting tasks done, check your work twice, and take care of yourself. Build a team you that supports you. Good luck

    3. LC*

      I’m so very sorry this happened to you. I believe you would be eligible for FMLA leave, so you could take some time off and seek counseling – I’ve never applied for it, so perhaps someone here could shed more light on it. And I would advise reaching out to your HR department if you have one, to clarify what steps you need to take, and how much information you need to provide, and you could phrase it as a mental health issue if you feel uncomfortable divulging the reason at first. Even if you feel like you don’t need time off, I would encourage you to take it, since it seems to be affecting your work and I presume other areas of your life – and this is completely understandable and ok. There is no shame in needing and seeking help.

      I hope you’re able to move past this terrible event, and please, take care of yourself!

      1. afiendishthingy*

        I hope FMLA covers your situation. Time off sounds like a great idea – maybe a reduced schedule for a bit? I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

    4. LizB*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. If you’re not already getting therapy or some other kind of professional help, look for that immediately — if your workplace offers an EAP, start there, and if they don’t look for free or cheap counseling resources in your city. I’m going to reply to this comment with a link to a post that describes some ways to find those resources in the US and Canada; it might take a few minutes to come through the spam filter.

      I personally think you could frame it to your boss as “health issues” — sleep disturbance and other trauma symptoms count as health issues, in my book! “Personal issues” would probably work too, but I think that phrase tends to make people more inclined to pry, whereas health issues are treated as more private. As you look for a therapist, you can truthfully say that you’re working to address the issues, and will continue to do your best in the meantime. It might also be good to think of some accommodations that might be useful, in case your boss asks if there’s anything she can do to help — would it be helpful for you to work a slightly different schedule, coming in later and staying later? Are there some projects you can prioritize and others that can be delayed? Is there some small portion of your work that can be handled or double-checked by a coworker for a few weeks? You know your work and your limits best, and it sounds like you’re very committed to getting back up to speed, but please be gentle with yourself, especially if your boss seems understanding. I hope you can find the right kind of support to make your recovery as quick and easy as possible.

      1. Honeybee*

        I was going to suggest health issues as well. The “victim of a crime” thing could also work, but that might make people want to ask about the details. You could always just say “I don’t feel comfortable talking about it.”

      2. NJ Anon*

        Google for a hotline for victimsof sexual assault. In my state we have nonprofits that deal with this exact issue.

    5. Terra*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you.

      Start by asking to speak with your boss. Tell them in very vague terms what the issue is, what you say depends on your comfort level but you can say “I was the victim of a crime that has me rattled.”, “Something happened that’s causing me to have some sleep issues.”, “I was assaulted and it’s affecting me.” etc. Mention anything you think has become a problem “I know I’ve been late a few times recently”, “I feel like the quality of my work is slipping”, etc. Then either follow up with what you’d like to see happen “I think I need to take a few days off to get myself back together”, “is it possible for me to take off so I can see someone about this”, “I’d like to continue as normal because I feel that being distracted is helpful but could I step down some of my responsibilities briefly?”, etc.

      You can also say that you’re open to advice and see if they can offer you time off or a later start time or something. If you do need to see a psychologist/psychiatrist/counselor you will probably be covered under FMLA but make sure you ask your boss what the policy is for that since they can require paperwork. If you need help finding someone to talk to if your insurance has a nurse line they can help, you can also ask at the local police station or hospital since they usually have a list of resources for situations like this that they’ll hand out.

    6. BRR*

      Depending on your benefits, see if there is some sort of leave you can take. If you feel comfortable with your boss, I personally would use the phrasing “I had a traumatic event/situation happen a couple of weeks ago and I am still recovering from it. I know my work quality has slipped a little and I was hoping that it would be possible to X for PERIOD OF TIME.” You can also mention “I would appreciate this being kept between us.”

    7. Honeybee*

      I’m so sorry that this happened to you.

      Others have given really good advice. In terms of services, RAINN has a national hotline as well as an online chatline:

      The service is free and refers you to someone in your local area for ongoing support.

  61. Juli G.*


    I’m appropriately paid for my title and normal workload. We’re currently going through a huge project that has me working many, many more hours and taking on additional responsibility. I feel comfortable that this will work out for me in the form of promotion in the next 6-8 months.

    It’s driving me crazy though when people say “Well, that’s why we get paid the big bucks!” The person on this project closest to my salary makes 20K more and that person makes about 10K less than the average person on the project. I’m not making big bucks and with all the hours, my value is sort of low. I just want to say, “Actually, I make way less than you but I don’t mind the project.” Argh.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      My experience is with people using that expression ironically, so the response would be “Yep! I’m stacking up my piles of cash here to take a nap on when I have to”, or “God, I know, but sometimes too much money is just too much” or something like that.

      If someone is actually using the expression unironically, response above works as a sarcastic comeback also.

      It’s a two-fer!

      1. Ama*

        Heh, maybe it’s just because I’ve worked in academia/nonprofits my entire career but I have *only* heard that expression ironically, usually when a board member has dragged us into a project with a near impossible timeline.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that it’s a sarcastic expression. Sometimes people say the opposite of what they really want to say and that is how I would take this one.

    2. A Definite Beta Guy*

      Yeah, I understand the feeling. I happen to know that I am at the absolute bottom of my pay band and my pay band is below everyone else’s, so this attitude grates my nerves.

      On the other hand, I’m the only person who uses this phrase. I actually used it about an hour ago! Our accounting system broke down and created a multi-million dollar discrepancy, and it’s month-end. No one wants to bother fixing it so I am putting my own work on hold to correct the error and….

      This is why they pay me. Right? Right? Where’s my whiskey?

