open thread – May 20-21, 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 :)

{ 1,301 comments… read them below }

  1. TCO*

    I went to one of my managers yesterday asking for advice about how to better work with one of my other managers, Roberto, who just doesn’t follow through on assignments or requests. She told me, “Getting things done is not Roberto’s strong point. The best thing you can do is to make sure he doesn’t take any assignments or expect him to actually do any work.”

    How is this man allowed to be the highest-paid, highest-ranking manager on our team?! (A department where the rest of us are constantly busy and usually over capacity, no less.)

        1. WTF seriously?*

          I’m wondering this exact thing about a co-worker. They can’t even complete simple tasks without a multitude of errors. Management was told to deal with the situation. How is management doing that? By double checking everything co-worker does. It baffles me how people like this can keep a job for any extended period of time! I just don’t get it.

      1. TCO*

        Ha, it’s “building relationships.” Which he’s good at, yes, but so are a lot of other people here who also manage to complete real work. I’d happily take his salary to shake hands and take people out to lunch.

        1. Argh!*

          I think some workplaces need a designated Joker or class clown. Someone who goes from area to area cracking jokes and making people smile does indeed improve morale for everyone except the coworker who picks up the slack. Just make Morale Manager a title or something. Then if they quit you can hire someone just as fun.

    1. Anon Today*

      Heh – I had a similar question, except the manager in question is my manager. I keep finding myself torn between just taking over everything that is his responsibility so it gets done, and not taking on that kind of job without his kind of paycheck.

      1. KathyGeiss*

        It’s painful but I always think it’s better not to cover for these sorts of people. The more you can make it visible that this person isn’t doing their job, the better. But cover yourself as much as possible with documentation. E.g. I requested info X from Person on Date. I needed that to complete project y but as I have yet to receive it, the project has not been completed.

    2. GOG11*

      I can’t answer that, but I would suggest approaching it from the standpoint of how it affects you. Something like: “It’s my understanding that Roberto handles X and Y, but I’m having trouble getting him to respond or fulfill requests by [deadline], which is causing [hold up, late delivery to client, whatever the problem is]. How would you like me to proceed so that X and Y get done without [problem] happening?”

        1. TCO*

          Yep, doing it myself is pretty much the solution (which my other manager confirmed). Unfortunately for the particular tasks we work on together, it’s tough to make him look bad because our higher-ups will still blame me for allowing him to fail. It’s “my job” to keep projects moving forward and no excuses are tolerated… except apparently from him.

          Yes, I realize that this isn’t normal or functional.

            1. Jack the Treacle Eater*

              I wish there was an option to ‘like’ posts. I’d use it rarely, but this one so deserves it.

        2. GOG11*

          Yeah, you’re probably right. Now that I think on it more, a similar situation was handled where I work with that and “we’re just waiting for Roberto to retire.”

    3. Susan*

      In my organization, they have a “Promote Ignorance” policy. If you’re not good at your job, you get a promotion to a supervisory position so you no longer have to do any work.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        That’s how it was when I worked at Evil Law Firm. There were very few competent and intelligent people in management.

    4. AF*

      LOL – are you sure you’re not one of my coworkers? (I’m just kidding – I can tell you’re not. But, yeah, it’s funny/terrible that your manager actually said that out loud, in what appears to be a totally matter-of-fact tone.)

    5. Argh!*

      I experienced the same thing. A coworker who is overly perfectionistic and has a hard time making decisions (I suspect Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder) and I asked my boss to go to bat for me to get things done more quickly. It was starting to affect my workflow. She just said “We just have to deal with the personality…”

      I’m like, yeah, her supervisor should deal with the personality by giving her deadlines & quotas, sending her to training in time management, etc. Just waiting for stuff because of a “personality” doesn’t seem like a good managerial decision.

  2. Adam*

    Question for computer programmers/web developers out there. I’ve been thinking of taking some courses to learn a bit of programming to expand my skillset. I keep seeing advertisments for coding bootcamps on places like Facebook and career sites. I’m curious if:

    1. Are any of these bootcamps any good and provide quality applicable instruction?

    2. How do employers see these sorts of programs? Do they consider it a valid means of learning skills or do they look more like the for-profit shark schools everyone raises an eyebrow at?

    1. Temperance*

      My husband is a developer and does hiring, and these programs are not well-regarded. You would do better off to teach yourself and develop a killer portfolio.

      These programs are pitched at people who want to break into the industry but aren’t techy.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Huh. I’m not in this field, but I thought this had come up before on here the consensus was that (some of) the bootcamps were well regarded and were effective at placing people in jobs.

        1. Artemesia*

          I know several people who moved from short order cook and retail clerk into pretty well paying software jobs straight from these bootcamps. I would want to know their placement record and do due diligence, but it sure has worked for lots of people who started with zip doodle and emerged with skills sufficient to get pretty good jobs.

          1. ChrisF*

            I work at a tech startup, and we have a relationship with a bootcamp here in our city that’s gotten us several great entry-level hires!

          2. Honeybee*

            I work in tech and I know some folks who moved from unrelated fields/degrees into software development through the bootcamps, too.

      2. Karo*

        I think it depends – my husband is also a developer who does hiring and he cannot speak highly enough of places like The Iron Yard.

      3. Connie-Lynne*

        We have about five great hires at our office from one boot camp, and there are several well-regarded ones in our city.

        The deal is to make the most of your bootcsmp’s partners during hiring events. Those are the companies that value this sort of training.

        There’s no industrywide stigma against them, but there is definitely polarization of opinion. Some hiring managers will think like Temperance’s husband, some won’t, so be sure to have a great portfolio and try only to interview at places that value bootcamps.

    2. CeeCee*

      I’ve been learning to code on CodeAcademy. (It was recommended to me by a friend who writes software professionally.) You can use a lot of the services for free or you can pay for a course that includes assessments and projects. From what I understand, after that you can set up a portfolio of your own projects on sites like GitHub.

      While it doesn’t provide you with any kind of formal certifications, I’m finding it to be great learning tool. (And I’m hoping that a portfolio that shows my programming skills will be helpful in my career switch.)

      1. CARen*

        +1 to CodeAcademy. My husband is a software developer and his understanding is that it’s not so much about what your credentials are but more about what you can actually do. CodeAcademy is high quality.

        1. Silver Radicand*

          My roommate is a Web Programmer and I concur. It is about what you can do rather than credentials. CodeAcademy is great and bootcamps *can* be a good way to learn. It is all about how much you apply yourself to actually learn rather than the credential itself.

        2. my two cents*

          Codecademy is how I learned Python at OldJob. It’s seriously fantastic, and they’re constantly adding new tutorials to their COMPLETELY FREE site.

      2. Honeybee*

        CodeAcademy was going to be my recommendation, too; I’m teaching myself Python using it.

    3. Anna No Mouse*

      My husband is a programmer, and is more or less self-taught. There are a lot of places online that will help you learn for free, and TONS of open-source places for you to practice once you’ve learned the basics. The best advice I can give is to learn a language or languages that would be most useful to you in your job. No need to study C++ or Java or Ruby if all you really need is some HTML.

    4. Tau*

      I got into programming through a different angle, so I cannot, alas, say much about bootcamps. However, some thoughts:

      – Although you can teach yourself a lot with programming, there are parts where it’s really hard to do so effectively – a la programming standards and conventions. The way I see this is that before I went through training at my job, I was sure that given enough time and Google I’d be able to cobble together a solution to most small-scale programming problems you set me – however, I’d have no way to ensure that this solution wouldn’t make other developers who saw it run screaming. That sort of “what’s standard convention? how do I make my code easy for other people/me in two months’ time to handle?” was something I don’t think I could have learned without someone who sat down with me and went through my code going “see, if you’d written this XYZ instead, it’d be much easier to understand.” So I have to admit that I’m a little dubious of the “teach yourself everything and develop a portfolio” advice. I don’t know if bootcamps offer this sort of tutoring, but it’s worth looking for.

      – It may be worth looking into contributing to open-source projects to build up your programming resume in addition to working on your own projects. This has the advantage that you get to see other people’s code, helping with that picking up conventions thing. It also has the advantage that you get some more experience of bug-fixing, getting familiar with and editing a large-scale codebase, using source control, and a lot of other things you’d have to deal with as a professional programmer. Less entry-level programmers may want to chime in, but I was told in my job search that open source contributions are a thing that hiring managers very much like seeing on your resume.

      – In general, in programming it’s the skills that count – and those skills are a lot more easily verifiable than in other professions. As a result, I think a bootcamp with a bad reputation is less likely to be the sort of blemish on your resume that e.g. a for-profit shark school is – even if you do end up going to one, I think it’ll be relatively easy to make up for that via a great portfolio, lots of open source contributions, etc. that make clear you do know your stuff despite the place you originally learned it. Disclaimer of course here being that IANAHM (I Am Not A Hiring Manager). :)

      I hope that helps!

      1. LabTech*

        These are things I’ve been wondering too, as I take on progressively more sophisticated programming projects. Between what I’ve read in “C++ for Dummies,” (which thankfully does talk about programming conventions, not just how to code) and what I’ve heard from professionals, there are a lot of improvements I need to make: using descriptive variable names that follow conventions, sufficient commenting, making functions instead of copying/pasting the same snippets of code in multiple places, and how to best divvy up the program into the different functions to structure the program.

        These are all things I have questions about, but would require serious training or formal education to get do right. And that’s ignoring nuts-and-bolts things like writing code efficiently, knowing the language well and having experience on efficient algorithms for a given type of problem.

    5. Dan*

      So… the reality is that you don’t need a BS/BA to be a software engineer. (I mean, a company might require it, but you don’t “know less” because you don’t have one.)

      To reiterate a point others have made (albeit a bit differently) is that software engineering is a lot like creative fields in that your portfolio sells you. You can have the greatest pedigree on the face of this planet, but if you can’t *do* anything, you’re sunk. These days, some sort of mobile app on the iStore/Google Play will get attention. Contributing to open source projects or even putting your code online is a way to present a portfolio.

      It’s about what you can do. How you do it is up to you. That is, the fact you went to a boot camp means nothing to me as a credential, but if that’s how you chose to get the skills to develop that killer app you showed me during an interview, then so be it, I’m not going to judge you for it.

      1. Honeybee*

        This is what I keep telling my students! I teach high schoolers in a college access program and a good number of them want to major in computer science; they just feel like they can wave a BS in computer science in someone’s face and instantly get a $100K career. Half of them don’t even like math that much. I’m like “If you don’t enjoy coding in your spare time and aren’t prepared to build some kind of app or something on the side to show…you won’t get a job.”

    6. Jaguar*

      I’ve never gone through a bootcamp or dealt with them in any real way, but they tend to boast significant hiring rates. As you’ve seen from some of the comments already, there are some biases against bootcamps from hiring managers, but there’s also biases against self-taught (as opposed to University-educated) programmers, and I’d imagine it’s nearly a 1-to-1 overlap between the two. So, if you don’t have a bachelors in computer science, you’re probably going to be rejected by the snobs that wouldn’t hire a bootcamp graduate anyway.

      One thing that I would point out, however, is if you’re just testing the waters, or if you don’t know what type of programming you want to do, jumping into a bootcamp might not be a great idea. One of the dirty secrets of these programs is that while they’re built for people with no programming experience, they often send you pre-qualifying homework on what you should learn before starting and give preference to people who already have some experience (which helps them bolster their main selling point: high job placement). Moreover, most (all?) of them teach you Ruby on Rails, which is probably the best framework out there to rapidly develop web content, but is also the biggest and most all-consuming framework out there as well, meaning that you will be learning how to program in Rails, not in natural web formats (PHP, SQL, Node.js, etc.). There’s a gulf between what you do and what gets run, and if you have a problem in that gulf, it can be extremely hard to debug. If you’re someone who has to understand exactly what’s going on in order to be comfortable (an excellent trait for a programmer), Rails can be an extremely frustrating first language.

      That said, if you’re not in career-change-right-now mode and just want to get a feel for things, two excellent resources are the already-mentioned Codecademy and FreeCodeCamp. Codecademy is terrific for introducing you to the concepts (specifically, their HTML/CSS, jQuery, and especially their JavaScript programs – PHP, Python, and Ruby can be a mixed bag, as can their more recent and intensive stuff like Rails, Angular, etc.). One way Codecademy tends to fall down, however, is that their system isn’t set up to let you do everything a language should, so there can often be huge, important chunks of technologies left out (i.e., their PHP course doesn’t cover any SQL at all, which is like teaching people how to cook without using kitchen utensils). FreeCodeCamp, however, is very comprehensive and will get you to the point of being a very-hirable Node.js developer. However, its drawbacks are that it is extremely time-intensive (they claim things like 400-800 hours work per block, and there are about four blocks, if I remember correctly) and, being that it’s an entirely open-source project, the course content changes frequently and sometimes radically (i.e., they outright dropped Angular in favour of React around Christmas).

      Happy to answer more questions if you want!

      1. Adam*

        That you everyone! This has been helpful. I currently know some HTML that I use in my current job and I enjoy doing it. I’d like to broaden my knowledge base to see what appeals to me but am not sure what the best place to start is. Codeacademy and Freecodecamp sound like good places. Do you have any books you could recommend as well?

        If I do end up picking something up and enjoying it I could myself moving to a career that employs it, but I’d say that’s probably a couple years down the line. Definitely not a crash course situation.

        1. Jaguar*

          Well, if you’re giving yourself two years (and are sticking with web development as opposed to cellphone apps or enterprise-level development), FreeCodeCamp might be the best option. You can choose your own pace and it’s significantly more comprehensive than Codecademy. Most importantly, it will actually challenge you to solve problems while Codecademy mostly just introduces you to the concepts and syntax.

          There are books I could recommend (the JumpStart series tends to be pretty good and the Manning publications are usually really cutting edge and cover a broad array of topics), but I would also caution against using books to learn. For me, and from most people I’ve heard from, the best way to learn programming is to pick a project you want to make and then start filling in your gaps with Google, Stack Exchange, chat rooms, blogs, etc. as needed. Second-best to that (and less intimidating) are video tutorials, particularly (but there’s a lot of good free stuff on YouTube as well). Programming is so technical that you really need to see something happen before you, either by doing it yourself or seeing someone else do it. Books can’t really provide that, and they tend to be extremely frustrating for people trying to learn a new language.

          1. Adam*

            Thank you. I’ll look into these. I actually took an introductory programming course in college that focused on Java (circa 2003-ish) and I didn’t do so well in the class, but I think that was a culmination of a lot of things. I was going through a tough time personally and this material was all completely new to me, and I found out later that my professor was rather infamous on campus for being an amazing programmer but not an especially great teacher. And the work was primarily book based so it was kind of perfect storm against my GPA.

            1. Jaguar*

              Java can be a little better to learn out of a book because its syntax is so rigid and the language evolves so slowly, but if you want to learn the stuff that people are hiring now* and in the future* (Python, Rails, Node.js), a book from two years ago is probably badly out of date.

              * Making predictions like this always sucks. Java is still probably the most-sought-after back-end web language despite people predicting its demise for over a decade now. That said, Python and Node.js are gaining a lot of traction with major companies and Rails is a popular option for less-major companies. It’s also worth mentioning that, while programmers like me who don’t use it tend to be loathe to mention it, in the corporate world, the .NET/ASP/C#/SQL Server technology stack is massive, and you have extremely good employability if you learn it. But like Java, it’s a slow-moving technology stack, it’s Microsoft, and it’s only really used in the corporate world (but is it ever used!)

    7. Security SemiPro*

      Where I work, we haven’t had a successful bootcamp candidate yet. About a third of the technical staff is self taught more than University taught though, and we do look closely at open source or publicly available portfolio work. (the open source work for hiring has some less than awesome implications for women and minorities, but my company is not alone in sucking at that and my particular department is actually doing pretty well and has other maneuvers to keep our team diverse. One of those being that we don’t require opens source contributions, but we will look at them.)

      I’m looking forward to when there are some bootcamps that work well for their students, but right now, for my world, bootcamps are seen as sharks taking advantage of the overly hopeful.

    8. moss*

      Here’s the part where I put in a mention of SAS programming for anyone looking to get into programming. It’s very very in-demand right now and probably always will be (doesn’t go obsolete like language-of-the-month will). Not sure the best way to learn it but you could probably take a statistics class at your local community college and get some exposure to it. I work in pharma and full time, work from home, highly paid jobs are thick on the ground. We need more programmers, real bad! Statisticians (master’s in statistics or biostatistics) are even more sought-after, especially if you’re willing to get your hands dirty and do some programming.

      I know I sound this gong all the time and I apologize to the regulars who have read this before! But it’s a great great field to get into.

      1. Honeybee*

        The one big downside to learning SAS is that it’s expensive, so you almost have to take a class in it at a university or something because you need to take it somewhere that has access to the software. You also need to have a pretty decent grasp of statistics before you start learning SAS. You won’t be building websites in it; you’ll be manipulating and analyzing data, and probably very large datasets at companies that hire dedicated SAS programmers (as opposed to letting their statisticians do it). You kind of have to know about data and statistical analysis first (or at least be learning it concurrently).

        I think the best way to learn it is to probably take some statistics classes that teach it in SAS. Biostatistics classes are the most likely to teach their classes using SAS; most mathematical statistics departments are using R these days. (R is also a great skill to learn, but I’ve never seen companies hire R programmers the way they hire SAS programmers.) Some departments do offer a 1-credit seminar that specifically focuses on teaching you SAS.

        That said, it IS a very in-demand skill, and if you like working with numbers and data but aren’t so much interested in building apps and websites it could be a good thing to learn. Also, programming in SAS is actually a lot like computer programming, language-wise. I am teaching myself Python and I was struck by the similarities.

      2. Preux*

        My bachelor’s is in economics with a concentration in statistics. I learned how to use SPSS and a bit of R in school – mostly self-taught, I used them to analyze survey data as part of an extracurricular project. I also taught another student some parts of SPSS (data entry mostly) so she could help me out. I’m also self-taught in the basics of a couple of coding languages (ruby, Python). Would that be a good jumping off point if I found a company willing to give me some training in SAS or should I look into a way to learn the program before I try to apply anywhere? If I were to be hypothetically interested in this as a career…

    9. Student*

      People act like “coding” is some big scary thing. It’s not. It’s like writing. Sure, writing a best-selling novel is really hard. But anyone can write a short comment, a quick greeting card, a blog post – anyone can write a simple program. Just pick some project to start out with that’s more like a greeting card and less like the Next Great American Novel. Soon, you’ll get to “blog post” level coding, and move on to “short papers”, and up from there if you stick with it.

      1. Adam*

        This quite possibly the most encouraging comment I’ve ever received in regards to this endeavor. Thanks! :)

      2. Windchime*

        I totally agree. I write SQL and C# code for a living and it’s just like anything else; a skill that can be learned. And there is honestly very little math involved unless you’re working in financial analysis, at least in my experience. What is needed is the patience to work through learning the concepts and the idiosyncrasies of the syntax of your particular language.

    10. Grapey*

      My employer encourages us to take Coursera courses (which are generally free, unless you pay to get a certification) to enhance the skills we have, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to get a foot in the door.

      I find them extraordinarily useful when it comes to helping me do the work I already know how to do.

  3. Down And Out Anon*

    Between getting rejected from the opening where I was one of three finalists and finding out a co-worker hired around the same time as me has moved on (and not even getting the work she did that I actually wanted to do), I’m feeling very disheartened and left behind this week in the job search front. How do you pick yourself up and throw yourself back into the search?

    (I know I’ll shake off the discouraged feelings quickly, could just use some kind words from people in similar situations right now… Thanks for indulging me.)

    1. Down the road*

      It is disheartening when life seems to be handing you roadblocks, but sometimes those roadblocks keep you open for opportunities that are just around the corner. Be patient… and watch for signs that are pointing you in new directions. Best wishes!

    2. Mint Julips*

      Oh..Down and Out…I’ve been in that boat for as long as I remember. I think the best thing you can do is not take any of this personally (although it seems pretty damn personal). Take some time to dwell, give yourself a target date to move on. Like…I’m taking this weekend to be really bummed and come Monday shrug it off and move on. This is not a forever thing and likely things will turn themselves around. You cannot control what has already happened and most likely cannot change it either but you can control how much and h0w long you want to dwell on it. Good luck!

    3. the.kat*

      You take care of yourself.

      When I thought I couldn’t take another day at my last job, I brought things I liked to work with me, mostly glitter gel pens. I left the building every day at lunch whether I was eating out or not and I reminded myself that my value wasn’t attached solely to my job or my job seeking status.

      Eat good food, drink good wine and do things that make you feel good.

        1. the.kat*

          They kept me from quitting my job! I had to come back every day. Couldn’t leave a gel pen behind.

    4. EmilyG*

      I was interviewed for and didn’t get two promising jobs a few years ago and it really got me down, particularly because there aren’t too many jobs in my line of work so it wasn’t like I could just turn around and apply for something else the next week. I did normal self-care stuff, bided my time, and eventually got my dream job! In retrospect, I realize I couldn’t have applied for it if I had just recently changed jobs for one of those others. Take care of yourself, and maybe the right thing for you is coming along soon.

      1. stellsbells*

        Mr. StellsBells works in a very competitive industry, so when he’s job searching and in this rut, this is basically what I tell him. Just a reminder that maybe he’s not getting hired anywhere because the right job doesn’t have an opening yet!

        Not always true, but it does help to get over the hump!

    5. oldfashionedlovesong*

      Sometimes you just have to give yourself a little time (a LITTLE time!) to, well, “wallow”, isn’t quite the right word, but like, soothe or nurse your hurt feelings, so you can properly move on. I don’t have much free time for my job search since my current terrible job takes up all my energy, so when I get rejected after an interview, as I have a few times in the past year, it really knocks me for a loop. I take some time to take care of myself and do little things that make me happy, and it seems like the other commenters pretty much do the same. I’m currently waiting to see the results of a first interview for a job I really, really want, so there’s a good chance I’ll be taking my own advice soon enough :/ Good luck, be excellent to yourself, and then get back on the horse!

    6. 39281*

      I’m in a similar boat, and it really messed with my head! I took a few weeks off from applying for jobs (still looked, and saved links to ones that looked great so I wouldn’t miss them). And honestly, I feel like this time around is so much less stressful, since I used up so much stress and worry and sadness during the first part of my search. It does get better, and another job will come along eventually. Good luck!

    7. frustrated job seeker*

      I’m in similar position and yeah it sucks. Really what tends to help me is finding other jobs I am excited about to apply for, which perpetuates the cycle but at least gives me something to feel hopeful about for a short while. I did recently hear from a place I interviewed and even though I was not the one hired they said they were so impressed with me that, even though someone else was a better fit, they sent my resume to a smilar organization that was also hiring. Not sure if anything ill come from that but it was nice to get some positive feedback with all the rejections.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Definitely take time to lick the wounds, you have had two losses right in a row. Most people would feel that this is a set back, so what you are feeling is pretty normal. And probably justified.

      As you regroup your thoughts, start thinking about how you could look at the job you have with fresh eyes. Think about how you could beef up what you are doing now AND think about what opportunities are right in front of you. I skip the latter one a lot, there’s an opportunity right under my nose and I am so busy looking OVER THERE somewhere that I have missed it. Decide to commit to looking at what is right in front of you more often. Look at what is going on and see how you can leverage it. Can you learn a new skill? can you solve an on-going problem that has everyone banging their heads against the wall? Can you find a way to meet more people through your job?

      Just because you lost these two good opportunities, is not the same as saying all opportunity has been lost. I am continuously amazed at how many opportunities pop up and how easy it is to overlook them.

    9. Emmy*

      I don’t want to come across as Pollyanna, but when I am very discouraged it sometimes helps me to look at what I have instead of what I don’t. Umm … like “I have unemployment right now and it’s enough.” Or “I’ve got a spiffy cell phone!” (which I don’t, but if I did!) “I’ve got cheesey microwave popcorn and Thor II to watch so I can crush on Loki.” (maybe that’s just me) Sometimes for me it has to be that small as the big bad things are so big and bad, so I tend toward silly. “I’ve got quiet neighbours that are so much better than the last ones!” “I finally remembered to buy lightbulbs!” Also sometimes it helps me to do some small nice thing for someone else.

      Sending you best wishes!

  4. Anon for today*

    Interview Question:

    At any stage in the interview process is it bad form to ask the Hiring Manager what it was about your application materials that made them want to bring you in? Has anyone ever asked you this? I’ve thought about asking this question during an interview as I’m curious what bits of my resume and cover letters are catching people’s attention, but I’ve avoided it for fear that it sounds mostly like a self-serving query. Would it be better until after you’ve been hired on and actually started the job?

    1. ZSD*

      I understand the temptation to ask that, but I definitely wouldn’t do it in an interview. Maybe it’s something you could ask once you’ve been in the job about a month (long enough that you’ll have established yourself as a promising employee, but briefly enough that they still have some memory of your application materials).

    2. Sunflower*

      I think its self-serving and you shouldn’t ask. If there is something somewhat different in your application that is the reason they are bringing you in, they will tell you. I could see getting a confused look and a ‘well it appeared from your resume that you were qualified for the job’ as an answer.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I wouldn’t ask. It seems like fishing for compliments, and it doesn’t really help you decide why you’d want to work there or help them decide why they’d want to hire you.

    4. A Jane*

      No-one has ever asked me this, but I would see it as an irrelevant and a bit of an odd question. It would make me wonder whether you felt you weren’t suitable for the job in some way. I’d assume you’ve applied because you feel your skills are a good fit and therefore have the criteria we were looking for, so why would you ask about this?

      It’s more common to ask if the hiring manager has any concerns about lack of experience in a particular area, hopefully that the candidate has recognised in themselves as a weak area compared to the job spec. I’ve had this question a few times.

    5. BRR*

      I don’t think you should ask at all. There was a similar letter wanting to ask why they were hired (link in a reply). I definitely understand the curiosity but it’s likely to come off poorly.

    6. Down the road*

      Don’t even ask it after you are hired. It sounds like, “Tell me how I am a special snowflake.” The reason they brought you in was because your application materials made you seem like a reasonable match for the position they have open.

    7. voluptuousfire*

      When I asked a recruiter I knew for good questions to ask on interviews, one she mentioned was “what was it about my application that caught your eye?” I don’t recall using it but why not ask? It would certainly answer what the strong points on your resume are.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I actually think it could put the interviewer on the spot. Example – the people in my dept. who do the screening and first-round interviews are the people who know the most about our candidates’ resumes and qualifications. If they get to the final round to meet with my boss, my boss won’t know as much about the actual resume (because she knows the person wouldn’t have gotten to the final round if they weren’t qualified). Her interview is more about testing how the person thinks and processes information. If a candidate were to ask her that question, I think she would feel a little embarrassed because she wouldn’t have looked all that carefully at the resume.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        why not ask?

        I can’t speak for all interviewers, but I’d certainly be put off by the question. It’s not really relevant to the discussion, which is about how good a fit you’d be for the position and how good a fit the position/org. would be for you, not what about your application caught our eyes.

      3. TootsNYC*

        if you were interviewing w/ me, you wouldn’t need to ask it. If it’s something semi-unusual (and not just, You’ve done jobs like this before), I will have mentioned it.

    8. Biff*

      I’d only consider asking this if you are getting questions that are wildly afield of your experience or the job that you thought you were interviewing for. For example, you polish your resume and apply for a Teapot Designer position at Teapots Emporium.

      You go into the interview, and they start asking you about how you would test your designs, and how many teapot prototypes you felt you could test in a day, and what your testing qualifications are. Either they deliberately misrepresented the job (because most Teapot designers don’t want to do Teapot testing) or they are accidentally interviewing you for another position.

      However, I think a better quesstion at this stage would be “When I wrote my resume, cover letter and scheduled the interview, I was under the impression I’d be working as a designer and we’d be viewing and discussing my portfolio today. In my experience, Designers don’t do the kind of testing we’re discussing. Can you tell me if I’ve misunderstood the role?”

    9. Felicia*

      I think it will come across poorly because it’s kind of irrelevant and makes it sound like you think they shouldn’t have brought you in. No one has ever asked me. I could imagine maybe it being asked once you started the job and have been there a few months, but only if it comes up naturally. I think it’s enough to know that your resumes are catching peoples’ attention, because what about your resumes that specifically catches peoples attention doesn’t serve any purpose for the interviewer and probably won’t for you either.

      I have been told in interviews that the interviewer really felt my cover letter illustrated how my experience could translate to this position in a way he wouldn’t have thought of on his own (and that’s a thing that happened in the interview for the job I have now!) but I never asked.

    10. Laura*

      I only felt comfortable asking this question after I’d been in my position for over a month. I’d gotten close with my work partner and she was willing to share how the hiring decision was made. But it would be inappropriate to ask during the hiring process. Don’t do it.

      1. Lily Evans*

        Same for me at my old job, although I didn’t explicitly ask, it came up in conversation with my officemate who I’d gotten pretty close to. It turned out I was the only one they interviewed in person. At the time I thought that was a huge compliment… but now I’ve left and the department is crumbling and in hindsight it’s just another red flag.

    11. Anon for today*

      Thanks everyone! I felt like that was the case which is why I never asked that in an interview, but I wanted to get perspectives from people who actually hire.

    12. Spondee*

      Don’t do it. I had someone ask this during a second round interview, and it was really off-putting. It came off as fishing for compliments and a few interviewers pointed to it as a negative – a sign that the candidate would be high maintenance and need constant validation.

      (We hired her anyway, and while she does excellent work, they were exactly right. She is high maintenance and needs constant praise and validation.)

    13. Security SemiPro*

      I’m fascinated by the answers you’re getting, because more often than not, my team points out to candidates what we found interesting about their materials.

      We’re kinda odd though. Mostly in good ways, but sometimes in less good ones.

      1. hbc*

        I’m with you. I’ve been told explicitly what oddball thing made them select me, and I’ve also been asked. That guy still works for me, and he’s great. It’s pretty much the equivalent of the interviewer asking why you applied to the job posting, and that seems legitimate.

        It seems like a useful thing to share. I wouldn’t ask it early, but towards the end, if you’re genuinely curious and not just looking for compliments, I don’t find it strange at all.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        But that’s totally different if you bring it up as an interviewer than for the interviewee to ask for it.

        “We were interested in bringing in you in because we saw ________ on your résumé” is normal for an interviewer to say.

        “What stood out to you about my application?” is not normal for an interviewee to ask, though.

    14. AFT123*

      The only time I’d think this was appropriate to ask is if you’re brought in to an interview and you learn the job itself relies very heavily on a skill that you don’t have, that wasn’t made clear in the application process, and that you’re “called out” on for lack of experience. Example – I was in a tech support role, and I applied for another tech support role that looked pretty similar to what I was currently doing. When I went to the interview, I was told that 80% of the job was server configuration and maintenance, and that they were concerned that I didn’t have any experience, and wanted to know why I thought I was a good fit. I countered and said something like “based on the application materials, my skills align very well with the description, which didn’t mention server config. I’m a fast learner and I’m sure I’d pick it up in no time, however; as I have no experience in that area, let me ask you – what is it about my job history that prompted you to call me in for an interview?” I don’t remember what he said but it didn’t seem to throw him for a loop, he didn’t seem to care that he hadn’t read my resume and had sort of been called out on it.

      I was ticked off already because he was 45 minutes late to the interview and I didn’t care if I got it or not, and that was the best interview I’ve ever done. I was an absolute rockstar. I got a call back for this job that I was lacking 80% of the qualification for, and I smugly declined. Then he asked if I’d be interested in sales instead, lol. I also declined, but lo and behold 5 years later, I’m in IT sales! Go figure :)

    15. Honeybee*

      The closest I got to this before I was hired was asking what specific skills they were looking for in their hire – I asked two questions, one that was like that and another that was something like “What would separate a great new employee from a good one?”

      Otherwise, no, I just asked this after I was hired. In my case, I had the background they wanted but I had two very specific skills that my team really wanted and that are relatively difficult to find in the pool of applicants who apply for this type of position, and I also had a bit of internship experience in the specific industry I was applying in, which is unusual for junior hires in my field.

  5. NotASalesperson*

    For those of you who have taken FMLA or other leave for mental health issues, what issues have you run into with your employment, if any? How did you explain the situation to your employer?

    I’m considering taking FMLA (yes, I’m eligible based on the criteria) to begin the process of figuring out some mental health issues and am interested in hearing what others have experienced.

    1. Anon Today*

      I didn’t take FMLA, but I did “come out” to my boss with my mental health issues when I had a crisis, took a few unplanned days off to figure out a treatment plan, and worked with her to adjust my workload and responsibilities in the short/medium-term.

      It was both terrific and terrible. Terrific because in the short-term she was kind and accommodating. I got everything I needed to get well again. Terrible because it absolutely changed her opinion of me, and it pretty directly led to us jointly deciding that I should look for a new job.

