open thread – March 25-26, 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 :)

{ 1,286 comments… read them below }

  1. Snarkus Aurelius*

    How do you deal with people who literally do not read your emails?

    This week, I was asked multiple times if I was available for a meeting at a specific time. Every single time I said that I was not available, but the meeting was scheduled anyway. People at the meeting, the ones I directly responded to, wondered where I was.

    Obviously this is not the first time this has happened. I never know what to do when someone gets frustrated with me or corners me on something that I literally told him over email.

    I prefer keeping communications to email because in the past, when I’ve had conversations, people magically forget things that I tell them. Email provides me with a written confirmation of what I said I was going to do.

    What do you all do about this? I’m ready to tear my hair out.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I wish I knew. I talked yesterday about how sometimes I write “the sky is blue” and get back “but what color is the sky?” I have no idea what goes on in some people’s heads when they read an email.

      1. Who watches the Watcher's?*

        Oh Kelly L. do work with the same people?! I get this ALL THE TIME! I keep emails short (4 or 5 sentences) and to the point and I get the most random responses back!

      2. Anxa*

        I have family with a lot of ADHD symptoms (myself included) and some with CAPD signs. It helps a lot to be very deliberate with communication and too repeat the take away message. Also saves frustration to accept the question responses as part of the communication. At least IME

    2. Kyrielle*

      If they’re going to forget it, or not read your email, there’s very little you can do.

      First, keep it short and simple (which I’m bad at, if I don’t think about it). “Are you available for a meeting at 1 pm?” “No.” Or, if the meeting is something you need to (but can’t) attend, “No. Would 3 pm work?”

      And second, if you’re keeping it short and simple and they’re still not remembering, there’s not a lot you can do.

      1. INTP*

        Keeping it short does help. With some of my corkers I can pretty much only make one point per email. Three sentences don’t even get absorbed.

        Drives me nuts because something that could be resolved in one email if people would actually sit down and read an email fully takes 10 emails instead, but there’s not much you can do about it.

    3. Finman*

      One of my biggest complaints from my last job. I posted month end reports to a teamsite for people to review. The most egregious example was when I sent people an email stating very clearly that we were not posting reports for Jan and Feb as the final budgets were still being negotiated/approved. The subject of the email read “IMPORTANT PLEASE READ!”, I got so many emails asking when the reports were being issued. I also had one admin respond, “I went to the teamsite and printed the report and my director told me it was December’s report.” (Bangs head on desk)

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yep. Though people either won’t read or will forget. Putting as much weight in the subject as you can sometimes helps, so maybe “IMPORTANT: JAN & FEB REPORTS WILL NOT BE POSTED” would have worked better, with the detailed info in the body.

        1. Jillociraptor*

          And probably putting the info on the team site, too. They might not remember the content of every email, so putting the information where they’ll see it when it’s relevant is ideal.

          1. Meg Murry*

            100% this! Don’t send me something in an email that isn’t important to me at that time, and then expect me to remember 6 weeks later that you mentioned something about it an email. Putting it at the top of the website (preferably in red or bold) is the best way to communicate this.

            I might even suggest going so far as to upload a file where the monthly reports go with the same naming system but add NO REPORT at the end (so 2016-01 Monthly Report – NO REPORT) and the body of the report saying “there is no report for January or February of 2016 because final budgets have not been approved).

            Email is not always the best way to communicate items like this, especially when I get hundreds of emails a day. Your case is not so very bad, since it’s more of an FYI – but my biggest pet peeve is when people send out long emails detailing how a procedure I don’t use very often is changing, and then months later when I do that procedure for the first time get mad that I didn’t follow the “new” procedure. Email is not the medium for communicating this.

            1. TootsNYC*

              well, I would expect you to print that email out and put it where you can find it, or to simply remember, “something is different this month, I think–she sent an email,” and then go look in your email folder and dig it out.

            2. Finman*

              600+ reports were pushed (with 300+ people having access to the teamsite in general) to various sharepoint folders that most people had book marked their specific location so they would not have easily seen an announcement like this. Also, the reports were pushed on WD 10 every month, that is when the email went out stating reports would not be issued in both January and February (advanced warning was issued by email as well).

              1. Jillociraptor*

                Couldn’t you then push out a file to those folders explaining the situation, though?

                While it would be great if people’s minds worked this way, they just don’t — obviously, or you wouldn’t be having this problem! So you can either bang your head against a wall with frustration that they didn’t receive the information the way you communicated it, or you can find a solution that takes into account the way they actually generally act. The latter will lead to many fewer headaches!

      2. TootsNYC*

        I think that’s a subject-line fail.

        “IMPORTANT PLEASE READ” is a junk-mail line; I would be a lot of people don’t even open messages that say that.
        I agree w/ the concept of putting the core of the message in the subject line. People will still forget, not notice, etc., but it could cut it down.

        And I’d also suggest when a routine is being disrupted so much, putting a placeholder that says “Jan. reports will be late” in the spot that they’d expect to find the report would be much more powerful.
        I’ve become more adept at thinking about how to put info where people will naturally find it.

    4. Audiophile*

      I had this exact problem yesterday. I had sent an email to manager, followed up a few hours later with a face to face discussion. Only to be told she stopped reading at the first line.

      1. AVP*

        I had a boss like that and I would literally put a TL:DR version of my email in blue font at the top, never more than one line. And then put the full version below it in case the TLDR version piqued his interest or led to further questions.

        1. Audiophile*

          She’s normally pretty thorough. But for some reason, she just stopped reading that email. I’ll chalk this one up to starting my email with the word “thanks” and that’s where she got stuck.

          1. Audiophile*

            Thank you. This was a lesson well learned, because had I not gone in for that face to face, I would have been on the wrong end of a different discussion.

    5. No Longer Just a Lurker*

      There is a setup in outlook where you can request confirmation that the email was read (automatic so the reader does not have to click). That way when they do this crap you can say I sent you an email about this and my setting showed that you read it at such and such a time. I had to use it more times than I care to admit at OldJob (one of many reasons why I left) because there were several managers who would say that they didn’t get things when I said I sent them and I needed to cover my butt. I wonder if your coworkers were not happy with your answer so just ignored it thinking that if they set up the meeting you would rearrange things to be there.

      1. Audiophile*

        Doesn’t outlook still ask the receiver to acknowledge they read it? I’ve had it tell me “sender requested a read receipt, do you want to send one?”

        1. Kyrielle*

          It does, and you can also check the “don’t ask me again” and decline to send one and then you don’t send out read receipts. Which I did at my last job because Outlook can send a read receipt for a long email when I glance at it and click away, then mark it unread to come back to later, because I don’t have time to go through the whole thing….

          1. Audiophile*

            I’d rather just ask the person if they read it. I always found them annoying when I got them, like the sender didn’t trust me to read the email.

    6. Colette*

      Do they ask via email? If not, you could try responding in the way they ask (i.e. If they leave you a voicemail, call them back). I understand preferring email, but it’s not about proving you answered, it’s about doing what works rather than proving you did something that doesn’t work (in this situation). In other words, you can prove you said that time didn’t work for you, but that won’t retroactively allow you to attend the meeting.

    7. MoinMoin*

      Sometimes I find it more helpful to rename the subject when I reply, rather than just RE: whatever subject they started. I don’t like it for my own email organizing, but it seems like it helps them. I don’t know if they just skim or start seeing 12 emails all with the same subject and a bunch of FWD: RE: and assume the rest of the conversation doesn’t pertain to them, but in either case replying to an email ‘subject: Can you meet?’ with ‘MoinMoin Unavailable RE: Can you meet?’ has seemed to garner more of a response.
      Also, when I start a conversation ‘subject: Hey I need a thing’ and have followed up a bunch of times with no response, I usually just send a meeting request (I use Outlook) to call them and ask for the thing. And then we talk and they say “I don’t know the thing/I don’t know what you’re asking about the thing/ I know I cared about the related thing which is why you’re trying to get the main thing but I don’t care anymore so you don’t need the thing from me now” and I say “Good talk” and silently scream.
      Sorry, got off topic there.

    8. Jeremy Stein*

      In this example, it sounds like you may have included text in your Outlook decline invitation message? If so, I can understand that people wouldn’t read it. Those are usually empty and just used to track attendance. I would suggest replying to the invitation separately from the decline message.

      1. Kelly L.*

        No, I think they sent her a regular email asking if she was available, and she sent them a regular email saying no.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          Correct. I did both. The email request was first, which I hit reply-all. Then the meeting request. I declined all.

          1. AnotherHRPro*

            If you frequently reply-all to emails, you may be training people to not read your messages. When I am on reply-all messages I typically do not put a priority in reading them. People only have so much bandwidth and tend to get a lot of emails. You honestly have to pick and choose which ones you are going to read.

    9. Quinalla*

      I still send them an e-mail for my records, but I follow it up with IM/phone call/text/in person conversation as I am able. Also keep your e-mails to these people as short as possible, preferably with vital info in the subject or at least the first line. Some people just aren’t e-mailers, not just that they prefer other communication methods (which is fine!) but they just don’t read e-mail. Sometimes they get too many, sometimes they are stubborn and don’t want to adapt to new communication methods, etc. Find out their communication method and use it, but yeah, I’d still have the e-mail record when necessary.

      And for meetings, are they not sending electronic invitations? Those are good for everyone and have a built in response tool so they can clearly see on their electronic calendar who is attending and who is not and who is a maybe. Encourage use of that?

      Oh, and when they don’t read your e-mail and ask where you were, you are telling them you replied via e-mail, right? What do they say? Ask them outright the way you should communicate in the future to make sure they don’t miss it.

      1. Kelly L.*

        But the worst of these in my office is an emailer! LOL! He loves email. He emails everything. He sends millions of emails. He just doesn’t read the ones he gets.

    10. NarrowDoorways*

      I hate this and everyone does it! I’ll email: “Is this true? If so, I need this…”

      I’ll get emails back that say, “Yes! It is true,” routinely leaving off the second half. I always end up copying and pasting the second part and re-emailing it.

    11. Mando Diao*

      If you’re missing important meetings because people aren’t reading your emails, I’d bring it to a manager’s attention and then start CC-ing the manager in emails to create a paper trail.

    12. Nervous Accountant*

      That is so weird it almost sounds like deliberate hostility–“forgetting” what you say, and just ignoring emails.

    13. beachlover*

      I have an issue with people not only not reading them, but comprehension. I sent an email asking about the min order qty for some specialty teacup boxes. My supply planner responded back with – do you mean from the supplier? SMH!

    14. Soupspoon McGee*

      Convey important information by phone/text/telegram/carrier pigeon and follow up with an email for documentation. Put the key info in the email subject line (RE: Not available for Brutus meeting 3/15). If you can, retrain people that you use email because it’s searchable.

      Caveat: This inability to read and respond may be a fixed part of your workplace culture. I worked in a place where people just did not seem to absorb key information. I’d email a VP asking for a key decision and get no reply or “yes” to “Should we do x or y?” I’d go to meetings with a bulleted list of projects that needed input or permission to proceed and say, “I need information from you before I can proceed.” People would nod and give me no information. I’d relay information through my boss. Nothing worked.

    15. Stranger than fiction*

      Might be considered passive aggressive, but if it’s someone whose perception is important, I’d forward it and say something like “heard you thought I didn’t respond to meeting invite?”. Guess that’s a know your audience thing though.

    16. Terra*

      Depending on your situation and the politics involved I’ve had some success redirection people to email. By which I mean I’ll reply to an email saying I’m not available for the meeting, they come asking why I wasn’t at the meeting, I respond with “I sent you an email about that.” It seems like if people know they can get the information in some other manner (by asking you) then they won’t read or will forget about the email, even if it’s less convenient and causes more problems for everyone. Redirecting them to the email as often as possible rather than giving in and providing the information some other way seems to get them to eventually realize that they need to read and remember my emails.

      That being said, the mileage on this definitely varies depending on who is involved and their personality.

    17. Engineer Girl*

      Usually when they ask a 2nd or 3rd time I’ll include the previous emails as attachments. I will also reference them.
      “Hello Jane, I will not be attending meeting per emails I sent you on March 1 and March 16. See attachments.”
      A little passive aggressive but also throws the evidence back in their face. It is also strictly factual so if it truly was a mistake vs negligence the other person can go “whoops”

      1. Engineer Girl*

        This also works if people claim you didn’t respond to their request for information.
        “Hi Marcus, I’m confused. I sent you the reports on March 6 and again on March 11. Please reference attached emails. Did I misinterpret what you wanted?”
        And yes I did cc all the othe people on the list. If you are going to blast me via email that I’m not responding then I will provide references that I’m doing my job.

    18. Rubyrose*

      When they come back asking things that would have been answered by the original email, I respond back with “please read the email I sent on xx/xx/2016 at xx:xx am.” After getting that response a few times they start coming in line.

    19. Fafaflunkie*

      The next time you’re asked this, you respond with high priority, return receipt requested, stating your intentions. If you don’t see a “read: (subject)” within a few hours of the original reply, dig into your sent folder to find the email you originally replied to, forward it back to the sender, and add “I really need you to respond to this promptly. As I haven’t seen anything from you, nor any bounce back indicating I sent this to an invalid address, I can only presume you have this in your inbox and I need an immediate response. Please take care of this email right away.” If this still doesn’t grab his/her attention, then you may have to call that person’s manager, or HR, and ask whether this person still works here or if (s)he’s on vacation/on sick leave. This now brings someone who can make this person response accountable for not responding to you. If that still doesn’t work, you should start wondering if there’s something your company isn’t telling about you.

  2. Ann Furthermore*

    Yay, in early!

    I’ve started job searching for the first time in 11 years. Yikes! I submitted my resume for 2 very similar sounding positions at a very large software company – the same company I worked for before leaving to work for my current employer. It’s been a week, and I have not heard anything. I can tell they’re using a Taleo system. Is it normal to not have any response after a week? The status of both resume submissions is still ‘New.’ Does that mean no one has looked at it yet? Do I just have to be patient? Also, one of the positions has been open for over 60 days. Is it normal for a job to be posted for that long? Or is it like when you’re trying to sell your house, and people start wondering what’s wrong with it when it’s been listed for awhile? So many questions!

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Ugh. I figured as much, but wanted some input since it’s been so long. I’ve got a job now, so I can afford to wait, but now that I’ve made the decision that it’s time to move on, I just want to get on with it.

        1. AnotherHRPro*

          As you used to work there, I would recommend using any old contacts you have by sending a note letting them know that you applied to the position

    1. Kyrielle*

      It can easily take more than a week to get back to you. I haven’t used a Taleo system from either end before. If employers don’t have to change the status, they may not.

      They may accumulate resumes before evaluating them – and since it’s a large company, HR may be accumulating possibles to pass to the hiring manager en masse. It’s also possible that someone has a stack of “definitely not, maybe, must talk” and don’t update anyone until they decide it’s time to act on the last two categories (or just the last one if it’s large enough).

      I don’t know if it’s normal or not, but I’d take a deep breath and move on – they’ll either call you or they won’t, and close-watching the application won’t change that. No matter what’s going on, you either need to be patient or, better still, move on and let it go. There’s nothing you can do; the ball is in their court.

      1. F.*

        I’m with a small company, and I can tell you that unless you were outright rejected, you may not hear from me for a week or longer. The company owner likes to collect resumes and then have a week of blitz interviewing. I totally understand how frustrating it is for the applicant, though there isn’t much I can do about it from my seat.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      It depends on the company and the industry, of course, but yes waiting more than a week to hear back is very, very normal. On my last round of job searching, it could be more than a month later when I got an invitation to interview. Sometimes it would be more than a year later when I’d get my rejection notice.

      Your best bet is if you still know someone who works at that company, to reach out to them directly and let them know you applied. They can ask HR to flag your application for faster review.

    3. Sunflower*

      Some positions are posted forever and they never close them. Sometimes they are in a rush to hire someone and sometimes they aren’t. It’s really tough but you really need to just apply and then forget about the application.

      All of these things are VERY normal. Don’t waste your energy reading into all these little things or you’ll drive yourself nuts!!

    4. Anon Accountant*

      Yes it’s normal. To use AAM’s advice apply and then move on mentally. I keep a spreadsheet of place applied, position and date applied. As hard as it is try to push it out of your mind. My friends have had companies call them for interviews 3 months after they applied. You took first step by applying. Now just keep applying. :)

      1. T3k*

        This. It’s hard, but it is best to move on mentally and if you do get a call, then it’s a nice surprise for you.

    5. overeducated and underemployed*

      I’m not in a large software company so ymmv, but 1) a week would be unusually early, though not unheard of, for a response, in my experience, and 2) I wouldn’t get my hopes up about a 2 month old posting unless it said they wouldn’t review until after 2+ months. I usually don’t even hope for a response in under 2 weeks, and cross a job off my list after 4 (though I’ve been pleasantly surprised after that).

      Good luck!

    6. Ann Furthermore*

      Thanks all for the reality check. I’m going to be very selective since I already have a job (even though I think my department will be outsourced in the next couple of years) and I’m not yet in a position where I have to take the first thing that comes along.

      I’d love to go back to this company. They make the software that I’ve spent almost my entire career becoming an expert in. My expertise was pretty good while I worked for them, but in the 11 years I’ve been gone it has probably tripled, both by learning more about what I already knew, and also being able to work on things I’d had no prior exposure to.

      I’ve posted my resume on a couple of sites and I’ve gotten quite a few responses, but all for consulting jobs where the travel would be much more than I’m willing to sign up for at this point.

      1. Fabulous*

        There’s one more thing you can do to see if a position has been filled:
        If the company has a directory on its website you can do a search for the title, or even look on LinkedIn. This is also a great way to find your past contacts if they’ve moved on, as well as who may have taken their place.

      2. Stephanie*

        I’m sure there’s someone on here who can speak to a different experience, but I’ve never gotten anything of interest from posting my resume publicly on Indeed, et al. Plus, the more tinfoil-wearing hat side of me is worried about someone from work finding out I’m job searching.

  3. Reg poster going anon*

    I started a new job in January after having been at my previous job for about 3.5 years. The culture at my new job is entirely different and much more slow-paced. I’m told that for the first 6 months of being here, I am basically responsible for finding things to train myself on. I’d estimate I’m being guided about 10% of the time by a mentor, but it is fully understood that I simply don’t have much to do. I’m looking around at my coworkers, and the volume of work they’re working on doesn’t seem like it supports this amount of headcount either… I’m sort of stymied as to why they hired me (and two others) to begin with as it doesn’t seem like we will ever be needed, but I’m reassured that they are padding out the team in preparation for some big changes in 6 months – a year.

    I can accept that at face value I guess, but… I’m bored out of my mind. I can only do so many hours of aimless self-learning, and otherwise I’m basically spending time finding ways to waste time. I have asked my manager several times to let me do real work sooner, but there just isn’t enough work to be done right now. I don’t know if manager knows the extent of how little I have to do and I don’t know if I want to tell him for fear of being let go. I’m going crazy with boredom. I’m not sure I can stick this out, and even if I do, I’m not confident that I will ever really be busy.

    What would you do?

    1. Collie*

      Even after a year-and-a-half, I rarely have enough to do to keep me busy. If you can, find resources online (like Coursera, or maybe Lynda if you’ve got something like that through your public library, etc.) to get more training in your field. Read articles. Read AAM. These things have kept me alive the last several months.

      1. Reg poster going anon*

        Yep this is basically what I’m doing now. I just can’t make myself do it for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I suppose that is my own issue though. So you’d hang in there if you were me?

        1. Artemesia*

          I’d be inclined to find an online course on accounting (If I didn’t have that training) or some other extremely transferable and useful skill. It would be tempting to a learn a foreign language or something like that but you do want something that will look ‘professional’ on your screen.

    2. Kristine*

      Are you allowed to use Coursera as part of your self-training? If so, they have lots of classes that pertain to different aspects of business. You could see if there are any classes that would give you added knowledge for your role/field.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      At LastJob, when we were not busy, we still had to account for all of our hours on our timesheets but… there wasn’t any docket number for FTD (AKA making puppies) or Training. Trying to get new software to learn or try out was also a big long PITA full of questions and suspicion. The internet wasn’t as commercialised as it is now, so we were bored out of our minds when things were slow. Manager had zero f*cks to give, unless you were one of their BFFs.

      If you don’t have any of those hurdles, you are lucky! Is there something you do within your job that you want to get better at? Excel pivot tables? Is there something you don’t currently know that would be of benefit to your employability, either currently or in the future? Like learning HTML or WordPress? Are there things about your organisation that you think could be spruced up that would allow you to either learn new skills or apply the ones you’ve already got? Are there publications or journals for your industry that you might gain some benefit from reading? So long as there aren’t a whole lot of NetNanny issues, you can download a 30 day working trial of the entire Adobe Creative Suite to play around with. There are places like codecademy dot com where you can learn to code for free.

      Figure out a project for yourself and do it. If you can teach yourself that kind of thing — to be a motivated self-starter — you will benefit greatly from that.

    4. Tris Prior*

      I’m having the same issue – came here this morning just to post the same thing, actually! It really sucks because I like to be busy and to contribute, and at my last job there was never any shortage of work to do. I also got a big pay bump to come here and feel sort of… guilty about that, I guess? Since I’m not really producing much. My manager knows and told me not to worry about it, and I make a point of asking others if they need help, even if it’s something mundane like moving some furniture.

      I’m spending most of my time training myself on various softwares and also learning to code a bit. I figure that can’t hurt – supposedly we have a huge project coming up soon so may as well take the time while I have it. is awesome! But I agree, it is hard to stay on task with that 40 hours a week. My mind wanders. And, all my co-workers seem to spend most of the day on social media, which I do NOT want to do as I’m so new.

      Not sure what the solution is, but since you’ve been specifically told that you’re expected to train yourself, that’s what I would do. Good luck – I know how much this sucks!

      1. Reg poster going anon*

        We are seriously twins in this situation! I guess I need to work on staying motivated and keeping my brain engaged in online learning – it’s my option at this point, so I guess I’ll hang in there! And same for the pay bump… It’s the major thing keeping me here, plus starting new jobs is so tedious and there is going to be the break-in period anywhere.

        I just hope that someday I’ll have work to do where I can feel like I’m contributing and providing value.

        1. Tris Prior*

          We have some (which are internal so unfortunately I cannot share the links) that force you to respond and complete exercises – which is so much better and more engaging than just watching training videos. (which I find tough to stay focused on after an hour or two.) So maybe look for anything like that?

    5. MoinMoin*

      Do they already have a lot of training documents for whatever tasks you currently have? If not, maybe you could start documenting those processes, something I find most workplaces lack and need. It will also give you something to show for your time and it might be a good way to start building on additional tasks you can take on or processes that need updating/modification.
      Agreed with comments to find training for general professional development also.

    6. MathOwl*

      I’m curious as to what the other new hires have to say on this. Are they in the same situation and feeling somewhat bored too? Perhaps you can talk to them to get ideas. Another possibility I see is asking your manager if someone has been in a position similar to yours before and if so, what they did then to keep busy or what things were useful for them to learn during the initial slow period.

      Other than that, I think it is worth staying for at least a while as long as the situation isn’t permanent. It can be hard to build new skills when you’re out of school and working full time, so in a way I guess that transition period can serve as a way to build skills you perhaps didn’t have time to focus on or improve yet. If anything, you’ll be even readier for the tasks given to you when the work starts flowing!

      1. Reg poster going anon*

        The other new hires are also in the same boat.

        The thing that really has me worried is that I can’t tell if I will EVER have work to do, judging by the workload I’ve observed of the tenured people. This is my main concern – do I stick things out and risk never having enough to do and being bored all the time? I suppose things could be much worse though, and it probably makes sense to hang in there for a year or so and see what happens.