  62. Sarah*

    I’ve been doing a ton of job applications lately, for mostly entry level admin jobs, and noticed that the majority of them share the same few boilerplate requirements: “must work well independently and in a group” “detail-oriented multitasker” “take initiative” “organized” etc… Basically, they want me to be a functional adult? I’m trying to write up new cover letters for each one but it’s incredibly frustrating and time-consuming to try to shake it up when I’ve already written around 20 cover letters that say, essentially, the exact same thing. I usually add a short paragraph about the company’s mission or something but otherwise the letters are quite similar. It’s gotten to the point where I’m super excited if I see out of the ordinary requirements like Excel skills or something since I can at least add that. Is there a point at which I should just write up a really good form letter and be done with it?

    1. Ekaterin*

      I used form-letter cover letters successfully in my last two job searches. Granted, I’m a teacher, so I literally was applying to exactly the same job over and over again, but in a broader sense, if you’d be an amazing admin at Teapots Inc. because you have Key Administrative Skills X, Y, and Z, those skills are probably going to help you have a successful tenure at Teapots Ltd., too.

    2. BRR*

      Do it. My last two job hunts I applied to a lot of jobs that were really the same and got tons of interviews. Don’t do what I did though and forget to update the name of an organization.

    3. Jennifer*

      Hah, I totally have a list of form-letter sentences that I pull out and plug into letters at this point. They’re all the same thing.

    4. KW10*

      Absolutely! Having a cover letter tailored for each job does NOT mean you have to write a whole new one from scratch each time. I had short of a general template that I would change up a bit to be relevant – like if one job doesn’t involve much writing I’d delete the sentence about writing skills and substitute it with one about X other relevant skill. But especially for entry level admin, the skills are likely to be very similar. There’s nothing wrong with reusing a good letter!

  63. Employer wants to know if I will say "yes" to offer*

    Any thoughts on potential employers who want to know if I will accept a job if they make an offer? At this point they still have not discussed salary and I already know that acceptance would be contingent on my ability to successfully negotiate for deviations from their standard salary/benefit package. They’ve already made me jump through more than the normal amount of hoops for this position. Now they seem to want me to commit before they commit. Is this a standard thing?

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I’ve had this happen, too, but I don’t think it’s standard. I think I said something like “I’m really excited about the opportunity!” It expresses that I’m interested in accepting the job, without actually committing to anything.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I think you should just emphasize that you’re extremely interested in the position and would likely accept, depending on the final job description, salary, benefits, start date, etc.

      That’s all they can reasonable expect any candidate to commit to.

      I mean, seriously, what if you really felt “I would definitely take this job if they offered it to me,” and then they waited six months to offer it to you. In the meantime, you got an offer from another company after three weeks. They waited six months, and they lost out.

      Or what if they lowballed you on salary or suddenly changed your responsibilities and/or job title?

      1. Employer wants to know if I will say "yes" to offer*

        I said something very similar to what you recommended. I am just trying to figure out why they bothered asking- its not like my answer would be binding. I get they may not want to put together a package for someone who is not truly interested but their process has been so cumbersome that a marginally interested person would have bowed out long ago. At this point, it is a another ‘orange’
        ( between yellow and red) flag that they’ve asked, but maybe I am over reacting(?)

        Gratuitous self indulgent rant: And yes, Company, for me, the money matters!!! There is no company/organization on this earth that I can afford to work for the love of the job, without regard to salary//benefits so why are we even pretending that those things don’t matter??

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          They could be making no sense, but you’d be surprised how many candidates when asked would actually say they are looking for something better… I guess it would weed out those people.

        2. Terra*

          It may be similar to the “are you still interested in the job” question a lot of us get. It’s just kind of taking your temperature about the company/position/availability/interest.

    3. Lady Kelvin*

      I have gotten asked this question at the beginning of every interview I have had (disclaimer, not many I’m still looking for my first “real” job post PhD) and my initial reaction is “well I applied didn’t I, obviously I’m interested.” But I think the correct answer would be to explain to them that you are focused in ensuring that you would be a good fit for their company and that their company would be a good fit for you, and that assuming that your first impressions based on the job posting/interview/etc are correct, you are still interested in the job and hope to continue the hiring process. Not a yes or no answer, but realistic, if they demand a yes or no, then I think you should seriously consider whether or not you want to work for a company like that.

    4. BRR*

      Ugh I hope not. How dumb?!?! I would reply with “I am very interested in this position but I cannot come to a decision without knowing the salary and benefits.” I wouldn’t take a job as a netflix tester (which to me is the best job ever if it exists) if it only paid $8 an hour with no benefits.

  64. the sugar plum fairy*

    For those of you who have used or use the Predictive Index assessment, what’s the reasoning behind it? What does it reveal about a candidate? How accurate is it?

    1. Noah*

      PI is supposed to reveal how you respond to your working environment and coworkers. I think it can be useful but like anything else it shouldn’t be used as a pass/fail test. We’ve used tests like it in team exercises and there I think they have some value but I really dislike using them during hiring.

      In general I think personality tests can complicate the hiring process. Northwest Airlines used them extensively. The joke in the industry always was that you were not weird enough if they told you that you failed the test.

  65. Second Language Woes*

    I’m finishing my MA in the humanities and am trying to find a job in Quebec’s biggest city. Both my spoken and written French are good enough to communicate with people on a daily basis, and I’ve been volunteering within french-language organizations since I moved here a few months ago, so my confidence is growing, but the fact remains that I’m Anglo in a French-dominated region.

    Does anyone have advice on how to effectively convey that I’m happy to take on less intellectually laborious work than an MA might normally take on until I’m more fully bilingual? I’ve been working two part-time jobs for the last four years (teaching & research), have one year full-time experience in publishing, and one year full-time in museum work with no interruptions, yet I’ve had no interest at all in my resume. I had a hiring manager (family) look over my resume and he said it was great, so I really think my language skills are the relevant factor here.