      1. Duncan*

        Under FMLA, you don’t have to provide the specific medical information. The certification form should only ask for the facts to support that it is a Serious Health Condition. I would just tell your employer that you will be needing medical leave and ask how you begin the FMLA process. You are supposed to provide 30 days notice or as much as possible, and you can take continuous or intermittent leave. My employer outsources the processing of the leave to a third party, so my boss would not know anything specific unless I chose to tell him.

        1. NotASalesperson*

          I went to HR and asked what the process would be so I could get things moving. I am hoping to give 6-8 weeks notice of my FMLA leave so my team has time to adjust and reallocate resources as needed. It’s good to know that the specific medical information isn’t needed – all I told HR was that it was a “chronic health issue that had resurfaced after a period of being well controlled”, so I’m hoping to keep the details under wraps.

      2. NotASalesperson*

        This is kind of what I’m afraid of. :-/ I think my boss wouldn’t really understand; he places a very high level of importance on being there for the team no matter what, so I am worried that this could be the start of me being pushed out because I haven’t been a stellar employee. But I’m at a point where it’s FMLA or quitting, and I think I’m going to do better in recovery if I know I’m going to have income when I return.

        1. Anon Today*

          You don’t need to reveal as much as I did, so I think you won’t experience the same kind of blowback I did. In any case, it was worth it – I’m in a job that is much better suited to all of who I am, including my mental health.

          1. NotASalesperson*

            That’s really good to hear. I hope the newer job keeps working out well for you!

      3. Not Me*

        Yeah, I had a similar experience to Anon Today. I took a two-week leave for stress/anxiety and, when I was back, told my boss why I had been out. Huge, huge mistake. It totally changed his opinion of me and things have gone steadily downhill since then. There is still a stigma about mental health (as opposed to physical health) so I would never tell anyone at work the reason if I had to leave again for a mental-health related reason.

    2. FMLA Spouse*

      My wife had to take 3 months off for FMLA leave (and at the same time did short term disability). Her immediate coworkers and bosses all were very supportive and understanding. However, the red tape when it came to the corporate side of the business was quite exhausting. She actually wasn’t officially “approved” for the short term disability until after she had come back to work 3 months later. So while we did eventually get paid for all those missed work weeks, we had to live on savings (and my income) until all the paperwork was finished up. One thing that really messed us up was the doctor wrote on the FMLA/disability form that my wife wasn’t allowed to drive, operate machinery or stand for long periods of time all of which are necessary for her job. But, corporate was looking for the phrase “cannot work” and so we had to have the doctor resubmit the forms, which took forever to get reviewed.

      The lesson here is just be aware that when you take FMLA (or disability, etc.), be prepared that things may not move as smoothly as you would expect. Even good, supportive companies like my wife’s end up having delays or unforeseen paperwork that your doctor needs to sign, or you need to scan, etc. As much as you can, try to get all your paperwork in order before you leave the office for FMLA because you probably won’t want the headache once you start your leave.

      Good luck!

      1. Laura*

        Great reminders. Even the most efficient companies will get tied up in paperwork in situations like this.

      2. NotASalesperson*

        Thanks for this heads up. I specifically went to HR and requested information on what documentation would be needed ahead of time so I could make sure everything is filed. I also have a solid savings base as a backup, so that helps a lot.

      3. Semi-nonymous*

        Yes, I posted about this yesterday – at my company, FMLA and STD were entertwined and handled by a 3rd party. The initial paperwork was pretty straightforward (here, have you doctor fill out this form). But my psychiatrist told me it wasn’t quite clear exactly what they were looking for to “prove” I was disabled. And so my short-term disability was technically denied, and I got a lot of follow up paperwork. Also, the office had a policy that you couldn’t just drop off FMLA (or other) paperwork, you had to make an appointment with the doctor to have it filled out, which cost an extra visit fee.

        However, at that time I was in the height of my depression where just getting out of bed daily, getting myself to the doctor and showering regularly was a battle – so I pretty much just ignored that paperwork. Luckily for me, since my employer was self-insured and understanding, they never came back and tried to get back the money (I believe I was being paid at 60% during that STD period?).

        Unfortunately, while I was able to bounce back from the depths of the depression to start taking basic care of myself again while under treatment, I couldn’t put off going back to work forever – and I had serious struggles the whole time I went back to work with getting to work and actually getting work done, and eventually I had to leave that job.

        1. B-Bam*

          That sums up exactly all the problems I’ve seen with a lot of disability coverage (or worker’s comp) for mental health issues. There are so many hoops to jump through at a time when someone is going through a period of time where hoop-jumping is impossible for them. I wish there was a way to make it easier for folks. I work in HR and we try our best to help and advocate for employees going through it all but our hands are tied in many ways.

          1. Semi-nonymous*

            Yeah, it was pretty miserable. If anyone else is considering going down this path, I’d highly recommend you enlist a friend or family member for help – because when I was working at least I had a reason I had to force myself out of bed (for fear of losing my job and therefore health insurance and ability to pay for my meds). When I didn’t have to work, it was too easy to actually sink deeper into the depression at first – so I had to ask my husband to help drag me out, make sure I got to the doctor, and to give my doctor his side of what he was seeing so I didn’t downplay the reality to the doctor.

            1. Aella*

              Yep. I had a friend who wrote lists, and sent me to my doctor’s appointments, though I also had a very sympathetic set of GPs, who were completely willing to sign me off work.

    3. anonnymoose*

      I took leave under the FMLA last fall. I informed my HR department as soon as I was able and they emailed me (personal email & work) with forms to fill out and send back. I had to forward them to my boss as well, but there was no need to write why, just tick the boxes for “medical treatment for self”. I also needed a doctor’s note that laid out the dates that I would be out, which I got from my psychiatrist. I ended up getting 2-3 weeks, which I really needed, even though my treatment was only about a week. My boss didn’t ask and nobody at work brought it up when I returned, so I assume he just told the team that I had to take time off for a medical issue.

      1. NotASalesperson*

        This sounds like exactly what I’m looking for, and it’s reassuring to know that it’s possible to make this happen. It sounds like I need to ask my doctor for a note saying how long I’ll be out and that I’ll be unable to work for that period, but the actual medical issues don’t need to be disclosed, which is really ideal for me.

        1. Jersey's mom*

          Just remember to tell anyone at work (including HR) that this is a medical issue, you expect to “get it taken care of” and be back to work as soon as the doctor gives you clearance If anyone asks for details, say “Oh, I’d prefer not to get into details about my medical issues. Now how about *work issue X*”.

          I do suggest talking to your doctor before they fill out the FMLA forms. I actually provided my doctor with a cheat sheet of things that I would prefer that he say on the forms. It made the submittal of the forms go a lot smoother.

          1. NotASalesperson*

            I like the idea of the cheat sheet! That’ll actually help a lot with the bureaucratic ick I deal with at the doctor’s office.

    4. Boop*

      You don’t have to tell your immediate supervisor anything other than the fact that you will be taking leave. The FMLA form should be sent directly to HR or whatever department handles the FMLA for your company, who should treat the information with confidentiality.

      You can tell your supervisor that you are taking leave for a health condition, and that’s all you have to share. If they ask for details, just say “I’d rather not discuss that”.

    5. MsMaryMary*

      At OldJob (large multinational company), I managed someone who took a six leave to deal for mental health reasons. Our leave team was completely separate from all other company operations, including HR. As a manager, I was just told that my employee was on leave and when her leave was expected to end. I was discouraged from asking any questions about the reasons behind the leave. My direct report was very open about it when she came back. If she hadn’t wanted to fill me in, I wouldn’t have known if she was in leave for physical reasons or mental reasons, or to care for a family member.

      My brother’s ex-girlfriend took intermittent FMLA for mental health reasons while working for a large multinational company, but at the retail level. Her manager knew the FMLA was because of depression and mental health, although I’m not sure if ex-GF told her, or if she saw the leave request (or both). The manager was not supportive, telling the ex-GF that “she couldn’t keep doing this” and that she needed to get over herself. I honestly think ex-GF could have gotten her manager in a lot of trouble, possibly fired, if she had wanted to escalate the issue. Especailly because ex-GF was in a union. She chose not to, had her hours cut, and eventually had to transfer stores.

      1. NotASalesperson*

        Yeah, the challenge with mental health is that there’s so much stigma around it. I work in a relatively conservative field with people who very likely wouldn’t really understand or be supportive of it, but the catch is that handling things related to my mental health is extremely difficult for me…because of my mental health. I can understand why ex-GF didn’t escalate in this situation, but at the same time, that manager was way over the line. I’m a little worried my manager will react more passive aggressively than that, but with a similar attitude nonetheless.

    6. Come On Eileen*

      I took five weeks of FMLA last year to get treatment for my anxiety and depression. One of my closest friends works in the HR field so she and I sat down beforehand and ran through what I should say (I was afraid I’d have to disclose my issue and of course I didn’t want to). It was super-helpful — basically, she coached me in keeping it short and simple. I said something like “I wanted to let you know that I need to take some time off using FMLA. I’ve got some health issues that have flared up and my doctor has recommended a more intensive course of treatment that requires me to be out of the office for about four weeks.” That’s it. I could tell my boss was concerned and probably wanted to know more, but I kept it short and sweet. She then had me work with our HR department on the paperwork, etc. and everything past that turned out fine. Good luck to you — getting help was life-changing for me, and I’m so glad I did it.

      1. NotASalesperson*

        I’m so glad you were able to do that. My mental health has been poorly managed for the last 4 years and I’ve just kind of been handling it on my own, but something happened recently that has made me absolutely certain that I can’t stop treating this like an inconvenient life thing – I’ve been in denial about how much it’s been impacting my quality of life. I really, really hope I find that it helps me as much as it seems to have helped you and I’m so glad you were able to get treatment and help.

    7. Security SemiPro*

      I’ve seen FMLA go pretty smoothly for consecutive days out of work – doc says you’re too sick to work, you take time out, you come back to your job within 12 weeks when doc says you can. Fill out some paperwork, things move from A to B to C in a reliable order.

      The things I’ve seen that are stressful and difficult are around the short term disability insurance – the insurance company declaring that the medical evidence provided doesn’t meet the bar of disability so they aren’t paying your paycheck. Which, in some cases, turned into a claw back of months of salary after appeals were turned down. Ugly, ugly, ugly. And since the insurance company wouldn’t give guidance ahead of time about what medical evidence is required, we’re talking a year plus of “do I need to find $XX,XXX to give back to the company or not?”

      I’ve also seen FMLA for chronic conditions go pear shaped (the “my illness is intermittent and can make me unfit for work for 0-4 days a week without warning” sorts of things.) But again, the real issues there are around money and pay, not the job protection without pay that FMLA offers.

      If you’re not planning to lean on disability to be paid for the FMLA time, it should be relatively straightforward. If you are leaning on insurance for cash flow while you are out on FMLA, be very, very careful.

      1. NotASalesperson*

        This is good to know. It might actually be worth it to me to not file for short term disability solely to save me the stress; I have a solid financial cushion to lean on and was on the fence about filing for anyway.

        1. Semi-nonymous*

          That may or may not be possible – at my company they would have nagged you to get the STD paperwork done, or it would have been all one packet if you were taking FMLA for your own condition. Or it might raise some red flags with them expecting you to “prove” that you really needed the FMLA time if you weren’t technically disabled. But it is definitely worth considering, or worth considering filling it out but not appealing if you are denied (and setting aside the money in case you get denied after the fact).

          Also, FYI, many companies run FMLA and vacation/sick leave concurrently. So you’ll want to find out if this is going to drain your entire leave bank and leave you with nothing left when you return to work. If you do drain all your sick and vacation days but don’t use all 12 weeks of FMLA you may want to see if you can come back to work with “intermittent” FMLA approval so you could still take time off for follow up appointments with your doctors and therapists. The time you took off for appointments would be unpaid, but with FMLA paperwork in place it wouldn’t be subject to any disciplinary attendance policies.

    8. Anonsie*

      I’ve had to take it for non-mental health reasons and I didn’t tell them why at all.

      1. One of the Annes*

        I took FMLA when I worked at a state agency, not for mental health issues or for my own health issues but to take care of a family member. I don’t remember having to disclose anything to my business area, but the form I and the doctor filled out for HR did get into the nitty gritty of the health care issues, so you may want to be prepared for that. Best of luck to you.

    9. TootsNYC*

      FMLA can be really short. See if you can figure out the treatment plan BEFORE you take it. Talk to a medical mental-health professional; get really proactive about research (including researching how long it takes to get the paperwork underway), and have appointments on the books before you officially file.

  6. straws*

    I need some advice on wording for my resume. One of the skills that I’ve been told is valuable is that, while I’m not a programmer, I can generally understand and quickly learn code. I can manipulate and troubleshoot existing code, but I don’t know enough of any one language to create it on my own. In some cases, I have some (tiny, tiny) experience with coding (c++, javascript, visual basic, sql queries), but not always. I don’t know how to word this as a skill or benefit to an employer though, and generally when programming skills are listed on a job posting they’re looking for experience. So I don’t see openings to address it in a cover letter either.

    One of the people telling me this is hoping to create a role for me (fingers crossed!) but that’s far from a guarantee, so I’m also interested in thoughts on what kind of roles might fit my jack(jane?)-of-all-trades background (also including general IT support, basic networking, HR, office management, data analysis, copyediting). I’m having a difficult time even knowing where to start a search when my current work is so varied.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think the best thing to do is mention which jobs required which skills and what you did with them. And I don’t think it’s out of place to mention in your cover letter that you had to pick up X for such-and-such job and were able to do so quickly.

      1. straws*

        Thanks, I will definitely be mentioning this sort of thing in a cover letter, where applicable. I’ve found that a lot of people I speak with who think that it’s useful are excited by it in a side note way. Like, they never thought about this as being a useful thing before, but now that it’s on their mind they can think of numerous ways that it would be beneficial. That sort of thing. I need to get out of the periphery and into the spotlight!

    2. Tex*

      Exactly as you wrote it!

      Bullet point under skills: “Basic programming skills in modifying existing code (include languages here)”

      Expand on it when they ask in an interview.

      1. straws*

        For jobs with the appropriate opening to do so, I definitely will. This tends to me more of a footnote in my skills, so I haven’t found many jobs where it would be easy to slip in. Yet, anyway!

        1. Rex*

          Well, part of an idea of a cover letter is to help them feel like they know you a little. So it seems like if it’s at all relevant to the job, you can find an opening.

    3. Dan*

      Honestly, that skill isn’t worth much on its own. If you could market yourself as a coder/software developer, then that would be huge. That could be a useful skill if you had project management skills, and were running projects, but as an individual contributor? Not so much, unless there was an opening for “business analyst” or someone who otherwise interfaces between the technical staff and the customer. (The biggest value here is someone who can point out when the code doesn’t match the customer requirements. Bugs themselves get chased out during development and the QA process if it’s any good.)

      The reason I say that is from my standpoint, as a guy who writes code, what would I hire you for, or why would I ask you a question about my code? I’d ask you if you were on my team, or my boss. Being able to read code on its own isn’t getting you a spot on my team nor is it going to make you my boss. If you were a project manager or someone who works on the business development end of things, that would be a different story.

      Side note: I once went to a technical presentation about career development. One of the takeaway points is that to succeed, you need to be good at TWO things. This is one of your two things, find something to pair it with. Find the right thing and you’re invaluable.

      1. straws*

        It’s not worth much in a software development context, no. It’s typically been useful in non-technical situations where an expert isn’t available or has significantly more important items to attend to. I don’t intend for it to be a primary skillset, but rather something extra that I’m capable of. So, short version is you wouldn’t hire me or have me look at your code, because you’re capable of significantly more than I am. I wouldn’t be useful to you, unless it was in some type of internship context (which isn’t my goal anyway). The takeaway point is fantastic. I do need to try and narrow things down. For the most part, my career has focused on helping others to be productive, which is just too vague to come across correctly. I’ll be giving thought to my two things, for sure :)

        1. Formica Dinette*

          Are you interested in technical writing? I don’t know what the market is like now, but I used to see plenty of technical writing jobs for people who could read and/or troubleshoot code.

          1. straws*

            I’ll have to check that out. My impression of what technical writing is doesn’t sound like something I’d excel at. But, perhaps my impression is incorrect!

            1. Jen RO*

              Copyediting + technical skills is exactly what (I think) makes me a good technical writer! But YMMV of course. (There are a couple of us around, so if you have any question, you can probably get them answered in next week’s open thread.)

    4. MaggiePi*

      Following. Your situation sounds just like mine.
      Sorry, I don’t have any advice for you, but you have my gratitude for asking this!

    5. Hillary*

      I do something similar for engineering. I explain it by saying I can speak and translate engineer. I’m not an engineer, but I understand it well enough to translate technical language into something the business or a customs agent who doesn’t have English as their first language can understand. For the coding side (mainly SQL) I say I’m a business poweruser who can adjust code but I don’t write it from scratch.

      They’re really valuable skills to have – this helps communication and understanding through the organization.

      1. straws*

        You bring up a good point. I do tend to be that person who has enough knowledge/skill with technology to be a translator and help smooth things out. I’ll have to think more on how I can leverage that. I love the word adjust for the coding. It’s very apt. Thank you!

    6. TootsNYC*

      I have an aptitude for adapting to different software programs (not code–stuff like switching from XyWrite to Atex to CopyDesk to Quark to QPS to InDesign), and optimizing the features, teaching people, etc.

      So I’m able to say stuff like, “shepherded staff through transition to Atex.” And “created universal dictionary in InDesign.”

      Do you have specific things you did you can put on your resumé?

      There’s absolutely value in being the person on your team who understands the computer aspect! Youve provided that value; can you be specific about which things they were?

  7. Camellia*

    Much week. Very Friday. Here’s my stuff:

    1. Ever known someone who is so self-absorbed that, when you gave them a “Wow.” accompanied by The Patented Deadpan Look, they replied with, “I know, right?!?!”?

    2. A few months ago I came here looking for advice about a particular co-irker and I think it was fposte who gave me the term “inconsolable” to explain him, and she and other posters gave me some really good advice. I just wanted to share something else that is working very well for me in meetings with him – making sure he and I sit on the same side of the table, with at least two people between us. When we are not sitting across from one another the discussion doesn’t escalate as much because we can’t lock eyes, and also because he can’t read my feelings in my face. And humans are such creatures of habit that I can usually predict which seat he will take.

    3. Elevators and escalators – Men, stop waving us on, it just holds up the process!!! I work in a high-rise now, often traveling between floors, and men constantly hang back and wave us [females] on before them, sometimes when we are still a bit of distance away, and they block other pedestrian traffic to do so! I’m tempted to start saying, “Age before beauty,” or maybe “Why don’t you go first and fight off the bears”. Anything to make them JUST GET ON already. Or, since the elevator doors close aggressively fast here, if they really want to be polite/chivalrous they could fling themselves inside and keep them open for us. I think it’s time to retire this useless custom. What say ye?*

    *I have to be honest, this has gotten so annoying that I’m sorely tempted to fling MYSELF inside the elevator and hit the ‘close door’ button before they can get on.

    4. Last and maybe not least – why am I the *only one* who brings lunch to a Lunch-and-Learn?

    1. Kelly L.*

      UGGGHHH! Yes! I am so sick of coming to brown bag events with my big-ass pile of food and everybody else has either nothing or a small fruit cup and I’m just sitting there like “OM NOM NOM ARGLBARGL” and wondering if I misunderstood the whole nature of the event.

      1. GOG11*

        Or, maybe they got hungry, ate their lunch early, and then brought the result of a raid to their snack drawer to the lunch and learn? …or is that just me…

        1. Kelly L.*

          I mean, I’m sure it happens, but if it’s everybody in the room, wouldn’t it make you wonder if there was a secret etiquette norm of never eating at these things, and that you were afoul of it?

          1. fposte*

            I think about that when I’m hosting brown bags–I don’t feel I can eat, because I have to handle tech and intros and stuff, but I’m all for people eating at them. Maybe I should assign a ringer to take out a big ol’ lunch and start eating every time.

            1. Security SemiPro*

              For formal events, I can see this… but to be honest I do so many over lunch meetings that I just wrestle the falafel and tech and laptop and eat when I get the discussion or presentation going.

              If I’m presenting, I try to find someone else to run the meeting so I can chew while they set up and welcome and introduce and be done when we get to handing off the slide clicker.

              If that isn’t possible, totally get a ringer.

              1. fposte*

                To be honest, another reason is that our brown bags often start later than my usual lunch time, and I ain’t waitin’ :-).

          2. Lily in NYC*

            I stopped bringing food to these after I laughed at something someone said in one and a piece of chicken fell from my mouth and went down my shirt and everyone saw. Never again! I can’t be trusted not to embarrass myself.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        I just don’t worry about it. If I have a noon meeting of any kind, and not time to eat beforehand, I just bring my lunch and everyone else can eff off. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry. Granted, I’m now senior enough that I’m likely to be above most people in most meetings, but still.

        1. TL -*

          I think a lot of it comes down to “are the senior people eating?” Because – at least in my very limited experience – if the senior people are eating, everyone else takes it as a signal that it’s okay to eat. If they’re not, people are more hesitant.
          (My boss eats. And asks questions. And gives the presenter his full attention. It makes for some good meetings.)

          1. TootsNYC*

            this is such an important point–I don’t think enough bosses recognize this.

            there are other places where the senior-ranking people determine what’s acceptable (British royalty has to reach out to shake hands first, and so they’re actually trained to do so; I read a novel in which the point is made the conversation at the admiral’s or captain’s table doesn’t begin until the admiral/captain begins it. And the visiting air force officers don’t know this, so when the admiral gets preoccupied with reading his mail at the table instead of starting off the conversation, they’re trying desperately to make conversation with the naval officers, who are refusing to participate because they know they’re being rude to do so; and my thought was, “how incredibly rude of the admiral! he knows this, and he couldn’t be bothered to simply say, ‘gentlemen, welcome,’ or something to just ‘flip the switch.'”)

            My uber-department boss had a lunch w/ my department, and she brought food to eat it. It made a difference. I’m sure she deliberately planned to bring lunch to eat, simply because of that.

      3. Vancouver Reader*

        I had to help out at a faculty meeting once, and one of the profs came in late, sat down next to me, proceeded to rustle through his lunch bag, and pulled out a raw carrot that looked like it came straight out of the ground, and chomp, chomp, chomp.

        So as long as you’re eating quiet food, I think you’re fine. :)

    2. Bowserkitty*

      1. Sounds like an old coworker of mine! She was the also the type of coworker who would complain about all the work she had to do…while standing at my desk (and then other desks) putzing around and shooting the breeze.

      1. Artemesia*

        And no one ever says ‘well, why are you standing here instead of doing that work, then?’

        1. Bowserkitty*

          Exactly! Lately my mom has been dealing with this with one of her coworkers and she tells me she’d love to say that but she doesn’t want to cause any drama with the fallout…

        2. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Haha, I had a coworker who would do this! My usual response was, “Yeah, that does sound like a lot! Guess you better get started.” She didn’t like that response, but that meant that she stopped coming by my desk to complain.

    3. Collie*

      #3! Yes! Seriously, just get on the elevator. It’s incredibly patronizing. I once got to the front door of a mall first and, because of how the door was designed, it made sense for me to open it and then hold it for the guy behind me before going through myself. When he caught up the few steps he was behind, he insisted I go through first. I refused. (Repeat, a couple of times.) He then proceeded to open the door directly next to the one I already had open and go through that, instead. He would rather not only inconvenience himself further, but look like a total moron, than let a woman hold the door open for him. S-M-H is all I can say.

      1. GOG11*

        In college, a fellow student showed up to a work event I’d done (part of my job involved putting on programming on campus) and he kept trying to take the box of materials from me. Part of his beliefs, revealed during the course of the event, included that women shouldn’t be city planners because then they’d have control over men, even if the men didn’t know it.

        Still squicks me out. The holding doors thing isn’t nearly as overt, but I’m pretty sure this would be the type of thing this dude would do.

        1. Collie*

          Honestly, it’s so frustrating. I don’t have a problem with it if they get there first — that’s just common human decency. But when it’s something like this, it’s just a ridiculous macho attitude. That’s super rude of that student. Ugh.

    4. Lillian McGee*

      Boy am I with you on 3. Especially when I KNOW my floor comes before his and oh, look now I’m in the back of the elevator and you have to move for me AGAIN. I know he’s just being nice, but… :| Makes me wanna just deal with the 9 flights of stairs multiple times a day.

    5. KT*

      For lunch and learns, #sorrynotsorry I’m enjoying my bagel or pizza and I don’t care what Mr. fruit-cup in the sweater vest thinks

    6. Sunflower*

      I don’t really mind the holding of the door but it’s the waving that gets me. Like ‘CMON LADY I took my time to hold this for you even though you didn’t ask so you better hurry in!’

      People holding the door for me when I’m down the hallway really grinds my gears though. I feel pressured to hurry up and start running in my 4.5 inch heels that were not made for that!

      1. Another Allison*

        Exactly! My (male) coworkers do that in the morning for the door into the building from the parking lot. My spot is in the back of the lot (I don’t mind because it’s a little cardio and I get the shade) and they will stand there holding the door as soon as they see me get out of my car. Bud, I am not hustling for you, just go inside and get your day started!

      2. TootsNYC*

        Maybe we should all start calling out, “You go ahead!” and then stop to tie our shoe.

    7. Squiz*

      The not sitting beside or across your nemesis is such brilliant advise. I can’t believe I have never thought of that.


      1. TootsNYC*

        yeah, right? Brilliant! I think it’s going to be really useful for a lot of people.

    8. the.kat*

      3. I heartily second your “Why don’t you go and fight off the bears,” comment. I might even steal it for the next time this happens to me. I hate having to run for the elevator or shove myself into a corner because Bob in Accounting was raised to hold the door for ladies.

      4. I tend to be running late or forget… Thus, I spend my whole lunch and learn yearning for your lunch.

    9. LizB*

      4. I don’t understand this either! My team has been required to attend a few “brown bag” lunchtime meetings recently, and none of my coworkers ever bring a lunch in, so I’ve ended up just leaving mine at my desk and wolfing it down after the meeting when I’m ravenous. I may just say Eff It and start bringing it in, though. I like to eat when I start getting hungry, not sit around with my stomach growling until I feel like I could eat a horse.

    10. LBK*

      #3 So…I hold the elevator doors most of the time because it can take forever to get an elevator in my building and I hate when I miss one (the doors are also programmed aggressively so you can’t force them back open by hitting the call button from the outside – you have to either stick your arm in or someone has to hit the door open button). I don’t wave people in to get them to hurry up, though. Is that the part of this that’s patronizing? I hope I’m not unintentionally doing something that comes across that way.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        But you’re getting in and then holding them, right? And you’re doing that for any human in the vicinity? It’s the people who won’t get in that are annoying.

        1. LBK*

          Oh, okay, so it’s waiting outside rather than just getting in and holding it from there? I guess I’m still a little confused where the rudeness comes in; I always thought it was polite to hold the door (elevator included) for anyone, and I don’t know how you’d determine that a man only does it to women unless you see him do it enough to identify a trend.

          1. 39281*

            I think the annoyances comes from someone (usually a dude) making the entire “going through a door” process harder because he thinks he has to be polite and hold the door for women. It’s common polite behaviour to hold the door for the next person; it’s annoying when a man refuses to let a woman hold the door for him / insists on holding the door for someone (usually a woman) when she’s too far away / doesn’t just let the first person to arrive at the door open it, therefore making the other people (again, often women), change how they’re entering or exiting just so he can “be polite”.

            Think – if you’re the first person at the door or next to the elevator door and someone is about to step in, or has tons of stuff in their hands, or otherwise may have trouble opening the door, super nice of you to hold it. If you have to push past someone, or make them awkwardly walk around you, or in general change the direction / speed they are walking *just* so you can hold the door, that’s annoying for everyone around you.

            1. LBK*

              Gotcha. As a man myself I can’t say I’ve seen this kind of behavior directed towards me so I’m just having trouble picturing it; as you describe it, I can see why it’s obnoxious.

              1. Camellia*

                Yeah, and the men I’m talking about DON’T get in and hold the elevator door open; that would actually be helpful. They are standing six feet in front of the open door, making the waving motion to the women, trying to make them enter the elevator first.

            2. MeridaAnn*

              Exactly. A big part of the problem is when the “courtesy” actually makes things more awkward! Examples that I’ve had happen several times:

              1) The guy holds open a door that doesn’t have room to swing open very far, so they end up standing in the walkway while they hold the door, leaving me with only about 1/3 of the amount of space I should have to walk through. This usually happens because the guy is “holding” the door by standing with his back against it or because he’s holding it from outside where there is limited space [narrow hall, etc] instead of inside where there’s a lot more room to get out of the way (and the door is light enough it wouldn’t make a difference).

              2) The guy is leading me through a new location, but steps aside to hold a door open for me, then I have to stop and move out of the way as soon as I go through the door so that they can get back in front to lead. Especially awkward when the new location is an office or somewhere with restricted access, so I look like a stranger wandering in somewhere I shouldn’t be until he finally passes me again.

              3) There are two doors in a row – the guy opens the first door, I go through and reach the second door first, so I pull it open to hold for him, but he just refuses to go through while I’m holding it, resulting in us both standing there staring at each other and not going anywhere.

              4) I approach an elevator where a guy is already waiting, usually standing right in front of the door. Elevator opens and he takes a half step to the side, wanting me to enter first. I have to pass him to get through (again with less space than usual because he’s partly in the way still), even though he was there waiting first. I go to the back of the elevator and he gets in and stays closer to the door. When we reach our floor, he insists on me leaving first, meaning that I have to go around him again in order to get out.

              If you’re just holding a door because I’m close behind you and it’s a nice thing you’d do for anyone, that’s great and I’ll appreciate it. But if your effort to be “chivalrous” turns things into a super awkward square dance or forces me to walk uncomfortably close to you to squeeze through an entrance I should have full access to, then it becomes obnoxious, unhelpful, and unwanted. And if I’m holding a door for you and you refuse to walk through it because I’m a woman, then you’re just plain wrong.

              1. TootsNYC*

                I have been known, in some of those scenarios, to just stop in the normal walking space and say to the guy, “I’m sorry, you’re in the way. Why don’t you go through.”

                1. TootsNYC*

                  Or even, “It’s easier if you just go through; space is tight here.”

                  In a sort of brisk, no-nonsense “friendly orders” way. Telling them, not suggesting or questioning.

              2. Windchime*

                I don’t like #1 either. The guy will get there first, push the door open while he is kind of standing in the doorway, and then I have to squish past him to go in. That really makes me feel uncomfortable. If a guy feels like he MUST hold the door for me, then he can go through and hold it from the other side. I don’t want to have to squish up against anyone in order to get through the door.

              3. Flora Mac*

                I get number 2 ALL THE TIME as I’m a sales rep constantly visiting new clients. It’s incredibly awkward and frustrating, it is 100% men that do it, and it goes way beyond the basic courtesy of not letting a door slam in someone’s face. Seriously, guys, just go through the door first and hold it behind you until I’ve got it. I promise I can handle it!

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I think it might be a jokey response to the thread OPs #1 in her list? (about the self-absorbed coworker)

    11. Cambridge Comma*

      #3 gets to me every single work day. The lifts in our buildings are very impatient and I am forever missing getting on them because the men in the front won’t get on until the women, who are further away, get there, and before that can happen, the doors close.
      I once got trapped behind a line of 26 men in a conference room (I was trapped long enough to count) because they wouldn’t leave unless I went through the door first, but I couldn’t reach it because there were 26 people in the way. It was absurd. They kept saying ‘ladies first’; I said ‘don’t worry, I’m not a lady’ but it didn’t help.
      Another time I’d probably just go back to my seat and pretend I didn’t really want to leave.
      I’m sure some people mean well, or it’s their upbringing etc., but the demonstrativeness and the obstructiveness couched in this performance of chivalry really gets my goat sometimes.

      1. 39281*

        I hate having to pretend I’m not leaving just yet so that the dudes in the room will just act normally and leave! It’s frustrating when there’s a clear easy way for everyone to exit, but because you’re a woman people want to be polite and let you go first, and then ignore you (politely?) when you point out that you can’t physically leave until some of them do. I do this so much at work, because NO ONE listens when I say “no thanks” or “go ahead” – I just stay seated and let them sort it out. (I work in a predominately male field, and a lot of my colleagues come from other countries where I think this stuff is more ingrained?)

        1. TootsNYC*

          stop saying “no thanks” and start pointing out the problem: “I’m sorry, this is too crowded. Would whoever it nearest the door simply start the exiting process?”

    12. Jinx*

      Whenever there is food at work, my male coworkers will sit and stare at it until the four (FOUR out of twenty freaking people) women go through the line. If I get in the normal line, they wave me forward until I move, even if I say “no thanks”. I do not like getting treated differently due to gender, even if it is “polite” treatment. I really wish I could explain that without offending a bunch of well-meaning people or making an awkward scene.

      1. AnonymousMarketer*

        oh wow, I think that’s worse than the elevator situation. It’s so annoying when I have to run up to catch the elevator or the door; I can’t imagine feeling like I need to hurry up and grab my lunch so they can go through the line.

