open thread – July 8-9, 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 :)

{ 1,600 comments… read them below }

  1. Anna No Mouse*

    I have been at my current job for a little over a year. Before I started here I was deeply involved in creating the organizational framework for a website. I came up with how things should be organized and what type of information should be included, etc. I just found out today that the site finally launched (it was for a government organization, so no surprise it took so long). I’m just as excited as if I had still be on the team the whole time.

    Would it be appropriate to link to this website on my LinkedIn page, even though I wasn’t there through the whole process, and was no longer an employee of that organization at the time of launch? My old manager is the one who told me about the launch and even he said “Your fingerprints are all over it.”

    1. Manders*

      I also say yes, that’s a normal thing to do. You still worked on a crucial part of the project.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Websites are strange animals, and seldom is the work done by one lone person, but rather sets of specialists (writer, designer, coder, database, etc.)
      It’s fine to link to this in your portfolio. I think just be clear what your role was.

    3. Gene*

      I’d say yes, but keep an eye on it while you are using it as an example of your work. If it changes, you may not want to be associated with it anymore.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, you may want to take some screen shots now to use as the portfolio, just so you have a record of what was your actual work, and so you don’t wind up accidentally taking credit for another overhaul and/or for a bunch of broken links or wonky formatting if changes get made in the future.

        1. Anxa*

          Also, this could help in case there’s a pretty drastic change in the future!

          Consider screenshots that highlight some of the functionality you may have contributed to

    4. H.C.*

      I would say yes & also take screenshots of the most prominent pages too, in case the site gets changed in the future.

    5. Honeybee*

      YES. At my company we have three evaluation criteria: things you did on your own, things you did that contributed to other people’s success, and things that you did that built upon other people’s work and leveraged their experience for max contributions. All are equally important! Sure, someone did the foundational work but you did a lot of things to make it the way it is, and many, many projects are team-based. It’s still valuable experience you gained and a tangible product, and you can always explain to interviewers exactly what you did and how you used your expertise.

  2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    Today is my last day at my insane job! I’ve been applying for work at our next posting but no bites yet–I’m confident I’ll find something better than this, though.

    Lest we forget my boss’s greatest hits: he told us that “just because the province says I have to give you a raise doesn’t mean I do!” (That is exactly what it means, and a quick chat with the Labour Board sorted that out.) I had a horribly embarrassing incident where I had to run home and change clothes after bleeding onto my skirt, and after hounding me for a reason said “you should have planned better!” He’s had not one or two but FIVE people quit on him by just walking out in the three years I’ve been here–no notice or anything. He drives so badly that we had a stranger call the office and complain about his driving (logo and number on the company trailer that he was towing, doing 145 km/h down the highway). Way back when, he asked me to give a presentation on a business trip after about 9 days of employment and almost no training (wrote into Alison about that one). And finally: his utter lack of management and any consistency at all led to his brilliant strategy of periodically holding meetings where he would berate us all and tell us he didn’t need any of us, and then think morale had been much improved. In three years I had only one review, which was a complete surprise, and received almost zero feedback on anything. I can recall one compliment about my work, which he actually said to someone else.

    I am on to better things, no matter what!

    1. RVA Cat*

      Justice would be this jerk having everybody under him quit and be stuck with all the work himself…since he doesn’t need any of you, he can handle it, right? ;)

    2. Daisy Dukes*

      That’s awesome, congrats!! Was there a breaking point that made you give notice without something lined up?

      Either way, you totally deserve better!

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Oh no, my husband is military and we’re being posted out, so I had a good excuse to leave on good terms. I’ve been here three years, so it wasn’t totally unexpected, I think.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


      I also remember something about a clueless employee (who was a friend of his) and faxes . I don’t remember the whole story but that was pretty funny plot line.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Oh, Lord, my coworker and the faxes. God have mercy. She’s utterly convinced that faxes are the best way to get in touch with people, especially in colleges and universities, and no amount of telling her will deter her. None. She sent one today!

        1. Mockingjay*

          Was there anyone on the receiving end?

          Ours is broken and we never bothered to get it fixed, because who faxes anymore? (Other than the medical insurance company which is a PITA, because we have to go to Kinko’s or something to send it.)

          1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

            I have NO IDEA. We had different territories, and honestly I know for a fact that if I have to fax something there’s only a 50/50 chance they’ll receive it because half the time the fax machine is broken, or stuffed away in someone’s office where it’s never checked, or it goes to a central fax machine that might not be on the same CAMPUS. The only time I ever fax something if I can help it is to a Purchasing department and they require it, and even then I have to call to follow up because there’s always “Oh, we didn’t receive it, can you try sending it again?”

            Or the one school that could only accept 3 pages of fax at a time. I had to send a 30-page fax 3 pages at a time. I spent a half hour standing there waiting.

    4. Kai*

      What a saga! I’ve enjoyed (that’s not quite the right word–it was always enjoyment in a cringing, sympathetic way) all your stories about your job and your boss the last few years. So glad you’re on to better things. (I knew you on the Toast, too, so extra happy for you.)

    5. Bowserkitty*

      Oh my god, I thought my oldBoss was bad…good for you, I’m glad you’re out of that environment! How has your boss reacted to your leaving?

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Surprisingly not that poorly! When I asked if my leave date would be ok with him, he did say “well that’s not really up to me, is it?” And also he hasn’t been in for my last week so I have to send him a bunch of documentation emails, but it could be worse!

    6. AF*

      For those not using metric, 145 km/h is about 90 mph!! Oh my gosh – congrats on getting out and best of luck to you!

    7. Funfetti*

      OMG – yay! I remember reading your story whilst in the middle of job hunting hell – so glad it’s ending on relatively good terms. That’s a relief and now you know what to look for – as it what makes a terrible boss!

    8. Kittymommy*

      I remember one job I had that the owner told us in a meeting that we didn’t deserve raises because trained monkeys could do our job. Three of us quit within two weeks. When I went back a few months later about something else one of the other owners asked me to cone back. Apparently no monkeys applied.

      Anyway good for you. You will be onto bigger and better things soon enough. Enjoy the freedom of being away from this guy!

      1. Anxa*

        So I know that that’s a pretty insulting thing to say, but…

        Trained. Trained Monkeys. Training that while even if other people contributed to, the monkeys would have had to participate in and keep up with.

        So yeah, not only is a jerky thing to say (and probably not true!), but it dosn’t even make sense.

      2. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Hilariously, after that meeting my boss mentioned to one of my coworkers “I think things are going much better here after that, don’t you?” and she had to inform him that no, everyone was miserable and his little stunt effectively killed morale for everyone. He was astonished. He truly did not realize.

        He didn’t get any better, but, you know.

    9. Anxa*

      My jaw is on the floor. I’m really glad you refer to him as a boss and not supervisor/manager/lead. Deplorable.

      I am so happy you’re going to be rid of that situation

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Ah such good news, Boss is left to twist in the wind of Karma and you are on your way to something better. Congrats on your last day and smoothly exiting this mess. Good luck with the search for the new place, let us know how you are doing.

    11. Ruffingit*

      Wow, you survived that nonsense for three years?? Amazing. So glad you’re on to bigger and better things!

    12. Dot Warner*

      Congrats! It’s amazing what getting out of a bad situation will do for your life!

    13. Fafaflunkie*

      What a bleepin’ jerk your boss is. Kudos for getting out of this looneybin, and all the best of luck in your job search.

      Btw: I don’t know what province you’re in specifically, but if it’s the same one I’m in, going 45 clicks over the speed limit is getting borderline with laws that prohibit racing on the road. (Going 50 over=automatic $10,000 fine minimum for first offence, the vehicle being confiscated for at least 7 days–with you also getting to pay for the towing/storage fee to get it back out, your licence suspended at least 7 days but likely longer, and you can go find your own way home from the shoulder of the highway. Oh, lest we forget what will happen to his insurance premium for having this on his abstract!)

      You can get to grin ear-to-ear when this happens.

      1. Fafaflunkie*

        I noticed just now I made an assumption that Boss Speedy was on a major highway where the speed limit’s 100 km/h, but usually never happens as either 1> traffic is so congested you’re stop-and-go on these highways or 2> when things open up, the normal flow of traffic’s around 110~115 km/h.

  3. Caledonia*

    I passed my OU exam! It’s a bare pass, but a pass it is which means I am just 60 credits and 9 months short of graduating with a BA (Hons) in Humanities next summer.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      Great! Congrats! (What’s an OU exam? In my part of the country it’s University of Oklahoma. Is that a thing there?)

      1. Mander*

        Open University, I think. It’s a British university that doesn’t have a central campus but is like a nationwide commuter school. They used to show lectures on TV here.

      2. Tess McGill*

        Exactly! I got so excited about OU, I almost posted “Boomer Sooner”! Congrats on passing!!! Way to go!

      3. Dweali*

        Haha, I was thinking the same thing while the sooner song started playing in my head :-)

    2. UK JAM*

      Yay! What course was it, out of interest? I have an OU degree in Humanities (with literature) too.

  4. Mockingjay*

    I have a new job! I start in two weeks.

    This time, I paid attention to AAM advice on asking culture questions during the interviews. This was my biggest mistake in past interviews; I focused on the described work and experience needed, and didn’t ask about company expectations and management style.

    The new place should be a much better fit. It has a lot of structure, which I need, and a large part of its core business is technical writing for engineering. I will join a group of experienced peers who understand what it is that I do, because they do it too! I also get to learn new publishing software.

