open thread – April 29-30, 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 :)

{ 1,260 comments… read them below }

  1. Ella*

    I started a new job about 7 months ago. This company is nonprofit and is connected to both the academic and healthcare industries, which are pretty new to me.

    I work for a manager who is new-ish herself, having been here less than a year when I joined. She has made many changes, which aren’t always well received as she hasn’t taken much time to learn how things are done, but instead has forged ahead with making things work the way she feels they should. She came from working in a hospital which this isn’t but she keeps trying to impose the way a hospital works, here. She’s not the best communicator and is consistently in meetings, back to back, every day so her staff have limited access, are frustrated and confused.

    But people have been here for several years! Many folks over 20 years and the company has truly generous benefits so they aren’t inclined to leave. Even one person in another department has told me that even if she were to find another job it would be approx. 60-80K less than what she makes here… she’s unhappy, not treated well by her manager but how can she give that up? Another person told me they figure they can hold on another 5 years, which will give them 30 years in, and then maybe retire. But he’s so miserable. Nice people but it’s hard to be surrounded by so many unhappy, listless people.

    I’m not sure how you motivate a workforce that is just kinda holding on in an environment where there isn’t a lot of accountability. It’s not like people don’t do their jobs but there’s no real drive to excel. My manager has come in wanting metrics, showing people change models, talking about a vision and an employee recognition program but she’s causing so much chaos in practical terms that I’m surprised most people don’t just roll their eyes at all of it.

    I am not incredibly happy myself, the work I’m doing now I did over 10 years ago and my manager doesn’t allow me to do the work we discussed I would do when she hired me. She does that work herself. In a way I feel useless in a role that has ended up being somewhat junior for me. But I feel I too am getting wooed into staying and making the best of it… I’m concerned in 10-15 years that’ll be me, unhappy, wishing I had left now.

    So my question is, has anyone else been in this kind of position and what did you do? Have you seen a workplace like this (I never have) improve and if so, how?

    Thanks!

    1. Sunflower*

      Why do you think people are unhappy? Personally it sounds a bit to me like people have been there a long time, are happy to keep doing things the way they are done and don’t like change. Is there anything about your bosses ideas that are bad besides the fact that it’s not how it’s done there?

      As for your duties, talk to your manager! You’re only 7 months in so it’s possible those duties could be coming your way. I think it’s too soon to tell if you’ll like working there or not. Unless you’re totally miserable, talk to you boss and stick it out for a few more months. With time you should know if you can see yourself there long term.

      1. Ella*

        Their unhappiness seems to stem from changes that are being made without a full understanding of the current processes. They aren’t as resistant to change as I had thought they would be, for a place with so many people who’ve been here longterm. But there is a very high level decision making process that is taking place that isn’t taking a lot of end user’s and staff member’s work into account. It’s causing problems but when they are brought up they are usually not paid much attention to. When a big problem comes up and things have escalated then the attitude my manager has is ‘why didn’t you tell me sooner?’ But the thing is they did…….

        1. Kathy*

          I feel ya! I’m in a unique position in that I have been at my company for 26 years, but have recently taken over as office manager (about a year and a half). About half the staff have been there 20+ years doing the same job. They don’t particularly like change, but I’ve had a rapport with them for years, so I can get a title more cooperation. I think they know that I am listening and try to take their feelings into account. I will also commiserate with them about the pains of change, and help counsel them through it. Some of them will never change and will always complain, but others will want to cooperate if they feel you are listening to them. However, having been here for so long, my advice to you is not to get too comfortable. The longer you stay, the harder it is to leave, and you’ll end up just like them. Give it a few years to build up experience, but you will grow more by moving on.

    2. Glasskey*

      Yep, been there. More than once. No, it did NOT improve. I asked myself whether these people actually started out that way and decided that the answer was no, they didn’t, and that over the years they had made the same excuses–money, benefits, job security, whatever–to stay put. That was a revelation. Don’t get me wrong, these are all completely valid reasons at certain times in life-but over several years they can also become excuses for fear of the unknown. I have no problem with someone staying in the same position for 30 years as long as they are content–good for them, I say! What I couldn’t handle was the bitterness, cynicism, and apathy that went along with it in too many cases. And that’s often a reflection of the job culture itself.

      Now having said that, you’re talking about people who have been at your office for YEARS. You’ve been there a matter of months. So while I understand your concern about the contagion of creeping zombification (is that a word?), I wouldn’t worry about it too much at this point. Ask yourself: What positive thing do I want to get out of this experience that will help me in the future–a new skill set, a certain amount of $ saved up, a predictable schedule that allows me to take care of other priorities in life–and then constantly check in on how that’s going. As you get nearer to that goal, start making plans to get out. And then: GET OUT.

    3. DB*

      This sounds very like a situation where I work (academic and science associated). The CEO was new when I was hired and while I really loved her ideas, she had zero communication skills and no abilities to motivate any of the staff. It was a hard place to be for the first year just because I couldn’t see a future for myself in the position and the CEO was constantly changing her mind about what my role would be. About half of the administration moved to different jobs and the other half tried to hunker down and gut it out. She ended up being fired three years in. While the board also loved her ideas and tried to give her the time to implement they just could not support the chaos and drama. Since you have only been there 7 months, you have time to wait (unless your life is miserable, no job is worth that). You never know what is going to happen down the road. Give yourself the time to see what happens with the organization and build your resume. Take a deep breath and remember that you don’t have to be there 20 years when two will suffice.

      1. ActualName*

        I just got flash backs to when I changed my name. So much paper work and stress, and since I was a minor it wasn’t even my problem since my dad was actually the one doing it. But yeah, for about six months he’d just say, “Oh, right we need to update your name on X, too.” Because there was just. so. many. things.

    4. Donna*

      I had a boss like that in my last job. She would make plans without thinking things through or asking for input, and if we brought it to her attention that something wasn’t working, in her mind it was because we weren’t doing it right.

      As a result, we only involved her in our work if it was absolutely necessary. It was much better to feign misunderstanding or ask forgiveness instead of permission, because if you asked permission the answer would usually be “no” (or your plan would be changed to something so unworkable that you’d be sorry you asked).
      Another thing that worked was to (stealthily) encourage the customers to complain. (We were union, so this was fairly safe. Also, despite her faults, our boss was quick to recognize if we were faulted for following her procedures.) She was very conscious of what the public and the higher-ups thought of her department, so customer opinions held a lot of weight.

      I worked there for six years, and her attitude towards employee opinions never changed. This irritated everyone, but most people still stayed on. The work culture wasn’t terrible, it was just a dictatorship.

      I didn’t stay on because she had me doing a lot of things that were not in line with my career—sometimes this is fine, but in my case, it was menial stuff, not an opportunity for growth.
      It took away my time and resources, so that I ended up doing less of what I was hired to do (and what the public expected of me). I realized that my skills were becoming outdated and if I didn’t get out of there soon, I’d be unhireable in a couple of years.

  2. hermit crab*

    How much vacation (and other leave) do you actually take?

    We’ve had a few recent threads talking about how much leave everyone gets, and they’ve been really interesting. But how much of that do people actually use?

    The company I work for just changed the rules about how much vacation you can roll over, so today I got about 40 hours’ worth of vacation cashout money along with my normal paycheck. The cash is nice and I’m certainly thankful that we do cashouts instead of use-it-or-lose it, but it makes me feel like I should take more vacation!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I use the max, because all of the office jobs I’ve had have been stingy (two weeks). When I was a teacher, I used everything, including the summers. I’ve never been in danger of hitting my maximum accrual.

    2. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Every minute they give me (which is currently 22 days). We’re use it or lose it & I’m not giving back my benefits.

      1. Shishimai*

        This. If I have vacation left unplanned around, oh, September, I start looking for places to use it. I give my employer enough of my time; I’m not leaving paid vacation on the table, because I can’t roll it into the next calendar year.

      2. Lucky*

        I moved to a job this year that is use-it-or-lose-it. People actually take vacations here and management expects people to take vacations and it’s a whole new world for me. Even with a few trips already planned, I’ll have 3-4 days left at the end of the year, so I’d better start looking for another interesting place to visit.

      3. Rabbit*

        Wow. I am truly envious of your 22 days! My company “generously” gives 5 days per year, but makes it hard for anyone other than The Big Bosses to use them. I got chewed out for being out one day for an all-day dental appointment. :/

    3. EE Lady*

      I was in the Air Force for 10 years and I got 30 days of paid leave each year (but you had to use it on weekends too if you were taking a Friday-Monday off, so 4 days instead of 2 in that situation). Anyway, most people would use all 30 days every year, but there were rare people who would let it build up.

      1. Ack Ack*

        I use every single minute of my vacation time, every year. It’s part of my compensation, and I love to travel.

      2. Chris*

        Unless you are saving up for that sweet terminal leave!!! When I hit 400 days left in the Navy, I had enough time saved up and that i was going to accrue before I got out that over 25% of my time left was going to be on leave. Felt good.

        1. Girasol*

          I’m with Chris. 15 PTO days a year but can’t alway use them. 1000 hours of endless carryover. So now I can have 50 days off at end of career or cash out at fifty cents on the dollar. Woo hoo!

    4. Sassy AAE*

      I’m at my very first job with PTO/vacation, and I’m for sure trying to use it all. We’re on a use it or lose it system, which is a bummer, but that just means that everyone’s fine with people leaving for 2+ weeks at a time.

      Last winter, while I was still an intern, only I and another person worked from the office for the last week in December! Kinda crazy.

    5. EA*

      I get a month, I take around 2-3 weeks. I cash out 1 week (which is a nice policy they allow). When I worked in a law firm, I got 3 weeks, but would never dare to take more then a week, if I did, passive aggression would ensue.

    6. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      Everything that doesn’t roll over — I usually try to keep a week banked for just in case situations, but I need to be out of the office!

      1. Karowen*

        Ditto! So I always wind up using my full 4 weeks, but it’s 1 week from the previous year and 3 from this year.

    7. Kristine*

      My company rolls PTO over up to a certain maximum, which I think I’m close to hitting. Last year I took 3 of my 15 PTO days because that’s all I could get approved to take. But I did get approved for 4 days off next month so I’m excited about that.

    8. Charlotte Collins*

      I am currently hoarding my vacation time. I’m looking for a new job and using it for interviews. But I get paid out for any time I have left when I leave.

      On the other hand, I want to try to use up my sick time.

    9. Amy M in HR*

      All of it, every year. I am a firm believer that everyone should use their PTO and recharge.

    10. ThatGirl*

      We get 18 days (16 PTO + 2 float) at 0-5 years of service, and it’s use it or lose it — so I use it!

    11. Sadsack*

      I get 4 weeks (started with 2 and earned additional with years served at my co). I use every single minute of it. I don’t recall what our policy is regarding use-it-or-lose-it but I think that is it. I don’t think I would get cash back unless I were leaving the company. I’d rather have my time off anyway. I can’t take extended vacations during a large portion of the year due to my work but I make up for that in the off months.

    12. J*

      I take it all! All 4 weeks’ vacation and 1 week personal time. We also get 12 sick days which accrue through the year. The other two banks are front-loaded and we get that time January 1st. I work in a public library. One time I rolled a week over because we were hoping to have a baby in the next calendar year and we don’t have paid family leave. She’s 6 months old now, so it worked out! ;)

    13. SirTechSpec*

      My org does combined time off, so getting sick a lot means not much vacation accrual for me. The amount is otherwise generous, though; most of my co-workers have been here a while and have to go out of their way to use up their accumulated time before they hit the use-it-or-lose-it maximum.

    14. Tau*

      I use all of mine, since we’ve got use-it-or-lose-it and no rollover. This gets interesting near the end of the year, since I like to squirrel away a few days PTO in case of emergencies – I think I ended up taking Wednesday or Thursday afternoon off for over a month straight late last year in order to burn through those.

      FWIW, I’m in the UK and get 30 days holiday, but no bank holidays.

    15. LawCat*

      I’ve started taking more vacation. This summer, I’m taking two weeks. I’m planning to take a few days in October. I’ll probably take another week at Christmas.

    16. BRR*

      I get 22 days and will use most of it. We can roll some over (not sure how much) but we have to use the roll over days by April 30th of the following year. At my last job we got 26 days and over the course of two years I banked 15 days when I left without feeling like I sacrificed anything to save that amount.

      1. BRR*

        We also get 12 sick days but I WFH mondays and fridays and my company is VERY flexible so I can just go if it’s one dr appointment.

    17. LSCO*

      I get 33 days, of those 8 are bank holidays which I have to take off as the office is closed. So 25 days (5 full mon-fri weeks) to take in a year, and I use it all. There is no roll-over allowed, so if I didn’t taek it I’d lose it. I’m really bad at spacing it all out though, and so this year in March I was practically working part time, taking off random days for no reason other than burning through the PTO. It was good in one sense, I got to take the car to the garage and attend dentist appointments and catch up with friends over brunch – stuff that you just can’t schedule in a full working week, but felt a bit wasteful. I should really start looking to space my PTO out a bit better this year.

    18. Juli G.*

      Most vacation days I use. Our PTO policy is extremely loose though and I don’t need to use any prescribed bucket of time for appointments, kid stuff, etc. so if I leave a day or two on the table, I don’t feel like I’m losing out.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, this is where I am too. I try to schedule to use all of my days, but if I leave 1 or 1.5 days on the table but I was able to flex my time throughout the year so that didn’t have to burn PTO to occasionally cut out early or come in late, I’m ok with that.

        If I started getting nickeled and dimed about using PTO instead of taking that hour or two here or there though, you’d bet I’d use every single hour allotted to me.

        This year I have more vacation days than I’ve ever had before (4 weeks, plus generous additional sick and personal days) and for once I don’t have a big medical procedure or family wedding, etc to burn up a bunch of them, so I’m trying to figure out how in the world to schedule them all. It’s a wonderful problem to have, after so many years of scrimping and saving my meager 5-8 days.

    19. Chris*

      My salary band just got lumped into unlimited vacation time. As long as you and your manager agree, you can take as much as you want or need. Great perk, but it makes it difficult to tell family “I can’t travel to see you this year because I have already used all my vacation.”

      1. SL #2*

        I’m not gonna lie, I miss unlimited vacation! I had it at my previous job and not having to count hours/days when I felt the need to take a long weekend was so nice.

      2. Total Rando*

        I’m curious – how does unlimited vacation work with an extended absence like maternity leave?

        I’m going on maternity leave and have to be very conscious with my vacation between now and then so that I have enough to be paid for the few extra weeks I want to take. I would love to not have to think about it too much.

    20. NacSacJack*

      I use it because we can only carry over 5 days and we can only carry that over if we didn’t buy any days or we sold those days back. The one year I bought vacation I wound up technically losing 3 days because my director freaked when I asked to take the last week of the year off even thought the PM said no problem. I have 30 days now and no desire to pay for 6 more days at XXX out of my check per week (at my rate it is almost XXX).

    21. LCL*

      I keep a lot of vacation on the books. I have been here a long time, so get 30 days a year. I am also dealing with an elderly relative, and want to have a lot of paid leave available if I need it.
      My job allows us to cash in vac, and I do from time to time. Last time I bought a guitar, this time (maybe this weekend! I’m seriously considering buying a full suspension mountain bike.
      I take a lot of long weekends. I also take a lot of random middle of the week days off. I am fortunate to live in a sorta metropolitan area, so I don’t have to travel for recreation.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        In with you. I like to keep some on reserve for emergencies. I’ve got a sick father and a kid with epilepsy so it would give me a lot of anxiety if I ran my pto down to nothing or nearly nothing like a lot of my coworkers do. Mine constantly accrues each pay period and I take small increments more than I do longer blocks of time, but I still manage to take one full week off a year, plus tack on an extra day to long holidays throughout the year and still have enough in my bank. (We get about three weeks a year.)

    22. another IT manager*

      I usually take 2 weeks (out of 3 accumulated), because getting coverage is a pain. But I have a new boss who doesn’t (seem to want) weird OTT coverage shenanigans, so I’m arranging two weeks now and will probably take a week this winter around NYE.

    23. Leah the designer*

      The company I work for now is kind of stingy. I get a week of PTO per year until I’ve been here three years. After that it’s two weeks PTO. It slowly (think ten years) builds up to the max of a month. Paid sick time is accrued at a rate of a half day a month. Cashouts are only for those leaving the company.

    24. Jadelyn*

      My employer does separate buckets for sick/vacation – I use my sick time pretty liberally, and previously had been taking my vacation days one or two at a time and timing them around long weekends and holidays, to give myself extended weekends for local-ish vacations (driving there and back, rather than flying). But right now I’m saving up my vacation, because I would like to actually *go* somewhere this year, and be gone from work for a full week or more. Not sure where yet, though.

    25. SL #2*

      I’m entry-level, so I get the company standard of 10 days/year. I do get rollover, but I’m not near maximum accrual yet, so I’m just hoarding the time for now. It’s really easy because I tend to take shorter vacations, plus I work a 9/80 schedule so I plan travel for weekends that I have the extra Friday off so I can use one less day. I’m also a huge music fan and I’ve been known to travel far and wide for certain bands, or take an afternoon off so I can make sure I get a front-row spot if the show is local. Can’t do that if I don’t have some time banked up!

    26. CMT*

      We have to use 2 weeks worth during a calendar year, or at least cash out enough to get us to 2 weeks. I’d say I normally take around 2 1/2 – 3 weeks in a year (spread out). Although I’m about to go on a 3 week vacation and I just recently took a week off for medical reasons. And I’m sure some other little things will pop up before the end of the year. I wouldn’t try to do this every year, though, I think I’d get some side eye.

    27. pnw*

      I get just over eight weeks of PTO per year (324 hours) but that includes holidays and sick time. On our anniversary date anything over 160 hours rolls over into our disability bank which we can use for long term illnesses or FMLA. We can cash out some of our PTO but only at 50%. I sometimes roll over 10-20 hours but I use most of my leave. The company I work for also contributes about 20+ hours per year to our disability and I have dipped into that leave bank when I’ve been on FMLA.

    28. Oryx*

      Old Job was 10 days PTO — Sick and Vacay combined in one bucket, use it or lose it by end of fiscal year (June). I used all of it, with 75% being used for vacation since I thankfully don’t get sick often. (If I did call off sick, it was more of the mental healthy day variety.) I’d usually save it for around Christmas and maximize paid holidays to take a week or two off.

      Current Job is 10 days Vacay (sick is separate) and all of it can rollover up to some ridiculously high limit. For some weird reason I feel less inclined/pressured to take time off because it rolls over so I’m taking some a couple of days this summer and might in December but most of it I’m just kind of sitting on for 2017 trips.

    29. LQ*

      Sick and vacation are separate.
      I take a lot of my vacation time as small chunks here and there. I’ll do a few weeks of taking Wednesdays off when it isn’t super busy for me. I love 2 Fridays a week. I’m not a big traveler and a Wednesday lets me get stuff done and then feel like I have all weekend to bask.

    30. Chris*

      I get 20 vacation days, 11 holidays, and 12 sick days/year. I can bank up to 40 vacation days before I stop accruing, but it’s never gotten to that point as I use it all.

      1. NASAcat*

        I’m similar. 3 weeks, 11 holidays, 2 floating, 12 sick days.

        I use at least 2 weeks and I like to go big! International/epic/I save a lot of money so I can go guilt free and enjoy myself vacations.

        I always like to have some vacation days banked just in case.

    31. Danae*

      I use most of my PTO to cover the time at the end of the year when I’m part of the skeleton crew who has to be online/available in case something breaks, but there’s no actual billable work coming in for 3+ weeks because everyone who is responsible for getting work to us is out.

      I’ll end up taking all of it, but I won’t be traveling or actually taking off any time except for actual holidays. I take a day or two off during the year, but I save most of it for December.

      1. hermit crab*

        Yeah, that’s closer to my situation. Taking vacation without it affecting your billable hours/utilization numbers (which are tied to bonuses/raises/promotions, at our company) sounds like a magical paradise to me!

    32. S0phieChotek*

      I’ll use mine, because we can only roll over 40 hours, otherwise I lose it.
      I’ll probably save it towards the last quarter of the year if I can, in case a true emergency arises before then, but otherwise use it or lose it.
      (Don’t remember if PTO gets paid out if we get laid off/fired. I should ask.)

    33. Sparkly Librarian*

      I’m used to taking long weekends here and there instead of longer vacations, and I was on new-hire probation most of last year. I’m used to having about 40 hours vacation accrued at any one time. Sometimes it’s more, before I take a planned vacation. (When I left my last long-term job, I had about 8 weeks paid out: just under the cap of 2x annual leave.) Right now I’m making adoption plans, so any unused vacation will be beneficial when I have to go out on leave. Same for sick time, although I’ve been taken ill unexpectedly TWICE in the last week and have had to go home early. I’m glad I have it for when I need it, anyway.

    34. ACA*

      As much as I can to stay under the (24 day) cap! I’ll probably take more going forward, but I’ve been in my current job less than a year, so I’ve been trying to keep my absences to a minimum.

    35. Liana*

      3 weeks vacation, plus pretty decent sick time (I can’t remember the exact amount and I’m too lazy to check, but it’s pretty good). At my last job, I ended up not using a bunch of it and I took it as a cash payout when I left, which is the law in my state. At this job, I’m making a point of using it all. I’ve been really focusing on travelling internationally more and being better at work-life balance.

    36. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Since I have been at this job (2 weeks vacation, 6 sick/personal days), I have taken all of my vacation days but usually don’t take all of the sick/personal days, of which we can roll over 3. I’m always afraid I’ll get sick and need it, but then by the end of the calendar year I have only used a couple. And then of course since it’s December, I can’t really take any of it because most people are taking time off for the holidays.

      This year I have an extra week of vacation plus an extra “float” day and I’m not sure when I’m going to take it! I took a week off in March for a trip and then I’m taking the week of Christmas/New Years’ off. Maybe just a random week in the summer? And I’ll try to actually use some of my personal days for some random Fridays or Mondays off.

      My last company was a total stickler about our hours (even though I was salaried) and honestly my current company isn’t. If I’ve had to go home early because I didn’t feel well or had a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day, nobody cares. So I think that’s why I have such a hard time justifying using all of my time off, since I’ve been able to be so flexible!

      1. LC*

        It might be useful to consider your time off together and to think about how many days you’d keep in your back pocket as sick days in that case. It may be six…but it may also be more like three, in which case you shouldn’t feel too bad taking three personal days.

    37. Noah*

      We have unlimited PTO for managers, directors, and VPs. I generally take two full weeks a year and a few days a month. Unless I’m in a foreign country though my cell phone is always close by. Luckily, everyone here makes an effort to not call you while you are on vacation unless it is an emergency.

    38. accidental diva*

      Where I am now we get 12 days (1/2 day per paycheck) and as of now I’m using most of it – between vacation and my brother’s wedding coming up I’ll have about one and a half days left after the wedding – and then accrue another 4 through the year.

      I’m hoping to use most if not all of it – we also get separate sick leave at the same rate which is awesome (I don’t feel angst calling in over a migraine or a doctors appointment.)

    39. Elizabeth West*

      We only get to roll over 40 hours. I’ve been taking small bits here and there (but still accruing). When we get close to year-end, people go oops, I forgot to take my PTO and the office gets really empty. I will be taking a few days around my birthday, which falls right on Memorial Day weekend. Though I am sadly not going anywhere, unless a small miracle happens between now and then. :(

    40. Hattie McDoogal*

      I’m surprised at how many of you can’t roll your vacation over. How does that work for places that really don’t allow you to take time off? Are you just SOL?

      I’m in Canada so it’s a bit different here — employers are supposed to withhold a certain amount of your paycheque as vacation time, and it gets paid out when you leave if you don’t use it. I’m in one of those places that doesn’t really allow me time off, even though I officially have 2 weeks of vacation, so whenever I leave I’ll get a nice lump sum. Last year I took one day of vacation (tacked on to a holiday, to go see my dad) and the year before I took 2 days (to move).

      1. I'm Not Phyllis*

        I’ve never heard of that (I’m in Canada as well). The norm where I’ve worked seems to be that if you’re full time you get a vacation allowance, and if you’re not you get 4% in lieu (which either gets added to your pay, or gets paid out once or twice per year).

        I get 3 week’s vacation plus float days – I use all the float ones (use ’em or lose ’em!) but I try to keep 5 vacation days in the bank (which is our max allowable) “just in case.”

        1. Hattie McDoogal*

          Yeah, I shouldn’t be making generalizations since it probably varies from province to province. Every job I’ve ever had has either paid the vacation pay on every cheque (which I don’t like) or paid it out all at once on the final paycheque. I’ve never gotten a year-end payout.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Yeah, with “use it or lose it,” you’re just SOL if you can’t find time to actually use your vacation. At a lot of my companies, people would take vacation and then *work* on vacation. Gross.

      3. Crystal Vu*

        Well, *some* use-it-or-lose-it organizations may still make a provision for allowing cashing out or selling back vacation leave. I live in California so by law, my employer has to pay out my vacation balance if I leave. My employer also allows vacation leave to be cashed out at employee request.

        But yeah, many American employees are SOL. :(

    41. ModernHypatia*

      Tidily, just at my anniversary in my current job (been here a year next week): I get just over 4 weeks, and I’ve taken just over 2. (two week-long trips). I’m thinking about taking another week sometime this summer to work on projects.

      I like to build up a bit of a buffer in case something comes up (need for paid leave, or job loss), so I’ve tended to take less the first year or two in a new job until I’ve got 3-4 weeks saved and then take a bit more leave.

    42. Beaker*

      I get 2 weeks of paid vacation and 6 days unpaid personal/medical time. It’s a use it or lose it system so I use ALL of my vacation and sit on my personal time for as long as possible. At the end of the year we get half the personal time we have left paid out. The worst part about this, however, is that I’ve had this for the 9 years I’ve been here. Once I hit 10 years, I’ll finally be up to 3 weeks vacation then at 20 years, I get 4 weeks.

    43. HRChick*

      I get 10 hours of vacation a month. I haven’t taken any in a while because we’re TTC and I need to save up vacation leave for maternity leave.

      For sick leave, I’ve been trying to get better about my health, so I’ve been using a lot for appointments.