    7. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      If I were you, I’d observe carefully for a free weeks and start a pet project that would help the company. Even if it’s just process documentation (which is easier than process innovation when you’re new) there are usually things that, as a new person, you might realize that aren’t being done–not because people are busy, but because they haven’t thought to do them. If identify some of those things and take them on. Do they have methodology documents on how they do things? Is there something interesting and tangential to your work that you could start a project on?
      It sounds like you have a real chunk of time before the “real” work starts, and directing yourself towards a project will give you an early accomplishment at the new job. (The risk here, of course, is being seen as the uppity newcomer, but I prefer that to endless non-work) Good luck!

    8. Meg Murry*

      Can you ask your mentor for more work? Or could you train yourself by asking your mentor for the starting point of one of her completed projects and basically re-do the work so you can learn by doing? Or do something in parallel with her, or ask her if you can do a piece of her project and have her review it with you?

      Otherwise, if you are allowed to wear headphones, get some audiobooks or podcasts and give yourself 30 min listening breaks (pull up something work-looking on your computer screen so you don’t look like you are totally screwing around). You can download lots of audiobooks for free through public libraries, and something like “Getting Things Done”, “Lean In”, Brene Brown, or other career/business reading, is at least semi-work related.

    9. Eva*

      Just going to offer a bit of sympathy here. My last job was like this. I got to a point where I had automated all of our excel processes, created a new customer database, learned how to use a new software program all off my own back but nothing could explain the sheer boredom of it, especially because none of that meant anything – it was purely to kill time. I understand the advice that people give to train up on a new skill or improve a company process but I also sympathize with the fact that this kills time but somehow the boredom still remains. Sorry you are in this situation op. I hope it does improve. My only advice is that listening to radio helped more than listening to music because it was less predictable and there is a bit of talking too. I also sometimes listened to ted talks etc while working (I made sure I was at least doing something else at the same time so I wasn’t just watching videos at work).

    10. OohHello*

      Sounds very frustrating. Someone has mentioned Coursera, and there’s also EdX and FutureLearn. Alternatively try looking for a new job…

    11. Stephanie*

      I’m having the same problem at work. I’m heading in and dreading it, because I know I have maybe an hour or two of work to do tonight.

      I poke around the employee portal and read things. I’m on a lot of listervs at work that will send out reports…I read all those. The struggle is real.

    12. Lindsay J*

      Ugh I feel the same way.

      I work 10 hour days and currently have enough work to fill maybe 2-3 hours of work on a busy day. I’m told that my work level will ramp up as my location becomes busier, but that doesn’t seem to be happening in the time frame I was originally told.

      I feel guilty for getting a paycheck for doing nothing. My manager knows I have little to do right now and doesn’t really have any ideas on how to fill my time. I’ve been told I need to look busy, though, so he doesn’t get questioned about his headcount.

      It’s a big org in a somewhat highly regulated industry so I can’t do the little things I’ve previously done in smaller organizations to kill time.

      I was planning on staying here in this role for at least 3 years to build some stability on my resume but it’s been 3 months and I’m already bored out of my mind.

  4. Fabulous*

    I found out this morning that my job has been posted on my company’s career website.

    I’ve been a temp in this position for nearly a year. I discovered this tidbit because one of my coworkers asked me if I was leaving – apparently one of her friends has a phone interview for my position!!

    My manager Joe is based in Missouri (I’m in Michigan), so I went directly to my location’s HR manager. She had no idea my job had been posted, let alone that people were interviewing for it. I’ve spoken previously with Joe about coming on full-time, but we haven’t actually had a conversation about my role since Sept/Oct. In fact, I’m not even confident that he realizes he’s my manager. Most things I bring to him get deflected to the CEO’s admin assistant Cindy (also in MO), who will also be the manager of this “new” position.

    I’m at a loss of what to do. The HR manager says I should talk to Joe or Cindy. Since I haven’t spoken to Joe in nearly 6 months, I doubt he would care enough to have a discussion. He’s got other priorities. I don’t feel comfortable reaching out to Cindy because, while we’ve worked together fairly often throughout my time here, she’s been increasingly stand-offish with me lately for whatever reason (at least I now have an inkling why…)

    I have been job searching and interviewing the entire time I’ve been here (since there’s been no guarantee my job will become permanent) but nothing has come through yet. I definitely do not want to be left out of a job. But with the way they’ve handled things, I REALLY don’t want to apply and interview for my own position. This company has been riddled with RIFs and consequently low morale the entire time I’ve been here. Ideally I’d like to be gone from this place, but can’t afford to leave without something lined up. HELP!!

    1. Michelenyc*

      Based on what you have written definitely step up the job search. I know it is easy to say that when you have already been looking. You say that you are a temp, have you reached out to the agency that placed you so they can help you find a new position? I was permanent employee that found their job posted the first part of December, the day of our holiday party. It felt awful.

      1. Fabulous*

        I talked to my agency a while ago asking if they knew of anything else, but haven’t heard since and I haven’t pressed them.

        I wasn’t even invited to our holiday party for “insurance” reasons… which they promptly let me know the day before the event.

        1. BuildMeUp*

          I would talk to them again ASAP. Have you told them that the company appears to be interviewing for your replacement? Remember, your agency is getting paid when you are getting paid. If you’re no longer in this position, they’re going to lose money. It’s beneficial to them to know what’s happening and have a chance to find you something new.

          Get in touch with them! Reach out, send them an updated resume if you have one, etc. Seriously, don’t wait. I’m with a temp agency and while they’re great, they’re also very busy and have many temps. Sometimes they forget about me if I haven’t talked to them in awhile, and then I’ll send them a quick email and almost immediately get several assignment requests. If they don’t know that you’re definitely going to be available soon for an assignment, the perfect placement for you might come up and they won’t think of your name unless you’ve talked to them.

        2. Michelenyc*

          Go back to your agency or even to a new one and let them know you need to find a new position. Companies don’t always tell agencies that they have started their own search. This is your careeer and you need to own it, don’t wait for someone to tell you something at that point it oculd be too late. As for Cindy she is clearly not going to be up front with what is happening so you have 2 choices you can tell her you saw the posting and ask her what the timeline is to fill the position and ask to be considered or just wait and see. Based on what you have said it does sound to me like at this point they are not considering you as a candidate which I know feels like total crap. Do you really want to work for a company that can’t be honest with you about the current situation?

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          That really stinks. Also, it sounds like this might be an out of sight out of mind type situation. In addition to what others are advising, start cc’ing boss on everything that goes to Cindy so you’re in his view so to speak. Maybe boss thought your time there was already up?

    2. Colette*

      Talk to Cindy. Tell her that you’ve heard they were going to be hiring and that you’d be interested in applying. The worst case scenario is that she doesn’t hire you, which is exactly what is likely to happen of you don’t talk to her.

      1. Artemesia*

        I’d contact Joe if he is doing the interviewing. I assume you are not on his radar rather than that he is dissatisfied and wants to replace you. Sort of a ‘I hear you are interviewing to fill the position permanently that I have tempted in. I would love to be considered for the job; what do I need to do?’ If it is an oversight, it might help. If not, it can’t hurt. And of course you have stepped up your search.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I think I’d just talk to Joe about it anyway, even if it’s uncomfortable, or even if he gives you the brush off. Just say something like, “I saw that my position was posted online and I wanted to talk to you about my future at the company. I’d be very interested in staying on in this role full-time, if that’s a possibility.” And then go from there. It may also be worth it to pose this same question to Cindy, whose standoffish-ness may just be awkwardness because she doesn’t know how to bring the subject up with you. Who knows? It can’t hurt to ask — the hardest part of this scenario is all the “what ifs.” If you ask the question and get an answer, you at least know where you stand.

    4. Preggers*

      I would do what the HR person said and talk to Joe and Cindy. Could you ask your coworker who her friend is interviewing with? That may help you decide if you need to talk to Joe or Cindy. IF she doesn’t know then I’d talk to Cindy. If she is standoffish, then go to Joe. Even though he hasn’t talked to you in 6 months he should still know what’s going on with your role or know who to ask.

      And of course keep job hunting because it seems no one has any idea what’s going on there!

      1. Fabulous*

        The friend is interviewing with Cindy. And what makes matters even worse is that I’ve spoken with Cindy recently and she’s mentioned absolutely nothing. She’s extremely direct with everything else. This sucks… :(

        1. Meg Murry*

          It’s also possible Cindy doesn’t know you’d be interested in the position – someone may have wrongly told her that you only planned to temp and didn’t want to go full time. Or heck, she may not even realize that the job description posted IS your job description, given all the disfunction.

          It stinks but almost everyone I’ve worked has required even long term temps to formally apply for their positions. So talk to Cindy, brush up your resume and apply. Otherwise, you have 0 chance of getting the job.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I’d mention it even if you weren’t interested. Just to provide the kind of “tea leaves” that would let her know she’s handling this badly.

    5. Random Lurker*

      If you haven’t spoken to your boss in 6 months, that alone is a good indicator to start looking elsewhere.

      1. Fabulous*

        That’s one of the reasons why I think he may not realize he’s my manager. Another reason is because when my coworker Mitch switched from Admin to HR, Joe didn’t have a clue that Mitch reported to him for nearly 6 months after our former (local) manager left the company. He may think I report to Cindy. It’s possible I actually do report to Cindy and it’s just never been communicated to me!

        1. Preggers*

          What? You need to get out of there. Sounds dysfunctional. Couldn’t HR tell you who you officially report to?

          1. Fabulous*

            What makes things even more difficult is that while we’re all under the same umbrella organization, we technically work for different companies. Tech Company A purchased Tech Company B. I’m stationed in Company B while Joe and Cindy work for Company A. The HR department for A does not communicate well with the HR in B. And to top it off, Company A employees do not regard HR with any sort of authority, especially Company B’s HR. So many things wrong here…

          2. Doriana Gray*

            What? You need to get out of there. Sounds dysfunctional.

            Truer words.

            Fabulous, I understand you need a job, but you don’t need this one. Hell, I think this whole thing is the universe’s way of showing you just that.

    6. Looby*

      If you want the permanent position, what’s stopping you from applying for it now? Just because they are doing phone interviews doesn’t mean they’ve stopped taking applications.

  5. Coffee and Mountains*

    Librarian question —
    I currently manage a public service department in a public library, and I’m really not happy. I’ve been trying to transfer internally to support services for a while now with no luck, and I just feel stuck. I wouldn’t even mind going the corporate or special route, but I’m having trouble getting my experience to translate. Did anyone else successfully navigate this?

    1. Weekend Warrior*

      Is there some specific training or other education you can take to enhance your experience. By support services do you mean tech services. e.g. cataloguing, or systems? There are definitely workshops or courses you could take to show your interest in a new direction, as well as gain expertise. And yes, customer service is still part of these areas. :)

    2. Preggers*

      In my former life I was Library HR. In my experience everyone wants to transfer to support services and jobs are few and far between. I would talk to your manager about your career goals (unless they are someone who holds grudges against ppl who move on). And see if they can recommend some training or perhaps projects you can work on directly with X department. I’ve found the best way to get into a support department is to work closely with the manager and staff on projects or helping out.

      If you want to go the corporate route where do you want to go? If you can narrow down your search field that will helps us recommend ways to translate your work experience.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah–the library I worked at was pretty calcified, and I don’t know how universal that was. The same people had been doing the same things for ages. Retirement was about the only time anyone ever moved.

    3. Heather*

      Try to volunteer at a different kind of library and get training on technical services work. Unfortunately there are a lot of librarians out there that may have the experience to do the special libraries route where you have to be a jack of all trades. You might be able to move to another public services role in a different kind of library, but if you want to get out of it altogether you will have to build up the skills to make that transition happen.

    4. PaperbackFighter*

      I’m having the opposite issue — I’m in a corporate environment with an MLS, and have had trouble translating my work for library jobs :) Try thinking about broader skills to start with — if you do cataloging, for example, that means you can learn software (like your ILS) and are good at organizing and analyzing data. If you do reference, you have customer-facing experience, including doing research and communicating the best information to that customer. Etc. Etc. That might help you segue better.

  6. Rick*

    How should I handle this recruiter who submitted me to a company I’m definitely not interested in?

    I’m working with an agency recruiter to find a new job. She’s been very pushy on one specific company that I know I’ll never want to work at, but I’ve stood my ground on them.

    I found out the agency submitted me anyway. A few days ago, I got an email from that company saying they liked my resume and wanted me to take a skills test. I still don’t want to work with this company, so I emailed the recruiter saying so, and that I’d be pursuing opportunities elsewhere. She called me up at work and left a voicemail on my cell about how great the company is and how I should reconsider.

    I’m considering emailing the hiring company to tell them that the recruiter doesn’t represent me, I’m not interested in the position, and apologize for the misunderstanding. Would that come off as weird?

      1. Rick*

        I’m ditching the idea of non-internal recruiters honestly. Too many incidents where they absolutely refuse to tell me the company’s name, submit me and THEN make first contact, or other silly things like that.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Or screen you for some non existent opening just to get you onboard. It’s unfortunate how many unscrupulous ones are out there these days. It’s like all the sub-prime loan officers went into recruiting after the real estate crash ( and I actually know a person where that’s exactly the case).

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Agree with Lurker. Definitely get a new recruiter. And definitely email the hiring manager back to let them know that there must have been some confusion with your recruiter, and that you don’t think the position would be a good fit. And end the conversation there.

      1. Preggers*

        Ugh I had that happen. I went ahead with the interview, figured maybe I would like the company more than I thought. Nope, I hated it. Interview went horrible.

        If they company contacted you directly I would contact them like you mentioned. And realize this recruiter (like most) is looking out for themself and will be no help to you.

        1. Rick*

          I’ve done that too. It sucks. Beginning to think that being selective is a good quality. Then again my field is booming right now, so I can say that.

    2. Quinalla*

      Agreed, find a new recruiter and e-mail the company back explaining there must have been a mix-up as this is not a good match.

      1. Rick*

        Done! My reply to the recruiter was basically a polite “submitting my resume to random companies without confirming my interest is bad for both of us, so I won’t be working with you any further.” I fully expect them to keep doing that, because that’s what the dozens of low quality recruiting shops in NYC do, but I’ve done my part.

    3. INTP*

      The only reason I would say not to is that you probably don’t have the contact email of the person who your recruiter is communicating with so I don’t think your message would actually get passed along to them. If you do have that person’s contact info, I see nothing wrong with doing that. It might be seen as a little weird, but I don’t think it would be any more damaging to your reputation with this company than whatever the recruiter tells them to explain why you’re no longer interested (I can almost guarantee that they aren’t telling the companies they’re sending people without confirming their interest).

      1. Rick*

        It wasn’t a donotreply email address, so I’m not sure. Sent off a quick “it looks like there has been some confusion, as I don’t think your company would be a good fit and the recruiter did not inform me that they’d be submitting me, best of luck finding someone” email. Worst case I lost 2 minutes of my lunch break.

    4. voluptuousfire*

      Oof. Been there! I had a recruiter submit me (before calling me) for a role with a non-profit, which is not a field that interests me. I was annoyed that she didn’t ask me before putting me in but I went with it because I was on unemployment. The interview was neutral at best and I walked out thinking “yay! They won’t call me.” Later that afternoon, the recruiter called, saying they liked me a lot and they wanted to offer me the job. Against my better judgement, I took it and was let go a month later because I wasn’t the right fit. Lesson learned: listen to your gut. If the job doesn’t “feel” right, chances are it’s not going to work out.

      Turns out they had had 3 people in the role before me (it was a temp gig) and all 3 were let go due to some reason or another after a short while. Taking the first semi-suitable candidate that comes along because you need stuff done doesn’t always work out for the best.

  7. Sassy AAE*

    My BFF and roommate just got offered a full time position! She graduated with me, but her Bach. is in History. She had a heck of a time finding work. Luckily she started at a really, really famous law office in the area (It’s known state-wide) as a copy clerk, but as they transition to paperless they want her to help with archiving and digitization. Yay~

    I’m so happy for her. It’s such a relief to find a good job post-grad.

    1. Crazy Admin Lady*

      Yay! Congratulations to her!!! As a recent history grad myself, I can say that job hunting is hard! And my profs were so disappointed in the students who ended up working retail and food service. Oh well. :)

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        One of the many low moments of my first year out of college was my computer science professor’s disappointed look when he walked up to the counter where I was working retail.

  8. JB*

    Should I list my home and mobile numbers on my resume? For years and years I’ve been a “cell phone only” person, but my current apartment has such terrible reception that I was forced to get a landline for calls at home. I only have my mobile number listed on my resume, but I recently had a phone interview, which I took from home, and even though I told the recruiter who set up the appointment to have the interviewer call my home number, she called my cell and I was mortified asking her to call back on my landline and having to give her the number. It seems like I might be able to prevent this from happening again by listing both numbers on my resume…but is that overkill? I don’t have voicemail on my home number – only on my cell. Thoughts?

    1. Kyrielle*

      Get a Google Voice number and forward it to your cell or home according to where you are, maybe? (Or…can it be made to ring through at both, one first and then the other or both at once? I’ve never used Google Voice, but I know people who swear by it.)

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        You can’t do sequential rings that I know of, but you can definitely do simultaneous rings. And if it goes to voicemail, you can get an email and/or a text of the audio and transcript of the voicemail.

    2. Fabulous*

      When setting up phone interviews, I would just make it clear which number they are to call from the get-go. You don’t want potential employers calling your home phone if there is no way for them to reach you if you’re not around… for that reason I’d keep the resume to just the cell number.

          1. Preggers*

            Sounds like you had a fluke with a scatterbrained person. I’d just continue doing what your doing and make it super clear.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              You can even ask to call the other person back — if you’re at the office, maybe you need to get someone out of your office, or get to a call room, or anything. It’s really not a big deal.

    3. Jubilance*

      I second the suggestion to get a Google Voice number and list it on your resume. You can set it to ring both your cell and home phone.

      Also don’t be mortified that you had to ask her to call you back – stuff happens.

    4. Not the Droid you Are Looking For*

      My old apartment was the same way! On days I was expecting a phone interview I would just set up my cell to forward to my home phone.

      On an iPhone you can do it in the settings.

    5. Stephanie*

      Similar problem–I live in an area with eh reception. It’s fine if I’m just shooting the breeze with a friend, but not great if I’m doing a phone interview. I usually list my cell number as the contact number, give the home number for interviews, and just say “Hey, reception isn’t great on my cell phone at home? Can you please call me back at 555-1212?” Usually isn’t a huge deal and the other person is glad to hear me not sound like I’m underwater.

      I’d also give Google Voice a try.

  9. Anonymous Poster*

    I’ve been wildly demotivated at work. Our deadlines are nonsensical, we’re being forced to work mandatory, unpaid overtime (We’re exempt) but upper management doesn’t follow the same work schedule, and I’m not very interested in my work anymore because I don’t feel I can advance or really do a good job because of the overall environment. For sure it’s time to start looking around, but in the meantime, what can I do to not be one of those people that’s completely checked out? How do I maintain enough motivation to still do a good job at my current place?


    1. GOG11*

      If I were in your position, I would focus on getting a great reference for the future. When the work itself doesn’t motivate you, focusing on doing your work as a way to further your career might help. You won’t see any immediate pay off, unfortunately, and it’s kind of abstract, but maybe it could help you? Best of luck, and may your job search be on the shorter side.

    2. Terra*

      Oh man, right there with you Nony. The best thing I’ve found is something called Habitica. It’s a to do list that’s set-up as a game. You complete tasks to get experience and such. Putting all my tasks in it and then getting to check them off means I’m more motivated to work for the game then for the company. If you’re motivated just by checking things off a regular to-do list could also work or possibly self-bribery of the “once I get x, y, and z done I can go out to dinner/buy that outfit I wanted/get a massage” variety would be helpful? Good luck on the job search!

    3. Sunflower*

      I would keep thinking about your future and focus your work around adding new things to your resume. What got me through my last miserable job was knowing while I was there, I was able to learn and do new things that I could add to my resume and help get me out of that place.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or look at each task and say, “Once I’ve done this, how will I spin it as an achievement?”

  10. FindingAName*

    After taking a couple of months off I have a new job, starting Wednesday. And I’m starting to panic. I’m turning into a big ball of anxiety, not over particular things, just generally anxious, with a pit in my stomach. I’m very happy I have the job, so it’s not that I have reservations about it (beyond wishing I could win the lottery and never work again), I’m just suddenly nervous and anxious.

    Anyone have any tips for dealing with new job nerves?

    1. AFT123*

      I totally can understand that!!! What works for me – wear comfortable clothing the first day. For me, this means wearing flat shoes, and something with long sleeves (a blazer works well) and not too tight of a waistband. I know this is terrible but when I feel really anxious, I sort of dig my nails into my forearms and I can do that if I wear long sleeves.

      Also, I quit caffeine all together for a week or two before I start, and skip it until I’m settled in.

      Up until the job starts, maybe just remind yourself that the worst thing that can possibly happen is that you do something mildy embarrassing and then life goes on?

    2. Dawn*

      Remember that everyone gets those same nerves, you’re not alone!

      For me, I try to figure out what exactly I’m nervous about and then address that. Nervous the new people won’t like you? Nervous you won’t like the job? Nervous you won’t be able to do the work? Once you narrow that down, you can come up with specific, logical explanations to overcome your anxiety- “I will be polite and warm to everyone I meet, and go out of my way to be friendly and approachable. How others react is on THEM, not me.”/ “Every job is different. It will take time to settle into this new job, and until I do, things will seem weird. I understand that, and will make sure to have X, Y, and Z things to look forward to outside of work, and will also take extra good care of myself while I’m getting used to the new job.” / “It will take time for me to learn my responsibilities at the new job, and to learn how the job expects me to do my work. I will be sure to do X, Y, and Z (write a lot of notes, review notes at night, whatever) in order to learn the job as quickly and thoroughly as I can. I will be gentle with myself when I make a mistake, and realize that everyone makes mistakes and that’s part of learning”

      And then repeat over and over and over to yourself whenever you feel anxious about *thing*!

    3. Kypra*

      It’s of course totally normal to feel a little jittery before your first day at a new place, but what helps me is to reframe that jittery feeling as excitement, not anxiety. You’re not nervous–you’re pumped! You’ve got a new position that you say you’re happy to have, it’s hopefully going to provide you some financial stability, you’re going to meet cool new people and learn new skills. What’s not to be excited about?

      Naturally, you can create a really elaborate, specific narrative of all the things that could go wrong, but a lot of psychological research suggests that people who reframe anxious feelings (about specific events–this probably doesn’t apply to generalized anxiety) perform better when they say “I’m amped!” or “I’m excited!” rather than “I’m nervous!” or “I’m going to pee my pants in terror!” It sounds like a cheesy mantra thing, but in my experience, it does work.

    4. Kelly L.*

      Bring your OTC painkiller of choice. (I always get a stress headache my first day. Maybe that’s just me.)

    5. voluptuousfire*

      Breathing and meditation! As someone who deals with anxiety, it helps.

      Google 4-7-8 breathing. It’s hokey, but it works.

  11. I can't even*

    Dunce cap employee update. I have two separate in-person interviews next week with companies that appear more sane than my current employer. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for red flags. Thanks AAM for all the great advice that helped me land these interviews!

    1. Mythea*

      I will keep my fingers crossed that something much better comes out of the interviews! I still can’t believe the current company thinks that is a good idea…

    2. Paige Turner*

      Good luck!! Your post was bananas so ‘more sane than your current employer’ should be a low bar.

  12. T3k*

    How do you guys customize your cover letters for an application? I’ve read how some try to say specifically how they’d apply their skills to helping the company, but I’m at a loss on how to do that exactly. Any advice/tips?