      2. Security SemiPro*

        …have you considered a squirt bottle and trying to train them like misbehaving cats?

        I’ve got nothing.

        1. Jinx*

          I’ve never gotten the squirt bottle to work on my cats, so I can’t imagine having better luck with people. :)

      3. Camellia*

        “I do not like getting treated differently due to gender, even if it is “polite” treatment. I really wish I could explain that without offending a bunch of well-meaning people or making an awkward scene.”

        This! Alison, do you have a script for this?

        1. Manderley*

          Yes! These men are using social rules (ladies first) instead of business rules (leaders first or logic first). What’s a polite way to point that out?

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          “Guys, we’re at work, so gender-based rules of chivalry don’t apply. I know you mean well, but it’s pretty weird to have a big thing made of gender at work. So let’s just get in line in whatever order we arrive in.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            And if you get any pushback: “Again, I know you mean well, but it sets women apart in a way that’s actually really bad for women in a professional environment. I appreciate that you want to do the right thing here; it’s just not the right thing when we’re at work. Thank you.”

            (I realize some people might not like that language because it implies that it’s the right thing outside of work, so adjust as needed.)

            1. Artemesia*

              Such a good thing to emphasize; etiquette rules related to gender are social and not professional rules of behavior. We can debate the social part later — but not the professional part.

    13. Mustache Cat*

      Urrgghhh #3! And what’s worse is the affront to my sense of time efficiency can only grow worse if I tell them not to hold up the line for me. Because we’ll just get into a chivalry-off because now the man doesn’t feel like he can go first and still save face, and we’ll waste so much more time going back and forth. It’s so aggravating. Why can’t we all just be timely and efficient in getting on the elevator?

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think you can even say, “Please don’t hold the line for me–I’m not ready to get in line right away, and you’ve put me in an awkward spot, where now suddenly it looks like I’m holding everybody up. Please just get your food, and stop making me feel rushed.”

    14. CM*

      1. This is why I don’t like “wow,” as much as I love Carolyn Hax. I would much rather say, “That’s really inappropriate,” or “I think that’s disrespectful,” or, “I disagree.” To me “wow” sounds passive-aggressive, and it can be construed by a particularly clueless person as agreement.

      3. It doesn’t bother me so much on the elevator, but getting on the bus! I’m always stuck BEHIND the guy who’s being chivalrous and waving on all the ladies.

      1. CM*

        Also, I never bring lunch to meetings — I just don’t want to eat in front of a group of people, or spill my lunch on my papers, or be concentrating on eating and not making a mess rather than whatever is happening in the meeting.

        1. Bibliovore*

          Full disclosure- I ALWAYS eat at meeting if they are scheduled at lunch time (for me 11:30 to 12:30) or snack time around 3:00. Usually granola bars or fruit or string cheese. And yes, I do bring enough fro the rest of the class. (COSTCO is my go-to)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I don’t like to eat that early—which is weird if the lunch meeting is at that lunchtime. I eat breakfast after I get there, around 9, and then lunch at 12:30 (or later if I forget). Tea time at 3 or 3:30 (because I leave at 4:30). My stomach clock would be way off!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think wow can be ambiguous in some situations or easily misunderstood by some people. I am more apt to say “hmm” or “alrighty, then…”. I found myself in a discussion with a person the other day. Everything she commented on was negative. Without getting into particulars, I said things like “Oh, I don’t think that is true.” or “I think you are reading too much into this, I don’t think [third party] would want to see you upset by this.”

        This was a person who did not want consoling words. But I stayed with this plan anyway and they gave up with the conversation.

    15. 39281*

      #3 – I once was getting a tour around a military base and the guys giving the tour would NOT let me walk behind them. So even though I had absolutely no idea where I was going / was surrounded by restricted areas and people with guns, had to lead the group. It was so awkward and inefficient to get led from behind, especially when they then had to elbow past me to get to any doors or elevators, since they had to take care of opening them, and then letting me walk through.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think you should say, in those situations, “I would prefer to follow you, because I have no idea where I’m going, and this is awkward for me. Please lead on.”

        Name the problem. Specify it. Drag it out into the open.

        There’s nothing shameful or awkward here–this is logistics.

    16. Jennifer*

      Some people can get away with eating food in their office (as long as you don’t take an official “lunch hour” as you do it) before or after the Lunch and Learn. I usually can, so I don’t bring food to them. That way my hands are free to take notes or whatever. Plus I can hear better without my chewing.

    17. AF*

      1. I am stealing “co-irker” – that is fantastic!
      2. I bet the Lunch-and-Learn people try to take a separate lunch break after that meeting. Or maybe they thought there would be food (although you probably would’ve noticed grumbling that there wasn’t).

    18. A.K. Climpson*

      #3 — Yes!! It’s so annoying, inefficient, and patronizing!

      My favorite example: I got onto an elevator going down that had 4 guys and a wheeled dolly in it already (“No, come in, there’s room over here!”), stepping awkwardly over the dolly to get to an open space in the back. When we got to the lobby, they all insisted on waiting while I reversed the process, because it would have been impolite to remove the obstacle before the woman!

      I also once saw a man criticize another guy (who was standing nearest the doors) for getting off the elevator before “the ladies,” which was awful. When possible, I use the head-start I get to reach the next set of doors first and conspicuously hold them open for all the men behind me.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Again–w/ the dolly, just say, “I’d prefer to wait until you and the dolly are all off the elevator, it feels safer.”

        Speak up about the logistics!

  8. bassclefchick*

    Well, my current temp assignment is coming to an end. Which is fine, I knew it was coming. However, a permanent position in another department is opening up. They just got a new manager. I know her from a previous assignment at a different company. She REALLY wants to hire ME for the position, so yay!

    However, this company is Union. So she has to go through the Union protocols before she can hire me. If someone internal bids on the posting, they WILL get it and too bad for me.

    So, I will either be unemployed or finally have a permanent job in the next month or so. Scary either way. I’ve been a temp for 5 years and really need a permanent position. But, I’ve been down this road before and really can’t get my hopes up too much.

    Send positive thoughts!

    1. Jennifer*

      Good luck! Crossing fingers nobody internal wants it or if they do, they’re awful enough not to hire.

    2. MuseumMusings*

      That almost happened to me when I was temping. The manager sat me down and explained that even if others applied, I still had the best skill set and that she would advocate for me. I ended up finding a job that made me much happier, but the manager asked if she could send me the listing when it came up. Another thing you could do is try to join the union before the position comes up and then try for the job.

      Best of luck to you!

      1. bassclefchick*

        It’s a private union, so I can’t join it first. Thanks for the encouragement!

    3. Stevenz*

      Of course I don’t know what the union rules are but I assume the manager does. If she says she REALLY wants to hire YOU she may know how to work the system. There are often ways around those kinds of rules so don’t despair. Then when you get the job, join the union. Good luck!

    4. Stevenz*

      Of course I don’t know your Union rules but the manager surely does. If she says she REALLY wants to hire YOU then she may know a work-around. Often there are “exceptions” and “special conditions” that allow those rules to be relaxed. Hope for the best and, if you get the job, join the union. Good luck!

  9. Sunflower*

    I’ve been at my job for 9 months and I’ve become frustrated for a few reasons. I know I need to talk to my boss but I don’t know how to because of my issues with authority figures and fear of always getting negative feedback(working with my therapist on this). My two main concerns and sources of unhappiness are:

    – My team has been incredibly overworked and I don’t mind the long hours but I’ve been taking on a lot of the smaller, admin tasks and my boss has not had time to train me on the bigger stuff she has said she wanted me to do. We’ve added a new team member. I spoke with boss about this and she says she wants newbie to take on a lot of the admin work I’ve been doing and let me take the lead on more things but she doesn’t have a set plan for how exactly she wants to distribute things. I also feel like I have to beg her to give me slightly higher level work.
    – My boss does not allow me to travel to many offsite events because of budget but then complains about how much she HATES to travel. If she never brings me to the events and trains me, I’ll never be able to learn or do them on my own. It’s also super frustrating to do days/weeks of work on events and not get to do any onsite management.

    I need better clarification on what she sees me doing in this job besides just ‘more leadership’- will she ever let me take on important parts of an event? How often(if ever) will I be getting to do real on-site management of these things? At this point, I fear I don’t trust her and she doesn’t trust me- even if she tells me I’ll get to do this stuff, does she actually mean it? I don’t know how to express these things without sounding like I’m trying to tell her how to do her job or sounding non self-aware about my job. I feel a bit like I’ve actually regressed in this job and am worried I got the wrong impression from the interview. I feel my anger/resentment growing and need to deal with this now! (I had been posting anon for the past 2 weeks if this sounds familiar!)

    1. Artemesia*

      Can you identify some very particular tasks you want to do to move into this more challenging role and come up with a plan to do one of these or two? People like your boss are bad organizers and the task of figuring out how to break things up and bring you along are beyond them — so do the organizing. ‘I would like to master the teapot base coat painting; there is a batch scheduled for early next week, can we have me work alongside Francoise on that so I will be ready to do it next time there is a batch.’

      ‘I know you hate all this travel. Would it help to have me come along on the next trip and apprentice on Tea pot sales, so I can relieve you of some of these trips.’

      You will soon find out if the problem is her inability to onboard or her desire to keep you in admin hell and then you can act accordingly.

    2. Tuckerman*

      First, while I’m not sure about the norms in your specific industry, 9 months isn’t that long in a job. You may be looking for bigger challenges but your boss may see you as just trained and needing to solidify your skill set. Not saying you need to, just that may be her perception. Also, she may be distracted with the new hire and getting her squared away. It may be that she can’t train you on more difficult things until the new hire is trained to a certain level.
      Second, is onsite management supposed to be a part of your job (as in, something that was in the job description or discussed at the interview) or just something you’d like to do? Is that what “more leadership” means to you? It’s possible you two have different ideas. I’d ask your boss if you two can chat sometime in the next month about what things she wants you to taken the lead on. I’d keep it light. Maybe mention how since the newbie came on your role has shifted and you want to make sure you fully understand your new responsibilities.

      1. Sunflower*

        In the interview, my boss told me I would traveling a lot back and forth to one city as well as some other ones. She has also referenced ‘when you start traveling more’ and said ‘I’m so excited about this new hire because it means we will have more people to travel’. New hire is very new- like a few weeks so of course I don’t expect to see immediate changes. She also said if I have specific concerns I should bring them up but I am struggling with how to word all of these things when what I really want to say is ‘I don’t mind waiting for the training but I can’t wait another 8 months’

        Reviews are taking place sometime in June or July but quite frankly I’d like to just have this talk now. I am currently looking to sign another year long lease and don’t want to do that if I’m not going to stay in this job for another full year.

        1. Artemesia*

          As I said — She will never get around to it. You have to figure out a way to make it easy for her to include you in a tiny piece then another tiny piece and see if that gets it rolling. If not, you know. The worst case, is she starts bringing the new person into these things, because you are already trained on the admin stuff and she doesn’t ‘want to lose you’ there — so I think you have a small window to try to reframe all this and move forward.

          1. Sunflower*

            For myself? No. I usually save all my job application descriptions and for some reason, I didn’t save this one. We have a file but it hasn’t been updated since they hired the person before me as they decided to change the job slightly from All-Pots Events Coordinator to Teapot Events Coordinator. The person they brought on is a level below me

    3. CM*

      Is there a set review cycle, for example you’ll get reviewed at 1 year? That could give you an opportunity to talk to your boss about your goals and how to get there. Even if there’s nothing formal scheduled or you don’t want to wait that long, you could say, “Boss, now that I’ve been here for 9 months, I’d like to talk with you about my goals and areas of responsibility here. Can we schedule a time to sit down together?” And when you schedule that meeting, mention that you’ve prepared a list of goals that you want to bring and discuss with her. On that list, write down the things that you wish you could do — travel to offsite events, manage those events, etc. Ask her if those goals are in line with her expectations, and work with her on a plan to meet those goals (which you should think about beforehand) — for example, you will be in charge of Event X, or travel to at least one offsite event in the next 3 months.

  10. A Jane*

    Please can anyone recommend a mentoring book or any on-line resources for me? I’m mentoring someone for the first time and want to learn what I should and shouldn’t be doing, so any tips are gratefully received also.
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Nethwen*

      No resources, but from personal experience…

      Please respond to the person when they try to contact you. If they are contacting you too much or are asking for things you didn’t think you were agreeing to give or there is another problem, say something, don’t just stop responding.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Just tips from me, no resources, sorry. Did you try searching AAM?
      Random thoughts:

      Make sure you are answering the question that is being asked and not the question you THINK is being asked.

      Tell stories. Stories can cover a lot of ground fast AND spark further conversation.

      Teach her how to teach herself. Show her the answer to her question first. People don’t really pay attention until they find their answer. So show her the answer, first, and where appropriate show her how you arrived at that answer, second.

      My theory is that most people teach or mentor using the good techniques that they saw others used to teach/mentor them. So think about ways people were effective in mentoring/teaching you.

  11. Christy*

    My wife hates her job, and she doesn’t really know what she wants to do next. I’m concerned she’s going to get a new job doing something she’ll hate again because she just wants out. Does anyone know of career resources for people who already have careers and graduate degrees? Like, resources that help you figure out what to pivot to, not what to study in college, if that makes sense. She’s currently a public librarian but she’s finding a lot of dysfunction in public library administration, and she has a hard time dealing with it. She’s also struggling with coworkers who treat library patrons as an inconvenience rather than the core reason for public libraries.

    I’d love any thoughts or resources! She really likes directly helping people but burns out in situations with systematic issues. (She would be way too emotionally invested to be a social worker, for instance.)

    1. Christy*

      I should say, my wife really hates parts of her job, and loves other parts, but the bad parts are bad enough that she’s looking to leave her job soon.

    2. Temperance*

      What about an academic library or law library instead of working in the public library system?

      1. Christy*

        She’s all about helping the public, and finds older academic librarians generally insufferable. (She was at an academic library before her current library.)

      2. Charlotte Collins*

        In most cases, you need a law degree to be a legal librarian… Also, most academic librarians have an advanced degree in addition to their MLS. Perhaps a school or corporate librarian position?

        I think she should think about what she likes about her job and what she doesn’t like, then focus on what types of positions would “accentuate the positive” for her.

        1. Temperance*

          I work at a law firm and know our library staff well. Only our top-ranking library folks have both.

    3. Collie*

      1. I will gladly take her job!
      2. Perhaps a bit cliched, but What Color is Your Parachute? might be a good starting place.

      1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

        Speaking as someone who is a librarian, transferring out of libraries is a whole animal of its own because of the nature of the skills.

        Medical librarian jobs might give her enough of the helping the public mojo without too much bs, depending on the boss.

      2. Anonsie*

        I feel like What Color is Your Parachute is a champion in the field of being useless, since it’s about a foot thick and has essentially no actual content. Basically, if the concept of thinking about what you want to do has already occurred to you, don’t bother with it.

        1. Chaordic One*

          I totally agree. What an over-rated piece of dreck. And a new version comes out every year. It’s more about the author and publisher making money than helping readers.

          1. Anonsie*

            I picked up last year’s version and looked at the single page section on disabilities interfering with your career plan that has two pieces of advice: 1) type your condition into a search engine like Google (it also explains how to do this) and see if there are aids of some kind already invented that can help you do your job or 2) get a different kind of job that’s maybe somewhere in the same industry as the one you want.

            I think I was angry for two full days afterwards.

    4. Jessica*

      She might like prospect research or database administration for a non-profit. That’s what I did after getting burned out in libraries too.

      1. stellsbells*

        This – our company values people with that experience to help our recruiting team source new (passive) candidates (we are a highly technical consulting firm, so it’s hard to find people who would be a good fit). There are all kinds of jobs like that where the skills from her job could transfer to another industry but still be helping people (whether it be finding jobs or doing research for a nonprofit).

        She definitely has non-library options!

      2. Lia*

        With the exception that prospect research is probably going to pay less than library work, and there’s sometimes the climate of prospect researchers not being all that valuable to the nonprofit, leading to lack of advancement/respect.

        /former prospect researcher

    5. AnonymousMarketer*

      What about a school library? They seem like they wound’t be as dysfunctional as a public library but there would be their own hassles, of course.

      Or what about hr recruiting as something totally different? She would still be helping people but there wouldn’t be as many systematic issues.

    6. Kelly White*

      I don’t have any resources- but has she looked at some other “non-traditional” libraries? Like school libraries or prison libraries, or libraries for the blind- or clearinghouses of info?

    7. Blackout*

      Has she looked at other public library systems in your area? My previous job was in a public library that was so dysfunctional and I was miserable. Now I’m in the public library system in the next county over, and things are so much better.

      1. Nethwen*

        This was my thought. Try a different public library. Also, size can make a difference. A stand-alone library in a small community can be very different from a multi-branch library system in a large community. And a regional library just adds to the layers of administration.

        Depending on what her background in libraries is, she might be able to transfer to educational or recreational camps. Camps have their own specialty of systemic idiocy and for-profit and non-profit camps are quite different, but they also need people with a wide range of skills who enjoy working with the public.

    8. MM*

      Many public libraries now have social workers on staff to help library patrons who may need supportive social services- helping people find jobs, housing or connecting them to mental health services. Maybe she could come up with a proposal to start a program like that where she works since her coworkers don’t want to deal people directly?

    9. Oryx*

      It’s hard to pivot outside of one library into another and some even require separate degrees (JD for law libraries, a special certification for school libraries).

      She could look into working as a solo librarian at a small college (I did it as a prison librarian, too). There’s a lot more autonomy with regard to how the library is run.

    10. Just Say No*

      Do any of the colleges/universities she graduated from have a career advising department that assists alums? That could be a resource to help her determine alternate career paths utilizing her education and experience.

    11. Lindsay J*

      I know I’m like a week late on this lol, but on the off chance you’re still reading – my boyfriend has his MLIS (and his JD) and I think intended to go into being a legal librarian but after one terrible job that lasted 3 months moved into another field.

      He’s found that a lot of his skills translate well to other jobs. He came back from an interview for a Contracts Administrator for an airline the other week and said, “It’s funny. What they need is a librarian,” because what they were really looking for was someone to establish an electronic document system to organize/categorize/make everything searchable.

      It really depends on what part of librarianship appeals to her. It sounds like she likes the public service aspect of it so the above type job wouldn’t appeal to her so much. I would recommend she sit down and think about what aspects of the career she does like, and which she doesn’t, and try to find something that has a lot of overlap with the first.

      I would begin by googling “Alternative Careers for Librarians”. It seems like there is some decent info there. The INALJ website has a “non-library job” and a “non-traditional library job” tag which seem like they may hold some useful stuff.

      Maybe some kind of work in a tutoring center, or a job placement/career counseling center, or some type of non-profit or resource center for people with disabilities? I’m thinking of a place like “The Arc” or similar. thearc . org

  12. alice*

    I started a new temporary position yesterday, and everything about it is fantastic – great pay, great benefits, a fifteen-minute commute – except for one thing: I’m getting excruciating headaches in the building. I know it’s the building because I never get headaches, and they disappear ten minutes after I left for lunch or at the end of the day. The position runs until mid-August, but I cannot work another three months like this. I’ve considered talking to management about this, but I don’t think they’ll be able to do anything about it except allow me to exclusively work from home which is unrealistic. Ordinarily I would tough it out, but the headaches are really extreme, and frankly it’s not fair to them to have an employee who can’t work at 100% (or even 20% to be honest). I’m planning on waiting to see if the headache starts up again today (I head into work in an hour). If it does, I’d like to just quit – what is the best way to go about this? Do I have to give two weeks notice?

    I should also mention that I also have another part-time job, so quitting is financially doable.

    1. straws*

      I would bring it up and discuss it first, especially if you’re at the point where you’re willing to leave. Either they’ll agree with you and you’ll be in the same spot. Or, they’ll be able to make a helpful arrangement and you’ll be able to stay. Out of curiosity, do you know if it’s the entire building, or just the area you work in? I don’t know how big your office is, but if it’s the lighting in one area, then maybe you can move to less painful location?

    2. TCO*

      Any idea what it is about the building that gives you headaches? If it’s something like the lighting would it be relatively easy for them to make adjustments?

      1. alice*

        I have no idea what it is. I’ll definitely take straws advice and discuss it – if it’s lighting, adjustments would be easier. I was thinking it might be some chemical or something more serious.

        1. Tex*

          It may be something coming through the vents. Try a couple of desks before giving up on the job.

        2. straws*

          If it’s a cleaning chemical, there may be other people affected to a lesser degree that would benefit from them taking a look at this too.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Good point see if others are noticing a problem. I was wondering if there could be a gas leak of some type– natural gas? dunno.

            I think, now I could be wrong, but if it were a chemical in the building it would not go away so fast when you leave. I had heavy exposure to formaldehyde and when I got home I could not function for the rest of the evening. My main goal became sleeping.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I had a carbon monoxide leak in an apartment once–the heater. I slept a lot and missed work because I felt yucky, which made it worse because I was sleeping at home! I didn’t know about it until someone else I knew moved into that same place and told me the landlord had ot replace the heater becuase it was leaking CO!

      2. AF*

        It could be related to your computer/posture. I started a job where I really had to focus my eyes on the screen, and I had headaches for about a week until I adjusted. Good luck!

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      That’s a bummer.

      For a temp job, I would talk to your agency – just say what you did here – that something about the building is triggering incredible headaches and can they please take you off the assignment? You shouldn’t have to work any notice period; they will coordinate with the company to place a new temp.

    4. Midge*

      Can you pinpoint what is causing the headaches? Maybe the fluorescent lights, or the strong smell of the carpet cleaner, or the air horns they keep blowing at the construction site outside your window (true story). Before quitting, you could go to your boss, explain what is going on, and see if there is anything they can do?

      I was having terrible problems with my allergies from said construction site next to my office. Once it finally occurred to me to ask for an air purifier, they were happy to provide one. Your office might be able and willing to make a similar accommodation.

    5. pandq*

      When you talk to them about this, can you give them ANY ideas about what might be causing the headaches? Is the lighting too bright? It’s hard to imagine that you are the only one that is getting sick unless you are the only one sitting next to an air duct that leads to somewhere toxic and you are breathing mold or something. Instead of quitting right away I would give them as much time as you can stand to figure out and correct what’s happening. I’m sorry this is happening – you are so right that it’s not sustainable.

    6. Spooky*

      My former manager was similar – she got sick every time she went into her office. She would start coughing like crazy and felt like she couldn’t breathe. She ended up leaving before the problem was resolved, but I think in the end they found something like mold in the air ducts, which would have eventually affected everyone else on the floor as well. If you like the other parts of your job, it’s probably worth it to try and figure out the cause – it might be affecting someone else as well.

    7. Rex*

      If I were you I’d go to a doctor ASAP to see if there are some things they can help you rule out. If something fairly common to office buildings is causing this, it could be an issue in the future.

      Plus sudden, severe headaches are almost always a good reason to go to the doctor.

      1. Laura*

        Glad you mentioned this. OP should absolutely see a doctor, and work this into conversations with management about how to adjust things so that she doesn’t get headaches.

      2. Stevenz*

        Agree with the Doctor suggestion. Perhaps an ophthalmologist. Rex’s last sentence is absolutely true.

    8. Dawn*

      I’ve had this happen when I was moved to a new desk, and it ended up being eye strain from having bright light coming in the windows plus having my desk lamp on. I turned my desk around and turned my desk light off, and it resolved. Come to think of it… I’ve had headaches pop up at every desk change I’ve ever had which eventually resolved, I think because I got used to whichever new lighting situation was going on.

      Maybe it’ll resolve itself soon?

  13. Robin*

    Is it normal to be asked to give an employee, who work completely independently from, their annual performance evaluation? I do not approve this employees time card, she doesn’t come to me for permission for days off, vacation, etc. and I have no first-hand knowledge of the quality of her work. She supports a senior administrator in our office and goes to that person for those types of approvals. But, this person told me it was my responsibility to evaluate her.
    Doesn’t seem right or fair to me.

    1. Sunflower*

      How does she relate to you in the organization? Seems weird to me. How does the Sr. Administrator relate to you? Any chance Sr. Administrator just doesn’t feel like doing it?

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Totally not normal, although I’ve been asked to make that happen once anyway. I once had Wakeen, a relatively new employee, and Valentina, an employee who was junior to Wakeen but who had been with the company longer, reporting directly to me. Even though Wakeen didn’t manage Valentina and they weren’t working on the same projects, my boss asked me to have Wakeen do Valentina’s review so he could get more experience doing reviews.

      It was silly. I guess Wakeen got something out of it, because he learned the basic components of a review and I told him why he should or shouldn’t say X, Y, and Z. But I had to rewrite a lot of the review, because surprise, surprise, he didn’t know her work product that well! Plus, if I were Valentina I’d have been annoyed that another employee was learning things about me that are normally between me and my boss only.


    3. H.C.*

      Are you the only reviewer/evaluator? If it’s part of a 360 review, I doesn’t seem that odd. However, you are the only one appraising her performance, you should to tell the senior administrator and/or HR that 1) she’s not your direct report (unless she is) and 2) you don’t work with her regularly, so you are not the most appropriate person to be evaluating her performance.

    4. LawCat*

      I’ve been on the employee side of it and I really resented having someone who was not familiar with the quality of my work (and who had clearly made no effort to familiarize himself with my work) evaluate me. It was super awkward. I couldn’t get any good feedback or answers to questions on areas I’d like to develop. I left a month after that happened.

    5. The Rat-Catcher*

      It can happen due to weird org chart setup, but it’s unfair to both of you. It’s not fair to her because she won’t really know where she is excelling and where she could be improving. And it’s not fair to you because (I assume) you will feel pressured to give a positive evaluation (you’re clearly going to have to make up your ratings and you wouldn’t want to make up negative ones. Besides, if you said something negative and she challenged it, you would have no ground to stand on.), but also you wouldn’t be able to say anything constructive or “real” about her work.

      I’d talk to your supervisor. Senior Admin should really be doing this, but if it has to be assigned to you because Bureaucratic Reasons, you’ll know that you need to find a way to evaluate how she’s doing throughout the performance period.

  14. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    Best way to set things up before leaving your job?

    I’ll finally be leaving my job this summer (possibly as soon as the beginning of July), and I want to leave things in the best possible order. I’ve written up a long instructional document about basically how to do my job, that I keep adding to and it’s quite current. I’ll be making up lists of ongoing projects, important contact people, and long-range projects. I’ll probably also be notifying some of the suppliers I work with the most closely.

    Anything else I should be doing in my preparation? I haven’t given notice yet and I have a trip planned in a few weeks that I’m a bit worried about–I think that my boss will resent my going if I put in my notice the following week, but at the same time I don’t want to tip my hand earlier.

    1. Sunflower*

      Sounds like you’re doing everything you can. Whenever you do give notice, just make sure to ask your boss if there’s anything he wants you to do or specific people he wants you to train on things. good luck and congrats!

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Documentation is definitely the best thing you can do. And then when you do give notice, as much training as you can.

    3. J.B.*

      Well, from previous comments I would absolutely wait, your boss will resent you no matter what. What you’re proposing sounds like everything I would recommend. Make sure you have copies of all forms that you need at home (insurance, etc.)

      I hope that your new endeavors work out well for you!

    4. Mechwood*

      I’m starting a new job at the same time and reading your comment made me feel like I was reading something that I wrote!

      I think the other commenters are correct. It sounds like you are doing all the right things to ensure a professional transition. Ultimately, you do not owe your current company all that you have already done, but such efforts will (should) be noticed and only help your chances at a positive reference in the future.

  15. LSCO*

    Any tips for a first-time manager?

    I currently work on a team of 4, headed up by our manager Lavinia. Unfortunately Lavinia has been off sick since February, and it’s been confirmed this week she’ll be off for another 2 months at least, and likely for longer than that. Lavinia’s boss & the head of the department Wakeen approached me on Wednesday to ask if I would be interested in taking on Lavinia’s role in the interim, until she returns.

    I am so excited and scared by this! I’ve never managed before, and whilst it’s easy to sit & read AAM daily and think you know the hallmarks of a good manager, now I’m being faced with having to put it all into practice I’m very nervous!

    I won’t officially start for a week or so (paperwork needs to be sorted etc), but I was hoping in the meantime to get any hints or tips or advice from people, both for a first time manager and for navigating the potentially weird waters of transitioning to the manager of people who were previously colleagues on the same level.

    I will say that Wakeen has been very supportive – he said I was his first thought when the subject of an interim manager came up with his boss, and has pledged to do his best to help & support me in the new role. He’s already suggested weekly catch ups which will be dedicated to the management side of the workload, and daily phonecalls (he works 200 miles away) for day-to-day stuff, as well as being available on email as and when needed.

    So.. any and all advice & help would be appreciated, or even just tell me about your early managerial horror stories so I can know what to avoid!


    1. LCL*

      People under pressure will act up in weird ways. They will cause interpersonal strife about things that are petty. Try to find out what the real issues are before you act. Example-I may have to referee a turf fight about 1 locker at a remote site. The cause of all this strife is management drastically revising our schedule without our consent, and the people who have to work it are not happy.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Read Alison’s book (Managing to Change the World)! That and “First, Break All the Rules” are the only two I’ve ever found to be useful. Most management books are BS in my opinion, but those are full of useful advice.

    3. Bluesboy*

      I think the most important thing to remember is that it’s better to avoid fires than to go around putting them out. What I mean is that the things that often get missed out because you’re just too busy fixing problems (training, evaluations, feedback etc) then lead to more problems, which you have to run around fixing…vicious circle. (Speaking as someone who’s made that mistake myself).

      Also, be at peace with the fact that you will get some things, and handle some people completely wrongly. It doesn’t make you a bad manager, it means you made a mistake. Learn from it, try not to do it again and don’t let it get you down (like the person on a diet who slips one day and hits the Ben & Jerry’s. The next day you can give up, or get back to the diet).

    4. star23*

      Personally, the best things that my manager has done are 1) be transparent about what’s happening and why decisions are being made, 2) solicit input from her direct reports and really genuinely listen to them and 3) make fair decisions quickly. What this looks like: at our staff meetings, she would bring up an issue, listen to maybe 10-15 minutes of discussion from us and then say “I’m hearing these concerns and here’s how we’re going to handle it”. Done.

      1. Felix*

        +1 giving your employees as much information as possible so that they can do their jobs.

        I’ve supervised several contract workers and this is one of the most crucial things I learned.

    5. Dan*

      My advice to a first time manager? *MANAGE!* I have a boss on the younger side, who tries to make everything too collaborative, as if she’s almost afraid to take responsibility for making a decision of things go wrong. As in, if I ask about something, she’ll say, “You need X’s (a peer, albeit senior) consensus on that.” Well, X is a peer, doesn’t know what I know (sometimes knows less, sometimes knows more, but at the end of the day isn’t the boss with the big picture.) I get that sometimes delegating is part of the deal and I have no problem with that. But if you *never* make a decision, that’s a problem.

      Yes, you are on the hook. That’s part of the deal, if you can’t handle that, don’t be a manager. But once you’re in the roll, your team does expect you to provide direction/make decisions/tell them what to do (every once in awhile.) The long term down side to avoiding decision making is that your team will stop consulting you.

    6. Security SemiPro*

      Manage – not too fast, not too slow. Accept that the buck stops with you and see that as a responsibility, not a perk.

      Listen. And then act. Check in with your staff a little more frequently than you think is necessary, and no matter how much you trust and admire them, know that “Everything is fine” is not really an update. (And usually a lie, even with the best of intentions.) Give feedback way more frequently than you think is necessary – specific feedback on what exactly you liked about their last bit of work you saw and what you would like to see done differently and why.

      Personally, I work on a model where it is my job to keep my staff productive and moving forward, removing obstacles from their work and finding new and engaging things for them to do and learn. Their job is to learn and do the next project with more skill then the last one. Their job is not usually to do things they way I would have, even if I’m better at X thing then they are.

      I like High Output Management for reading material.

    7. Artemesia*

      I think the first thing to do when taking over a management position whether from inside (trickier) or outside is to set a time to meet with each person individually and get their input on what is helping or hindering them from getting their job done; in the process get the best idea you can of what their job productivity expectations are. Listening does more to get a management relationship off to a good start than anything else. If possible make some minor changes to make life easier for your reports.

      This draws a bright line between what you have been — their co-worker — and what you now are, their manager. And it gives you a chance to tweak a few things to make things go more smoothly. You may already be aware of several things you would do differently — but ask them first. In my experience, the workers know what needs done and will suggest the things you have thought of, but when you do it, it will have been their idea and they will have buy in.

      Another thing that is probably true at your office is that there has not been adequate supervision — given the health issue of the leader, absences etc. To do a good job, you need to provide more active supervision than has probably been the norm. One way to introduce this is ‘I am new in this role and so will be checking in with you about your progress every week or two so I can get a good feel for everyone’s jobs and how we are doing.’ Then do it. Just the act of expecting people to apprise you of their progress tends to boost productivity.