    44. LargishMargish*

      I get 28.5 days of vacation/personal time. This is separate from legal holidays and sick leave. I have now been here long enough that I can get a payout of up to a week vacation. We can also carryover a week and save a week in sabbatical. I usually use most of my vacation, but save a few couple days for payout and a day to carryover to the new year. I like to carryover a day to the new year in case we have a bad weather day at the of the calendar year. I live where it snows so I like to have that cushion.

      I haven’t been sick so I haven’t used any sick leave in over a year. I don’t come into work when I sick either. I don’t have kids and they don’t let me use sick leave for my dog’s vet appointments.

    45. Ad Astra*

      I’m on my fourth job in five years (I know, I know), which is part of why I’ve only once taken a full 10 days of vacation in a calendar year.

      – In 2011, I was only eligible for 5 days of vacation (prorated because of my start date), and used all of it at once.
      – In 2012, I used all of my 10 days of vacation, but since my schedule was Thursday-Monday or Friday-Tuesday, I spent most of it on one-off Saturday activities like bridal showers and graduations.
      – In 2013, I resigned sometime in April and my remaining vacation was paid out. I used that money/time to move to a different state for my next job.
      – Also in 2013, I was eligible for 5 days at my new job and used 3 of them on my wedding.
      – In 2014, I got laid off and my remaining vacation was paid out. I used that time/money to move to a different state where my in-laws would take us in.
      – In 2015, I got a new job that offered only 5 days of vacation per year. I quit within 8 months, and had a day or so paid out to me.

      This year, I’ve used like 1.5 days so far and I don’t even know what to do with the remaining 69 hours. Our office also closes for a week after Christmas, so I might take like a 5-day vacation this summer? I don’t know. This is uncharted territory.

    46. Kittymommy*

      It’s is graduated based on how long you’ve been with the company. Right now I earn 120 hours a year. And I think I have somewhere around 240 built up. We also get a bonus of hours if w don’t use sick leave. I’m really bad about never taking time off.

    47. Witty Nickname*

      I get 27 days per year. I probably take ~3 weeks each year; I have to keep an eye on my accrual though, because I stop accruing more PTO once I hit 1.5 x my annual rate in the bank, so I make sure I take enough time each year to stay below that (but I live in a state where they have to pay out any time I have if I leave the company, so I try to keep as much banked as possible).

      1. Witty Nickname*

        To clarify: the 27 days is just PTO. I get 10 paid holidays, and unlimited sick time since I’m an exempt employee. I rarely take any sick time though – maybe a day every few years (I’m rarely sick enough that I can’t at least work from home).

    48. Anna*

      I try to roll over two or three days each year so I’m not totally bereft at the beginning of the new year, so I don’t use ALL of it, but I take at least ten days off a year.

    49. Person of Interest*

      I get two weeks, plus our office is closed the week between Christmas and New Years. I actually hate this kind of arrangement because it means I have to use at least a couple of my 10 vacation days for the Jewish holidays (more if I want to travel and spend them with my family), and the office closure is during a time I would actually get a lot of work done (I used to love this at my old job when everyone was gone for Christmas and I got so much done!). Here there’s no switching it up (trading December days for my holidays) because we aren’t allowed to do flex time backward that way. We can carry over 5 days, but they must be used by June 30 – so I can’t even bank last year’s vacation toward next year’s High Holidays. Sigh.

    50. Crystal Vu*

      I pretty much use all of my vacation leave…eventually. Sometimes I save it so I can take a week off, other times I take it a day here or there so I can deal with car repairs or the plumber or whatever. I get 15 days a year of vacation leave, plus two floating holidays. The floating holidays are use-it-or-lose it so I try to burn them earlier in the year. The vacation leave rolls over, no problem, but it is capped at twice my yearly accrual. I don’t think I will ever hit the cap, not in my current tier. Even the next tier, I probably will be able to burn it fast enough to keep from capping out.

      A lot of my coworkers tend not to use much of it, then cash it out once or twice a year. Twice yearly is the maximum allowed, but I guess there’s no limit on the amount except you can’t cash out more than what you have. I don’t know; I’ve never attempted to cash out.

      1. Crystal Vu*

        Crud, forgot to address my sick leave. I get one day a month of sick leave, and I’m trying to keep a minimum reserve of 10 days. I’ll lose it if I leave my job but I can use it for kin care (thank you, California) as well as for my own illnesses and my aging mother is winding up in the hospital a lot more these days. It’ll be nice to have a bank if I have to go take care of her for a week or something like that.

    51. GOG11*

      I get 13 days per year plus a flex day and I take it all because I lose it if I don’t. It’s really hard to take time off most times of the year, but when the slow period rolls around, I take it all in one giant chunk, which is completely and totally fine by me.

    52. Laura*

      All of it! I’m already out of sick time (strep immediately after I started, then wisdom teeth removal scheduled next week). I’m going to need a fat vacation at some point…

    53. Elliot*

      I’m currently hoarding PTO. We can accumulate up to 120 hours, I am expecting to need medical leave next year, and I want to have as much of it paid as possible.

      1. Elliot*

        Also, even though I’m oddly classified as hourly, I make my own schedule and work whatever hours I want as long as I work a certain number of evenings and weekends a month. If I want want a day off I can simply schedule to work a different day that week when I make my monthly calendar, and if I need a sick day I can usually come in on a day off (and usually to) to make it up. Having such a flexible schedule as well as being required to weekdays off makes it easy to take time off without using PTO. I took four days off to travel out of state and simply put forty hours in before I left and forty when i got back. And schedule my first day back in the evening to recover in the morning!

    54. Audiophile*

      In the last few years, I’ve taken a few of my vacation days, I only got 40 hours for the last four years. I couldn’t roll any over and whatever I didn’t take was cashed out, usually in the first check in December. Kind of a pain, because that meant my other check was short since I’d already requested time off.

    55. Lowercase holly*

      we also get a vacation time cash-out when we leave (but not for unused rollover vacation if we’re still an employee) so i try to use as much as allowed (151 hrs/yr). we also have a separate bucket for personal days and the time stops accruing when it hits two days so i always use those as well. i never use as much sick time as i have because it actually accrues at a high rate. probably set up that way in case someone has a serious illness.

    56. CE*

      I get 20 days per year of vacation leave. Company policy is that everyone uses a block of at least ten days, and uses up the rest of their leave in whatever way. I think it can roll over indefinitely, though there’s also a policy to have a talk to direct reports if their accrual gets up to 30 days (I think). I only took about eight days in my first year, but took a full month in one go last year, and this year I’ve been taking a few days here or there to make up long weekends. Those are all acceptable culturally.

      As for sick leave, I get 15 days a year and have used maybe 4-5 over two years. I need to get better at actually not coming into the office when I’m feeling under the weather rather than doing the martyr mustn’t-miss-meetings thing.

    57. Bob*

      I’ve been at my job for 3 years. I get 15 days and I’ve never taken a single vacation day

  3. SunnyD*

    Reg poster but going anon(ish) for this. I work in events. I found out we are getting an assistant in our dept(I’m a level above that) and I feel weirdly not okay with it. This person already has worked in our company part-time in a different role so I know she’s a good worker and I like her as a person so this is driving me nuts trying to understand why I’m feeling this way. I think I might have pinpointed it though.

    My boss has said we are 2 people doing the work of 3.5 so obviously we need help. Since I’m non-exempt, I am working quite a bit of overtime but my boss really takes on the majority of the core work and I pick up the little things. I started about 7 months ago and I feel like I should have more responsibilities and that I should be taking the lead on events more. I know my boss really wants this too as she has told me many times she wants us each to take on our own events and she’ll oversee major decisions. We are just so busy that it’s a lot of ‘you’ll learn this at some point but we need to get through this first so I’ll just do it for now’. I feel like this new person is going to be taking away chances and opportunities to learn from me since now my boss has more people to distribute the work to. Maybe I’m also feeling a little like she took this job because she needed one and I’m questioning if she has any actual interest in it. I know people need to eat and pay rent but I’m more wondering if she’ll just bail when something more in line with her interests comes up.

    This sounds so ridiculous when I write it out but it feels so real to me. Has anyone else ever dealt with similar feelings? How do I try to get past it? I tried searching AAM archives but I’m not sure how to describe this situation. I really don’t want to end up resenting this person!

    1. Dangerfield*

      I understand what you’re saying, but if your boss is really too busy to train you and is just constantly fighting fires, AND there genuinely is enough work for three people, then the chances are that this will let you do more. Before she comes on board, can you sit down with your boss and ask about how the allocation of work will be once your new person’s on board? You aren’t at the same level so you shouldn’t be doing exactly the same work, and that might help your boss to think about how she will distribute things.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        This will also be your opportunity to express interest in particular areas that you want to fall under the auspices of your position. As you discuss with your boss the potential duties for the new position, you have the opportunity to weigh in with your preferences.

    2. Sassy AAE*

      So! I recently got “promoted” and now work salary. To replace me the company decided to hire an intern. At first I felt really… displaced? Even though it was fine. Now that she’s working here it’s kind of clear how much we needed her. She’s able to take away little tasks that just took up too much of my time. Now I can devote myself to even more indepth and interesting work for a variety of our clients, instead of doing small-time busy work for one or two.

      When you have more time thanks to this assistant your opportunities to grow will multiply, not diminish. And trust me, I do events too, if she doesn’t have an interest she’ll leave, fast. Planning events is literally the most stressful thing about my job. I love it, because I love logistics. But, if you can’t hack it it become apparent SUPER fast.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I wonder if part of it for you, Sassy, and maybe for SunnyD as well, is that when you are doing all those lower-level things that are nonetheless important (the stuff admins are supposed to do), you sort of feel like a superhero. They’re easy to see, easy to define, and success if easily identified. You feel important and indispensable. (Because a good admin IS important and indispensable.)

        Once those go away, and they’re done by the new admin, it’s harder to identify how you’ll excel.

        Efficiency experts always point out that the low-priority (C-level) tasks are seductive because they’re so easily identified, and easily done. But they’re not as important. (Admins have their own versions of C-level tasks to beware of, btw; don’t mean to diss them and their work as less important overall.)

        So things are being redefined, which is unsettling in general. But your job is also going to get intellectually harder, because you won’t be able to fall back on those easily identified, easily accomplished tasks as a source for accomplishment satisfaction.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Makes me wonder if New Person is supposed to do what SunnyD is doing and SunnyD is going to get more of the nuts and bolts type stuff.

    3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      Feelings are valid. You have every right to be concerned, worried, bothered, annoyed. I also think it’s great that you understand that you’re feeling threatened that this person may cost you opportunities.

      What you have to do now if acknowledge those feelings and move forward. If this person takes over some of the assistant tasks and frees up your boss a bit, she’ll have time to train you!

      Also, I am *horrible* with the “it’s just quicker to do it myself” mentality. I had a lead who finally said, “but how will I ever learn to do it” and it really was the kick in the pants I needed to let go. This is one of the times to be insistent without being aggressive!

    4. BRR*

      Not sure what the reason is but some thoughts:
      -Maybe she’ll take over your little things and you can finally get your own events.
      -Are you not happy about losing overtime? Some people don’t mind working more if they’re getting paid more.

      It doesn’t sound like they would take away big opportunities from you as that isn’t what their role is.

    5. CM*

      It’s not ridiculous. I’ve been in a similar situation where I knew I shouldn’t, but still felt threatened by a coworker. I really wanted to work on a certain project, and when he expressed an interest in doing the same thing, our boss went from agreeing that I would work on the project to saying that maybe we could split it up or he could take this project and I’d take one in the future. In my case, I tried to position myself to get the opportunity I wanted by laying the groundwork (doing background research, making connections with people involved in that project, talking to my boss about future plans for the project and bringing up issues that I had identified). In the end everyone kind of assumed that I was the person in charge of that project. For you I think it’s easier since this person is a level below you. If you can identify things you want to work on and things you think the new person should work on, and talk to your boss about the strategy for allocating work, this could be good for you. You could give work to the new assistant that doesn’t require a lot of training, and that could free up some of your time to lead an event.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Some action steps I have used in the past:

      Preemptive strikes. I know the boss will need A. So I got it prepped without her mentioning it.

      I know that Big Project X is starting. Rather than wait to be told my part– because I KNEW pigs will fly first- I went to the boss and said, “If you need someone to do B and C for project X, I have done that before/know how/other reason and I can do that for you if you want.”

      Boss is in the middle of task E. I know she is going to have a problem because she is lacking something. something is broken, or something is just a huge time suck. I would try to pull that together into a workable thing before she needs it.

      I have been where you are. Once I have been at a job for six months it seemed like I should be doing more by now, or I should be further along. Reality is that it can take up to a year to really see what is involved in doing a job.

      Worrying about the new hire, might be valid. But it is also a waste of precious time and energy. It’s much better use of time and energy to look around to find ways to beef up your own thing that you are doing. All the while, you still can be helping the new hire acclimate to the workplace. The unseen benefits in helping the new hire here are that it reinforces what you have learned so far, because of the repetition of teaching it; it makes you look like more of a leader/established employee; and it will help deal with some of these mixed feelings that you have because it will give you a practical activity to do.

      Not easy answers to read, I am sure. But it’s long been my thought that it’s what we do when the chips are down that make us or break us. Work places are tough in this regard, I do agree, but we are not powerless in these situations, either.

      Personally, when I have hit one of these situations in the past, I made sure I got extra rest at night. Especially in the middle of the week where I could really feel myself starting to tank. It’s a big effort to work through this stuff.

  4. Visitor*

    What do you do when your manager tells you something (to have everyone in at 8 am on Friday) and you ask him if you need to put it on their calendar and they say ‘no’. Friday comes and the manager is late, saying he never said that. When you try to remind him what was agreed to (calmly, in private) he says ‘uh let me give you same advice, don’t argue with higher ups’. You’re told no need to confirm, you were told you were wrong to send an email to the team coming in… what do you do next week?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      So by “everyone,” your manager meant everyone including him? Is the issue that everyone usually comes in later (8:30 or 9:00), and he wanted them especially to come in early on Friday, and everyone else made the special effort to come in early?

      I was going to let him off the hook for maybe meaning that he wants you all to be early, with him strolling in whenever he wants, but the “saying he never said that” bit means he really either forgot (unlikely but possible) or changed his mind but didn’t want to admit it… or is making some kind of power play (you do whatever I tell you, even if it’s unreasonable).

      I hope what bothers you the most about this is that he told you to do something and then says he never said that. The not arguing with higher-ups is obnoxious but also true. Coming in at 8am isn’t wholly unreasonable (devoid of any context), nor is the boss coming in a little later than the other employees.

      1. Visitor*

        We have a regular meeting at 8 am with the techs and managers who work in the field, twice a week. This manager usually doesn’t attend. Friday is a usual day for my team, I run the meeting but my manager decided he wanted to run the meeting and so I sent everyone an email to make sure they were all in before 8 am, given he gets annoyed when people come in after the meeting started. Most days a team has an early morning meeting, different teams on different days, but he’s usually not involved.

        He left early yesterday so I guess he forgot but the whole ‘let me give you some advice’ thing threw me… first he implied I was lying and then he just wanted to shut the whole thing down be being nasty. I want to avoid this next time cause he does this, he flips and if you don’t just go along with what he is saying NOW it’s a real problem.

        1. Jadelyn*

          The “let me give you some advice” is honestly really pissy of him. Assuming you were keeping your disagreement polite and sticking to facts, a good boss would be willing to listen and hear you out, even if they’re not going to change whatever decision or action you disagree with. He’s not entirely wrong in that knowing when to *stop* pushing back against something from higher-ups is a critical survival skill for the workplace, but a blanket “don’t argue with people higher than you” is BS. Being higher on the corporate ladder does not make someone infallible.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      “Bossman, I’m trying really hard to follow your instructions, but sometimes I get conflicting guidance from you and I’m not sure how to handle it. You also seem to think I’m just being argumentative when I bring you issues like that, but I need your guidance to understand exactly what you want. Can you help me figure out a way to avoid situations like this in the future?”

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        This is absolutely the most professional way to approach the situation, but given his past behavior, I wouldn’t be surprised if he responded badly to even Katie the Fed’s awesome phrasing.

        1. Rabbit*

          My boss is similarly terrible, and when I said something to that effect, he snapped, “You need to communicate more!” and stalked off. Ohhhkay!

        2. neverjaunty*

          Yes. Katie the Fed’s phrasing is as good as it is possible to be, but gaslighting jerks don’t respond to ‘good’ and ‘sensible’.

          There is nothing you can do except get out from under this boss, ultimately, either by leaving the company or a lateral transfer.

    3. KG*

      I think you take these situations as ‘from now on I will always put it in the calendar, I will always confirm’. Basically, you’re learning CYA (covering your ass) techniques to avoid this going forward. If he’s someone that won’t say, oh right I forgot sorry, and will instead blame you, you have to start documenting things in emails, and simply doing that extra step even if it’s ‘not required’.

      1. Visitor*

        That’s what I was figuring. Knowing him he may get mad at that, since he told me not to confirm in this instance but I think it’s better than doing nothing. Thanks.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Never ask if he wants you to confirm. Just do it. If he gets pissy about that, tell him the confirmation is helpful FOR YOU to make sure YOU understood his directive clearly.

    4. BRR*

      In the future for this specific situation I would just say “Will do. I’ll add you to the meeting.”

      The second part is slightly concerning. If this is their typical behavior I might go so far as to consider looking for another job.

    5. CM*

      Next time, don’t ask, just put it on his calendar.
      Similarly, if there’s some other followup action that you think makes sense, just do it without asking for permission.

    6. Catalin*

      Yikes, this is a tough one. There are two problems here: your boss dislikes that he is forgetful and either there’s a communication breakdown or he doesn’t trust you.

      1) Busy people forget things. It’s just true. It helped me to get a notebook and write EVERYTHING important in it, but at the executive level, people are often too busy to properly mentally process. If your boss was okay with this, he wouldn’t mind (and would likely welcome) appointment notes, invitations, emails to confirm, whatever floats his boat. It might help you if you used phrases like, “I must have misunderstood, I thought …” or “When we discussed this Thursday, you mentioned X, are we doing something different/did something change?” DON’T use phrases like, “You said X.” It could be perceived as confrontational and your boss appears to be easily irritated by challenges to his memory (cough, or competency, cough).

      2) Communication is everything and no two people in an office setting communicate exactly alike. Something that works for one person doesn’t always work for another. Techniques that can help: make notes when he’s giving you directions and read them back to him to ensure you’ve got his intended message; once you’ve confirmed the message with him, use an appointment/reminder/whatever written. Don’t stop and ask if he wants the email: he’s going to see that as a small challenge/invitation to argue (remember, he doesn’t like his bad memory and will deny at all cost).

      Now, if your boss were comfortable with his bad memory, that leaves one other possible problem: the trust issue. If he perceives past miscommunications/failures to follow directions, he’s unlikely to give you more control over his schedule. That requires trust. If increasing confident communication can build his trust in you to cover the weakness he’s not comfortable with, then you’ll be on the right track.

      Serving the king is all about adjusting your patterns to accommodate your bosses’ needs. In a great working relationship, the “higher-up” honestly communicates what they need help with and the helper works to meet those needs. Great working relationships involve respect and trust and right now it doesn’t sound like there’s a lot of either of those two going on in either direction.

      I don’t blame you; it sounds like your boss is a bit of an ass but you work for him. Watch your back and approach him with all this in mind. Do not (even passively) ‘confront’ him; it won’t go well for you.

    7. TootsNYC*

      I think next time manager said, “have everyone in at 8am,” I wouldn’t be asking him about emails and calendars; I’d just send them, cc-ing him. And if the purpose was for the manager to meet with the staff, I’d put it on his calendar without asking him.

      as for this time: What was the purpose of 8am? Just for everyone to be there? In which case, nobody should be saying to him, “hey, you made all of us be here, why weren’t you here?” Just show up and do your jobs. Managers get to do that sort of thing; sorry and all that. It’s sort of unfair, but we do.

      If the manager were the one w/ the keys, and you’d all been standing outside, that’s a little different, of course.

      In the follow-up, you say he wanted to run that meeting. I don’t know what was damaged by him forgetting–it’s a normal meeting, right? And it happened without him, so it really doesn’t matter.
      I think I’d be saying, “I thought you’d wanted to run this meeting. Do you want to run the next one, to make up for it?”
      In other words, be sure my comments weren’t seen as criticism or contradiction; let him save some face. I know what actually happened, and I assume that deep down, he does know.

    8. Karowen*

      I would go with not asking about putting it on his calendar, and instead just do an email CYA. So you have the talk, go back to your desk and write an email saying “Per our discussion, I’m going to have everyone be here at 8am on Friday. Let me know if this changes so I can pass it on!”

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Every conversation can be some how contorted into “arguing with the higher ups”.

      I think this is a weak statement at best. In most cases bosses will end up with employees that just “yes” them to death.

      I am agreeing with others who say to just do it without asking. And I’d like to add one thing that worked for me with a boss like this. In the moment, I would repeat back to him what he just said. “Okay so you want everyone here at 8 on Friday, right?” And he will say yes.
      In my case it would be the next day, “WHAT THE HELL did you do that for?!” Clearly, my boss thought of me as an idiot. Standing firm, I said, “You told me to do it, I repeated it back to you and you said ‘yes, this is what I want you to do’ “. I went on to explain, “It does not matter to me if we do X or do Y. I just want to be on the correct page and doing the correct thing. I want to be a good employee.”

      This worked very well. My coworkers who did not stand firm, did not make out as well. YMMV, use your best judgement.

    10. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I think so far everyone has missed the main point. Next week, no today, *start looking for a new job*! If this behavior is typical, then you need to get the heck out of there if possible.

      I know it will take more than a week to find a job so follow the other peoples’ advice on how the handle the situation if it comes up again. However, please do try and get the heck out of there!

  5. EE Lady*

    I had a manager in the past who wasn’t as hands-on as I would have liked him to be, given my experience level and comfort with the job. Often I would get told to complete a project with little to no supporting information – just a perfunctory “Hey make a rice sculpture of a bridge,” and he runs off to meetings all day. And I’m left to wonder, “Does he want a suspension bridge or more like an arch bridge? Where should I build it? Am I sculpting this out of one grain of rice or thousands? When do I need to do it?” So I was thinking about how to prevent that going forward. (Aside- I think one way to mitigate that is to try to get a firmer handle on what the department’s goals are, which is something I should have made sure I understood at the outset. Let’s pretend I did that.) I would love to see us brainstorm some kind of template of questions to ask to orient yourself any time you get a task handed down without any guidance. There have to be like 4-5 magic questions that will take away 90% of the ambiguity.

    1. Rowan*

      A couple of suggestions:
      “What will this sculpture be used for?” (Is is a demo? A deliverable for a customer?)
      “What goals are we trying to achieve with this sculpture?” (Similar to the above — is it to just prove to ourselves we can do it? Or to show another dept an example of what we can produce? Or is it a learning exercise?)

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I think this may have to be a larger discussion you have with him instead of one in the moment. If he really is just running off to meetings right after giving you a project, he’s not going to want to talk about it in the moment. So I would schedule a meeting with him (we know he knows how to go to those) and say “I know you’re in meetings a lot of the time. Sometimes you give me a project to do, and I have follow-up clarification questions. Do you want me to ask you in that moment? Could email you, and would you be able to answer during the meetings you’re in? Do you just trust my judgment?”

      Just be mindful that he may say he trusts your judgment, because he doesn’t want to be bothered (i.e., he may be a terrible manager) but then may later say “Why did you do such-and-such? It obviously should have been this other way!”

      1. LabTech*

        Just be mindful that he may say he trusts your judgment, because he doesn’t want to be bothered (i.e., he may be a terrible manager) but then may later say “Why did you do such-and-such? It obviously should have been this other way!”

        This is what drove me from my last job. I gave my reasoning for using brown rice instead of white rice, both verbally and in our documentation, but I somehow always seemed to choose wrong. Even when I was specifically told to use brown rice the last week, only to be told I should have used white rice this week for reasons that were never given at the start.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yes, it’s infuriating behavior.

          The only other thing is if he really doesn’t want to discuss it, I’d recommend EE Lady just send periodic updates. “I had the choice between white rice and brown rice, and I figure I’ll go with brown rice because X, Y, and Z. If you would prefer white rice, let me know before 3pm today.”

    3. Roman Holiday*

      I had exactly this experience at OldJob! My boss would give me some vague assignment with zero context, then disappear and not respond to emails/questions, then show up and be like, “why haven’t you finished project x?”

      I eventually started asking other colleagues, always with the precursor, “Cersei wants me to do X, but hasn’t specified A, B or C. Do you have any guidance?” It was half looking for help, half CYA, because when she came back, I could say (obviously in more polite, professional terms), “You didn’t answer any of my follow-up questions, and Jon, Robb and Arya don’t know what the H-E-double hockey sticks you were talking about either”. It took me a while to realize that place was toxic, but hey, it was my first job out of college and I learned how to handle a boss like that.

    4. CM*

      1. What is the project and why are we doing it?
      2. What deliverables do you need me to produce? (Insert specific details — for a document, you’d want to know about how long it should be, and whether it’s a formal memo or bullet points)
      3. Who will be using the deliverables and for what purpose?
      4. How should I deliver them to you?
      5. When do you need them and how urgent is it?
      6. Is there anybody else I should talk to or loop in?
      7. Is there any background information that would be useful?
      8. Do you want me to check in with you before finishing this?

      And after you get your questions answered, repeat back, “So you need me to produce a short bullet-point memo about our revenue projections for next quarter. I’ll aim to email a draft to you by Friday, and if I need help I’ll ask Alice in accounting.”

    5. SirTechSpec*

      I think it’s important to have a written spec for anything significant. Set a threshold beyond which you won’t do a project until you have the requestor sign off on the requirements. (Maybe 8 hours of work, or a certain financial cost, or whatever.) This should be standard practice at an organized company, but if not, you’ll have to do it on your own. Generalizing from your questions above, I would say the minimum points to cover are:
      -Justification (“Why are we doing this?” Not because your boss has to justify herself to you, but because that’s key to understanding how to do it correctly.)
      -Goals/Outcome (“What exactly will we have when we’re done that we don’t have now?”)
      -Budget/Resources (“How much should I put into this?” If there’s a financial cost I dearly, dearly hope that’s already given to you, but you also don’t want to spend a week on something if your boss wanted a 1-hour mockup.)
      -Timeline (“When do you need it by?”)