    1. Not Karen*

      From my experience in that city, they weren’t open to non-French speakers at any level, so unfortunately I think you’re going to have to focus on getting more fluent first. You don’t say what kind of job you’re looking for, but is it one that would be available at a more English-friendly institution like McGill?

      1. Second Language Woes*

        Potentially, yes absolutely. I’ve been applying primarily to research institutions, museums, and publishing houses (English), but plan on broadening my job search in the near future to pretty much anything as my degree wraps up. I would feel as though I’m not competitive for positions at the English universities — I’m by no means the only person in my position in this city — and I’m not sure how long I’d hold onto the hopes of finding employment there as an external applicant, but it’s not a bad idea to focus there given the situation.

        Thanks so much for weighing in! I appreciate the advice from someone who knows the city.

  66. Jen RO*

    A new hire (reporting to me) started working in my department recently. A few people in the department (reporting to other managers) are not performing at the level they should. Is it inappropriate to tell my new hire that he should avoid being associated with those people (going to smoke, taking breaks with them, etc), because his reputation might suffer as well? I have been debating this with myself for a few days. On the pro side, he seems like a future high performer and I want him to be seen as such; on the con side, this amounts to discussing other people’s performance issues with someone who is not their manager. Thoughts?

    1. Newbie*

      I wouldn’t say anything. Presumably your new hire is an adult and capable of forming his own opinions. And that his work will speak for itself. As long as he’s performing his job well, people he interacts with in the course of his work will come to know the quality of his work.

    2. JL*

      Leave it alone. Unless his performance actually suffers, this shouldn’t matter. Let him be judged on his own work. As he gets into the job, he will also learn to know these things on his own.
      It’s hard enough starting into a new job without being told that you can’t hang out with some of your own colleagues.

    3. TG*

      I wouldn’t tell him that, but I would make it a point to introduce him to the workers who are up to speed and let him know that they are good at their jobs and are the ones that he can go to for help if needed, if that would be appropriate in your office.

    4. nicolefromqueens*

      Yeah, I think you should leave him alone. The truth will come to light and it will be a people- learning experience for him as well.

    5. BRR*

      Ooh good question. I would just make it clear what your expectations are for him and reference people who are doing awesome at their jobs. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a gossip about people who are good at their jobs.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Good point.
        You can also say that x, y and z behaviors are frowned on by the company, without naming names. Target the behaviors and not any one individual.
        If you use evaluations you can briefly go over an evaluation to show him what to expect to see when it is his turn for an eval.

    6. AnotherFed*

      Give him the semi-subtle heads up that he’s new enough that his reputation will be based on who he’s seen with until there’s enough of a work product to judge him by and overwhelm anything like that, and immediately after that, introduce him to people with good reputations. Also reinforce what those people have good reputations for. The omission of the low-performers will be evident, and you won’t have said anything about their issues.

    7. Jen RO*

      Thanks everyone! I will point him in the direction of the high performers who can help him, and I will tell him what behaviors he should avoid
      You’re right that he is a smart guy and he will figure the rest out by himself.

  67. Doriana Gray*

    An interesting thing happened at work this week, and I wanted to get the perspective of posters here.

    I’m new to my position and my division (I’ve just completed my third week with the group). Back in December, my division had their employees fill out a job survey to determine employee satisfaction and areas where the division could make improvements. We had a quarterly meeting this week where the results of that survey were presented. For the most part, it was positive stuff. However, there were a few things noted that dissatisfied the staff and management wanted to discuss those things (they discussed the positives as well, things like work/life balance, etc.).

    One of the things that went on the “bad” list (yes, it was a list for the good, the bad, and the ugly – there were no uglies mentioned I should note besides a joke photo of some people in the office in an opposing football team’s jerseys) was transparency. People apparently don’t feel that they know why things are being done a certain way in the division. Our division management is very good about showing us the numbers (e.g. how much we make, how much new business we receive, etc.), and they have been for some time according to a friend of mine who has worked in this division for three years, so management wanted to know what all else we wanted to know. They asked for people to please speak up about this, and if they didn’t feel comfortable doing so in the meeting, to please do so in private so they can address the issue. This transparency thing will make more sense in a second.

    So the other thing that made the “bad” list was consistency in promotions. The feedback management received was that there was none – people are seemingly being promoted at random. I know that there are people who have been in this division (when it was previously another division) for 15+ years, and are still at the job grade I’m at (Senior Teapot Maker). And, mind you, I was brought into the division with this job grade – I didn’t earn it through any work that I did here, it was based on the number of industry designations I have and the work I did for my previous division.

    Anyway, there have been quite a few meteoric rises in this division (one girl has been promoted twice in two years and is now a supervisor, when just last year she was a Senior Teapot Maker, skipping a job grade in between the two roles), and I think this has rubbed some of the old heads the wrong way. So management announced that going forward, they would be posting all positions internally (not just in our division, but in the company as a whole) so that everyone who thinks they deserve a promotion can make their case for one. I understand from reading this blog that this is actually quite common at a lot of companies, but it isn’t at ours. At least, it hasn’t been in any division here I’ve heard of. My feelings on this are, in an effort to try to be fair to everyone, they may end up making things worse. Imagine being one of the high performers in this group and consistently going over and above in your job. Then a new position a few job grades above you opens up and is posted throughout the organization. Not only do you apply for it, but so does every other Tom, Dick, and Harry in your group (because, hey – who doesn’t want more money, right?), plus people from other divisions. Then the word comes down that Tom, who does a good job in his role, but doesn’t necessarily have the same types of duties that you do, and possibly has a bit of an easier caseload, has gotten the job. (You don’t know this, but it was because he gave an excellent interview where he was able to say all the right things.) Or worse – someone from outside the division gets the job because, like Tom in the example above, she gives good interview and is also stellar at her job in her division. As said high performer, would being passed over for this promotion that probably should have just been given to you, and would have under the old model, motivate you to continue doing great work?