    1. Rick*

      Something I like to do is elaborate on how I picked up various skills in the job description, if it didn’t really fit into my resume. I can’t come up with any solid examples right now, but it’s a good way to fill in details that may not be easy to communicate on your resume.

    2. AFT123*

      I don’t really know if this has an impact, but I will always call out something about the company that I admire and a reason why I specifically want to join their organization. It might be their history with my local township, their commitment towards philanthropy and volunteering, their amazing progress, or maybe I use and love their products. Usually just one or two sentences though, to show I “know” them and am not just throwing out random applications.

    3. katamia*

      Something that really helped me was to break down my jobs and look at them from different angles. Like in my audio transcription work, I have the research angle (my Google fu is amazing), the “I type really fast” angle, the “I keep people updated even though I’m on the East Coast and the people I work for are in the Southwest” angle, the “I juggle multiple deadlines” angle, etc. If a job posting emphasizes that they want someone who’s good with deadlines, I talk about the deadlines. If it’s research-heavy, I mention that I’ve transcribed interviews on many different subjects and have therefore had to learn about lots of different things.

    4. Kay*

      I read the job description carefully and make sure to highlight 2-3 examples in my career when I’ve excelled at something that they specifically want. For my current job, I work in programming at a nonprofit, and the experience I had prior to that was not obvious on my resume (one line that didn’t really show the depth of it). So I studied the way they talked about programming, and then wrote two sentences about how I had created and grown a brand new line of programming, with integrated evaluation and some innovative remote audience aspects. I also make sure to reflect some of the language of the job posting – not parrot, and not in a way that would not mesh with my own writing style, but I make sure I refer to tasks in the same way that they do. It’s all about a close reading of the job description. If I can get any info about the organization or the position via my network, I will also try to thoughtfully work that in.

    5. Terra*

      Always put the job title (and usually the company title as well) in your cover letter somewhere. It sounds obvious but I’ve seen a lot without it.

      Try to have a short story/example for each of your four or five “best” skills. These should be one or maybe two sentences. For each job pick the one or two of these that best fit the job description and work them into your cover letter.

      Mention why you want to work with the company (beyond that you need a job) this should usually only be one sentence. If you don’t have a reason why you want to work for them or it’s not easy to express you can replace this with something you admire/know about them or their work. I’ve had a great response to a cover letter where I complimented an article posted on their website so anything that shows you’ve “done your research” will work.

  13. I Come Anon*

    If you’re applying for an internal job and the letter is to be addressed to someone in HR you don’t know well (or haven’t met in person but have communicated with for non-application purposes previously), is addressing them by their first name in the cover letter or any follow-up communications appropriate? Or should you revert back to Ms. Smith for the purpose of the application materials?

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      I’d base it on the company culture. If your company is all first-name basis, it would seem really odd to bump up the formality beyond that. However, if you do use honorifics/titles and last names in some cases, then you might go that route if it fits.

    2. Ms. Didymus*

      Assuming you are in the US, yes, you are both professional adults and equals. You should use their first name unless there is a really, really weird company culture at play.

    3. Doriana Gray*

      You have to write cover letters for internal transfer applications? My company just has a button you click, and then you have to answer three questions. Our resumes, which are already uploaded in the system, is then automatically sent to HR.

  14. anoooooooooooooooon*

    I’m really tired of people at work assuming I celebrate Easter. I work and live in New England so it’s not outwardly super religious, but it’s frustrating to have people say “Happy Easter” because even saying “Oh, I don’t celebrate it, but I hope you have a nice holiday” gets weird responses. Or having someone at work as what I’m doing for the holiday and having to say “I don’t celebrate it” gets people asking “But what about when you were a kid? With Easter baskets and chocolate?” Not acknowledging a response is worse and I’ve had one person already tell me that if I don’t let my future kids celebrate even the non-religious aspect, I’m ruining their childhood (which, WTF and I don’t even plan to have kids so again WTF?)

    This is a new company for me and my previous two companies never really asked after people’s holidays aside from the winter ones, so I’m at a loss on how to carefully navigate this. I’m not religious – and I celebrate Christmas only in the sense that some family and friends do and I go to festivities to support and see them the same way I do with friends or family who are of other religions – but Easter seems to be a much more religious holiday than Christmas (and not really a social one?) so it’s not something I would even feel comfortable celebrating. I know a Jewish coworker is also getting irritated with the questions about Easter.

    I know Christianity is the dominant religion, but I’m really tired of people assuming I’m Christian.

    1. Fabulous*

      I think you’re making a bigger deal out of it than needed. Just think of Easter as bunnies and chocolate eggs, religion doesn’t need to be injected into it. And just say “Thanks, happy Easter to you too” and no one will question anything.

      1. anoooooooooooooooon*

        Eh, I feel a bit uncomfortable saying “Thanks” when someone wishes me well for a holiday I don’t celebrate. It feels like I’m acknowledging that I do celebrate it and that’s why people assume I’m Christian, if that makes any sense.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yup. They’re wishing I have a happy day that day, even if all I do is watch TV in my pajamas.

          2. Florida*

            This is how I see it. I’m not a mother, but sometimes strangers (like cashiers) will wish me a happy mother’s day on that day. I’m sure that happens to men on father’s day. I usually say, “Thanks, you too.” and go about my day.

            I think it’s really about choosing your battles. Yes, you can explain to every person that you are not Christian and don’t celebrate Easter, but is that how you want to spend your energy?

        1. Ms. Didymus*

          I get this, I do. I am also not Christian and so I used to have issues with this sort of thing. But I’ve decided it is meant with good intentions and so I am simply acknowledging that they hope I have a good day (and are not trying to subtly convert me).

          If asked directly, I’ll say I don’t celebrate it. If pressed, I’ll explain I’m not Christian. That usually illicits an apology for the good wishes though, which isn’t my intent. I don’t want people to feel bad for their nice thoughts.

        2. danr*

          I think you have to split your responses. If someone wishes you a Happy Easter, just say “Thanks, and the same to you”. That’s just courtesy. If someone asks what you’ll be doing for Easter, then you can say that you don’t celebrate it. A sensible person will stop.
          On a personal note, it’s becoming a second Christmas, where the assumption is that everyone does the non-religious stuff and it’s a shock for some folks to find out that it’s not the case.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I once dated a guy who reached his mid-twenties, as a US native, without ever realizing that there was a “secular Easter.” It wasn’t that he knew about it but condemned it; he honestly had no idea that people did the candy/bunny thing without any religious element. I have no idea how he missed it–his family’s pretty religious, sure, but he lived in a large city with lots of people and watched television!

            1. The IT Manager*

              But you know what, if it is religious for him it can be hard to separate the two unlike Christmas which for some reason is really, really easy.

              What I don’t get is adults without kids celebrating secular Easter. That’s odd to me.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yeah, that I haven’t really seen. The usual activities seem pretty kid-centric. I guess I “celebrate” it by eating chocolate, but that’s about it.

              2. Sprinkles*

                I go to a family dinner, decorate my house with some bunny and chick things and eat Cadbury Mini Caramel Eggs.

              3. Anxa*

                Do you find secular Easter odd in general?

                I’m an atheist who grew up without much religion in the home (although my parents are horrified by the A word, yet would be concerned if I labeled myself Christian – regular, lapsed, or non-practicing…parents!). I also have lived where there’s a spring (even though Easter has always been a crapshoot regarding the weather).

                As for being wished a happy Easter… Even though I do celebrate, I do resent the assumption that I’m either Christian or that everyone would regardless. That said, I find it well intentioned and harmless compared to other instances (solicitations for Christian ministries as charity, asking where I’m churched, condemnations of atheists, casual discussion of Jesus and God during work, prayer circles, promotion of CPCs at my public institution, etc)

                Most of the holidays I grew up with are secular versions of Christian/pagan holidays. I think it’s perfectly normal to want to carry over traditions from childhood even without your own kids. Adults deserve holidays, too ( if they want). I also love hard boiled eggs.

                1. Nicole*

                  I agree with the sentiment that adults deserve holidays too if they want.

                  Also, when you’re an adult you can up the ante with the things you draw on the colored Easter eggs since there aren’t any children around. Not that I’m saying I’ve done that… *wink* *wink*

              4. cardiganed librarian*

                In some cultures, Easter is a much bigger deal than in North America, so I get it. Half my family is Polish but I was not brought up Catholic, so while I don’t do the blessing of the Easter basket, there are lots of little rituals that still make it Easter for me – I still paint eggs, and it’s just not Easter without zurek. (It’s sour cream soup! What other time of year can I excuse making soup with sausage and eggs and SOUR CREAM??)

              5. Marzipan*

                Chocolate! Secular Easter is basically a celebration of chocolate (plus hot cross buns, simnel cake, and maybe roast lamb if that’s your thing) and I’m quite happy getting behind that. My boss gave everyone in the office an Easter egg and you should have seen how excited my new colleagues got.

              6. Nicole*

                Hmmm… I guess I’m odd then :) – my stepkids are older and don’t spend the holiday with us, we’re not religious, yet my husband and I celebrate Easter anyway. We usually make baskets for one another and have a nice ham. This year we’re going over to my parents’ house and my mom is having an Easter egg hunt and there’s no one under the age of 30 that will be in attendance.

                I think it’s fun to celebrate holidays regardless of religious affiliation and/or whether you have children. It breaks up the monotony of day-to-day life.

              7. esra*

                It’s just a good excuse to get together and eat. My family isn’t religious at all, but we celebrate everything from Christmas to Lunar New Year as an excuse to eat good food together.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              We did both (Roman Catholic). We always had new dresses/a tiny suit for my brother for Easter Mass. When I was very young and we lived in KC, it was more formal–we had new hats also and little white gloves (okay, I’m old, LOL). But there was always, always an Easter basket. The meltdowns over lack of bunnies would have been epic.

              1. F.*

                I grew up RC in the midwest, too. I remember the matching hats for me and my sister for Easter. It was chapel veils the rest of the year, though.

              2. Windchime*

                I’m non-religious now but I was raised Protestant. We always had Easter dresses with hats and gloves when we were little. I still celebrate Easter, but now I do it in the secular way with chocolate and a ham dinner, or maybe a killer brunch.

                Now I feel kind of bad because I asked a couple of coworkers, “Are you doing anything for Easter?” I will stop doing that.

            3. Ad Astra*

              That’s funny, because I was probably in high school before I realized that Easter was a religious holiday. I thought it was just for fun, like St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween.

              1. katamia*

                LOL, same. I knew Christmas was Christian at a pretty young age (Jewish but we did secular Christmas/Easter as a kid), but it took me a long time to figure out that Easter was too.

                1. Bea W*

                  This part of the thread is fascinating. I didn’t realize secular Easter was a thing. For the life of me I can’t recall any of my other-religion co-workers, friends, or acquaintances doing this even the ones that do secular Christmas. I’m not particularly religious, and secular Easter just strikes me as weird!

            4. Bea W*

              I know people do secular Easter but only in that they leave out the religious trappings, but they’re from a Christian upbringing or background. I can’t say I’ve never known someone of a non-Christian religion to celebrate Easter even in a purely secular way. That does seem weird to me, and I know a lot of non-Christians.

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Ugh, to be honest, I hate how that’s happening. It’s like you wind up with the worst of both worlds — the religious holidays get cheapened with massive consumerism, and the secular celebrations aren’t really secular so there’s still a very exclusionary aspect.

            I wish we could just split them up. Christmas is for going to church and talking about baby Jesus, and idk Winterfest or something for Santa Claus and Jingle Bells and reindeer and snowmen and all that.

              1. College Career Counselor*

                I actually attended a festivus celebration late last year. It was….interesting. They had the festivus pole, and a LOT of booze (which fueled the feats of strength for some people later–and probably some strained muscles the next day). For the airing of the grievances, someone taped up sheets of paper on the walls with markers for people to semi-anonymously write things down. Evidently, the face to face airing of the grievances (they’d been doing this party annually for over 10 years) got a little, um, contentious at times.

            1. overeducated and underemployed*

              That’s what happened in Russia due to the Soviets. Christmas is religious and New Year’s gets decorations, gifts, and Father Frost. They may be getting more mixed up nowadays as the church becomes more of a nationalist symbol, I don’t know, but I liked that.

        3. Sadsack*

          Why does that matter? Just say, thanks, you too, and move on. When people ask, how are you?, do you actually tell them what’s going on in your life, or do you just respond with, good and you? Look at it the same way. That’s what I do.

      2. Kelly L.*

        I do this too. I actually forget Easter is coming, every year–my family doesn’t have a big event for it the way they do for Christmas, so I don’t have to work it into my plans–but if someone brings it up, I just do that.

      3. Sarah*

        As a non-Christian, this stuff really bugs me. I don’t celebrate Easter, and expect people to respect that I have a different culture than them. I don’t go around wishing Christians happy Purim and expecting them to just “say thanks.”

        1. Ms. Didymus*

          Maybe you should! I bet most people would say thanks (and probably ask to know more about it).

          1. Florida*

            I agree with this. If someone wished me Happy ___(holiday I don’t celebrate), I would say thanks. I’ve had people wish me a happy Chinese new year, and I’m not Chinese. I just say, “Thanks. Happy New Year to you too.”

          2. Sarah*

            I was thinking I’d start doing that, actually! Especially with things like Purim which is like Jewish Carnival/Halloween rolled up into one. It was just on Wednesday/Thursday this week. It’s not that big of a holiday here in the states for my brand of Judaism- it’s kind of considered as something for kids- but in Israel it’s a huge deal and everyone gets dressed up.

            I… er… really wouldn’t want to wish someone a good Yom Kippur though.

            1. Christy*

              My area is really Jewish, and I’ve actually had people wish large groups “an easy fast, if you’re fasting”, which I think is just lovely. (I’m a lapsed Catholic so I’m still culturally in the Christian majority.)

              1. Sarah*

                Yeah, in the town I grew up (about 50% Jewish) people do that. It’s just kind of hard to explain to someone who’s never even encountered the concept of Yom Kippur before. I also don’t fast, my whole family doesn’t fast, and I only know a few people who do. I was raised reallllly reform.

            2. Anonsie*

              Honestly I think you should. People should be happy to get well wishes from others regardless of the wrapping, darn it!

            3. Whoops*

              In one of my first jobs, the office manager was Jewish (I’m not). I wished her a good Yom Kippur, and she kindly corrected me that it is not a holiday that one should wish a happy ___ holiday. She was really nice about it, but I was pretty embarrassed.

        2. Sasha*

          I agree. I don’t celebrate Easter or Christmas in any religious or secular sense. I don’t say Ramadan Mubarak! to random strangers because I know it is not socially acceptable and would probably garner some looks. I wish others would similarly keep their religion to themselves.

          1. Jo*

            Just out of curiosity, why is that not socially acceptable? I’m technically (mostly lapsed) Christian but I live in a Muslim country, and I always wish my colleagues a happy Eid, or Nowruz, or whatever the holiday is. And, in turn, they wish me a merry Christmas and so on.

            I’m not being facetious; I really would like to know if I’ve been making a faux pas all this time…

      4. INTP*

        It IS a religious holiday though. There is some fun stuff thrown in there for children, but adults aren’t celebrating it for the egg hunts and Easter baskets.

        Plus, even if you can technically eat the candy without worshiping the deity involved, it’s still culturally exclusionary. Easter is a Christian thing. It just is. Period. Whether you associate it with religious or secular celebrations, people celebrate it because they are of Christian descent. The OP’s coworkers are being incredibly ignorant. I seriously doubt they practice the non-religious aspects of all other religious holidays to avoid ruining their children’s childhoods by depriving them of, say, Diwali.

        I don’t think the OP can necessarily do much about what the coworkers are doing. When you’re in an environment where the overall tone is ignorance, then it’s a losing battle to try to change everyone, you will be the “bad guy.” But she totally is valid in being annoyed by it and finding it wrong.

    2. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      I’m from New England and moved to Colorado and people seem to be pretty religious out here, so it annoys me too. But I just say “you too!” when they say Happy Easter or “oh, not much for plans, what about you?” when they ask about plans – otherwise it feels awkward.

      1. Florida*

        I think saying “Thanks, you too.” But if someone asks your plans, it is more than fair to say, “I don’t celebrate Easter.” and explain it. Your answer is fine, but for people who want to make it known that they aren’t Christian, that is the perfect opening.

        1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

          Yeah, that’s reasonable too. I say that sometimes too depending on the person.

    3. Elle the new fed*

      Ah yes. I get tired of people assuming I’m religious at all. Luckily my particular office is federal and has made a strong effort to secularize, so no one assumes anything. We all just talk about nice weekends and what plans we have in a generic sense (go to dinner with family, go out of town, etc).

      However, my previous employment was SO full of religious overtones. I adopted a lot of the language AAM has advised in the past to other people who are being obnoxious. I’d turn it back on them and make it feel awkward for them to be pressing. Deadpanning with a “Why not/why?” “Oh.” and “Interesting.” were my favorite responses.

      I’m really sorry you have to field those questions though.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      I just say “you too,” and don’t worry about their religious assumptions. It helps if I think about it like someone saying “happy Friday” or “have a good weekend.”

    5. Dawn*

      Agree with other commenters- just say “You too!” and go back to doing whatever. Honestly, 99% of people I have ever met who celebrate Easter (including all of the super religious Southern Baptists I knew when I lived in NC) do so in a “eat candy and go on easter egg hunts with family” kind of thing and not in a “go to a 6 hour mass” kind of thing. So I think it’s about on the same level as wishing someone a “Happy Friday”- just a “Hey, fun thing coming up, happy Fun Thing!”

      Think about all of the discounted Easter candy that’ll be around to buy next week when it’s all over if you need to think about a reason to smile when you say “You too!”

    6. Ad Astra*

      Your coworkers are being weird about this. Would you feel comfortable responding to “Happy Easter” with something like, “Yeah, you too!” just to minimize discussion about it? When someone asks how you’re spending Easter, you could just say “Oh, no big plans, just relaxing at home.”

      It sort of sounds like your coworkers hadn’t even considered the possibility that some people don’t celebrate Easter, and they’re taken aback to learn that you don’t celebrate. They don’t seem to know how to respond to that information. That’s really a “them” problem, but if it’s becoming a “you” problem, I say shut those conversations down as quickly as possible.

      1. anoooooooooooooooon*

        I think the problem is that they haven’t considered the possibility that some people don’t celebrate Easter. I know this has come up for some of my coworkers who are Jewish or Muslim. We have a good number of Jewish employees, so I don’t know why it would come as such a surprise that not everyone is Christian. I think most of them have good intentions when they ask after plans, but it’s the assuming everyone is the same religion and not knowing what to do when they aren’t that bothers me.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Yeah, I can understand what that would bother you. If it’s important to you, you can keep mentioning that you don’t celebrate, but you’re likely to continue to get the sort of “wtf” responses you’re describing. You have to decide which option would make you happier. If you’re confident that this mindset isn’t prevalent in your community as a whole, this may be a sign that your specific company’s culture isn’t going to be a great fit long term. (In some places, you’d have this problem at virtually every company in town, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case where you live.)

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Honestly, when someone wishes me a Happy Easter, I’m thinking about spring and chocolate bunnies (I’m Jewish). It doesn’t bother me too much. When people ask if I have plans for Easter, I say, “Nah, I’m Jewish, I don’t celebrate it. Gonna eat some chocolate bunnies” or something. It’s a little easier when Passover and Easter overlap, because then I say, “Actually I’m Jewish, so it’s Passover for me!” But the truth is, I don’t mind too much. It’s like getting engaged and people immediately ask to see the ring– if you don’t have/want a ring, you shouldn’t fault people for making an assumption that you do. (This has come up recently in my life– not my engagement!)

        3. Bea W*

          I understand being bothered by it. I grew up not Catholic in a heavily Catholic area, and it just did not (and does not still sometimes) occur to people that there were non-Catholics not doing what everyone else was doing. As a kid this confused the heck out of me. When I got older it got annoying, because when someone had to ask my religion (they do this still in some hospital admissions for example – secular hospitals) the question was usually “You’re Catholic”? and not “What is your religion?” It seems silly, but not when as a kid, “Are you Catholic?” had been a loaded question.

          It hasn’t been that way in general for a long time, until someone brings up ethnic background, and then all bets are off. That just leaves people baffled. It’s a good thing I love talking about ancestry, because it lessens the annoyance over people assuming my religion or ethnicity based on knowledge of one or the other. Really at this point I’ve just run out of f***s to give. I can’t control other people’s preconceptions.

          I attended church once while traveling in the Netherlands. People assumed I was Jewish. I did get a kick out of that. I got that in Israel as well, but that’s maybe less shocking. It was a 50/50 Jewish/Christian tour, but it did still confuse our tour guide when 3 or 4 days in when we were visiting Yardenit and I wanted to be baptised. :D

          It is what it is. Now that I’m dealing with fairly sane adults, and no one is going to run me off the playground for not living up to assumptions about what either my religion or ancestral background should be, I can just go with the flow and take the things that need correcting with good humor. Those are oppurtunities for education and sometimes interesting conversations.

    7. The Other Dawn*

      I celebrate Easter, but not the religious aspect of it. My family has never really observed that aspect. It’s always been all about dying eggs to hide and find, baskets of chocolate, and dinner with family. Maybe when people ask what you’re doing for the holiday you can just say you’re having a quite dinner at home (which would likely be true since most people eat dinner daily) or you’re going to relax and enjoy the day. No need to say you don’t celebrate it if you don’t want to say it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think for a lot of people, the issue with this is that it’s denying a fundamental part of who they are — whether it’s that they’re Jewish or Muslim or just a non-Christian — and can just reinforce the same stuff that’s already leading people to say/do fairly offensive/non-inclusive/alienating things as a result.

    8. Journal Entries*

      I just say “Have a good weekend!” and “Just staying home.” Some people give me flack for it but I don’t really care. I wouldn’t feel weird explaining that I’m not Wiccan or a Scientologist, so why should Christianity be any different?

    9. matcha123*

      I don’t really identify with any religion, and I assume people are non-religious unless they say something about practicing a certain religion.
      I also don’t know what kind of area you are in or the tone the speakers are taking with you.

      However, I think Easter is kind of evolving into a spring Christmas. When I was a kid, Easter egg hunts, baskets, bunnies and dyed eggs were the name of the game, and my guess is that that aspect has only gotten bigger.
      Heck, I’m working in Japan and people here are like, “Let’s do Easter, that sounds like fun.” No joke. And the vast majority of people here are definitely not Christian.

      With that said, I don’t really get why saying “Happy Easter” back is a big deal? You’re not being forced to do something religious and those people are probably using it as a greeting. I have had people look at me and assume that I practice a religion I have never practiced and know little about. When those people wished me a “Happy XYZ Day,” I returned the greeting. If they asked something more detailed, I’d just say that I really don’t know what goes on since it’s not my religion. Then I’d ask what they knew, which usually shut them up and they wandered off. ha!

    10. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’m an atheist who was raised Jewish, and I’m OK saying “Thanks [for your well-intentioned but misplaced holiday wishes]!”…usually without the bracketed part being detectable at all!

      Sometimes I’ll even say “You too!” if the person makes me feel charitable, but if they seem pushy I’ll sometimes say “Thanks, and a happy vernal equinox/Ostara/Purim to you!”, depending on which feels more appropriate. ;)

      1. Jules the First*

        I particularly enjoyed the surreal conversation I had on Thursday night with my Lebanese Orthodox coworker who wished me a happy easter, then caveated that he didn’t know why he was saying that because it’s not easter for him for a few weeks yet. I replied that it was a bit of a moot point, since I’m atheist, and suggested we both just enjoy the long weekend instead…

    11. KR*

      I think Easter, though it has Christian roots, has evolved into a holiday that many people celebrate just to celebrate. My family doesn’t pray at the dinner table, go to an Easter service or outwardly acknowledge that this is the day set aside to think about the resurrection and all that (though a few family members do those things on their own without requiring anyone else to do it). We get together and wear spring colors and over eat and munch on chocolate together and that’s what counts. I don’t think you have to feel too bad about saying, “Thanks, you too.” to people. If people ask what you’re doing for the holiday, I agree with the other posters that you could just say “A quiet dinner at home is all!” or “Everyone was busy this year!” or something similar.