      Note that while this sounds extreme, it can be a way to do most of the work for them – if your boss is vague, draw up your best guess. It also doesn’t have to be called a Project Plan if that’s not your style – it can just be an e-mail saying “Okay, I can spend the next three days making a 5′ arch bridge to go in the atrium, to make it more welcoming in time for the architect’s convention next week. It’ll probably take about $100 worth of rice, and be sturdy enough to last out the week. Can you confirm that this is what you had in mind, or is there anything I should do differently?” The smaller the request, the shorter and more informal the requirements can be, but you need to know what you need to know.

      1. Honeybee*

        Yes, and that spec can be the “something done” I mean in my comment below. Sometimes my manager will ask me to do something with very few guidelines, and I’ll write a one-pager or an outline framing the project and bring it to her for feedback before I do anything significant.

    6. Honeybee*

      I think it depends on the job and your relationship with your manager – I agree that asking all of the questions that people specified already are the best way to go, but honestly, if you don’t have time or your manager dashes out before you can answer them, I just start on the project and get something done. Like if I’m asked to write a description of X for the website and I have no idea what the website looks like, who it’s intended for, or how long the description is supposed to be…I write something and show it to my manager. Then she gives me feedback on whether she wants more, less, what she wants to change, etc. Sure, it probably would’ve saved time if I had had that information up front, but…*shrug* I don’t!

  6. Motivation slipping*

    Last month both I and a colleague on my team were offered promotions by our manager (director of the department we work for), which we accepted. Then last week, the director told us our promotions were being revoked because the C-level of our department is going to promote a different coworker to a senior leadership position. When we asked if our promotions would be available again, we were told not this year. I asked about a raise and was told that all of the raise money allotted to our team was going towards this coworker’s senior leadership promotion.

    The person being promoted to senior leadership has been a problem for everyone else on the team. He disappears for hours at a time and misses key meetings during his disappearance (like our weekly team status meeting), then sends long rambling emails to the whole department about how we keep him in the dark. He’s been rude and condescending to all of us at some point. He does not complete a majority of his work, which has left the team in a lurch countless times. Both the director and C-level were aware of the issues we had with him.

    My colleague and I are feeling demoralized. She and I have been asked to work through the weekend for the next 3 weeks on a high-profile project, but we’re having trouble staying motivated to go above and beyond like we used to. She says if the company promotes low performers then there’s no reason for us to bust our asses for them. She suggests asking for a bonus and then refusing to work through the weekends if they say no. This doesn’t seem like a smart move, but at the same time, I am bitter about how this is turning out and not happy about the prospect of losing my weekends when it won’t benefit me in the long run.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Okay, this sounds awful. I’m so sorry. It’s so frustrating to work with a poor performer, but to see him promoted would demoralize me, too! I wish I had some good advice (other than job hunting and making the best of the situation while you are in it.)

      1. Honeybee*

        Not only to see him promoted over you but ALSO to find out that your ENTIRE team’s raise pot has been used to give him a promotion. That is some really terrible management right there.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Man, that really sucks. In your position I would start looking for a new job. They have made it pretty clear how much they value you.

    3. Temperance*

      Are both you and your coworker female?

      I would absolutely start looking for a new job, ASAP. Your coworker is right that they aren’t going to reward you. I would talk to your boss, together, about the revocation.

      1. Motivation slipping*

        Yes, we are both female. And both have been in our jobs longer than the newly promoted coworker, who was at the same level as us before the promotion. I didn’t want to turn it into a gendered thing but it might play a part.

        1. Temperance*

          And he didn’t put in all this extra time that you did, and didn’t try very hard, and yet still received a promotion over you both? That’s … absolute sexist BS.

          Maybe I’m petty, but I would make it a Thing that since Lazy is a manager now, he needs to do that weekend work. Something SUDDENLY came up.

        2. neverjaunty*

          If it walks like a boys’ club, talks like a boys’ club, and promotes incompetent jerks like your co-worker like a boys club…. then you’re not the one turning it into a gendered thing.

          I mean, look, this isn’t a situation where you just feel like you work harder than Fergus, or higher-ups have no idea what a pain he is. If they know about his problems AND they’re promoting him, then it’s because they irrationally favor him for some reason. You cannot get ahead at a company like this, period, full stop. You can only get out.

          See how well they do with their buddy Fergus when you aren’t there covering for him.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            So much this. Not to mention, even if they hadn’t promoted this guy, revoking two employees’s promotions at the last minute is a really shitty thing to do to people. I wouldn’t want to work for people like that.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        That’s my question too. If so, it reminds me of a previous job, although my male co-worker was a really good worker and certainly deserved the promotion. But it was clear to us all that they wanted the male coworkers and didn’t want me. I got my revenge, however: I asked them if they wanted to be working for a company that would treat people like that, and then we all found new jobs.

    4. Isben Takes Tea*

      This sucks. I can’t believe they would pull offered promotions and then tell you it’s because of another employee. That just seems like horrendous management.

      In a recent letter, Alison pointed out the unprofessionalism of refusing to do work (even “above and beyond”) if a requested bonus is turned down. If you’re not going to go the extra mile, that’s one thing, but you can’t use a denied bonus as a reason.

      Of course, if this is how the company acts, then you have the reasonable choice of not going the extra mile or looking for another job.

      1. Tex*

        If you are demotivated, then you two can certainly use a passive aggressive move by claiming to be burnt out and not able to work on the weekends.

        The point will be made. Unsaid, but definitely made.

    5. LawCat*

      Time to start job searching. Your company has communicated to you loud and clear just how much they really value you. And it isn’t much.

    6. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      This is a time when I would put my head down, do what needs to be done…all while telling my contacts that I am actively looking for a new position.

      Hopefully you can find motivation in finishing out strong and moving on to a new position.

    7. Sunflower*

      Ouch this Sucks. What does your director say about your issues with this guy? How did she seem when she told you about the promotions being revoked? Did she seem sorry or blase about it? I think anything you do is just putting a band aid on a bullet hole and while that might be the solution for right now, I don’t think you can long term work here.

      I would tell her that you have plans for these weekends and see what happens. Stick firm to it. If she presses you, I would ask for comp time or PTO. And I would 100000% be looking for a new job. I’m so sorry. This really really realllyyy sucks

      1. Motivation slipping*

        Director seemed sorry and I don’t think she agrees with this other coworker getting promoted but her hands are tied.

    8. BRR*

      Your company or manager or c-level person sucks. Promotions should be finalized before being announced broadly. I wouldn’t either ask for a raise or refuse to work. But I would definitely point out how working three weeks straight is extreme. If it’s not too late, I’d try and say you have plans for something.

      I hope they realize that not only did they just lose two employees, they lost two employees were who doing well enough for a promotion.

      1. Observer*

        I’d say all three stink. Even the manager’s hands are really tied about the promotion, she still didn’t handle the situation well.

        As for the rest, I agree completely.

    9. TootsNYC*

      That’s shitty

      It’s especially shitty that they told you why–though, if the message had just been, “The company has changed its mind about how to structure this,” you’ve probably still resent the guy.

      Time to job hunt! And I hope you find something else good really, really soon, so the cause-and-effect is clearly visible. Plus, this is a cause-and-effect that you ought to feel comfortable sharing with your manager and w/ HR in any exit interview opportunities.

      And when you have those conversations, point out that you were a good enough employee to be promoted, so they have truly lost someone good–someone who -would- have stayed and been freshly energized by the promotion.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Ugh. I understand. This is like going through the work day with concrete blocks strapped to your ankles.
      Try, try, try to remember that you are still you. And they cannot take that away from you. No matter what crappy thing they think of next, you still have you, a creative, resourceful individual. That creativity, resourcefulness is still there, it’s just napping right now. Wake it up and tell it “let’s go!”
      I call it a form of grace under fire. What do we do when the company craps on us? One thing that has helped me is to picture myself writing my resume. What cool thing can I do at work that would look good on my resume? This kind of makes me get into action regardless of what others are doing.
      Another thing is I think about the fact that I have to live with myself. I have to know that UNLIKE the company, I was fair/reasonable. I stop being fair/reasonable, then the company wins, not me, because I lost a part of myself.
      It’s a one in a million long shot, but someone could be watching you now to see how you handle things. In ten years, you could find out, “I saw you handle that unfair situation and I saw how you carried yourself. I want you to work here with me.” Then you find yourself with a fancy job in a good company.

      The problem in these settings is that we tend to look down in discouragement. And what we need to do is look up and look around. I had one job where I went to work with my notice typed out and in my purse for WEEKS. I kept it in my computer and changed the dates every morning. Yesss, I did this. But it really helped me to think about a bigger picture rather than the little cruddy corner I was in at the moment. Knowing that I could just reach in my purse and hand that notice in caused to me really think things through and be strategic in as many ways as possible.

      1. Temporarily anonymous*

        Not So NewReader, that’s really useful for me right now. Thank you!

        And Motivation Slipping, you have my sympathy. I hope you and your colleague both start searching for new jobs and find much better ones!

      2. Someone Else*

        This is such a timely comment for me. In the last six months, I’ve been misled into accepting a demotion (they said I would remain mid-range, but instead I’m now topped out for salary), had plum assignments dangled in front of me as bait but then been stuck with assignments that set me back to where I was five years ago on my career trajectory, and now I’m 3 months late on my review and it looks like I won’t get one at all. I’ve been going back and forth for weeks — should I quit? Should I hang in there? I love my coworkers! But the bosses have (apparently) gone bonkers! I’ve been working on my resume but just can’t decide whether or not to move on. Is this malevolence, or simply managerial incompetence? I wish I knew. I’ve gone from being a senior level person who was well respected to persona non grata and I’m not sure why.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Ugh. You know sometimes when we feel painted into a corner, we have the most freedom, as in “nothing left to lose. it cannot get worse”. I would whip myself up to either find out what is wrong or just plain make a plan to leave. Do one or the other. Out of respect for yourself do not allow yourself to languish.

          Do you have a trusted cohort that you can talk with? Do you see others around you have large difficulties also?

          I worked one place where your setting would be described as “off the radar”. Once a person was off the radar, they were stuck where they were at for the duration of their employment. You could fall off the radar for wearing the wrong color socks or similar error.

          I am not sure that loving your coworkers is a strong enough reason for staying at a job. I tend to vote in favor of not allowing yourself to stagnant. They wanted you there, now they seem to NOT want you there. That probably stands alone as a good reason to move forward with your life/career.

    11. Anon Accountant*

      This is so awful. I recommend start looking for a new job, complete the project as it adds value to your résumé, and get a great job offer.

      This is such a cluster of poor management and their actions don’t make sense.

    12. Observer*

      So there are a lot of idiots here. The person in the C-Suite, for one. Your manager for another. But you don’t need anyone to tell you that. But, you’re instinct about your co-worker’s idea is right on. It’s a REALLY bad idea, and could get you fired.

      Your company has told you a lot about itself and how it rewards good behavior with this mess. Your best bet is to start looking for a new job. Make that your motivation to to excellent work – you want anyone a prospective employer talks to, to speak about you in the most glowing terms.

  7. Anon for this*

    Does accepting a promotion mean you have to stay on a certain amount of time? How would a healthy work environment handle such a discussion?

    I’ve been at my company for several years. During my performance review in January, my boss noted that due the company’s changing needs and my great performance they would like to retool my current job description and promote me into a higher level role, but that I need to decide if I really want to stay in the organization for another two years or if I think I’d want to leave before they’d move forward. He did not ask for an answer on the spot, but I’ve felt panicked ever since.

    Since the role will be new, I am not sure if I’d want it (I really don’t have enough information on responsibilities, pay, etc.), but I’m not sure how to handle this situation. I would love to be honest with my manager and say, if it’s the case, that I’m ready to move on or even that I’m not sure, but we do not have that kind of culture. My boss can be very vindictive and takes everything personally. I’ve seen him treat other staff poorly when they leave the organization. The only person I’ve seen leave on good terms (according to my boss) gave 3+ months notice and was leaving for grad school and therefore wasn’t seen as choosing another employer over my boss.

    If I say that I’m thinking of leaving, I fear I would be totally marginalized, but I don’t want to have to lie either. How can I protect my reputation and do right by my employer without screwing myself over? Beyond forgoing the title/salary bump for as long as I’d still be in my current job, I fear I would end up doing a lot the same things this new job entails anyway (I am more or less the only person in my area and the work needs to get done). Perhaps that’s the other reason I’m upset. My organization does not offer much professional development (we all just learn on the fly/are self taught) and does not have a well-thought out system for advancement or recognizing contributions, so we end up taking on huge new responsibilities for months and months before ever getting more pay or a better title. Promotions are granted as if our employer is doing us a huge favor and it’s almost irrespective of how much we are doing for the company.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Does accepting a promotion mean you have to stay on a certain amount of time? How would a healthy work environment handle such a discussion?

      No, it doesn’t mean you’re committing to anything. Are you in the U.S.? If so, almost every state has at-will employment. You aren’t legally committing to anything.

      I need to decide if I really want to stay in the organization for another two years or if I think I’d want to leave before they’d move forward.

      My boss can be very vindictive and takes everything personally. I’ve seen him treat other staff poorly when they leave the organization.

      You’ve got your answer right here. No matter how ethical you try to be, your boss is never going to take well your leaving, even if you leave after two years. You’re not planning to leave right now, right? So just say you’re committed to staying for two years. If a better opportunity comes up before the two years is up… well, you didn’t know about that better opportunity at the time. For all you knew, you were going to stay for two years. This isn’t a legally binding contract or a marriage commitment. And your boss is a jerk, so what does it matter?

      1. TootsNYC*

        “You’re not planning to leave right now, right? So just say you’re committed to staying for two years.”

        I might not say I was “committed to staying for another two years.”

        I’d say, “I’m very happy here and have no thought of leaving. The idea of taking on a greater role is really rewarding, and this vote of confidence would be a reason to stay.”

        Same message, but you don’t have a number attached to the word “committed.” Boss may not remember the parsing of the semantics, but he also might remember a number attached to the word “committed.”

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I don’t know. This boss sounds like a jerk, so I don’t think it will really matter what phrasing you use. I can totally see him, even if you phrase it correctly, yelling “Anon for this said she’d be here for two years at least! She promised!”

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      That’s not how a healthy company works. Investment in training, promotions, or task reassignment is par for the course for any role at any time, and they should be prepared for people to come and go.

      As long as you are not signing a contract, you are under no legal or moral obligation to remain in the role any longer than you choose. You can’t ask them to commit to not firing or further changing your role for the next two years, and it is unreasonable for them to do the same to you.

      If what is necessary to get the promotion is to verbally commit, then do it without guilt, and accept that you will need to cope ahead for a short (two-week max, don’t get suckered in for longer) notice period with a vindictive boss if you do leave. If he’s mad about it, it’s his own fault.

    3. Sunflower*

      Take the promotion. You have to. If you reject it, you’re basically saying ‘I quit’ with no job lined up- esp based off the previous reactions of people moving on from your company. Unless you sign a contract, there is nothing legally binding you to do anything.

      No one can predict the future. You might start job searching today and not find something for 2 years(believe me it happens) Your job could not even be there in 2 years(not saying there is any indication this will happy but you never know!) It sounds like even if you finished out the 2 years, your company would not take you leaving well.

      Even in healthy orgs, I feel this is still a loaded topic. Even if you want to stay and are just not interested in more work, it can still cast a shadow over you. The idea of letting your boss know your job searching is an ideal but only happens in pretty rare cases from what I’ve seen. Take the promotion and keep job searching.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I think that part of deciding to stay on for two years is deciding to make a go of it no matter what happens. I have been in jobs where I could do this. And I have been in jobs where I knew for a fact that my determination was NOT working at all.

        It sounds like your boss is going to be jerk no matter what you do and no matter how you play your cards. I think I would be inclined to take the promotion and job hunt like crazy.
        He goes on a rant when you give notice, it’s the last rant you will ever have to listen to from him. If it’s a given that he will rant no matter what, then you have to pick what works best for you.

  8. Katie the Fed*

    Oh boy! I’ve been really excited for this week’s open thread!

    So…got to have a little karmic justice yesterday. Years ago when I was a young peon, I had a boss two level’s up who was just a jerk and a buffoon. He made decisions capriciously that negatively impacted my career (in the way he went about giving out promotions in a very dodgy way), and said/did things that I should have reported him for. Like….very sexist things. But I was young and didn’t know how to stand up for myself. If he had just treated me with basic decency I wouldn’t have minded about the promotions. But he was such a jerk.

    He ended up going off to an organization for a while, as I moved up and became confident and more respected. Well, my current boss is leaving and this guy apparently applied for his job. So current boss and HIS boss asked me if knew him and what I thought. And I gave them a very detailed description of the things he said and did, and my professional but unvarnished opinion on the effect he would have if he came to our organization. And it pretty much tanked his prospects.

    I normally wouldn’t feel good about this, but he’s such an awful person and we dodged a major bullet on him. But it just goes to show that even the low level peons you mistreat might come back some day and get a vote on YOUR career, so it’s probably best to treat everyone with respect.

    1. Cube Farmer*

      Well done!

      I had a very similar situation with a boss that, among many other things, screamed, slammed doors, and fired me for giving notice of resignation. My lack of recommendation was key to him not getting a job at a job I had years later.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      But it just goes to show that even the low level peons you mistreat might come back some day and get a vote on YOUR career, so it’s probably best to treat everyone with respect.

      I’m so glad this worked out. I wouldn’t even call it karma necessarily as natural consequences. I really hope all annoying people get to feel those natural consequences. One of my biggest work pet peeves is people who kiss up to their work superiors and treat their work subordinates (or peers) like dirt.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        YES! He was like that too, and then the person he was sucking up to retired. That’s how he ended up leaving for a while. Oh god, what an asshole. I just wish he knew it was me that did it!

          1. Emmie*

            Congrats, @Katie the Fed! Although the experience was awful, you did a great service to your organization by avoiding this man.
            @Tex: I have an old boss who – if she ever applied for a job at my org – I would call her in for an interview at 11 am, so she’d have to use up an entire day of PTO. I would never actually do that, but it was a fun joke when her short-comings were fresh.

    3. Mimmy*

      LOVE this!! Not the same, but for some reason, it makes me think of the letter a week or two ago about the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde employee. I hope HE gets his karma! :)

        1. hermit crab*

          Hufflepuff unite! And by unite, I mean, let’s go sit quietly somewhere and have some cocoa, shall we? 10 points to Hufflepuff!

    4. Florida*

      Great story. The only thing that would make this story more satisfying is if the jerk somehow found out that his past actions are what ruined it for him.

    5. Undine*

      Ooh, I have a karmic justice story. I am a teapot pourer and a while ago we were hiring for another teapot pourer on my team. We got a resume from someone who a few years earlier had been director of teapot pouring at Cloud Teapots and who wanted to go back to an individual contributor (this is common in teapot pouring). Right before she came in, I was looking over her resume and thought — wait, I know a couple people who’d worked at Cloud Teapots, and they really hated their director — could it be her? So I emailed my contacts and got back a response from one that said something like “She is a racist manipulative creep. Run the other way when you see her.” My contact then went into details. By the time I heard this, the candidate was literally in the office, so my boss said to go ahead and interview her, but there was no way she was getting the job. And we eventually hired someone we really like.

      So karma can be visited at a distance as well. If you’re bad enough that people complain about you, word does get around.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        It started that way. Didn’t end that way. I tried to be diplomatic and then just let it all out!

    6. neverjaunty*

      Personal dislike aside, you did a good thing. He’s a bad boss, he’s a bigot, and nobody needs that kind of grief in management.

  9. Folklorist*

    ANTI-PROCRASTINATION POST!!! What have you been putting off? I dare you–DARE YOU, I say–to go do it and report back.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I’m putting off writing up a proposal for a new job description for myself that would be a promotion. No idea why except that the idea of detailing everything I do all day and trying to expand on it is exhausting…

    2. Bunny Purler*

      Uhhhh… this is so weirdly appropriate that I read it and just flinched slightly. I am putting off a couple of fairly chunky things which need to be finished before the end of the day, and I am… well, I’m on AAM. You’re right! I will go and get cracking, then report back!!

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’m backed up on processing some purchasing paperwork, so I’m going to spend the morning working through my “To Be Processed” folder instead of reading on AAM. I’ll be back after lunch!

      1. Catalin*

        New open thread idea: things we should have been doing instead of being here during the work day. Soooo guilty!

    4. Adam*

      I just moved a week ago. I still need to change my address on nearly everything. It’s my goal to do today and if I get it done I get to buy a new chair for my TV room.

    5. Me2*

      Closed my business two weeks ago (for a good reason) and have to be out of my leased space by tomorrow. I have 99.5% of it cleared out and I’m totally procrastinating the last 0.5%.

    6. Tau*

      The fact that 50% of the time I see these when I’m on the train really works against me here…

    7. Ellie the EA*

      Need to call online cheap flights site to finish the “fight” about why I shouldn’t have to pay the change fee to rebook our tickets (husband needed emergency heart surgery for goodness sake!) But we need to use them now to fly for his father’s funeral… (sigh, yeah it’s been a rough 9-months)

      Wish me luck.

    8. SL #2*

      I have several legal-type things to be working on… I’ve template-tized everything already so it’s just a matter of copy/paste, but I’m still putting it off!

    9. Shishimai*

      I imported a rice sculpture design into the notoriously difficult and unstable RiceCAD tool that we haven’t yet managed to replace.

      It goofed it up, because of course it did. But it gave me enough to pull into the less difficult and unstable internal tool; and that’s all I need in the first place.

      Today is going to be a whole lot of manually moving rice grains around.

    10. White Mage*

      Creating landing pages for some of our products. I’ll work on it for like 5-10 minutes, get bored and do something else, then maybe get back to it. I don’t have a deadline (and even if I did it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t meet it) so I have no motivation.

    11. TeaCozy*

      Ugh, it’s my last day and I’m procrastinating on the one phone call I HAVE to make, because I’m so tired of phone calls…

      (I don’t even make that many, I just have issues with phones and I avoid using them whenever possible.)

    12. JJtheDoc*

      Woot! Just successfully booked 3 different appointments for my Mom, who just moved to my area. She’s elderly, no longer drives, and it is dang difficult to find medical providers who will accept Medicare patients. But..challenge accepted and done!!

    13. Elizabeth West*

      Hey, I’m eating lunch! :)

      I got caught up when I came in this morning–I had stuff from yesterday because I was at an administrative assistants’ conference all day. But I do have to write a blog post.

    14. ActualName*

      I started doing my laundry. Funnily enough I had the second pair of jeans in my hands when my text to speech got to this comment in the thread. :)

      I’ll also hopefully write some today, or work on sketching out a little comic story.

    15. BananaKarenina*

      Writing cover letters for high school teaching positions – and trying to revise my resume for non-educator jobs. Burnout from the last couple of teaching assignments is a huge factor. But, it’s tough to transition into other sectors or fields after being in the classroom. Trying to do it alone (not by choice) has set me further back.

  10. Ack Ack*

    So I’ve had 3 interviews, all very positive, at an organization I’m really interested in. They asked for references yesterday. Do you think it’s ok to ask what the salary range is at this point? They’ve been great throughout the process in all other respects. I’ve never negotiated salary before because I’ve worked in the public sector/been desperate the other times I’ve gotten job offers. I’m definitely going to negotiate, but should I wait for an offer or can I ask now?

    1. Amy*

      I’d definitely wait for an offer – at that point you have the bargaining power because 1) you know what their initial number is and 2) you know they want you. The exception would be if they bring it up first, or if you have non-negotiable salary requirements that they might not meet, and you don’t want to waste your references time if it’s not a good fit. But if it doesn’t seem like they’ll bring it up to the offer, then yes, go ahead and wait. Once you know their number you can come back with a “Thank you for the offer, I’m really excited about this opportunity because X, but I was hoping compensation would be more like $Z. Is there any way we can get closer to that?” Where Z is what you want + some percentage, since you know they’ll negotiate down. Good luck, hope you get the offer!

      1. Ack Ack*

        I do have a lower floor for salary, and I am a little concerned they might not meet it, so I think I will ask for the ballpark range. After 3 interviews they must know I’m curious, right?? Their glassdoor reviews say that the pay is low, although I think they are talking about positions very different from what mine would be. I’m also not desperate. I’d happily stay in my current job if that’s how it worked out.

    2. KR*

      I think it’s definitely okay to ask for the salary range at least. You have to know if it’s worth it for you to continue with the application. They should be okay with this – people work for money.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Well for starters, asking for the salary range and negotiating are two separate things. Yes, ask for the range now. You want to make sure you’re in roughly the same ballpark before either party continues to spend time engaging the interview process — and before you ask your references to spend their time, as well.

      If the range is something makes you still interested in the job, you can negotiate it at the offer stage.

    4. Fabulous*

      If the salary range isn’t listed in the job posting and they haven’t asked what range you’re looking for, I’d recommend mentioning it in the first interview. That way you know if it’s even worth it for you to continue with the process.

      1. Audiophile*

        The job I currently have didn’t list a salary and didn’t mention during my interview. (I was only interviewed once.) I didn’t get any indication until an offer was made. It was low and so I eventually negotiated up.

  11. Zahra*

    I need your insights! I’m starting a new job on Monday and I’m a little bit afraid: I lost my last two jobs (one last August and one this February) because of symptoms tied to ADHD (procrastination, errors due to inattention and the like). I’m in a field where you are expected to work autonomously, with deliverables that may be weeks in the future. However, with ADHD, it’s hard for me to do work that requires effort over a longer period of time. Add in the fact that I never had to work to get very good grades pre-college, and I’m really in a bad position. I NEED to get to that level of autonomy and organization.

    I started back on medication last summer (I had stopped while pregnant 5 years ago and didn’t realize how much ADHD affected me at work). I also started using more tools to help me out (StayFocusd is really great to stop me from procrastinating on the internet). And, just this week, I started seeing a professional to get a better handle on this. I should start to see results fairly quickly (as in, within a month).