      They will probably feel relieved to have someone in charge after the drifting of the past months. You will do fine.

    8. YaH*

      I wonder- how will it feel to transition back to “just” a coworker after Lavinia returns? Will your pay drop? What will it be like to have to get approval for the same things that you had the power to approve just a short time ago? What is your plan in case Lavinia returns and you don’t agree with how she chooses to manage you and your department?

      I mean, that’s very cool that you’re highly thought of and being given this opportunity to lead, but what will Wakeen do to help you permanently transition into a management position?

      1. Artemesia*

        This is a conversation for the OP to have WHEN she has successfully managed for a couple of months and especially if Lavinia IS coming back.

  16. AnotherFed*

    Bizarre event of the week! I had an engineer join my group this week to do a 4 month rotation. I started spinning him up on tasking and access, and he seemed enthusiastic and glad to have the opportunity to work with us, even up to yesterday. Then he suddenly resigned, effective immediately… for a grand total of 4 days on my team. No response to any further communications, so I have no idea what is going on! Advice? I don’t want to be a stalker, but it’s a clearance required position, so we do have to make sure he hasn’t been kidnapped, etc.

    1. 12345678910112 do do do*

      Ooh, the clearance thing is a wrench. Maybe try to contact him again, saying that you’ll have to report his “disappearance” to the FBI or something if he doesn’t respond at least a little? Cleared people should know that they aren’t allowed to just ghost out.

    2. TCO*

      It might not have anything to do with the job, but with a family crisis or something like that. Could you pass it off to HR to conduct whatever due diligence/closure you need?

      1. AnotherFed*

        No – the only local option I could pass it off to would be law enforcement, and it would not be just a basic welfare check, because they would have to bring the security person with them and actually see and speak to this person to verify they are fine, resigned of their own free will, and there are no signs of any foul play going on.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          Maybe if you inform this person by mail (and text, if you have a cellphone number) that this is what you will have to do in the next x hours if you don’t hear anything, it will encourage a phone call?

    3. Pwyll*

      Yeah, I’d call/e-mail once more and point out that because of his security clearance you need to finalize his resignation or you’ll need to contact the authorities. Then I’d contact whomever your credentialing authority is.

    4. AnotherFed*

      We did finally reach him! Next week, he’ll come in to do the checkout process. At least we won’t have to send anyone out to his address, but I’m still credibly curious what makes someone go from really excited to be working here to never coming back.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        He got a better offer?
        You will have to let us know, if you can. This is curious.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          This is what I thought – sounds like he got another job, probably that seductive first choice job.

    5. Stevenz*

      Once had a new hire not show up on her second day. That was it. We all wondered how she figured it out so fast.

  17. 12345678910112 do do do*

    I’m in a situation where I (female) feel like my boss (male) may be subconsciously favoring my coworker (male), who is equal to me in experience, job title, responsibilities, abilities, etc. They hang out sometimes after work because they both like cigars, and my coworker has been at the company slightly longer. It’s not a big bias, and it’s not really making an impact right now. But I’m afraid of it coming back to bite me later, when my coworker and I strive for promotions in a couple of years. Ways to combat this without being a kiss-ass or learning to tolerate cigars (unlikely)? Is it something to ignore?

    1. NotASalesperson*

      I’m in this position too. My male coworker and boss tend to bond over things they have in common and don’t really talk to me about anything but work. I’m an introvert and kind of prefer it this way, but I’m concerned about unintentional favoritism.

    2. AFT123*

      This is a tough situation, I’m sorry you’re dealing with it. My significant other is a manager and naturally, talks to me about work a lot. He is very much a “guy’s guy” and brings people into his team that have a similar personality to his own, and it is very clear to me that he is unintentionally favoring one or two of the men on his team that are most like him. A woman that was on the team before he moved into the management role is the most senior on the team, and is a great worker by his own account, but he’d continually tell me how he was giving opportunities to the guy on his team and not the woman. I would ask him why thinks aren’t offered to the woman more, and he just hadn’t even thought about asking her – it was just his default to give things to the guy, who he had more of a personal relationship with and talked more to in general. I was so upset with him! He is such a great person, it was really a glaring oversight, and something he still has a hard time seeing. I’ve honestly had to ask him to stop talking to me about work because I get so disheartened. It is 100% unintentional on his part though, and for whatever reason, he is totally unable to see his own bias, even when it is pointed out. He just thinks the guy takes more of an initiative and therefor he rewards him.

      I guess the only thing I can maybe offer as advice is to be really vocal about your goals and what you bring to table, and don’t let this nagging issue sabotage your happiness or attitude at work. Also, befriend and really make an effort to get an awesome reputation outside of your immediate team, especially with people who may be strong influencers to your boss. I think you’ll have to work harder in terms of creating your own path than your male coworker as long as you work for this boss, but I guarantee that in the long run, you’ll go farther if you’re concentrated on spreading your reach vs. banking on the opinion of one person, boss or not.

      1. Disheartened Spouse*

        I had something similar when my husband retired and he was part of the team that hired his replacement. He championed 2 guys and left out a woman who was perfectly qualified and had a great reputation in the field. He had known the guys longer but had also worked with the woman, “and adored her” I was steaming but quickly realized that it was none of my business. Reading AFT123 brought it all bubbling up again.

    3. Artemesia*

      Alas this is so often the norm and hard to combat. Someone I knew did a bang up job on a major project and saw every white male who worked on the team get promoted while she and the minority guys on the team didn’t. Her work was probably the most important to team success.

      I am sure you are doing what you can to make sure he knows your work and its quality — if not think about informal ways for that information to be visible. But this kind of insidious sexism is almost impossible to combat.

  18. Bonnie*

    Does anyone here work for a private all-boys school as a female? I had an interview recently and the atmosphere seemed like any other organization. I didn’t see any red flags and there were a good amount of women on staff but I’m wondering if anyone has had a different experience.

    1. KT*

      I don’t currently, but I have. I didn’t have any problems (I was in the development office, so not involved with students day to day, but most knew me as the woman who took pictures and wrote stories about students). I didn’t feel it was any different than when I worked at an all-girls school

    2. NoBut*

      I went to a women’s college in which a many faculty and staff members were male. In that case, the men kind of had to examine their/be aware of their privilege in a different way, but there were never any huge, glaring issues that I was aware of. Of course, each place is specific to the location and my experience isn’t an exact exchange for this by any means, but it has been a successful set-up for decades in many instances.

    3. Laura*

      In one of my previous jobs, I spent a fair amount of time at all-boys’ schools. I never felt that I was treated differently, and the young men were always intelligent and respectful.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        If everyone waited until they had perfect grammar then very few people would write in the comments section. Personally, I would have had to give up a long time ago!

        1. Ultraviolet*

          I can’t speak for moss of course, but I suspect their objection is not primarily about grammar. The use of “female” as a noun in place of “woman” is objectionable in many contexts. A Google search for something like “calling women females” will turn up some interesting discussions of it from a variety of sources.

          I just wanted to provide that background–I’m not endorsing or condemning any of the above comments.

          1. moss*

            Thanks, yeah, that was what I meant. Calling yourself “a female” is participating in your own dehumanization.

          2. Lindsay J*

            Especially as if the complain were about grammar it would be objectively wrong, as pretty much all dictionaries I have seen have definitions for female that are an adjective, and as a noun meaning a female person.

      2. beefy*

        Perhaps the OP could be given the leeway to determine how she would like to refer to herself?

        1. Lindsay J*

          This. I understand that female can be problematic when it’s used by guy talking about all the females who won’t give them the time of day, etc.

          However, I feel like I identify with the word female more than most other nouns that could describe my gender.

          I’m 30, so definitely no longer a “girl”.

          “Lady” brings to mind a high class society woman or something. My boyfriend’s mom might be a lady but I sure ain’t one. (Though if being referred to in an all-female group I prefer ladies.)

          “Woman” just feels kind of off to me for some reason. Woman I feel like places a lot of emphasis on sexualness. When a girl gets her first period she is “becoming a woman”. The word “voluptuous” is almost always used in conjunction with “woman”. When I picture a “woman” in my mind I’m picturing a sexual being, which I don’t particularly like in all contexts.

          I like female. And I feel like having a problem with a person calling themself female is like having a problem with someone calling themself “queer”. Some people may find it to be a word with a negative connotation, but you don’t get to choose how someone describes themself.

  19. Anon Geek with Resigning Boss*

    Short version: Next week, I’m meeting with my boss’ boss and my boss (from company B). My boss was high up at our original company A, until company B acquired us. Boss tendered his resignation from our tiny satellite office, and I guess that we’re supposed to figure out a transition plan and how to go forward without my boss. Or something.

    Even if I had zero concerns about the acquisition, I’ve been unhappy for the past two years because of my ridiculous workload. I’ve only stayed out of loyalty to my boss and because he promised me that my work life would get better this year. “Getting better” is having time each week for software development in a modern programming language (opportunities exist at both company A and B). That has been deferred for the past two years because I’m too “important”/have too much work to do it (but not valued, per my workload and salary/bonus).

    What the hell do I say to boss’ boss? Right now, I feel like I’ll start crying or tell him and company B to bugger themselves.

    Here’s my trump card: I am a consultant for a blue chip client, and my boss has worked closely with them for over a decade. The client’s budget has doubled since I’ve been working with them; with that budget, we need at least 3 people to cover what my workload should be (did I mention that it was just me?). Without (or even with) my boss, then unless I give Company B and the client a good 4-6 months notice of MY resignation, they’ll either lose the client or seriously damage the relationship, at a time when company B wants to sell their high value products/services to other departments at the client. Company B just did a bunch of layoffs, so there’s no way in hell I can tell them this.

    And here’s why I’m scared: Right now, I’m pigeon-holed by my expertise in an archaic statistical programming language (in addition to SQL); I write that code in object-oriented ways and maintain massive production systems, but the skillset (except for SQL) isn’t obviously transferrable to something better. The job listings with my current expertise sound dreadful (basically IT production support). And although I’ve been teaching myself Java on the weekends, I don’t have enough experience to get a job doing it.

    1. CM*

      Hmm… it’s not clear to me what you want. Do you want to modernize your skills while working for your company, then move on? It seems like you have a lot of leverage here, so this could be a good time to ask for what you want. Can you explain to the new bosses that you are the key person in this client relationship, the success of this client relationship is important to the company, and you continue to be concerned that your unsustainable workload means the project won’t succeed? And ask them for what you need, which may be more resources for this project and/or more time to work on your tech skills?

      1. Anon Geek with Resigning Boss*

        You’re absolutely right. I’m acting as if I don’t know what I want. I just want to know that there’s an end in sight to being overworked and not having anything to show for it. I know that my boss will advocate for me being absolutely critical to retaining the client. I think my fear is that because my boss has already been begging for the additional resources for the past two years, that I’m not going to get it now either…but I guess I’ll see.

        Thank you.

    2. Just Me and My $0.02*

      Why resign before you have something lined up? You’ll be better off professionally and financially if you stay while you job search. Let them know the issues you’ve noted, and if they turn things around as part of their transition plan and you’re happier, then you can slow your search. But it’s not like you owe them the extended notice; losing a client would be their fault for failing to ensure their employees are happy enough to stay on, not yours.

      1. Anon Geek with Resigning Boss*

        Hah, you definitely have a point. Before my boss said he was leaving, that’s what I was planning to do (I was going to wait until after my honeymoon this summer). So I guess I just stick to the plan.


    3. IT_Guy*

      You can always transition to a SQL type developer role. I know from personal experience that they are in extremely high demand with very high salary.

      1. Anon Geek with Resigning Boss*

        Hmm, that’s interesting. I was afraid that all SQL jobs were secretly DBA/production support for existing, poorly designed systems. I’m actually pretty good at debugging poorly-documented spaghetti code, but I get bored with production support and I do not want to live like my boss, who gets calls/Skypes at all hours of the night when a scheduled job fails (I’m ok with jumping into debugging within 30 minutes of waking up).

        I had a lot of fun (yes, I’m weird) teaching myself enough Postgres to design and implement a very functional Postgres schema, so I can see how that might be interesting.

        Given that you have experience in this, can I make a living at SQL without being on-call? Do you typically have to survive within the stereotypical “IT” (or maybe just big company IT?) mindset — that is, CYA, never accept, much less offer to take, responsibility for anything, and never take chances? I would go postal if my worklife was nothing but CY and weeks of meetings to talk about requirements instead of just getting a rough prototype in the hands of the users and identifying their real requirements/next release from there. But if that exists, that’s awesome.

        Thanks very much for the encouragement!

        1. Windchime*

          This may be too late for you to read it, but I make a living mostly writing SQL. I do some other stuff, too, like ETL using SSIS. I do have to participate on being on-call in a rotation, but it’s one week out of 6 and it’s not production support in the way that one might usually consider it. Its for a data warehouse and we don’t have a lot of customers accessing it directly (yet), so on-call usually consists of getting up earlier than normal and making sure the ETL is either running or finished.

          I’d be really unhappy to take a SQL programming job and find out that it’s really a DBA/support job. Yuck. How about looking for jobs that are listed as Report Writer? I did a ton of SQL when I was in that role.

  20. KT*

    This is not the least work related.

    But the rescue where I volunteer has an orphaned miniature horse the size of a small dog and it’s so cute it kills me. He’s sleeping in the kitchen because he needs to be bottle-fed every 2 hours and he has a stuffed horse he plays with that’s the same size as him.

    His little hooves! His long baby eyelashes! HE CAN BE CARRIED LIKE A BABY! I’m not going to get anything done ever again.

      1. KT*

        He’s not up for adoption or he would be in my apartment right now. He’s going to need a lot of medical care as he grows, so the rescue is going to keep him permanently.

        I just stare at him a lot. When he runs, my heart dies.

        1. Argh!*

          Video! Pictures Video! Pictures!

          Not necessarily for us, but for you and the world :-)

        2. Not So NewReader*

          They are never going to adopt him out? Is that just because of the medical care or also because everyone loves him?

          BTW, he is adorable, thank you so much for sharing this little joy with us.

          1. KT*

            A combo of medical care, his imprinting and of course, because he’s just the cutest thing ever.

            Because he was so little when he was rescued and his mom had just died, he imprinted on the rescue owners and follows them like a dog. I think he’s be devastated if he was separated.

            He also has some potential for heavy medical issues, due to being so small and because he missed out on so many nutrients from his momma.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Oh, I get it. He found a new momma and it’s the rescue owners. Yeah, this all makes sense. This is good, I am sure he will have a happy and long life after his rough launch.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      There was a Buzzfeed list this week about why shelter workers of any classification love their job. Like you, I don’t think I could get anything done….LOL

      We joke that my best friend’s ovaries explode whenever she sees babies and small children, but that would be ME in a setting with lots of cute animals. Especially kittens. Forget my ovaries, I think my heart would overload and stop functioning.

        1. Bowserkitty*

          Ooh, just saw your comment below!


          1. KT*

            I’ve given up. Every time he shifts his weight or moves I squeee and go AWWWWWWWWWW

            And he plays with toys and has a jelly toy he treats like a pacifier and I’m never leaving this room

      1. Jade*

        My sister works at a shelter. She comes home every day going “Jade, you HAVE to see this picture of this cat!” If it were up to her, we’d have 50 cats by now.

        1. Artemesia*

          I have a niece who fosters dogs; they have 4 dogs now, plus the fosters that come and go (and many kids, chickens etc all in a suburban city)

      1. KT*

        Click my name on this post. It links to a little article about him with tons of photos (and him meeting 2 ginormous draft horses for the cutest photo op ever)

        1. Pontoon Pirate*

          HE HAS A BINKY.
          OK, so, to keep this on-topic, the point about animal shelter workers loving their jobs raises a question for me: when do you know it’s time to follow your passion (if, say, animals are your thing) as a profession? Most shelter workers aren’t well-paid, so would you rather work at a job that has less satisfaction but better salary for years and years, and save your “passion” work for later in life, or are you the type to trade in some home comforts and a solid retirement plan for the sheer joy of doing work you love now? Or is there a way to have both?

          1. Christy*

            Yes–volunteer with an organization you love and work 40 hours a week at a job that pays well and is stable.

            1. Pontoon Pirate*

              Hah, I suppose that is the easy answer, but I guess I was thinking more about how people navigate deciding when to make a career switch. For me, at least volunteering has a different nuance.

              1. blackcat*

                I am late to the party, but here’s one answer that seems common: save for what is essentially an early retirement.

                I have friends who volunteer at a wildlife rescue. The two vets on staff are in their 60s–both had careers as large animal vets. While they don’t make a ton of money in the wildlife rescue, the work is physically easier to do.

                Basically all the full time employees at that place are in their 50s, 60s or 70s and had another career or were stay at home parents before taking the job.

          2. KT*

            I left corporate work and took a 50% paycut because my job was making me literally ill and I cried every day.

            I have not regretted it once!

          3. Not Me*

            There is a way to have both. I’m looking at my cat, who was an orphaned kitten that was fostered by my daughter-in-law. DIL used to foster animals and work as a lowly-paid animal control officer in our small town. She moved to the Big City and now works on their Animal Control team making over $60k. She drives a huge Ford truck through the streets of Big City and a couple of days ago, she rescued 4 baby ducklings from a sewer. (Mama had given up and moved on, so DIL took them to a wild bird sanctuary). The pictures are adorable. Awhile back, information that she gathered in a call ended up busting up a dog-fighting ring; those dogs also went to a rescue organization. So she has found a way to do both.

        2. AFT123*


          That is the cutest GD creature I have ever seen. I want to adopt him to be BFF with my Newfoundland dog.

        3. Lily in NYC*

 this is the best thing I’ve seen in ages. You’ve made my Friday, KT!

        4. AF*

          That one with the draft horses is the cutest thing ever! None of us are getting anything done for the rest of the day!

        5. Windchime*

          OMG, that bottom picture with him and the other horse nuzzling each other is so precious. I am in love with his tiny little hooves.

    2. Pontoon Pirate*

      He’s not out at Shirley’s place, is he? Because if so I might have to find a reason to drop off my next donation early.

    3. Emilia Bedelia*

      I’m starting to volunteer at my local animal shelter and I am so excited- I went for a tour yesterday and the organizer emphasized that it’s kitten season, so they have a lot around, and they encourage volunteers to foster them…. i’m not sure I can handle seeing kittens in REAL LIFE every day I’m there.

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

      This reminds me of that Amazon commercial where the regular horses won’t play with the miniature one. Poor thing.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Haha, I was just coming down here to say that! 5000 candles in the wind…

    5. Mander*

      One of my Mom’s cousins used to raise miniature horses and donkeys. We went to visit him once and OMG THEY ARE SO CUTE. I’d totally get one if I could. Way cuter than any dog, IMHO!

  21. finman*

    If it’s only 8:30, don’t leave half a cup of coffee in the pot and turn the warmer off. Make a new pot. It takes 30 seconds to put in the next filter, coffee and push the button. It’s not a hard concept, but it happened for the 4th time this week today.

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      One of my “family of origin” rules is that if you see a job that needs doing (and you are capable), you do it (i.e., if you see the trash needs taking out, you don’t say, “Mom, the trash needs taking out,” you take the trash out.) While it is the best rule ever for cohesive family productivity, it creates huge culture shock and frustration when I’m around others who don’t have this rule. I just don’t understand other people not understanding that if everyone gives an inch, you all go a mile.

      1. the gold digger*

        The person who sees the cat vomit first is the one who has to clean it in our house.

        Which leads to my husband – and to me – both saying sometimes, “What? Cat vomit? WHERE?”

        1. Gene*

          That’s one of the sounds that usually will wake me from a sound sleep. So it’s normal for me to be wandering the house at 0300 with a flashlight, looking for it while wife sleeps blissfully on.

        2. Kelly L.*

          I’ve always wryly related to the Simpsons cartoon where there’s a rule that whoever fills the trash can has to take it out, so Bart and Homer both come up with clever ways to keep their piece of trash from falling out of the full can. One of them staples a banana peel to the can and the other one writes a grade on a piece of paper trash and posts it on the fridge. I forget which was which.

          1. Bibliovore*

            I once took a photo of the overflowing stuffed trashcan and emailed it to my husband with the heading This Is A Full Trashcan.
            No, I have no shame.

      2. fposte*

        There was a marriage book that I read once (I think it’s 52 Fights) where her husband’s family had a similar motto, called “See work to do.” (Basically the Protestant notion that idleness was going to send us all to hell, I guess.) She was dismayed to find that that only applied to stuff her husband wanted to get done–that he could insist she join him in cleaning out the garage but walk blindly past any spots where the dog peed.

    2. Sarah Nicole*

      So frustrating! I find that the people that annoy me the most are the ones who have no awareness outside their own little bubble. And I honestly feel sometimes like it’s impossible to teach genuine consideration for others. Oh lord, I’m a cynic in my 20s.

    3. Jennifer M.*

      I was inadvertently on the other side of this yesterday. I’m in my second week at a new job. It is a relatively small office (there are about 20 people at this location, but at any given time at least half are out in the field). I was waiting for my frozen lunch to heat up. The sign on the dishwasher said “clean” so I started to empty it because I wanted to be a contributor. However, lots of the dishes weren’t clean. The coffee mugs still had lipstick, flatware still had food, etc. And I know that the dishwasher had just run. Anyway, I stuck the dirty dishes in the sink so that I could separate them from the clean ones. And then I was stuck because while I was able to put away the flatware, most of the plates, and the mugs, I couldn’t reach the shelf to put away the water glasses (I’m 4’9″). Someone else came into the kitchenette and said we needed to just leave the dirty dishes in the sink and talk to the Ops Mgr about the fact that the dishwasher wasn’t working because this happens all the time, but the Ops Mgr wasn’t around. I’m new so I just went along. Later in the afternoon, I went for a 10 min walk because there was a tiny sliver of sun. When I came back there was a note taped to the faucet in the kitchen: “This is not a self-cleaning kitchen, please wash make sure to load your dishes in the dishwasher!”

      The colleague who told me to leave the dishes in the sink saw the sign and went around the office telling everyone not to wash the dishes and that the Ops Mgr (who had left early and wouldn’t be back until Monday) had to deal with the root cause. So if I were just taller this never would have happened: I would have put all the clean stuff away and reloaded the dirty stuff and no one would have been the wiser.

  22. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

    Has anyone had to deal with unprofessional or just plain difficult people working closely with you but not coworkers? We deal regularly with people at all levels (admin staff all the way to professionals) at another organization that is currently going through a bit of a crisis, and they are taking things out on us or otherwise allowing their dysfunction to adversely affect our work. We aren’t in the same organization, but our ability to do our jobs depends on their ability to keep it together (and they are not keeping it together.)

    Because the situation is political, our boss and their boss can’t just hash it out.

    Examples include messing up scheduling of teapot testing, losing files, and leaving crucial teapot elements unfinished.


    1. Elle*

      This is probably a terrible coping strategy, but my first instinct would be to see how much of it I could do myself. For whatever I couldn’t, I’d plan out a timeline with multiple redundancies knowing full well that they might miss the first couple. (Or, not even tell them that the real deadline is in 2 months–just pretend like it’s in a month.)

      If they’re taking things out on you repeatedly, I think you should stand up for yourself and make it clear you don’t want to be spoken to that way.

      1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

        To the extent that we can perform their role for them, we’re definitely starting to do so. The redundancies idea is a good one though!

    2. Biff*

      Let them fail.

      No teapots to test: report it and move on.
      No files: report it and move on.
      Unfinished teapots to test: painstakingly record all the deviations from standards and move on.

      1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

        They are feeling some of the pressure already (hence the crisis), but it’s our customers who bear the brunt of the burden of their failures. Generally (as long as my customers aren’t unduly burdened) I’m happy to let them be hoisted by their own petard.

  23. Msquared*

    I don’t know what to do but I’m having a hard time!

    Background: Last year I was laid off from a job I liked (for financial reasons – they’re a sinking ship and I was one of the highest paid people). The job was fast-paced and I supervised a team of 4 permanent, 6 in the summer. I was laid off after being there for a year and a half – if I’d had my choice I would have been there much longer. Once I was unemployed I took the first job a got, for several reasons: a) because unemployment does not allow you to turn down any reasonable job offers; b) because I knew I’d have to move to find a new job in my field, and the job was in an area where my fiancé and I really wanted to live; and c) the job was in a big city, where there would be more opportunities for future advancement.

    Well. I’m 4 months into this new job and I really don’t like it. Mostly, because I’m bored out of my mind. My boss, the executive director, was only on the job for 3 months when the person before me left, so I feel like my boss didn’t get a chance to truly evaluate the needs of this position. If she had, she might have realized that there just isn’t a full-time workload here. But she hired me full-time, and there’s just nothing to do. It takes maybe 2-3 hours per day to do the essential functions of my job, and another hour or so to do some of the additional responsibilities I’ve picked up. Otherwise, I’m just casting about for something to do. Every so often my boss talks vaguely about “projects” to work on, but she never gives me any direction and I’m truly at a loss for how to fill up 50% of my time with these supposed projects. The fact is, we are a small organization (I’m just one of 3 staff) with a very narrow mission and a small audience (we consider it a “good day” if 12 people walk in our doors during the 4 hours we’re open on Sundays, for example).

    I was bored at this job 3 weeks in. I now feel like I’ve been here forever and it’s only been 4 months. I can’t imagine going on like this for months and months more. I’m worried that if I talk to my boss honestly about my concerns and about how not having anything to do is making me miserable, she’ll realize that she only needs a part-time worker and she’ll drop me from full-time status. Financially and career-wise I can’t do that.

    Then, just yesterday, I saw an awesome job posted. It closes on Sunday. I’m really tempted to apply for it – it’s a stretch but I also have some good qualifications. I know that it would look terrible, though, to be looking for a different job after being at this job for only 4 months, especially because the layoff put me at my previous job for only 1.5 years. I want to apply anyway. My fiancé thinks I should do it – he knows it’s what I want to do and that it aligns with what I’ve done in the past.

    I’m seriously worried that this could harm future job prospects – if I don’t get this job I’ll likely be applying for another job at this same place in the future, and I don’t want a reputation as a job hopper who will be automatically out of the running for any and all future jobs there.

    Am I nuts for considering this? I’m really miserable at my job, because I’m so bored and I feel so underutilized. And, if anyone is saying “No, there will always be other jobs” in reality there might not be. Even though jobs are more plentiful in this city, they still are few and far between, especially at my level, and this particular job is in a subfield I adore and have all my previous experience in but has only a small handful of institutions locally.

    Sorry for the wall of text – but I appreciate the advice!

    1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

      I don’t think so? You’re still within the “I just discovered that this job isn’t what I thought it would be” time frame.

    2. AnotherFed*

      Can you leave the current job off your resume? The layoff doesn’t really count as a job hop, and as long as you stay at the next job for a solid stay, it shouldn’t be an issue after that. Just make sure that the next job (even if not this awesome one) is a place you can stay, and you don’t get lured into thinking something is great just because it’s different from your current job!

    3. Liana*

      I’m with AnotherFed. You moved on from your previous job due to a layoff, so that definitely shouldn’t factor into any potential “Is this person a job-hopper?” worries. As for your current job? Alison has said in the past that you basically get one freebie, and I think if you say that the job isn’t what you thought it would be, that’s a good enough reason as any. Also, from an emotional perspective, if you don’t at least apply for the awesome job, you’ll always wonder “what if I did?”, and I know that would weigh pretty heavily on me. So I say go for it!

    4. Christian Troy*

      I think you should apply, and also, you might want to keep your eye out for other positions as well. It would make me a bit nervous that eventually someone will catch wind you don’t have enough work to do

    5. The Butcher of Luverne*

      Alison once suggested creating a list of projects you want to do (to fill time) and asking your boss which you could start with.

      As far as applying, do it. Life’s too short.

    6. T3k*

      Go for it. Seriously, your current position sounds very similar to my last one and it felt like it was slowly sucking my soul away. And if you get the job, you can probably get away with leaving this place off your resume as it was such a short time.

      1. KMM*

        This is happened to me before. If there is a job opportunity you are interested in–go for it! I once asked a friend of mine a similar question–she works high up in HR for a world-renowned company–and she said start looking for other jobs, life is too short! You don’t want to be hopping every few months, but you can either leave this job off your resume or explain at your next interview the lack of work and that you prefer/need to be fully engaged.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Just in case you wanted one more opinion, I vote for applying.

      Don’t put yourself where you will not find success. And worse yet, force yourself to stay there. You are four months into this job and nothing is happening. You can see that nothing will be happening any time soon.
      Within just ten short years, this whole story will be a mere blip in your career. It won’t matter. Go for it.

  24. City Worker*

    I have sort of a general question, more of a discussion topic I think.

    I work for the City of Edmonton and we’ve recently taken in approximately 20,000 evacuees from the Fort McMurray wildfire. Now, myself and my boyfriend are both emergency response team members, and both have qualifications that level us up above your average Joe + your average City employee.

    However, the shifts at the evacuee centre are not only paid hourly shifts, but they’re OVERTIME shifts. So the past week or so, we have had a whole lot of people who show up just for the money, and are fairly useless — in fact, almost in our way.

    While venting my frustration to the emergency response team coordinator, she mentioned she wanted to veto the OT pay. I agreed with her. I have a background in social work, and my partner used to be a paramedic (he’s the 2nd in command for ERT.) The coordinator herself used to be a nurse. The team goes through an application + interview process, just like any other job. I don’t get extra premiums, or a promotion, or a raise — it’s just something we like to do.

    I guess my question is: should municipal workers be allowed to volunteer as they so please? Should we be allowing the public to “volunteer”? Should we be getting paid at all?

    1. ZSD*

      I do think you should be getting paid if you’re assigned a shift there, and getting overtime pay is reasonable.

      I *don’t* think the municipal workers should be able to “volunteer” but get paid if they’re not scheduled there. If they’re volunteering, they’re volunteering, which means no pay.

      And I think letting the public volunteer in a situation like this is fine.

    2. Emmie*

      It sounds like this effort is a municipal operation. While the muni workers are volunteering to pick up extra shifts, they are probably not – and should not be – volunteers in the literal sense of donating time. Having employees “volunteer” time unpaid to an employer creates potential FLSA / OT violations.
      Perhaps your best route is to address the performance issues and expectations with the manager or director of the operations. A muni employee is there paid to do work with a realistic expectation to perform at a high level as examples of productivity for the actual public volunteers.
      When a muni employee fails to preform, there needs to be a protocol to address these deficiencies, and – in those worst cases – prohibit that person from picking up OT shifts at the operation. I would focus on that resolution.

      1. Emmie*

        Wait . . . you’re in Canada. I answered like I would in the US re: FLSA and OT laws. Even if the OT laws do not apply, the muni employees should get paid according to Canadian law whether it’s straight time or OT.

        1. Eve*

          In this case they are probably also Union which has ramifications too – especially if they don’t typically use volunteers such as City museums. Alberta has some of the loosest labour laws in the country because of their natural resource history, but that usually plays out in rural centres not the capital

    3. Not So NewReader*

      There should be a screening process for the paid volunteers. If they have qualifications or a special skill set then I see no problem.
      The person in charge of the evacuee center should assign a person or people to screen and schedule the paid volunteers.
      Anyone showing up randomly should be asked to leave if their particular skill/qual is not needed.
      I will go one step further. Stealing comes in many costumes. People who are showing up AND getting paid, WITHOUT doing any substantial work are stealing from the government. I know government works much differently than the for-profit sector. But this is one of those concepts that I think transfers between sectors quite well. I also have seen enough in government to know that I should probably go talk to a wall. (Meaning, if you feel frustrated, you say something and nothing happens, then I am not surprised.

    4. Artemesia*

      Why on earth would any agency allow lazy workers to free ride by ‘volunteering for shifts’ where they are not needed. The managers should be asking people to work and making sure they do if they are assigned. If they want to solicit volunteers (from staff) okay — but the choice to use them should be by managers who are then responsible for making sure they are getting the needed work done.

  25. FKA Project Manager*

    I’ve been… well, not demoted, but “realigned” (I actually typed “demoated”, ha!) When I started I was at “Project Professional” then I got moved up to “Project Manager”. However, at this role I was still basically under the wing of a consultant and only actually had 1 small project to manage (it was 2 weeks, $3000). I was a PM for over a year with 1 project to my name. When the consultant left as busy season began, I got her project… that was $300,000 and 5+ months. I have mishandled it. I have been… realigned back to “Project Professional”. How do I note this either on my resumee or my LinkedIn profile? How do I explain this in my next job interview? For a broader question… are there stories like this that end happily-ever-after? I’m not sure what that might look like in this case? Thoughts?

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Would it be unethical to just never mention the title change in your resume?

    2. Jason Zara*

      I would leave project professional as your title for the entire job tenure, then list the stint as a project manager as an accomplishment. ie served as project manager for a $300,000 project for five months
      Then in an interview, you can spin it as having gotten a taste of project management and a valuable learning experience. Now, after X years of additional work at the project professional level, you are ready to build on that past experience and move up …

      I hope that makes sense, but I think you can definitely spin it as valuable experience even if it wasn’t a huge success.