      1. Felicia*

        I’ve actually never heard of anyone who didn’t have a Christian background celebrating Easter just to celebrate (the non religious people who celebrate it i’ve met have all been from nominally Christian backgrounds) and people of like Muslim, or Jewish or Christian backgrounds just don’t celebrate it at all. In my experience people of other religions celebrate Christmas but not Easter so much . And I agree that “thanks you too” is fine, but i don’t think anyone should pretend to celebrate Easter just because.

        The other day I actually answered “Thanks, Happy Purim!”

        1. Cath in Canada*

          My Sikh friend’s family celebrates. When we were kids, it actually used to mildly annoy me that she got more chocolate than I did! But her family tended to celebrate a lot of holidays – all the Sikh ones, all the Hindu ones because “close enough, let’s have a party”, and all the Christian ones because “we live in England, let’s have a party”.

          1. Elkay*

            Do you think that it’s more widely celebrated non-religiously in England because it’s a public holiday?

        2. katamia*

          I’m Jewish, but we celebrated Easter when I was a kid. We dyed eggs and had chocolate bunnies and stuff. I had a lot of non-Christian friends growing up, too, and most of them celebrated it on some level even though clearly it didn’t have the meaning for us that it did for many Christians.

    12. Preggers*

      I work in a very diverse company and the culture is to say things like “have a great whatever holiday it is” or “how was your whatever holiday.” For any company recognized holiday. They aren’t asking did you go to church and celebrate Christ rising. Its more of did you enjoy your paid day off?

    13. Temperance*

      As an ex-evangelical atheist, I totally get it. I’m pretty open about my atheism, most of the time.

      I actually just smile and say that I don’t celebrate Easter, and then change the subject to what the person is doing. Obviously, this only works if you don’t live in a rabidly religious place. Atheists and non-Christians are pretty common in my firm and city in general.

      I would respond that Easter chocolate tastes like hot garbage, so my kids aren’t missing anything, and then complain about the crappy Palmer chocolate.

    14. ThatGirl*

      I mean, Easter is at least partly a secular holiday, so I wouldn’t take it too seriously, although your Jewish coworker has a right to be annoyed if people know she’s Jewish.

      But honestly, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, just be sure to wish them a happy Passover next month ;)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Easter is not a secular holiday. For those of us of other faiths, it’s still another religion’s holiday. It’s not secular. It’s a Christian holiday, both religiously and culturally. If some people find it secular, that’s a reflection of how dominant Christianity is in the U.S.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Thank you, Alison. I believe we had this same discussion last year, IIRC. I’ve never heard Jews or Muslims or atheists (unless they’re former Christians) call a holiday that is currently celebrated by many as a Christian religious holiday a “secular holiday”. I didn’t want to turn it into an argument, though.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Cosmic Avenger: I take your and Alison’s point here, and I know Easter is a very serious Christian religious holiday (really the most serious), but just because you say you’ve never heard it: I’m an agnostic, I was raised without a religious affiliation by two atheists (a former Jew and a former Christian), and I celebrate and enjoy Easter as a secular holiday. It’s all eggs, chocolate, and bunnies. If anything, I have a stronger Easter tradition on the secular Jewish side of my family than on the historically Christian side. My Jewish family loves brunch and scavenger hunts.

            With that said, I get why it’s irritating to have people assume that you celebrate the holidays of the dominant religion. Saying, “Yeah, I don’t celebrate Easter, but have a great weekend!” is totally normal and should be treated that way.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              And, as a really serious Christian, I agree with you, Turanga Leela. Because when I hear someone say that Christmas or Easter are not secular, only religious, I see their point. But that also sounds like they are saying that reindeer, the Easter Bunny, and chocolate are part of my religion. They are not, and they have nothing to do with my religion. (Ok, maybe chocolate, but only the good kind, not Palmer.) I think they maybe have a lot to do with marketing and capitalism, with a bit of historical Christianity overtaking and using a historical pagan holiday.

              Really, if you’re celebrating with bunnies and eggs, you’re celebrating the pagan holiday. Or the Wall Street one.

              1. Turanga Leela*

                I was just talking with someone about this! I think this is a deep point. I’m actually surprised that more Christians aren’t offended by my bunnies-and-eggs celebration of their most important holiday.

                1. Ms. Didymus*

                  Perhaps if they were going to be offended, they should not have commandeered Pagan holidays from which those symbols are derived?

                2. ThursdaysGeek*

                  @Ms. Didymus – a very good point, and also one of the reasons I don’t take offense.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  @ Ms. D. The Catholic Church is still doing that. I read a little while ago, that they were setting up Saint’s feasts to match the holidays already being celebrated in Africa. Same rationale as used to set holidays on the calendar hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

        2. ThatGirl*

          This is a fair point, I rethought my comment after reading some others. It has some secular components, in my opinion (bunnies and eggs, for instance, are borrowed from pagan traditions) but you’re right, I apologize for labeling it secular.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I’m just falling all over myself this week, aren’t I? Should have said non-Christian origins. Though, come on, you can’t tell me the Easter Bunny is religious.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          Yes. It’s as though “Christian” is the default setting and everything else is an aberration. And that’s the problem.

        4. anoooooooooooooooon*

          Yes, thank you. I don’t think I explained as clearly in my original comment. I understand that a lot of people with kids celebrate the egg hunting and chocolate, but I find asking if I’m having traditional Easter dinner or even asking how I’m celebrating when they know I don’t have kids implies that I’m celebrating it in some religious sense.

        5. Jenn*

          umm, I disagree. Easter is often celebrated as the spring lets get together and eat holiday. That’s is how we celebrated in my family where none of us were raised religious. MOm had a family dinner. if people went to church that’s on them. This year my sister’s family is going to be out of town. My brother’s family is in LA so my brother and I are having food at my mom’s house. No church going required.

    15. WhichSister*

      I am spiritual but not religious. (my beliefs can be summed up as “Spirituality unites people, religion divides.”)My parents were Catholic and from New England. I was raised Catholic, went to the Episcopal Church for a while,which I liked but don’t attend now. I grew up in the midwest and now I live in the DEEP SOUTH . I am not sure what the bigger sin is here – not going to church or being raised Catholic. Every one wants to recruit me to their church. We moved into a house once and the neighbors were over the next day asking us to visit their “church home.” When we didn’t go, we never saw them again. My new co-worker asked if I was a “church person” then went into all the reasons why I should go to his church. The guy who owns the self car wash was trying to recruit me yesterday. My kids and I celebrate the holidays in our own way but don’t attend services. (For example, on Easter we watch Jesus Christ Superstar!) I just smile and nod and try to recognize their intentions are good.

      1. Jiffy*

        Yeah I usually just say “thanks, you too!” even when the holiday doesn’t apply.
        For example I don’t have any children but my mom always said that Mothers’ Day is a holiday for all women everywhere, so I just smile and say thank you when somebody wishes me a Happy Mothers’ Day. Beats a lengthy and awkward discussion about my health issues and personal choices!

      2. Al Lo*

        My husband was in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar that ran the weeks surrounding Easter last year, with a matinee on Easter Sunday.

      3. still anon*

        I’ve always wanted someone to do a genderswapped version of JCS. I don’t know why, but of all the musicals I love I think JCS would be one of the more fascinating plays to switch up the gender (though I realize a lot of people would not be okay with that).

    16. SubwayFan*

      FWIW, I feel like it’s stupid to celebrate a secular version of Easter. It’s a holiday that’s about someone rising from the dead on which the entire foundation of Christianity rests. I was raised Christian, but don’t practice anymore. I have a little kid now, and when he gets bigger, I’m not planning on doing Easter baskets or anything, since I’m not planning on taking him to Church.

      Christmas is different, because there are a lot of religious and secular holidays at the end of the year (Hanukkah, Diwali, sometimes Eid, Yule, Winter Solstice) so just about everyone celebrates, and you get it off from school and work, so I do celebrate a very secular Christmas based on the idea of “let’s be nice to everyone and have cake.” But Easter is explicitly about a single religion, so I’m passing.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Well, to me, Easter has kind of devoured the spring-equinox time of year the way Christmas has eaten the winter-solstice time of year. Many people throughout history have done some kind of “It’s spring!” celebration, and I think secular Easter is maybe an attempt at that. (I have a whole theory in my head about old seasonal festivals being reflected in secular US celebrations, but that’s a whole other derail.) I also think the secular St. Patrick’s Day is another attempt at a spring festival, and one more often focused on adult revelry.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I do say Happy Vernal Equinox because it means WINTER IS OVER. I also say Happy Solstice in December because it’s the shortest day of the year and means the days are now getting longer and soon WINTER WILL BE OVER. :)

        2. Sprinkles*

          This is how I view it as well. When I was a kid, it was religious, but now I see it as a “welcome Spring” kind of thing, where I have a dinner with my family, we eat special foods, and I get to nibble on chocolate all day. I actually hate Spring with a passion, so it’s not my favorite holiday, but a holiday is a holiday.

          1. Anxa*

            Of all the seasons, spring has the biggest chasm between Expectation and Reality, in my experience.

            I love spring in theory, but it was really just mild winter that was hard to dress for in the northeast and in the southeast it’s become the string of a few days between your heater going off and your ac going on for a heat wave you haven’t prepared for…but can’t really switch clothes out for cuz there are still some freezing nights and mornings.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Here, there are often a few days that are beautiful and mild and live up to expectations–but mostly winter and monsoon trade off back and forth until suddenly it’s time for summer. We actually had a stunning February this year, and then on the equinox it snowed.

            2. non-profit manager*

              I, too, like spring in theory. In reality, in southern California it means marine layer and hazy skies; what used to be “june gloom” is all spring, now. It means you have lost any chance for cooler weather, after the hot winter you just experienced and the hot and sticky summer to come.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          Yeah, same here. We get a 4-day weekend, so why not use it as an excuse to get together and celebrate the start of Spring? We’re about to head to the ferry to go up to my MIL’s place for a couple of nights. My BIL and his partner are coming too. Adults only, no religious aspects at all – just an excuse for a nice big roast ham dinner (which we do call “Easter dinner”) and then some chocolate eggs for breakfast the next day. I don’t find that stupid at all.

      2. Anonyby*

        A lot of the more secular elements of Easter started off as the pagan traditions relating to the vernal equinox and its associated holidays (largely Ostara and its variants it seems like). For those who want to celebrate the more pagan ideas & symbolism, it’s usually easier to do on Easter anyways because that’s when practically everybody has off, while the equinox itself can be hit or miss.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Being pagan is part of why I always forget about Easter. The equinox always falls first, so when Easter comes around I’m like “I already did this!…oh wait.”

        2. Anonsie*

          Haha, yeah, this is why my family always rolled them together. I guess they thought it would be hard for them to have the kids do one celebration involving eggs and then like a week later have to explain that we wouldn’t do this other celebration involving eggs, ok, even though the traditions were largely from their faith, because it was attached to something from another faith that… Ok ok we can go to the egg hunt, sheesh!

      3. ThatGirl*

        But Easter is also celebrated in the spring because of the Equinox and the pagan Ostara festival, so while the whole resurrection thing is the foundation of Christianity, you can’t really say Easter is … they co-opted a lot of stuff.

      4. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Well, I think it’s also important to keep in mind that for some of us, the secular Easter was how we were raised, so it’s unfair to say how I celebrate is “stupid.” I totally understand that Christianity’s dominance is what allows it to feel secular, but my parents were adamant agnostic/atheists, and we always “celebrated” Easter (probably so us kids wouldn’t feel left out at school and with other family). For me, Easter is a family holiday with candy. I don’t think that’s more right or wrong than any other way to celebrate.

      5. Anxa*

        I think there are a lot of reasons why Easter cannot truly be secular or divorced from Christianity, but I bristle at the idea that my celebration of it as a nonreligious person is stupid.

        Traditions, religion, family, and culture are pretty messy. Maybe I am a pathetic woman child for wanting to revisit some holiday traditions from my childhood, but it does make me feel better to have that spring holiday. I could get by without it, but it’s comforting. Also, I do have Christian family that wants to celebrate with us atheists, and it works for us to celebrate the more secular aspects all together, even as non believers.

        1. Tau*

          I’m with you here. I celebrate Christmas and Easter as cultural traditions, not religious ones. I find the sense of continuity/familiarity comforting, especially since I live in a foreign country and it can get pretty lonely when nobody around you shares certain cultural touchstones (not Christmas and Easter in this case, but the specific way they’re celebrated). From that perspective, it’s also a good excuse to go back home for a few days and have a family get-together – Christmas and Easter are often the only times in a year I see my brother or niece.

          I agree with you that they’re not holidays that can be completely secular or divorced from Christianity. They’re originally Christian(/co-opted into Christianity), I celebrate them because I’m from a Christian family background. At the same time I get very tired of Christians saying that I don’t have a right to my own family traditions that are very important to me or dismissing said traditions as symptoms of rampant commercialism because they think they’re the only ones allowed to have the holiday.

    17. Felicia*

      I don’t celebrate Easter either and never have and I’ve heard more “Happy Easter” this year than ever before, and it kind of annoys me too. Usually I just say “Thanks, you too!” But if/when you mention you don’t celebrate, the proper response is “oh, cool!” or something. Your coworkers are really extreme in their responses to the point where their responses are pretty offensive. Saying Happy Easter in and of itself isn’t particularly offensive. But acting all shocked and appalled that you don’t celebrate Easter is offensive and ridiculous.

      Though i think it can feel weird and uncomfortable when people wish you a happy holiday that you don’t celebrate, and I don’t think people who are part of the dominant religion can quite know how that feels (just like how I wouldn’t know what it’s like to be a race other than white, and I am not straight, so there are things about my experiences in a heteronormative society straight people sometimes don’t consider and will never quite experience)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, that last paragraph is something I really wish people would keep in mind. If you’re part of the dominant religious tradition in this country (and I’m including non-religious Christians in that, like anyone who grew up celebrating Christmas), you really shouldn’t be telling people outside of it how they should experience this stuff.

        1. Cat*

          So I do want to say: I think there’s a difference between non-religious Christians and anyone who grew up celebrating Christmas. I am a non-Christian who celebrates Christmas and I have Mulim, atheist, pagan, and Hindu friends who do the same. I think it’s fair for me to co-opt a Christian holiday for secular purposes and fair for them to do so; “Christian” is more than that. I would never in a million years criticize anyone for not celebrating it, and since I know many people who don’t am careful not to assume anyone does, but I also don’t think it’s fair for me to be labeled a Christian for celebrating it.

          1. Mando Diao*

            I think this is an instance where your particular social group is skewing your perspective of what’s common. If I heard that someone was celebrating Easter, I would assume that they were Christian, since “celebrating Easter” implies attending church and then having a certain type of family meal. That’s what the generally assumed celebration is. Easter isn’t a holiday that has evolved in a way that lends itself to non-religious acknowledgment IMO. What’s the celebration then? Buying pastel candies?

            It’s not about whether you’d be labeled a Christian though. It’s about the fact that Easter (and Christianity) is so pervasive that it seems natural to you that you’d celebrate the rebirth of a lord you don’t acknowledge.

            1. Cat*

              I am not saying that it’s an unreasonable assumption per se, though I think it is in a lot of cases (like if you’re in social groups like mine) – I was merely objecting to the idea that someone who celebrates Christmas is a non-religious Christian without qualification, which is what I read Alison’s comment as saying.

              And I am not saying Christmas and Easter aren’t pervasive. They are and that’s why members of a predominantly Christian society choose to celebrate them even if it’s not their religion or have to counter people’s assumptions that they’re celebrating them. They’re absolutely pervasive.

              And yet, I still defend my particular celebration as secular. Most cultures have a spring festival. Eggs are a common feature of it and long predate Christianity. Yeah, we dyed eggs and hunted for Easter baskets brought by a bunny. I’d probably do the same with my own kids. It’s name comes from a religion I don’t acknowledge but coloring eggs to celebrate the return of spring? That is something I’m happy to acknowledge even if some of the particular trappings are from a religion I’m not part of.

              The fact is, Christianity absolutely appropriated various existing celebrations and a lot of Christmas and Easter traditions are from those existing celebrations. To me it’s okay to take those and make my own traditions that aren’t related to Christianity even if the form is not entirely unrelated. I’m not saying anyone else should do that and ever would, but I am going to continue to defend that I do that.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think of that as more or less culturally Christian, rather than religiously Christian. (But I also totally get and appreciate your right to label or not label yourself whatever you want. I think the point is just to understand that even if something isn’t religious to you, that doesn’t mean it’s secular to people of other faiths/non-belief.)

              2. Cat*

                Yeah, I can understand that and do try to never make assumptions about that. I guess for me, the issue is that celebrating Christian holidays secularly in a predominantly Christian culture is a choice people make to live in that culture and deal with the pervasive effect just like not celebrating them does. I think there’s a variety of ways for non-Christians to do that and all of them come with different baggage, but it’s never baggage-free. (And it’s not that I think culturally Christian is an invalid thing – I just don’t feel like it applies to me, who doesn’t have any Christian family or background or anything like that, but I understand it’s complicated and it varies).

            2. Anxa*

              I never went to church as a kid or young teen for Easter. We had an Easter egg hunt at home or in town square, went out to brunch or had at home early dinner with extended family, ate too much chocolate, wore Easter clothes, and if the weather was nice went for a walk on the beach. But dying the eggs the night before was my favorite part.

              I have several friends who also grew up celebrating Easter w/o ever going to church or talking much about Jesus or God.

          2. Turanga Leela*

            Echoing Cat here: To me, “Christian” means believing that Jesus is the son of God and that he died to redeem the sins of humanity. Not everyone who celebrates Christmas is Christian.

            My background is unusual, but I think it’s useful as an example. My parents were atheists. One was raised Jewish, the other Christian. When I was growing up, we had no religion at all: there was no house of worship we visited for holidays or for the birth of a child, for weddings, or for funerals. It’s not that we were non-religious Christians; I was raised in literally no religious tradition at all. We celebrated totally secular versions of Christmas and Easter. I didn’t know that Easter was a celebration of the resurrection until I was pretty old (12, maybe?).

            As I said above, I get what Alison and others are saying: Christmas and Easter are Christian holidays! They’re not religiously neutral. People who belong to another faith, or to no faith at all, should not be pressured to observe them. But secular versions of these holidays do exist, and there are non-Christians who celebrate them.

    18. Rin*

      A coworker told me have a good holiday weekend yesterday, and for a second I was so disoriented, like “Is it December…?” I had totally forgotten it was Easter.

    19. Mando Diao*

      Say “Happy Passover” in return. I don’t agree with the commenters claiming that Easter has evolved into a secular thing; that sounds like privilege speaking. When you’re able to view the resurrection of your lord and savior as so innocuous and generally accepted that you (and I) should roll with assumptions that everyone acknowledges the same lord and savior? lol nope. That is honestly one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard.

      1. Felicia*

        I said Happy Purim in return, since Purim was two days ago, and Purim is fun. Happy Holi is also a good one, since that was yesterday (I think) and seems like an awesome holiday

        I think in it’s very telling that in North America the only holidays that get to be considered secular are Christian ones, and even non religious people of Christian backgrounds don’t think that means they have a certain level of privilege to even celebrate those things secularly .

        1. Katie the Fed*

          A total tangent here, but I have some Indian friends (in India) who are strongly opposed to Holi because it’s a really violent holiday and tends to involve a lot of harassment against women in particular. If you go outside on Holi you’re basically exposing yourself to a nonstop barrage of assaults, so my friends won’t even leave the house those days. It sounds pretty unpleasant.

          But, Purim is totally fun!

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Oooh, this helped highlight why I don’t get “celebrating secular [religious holiday]”. I love hamentashen. If my family and I ate a bunch, and even played with groggers, I wouldn’t call that “celebrating Purim”. That’s doing some stuff I associate with a religious holiday because of the nostalgia/cultural factor, but to me enjoying just a few of the foods or non-religious customs of the holiday isn’t celebrating that holiday, because I would never think of a religious holiday in a secular sense. Just like we can enjoy matzoh when it’s not Passover. But then, Judaism always felt more cultural than faith-based to me, even when I was going through the motions.

            1. Tallyvoo*

              I feel like if one is doing something associated with a religious holiday around the time of that holiday then one is “celebrating” that holiday. If I eat a bunch of chocolate and jelly beans and put bunny decorations in my house in August, I don’t think that would be celebrating Easter. But if I do it around Easter, then I feel like I’m definitely celebrating Easter.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          And I suspect as other religions become more prominent in the US that their holidays will also be taken over by marketers and become something that lots of people celebrate in a totally non-religious way.

      2. Amy UK*

        But the point people are making about secular Easter is just that- it’s secular. I celebrate secular Easter. It is not the resurrection of my lord and saviour- because I don’t believe in one at all. And I’d assume that most people talking about secular Easter feel the same. There’s no privilege there, because we are not Christians.

        I am not a Christian. Easter is a secular holiday for me. I don’t see why it’s speaking from ‘privilege’ to say that Easter has become secular. What privilege exactly are you talking about? My link to Easter as an atheist is no different to someone who is Jewish or Muslim. None of us believe it’s the resurrection of our saviour.

        I’m getting really sick, to be honest, of people reading ‘atheist in the West’ and assuming ‘basically Christian without church’. I am no more Christian than a Jew is. Just because Jews (or Muslims, or Hindus, or whoever) have different religious festivals and practices, doesn’t make them ‘less Christian’ than atheists.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It doesn’t have to feel religious to you to still be a holiday connected to a particular religion, which makes it offensive for people to assume it’s secular/celebrated by people of other faiths/some sort of universal cultural celebration. It’s erasing Jews, Muslims, and others from the picture to assume that, and it’s very alienating. (You may not be doing that, but that is the impact of people deciding it’s secular.)

    20. Ragnelle*

      Keep making them uncomfortable with your perfectly reasonable, nice response you’ve included here. They are the ones making the stupid assumption that everyone is Christian, so it’s not your responsibility to make them feel good about that. I’m all for subtle, kind reminders to those in positions of privilege that their mindset is not universal.

      Anyhow, I agree completely with you. I’m in the South, so telling anyone I’m not close friends with (and even my own family) that I’m an atheist is liable to result in anything from becoming the recipient of unwanted conversion attempts to having my job put in jeopardy.

      My 2-year old has an “Easter Party” at daycare today, and I bought the damn eggs and chocolate so she wouldn’t feel left out at school, but there’s no way we’re celebrating at home or anywhere else. Easter is an explicitly Christian holiday, centered around the foundational aspect of the religion (“Jesus died for your sins”), and I will have no part in it. Of course, when I talk about this with my also nonreligious husband, he just goes with the, “Eh, the eggs and candy part is pagan, so I’m okay with that. Plus it’s fun to give the toddler candy.”

      I guess everyone navigates this in their own way, but just know others are in this same boat with you!

    21. beachlover*

      I am non-religious myself, but it really doesn’t bother me. But I am pretty much a live and let live sort of person. I don’t take offense unless something is pointedly directed at me. What is strange is that a lot of the production plants we work with are closed on Good Friday. And these are publicly owned companies. I had to laugh the other day, because I asked in a meeting why someone was closed today , because I totally forgot it was good friday. People looked at me like “how could you not remember it is Good Friday”. I said, well since I am not a religious person, it just wasn’t something I would think about.