    I don’t want to lose my job, but I don’t want to disclose my ADHD to my new boss right now if I can avoid it. I’m afraid it would impact his opinion of me (as a professional) negatively. I know I have the law on my side, to a point.
    Anyone got tips on how to manage the situation? Hopefully, I’ll have better strategies to mitigate the (negative) symptoms of ADHD soon, the psychologist said 2-3 months of CBT (once a week) usually yielded the kind of results I’m looking for.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Hopefully you’ll have a discussion with your boss about his expectations when you start. At that point I think you could tell him a little about how you work best, and maybe include some insights that will help him communicate with and manage you best. Like “I’ll definitely work around the culture here, but I do really well with weekly check-ins with my supervisor” or something like that.

      Congratulations on the new job!

    2. Willow*

      That depends what you’re looking for from your boss. Do you just want him to cut you slack while you’re adjusting to your new job? Or are there specific accommodations that would be helpful to you?

      1. Zahra*

        I’d like a little bit of slack while I’m adjusting to the new job and getting the help I need. Not sure if it’s a realistic expectation.
        As far as specific accommodations go, I think regular check-ins would be good, and maybe some way of checking I’m still on track (time and/or content) partway through a project.

    3. my two cents*

      I was finally diagnosed with mild add last year, at 31. I had apparently managed it for years, but when something still wasn’t right I made the call and the Dr. put me on non-stimulant Straterra. It’s freaking life-changing having that last 20% of the symptoms addressed.

      In dealing with the not-yet-diagnosed symptoms, I had come up with a number of personal work-arounds to help minimize impact as I had become quite the plate-spinner to appease my wandering focus.
      1. List any to-do items on a giant whiteboard, and cross them off (not erase) as you complete them. I always kept a running list of whatever projects I was trying to juggle to satiate my compulsion to jump around. Leaving the items crossed-off helped keep me from panicking about not remembering if I had completed something.
      2. Flag emails in your inbox if you need to follow-up on it later. This was another way of creating a ‘list’ to work from each day. It’s easy to forget to follow-up if you don’t receive a response to signal moving forward or it doesn’t otherwise wouldn’t impact your other tasks and wouldn’t come up.
      3. Remember to not interrupt people, even if they’re talking waaaay tooooo sloooow. I inhale very slowly through my nose while someone is talking to help me concentrate and listen, and keep me from jumping in too soon.
      4. Emotional outbursts can be a problem. AAM’s advice about remembering that most people aren’t mean, they’re just thoughtless, really helped me frame-up irritating situations that would happen. Actively work on keeping your face and body language neutral with a close friend or SO who will be willing to tell you when you still ‘look’ like a particular emotion.
      5. Be sure you have a good contact (SO, close friend, Dr.) that will let you walk-through and vocalize your feelings or concerns. One of my biggest personal add symptoms was compulsory empathy – I needed to know how everyone else felt, and in turn felt that everyone should know how I felt. It’s OK to feel anxious, worried, or frustrated – but the tendency for add/adhd folks is to over-share with others, which isn’t right for the work place.

      1. Zahra*

        1- To-do list: I do it, but I’m not consistent in doing it. I’m getting better at it, though.
        2- Inbox: I file away everything that’s been done and keep the to-dos and current FYIs in my inbox. I clean it up regularly.
        3- Interruptions: yup, and I’m working on listening to understand instead of listening to answer. Basically, being present and attentive to what the other person is saying.
        4- Emotional outbursts: Yup, not much of a poker face here. My verbal language is good, but my non-verbal may need some work.
        5- Having an outlet: I think this will be the psychiatrist for now. Would having a journal help (as teenage-sounding as it is)?

        1. my two cents*

          A journal certainly help between your Dr. visits, if for nothing more than to be able to recall the other specifics around the event – as opposed to only remembering how you felt or only the negative details when recalling it later. I find it really useful to force myself to think of the root cause for why I’m reacting emotionally, instead of focusing on the isolated event – Is it a pattern of them using a bad tone, and it sours whenever they talk to me even if the request is reasonable? Do I know they should be able to do this themselves? Am I irritated that our boss didn’t plan this correctly to begin with, and now I bristle whenever it comes up? Is there stuff at home that’s causing an emotional or anxious undertow?

          I also keep a large notebook near my phone so I can jot notes as someone else is speaking over the phone. It keeps my hands busy, which in turn helps me listen more effectively. Also, should they call again or if the issue crops up for someone else, you now have a chronological log and you can just flip back until you find it. I’ll also often stand while on a call to keep from fidgeting with stuff around my desk or browsing the internet while someone yammers on.

    4. Juli G.*

      I’m inclined to say that if there are specific accommodations you need, ask for them. If I understand the timeline right, you’ve lost two jobs in less than a year because of your symptoms. That’s a lot of job change. If there are reasonable requests you can make, you should.

      I understand your worries and they’re fair if you have an unreasonable/unethical boss. However, your other bosses presumably did not know about your ADHD and they didn’t view as professional enough to keep you on.

      Use your legal rights and gain some stability!

      1. Zahra*

        I forgot to say: it’s a 6-month contract, with a possibility of renewal. After the renewal, there’s a good chance the position will become permanent. I feel quite a bit more pressure to perform at a high level since it’s a temporary position.

    5. BRR*

      Hopefully I can provide some tips as I have ADD and lost the two and only professional jobs I’ve had.
      -Get treatment. Nothing was going to change without getting some help (and you’re already doing this)
      -To do lists. My list is to the point where it can feel overwhelming but it’s really just that everything is written down. It’s not enough to write it in a notebook because I will not find everything in the archives of the notebook.
      -Reminder alarms
      -For bigger/longer projects, I break it up into small projects.
      -Keep some tasks for when I need a break from something else

    6. Not So NewReader*

      It sounds like a number of tools in the tool box are necessary here.
      Can you tell yourself that tasks are not optional and if they appear optional that is only an illusion. Then use what happened at your previous jobs as proof that tasks are not optional.

      I do not have ADD, but I have been through times where I was tired and just. did. not. wanna do. anything. Sometimes I had to scare the crap out of myself to get myself on track. “This is due on Tuesday and if I do not have it done, the ceiling will fall in on me and it will totally rain on me.”

      It’s not a tool to be used all the time. I used it when nothing else was working on that day.

      Does getting stuff done give you a sense of accomplishment? Some people feel very good about completing something. Or maybe a reward system such as you finish x and then you can have that candy/fruit/whatever stashed in your desk drawer.

      1. Zahra*

        Scaring myself silly will work, when used very sparingly. It’s good to remember it’s an option.

        Getting things done does give me a sense of accomplishment. Having a to-do list full of checked off or crossed off items is great. A reward system can be good too. I just need to figure out a reward that will work (I tend to eat the candy when I’m low on energy, but maybe a “you can order that thing you wanted to buy” reward could work.)

    7. Ad Astra*

      I have ADHD too and have never formally disclosed it to my companies because I’ve never needed to request any accommodations. CBT is supposed to work wonders, and honestly I should really look into it myself. A lot of my success has been finding an environment/position that fit my work style best, which is quite a bit of trial and error. Now I have a job where each assignment as a short deadline, anywhere from 1 hour to 1 day, and that works best for me. That may not be possible in your industry, and it may not even be your preferred work style.

      You may have already seen these tips, but here they are just in case:
      1. Set aside time each morning and afternoon to get organized, make your to-do lists, etc.
      2. Set reminders on your Outlook calendar or on your phone. Anything I’m supposed to do at a given time (take medicine, talk to Cindy about rice bridges, make copies) goes on the calendar with an alert. If there’s no specific time tied to it, I assign a time to it for my own sanity.
      3. Set your own personal/internal deadlines for smaller chunks of each project.
      4. Use a desk calendar (or planner, or whatever works for you) to keep track of all due dates.

      1. katamia*

        I have ADD, too, and reminders have saved me. I also have anxiety issues, and to-do lists increase my anxiety to the point where I actually get less done, but calendar reminders are good for keeping me on track. I set mine up so I get emails, depending on what it is, weeks or days in advance and then also the day before and the day of. I used to constantly forget to submit invoices before I realized I could use calendar reminders, and I haven’t forgotten one since.

        I also agree with finding how you work best. I like having multiple discrete projects at once; if I can’t focus on one, then I can redirect my energy toward working on another. When I only have one thing to do at a time, I waste much more time when I’m having bad focus days because there’s nothing productive I can redirect my energy toward.

        1. BananaKarenina*

          I agree with all of these as well. Having been diagnosed with ADD (and depression-anxiety) within the last couple of years, much later in life, I can now see why some of my jobs have been far more difficult for me than “ordinary” colleagues. These strategies should be helpful to a point for you. Disclosing to my administrators would not work in my favor – yet, ironically, many of my students have 504 plans for their ADHD. And, I echo the #5 item from my two cents. Creating an outside support system (whether CBT, peer support group, Facebook private group, etc.) can also be VERY helpful in alleviating some of the on-the-job challenges. It sucks to go this alone. Please keep us posted.

          *”And, no, Mom, it’s not just ‘job stress’. This is real.”

        2. Zahra*

          Oh, how do you set up reminder emails? I find that simple reminders from Outlook don’t always work for me.

    8. Dynamic Beige*

      While not strictly work related (and maybe better suited to tomorrow), I have been wondering for the past few months if I have some kind of ADD. Largely because when people who have been diagnosed talk about things like procrastination, under achieving in school and other stuff, it sounds way too familiar in a “oh, I thought that was just me” kind of way. One of the things about my work is that it’s really deadline driven. But I find when it comes to doing personal projects, even important ones for my business, I just kind of derpy-derp around. I’ve always put it down to lack of willpower or being lazy or whatever, but I can’t help wondering if that’s not the whole story.

      How do you know you’ve got it? Is there a special test you have to take or something? I’ve been meaning to book an appointment with my GP and ask, but maybe you people have “better” insight as people who have it, what it looks like from the inside.

      1. katamia*

        My psych (who I was seeing for other things) diagnosed me using the DSM-5. They have a list, and if you have enough of the symptoms, you’re considered to have it. That psych diagnosis was enough for me to be able to get an Adderall prescription (from my GP because my psych is an ologist), which helps a lot even though I don’t take it every day.

        Funnily enough, this site was actually what made me bring it up with my psych in the first place. I don’t remember what the comment was, but it was a comment on a post that made me go “Wait, that thing I’ve always had problems with is a sign of ADD? And so is this other thing I’ve always struggled with? Maybe I should bring this up with my psych.” So I did.

        1. Jules the First*

          Can I just say, as someone managing an employee with ADD, that a good manager will want to know? My team member waited three months to disclose it, and I wish he’d told me sooner because it gave me much needed insight into why he does things the way he does. I’m now managing him with slightly different techniques than the rest of the team (everyone else works autonomously, unless they feel they need me; but I check in with Wakeen each morning to help prioritise his to-do list for the day, and he checks in with me at the end of the day because reporting back on what he’s achieved today makes it easier for him to be aware of his distractions).

          He’s also given me a heads up on his personal avoidance habits (ie the things he gravitates to doing when he’s not focused) so I can query him if I spot him drifting off-task.

    9. catsAreCool*

      A couple of things that help me stay off the internet at work – when I’m at work, I only use the internet for work stuff, like googling how to do something for work. And when I’m tempted to do something that’s not about work, I remind myself that the IT staff can probably tell every time I do that.
      I try to save internet fun stuff, like this blog, for lunch and after work.

      I’m not sure why, but making it a 100% stay off fun internet stuff at work seems to work for me.

  12. AcademiaDataNerd*

    This past month, I’ve been in meetings every week to plan other meetings – and those meetings have started this week and will last for THREE MONTHS. Please shoot me.

    On the plus side, it’s for a major application implementation and the technical team has been great to work with. At least they’re providing cookies at these meetings?…

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      I dream of working somewhere that provides… anything… at meetings. Unless someone from the C-suite is involved, you only get that kind of stuff on your first day where I work.

      Enjoy your free donuts, New Hires, you won’t see that again…

      1. AcademiaDataNerd*

        There are many VIPs at these meetings, hence the cookies. Otherwise, no food for the peons!!

      2. Wendy Darling*

        One time a bunch of my colleagues went to a 3-hour meeting that overlapped with lunch with a bunch of directors and VPs. The VPs and directors had their assistants order them lunch and bring it to the meeting… but did not provide food for anyone else.

        I know this because I got really, really angry “OH NO THEY DIDN’T” IMs from multiple people sitting in the meeting when it happened.

      3. Noah*

        My company is the same way. I love when I teach new hire training classes because it means there are bagels in the morning and sandwiches at lunch.

    2. Brett*

      That actually sounds pretty normal for application implementation.
      We have daily 15 minute standup, biweekly demo days, and biweekly sprint planning (including meeting planning), for each major implementation.

    3. hermit crab*

      Cookies for meetings sounds great! I will gladly trade cookies for some of my time. And really, I like meetings because they are hours that I get paid for (and can bill to the client) but don’t have to think during. :)

  13. NASAcat*

    Has anyone seen that deodorant commercial where the young woman is in the bathroom pumping herself up to ask her boss for a raise?

    The first time it was cute, but the second time I saw it I was like, “WTF, why didn’t they at least use a semi-decent pep talk? A powerful pep talk! Doesn’t this hypothetical person read AAM?”

    And why are you bringing up Todd (who has only been there for two years and makes more money than you)? F Todd! Girrrrl, get yourself together! No wonder you need extra strength clinical deodorant. I know it’s just a commercial, but way to portray young women as nervous, bumbling idiots.

    Side note, I got a 12.5% raise a few months ago and this site totally helped with my phrasing. Yay! Thanks, AAM.

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      +10000

      This is exactly what I thought the first time I saw this commercial. And more so every time.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      haha! Although I have to admit, every time I know of that one of my coworkers has asked for a raise by bringing up a coworker who makes more, it works. And not just at this employer; everywhere I’ve worked.

      I do get a kick out of a commercial I’ve seen that implies the reason there were fewer women in high-level roles in the 80s is because of all the hairspray they wore. There’s a scene of two women in a bathroom discussing a great business idea, and then they spray aqua net everywhere and forget what they were talking about. It’s silly but makes me laugh.

    3. Hey Nonny Nonny*

      Yes! My reactions went something like “Woo, reduce pay gap!….waaaait a minute….”

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      Did you get the raise during a job change or promotion? Or did you manage to convince them your current job was worth more pay?

      1. NASAcat*

        My coworker calls it a promotion, but I think of it more as a internal job change. The skill set is slightly higher. When I got the job offer the manager asked me what my salary expectations were. Our salaries are public (with 6-12 mo delay), so I knew exactly how much Person A and Person B made in the same role. Person A is very experienced and made 30% more than my then current salary. Person B made about 15% less! Ah! I gave a range of 15-25% knowing that my skills were valuable but I was realistic. I was expecting something along the lines of 3-5%. My company says they do up to 25%, but I feel like that is baloney and it has never happened.
        Anyway, the manager said that I couldn’t make more than Person B (uh, okay?) and offered 12.5%. I would have never gotten a raise in Old Position because they felt that everyone in that role should make the same amount of money despite varying qualifications and performance reviews. Glad to know the 1 year experience person with “rarely meets expectations” makes the same as the 5 years + “consistently exceeds”. Great for moral.
        That was long winded. Sorry. Anyway, I know the circumstances (new job/promotion/I deserve it damnit) definitely play into how a raise can come about.

    5. AnotherTeacher*

      I was just talking about this yesterday, but on a different angle. The character looked so young to me, that I thought she was supposed to embody the insecurity of the older woman next to her! Ah…getting older…

  14. VideogamePrincess*

    On Tuesday, I had an amazing second job interview, but I just heard that they will have the answer by next week. But I keep thinking, what’s the hold-up!? Don’t they know I’m amazing?

    1. CM*

      That’s funny… and it reminds me of my recent diet, because I keep thinking “I’ve been eating salad for two weeks straight. Shouldn’t I have lost, like, ten pounds by now?”

      Anyway, I’m sure you are amazing! But, you know, they need to be fair to all the much less amazing people that they had already scheduled before they met you.

      1. VideogamePrincess*

        Haha! :D That’s definitely it. It couldn’t POSSIBLY be because they have to, you know, make a serious decision taking into consideration all the strengths and weaknesses of all their candidates.

    2. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I know the feeling. I had my interview on the 12th. The person who did the interview called my references the following week. When speaking to my references, he spoke me up more than my references did! On April 20th, HR emailed me to do a background check. I am still waiting!

      I know I am on the very short list and I think I am the top candidate. I just don’t know why they haven’t called yet!

      1. VideogamePrincess*

        It turns out that I am competing with an *internal* candidate. :/ So I am one of two top choices, but for reasons of my sanity I am going to pretend like the internal candidate got the job. Assuming that is the case, how can I use the fact that I got really far in a job process, for a position I really like, and use that to get more opportunities? Should I simply take this as an indicator of what jobs I really like? Can I ask the people who gave me the interview to recommend me for similar companies/positions?

    3. VideogamePrincess*

      Oh no, panic is starting to set in. I know they said something about how if they hired me, they’d have to go through a temp agency. What if it’s a money thing!? Should I call Mark and suggest we submit a lower salary? What if it was something my references said? AAAAAH!!!

  15. AnonymousMarketer*

    I just wanted to thank Alison and all the other commenters for all the great advice; I just signed my offer letter for my new job where I successfully negotiated an additional $3k and an extra week of vacation. I don’t think I could have done it without reading through all the negotiation threads. I also am cutting my commute from 2+ hours each way to just 30 minutes so I’m very excited.

    1. AMT 2*

      Congrats!!!! that sounds like a fantastic deal for you (personally, if my commute were over 2 hours each way I’d take a dramatic pay CUT to get down to 30 minutes – but sitting in traffic makes me want to scream after 20 minutes so that’s just how I prioritize…)

    2. hermit crab*

      Whoa, that’s fantastic! Congrats! What are you going to do with all the free time that you are no longer using for commuting?

  16. Amy*

    Did you guys see this article? What are your thoughts? I agree with the main point (hiring practices for software are not optimal) but the whole thing seemed tone deaf to me. Complaining about the 6 recruiting offers & interviews in 4 months and deciding you should just stay unemployed because you can… I think a LOT of people would be ecstatic to have so many recruiters, so many interviews, so many 2nd/3rd interviews, etc.

    https://medium.com/@evnowandforever/f-you-i-quit-hiring-is-broken-bb8f3a48d324#.th2he68mt

    1. VideogamePrincess*

      I know what this guy is feeling. Someone was telling me the other day that actually being able to program is waaaaaaaay down on the list of what you need to get a good job. Looking like you can program is an entirely different skill. But yes, he does come across as slightly tone-deaf, and that may contribute more to his lack of success than he realizes.

      1. VideogamePrincess*

        Also, part of me hopes that such a smart programmer complaining will help the rest of us, so someone like me, with an econ degree, has a better shot at being taken seriously.

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

      I think looking like you can do anything is key to getting an offer vs actually being able to do whatever it is they want. How many of us have coworkers that could not do what ever it was that needed to be done but said they could in the interview process. That said, I only understood about 1/2 of the words in this post. I’m def not a programmer.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I worked with someone who was very skilled in sounding confident and knowledgeable about things that she only had very cursory knowledge of. I mean, she sounded more knowledgeable about things she didn’t know than I ever do about things that I do know. I always wonder how people do that.

    3. Jinx*

      This makes me appreciative of the interview for my current developer role, which consisted of zero technical questions. After being here a couple years, I personally think they could stand to do some technical filtering, but certainly not to the extreme described in the article.

      I don’t think I could write a BFS algorithm off the top of my head anymore – I recall all those tree diagrams from Intro to CS when I was a freshman, but that was six years ago!

    4. Brett*

      The writer does not understand that the goal is not to get the right algorithm, but to be creative and methodical.

      Come up with an algorithm, test it, recognize what is wrong with it (doesn’t work, has memory or speed bottlenecks, etc), tweak the algorithm or try a different one, etc. It sounds like he didn’t even bother to ask why he is implementing an algorithm or what the eventual goal of the algorithm is in the scenario. The closest he came was when he corrected the premise of one of the questions, but apparently did it in a completely confrontational way (I suspect the incorrect premise was built into the question).

      He _thinks_ the goal is to regurgitate textbook “correct” algorithms. He thinks these are college quizzes (almost literally thinks that way given some of the passages in the post), and not an examination into his problem-solving and collaborative workflow.

      In all fairness, this is what you are taught in much of college comp sci. Learn the material, pass the exam, screw communication. There is little enforcement of collaboration in most programs. I actually learned (early on fortunately), that all of the people at the top of the grade lists routinely collaborated anyway and that was a big part of why they were the best performers.

      1. VideogamePrincess*

        I just re-read the part that you mentioned. And looking underneath, he says:
        “Interviews shouldn’t be one-sided battles where a candidate must “prove” themselves in order to get hired.”

        I HAVE heard that the process is flawed, so I sided with him at first, but what is so wrong about having to prove yourself before someone commits to spending thousands of dollars on you? Now it sounds more like he’s a smart man with a communication issue, and that issue is what’s causing him trouble.

        1. Anna*

          I know absolutely nothing about interviewing for a developer job or anything in that realm, so I didn’t understand a lot of what he said about the questions he was asked; however, I definitely know a lot about interviewing and got a really good feel for why he wasn’t getting any offers…

    5. CMT*

      If any hiring managers who rejected him see this, I bet they’re going to be happy they dodged a bullet.

  17. Amy M in HR*

    I’m in early! I posted a few weeks back about revamping my resume and writing a great cover letter thanks to AAM’s advice and applying for a position with a company across the country. I am very pleased to say I was offered an interview! The position has been open for several months and they stated they are waiting for the right person to fill the position, so they are interviewing me in two months, which is when I will happen to be out there on vacation. Beyond excited, it is an amazing company, and although it would mean relocating without my husband (he would follow next year) I am definitely up for moving if they happen to offer me a position there.
    Early days yet…I realize I haven’t even had the interview yet, but I am so thankful for all the great advice AAM offers.

  18. Mensa Pilar*

    I started a new job that is more team oriented than previous jobs I have held. However, I am starting to wonder what the idea of a team really is. The staff on the team are all efficient and hard workers, but my boss seems to have a lot on her plate and is behind quite frequently on projects. At our staff meetings, and even larger organization meetings, she keeps saying WE are behind on XYZ when really she’s the only one that’s behind. It makes us look bad. And..the worst part is, when she’s behind, she asks us to stay late until she’s caught up. She keeps using the excuse that we are behind to justify our staying late. Yet, we sit there browsing the internet until she is done with her her, sometimes until 9pm at night. How can this be dealt with?

    1. Over Development*

      Can you ask what you should accomplish while you are staying? Or what the purpose to you being there was?

      I used to work for someone who was disorganized, constantly late, and always wanted to have meetings — which usually meant me goofing off on my phone while she finally read through the information she was sent weeks previously and worked on projects. It reminded me of having to sit with a child while they did their homework.

      She also used to what until well after the deadline to do her part of projects, which forced me to operate in last minute mode.

      The only thing that ever worked for me was giving her if/then statements, like “if I work on this, then that can’t get done” or “if you miss your deadlin, then…”

    2. Sadsack*

      Are you getting paid for the extra hours? I think it is weird that she does it. Next time, can you ask what specifically she needs you to work on? I’d start the conversation that way and see how it goes. I’d make her explain exactly what she expects me to do, nicely, of course — especially if I am not getting additional pay for those late hours. Maybe she’ll realize that she is being ridiculous asking everyone to stay late.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Can you ask, “What, specifically, can I do to move this forward? Is there some part of this that I can take off your plate for you? Maybe like a sous-chef?”

      And if you can think of anything to suggest, suggest it.

      It sounds like she doesn’t “get” delegating.

  19. EA*

    Hello all –

    I have a question for my closest coworker. She is an EA (woman, early 30s), and supports a VP, who is older (60s) and male. Our office is business casual, and she dresses appropriately, similar to how everyone else dresses. She has been here for 3 years, and always dressed like this. Her boss dresses up more then everyone else, and does not like that the office is business causal. Her boss has requested that she also dress business formal from now on. He says she represents him, and needs to be more dressed up. We have a dress code, and she is meeting it. She tried to go to our boss (admin manager), who just said when your boss wants you to do something you do.

    She is very against this, a new wardrobe would be expensive, and she took this job under the assumption she would be dressing in business causal. I did some googling, and came across some things on the internet (workplace fairness. com under dress and grooming) that say dress codes need to be applied fairly or it is discrimination. I know “Is this legal” gets old around here, but I wanted anyone thoughts? Is this something that our HR dept would be wary of if she went to them? And yes, she is looking for a new job for this (and other reasons).

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I think it’s reasonable. She’s an executive assistant – they’re often expected to be a little more polished than the rest of us unwashed masses.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Yup, this. The EA in our corporate office dresses very formally even though the office, and our company as a whole, has a business casual dress code.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Also – on the discrimination thing. It’s discrimination in the dictionary sense, but not legal. Unless it was due to your coworker being in a protected class, it’s not illegal.

      1. LQ*

        Yes, if the boss had said, “You’re a __protected class__ so you have to dress more formally.” then it would be a problem. But it sounds like he just wants everyone to be more formal so he’s imposing it on the people he easily can.

        1. neverjaunty*

          If the dress code is being applied more harshly to women, or just so happens to be applied more harshly to jobs that are primarly done by women, then the boss might be treading a line.

    3. KR*

      Unless they’re saying that she needs to dress differently because she’s one of 7 protected classes – race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status – it’s not discrimination. The only way I could see this being discrimination is if the boss is mandating that she wear skirts every day because she’s a woman when she wants to wear a pantsuit or something like that. Different employees can be held to different standards. If it were me, I probably wouldn’t be looking for a new job over dress code, but different strokes for different folks.

    4. lulu*

      I don’t think there’s any discrimination going on. It sucks that she wasn’t informed before taking the job though.

      1. EA*

        I mean, I believe it from what I have read on here. It is just that I came across websites saying dress codes need to be applied to all employees evenly, but I guess there is misinformation on the internet.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If they were enforcing the dress code by sex, race, religion, etc., that would be illegal discrimination. But that doesn’t sound like the case here.