    And most importantly, NO MEETING MINUTES!

    *Does the Snoopy happy dance!*

    1. Caledonia*

      Congratulations Mockingjay on getting out of there! And further celebrations for no more meeting minutes!! Now you just have a great story to re-tell :)

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*


      You *and* Former Diet Coke Addict are moving on? The same week?

      What are we supposed to do for material around here?

      1. Aurion*

        Look to Alison, I guess. Between liver-donor boss, funeral-interrupting boss, and all the others that’s come up recently, I think Alison is giving us a lot more material than usual ;)

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          Former Diet Coke Addict and Mockingjay were weekly serial stories, though. Now they are going to go off to normal jobs where they are actually happy and what about us. What. About. Us.

          1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

            AAM has taught me that there is no shortage of utterly insane workplace behaviour! Every time someone I know says something like “that’s insane, that would never happen, that person is a troll/lying/making it up,” I think to myself that that specific person may be, but there is a whole planet full of people out there. Almost every insane thing that can happen in a workplace has happened.

            Employee had to be disciplined for coming into work in a chicken costume? I believe it. Employee fired for having sex on their desk during work hours? I believe it. Boss tells employee their job has changed to requiring them to provide housecleaning services at the boss’s house on weekends? I believe it. I don’t know of any workplace where these have happened, but I’m confident that somewhere on this planet, they have all happened. And worse. Far worse.

            We will just have to hang around here in the open threads and wait for all these amazing stories to reveal themselves!

            1. Ruffingit*

              I totally believe the “no way, never” stories because I’ve lived so many crazy workplace situations, I know that anything is possible!

            2. Cáilín*

              Lol….in a previous waitressing job when I was a teenager the boss told me I could babysit for him or stay at home instead of coming in for my shift which meant I worked longer hours and lost my tips! He pulled that stroke 4 times before I moved on.

      1. Mockingjay*

        I asked about team interactions: they cross-train and rotate assignments to build skills, ensure coverage, and to keep things interesting. The work supports several government contracts, so I asked how they manage expectations. They were very clear: you support the customer, but you work for the Company, you answer to the Company, and the Company will handle issues with the customer on your behalf. (This concept is NOT understood in my soon-to-be-gone position.)

        They have a niche business core and have stuck to it as evidenced by 1) long-term contracts with the same government customers, and 2) employee retention – people have been there 7 years, 10 years, 15 years… They have a big charitable arm which they fund very well. Employees are encouraged to participate, but not required. (They emphasized the not required.)

        And I asked one of Alison’s suggested interview questions. “Thinking back to the person who was in this position previously, what made their performance so outstanding?” They were floored by it. I’m glad I asked it, because the person I am replacing was there for 11 years, and was very highly thought of. (Their answer was Passion. Someone who is passionate about the work, quality, and teammates. They told me I demonstrated all of the above! :) )

    3. Jen RO*

      Congratulations! Out of curiosity, what publishing software is the new company using?

      1. Mockingjay*

        They use Adobe Framemaker. They do a lot of big technical manuals. I’ve actually wanted to play with it for a while.

  5. Batshua*

    I had an interview yesterday for the totally different kind of job than I’m doing now, and I ROCKED it. I’m pretty sure the fact that I’m legitimately interested in learning new things is helping me out here. I’m only competing against two other candidates, but I don’t know what my actual odds are.

    I’m kinda nervous, because even if I get the job, right now my department is severely understaffed (we have 3/5 of our clerks, and it might need to be 6 clerks) — I don’t know if/when they’d let me go. Could the staffing issue end up blocking my job?

    (It’s a US government job, btw.)

    1. Jennifer*

      Is this a job in the same department? Yes, the “if/when they’d let you go” could be an issue (I’m supposed to be getting a transfer but it’s up in the air as to when because of short staffing), and someone else who got a job in that department told me she was doing 2 jobs for a while after getting hired.

      It will be their decision as to how to handle it, though, not yours.

      1. Batshua*

        It’s a totally different department doing a totally different job with an entirely different skill set.

    2. Shiara*

      So things are probably different for government job, but when I was moving to a different department and leaving an understaffed team, “if” wasn’t really in question, but “when” definitely was. My company had the perspective that they’d rather keep me with the company than try to force me to stay somewhere I was beginning to feel bored at, since the end result would likely be that team losing me no matter what.

      However, I did have to wait around a lot while we hired someone else to do the work I was doing and then longer while I brought that person up to speed. End result being that someone external who applied to the other open position in the new department after I applied, started working about two months before I finally completed the transfer.

    3. Kittymommy*

      I know with the government I work for it depends on a few things, mostly if where you are going out tanks where you are coming from. All parties being equal it might just end up on how well the heads of each department get along and if they’re willing to play nice.

  6. Annie Moose*

    On a scale from “not a big deal” to “what is wrong with you, Annie”, how OK do you think it is to kick your shoes off when you’re at your desk? I work in an open-ish office with a casual dress code (jeans every day, hallelujah!) and wear bare feet in flats (it’s summer, I’m not wearing socks unless my shoes require them). Sometimes my shoes start bugging me, so I’ll kick them off under my desk. Of course, I put them back on if I need to leave my desk, or if someone comes by, and I doubt anyone else has ever noticed.

    However, it’s occurred to me that I’m sitting here barefoot, and now I’m questioning how weird that is.

    1. Batshua*

      Do you have coworkers who would see you barefoot? Are your feets smelly? How casual is your office?

      Probably not a big deal unless you have limburger feet or you’re walking around barefoot.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah if your desk area is set up so people can’t see your feet while they are under the desk I wouldn’t worry about it at all.

        If it does worry you, though, I have a pair of quilted fabric ballet flats that are the most comfortable shoes ever for office work and look professional, but aren’t great walking shoes. I originally would bring them to the office in the winter so I could change out of snowy shoes, but now I leave them here full time and have used them when my shoes get rained on, give me blisters, or just on days where I can’t face my commute in anything but sneakers. I call them my “work slippers.”

        1. smores*

          I have a pair of work slippers — they’re shaped like s’mores and have a USB plug so they actually warm up! I think barefoot is OK as long as the public can’t see it, I’m fine if my co-workers see me in barefeet, but I dint walk around barefoot, usually. (I once stepped into my boss’s office barefoot, but I had just walked several city blocks in heels and just couldn’t take one more step.)

    2. Leatherwings*

      Not weird. We have a guy who walks around the office with no shoes and everyone here talks about how weird it is, even though women kick off their shoes under the desk. As long as you’re not walking around the office, it’s no big deal.

    3. Caledonia*

      I don’t find it odd. I’ve had times when I’ve wanted to cool down or my shoes pinch so I’ve taken them off. I’ve also gone down corridors (on my own floor) in socks before now too.

    4. OhNo*

      Not a big deal, especially if you work in a more casual office.

      That said, I have a coworker who likes to kick her shoes off and then curl up with her feet on her chair, in plain sight of everyone that walks by, which always weirds me out a little. I think it is 100% okay to have your shoes off, but personally I really don’t want to see my coworkers’ bare feet every time I have to walk by.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      I would say it’s not a big deal if your feet stay under your desk. If you’re getting up to walk around and are bare-footed, that’s a different story. And if your feet smell, keep the shoes on. Otherwise, I’d say it’s fine.

    6. AnonEMoose*

      As long as your feet aren’t generally visible, aren’t stinky, and you put your shoes on if you get up, I don’t see a problem. If you feel odd about it, you could think about bringing in an old towel or pillowcase or something. Rest your feet on that instead of the floor, and take it home and wash it every now and then. I’ve been known to kick my shoes off under my desk, too, but I’m typically wearing socks.

      1. Beezus*

        This! I don’t like the idea of putting my bare feet on the floor at work. I kick off my shoes sometimes, but I rest my feet on top of the shoes, never on the floor.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I kick my shoes only partially off, resting my toes in the heel part of the shoe. That way I feel like I don’t “really” have my shoes off, and I can slip back into them very quickly if someone is about to see me. My feet are hidden under my desk, but I just don’t want people thinking that I’m barefoot at work. One of my former coworkers used to get up and walk around with her bare feet, and everyone talked and talked about her. Her bare feet and oblivious attitude about going that way were a huge factor in my not wanting her to get a promotion from reception to our department; I knew she’d be walking her bare feet all over our office suite, and there we’d be, looking unprofessional as hell for the foreseeable future. Hmph!

    7. Bowserkitty*

      I’m doing it as I type. :) I’ve seen other coworkers of mine do it as well when I walk past their offices, and we all work in a closed-toe shoe environment.

    8. Emilia Bedelia*

      I’m literally doing the same thing right now, so. I always put my shoes back on to leave my cube, but otherwise if I’m sitting down, my shoes are off. I see people walking around in slippers and Crocs that they keep at their desk so it’s not that uncommon

    9. intldevt*

      I think it’s quite normal, at least in my office! I do it and does my boss…and I honestly don’t know how I would get through the day without doing it. My feet get uncomfortably sweaty in flats during the summer.

      Perhaps slightly less conventionally, people in my office frequently walk around in sock feet or bare feet if they’re just running to grab things from the printer. (We’re an NGO with a pretty casual dress code.)

    10. Librarian Ish*

      Haha! I’m barefoot right now. I think you’re fine, though I’d definitely wear shoes if I’m wandering around.