    I don’t know. I’m thinking that yes, some people might still do a good job because that’s just who they are (hard workers), but if someone’s truly high performing, they’re probably someone who wouldn’t have a problem finding a new job someplace else. And I can very easily see this happening because a couple of people who were in that category have already left because they felt they weren’t being promoted quick enough, or that they were, but were still being dumped on work-wise (getting too much of it) because slower people in the group couldn’t keep up and their salary wasn’t commiserate with the additional work being performed (and we get paid very well here). My friend was even thinking about leaving for this same reason, and she generally likes it here otherwise.

    My other thought was, maybe people wouldn’t be so bent out of shape about promotions here if there was some transparency about why the folks getting promoted were promoted in the first place. The one thing my previous division did well that I haven’t seen here or heard about being done here is, whenever someone’s promoted, that person’s manager will send out a division-wide email letting everyone know about the title change with a brief bio of that person’s work history and their more recent job duties that led to their promotion. I think if this division did something like that, promotions would be less of a WTF here than before. I know if I was one of the people here who hadn’t been promoted in years, if ever, and saw some new girl coming into my division from another one at a higher level than the one she had previously, without having any background information about her, I’d be a little ticked. That’s essentially what happened when I came in – most people had no clue that I had previous work experience that was taken into account when the promotion decision was made (I was in a division that has very little in common with this one, or the industry I was in prior to coming to this company, but this current division and my former industry overlap). Nobody has been openly hostile, but I could see some side-eyes going on at the meeting when it was announced back in December.

    So what do you guys think? Like I said, I know this kind of thing is common in a lot of industries, but it wasn’t in ours (or at least at our company). Am I overthinking this, or do you think this has the potential to go awry and cause even more resentment and hurt feelings?

    1. Dawn*

      Every new management decision in the history of ever has the potential to cause bad feelings! I think you’re way over thinking this, doubly so because you’re new.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        That’s what I thought. I just like the team who’s here and would hate for people to keep dropping off like flies because they’re peeved about being passed over for promotions. I’d like this to be a drama free environment given the BS I just left behind in my last division.

    2. BRR*

      I’m not sure of everything but are certain people upset people who are good but not great at their job and/or people who have been there for a long time?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t think there is any totally transparent way to promote or move people.
      We had a system like you are saying, where the job was posted company-wide. Word would go out, “Don’t bother applying, Jane is going to get that job. It has already been decided.”

      Does your company routinely promote/move people who cannot do the job they were hired for?

      My only suggestion is as each position is filled let the candidates know why they did not get the job. And this is a crock pot. slow cooker solution, involving one-on-one conversations.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Does your company routinely promote/move people who cannot do the job they were hired for?

        I’m not sure if I’d say it’s routine (and I haven’t been in my division long enough to see this), but I know of a couple of people in other divisions who were promoted up, and then demoted once their group realized they couldn’t perform at the level they were moved into.

        And that whole gossipy thing is exactly what I think will happen. I can’t imagine the truly high performers will be passed over for promotions, so why even open up the field to everyone else then? Isn’t that just wasting people’s time? I just didn’t understand why they came to that particular solution. I mean, it makes sense to interview for promotions to a supervisory or management role, but regular old Senior or Specialist roles? I don’t see the point.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Probably not a great answer– but it seems like it’s the in vogue/trendy thing to do. But I think that almost any system will have its flaws. If you are thinking dozens will apply for each and every job, that won’t happen. Hopefully, people will be able to get a good sense if they should even put in for the job before they actually go to the trouble. FWIW, I never applied for a single posted job when I worked under this system. I either did not qualify according to the job description or I heard it was planned who would get the job.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            Hopefully, people will be able to get a good sense if they should even put in for the job before they actually go to the trouble.

            Yeah, I hope so too. For the last few positions they posted, I was told by the guy who hired me that they hadn’t received many applications, which I chalked up to it being due to the time of year (end of actually) and people not wanting to make big moves at that point. But maybe it’ll be a trend going forward? Who knows.

    4. Observer*

      Your suggestion of a bio sounds good, and I would bring it up.

      Your other issue leaves me puzzled. You seem to be assuming that management is going to automatically give the job to the person who gives the best interview, rather than the person who is the most qualified. But, that’s kind of a stretch if the division is reasonably well managed. After all, the decision makers do have access to a lot more information than is usual in a typical interview situation – things like performance reviews that are not carefully excised of anything that might give someone an excuse to sue.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Not assuming anything, just thinking of scenarios that could happen given that there have been a couple of people in that division already who were promoted because of personal relationships with upper management and not necessarily the quality of that person’s work (one guy already quit because of this).

        But I may mention the bio thing the next time I talk to the guy who hired me. It would be nice to know everyone’s background and what they do all day.

        1. Observer*

          Opening up positions to everyone is not going to make this worse. In fact, done well, it might make things better, as it may sometimes push someone into actually looking at people’s qualifications over relationships.

  68. Brett*

    Things are progressing well with the new opportunity.

    I have been through four phone interviews, and given very good feedback on all of them.

    Next week I have a long on-site interview with the hiring manager and his team, including a technical exam. This still seems like overkill for a contractor but also makes me feel confident in their hiring. I am going to have all sorts of questions though if they decide to make me an offer.

  69. Jessen*

    How should I politely inform a coworker that making disparaging comments about religion is not ok? We’re talking about stuff like “hey I’ll be coming in late on such-and-such a day for ” or “why yes I had a lovely new year’s eve, we held an interfaith service and the shofar was really cool.” The responses are stuff like “Yeah I’m not into brainwashing” or “I gave up on all that guilt long ago.”

      1. Bea W*

        Second this approach. If you can just not mention religion take that route with this person, even if you say something to them about it.

    1. NotAllSurprisesAreWelcome*

      “Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree!”

      Keep it upbeat, and be clear you’re not looking for a religious debate. If it becomes necessary to avoid mention of religion with this coworker, that might be the easiest thing.