          1. OhNo*

            Out of curiosity – does it become illegal discrimination if they are requiring certain gendered clothing? Like if women are required to wear skirts, pantyhose, or heels, when men are not? Or is there some leeway in the law to allow for things like that?

            (I’m sure the laws differ somewhat based on whether the state or city also protects gender identity/gender presentation and not just sex, but in general I’m curious where the line is)

            1. Over Development*

              IANAL, but I have consulted for clients (colleges & universities) who have these dress codes — I had to be onsite at a college where women were not allowed to wear pants, so I’m pretty sure it’s legal.

              I also have a friend who works for a state university where pantyhose are required if they are wearing a skirt or dress.

              1. Anon On This One*

                I don’t know if I’d assume that. I think even at private schools saying a woman HAS to wear a skirt is probably worth investigating as far as legality gos.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                The giant church headquarters here with the ultra-conservative hiring requirements (e.g. no dancing, cursing, fornicating, etc.) does make women wear dresses or skirts. I know because one of my college classmates was a member and also worked there. As far as I know, in this case it’s totally legal. Since they prefer to hire members, I would imagine most of the employees wear them anyway. I don’t think I ever saw her wearing trousers.

              3. Doriana Gray*

                I also have a friend who works for a state university where pantyhose are required if they are wearing a skirt or dress.

                My mom works at an insurance company that has this rule.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Generally courts have found that you can have a different dress code for men than women, which I think is rooted in the idea that society still has different ideas about appearance for men vs. women. Let me see if I can find something on a legal site that explains this better than I am doing.

                1. neverjaunty*

                  Though that article is talking about federal courts, and broad trends – and those cases tend to be in areas where there are strongly differentiated dress codes (like casinos). I wouldn’t fall back on that article if, say, a tech employer were letting the guys show up in T-shirts and jeans but wanted women to wear blouses and skirts.

              1. HRChick*

                What about Waterhouse vs. Hopkins?
                Or does that only say if she lost her job because she wasn’t dressing to gender norms, it’s illegal?

        2. Katie the Fed*

          There’s a difference between what should be done and what legally MUST be done. So it’s a good idea to treat employees fairly in general. But legally you don’t have to – as long as your unfair treatment isn’t for legally protected reasons. This is where deciding that hijabs aren’t allowed in a dress code can get you in legal hot water – it’s discriminatory on the basis of religion.

    5. all aboard the anon train*

      If I was supporting a mid-level manager, I’d be annoyed, but I totally understand why a VP wants his EA to dress a bit more business formal rather than business casual. If he’s telling her that she needs to dress in dresses and skirts all the time, that would be a problem.

      Can she tell him that getting a new wardrobe would be expensive? And what exactly is he asking? Business slacks instead of jeans? A blazer over a blouse? Closed toe shoes instead of open toed? Does she really have to buy an entirely new wardrobe or can she just update a few pieces?

      1. EA*

        Suits and heels. She doesn’t have those clothes so its expensive. The biggest problem I think is that she wasn’t told when she took the job. She wears khaki/sweaters.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Suits are an ok requirement. I hate them too, but I think it’s ok to require them. Heels though? No way. I don’t think he can demand that.

          1. Isben Takes Tea*

            Yeah, I think heels can’t be reinforced, because you wouldn’t ask a man to wear heels. I’m not a lawyer, but I’d contact one if my boss told me about the heels.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              I think they can in some cases where it’s a part of the image of the company (like with flight attendants). But if I was the only one in a company who was being told to wear heels because my male boss wanted it, I’d think that was really inappropriate.

              I also really hate heels.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Me too–they kill my back. A better option would be closed-toe shoes. This could apply to either flats or heels or any shoe that’s appropriate to wear with a suit. But I would balk at being forced to wear a skirt suit. I very rarely wear dresses, sorry.

          2. Sadsack*

            Yeah, I’d go for dressier flats. If they are dress shoes, I doubt he’d say no it must be high heels.

          3. ThursdaysGeek*

            My neighbor mostly works from home, but she’s said that when her boss visits, she insists that my neighbor dress up, including wearing heels. I wouldn’t be able to work at a job where I was required to wear heels, even if it was only a few days a year.

          4. Pontoon Pirate*

            So how would you suggest the EA approach this additional expense? A few good suits (even suit separates, like slacks and blazers) will run at least a few hundred dollars.

            1. E*

              Could she get some basics from the local thrift store? I know that the local Goodwill here is in a upscale part of town so I can sometimes find good quality brands. A basic black or navy suit would be pairable with a few nice tops to get her through a week. Not sure what area you are in, but here I could get a suit or blazer/skirt with a handful of tops for under $50 total.

              1. Pontoon Pirate*

                I guess that’s too much of a crapshoot for me. I like clothes that fit my body, not “okay enough because that’s what the thrift store had.” If the reason she has to buy suits is because she’s representing the VP, then by inference those clothes need to be well-fitted and not look “off.”

                1. VideogamePrincess*

                  I have gotten some of my best outfits at thrift stores, though, including all of my dress clothes. And most of those both fit well and look pretty snazzy! Although I don’t know the rules about wearing bright colors like purple, blue, and orange.

                2. Pontoon Pirate*

                  @VGP
                  I concede it’s probably easier for other people not me to find things at thrift stores. I love finding a good deal, but the sheer volume and chaos overwhelms me and it’s a rare day I find an item in my size and in good condition and in this decade’s style.

                  I also hate “antique” “shoppes.”

              2. Dynamic Beige*

                If not the thrift store, she could check and see what there is in the way of consignment shops. The next town over has an upscale (from what I’ve heard) resale store where people donate and the money goes to their charity. It’s a tony city so I would imagine there’s good stuff there.

                I think that the EA should have a conversation with her boss that she was unaware that he required his EA to dress more formally and that she’s willing to do so, but it will take her a while to purchase enough clothes. That’s what I did when I was in a similar situation, I was very matter of fact about how much money I had at the end of my pay cheque — I wasn’t dressing down on purpose, it was what I had to wear. Considering what the other employee wore, I wasn’t that bad, I thought.

                So IMO, she should start small. A black jacket and matching pants. I would also look for suits/jackets that are machine washable, most of mine are because I find dry cleaning to be expensive and annoying. She could wear the black jacket over top of different shirts every day if she needed to. Then buy extra pieces as she finds them, can afford them.

        2. Student*

          Suggest that she ask for a clothing allocation. Come up with a reasonable number and propose it as a way to make compliance possible.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            I was thinking the same thing. I might even say, or even write, “To buy what you want new will cost X dollars. If you can give me a clothing allowance, even just once so I can get started, I can be dressed the way you’d like beginning next Monday. On the other hand, if no clothing allowance is offered, I will either need to shop at Goodwill/similar for the clothing you’d like me to wear, with obvious effects on my appearance, or I will have to make the change slowly over a period of months because business clothing is expensive. Please let me know which alternative you’d like me to follow.”

            X dollars should probably be qualified as “3-months rent” or “more than my total food budget for the next six months.”

            Lastly, if I took a job that wanted expensive suits and other office-formal kinds of clothing, I would be thinking about that with regard to my pay package. In other words, “I will be needing 3-4,000 dollars of suits in the next year, does my salary allow me to cover that?”

        3. TootsNYC*

          Were I her, I’d be going to him to say, “Dressing more formally, sure, but suits are really expensive. I’ll dress up more. But if you really want me to purchase suits, that’s going to change the economics of my job here in a negative way.”

          And then I’d wear fancy shoes w/ my khakis, and add a scarf or a top with some other top layer (like a cardigan or a dressy jacket).
          And I’d go buy me 3 pairs of nice pants that would look dressed up w/ dress shoes under them.

          1. Sadsack*

            Yeah, your suggestions are what I was thinking, too. I wouldn’t wear the khakis any more, but a couple of pairs of slacks with scarves and dress shoes will probably make a big difference. These do not have to be expensive either.

    6. Guinness*

      We have a dress code but it also says that exceptions can be made depending on the type of work you’re doing.

    7. Judy*

      Recently, it seems that “business casual” can mean khakis and polos, while when I started, it meant dress pants and nice blouse, shirt and tie for men, but not suits. I’m not sure the last time I’ve seen a man in a tie at a place I’ve worked except for interviewees and people going to funerals later in the day. Is there a way for her to dress more formally, but not in business formal (suits)?

      At this office, it’s fairly rare for any of the men to be wearing anything but jeans, although they’re usually wearing polos or buttondown shirts.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Oh…the joy of business casual…we actually had to add examples to our dress code because it is such a broad term.

        Our c-suite and VPs interpreted business casual as shirt and tie, while some of our staff took business casual as black jeans.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, in my experience, it used to mean a step down from a suit, and now it means a step up from jeans. I think our culture has gotten a lot more casual overall in the last 20 years.

    8. pieces of flair*

      It sucks, but I do think this falls under “when your boss wants you to do something you do.”

    9. Lily in NYC*

      Sorry, she’s wrong. I am also an EA and my wardrobe varies depending on my boss. My first boss here wanted me to wear suits, pantyhose and heels every day, so I did. Another boss here wouldn’t have noticed if I showed up in a bathrobe so I dressed pretty casually. Now it’s somewhere in between and I wear business casual. This is all at the same job.

      And yes, it will be an expense, but there are plenty of places one can buy discounted work clothes. She should not go to HR about this. But maybe she can ask for a stipend to buy some clothes if it’s truly a hardship?

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Meant to say that even though she should suck it up, I still think it sucks considering she is meeting the dress code.

    10. Pwyll*

      Does she have a good enough relationship with her boss to enable her to communicate the budget issues related to this?

      “Boss, when I accepted this job I did so with the understanding that this was a business casual workplace. I can respect that you would like to change my dresscode, but the reality is that I don’t own en entire wardrobe of business professional clothes, and I don’t have the budget to replace my wardrobe with such little notice. Can we work out a compromise on this issue?”

      Granted, if she doesn’t WANT to buy new clothing at all this isn’t helpful, but if she can drag out the process so that it is not immediate (AKA, starting Monday you must wear all new clothes), it could at least give her some time to search for a new job while showing her boss she’s making an effort to comply with his request.

      1. Tex*

        Piggy backing on this… does the boss know there a couple of steps between khakis and suits? He might be looking for something a bit more formal, but can’t define it so he said suits and heels.

        She can offer to look more polished without going to suits. Slacks (not khakis), accessories and the occasional blazer can elevate her look without investing in several suits. Let him know that she is working on it, but it might take some time as a well fitting suit (for women) is difficult to find and expensive.

      2. Tex*

        Piggy backing on this… does the boss know there a couple of steps between khakis and suits? He might be looking for something a bit more formal, but can’t define it so he said suits and heels.

        She can offer to look more polished without going to suits. Slacks (not khakis), accessories and the occasional blazer can elevate her look without investing in several suits. Let him know that she is working on it, but it might take some time as a well fitting woman’s suit (no matter the price range) is difficult to find.

    11. Nico m*

      The VP is a prick. The President wants business casual, why isnt he doing what the Boss wants?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s pretty harsh! The VP presumably has the autonomy to run his division the way he thinks most effective, and it’s unlikely the president has strong feelings about it.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            It may if they deal with clients who expect a certain image. Regardless, it’s generally considered something within a manager’s purview.

          2. Florida*

            Actually, there is plenty of research that show that people behave differently depending on how they are dressed. Also, customers respond to people differently depending on how they are dressed. Dress matters and it matters a lot.

          3. Emmie*

            There may also be departmental differences at play. Would your opinion be different if she was a corporate finance or accounting employee (i.e. more conservative dress common) verses a marketing employee (where more creative types are)?

    12. The Alias Gloria Is Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      I’m going to say that it really depends on how much she’s getting paid. EA can mean anything from $10/hour to six figures a year, even when supporting a VP. If she’s closer to $10/hour than six figures, I agree with her, otherwise, I’d say she has to suck it up and dress up.

    13. Marvel*

      It really sucks that she wasn’t told before taking the job. I personally HATE dressing formally; it makes me uncomfortable and self-conscious and distracts me from what’s important (i.e., the work), and a workplace/position that required very formal dress might be a dealbreaker for me. I know I’m not the only one who thinks that way, so I think employers should think seriously about whether it’s worth it to spring this on someone once they’ve already been hired.

      That said, though, I don’t actually think it’s an unreasonable request. If I may make a recommendation, thrift stores are great for this type of thing–you can find formal wear incredibly cheap there, and if she shops around in multiple stores, she’s bound to find something that fits.

    14. Joey*

      If I were her I’d ask for some money toward a clothing allowance if I were expected to buy an entirely new, expensive wardrobe. I’ve seen this kind of thing granted before, and it’s not unreasonable to request it.

    15. Jean*

      I’m also a reader of the corporette web site. Although it certainly covers high-priced women’s clothing, I’ve also learned about more affordable options. Some ideas below. Sorry if they seem hopelessly obvious:
      – When the Corporette site owner presents an expensive item (e.g. blazer at $600) she also discusses something comparable but with an affordable price.
      – The site owner announces online sales (for set calendar dates such as Memorial Day or Labor Day, but also at more random times) and gives links. Commenters will also share information about unexpected sales by specific designers or retailers.
      – The owner and the commenters often share online shopping discount codes.
      – People trade tips about sources of affordable clothing. I remember JCPenney being cited as a good place for suit separates that could be purchased without triggering personal bankruptcy.
      – If credit card temptation is not a problem, the coworker can open a department store charge account (discount!) at the same time that the store has a sale (additional discount!) … and then pay off the reasonble balance over the next several months (“reasonable” being “whatever you can manage without stiffing your landlord, inducing heart failure, or triggering an unrestrained shopping binge”). Ordinarily I’d suggest that the coworker save up for one or two months before incurring the debt, but it sounds as if her boss wants her to dress up her work wardrobe as soon as possible.
      – I second the suggestion of thrift & consignment stores. Secondhand clothes are available online via eBay and other sites. (Browse the Corporette archives to find names of other online thrift/consignment vendors.)
      – There’s always sewing one’s own clothes–if one has the requisite combination of skill, equipment, determination, workspace, accessible and acceptable supplies, and free time! (Me, I dream about this. In real life it takes me months if not years to hem a new pair of pants.)

      Finally, let me mention several sites not always mentioned on Corporette: hanes (dot) com for discount pantyhose & tights; barenecessities (dot) com for discount lingerie (sometimes you need very specific underthings for underneath business formal clothing); and llbean(dot)com, landsend(dot)com, 6pm(dot)com, zappos(dot)com, and marylandsquare(dot)com for business formal suit elements, blouses, accessories, and/or shoes–especially when they have sales! Most online vendors maintain at least one ongoing Sale section as well as offering seasonal sales or discounts.

      Good luck to your EA coworker.

    16. NaoNao*

      I really second the thrift store advice, but also: ebay or other second hand online resources for Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Nordstroms, Dana Buchman, or other similar less expensive business wear that could straddle the line between “3 piece suit and spike heels” and “khakis and a polo”. Check out consignment stores too–they often have Chicos, St. Johns, or actual designer brands for 50% or less!

      Oftentimes women almost have an advantage in the business world since fashionable stuff like wide legged dress pants in wool or suiting material that are lined, and embellished flats with a cashmere sweater, a blazer on top, and a silk scarf could read as “formal” and still be quite comfortable.

      Another outfit could be a simple sheath dress, a silk scarf, “major jewelry”, again embellished or patent leather flats with a pointy toe (key to looking formal–no ballet flats), a blazer on top.

      I think she might be able to get away with a button down, a pencil skirt, a blazer, flats, and “major jewelry” as well as long as everything is bandbox fresh and relatively high quality as a third possible.

      Major jewelry would be something that is fashionable, not too sparkly, and high-end costume (like Napier, or 1928) or “real” such as Tiffany, David Yurman, Elsa Perretti, etc.) Also it’s bold and has gravitas–no dainty chains, dangling earrings, or “stacker” birthstone rings.

      If the concerned party is on the petite side, vintage clothing (like vintage suits) can be quite affordable and very flattering, while being just about as formal as you can get (knee length, suiting material, fitted, button down jackets, etc).

      The keys to looking polished are hair, grooming (like nails), bag, shoes, and accessories. She might be able to get away with less expensive items like simple button downs and knee length pencil skirts if the “key items” are in top flight condition and are expensive/statement items/very well cared for classics.

      Good luck—maybe it would help to think of it as a chance to play with fashion and update/upgrade her look? (If she decides to keep the job and it’s something she can/wants to!)

    17. Observer*

      Dress codes need to be applied FAIRLY then EQUALLY. He’s also clearly not asking her to dress up because she’s a woman and “women need to look good” or anything like that. I can’t see any HR department taking her seriously if she comes up with a discrimination complaint.

      That said, could she talk to her boss about the additional expense involved? She was under the impression that this was not going to be an issue when she took the job, so there might be some help there.

  20. New Girl*

    Okay, so I have a second job I’m a server. In all the years I’ve been doing it, I’ve never been able to find a good response for this situation. When asking a customer how their food and I get the occasionally person that says it’s terrible, or they don’t like it. I’m never sure what to say. I have tried offering them something different or having the kitchen cook it to their liking but 9 times out of 10, they say no! They’ll continue on with their meal. I still charge them because they ate it after I tried to remedy the situation. Is there a better option?

    1. Not Karen*

      Sounds like you’re doing things right. If they still eat it, it clearly can’t be that bad!

    2. Dang*

      No. You offered a solution, they declined. It’s on them. Why would you continue eating something that terrible anyway? People.

    3. ZSD*

      I think that what you’re currently doing – offering to either fix or replace the food – is the right first step. If they refuse, then I guess I’d assure them that you’ll let the kitchen know about the problem so that it doesn’t happen again.
      (I think there’s a difference, though, between the people saying the food is terrible and the people who just say they don’t like it. If they’re in the latter group, they might not really be complaining, but rather just answering your question honestly and saying that the meal just isn’t their thing. I wouldn’t fret too much over those people.)

      1. TL -*

        Yeah! Sometimes I order something I know I might not like because, you know, trying new things.

        And then generally I don’t like it, but if you offered to replace it, I’d say no because I knew the risk when I ordered it.

      2. Crystal Vu*

        I ordered something once because I wanted to try a new entree. I just didn’t like it so I ate only about a third of it. I could tell the ingredients were good and fresh and the entree seemed to be prepared appropriately. Still, it was icky to my palate. I asked to order something else because I was still hungry. The server wanted to take off the price of my first choice. I said please don’t, I took a chance, it just wasn’t my thing and I’ll eat the cost. She still took it off the bill. I hope she didn’t get dinged for it, and I tipped 30% just in case, but really, if a customer says they’re willing to pay for it, please take them at their word.

    4. KR*

      I work in customer service. If I get a comment like that I usually apologize sincerely – it can be as simple as, “Well I’m very sorry to hear that.”, acknowledge how frustrating/upsetting/disappointing it must be, and then offer them a solution to the problem. If they don’t take the solution, I then say something to the effect of, “Well again, I’m sorry about , please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to make this right for you.” That way, the customer knows that you understand that they’re frustrated/upset/unhappy, knows that there is a solution should they choose to take it, and that the line of communication is open in case they want something else to accommodate them, even if they don’t take it.

    5. The Alias Gloria Is Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      So… I do this. And up front, I don’t expect anything, truly. If it was something I wanted to bother with being fixed, I would have said so right away. Most of the time the problem is a steak that’s overcooked. You can’t uncook it and I don’t want to wait for a new one so I’ll just deal with it. One time that happened at Red Lobster. I don’t like seafood but my husband does, so I usually get steak there. I don’t expect it to be fantastic, it’s Red Lobster after all. But one time the manager said he thought that their steak was one of the best in town and he was sorry I felt different. I think we got a free dessert. I really didn’t expect anything. Honestly the best thing a server or manager could do in that instance is tell the cooks to stop overcooking steaks. Grey is not medium rare.

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

          Yeah I don’t know what kind of delusional world that guy lives in. I mean, we’re in Omaha for crying out loud. The best in town? Maybe the best in a 100 foot radius.

    6. White Mage*

      On the flip side of this, I almost never say I don’t like something when asked because I always feel bad asking for something new to be cooked. I feel like because I ordered it and if I don’t like it then that’s on me (unless something is wrong with the dish). Or I don’t want to wait for a new dish to be cooked.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        Don’t feel bad! I worked in a restaurant for years and recooks were very normal for me; they just happen when you serve so many people every day. Not everyone likes all the food on the menu, after all. The kitchen does not generally mind at all to remake something; they’ve probably done it for 10 different people that day already who were way ruder about it than you! As long as you ask nicely it should never be a big deal (though you’re right that you have to wait sometimes.)

      2. New Girl*

        Please don’t feel bad! I would rather have someone say something to me so I can try and fix the situation. It’s my job to make you happy and serve you to the best of my ability.

    7. Rat in the Sugar*

      Nope, you’re doing right. If they say don’t like it, offer a new plate of the same food or something different (whichever will take less time to cook so they don’t have to wait) and remember to reassure them that the replacement food will be free (some people think they will be charged) and that it is no trouble and you replace food with different options all the time (so they know it’s not a big deal and won’t worry about pissed-off cooks spitting in it). If they still say no and they look okay with it, just leave it alone or maybe apologize one more time when you bring the check and say you hope it will be better next time. If they say no but look unhappy, have your manager come by the table or take the drinks/dessert/appetizer off the tab or something like that.

      1. Brett*

        You just made me wonder about a situation I ran into last week as a customer…
        I was part of a large group eating at a restaurant on a fixed menu. There were three entree options, a shrimp dish, a steak dish, and a diet-oriented chicken breast dish.
        The steak came with bacon jam on it, and I asked if the bacon jam could be left off because I am allergic to pork. Server immediately gave me a firm no, that the dishes could not be changed. I have a strong personal dislike for shrimp, so I went with the relatively bland chicken dish.

        Should I have handled that a different way? I didn’t really ask about alternatives beyond the three dishes either (I considered asking for a vegetarian option, which is what I do a lot to avoid bacon, but decided to just go for the chicken and avoid holding up the waitress who had 50+ orders to take).

        1. Anna*

          Is the jam injected in to the steak before it’s cooked? Because that’s the only reason a firm no would be warranted in my opinion.

        2. Granite*

          I just wanted to say I get not wanting special orders for large groups, but I would expect an exception for an allergy.

        3. New girl*

          I find it very odd that they wouldn’t be more accommodating for an allergy? I think your allergy trumps all in this situation because typically it can be life or death for allergies. I think it would have been reasonable to ask the waitress for a vegetarian dish.

        4. Cristina in England*

          Ok, two guesses:
          1. This is a restaurant policy for large groups for their own convenience regardless of customer service.
          2. The steak is prepared in advance. If it is a chain it might be prepared off-site and just delivered ready to put on the grill.

    8. S0phieChotek*

      I agree. Having worked in service for years also–I think you’re on the right track.
      You’ve acknowledged the issue, offered a solution, there is nothing more you can do.
      I would think it would be up to the manager to offer free dessert; I guess you could ask the manager if they have an opinion about bringing it to their attention, if they decline other options.
      Others already posted good additional suggestions and ideas.

      Otherwise, like others said, it’s also a pain to wait while others have food for kitchen to remake something.
      I’ve done it, but only once or twice in my life when it was a pretty big issue. But I felt really guilty, even though I knew I was paying for food and the kitchen really did mess up my order.

    9. CMT*

      I think sometimes people will tell you when things are bad because they genuinely want the kitchen to know.

    10. Cristina in England*

      I have been a server in a chain restaurant and I would comp drinks or offer free dessert or something like that if the customer didn’t want a different meal or to have it recooked.

      Now, as a customer, I get very annoyed when my meal is terrible and I am only offered a different meal because I do not want to wait around while my dining companion eats their food, only to have them wait around while I eat mine. The most annoying thing is when a server says “tell me what I can do to make this right” when they are only willing to offer a coupon for another meal at another time. Why ask if there is only one answer?

      TL;DR: offer money off if you are allowed to.

      1. New Girl*

        I’m not really allowed to offer money or a discount unless they are willing to give up the rest of their meal in exchange. Basically, the thinking is that if it is that bad and they won’t eat any of it or take it home.

        1. Cristina in England*

          Comparing it to other businesses, the food is the product and if you want your money back, you give the remainder of the product back. A customer is kind of captive, however. They’ve already sat down, maybe had a first course and a drink, and are a few bites into a meal that is (for whatever reason) unacceptable. Any option other than giving money off creates additional inconvenience for the customer beyond the unsatisfactory food, mostly in time spent waiting without a meal. It’s adding insult to injury.

          The most recent time I had a meal this bad was when I saw the cook put the chicken breast on the grill and go take a 20 minute break. That thing was beyond overcooked. I knew exactly what had happened, and that it wasn’t my fault. Did I want to wait another 15-20 minutes for another meal made by this person? No, no I did not. I could not leave and go somewhere else because I was with other people (whose meals legitimately took longer to cook and were fine). All I wanted was my money back, not to spend more time in a place I was growing to dislike and to eat more food from a cook I didn’t trust.

          I understand the thinking behind why they won’t give money back but I disagree with it. By the time I have started actually eating my meal I am a bit stuck in my situation, and having to wait for a second meal is just making things even worse.

    11. Rebecca in Dallas*

      As far as replacing their meal, you offered and they declined so I think you’re doing the right thing.

      Maybe ask your manager if you can offer them a free dessert? A lot of restaurants will do a free birthday dessert, so if yours does you can just code it that way. That way if they’re declining the new meal because of a time crunch or something, they can still enjoy the dessert (or take it home with them).

      But yeah, sometimes people are just weird. I’d never tell the server that my food was terrible without expecting them to do something about it. (i.e. it’s different than what I ordered, something wasn’t cooked correctly, etc)

      1. New Girl*

        I work at a breakfast restaurant in the early mornings so dessert is typically out of the question for most people.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Ah, I see. (I mean, I’ll take a good dessert any time of day, but to each their own!) Maybe ask your manager if there’s a way they would prefer that situation handled, but it sounds like you’re doing what you can!

    12. 3D Queen*

      I like to offer them an exchange, but if they turn it down, I said “Ok! Offer stands” – pretty much always does the trick and leaves people with a positive reflection on me as their server.