    11. Manders*

      I try not to, but I often accidentally kick a shoe off because I wear flats and I’m so short that my feet dangle when I’m in an office chair. If you’re confident that no one will ever notice, I guess it’s like news anchors who wear jeans behind the desk: people might find it a bit weird if they see it, but no one’s gonna see it.

    12. Pwyll*

      I do this in my business formal office all the time. I think it’s fine so long as you’re not wandering the office barefoot.

    13. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

      I hope not because my feet are starting to swell due to pregnancy and I use every chance I get to give them a rest….

      1. EmmaLou*

        Isn’t it hard to get them back on again? My feet swell w/o pregnancy and if I leave my shoes off by the end of the day I can’t get the shoes on without a ridiculous looking struggle. If I were in an office the struggle would probably involve “:ba-thump!: I’m okay! :sigh:” I’m clumsy.

      2. Emelle*

        When I was pregnant with my first, my boss stopped by my desk to tell me that he needed me to wear different shoes to work because it was hurting him to see my gigantic swollen feet in flats. He said if I had nice flip flops or sandals, I could wear those and if anyone said anything, send them to him. (Of course the next day 4 people said something about how much happier my feet looked and the boss’s son was unhappy that I was out of dress code. Oh well.) I also kept shipping boxes under my desk to keep my feet slightly elevated.

    14. AF*

      Not weird – I know lots of people who do it. And thank you for putting them back on when you walk around – if you’re in the U.S., it’s an OSHA violation to walk around barefoot at work. (I sadly learned that because of a coworker a previous job who walked around barefoot. Ewww!)

    15. H.C.*

      For better or for worse, my feet smell like butter popcorn (and caught the attention of at least one co-worker, thankfully – or tactfully – she only commented “who’s making popcorn?” and didn’t put me in the spotlight.)

      Now I only kick off shoes only if they feel super stuffy (and for the briefest time possible) or if my adjacent co-workers are in day long meetings.

    16. Nanani*

      I used to do this, before I dumped office life in favour of freelance working from home.
      This was in an office where people (including my manager) would go around in slippers or crocks as long as they didn’t need to go outside, so norms may vary, but you’re probably fine :)

    17. legalchef*

      I almost kick my shoes off under my desk. Don’t worry about it unless people can see your feet!

    18. Friday Brain All Week Long*

      I do this sometimes as my standing desk is a little too short for me to use while in heels. So I kick the heels off. Nobody in my office has ever noticed or cared except for one person, and I always put my shoes back on before walking any distance away from my desk.

      I heard through the grapevine that one coworker was griping about someone ELSE that dared work with shoes off, so she must have noticed that I do it too. But… this coworker has a reputation for being fussy about small matters so it’s of no concern.

    19. Jen RO*

      I had a coworker who used to take his shoes off, and everyone said it was weird. No smells or bare feet, but it was seen as too unprofessional even for our casual office.

    20. LiveAndLetDie*

      I do this all the time! Same as you — open-ish office, kicke them off under the desk, put them back on if I get up for anything. It’s never been a thing.

    21. Kat*

      incredibly common in my office. Hardly anyone wears shoes, including the owner. We also do slippers in the cold weather, so…

    22. Gene*

      I tend to not kick off my shoes, mainly because they are boots that need to be unlaced. But around here it wouldn’t be a problem to wander around the office in socks or bare feet. I’ve been known to come back from lunchtime walks, take off the walking shoes, and spend the rest of the afternoon in walking shorts, a t-shirt and socks.

    23. Big City Editor*

      I have a private office, and I kick off my shoes all the time. If I had a cube, I’d do it, too, but only if no one saw my feet. I think this is a “know your office” type of situation. Do other people do it? Is it casual enough that people wouldn’t care?

    24. TheCupcakeCounter*

      If your feet smell bad its probably not great but otherwise I say no problem

    25. Nervous Accountant*

      We have the same dress code, and not unusual at all. I didn’t even know bare feet in flats was a wierd thing ???

      I’ll wear flip flops around the office but only if boss and upper mgmt aren’t in. I just don’t do it bc I’m more self conscious about the smell.

    26. Kay*

      50% of the reason I work in museums is because I think it’s ridiculous fun to wander around the exhibit in stocking feet in the morning before we’re open. Granted, I’m alone when I do this, so it’s not exactly an open office / coworkers kind of thing, but I say go for it.

    27. vpc*

      I do it all the time, and I even wander up and down my cube row to talk to coworkers barefoot (in the summer) or in socks (in the winter) if I’m just popping over for a quick question/answer. The shoes go back on anytime I leave our cube corridor for the next one over, because you never know if you’ll end up sidetracked to the next one over from that, or around the corner to the boss’s office…

    28. Honeybee*

      If kicking my shoes off under my desk is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. I do this all the time, and often sit cross-legged in my office chair with bare feet.

    29. Cáilín*

      This is something I do a lot….and I’ve seen a lot…never bothers me….as long as the feet or shoes don’t smell

  7. Patricia*

    Just a bit of a vent here. My manager went on long service leave a few weeks ago and we’ve had a temp manager during this time. It’s sort of an awkward situation because while she is above me in seniority, she’s still new to our work and so doesn’t have the best ‘feel’ of what we can/cannot do. She’s asked my co-workers to alter their (on-going) projects in ways that just doesn’t serve the purpose of the project (and often very time-consuming), and it’s been a bit of a chore trying to merge styles.

    I haven’t had to work directly with her until recently. We’ve started a project where she’s designed the outline, but I’m supposed to bring the technical skills to carry out the work – only problem being I wasn’t consulted when she came up with the outline. It’s too late to alter it now since it’s been approved by the client, so I just have to make do. The most frustrating part is when I ask her for details on certain aspects of the project I get replies along the lines of ‘you’re supposed to be the expert in this area’. While that’s true, it makes me wonder why I didn’t just head up the damn project, at least I would’ve had more say its direction!

    The other frustration is that she has a sort of vague way of communicating instructions, and prefers the ‘drop by to give verbal instructions’ rather than putting stuff in writing. This has lead to some instances of confusion, where I’d send her a piece of work and she’d tell me that wasn’t what she wanted, and that I ‘must’ve misunderstood’ what she was saying. No concessions that she may have not been clear. Though, I’ve learnt my lesson and basically follow up every conversation with an email to say ‘just confirming, you want ABC done in XYZ way?”.

    Ugh. It’s only seven more weeks before my regular manager gets back, and I hope this is the only project I’d have to work on with her. Trying to remain zen.

    1. intldevt*

      I share the problems you describe and your venting was cathartic…Except that my manager has been here for over a year. o.O

    2. Packers Fan*

      Ugh. I feel you. I had that manger once. I even used my best AAM tone and wording to ask for specifics when she gave me general criticisms, citing that I couldn’t grow and fix the problem if I didn’t know what the actual problem was. She couldn’t provide actual examples or behaviors to correct but yet put it in my annual review. Lucky for me she left shortly thereafter. Hope things improve for you!

    3. ASJ*

      I’ve heard coworkers complain about a higher-up here too for the same reason. :( To paraphrase one, she did it and it wasn’t what he wanted, so he did it himself… and the end result of what he actually wanted was night and day compared to what she did. People who can’t or won’t fully articulate what they want can be soooo frustrating to work with.

    4. Fabulous*

      I also HATE when people refuse to put things in writing. If you tell me something, I can guarantee it will go in one ear and out the other. To combat this, I try to take notes during the conversation and then email them a confirmation of what they talked about. I’m all about written logs of things.

  8. Mustache Cat*

    Business fashion question?

    I’m about to enter a ‘business casual’ setting after a couple years at an extremely casual workplace. That was my first post-college job; during my college internships I could rock the business formal pretty well, but I just. Have so many questions about business casual:

    ‘Jeans Friday’ is a thing at my workplace, so I’m assuming that jeans aren’t allowed usually. But are colorful denim ankle pants (I hope you guys know what I’m talking about-I can follow up with a link) acceptable? I can play it safe with dresses just about forever, but my personal style tends to lean masculine. Is there such a thing as mens businesswear, cut for women? If I never had to wear flats again, and could instead have an elegant, comfortable size-5 women’s version of men’s business shoes, I would be in heaven.

    Thoughts? Suggestions? Help me

    1. Jubilance*

      If jeans are only allowed on Friday, I think you can’t do colorful denim on other days. I’d at least give it some time and observe what other people wear to figure out if they would be acceptable in your new office.

      1. Mustache Cat*

        To follow up, something like this

        I mentioned it specifically because I did see someone walking around with something similar–maybe not denim? I’m not sure–during my interview, but I don’t want to inadvertently ape the style of an intern (although she didn’t seem like one)

          1. Lemon Zinger*

            Agreed. I have some great pink denim trousers, but I can’t wear them at work because we can’t wear jeans.

        1. justsomeone*

          You can probably get away with the softer cloth version of those, found at places like Loft or Anne Taylor. Avoid denim except on Fridays, until you’ve been there long enough to know if denim would fly.

            1. zora.dee*

              This. Old Navy also makes their Rockstar Jeans in other fabrics sometimes, I wear shirts that are long enough to cover the pockets/rivets and you can’t tell they are jeans bc they are not denim. But i would not wear colored denim.

            2. echosparks*

              I loooove Old Navy pixie pants. Comfy, fashionable, not expensive, look good with heels or flats.