    2. Rat in the Sugar*

      Ugh, I’ve had coworkers who thought it was hi-LAR-ious to say that kind of thing, and I honestly found it easier to just stop mentioning religion around them. IME a person who makes those kind of comments is just trolling, and there’s never any point to feeding a troll. Just ignore as best you can.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Someone in my choral group, with whom I had already had some really weird interactions, saw my Star of David necklace during a rehearsal right before Rosh Hashanah. She asked me, “Where do you go to services?” I told her. Her response? “Oh really? I’m sorry.” (She’s… a bit strange.) I looked her straight in the eye and said something like, “Why would you say that? I choose to go there.” So I would look this co-worker right in the eye and say something similar. If you get another response, I would honestly feel free to say, “No one’s requiring you to go, you know.”

      People who disparage activities other people enjoy like that are so tiresome. I have never minded, “Oh, that’s not really my type of thing,” or, “I prefer baseball to basketball,” but that across-the-board bashing irritates me.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      “I am just telling you about my evening/weekend. I was not demanding that you join in. You tell me about your knitting group and I don’t think you expect me to knit.”

  70. Please No!*


    So I accepted a 48% internal promotion a few weeks ago. Yay!

    But my boss just asked me “what’s going on” with my raise because he had heard that they are trying to cap my raise at 5%.

    I have not heard anything about this but it terrifies me that my boss heard this!

    My boss asked that I not reach out to anyone about this, but to let him know if he can help back me up. Should I reach out to HR? My new boss? Should I just “wait and see” and then raise a fuss if they do change the salary?

    The offer was made over the phone, but I accepted via email and stated the rate I was offered.

    Help! Has anyone had something like this happen? What should I do if they do try and change my promotion back!!!!!

    1. BRR*

      Wait and see. A lot of employers cap raises for internal promotions (because they’re dumb). But wait and see. If it’s only 5%, I would approach someone in person or over the phone, it’s too easy to say no to email, and say “there seems to be a mistake here, I was offered 48%/$X and I confirmed that via email” Then just wait. And agree to the salary before you start in the new position. Don’t wait until your first paycheck is smaller than you deserve. If nothing is said to you before you start, email whoever you need to and say “I want to get it in writing just to be clear on all of the details.”

    2. jpixel*

      So you were offered a 48% pay increase and your boss just heard they want to cap it at 5% but doesn’t want you to ask about it? Did anyone respond to your email accepting the position and rate? First, I’d ask HR and/or the new manager to simply send me a written offer letter (without mentioning any concerns about the salary).

      If they don’t want to do that for some reason or you don’t get a response, then go back to your boss and say that you are troubled by what he told you and are planning to follow up with HR more specifically about your concerns. (That way it doesn’t look like you ignored his request not to follow up – but this is too significant of a concern to just wait and see about.)

  71. Not a Real Giraffe*

    A close friend and I are typically on the same job search cycle, as in we’re often looking for jobs around the same time. During our last cycle, we both accepted new jobs that we were both excited about. Mine was in an industry I’d been trying to break into for a while, and provided a meager pay increase (but worth it for the industry change!). Her new job provided her with an outstanding pay increase. Her pay increase was so large that, despite a decade of being open with each other about our salaries, she did not disclose the offer. I’m sure she felt awkward talking to me about it, since it put us tens and tens of thousands of dollars apart. That’s fine, and I’m very happy for her success. I did not inquire about the details of her offer, but simply asked if she was happy with it when she was weighing the decision to accept.

    Anyway, fast forward to earlier this week when she referenced her salary as an “adult salary.” I couldn’t help but feel like this was condescending, as if only people who make what she makes or more are truly adults. I’m happy with what I make (of course, if they want to give me more money, I wouldn’t say no!), but feel like this was a pretty tasteless thing to say to someone when she is well aware of our pay discrepancy. (FWIW, this isn’t the only time she’s passively flaunted her new income level, so I’m probably a little more sensitive about it than if this was a one-time off-the-cuff statement.)

    Am I taking it too personally? How have others handled growing salary gaps between friends?

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s a great turn of phrase, but I don’t think it was flaunting, either; I think it was just thoughtless. On the other hand, you don’t know if there’s stuff she’s been careful *not* to say, because we never know that.

      So what do you think you want to have happen? Do you want a conversation where you say that much as you wish her well, you’re finding the salary disparity a weird thing to negotiate? Do you just want to vent for a while about how much you’d like to have a big salary too? Because you can do that here, and many people will feel that along with you.

    2. BRR*

      I’ve handled it by letting them pay for dinner ;). But seriously, for me it’s about being happy in your position. The whole, I’m richer than them because I enjoy what I do/am helping the world despite being paid less. And even with this attitude it’s hard. I’m at the age when some of my friends are starting to earn a lot more than me.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Not all relationships can handle the gap between earnings.

      Why not try a redirect with her? “Yes, Barb, I know, I know. If I had your money I could throw mine away. But seriously, Barb, you have to know that you are a friend of mine because of the person you are not what you make in your paycheck.” Or insert whatever serious note fits best here. It could be that you have not said anything about her comments and that is why she keeps making them.

    4. AnotherFed*

      I’ve run into this from the other side with a cousin in PR (I’m an engineer). By about 3 years after graduation, I was making more than double her salary, and she was just worrying about layoffs. It was really hard to navigate – I was trying to never mention $, pick only cheap/free activities, cover tabs without being insulting, etc. I’m sure I screwed up and shoved my foot in my mouth, but eventually we talked and set ground rules:

      – She’d try to give me the benefit of the doubt that I was never trying to flaunt salary or be condescending (and I was definitely not trying to do either – hopefully your friend is in the same place) and smack me if something came across badly

      – We’d agree in advance about meet ups and who was paying, including her recognizing that sometimes I wanted to do something nice with her and pay because I’d rather have her there than not, and including me recognizing that she didn’t want to feel like a freeloader or like I was only picking board game night to meet her budget

      We’re still pretty close, but I think if we hadn’t been related, we probably wouldn’t have talked things out. We definitely wouldn’t have stayed close without that, so if this friend is worth keeping, have a serious conversation about this!