      I’ve waited tables for 10 years, from cafe to white table, full time to side gig, and I find that sometimes people are just honest but don’t really want to go through the hassle of waiting for new food or don’t hate it thaaaat much, etc. etc.. To be honest, it still always kills me a little inside because I honestly truly want people to like their dining experience, but it’s just one of those things to get used to.

    13. SMT*

      You can pull a manager in – they can comp a dessert or talk to the guest (and they should be aware of dissastisfied customers).

    14. Anxa*

      I’m pretty sure management should have a some sort of policy about this.

      Also, how are you asking them? “Is everything alright?” is much different from “how is everything?” and some restaurants will encourage the former so that issues don’t arise over slightly disappointing food, but there’s a chance to please an upset customer.

    15. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      Yeah – I have been that customer. I went out on a limb and tried something new – but it turns out I didn’t like it. When the waitress asks, “Did you like the food?” I am honest and say I personally didn’t like the dish. They usually offer to replace the dish and I decline – since it is not the kitchens fault that I don’t like it.

      However I would pay attention to what dishes you get this on. If there is a new app that is really divided – people love it or hate it – maybe keep that in mind and ask what people didn’t like about it. I’ve found that really helpful when a waitstaff can provide some idea of why people have loved or hated a dish.

  21. Charlotte Collins*

    I had a job interview yesterday for a position I’m really interested in. Wish me luck!

    Also, I’d like to give a plug for Alison’s book. It was really helpful in preparing for the interview and dealing with my pre-interview nerves.

  22. The Cosmic Avenger*

    So remember those jobs I didn’t get? It didn’t bother me much, as I wasn’t sure they could offer me enough to make me want to leave, as I was fairly happy here, but feeling like I was underpaid. Well, early this week I told my boss that I wanted to be able to feel like I didn’t need to look, but that my salary wasn’t competitive, and today I was told that I’ll be getting a 10% mid-cycle raise!

    I owe a lot of it to Alison for showing me how to argue for it, and simply that it’s OK to ask for it.

    1. CM*

      That’s great — you stood up for yourself, you get to stay in a job that you like, and it’s clear that they value you and want you to stay. Congratulations!

  23. always anon*

    I got three job rejections between this week and last week, all of them after interviews. I really need to get out of my current job (everyone is abandoning ship here), and while I’m trying to stay positive about getting interviews, three rejections in the span of two weeks is not doing much for my positive outlook. I know it should be a good sign I’m even getting interviews, but it’s getting harder and harder to come into work each morning.

    1. Fabulous*

      Same issue, except with barely getting any interviews. I started applying in Nov 2014, have sent out over 100 targeted applications in addition to numerous Quick Applies on job websites, and I’ve been on less than 10 interviews since then, with no offers. I had 4 interviews one week a couple months back and got rejections from all of them. :(

      1. Sarah Nicole*

        Sending you both great vibes! I hope you find something new soon. I don’t have much more to say other than keep going and at least know that some silly gal in CA is thinking about you and wishing you luck!

  24. Not Karen*

    When presenting your case for a promotion (like senior vs. junior, not managerial), should you already be performing 100% of the responsibilities of the higher position? Some of these responsibilities I haven’t done simply because there hasn’t been the opportunity.

    1. Lefty*

      You can’t reasonably be expected to perform those other duties if they’re already (only?) assigned to senior employees. Maybe just showing interest in taking them on- asking for training or to watch the process- would be enough to show that you’re ready to be considered for the promotion. Have you been shadowing someone or trying to be involved in those other responsibilities? That might help your stance by showing initiative even if you haven’t been able to complete the work yourself. “I’ve been watching Lucinda complete the Spout Output Reports over the last 3 months and I’d really enjoy having the opportunity to do them as well. She’s shown me the general requirements and it was very interesting to learn that the ‘Pour Ratio’ was such an important factor in the reporting.”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, definitely not. It’s helpful if you’ve been doing some similar stuff, but expecting you to have been doing most or all of it would be really odd.

  25. Confused Publisher*

    What do you do when a freelancer who has a good reputation turns in a project that is a complete and absolute mess, to the point where I wish I’d been left to do the work rather than correcting theirs? Obviously, I will be feeding back in a polite, factual way: I spotted this, and this needs to be done that way. But, what else, if anything? I don’t know them well enough to know whether this is out-of-character enough that I need to be concerned about what else is going on, or they just dropped the ball on this project. But I’m frustrated, and behind … and I guess I just needed to vent a bit?

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      In similar situations, I’ve used the pretext of checking I had the been sent the correct file because of [mentioning a couple of the bigger issues, e.g. This isn’t our reference style]. I try and do it before a weekend so that if the freelancer wants to, they can fix it and pretend on Monday morning they sent the wrong file. It sometimes works.

      1. Nanc*

        Yes, do this right away. We did have a situation once where our contract writer accidentally sent their first draft instead of their final draft. She was mortified but it turned out not to be a big deal since we had the right draft within a few minutes.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I would be honest and say, “this project is well below the quality I expected.” I think it’s one of the times to be straightforward (but still kind).

    3. NarrowDoorways*

      I have been dealing with this SO much lately.

      Sometimes, if you feel it’s appropriate, you can mention the issues and then transition into a discussion about health with a good dose of flattery. Like, “I noticed these things, which is so unusual for you because you’re an amazing writer. Is everything OK on your end? I know allergy season is hitting everyone particularly hard. Looking forward to your next piece!”

      Really, the big thing to me is mentioning the problem. Then she knows you noticed and will hopefully not lapse again.

  26. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    I’m getting recruited for a temp to perm job with a large contracting firm (think: top 5 in the nation). How often do these gigs go perm? The salary is nearly 40% more than what I make, matches well with my credentials, and the client base is phenomenal.

    Tl;dr: do temp to perm gigs go perm most of the time? Or should I skip this (lucrative for now) opportunity?

    1. RKB*

      Hmmmm. I’m speaking from a government standpoint, but it’s rather difficult to make perm if there’s a lot of employees in the organization. Especially for the first two years. My partner works for the city (as do I) and has for four years — he just got perm this year. I started with the city 8 months ago and wouldn’t even dream of applying for perm positions.

      BUT, the caveat here is that we are unionized, and the union requires that perm positions go in order of seniority to applicants being considered. (For example: Harry and Ron have the same qualifications, started at the same time, do the same work — but Harry once held a previous position with the city, and therefore has seniority, so he gets perm.)

      Then again, with a private organization, it may be totally different.

        1. RKB*

          It does. They have internal perm postings and once you apply you become perm part time or perm full time. Since it’s only been a year, I wouldn’t apply to a perm posting. They have to make them public for a week or so because of the union but they’re really for internal candidates.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      How long is the temp contract for, before they decide if it will go permanent? How much of a risk are you willing to take?

      I was a temp-to-perm for a Big 4 firm. It was a 3-month temp contract, and both the Big 4 hiring manager and the temp firm told me that 95% of all temp contracts turned permanent after the 3-month period. I was otherwise unemployed, so there was little risk in me accepting the opportunity.

      On the flipside: I was offered a 6-month temp contract, which had a lower chance of going permanent (but could potentially – maybe even likely – be renewed). I currently had a decent job, so decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

      Can you ask the contracting firm what their temp-to-perm rate is?

    3. LawCat*

      I don’t know how often and certainly there is a risk that they won’t (RKB makes a good point that it gets more challenging when there is a union involved), but I wouldn’t skip an opportunity that’s a good match, the possibility of a move to permanent, and 40% higher pay (!). I’m not clear why you’d skip it.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      To me, temp to perm means that it’s a trial run and that the job is yours after the trial period if you do a good job. Otherwise it would be a pure temp job or contract role. We would never call a position “temp to perm” here if the job wasn’t planning to be made permanent. But I’m starting to think it might not be a term that’s universally applied.

      1. Carmen Sandiego JD*

        This is what it sounds like. No exact #s given, but they said a lot of temp to perms go perm at the end. Its 6 months temp then convert over to perm with the top 5 company, working for client and making 40% more.

        The 40% more in and of itself is very tempting, but I want to go in for the right reasons. Plus the gig I have, while contract, is a multi-year one that lasts long…(ie. less salary but a sure thing)

    5. Sunflower*

      Depends on the place you’re working at and the job you’re doing. Did you ask the recruiter? My friend recruits for finance temp to perm jobs and almost all go perm unless you are a terrible employee. There are definitely some slimy firms who will tell you something is temp to perm when it’s really just temp. Have you tried researching online? That might help.

  27. Jayne*

    I have a general discussion question:

    Do any of you do anything special for each day of the week (I use “special” lightly)? For example, you have a certain chocolate bar you eat on Mondays, on Fridays you order take-out…stuff like that. Just curious if anybody did that sort of thing, and what you do.

    1. Lucy*

      My husband and I go out for coffee on Friday mornings before work! It’s a really nice way to usher in the weekend.

      1. Laura*

        That’s a great idea. I wish my boyfriend and I could meet up for a Starbucks date at some point on Fridays! I just went by myself today during a break. :)

    2. RKB*

      On Thursdays my coworkers and I try new candies and all their flavours. We finished Maynard’s and Skittles during our winter schedule! Next up is Hershey brand chocolates.

    3. KR*

      On Wednesdays I visit my grandmother. We either eat in if none of us have cash or order delivery. Monday mornings I visit my friend at a coffee shop she works at before work. My treat for working through the weekend.

    4. insert name here*

      I get the expensive orange juice on Monday mornings :) It makes me happy it’s Monday.

    5. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Once a week, I order an omelet from our office cafeteria instead of bringing in breakfast once a week (usually happens on Fridays).

    6. Lily in NYC*

      I like to live dangerously. I have underpants with a day of the week on each one and I am such a rebel that I’m wearing Monday’s undies today.
      (but no, I don’t do anything like you mention even though it sounds nice)

      1. Sarah Nicole*

        Same! I try to bring my lunch all week (sometimes I fail at this), but like to give myself a treat on Fridays by buying lunch.

    7. SL #2*

      I tend to go out for lunch on Fridays. We do it as a team; there’s lots of great local options around here, plus our usual lunch spot is closed on Fridays, so half of it is out of necessity. But I do bring my lunch most days of the week, so for me, this is a treat.

    8. Dawn*

      I don’t, but my husband and his work friends go out to eat at a different lunch place every Wednesday. He’s found some awesome places that way!

    9. TheLazyB*

      When I went back to full time I decided I would need a treat to get me through the week if we were all to survive. So on Wednesdays I buy my DH and I a cream cake and my DS a kinder egg for after our tea. My DS has also declared Friday Pizza Day so I make pita bread pizzas for tea that night. I like rituals :)

    10. TootsNYC*

      In college I always dressed up (skirt & heels, etc.) on Mondays.

      I may try to go back to something like that.
      And my son and I used to get nuts from the Nuts Man (candied cashews from the cart) every Tuesday (and only Tuesday; it was a way to manage his preschooler request). And we got a Nuts Man friend out of it, who gave him a stuffed alligator when he graduated from that preschool.

    11. another IT manager*

      One of my offices does Doughnut Thursday–people take turns bringing in an assortment from various local doughnut shops and try slices of each.

    12. JJtheDoc*

      I have a couple: a customized cup of chai on Monday, to start the week and home-made pizza for dinner on Fridays. Oh, and on Sunday the SO and I indulge in gluten free English muffins with ham and cheese (SO) or mashed avocado (JJ) for breakfast.

      1. Laura*

        What brand of GF English muffins do you buy? I miss English muffins so much and I’ve seen some GF ones at Sprouts. Would love to get some!

    13. MsMaryMary*

      I was doing Meatless Mondays for a while in an effort to eat more vegetables. Then I decided that Mondays are already rough, I don’t need to make them worse. Now I try to eat vegetarian one day a week, but which day it is varies.

      I also realized that I’m replacing the meat in many of my meals with cheese, which may not be any healthier.

    14. Bryson*

      I have “fast food Friday.” I bring my lunch to work each day except most Fridays, when I have fast food. This allows me to have more time in the morning (don’t have to worry about making my lunch) and it’s a nice, greasy treat.

    15. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I try to bring lunch most days, but Friday is Burrito Day at work and a group of us will hike up the road to the good place 15 minutes away rather than the crappy boring place 5 minutes up the road. Sometimes the team will go to the Indian Buffet on the corner for a really excellent set lunch that is pretty quick.

      Sunday is Coffee Morning with significant other – we get out the fancy coffee and the Aeropress and some nice muffins (home made by me) or hell make scrambled eggs and stuff and we lounge in jamys reading the paper etc.

    16. Jayne*

      I bring my lunch most days, then go out on Fridays, too.

      I also tend to get certain songs stuck in my head. On Mondays, I’ll get “Monday, Monday” by The Mama’s and the Papa’s stuck in my head, and then of course, Rebecca Black on Fridays

    17. Elizabeth West*

      Just Taco Tuesday–sometimes I bring the leftovers to work for lunch on Wednesday. Or sometimes I make my Monday night meal a taco/nacho/burrito thing so I can have Taco Tuesday at work.

      My rituals tend to be daily. Stair climbs at preset times, my cuppa with breakfast in the morning and in the afternoon, etc.

    18. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      I don’t have a regular day of the week, but any morning that I gas up, I treat myself to a large coffee and a chocolate-glazed donut.

      Nice treat for me, and indulges my sweet tooth while not derailing my weight loss success. Funny how such a little thing can change one’s start to one’s day.

      1. Jules the First*

        Sundays are my day – I spend an extra hour in bed with a book, bake something lovely for breakfast (scones or muffins or pancakes), make a pot of tea, and eat on the sofa with an episode of Dr Who (if it’s raining) or a book (if it’s sunny – my apartment has no blinds yet, so if it’s sunny, I can’t see the screen!)

    19. hermit crab*

      I buy myself a muffin once per week, but the day doesn’t matter. The “morning glory” (bran/carrot/raisin/etc.) muffins at my neighborhood coffee shop are AMAZING. And if you have one with a latte then you don’t have to eat again until like 3pm.

      For a while, some of my coworkers at another location did “formal Fridays” (said location is pretty casual the rest of the time, so it’s like the opposite of casual Fridays). And some other coworkers wore matching clothes on Thursdays — this was ages ago — blue shirt and pinstripe pants Thursdays! (hi y’all, if I’ve outed myself with that!)

    20. Rob Lowe can't read*

      I usually treat myself to coffee on my way home from work on Mondays, since that’s the one day where I consistently bring work home with me to work on in the afternoon/evening.

    21. Lindsay J*

      I work Sunday-Wednesday.

      Sunday is my dress down day because management isn’t really around.

      Wednesday I don’t bring lunch and go eat out somewhere.

  28. Adam*

    I’m looking to be educated this week.

    I was watching this independent web series on youtube recently where one plot line had a male advertising executive interacting with his female assistant. I don’t know what his assistant’s official job title was, but he always referred to her as “his secretary”.

    At one point, the ad exec. was meeting with a potential client but it didn’t go weel. The client declined the agency’s business citing that their ideas were old fashioned and boring, and he specifically told the exec that he didn’t like the way he treated his assistant. Calling her “his secretary” was an old fashioned phrase and he all but said outright that he found it demeaning.

    Now, the truth is the ad exec. wasn’t treating his assistant very well. He was in fact a jerk and condescending to her, but on the lower key end of the jerk boss spectrum. If she were to write into AskaManager looking for advice, most commenters would roll their eyes, say he was a tool, and she should look for a better job, but it definitely would not be “worst boss of the year” material.

    But here’s the thing, the disatisfied client didn’t know any of this. He was very pointedly stuck on the word “secretary”, pointing out many times how he didn’t like the title and as a major reason why he chose not to do business with the exec.

    This struck me as kind of odd. I’m a millenial, and after thinking about it while I always knew what a secretary was, in my adult working life the only time I’ve heard the word actively used is in regards to political positions (Secretary of State, etc.) and people who would have been called secretaries years ago now have titles like Administrative Assistant, Executive Assistant, and the like.

    So I recognize that this is a convention that has changed and that the title Secretary is old fashioned and generally not used anymore, but has it reached the point that referring to someone as such is now demeaning? I honestly don’t know so I wanted to see what others thought.

    1. J*

      I don’t know… I’m a Millenial and the school I grew up going to used the title of “secretaries”

    2. super anon*

      Huh, this is an interesting question. I’m also a millennial and I don’t know if I would say the title of Secretary is demeaning, but I don’t really like it and never used it. I prefer receptionist because it is (i think anyway?) less gendered than Secretary. I also correct people who call our receptionist our secretary, because that isn’t the position title. I would be put off by someone in this day and age who called their assistant their Secretary, because it seems very old fashioned and seems to imply an odd balance of power, or possibly that the person doesn’t respect their assistant’s position and what they do? I feel like I’m not wording this correctly to really express what I’m trying to get – maybe someone who is more eloquent than me can jump in and save me!

      The other thought I had is that when I talk about the work my grandmother did back in the 1950s & 60s I called her a Secretary and would not call her a receptionist. Is that demeaning? Or that properly explaining her title & what she did in a time long past?

      This is interesting – I look forward to see the other comments!

      1. Lily in NYC*

        A receptionist is not a secretary or an administrative assistant. It’s “lower” on the totem pole.

        1. super anon*

          Really? Maybe it’s a regional difference in how the terms are used/or are used at all? In my org the term secretary isn’t used, and it’s very much a faux pas to refer to people with receptionist or assistant roles with that title. Receptionist is used for anyone who works in some sort of front desk capacity – our front desk position was called a secretary once upon a time, but the title was changed a lot time ago.

          I would consider an EA or an AA an entirely different job than a receptionist, so I would think it was very strange if someone referred to either as a secretary or a receptionist, because the roles are different I guess?

          1. Lily in NYC*

            A receptionist is the person who sits at the front desk, greets visitors, answers phones, and usually has a few additional duties. I have never seen that title used for any other sort of position. It is generally the most entry-level position in the administrative field. Then you have administrative assistant, then executive assistant (of course the titles vary).

            Secretary is generally interchangeable with administrative assistant. But I have never seen a situation where a receptionist is higher level than a secretary (I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it’s not common). My office still used the term secretary when I started – I was hired as an executive secretary. But we’ve since changed out titles.

            Ugh, I am having lots of issues trying to type this comment – it’s been a glitchy week on this site!

            1. brightstar*

              One of my first jobs out of college was a weird hybrid. I was moved to the front desk and answered phones, while continuing with my original duties. But it was more the sign of a dysfunctional workplace than anything. They refused to promote me, I left, and they had to parcel my duties out to four people. My replacement was a true receptionist who just answered phones.

            2. super anon*

              Interesting! I had no idea that Secretary is interchangeable with AA. Honestly, I have never heard the term used in my entire working life, and I had been told by other people that receptionist = secretary.

              I feel like the world makes a little more sense now.

              1. Charlotte Collins*

                At one time, secretaries were expected to have quite a bit of specialized training. My mom was a secretary back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. In order to work for a downtown office in a large city, she was expected to be able to know shorthand, type 80+ WPM, take dictation, proofread memos and letters, present a professional appearance, and do a lot of what a PA now does (booking trips, arranging her boss’ schedule, running work-related errands, handling some of her boss’ other communications).

                All a receptionist had to do in comparison was look nice, greet visitors, answer phones, direct calls, and take messages and deliveries.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  And WAY before that, a secretary was more like an executive assistant–they might actually act in lieu of their boss. It was a very prestigious position, indicating an absolute level of trust and authority. But that was long ago.

    3. HRChick*

      We have secretaries and Administrative Assistants and they’re different levels of work.

      Secretaries: Under general direction and following general procedures, incumbents in a secretarial capacity receive and screen telephone calls and visitors, use considerable judgment in providing factual information in response to numerous inquiries; establish and maintain confidential and administrative files and prepare summaries of data pertinent to the work of the supervisor or the office. The work typically requires a detailed knowledge of the programs, policies and activities of the employing unit.

      Admin Asst: Employees in this class are responsible for relieving an administrator of assigned administrative detail, for carrying out assignments on their own initiative without detailed instructions, and for obtaining facts on which decisions or recommendations may be based. They serve to increase the capacity of an administrator to carry out the duties and responsibilities of his/her position and are to be considered as an augmentation of the administrator rather than a separate entity in the organization of the agency. The level of this work is determined by the fact that the problems and activities dealt with either are of a moderate degree of difficulty or involve preliminary research on problems of major consequence. Recommendations made are concerned chiefly with specific cases.

      1. Sunflower*

        We have both too and this is pretty spot on. In a law firm, legal secretaries are called legal secretaries. They answer phones for their principals, do expenses, record their time, make travel arrangements, file/send things. Generally their work is fairly autonomous.

        We also have admins who do similar things like expenses and travel plans but they don’t answer phones for the people they support. They also tend to have projects or other ongoing things to work on.

        These are all different from receptionists who handle all incoming company calls and greet visitors. They also handle making sure meeting rooms are empty and occupied when they are scheduled to be.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          I’ve had to explain to people that a paralegal/legal assistant is definitely different from a legal secretary… (It doesn’t help that this is one of those roles that can really vary from state to state. The paralegal I know is in a state where they have four-year degrees or other advanced training.)

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think it’s demeaning at all. Old-fashioned perhaps. I would definitely be more concerned about how he was treating her than his calling her his secretary.

      1. TootsNYC*

        It’s possible that, were this real life, the tone of voice the guy used when speaking of her would have been dismissive and demeaning. And that the client picked up on that but didn’t quite parse it out.

        And I’ll say that in my world, I haven’t heard “secretary” for a LONG time; I share a sense that it’s kind of an old-fashioned term, and slightly demeaning or dismissive. And that people who want to make their administrative/support staffers feel valued don’t use it.

        It’s a script, so…

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I think the last time I heard it was with Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader… and that was many years ago…

        2. TootsNYC*

          wanted to say: the term “secretary” with a modifier (e.g. “legal secretary” or “medical secretary”) gives the term more prestige and is the only place I hear it nowadays.

    5. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I think it would bug me, even if I couldn’t put a finger on why. Maybe because it’s part of that Mad-Men constellation of old-fashioned terrible work environments for women, and I’d half expect the guy to start slapping my bottom and calling me ‘Sugar.’ Or I’d worry that if someone’s so out of touch to use that title, what else is he not getting? I dunno, I’m a millennial too, and I’m just spitballing here.

    6. Lily in NYC*

      I’m an executive assistant and it really depends on how it’s being used. My former boss called me his secretary, but he was old and was used to the term. He was a sweetheart so I didn’t care. The ass that came here after him only used the word secretary when he was mad about something (he was always mad). He was purposely trying to piss me off so I pretended I didn’t notice. My current boss would never call me any other than her executive assistant. She’s much younger than my former bosses. AND, I sometimes call myself a secretary when I’m feeling unappreciated or annoyed. Like Wednesday! I hate administrative professional’s day and refuse to call it anything other than Secretary’s Day.

      The term can be demeaning because it’s obsolete and old-fashioned and has the connotation of women in the 60s who took dictation and typed all day. Admin roles are rarely like that now and I am at the same level on our org chart as a non-managerial AVP.

    7. Isben Takes Tea*

      It’s definitely not used in the general/causal way it was, in large part because of its gendered history. Unless it was part of a very specific job title, I would look askance at its usage because it at best it’s way behind the times and at worst it’s condescending.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        And it’s one of those terms that shows how sexism affects status of language terms. (When men were secretaries, it was seem more as a PA-type role with a certain amount of status and prestige. Once it became more common for women to become secretaries, suddenly it was “women’s work” that wasn’t worth much.)

        1. TootsNYC*

          yep! Though, in one of the english mysteries (Agatha?) where I first ran across the term as being someone who was essentially a proxy for the boss, with great knowledge and actual authority delegated from the boss, the character was a woman, and nobody in the (fictional) story expressed any surprise.

        2. Isben Takes Tea*

          Right. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a “secretary,” it’s just the word has cultural baggage now.

    8. EALeslie*

      I’m a millennial, and I’ve had specific experiences that have shown me that “secretary” is demeaning, or at the very least seen as much lesser than. I was working as an admin assistant in a 2-person department (I had a department-specific title, like public relations assistant or development assistant, etc.). As such my supervisor often gave me projects to handle for her. I was very much her assistant and not a secretary – I didn’t handle her calendar so much as we shared calendars to be aware of who’s on first, I didn’t do her correspondence for her, I handled meeting logistics but wasn’t fetching coffee or running errands. I helped her do her job, and often handled big clients and contracts mostly solo. Our director (also a woman), however, did NOT like this arrangement, and in 1-on-1’s with my boss would tell her straight up, “she’s an ‘assistant’ only because we can’t call them secretaries anymore. She should be acting like a secretary, and shouldn’t be handling so much.” At first this was all done behind closed doors, and my boss always stood up for me, but “secretary” was thrown around as an insult. Eventually the director would say these things about me in meetings with others, and it graduated into her saying these things openly in the office and to me directly. To her (she was in her 70s) the switch to administrative assistant was a PC move, and she was letting me know exactly how she saw me.

      1. TootsNYC*

        “(she was in her 70s)”

        This is why I think someone would assume that anybody who used that term was an old fuddy-duddy and wouldn’t be able to submit up-to-the-date work. (which was the client’s concern; he wanted of-the-moment vibe to the work he was asking for)
        Not the age; the insistence on that term.

        it would indicate a lack of flexibility, and also a lack of keeping up with today’s norms.
        I can’t say I

    9. Pwyll*

      I agree with you that it seems kind of odd what hold people have over the word. I spent about 10 years in admin/executive roles as a male, and I spent a big chunk of that time bemused by other people’s hangups over the word Secretary. I had one boss who would tie himself into a pretzel to call me anything but “Assistant” or “Secretary”. He even chewed me out once for calling myself his Secretary on the phone with our biggest client’s “Director of Executive Office Operations” AKA Secretary (which I did to blame myself for Boss’s mistake, to allow him to save face with Big Time Executive Client).

      Alternatively, I had a boss who would call me her Secretary all the time, when I was the Office Manager, and it was beyond clear she intended it to convey my status as “lesser” than the other staff in the office.

      So, I agree with Lily in NYC, it really depends on the user’s intention/tone/situation more than anything.

    10. SusanIvanova*

      Sounds like the client believes in the rule that you can tell a lot about a person by how they treat people subordinate to them. Maybe the other things were hard to pin down, but “secretary” was a specific thing the client could point at?