        2. Aubergine Dreams*

          I agree with Karo. I think bright colors in another fabric would be fine. I’m thinking like cigarette pants, which have a similar shape as your link but in a nicer fabric would be ok. You can often find them in other colors, also.

    2. Sarah*

      I wear colored jeans at my job, but we are on the very casual end of business casual. I would avoid doing it for a couple weeks until you have a chance to observe your coworkers and how they dress; that will tell you where on the spectrum of business casual they fall.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      I agree with the wait-and-see approach. While I would probably steer clear of colored denim at the outset, it may be something you could add to your wardrobe down the road, after you have proven yourself.

    4. Persephone Mulberry*

      I wouldn’t wear colored denim until/unless I saw others doing it.

      You can totally rock a menswear feel in a business casual environment – just look for women’s suiting bottoms and skip the jacket.

      1. designbot*

        oh I do this the opposite way–I wear womens slim-cut pants, and a jacket lets me put whatever shirt I want underneath including t-shirts. A jacket forgives everything!

    5. Kyrielle*

      Treat all denim as jeans. Err on the formal side of things until you suss out what ‘business casual’ is for your office – because unfortunately, that term can mean anything from “no jeans or t-shirts” to “business formal, without the jacket or tie”.

      That said, in a business casual environment on the casual end of that spectrum, I tended to go with button-up blouse and nice slacks. (And, I don’t know sizing in the smaller sizes, but there _are_ some women’s shoes that are similar to men’s business shoes if you hunt around. The selection is more limited, but it’s non-zero. Payless Shoe Source, of all places, was a good one for me. But remember when pricing them that those tend to fall apart sooner than their more expensive counterparts.)

    6. Beezus*

      Look for womens’ dress oxfords – there are lots of shoe options out there that are modeled after mens’ dress shoes. It’s definitely a thing!

      1. Dawn*

        Dr. Martens’ is great for these kinds of styles! They have decent prices on sales and clearance items, too.

      2. WorkerBee 23*

        Oxfords & loafers, both. I don’t dress too masculine but I love a pair of oxfords or loafers with a slim-cut ankle pant, top & a blazer. It makes me look put together but still comfortable. Win-win!

      3. Blue_eyes*

        +1. I love that women’s oxfords are in style right now. I’m wearing a pair of gray Cole Haan oxfords at this very moment. So comfortable and supportive compared to most women’s shoes!

        1. zora.dee*

          Born also makes oxfords in different colors that are amazingly comfortable. Esp if you have a narrow heel/wider toe box like I do.

    7. Emilia Bedelia*

      I also wear colored jeans, but I definitely stayed away from my bright green ankle pants until i noted if other people wore them or not (I do, in fact, wear bright green ankle jeans to work on occasion…). I also really like Old Navy’s pants- they have some very comfortable trouser style pants.
      With regards to shoes, I have a pair of Sperry gold cup penny loafers, and I love them. They’re pricey (I got mine at an outlet for $55; full price they’re like $175) but they’re so comfortable and the leather is beautiful. I have them in a medium tan color and I wear them like 3 times a week. There are lots of brands that make classic styles of shoes for women

      1. Bea W*

        I have bright green ankle pants but not denim. They have received many compliments on them!

    8. RVA Cat*

      Deck shoes (Sperrys, etc.) with khakis tend to be business casual acceptable for both sexes. For something dressier, Franco Sarto makes dress loafers for women – the ones with the low heel are almost identical to men’s.

    9. AW*

      I think denim pants are going to be viewed as jeans or similar enough to be the same thing. It’d be safer to save that for Fridays.

      You can get slacks, button down shirts, etc. If you’re having trouble finding some it’s because it’s summer and women’s clothing stores have decided that people don’t buy work clothes when it’s hot for some reason. Try looking online for lightweight suiting options.

      I have occasionally seen women’s shoes that look more like men’s business shoes to me but I’d have to go hunt them down since I can’t recall the brand name. They do exist though. Would it be possible to just buy men’s shoes in your size? When I have a chance to go hunt them down I’ll follow up with links.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        If she’s a women’s size 5, she’s probably closer to the top end of boy’s sizing than the bottom end of men’s. Which- if I could fit into boy’s shoes, I’d totally do that. Nice wide toe boxes!

        1. Meg Murry*

          This was my thought too, if Mustache Cat is referring to US sizing – a women’s size 5 is approximately a boys 3 or 4. When I was in high school I wore a women’s 6-7, which meant I could buy the boys sneakers for a lower price than a very similarly styled women’s pair, and I can sometimes buy the largest girls size in things like sandals, flip flops or water shoes. I’d check out the selection of oxfords and loafers in both womens and boys on Zappos. Brands like Clarks also tend to be more comfortable and have some menswear-esq styles. It shouldn’t be hard to find a boys oxford or loafer that fits and would look appropriate with dress slacks or chinos.

          I probably would avoid anything cut in a 5 pocket style like jeans for days other than Friday until you see what other people are wearing. I’m with you in that I prefer to wear clothing more like what is available in the mens department – pants with pockets that can actually hold things, shoes I can wear with socks that don’t pinch or rub, etc. Women’s boot cut and trouser cut pants are coming back into style, which is good because I think those look better with more substantial shoes (and the width covers part of the shoe), whereas I feel like skinnier pants look better with a more delicate flat or heel. I can wear more casual pants at work now (jeans, colored denim, khakis, etc) so I tend to get those at Old Navy and similar, but for dressier pants that still have pockets you could look to Gap, the Limited, or many department stores like Macys or Nordstrom.

          Once it gets cooler, you could probably also wear a low or flat dressy ankle boot with pants.

        1. zora.dee*

          ha, should have scrolled down, just said the same thing above. I have two pairs, black and brown!

        2. Overeducated*

          I have a pair of Born women’s oxfords with no heel that are adorable and very comfortable.

        3. Margali*

          Love those, but why is it so hard to find women’s shoes in wide widths? I ended up having to buy men’s running shoes because the women’s wide selection was so poor.

      2. Library Director*

        I have a pair of Cole Haan Zero Grand oxfords and Pinch penny loafers. The oxfords are great because they are basically a dressed up athletic shoe. The normal prices can frighten, but they have good sales.

    10. Erin M*

      I work in a business casual office. Pants like that wouldn’t fly here. For my company, denim = jeans, color is irrelevant. I know of other offices with a business casual dress code where they would be fine. I’d say it’s a wait and see thing. Take your cues from what your new coworkers do.

    11. KL*

      My office is business casual with ‘Jeans Friday’ as well. For us, colored denim is not allowed during the the normal business casual days.

      In most business casual settings, pants are fine for women as long as they aren’t jeans. I’m a bit more feminine in style, but I love my trouser-cut pants in the fall/winter and my cigarette pants in the spring/summer. And yes, you can find women’s versions of men’s shoes. You may have to hunt a bit longer, but I love the Hamble Oaks shoes made by Clarks.

    12. NK*

      I think it’s best to stick to the more formal side of the dress code for at least the couple weeks, so you can figure out the norms of your office. The one thing to be careful about is to make sure the people you are modeling the formality of your wardrobe after are people who are well-respected in the office. I’ve found that there’s some positive correlation with the people who tend to push the envelope on the dress code and those whose work isn’t highly respected (yes, I realize there are MANY exceptions to this, but I do believe there’s a correlation).

      Also, if you prefer menswear styles, trousers definitely fall into business casual; no need to wear dresses or skirts!

    13. BRR*

      I am leaning towards no on the colorful denim. What I woudl do is play it safe for a little bit and you should be able to quickly assess what will or won’t work.

    14. Alston*

      Ok so do the pants read as denim? If so I wouldn’t do it (at least not the first week). But if it’s more like the Pixie pant for Old Navy I’d probably go for it. Those can be dressed up/down and with a nice top or a blazer would have flown in the business casual offices I’ve been in.

      And yes on the businessware cut for women! I’ve seen some stuff at Asos that is nice. But if you’re petite (which I’d wager if you have size 5 feet) you might check out Banana Republic and Express. My petite roommates have had great luck at both places.

      1. Mustache Cat*

        Just looked up the Pixie pant–actually, I think that’s exactly what they were! I’ll wait a week and see if I can slide on over to my local Old Navy.

    15. Bend & Snap*

      Do a little shop for things you need (pants etc) and get the lay of the land before you supplement your wardrobe. I made the mistake of doing a lot of shopping when I went from casual to business casual, and what I got ended up being all wrong for the culture–not to dressy per se, but too stuffy, like regular suits and pearls instead of dress + blazer with statment jewelry.

      Cole Haan does nice, comfy oxfords and there are lots of menswear-inspired loafers that are totally work appropriate. But again, hang tight and see what people wear. You don’t want to invest in a look and have it not be appropriate.

    16. themmases*

      I wouldn’t wear colored denim during the week if other means aren’t OK. I’d recommend trying something like the Pixie pant at Old Navy for a similar look/fit to ankle jeans that won’t read as denim.

      There are a lot of more masculine style shoes that are trendy for women right now. Look for women’s oxfords and loafers– there are a lot of styles to suit your preference. I like more masculine fits and styles too, and oxfords are what I live in much of the year.

    17. Ann O'Nemity*

      Don’t invest too much in a wardrobe overhaul until you can see how your new workplace defines business casual. In the meantime, lean more business than casual. No denim, just to be on the safe side. Besides, you’re trying to impress now so might as well go a little more professional.