      1. Felicia*

        Good Friday is a statutory holiday here, so I would be surprised that people don’t know what the statutory holidays are. But I didn’t know what Good Friday meant or was for until I was an adult, I just knew it as a day everything was closed everywhere.

        1. Mabel*

          I’m originally from LA, and out there, Good Friday, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day were not holidays or any kind of big deal when I was growing up (I’m sure this is partly because LA seems to be the land of assimilation – IMO). When I moved to the East Coast, I was taken by surprised that Good Friday actually is a holiday (I’m pretty sure the Stock Exchange, banks, and Post Office are closed). I don’t like it; I feel really strongly that church and state should be completely separate.

    22. Engineer Girl*

      You say “Actually I don’t celebrate it, but you have a great weekend!”
      You’ve now corrected their wrong assumption and taken their wishes in the spirit intended (hope you have a nice weekend).
      Stop personalizing it.

      1. Lady Kelvin*

        Or I generally respond “Oh is it Easter already?” because a. I had no idea this weekend was Easter and 2. It clearly implies that you don’t celebrate it, otherwise you’d know when it was.

    23. Terra*

      You can just say “you too” if you don’t want to say “thanks” and potentially imply that you are Christian. Or (assuming you get Sunday off) you might respond with “and happy day off work to you too” in a warm/friendly/jokey tone which may get across not celebrating Easter (or at least open the discussion) while also avoiding potentially weird responses.

      Or you can just keep doing what you’re doing. As long as you’re polite/friendly about it there’s nothing really wrong with what you’re saying. If anything your co-workers are being the weird ones with commenting on your future children and such.

    24. Student*

      I’m an Atheist. I can sympathize.

      However, I think you’re making a friendly interaction more antagonistic than it really needs to be with your specific reply. When people say stuff like this, they don’t actually care at all about your Easter plans. They especially don’t want to hear about your religious beliefs in any challenging way. They want to talk about their own Easter plans and hear you say, “Oh that sounds lovely!”.

      If it’s an accurate statement about your beliefs and it’s something you want to tell people, you could go with something like, “I’m not Christian actually, so I’m just looking to get caught up on the laundry this weekend. Do you have some fun plans?” If you want to make it more lighthearted, you could say you’re looking forward to the candy going on sale on Monday. If you don’t want to point out your non-belief, or if you identify as a non-Easter-celebrating Christian, you could just go with a plain, “I don’t have any special plans, how about you?” or the normal business small-talk deflect, “I’m a bit busy at the moment; can I catch up with you about social stuff and weekend plans later?”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am tending to agree. However, anything past “happy Easter” or “what are you doing for the holiday?” that goes into several questions or a longer discussion, I see as a big problem. If a person says, “I don’t celebrate” then people should be leaving them alone, give their holiday wishes to someone else. So, “I don’t celebrate” should be answered with, “Oh, then have great weekend, see ya Monday” or something similar.

        I think people hear or say “Happy Easter” or “Merry Christmas” a hundred times a day, it gets to the point where they don’t even realize they are saying it- they are on autopilot.

        Personally, I have a hard time keeping track of who does what. I had a Jewish doc who used to wish me Merry Christmas. I said, “what do I wish you?” He said Merry Christmas was fine because he gave up his Jewish religion years ago. I try to remember people’s preferences but I know for a fact I have messed up a couple times. OP, sometimes people say these things, not because they are trying to tick you off but because they honestly cannot remember who prefers what. My solution has been to follow others’ lead- if there is no mention of the holiday, then I don’t initiate the topic.

        Tangent but not totally related- since I lost my folks and my husband holidays are a mixed bag for me. I enjoy them but they tug on my heart strings some, too. I don’t know if it’s any consolation, but believers have trouble with holidays also for different reasons, though. So that person wishing you a Merry Christmas/whatever might be bawling their eyes out on the inside and trying to make the best of it on the outside. If you know the person is struggling to get through the holiday as best they can, please find some words of warmth for them. It can mean a lot that you put the thought into it.

      2. One of the Annes*


        I’m an atheist too. And everyone who wished me a happy Easter at work today got a “you too” in return. No one gives a rip about your beliefs. They really don’t. : )

    25. TootsNYC*

      Easter isn’t a religious holiday anymore.

      You know how I can tell? My block association is having an Easter egg hunts. At 10:30 on Sunday morning.

      It’s getting to be pretty much as pagan/secular as Christmas.

      Just be vague and say, “”thanks,” and move on. That doesn’t mean you’re joining in.

      My son asked his online friend, ‘How was your Palm Sunday?” And the kid said, “I’m not really religious, so…” You could try that.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Christmas is not secular either.

        Again, it’s a reflection of how dominant Christianity is in the U.S. that people who celebrate Christmas and Easter can think that they’re secular, but it’s actually … well, kind of alienating to the rest of of us to insist that they are. For those of us of other faiths, it is another religion’s holiday.

        I think you probably mean that it’s lost of a lot of religious meaning for many who celebrate it — but saying it’s secular implies “people of all faiths can/should enjoy it” and that is very, very much not the case.

        1. Tallyvoo*

          Is it weird that I would love to celebrate holidays for other religions? I don’t have any close Jewish friend who would invite me, but I’d love to be invited to a Seder or Purim and learn about the holiday and celebrate it, even though I’m an atheist. Is that a form of appropriation? I just like holidays and the reasons they exist.

    26. Jillociraptor*

      No advice just support. I grew up in a Christian family and it’s still SO alienating and awkward to be wished well for holidays that I don’t celebrate. Many people are nice and normal about hearing “Oh, I don’t celebrate it but, I hope you have a nice holiday!” but there are also many who are jerks about it, with the “isn’t your life so sad and meaningless without the Easter Bunny” AND the “GOSH I was just wishing you a HAPPY HOLIDAY.” People are weird about having the centrality of their experience being called into question and there’s just no good way to do it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Not a fan of the first reply because life being empty sounds like a put down and pretty snarky- which is what Christianity is NOT supposed to be. But the “GOSH” reply sounds like embarrassment/awkwardness to me. Hopefully the embarrassed people will remember the next time.

    27. Lady Bug*

      “Thanks, you too.” Done. Catholic turned atheist.

      If they keep asking questions just say you don’t celebrate and ask what they are doing.

      1. GreenTeaPot*

        Raised Catholic here, and view Easter as a solemn yet celebratory day. With no children and an atheist husband, we do not do anything special, other than take a bit more time with meal preparations.

        I find the expression “Happy Easter” to be utterly idiotic.

    28. Doriana Gray*

      Easter is religious?!

      (I actually totally forgot that as my family never celebrated that aspect of it growing up. Easter to me is Cadbury eggs and Tales From the Crypt marathons.)

      1. Ultraviolet*

        If I recall correctly, the religious aspect of Easter is in fact centered around a tale from the crypt.

        1. Doriana Gray*

          Hee! I’ll pretend that’s the reason my mom chose that particular holiday tradition.

    29. Amy UK*

      Maybe things are different in the US, but I wouldn’t assume someone wishing me a Happy Easter presumed I was Christian. Here, it’s literally the same as Christmas – a few days off work to binge eat good food and spend time with family if that’s your preference.

      I have literally zero idea of my colleagues religious beliefs and have absolutely none myself, but we’ve still been wishing each other Happy Easter and asking what each other’s plans are. At this point, I’d be surprised if someone gave me a religious answer to that question, it’s become so almost completely non-religious as a holiday.

      1. Aella*

        Also from the UK, and I would think yes, because people do assume the default is Christian, because the CofE is the national church, etc. In my experience, people assume you are Christian, and usually Anglican, until proven otherwise. It is not loud, but it is there.

    30. Mabel*

      I live in New England, too, and I was very surprised this year at the vast number of people blithely wishing me a “Happy Easter.” I was surprised because in Boston, we are constantly trained to NOT make assumptions about people: don’t assume anything about someone’s sexuality or gender or race or anything else. I think this is very important, and I love that it’s what we do here (at least among a lot of the people I know – I’m sure this is not everyone’s experience). I thought people would see it the same as Christmas and know that not everyone celebrates it.

      I think part of my surprise is that last year, I was mostly working from home, and now I’m going in to the office everyday, so there are many more people wishing me a “Happy Easter” this year.

      Also, I really can’t stand it when people who DO celebrate a holiday accuse others of being “scrooge-like” if they get tired of assumptions being made about themselves. But I guess I feel defensive enough about that criticism to feel compelled to say that when someone wishes me a “Happy ,” I always say, “Thank you. You, too,” and I mean it sincerely and don’t think anything bad about the person. However, I don’t appreciate the assumptions.

  15. Eager Job Seeker*

    Still searching/interviewing for a new job. I keep failing to meet the timeline goals I set for myself for getting out of my terrible job; I finally heard back from that PAC after sending another email and it turned out they hired an internal candidate. I also had a session with an interview coach that I think helped. I’m debating leaving this job without another one lined up, though I know it’s generally unadvisable.

    1. Eager Job Seeker*

      Oops, realize I already posted about the PAC rejection. My brain is so tired from the search process.

    2. Colette*

      Keep in mind that the timeline is out of your control, so you can only do what is in your control.

      How long can you survive financially without any money coming in? That’s the key factor when deciding whether to leave without something lined up – because it can be many months before you get a job, and even longer until you get paid.

        1. Not a Real Giraffe*

          If that’s the case, I would probably not quit without something lined up. If it’s taking you longer than you thought it would to find a job, then that will probably continue to be the case. Even if you applied for a new job today that ends up working out, there’s no guarantee the interview and hiring process will take less than 3 months. It would be too much of a risk for me, personally.

      1. Bruce H.*

        >> Keep in mind that the timeline is out of your control
        Ditto that. Setting goals in terms of other people’s behavior is a recipe for failure.

    3. overeducated and underemployed*

      You’re not failing because only applications and interviews are in your control. No amount of effort can give you total control, so don’t frame it in a way that is so down on yourself. I hope luck is with you soon!

  16. Gwen*

    Advice on making the most of an office move? We’re moving next week, and I’m looking forward to the chance to start fresh! (Also advice on being in a “two-up” cubicle would be appreciated…not sure how I feel about that part.)

    1. Elle the New Fed*

      What is a two up cubicle?

      I’d recommend taking the opportunity to clean out old junk and papers that you don’t want to haul with you. Also, it’s a chance to make sure you are happy with the configuration of your desk before it becomes comfortable and you don’t even change it (monitor locations, other decorations).

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I think it means there are two people per cubicle. I’m currently in a similar situation and hate, hate, hate it. I recommend headphones.

        1. StellsBells*

          I actually preferred it to my lonely cubicle set up now, BUT I had a great cubicle-mate. This set up is 100% dependent on who is sharing the cubicle with you and how much the two of you get along on a personal level.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            I think it really depends upon how you work, too. I prefer my personal space and privacy, to the extent that when I am allowed to pick my hours, I prefer a time when there are the fewest people in the office, because I can get the most done with the least amount of distraction.

            (I’m the same person who listed my dream job a while back as being night security in a closed/office building.)

    2. No Longer Just a Lurker*

      I’ve done 2 office moves with 2 different comapnies
      1. Label everything and try to make everything as easy as possible with your IT group (they generally give you handouts – follow them to the letter and if you are confused by something ask!!!!)
      2. Take all personal stuff home now and really work to purge your files – both of my moves resulted in larger personal spaces but less storage.
      3. Most places that move offices end up with a slight culture or “rule” change. Many times these are unspoken so be prepared. For example, we were expected to up our appearance a bit due to the shiny new showplace. It wasn’t a full dress code revamp but it was obvious that the culture was moving closer to the business side of business casual; fewer khakis and more dress pants type of thing. Also no open beverage containers – lidded coffee cups were handed out to everyone and lids for the disposable coffee cups at the coffee bar were required. Eating at desks was frowned upon and group potlucks now have to be approved.
      4. Be courteous to your new cube mate – there are most likely things that will drive both of you batty about the other so try to deal with things up front and be reasonable about expectations. If you are a foot tapper/leg giggler that can drive someone up the wall even though you don’t notice it. Hopefully your cube mate doesn’t like to workout and lunch and then skip the shower (if they do bring it up nicely because I guarantee you aren’t the only one noticing).

      1. Margali*

        “leg giggler”
        Can’t help but picture a face written on a knee with a “Tee hee!” in a word balloon!

        1. No Longer Just a Lurker*

          that sounds a lot more fun than having my entire desk shake all day
          one of my more fun typos

    3. KR*

      Clean everything! Bring some multi-surface spray and some disinfecting wipes and clean as you go. Before you pack anything, evaluate if you need to keep it. Think about how you want your monitor, keyboard, and PC set up. Bring wire-ties so when your PC is moved you can get all the wires off the floor and tied up neatly. I recommend the ones you just twist around the wires or velcro wire ties. Zip ties are nice and neat, but from an IT perspective they’re a total pain because you have to cut them every time you need to change out a component or move a wire. Enjoy the move!

    4. StellsBells*

      You might want to talk with your new cubicle-mate about some ground rules for your space early on. Like if one of you has a day full of conference calls or meetings, then the other one needs to avoid socializing at the cubicle during that day (and other things that could be loud). Or if there is a specific food or smell that makes you nauseous.

      Also, you might as well share Outlook calendars because everyone will assume you both know where the other one is at all times and come to you when they are trying to track that person down.

      And if you have the ability, try to choose who you share with (and pick someone you personally like and could stand 8 hours a day with). Who sits with you makes a HUGE difference, obviously.

  17. Just an ARRGH moment*

    Company hires new developer (Pat) three weeks ago. I was the one who called all of Pat’s references. They all say that Pat is great, has good technical knowledge, would work with Pat again… except for the CEO of the company that Pat was with the longest, who says yeah, Pat has amazing technical knowledge but is unreliable as hell (no call/no show, shows up late, “just stopped coming to work one day”, etc).

    I think this is kinda weird but none of the other references/former managers I talked to (including Pat’s direct manager at that same job) said anything similar so I figure this has got to be a one-off. I report all of my reference findings good and bad to my CEO to make a hiring decision.

    Three weeks later: Pat has been a no-call no-show for two days (and when Pat showed back up at work said “Oh, car trouble”). Pat has been on time maybe…. twice? Constantly running late. Constantly not telling anyone why Pat’s running late.

    1- UGH. I feel like I should have pushed harder for not hiring Pat, even though I know I had zero to do with that decision.

    2- For whatever reason, my company owners feel like it’s super hard and difficult and awkward to fire people, so they don’t. Gonna wait a couple more weeks to see how this plays out and then have a Come to Jesus with the owner because if Pat’s behavior isn’t corrected and SOON it’s going to poison everyone else.

    1. Rocket Scientist*

      I’d have that conversation now, honestly, with all the documentation you have, including the former reference.

      Then, when it happens again, the owner can’t claim ignorance.

      If this is already affecting morale, then let the owner know that too.

      1. Just an ARRGH moment*

        Owner absolutely knows already. It’s not affected morale yet but if it continues I know it will. Owner’s currently stressing about a big contract renew that’s coming up so I’m letting things be until that stress is over (next week), because I know if I bring it up before then there’s not enough space in Owner’s brain to parse it correctly.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I agree–I wouldn’t wait.

        And I’d have that come to Jesus meeting with *Pat*–right now, she doesn’t know that the company is loathe to fire people.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I wouldn’t feel guilty about not having pushed harder not to hire her. It wasn’t your decision ultimately; that was the CEOs decision and his choice to use (or not) the information you gave him. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

      1. KR*

        This. Honestly if it were me, I would have assumed he was going through something and cleaned up his act since none of the other references said anything. If you hadn’t said anything that would be cause to feel guilty but you reported everything to the CEO. The new guy is the one who should be feeling guilty here.

      2. Ama*

        Yeah, I once participated in a hiring process where we had two positions open. Everyone in my department except the boss liked the same two people — the boss decided to offer one of those positions to a third person who seemed fine, but a little flaky to the rest of us. The choice we all agreed on was great, super reliable, and worked for the department for a couple of years (it was part-time, we didn’t expect them to stay that long). Boss’s choice proved to be just what we’d feared — very personable, but flaky, and we had to double check all of her work because sometimes she only followed half of the directions. She ended up quitting after six months.

        Sometimes bosses just aren’t that great at hiring — if you gave yours the info about Pat beforehand, you did all you could to help them make an informed decision.

      3. Newbie*

        Very much this. I had a very similar situation (all the references were good except for one former boss). We hired the candidate since everything else seemed good, but she wound up being unreliable (in addition to a whole host of other issues) and we eventually had to let her go.

        You provided all of the information you had to your CEO, who made the final decision. Sometimes hirings just aren’t successful.

      4. NicoleK*

        At Old Job, boss wanted to hire a candidate that she fell in love. When I pointed out that candidate didn’t have much experience in x, boss said that doing x was only a small part of her role. Boss was wrong, x was at least 75% of the job and boss eventually asked the employee to resign 10 months later (there were many other reasons besides employee not being able to successfully do x).

    3. BuildMeUp*

      Have you sat down with Pat and had a conversation about how big of an issue their reliability is? If most of Pat’s references didn’t even mention it, and Pat was not fired over it (since Pat apparently quit by just no longer coming to work), Pat might not realize that this is something that could (and will) get them fired if not fixed. And even if you have addressed the problem, I think it’s worth having a CtJ with Pat before you have one with the owner to establish that yes, Pat needs to show up on time and let someone know if they are going to be late/out, and that if Pat is not doing these things they will no longer have a job.

      After you have this conversation, I would let the owner know exactly what you talked about and exactly what rules you discussed with Pat. That way there is a clear baseline that Pat either will or won’t meet, and hopefully that will make it easier to say, “Pat knows that they are supposed to be doing X; Pat has not been doing X despite repeated warnings and conversations. We need to fire Pat.”

      1. Just an ARRGH moment*

        I am not Pat’s manager and I only work with them in a very tangential manner. It’d be very, very weird for me to have this conversation with Pat, otherwise I would have.

    4. AdminSue*

      Hmmmm, we just fired Pat! Same here, showed up and left whenever he wanted. and management doesn’t like to fire either. After 6 weeks of this nonsense they finally let him go!

    5. The Other Dawn*

      It sounds to me like the other references likely didn’t want to state the truth, either because they were in fear it would come back to bite them, or they were just being lazy about it.

      1. Terra*

        Not necessarily. Some tech companies have very flexible hours/work from home policies so it’s possible that in the other jobs Pat’s flakiness wasn’t an issue or something they even noticed.

    6. Pineapple Incident*

      I really like your term “Come to Jesus” talk. Good vibes- hope it turns out alright!!

    7. Sunflower*

      I would have a talk with the owner/ Pat’s manager now and express that someone needs to have a talk with him. In some offices, it seems like it could be totally fine to do this- maybe it was in the offices his other references worked at. Sounds like its possible Pat doesn’t know this is an issue considering he’s acting so casual about it. It might end up that Pat can’t/won’t work in an environment that he’s expected to be on time everyday and he might leave on his own. Or he’ll start showing up on time. Either way, I would

    8. Anonsie*

      I wouldn’t have put too much in that one reference either, since I would think that nearly everyone would have little patience for such a thing, so if it were true there would be more than one person bringing it up. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

    9. TootsNYC*

      I think one thing you could have done was to call back all the other references and asked specifically about punctuality and reliability.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — don’t beat yourself up for not doing it, but for future reference, that’s the thing to do. Some people won’t volunteer anything negative but will tell the truth if asked directly.

        1. Updating!*

          In case anyone comes back to check, this issue resolved itself on Friday when Pat quit (apparently Pat had multiple irons in the fire and ours wasn’t the most attractive).

          As for the references, the weird thing is I specifically asked about reliability and professionalism, as that was something paramount to my CEO in the hiring process. I ended up speaking with four different references and asked pointed questions about reliability, arriving/leaving on time, being communicative about absences, that kind of thing. Pat’s former CEO was the only one who said anything negative about reliability, and volunteered that information without me having to ask- basically said “very technically smart, but incredibly unreliable.”

          Weird situation all around.

  18. OlympiasEpiriot*

    My company has almost twice as many employees as it did when I was hired (oh so many years ago) and our biz office has only increased by one person.

    Accounts Payable
    Accounts Receivable
    Expense Checks
    Insurance Certificates

    It takes on average 4x as long to get an expense reimbursement now as it did when I started.


    1. Adnan*

      Same thing happened in my former dept. I was the only finance person in the Dept with responsibility for A/P, A/R, Expense Claims, Payroll. Customers & employees increased fourfold in the three years I was there but they did not think it was necessary to add more finance staff. People kept blaming finance for being the bottleneck so I moved to another department. Now ex-department has 3 finance persons and the boss is asking for funding for a couple more positions because the work is still not getting done.

  19. LavaLamp*

    Anyone have a story about bosses trying to discriminate against an FMLA (or well anything else) and having your relationship actually your relationship recover?

    This happened with my managers and I and everything actually worked out, which is rather rare from what I’ve seen. Just a random question since work is slow today.

    Also, I hope fellow Coloradians are safe due to the snowpoccalypse. My work actually closed.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I’m in Denver. Just got dug out from the big storm earlier in the week, and round 2 is moving in tomorrow. It was insane though — I live 15 minutes from my office and it took me over an hour to get home.

      My husband left yesterday to go camping (he goes every year at about this time, he’s completely insane) and texted me when he got to his usual spot — the weather was beautiful and there was hardly any snow, and he said he didn’t have too much trouble digging out the RV when he went to pick it up.

  20. Elle the new fed*

    I have been incredibly frustrated with my job lately and this is mostly just to vent. I’ve been here about 8 months now and things were going well, I thought. I had a great mid-year review and then my manager was put on a short-term detail elsewhere.

    So I was temporarily reassinged and have been working with a new manager. He keeps saying things like, “You have done well BUT…” or “I know you have said you want this BUT…” and it’s always followed up by all of the things he perceives as not up to his standards. I don’t think any of the things I’m supposedly not doing will get me fired (after all, I’m a Fed and I am actually doing my job) but I do worry I won’t get a grade increase at the end of the year, which would make it really hard to stay in this role much longer. Great, but you aren’t actually my manager longer than 6 months and my previous manager said things were on track and progressing well. According to her, I was performing as the higher pay grade and therefore would be looking at the increase and according to him, I have a long way to go.

    I’m not sure if I should follow his direction since he technically will be doing my end of year review, or if I should just continue with what my actual manager said. I’ve tried to have these conversations with him, but he takes things really personally and as an affront to him and his management style when I mention that I had a completely different conversation with my manager.

    Ugh. Working with him has really demotivated me and I was hoping to be here 3-5 years and now I just…. don’t know. I’ve started to dread going to work in the mornings because I know I’ll have to deal with him.

    1. Colette*

      He’s your manager well, so work in what he wants you to work on. Your previous manager didn’t mention the same issues, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t legitimate – and your previous manage may not return.

      1. Elle the New Fed*

        That’s a great point. Last I heard she was still planning to return, but obviously, that could always change. If that were to happen though I think they would replace her and put her team back together (as it just makes more sense for the department configuration).

        I think the sense of my frustration is coming fromt he fact that I don’t feel like the things relate to my job. I have been very high producing in my actual job, and it’s the things like “stop producing so much” or “spend work time on extracurricular activities” (like the party planning committee) that are really rubbing me the wrong way. We are a large office and I don’t NEED to be on the party planning committee because there are already 10 other people doing it. And being told to stop doing my job… what? Isn’t that what I was hired to do? I was hired because I am good at X and Y and my job is to do X and Y, so I don’t understand why I’m now being told to stop doing what I am being paid to do. (For context, it’s like someone being hired to make 10 sales a quarter and the office on average makes 30 calls to have 10 sales, and I’m being told that even though my product is harder to sell, I should stop making 40 calls to make those 10 sales.)