    11. Doriana Gray*

      I don’t think the title’s demeaning, but then I work with lawyers and have dealt with various legal secretaries of either gender.

  29. Jennifer M.*

    Okay, I had an experience last week. I’m starting a new job week after next. I had to stop by the new office last week for some paperwork for my security clearance. I was speaking with the woman who was dealing with it and there was someone else in the office with us. She’s looking at my address and says “Oh, you live in G? I live in D!” (both are very far away from the office, but D is north of G and the city of which both are suburbs is south of both). Then she says, “About 20 years ago, my husband and I lived over by L (a tiny bit south of G). Looks like we got out just in time right?”

    I was shocked and didn’t say anything. As soon as I got back to my current office, I verified with some coworkers that I wasn’t crazy. The woman had been making a coded statement about the current racial make up of L. She was saying, isn’t it great that she and her husband (both white, well, I’m guessing on the husband) moved before all of the people of color, including immigrants showed up. And the kicker? I’m not white. I’m mixed, but if you look at me, you are not going to think Caucasian you are going to think mixed (mixed with what, enh that’s harder to tell). So A) why would she think it is okay to say that out loud? and B) why would she say it to someone who looks more like the people she was trying to flee than her?

    The most generous spin I could put on her comments was that it was classist and referring to the economic status of the residents, but I know what L was like 20 years ago and it was rural lower income white, just a lot fewer apartment buildings than there are now.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I read it as both classist and racist. But then again I was born and raised and currently reside in a city where people do exactly this when speaking of certain parts of this city or the residents of specific towns in the metro area.

    2. Temperance*

      That sounds really awkward. I wonder if she meant something about declining property values – which is also very classist and Not Great. I grew up in a place that was white and lower-income/blue collar, but had wonderful, highly-rated schools in some parts. As good blue collar jobs were outsourced, our property values declined greatly, so a more diverse group of people looking to leave New York/New Jersey descended upon our area, because it was cheap and the schools were decent and the crime rate was hella low. It’s not like that now.

      It’s more diverse, which is great, but we now unfortunately have a higher property crime rate and the neighborhood feel is gone, because they don’t have years and years of history and knowing each other’s grandparents etc. For example, growing up, one of my neighbors had broken into a few cars and siphoned gas. We all knew him and his family, and reported him to the police. He went to juvie for a period of time, came back, and never did it again.

      Unfortunately, there are people who blame the POC for the decline in the region when it’s mostly the lack of jobs and flight of all the educated, younger folks that are part of the decline.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yeah, “declining property values” is a dogwhistle for “Those People moved in and ruined the neighborhood.”

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I bet she’s probably also one of those people who claims not to “see” race. Ugh.

    4. AnotherFed*

      I think you’re in the best position to judge subtext and know your area best, but I’ll offer one other explanation that fits my location. Around here, there is a major growing metropolitan area about 2 hours away that is swallowing up rural areas, turning them into bedroom communities, and knocking down the historical houses and barns to put up townhouses. Some lovely, tight-knit communities have had lower income people pushed out and so many new people who spend so little time not commuting have moved in that they feel like giant hotels rather than communities now. I’d have interpreted this person’s statement to mean that she’s happy to avoid some of the traffic/congestion/insanity of the bedroom community takeover. I’d personally go completely nuts if I had to hear the constant sounds of people (and that’s why I live on ~100 acres in the middle of nowhere).

    5. Roman Holiday*

      Yikes! It’s always surprising when people say stuff like that to complete strangers – you have to assume their opinions are so ingrained they can’t imagine anyone would disagree. I can’t remember if I heard it here on AAM or somewhere else, but someone suggested a response I’d love to use, “I hope you’re not saying that because you think I agree with you.” Or there’s always the Miss Manners’ classic of a blank stare and “wow”. Of course, since this is a new co-worker, it’s almost certainly easier to just let it go, but I’m sorry this happened to you!

    6. OhNo*

      First: Ugh, that comment sounds like 100% coded racism. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. It sounds like you aren’t the only one who interpreted it that way, so I’m guessing your reading of the situation was pretty accurate. Blegh.

      My city also has a couple areas (parts of the city, mostly) that are often used as code for both race and class. I’m white, and I live in an area that has a strong reputation for being a poor black and immigrant community. I have to say, when people make jokes to me about X part of the city, the fastest way to shut them up and make sure they never make a joke like that in my presence again is to look them in the eye and say, deadpan, “I live in X.”

      If you should ever have the energy and desire to call her out on this nonsense, perhaps you could make up a relative that lives in L? Next time she makes a comment about getting out of L ‘just in time’ (blegh), you could respond, “I don’t know what you mean, my brother/sister/aunt lives in L, and they love it there.”

    7. Florida*

      If she said, “Looks like we got out at the right time,” I might have responded, “Why do you say that?” (said in a curious manner). Then let her squirm while she tries to explain her racism in a way that makes her look non-racist.
      My feeling is that if you are going to be racist, classicist, or any other -ist, you need to do it out in the open and not in code. I’m not going to allow you the comfort of hiding behind your code.

    8. ginger ale for all*

      My aunt lived in another country for a while and says that phrase but for her, it’s true. Less than six months after she left, the country broke out in a civil war. It might be one of the few times that you can use that phrase without being called out for it in some manner.

      1. TootsNYC*

        well, there are these things (though some of them can be linked w/ racial changes)
        -drop in real estate prices
        -rise in overdevelopment
        -drop in livability (due to traffic, crime, pollution, change in economy)

        I’m trusting the OP that her knowledge of what’s happened in that region means her assessment of the coded message is real.

    9. neverjaunty*

      I’d be very concerned that the answer to A) is “because a lot of bigoted idiots work at this company and so she feels comfortable saying those things”.

    10. Laura*

      Whoa. Does she work in HR? If an HR rep said something like that to me in onboarding, you bet I’d tell my boss about it on Day 1. That’s classist and racist, and neither of those things belong in a professional workplace.

  30. super anon*

    has anyone ever been gaslighted by a coworker as a bullying tactic? i had an absolutely baffling conversation with a coworker yesterday that turned incredibly hostile on her part and it made me realize she has been gaslighting me for months and slowly undermining me without me realizing it. i thought i had been going crazy and that something was wrong with me so it feels good to put a name to her behaviour.

    anyway, is there anyway to overcome or deal this while i look for another job? dealing with her is beginning to seriously impact my mental health, but i need to stick this out while i look for something else so any coping techniques would be appreciated. i can’t no-contact her because she’s made herself the single contact point for everything in the office & access to our bosses (who are off site), so i can’t even tell anyone else about what has been happening to me.

    thanks!

    1. Prismatic Professional*

      I am so, super sorry that this is happening to you! When you say she’s made herself the single point of contact (even for your bosses) what do you mean? Are you unable to call or e-mail your *actual* boss? What would happen if you did that?

      One thing someone in a previous thread suggested was pretending you are an alien anthropologist studying this bizarre species before the End Of Their World. This has been super helpful to me.

      Also, check out Captain Awkward’s advice and rev up Team You! Sorry I don’t have more suggestions, just remember – it isn’t about you at all. Her behavior is all about her (obviously re: single point of contact). Good luck!

      1. super anon*

        When I call or email my actual bosses they more often than not don’t answer me, and I am incapable of booking any meetings or phone calls without her doing it for me. When I have asked or when she has booked a meeting for me, every single time she cancels it for something else.

        She’s done a very good job of isolating me from everyone and I hadn’t even realized it until now. I feel so stupid that I didn’t see what she was doing prior to yesterday.

        1. OhNo*

          Oh no, that’s a really rough situation, I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with that.

          Would it help at all to make a strong effort to contact other people directly, before looping her in on things? By which I mean, instead of just going through her (even though experience tells you that’s what will work), perhaps you can try on your own once or twice first, and only then go through her? Or is that something that you’re already doing?

          I mention it only because it’s possible other people in the office don’t realize what’s happening either. If they are getting the reverse of your situation (e.g.: “In order to contact Super Anon, you have to first contact Terrible Coworker”), they might need a nudge or twelve to realize that they don’t have to go through your coworker, either.

          1. super anon*

            I have been doing that – and it’s what prompted the conversation yesterday that made me realize she’s been gaslighting and isolating me. I had gone directly to my boss to ask permission to buy equipment with my budget that I needed after I had asked her multiple times and then told her what I was going to do. She was away (and didn’t tell me) for 3 days this week and the purchase was time sensitive, so I went ahead with the ordering process using the financial processes that had been described to me before. She then came to me yesterday to tell me that I am not allowed to do anything with finances, that I don’t have the authority to make purchases or sign for things (even though I do, I have multiple company credit cards and she was the one who did the paperwork to get me that authority months ago) and that everything to do with finances absolutely had to go through her, rather than the process I had been told before. When I asked for documentation of our policies so I could make sure I am following them properly she got very hostile with me, and then when I asked what I should do when she is away. she answered me with “oh you mean this week? yeah, my aunt died.”. When I asked her if we could have the conversation because I felt uncomfortable with the tone it had taken, she told me that she felt attacked by me and unsafe.

            It was just… utterly bizarre and a complete overreaction to my questions. I was very respectful in my interaction with her. She’s done this to me multiple times too, but I didn’t realize how out of line she was.

            1. E*

              Would it be possible for you to discuss the problems with your boss at your next meeting? Without directly pointing to her as the problem, explain that you are confused about the company policies and are having difficulties completing your duties because meetings keep being cancelled or unavailable. The bosses may need specific examples, at which point you can explain and mention that coworker’s involvement often slows down your progress. Perhaps offering the suggestion to improve the process by always directly going to bosses?

              1. super anon*

                I don’t have regular meetings with my bosses – I actually have never met with them alone without the problem coworker present for the 11 months I have worked here. I am the only one at my level who doesn’t have regular meetings and I can’t get them. If I have an issue I need to speak about with my bosses, my coworker will take it from me to present to them at her regular meetings and I am never involved. When I ask for regular meetings I don’t get them, because I have to go through the problem coworker because when I email my bosses directly they don’t respond to me.

                It’s all very frustrating.

                1. E*

                  Wow, I can understand that. And since you don’t meet with the bosses regularly, you can’t explain that you aren’t able to complete the tasks without their approval. I’d still suggest that whenever you are able to get that next meeting that you bring this up, although I see that it might be quite some time. The setup of this reporting structure sucks.

            2. Anna*

              I think in this specific incidence you need to talk to HR. She has said two words that mean she can now go to HR and complain: You have made her feel attacked and, especially, unsafe. That last one is the scariest because it implies she is being very calculating in the words she uses. This is definitely one of those times when the word “documentation” should be used. Started CC’ing your boss on emails about meetings, save emails from her, if she sends you something, CC your boss and ask for clarification. The only way gaslighting stops is by shining light on it. Manipulative people rely on your sense of embarrassment that you misunderstood or don’t realize what’s happening. Now that you do, it’s time to bring it out in the open.

              1. Anna*

                PS It’s also entirely possible the boss isn’t responding because of things your toxic coworker has told them. It’s time to put a stop to her controlling your interactions with your boss.

        2. Sadsack*

          Maybe next time she cancels email her and your boss explaining that you have been scheduling a meeting about X for the past however many months and ask what can be done to get it to stay in the calendar next time? You have to know your boss for this, I guess. But bringing the repeated cancellations to your boss’ attention may help.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I haven’t been gaslighted by a particular co-worker, but I’ve been gaslighted by an entire cult-like workplace. I got out of there as fast as I could.

      1. Anna*

        Omg! I am going through this now and it is absolutely horrible! I feel like I’m going insane and have visions of quitting! Can you share more about your experience and what happened?

    3. SusanIvanova*

      Coffeecup got fired, not for doing less work in one day than I could’ve done just by having an extra cup of coffee, but for gaslighting our remote coworker. I don’t know the details but it was along the lines of implying that Coffeecup was highly valued by the rest of the local team (ha! I think every one of us had refused to work with him because he simply did not get the things we relied on done!) and that we *didn’t* think highly of RemoteCW’s work – which is pretty much the opposite of the truth. I’d guess he was trying to make RemoteCW think he was the only one having a problem with Coffeecup, and since RemoteCW was isolated it worked for a while.

      It got to the point it was affecting his health, and that’s what made it easy for our manager to get rid of Coffeecup. If you can’t get to your boss, can you get to HR? This is the sort of thing they will take notice of.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, gaslighters thrive by isolating people. The more OP can loop other people in, the better off she will be.
        OP, never underestimate even the power of little things. Be seen by Gaslighter talking with other people, even if it’s briefly. Say hi/good morning to as many people as you can. Yes, the mailman/other visitors do count in this exercise.

        Actually start an on-going conversation with your boss, but also be seen talking to your boss more.

        The more you spread yourself out, the less power this person has. And try to keep in mind, she covertly believes she has no REAL skills, if she had real skills she would not need to bully/marginalize someone else.

    4. Julie Noted*

      Yep, been there. It’s not rare, unfortunately.

      I had a colleague whose continuing employment on the public purse is morally scandalous, she is that incompetent and abusive. Gaslighting was one of her favourite tactics to cover her deficiencies. She uses it against people at her level and slightly lower; people above were sucked up to and fed lies; people several levels below were just openly shouted at. She works in a coordinating area that the rest of the organisation depends on, and regularly fails to complete tasks given to her, follow through on actions agreed to in meetings, or stick to documented procedures. When called on it, she flat out denies that said discussion/agreement ever happened as described, despite multiple witnesses to the contrary.

      I was running major projects that needed the buy-in of the area she (for want of a better word) ‘led’. My tactic to deal with her crap was document everything – e.g. after each discussion or meeting, send an email setting out what we’d each agreed. She either ignored the email or said “no, that’s not what happened’. I ask (again, in writing) for her to provide her understanding of events and she wouldn’t respond. Never committed to any position, just that whatever I said was wrong. Eventually she accused me of harrassment, the substance of her claim being that I communicated by email rather than over the phone. That brought things to a head. The charge was dropped, but my boss was livid (on my behalf) and told the CEO that we would no longer work on any projects involving this person’s area while she was in the job. Her manager and the CEO were too pissweak to deal with the toxin in their midst (her manager admitted to mine that she’d consciously decided not to performance manage this woman out of fear of being accused of harrassment herself) so nothing happened.

      My boss and I left the organisation not long afterwards to bigger and better things. Another half a dozen staff have left the area concerned. (A similar number had quit in the 2-3 years beforehand rather than continue to work for this person). Toxin remains and the organisation carries on with one of its key areas barely functional.

      Take home points: documentation helped make clear who the problem was, both to the gaslighted victims and outside observers; however, if you find yourself in a cowardly workplace where managers won’t deal with bullies, get out. It’s so much better outside. Take care of yourself, and good luck.

  31. RKB*

    My coworker has been gone since mid-February. We haven’t been given a definite reason why, but on our schedule her shifts have been labelled as sick days.

    We got our new schedule and it appeared she’d be back for the spring, but nope. All her shifts were just given away and she’s still labelled as sick.

    Because I don’t know what’s going on, I feel it may be inappropriate to send her a get well soon card or something like that. I tried to ask my supervisors but they weirdly ignored my email, which makes me wonder if something else is going on. I just know that if I was ill for that long of a time, I’d appreciate that kind of gesture.

    Should I try asking my supervisors again?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      No, just leave it be. There could be a lot of things going on like admin leave, criminal issues, illness, etc but they clearly don’t think it’s any of your business.

      1. RKB*

        True. I guess I forgot to mention that she does have lupus (I have Crohn’s, so it came up once when we were discussing chronic illness) so I was assuming she was in a flare up. But it’s also very true I should MMOB. :-)

        1. OhNo*

          It is a nice thought, though. Perhaps instead, you could plan on doing something nice for her if/when she returns, to express that you’re glad she’s back and feeling better?

    2. PollyQ*

      I vote sending a Get Well card. I was on disability a few years ago, and was kind of hurt not to receive any kind of get-well card from any of my co-workers, even the ones I considered friends. Your bosses may be limiting information out of respect for your coworkers privacy, but if she’s listed on the schedule as sick, I think it’s safe enough to assume there’s a health issue and to send a card. Worst-case scenario is you’re wishing someone a specific kind of good thoughts that they don’t actually need.

      1. Sadsack*

        Sorry, I agree with Katie. You don’t know she is sick, they are just putting that in the schedule. She may be sick, but they may just be using that to indicate she is not in.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        Maybe just a “thinking of you” card as opposed to a “get well” specifically- even if it is another sort of issue that’s keeping her out, I think “miss you around work, keeping you in my thoughts, hope to see you soon,etc” would be nice.

        1. TootsNYC*

          this is my vote. Whatever way you have to contact her (Facebook message, which i think you can send even if you’re not “friends,” but it may go into some supersecret inbox, so maybe not; whatever).

          Say, “Hey, I was thinking about you just today while I was doing [some thing she taught you/whatever]. I hope you’re well. Miss you!”

          And leave it at that.

        2. Liza*

          Don’t do a “Get well” card! But a “Thinking of you” card would be fine. Here’s my reasoning: if she has any kind of illness that one doesn’t recover from, a “get well” card will just rub her nose in the fact that she’ll never be fully well again.

    3. Guinness*

      Although it could be a lot of things, my first thought was super-secret jury duty. I had a friend that was out for months but couldn’t really talk about it and because HR didn’t really have a classification for that, it ended up being coded as sick leave internally.

    4. it happens*

      If you miss her, send her a note and tell her you’re thinking of her. You can make some comment on the note that the schedule says out sick.

    5. Rebecca*

      Twice over the years we had a disappearing coworker. One was for a bad drug test, off work for mandatory classes or whatever she did during that time (sadly, when she got back, she tested positive again and was let go), and the other time someone went to jail for shoplifting.

  32. Dangerfield*

    I just lost three days of work due to a computer error, and it is not recoverable. Happy Friday! At least it’s a long weekend.

    1. insert name here*

      Oh man, I wish I still lived somewhere where May 1 was a holiday. Enjoy the long weekend!

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Are you absolutely sure it’s not recoverable? Is it a file you saved over or a file you just accidentally deleted? If it’s a deletion or reformat or unbootable operating system, you can probably still save the document(s).

      1. Dangerfield*

        Absolutely certain, unfortunately. Ah well. Worse things happen at sea, and it is partly my own stupid fault for having not backed it up adequately.

  33. ThankYouAAMCommunity!*

    I’m staying anonymous and I hope that’s okay, but I have some great news to share: I got a new job!

    I signed the offer a week ago and my boss has announced the hire to the rest of the team today. I’ve been working on contract with this company for over a year, so when an in-house posting came up for the work that I was doing, I applied, had the interview, and got the job offer about a week and a half later!

    I have a feeling that they were keeping this posting open for me since I was, in a sense, an internal hire. However, AAM’s posts (and its commenters) have been invaluable in landing this job:
    – AAM’s advice on how to prepare for an internal interview was great
    – AAM’s understanding of the job offer and salary negotiation process was helpful in calming my nerves
    – A fellow commenter’s recommendation of the book “Women Don’t Ask” really helped me get over my fear of salary negotiation.

    When I got the job offer, they offered the salary at the very top of my requested range, but when I asked if there was “some flexibility” on the salary, they bumped it up by another $2.5k the following day!

    Thanks so much to AAM and all you commenters for helping me prepare for this!

    1. Shell*

      Well done!

      Out of curiosity, how did you justify the “some flexibility” request? I usually feel like if you name a range and the offer was within that range, then the onus is on you to justify why you want it higher (whether “higher” means higher in the range or higher out of the range). I always feel awkward about the justification part :D

    2. CM*

      Congratulations! And nice job getting an extra $2500 a year by just asking for “flexibility!”

      1. ThankYouAAMCommunity!*

        @Shell

        When it came for the salary negotiation I did have some justifications prepared, but the HR person on the other end didn’t ask – he just said “Ok, I’ll see what I can do” once I brought the subject up and came back next day with the revise offer.

        I was working off of what other commenters have said here that often there’s more money in the budget, but that the money is only available if candidates ask. Luckily, the HR rep was of the same mindset that “it doesn’t hurt to ask”.

  34. Gov't Career Counselor*

    I would love to be able to serve my IT clients better, but other than learning Python for fun (omg, so many cool things! Look what I can do with the data!), I don’t know much about tech. What would you advise a non-tech person to do to help a tech person find a job?

    1. I would like to be able to help them get at least good entry level jobs in software dev, programming, web dev, IT security, networking, etc. (NOT technical support for Big Computer Company).
    2. I know technical resumes are different and emphasized skills, tools, languages, platforms, etc. But how to make them excellent?
    3. Are cover letters even a thing? I don’t want them wasting their time.

    I would really appreciate any help! Thanks!

    1. LQ*

      IT friends I’ve had seem nearly universally shocked when I mention following up a good job interview with a thank you email. And at least 2 of them have gotten jobs because of it. I’ve also had many conversations about not being so swooned by the arcade room that you miss the fact that everyone is working 80 hours a week and then you’ll never be home in time to raid.

      1. Gov't Career Counselor*

        Oooh yes! The raid thing!

        Seriously though, I really appreciate your suggestions!

        1. LQ*

          Yes, absolutely the raid thing. :)
          I don’t want to imply that they got those jobs directly because of thank you’s but that helped build relationships and keep them in mind. One person got offer the job months later when the guy who had initially had taken it was shown the door, they decided they needed someone who was more of a cultural fit even if they didn’t have quite enough experience, hence my friend, who was remembered for a great interview and a very professional thank you note. Who has done fantastically there.
          The other ended up with a hey this guy might be a good fit for a consulting gig which was really more in line with what he wanted any way.

    2. RG*

      Cover letters are a thing. Also, I’d applying for jobs that are primarily programming, they should have built something small at some point. Even if it’s a silly project for school, or something super simple like a text based calculator, they should do something that isn’t just a tutorial. While the manager may never look at the actual project, they still get experience in actually building stuff, learning new aspects of the language and general concepts, and the problem solving approach needed for programming.

      1. Dawn*

        THIS! Programmers need to be submitting stuff to GitHub or solving challenges on HackerRank or Coderbyte or something. If they’re web devs, they NEED to have a snappy looking website with examples of their work.

        There are so many IT people around that hiring all looks pretty homogenous, so anything they can do to stand out by showing examples of their work will put them ahead.

        Also, definitely emphasise soft skills like communicating well, speaking clearly, being professional, following up with interviewers, etc. IT employees tend to skew more towards “The IT Crowd” than “Mad Men” so that’s another way to differentiate themselves from the competition.

  35. lionelrichiesclayhead*

    What are everyone’s thoughts on a couple working for the same company? Main concern is the “all eggs in one basket” issue. Company is large (350,000 employees) and while we would likely be on the same campus with about 7,000 other people, we would be in different buildings so the closeness is not an issue for me. Company is fine with employee couples as long as they work in different departments. I’m just wondering if, financially, we should really stay away from this if possible.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Spouse and I work for the same place– the caveat is that it’s govt, which is notorious for stability. I think any other field I’d probably try to steer clear.

    2. J*

      It’s pretty common in my area (company town). I wouldn’t worry too much about it but I would save a hefty rainy day fund just in case.

      1. Judy*

        Most couples with both of them working at the same company in my experience have structured their lives in case the company has RIFs, closes a location, etc. Of course, I’m talking about engineers, so pay is generally fairly high. Like taking a 30 year mortgage instead of a 15 you can afford, but paying on the 15 schedule, so that you can reduce expenses fairly quickly. Like working to get to a situation where you can buy cars for cash rather than loans, so that there are not ongoing payments.

        My husband and I are both engineers, of our 20 years of marriage, we’ve worked at the same large companies for 15 of those. It feels much freer now that we aren’t.

    3. BeeBee*

      My workplace has several couples working. The couples are in different departments.
      But same as the person above, it’s the government.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I think there can be challenges, but some of that depends on the company and on you two. I’ve worked with my spouse a couple of times, and I think the most difficult thing is if your spouse gets treated badly by someone that you know—you don’t want to be the annoying overly protective spouse who says “Hey! You can’t treat my spouse that way!” but it’s also super-awkward to have to interact with someone who treats you well and your spouse not so well. Since it’s a large company, that may be less of an issue, especially if you work in different departments.

    5. Roman Holiday*

      My (fabulous) boss and her husband work for the same company, but in very different capacities and business units. Downsizing/layoffs are a real threat in my industry right now, but it’s unlikely they’d both be targeted since they’re in such different areas. Incidentally, they are a perfect example of a married couple working well together – they arrive and leave together and consult with each other occasionally on their respective areas of expertise, but if you didn’t know, you’d never realize they’re a couple. With a company of the size you mentioned, and the provision that you’d already be in different departments, I don’t think it should be a major concern.

    6. Lily in NYC*

      I think it’s fine! We have a few married couples here and we are much smaller than that (400 people).

    7. Colette*

      There were many couples working at the formerly-large, currently non-existent high tech company I started at. If you can keep your work/professional lives separate from work, I think it’s ok, but I would prioritize making sure you have a healthy emergency fund in case of downsizing, and don’t keep retirement funds in company stock.

    8. ThursdaysGeek*

      I worked at the same place as my spouse and it was fine. Well, it was fine until the company was no longer stable. It was much smaller, and we decided we didn’t want to be unemployed at the same time, so I moved elsewhere. But for a company that large, it seems like it could be safe enough.

    9. KS*

      Husband and I worked on different teams in the same 20 person work site for 3 years. Never caused any issues for us.

    10. BRR*

      I think there are times when it’s ok but I would try to not do it. My best friend is an auditor at a big four firm and her husband was a consultant at the same firm. It’s stable as a company and the departments are different enough that I think that was ok but still uncomfortable in the back of my mind.

  36. Mockingjay*

    Meeting Minutes Saga – not so much anymore. Thank all the Powers that Be!

    We’ve had a number of small improvements, reducing stress immensely.

    1) Intrepid Colleague and I aren’t doing as many minutes. We began to refuse minute taking requests, citing ongoing work. Amazingly, people were okay with it.

    2) My remote manager (another state) recognized the difficulty we have on our contract with a demanding customer onsite and no corporate presence to facilitate issues. Two weeks ago he reorganized us into 3 teams and designated leads – I am one. We now have a structure and limited authority to deal with local issues. I am reading extensively in Alison’s archives on how to be a good supervisor for my new reports. [In response to one of my posts last week, Alison provided links to The Management Center. Great resource!]