      There’s menswear-style and shoes for women! J Crew, Loft, and Ralph Lauren have boyfriend cut chinos (khakis). And Google search women’s oxfords – those are the shoes you’re looking for. Bonus: women’s oxfords look awesome with the Loft ankle fit color chinos.

    18. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Check the dress code, some places I’ve worked were ok with colored denim and some places said no denim at all except for Fridays. You can always play it safe with no colored denim for the first week or so and see what others do. At my workplace, the “business casual” dress code actually skews more casual (IMO) and is not strictly enforced, there are lots of people that wear colored denim pants throughout the week.

      I wear lots of trouser-cut dress pants, most of mine are from the Worthington line at JC Penney. If I wear pants, that’s the style I prefer. In the summer, I’m pretty much always in dresses or skirts, khakis on casual Fridays. But maybe I’m weird, I *hate* to wear denim in the summer. It is too dang hot!

    19. Jen*

      For shoes in a biz casual environment, check out driving Mocs. I’d go for ones with a buckle/hardware but they would work with crisp colored ankle pants (but not suit pants).

    20. TheCupcakeCounter*

      No colorful denim – not really business casual.
      NY & Company has a modern fit pant that has some interesting menswear inspired styles – straighter leg and a narrower cut.
      For the shoes – you can find a women’s oxford loafer that should fit the bill

    21. Artemesia*

      Denim pants are ‘jeans’; you can’t wear them if jeans are inappropriate.

    22. CM*

      “Is there such a thing as mens businesswear, cut for women?”
      Sure! I think this is actually pretty easy. Nice pair of pants, button down shirt, socks, and oxfords — same things that men wear to work, in a cut that you feel comfortable with (you could also actually buy men’s clothes and find a tailor you like, if typical women’s fits don’t work for you). Maybe a blazer. I googled “masculine women’s work clothes” and found a bunch of images — you could see what’s out there on the web for inspiration.

    23. acmx*

      Try alterationsneeded dot com for ideas. She’s a petite blogger who dresses in menswear style (although I think she may wear heels mostly and not oxfords or loafers).

  9. I Volunteer As Tribute*

    I want to do some unpaid/volunteer or very cheaply paid social media/online editing work to boost my resume a little bit. Something mostly online that would be easy to do from home in the evenings or weekends. Anyone know of where I might find something like that? I’ve tried looking at businesses locally but haven’t had much luck so was wondering if there was a website for something like this, like Indeed for volunteer work.

    1. Caledonia*

      I may or may not have gotten these sites from commenters on here before, I can’t remember. I’ve not tried any of them though so can’t personally vouch for them.


    2. Slippy*

      Try your local humane society or animal rescue. They usually need/want people with social media skills to help get animals adopted.

      1. SL #2*

        Yes! My friend is a social media/volunteer photographer with a local animal rescue and they’re always looking for more help.

    3. Audiophile*

      I recommend volunteer match. I’ve found a few volunteer opportunities through that site, including my current volunteer work. I do all my work remotely and they’ve become a really great reference for me, as I’ve moved back into the communications/marketing/social media field.

      1. Stella*

        VolunteerMatch is good? I was poking around on there but a lot of what I found seemed to be one off stuff, or very odd stuff (like several postings from different organizations just asking people to buy through SmileAmazon to credit their organization). I didn’t see much that seem reputable.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          It can be really good – I was also making the communications/marketing/social media move and got hooked up with a remote opportunity as a newsletter writer for a nonprofit through VolunteerMatch.

        2. Audiophile*

          VolunteerMatch can be great. I found a few opportunities through that site. I’ve been remotely volunteering with an organization for a few years now and it’s directly led to interviews in marketing/communications/social media and job offers.

    4. babblemouth*

      Search for local chapters of large organisations. While the central hub of these is usually well-staffed, it’s often hard to find good social media people locally. The plus is the you’ll be regularly working with people at the central hub who themselves have a strong network and a lot of experience to share.

    5. College Career Counselor*

      You might look at idealist(dot)org for volunteer/part time kinds of things as well.

      1. Anxa*

        If you live in a a bigger city I’d second idealist and volunteer match.

        In my current city (of 80K), there’s not a single entry on either of those sites in the 40 mile radius.

        Here I notice more things on a pretty drama-heavy FB group that’s basically like a free-community share.

  10. justcourt*

    My gut tells me linking to the website of an organization you no longer work with is a little weird*, but I would definitely mention it.

    *I am by no means an expert, so apologies if my instinct is incorrect.

    1. justcourt*

      Oops. That was meant to be a reply to Anna No Mouse. I think my mind is already in weekend mode.

    2. Lizabeth*

      A link with no explanation would be weird but one with some verbiage about how she was involved with the development of it should be fine.

  11. Hlyssande*

    Today is our last day of blessed quiet. Next week, He will be back in the office with his loud and inane self, and we’ll hear about everything he did on his staycation at minimum 5 times before 10am Monday.

    It’s been so nice.

    1. Pineapple Incident*

      Sorry- that sounds awful. Good luck to you in tuning out this weirdo.

      1. Hlyssande*

        He really is awful, and not just because I reached BEC level with him years ago.

    2. CM*

      The local paper publishes “50 word stories”… I think this one could be a winner!

  12. Daisy Dukes*

    Hi everyone! I have a question regarding having shares in a company when you’re looking to leave. I work in a small company and they have given me a good amount of shares because I’ve been getting stellar reviews.

    It’s not a public company and I don’t know if they’re going to be acquired in the upcoming future. I have been here a while but I’m getting increasingly unhappy with how the company is being run.

    My questions are: can I keep these shares if I leave and how much should this be a factor in whether I stay or not?

    1. the gold digger*

      Are you vested? If so, yes, you can keep them.

      (My experience with stock options at a publicly-held company – options were priced at $42 but the stock price was $22. I had 6,000 options. My mom asked me, “Why would you pay $42 to buy them from your company when you could get them cheaper on the open market?”)

      (And my memories of the mid 90s: You can be a millionaire on paper but that doesn’t matter if nobody is going to buy your shares from you.)

    2. Pwyll*

      By shares you mean stock in the company? Generally, when you receive stock as part of an incentive plan, you should also receive something in writing (like a contract) that explains your rights to the stock and what will happen if you leave or are terminated. For example, most companies who do this have a Shareholder’s Agreement or an Incentive Stock Agreement that outlines the process for (or, in some cases, requires) the company to buy out your shares upon resignation or retirement.

      If you haven’t signed any of that, you may want to talk to your HR or payroll or whomever and ask them for the details on your stock because you’re having your accountant/financial planner review your estate plan, and (s)he will need those details. That way, you won’t clue them off that you’re looking to leave.

      1. Pwyll*

        (I’m coming from the standpoint of closely held companies. Publicly traded companies are way different).

    3. Jerry Vandesic*

      Did they give you shares or options? Is there a vesting schedule? There are a lot of subtle issues (including tax implications) associated with employees receiving stock in private companies, so you should learn more about what you are dealing with.

    4. Beezus*

      You’re asking whether the shares are vested or not, and nobody here will be able to tell you that. “Vested” means you own the shares free and clear and can keep them if you leave. Does anything in your benefits paperwork tell you when/if the shares are vested?

      If the shares aren’t vested, of course that should be a factor in whether you stay. Not the only factor, but you should weigh the value of the shares against how badly you want to leave and how long you’d have to stay to wait for them to vest.

    5. Alston*

      So if you’re vested you get to keep them. Personally I wouldn’t factor this into whether or not you are going to stay. You’re not happy–it’s time to look elsewhere. Another thing to keep in mind, especially if you’re in tech is that a lot of times when you switch jobs you can get a pay bump. At a certain point even if your company does get sold, and you do get money from the shares you would still be losing money compared to what you could have been making in salary.

      Also your company is probably not going to be bought by Google for 1 Billion right?

      My boyfriend has worked for two companies that were later sold. He had stock at both of them and yes he got some money, but it’s not like he’s rich now because of it. He has a lot of ex coworkers from the last company who are upset that they stayed around as long as they did and in their stock isn’t worth as much as they’d hoped.

    6. CAA*

      When you say you have shares, do you mean actual shares, or stock options? Either way, there should be some legal paperwork describing the conditions of the grant and a vesting schedule. This should have been given to you when you first got the shares, and you would have signed it. You should find that and read it. If you weren’t given a copy, then look around on the company’s intranet or file server for it. It might be with finance, payroll, or benefits forms.

      Typically, if you own shares of stock, then the agreement you signed includes an option for the company to buy them back when you part ways or within a certain period of time thereafter. They get to set the price.

      If they granted you stock options then there will be a vesting period of several years, and there will also be a description of how to exercise the vested options and how the company can recover the shares you’ve purchased if they are still a private company at the time of separation. Usually, if you haven’t exercised your vested options, then they expire when you leave or 30 days later.

      Unless you’re a founder or member of the board, it is almost never worth staying at a private company which is not planning to go public just because you own some stock.

    7. Daisy Dukes*

      Thanks for your replies! My understanding is that the contract states that if I leave, the option can be exercised for 3 months.

      I’m not quite sure what that means, can someone clarify?

      1. Alston*

        I think that means you have the option to buy out your shares for up to 3 months after you leave. Sounds like maybe you have the option to buy the stock, not actual stock?

      2. the gold digger*

        It sounds like you have stock options, not actual stock.

        Stock options matter only if the strike price is lower than the market price. Otherwise, they are worthless.