          1. Elle the New Fed*

            I have and I am now thinking that comes across as not a team player, or not wanting to participate in the department. I am very much the type of person who wants to do my job and do it well, and not waste my time on the superfluous stuff, but as many discussions on this thread before have touched on, that may very well be coming across much more negatively than I anticipated to this new manager, whereas my previous manager didn’t care.

            1. BuildMeUp*

              It definitely sounds like a company culture thing. Your new manager obviously thinks that doing those outside things is part of your job; whether you agree or whether doing those things will help you in the long run, maybe putting in at least a token effort on that will get New Manager off your back a little.

              The “stop producing so much” comment is weird, but maybe he meant it in relation to the extracurricular stuff – that you should spend X amount of time per week on that instead of on your regular duties. Or maybe his team is more social and friendly with each other, and it’s expected that you’ll take a break to chat at some point during the day. If you’re not doing that already, try it for a week or two and see if it helps, and see if there’s a visible but not too time-consuming extracurricular thing you can start doing.

        1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

          So, this is just my opinion (and it is coming from personal experience), but your manager isn’t telling you to do your job less. He’s telling you that in his opinion, socializing with your co-workers/getting along with them/participating in office activities, is very important. That’s what I am seeing when I read what he is asking you to do. He wants you to spend less time in head-down mode (which a lot of people take as an insult, and that you don’t want to participate), and more time interacting with others.

          Is it fair/right? I don’t know. But that’s what I’m getting out of this. I also might be totally off-base!

          1. Elle the New Fed*

            That’s completely fair and the reason I asked is that I knew I was missing something, I think this is it. Whether or not it’s company culture is debatable, but obviously it’s important to him and therefore something I need to pay attention to.

            1. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

              And within companies, there can be so many different types of cultures, which is something I personally didn’t realize until recently! I assumed that because my team was a certain way, the others would be similar. Really, it comes down to your specific manager.

    2. Dawn*

      1- Is your other manager expected to come back at some point? Or is the new guy going to be around a while? You can always just remind yourself that your original manager is going to come back eventually!

      2- Ain’t fair, but you’re stuck with this guy for now, and if he’s doing your end of year review then you’re going to have to kowtow to what he wants to see from you. Honestly, if I came in as a manager and had an employee whose performance I wanted to see improve say “But Old Manager said I was great!” I’d be pretty darn annoyed. So try to put a lid on those complaints, *as justified as they might be*, and start to have a dialogue with New Manager about what he wants to see from you. If this is the guy responsible for moving you up a grade, you’re just going to have to do his dance to get there.

      3- regarding the end of year review thing, any way you could ensure that your previous manager’s voice was heard in that review as well? So previous manager would review the 1st 6 months of your performance, and current manager would review the 2nd 6 months? That way your review would more adequately reflect your actual performance during the year instead of just this one dude’s opinions.

      1. Elle the New Fed*

        She is expected to be back by August but as another commenter pointed out, she might not come back and that’s something I hadn’t really thought about.

        I can totally understand #2 and I (obviously biasedly) don’t feel like I’m doing that, but it could very well come across that way and something I will pay closer attention to. I feel like I am too close to the situation and needed a different perspective.

        It’s just very different management styles and priorities–one wants everyone involved in all social aspects of the department and the other (my first manager) wanted the job done and done well, and once you were doing the job well could focus on the other things. I shared above a little bit more specifics, specifically the “stop doing your job” part. TBH I wouldn’t have taken the job if he had been originally presented as my manager, but that’s the way things are and I have to work with it.

        And to #3, there is a mid-year review filed by my manager and her manager (because it’s federal) so I think it would be hard to come back and say my performance has really dropped off between that and the way our performance is tracked, it would be impossible to say I’m not doing my job and not high performing. It’s the extra stuff that has been causing me undue stress.

        1. Just an ARRGH moment*

          “The way our performance is tracked, it would be impossible to say I’m not doing my job and not high performing.”

          Well that’s good to hear! At least you have that knowledge in the back of your head :) This sounds super annoying/frustrating, for sure, because you’re holding the short end of the stick in this situation. I hope it gets better/ you can overcome your frustrations/ you can reach a comfortable neutral with your current boss/ your old boss comes back soon!

          1. Elle the New Fed*

            Thank you! I feel like I have a new perspective of this whole situation and do hope to reach that comfortable neutral soon :)

    3. Girasol*

      Sometimes a manager feels it’s his job to “give feedback” but he’s not good at it, so instead of effectively helping the employee to grow he just adds a little nitpicking to every encounter. Is it possible that the ongoing negativity is an issue with his job skills rather than yours?

  21. Bowserkitty*

    Bathroom Bandit Update:

    Thanks for all the suggestions from the open thread a couple of weeks ago on suggestions for signs to hang up! We went with whomever said to use “Please check/clean the toilet seat before you go, it’s unhygienic and we all share this room” (paraphrasing). My coworker put it on the door and we called it a day. My boss was skeptical. I pshawed him because I am an optimist.

    The next day I went into the bathroom and saw the seat was up and pee was all over the place. “Did he do it to spite us!?” I asked the coworker. Her guess was that he was too busy to read anything. By the way, we’ve more or less identified the culprit, and he is also a non-hand-washer. I grudgingly admitted my boss was right.

    (Typing this just now, I LITERALLY heard my coworker’s doctor boss ask if the sign is making a difference.)

    So we laminated and hung another sign right on the wall above the toilet. So far so good but we’ve still got a full Friday ahead of us…

      1. Bowserkitty*

        My coworker mentioned she asked the head of the department (whom the bandit reports to) to speak to him and he wasn’t very keen on that for some reason. Aghhhhh. I know it’s an awkward conversation but even worse is walking in there and seeing a disgusting toilet.

        1. Artemesia*

          This is the managers job. This is one case where if the manager didn’t do it, I would want to see a pile of anonymous notes going to this guy’s mailbox. I don’t know why men are so unwilling to step up on this sort of thing and manage.

    1. danr*

      Maybe put another sign inside the stall door at eye level. And, if the toilet seat has a cover, another sign taped to the underside with directions. A big arrow pointing down and side arrows with the crossed circle pointing to the side (meaning NO!).

      1. Florida*

        I am very much against this, as I think it’s passive aggressive. If you know who the culprit is, than deal with the culprit. This reminds me of the teacher who punishes the entire class because they don’t want to deal with the one kid who is misbehaving. It never corrects the problem, and creates resentment with everyone else.

        If you know who the culprit is than deal with that person. If you don’t want to do that, then use another bathroom.

    2. HR Recruiter*

      Yuck! If you know who it is I’d have a talk with them. Although I’m not one to take my own advice. My boss does the same thing. I just can’t imagine approaching a high level, grown man and explaining to him how to use a bathroom.

      1. Anonsie*

        Yeah this is probably someone who’s immune to some level of shame, but being specifically told to his face to stop pissing all over the place might be a new level that’s not so easy to brush of.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      A friend of a friend of mine has 4 boys and a 70’s bathroom with dark brown tile. The first time she stepped in pee, she cleaned it. The second time, she corralled them all in and said “don’t do that.” The third time, she caught them at it, they were actively peeing all over the place and giggling because it was fun. So she handed them a tube (? box?) of Clorox wipes and made them clean it up right there and then. Never had another problem.

      As bad as this may sound, if someone can keep an eye on when the Dirty Pee-er goes into the bathroom, him coming out to a bunch of people standing there and holding out the Clorox wipes, then making him clean it while they watch — shaming yes. Effective, probably. Bonus: at least that one time his hands would be clean.

      And just ew! Seriously, who the hell doesn’t know to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom? When you’re at home, if you don’t want to that’s your business, but when you’re out in public? Ugh.

  22. Anon Accountant*

    I have a job interview tomorrow! It’s at an accounting firm and I’m nervous since it’s been over a year since my last interview. It’s exciting, nerve wracking and scary at the same time.

    I did everything this website suggests. Focused resumes on accomplishments and took advice of commenters on changing my cover letter to be less dry and used changed wording. Will update to let everyone know how it goes.

    I’d been applying to so many positions and having no luck in spite of changing resume and networking. The job market is still very sluggish but let’s hope for the best.

  23. Juli G.*

    My manager is awesome and is helping me position myself really well for not just a promotion but probably a choice in promotions next month.

    That’s the catch 22 – a good manager develops you for your new role but than you have to take your chances on a new manager.

    1. AnotherFed*

      But it’s a small world sometimes, so you may end up working for or with that good manager again. Good people like working with other good people!

  24. going anon for this*

    So, I was contacted by the VP of a startup through LinkedIn and after going through a few rounds of interviews, they’re offering me more money than I had asked for (double what I’m making now). I’m tempted to take the job for the money alone because I could easily pay off some loans within a few years with the salary and start saving for a down payment on a condo. The position is also two steps up from my current role in terms of responsibility and title and is a mangerial role instead of my current non-managerial role.

    However, the job is in my current industry which I’ve been trying to get out of because the corporate side of the industry is a sinking ship and layoffs are frequent. I know the startup scene is poised to do better (without going into too many details, the corporate side is all big business print media and the startup scene is more tech and digital) and the startup has good investors and positioning in the industry, so if all goes well, it could be a great career boost. As far as the work environment goes, it doesn’t seem too startupy and I was assured that they were totally in favor of work-life balance and taking vacations and all that.

    I’m not so much worried about the startup itself as being stuck in this industry (and this city. I’ve been itching to move to a new city but I can’t move without more money or a job lined up) or being bored with the work. The new job would be similar to what I do now and I’m pretty bored. I’m good at what I do, but bored. I feel kind of guilty for taking a job in the same industry just because the pay is so good when I’ve spent the last few years saying how much I want to make a career change.


    1. Anna No Mouse*

      This is a tough one. If you’re truly unhappy and unfulfilled in both the work and your location, maybe don’t take the job and just work on finding something in a field and a place you want to be. You don’t want to take this job and then leave after a short stint once you realize that this is just not where you want to be, especially considering this is a big move up for you. It could make you look like you were unable to handle the added responsibility.

      I’d work on figuring out what you really want to do, and where you want to be. Then work towards that goal. Money isn’t everything.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      It depends on which goal is more important to you in this moment of your life. Is it more important to progress your career and put it on a longterm track? Or is it more important to save money, pay down debt, and potentially buy a condo in whatever location you may want to relocate to? Both goals are good, both goals have value. It all depends on what is personally important to you right now.

    3. Dawn*

      “I’m tempted to take the job for the money alone because I could easily pay off some loans within a few years with the salary and start saving for a down payment on a condo.”

      Would you rather accept being bored for a couple years with the payoff being loans paid off and down payment for a condo in New Awesome City, or would you rather switch industries now and move to a new city now? Only you can answer that question. Money isn’t everything, sure, but if you could stick out boredom for a 2X salary for a few years (and be serious about saving your money!) that could and would absolutely let you have more freedom later on in your life once your debts are paid off.

      1. going anon for this*

        I think I could stick out a couple years of boredom to save money and pay off loans. I think I’m just feeling guilty taking a job for the money alone because I had that “take a job you love/follow your dreams/don’t take a job for the money” mentality instilled in me.

        1. Dawn*

          You’re TOTALLY following your dreams by taking this job! You’re dreaming of having your loans paid off, and having enough to put a deposit down on a condo- and you’re taking this job to make that happen! You’re gonna work through boredom for a couple years to make those dreams happen! If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is.

          It’s OK to take a job that you don’t love sometimes. In this case, it’s more than just “OK”- it’s going to mean you achieve your goals faster and in a better financial situation, and that’s AWESOME. You’re not taking this job because you want a Ferarri and a huge house and a boat (not that there would be anything wrong with that, mind). You’re taking this job *for a limited time*, knowing what you’re getting into, knowing what you’re gonna get out of it, and knowing what it’s going to mean for your overall career/life progression. THAT’S awesome! That’s following your dreams!

          1. going anon for this*

            Thanks, this really helped! I think I just needed to put it in perspective. I have the weekend to think over the offer and get back to them, so this has given me some good food for thought!

          2. Doriana Gray*

            You’re TOTALLY following your dreams by taking this job! You’re dreaming of having your loans paid off, and having enough to put a deposit down on a condo- and you’re taking this job to make that happen!

            This. This dream is just as important as any.

        2. Not a Real Giraffe*

          As a person who followed my dreams and took a job I love… it has really screwed me in the long run. I took my current job for the money and for the growth opportunity, and it is amazing how much the extra boost in my salary helped me relax and breathe. I can sit tight in this job for a few years, pad my savings, pay off some debts, and then find a job later that allows me to follow my dreams. This current job buys me the freedom to follow my dreams later.

          1. going anon for this*

            Thanks! This is helping me feel less guilty about taking it for the money and financial security.

            1. Jiffy*

              Yes — please feel OK about taking a job for the financial security. I work so I can pursue my dreams and hobbies.

        3. FutureLibrarianNoMore*

          It’s nice of people to say that, but I think most people will agree that the vast majority of the population is working for money, not because they love what they do.

          Sure, they may *enjoy* what they do, but at the end of the day, I’m sure everyone has a dream job and a real world/reality job.

    4. Allison*

      Take the money and run! Double your salary is a lot of money to be bored while setting yourself up well financially.

    5. voluptuousfire*

      Or you can take a few years and pay down your loans and debts/save like crazy and once you’re in a better place (or they’re paid off), take a few months off and rethink what you want to do. A sabbatical isn’t a bad thing.

      I’m kind of in the same position. I’m very bored in the job I’m at now but don’t hate it. I like it and love my environment but if I were offered a similar role at twice my current salary, I’d take it in a heartbeat. At this point in my life, I can deal with being bored for much higher pay. Knowing that I’m making good money and can really chuck most of my pay into savings and such would temper the boredom nicely.

      1. going anon for this*

        Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. I think writing the comment out and reply to some comments made me realize I feel guilty taking a job I know I could do in my sleep just because of the money and more financial security/opportunities.

        I hadn’t considered a sabbatical after a few years of working at this new job, etc., but that’s actually a really good point.

    6. Brandy*

      Consider taking it and banking the new salary like crazy to give you an exit cushion if you end up not liking it.

      A story about a startup that failed/didn’t grow isn’t crazy and might be a good way to jump industries should you want to do that down the line.

    7. eemusings*

      Personally if it’s between two not dissimilar options and one paying much better… I would rather be bored with double the money than half.

      Obviously I don’t know the full context but if you wind up moving on in a year or two from a startup in digital media I doubt anyone would bat an eye.

      It’s been two years now since I left publishing (the subject of my very latest blog post actually!) and I must admit I still fight feelings of being an overpaid impostor. But it is so amazing to have financial wiggle room and own a home. As important as it is that my work is meaningful and enjoyable (and it totally is) money is just as if not more important to me personally.

  25. Anna No Mouse*

    My husband just got his annual review back from his manager, which said that while my husband is good at his job, he doesn’t meet deadlines or attend their daily meetings regularly. I can’t speak directly for the deadlines, but I know he attends the daily meetings, at least on days when he works from home, because I hear him attend them. He has often said that he is the only one who shows up sometimes. I get the feeling this manager doesn’t like my husband (who I admit, can rub people the wrong way, but is not malicious in any way).

    Any advice for dealing with an annual review that you dispute?

    1. Colette*

      Take it as legitimate feedback, ask for more information, and work on improving. How does the manager count attendance at meetings? What does the manager mean about missing deadlines – is that true? If not, how can he make the manager aware that he’s meeting deadlines?

      1. Anna No Mouse*

        That’s more or less the advice I gave my husband. I told him to ask for specific instances, so he can get an idea of where his manager is coming from.

      2. Charlotte Collins*

        Definitely ask for details. And if there is no solid evidence of what the manager is saying, your husband should see if there’s a feedback mechanism in the review process. Where I work, employees can make comments on their reviews and point out when the facts don’t support the assessment. (Since these are fact-based criticisms, your husband can note if they are accurate or not.)

    2. Artemesia*

      He should approach the boss in genuine puzzlement and open to feedback. ‘I need to review this with you so that I can meet expectations here. I have a list of the meetings I attended and don’t recall having missed any I was scheduled for; am I missing out on notices of other meetings? Which meetings have I missed?’

      I want to be sure to meet deadlines, so can we review the deadlines missed and figure out a system to make sure we are always on the same page so this doesn’t happen again.’

      i.e. committed to achieve, listening to feedback, taking it seriously — needing documentation of the specifics so he can fix this.

    3. Newbie*

      I agree that he should ask his boss for specific examples. And then discuss with his boss how these issues/behaviors can be improved in the future. For example, when your husband is the only one that “shows up” via phone for the daily meetings, should he then email the boss to advise that he was on the phone and no one else showed up?

      He might also want to check with HR to see if there is any mechanism for employees to respond to the information in their performance review. Where I work, the employee has the opportunity to write a letter that is placed in the HR file with the review. I once had a review where I disagreed with 75% of what it contained, so I did write a letter in that one case (it was my only somewhat negative review in my 20+ years with the same company).

    4. Katie the Fed*

      I think he can also reasonably ask why the annual performance review was the first time he heard there was a problem (assuming it was). A boss shouldn’t be waiting until that point to bring things up – she should be mentioning an issue at the first sign so that the employee has a chance to correct the problems.

  26. Kristinemc*

    How would you suggest handling this?

    I’ve taken on more and more responsibility at my company in the 4 years that I have been here. The accounting department has fluctuated between two part-time, to 1.5 full time, to now 2 full time people. We have expanded pretty substantially over the past year and a half, added health insurance retirement benefits, and also using new software which is slightly more time consuming, but gives us the reports that we need. I addressed all this at my review last year, and I’m happy with my benefits & compensation.

    I’ve gotten to the point where instead of needing to work extra to keep up just Dec/Jan (for tax prep) it’s now happening more and more often. Every time I think things are going to slow down, something else comes up – switching payroll companies, new reporting requirements, a new location, something. I’d like to be at 80-90% capacity, and be able to analyze reports and do some of the “nice-to-have” things instead of just the “these-are-required” things, but instead I feel like I am always at 100-120% capacity. I never feel caught up. When I started this job, about a year in, I was pretty busy, but had a little wiggle room at the month. That’s not the case any longer.

    We’ve dropped a couple of items from the list (smaller locations), and the general attitude seems to be “Now you should have so much more time!” and instead it’s more like “Now I am *still* having to work occasional weekends”, and I don’t know how to convey that. I don’t know that they ever knew how much extra I was working, and I’m exempt/salaried, so it doesn’t really affect them.

    Things have also changed at home – in the past year, we’ve added a teenager to the family, and so I can no longer go home and just relax – I have to handle that scheduling, and homework, etc. So before, where I didn’t mind working from home sometimes, I mind more and more – because the time that I previously had for my leisure time is already taken up with managing a third person’s schedule and helping with homework, etc.

    What is the best way to say to my boss – I don’t want to do this anymore? I’ve basically been working extra for them just to get things done, and I didn’t mind doing that, but I am getting to the point where I am burnt out. My boss is very kind, and offers to let us go home early and genuinely wants us to take time off, but I don’t think he has a good idea of what day to day tasks are for me, or what my deadlines are. So I imagine he also wants everything to get done.

    1. Dawn*

      “My boss is very kind, and offers to let us go home early and genuinely wants us to take time off, but I don’t think he has a good idea of what day to day tasks are for me, or what my deadlines are”

      Just go lay it out to him. You’re not doing yourself, the company, or your boss any favors by not giving him a heads up about how bad it really is down in the trenches.

      “Boss, here’s *exactly* what’s on my plate. Here’s how it’s more than what it was a year ago. Here’s how much I’m having to work just to keep things afloat. Here’s how many times in the last six months I’ve had to work extra *just to keep things afloat*. (And here’s the important part) Here’s exactly what I suggest we do in order to make sure that I do not become burnt out, everything gets done in a timely manner, and we are able to dedicate some brainpower to new initiatives.”

      It’s important to come with solutions already in hand!

      1. Artemesia*

        Coming with solutions in hand is critical. If you bring a boss a problem that he can’t solve to make you happy then he is likely to hurt you. He would rather push it on you than own that he is ineffective about meeting your needs. I got this advice decades ago and it shaped how I approached bosses and it worked much better than being agrieved. Complain and you are the problem; talk about how you need X to meet the company’s needs and you are the solution.

      2. Kristinemc*

        The only solution I can see is to hire someone else, however, I don’t think they are going to want to do that.

        I think I am struggling with feeling like they were paying me $x, and getting x amount of work from me, which gradually increased and increased – and now I’m asking them to decrease the amount of work back to regular level without decreasing my salary. I feel somehow as if I am trying to offer them less, when in reality, I think I stretched to do more for a while, and it’s really not an option moving forward.

        1. BRR*

          You are not decreasing your work. You are trying to keep it at a reasonable amount. They have added things and I’m curious if you have gotten raises to match? I would point out how much as been added and how much time each thing takes. In previous letters the advice has been to say something along the lines of you can do only two things between A,B, and C so which is the priority. Just maybe throw that out there and then be quiet to see what your boss says, people love solutions that they come up with even if you lead them there. As an alternative, can you suggest outsourcing anything or hiring a temp during the busiest times?

          If that fails, you’re going to have to decide if you want to continue to work with these conditions.

  27. Boop*

    How do you all estimate appropriate time investments for projects? I’m not scheduling myself well and cant seem to balance big and small projects or accurately predict how long something will take. My manager asked me to establish specific time investments for the different types of projects I work on. Would love to hear how some of you do this.

    1. Colette*

      Break the big projects down into smaller tasks – everything should take less than a week, ideally a day or two. Schedule them out, multiplying by 1.25 to account for unexpected problems.

      1. Boop*

        Is that an agile method? Not sure why I haven’t thought about breaking them down into tasks, but I haven’t! I also wouldn’t have thought to multiply by 1.25. Great advice.

      2. GOG11*

        I also find it very helpful to break things down. In my case, it’s generally pretty specific and concrete (generally a behavior I can see or hear – not just a project name, for instance), which helps me ensure I don’t forget anything and keeps me from getting distracted, but even noting components can get you thinking of what specifics the process entails and how much time those pieces take.

    2. A Non E. Mouse*

      Where I’ll sometimes get a little sideways in the planning stage is forgetting that I’ll be interrupted.

      There are NOT 40 “billable”* hours in a week working regular business hours where I work – if I really bust it I can get 35 billable hours out of myself in a week, but that includes taking a laptop and hiding. I will get interrupted, I will get pulled into meetings, I will have something go from smoldering to active-flames on a random Tuesday that I have to drop everything and address.

      So make sure you aren’t scheduling 40 hours of work time each week, unless you plan on working before/after hours.

      I also started keeping track of my time last Fall, and I was severely underestimating the time each distraction took away from other things – a 1 minute request meant I had to access two servers, email the end user, close the ticket…

      *And by billable I mean “I can attribute it to a project or point to a specific task”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Time yourself doing various tasks. It’s very hard to estimate time when you don’t know how long it is taking you to do something. I do x once a week. If everything goes well it takes me 20 minutes. If the computer burps or if I am missing information it can take 3 hours. So I allot an hour on busier weeks with more information to handle. If it’s a slow week then I know I can get x done in under a half hour. There are patterns in almost everything we do, so assume you have a pattern and try to describe your pattern.

      It is also helpful to have a list of side work to do for those days when you are ahead of your schedule. These are the days I straighten out a desk draw or oil a machine, etc.

  28. Manders*

    This is a relationship question, but the problem is about our jobs and where we can do them, so I was hoping someone here had a similar experience and could offer advice.

    I work in digital marketing and I’d like to stay in this field long-term, which means my best career options are in large, mostly coastal cities. In a few years maybe I’ll have enough experience to freelance, but I’m not there yet. My boyfriend is in a PhD program and is ABD, but now he’s decided he wants to drop the program and work in a small private high school. This isn’t the first time he’s gotten pretty deep into a career path, got frustrated, and decided to go in a completely different direction.