  26. Anon for this thread*

    I found out yesterday that something terrible happened at a human services agency I worked at briefly last year, and it’s really been weighing on me for some reason. I had been gone for a few months when the incident apparently happened, and likely don’t even know either the staff member or the client involved (there was high turnover for both staff and clients), but I just feel really terrible that this happened. The program was terribly mismanaged and chaotic, which is why I left, but I didn’t think it was bad enough for an incident of this magnitude. I’ve been struggling to let go of this workplace and the traumatic experiences I had there, and I feel like finding out about this has been a major setback — I’m now preoccupied about how could this happen, what if it WAS someone I knew, why didn’t anyone prevent it, what will this mean for the leadership staff I really liked and respected, etc. etc. And of course I’m not due to see my therapist for another two weeks. Toxic workplaces can be so hard to detach from.

    1. MM*

      So sorry that this happened and that its causing you so much distress. Can you get an earlier appointment with your therapist, or even a quick phone convo to help through this? I work in human services as well and we are all traumatized in some way from our work/work environment. Its really never the work itself actually, or even the clients (I can understand why they might act out or make bad decisions) but the job- supervisors, directors, institutions and policies, along with being overworked that causes problems.
      I think you answered your questions of why it happened and why it wasn’t prevented- it was chaotic, mismanaged and the culture wouldn’t allow for anyone to challenge how things were done. Hope you are able to address how its making you feel and be able to let go soon

      1. Anon for this thread*

        Thanks, MM. I was actually able to have a quick phone call with my therapist, which has made me feel a lot better.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Really good summary, MM.

        Let’s use an example of a situation where a client dies. The state will investigate. Some people may be fired. The program or section of the program may be permanently shut down. Sometimes someone will find themselves facing criminal charges and they could face jail time. The other clients will move to another program.

        The problem in some human service jobs is that sometimes it’s like stepping off of planet earth. The police and courts do not want to be involved. This leaves staff and upper echelon people to their own devices…. until something goes horribly wrong. Then everyone steps in, including the media, who has no clue what the day-to-day is actually like. And lots of micromanaging and second guessing starts. To say it is surreal does not fully describe it.

        Remind yourself that it is over for you, you have moved on. You are okay now. You knew that this was not a place to stay and you took action. MM is totally correct that many staff people come out of the job wounded, be it emotionally and/or physically. We go into the job thinking we can save the world and find out we can barely save ourselves. Our minds play funny tricks on us. Sometimes we worry about others and our real worry is about our own situation. Get yourself to level ground first, take care of you, then see where that puts you.

        I am sorry that you are going through this.

  27. Yas Queen*

    Women working in STEM: what are some memorable, benevolently sexist things men have said to you, and how did you respond? Professional? Snarky? Open-mouthed stare?

    1. KT*

      When I worked for big pharma, I had a colleague who was a doctor (who also had a PhD in a completely non-scientific field) and she is a leading authority in a particular therapeutic area. She is responsible for breakthrough research that changed how doctors address these health issues.

      My male coworker Theon needed her approval on a press release, and he rolled his eyes and said “This girl is taking forever to review!”

      …This girl. A 60-year old professional woman, who is also an internationally-recognized expert.

      I stared at him in disbelief and said “Did you just address Dr. Bolton as a girl?”

      And he looked at me all confused.

      I wish I could say that was only one slip, but he was the most misogynistic person ever

      1. Artemesia*

        Reminds of the guy at the conference carefully mansplaining the ‘new work on X’ to the scholar (female) who wrote that book and did that new work.

    2. MT*

      My environment is really pretty chill, but there was another guy in a different department who would start *every* conversation with “Hey there, how’s it going with all these MEN? Not too much testosterone for you, eh, eh?” Dude, the only time I notice I’m one of the only women here is when you stop by.

      Also, one of our first conversations, he just rambles out of the blue with: “I’m not a sexist, but” [all of the reasons men are easier to work with than women.]

      It finally stopped when I said something like “You mention it every time I see you, is it a concern of yours?”

    3. Emilia Bedelia*

      I get a lot of comments like “wow, you must be smart!” or “smarter than me for sure” when I talk about my education… My default reply for well intentioned but embarrassing compliments is “Well, I really enjoy it!”
      I’ve fortunately not experienced many openly sexist comments, but any comments about women in engineering or “is it tough being one of the guys, heh” get met with a very bright and cheery “Actually I’ve found that the women I know are just as capable, not more, than the men. I don’t think those stereotypes are true at all!” As though I am just sharing some interesting factoids that I think might be helpful to know!

      1. Artemesia*

        I didn’t have too many overtly sexist remarks directed TO me (although I overheard many or heard many in meetings) but I often discovered that what I thought was a professional scholarly interaction was really some guy hitting on me. I was attractive in my youth but not flirty or sexy and dressed dowdy academic but as one of few women at a conference or whatever discovered quickly it wasn’t my brain they were after. It is pretty demoralizing.

    4. Pwyll*

      My old roommate was the only female STEM professor in her department at an elite school. She told me a story where she went to a conference to present her (pretty groundbreaking). One Professor looked at her work and asked whose it was literally ~18 times, not believing it was hers, until he finally asked who her department head was. She said his name, and the man told her she was a liar, as DH doesn’t research teapots, he’s a brilliant coffee researcher. And also her research was wrong, and “people like you” (read: pretty blonde women scientists) are dragging the profession down and ruining scientific progress in the name of “equality”, and equality doesn’t exist in nature. Apparently she just smiled and told him to have a good day.

      Anyway, she won an award and was recognized for her research. A year later stupid man applies to join her research group. She brought him in for the interview mostly just to watch him squirm, but he had the gall to tell her that he still believed everything he had said, but that her department had the best equipment so she’d be lucky to have him improving her reputation. She made him take a written test (told him it was standard, it wasn’t) that he was unable to complete, and proceeded to review each question he got wrong with him as though he were an undergraduate until he became so frustrated that he left.

      So satisfying.

      1. Another Allison*

        That’s amazing! What a great way to handle that! Wish I had known that in undergrad when I was heavy in the science community!

    5. Another Allison*

      This experience was not from a STEM field, but relevant. When talking to my coworker (but also HR/accountant/sort of my manager(?), even though I was directly under the president/owner), the president said I was intimidating because I don’t talk a lot at work. And “women need to talk a lot.”

      I didn’t talk a lot because:
      1. My coworkers (aside from HR/accountant) were all mid-40s WASP men who made disgusting comments about everything (LGBT, non-Christians, you get the picture)
      2. I was there to work, not socialize. I was getting their accounts receivables in order, which meant a lot of phone calls and balancing debts. (Which reminds me of another time the president told me I was lucky to have my numbers add up correctly because men are inherently better at math? Even though the only people handling the money and math of the business were female?)
      3. I’m naturally a quiet person.

      1. Artemesia*

        I once did some consulting at IBM and my team included two men — one was a big rather aggressive guy (think Dr. Phil). It was IBM so for the first day of training I was doing, I wore a blue suit and white blouse — the guys were dressed the same. The second day I wore one of those ‘professional’ dresses for women from the 70s — kind of a longish paisly shirt waist sort of number. One of the women commented, ‘I love your dress, I was sooo intimated by you yesterday in that blue suit and you know so much about X but this is just so much more comfortable.’ I look around and everyone in the room is in the dang IBM blue suit including the woman soooo intimidated.

        The rules are always different for women and it isn’t always obvious how they are different.

        Oddly one place I didn’t experience this at all was in Kuwait where it was as if I were genderless. Although I had taken a male assistant, they still deferred to me as the ranking person and not him as the male. Given the fundamental sexism of the culture, it was oddly refreshing to see no overt sexism in the professional setting directed at me as a woman.

    6. Fish Geek*

      College recruiter: “You don’t want to work in this field, you might get your hands dirty.”
      17 year old me: rolls eyes

    7. Jennafib*

      I had a boss who told me that he’d really hoped I’d be younger and bring more energy to the team. Though I am middle aged, he regularly got very, very upset when I would refer to myself as such, and when I referenced having middle-aged concerns. He would tell me I was too young for such concerns, etc.

      He also told me that he’d hoped I’d have worked out better as a calming influence on a cranky old man on our team. That is, that being young and female, I’d somehow behave in such a way to make this man feel like he was getting his way without actually getting it.

      At the time, I literally could not process what he was saying. It was as if he’d grown an extra head that said stupid things, so I just gave him the blankest, most bovine stare. I think I hoped he’d realize how dumb he sounded and stop, but he didn’t.

      In retrospect, I wish I’d told him that I’m mildly autistic, I’m always going to be dogmatic and pedandtic, and if I wanted a career of making old cranky men thinking that I thought they were the smartest men in the room, I’d have changed my name to Sparkle and worked in adult entertainment.

      1. AnotherAlison (the original)*

        See, this is so ridiculous. I work in an engineering & construction company, and our division is about 10% women. Not that it is true across the board, but the women I see succeed in technical roles are not stereotypically feminine women. We tend to be attracted to those roles because we may be more “thinkers” than “feelers”. We’re not going to be your motherly presence. We’re not going to be submissive and go along with what the men say just to be agreeable.

        1. Yas Queen*

          Yep, I’ve had the privilege of working with female engineers like this, and I admire the heck out of them.

    8. Roman Holiday*

      I still cringe when I remember meeting a colleague-of-a-friend in a social setting, and when I said what the topic of my research was, he pretty much YELLED, “oh so this girl must be smarter than everyone in the room!” I blushed and tried to laugh it off. If there is a graceful way to respond to something like that, I still haven’t thought of it.

      1. Pop In, Pop Out*

        You could say, “Woman. And smarter than everyone in this conversation, certainly.”

        It’s a little rude, but that guy was way rude, too.

    9. Tau*

      I’ve actually been lucky enough to avoid noticeable sexism, as far as I can tell (well, either that or I’m just really oblivious). The closest I can think of was that time I started chatting with a guy on a train journey during my PhD where I got the distinct impression he felt intimidated by me and wanted to show off how smart he was. And decided it would be a good idea to ask me what my PhD was about.

      We note at this point that my PhD was in an extremely abstract area of pure maths and therefore completely and utterly incomprehensible to basically anyone other than, like, a dozen people in the world (I’ve repressed enough since finishing that I might not even be in that group myself by now). I developed a number of approximations in order to answer the “so what’s your PhD about, exactly?” question over the years but they only work so well. Almost invariably, a few minutes after people ask me that question they make clear they have realised this was a Very Bad Decision and I let them beat a graceful retreat.

      …not this guy. This guy insists that he understands perfectly! Yes, it’s straightforward! He totally gets X concept now! (Dude, I didn’t even explain X to you – I explained a simplified version of Y, since that’s vaguely similar and there is absolutely zero chance of explaining X to someone without the equivalent of a graduate background in algebra.) It’s pretty clear that he’s in way over his head and knows it, but he simply can. Not. Admit. That my research is actually a difficult enough topic that he can’t just pick it up like that. I can’t point to anything overt, but I got the distinct impression my gender played into this fact rather strongly.

      And what did I do? Well, it’s so rare you can actually talk about your research to an enthusiastic audience when you’re doing an algebra PhD! Since he was so intent on making it clear that he understood everything I was talking about perfectly, I saw absolutely no need to stop. :)

      1. Raine*

        It wasn’t until I climbed about as high as an intern could go when I experienced classism. This was in the late 1980s; I had held summer internships first regionally, then nationally, all building to a NYC internship I’d been aiming for for years. I was a candidate selected by my Big 10 university, and I got the internship. And then in NYC learned that non-Ivy League interns were in fact the token interns. I was interning alongside students who had never held even an on-campus position or taken a class in the subject, nevermind worked their way up to the internship. It was appalling. It was eye-opening. Really, I was prepared for sexism, I was prepared for everything except classism. For some reason I really was convinced this country and opportunity was about merit.

    10. CM*

      Computer science grad school: I went to my advisor (CS professor) and said that I was having trouble managing my courseload (had been out of school for several years, and this was a few weeks into my first semester) and could use some advice. You know, since he’s my advisor. His ENTIRE reply was “Grad school isn’t for everybody.” Then he swiveled his chair to turn back to his computer.

    11. AnotherAlison (the original)*

      For me, it’s never really been the bewildering comments. It’s more just been the general assumption the first time I meet a client or vendor that this is not the person running the show. . .when I’m totally the person running the show. This gets under my skin, when someone skips you in the handshake rounds or talks to your subordinate employee who is a gray-haired man instead of you (about the things that are your responsibility, of course, not the questions that person is supposed to answer).

      But, the worst one was when someone from my company didn’t think that they should put me as the PM on a project because the client might not be receptive to a female PM. (In this case, it was both a racist assumption about the client and sexist statement.) FWIW, we won that project, and they were highly complimentary of the proposal and how I did in the presentation. . .AND further to the point, my project engineer had to be taken off the job for not meeting expectations. He was a male with much more experience. . .who was assigned as a bit of a make-up for my relative youth and female-ness.

      1. AnotherAlison (the original)*

        Oh, and as for responses, for the run-of-the-mill slights, I make a point of shaking the person’s hand or speaking up on the questions they’re asking. The one about not assigning me as a PM was told to me second hand from a reliable source, and knowing the commenter, it’s true. The best response is doing my job well.

    12. calacademic*

      I was a senior in high school, the substitute math teacher was chatting with me (he couldn’t do the calculus lecture, so it was essentially a study period, I think). I told him I was thinking about getting a PhD in mathematics. “You don’t want to do that, that’s one of the hardest subjects to get a PhD in,” he says. I don’t have any memory of it being particularly sexist, other than wondering whether he would have said that to a guy.

      FWIW, I didn’t get a PhD in math. I got one in Physics instead.

    13. SquirrelNutZippers*

      Former Toxic Job was full of them…but the nail in the coffin was when I returned from my honeymoon and the boss informed me I would not be getting my previously discussed raise as “you now have a husband who can take care of you”. I wish I could say I handled it well but I cried the entire drive home.

    14. Lily in NYC*

      I wasn’t in STEM, but this client was. I used to have to call him often and met him for the first time at an out-of-town conference. He decided he thought I was cute and got tipsy at our group dinner and loudly said “You give good phone” while leering at me. My boss looked horrified and told him to knock if off. He called my hotel room a bunch of times after 1am and then started banging on my door when I didn’t answer. And stupid me never said anything the next day because I didn’t want to lose the client.

      1. Biff*

        I work in tech, and I can say with relative certainty that a 40 year old white dude in tech is either going to be cripplingly nice and a great guy to work with/for or horrible (though horrible can manifest in SOOO many ways.)

        I’m sorry that happened to you.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Oh, it was more creepy than upsetting. I dealt with this kind of thing a lot when I was young because I worked in such male-heavy industries.

        2. DoDah*

          I was interviewing for my current position. It’s a few steps down from my former role but I was fine with that as the job looked (and is) interesting. I was speaking with the white/male who holds the equivalent position to my old role. He asked me about former company’s strategic roadmap as the two companies are competitors. When I told him I couldn’t say because I was under a non-disclosure. He deemed me “difficult” to my now VP and told him not to hire me. I wonder if he would have said that if I were a man? Doubtful.

          PS–He was just telling someone in my group how much he liked working with me…..

      2. Artemesia*

        Wow. I had to deal with exactly that one time including the pounding on the door at 1 am. What possesses so many men to behave like that in professional settings?

    15. Meg Murry*

      I can’t think of the exact examples right now – most of my experiences have been due to the “old boys club” attitude, mostly being stuck listening to really sexist jokes or commentary about how other women look – not so very much directed specifically at me. Although there was a decent amount of “Oh, sorry Meg, I shouldn’t talk that way around you” – when I got a little older and more confident I started responding with “No, you shouldn’t [say sexist things/make that kind of joke/talk about women that way], whether or not a woman is in the room.”

      I also put up with more older men calling me “sweetie” “honey” “girlie” etc – but it was almost always in the same kind of way a grandpa would call a younger woman that, never in a malicious way, and almost always by people who were otherwise kind to me – so I rarely called people on it at the time. Since most of them were at least trying – “Let me get that for you honey, oops I mean Meg” I didn’t throw fits – and over time that has mostly faded away between that generation retiring and me aging out of the “girlie” demographic.

      For more moderate/subtle sexism that was along the lines of someone trying to be funny (but wasn’t actually funny) at a company where the only women in the office were me and the HR director, she started responding with something like “Oh, I think someone really wants to spend the day watching sexual harassment videos” or “Don’t make me break out the training videos” – because the first step on the corporate policy for (mild) sexual harassment was “re-training” – and being stuck in a room watching those horrible videos actually would be a pretty decent form of punishment. So we all took to saying “Don’t make me go have Jane get the videos” [with a smile] to mean “hey, you’re getting awfully close to the inappropriate line there”.

      When I was newer and younger, one of the subtle sexist things that used to drive me crazy were all the guys that assumed I couldn’t lift or carry anything and always wanted to “help me out” in a way they wouldn’t have for one of my male co-workers. At first it drove me crazy because I didn’t want to be thought of as lesser and I had a stubborn “I can do it myself” streak – even if it really was a struggle for me to carry the heavy bucket, etc. Over time though I learned that it was better to accept help from a co-worker in a situation like that (or even to ask someone to lift something for me that was probably borderline, while they could do it easily) – knowing that they often asked me for help with things like fixing the printer or their email, and there was nothing wrong with helping each other out.

      The worst was probably when a vindictive co-worker accused a senior colleague and I of having an affair and that is why I was getting more mentoring and training from the senior employee and better projects – because it couldn’t actually be because I was a faster learner and better at those projects. Basically, he accused me of using my “feminine wiles” to get to where I was (and strongly hinted I’d slept my way up), because there was no way a mere woman could have gotten there otherwise. Luckily he hadn’t gone down that path before other co-workers shut him down, hard.

      Honestly, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t deal with much overt sexism anymore – now it’s a lot more situations that weren’t designed with women in mind. For instance, in the factories the men’s restrooms were often closer to the shop floor, and the women’s to the offices. Lots of equipment is designed for “eye level” or “arm’s reach” to be several inches higher than what works for me, requiring me to go find a step stool. When buying steel toed shoes, there would be all of 3 styles that fit my size, while the men had dozens to hundred to pick from. Labs are often equipped with PPE (safety gear) meant for larger men, so I have to go specially ask for gloves to be ordered that fit my hands. After 15+ years of wearing lab coats that were cut like a tube with sleeves (where I am constantly catching the extra fabric around my waist on countertops, etc), I discovered that our lab coat company does actually rent women’s cut coats that are cut for curves and have shorter sleeves – but they were all in the “medical” section of the catalog/website, not the science lab/factory section so I’d never been offered them as an option.

    16. Infinity*

      1. Golf outing for engineering A&E firm, I was the only woman. A male colleague, after a few drinks, suggested we all do a wet t-shirt contest.
      2. I was the lead engineer on a project in a plant. I needed information from someone I didn’t normally work with. I went into his office, introduced my self, “Hi, I’m Infinity, the lead on Galaxy project.” After showing him what I needed, and discussing some of the issues we were having he broke into the conversation with, “Wait, who’s secretary are you?” There is absolutely nothing wrong with being an admin. I will repeat, I love my admins and would fail at any of my jobs without them. That just wasn’t who I was, and it should have been obvious by my introduction and the conversation we were having.
      3. At my old law firm (I’m now a recovering engineer living as a patent attorney), one of the partners I worked for would go around speaking to each team member’s strengths: Rob was excellent at analyzing case law, Chris was amazing at understanding statute’s interactions with the real world, and Infinity was really nice–clients like that.

      This all in addition to the normal old boys club that exists! Fun times!!

      1. Infinity*

        Sorry, and my responses were:
        1. “Surely there’s some aspect of this proposal that is against the law.” To a different colleague’s credit, he responded with “or just insulting.”
        2. “My name is Infinity. I’m the lead on Galaxy project.”
        3. It’s a law firm and this was just one more thing in a long list of grievances. I gave an emphatic nod and mentally reviewed my interview schedule for the new job I was looking for.

    17. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      I ended up getting a year long fellowship abroad in a top lab in my field right after graduation. I was promised so many opportunities which enticed me and my money to come over there. I showed up on campus and things were OK for the first week, but then my supervisor made a couple of uncomfortable suggestions to me and kept commenting on the clothes I wear (“Why don’t you dress more cutely? T-shirts and Cargo pants, and hiking boots aren’t how women usually dress here.”). I shut him down hard “I’m a professional ecologist, of course I dress this way.”

      It became clear to him that I wasn’t going to play that game, and I later found out that he had a well known reputation at the university for only taking cute “girls” into his lab. It was well known that his “co-author” was sleeping with him. After refusing to play ball, I was cut out of the lab and none of the research opportunities I was promised happened despite me jumping through all the administrative hoops. This guy wouldn’t even give me access to printing!

      Luckily, I had the funding group on my side, and I let them know exactly what happened to me. His entire university got in trouble, and were threatened with never receiving a [Fund] scholar again if they did not clean up their mess. Surprisingly to me, a lot of my fellow scholars were mad at me. “You are ruining other people’s chances to work at the worlds top biology laboratories just because you had a bad experience!” It was also a real shock to me, at that age, to see how hypocritical the leader of the department was after this. I had made numerous appointments with the head of the department to express my concerns (for 3 months I tried to get in to see this guy.) that he simply blew off. He also never answered any of my emails. As soon as the [Fund] group came down on his department, he immediately met with me and was all like “Why didn’t you come to me with these concerns sooner!? If you had told me you didn’t have access to printing I would have gotten it for you right away???” I reminded him that I had tried to meet with him sooner – “Well I am a busy man. Hopefully you have learned that next time you are struggling you should speak up.”

      I later found out the department head was his best friend. Later that day, a professor I did not know burst into the room (e.g. closest) I worked in and stated – “I am tenured and about to retire so I could care less what department head or your fuck-wit supervisor thinks. You have my support and if you need anything just come by my office.” We still chat occasionally today.

      I eked out a passable solo-project and taught some seminars to pass the rest of my year abroad. That would have been the end of the entire thing, except my supervisor really got his comeuppance! He was in a car accident and had an injury to his, ahem, genital area which ousted that he was indeed having an inappropriate sexual relationship with his grad student. I never heard from or about the guy since then. Not even his boss and best friend could explain that one away! Plus ouch!!!

      I left pure STEM and now work in the corporate world using STEM skills as I can.

  28. Cambridge Comma*

    Did anyone read the essay on Costco that got a high-school senior into 5 Ivy League schools and Stanford? (I will post the link below.) From a non-US perspective, there was a lot of this that I didn’t understand.
    Firstly, would the essay have been such a big part of her getting in as the article suggests? Wouldn’t her academic achievements have been the bigger part of the picture?
    Secondly, if she was a competitive student for one Ivy, surely it’s quite plausible that she gets into any or all of them? I was surprised that it’s considered newsworthy (In the UK, you can either apply to Oxford or Cambridge but never both for undergrad, which kind of assumes you have a chance at both or neither, which might be colouring my perspective here.)
    Thirdly, is the essay really that good? I get what she’s trying to do, and some aspects of it work, but the structure seems pretty confused, especially considering it’s so short. Is the idea of these essays similar to the idea of a cover letter? If it is, I’m not sure I would have put her application on the short list, but I guess it depends on the competition.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve worked in admissions, and I promise you there’s no essay that gets you into Ivy League schools and Stanford. The essay can put you in the definite pile where you were on the cusp of definite/maybe. It can’t get you in anywhere. College admissions is holistic. They’re trying to figure out who you are in about 2-8 minutes based on your transcripts, recommendation letters, test scores, extracurriculars, location/background, and essay. Essay is only one part.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. The essay might tip the scales when looking at the pile of applications on the cusp. There are usually some shoe ins; a big collection of maybes; a huge pile of ‘nos’. The essay might help differentiate among the maybes.

    2. Laura*

      I work in admissions! I thought her essay was pretty good… but not great. But if you read college application essays, you’d know that most are pretty terrible. Young people don’t know how to write very well anymore, but this student is okay at it. The point of essays is to demonstrate knowledge of something/overcoming a personal struggle and to show that you have the ability to articulate it.

      The essay certainly won’t *guarantee* that she’d get in; no essay would. You still need to have the good grades, high test scores, and meaningful extracurriculars. Admissions is a holistic process.

      And I’m not surprised she was accepted to that many schools. If the combination of application materials/scores/grades were good enough for Stanford, they were definitely good enough for many (if not all) Ivies.

      1. Jennifer*

        A friend of mine has been attempting to help a cousin write college essays. Dear lord.

    3. Anonsie*

      We don’t consider the ivies to be interchangeable here, and you can easily get into one and none of the others. They have very different cultures and are very competitive with each other, in addition to being in different parts of the country and offering somewhat different things based on location and affiliations.

      As for academic achievements, that’s the thing. All of these schools get a full roster’s worth, and then some, of people with perfect grades and all the fancy extra curriculars, so that’s essentially the bare minimum for consideration at this point. It’s the other bits (essays, interviews, interesting bits from your history, whatever) that will get you more or less attention and potentially get you in.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Different parts of the country? All the Ivies are in northeast of the U.S. (New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania).

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        And even though there are “hard” ivies and “soft” ivies, all of them are fairly difficult to get into all of them at this point!

    4. LC*

      FWIW, I wrote a similarly experimental essay for my college admissions. While I had the grades and scores to make me competitive at top school, I know the essay made a difference because I received handwritten notes about it from the admissions officers at Harvard and Columbia. “Soft” factors, from extracurriculars to essays to demographic factors, make a much, much bigger difference in US admissions than in the UK.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes, as Laura, Artmesia, and I have said—if you’re on cusp of maybe/definitely, an excellent essay can help tip the scales.

        I’m just objecting to the idea that an essay gets you in to Ivy League schools. No essay does that.

        1. LC*

          Sure, just wanted to provide another example to put US admissions in context for Cambridge Comma.

  29. A Nonny Mouse*

    Hello y’all!

    What would be anyone’s advice for negotiating salary when your bottom line is that you essentially want to net $200 more per paycheck than you make now, after health insurance and parking?

    My current employer has a ridiculously good health insurance plan (I pay $80 per paycheck for a 100% covered plan with $0 deductible), but I know that normally it’s an 80/20 thing and probably a higher per-paycheck deduction with a $1000 deductible. But I don’t want to leave my current job and end up netting the same or less than I bring home now.

    Is there a good way to ask what the specific payroll deductions are, and at what stage of the interview process? Note that I’m going through a temp agency for this, and it’s a permanent position.

    Thanks, y’all!

    1. R Adkins*

      I usually ask for a copy of their open enrollment information to learn more about their benefits and costs to have a full picture of the compensation package. I also ask nicely for a copy of their handbook. This allows me to see how the benefits will impact me and then negotiate from there.

      So far this has worked well and I haven’t really had any pushback. Most have understood that benefits are a huge part and that salary is only one component.

      1. Anomanom*

        and then take that info and plug it all into paycheckcity That’s the best estimate for figuring out what your net pay will be.

      2. A Nonny Mouse*

        Thanks! I always worry that I’m being pushy by asking for “internal” information before I’m officially with the company, but maybe that’s because I’ve never actually negotiated salary before… I’m 30 years old and always just taken what’s been offered. I know, horrible.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      At the offer stage, you should be able to ask for a copy of their benefits package, which should show you how much employee contributions are. You can use those numbers to come up with a figure that gets you a $200/paycheck bump.

    3. AnonymousMarketer*

      On my last negotiation, I asked for the benefits information before I gave them a number.

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      I’d do it after an offer is made — tell them you’re really excited by the offer, and you need more information on payroll contributions and insurance coverage to be sure that it makes sense to accept. If, when you get that info, you figure out that you would be losing money or breaking even under the new terms, I’d go back and negotiate for a higher salary to compensate.

  30. Terra*

    How many chances do you give a company before you walk away?

    I had a phone interview scheduled for Wednesday. An hour before the scheduled time they emailed me to say sorry and that it had been rescheduled for half an hour earlier the next day. Note that they didn’t give me a choice about the time it had been rescheduled to or ask me if it was okay. Then they missed that phone call. At this point I haven’t heard from them and am tempted to just walk away from the whole thing and consider it a bullet dodged. How much of this would you tolerate before you considered it a major red flag keeping in mind that I would not be working with HR and the person doing the interviewing?

    1. Liana*

      I’d send them one last polite email asking about the phone call and if/when they wanted to reschedule it, then forget about it. I have a pretty low tolerance for disorganization like this though – I think it’s pretty inconsiderate.

    2. Collie*

      Let it go now. If they come back and have some really compelling reason, you can always reopen it.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Agreed. I wouldn’t actively try to go after them, but I wouldn’t necessarily write them off if they finally come back to you, since a phone screen may indicate a terribly disorganized HR department but there’s a good, organized hiring manager who’d actually be your boss. Maybe, anyway.

  31. Cruciatus*

    I think I know what I need to do but just need some confirmation. Especially helpful will be people who have worked within a university system. What is the appropriate amount of time one should wait before applying to another internal posting? And is this different in a university system? I’m unhappy at my job, but not miserable like some reports you see from people. I’ve only been here (almost) 10 months. I’m doing fine (just passed my performance review) but the office tension is often unbearable to the point it’s not like “yay, it’s the end of the day” it’s more like “yay, it’s the end of the day and I didn’t get any notes on how I messed up today.” I’ve written about some of the previous things that have happened and I don’t want to type them again at the moment–but the tension is very, very real. Another job that pays $10,000 more and that I meet the requirements for has opened up in another department. I’m tempted but am too scared about burning current bridges to apply. And what if my supervisor finds out and I DON’T get the job? I can’t imagine that will make things better. My brain thinks that I should wait another year and this time next year I can apply to other things on campus (if they exist), but all my friends & family are like “Just go for it!” but they don’t have to face any repercussions. So, what say you, wise people?

    1. Lily Evans*

      From what I’ve seen, it would probably seem too fast if you applied to an internal posting only ten months into the job. And I’m not sure this is the case everywhere, but some places will want your supervisor to give you the go ahead to look for other positions if you haven’t been working there for a certain length of time.

    2. ZSD*

      I used to work for a university. It sounds like you’re currently in your first position at this university, so I think applying for better jobs after 10 months is fine. (I’d just be prepared to stay at the next one for at least 3 years.)
      After landing my first, terrible job at a university, I started applying for better positions after just 3 months. After I passed my six-month probationary period, I started getting interviews, and I landed a new job after about 11 months in the terrible position, meaning I only worked there about 11.5 months.
      I wouldn’t actually recommend applying after just three months like I did, but 10 months seems fine.

    3. Spooky*

      Th not-quite-10 month thing is worrying me a bit. That’s a pretty short stay (though at the same time, university hiring is notoriously slow, so you may hit the year mark before their process is over). You also mention notes about messing up, which means (rightly or wrongly) you might not be viewed as the strongest candidate.

      I don’t think I’d do it. However, when I worked at a university, everyone was always very friendly, and on rare occasions higher-ups requested that people from other departments join their team. I might see if there was a meeting the HM was going to that I could also attend, and maybe just casually mention to him/her that you saw the position on your walk back from the meeting. No dropping by their office unannounced or calling or anything – just putting out some feelers. I think if the manager likes you or requests you, that’s going to come across as very different than you actively applying to the role.

      I would operate as though the hiring manager will contact your current manager when you apply, because IME people within the same university tend to talk. If they don’t, great, but if they do, you won’t be blindsided.

      1. Cruciatus*

        Here is an example of a note I received from my performance review… I’m too rigid about my lunch. Even spoke to her about it and still don’t understand. Apparently it’s weird I actually take my lunch and leave the office yet she said it’s good I do that to remind others to do it. We’re not allowed to work through lunch or eat at desks so I don’t understand the problem. Feels like criticism for the sake of criticism. Another time I answered the phone wrong by not saying the full title of our school because I could see who the caller was. Immediately get a note saying how wrong that was. Another coworker and I tiptoe on eggshells because you never know when you’ll be wrong enough for a note from her. It’s all just much more aggressive than the situation calls for.

    4. Laura*

      I work in higher ed. You really need to stay in your position for AT LEAST one year before applying to other roles within the university. That’s to show that you’re a good employee and dedicated to the university as a whole. You’re almost to a year, so I would try to stick it out a bit longer. You’ll look bad if you apply without having passed that year-mark.

      1. Wheezy Weasel*

        Also work in higher ed, and I second the note about the hiring process taking so long that you’ll likely hit the year mark before anything is certain. Unless your University is extremely organized and has a streamlined plan for internal transfers, you’ll probably also compete with external candidates, have the selections reviewed by a committee, contact references, etc. A 10 month or 12 month stint in a job within the same company won’t look any different 2 jobs from now, either. If your boss is known for having this type of attitude, it likely won’t be the first time someone’s transferred out of the department either. I’ve known of departments that have served as ‘launching pads’ for transfers within my University because of low pay and bad management, and those people typically do very well elsewhere.