        As far as when you can exercise – what this means is you have three months from the day you quit to buy the stock from your company at the strike price. After that, you can do nothing. Ideally, the strike price would be lower than the market price, although how market price is determined for a private company, I do not know.

      3. CAA*

        We need more information. The wording you gave could mean that you were given options to purchase shares in the company and you have up to 90 days after you leave to exercise your options; or it could mean that if you leave, the company has an option to repurchase the shares you already own and they have up to 90 days to exercise their option. Since this is a private company, my best guess is it’s the latter. Private companies usually don’t want to have a lot of random former employees owning shares.

        If you don’t want to ask your HR or Finance team to explain this to you, then you really have to find the company’s stock plan documentation and read it yourself or take it to someone else who can help you understand it.

      4. Jerry Vandesic*

        Be careful if you decide to buy your options. If the shares are worth more than you pay for the options, there will be Alternative Minimum Tax implications (in essence, you could owe taxes even though you haven’t yet sold the stock for a profit).

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          I was a bit imprecise in my wording above. Let’s try again:

          Be careful if you decide to exercise your options. If the shares are worth more than you pay to exercise the options, there will be Alternative Minimum Tax implications (in essence, you could owe taxes even though you haven’t yet sold the stock for a profit).

    8. steeped in anonymtea*

      You should have gotten the terms in a written agreement, for example, how long you have to stay to be vested in the options.

    9. NacSacJack*

      My concern is if you own stock or have stock options in a private company, you might not be able to sell to anyone other than current stockholders or to the company itself. I have a friend who owns shares in a family run business, but the Shareholder Agreement says he can only sell back to the company or to his fellow family members. Thus, none of the relatives can use their stock for loans or such. And if they need money, one of the other family members has to use their earned income to buy it from them, which isn’t often since they all make about the same amount of money. They are millionaires…on paper only.

    10. Artemesia*

      When workers receive shares there are always rules about them: when they ‘vest’, at which point they may be sold after being acquired etc etc. I have never heard of a business that gives shares without very clear rules about them.

  13. Anon for this*

    Any one had success with long-term office temping? Did you have to supplement it with other jobs?

    1. bassclefchick*

      I think I’m the poster child for long term office temping. My last stretch was 5 years and as I look back on my “career”, I’ve temped more than I’ve had permanent jobs. Which is a sad tale of woe for a different thread. LOL. No, I didn’t have to supplement with other jobs. But, I’ve been lucky and had long term placements (think a year or longer). In my state, I’m eligible for unemployment when I’m between assignments. I really think the staffing service industry is moving away from “you’ll be at company A for 3 days and then we’ll send you to company B for a week or so”.

      The hard truth is, it’s very stressful not knowing how long you’re employed. Sure, the service may tell you they’re sending you out for a 6 month placement, but business needs change. That six months could end up only being one month. Or, you could get lucky and they extend your contract for another few months.

      1. zora.dee*

        “I’ve temped more than I’ve had permanent jobs.”

        Twinsies!! Me, too. It’s nice to meet another one! high five!

        And yes, I agree with everything you said. I have temped in a few different big cities, and I’ve usually gotten mostly long-term assignments, as in 1 month or longer. I definitely recommend signing up with more than one agency, especially at first. To increase your chances of having steady work. But I have not had to supplement with other jobs.

    2. Me2*

      I was an office temp for eight and a half years but it’s been eons ago. I loved it. I learn new things quickly so I was a good fit most places. I also got offered a job at easily two out of every three places. Good way to find full time employment if you’re a good worker. It’s also a good way to find out if it’s a company you would want to work for. If they try to get you to come to work without paying the “finder’s fee,” you have to ask yourself what else they will try to take shortcuts with. It was my only means of income, so I did live off of it, but it was certainly tight at times.

    3. Kalli*

      I wasn’t allowed to sign up to temp because the agencies here said “companies only want people they’ve hired before” and “there isn’t enough work”. They recommended signing up with multiple agencies or having a work-from-home flexible position to fill in the gaps.

  14. Folklorist*

    ANTI-PROCRASTINATION POST!!! For US readers, I know that you may still be in the 4th of July funk (I know I am!) But today I will wrap up my post-conference e-mails and some small tasks so that I’m well set up to concentrate on my big, scary project all next week.

    What have you been putting off? Boast about your achievements in the comments and give yourself a gold star!

    1. Annie Moose*

      I’m going on vacation for two weeks (to Wales and England–I’m very excited!), so I’ve been running around trying to get everything in order before I leave. One of my projects the past two weeks has been identifying every web application that uses HR data… and what fields each of the applications is using. (we just went through an acquisition, so we’ve got to migrate our data into their systems)

      Given that we have over 130 applications and two separate database systems with this data, it’s been taking awhile. But! I’m just about done, which is exciting, because of how incredibly boring it’s been.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Finishing my last set of meeting minutes! Ugh. I’ll work on them after lunch…

      1. De Minimis*

        Trying to get documents together for our ultra-convoluted credit card process, which is behind to the point of absurdity. Constant printing and photo-copying of e-mails, receipts, vouchers….stuff keeps getting mixed up and lost. All of this because we have two separate bank accounts based on different funding sources, but the card is paid from a single bank account, so we have to write checks to ourselves each month for the other bank account to reimburse the one that pays the credit card. Is this a common practice with non-profits? It is the single biggest issue I have with this job.

        1. NJ Anon*

          Not common. Why 2 accounts? I’m guessing each bank account gets money from a different funding source but can’t that be changed? We completely switched bank accounts and I had to change over all funding sources to the new account. It was doable.

          1. De Minimis*

            We have a mix of federal and non-federal grants, so we have a federal bank account and “other” bank account. Since there are so many rules about spending federal grants, the reasoning is it all should be kept separate. The complicated part is allocating the federal share of all of the stuff that is routinely paid from the other account [payroll, credit card payments, etc.] which is more like a regular operating account. It would help if we could just transfer the funds electronically, but my boss seems really adverse to anything that doesn’t require a ton of paper documentation.

            It would help if we had separate credit cards for federal and non-federal program expenditures, but that would be too much of an inconvenience for staff [also, some of them participate equally in federal and non-federal programs–especially the executive level people who also do the most travel.]

            1. Ama*

              I guess I see the theory behind it, but I’ve worked for a few nonprofits/academic institutions with funding that had to be restricted in some way or the other (including federal), and most of the places I have worked keep all the money in one place but use software that assigns account numbers to the various sources of funds to keep track of what was spent. There’s still some documentation involved (we have to fill out a form each month indicating the account each credit card charge gets reconciled to), but it’s a lot less involved then what you’re describing.

              1. NJ Anon*

                Exactly. They make nonprofit accounting software exactly for things like this. Federal, state, local, it all went into the same bank account physically but was differentiated in the accounting system so you could track the revenue and expenses for each funding source.

                1. De Minimis*

                  Yeah we are using software that IMO doesn’t really suit our needs [we’re too large and complex for what we’re using, I think], but apparently there are no plans to change it. The weird part is the “other” account also has a lot of funds that are restricted [a mixture of various non-federal grants along with donations and sales/fee revenue]] but for those no one seems to care if everything is sitting in one bank account.

                  We also do things like pay vendor invoices with two checks each from a different bank account, which is a real treat for them I’m sure.

    3. Marillenbaum*

      I am putting off writing memos on the briefings I attended. I’m not sure how much anyone cares whether or not they get done. In Boasting News, I had some practice on the foreign service oral exam and my tutor told me I aced the hypothetical section! I’m taking the exam on the 22nd, and while I know most people don’t pass on their first round, I feel like I will at least fail less badly than I was afraid I would!

    4. CMT*

      I didn’t even do that much last weekend, and the holiday still left me feeling exhausted this week. TGIF!

    5. Rat Racer*

      I’m sitting in paralysis over prioritizing the 20 things on my to do list, all of which are important, all of which require a deep state of concentration. Reading AAM not helping. Typing this confession does make me feel a little bit better though. I think I can rally…

      1. Folklorist*

        You can do it! Choose ONE. Just close your eyes, stab your finger down on your list, do it, cross it off, come back here and brag. Repeat. We’re with you!

        1. Rat Racer*

          Thanks Folklorist. I did get a couple things done. I really need to boil a frog. Time to close eyes, plug nose and take the plunge…

    6. animaniactoo*

      Working on the last piece of packaging that officially counts as assigned work. Then I’ll start updating all our product templates with a revision I decided they need. And then I’ll file my desk. I mean all the paperwork on my desk. Yes, that’s what I meant…

    7. EddieSherbert*

      (To be fair, I also took off Tues/Wed so this is a two day week for me).

      Yesterday I put off troubleshooting the error I’m getting when I try to update my test database for the software I work for… and I tackled it today. It actually was a much quicker fix than I thought it would be :)

    8. Soupspoon McGee*

      I’m working on my application to PA schools. It’s insanely competitive, and I’m really struggling this year. Last year, I was optimistic despite the ridiculous odds, but this year, not so much. My top pick last year got 1600 applications for 50 seats.

      Now I’m staring at “Why do you want to be a PA?” and thinking, sardonically, “Well, it’s better than being a grantwriter.” And then I have a handful of cliches about wanting to help people, loving science, lifelong learning, blah blah blah. I need to turn my cliches into something compelling, or come up with plans B, C, and D.

      And that’s why I’m repainting the bathroom and refinancing my mortgage.