    3) Several of us have created a voluntary working group to improve things in our local office. We have agreed to stay focused and work on one concrete item at time, since our time is limited.

    We still have lots of problems, but for the first time in a long while, I don’t dread going to work.

    1. misspiggy*

      Hooray! I’m so glad to hear this. It had seemed like your work problems were utterly intractable.

    2. Jean*

      >We still have lots of problems, but for the first time in a long while, I don’t dread going to work.

      Great to read this! Enjoy your new and improved situation, and kudos on using the links Alison posted to expand your skills and knowledge.

  37. Confused Fed*

    OK, I have a question about how Feds are supposed to treat time off (of course the official websites are as useful as a pile of goo)– I am salaried and exempt, with a set schedule. I am not allowed to work extra/’overtime’ hours, but if I leave work, say, an hour early, I have to take that out of my PTO. Both of these things seem to be against what being ‘exempt’ means, right? So do we just do things differently here (I’m fairly new), or is my department doing it wrong? Any resources that are actually helpful for this?

    Thanks, all!

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Each agency has its own standards for how they do this.

      What you might want to ask about are credit hours – I think those are pretty common across different agencies. They’re different than comp time or overtime – both of which can be paid out. Credit hours are little more informal – for example we can accrue up to 24 by working extra hours, and then use them if we need to take off for an appointment during the day.

      You can also check into flexible work schedules. I’m on a flexible schedule where I have to work 80 hours in a two week pay period, with flexibility. So I might get stuck in traffic one day and then stay late the next to make up for it. Or if I miss a day but don’t want to burn sick leave, I can work extra hours for the rest of the pay period.

      Ask your manager what options are out there. A good one will work with you to use the system to help you maximize your work/life balance.

      1. Confused Fed*

        Apparently we might be moving to a flexible schedule soon, so that’s good– but that means it’s kosher to require PTO if I need to leave an hour early even if I’ve worked the rest of the week? Maybe I’ve just got some crazy cognitive dissonance going on since that doesn’t match the definitions that I’ve learned here!

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yes it’s allowed. We’re salaried but there’s some weirdness with federal employees in that we also have to work 40 hours a week in general. I mean, I’m fairly senior and still do a timesheet for crying out loud!

          1. Confused Fed*

            Huh, OK. Ha, I think I just needed someone who speaks fluent AAM and Fed to explain it to me! Thanks Katie the Fed, should have known you’d come through!

        2. AnotherFed*

          FYI – the government definition of flexible schedule is probably not what you think of when you hear flexible. Check the OPM definitions of the alternative work schedules so you understand what you are getting into – gliding is probably what you mean, not flexitour.

          1. Lefty*

            Came here something similar- “flexible schedule” is a flexible term for the government! :)

            Since we are public-facing and require customer service during certain hours, our supervisor does not allow use of a flexible schedule. It’s a major point of contention when some “field” offices get to do it and ours doesn’t, but that’s another gripe for another thread.

    2. BRR*

      Other comments are more thorough and helpful but with PTO because it’s not legally required companies can make whatever rules they want about it. You might be classified as exempt because it’s the government and they are more strict about people being appropriately classified but also follow other rules. It’s also common for company’s to unofficially define exempt as 40+ hours a week. Where you never get to take an hour if you need to (and they suck).

  38. Emilia Bedelia*

    Silly survey of the day: When you receive an email about free food up for grabs somewhere, do you wait before going to get some, and if so, how long? My personal tendency is to finish whatever I’m doing at the time, then “wander” over (usually 5-20 minutes after) but I’m curious what other people do.
    Today I received a “donuts next to the copy room” email and was the first to take any 15 minutes after the original email, but yesterday there were lunch leftovers next to my desk and people showed up seconds after the email. If I had more time and food on my hands I’d be interested in a study investigating what kind of food draws people, and how quickly, but alas, I have a real job to do :(

    1. Bowserkitty*

      It depends on the workplace. We have 25+ hungry residents here and food doesn’t last long so I’ll walk down to the breakroom as soon as something is announced. I have a coworker who does the same thing, and I just saw a pie chart on Buzzfeed called “Times it is acceptable to run” and “When food is announced in the office break room” took up 70% or so of the chart. XD I had to send it to her.

    2. ZSD*

      I wait until my cup of water is empty and then head to the kitchen, so I can refill my water cup and just happen to pick up the food while I’m there.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Haha, that’s what I do, too! It depends on what the food is of course, but most of the time there are a bunch of people who show up seconds after the email goes out. I don’t like to hover around waiting, so I’ll wait and then go to get some tea and be like, “Oh, there’s cake! Well, while I’m here…”

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Like Bowserkitty, if I don’t go right away, it’s gone. I tend to go right away only for healthy food though, because that way if I wait to get doughnuts and they’re already gone then oh well, I guess I’ll be healthier today :)

    4. super anon*

      i go as soon as i get the notification because if i don’t everything will be gone in a matter of minutes. my coworker and i on different floors also look out for each other and alert the other to food on our respective floors, which is kind of fun.

    5. Katie the Fed*

      Where I work, if you send out an email about free food, it’s like dropping a sugar cube next to an ant hill.

    6. Jen RO*

      If I really want the food, I go there straight away, because there are ~150 people on my floor and treats never last long!

    7. CM*

      I think about going right away, but then my social anxiety kicks in and I avoid the vicinity of the break room for at least half an hour… then when I think everybody is gone, I poke my head in to see if there is anything left.

    8. Violet04*

      It depends on what I’m doing. If I’m on a call, I’ll wait until I’m done. Otherwise I’ll go over in about 5-10 minutes.

    9. LCL*

      Where is this mythical workplace that free food is around long enough for someone to send out an email notification?

    10. Kristine*

      I full sprint for the kitchen as soon as I open the email. There’s about 300 people in my office but the food is never enough for all of us, so if I don’t get there right away then it’ll be gone before I have the chance.

    11. 'Nonymous*

      I do the same – I finish what I’m working on and “wander” over about 10-15 min later. I’m usually the first one to take food, though sometimes being the first makes me feel self-conscious.

    12. SL #2*

      Our free food lasts all day and sometimes into the next day too. There’s food so regularly that we’re all very picky about what we’ll get up to eat (treats and snacks, not so much, but if there’s free lunch, watch out). Which probably makes our entire office a little spoiled. Whoops.

    13. The Alias Gloria Is Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      I do… but mostly because I’m overweight and I don’t want people chuckling over the fat girl being the first one at the donuts. So if I go at all, I usually wait a bit.

    14. Sarah Nicole*

      If there’s something I want, I’m not shy about going right away if I’m able to take a short break. But I also work in a place where we have people of different cultures bringing in things to share and regularly offer, so I got over being shy. I love it! However, as the admin, if I order and set up lunch for the entire clinic during a meeting day or something like that, I wait until everyone else has made a plate. I don’t know why, but it just seems right to me.

    15. Not Karen*

      In my office if you don’t get up as soon as the e-mail goes out, you miss it, so it depends on how hungry I am. :) I think a better approach is to NOT announce food via e-mail and just let the people who happen to wander into the breakroom have first dibs (which is what I do when I bring food in).

    16. Emilia Bedelia*

      Update: I stopped by after lunch again and there are STILL donuts left. I like my job, but I don’t know if I can trust a bunch of people who leave half a dozen donuts on a Friday morning.
      (There was a BOSTON CREAM left, people. What??)

    17. Mallory Janis Ian*

      If I’m hungry, I go as soon as the email comes, or otherwise it will be gone. If I’m not very hungry or don’t care much about what they’ve announced is being offered, I’ll take a little longer to mosey on over there. Usually within about a minute of an email being sent, though, you can see a dozen or more plate-carrying people converging on the location. We’re in a 4-building complex, so you’ll see people from three buildings coming down the sidewalks carrying plates.

    18. Lily Evans*

      I used to joke that the best way to get me into a room was to send a free food email announcement because I was always one of the first ones there. I would usually wait at least a few minutes though, so as to not seem too eager (and at my old job people would sometimes sent the email, then put the food in the staff room, which led to me awkwardly pretending I was just there to use the bathroom while they were still setting the food up).

    19. Laura*

      It depends on the food/event. I was recently invited to a retirement potluck for a woman I’ve never met. Obviously I didn’t go. But if it involved chili (like a recent event we had!) I would have been there. I am so down for a chili cook-off.

  39. all aboard the anon train*

    Can I get advice on whether my work history looks like job hopping?

    I graduated in May 2008 and couldn’t find a job in my industry, so I took an admin job (which was really more of a secretarial job) that turned out to be toxic – small doctor’s office that paid me $15K before taxes, no vacation or sick days, no health insurance, made to do personal errands and in small town that was was so dead end I had to quit or I knew I’d be stuck there forever.

    I didn’t get a job in the industry I went to school for until 2.5 years after I graduated (which means I’m basically 2.5 years behind in terms of work experience for my field). I’m looking for a new job after I hit the 2 year mark at my current company in June, but I’ve had friends say that I should stick it out here for another year to pad my resume.

    Graduated May 2008
    Company 1 – Admin job (non-industry) 01/2009 – 09/2010 (Quit job, total 1 year, 9 months)
    Company 2 – Industry job 12/2010 – 11/2011
    Promoted 11/2011 – 11/2013
    Promoted 11/2013 – 06/2014 (total 3 years, 6 months)
    Company 3 – Industry job – 06/2014 – Present (almost 2 years)

    1. ZSD*

      I don’t think it looks job hoppy at all. And you got two promotions in three years! That shows you do great work.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      If you are listing your total time at Company 2 as Dec 2010-June 2014, with sublistings for each position/promotion, then I don’t get a job-hoppery vibe at all.

      1. 'Nonymous*

        Agreed. And I would list the total company time and the sublist each position/promotion. (With the way it’s currently listed, it took me a moment to figure out those were all for the same company.)

    3. Graciosa*

      What is your industry?

      In mine, we tend to look for longer runs than two years (three is acceptable, five is better) but I recognize that this is tied to the nature of the work and the nature of my profession.

      What have you accomplished in your current role?

      I look for people who moved on because they truly, legitimately outgrew their roles and the potential for growth with their then-current employers. Again, in my role, this tends to take at least a few years, and frequently much longer.

      I’m not evaluating tenure, however, as much as I am looking for signs that the person has mastered a role. So the real question is what evidence do I have in your resume of that kind of mastery.

      Promotions and significant achievements are the benchmark for this in my mind.

      If your resume says All Aboard did her job for two years (even a fairly good job), that doesn’t impress me much.

      If your resume says All Aboard did a phenomenal job for two years (with fantastic achievements), I’m likely to believe you needed to move on to continue growing in your career. That impresses me.

      In early stages of someone’s career, I’m looking for evidence that they are focused on building skills that will be the foundation for their later career. The reason job hopping is an issue is not because there is a problem with changing jobs in and of itself. The reason is that there tends to be a correlation between a pattern of job hopping and a pattern of thinking that overlooks the importance of developing critical skills that generally require a certain time in role to master.

      If more senior people in your industry would say you have mastered your current role, and you can demonstrate this with a good record of achievement, don’t worry too much about two years versus three.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I think you’re fine. It basically looks like 1 year, 3.5 years, 2 years. You’re fine. But at your next job, I would stay for at least 3 years.

    5. BRR*

      It depends on your industry and what the jobs you’re going to be applying for are asking for. Overall I don’t think it looks like job hopping at all. Promotions mostly don’t count as hopping. You can even leave the admin job off your resume if you’re short on room and don’t feel like it adds anything.

  40. Mimmy*

    Any policy analysts in the house?

    I was talking with a couple of colleagues the other day and one woman said she thought policy would be a good avenue for me. Others have made similar suggestions. It’s probably a ways off for me because I’d probably have to go back to school for that (the Law & Policy course I’m in now is heavy on the law side, not much about policy) and I’m still considering other possibilities. So my questions:

    – Typical tasks / projects
    – Skills and characteristics of successful analysts
    – Education

    I recognize that policy is probably a very broad field and that it probably ranges from regulations promulgated by federal agencies (such as the Department of Health & Human Services) all the way down to procedures for determining eligibility for a program at a human services nonprofit.

    I’d probably be most interested the affect of federal or state policies on programs and services for certain populations, e.g. people with disabilities.

    1. anon for this*

      I’m a policy analyst at a nonprofit advocacy organization.

      Projects tend to include writing briefs outlining problems and positions, writing blog posts, and generally trying to make others in the advocacy world and legislators aware of our issues and proposed solutions. Once in a while I talk directly to legislative staff and/or legislators.
      We also have senior policy analysts, who do the things I mentioned plus talk to the media, get interviewed by journalists, write op-eds, etc.
      We’re all also responsible for brainstorming solutions to policy problems.
      We work a LOT with people in other organizations; there’s a lot of coalition work.
      We do some event planning for when we’re hosting meetings, webinars, and conferences.

      Skills:
      Ability to analyze well
      Writing well and quickly
      Managing politics within and between organizations

      Education:
      This really varies by the organization. If you’re in law school, that’s definitely adequate preparation. My boss has a PhD in political science. My education is in a completely different field; my organization is kind of willing to get people up to speed once they start the job.

      1. Mimmy*

        Thank you, this helps!

        I always forget that “policy” is related to “politics” and can entail working with government officials and possibly legislators. That might scare me off. I did meet with my town’s mayor with a volunteer advocacy group; it wasn’t near as intimidating as I’d expected.

        1. Mimmy*

          Forgot to add: I’m not in law school; I’m pursuing a graduate certificate in disability studies; the course I’m taking is an elective. I already have an MSW.

        2. anon for this*

          Well, I’ve only worked directly with legislators a couple times. It’s not that common, and I’m sure there are organizations where it doesn’t happen at all. (I’m in DC, by the way. If you were based in a less politics-focused city, you might never do the political stuff.)

          1. 'Nonymous*

            Forgive me for butting in (and don’t feel obligated to reply), but do you have any advice for an aspiring policy analyst who is DC-based?

            I really want to lobby Congress, and ideally for a non-profit in my field (although I’m not against working for a lobbying firm either), but it seems like all the job listings I’ve looked at want people who already have 5+ years of Hill experience and have established Hill contacts. It feels like I’m in a catch-22 where I can’t get hired without experience and can’t get enough experience where I am now.

            My current entry-level job involves advocacy messaging–primarily drafting action alerts and blog posts, and managing our coalition list-serv, but I also carry-out the google/research tasks of our policy team (comparing bill text when it comes out, analyzing policy changes in the bills, etc.). Are there any skill sets that I should be developing if I want to move up?

            1. anon for this*

              I wish I could help, but I’ve been at this for less than a year myself! I guess we both need to set up some information interviews. :)
              You might be using the term “lobby” loosely, but keep in mind that 501(c)3 nonprofits can’t do much lobbying. They have to have a 501(c)4 set up, which I think most don’t. So saying you want to “lobby Congress…for a non-profit” might be a contradiction in terms, if you mean that you want to spend more than 10% of your time lobbying.

            2. Jean*

              If you’re in the DC area, check out RespectAbility(dot)org. I think they’re hiring for summer interns in policy (and several other areas).

              I have no idea whether experience lobbying local or state-level elected officials can help you get hired on the Hill, but Annapolis (capitol of Maryland) is close to DC, and there are lots of MD & VA counties in which special needs activists have been advocating with Boards of Education.

              Reply to my comment if you want me to give you an offline email address. I’m no expert but I’ve been around activist special needs/special ed parents for several years.

            3. Laura*

              I’m in DC, and started out as a policy analyst, and worked my way from that to lobbying (internal move in my org when a junior lobbying position opened up–since they knew me and trusted my work and knew I was a good cultural fit, I was able to skip the customary “Hill experience required” crap). I’ve since worked my way up after changing orgs to running the entire federal shop of a fairly large association. So it’s possible without Hill experience! My one advantage is that I came to DC to the policy analyst position as a subjet matter expert (for something technical).

              I’d say your current role is a great start. Drafting action alerts that I presume summarize your policy positions is a valuable skill, and were I hiring, I would recognize as “counting”. As of course is the policy analysis you’re doing on bill text, etc. I’d say as a next step, if there’s any way you can start covering external briefings or coalition meetings (volunteer when staffing is short, or others who normally go have conflicts, etc), even if just to take notes, you’ll be able to start developing external relationships in your organization’s industry. That can help with networking and eventually possible lead to some Hill contacts. Before I moved to DC, I hated the idea of networking, and was sort of baffled by it. But the nice thing about this being such a relationship-driven town is that it’s really, really easy to network. No one will bat an eye at being asked for their card, most folks will take you up on a request to have coffee, where you can pick their brains, ask for advice (they will likely be flattered), and build your network. Heck, you might even make some new friends.

              So yeah, all those things. And really, even if there are no briefings that need coverage, start looking for them related to your org’s subject areas, and see if you can go. If it’s an 8 am one where you can go before work hours, then all the better, no need to ask anyone. DC has tons of briefings, whether on the Hill or at a think tank, so it’s a good way to meet more people (go early if there’s coffee or snacks, and network). Good luck!

            4. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Honestly, that’s a job you won’t get early in your career (at least for anything other than a tiny organization). To lobby well, you’ve got to have some degree of gravitas and most people don’t have it a few years out of school. Five years experience is when you’re just maybe beginning to have it, and for many people it takes longer. So don’t get discouraged by the job listings you’re seeing — just use this time to do work that helps to build your understanding of congressional politics, how legislation works, and how policy advocacy works, as well as — just like others have said — your network of hill contacts. Then you’ll be really well positioned when it is a more appropriate time to start going for those jobs.

            5. EW*

              Another DC-based policy analyst here! To Mimmy’s original question, I’ve found that people in this field have a pretty wide range of backgrounds. Masters and/or PhDs are common (especially in econ), but I also know several people with backgrounds in law, social work, direct service, etc. So I wouldn’t assume that you have to go back to school for this.

              I’m currently working in the policy department of a large federal agency, but previously worked as a policy analyst at a small nonprofit/think-tank. (And I’m considering a public policy master’s degree, but currently am doing pretty well with just a BA.) My area of focus overlaps some with disability policy, so it sounds fairly close to what Mimmy is interested in. A few other disability-related organizations to check out: National Academy of Social Insurance (offers paid internships including in disability policy), The Arc, and the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities; and both of those last two are coalitions so you could also look at their lists of member organizations.

              “Anon for this” described the tasks/skills of policy analysts really well. Basically, you want to develop a deep expertise in your given area so you are extremely well versed in the issues, the problems that need to be solved, the potential solutions, their pros/cons, who and which organizations take different stands on them, etc. Then it’s a lot of reading, writing, staying current on the issue, developing or fine-tuning proposed solutions, analyzing their effects, finding new & different ways to describe your (or your organization’s) position and cite facts to back it up. And then – very critically – disseminating that info, whether through writing or events or speaking to the media or becoming a go-to resource for other researchers/advocates/legislative staff. Also, depending on the organization, if you’re in a nonprofit you’re likely to work on a lot of grant proposals and grant reports. At its most basic level, that comes down to making a convincing pitch for why your issue and your work on it are important.

              I did a good bit of working with legislators (in my prior job), but not “lobbying” per se – as many here have explained, it’s not all the same. To a large degree it depends on your particular organization or company. Mine was nonprofit so we weren’t lobbying or even advocating, so much as sharing the facts and helping educate people on our issues. There’s a very fine line between education and advocacy, and probably a fine line as well between advocacy and lobbying.

              ‘Nonymous, your current job sounds like a great springboard for this! Writing blog posts, helping manage a coalition, and researching bills are all important and very relevant tasks. Other things to consider: if possible, see if the other researchers or writers on your team will let you work with them on a publication (a policy brief or report), especially if you can get your name on it as a co-author. Or make a pitch to turn a blog post that you wrote into a short publication. Also, networking! Becoming familiar with the major players in your field is huge: organizations, people, coalitions, etc. – and what types of ideas they typically propose. If you can do any public speaking or presentations, that’s great experience too.

  41. Bowserkitty*

    The woman who decided/announced my layoff (along with the several dozen others last year) was either fired or let go herself yesterday.

    There’s something ironic about this but I’m so happy where I am now and I had a lot of respect for the woman. It’s jarring that somebody with her CXO title could be let go, however.

  42. Sydney Bristow*

    I need advice for dealing with a semi-direct report that I don’t like. He’s been with my company a little over a year and has worked with me about half the time. In summary, I find him insincere and I don’t respect him, but his work is good. At various points throughout his time here, he has told me in a totally insincere way that he wants to do “whatever it is that I’ve done to be so successful,” actively undermined me (and when I discussed it with him, he said he was very stressed and started crying), and lied about various things that aren’t important enough to merit a serious discussion or PIP, but which are enough for me to lose respect for him.

    When we have scheduled meetings, I can usually prepare myself to have a poker face, but I’m concerned that my dislike is showing in our unscheduled interactions. I’m also concerned that I’m evaluating his performance too harshly because of my dislike. Overall, as I mentioned, his work is good, and he will likely be reporting to me for the foreseeable future. So–any advice or tactics that I can employ to try to become more neutral to him?

    1. The Bread Burglar*

      If its enough for you to lose respect for him, then it should be enough to warrant a discussion. Ideally I would have brought it up with him at the time. Or in the future if he lies about various things then I would raise it at the time. It might not be worthy of a PIP but several are. Plus in the moment saying “Freddie, you said that we were at y with this project but we are actually still at x. I am sure you didn’t mean to lie but as your manager I need to know where the projects are specifically even if that means telling me its behind schedule, etc.” Whatever he is lying about.

    2. Cristina in England*

      I feel like past AAM OPs have asked similar questions that also boil down to “this employee violates the social contract and/or is unethical but has some basic competence so I feel like I have to give them a pass on a technicality”. No. You’re right to dislike him and you’re right to have that colour your view of him professionally. Lying and undermining can surely fit into a professional evaluation somewhere along with positive professional interactions, courtesy, and integrity.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Not real advice I am afraid, but I have found that no matter how neutral I have been the behaviors got worse. If this does happen (maybe it won’t) don’t be second guessing yourself. If you catch yourself thinking “gee, this is getting worse” you are probably right.

      Focus on the work itself. This has helped me a lot even with coworkers. Years ago, I worked with a woman who was the total opposite of me, like day and night. We were so opposite that when we sat down to break there was nothing to talk about. But we worked okay together, the boss said he could put the two of us on, or he could bring in four people. We both agreed to focus on the work and we agreed that it was important for the other person to have a job/income. That was the best we could do.

      Next step. We develop personal opinions of the people we work with. That is just human nature. Sometimes you can make yourself use an evidenced based approach and that might help you to remain objective. If you don’t see hard evidence of a possible problem then let it go. I have also asked myself if one of my fav people did this, would I get ticked?
      By the way, some of the group told my boss that they KNEW for a fact I did not have favorites in the group. Of course, I had favorites, but I constantly asked myself, “I want to tell Bob x or tell Jane y, would I talk to everyone in the group this way?” I found that I could be candid, but I was careful about how I expressed my concerns. I made sure I was explaining things where necessary.

      It sounds like he is lying to you in casual conversation, not work conversation. If this is the case the next time you find proof of his lying, you could say something like, “You know, Bob, you told me that you wanted to do whatever I have done to be successful. One thing that is really important is integrity. This means in non-business conversations as well as work conversations. People pick up on little discrepancies as we speak. If they find too many they begin to wonder about our integrity. And in turn, they begin to wonder about us as professionals. Little discrepancies can erode our reputations as professionals over time. This is something that we have to make sure we are not doing if we want to be successful.”

  43. ThatGirl*

    My annoyance for the week: a co-worker dumped a bunch of work on my team, which is fine, it’s the sort of thing we’re supposed to do but we’re doing an extra step to help take a load off him, basically. Except then he’s called in sick the last two days (looks like today too) so we can’t quite finish all of it because we need him to answer some questions. The list of questions has now gotten quite long.

    (I know he can’t help it if he’s really sick, it’s just irritating.)

    1. Laura*

      That’s so tough. One of my coworkers has been out for weeks (today I found out that she has some kind of autoimmune disease). Her work has been distributed among various staff, but it’s really hard to pick up projects that she’s been personally involved with.

  44. SaraV*

    Anyone else loathe the day you see the pop-up “Your password will expire in x days. Would you like to change your password now?”

    No, it feels like my fingers JUST got the “muscle memory” down to put in my password without really thinking, and now you want me to come up with a new one that fits your crazy parameters?

    *sigh*

    1. LQ*

      I always aim to change on a Monday. And I have a strategy for making sure it fits in the parameters so I don’t have to flail around at what was the password now… I go…oh it’s April that means my password structure is blahblahblah….

    2. Lore*

      Yes! Especially since we start getting the warnings two weeks before the password expires, and it was only good for three months to begin with, and they’ve gone from “you cannot repeat any of your last six passwords” to eight and now twelve.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Urgh, yes. I use a sandwich method, where the first and last parts of the password stay the same and the center part changes, and I cycle through something memorable, like characters from a show or sports teams. Not sure if it would work with your system, but it’s my workaround for the muscle memory issue!

    4. Tennessee*

      Oh, wow, yes. I HATE having to change my password, just after I’ve gotten down to muscle memory. We get 3 reminders during about 6 weeks before we get locked out and I never change until that 3rd reminder.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Ours change every 3 months. And at 2 months, we get a reminder every single day.

        I do know other people who use the season (like, PassWordFall2016) and change just the season. Makes it easy to remember what changes.

    5. Anonymous Educator*

      I think it depends on how often it comes up. If you’re in an organization that forces you to change your password every 30 or 90 days, yes, that’s really annoying. Once or twice a year, though, nope—not annoying.

    6. Kelly L.*

      Yes! I’m running out of things I can remember without thinking! LOL. At least I’ve finally been here long enough that I think I can start recycling them.

    7. Total Rando*

      This literally popped up this morning. I’ve got 14 days and I intend to use as many of them as possible…

    8. Sarah Nicole*

      Yes, I’m currently putting off one of these at the moment. I think I have until next Friday, which means I might complain about it on next Friday’s thread as well. Lol