        1. newreader*

          That’s a very good point that if the supervisor is well known as being difficult to work for, other departments in the university will understand why anyone is looking to get out. We have a department with an extremely difficult supervisor and we all know that office has a revolving door – staff often leave just as soon as possible. One staff member even had such a difficult time that she was allowed to apply for other jobs on campus prior to the official timeframe new employees usually can. It’s sad that the supervisor is still employed, but that’s a whole other topic.

    5. Jennifer*

      1. Apply for the job. You have no idea how long it’ll take (usually takes me at least 2-3 months to find out I didn’t get a job) to find out, so you’ll have been around for a year anyway.
      2. How close is this department to your own? If it’s within your own office, your supervisor will have to find out, but if it’s not in your own office or in a department super close to your own that the supervisors would talk, you can get away with it. (Though one of my coworkers applied in another department and then my boss was recruited to be on the interview committee…)
      3. I think anyone would understand if you want to apply for a job that’s $10k more if you can swing it.

    6. fposte*

      There’s some more flexibility with internal stuff, in that if you’d been supporting Professor HugeBoots among others and then she had a dedicated support position open up, you could be a plausible candidate applying for that after only 10 months.

      But a general “I’m outta here” that wasn’t generated by a specific thing to leave to isn’t going to look good after 10 months, and it could weaken your candidacy for other positions. The more you can cast it as a thing you’re leaving to rather than just wanting a change, the more understandable a candidate you are. So, for instance, lateral moves would be pretty hard to sell unless, say, you were in Chemistry and you’re applying to Development, and you’re interested in Development as a career direction and they don’t often have openings.

      1. Cruciatus*

        It’d be going from an individual school administrative position (creating/building schedule, helping students in office, etc.) to academic advising.

        1. fposte*

          That would probably look a little flighty after 10 months in my neck of the woods, but we’ll see what others say. Assuming you’re generally interested in that as a career move and not just your way out of this job, what I’d do is hit up somebody currently doing that job there and ask for an informational coffee; that’ll give you a better idea of what would be a good package there and maybe give you a connection. (And if you’ve already done that and you have somebody in the school/department knows you, then an early application is less likely to be a problem.)

          1. Cruciatus*

            At this point I’m not going to apply unless something crazy awful happens…sounds like most people are confirming this. Guess I just needed to hear it! But next month I will actually be working with that department with orientation so it’ll get me close to people to ask questions in potentially a natural way. I am actually interested in this as well so it’s not *only* a “get me out of here” thing. It’s a “get me out of here, ooh, that job is interesting” thing.

    7. BRR*

      Ugh I’m sorry your job is difficult but I wouldn’t apply. I’ve worked at a university and not at a university and I wouldn’t apply to a random job that posted in another department after being in your position for 10 months. I would say you should be in your position for at least a year. There are exceptions such as if you were encouraged by your manager but it doesn’t sound like this is the case.

    8. Argh!*

      If your current job is very basic and entry-level they probably won’t mind. Go for it!

    9. Just Say No*

      Does your university have a policy related to this? Where I work, there is a policy that you have to be in a position for at least 6 months before you can apply to another position. If your university has a similar policy, that time frame could provide some guidance for what is acceptable for applying elsewhere.

  32. Liana*


    I have been waiting ALL WEEK to post this in the open thread because I am so, so ridiculously excited. And nervous. Very nervous. I’ve never lived in another country, or even outside of the northeastern US before. So, big change! I move out there the first weekend of October, do training/orientation the first four weeks, then start teaching in November. The next few months are going to be full of fun stuff like saving money! and applying for a visa! and selling my car!

    I also don’t have any formal teaching experience- I’ve done job training for most jobs I’ve held, and I actually really enjoy it, and think I’m a good trainer. And I worked as a camp counselor/swimming instructor for a summer in college. But I would really welcome any and all advice on a) living in a foreign country, and b) teaching children.

    1. Bluesboy*

      I’ve never taught children, but I have (and do) live in a foreign country.

      Will you be in a work environment with a lot of other people from your own (or similar) cultures? People tend to form little ‘ex-pat’ groups, and sometimes just socialise in these groups without really mixing with the local culture (particularly if the local culture doesn’t speak English very well).

      It’s worth getting involved with one of these groups, it’s a great support network, but don’t limit yourself to it. Think about looking for a language exchange, where you help someone else (I suggest same sex) with their English and they help you with your Thai (assuming that you can’t already speak it). It’s a good way to improve your language, and potentially make a new local friend who might introduce you to their friends and so on…

      Also, remember if you’re in a small town that if you don’t make friends right away it isn’t about you, or that ‘the locals aren’t friendly’, it’s likely just that they already have friends and are less ‘looking’ for new ones. If you’re in a big city you can try to meet other people of that nationality, but from other cities because they likely don’t know anybody either (not very familiar with Thai geography, but the New Yorker in New York already knows everyone. But the guy who just arrived yesterday from Mississippi and doesn’t know anyone is looking for people to know).

      Speak to someone who’s already lived there about any laws that might be different for you that you aren’t aware of (for example, where I am you have to carry an identity document at all times, whereas you don’t in my home country – I had no idea until I’d already been here for 3 years and one day a policeman stopped me and asked to see it…)

      Good luck!

      1. Liana*

        This is good to know! I will have a group of people from similar cultures – I applied for the job through a US-based placement agency, and the training and orientation is done with a group of other teachers from the US/UK/Canada/anyone who speaks English as their native language. So I will have a network of other ex-pats. However, I don’t know where my specific placement is, and the agency specifically tells you that you might get placed in a relatively isolated village, so I’ve been keeping that in mind. A family member also recommended getting involved with the local Rotary Club as a way to meet other ex-pats as well.

    2. Dan*

      Thailand is one of my favorite countries; I’ve been there three times. Bangkok can get old fast (but is also fun). Chiang Mai is a relaxing smaller town in the North. In the south, Phuket is way over rated but I’ve really enjoyed Krabi beach.

      I can’t give you any advice on being an expat though. Have fun!

    3. Florida*


      I don’t have any advice on living in a foreign country except to enjoy it.

      My advice for teaching children is to respect them. I’ve encountered a few situations lately where the attitude of the adults is “I’m the adult, which means I deserve respect. You are kid, which means your job is to respect me.” It drives me crazy. Respect the kids (even if they aren’t always respectful toward you). With all kids (and even adults), but especially young kids, my best advice for crowd control is: if you want kids to listen, lower your voice. Inexperienced teachers/camp counselors/etc will raise their voice, blow whistles, or make a bunch of noise to try to talk over the kids. That just gives everyone a headache. If you whisper, they will stop talking and listen. My life changed when I learned that.

      Good luck. It sounds like an awesome opportunity.

    4. Muriel Heslop*

      Congratulations! SO exciting!

      I’m a teacher and the best advice I got/give is: they smell fear. Maintain tighter control in the beginning and loosen up over time once you see they can handle it. But if you’re not confident (or faking it) you’ll never have control of your class. Treat your students with respect and you will earn theirs.

      My first day as a teacher I couldn’t believe I was in charge of my own classes! I still feel that way on the first day – it’s exciting! Good luck and enjoy it. I hope you will get avoid a lot of the bureaucracy that we have stateside.

    5. Hattie McDoogal*

      Congrats! Where will you be going? Are you doing a TESL course before you start teaching?

      I taught in Thailand a few years ago. Bluesboy’s advice about language exchange to meet people is good but in my experience Thai people are very friendly on the surface but it’s hard to get to know them, so don’t be hurt if it doesn’t turn into a real friendship. The only foreigners I knew who made proper social inroads were men who had Thai girlfriends/wives.

      Thailand advice: tampons can be hard to find outside of Bangkok so you might want to consider bringing some of your own to tide you over until you find a source. If accommodations aren’t being arranged for you, keep in mind that most of the nicer apartments will ask you for several months rent up front so factor that into your budget. Your school may require you to have an account with a particular bank for direct deposit so hold off on opening an account until you talk to them (this is how I ended up with accounts at both Kasikorn Bank and Krung Thai Bank).

      Teaching advice: kids can’t get enough of games. You’ll probably be working with a Thai co-teacher who will be a bit more a stern task-mistress, so the kids will be all over anything more informal. Be prepared for activities to fizzle, though, and make sure you have back-ups. Kids can be gross — my students had a lot of nosebleeds, bleeding mouths from pulling out loose teeth, runny noses that they needed help wiping, etc. Though if you’ve been a camp counselor you’ve probably seen worse.

      Have fun, good luck! Have some larb-flavoured Pretz and strawberry Fanta for me!

      1. Liana*

        I’m doing my orientation and training in Hua Hin, but am not sure about the school placement yet. I am doing a TEFL certification through XploreAsia once I arrive, though (hence the 4-week training).

        Tampons are not a concern for me (thank goodness for IUDs), but thank you for the advice! It’s been suggested that I bring my own deodorant and face lotion, as many creams over there tend to have whitening agents. Did you find that to be the case too? As for accommodations, they will be arranged during my first four weeks there, but I’ll be responsible for my own once the semester starts. I believe the agency I went through sets us up with realtors to help us find places to live, and there will be someone to help us set up a bank account there as well. Did you have any particularly good or bad experiences with banking there? I’ll also need to figure out my cell phone, so any advice on that front is also appreciated!

        As for games, I’ll have to start researching! I don’t know what age group I’ll be teaching yet, but I’ll probably start a list with different games and activities to play. Thank you!

        1. Hattie McDoogal*

          Yes, whitening agents are definitely a thing in Thai cosmetics. I didn’t have too much of a problem finding international brands without them, but then I was in Bangkok and had a lot more options.

          I was there 5 years ago so I don’t know what I’d do about a cell phone now, but back then I bought a cheap one at one of the big malls and bought phone cards at 7-11 as needed. It wasn’t ideal but I didn’t need it for much so it worked.

          Kasikorn and Krung Thai were both pretty pleasant to deal with. I think a lot of banks won’t let you open an account without a non-B visa or work permit — Kasikorn didn’t have that requirement, so I opened my first account there before I got a job (I was in-country and had been traveling for a few months before I decided to look for work), then opened the Krung Thai account when my employer asked me to. Krung Thai let me have as many debit cards as I wanted, so I got an extra one and mailed it to my mother-in-law back in Canada in case we needed to give her money for anything. It was never a problem.

          I hope you’ll follow up here when you know where you’re being sent, especially if they send you to Nan! When I was there it was kind of notorious as a place where they sent new teachers (and one agency tried to send me and my husband there — he refused). By all accounts it’s a nice place, but profoundly boring. I taught in Bangkok, but if I could go back I’d try to find work in Chiang Rai, in northern Thailand.

    6. NN*

      Be prepared for different cultural norms around how teachers interact with children. Teaching in India and Nepal, I was pretty horrified with some of what I saw some local teachers do, such as beating children when they got things wrong with the schoolwork, or locking the children in a classroom without an adult and taking the only key with them when they went up the street to use the facilities. Not all teachers were like this, but even those who didn’t do it didn’t necessarily see anything wrong with it. Figure out who to talk to or what you’ll do if you see his.
      Be prepared for kids to be surprised by things that really are normal at home and that they won’t know the cultural nuances around dealing with them. I had children who had never seen bangs and thought they looked hilarious. Others (in a particularly poor area where malnutrition was common) had clearly never seen someone who was fat and would come up to me and poke me and say ‘you are fat’. When I said that yes, I am, but that it wasn’t polite to point that out, they were contrite but puzzled as to why it was impolite – I even had one little boy ask why it was impolite when it showed I was clearly rich!

    7. Joanna*

      Congratulations on the new job!

      A few random bits of advice for living overseas.
      – If you will still have bills/bank accounts/responsibilities in your home country, consider if it would be worth formally granting a trusted friend or family member permission to deal with those organisations on your behalf. Depending on your needs and local laws a power of attorney may be an appropriate way to make this happen. This can save a lot of trouble. For example, if your home country bank account was hacked, your friend could go to a branch and quickly sort it out, rather than you trying to work things out via expensive international phone calls. Also, make sure someone back home has copies of your passport, visa, travel insurance details and any cards/documents you are taking with you.

      – Clothing sizes vary very dramatically around the world and tend to be smaller in Asia than the west. Even in Singapore which has a staggering amount of shops I found it hard to get larger sizes. If you think this might be a problem for you, be extra careful about packing well.

      – Be extra careful of food hygiene, especially while you’re still new there. Just because the locals can deal with the questionably cooked food or dodgy water doesn’t mean your body which isn’t used to it will be able to. Food poisoning is always awful but is even harder to cope with away from home.

      – The Australian Government runs an excellent website providing briefings of issues to be aware of when travelling to most countries. The bulk of the advice will be applicable to you as an American. Their Thailand page is at

      1. Liana*

        This is excellent, thank you. I’m definitely keeping the clothing size issue in mind – I’m a size 8, which means I’ve never had issues finding clothing in the US, but I’m not sure what it’ll be like in Thailand and am preparing myself for having to struggle to find clothing.

        My mother also mentioned the bank accounts issue, and suggested I make her power of attorney in case something comes up. I definitely trust her, so that’s not an issue, but I’m having a hard time reconciling myself with the idea of letting another person have control over my finances. It’s reassuring to hear someone else recommend the same thing. Thanks!

    8. New Bee*

      Congratulations! I’m a former teacher (currently a teacher coach), and my advice would be to not cling to your archetype of what “teaching” looks like based on what you were a student. Kids need and are capable of a lot of interactive and collaborative work, and it’s the teacher’s job to facilitate the learning experience, rather than playing the role of lecturer. I do a lot of work with my folks on culturally responsive pedagogy and a lot of the tenets are in that vein (get to know your students so you can make their cultural knowledge and practices a part of the learning).

    9. misspiggy*

      Congratulations! I guess you’re going to be teaching English? Have a read on mother tongue based multilingual education if so – the basic point is that the more kids use and develop their first language, the better they will do at learning a second. So a teacher would encourage kids to discuss a topic in Thai or whatever language they speak, and then introduce or revise a related English structure, followed by exercises and conversations about the topic in English. Use plenty of consolidation – building in frequent time for going over previous ground and extending it a little each time/applying something in different ways will help everyone do well. Kids generally need more of this than adults when it comes to language.

      Teaching is like being on stage – if you keep the energy and engagement going, it’ll go great. I’ve also found that boys of all ages generally need plenty of shifts in activity, and time and space to move around (girls need this too of course, but are often more used to not getting it).

  33. Temperance*

    I was out last night with my husband and some friends, all of whom are developers. Listening to them whine about how it is so frustrating to have SO MANY recruiters calling with job opportunities was stressing me out, so I snapped at them. I’ve been applying for jobs for 6 months and haven’t found anything desirable in my field (law). I had one interview for a parent advocate job (which would mean I would be responsible for getting abusive parents custody of their kids, basically), and thankfully didn’t get it, but I’m desperate for a job that will give me court experience and doesn’t suck too hard.

    If one more person starts crowing on about STEM! and whining about how easy it is to get jobs that are well-paying in their field of choice, I’m going to be on Snapped instead of just snapping. So what’s eating you this week, AAM readers?

    1. Kai*

      I feel you. Been job searching for three years and it’s such a struggle. Luckily my job isn’t the absolute worst, but I want to move on so badly. Meanwhile, a coder/developer friend of mine basically has to shoo off job opportunities like gnats.

    2. Triangle Pose*

      Ugh, sorry you’re going through that. It’s hard when the people who are complaining are in a social environment because you usually can’t just get away from it as easily as you would if they were just at work. My advice would be to try to compartmentalize and mentally separate your job search from their experience.

      What kind of role are you looking for? If I remember correctly, you are in a pro bono role at a law firm, right? Are you looking to transition into the litigation group? D.A.’s office? City Solicitor’s Office? Best of luck in your search!

    3. AnonymousMarketer*

      I understand; I looked for 7 months (which I know isn’t really that long) before I found the right fit for me. I work with engineers who are constantly talking about how many recruiters contact them, while I was sending my resume and cover letter out everyday.

      Just keep looking, something perfect for you will come up.

    4. Spooky*

      I’m sorry. My best friend is also in law and the job prospects are abysmal – I’ve read that only 50% of new grads find law jobs within a year of passing the Bar. :(

    5. Jennifer*

      Okay, so I have a friend who works in the Bay Area tech industry. You’ve definitely heard of some of the places she’s worked at. Literally every single job she’s ever had she has haaaaaaaaaaaaaated. Every darned one of them sounds like they have super psychotic employees at some point or other. I’m tired of hearing about how horrible her jobs are at this point. They’re all genuinely bad, mind you, spectacularly bad in their own special ways. (Her last supervisor was getting sued for harassment and the employees were being yelled at for stealing, her new manager is literally watching her every move and refusing to let her leave her desk for lunch. You get the drift.) But I don’t know how she’s possibly contributing or the drama or ticking them off or whatever either. I have always kind of assumed she’s probably doing something to rile them too.

      This week’s drama is that she’s been working with like 14 different recruiters to get jobs and one of them promised her a certain amount of money and then she just got a job at a famous company and found out the job was $20k less than she was promised by the recruiter. (I’ll admit that the amount of money she makes even at crap jobs is usually double whatever I could ever make in my life and I have been known to choke on that, but she does live in the land of expensive too.) So she’s been complaining about it to the recruiting company, and then naturally everything at work has gotten really super ugly.

      I know I’ve gotten crap for worrying about people retaliating against bad treatment at work before and I’m sure I deserved it, but hearing this situation I’m thinking, was it really worth it to make a new job go sour? Three days in and everything is already terrible! At this point I’m thinking she’s not likely to make it through the year contract she’s on because she spoke up. Hell, maybe they can her within the week or next week if it’s already that bad.

      I’m thinking either she needs to switch industries or just start her own business, because something just goes wrong in that industry, the locations, or with her somewhere all the time. I don’t personally see how she’s annoying people, but I’m both biased and not working with her to know what goes on.

      1. fposte*

        I think being paid $20k less is a big deal, and I’d complain about it too. I think the issue here isn’t so much what your friend is doing as that you’re tired of hearing about her work travails. So I’d say the solution is for you to say that you’re finding you’d really like a break from work talk with friends these days, and can you two agree to focus on other topics?

        1. Jennifer*

          I think we’d both have this policy with each other if we could. (To be fair, I am also horrible.) I don’t think it’s doable this week though, she’s just too upset.

          Oh well.

          1. fposte*

            I love your parenthetical :-). Maybe wait until the burn of this one settles down to propose it.

            I have a long-term friend who has some really crappy stuff in her life. And maybe I think there’s stuff she could do to improve it, but I also don’t know the facts, and it’s undeniably crappy. So I’ve found my landing spot is that our conversations can’t be predominantly about crappiness, especially crappiness we’ve discussed before. It doesn’t mean she’s not going through crap–it just means I can’t be the audience for the venting any more.

      2. SuperAnon*

        It’s oddly gratifying to hear that you wonder how your friend contributes to the situations. My partner has a similar professional history – there have been obvious structural issues at his last several jobs, but he also doesn’t suffer fools well and I often feel bad wondering if/how he contributes to the problems he then chews my ear off about. He even now claims that one past job was so great, one of the best teams he’s worked with etc., but he used to complain about that one while he was there too!

    6. overeducated*

      Ugh, I hear you. I searched for 11 months and wound up with a 2 year position. A database programmer friend was interviewing at the same time, just for one job, and wound up a) getting the offer after 1 interview, b) getting offered a 40% higher salary, and c) accepting a counter-offer with a salary match at his current employer because it has great work life balance for the field. Really makes me question my life decisions.

  34. Tilly W*

    Has anyone had luck with a channel to communicate with non-employees besides email? We have non-staff physicians on our company distribution lists who complain they get way too many emails but I’m struggling with a way to a. Limit all the emails that get sent out; and b. An alternative way to communicate important info like regulatory changes and recalls (like a portal?). Since they are independently employed, logging onto our intranet wouldn’t be a realistic alternative. Thanks!

    1. Collie*

      Lync worked really well in one environment I was in. Current job, not so much. But you may find it works for you!

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Would it be possible to send the non-staff physicians a digest version of this information? So, instead of receiving a dozen emails a day, they get one email with bullet-points of the pertinent info, with links that take them to a web-version that has more detailed information (or, instead of links, just providing a concise summary under each bullet point). That way, they can skim the email for the highlights, and then dive deeper into what’s pertinent to them.

    3. Nanc*

      Can you do a weekly or bi-weekly email digest of all the changes/recalls? Let them know there may be occasional emails if something is urgent.

      It might be worth doing a survey asking them about their communication preferences. Email, texts, portal access, psychic message, etc. I subscribe to a lot of industry-related newsletters but opt for the weekly digests instead of the daily emails (and being a big giant scheduling nerd, I plug review time into my calendar!).

    4. Margali*

      Have you checked out You could set up different channels on it for regulatory changes, recalls, general information. My networking group uses it and we all really like it.

    5. TootsNYC*

      One thing, if email is really your only channel, is to really craft your subject lines.

  35. White Mage*

    I want to move ownership of a process for a certain type of project from my team to another team. My team would still be involved, but communications with the team and the client would be the other team the entire time, instead of my team in the beginning.

    I’ve already talked about it with my manager and he thinks it makes total sense and is on board, and I need to meet with the other team’s manager to discuss next. But I haven’t scheduled a meeting yet because I’m totally apprehensive about moving this to another team. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m pushing responsibility off of my plate onto someone else’s, even though it makes sense logically to do so with this change. I don’t like saying “this isn’t my job” and that’s what I’m doing, but it shouldn’t be my job.

    At the same time, I will be so happy when I don’t have ownership of this process anymore. Maybe that’s making me feel guilty. (It’s not a bad process, it’s just something better handled by the other team.)

    I don’t really know what advice I need, this is more of a venting of frustrations.

    1. TootsNYC*

      make it be less about “not my job” and more about “better use of the company’s resources” and “more effective for the customer, and therefore better for the company in the long run.”

      Framing it that way will help you let go of the guilt.

      Remember that part of the reason you don’t want ownership of this process is that it’s not then natural AND EFFECTIVE fit. Remember to frame any of your frustration w/ it that way: “I’m not able to do this as effectively, and that’s not good for the customer & the company.”

      In other words, focus (both in your head, and in the conversation) on the positive over the negative: what the company will be moving TOWARD, and not what you will be avoiding.

  36. nutella*


    I don’t remember who suggested this but I need to thank you! I successfully kept from crying at work yesterday by saying “Penis. Vagina.” to myself. THANK YOU, AAM COMMUNITY MEMBER!!!!!

    1. orchidsandtea*

      Good work! Another strategy in case that one fails: Whatever your mental image is (a sad dog, or your manager’s disappointment), mentally turn it flat like a photograph, then make it black and white, then zoom out—it helps your brain give you a little distance from whatever is going on.

    2. Laura*

      YESSSSS. So glad someone tried this! As someone who cries easily… congratulations! I will definitely be trying it myself next time tears come on.

      1. Formica Dinette*

        Same here. I could’ve used it earlier this week, but I’m sure I’ll have another opportunity soon. :|

  37. Anon today*

    How do I find out if I am limited by non-compete issues?
    In my sector of the tea industry, 3 companies are rumored that be working on a particular innovation that will make really good tea available to a lot of people. This is all top secret. I am prominent in a key function at one of the companies. One of those companies seems interested in getting to know me more. In order for me to find out whether I can work there, I need to know if they are indeed working in the innovation (in which case I likely can’t go there). But how do I find out without disclosing why I am asking? I definitely don’t want them to know I am working on this tea, especially if it means 1) I can’t work for them and 2) now they know my current company is also working on the tea. It’s a big chess match – they may be interested in me but they likely also want to know if I’m developing new tea. I may be interested in working with them and I am also interested in knowing if they are developing new tea. And if I don’t address any of this, I could be hired to work on new tea, my current company would object and now I’m stuck working on coffee, which is boring and not where I would add the most value.

    1. Pwyll*

      I think you proceed with the assumption that they are not working on Secret Tea, and do not tell them anything at all about Secret Tea, and especially not that you’re working on or aware of Secret Tea. If you have an interview, be sure to bring up that you’re under a non-disclosure/non-compete agreement and that if they were to make an offer you’d need to make sure you didn’t breach your obligations.

      That said, it’s going to be pretty hard for you to go from Tea 1 to Tea 2 even just based on the rumors. Even if they told you that you’re going to be working on coffee, if you go to Tea 2 and they reveal Secret Tea (entirely unconnected to you) it could put you in a dangerous situation under your non-compete.

      1. TootsNYC*

        be sure to bring up that you’re under a non-disclosure/non-compete agreement and that if they were to make an offer you’d need to make sure you didn’t breach your obligations.

        There mere fact that you’re asking this question might be enough to tip them the wink that you’re working on Top Secret Tea.

        And Ithink Pwyll has another good point;

        If you’re working on Company A’s Top Secret Tea, and are covered by a noncompete / nondisclosure , you aren’t going to be able to work on top Secret Tea for ANYbody, not without a big risk of lawsuit, etc.

        So the only thing you could work on at Company B would be coffee–and you know you don’t want to work there, right?

        You might run a risk, even if you did get hired to work on coffee or even root beer for Company B–because you still know stuff about Top Secret Tea A.

        So you may have your answer already–if you want to work on tea, you have to stay where you are. That’s the price of getting in on something that cutting-edge.

  38. Bowserkitty*

    June is going to be terrible. I’ve mentioned in another post that event planning is a big part of my job, and next month three of my events will be taking place.

    I’m also a bridesmaid in a wedding, my 10 year reunion is scheduled, AND I’ll be moving.

    I’m probably going to ask for the last few hours off the final day of two of those conferences (one so I can drive back to my hometown for the reunion) and the other so I can make it to the wedding rehearsal dinner in time. That’s going to be fun to attempt. (T_T)

    1. Sarah Nicole*

      Oh my gosh, no advice, but sending you good vibes! That will be such a crazy schedule, but there’s an end in sight and you will get through it. Good luck!

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Thank you!!!! I’ve been taking it a day at a time and not really planning for my own personal events as well as I should be, so the reunion is probably going to be on the fly, and at least by the time the rehearsal dinner happens the third conference will be ending so I’ll have a bit of reprieve until moving. What sucks is that two of my best friends are coming from California and Sweden to the midwest USA to be in the wedding, and I haven’t seen either of them in years. I wish I could take the entire week of the wedding to hang out!

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Best of luck to you!! :) I haven’t moved for five years (after going through college, where I moved apartments every single year) so this is going to be a challenge.

  39. Lillian McGee*

    Here’s a gifts-flowing-up etiquette question:

    My boss is getting married this summer. She has been with her partner for years but it’s only recently become legal for them to get married so it’s a big deal. Last year both a coworker and I got married and she (and the org, but mostly she) threw pretty elaborate showers for us. I would like to do something–not a shower because she does not need *stuff* by any stretch of the imagination–but I think a card from the whole staff isn’t enough. I could personally make her something nice… I’m pretty crafty, but would it look weird if I made something and slapped everyone’s names on it? What about a cake?

    1. Lillian McGee*

      Oh, and would it be inappropriate to reach out to the board for suggestions? We are a nonprofit and have a good relationship with the board.

    2. Collie*

      How about a recipe book with one or two recipes from each staff member? Or favorite poems? Recommendations of places to visit? And the book could be signed by the staff, too.

      1. Sarah Nicole*

        I second this awesome idea! It’s a wonderful gift that hopefully wouldn’t cost too much to put together. And she will probably really enjoy something so personal from her staff, it’s very thoughtful.

      2. anonderella*

        I am SUCH a fan of this idea. Especially the recipes. That idea just blew my mind. Stolt.

      3. The Butcher of Luverne*

        That’s a great idea. Epicurious has a make-your-own-recipe-book thing where you can add your own recipes plus add recipes from the site, and it costs about $25 to order copies.

        We did it for a niece’s shower.

      4. Laura*

        What a great idea! A woman in my office recently got engaged– maybe I will initiate this for her!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I was thinking about that! I think you could do something funny, like directions for buying and serving something pre-made, or a list of the five best snack foods, or something like that.

        2. Christopher Tracy*

          You could always go online and print off a recipe that sounds appealing.

        3. Gillian*

          My family’s “we need to bring a dessert to a potluck?!” recipe is foolproof and you are welcome to steal it for any recipe thing like this you may need:

          Get a square/rectangular pan. Put a layer of graham crackers on the bottom. Dump a can of cherry pie filling on the crackers and then spread a tub of cool whip over top. Repeat if you want two layers.

          It’s called cherry stuff, and is deceptively delicious for how simple it is.

      1. AnotherFed*

        That’s a good idea – anyone who feels the need to do something can bake/cook, but otherwise no gifts to worry about.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. It could be a festive lunch at work or even a lovely cake and toasts in the breakroom. One doesn’t have to combine congratulatory festivities with gifts although a gift certificate to a local celebratory restaurant would not be amiss.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Can’t you just organize a social gathering? You don’t have to label it a shower–just arrange for a time, food, decorations–a big fuss that doesn’t have gifts attached.

      Or, even people who have a lot of stuff might enjoy receiving a gift, so maybe everyone pitches in whatever they can afford, and you guys get them a pound of Kona coffee (or other luxury good), or maybe a gorgeous platter or pitcher–something that will hang around for a long time and be useful, but always remind them of all the good wishes from the staff.

      My own vote would be a platter or something similar (a friend was given a nice grill), for the permanency.

      If I worked for the sort of boss who would arrange an elaborate shower for a marrying coworker, I’d feel really good about pitching in to get a single, nice gift, and I’d WANT a cake, and a banner, and a chance to “officially” celebrate the whole thing.

      And I’d also think you could reach out to the board and say, “I’m organizing a send-off party; would the board like to be part of it?” They might like to join in on that occasion.

  40. Ryan Stokes*

    I received a call last Thursday around 5pm for an interview for the very next day at 1pm. The recuiter said if I couldn’t make the interview to call her and she could work out other time. I had an emergency meeting come up and I called and emailed her to reschedule. She did respond by email thanking me and and said she will contact the leader for different times. I followed up this Tuesday and left a voicemail. I stilled haven’t heard anything back. Should I contact her again or chalk it up as a loss?

    1. Not Karen*

      I’d do neither and instead chalk it up as a good thing because I wouldn’t want to work for an employer that thinks it’s appropriate to schedule interviews on such short notice.

  41. Not a Real Giraffe*

    Any advice for a country-wide job search?

    Essentially, I am tired of living in NYC (or any major metropolitan area, really), and am considering relocating to a smaller, more affordable city. I have a long list of cities I’m interested in, but wouldn’t even restrict my job search to just those locations. Really, I want to find the right job and just move to wherever that is. I’ve never done a job search that wasn’t location-bound, and the prospect is both intimidating and thrilling.

    What’s the best way to do this? Any advice for ways to let employers know that I’m open to relocating anywhere? (I feel like this is different from simple out-of-state job searching where you’d say, “I’m relocating to New City in June 2016” or something.)

    1. oldfashionedlovesong*

      I did this in 2014. I cast a country-wide net because the job market where I lived, and would have loved to have stayed, was so saturated that you were seeing PhDs applying for Masters-level jobs with crappy pay. I didn’t care where I lived next because I didn’t actually want to leave where I was, I just needed to find a job. I ended up getting a job offer on the entirely opposite side of the country (you might see my post elsewhere that it hasn’t all turned out roses and sunshine– but that’s a different story).

      Honestly, I just said I was currently located in X but would be excited at the prospect of moving to Y for [reasons regarding the specific position]. Some employers will be open to it, and you’ll get hints of that if they’re open to Skype interviews, maybe flying you out depending on your industry and seniority. Other employers won’t even consider it and just throw your application in the bin the minute they see that sentence, but I don’t know if there’s a good way to weed them out beforehand. If you’re offered an interview, they’ll probably ask why you want to move or if you’re really willing to move, and I would just be honest about how you’re focused on finding the right job for you, and you’re willing to go wherever that right job takes you. Good luck!

    2. OwnedByTheCat*

      We’re moving from Chicago to Austin in a month, for a new job.

      My experience was that everyone I talked to wanted to know why I wanted to move. I made sure I had concrete reasons as to why I wanted to move to *that* city and it was well received. For Austin, I said I wanted to be closer to family and then joked about Chicago weather – it was well received. I also made sure I talked about wanting *that* job, and didn’t just talk about wanting to move to their city.

      Good luck! I was surprised by how quick the process was! I was gearing up for a 6 month+ job search and it was about two months until I had an offer!

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        Congrats on your move to Austin! That’s one of the cities on my list :)

        I’m really impressed that it was a two-month endeavor for you. I’ve tried out-of-state searches twice now (each for a specific city) and the first time, didn’t get any bites until I just packed up and moved there, and the second time, got no bites at all and finally gave up.

        I guess what I’m mostly concerned about is that the “right job” for me feels almost prohibitively specific. I want to return to a university setting. I want to do a very particular job function. While there are amazing colleges to work for all across the country, there are very few roles that I’m qualified at each institution. So intimidating!