  72. Pokebunny*

    Would it be wise to invest in a landline just for phone interviews? I hate the phone. My cell service is okay, but it’s not ideal. Every phone call I’ve been on, there’s at least one time when I have to ask the other person to repeat themselves, and it’s so anxiety-inducing!

    1. Red Wheel*

      Ordinarily, I would say “no” on the basis that I think most interviewers would be understanding that you need to use a cell phone. In your instance, you have had issues with it and more importantly, the poor connections are creating anxiety for you. If you can afford it and it helps remove an obstacle to good interview performance, I say go for it. You can always disconnect the line when it is no longer needed.

    2. CrazyCatLady*

      I personally wouldn’t. Is there someplace you can go where you get better service? Even if you’re just sitting in your car for privacy…

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      What about a decent computer headset, which is a one-time expense of $100-$200 if you want a REALLY nice one, probably $50 or so for one that’s more than good enough. You can then use Skype or Google Voice to make and receive calls, sometimes for a small fee, but Google Voice is free for domestic (non-international) calls. If your internet can stream low-res video or streaming music without stuttering, it’s more than sufficient for voice calls, which are really not very demanding, data-wise.

      1. Bea W*

        This is a good alternative. I do this when I have conference calls on days I am working remotely. No problems except the one time my internet cut out, but that has only happened once in the last 10 years.

        1. Bea W*

          Also, when I was traveling last summer, Google Voice allowed me to make international calls to UK/Ireland for something like 1 cent a minute, which was super useful every time I needed to call a cab or a hotel. Otherwise the roaming + international call fees on my cell would have been ridiculous. Many public places had open wifi to be able to do this on my smart phone. It was a godsend!

      2. Sarah*

        I honestly just got a really nice computer headset (complete with mic!) for 5 dollars in Target’s bargain bin section. It works just fine with my Google Voice account.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Know your area. Landlines used to be so reliable. The landline I have now is on a par with a cell phone. I have to say “what” ten or fifteen times in a conversation. I am starting to agree with people here who hate the phone. I never did, but the reception is so crappy, I could use two tin cans and a string and get the same results. Try to find people with landlines and ask them what they think.

    5. D*

      With the company that just hired me I requested all communication be through email, and they honored it. The only call I received was after my in person interview to offer me the position. All other communication was through email, even what typically would be a phone interview was done in written format. It was so much easier to get everything done with my current soon to be ex job.

  73. A Manager (but not THE AAM)*

    Get your flu shots, people! I know it’s late in the year, but my team is going down. And we’re virtual so we’re not spreading it among ourselves. I had two people out two weeks ago and others sick. I now have another 2 out this week.

    Of course work stress is probably not helping. We’re behind schedule and some of the team really have a lot on their plates at the moment. I am suddenly carrying tension in my shoulders again. Dang it! Had that problem for year. It went away for a while and now it’s come back.

    1. Tris Prior*

      We have the same problem! Everyone at work is constantly Deathly Ill. Except me. Apparently none of them believe in flu shots? I mentioned last fall that I’d gotten one and you’d think I told people that I injected myself with poison. One told me “but the flu shot gives you the flu!” Uh-huh. And which of us is the one who almost NEVER misses work due to illness?

      Also, for god’s sake, if you bring in candy or food or whatever, use utensils to serve it and don’t stick your hands in it! My boss brought in a bowl of (unwrapped) candy yesterday and immediately folks who were still snotting and hacking stuck their hands in the bowl. Gee, I wonder how illnesses are spreading so quickly?! :P

      What sucks is that, as the person who’s almost never sick, I’m always stuck covering for the people who are. It’s getting old. Not that I want their disgusting illnesses floating around the office any more than they already are…

      1. Nicole*

        Ugh, the whole “the shot gives you the flu” thing drives me nuts. What gets me is the people I know who refuse to get the shot get sick multiple times a year and then complain about it. Well, maybe you should try the flu shot you stubborn person!

        The sickness travels quickly in my office so I’m always wiping down my desk with clorox wipes and using hand sanitizer. I also bought a can of lysol recently and spray the air after someone passes my desk hacking up a lung.

      2. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Ugh, my brother told me he refuses to get flu shots because they supposedly lead to the evolution of nastier flu bugs. I tried to explain to him that vaccines work on your immune system, not the pathogens, and that he’s confusing this with antibiotic resistance, but he wasn’t having any of it. Sigh.

    2. Not Karen*

      If having people out sick for a week derails your work so badly, you have bigger problems than the flu.

    3. Bea W*

      We all get flu shots here, but there’s been a nasty GI virus making the rounds in my area. I think half of us were out a couple days this week and last.

    4. Mimi*

      I got my flu shot this year and I am currently home with the flu. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what you do, you’ll still get sick. I wish it were foolproof. I feel like death would be welcomed right now.

  74. Megan*

    I tried searching around this site, and online, but I can’t find the answer to this question (I suspect I don’t have the search terms right)

    Does anyone know if labor laws require a business (restaurant in this case) to pay employees when they come in outside of their shift for a meeting? I work as a hostess 2 days a week, and occasionally they have host meetings at times we’re not working. It’s very occasional, but we’re not paid for that time (we don’t make tips, we’re hourly employees). I had a conflict with the last one and didn’t go, but I was annoyed at the management for other reasons, and was curious if they’re supposed to be paying us for that time. In general the management is good, and I don’t have a huge issue with the meetings, but the new manager is much less…concise than the last one.

    I’m in DC, also.