    The problem is that most of the schools he’s applying to are in places where I can’t find work, period. I’m talking about towns in Korea with one apartment building and boarding schools in the actual middle of nowhere. I’ve noticed this gendered dynamic in his department where men move wherever they need to go to further their careers and women are expected to both 1) follow them, and 2) keep up a high income level to support them. I can do one of those, but I can’t do both in the places where he’s applying.

    I’ve pointed this out several times and told him that I’ve noticed and strongly dislike this trend in his department, and he agrees with me intellectually, but still gets disappointed whenever he announces that he’s applied to a new place and I respond with, “Cool, good for you, I won’t be following you there.”

    I think the underlying problem is burnout combined with a desire to prove something to his bad advisor by leaving, but I think if he does move to one of these obscure places, he’ll end up hating it and wanting to move again in a year or two.

    Partners of people who had careers that took them to strange areas, how did you solve the two-body problem? Partners of people in PhD programs, did they do similarly strange things when they got burned out? Partners of people who were in academia for long enough to forget what the non-academic job market can be like, how did you explain that to them?

    1. Dawn*

      Pretty sure Captian Awkward has had questions in this vein over the years- go check the archives over there; you’ll probably find some great answers/scripts either in the posts themselves or in the comments.

      1. Manders*

        I’m a fan of her site, and I’ve read plenty of her letters about partners with mental illnesses, but I can’t recall anything about this type of situation. Do you remember any of the details from those letters?

        1. Dawn*

          Unfortunately not, and CA is blocked at work or else I’d search for you. I do know there’s been a lot of letters about the stresses of moving when one party doesn’t want to.

    2. KR*

      When my boyfriend enlisted, I basically told him that I would not put my career on hold to move around the country with him. I had heard of so many women who couldn’t get ahead professionally because they didn’t have any long term experience because they were trying to manage their SO’s job and lifestyle. I had to enforce that decision recently when he found out where he was being stationed next and even though I could afford to move in with him, I have a good job here and the potential to work on some really cool stuff and make some good money. It’s hard but you just have to take a hard line on preserving your career. If he really wants you to go with him, he will work with you to find a place with an excellent program and that will allow you to grow your career.

      1. Artemesia*

        My boyfriend and I worked this out before we married. We moved for my difficult career and then he coped. WE have been married for over 40 years now and that first move was a killer as it was very hard for him to get established after that first move. We didn’t expect that as he was very successful and on partnership track where he was and had had other offers. He felt like hot spit. In the new location a southern city, it turned out that people early mid-career in his field were almost impossible to employ unless they were sons in law or brothers in law. The firms hired newbies and they sometimes hired rainmakers with lots of experience but people a few years in without local connections were not desirable. They didn’t want to bring them in on top of their new hires and they weren’t in a position to bring in business. BUT he did put together a good career in that town and when my job was lost in a merger, it was my turn to scramble — no way we were uprooting him again. I managed that. It was hard in both cases.

        If the two people cannot work out something that works for both then I think it is time to move on and find a new relationship. One person can choose to be the following spouse and keep the home fires burning — but that is a choice. If that is not your choice and no reason it should be — get a PhD and then don’t pursue a career? not a choice I would make — then you need to rethink compatibility. There are many fine fish in the sea.

    3. No Longer Just a Lurker*

      I know you wanted work/career advice but this sounds more like a relationship issue – maybe it is time for a break in the relationship. If he really, truly cared he wouldn’t be applying for these no matter how much he wanted to prove something to someone who doesn’t matter. Especially since there are lots of private schools in big cities. He may intellectually agree with you on the trend you pointed out but he doesn’t seem to care emotionally. Find some positions he might like in areas where you can find a job and see what his reaction is – if he poo-poos them immediately I would really look at other things to find out if this is a one off “needs to prove himself” or a trend of not caring. Either way your “Cool, good for you, I won’t be following” sounds like a good response – stick to your guns because one person does not get to make this type of decision (moving) for both partners.

      1. Jillociraptor*

        Yeah, it really sounds like he is not hearing you or respecting your constraints. Manders, you’ve been totally reasonable in making clear your boundaries on this, and it seems like he’s operating under the assumption that he can get you to blow them off. In my opinion, it’s not possible to find a good solution for both people when either partner’s approach is “get the other one to compromise.”

      2. AVP*

        I was just scrolling down to say something like this – these are major two-person relationship decisions that need to be talked over together, not made unilaterally! It’s definitely outdated to just assume that a woman will be coming along with you wherever your career goes. I could see it maybe in the case of a PHD getting a tenure-track offer somewhere remote, but for a high school level theaching job it seems unnecessary and like the BF is choosing jobs to apply to based on whims of where he’d like to live, not out of necessity….for me thats a big red flag.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. It is one thing when there are 3 tenure track jobs in your field and you get one or two offers and the spouse has to decide. It is quite another when it is a high school teaching job. Those exist everywhere; someone who chooses a remote school in Korea is simply telling you that the relationship is not important to him or that he is a misogynist who things women are not independent humans whose needs need to be considered. I’d feel differently, if it was his only chance. Or if he were in the military. But even then, at the boy/girlfriend stage, this is the moment to decide what kind of life you want to live and how much you are willing to give up. I am not giving up anything for a man who doesn’t think my needs are worthy of consideration. That sounds like the boyfriend to me.

          1. Anxa*

            That’s a great point.

            I was about to commiserate very strongly as I’m in a somewhat similar situation regarding upcoming crosswords as the GF of someone finishing their dissertation this week, but most of our conflicts stem from both of us having some experience/aspirations in geographically limited fields. While you can’t just find a high school teaching job anywhere, there is a high school teaching industry almost anywhere. TT or even adjunct jobs in narrower specialties are much more difficult to find spread throughout the country (or world).

          2. overeducated*

            Even then it’s a relationship question that isn’t automatic. I got an offer for one of those 3 jobs last year…a couple months after my spouse had accepted a great opportunity and was unable to move. I turned it down and am still looking for another chance, because it was more important to me to stay in the same city with my spouse and our infant than to advance my career at great personal cost. On the other hand, this happened with a couple married friends of mine this last year, the academic spouse accepted, the non-academic spouse saw no ability to get a job in the isolated small town, and they are getting divorced. And then I know people doing everything in between, from leaving academia to having long-distance marriages.

            1. AVP*

              Oh totally! It’s a process and you have to go through it together no matter what. It just can’t be one person in a relationship deciding something that affects both people so acutely.

    4. Realistic*

      I understand the frustration about his assumption that you would just “go along” with him. I understand the frustration of his changing career paths on the cusp of finishing. Both of those things would aggravate me to no end, and cause much discussion and soul-searching in my relationship. Good luck figuring out what’s right for you!
      I would suggest that you really look at options for a career in South Korea just to see if it’s do-able, should you decide the relationship is worth moving, though. Korea is the most-internet-connected country in the world. Digital marketing is often a job that has variations which can be done remotely. And Koreans often place a high value on native English speakers in the workplace. If you are creative, you might be able to find a job at a hagwon (academy) doing some teaching to supplement while you are lining up clients or job searching. There are many expats living in Korea who can help you learn more about living and working there, if it’s something that is an option you want to consider. Of course, that doesn’t address the reasons why you’re hesitant to go, but at least you’ll know more in making your decision. 행운을 빈다

      1. Manders*

        Unfortunately, I really am talking about a *tiny* town in South Korea. There’s one Samsung branch office, and literally no other game in town. There wouldn’t be many ex-pats there because there’s nowhere for them to work except this one school. Same deal with Japan: I’d consider a move to a big city and might even be in demand there, but he’s getting interviews with schools in tiny towns.

        I’ve also tried teaching and, frankly, I’m no good at it. It wouldn’t be fair to the kids.

    5. Christy*

      I work for the government and I can work anywhere my part of the government has an office–about 70 cities total. So my fiancée wouldn’t look anywhere that I couldn’t commute to one of those cities 4x/month. She’ll eventually follow me back to DC if my career brings me back here. If I’m coming back here, it’ll be for a big-deal job, so it would be worth it to us as a couple/family to return. (It helps that I have family near here. Her family is across the country.)

      I straight-up would not sacrifice my career to follow a boyfriend/girlfriend. A spouse, maybe, if we made the decision to prioritize their career, either overall or for that period of time. But if my fiancée were to do what your boyfriend is doing? I’d have MAJOR issues with it. It doesn’t sound like he’s prioritizing the relationship, and I need someone who will prioritize the relationship. And I definitely wouldn’t, as a couple, move somewhere for a lower-paying job where the higher earner couldn’t continue to earn the high wage. Eff that. I need stability.

      1. gabrielle*

        “I straight-up would not sacrifice my career to follow a boyfriend/girlfriend. A spouse, maybe, if we made the decision to prioritize their career, either overall or for that period of time. But if my fiancée were to do what your boyfriend is doing? I’d have MAJOR issues with it. It doesn’t sound like he’s prioritizing the relationship, and I need someone who will prioritize the relationship.”


    6. blackcat*

      Has he considered working with a headhunting firm, like Carney Sandoe?

      I have worked with them (on both sides, job searching & hiring) and LOVE them. Teachers can select regions where they’d be interested in jobs. They upload materials. Carney Sandoe basically does the rest. Depending on his field (math/physics/chem/engineering/etc is FAR easier than English/history/art/bio), he could be pretty picky about location.

      BUT (and it’s a big but) does he really want to work with high school kids? That matters A LOT when looking for jobs at independent schools.

      And, yeah, I think the PhD process lends itself to burnout. Nine months ago, I was in cranky, f-it, I’ll leave and go back to teaching high school mode. Now, I’m in all I want to do is write my papers because I love my work mode. All that changed is that I made a breakthrough in the work. My work habits, the people around me, everything else has stayed the same. A lot of it was luck.

      When my husband was in the tail end of his PhD, hating every second of it, there seemed to be little to nothing I could do to convince him that there would be jobs outside of academia for him, almost wherever we wanted to live. He’s a talented programmer. He can get work! The only thing that convinced him was getting him to talk to A LOT of our friends who have PhDs in similarly quantitative fields who now do a variety of other things. It also helped that his advisor’s other student got a job at a bank post-PhD and one of his close friends washed out in year 4 and landed a cool job at a then-start up (now he is a VP).

      As a final note, I do not encourage anyone who doesn’t want to to finish their PhD unless they are very close (<6 months of work). The PhD doesn't really help get jobs outside of academia (and it might hurt), and in 90% of fields, the academic job market is terrible. Leaving is often the best decision a PhD student can make.

      1. blackcat*

        Oh, and my husband followed me to our current location (planned move pre-wedding, actual move post-wedding). He did get an academic job nearby, but the commute is brutal.

        It helps that he has other male friends who have followed their female partners. But I get lots of surprised comments when I tell other academics that I had a husband who would follow me. If both of us stay in academia, there’s really no doubt that I’d be the “successful” one and he’d follow me. There is a dynamic in academia that men have significant others who follow them and women stay single. It’s an institutional/cultural problem, and not just a problem in your bf’s department.


        1. Manders*

          Yep, that’s exactly the pattern I’m seeing: single women, men with partners who’ll drop everything for them. Even the mandatory “career options” classes he’s forced to attend are white men telling students not to settle for anything less than a prestigious university gig, while not mentioning the fact that their spouses are either old money or work in a high-income field.

          His advisor is being difficult about his proposed thesis, because no matter how many times my boyfriend says that he actually would prefer to teach high school or community college and he wants to get done as fast as possible, his advisor tells him to tack on extra years of research because surely he *really* wants to teach at a 4-year university. Said advisor also comes from very, very old money and has a non-working spouse.

          1. blackcat*

            Ah, yes, this dynamic. The advisor with blinders, thinking “Of course my PhD student wants to be just like me.”

            Push back. Push back hard. Depending on whether or not there’s another faculty person who could advise the dissertation, he can go to the chair and see if there is someone else he could switch to who would sign off on the dissertation. I know that’s often not possible, but it’s worth looking into.

        2. Artemesia*

          Times are changing. When my husband followed me he got a lot of rude comments. When my son followed my daughter in law and my son in law followed my daughter, no one thought it odd at all.

          1. blackcat*

            I think this is field dependent. Both my husband and I are in heavily male STEM fields. The sexism is strong, I’m afraid.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Women stay single. Thank you for explaining this. It’s relevant in one of my situations I had in college and I always wondered about it. A prof would mention not being married so frequently in class that I thought it was odd that she kept mentioning it. Our private conversations kept getting more and more weird. Finally the whole situation just blew up. She never did summit my final grade and I never got credit for the course. (It wasn’t just me, other students were complaining quite vocally about things that were going on in her class.)
          Now, at least, I have an idea of where she was coming from.

      2. Manders*

        I know he’s working with some headhunters but I’m not sure if he’s heard of that firm, I’ll mention it to him. Thank you!

        I’m pretty confident that he won’t change his mind about teaching high school. He started his PhD because he wanted to teach, and ended up disillusioned because his advisor wants him to focus on research to the detriment of his students. He also teaches part time at a community college with a mix of high school, college, and returning students, and he’s so great there that his department head has already said flat-out that she would give him more work if she was able to, and she’s hoping someone will retire but she’s not allowed to make any promises, so he’s stuck in this weird limbo where *maybe* work will materialize some time in the future. He also needs to finish his PhD if he wants a tenure track position at a community college.

        Frankly, he’s fantastic at what he does, and some of the university prep schools he’s interviewing with are very prestigious. He says he can’t find job openings in major cities, though, and that doesn’t jibe with what I understand about the job market. I think he’s applying to openings in a blind panic and getting himself worked up about moving because he wants so, so badly to quit this program.

        Good call on finding more people with PhDs who don’t work in academia. His department definitely acts like it’s better to be unemployed than to take a “lesser” position outside a 4-year university.

        1. blackcat*

          A lot of fancy-pantsy prep schools on the coasts simply do not list their jobs publicly. They only go through firms, but many (most) do work with Carney Sandoe, just because they are so huge. But the other factor could be where he’s looking. He’s interviewing with really top schools–is he also looking to work at a not super elite, but still good, schools? There are so, so many! And I wouldn’t rule out religious schools even if he is not of the same faith–there are plenty of such schools where people of all faiths, or lack there of, are welcomed to teach.

          But yeah, if he’s getting interviews at elite schools in remote locations, it’s BS that there aren’t reasonable jobs for him in major metro areas. He might just have to work at a no-name private school. And plenty of those are great! I went to one (in a major, costal city) that I know is hiring for 3 openings in the upper school. They pay a reasonable amount (definitelya living wage in an expensive city). So the jobs are out there.

          1. blackcat*

            Oh, and just a thought–I wrote the above assuming that he wasn’t *looking* broadly enough.

            He may very well want to go live in the middle of no where and just not be admitting that to you. The “there are no jobs” could just be him trying to deflect the issue. That would make it 100% a relationship problem, rather than a job-search problem.

            At any rate, the jobs are there. He isn’t looking broadly enough, either because he doesn’t know how (say hello to Carney Sandoe!) or because he doesn’t want to.

            1. Manders*

              If he truly wants to live in the middle of nowhere, he’s pulled an impressively long con. I think it’s safe to say he wants to stay in a city if he can.

              Every time he talks about looking for jobs, he says he can’t find enough in big cities, hence the panicking about whether I would be willing to move to the middle of nowhere. It sounds like he’s just not looking in the right place. I will definitely tell him to check out Carney Sandoe, thank you again for that!

              1. blackcat*

                Ha, got it! I had assumed that that was the case and then it occurred to me that it might not be!

                If he’s applying for jobs by looking at individual school websites, he’s probably just missing a HUGE number of schools.

              2. blackcat*

                Oh, also, he can look at the National Association of Independent Schools website. Link to follow.

    7. LisaLee*

      Have you tried flat out asking him about this pattern? “Hey Bob, I notice you keep applying to these places in the middle of nowhere, where I have no job prospects. Is there a reason you’re not applying to City A, City B, or City C?” Maybe it’s time for a big-picture conversation about where you both see your relationship.

      As for the PhD…I know several people who got to ABD stage, then quit for several years before finally finishing. It’s not ideal and it doesn’t look great (at least in my field) but it’s fairly common. It sounds like the bigger problem there is his lack of willingness to stick with a career path, but I don’t think that’s a trait you can really change.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Part of our deal when I was doing this 45 years ago was that I would try to find one of the rare jobs in my field in a city where he had a fair shot at pursuing his career. We screened our opportunities and even offers that didn’t meet that test as a matter of course.

      2. overeducated*

        I really wouldn’t call looking for teaching jobs while ABD failing to commit to a career path, I would call it being realistic. That’s because the other alternative is finishing the PhD no matter what it takes, adjuncting and searching for full time work for as long as that takes, and possibly THEN looking for other teaching or industry jobs after wasting several years. The harsh reality is that getting a PhD and trying to get a prestigious academic job is not exactly a career path you can commit to without a high chance of failure and a huge opportunity cost.

        It’s treating an alternate plan as if it were the TT job market (i.e. you have to be willing to give up location, relationships, etc. because you may only get one chance) that is a problem to me. That is a backup plan that doesn’t solve the problem.

        1. LisaLee*

          That’s true, but it sounds like in Manders’s case, her boyfriend wanting to quit the PhD is part of a larger pattern of not following through on career paths.

          1. overeducated*

            Ok, but I just don’t think we should be considering not spending about a decade getting a PhD and applying or faculty jobs to be evidence of not following through. Especially since she says he’s actually making an effort to stay in education, just not at a prestigious university.

    8. Anxa*

      I’m about to face a somewhat similar position, except that my partner is not burned out, but rather torn between committing himself 100% to his goals and being pragmatic about the odds and settling for the first job he can get.

      That said, he wants to go into academia, so there’s a good chance of uprooting every few years. On top of that, his subject of study requires him to be on the coasts. Coastal cities are of course pretty expensive overall, doubly so for any that also have diversified industries, like the one I took some classes in and am hoping to break into (why did I go into a geographically bound field again? why couldn’t I be a nurse or a teacher?). Think NYC, Boston, DC, San Francisco, maybe San Diego.

      We live about an hour away from a city that would be an excellent fit maybe in a few years when he may have some power to have fieldwork seasons, but we just can’t bank or even realistically hope that a position would open up where he could do fieldwork during academic breaks and summers.

      We are also torn because what’s idealistically fair isn’t pragmatic. I’m probably far less employable than he is. I have a huge gap of underachievement post graduation, have yet to establish myself as a full-time worker, and am a less confident person in general. It doesn’t make sense for him to step back to accommodate my search when it’s such a longshot. But…in a year or two he could be in my situation as well: difficult to employ.

      I do think your partner is taking an intrinsically complicated situation already rife with conflicts and potential sacrifices and making it unnecessarily more difficult by trying to go international. Is he looking pragmatically at alternatives to the career he was preparing for that accommodates his needs, skills, experiences, personalities, and values? As well as one that keeps the door open for a future with you? Or do you think this is more about him having an adventure? Perhaps he isn’t ready to navigate his future career with a family in mind.

      As to that gendered dynamic….oh boy! It is so common in my circles to see academic men with women who are nurses, physicians, pharmacists, or stay at home.

      1. Manders*

        Oh man, I’d have tons of job options in those cities, but they’re a rough place to get started on a career. Best of luck to you both!

        (And YES, the academic man + woman in an easy-to-move medical career, I recognize that dynamic for sure!)

        The thing is, my boyfriend actually does prefer large coastal cities, but the international schools and the schools in less desirable areas go after candidates more aggressively, so I think he’s getting the impression that the places near us don’t want him as much. He actually does have an interview with a local place next week, and just sent in an application at another, and he’s still panicking about the possibility of moving halfway around the world. I think he’s spent so long in academia and gotten so burned out that he’s internalized this idea that we need to plan for these extreme moves, even though our local job market seems just fine.

        1. overeducated*

          What’s the time horizon here? What happens if he doesn’t get a job in the next month? Is it so dire that he would HAVE to take a job in Korea instead of spending several more months looking for something in a better city for you? Would hoping for a late summer opening and being willing to move to a city you prefer quickly be a better backup? Or does interviewing for these jobs just make him feel like he’s doing SOMETHING, assuaging his panic but not really feeling like serious options?I’d ask him to think about what need he thinks these applications are fulfilling and what a more practical backup plan could look like so you can stay together.

          1. Manders*

            Now that you mention it, I think it’s the last one, the need to feel like he’s doing something right this instant, that’s at the root of the problem. He already has a pretty solid backup option for next year with the part-time community college gig. I think he’s just hit the burnout wall and wants to be gone yesterday, and the schools that are remote or international are snapping up candidates now. The local schools have more leisurely hiring timelines.

            1. Overeducated*

              That’s maybe not so bad then. There’s a massive difference between applying to a job to feel like you’re making a real effort to change your life and actually signing on to the sacrifices that specific change would entail. You’ve told him you’re not moving there. That’s probably all you need to do, if this is out of desperation rather than a true desire to move to Korea. If this becomes a real prospect I bet it will not look so attractive.

    9. Terra*

      I’d sit down with your partner and map it all out. What is the main problem? Or do it for both the fact that he wants to drop out of his program and the fact that you will not sacrifice your career. What can you do to fix the problem? Can he just bull through the program for the degree? Can he switch to a PhD program at another university? Can he switch advisors? Can he choose to do it his way instead of what the advisor wants? If burnout is the issue can he drop out temporarily with the intent of returning? Can he quit and get a job in the country you currently live in? Can he get a job in a country that you could reasonably get a job in? Can you both move to a country where you can’t get a job? Can you live separately for x amount of time?

      Once you’ve thought of as many solutions as possible go through and cross out the ones that won’t work for each of you, you can even take turns if it helps. You cross out the idea of moving to Korea. He crosses out continuing the program if it’s something he is really against. Etc, etc. Hopefully at the end you have a few options to discuss and make the best possible choice for both of you as a unit. If you can’t find something you both agree on… that may be an answer in itself. Good luck!

    10. BRR*

      I didn’t read the comments so I might be duplicating somebody else’s advice (well it’s not direct advice, more so my situation) My husband just finished his PhD from a lower ranked school. He wants to be a professor but would also be happy as a private school teacher. I am progressing in a career of my own and not every place will have a job for me. Our rule is we discuss where he applies before hand and I can veto but have to be reasonable based mostly on geography. We both want to be in or near a big city but he’s willing to stretch that definition more as he would have one employer and stay their for life.

      Now as to how he learned about the nonacademic job market. He followed me for a job and had to job hunt for alt-ac jobs and got an eye opener how he isn’t the most attractive candidate on paper.

    11. Rocky*

      I’m friends with a married couple who have a similar situation and have been figuring it out. He’s been teaching in China, but just finished his PhD. She’s in a creative field similar to yours – all the opportunities are in cities and there’s no way in hell she could do it in China. So she stayed home with the house and the dog. I think they hope he will land a job in the U.S. somewhere she can also find work. They’ve made the long-distance thing work for a while now. I have no idea how. But apparently it works sometimes, if it’s what both parties want.

  29. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    I found out after 2.5 weeks the govt job didn’t work out.

    I got a rejection phone call. :((((((
    The branch chief manager went out of her way to tell me I did a perfect interview but they had to go with someone with more corporate experience with numbers. Rrrr….then it slipped out I’d interviewed for the same job in a different branch with the same company too. She asked “oh, have you been rejected from them yet?” “your writing skills are great–you should apply to the programmatic side.”

    So I felt crushed/complimented/insulted all in one, the bf didn’t get his lateral position and we both felt horrible so I used a gift card to treat us both to happy teapot fancy noms last night.