        1. OwnedByTheCat*

          I think I got lucky with my job prospects. My fiance is in your boat: he knows he needs to be in the new city before he can work. We’re lucky I’ll have a salary we can live (frugally) off of while he job hunts.

          You’ll rock it!

        2. CM*

          You could probably say that you’re looking for a very specific role and are willing to relocate anywhere for that role. But if they ask you, I might also invent some family/friends/significant other nearby who you want to be closer to. Ordinarily I’m not in favor of lying, but I find that some people really focus on your ties to the community. (I got grilled on this once by somebody who just wouldn’t believe I wanted to stay in my current city and said that I had no ties to it because I didn’t grow up here. I was like, um, I have a mortgage and have been living here for years??)

        3. ScarletInTheLibrary*

          When I read that you wanted to live in a more affordable city, my first thought is “I hope Austin isn’t on that list because housing is not affordable and alternate transportation is a joke.” And the city is just a few thousand shy of a million people. The suburbs are among the fastest growing towns in the country. When the legislature is in session, the city swells with legislative staff. IMO, Austin doesn’t match your requirements of being affordable and not being a major metropolitan area.

        1. OwnedByTheCat*

          Thank you! It can’t be worse than Chicago! I’m also not working downtown so I’ll have a reverse commute and a much quieter experience!

      2. TootsNYC*

        yeah, they don’t need to know that you’d be willing to move to any city. Just tell them something that will keep them from worrying that you’ll be unhappy and want to move again.

        But…given your university framework, I would think that universities, more than most other employers, are used to the idea that people look for the job first and take whatever potluck they get w/ the location.
        Even then, of course, you want to be sure you can assuage any worries they have about your happiness w/ the town, so being able to say, “I’m thinking it will be nice to be near the mountains for hiking, and my favorite cousin lives nearby,” or something.

    3. Yachtie*

      I just successfully did this! When I started out, I was completely honest that I was open to relocate anywhere for the right job but that didn’t work and most hiring managers were clearly skeptical ( I never made it pass the phone interview stage when I was honest). So whenever I found a cool job that I was interested in, I would apply and when the topic of relocation would come up, I would lie and say that I had family/or friends in the area which is what drew me to that location. I hate lying but I think that answer made me seem less flighty and made the hiring managers more comfortable that I would stay long term.

    4. Dan*

      Honestly, it depends on your field. There are fields that expect to relocate people; the rules for that are very different than fields where they can find a lot of people locally.

      The typical advice you find on this forum is directed towards those where there are generally sufficient local candidates, so searching from a far requires finesse. When you’re in a field that expects to relocate people, you just have to acknowledge that you know where the position is located, and don’t have a problem with it. You don’t have to convince them *why* you want to move. (And if you do, “COL” is often enough justification.) They’ll cover your interview travel expenses, and may or may not offer you a relo package.

    5. 39281*


      That’s pretty much all I’ve got – the job search isn’t going super well. I have changed the top of my resume to say my name, phone, email, and “currently located in NYC, excited to relocate”. I sometimes also mention the specific city in the last paragraph of my cover letter if I truly have something to say – some applications are going to a city I used to live in, so when I apply for jobs in that city, I put in a sentence about how I loved my time there.

    6. Clever Name*

      Honestly, I don’t think, “I want to leave NYC” really needs much in the way of explanation.

  42. Forrest*

    Last October, I had two interviews with a national nonprofit – a phone and sit down. Neither of us followed up in the end but I see they’re still looking to hire for the position. I’m wondering if it’s worthwhile reaching out again and what should I say?

    1. OwnedByTheCat*

      I imagine if they were still considering you, they would have reached out? It’s crappy that you never heard back but I’d cut your losses and move on.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      When you say you didn’t follow up, do you mean you didn’t communicate at all after the in-person interview? No thank-you email or anything?

    3. BRR*

      I say no. If they thought you were a good fit, they would have contacted you. Also sometimes posts get filled but not taken down.

  43. Mimmy*

    Not sure if this question is okay for the Friday thread – if it’s better off for the weekend thread, please let me know.

    As I’ve mentioned before, my professor has been extremely disorganized, particularly in the latter half of this semester. He admits to being distracted by family issues, including a close family member who is now on hospice. This has been going on for him for most of the semester.

    In light of what’s going on in his life, I feel bad that we’ve been beating him up for his lack of organization and the overall confusion. But, at the same time, it is doing a disservice to the class. One student posted a very stern note on the discussion board last week, which led to a slight adjustment in workload in these last couple of weeks, though now we’re waiting for him to repost the link to submit a paper that’s due Monday.

    My guess is that he genuinely thought he could manage this semester. Since he knew early on that things would be rough, I wonder if he could’ve notified the school so that they could figure out some other arrangement. I filled out the course evaluation survey but didn’t make any mention of his personal situation because it felt cruel to do so.

    I know it’s a moot point since the semester is nearly over, but I wondered what you guys think. I had such high hopes for this class – I did learn a lot, but I think it could’ve been so much better.

    1. Manders*

      Unfortunately, my experience with academia has taught me that professors are strongly discouraged from taking time off for just about anything. I’ve seen professors work through family crises, major mental health issues, detached retinas, burnout, a back problem that made it excruciating to travel to campus, and more. Once you agree to teach for the semester, the school will resist finding “some other arrangement” unless you drop dead, disappear, or get stuck in the hospital and can’t leave.

      It sucks, and it’s a disservice to both professors and students, but that’s the culture at most universities.

        1. Manders*

          Yeah, I just watched my tenured professor mom work through the slow and painful death of her own mother. She’s just developed a very serious neurological problem, and is planning to work through that too. And my boyfriend is on his way out of a PhD program–his advisor seemed to be developing some form of memory loss, and another professor on his committee had some kind of breakdown where she screamed and threw things at her class.

          If your prof is tenured, he probably feels like he can’t or shouldn’t take time off. If he’s in the tenure process, taking time off or showing that he’s not tough enough to work through anything could kill his career. If he’s an adjunct, he may need that money desperately (hospice is NOT cheap). It’s a messed up system.

          1. Mimmy*

            I think all of the professors in my program are adjunct since it’s a relatively small program. Very good point about needing the money. But I think he also has a solo practice in his main profession–at least he did, unless he took leave from that.

            Very messed up indeed.

      1. BRR*

        I agree with all of this. Professors don’t get to choose when they get time off. And if they’re adjuncts it’s even harder.

    2. SophieChotek*

      And it probably can be hard (not impossible) to find a replacement, especially if prof started the semester thinking they could. Universities often hire a semester to a full-year in advance (though often at the last minute at end of summer also), even for part-time adjuncts who will cover only 1 or 2 courses per semester.

      I know one of my profs worked through the death of a family member, and I heard through the grapevine being with him during that time was…well, not pleasant.

    3. Artemesia*

      This sort of thing really frosts me. The amount of face time a Professor gives students is so low and the work for an experienced prof (not doing this the first time or two) is so easy to do that to short students because you can’t manage your personal issues is atrocious. If he was going to slough off it should have been with his other activities like research and writing. He isn’t doing his job; he ought to get dinged for it heavily.

      1. Mimmy*

        Thank you for saying that. I think that the culture, as noted by the others, needs to be changed. We fill out course evaluations, and a couple of my classmates have said that they were going to be “brutally honest” in theirs. What stinks, though, is that you don’t know if the school even reads them.

        1. UK adjunct*

          The comments are most likely going to be read. One uni I teach at has all lecturers produce a prose report summarising and reflecting upon student feedback responses. Another that I’ve just started at has students fill out a scantron, and the report was emailed to me with a more senior staff member’s comments attached (positive comments, as the feedback said nice things about enthusiasm, preparation, etc.) – ymmv, UK context, etc.

          I’ve also seen adjuncts not return to teach in the next year after “brutally honest” student feedback. I have no way of knowing if the work was offered to someone who could keep students happy, or if the adjunct in question decided to not return to face another round of hostility from a new set of students.

        2. TootsNYC*

          And what also stinks is that even though you, the paying student, got crappy instruction, you don’t get any do-overs. You don’t get to take the course again for free in order to truly get the best from it.

          I’m not a big fan of the “I’m just buying a degree” concept, but I *am* buying instruction and help with the learning.

      2. Sophia in the DMV*

        Wow. Being a professor is physically, mentally and emotionally draining BC of all our responsibilities – that we still have to do even when things in our personal lives goes to the toilet. Have a little compassion.

  44. HR Caligula*

    A shout-out to neverjaunty-
    I want to thank you for your contributions, you message and manner is refreshing and brisk. You and fposte are the two I hit Ctrl F for.

  45. Jade*

    What kinds of questions can you ask employers during job interviews to get a good sense of their management style? I’ve had trouble the last few jobs I’ve had with managers who seemed okay at the interviews but then turned out to be miserable to work for. I know it can be hard to tell just from an interview, but I also feel like I’m just not asking the right questions. The biggest problems I’ve run into are micromanagement, terrible communication, and not listening to employee input. What questions can I ask will help me get a feeling for managers’ styles? Scenario questions possibly?

    1. Sarah Nicole*

      I think a scenario question is a good idea. For instance, “If I were working on a project that required me to do X, Y, and Z, how much ownership would you like to see me take and what would be your ideal way of receiving updates?” That could possibly show you how much they would want you to work on your own. I think you could also learn a lot about their management style by how they answer how they like to receive updates about ongoing work. Another question you could ask is, “What was the dynamic of the best working relationship you’ve had with a direct report? What did you love about working with that person?” I think you could learn a lot about their management style that way, and it’s a positive question so it really doesn’t sound like you’re trying to uncover some flaw or something.

    2. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

      How would you describe the culture here? What is the management style? What type of employee do you work best with/fits in best here? I’ve directly asked those questions before.

      1. Audiophile*

        Do you feel like you got accurate answers? I’ve asked that question, and usually was told “someone who can work well independently.” Or other typical answers, that didn’t match with the person’s day to day actions once I was in the job.

  46. PaperbackFighter*

    I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone in last week’s open thread for their advice about first-time ALA attendance! By the time I made it back to a computer to reply the window on the open thread had passed, but your advice was very much appreciated.

    In order to feel less overwhelmed, I’m trying to do something conference-related every day, however small, whether it’s identifying something on the schedule I’m interested in, making my hotel reservation, reading accounts from other attendees, or shopping for conference-appropriate shoes :) So far, so good! Doing it incrementally is making it seem a lot more manageable.

  47. Manders*

    So I decided to dye my own hair last weekend, and the color that looked auburn on the box ended up being a very rich, deep purplish-red. It looks cute as heck, but it’s not a color that would naturally grow out of anyone’s head. I shampooed it as many times as I could to get the color to fade before going to work on Monday, but there’s still a clear purple undertone. No one’s said anything negative about it, but I work in a fairly conservative office and crazy colors are definitely not The Done Thing here.

    Where do you draw the line on “unnatural” hair colors in a conservative environment? I see burgundy shades even richer than what I’ve got going on being sold as a natural color, and I wouldn’t blink an eye at seeing that in the office, but most of my friends have gone pink or blue at some point so I’m worried that my instincts on this are off.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I ask myself if a Muppet would have this hair. If it’s not a Muppet color, then it is a people color and I’m OK.

    2. Sarah Nicole*

      I don’t know how purple we’re talking about here, but that sort of rich pretty burgundy color is beautiful on many women and I’ve seen older, more conservative looking women wear it, too. I think it also depends on the whole package – does it look good on you while you’re wearing your typical office attire? I think if no one has said anything, it’s possible it’s totally acceptable. And anyway, if someone does bring it up, I’d just say, “Yeah this ended up a bit darker than I had anticipated.” Then you can decide what to do about toning it down at that point. Also I love the Muppet comment above.

      1. Francie*

        I agree. There’s a certain family of burgundy/purple-red shades that are clearly not natural but are generally acceptable hair colors for women even in “conservative” environments. If you’re happy with the color, I’d just keep it as it is and be on the lookout for how people are reacting to it.

        Additionally, reds (and blues, for that matter) tend to fade pretty quick, so this might not be a problem for very long. There are also special color-stripping shampoos you can buy, if you do feel like you need a quick solution.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yep. I can’t get red hair dye to stay in for more than a few weeks even if I *want* it there. And that’s a blessing when I accidentally turn myself into Ginger Spice.

          I know what you mean about the burgundy–I see it lots of places too.

    3. Argh!*

      I know a man with a crazy reddish hair color who is applying for jobs. I want to tell him to dye it a natural color while he’s job searching but I don’t really know if it would hold him back. It looks to me like something Carrot-Top would say “Dude, tone it down!” to.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I was kind of worried about putting a temporary pink streak in my newly blonde hair, but then I met a coworker on my new team whose hair is half long, half short, and half black/half white. I stopped worrying. My hair in my new badge picture has a very distinct pink section. :)

      My only line is — well, nothing. And I don’t think a purple undertone is going to be too bad.

    5. ginger ale for all*

      I would call the customer service line of the product to see what they recommend for your concerns.

      And while I am not a gifted at matching up the right product with what I am trying to achieve with my hair, I am really liking the results I am getting with the John Frieda shampoo and conditioner called Brilliant Brunette. There are two kinds by him that seem similar so make certain you are getting the color depositing one. I am using it to ensure that my white roots are less bold and line less.

      And lastly, I don’t work in a conservative field but I think the rich plum color I see around town looks amazing and I would see how it goes over and if anyone says anything, then just say your color didn’t work out and you are trying to find a specialist to correct it just to see if anyone actually does say something.

    6. Soupspoon McGee*

      Late to the party, but I know the hair color of which you speak because I accidentally went that way last month. It faded to a more natural red thanks to an afternoon in the sunshine, so there’s hope :-).

  48. AnonForThis*

    Any advice on how to prepare for a Behavioral Event Interview? I was offered one as a final round for a job I really want. I had never heard of that. I googled it, so I get the structure. Any advice is appreciated!
    Additionally, I’ve had two interviews before this, how do I prepare more in-depth for a third?
    Thanks so much! Happy Friday!

    1. ASJ*

      I was always taught to use the STAR method.
      S – Situation (so what happened)
      T – Task (what could be done to fix/resolve it?)
      A – Action (what steps did you take to fix it)
      R – Result (what happened in the end)

      Fixing that in my head made it easier for me to lay it out calmly and not worry that I was forgetting something. For me, I came up with 5-6 different scenarios ahead of time that could be used to answer multiple questions. I.e., one answer could cover a question about my communication skills OR about my organizational skills, depending on what they asked. I’d write down the STAR answer I wanted to give, and then could go over them several times before the interview.

      Also make sure to use lots of “I” statements. “I did this, I did that”. I don’t know about you, but my tendency tends to be to default to “we” so that was hard to remember. But they want to know what YOU did, not your team.

    2. Ava*

      It’s usually recommended to use the STAR approach in answering questions. That means describing the Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Try to brainstorm some situations you could talk about for the more generic questions like “tell me about a time when you made a mistake” or “tell me about a time when you had a difficult customer” etc. You don’t want to sound too rehearsed but it is helpful to have a few stories in mind.

  49. oldfashionedlovesong*

    I moved across the country a few years ago to take my current job, which as I’ve mentioned a few times here, has turned out to be a well-paying position with great skill building, in the actual bowels of hell. I’ve been looking for ways to get back home ever since. I just interviewed for a job that would be amazing to have. It’s what I want to be doing, with people I know well and really loved working with in the past, and would take me back home. I got a lot of support to apply from friends who work there and a former boss affiliated with the org who wrote my letter of recommendation.

    The interview went well, I think – but I am a neurotic worrywart and something I realized after the interview was over is that they never proffered next steps, when to expect a decision, etc. In the follow up emails I wrote the next day to everyone whom I interviewed with, I closed with “I look forward to hearing from you soon…etc” because I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to ask for next steps or a timeline when they hadn’t shared them. One person replied back thanking me for the follow up, and it was literally “Thanks for your note. Take care!” So now I’ve convinced myself I somehow tanked the interview without noticing and they’ve already decided not to hire me and just don’t want to tell me yet. Obviously I have no way of knowing that’s the case, or what the case might actually be. But I’m finding myself a little irritated that they’ve provided no sense of what to expect next, and I’m doing a mind spiral. This is the only place I can share this, so… here it is.

    The best advice I’ve ever gotten was from Alison who says to put it out of your mind and move on. I’m trying, but I’m so keen on this job that it’s hard.

    1. ASJ*

      I know this won’t help you now, but I usually ask about the next steps at the end of the interview if they don’t offer the information.

      For now, I don’t think that means you tanked the interview. I think it means the company didn’t think to share that info (maybe they’re not used to doing interviews?). It’s coming into summer, so that may slow the process down and could also be a reason you weren’t told.

    2. CM*

      There was just a question earlier this week about whether a noncommittal response to a thank-you meant the person wasn’t getting the job! And Alison’s response, and the responses of all the commenters, were pretty unanimously “Don’t read anything into it whatsoever.” I normally don’t respond at all. Your interviewers are probably talking to other people too and wouldn’t want to tell you anything encouraging or discouraging at this point. Don’t worry about it, it’s meaningless (except it tells you that the person who responded is polite). That being said, it sounds like you want to know what the timeline is and haven’t asked directly, so you could follow up with the hiring person and ask about that if a week or two goes by and you haven’t heard anything.

  50. Hlyssande*

    I had a good talk on Wednesday with my supervisor regarding being exempt and her policy on flexibility and that sort of thing. I’m still not entirely sure my bump to being exempt was kosher, but I feel better about it now. The supervisor is of the ‘it all evens out’ variety and thinks it’s really important for me to be able to keep a good work/life balance. This is great as the manager I’ve been reporting to above her (we’re in the middle of a kind of reorg in making a global team) is a workaholic and seems to think everyone else should be too.

    Said manager volunteered me for a 9pm call next week sometime, actually. Grump.

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

    How does one find a career/job coach to help with a job search? I’ve Googled but I have no idea what credentials mean and if they are legitimate or not. Also, what do these typically cost? I don’t want to pay a bunch of money to take yet another career inventory, I’ve done everyone in existence.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      This may not be exactly what you are looking for, but I just researched and found a Psychologist who specializes in workplace communication. She is right by my house and is even covered by my insurance! My husband is changing careers and is having a hard time going from a competitive and territorial atmosphere to a teamwork and cooperative atmosphere. I thought about career coaching, but realized he really needed some more basic skills and soul searching guidance. And I can trust a medical counselor more than a who-knows career counselor. Nothing wrong with career counselors, but just as you said, you don’t know who is legit.

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

        I keep saying that I wish our EAP offered job search help. ;)

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          My career coach was a personal recommendation, but she has accreditation from the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches and the International Institute of Coaching, if that’s any help? There are directories on the websites to find coaches in your area.

          I think I pay around USD 115 for an hourly session, but to start with, I had a block of about 10 sessions at a slightly discounted rate, as the idea was for us to be working on a specific issue. Now I see her on an ad-hoc basis as required. If I am having a difficult period then I might see her fortnightly, otherwise I have annual or 6-monthly “check-ups”.

          However, it is important to meet the coach and feel you can work with them. The very first session may be at a reduced price or even free in order to do that.

  52. the_scientist*

    My partner is handing in his resignation today. He’s been with this company since he finished university (over five years!) but given recent restructuring and the fact that he was sort of passed over for a promotion, it’s a good time for him to leave, and the new job is a great opportunity for him. It’ll be a bit of an adjustment — the big thing is that he won’t be able to walk to work any longer -but I’m really excited for him!

    Partner and I have also been talking very seriously about putting together a five-year plan for getting out of Southern Ontario, with an eye towards the West Coast. Coincidentally, I stumbled across the MOST interesting job (research officer in a coroners office, how fascinating does that sound?!) out there, and submitted an application. Chances are I won’t hear anything back, although I am very qualified based on their job description, but it’s nice to dream, I guess!

  53. Kai*

    A notoriously lazy/unreliable coworker of mine gave her two weeks’ notice this week. Hooray!!!

    1. GOG11*

      Yay!!! Congrats on no longer having to work with your co-irker (I am taking any chance I can to use that word :P)

    2. mike 2*

      I wish my lazy coworker did that. But no, she just took a vacation day today. Congrats Kai!

  54. Aurion*

    What’s with “team lead” and other such lead positions?

    I’ve had one at my previous job, but that job was so dysfunctional it’s not worth using it as a bar for workplace behaviour. But I don’t understand the position. A lead has delegation authority without…any other authority? So if you run into personnel problems with those that report to you (but whom you have no real authority over), you either…talk them into cooperating or kick it up to your supervisor, whom actually does have real authority?

    I understand that managers often have large teams; it’s easier to have the reports grouped and have the lead of each group report to the manager. But having to be responsible for the team without actual leverage or real authority to correct misbehaviour seems like a recipe for frustration (and reminiscent of group projects at school). Leads don’t often have much of bump in pay, either.

    Can someone explain?

    1. J.B.*

      Same situation. I think the way it could work is if the team leader has meaningful input on performance evaluations or does portions (like technical portions) and other responsibilities. Otherwise you’re just trying to do things with really limited authority. I think it happens because it is easier to get approval for than a supervisor/manager.

    2. the_scientist*

      My company uses “team leads” and “functional leads”. Here, managers might have as many as 15 or more direct reports, which makes it very difficult to meaningfully engage with them. Team leads are allowed to have direct reports, which means that in addition to delegating work they are involved in the performance development and review process. I think it’s a pretty great system- I get way more personal, 1:1 attention with respect to my career goals, and my lead has a better idea of what I do day-to-day so I feel like I get more meaningful appraisals of my performance.

      That being said, I don’t know how the discipline process would work. I think it would still have to go through the manager. But, since my team lead does have total control of my performance evaluation, maybe team leads here DO have the authority to make termination decisions….it’s never come up, fortunately.

      1. Aurion*

        Okay, if your team lead has input into your evaluations, that seems like one way for them to have actual leverage or authority.

        My experience with team leads (in my previous dysfunctional job, and another one a friend was venting about over dinner yesterday) was that team leads have delegate responsibilities only. They cannot terminate or have input into evaluations. Which…sounds like a very painful process.

        1. the_scientist*

          I think that was the way it worked prior to my joining the company, and yeah, it didn’t work very well. Then they did a re-org and as part of that, gave team leads more responsibilities. My team lead has 100% responsibility for my performance evaluation- I don’t think my manager got to give input, because I don’t technically report to her anymore, even though she is the “group manager”.

          The functional lead model is really good to promote people who are more interested in SME-type roles. A lot of technical people want some decision-making/strategic/scientific authority without management responsibilities, and the functional lead role makes that possible.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      My company made “team leads” to make employees feel better. There were complaints that employees didn’t have any promotion opportunities- which is just the nature of our company, we have small departments and not much turnover. So HR decided to make team leads in all the departments. They have a few special tasks, but overall they perform the same function as their co-workers.
      I’ve been at places where team leads were the go-to person on the shift, but here they are just feel-good-title positions.

    4. Red*

      In my workplace, my team has a manager, two leads, and about 24 teapot painters, including both permanent employees and vendors/contractors. Our manager has all the HR duties – time cards, PTO, etc – and is the primary point of contact between our team and other teams or with higher levels of the org chart. (Our team is one of a half-dozen or so, each of which paints a different style of teapot.) She is also generally the one to handle making work assignments on a broad scale. My co-lead and I do daily work assignments if she’s unable to (because she has twelve thousand meetings a day), quality review on teapots painted by new painters, address work process questions, handle specialty teapot projects that are outside our normal process for some reason or another (intentionally or because of technical issues, which we also follow up on). We train the new teapot painters when we get them, we provide ongoing education as necessary. Basically, our manager does the management, HR and external interfacing, while we’re the first “boots on the ground” type point of contact for our team members for actual work issues. We had a teapot painter recently who just wasn’t working out, and while our manager was the one who had to provide the documentation to HR and make the case to get rid of him, my co-lead and I were the ones who were in the position where we could most efficiently document the work quality issues, the attempts at correction, the continued inability to learn from instructions, et cetera.

      And at least for me, when I was promoted to team lead, it was a raise of just over 30%.

      That said, our team’s leadership structure works pretty well together – if I do say so myself – and I could totally see how a structure like ours could get messy if that wasn’t the case. As it is, I have a better administrative/reporting background, while my co-lead has a more extensive production background, so we’re definitely able to work to our strengths. We also all three started at the same time and have basically been able to build our leadership style from the ground up. It’s been a fantastic experience.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        My team leads at Evil Law Firm did what you do, Red, and it worked out well for the most part. They didn’t have disciplinary authority, but they were the eyes and ears for the supervisors, who could then take any concerns to management.

    5. AnotherFed*

      We have two types – group leads, and team leads. Group leads help supervisors deal with all of the admin – most official supervisors have 30-50 direct reports, which is way too many. Group leads effectively handle day to day things like approval for PTO, telework, travel, timecards, etc. and push people to do their admin (trainings, yearly goals, travel paperwork, and so on). They also typically handle interviewing and hiring for everything except high grade positions (the manager has to concur, but that’s a formality).

      Team leads have project team management and authority. They own a project, and work with group leads/managers to staff it, then control project direction. They can’t directly fire people, but with 30-50 direct reports, managers rely almost exclusively on team leads (with inputs from group leads, if the two are different) to provide performance review input, write up award nominations, and document/address performance issues.

    6. LCL*

      The duties and situation you describe is my working situation. My title isn’t team lead, but it’s the same idea. In this case, it has something to do with being a unionized work force, and union members can’t be in a position where they can discipline other members of the same local. Some of our management is union, some isn’t, but it’s a different union.
      Frustrating? Sometimes. But there is always frustration when dealing with people. The aspect that frustrates me the most is that I don’t have hiring authority.

      1. DoDah*

        My team lead has approximately 1/3 my experience in both my industry and in management. He’s the biggest impediment to most projects–so when I can skip his input I do.

        Interestingly when our VP in in on the decision Team Lead suddenly tried to become helpful.

    7. Tuxedo Cat*

      At my workplace, I’ve been a team lead for various projects. It was because I was the most knowledgeable and responsible.

      When the teams worked, all I had to do was delegate tasks and let my team know which resources we should use. I enjoyed that. The problem is that I had multiple team projects not work, because as you pointed out, you don’t have any authority. I have a dysfunctional workplace so that isn’t a surprise. As team lead, you get all the blame when things fail. You can’t pick who is on your team. And when things go well? It’s always attributed to the team even if the lead or one person did all the work. There was no financial or other compensation.

      I’m pretty sure the big boss or the next down read about this model and wanted to implement it without putting much thought into it. They refuse to address the productivity and skill issues.

    8. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      Well our company uses “Team Lead” for what would typically be management level positions but I digress.

      Team Leads Work:
      When the TL reports directly to the manager and who shares the direct reports the TL is supposed to help with. When TLs do the quantifiable parts like, reviewing performance numbers, helping with schedules, etc. This only works if the TL and Manager are very cohesive and on the same page.

      Team Leads Don’t work:
      When the TL is supposed to be “helping to manage” employees that report to a different direct supervisor than their supervisor. This is always a recipe for disaster. Always.

  55. Tomato Frog*

    No question, just a reflection: I’m in a small group that was assigned to create the new manual for our division. That was last year. The manual was put on hold for the last five months because of various disagreements between higher-ups as to what it should contain. And it was a slow process even before that, since we’re all working on other projects, as well.

    Today I was looking for some information that should be in the manual, except the manual doesn’t exist, and it occurred to me that I could probably churn out a perfectly serviceable, unobjectionable manual in a week or two if I did it on my own.

    It reminded me of a scene in a book I read, where a character proposes to update military service regulations in a day or two. Someone points out that last time the regulations were updated, it took two years to complete. The character replies, “Yes, but they were doing it with a committee.”

    I mean, I’d have to consult people about certain aspects of procedure, and I’d want everyone to double-check my work before putting it into use, but to create a functional text that would be of use to everyone? Two weeks, easy.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’m with you. I’ve found that it is easier to create something and let people edit it rather than trying to get a committee to come to a consensus on a concept. If you lay the roadwork, they will know what path they need to be on.

    2. Catherine in Canada*

      Ooooo! I know what book that was – I’m currently listening my way through Lois Bujold McMaster’s Vorkosigan series – it’s The Warrior’s Apprentice.

      And, as a tech writer, I’d say go ahead and do it. In my experience, it’s a lot more likely that people will actually review and comment what’s already there than decide what should be there, and that it’s a lot easier to put too much in and then delete, than it is to get people to decide on content ahead of time.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        That’s the book! The Vorkosiverse is a major reference point in my life.

        In my particular situation it doesn’t seem politic or feasible, time-wise, to just go ahead and do it. However, I may suggest that we make some of the documents we’ve already drafted available as working documents. They could be helpful to everyone.

    3. Just Me and My $0.02*

      Have the higher-ups worked out their disagreement about content? Because if not, you’ll be stepping on somebody’s toes by either including or excluding that component.
      That said, I would only go forward if: a) I could do it without impacting existing assignments; b) I knew the group is not so process-driven that they’ll throw out my work on principle; and c) I understood the political environment enough to know what’s still in contention and for whom.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        I’m not planning to do it out of consideration for all these factors, in fact.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I would just start doing it. Treat all your other committee members as contributing resources–then truly the committee is doing it.

      And once you got going, if you spotted some section that one of them knows more about, suggest to them that they just write it out in their spare time, even if it’s roughly, and add it to yours.

      Once you start, they may see things like that on their own that are more visible to them.

      Just grab the reins and go.

      UPDATE: I saw your note about it not being politicially feasible. But…I think you can draw up your own personal procedures/checklist (bcs >cough cough< it'll help you remember, right?), and then when the committee gets going again, you can say, "Oh, I have some notes…" and offer them.

      I think you can also draw up those procedures and then just quietly, without referencing the bigger effort, mention them to colleagues as a resource, or ask them to look over your own, "personal" notes to help you out, personally. And then, they're available if the effort gets going.

      I've done something similar; in my company, there are lots of departments that make teapots, and I'm in charge of quality control. I have certain tools I use, and I think other people doing QC on other flavors of teapots ought to use them. So I just mentioned that I have these, and said, "let me know if you want to see them." They did, so I sent *my own personal* notes to them. So it feels more like they're pulling the info; I'm not pushing it out.

  56. LawCat*

    Interesting rejection this week. I’d had an interview (they were wonderful to talk to) and the employer later called and said they were very impressed with me in general and it was a tough call, but my experience didn’t quite match what they were looking for. I had addressed the reservations as best I could during the interview, but I could understand if it just was not quite the right match for them. While rejecting me though, the employer kept saying that they nonetheless might be calling me back. I’ve never had that happen before. Sort of like, “We’re closing the door, but we left it open a crack and are peering at you through it.” Maybe I’m a backup candidate in case the unicorn candidate doesn’t come along?

    1. Collie*

      I would guess they’re looking into adding a position or anticipating a future opening that you’d be a good fit for. Not a guarantee, but that’s what I get from this. Good luck!

      1. LawCat*

        Thanks! It’s a very small firm in a niche area of law. They do transactional work, but my background is largely litigation with only a recent foray into transactional activities over the past year (but not exactly the kind of activities the firm does). The employer encouraged me to apply to litigation firms. I am considering it and there are things I miss about litigation (and things I definitely don’t miss); at the same time I have been enjoying the transactional work I have been doing recently. The nice thing is I don’t *need* another job right now so I can be patient and weigh my options.

      2. Triceratops*


        I’ve seen something similar go down at work. It was a case of having two really great candidates for one job–but there was potential for a second identical job in several months.

    2. MsMaryMary*

      As a hiring manager, I’ve been lucky enough to have two strong candidates but only one spot to fill. I really did keep my second choice (and it was a very close second) in mind for the future, and when another spot opened up six months later, I hired my second choice into the spot. He ended up being a better fit than my first choice. I wouldn’t take it as a guarantee, but some employers do remember past candidates for future openings!

    3. Oryx*

      I’ve been that person — interviewed for a job, didn’t get it, then six months later they emailed about a totally different position. I ended up not taking it, but sometimes hiring managers do remember and come back.

      1. TootsNYC*

        dead straight we do!

        Hiring is a pain in the neck, and when people make a good impression, it can be hard to be only allowed to hire one of them. So, why wouldn’t I make my life easier by getting that Close Number 2 in for the second job?

        I’ve even simply called someone to offer them the job without re-interviewing them. (she didn’t want to leave where she was, unfort.)

    4. TootsNYC*

      I think they just really liked you, and they’re going to put your resumé on the top of the stack in case something that fits your skills comes up. And that they think it’s possible that will happen.

      So, no promises, but they really wish they could hire you.

      Congrats! That means you’re a strong candidate, and you should feel confident and comfortable in any sort of job-application thing you encounter, even if it’s with someone other than them.

    5. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      I’ve been in that role. They wanted someone who was phenomenal in A, but could also help with B, C, D, E, and F.

      I was phenomenal at B, C, D, E, and F, but was passable at A and interested in learning more about it. 2 of the 3 managers really, really, really wanted to hire me! But the direct supervisor was not as impressed because he really only cared about A. I didn’t get the job.