    1. justsomeone*

      As I understand it a meeting is still considered working, therefore you should be paid for all time worked.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I Googled “nonexempt unpaid meeting” and got lots of results saying what I already knew, that hourly employees MUST be paid for every minute they’re working, and if the employer tells you to do something and you do it, that’s “working”. One page summed it up well: “Under employment law, such as the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), nonexempt employees must be paid for all hours worked. Work time includes meeting time—essentially, if the employee is doing something which the employer requires him or her to do, it’s work. “

    3. Noah*

      They should be paying you. I would start by asking if you can clock in for the meetings and see where it goes from there.

      1. Megan*

        yeah, I’ll probably do that. They come up really infrequently, I was just already annoyed at them last time. We need a manager to enter their code for us to clock in, so I’ll probably start there

    4. Megan*

      thanks everyone! That’s basically what I thought….

      Now I guess I have to decide if I’m going to say something if we have another one

      1. PeachTea*

        I work in HR for a restaurant. Not only must they pay you, but if you normally make a tipped wage, they have to pay you at least the regular minimum wage for the meeting. So as a server, you’d have to make 7.65 or whatever it is for your state instead of 3.83 or the 2.13 that’s still the federal tipped minimum.

        As a host, I assume you already make minimum or above. But definitely, you must be paid.

  75. New Lawyer*

    Here’s my current situation. I would love any feedback you all have.

    I graduated from law school in June 2014. In December 2014, I started working as a contractor at a federal agency doing pretty much exactly what I wanted to be doing post law school. In July 2015, I got laid off when the regional office that I worked for was combined with a regional office in a different city and they got rid of the contractors in my city. In October 2015, I started working as a discovery attorney at one of the biggest and most prestigious law firms in my city. For non-lawyers reading, discovery attorneys do pretty low level grunt work and it’s work that is often seen as a gap filler. Since the work is project based, hours are not full-time and over the last couple of months, hours have been pretty sparse for many of us. The firm does not allow us to have second paying jobs and it has to approve any pro-bono or volunteer legal work we do. I am not sure how eager the firm would be to go through the process of approving pro-bono or volunteer legal work for discovery attorneys.

    Since hours have been so sparse recently and because I feel like I need more experience in the area I want to be working in, I have begun the process of lining up relevant pro-bono and volunteer legal work, with the caveat at I would need to get approval from my firm. If the firm refuses to approve these opportunities, does it make more sense to keep working there or to quit and just do the pro-bono and volunteer work while I job search? I am worried that it will look really bad to have a resume that looks like I’ve quit two jobs in a very short time period. On the other hand, I think getting this more relevant experience and gaining some solid and respected industry connections could be more valuable in my job search than the cache of the name of the firm where I’m working.

    Thanks for your help.

    1. JL*

      Job searching can end up being a full-time job, so if you quit to volunteer, you might end up having to pick between the two. I would recommend sticking with your current job for a bit longer to have some financial stability, and keeping an eye out for new opportunities.
      Good luck!

    2. KLR*

      First, I would do everything you can to line up volunteer/pro bono work that the firm will approve so you avoid this scenario altogether. Have you talked to your supervisor or the pro bono manager about what is likely to be approved versus rejected?

      Next, if you do end up having to make a decision, for me, it would come down to finances. How long can you afford to job search without any salary at all?

      If you quit, I would expect some questions in job interviews about the reason for your short stint as a discovery attorney, but most people expect that those jobs are short-term in nature, and I think your explanation for leaving (to do work in your actual area of interest) is a reasonable one.

      Good luck!

      1. New Lawyer*

        That is definitely my hope. Based on the cryptic information my supervisor has given me, I think I will be able to do some immigration work, though she is being super slow to give me more details. Though I enjoy immigration work and want skills more than anything at this point, there are limited long-term opportunities for me in that field since I don’t have a second language and the skills that I’d gain there aren’t that applicable to what I want to do long-term. Regardless, if that’s what gets approval, that is probably the best move, though I am really hoping to figure out a way to get the more targeted opportunity approved.

    3. College Career Counselor*

      You’re a contract employee with no guaranteed minimum number of hours, which would seem to be to the firm’s advantage (no benefits, can cut you loose easily/not pay you if there’s no work). AND they hold the right of refusal for volunteer or pro bono work that you’re presumably doing on your own time? Barring (you’ll pardon the pun) any conflict of interest (they obviously don’t want you doing pro bono work for someone that they’re actively representing or litigating against), it doesn’t make sense to me that they can do this. IANAL, but this is sort of like saying, “You can’t volunteer at the humane society because it takes away time that we might want you to work, even though we don’t have anything for you to do right now.” Either they should pay to retain your time, or they don’t get to say what you do otherwise. (Usual caveats about not working on unrelated projects with their equipment, at their site, etc.)

      1. New Lawyer*

        I agree, it makes no sense and it’s a very frustrating structure to work in. For what it’s worth, I’m not a contract employee; the law firm employs me and gives me full benefits if I work 130 hours in a month (which hasn’t happened yet). The major issue behind this set-up would appear to be doing conflicts of interest screening for wherever I’m volunteering, but if I volunteer with an in-house legal department at a nonprofit, which is what I am trying to do, that would seem to be pretty minimal. I think they also want to make sure that their malpractice insurance isn’t implicated in any volunteer/pro bono work I do, though their policy clearly states that it only applies for work I do for them and I only consider volunteering and doing pro bono work at places that will give me malpractice coverage for the work that I do there.

    4. Ghost Umbrella*

      Federal contracts get cut all the time. Indicate somehow that it was a contractor position, and it won’t look like you quit.

      As far as whether you should quit your current job if they won’t approve your pro-bono stuff, IANAL and I can’t answer that. It is messed up that they won’t give you full time work and won’t let you work anywhere else, though.