    Why do people do phone rejections? I honestly thought I had a chance and it gave false hope then rubbed salt in the wound :((((

    1. F.*

      So sorry you didn’t get the job. At least you did get some positive feedback, though I know that is small consolation in the moment.

      Seriously asking, what method of rejection would people prefer? I quit doing phone rejections when a candidate burst into tears on the phone. I now do emails, but I understand some people find that too cold and impersonal.

      1. Carmen Sandiego JD*

        I prefer typed email rejection. I hate phone rejections because they 1) give false hope of a tentative offer by phone then 2) you have to instantly act positive while receiving negative info which gives oneself a horrific headache at the end of the day…

      2. Paige Turner*

        Yeah, I’d prefer an email but I can see both sides. What I didn’t like, though, was getting a rejection email from a big university where I had interviewed that was a total form letter. I get it, you’re the largest private employer in town, but you’d think the hiring manager could customize it a little bit. :(

        1. F.*

          I do use the form emails when I outright reject a candidate through Indeed just due to the sheer volume of resumes I receive. When I have had personal contact with the candidate, I do a more personalized email.

          By the way, I can thank the AAM commentariat for kicking my a$$ to be SURE I follow up with every candidate, whether interviewed or not. People aren’t always happy to hear from me (had two try to argue with me just this past week), but I try to provide closure to candidates if we are not going to proceed with them.

        2. Artemesia*

          I always did personal emails i.e. specific to that person when they got to the interview and were not chosen. That way I could be warm and provide positive feedback without putting them in an awkward spot. I usually got lovely emails back. I am sure many of those folks would have had trouble being so together if I called and laid it on them.

      3. cardiganed librarian*

        I prefer email, mostly because it’s far less awkward and I can swear at the screen and generally act unprofessionally right away, but also because if you don’t reach the person, leaving a rejection voicemail is awkward and asking them to call you back to be rejected seems cruel.

        1. Carmen Sandiego JD*

          Yup–that’s what happened. Branch chief left a voicemail asking me to call back. I got all excited, called the next morning, then Branch chief laid it out for me >>>:(((

      4. overeducated and underemployed*

        A kind, personalized email for a finalist is best. They don’t have to react in real time but the things you might say to cushion the blow are still there.

      5. Quinalla*

        I mean, I can only speak for myself really, but e-mail rejections are much easier for me to deal with. I can have my initial response privately and not be expected to make a verbal response to someone. To me, e-mail rejections are kind as you want to let people know, but give them space to respond in the moment how they need to and then can respond professionally in an e-mail when ready.

    2. overeducated and underemployed*

      I’m sorry to hear this. Hope you can get your mind off it this weekend.

    3. GreenTin*

      I am sorry you didn’t get the job!

      I will say, if you continue to apply for gov jobs, be prepared for weirdness. I once got a phone call 2.5 years, YEARS!, after applying for a job asking if I was still interested.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        That might have been me on the other end. We once got notified we had a week to make some new hires based on a hiring pool that had been approved 2 years ago.

        Yep, get ready for weirdness. I also got offered a job at my employer….after I was already working at my employer.

        Carmen Sandiego – I’m so sorry it didn’t work out for you and you talked to a boneheaded person on top of it. I hope you find something soon.

    4. Khal E. Essi*

      I’ve only gotten 1 phone rejection call in my life and it was terrible. I was so excited to see the number come up on my phone while it was ringing only to be told I didn’t get the job. I think my voice cracked but I didn’t burst into tears, but boy was I close to it. A warm and polite personalized rejection email to ALL candidates who interviewed is what I sent when I managed an intern program.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I’m sorry you did not get the job.

      Just an aside, do you think you might want to do something with writing? One misstep I have made in life is not always listening closely to what other people think I do well. Okay, I listened and kept going my own merry way. Do you think that this compliment might be a pearl of wisdom for you? Sometimes we get guidance in odd ways.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I do phone rejections when I really, really wish I could have hired the candidate.
      I intend it to be a mark of high respect, and of consideration for the time and effort they put in.

      I also want to keep a relationship going. Because I might get an opening later, and if I do, I’ll put them on the first e-mail list that calls for applicants.

      I guess I didn’t really think about how hard on them it might be.

      1. Nicole*

        I’ve only gotten one rejection phone call but I took it the way you intended. The person seemed like she really wanted to hire me but couldn’t because the person they hired had worked there before. It was really jarring, though, since the assumption when you get a call is that you’re getting a job offer.

      2. Carmen Sandiego JD*

        @TootsNYC: Thanks, that helps soften things a bit. Branch chief said I’d be superb at the programmatic side/writing their papers, but they didn’t currently have a writing role available, only those other specialist ones.

        @NotSoNewReader: Interesting lol :) That’s how I ended up going to law school instead of medical. I’d been pushed into the sciences by my mom but when every Bio grade was a C+ or way, way, worse, I realized that the thing holding up my decent gpa was my As/A+s in literature/foreign language/ethics-type courses. I readjusted my sails back then too. Hmm…

  30. LisaLee*

    I had a phone interview early last week for a job that I would absolutely love to get, and now that I’m in the “overthink everything” stage, I’m wondering if I committed a faux pas with the thank-you note.

    My interview was with two people (Lucinda and Rachel). Lucinda was the director of the department I would be in and Rachel would be my immediate supervisor. Lucinda gave me her contact info at the end of the interview and invited my to send her any questions; Rachel did not. I sent a thank-you only to Lucinda, although I addressed both of them (“It was so nice speaking to you and Rachel…” sort of thing).

    I figured that since Rachel didn’t give me her email, she didn’t want to be contacted. But I also could have found her email easily. Logically I know that this won’t make or break my chances, but I’ve been obsessing over it a little. Is this as much of a mistake as I think it is? Do people even care about thank-you notes anymore?

    1. Dawn*

      Thank you notes are great, you absolutely did the right thing by responding to the person who gave you their contact information and including a mention of Rachel in the thank-you, it would have been kinda weird if you sought out Rachel’s contact info, you’re way over thinking this!

      I promise that Lucinda most likely mentioned the thank-you to Rachel and that they both have a warmer opinion of you because you sent it.

    2. Doriana Gray*

      I’m in the “you’re over thinking this” camp. You mentioned both of your interviewers in your thank- you note, and I’m sure Lucinda told her. And I did something similar when I interviewed for a training program at my current company – two years and three months later, I’m still here.

  31. Random Lurker*

    I’m dealing with a paranoid/insecure boss. Whenever I need to bring something to his attention, I know I’m in for 5 minutes of accusations of not bringing it to him sooner (even if it literally JUST occurred) or looping in one of his peers before him (never – not at this job or any other. I respect the chain of command). It’s driving me batshit crazy because there is nothing that can be done to escape it, it is never followed up with an apology, and it delays me getting timely resolution on issues (my business is extremely time sensitive and my SLAs are measured in minutes).

    I don’t need any advice, since I know the best way to handle this is to come to the conversation prepared with a defense. But I want to vent because it is annoying as hell. I just got told off for not notifying him sooner. When he was on a plane, with no wifi. I tracked the flight and as soon as he touched down, I was calling his phone. *sigh*

    1. Dawn*

      Can you rebuttal him when he does that? “Lucius, your phone had no phone signal and no wi-fi. I called you the minute your plane touched down. In the future, how should I handle that kind of a situation?” “Lucius, you were in the bathroom with food poisoning. In the future, would you like me to wear a gas mask and come shout at you while you’re retching in the toilet?” etc etc.

      If he’s unreasonable after that… well, your boss sucks and you know what Alison would say :)

      1. Random Lurker*

        My boss sucks :)

        No rebuttal does me any good and it ultimately delays the purpose of the call. The best recourse for me is to take it on the chin and say, “you just landed, I made sure you were my first call. If so and so heard about it already, it wasn’t from me”. Anything more than that, and I get dinged for being “emotional”, “defensive”, and “not receptive to feedback”. So I adapt to the situation. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t still drive me nuts.

        1. overeducated and underemployed*

          When someone is being THAT irrational, you know it’s not about you, it’s about their own insecurity. Sorry that you are in the position of having to manage it. Your boss does suck!

        2. Quinalla*

          I don’t know if it would do any good, but in a quite moment could you try and address the pattern? Of him accusing you of not contacting him right away even though you absolutely are? I do think in the moment it is best to address it quickly and move on to the important things, but maybe bring it up from the perspective that his reaction is delaying getting the problem solved.

          Hmm, or maybe just “Boss, I’ve noticed that when I contact you immediately with a problem, you tell me I should have contacted you sooner. I want to do better, but I can’t see how I can contact you any faster than I already am, is there something I can do to improve? Is there someone I should contact when you are out of reach (plane example) so problems can be handled more immediately?” Sounds like your boss may just be a jerk, but if you think it has a chance of helping, might be worth a try. Sorry you have to deal with this!

    2. TootsNYC*

      Do the “good customer service thing” and agree with the emotion behind it?

      Him: “Why didn’t you tell me this before!”
      You: “Yeah, it can be so disorienting to find out about these kinds of changes. I’m sorry to have to tell you. I -just- found out, so at least we’re able to react immediately.”

      Go with him in the emotion underlying his accusations, etc., and them immediately segue into the forward looking parts.

  32. Folklorist*

    Argh, I’m a bit late to get up top. Story of my life. ANTI-PROCRASTINATION POST!!! Go do something that you’ve been putting off and come back and tell us about it!

    My list is long and plentiful, and includes: Taxes; Sorting out the new Etsy shop; creating an infographic for work; transcribing two interviews; throwing together an awkward short story for next month’s issue. That’ll be enough to go on for today… Come and escape from the Playground of Darkness with me!

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        YES. That is my favorite article on procrastination. Did you see his TED Talk about the subject? I’ll put a link in a reply to this comment so this one doesn’t get held up in moderation.

          1. Folklorist*

            I saw that he posted it–I get his newsletter–but haven’t gone and watched/read them yet. I’m excellent at putting everything off!

    1. Anxa*

      Ugh, I’m about 2 months behind getting in contact with my internship supervisor to say ‘goodbye.’

      After Christmas break, I thought I”d be returning, but my work schedule changed. Then I was in contact with my main supervisor about returning to do a project that got scrapped. So I hadn’t contacted the other supervisor thinking I’d see him soon. Now it just feels weird to either never get in contact or email out of hte blue to to be like “oh hey…yeah obviously I’m not there this semester, thanks for all of your help.” But I just keep putting it off…

  33. Msquared*

    This came up a day or two ago with the post about an employee who was suddenly making lots of mistakes, and some people mentioned that s/he might be experiencing some sort of early-onset Alzheimers or dementia. I’m wondering if anyone has actually experienced this in the workplace – someone still employed who begins experiencing cognitive decline. What happened and how was it resolved or not resolved?

    I ask because at my last job I suspect that my manager – the ED of a nonprofit – was experiencing some kind of cognitive decline. Despite being hired with 30+ years of ED experience, he was so bad that he “ran the place into the ground” as a coworker puts it. It was a combination big-picture things like being completely unrealistic with goals, projections, and budgets but also small things like talking about an important meeting several times and then forgetting to show up for it, or being reminded to do something crucial many times and forgetting to do it, resulting in funding in jeopardy. In the end he was forced to retire, but not after doing some major damage to our organization. While he was there none of us knew how to talk about our suspicions since he was the Bog Boss.

    So, anyone have any similar experiences?

    1. LisaLee*

      During college I had a boss who, in retrospect, was probably going through the same thing. He often wandered around not doing much, forgot to complete regular tasks (I didn’t get an annual review the whole three years he was there, and often our inventory was waaaay off) and towards the end he started acting in ways that were really inappropriate for the workplace. He was always a creep–that’s a story for another post–but at the end there was a clear shift in behavior.

      I know that some of the other managers there were trying to get him out, but it was the sort of place where TPTB are very reluctant to fire people. His wife ended up getting a job in a different state and he left.

    2. Manders*

      I worked with someone who I suspected was developing some kind of cognitive function issue, and I encouraged her to see a doctor about it. She would have periods where she was a fast learner and totally on top of things, and periods where she couldn’t remember to update a spreadsheet or do very basic routine tasks. Unfortunately, she never actually asked for an accommodation even after I suggested several that could work for her, and when she told me she did finally see a doctor her supposed diagnoses seemed… not quite right (she loved talking about her medical problems in great detail, but those details often changed or didn’t match up, and she had a history of fibbing, or possibly misremembering, in other areas). People are *very* sensitive about cognitive issues and often won’t get help until they want to.

      Fortunately, she didn’t have enough power to do too much damage at my organization, and after leaving she’s bounced around to several other places that have, I think, let her go after short stays. I think the only practical way to deal with this is to make sure that even people in positions of power in an organization have someone else they answer to–in your case, maybe a board that is more open to employee complaints and can take action quickly to minimize the damage.

    3. Lore*

      I had this happen several years ago with one of my most revered senior colleagues. It was a truly impossible project, on which all of us were forced into increasingly unreasonable corners–but I started noticing that this colleague was dropping the ball in ways previously unheard of: giving conflicting information, forgetting conversations, missing deadlines. I asked her a couple of times if everything (other than the project) was okay, but got brushed off. I also had a close relationship with her boss, with whom she’d worked for twenty+ years. So I felt okay about going to the boss and saying I was worried about her, knowing it was coming from a place of respect, affection, and concern.

      As it turned out, the project was kind of the second-to-last straw tipping her into retirement; she was well past retirement age anyway (much farther past it than I’d realized until there was some decline) and a corporate restructure a few months after the project wrapped up was the back-breaking straw. I don’t know if my conversation with the boss played any part, but I feel like it was the right thing to do.

    4. The IT Manager*

      This is a sad situation. I worked in an office where the secretary was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Sadly she felt she could not afford to to quit, but she couldn’t handle things especially technology. Someone pulled me aside when I joined the office and told me that she was ill. Sadly the same did not happen for the second in command who sat her down one day to talk about what she needed to do to keep her job not knowing that she was sick. I’m sure that was an oversite by the boss who was not a total jerk so was not setting people up for a terribly awkward conversation. Se had to eventually leave, though. She really was not getting even the non-technology things right. We felt badly for her, but she couldn’t do the job. I hope everything turned out as well for her as it possibly could, and she was happier not struggling everyday with things she just was not capable of doing.

    5. Kay*

      This is a not infrequent problem for us, as I work for a nonprofit that has a large contingent of elderly volunteers. I’ve seen it happen probably a half dozen times in my three years at this nonprofit, and several times at my previous job. For us, we take steps to minimize that volunteer’s impact on our day to day while still trying to help them feel valued as a volunteer. That may mean giving them easier tasks, or making sure a staff member is with them at all times (sometimes obviously, sometimes simply doing projects in the same space as them to keep an eye).

      I’ve never yet managed the trick of having a conversation with them about it, but usually make sure they’re supported and we can’t suffer any egregious harm from their mistakes.

      We have one volunteer right now who is verging on both physically and mentally incapable of handling her job duties, BUT it’s also literally the only thing she does on a weekly basis – her only connection to the outside world, the thing that forces her to leave the house each week. It’s a really tough line to walk.

    6. Anxa*

      I experience cognitive decline myself.

      It was mostly due to the stress of being broke. All my mind power was going toward worrying and trying to float checks and looking for jobs desperately. I really

    7. Headachey*

      I’ve been the one experiencing cognitive issues, once for an extended period of time, and over the last few years, in a more transient way. The most difficult thing is that when I’m on, I’m ON – quick, accurate, able to focus and handle multiple projects and priorities. When I’m off, it’s incredibly frustrating – I know I’m having trouble with memory, word-finding, focus, accuracy, etc., but I can’t always recognize the extent of the issue or how it’s affecting my work.

      More than a decade ago, when I experienced this for an extended period of time, it absolutely lost me relationships with coworkers and ultimately, my job. The majority of the cognitive issues were due to a medication I was taking to deal with severe chronic migraines – some of you may be familiar with Topamax (aka Dopamax) – and people could not understand why I’d be willing to remain on a drug with such serious side effects. The reason? It was the only thing that’s ever worked to reduce the pain. I tried to keep working as long as I could, but eventually exhausted intermittent FMLA and short-term disability and had to leave that job.

      I still have times of reduced cognitive ability when I’m in a period of greater pain or very frequent migraines – sometimes for hours, sometimes for weeks at a time. But I’m incredibly fortunate in that my workplace offers the flexibility to slow down or offload more demanding projects when I need to – partly because they’re excellent! and partly because they know it’s temporary and I’ll be ON again when I can.

      1. Terra*

        Slightly off topic but I’m getting ready to start Topamax this weekend due to chronic migraines. The doctor is having me slowly work up to the dosage and I’ve done what I can to clear my schedule in case of initial side effects but did it ever get better for you? Was there anything you found that made it easier to try and work with or is it one of those things you just have to deal with?

        1. Headachey*

          Starting at a tiny dose and titrating up slowly is supposed to help – I think with me we didn’t start as low as possible and we didn’t go as slowly as we could have, since I was in a pretty bad place pain-wise and we wanted to get to an effective dose sooner rather than later. I don’t remember what that dose was, but it was on the higher end.

          Unfortunately, I experienced many side effects and they didn’t ever get better: my short-term memory and arithmetic skills disappeared, I had trouble finding words when speaking and writing, tingling hands & feet, edema, loss of appetite, strange effects on taste, etc.

          I remember trying to use a calculator to do simple addition and forgetting what numbers I was supposed to enter as I was entering them, then trying to write them down so I could look at them when using the calculator, then forgetting what I was writing down.

          I don’t believe my experience was typical, though – Topamax has helped many people! – and I’ve tended to fail most preventives due to side effects. Just go easy on yourself, let people around you know what’s going on so they don’t think you’re just flaking out, make lists and reminders if you need them, and keep your doctor in the loop about what you experience. Good luck!

      2. Anonsie*

        This happens to me here and there due to my illness, too. It’s totally normal for people with disorders that cause chronic pain, especially if they’re also inflammatory. Having a workload I can shift (so I’m not doing a concentration-heavy task at a time when that is bad news all around) is essential.

    8. Terra*

      I’m going through this with my boss right now. We don’t know for sure that it’s medical/cognitive related yet but something is definitely wrong, everyone in the department has noticed. We mentioned it to the other boss in the office (my boss is a department head and doesn’t have a supervisor on sight) both individually and as a group. So far all we’ve gotten is platitudes that he understands our concern but is sure the issue is just temporary. We’ll see what happens, I guess.

    9. INTP*

      I’m kind of on the other side of this right now, though hopefully it’s just a medical condition and not permanent cognitive decline (I’m in my late 20s). Without going into the nitty gritty, I’ve been dealing with some brain fog, memory issues, and decision making issues that I slowly realized are probably more than just my normal ADHD/anxiety. I haven’t been able to see the doctor for insurance chaos reasons, though I have an appointment for late May now.

      As far as how it’s playing out at work, doing my work sloppily is not an option, so I’ve been volunteering for fewer projects and spending more time on the ones that I do. I haven’t spoken to my boss about it because I really don’t know what I could productively say – “My brain is really not working currently and I think I have a medical condition but I’ve had no medical attention and won’t know anything for months” seems pointless (except maybe as a segue into a rant about American healthcare), plus some people can get really judgy about delaying doctor visits. No one has approached me about quality or efficiency issues – I was one of the higher performers so I think I’m just moving closer to average rather than causing problems. I also work from home so that allows me a lot more freedom for taking care of my health. If my body needs to sleep 11 hours one night, I can sleep 11 hours and roll out of bed and handle my early deadlines in pjs before breakfast. And I’m really lucky in that I manage my own workload. I have to adhere to deadlines but I decide how many tasks to commit to, so I’ve been able to pare that down. If I had a less flexible job, I might definitely be making mistakes and getting in trouble.

      In researching what might be going on, though, I have found that it’s not uncommon for people to lose their jobs when they’re sick but undiagnosed. And with many illnesses that cause cognitive problems (like autoimmune diseases) taking several years on average to diagnose, it’s definitely an issue. If you are just as incapacitated as any other seriously ill person (or more so, without treatment), but you have no diagnosis to take to HR and use to request accommodations or FMLA, there aren’t a lot of options for you.

      1. Manders*

        I’m sorry you’re going through that. Our health care system really does suck, especially for people who don’t have immediately apparent diagnoses.

  34. TMA*

    One of my coworkers is charge of hiring interns for his program for this summer. We work as a government contractor and can hire foreign nationals; however, it is more complicated and time-consuming process because there are far more checks that have to be done. Once they are hired, there are also restrictions on where they can be in our buildings.

    This coworker decided and said aloud, “I decided not to hire Chad because he’s a foreign national, and I don’t want to mess with that process.” There are several other qualified American applicants, and he feels confident one of them will be a great intern, and I’m sure he’s correct, but the whole conversation made me uneasy.

    1. AnotherFed*

      Noting wrong with discriminating based on citizenship, especially when it affects 1) the cost to the organization to hire them, 2) what the can work on when hired, 3) where they are allowed to be at your facility, and 4) what your government customer is willing to put up with. It’s much worse to hire them, then have to essentially put a leper bell on them so that people stop discussing export-controlled topics and put away documents when they walk into a room. That’s required to comply with legal obligations, but it’s a really ostracizing thing to have to do.

      1. Student*

        Actually, it’s quite illegal in the US. It’s called “National Origin Discrimination” and it’s covered under Title VII. Check the EEOC website for more details. As long as someone has a legal right to work in the US, like a visa, you can’t discriminate based solely on their national origin. There are certain exemptions.

        1. AnotherFed*

          Work with export-controlled information or national security information, which the OP described, absolutely qualifies as an acceptable exemption, though.

    2. Artemesia*

      I don’t get bringing in foreign nationals for a paid internship when so many American citizens are available. You can bet that Americans are not getting snapped up in the EU for positions their nationals could do. This is entirely different IMHO than race, gender, ethnicity discrimination among Americans applying for jobs.

      1. RevengeoftheBirds*

        Just my POV but EU countries also have better work-visa options of students after graduation and for young people looking to work in a specific country. So Americans do have options.

      2. TMA*

        Because they’re attending universities in the US and want to stay here? There are also certain scholarship requirements that say students have to have an internship at a Federal institution, and my place of work fits that description.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          But you need to understand data restrictions. Some federal institutions are ok and others are not. It sounds like your work area has several places where it can cause problems.
          It is also unfair to the student if there are so many restrictions that they can’t fully participate in the internship. They can’t participate in technology discussions but only handle boring paperwork. That’s not a learning opportunity.
          I also want to point out a logic flaw. The students are here on student visas. That means that they are supposed to go home when they finish their studies. They knew that when they signed up. Staying longer is nice, but no one is under obligation to enable more than that.

        2. Stephanie*

          Hmm, I think that the school placement office might be a little at fault here. There are definitely federal institutions that don’t deal with export control that the students could intern with. Perhaps the student ignored a warning of “Errr, you might not get hired at Acme Corp due to all the extra work in hiring foreign nationals.”

          Would it be possible to tell the school that you prefer citizens for internships, but open to foreign nationals for full-time roles?

      3. Chrissie*

        “You can bet that Americans are not getting snapped up in the EU for positions their nationals could do.”
        Umm, how are you so sure about that?

    3. Stephanie*

      Actually, I kind of wondered how places that did security clearance/export control type work handled interns. The clearance process (or even just your standard government background check) just seems so lengthy that seems like you wouldn’t be able to do any of the really meaty stuff and be relegated to boring paperwork.

      I think your coworker’s phrasing was unfortunate, but I don’t necessarily know if this is something to take umbrage over.

  35. Journal Entries*

    So sick of potential employers ghosting! It takes 2 minutes to send a rejection email (which is how I would prefer to hear I didn’t get the job anyway). But when you just never hear back from them it keeps that tiny spark of hope alive for too long….

    1. Job Seeker*