      They stated interest in hiring me should another position open up, but I never heard back. I still follow them though just in case something nice comes up.

  57. Mimmy*

    There was somebody who commented on one of my Friday Open Thread posts a few weeks ago who invited me to contact her through her blog – I don’t remember the person’s screen name or what week I posted my thread, so hopefully the person sees it. If you’re reading this – I have been meaning to get in touch with you but have been focused on school and other stuff. I promise I haven’t forgotten about you!!

  58. I said something stupid on the internet*

    Yesterday, I made a very unpopular opinion on a very public post. Of course I got the backlash and hate, and I dont’ blame them (it wasn’t a great thing to say).

    My biggest worry right now is if this will come back to haunt me at work and I could lose my job over this…ugh.

    I usually never post in arguments or get into debates, and I deleted my original comment and ignored the responses, but..I cringe.

    *THINK* before you *type*

  59. notcornelia*

    I had a phone interview last week that went phenomenally well. The interviewer said he’d next bring me in for a round-robin with about 8 people, including the CEO of the HUGE organization. Later, he emailed and said he’d changed his mind and I’d just be meeting with him. This probably just means that it turned out to be a much bigger pain in the ass to schedule all those people for anything other than a final-final kind of “tell me if you see a deal breaker” interview, right?

    1. GT*

      That’s my guess – the others didn’t want to make time on their schedules, especially if he’s bringing in multiple candidates to interview – they’ll save it as the last step. Good luck!

    2. TootsNYC*

      if I were the CEO, and many other people, I wouldn’t want to be in an interview with anybody but my direct reports–I’m guessing all those people said, “don’t involve me; if you like her, hire her; if you have any reservations, don’t.”

  60. Mockingjay*

    Remember how I said things were going better at work?

    I’m back to doing Meeting Minutes, while the Admin Assistant ‘teleworks.’

    1. Biff*

      Oh. That’s just unacceptable.

      Might I suggest that you tell your boss that “I’m struggling to take meeting minutes and my own private notes that help me create action items after the meeting. I really need to engage in the meeting, not just record it, to make the most of our time together.”

      1. Mockingjay*

        Oh, there’s way more to it than that.

        I am being pulled away from my direct technical tasks to perform her admin functions in other areas and projects. I’m not supposed to do this other work at all, since I’m not on contract to support these other areas. She works for a different company on the project. Which is the real issue – out of scope labor categories and contract tasks.

        [For those of you in federal contracting, you know what a big deal this is. There’s a lot more to this situation than I can say here. I’m not the only one being affected. I am trying to fight it.]

        I have to go to another meeting now and take notes for a project I know nothing about.

        1. Biff*

          Can you ask your boss about priorites? If you constantly go to meetings that make no sense for you to attend, are bigger fish not frying?

          Can you straight up ask your boss if they would ask another person on your level to do this/share this task with you?

  61. OwnedByTheCat*

    So, I made a pretty major mistake at work. A $15,000 mistake. I was SO ANXIOUS about telling my boss (even though I’m in my notice period and have a new job lined up). I was having major stress dreams.

    Yesterday I explained what had happened, and how I thought it could be rectified. I shared the steps I’d taken already.

    And my whole team, boss included, was like “OK. Bummer. Thanks for outlining the next steps!”

    A big breakthrough for me, Ms. Anxious Mc-Anxious Face. I don’t have to be perfect *all* the time. My hard work and organization means that my team knows I’m only human!

    1. ASJ*

      I think part of the reason they so chill was because you owned up and explained how and what you’d done already. That (and the fact that you don’t need to be perfect!) are good lessons to carry with you.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I just went through the same thing this week. I made a mistake that meant we couldn’t utilize a new tech tool that my boss had been excited about (basically, I didn’t pull the trigger fast enough and we ran out of time to get it properly set up). It took me all morning to work up the nerve to tell her, and her response was literally the same as your boss’s. “Okay. Bummer.” The end! It’s okay to make mistakes, so long as you ‘fess up and figure out a plan for moving forward.

    3. GOG11*

      Good job on handling it well. If I were in your shoes, this is the sort of thing I’d recall when I’m in another anxious situation as an example of how well things could to counteract all the terrible possibilities my anxious brain cooks up for me to feel horrific over.

  62. stellsbells*

    I’ve been waiting all week for open thread!

    Question – my cubicle is right next to our break room (which is usually a good thing given the proximity to the coffee machine) however, during lunch it can obviously get a little smelly.

    I’m wanting to find some sort of air freshener I can use to help me get through the days when someone’s heated broccoli or fish smell lingers, but as someone with a sensitive nose, I don’t want it to be something that is going to cause any issues for my neighbors.

    Any suggestions? I would do a Scentsy type thing that I could turn off when I don’t need it or it gets too strong, but those aren’t allowed in the office for obvious fire hazard reasons.

    1. super anon*

      I wonder if a carbon based odour remover would work in this kind of situation? My office is beside our kitchen but I have the luxury of a door to close when things get smelly (which isn’t ideal, but is understandable and hasn’t been a problem yet). I’m going to keep an eye on this thread to get some ideas!

      1. dancer*

        I think one of these would work. When I bought my car from a smoker, I used these in my car and it cleared up the smell really, really well. I wouldn’t try to cover up the food smells with air freshener because often a) it makes things smell worse b) people have scent issues. Most air freshener-type things give me massive headaches, but I haven’t had issuse with the the block of carbon.

    2. Journal Entries*

      I use one of those essential oil reed diffusers in the vanilla scent, it’s very gentle and my coworker who has allergies to most air fresheners isn’t bothered by it at all.

    3. Laura*

      I have a reed diffuser in a very light, neutral scent. I also work next to the break room, and the diffuser has definitely helped take the stink out of the air!

    4. Cleopatra Jones*

      Unscented Febreze, if you can find it. An absolute lifesaver for people with allergies and sensitive noses.

      1. AFT123*

        I was going to suggest Febreze as well! I friggen love it, and it works so well for odor removal. I wish I could find the unscented one in an aerosol can but I’ve only seen it in the pump spray bottle.

        Note – as someone who is allergic to everything, the extra strength Febreze (even unscented) makes me sneeze uncontrollably. If anyone complains, please don’t think they’re nuts :) I like the aerosol Febreze with the green leaves on the bottle, I forget what it’s called. There was also a “greek seaside” one that I liked. The flowery ones and the laundry scented ones are sneeze bombs for me personally.

      2. Clever Name*

        This is what I was going to suggest. I think trying to cover up bad food smells with a “nice” smell sometimes makes things worse.

    5. GOG11*

      I’d say the safest bet would be an air cleaner, though that may not be necessary in your workplace (there may not be anyone with weird allergies, even to unscented febreze) or feasible for you (not sure how expensive they would be, especially if it takes a fancier one to take care of certain smells). Though, one benefit would be cleaner, not just fresher smelling-, air.

    6. BRR*

      There are the little air freshner things (is that specific enough to help) that just neutralize. You could also ask your neighbors if they have issues with anything.

    7. stellsbells*

      Thanks for the suggestions everyone! I’m definitely sensitive to perfumes, so I definitely want to use something that wouldn’t bother me or my coworkers!

      I’ll be looking into all of these, thanks!

  63. anon for this*

    Question: If your coworker posted something defamatory about a very influential and prominent higher up on a public twitter that is directly tied to them (the name is private, but the profile photo is a face shot of them, and they follow and are followed by current coworkers), should you let it go, or should you tell someone?

    Some background: Last week there was a meeting between a coworker (Judy), our director (Jane), and two other people from my department with a very, very high ranking person in the institution (Elroy). He has the ear of everyone in charge, knows everyone who can get things done, and has *a lot* of influence and is very well regarded. The only reason my department exists is because of Elroy’s help.

    The meeting was about a project that the ball has been dropped on for months, which Elroy has been trying to pin down for a very long time. He is already unhappy with our leadership and direction – there is a lot of background here, but for the sake of brevity I won’t include it. The meeting room was changed 5 minutes before the meeting by Jane. George and one other attendee were waiting for the meeting to start, and no one else was there. Jane and Judy arrived 30 minutes late and told everyone that the meeting would be cancelled. At this point, Elroy was very unhappy, and from what I have been told by the other person in attendance, had a very frank conversation about the problems he sees, etc – especially in regards to Judy and her leadership.

    The day after this meeting, Jane posted several tweets about the situation. These tweets are publicly available as her profile is not private. Her profile picture is a face shot of her and several coworkers follow her on twitter. To anyone who knows her and her workplace, it is very obvious who these tweets are about. In these tweets she completely misconstrues the situation, claims that George was violent toward Judy because of her race & gender, and she calls him a very inappropriate & shocking name. Considering the standing of George, this is absolutely shocking and puts our department in a very precarious situation.

    Our department is already on thin ice, and from what I have heard from a lot people we are close to being shut down, or our leadership changing hands because people in high positions are not happy with our direction and leadership, and some large transition may be coming in the future. There are huge problems at our department that stem from Jane being a toxic coworker – this latest twitter escapade is just one in a string of bad decisions that makes us look bad in the eyes of everyone. Jane is best friends with Judy so there is nothing that can be said about her to Judy that would be taken serious/not result in retaliation.

    Myself and another coworker kicked around the idea of sending the tweets to George anonymously (to protect both of our jobs – if Judy knew we did this we could get in serious trouble or even be let go), but I’m not sure if it’s worth doing. In a normal workplace I would probably bring it up to my boss and let them handle it, but where I work now isn’t a normal workplace in the slightest. I do think George should know this is how our side of the table is handling things because he has the power to force change… but I also think it might be more trouble than it’s worth.

    So AAM commentariat, what would you do? Let sleeping dogs lie? Find a way to let George know that wouldn’t impact your position? Let George know without being anonymous?

      1. anon for this*

        He’s a director of a very high profile department. He has regular 1 on 1s with the President, the board, etc. He has a lot of power and influence and is very well respected and regarded. Quite frankly, the way he was treated by Judy & Jane is absolutely shocking.

      2. anon for this*

        Oops – I just reread and realized I accidentally switched my pseudonyms up toward the end. George = Elroy.

    1. BRR*

      I would not get involved. Something in my head is saying screen shot but it sounds like this might get worse before it gets better and you don’t want to be a part of it.

    2. Phoebe*

      I agree. It’s best to stay out of it. Chances are it will get back to him eventually anyway, since the Twitter feed is public and other co-workers follow it.

    3. Soupspoon McGee*

      It sounds like Elroy is a stand-up guy who’s trying to keep the department and its work afloat, while Judy is undermining it. If her tweets are seen (and if her other grumblings are heard), the department is at risk. So, I suggest you tell Elroy, but do it in person. Take a screenshot of the tweets. Tell him you are very concerned about retaliation and don’t want you name used.

      Anonymous tips just don’t have the same credibility as in-person conversations. If you can’t get access to him one-on-one, find another route.

  64. Workers Comp*

    A friend of mine filed a workers comp case against her employer a few years ago and it should be settled within the next few months. She still works with the employer, but part of the settlement will include that she has to quit her job. She’s worried that she will have trouble finding another job since this will show up in a background check. How long does a workers comp claim stay on one’s record? How should it be addressed in an interview? Should she bring it up in interviews or wait to see if it comes up in the background check?

    1. Pwyll*

      Really depends on the state, but I’ve heard of claims remaining on the record for 20+ years. That said, employers can’t really use that information against you legally (it’d likely be an ADA violation). I wouldn’t bring up the claim in the interview, but if asked why she left her last job she could use: “I left due to a family medical issue that has been resolved.” (Assuming that the injury is resolved, of course.)

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Did it go to court? If it was settled before a lawsuit was filed, I don’t think it would show up on a background check.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          In that case…companies that are worried about workmans comp claims would probably ask about it during the interview. At that point, the candidate can explain what happened and state that they followed company policy by reporting the injury and did the best they could to do the right thing for their health and the employer.
          I think employers are especially concerned if there is a trail of claims attached to an employee. If the candidate can speak honestly about the situation, I think it smooths things out.

  65. Someone else today*

    So, a weird thing happened to me this week. I, apparently, was so harsh in an email that I made someone who is above me on the org chart cry.
    In the email I said something like, “I’m aware of the issues with the Teapot reports and had already planned to go over each section to see what adjustments need to be made. Right now I’d like to work on finding and making those changes myself because it’s important that I am able to see and correct things myself without someone pointing out what needs doing. If I need help, though, I’ll be sure and find you.”
    I was responding to an emailed request to sit down and talk about adjustments the other person had found within the reports that needed to be done. This person does this every month – brings the reports to me and shows me what needs correcting, even though it’s my job to find and adjust the issues myself.
    This person is my predecessor in this role and is above me in seniority, but may be retiring within the next year. They have helped me and trained me and been invaluable to me, but I’ve been here for nearly two years now and I feel that I need to be finding these problems myself. This person doesn’t give me time to do that! As soon as I put the reports on the server they go print a copy and look for issues.
    Was my email really harsh enough to warrant crying over? If so, how could I have worded it better? I’m just floored that I got an email from my boss saying I made this person cry. Other people commented on this person crying in the hallway too.

    1. NarrowDoorways*

      It’s not particularly harsh to me, but not as nice as it could be.

      She shouldn’t be weeping wildly over it though. She may have a medical condition which leads to easy crying. My most cries at the drop of a hat.

      1. Someone else today*

        Nope, this person is known as a hard-ass. People fear her here. My boss’ email even mentioned how rare it is to see her cry over anything. Apparently she was pretty distraught and sitting in my boss’ office crying and saying she feels like she should just leave and referenced my email as the reason she was thinking that way. I was reading the email with my mouth hanging open like a moron.
        I have NEVER made a person cry at work! I feel like the biggest jerk in the whole world.

        1. Mustache Cat*

          I’m sorry you feel like a jerk! It really sounds like from context that this was just the latest metaphorical straw. Although you may want to be wary for if this becomes a Thing

        2. MM*

          If she says she wants to leave over that email you posted, then there is almost certainly something else going on.

        3. Kai*

          Yikes! If she’s acting that dramatic about it, it sounds like it’s more about her than you. I wouldn’t worry too much.

          I’m a very sensitive person and probably would have felt put off if I’d gotten that email, but I wouldn’t have had a reaction THAT extreme.

          1. star23*

            Agreed! I can definitely see having a negative reaction, like thinking that you were being ungrateful for the help, but crying seems like a BIG overreaction (and I say this as someone who cries pretty easily).

            I do think you could have softened your language by adding something like “I’m sure you’re just trying to help but I think it would be good for me to make sure I know how it do it on my own”.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      That Is Weird. There is nothing accusatory in the email. No name calling. I think it was the best way to address a difficult issue.
      Maybe checking your reports was the only thing that brought them joy ?

      1. Jennifer*

        I don’t get it either. I don’t see anything offensive in it unless this person is the sort who HAS TO and insists on helping (or “helping”) and takes rejection of even the mildest sort hard.

        My mom is like that and hoo boy. Right now she’s coming to “help” me this weekend even though I’d really rather she not (it’s the only weekend she can help me but this isn’t the time at all I want her here), but the drama would be so much worse if I told her no after she invited herself.

      2. Ultraviolet*


        I think this person’s reaction was really odd too. My best guess is that she was already feeling excluded or disrespected one way or another, then happened to interpret this email as a criticism and it was just the last straw for her that day. (Is she so high in the org chart that it’s really unusual for someone to decline a meeting with her?)

        As for guesses about how your email could have been misinterpreted…my money would be on reading it too quickly and/or in a defensive mindset left over from something else and taking it as “step off, I don’t need you!” rather than “the person in my role needs to do this without such close oversight.” Since you did specifically ask whether you could have worded it better, I’d say it would have been ideal to explicitly acknowledge that what you wanted to do this time was different from what you’ve done before. Without that I feel like there’s a bit of an abrupt edge to it. But you could never have predicted that the email would upset her as much as it did–you’re not responsible for that, and you’re not a jerk!

    3. LCL*

      Ahem. Speaking as someone who has sent emails that were unintentionally sarcastic, I think you used a phrase that came across as really snarky though you didn’t mean it that way. That was ‘If I need help, though, I’ll be sure and find you.’
      It also sounds like the person has other things going on in their life, because she is talking retirement. Your email was probably the last straw.

      1. Myrin*

        I can honestly say that whenever I’ve told/written someone that I’ll be sure to find them if I need help, I’ve meant this 100% seriously and kindly (in a “I’m confident I can do this myself but I appreciate your offer for help and will gladly take you up on it should the need arise” kind of way)! I’m very surprised someone would read sarcasm and snark into it unless there’s something else going on additionally.

        1. fposte*

          I think sometimes people default to reading things sarcastically. I wish they wouldn’t, because it makes it a pain if you have to flag when you’re being sincere, and that just makes you sound *more* sarcastic. But you can’t control them.

      2. Someone else today*

        I meant that genuinely, but reading it back I can see where it could be read as sarcasm.

    4. Myrin*

      I don’t think this email is rude at all! I find it firm but polite and the only thing cry-worthy about it could be the fact that it conveys that you want to do this work on your own – which is exactly true!

    5. I'm Not Phyllis*

      He/she may just have been having a bad day and therefore read that more harshly then you meant it. You can always apologize if you’ve offended her, but your email doesn’t read as overly harsh to me.

    6. GiantPanda*

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with your email. It’s professional, polite and says what needs to be done.
      She may have read it as “Go away and retire already.” (Which would be on her, not on you.)

    7. TootsNYC*

      Just be really puzzled anytime someone brings it up. Nicely so; don’t be dismissive. But say things like, “I’m so sorry if she felt it was harsh! I was just trying to point out that it’s time for me to stand on my own two feet. I’m a little at a loss. Perhaps it’s best if we all just let it blow over. You know, least said, soonest mended?”

      or, “I think it’s such an awkward situation. I need to start being more independent here, and not rely on her for so much. I think it’s best if we don’t dwell on it, and give her some space to recover.”

    8. Mander*

      Her reaction seems really bizarre to me. I don’t read your email as anything other than “I’d like to try doing this on my own, please” not “get out of my face and retire already you overbearing jerk”.

  66. Marcy*

    Anyone with strategies for a new mom to remain engaged at work while dealing with the constant daycare germ carousel? My boss and co-workers have been incredibly supportive, but I feel bad because it feels like every week, either I am sick or the baby is sick and I am either out sick or working from home. Even when I am back at work, I feel so scatterbrained and physically exhausted. My plate is overflowing, but I don’t feel like I can really ask to get the work be cut back because 1) the backlog is partially due to my being out of the office, and 2) everyone’s plate is overflowing, and has been for years.

    I really love work and my job, but lately I feel like I’m drinking from a firehose.

    1. jm*

      I feel your pain. When I’m at home with a sick child or sick myself, I try to still respond to emails and voicemails. That seems to help a little — at least it means that if someone needs a quick answer to move forward on a project, they aren’t waiting on me. Also, I have all my files backed up on Office365 (Google Drive would also work, and it’s free), so if someone needs a document, I can easily email them a link to it.
      Know that the germ cycle definitely gets better — pretty soon your child will build up immunity, and everything will get better. Plus, elementary school will be a breeze, health-wise.
      And, when you and baby are well, if you can come in early or work a little late to play catch-up, that’s a great idea too.
      If you have the ability to hire a private sitter or family member when baby is sick, maybe even for half a day, I sometimes do that if I absolutely must be at work (I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old).

      1. TootsNYC*

        If you have the ability to hire a private sitter or family member when baby is sick, maybe even for half a day, I sometimes do that if I absolutely must be at work (I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old).

        Yeah, I think that it’s important to find sick-child care and to use that as much as you can. I was lucky–my MIL took my kids whenever they were sick, so maybe I’m a little cavalier about the difficulty, but I consider it to be a real luxury to be allowed to use your own sick days to care for your kids. So I think it’s important (and a wise tactic) to keep that down to a dull roar.

        I think when I retire I’m going to set up a “drop off your sick kid” service to earn extra money. We need more of that available to us.

    2. Biff*

      A friend of mine who ran a daycare swore by daily salt gargles and regular washing of hands and face. Despite being surrounded by snotty kids, she stayed well. You might try it.

      1. the_scientist*

        I think it’s also just time. I don’t have kids myself but most of my coworkers do, and my aunt ran a daycare for 25 years. The first year always just……sucks. I think it gets better once the kids get older and build up their immune system a bit more. I understand that by the time daycare kids hit grade school, it’s pretty rare for them to get sick! By contrast, my mom was a stay at home mom, and when I started school I got strep throat at least 4 times a year between Kindergarten and grade 3.

        1. TootsNYC*

          this was true in my household! My DD was sick for almost all of her first year of life, and then never, ever again.

    3. Lily Evans*

      Your immunity (and your baby’s) will also build over time, I’m sure. It’s like how first year teachers tend to end up using more sick days than veteran teachers. I worked at a daycare for a while and the first six months or so I was there I was sick all. the. time. From sniffles to the worst stomach bug I’ve had in recent memory. But my body got adjusted to the constant onslaught of germs and, knock on wood, I’ve only taken one sick day in the six-ish years since.

      1. phedre*

        Same here. I used to work in a methadone clinic and was sick constantly the first year. Once I got through that first year I almost never got sick.

    4. just a thought*

      I think you just need to give it more time. Everyone probably has the perspective that you’re a new mom and new babies get sick once they start going to daycare. A lot of this may be in your head.

      Do what you can from home and pitch in as much as you can when you’re at work and people will deal.

    5. Eve*

      I started to use a neti pot twice a day after a couple of rough years teaching and along with cod liver oil + vitamin d (Doctor supervised) I have rarely been sick since. The neti pot doesn’t work for me if my nasal passages are really inflamed from sickness or allergies so it’s more preventative for me and also seems to speed up the recovery or at least how I feel about the recovery

  67. jm*

    We have an issue at our office with people who DO NOT have handicapped tags/placards but choose to park in handicapped parking spots. The people at our office who do have handicapped tags/placards and need parking close to the building are understandably upset. We’ve sent emails to all the staff but the parking issues continue.
    To me, parking in a handicapped spot if you don’t have a placard/tag is pretty disgusting. We have a large staff (150+ people), so we’re not positive who is abusing the handicapped spots. My boss is ready to call the police to write tickets, or have the vehicles towed.
    What course of action would you suggest?

    1. NarrowDoorways*

      They should be towed, and for this issue it’ll likely be at the owner’s expense.

      1. Manders*

        Agreed. It’s going to keep happening as long as there are no consequences for doing it. Some people are just jerks.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          A suburb of Boston made thousands a day in ticket revenue for handing out tickets to people parked (and idling -sigh) in handicap spaces at the mall (Burlington) during the holiday shopping season. It’s not something they do year round but it sure was eye opening.

    2. super anon*

      Tow them, or if your parking lot is patrolled by a parking company, call them to have tickets written.

      Parking in handicapped spots when you don’t have a placard is so rude, especially so if you’re parking there for an entire workday.

      1. OwnedByTheCat*

        I’d just tow them. A ticket is an expensive annoyance and a slap on the wrist. Towing is a freaking pain in the ass. Parking in the handicapped spot when you are not physically impaired is just so crappy. Towing their cars sends a very clear message that it won’t be tolerated!

        Signed, someone who spent hours trying to get my car back from the city of Chicago after it was illegally towed from a side street. I’ll forgive, but never forget.

    3. oldfashionedlovesong*

      Absolutely your boss should call the police for ticketing and/or towing. I have no problem with consequences for people who flout the social contract in such a rude and unnecessary way.

      My father recently was assigned a permanent handicapped placard because of a leg injury that didn’t end up healing properly, and even he avoids using those spaces unless he’s having a very bad pain day, because he knows there’s other people with the same placards who have greater need than he does.

    4. TCO*

      Agreed. I know you’ve sent several warnings but you might want to send out a final all-staff memo making it clear that towing will start the next day. Then tow away. You don’t owe these scofflaws anything, but you definitely owe your mobility-impaired employees better than this. I wonder if this could ever become an ADA violation if your company willingly let people misuse the handicap spots and never took action.

      1. OwnedByTheCat*

        I hate when people violate the social contract (and law) like this I’d want to just tow them without a final warning. Petty? Probably. Immensely satisfying? Most definitely.

    5. Not Karen*

      It’s not just disgusting, it’s illegal, so I don’t understand why your boss hasn’t already called the police.

    6. LisaLee*

      I would go out and place notices (preferably official-looking ones) on the offending cars. That way you make sure the offenders are aware. If it happens again, call the police and ask to have the cars ticketed.

      1. Windchime*

        I would be surprised if the offenders weren’t already aware. We are all taught in drivers’ training classes what the handicapped spots look like and who can (and cannot) use them. I’m on “team Tow” for this one.

    7. Mustache Cat*

      Have them towed. They’ve received enough warnings, and they are doing something that is almost universally despised as morally repugnant.

    8. Laura*

      Call the cops and have tickets written. Legal action is the best way to punish the offenders, since they ARE breaking the law.

      And being monumentally stupid and inconsiderate, too. But that’s not a crime.

    9. Mimmy*

      Your boss is right – get the cars ticketed and/or towed. Non-disabled people parking in handicapped spaces is such a widespread problem and it needs much stricter enforcement. Is it usually the same car or cars abusing the spaces?

    10. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Get them ticketed or towed. They’ve been warned enough! If you want to be extra nice, you could tell them that “starting next week” parking enforcement will be called in to deal with this ongoing issue. But really, people should know better.

    11. Menacia*

      I have to agree with all the other posters and if your boss is on board then you should follow through with having the cars ticketed or towed. There is a reason why there are handicapped spaces, they aren’t just for the convenience for all, but a necessity for some. I work out of a building where parking can be a pain when we have visitors. I have never seen anyone park in one of the two handicapped spots who did not have a placard. I’ve seen them do some creative parking, but the handicapped spots are always available.

    12. AF*

      The best part of towing is that they likely won’t complain to you, because then they’ll reveal themselves as the jerks who parked there illegally. Start doing it now – they know what they’re doing is horrible, and yet they continue, so don’t give them any more chances. Do they get there so early/late that no one else observes them or can identify them?

    13. AnotherFed*

      I’d start with ticketing and not jump to towing right away. I’m a little sensitive on that – when I was in a wheelchair, it took a while for the real permit to come through, and the paper one didn’t stay hanging well. My mom (who was driving because did I mention? wheelchair!) found that out when the car got ticketed, which was a pain but at least wasn’t too difficult to resolve. If it’d been towed, I have no idea how I’d have gotten home – I don’t think we’d have been able to get me and the chair in a cab, even.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        That makes sense, but where I work, Security can give a temporary company-specific disabled tag (and keep your car info handy in case you forget it) for any employee who needs it. (I was offered one when the head of Security saw that I had hurt my foot and was using a boot, but I felt mobile enough not to need it.) If a company has this policy, I think there’s even less reason to park in the disabled spots without the license or tags.

        1. AnotherFed*

          Absolutely – that makes a lot of sense where it’s the generally the same people in the parking lot every day. I was thinking the issue was at a place with visitors or customers who wouldn’t necessarily be there frequently, or where several businesses shared a parking lot.

        2. catsAreCool*

          This is a good reason to send a warning first. Someone who temporarily needs closer parking or just started to need it might not have had the time/energy to deal with getting an official permit, or maybe it hasn’t come through yet – anyone in that position does not need to have a ticket or car tow on top of that.

    14. Ultraviolet*

      I’d suggest announcing to all your staff that effective next week (or three days from now, or something), you will be towing cars with no placard/tag from handicapped spots. Tell them how you’re going to monitor it (will someone be going out to check?), which will help show that you’re serious this time. Tell them what you’d like them to do if they have a tag and need a handicapped parking spot but none are available (like maybe they could notify an admin who would then either have an unauthorized car towed, or maybe send out an email giving people a ten-minute window of time to move their unauthorized car without a ticket?).

      I definitely think you need to make this an explicit announcement, rather than just suddenly starting to enforce parking rules. It’ll be less effective otherwise, and people who need the handicapped spots need to know that you’ll help them out now if their spots are illegally occupied. And I do think it’s best that the announcement be “effective in two days…” rather than “effective immediately.” If the new policy was effective immediately, some people would find it really unfair that they hadn’t been warned that you weren’t turning a blind eye anymore. And you could definitely argue that it’s perfectly fair, but I think it’s overall better to give a little warning to prevent making this a source of drama and ill-will.

      Since you’ve actually got people who need the accessible spots and can’t get them, I think towing is reasonable. But it’s worth thinking through the consequences for everyone in your workplace if someone found out at the end of their shift that their car was gone. Would anyone end up locked out of the building late at night? Are there any groups in your workplace with the policy that no one should be left alone at closing? Could some people be using their illegally-parked cars for work purposes during the day, such that having the car towed would impact other people’s work or important projects? etc. It could be that ticketing is easier.

  68. UnemployedSTEM*

    I know we’re supposed to emotionally move on after an interview, but it’s much easier said than done. Had an interview earlier this week and thought it went well… only to have the job posting re-listed the next day. The company uses Taleo though, so I was thinking *maybe* it was auto-renewed? Is it still worth it to follow up with them and if so, when? I have no contact information for anyone on the panel that I interviewed with, just an email for the internal recruiter who set up the interview.

    Also a side note, we tell students that STEM basically guarantees a job. As someone with math and engineering bachelor’s and master’s degrees (and related work experience), I can’t help but be incredibly frustrated every time I hear this…. because it’s been so hard for myself to even land interviews. I know friends who experienced similar with their STEM degrees. It seems more and more like just computer science/ engineering degrees guarantees a job–the rest of us spend months unemployed too. Just needed to share the frustration. Thanks for letting me vent.

    1. Triangle Pose*

      Who is the “we” in “we tell students that STEM basically guarantees a job?” NO! When you hear this, speak up and explain that there is no guarantees in the job search world and students should keep that in mind.

      I’m sorry it is frustrating and good luck with your search!

      1. UnemployedSTEM*

        All my guidance counselors and advisers throughout college unfortunately. I’ve begun speaking up anytime I’ve heard this based on my own experience and those of friends in similar situations. And thank you–hopefully something works out soon!

      2. Not Karen*

        Everyday people, too. When I first graduated with a STEM degree and expressed my trouble in finding a job, one person told me “there are tons of jobs in that field” and thus I should have no problem finding one. So clearly it was all my fault.

        1. Rye-Ann*

          Ugh, that’s terrible. :\ It’s SO not your fault. It’s not a bad idea to try to get into a STEM field if that’s what you really want to do, because it’s not as hopeless as other fields, is my understanding. BUT:

          -Not all STEM is created equal. Some fields are more in demand, and others have way too many people. In fact, I’ve seen people argue that STEM should not even be lumped together, since the “TE” part of that is very different (and more in demand) from the “S/M” part.
          -I know this to be true in my particular area of STEM (chemistry), and I imagine it’s true of many other areas as well: it is VERY geographically-dependent. In certain areas, there is a lot going on, but if you don’t live in a “hot” area for your field, you will have a much harder time getting a job you want. For instance, I probably should have moved to Boston* to give myself a good chance at getting a chemistry job after graduation. I didn’t, and I was lucky enough that it worked out. But I could just as easily have ended up working minimum wage in some retail job and living paycheck-to-paycheck because the money ran out before I could find a job related to my degree. (In fact, if I hadn’t gotten an offer when I did, I probably would have been applying for just any job. And I would most likely not be working as a chemist right now.)

          So yeah, there are STEM jobs…but if you don’t live in one of the few areas where they are concentrated, you will have trouble! Even then, I imagine there is quite a bit of competition.

          *Boston is not the only “hot area” but it was the only one I could have moved to that would not involve planes in some way.

    2. ASJ*

      Regardless of what degree you get, you are never guaranteed a job. Not even basically.

      I think it’s worth following up with them – but I wouldn’t before at least a week, if not two, have gone by. Also, if you know the names of the panel, you could find contact information on the company’s website or on LinkedIn.

    3. Laura*

      I work in higher ed. PLEASE don’t tell students that STEM guarantees a job. That’s a straight-up lie.

      1. Biff*

        It’s a lie that the tech industry is DELIGHTED to reinforce too! More STEM students means that the workforce for STEM jobs is cheaper due to supply.

        1. UnemployedSTEM*

          Yeah, unfortunately it’s a lie that guidance counselors, advisors and the tech industry are all too happy to reinforce, like Biff has pointed out.

    4. Ultraviolet*

      So frustrating! I’m sorry.

      As for your first question, I don’t think you should let the fact that the job was re-posted affect your decision to follow up. No matter how much they liked you or any other interviewee, it’s not in their best interest to take the posting down before someone’s accepted their offer, because they’d want to make sure they have the best possible pool of alternates if their top choice falls through. But what kind of followup did you want to do? I think it’s too early to ask where they are in the process, but if you haven’t done a thank-you/reiterate interest type note, you could still do one. I think I’d email it to the recruiter but address the note to both the recruiter and the panelists. I’m not a hiring manager though!