  15. Foxtrot*

    I have s follow up to the dress code letter earlier this week. I’m an intern now who also went to Catholic school. We had a lot of things that just aren’t done in church for no other reason than the nuns said no. So I’m used to just accepting that you have different weekday and weekend dress, I guess.
    Anyway, I’ve been watching some of the other interns this week and I notice a lot of things that I just wouldn’t do at work. Skirts higher than knees, baseball caps on guys, open toed shoes, sleeveless tops… Are these things acceptable now? Am I just a curmudgeon in my 20s?

    1. Leatherwings*

      It just depends on your workplace. In some this would be a no go. In my office, everything you listed except baseball caps are fine.

    2. alter_ego*

      It’s so hugely dependent on your workplace. I’ve violated all of those rules at least once this week, except for the hat thing. But I’m an engineer, and we tend to be more casual than a lot of industries. You just have to get a read one what everyone else is doing.

      1. Foxtrot*

        I’m an engineer too…how do you get away with open shoes from a safety standpoint? I’m in the lab half the time, so our restrictions on that are legitimate. I’ve had internships with three different companies that all require hands-on work at some level.
        I meant I still would wear them in a purely office environment.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I work in engineering consulting. Other than the occasional trips to the field or client’s site, open-toed shoes are fine for our business casual office. I guess my point is that not all engineer’s have restrictions for safety reasons. : )

    3. Lizabeth*

      Depends on the job and culture. Wore jeans and sweatshirts at a printing company for most of the time I worked there. And now with the weather going above 80 my skim knee shorts are out. That said I saw on the streets of NYC some great “summer suits” on guys. One was a formal suit cut and fabric but the pants were Bermuda shorts style with calf high socks and business shoes with a tie, sunglasses and a man-bun. He totally rocked it.
      The other was a variant on that theme – pink shorts, busy print shirt and solid contrast tie and the mandatory sunglasses and man-bun.

    4. Chriama*

      I think these are all borderline things and depend on the specific implementation as well as the culture of the workplace. Skirts higher than knees: are they so short they wouldn’t be out of place in a club, or just a little above knee-length? Baseball caps: I think hats inside are typically disrespectful, but I acknowledge that I might be old-fashioned in that view. Open-toed shoes: I’m actually fine with this in the summer. I don’t get people’s hang-ups about seeing other people’s feet. But again it really depends on the implementation. And I’m also fine with sleeveless tops (as long as we’re not talking thin straps but just sleeveless. I remember Alison not being a fan of seeing armpits in the office, but I’m fine with it as long as those armpits are shaved (men and women, for more details on my stance on armpit shaving last week’s post on shaved legs in the office).

      1. Foxtrot*

        Yeah. I actually had a few nuns/teachers who also taught my mother when she went to the same school. I acknowledge that I may have a super old fashioned way of thinking for my age. :)

        1. Chriama*

          I also went to a catholic elementary school – although here it’s a public school district, just separate from the regular secular school district, so we never wore uniforms. But we weren’t allowed to wear spaghetti straps (which I find weird because kids don’t have to worry about bra straps which is what I find unprofessional about spaghetti straps) and our skirts/shorts had to be as long as our middle finger when our hands were by our sides. I still hold to that standard for skirts, although as I’ve gotten older and filled out it’s not quite as modest as it was when I was a skinny 9 year old. I personally don’t wear skirts that cover my knees because I’m short and I feel like they make me look shorter. So above the knee but below mid-thigh is kind of my standard.

        2. Ife*

          YES It takes so long to unlearn some of the things they teach you about “appropriate dress” in Catholic school. I was in college – four years out of Catholic school – before I fully accepted that wearing a tank top was not the same as wearing just your bra. Like, you can walk around the neighborhood wearing one and not get an indecent exposure ticket. Shorts took me awhile too.

        3. Elsie_D*

          I didn’t go to Catholic school, but I spent some formative years in a Baptist school* and it can definitely be disconcerting to realize that no, that is not a universal standard, and that wearing a little less clothing doesn’t make you a heathen or completely immodest. At my school, skirts had to reach exactly the middle of your kneecap, and I definitely saw teachers pull out rulers to measure how long the skirts (which were mandatory for weekly chapel days) were!

          (One of my middle school friends once told me that she didn’t feel comfortable if her collarbone was exposed. HER COLLARBONE.)

      2. Minion*

        I have never, ever understood the whole hats inside being disrespectful thing. I was raised that way and that’s the general culture here in my southern residence, but I just don’t get it. What, exactly, is being disrespected by having something on your head? The room? The room’s owner? And, in what way, specifically, is wearing a hat actually disrespecting anyone or anything?
        This isn’t to rant on you – and, if I’ve come across that way to you, please accept my apology. I’m just very curious as to what your reasoning is.

        1. Mander*

          I think it is perhaps a throwback to religious considerations — in most Christian denominations, AFAIK, it’s considered disrespectful to God for *men* to cover their heads (some people even include long hair on men in this, apparently) in church. This idea has just become mutated to mean that hats inside is somehow gauche or rude.

          I could be wrong on this, though. Feel free to correct me, anyone.

          1. Bea W*

            That’s interesting. Other religions, including some non-mainstream Christian denominations, claim the opposite, that covering your head is a sign of respect for God.

        2. Chriama*

          I have no idea *why* it’s disrespectful, but it’s one of those things that I just know. That’s why I acknowledged I might be old-fashioned in that specific area. I suspect it has its roots in either religion, something to do with royalty (not wearing a hat in the presence of the king) or hygiene reasons from back before humans knew about germs. I was also an air cadet and the military is big on wearing hats at certain points but not others (it’s been a long time but I seem to recall we were supposed to take it off when sitting down but keep it on when singing the national anthem, so we’d have to stand to sing the anthem). Anyway, I don’t think I find it personally disrespectful, but I would probably find it unprofessional in a business casual environment.

        3. Overeducated*

          Could it indicate you’re planning on leaving any minute and not accepting hospitality?

        4. Not So NewReader*

          Doesn’t it supposedly date back to medieval times where the knights would remove their head gear to reveal the faces. That meant they were vulnerable so they would do it just in front of people they trusted.

    5. JOTeepe*

      Aside from the caps, most of these things are fine, especially this time of year. There’s a bit of a double standard in regards to above-knee skirts: For example, someone like me (I’m 5’2″) can get away with it because 2/3 thigh looks longer on someone short than on someone who is, say, 5’7″. I have knee length skirts but they look a LOT longer on me than they do my tall friends.

      I always bring a sweater or jacket when I wear a sleeveless top, but depending on how warm my office is or what is on the schedule, I may take it off and drape it over my chair.

      As for open-toed shoes, so long as they aren’t Tevas or flip flops, they are acceptable for business casual. I live in my leather wedge sandals this time of year, which actually look dressier than some of my closed-toed shoes.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Yup, open-toed shoes are acceptable at my business casual company. My cutest shoes are Nine West open-toe d’orsay ballet flats and they always get compliments.

        We can also wear sleeveless or spaghetti strap shirts if we wear a cardigan or jacket over it. Some people take them off at their desks like you do and then throw them back on before a meeting or walking around.

    6. designbot*

      Don’t look at the other interns to establish what’s normal, look at the junior-level fulltime employees. The other interns don’t know any better than you do.

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I was going to say this too. The other interns are possibly stretching what is appropriate a bit either because they don’t know any better or because they are trying to make what they already have in their closet work – and if it isn’t extremely bad chances are no one will tell them that they are dressed inappropriately.

        Look to people who have been there 2-5 years that don’t have a reputation as “quirky rockstar” for a better understanding of what would be appropriate office apparel.

    7. animaniactoo*

      Skirts just above the knee are fine. When they start hitting the mid-thigh, they’re not – think of it from a bending over perspective. If you can bend over without accidentally flashing someone, you’re fine.

      Open-toed shoes – fine in my company, as long as they’re not flipflops.

      Baseball caps, eh, not really seen here.

      On the other hand I work at a company where e-mails get sent out by HR to please dress up tomorrow because TRU or Walmart or Bank reps will be in the building. So no jeans. As I work in the art department, I violate that one anyway usually. Professional top, dark/nice jeans – black if they’re washed. One of my gripes about our HR dept is that sending an e-mail at 4:30 pm to clean up your desk and make sure to come in wearing good clothes tomorrow doesn’t give most people much planning time if they’re in the middle of a deadline, planning on doing the laundry on Saturday and can’t do it that night without a major hassle (The laundryroom in my building closes at 9 pm. I get home at 7:30. That math sucks).

    8. fposte*

      I think skirts higher than knees are pretty standard. The fashion for suiting is going a little longer again with the return of the midi, but as a petite that’s still where I have my business skirts hemmed. That’s not the same thing as a miniskirt, which is less likely to be acceptable.

      1. Foxtrot*

        Sorry…I didn’t mean an inch or so above the knee. I meant mid-thigh or higher. One particular instance was a short skirt and dark tights, but it still seemed a little too casual for me?

        1. Chriama*

          I’m on the fence about short skirts and tights. I’m guilty of wearing a too-short skirt and trying to hide it with tights, and although I don’t do it anymore I think that can work depending on just how short it is. One that that makes this more confusing is that a lot of the office fashion stores (think forever 21, dynamite, le chateau, suzy shier) will sell blazers and pretty short pencil skirts, and you see lots of mid-thigh suits on TV and in popular culture. Also, I hate to say it but body shape matters too. It’s not just how long the skirt is in the front but how low it goes in the back. Thinner people sometimes fly under the radar with more revealing clothes because it just doesn’t emphasize as much on them. I feel like we’re venturing into the whole “women should be sexy but not too sexy” conversation so I’ll stop there, but I agree that an inch or 2 is the difference between a short skirt being ok vs. inappropriate. I’m not going to say any more because I feel gross just writing it, and in a perfect world it wouldn’t make a difference in professional dress standards.