    5. Biglaw Stormtrooper*

      Does your firm have a pro bono coordinator who you can ask about this? My firm has institutional relationships with some nonprofits so we have a pretty steady flow of asylum cases and vacatur cases. Maybe you could be added to matters that the firm already has, so you don’t have to go through the approval process?

      1. New Lawyer*

        That’s a good idea. Is it appropriate to go straight to the pro bono coordinator or should I try to get my supervisor to put me in touch with her? I don’t want to get into a dicey chain of command-type situation or anything. Thanks!

        1. Biglaw Stormtrooper*

          That’s interesting, I’m afraid I’m not sure! Are there other discovery attorneys you’re friends with who might know if someone has done something like this before? Because that would inform how I’d approach your supervisor (who will obviously have to know at some point, and you’ll have to make sure you make it clear that your actual work won’t slip if it picks up again while you’re doing pro bono work).

    6. LawCat*

      What is the nature of the discovery work you are doing? Is it just doc review?

      If the firm refuses to let you do volunteer legal work and you’re just stuck doc reviewing, I’m not sure what value there is for you staying if you have the means to support yourself while doing substantive volunteer work. (Even if you did part time volunteer legal work, you could seek part time non legal work to bring in some money.) Is the discovery work going to help you get to where you want to go next, or would the volunteer work be more valuable for that?

      I am not sure the resume will look bad and as if you quit two jobs in a short period of time. First, if you are listed as a contractor, I think the more likely conclusion is that the contract ended. Second, if you are listed as discovery attorney doing doc review work, I am not sure anyone expects those to be long-term positions (I’d be more worried about staying in a position like that for too long than for two little time).

      Just my $0.02. FWIW, I will share my experience. I spent 6 months doing volunteer legal work before getting a paying legal job and the volunteer work was substantive and helped me shine when I had an interview for a great paying job (networking helped me get the interview, but having substance to talk about in the interview helped me land the job).

      1. New Lawyer*

        Thanks. It’s uplifting to hear about your experience. It’s pretty much just a doc review position (coding and redaction), so I feel like the volunteer work could be more valuable. I don’t really intend to stay there longer than six months since I am worried I’ll get branded as a doc review attorney with no other skills and have been hoping I’d have a full time position within that time period.

  76. Jennifer*

    I sent this in an email, but just heard the trip may occur as soon as next Tuesday, so wanted to put this on the open thread for additional guidance. Here’s my story:

    For some context, I have a background in sales and account management and have traveled extensively for business in the past, after being briefed on and presented with proper procedure around expenses: what I can expense, how to submit expenses, daily limits, etc. I am now on the “client side” of the house as a Marketing Manager of a privately-run, for profit higher education business.

    I am being asked to travel for the day to our agency to help move a project forward, and any request or conversation I have around what constitutes an expense or how to submit it has been dodged, leading me to believe my boss would like me to take this trip out of my own pocket. FWIW, I do know we have policies around expenses but my boss is not being transparent with me about them, which is causing concern.

    I estimate that in travel to and from the airport alone (I’m in the Bay Area and live north of the bridge), I will accumulate over $100 in transport costs as I don’t have access to a car. The agency’s owner, who is my boss’s friend and who I have met one time prior for less than a half hour, offered to pay for the ticket with his personal airline miles, which struck me as strange off the bat. I have always paid for the ticket from my bank account and was later reimbursed. My boss heavily suggested he would like the owner to pick me up from LAX to drive to Long Beach, which also struck me as unusual and is something I’m uncomfortable with given that I don’t know him (I’m also considerably younger, and a female). Boss also suggested that since said Principal “owns restaurants,” that I wouldn’t need to expense any food since he would take me out to eat at one of his establishments.

    How can I bring it to my boss that I’m uncomfortable with relying so heavily on his friend for transport and food, and that I would like to avoid being hit with additional expenses I may incur throughout the day that potentially won’t be reimbursed?

    1. JL*

      Have you tried skipping your boss entirely, and asking finance directly? “Hi Jane, Bob doesn’t have time to answer me, so maybe you could help me. I’m looking for our policy on per-diems and travel reimbursment as I’m about to go on a business trip. Can you help me find it?”

      1. Jennifer*

        Thanks, this helped me get the attention of Accounts Payable, but my boss just noted the agency owner is going to be purchasing the ticket. This is entirely new to me.

    2. jpixel*

      Have you asked your boss directly in person how you should handle your expenses?

      I may be missing something, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to dine with the owner, especially for a short trip – it’s not like you’re eating every meal together for a week. Even picking you up at the airport wouldn’t necessarily be a big deal but I totally get not wanting to spend a ton of time with someone you barely know. But this is someone you are doing business with, right?

      That said, as you point out, you’re potentially going to incur other expenses and you do need to know how to put in for them.

      It does sound like the boss is trying to minimize expenses and is causing awkwardness. I’m sorry you have to stress about this!

      1. Jennifer*

        I’m totally fine with spending time with business partners/associates, but there is something about this man that gives me a bad feeling (and I’m not one to be sensitive toward that). Being alone with him in LA traffic when I could ostensibly be working from an Uber, and relying on him for meals, especially when we’re not in the restaurant/food/service industries, feels a little awkward to me!

  77. Bo*

    So I applied for an internal position after 3.5 months in my current job. I had a successful phone interview last week and an interview on Wednesday. The interview actually went very well, especially considering how little I prepared. After reflecting on my conversation on the open thread last week, as well as all of the info I’d read about leaving a job after a short period of time, I decided that I didn’t want to transfer anymore. So I didn’t prepare. This morning I just got the news that I was not selected for the position and I feel… relieved. What led me to wanting to transfer to another department, the overwhelming feeling of being stuck, is still very much present. But, I realized I didn’t want to jeopardize my relationship with my boss and put my coworkers in a bind. It’s just not the right time, and I just have to accept that.

    Plus, I want to go to grad school and neither job is really relevant to my career goals anyway. LOL