          1. Anxa*

            Hmm, I would have never considered Forever 21 an office fashion store. I knew people could find workwear there, but I always assumed you had to do a lot of hunting.

            I think something like Express would be more confusing. I have had a few really great items from there, but if you’re not careful, you could find clothes that really aren’t cut appropriately.

            I guess that just drives home how subjective this stuff can be.

      2. Mander*

        If you’re above average in height it can be almost impossible to find skirts that aren’t a bit above the knee in any case. I prefer mine to be around kneecap height but when I was trying to buy a suit a few years ago everything was mid-thigh or higher, which felt entirely too bare for me! So a bit above the knee is very common.

    9. NJ Anon*

      I feel for you! Went to Catholic grammar and high school. First day of first college class our professor asked a question and yes, I raised my hand. A few others did too. He joked that he now knew which of us went to Catholic school!

      1. Anxa*

        I wonder how that distinction happens. Maybe there’s something about public school’s culture that sends the signals that there are times in college when you could just answer? Maybe the hand raising in public school is more about logistics and rules and less about deference?

      2. Bea W*

        Weird. Maybe it’s being older but in public school where I lived the first thing we were was taught in kindergarten to raise your hand and wait to be called on before speaking. If you spoke out without being acknowledged you were reprimanded. That was true for all grade levels. It took me a long time to feel comfortable (sort of) with not raising my hand.

    10. I'm Not Phyllis*

      It depends on your office. As long as the skirt falls just above the knee cap I think it’s ok, but mid-thigh or higher is definitely a no-go. Open toed shoes are generally fine (I think?) in all but conservative environments. Where I previously would never have worn a sleeveless top or dress to work, I’ve done it twice this week – and in this heatwave I have no regrets! In my biz place, I’m honestly not a fan of the ballcap at work but some men (and women!) do wear them here.

    11. Anxa*

      To be honest, an above knee skirt may read as more professional, actually, if it’s not too short. Depending on the style and cut, a knee length skirt could be more….frumpy? Almost like it’s trying too hard to be modest? I don’t know. I know that a lot of above knee dresses and skirts have a more flattering sillouette that can help you look more polished or put together without being revealing or provocative at all.

      But that’s just from my perspective.

  16. Audiophile*

    Happy Friday!

    I had an interview yesterday with a company I interviewed with a year ago. It seemed to go well and I got conformation that they’ll be reaching out to my references today. I spent last night contacting my references, I’m confident they’ll give positive references.

    I’m hoping I’ll have an offer by next week. Thinking happy thoughts.

    I will say, I’m a little nervous about the salary difference between this new job and my last job, there’s definitely no room to negotiate, as they were upfront with their salary in the ad and interview last time.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I just negotiated salary. I was above their stated range, but they came up to a number we are both happy with. So it’s possible.

      Good luck and best wishes!

      1. Audiophile*

        I negotiated with the last job, for a pretty sizable increase and that didn’t work out very. I think a part of the reason I was let go recently, was because of budget and my salary.

        Anyway, the last time I met with this org, they stated that they couldn’t do any higher than their stated salary, at least to start. (They state their salary in the job ad.) It does sound like there might be an opportunity for increases later on.

    2. TootsNYC*

      also look for other things that might make it easier.

      Promise of a review a half-year, an extra week of vacation, a promise of training…

  17. on the subject of mathematics...*

    In some of the conversations around ‘why did you choose your career’ type subjects, I notice a lot of people say that they ‘don’t have the brain for maths’ or that they just can’t do it, or even that they’re scared of it.

    Maths was always my favourite subject at school and I enjoyed it more as it became more advanced. There’s something so immensely satisfying about solving a problem that it makes the previous seven hours of wanting to scream at the local fauna totally worthwhile. And contrary to its reputation, it’s not all rules and rigidity, there’s a lot of scope for creative thinking as well.

    I’ve wondered whether people are actually ‘bad’ at maths, or just that they weren’t taught it properly. There’s a weird sort of misconception that mathematics is a scary discipline and that you’d have to be super smart to get it. But aside from people with specific learning difficulties, I suspect it feeds into its own myth – people are scared because it’s presented as difficult so they don’t even try, and they can’t learn if they don’t try.

    I’m sure that there’s been studies or at least conversations raised about the way maths is taught to children at the outset of their learning, and whether it’d be possible to do it in a way that doesn’t bore and intimidate in equal measure.

    So for people who are averse to maths (not just as a discipline, but in general): was it the content itself that turned you off, or the way it was taught/tested? Were you put off by the notion that only certain people with a ‘mathematical mind’ would get anywhere with it? Or perhaps put off by its reputation? Can you think of anything that may have been helpful in getting you to give it another go?

    1. Foxtrot*

      Female enginner who *hates* it when girls say they’re bad at math…
      Statistically, more people have legitimate diagnosed learning disabilities in language arts than math. And more males have legitimate, diagnosed learning disabilities in math than females. It’s a cultural thing more than an aptitude thing.

      1. Elle*

        So there’s nothing you’re not good at? I am a woman who is legitimately NOT good at math, and it has nothing to do with being female. My dad is a retired NASA engineer, who spent quite a bit of time trying to help me improve in math. He was very patient, and I never felt that I was being steered away from math because I was a girl – quite the opposite in fact, he would have loved if I’d followed in his footsteps. Two of my sisters are engineers. We are all born with different abilities.

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        Everyone is different. I am genuinely bad at math. It’s not because I’m a woman, it’s because that’s how my abilities shook out.

      3. Tandy*

        But I AM bad at math. It’s just the truth. Those facts (if true) don’t change the fact that I’m bad at math. And I hate math.

    2. Spot*

      I tend to get numbers mixed up. If someone says “1,274” to me, in my brain it becomes “1,724”. I also feel like I need concepts really super-duper explained to me. I had to have a special tutor to teach me how to read an analog clock because I just couldn’t get it. I bailed on math around algebra when letters started mixing with numbers. It was too much.
      That being said, I was also the kind of kid who sailed through elementary and middle school without putting much work or effort into anything. I’d always been told I was very smart. So when I hit a wall with math, it was terrifying. If I couldn’t get it without effort, then that meant I wasn’t smart. If I had to work at it, that meant I wasn’t smart. Smart was all I really had, so it was devastating. So I just sort of gave up on it. So you couple that mentality with the fact that I do have some trouble with transposing numbers and not really getting mathematical concepts until they’re beaten into me with a stick, and it was a recipe for disaster.

      1. Spot*

        Also, I don’t remember this, but my grandmother told me about how when I was three-ish years old, I was practicing writing numbers one day at her house with my dad. I kept making my 3s backwards. My dad would correct me and show me how to do right, but I’d just keep reverting to drawing them backwards. Finally, my dad got so frustrated that he spanked me. I drew my 3s correctly from then on. That may have had some influence on my dislike for numbers.

      2. Kelly L.*

        A similar effect for me–if I had trouble with a math concept, people assumed I was faking and just being lazy, because if I was so smart at X, then I must of course be just as smart at Y.

        1. Anxa*


          Although I still, STILL, can’t think of anything I’m really good at. Once I lost smart, I glommed onto “helpful and flexible and overall a pretty good kid” and all that other “well rounded” nonsense that was super-hyped up when I was in school.

          So when my difficulties seemed like it was laziness, I’d slip into periods of weird rebellion (but like, really super mild stuff like wearing oversized t shirts). And it was in part a discipline problem but more intrinsic. Because I couldn’t even be “a good kid” anymore.

          1. C Average*

            Oh, man. That sounds difficult. And can I just say that “pretty good kid” is nothing to dismiss lightly? I was recently comparing notes with a high school classmate, and we agreed that there were exactly three people in our school who were invariably kind. Not brilliant, not perfect, not overachievers, just consistently nice. I felt all warm and fuzzy just thinking about them.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Also, the kids who don’t spend time and attention on bucking the system and fighting over power with the teachers will have time and attention to spend on their school work. And for a kid w/ a learning disability, that might be what they need to figure out their own way around it.

          2. Kelly L.*

            I had this epiphany a few months ago where I realized I was really not the delinquent horror my dad thought I was, back in my teens. I suddenly went *blinkblink* and was like, “Wow, the worst I ever did was write crappy angst poetry. Dad got off easy.”

            1. Spot*

              My parents were so convinced that the minute they loosened the leash I would go get drunk, stoned and pregnant all in the same night. They didn’t trust me at all, and they had no reason not to.

    3. Caledonia*

      Interesting subject.

      When I was little, I moved from England to Scotland and they taught maths differently. I think I had to have coaching to get me up too the standard. I’ve also had really rubbish teachers in secondary/high school. I remember copying out work that was wrong and the smartest kid in the class correcting the teacher…I didn’t know any better.

      Lastly, and perhaps unfortunately, both my dad and brother are incredibly maths/science orientated – my dad could never understand why maths was so difficult for me.

    4. OhNo*

      For people being ‘bad’ at math: I think there is definitely a mindset that lends itself to mathematics – a particular way of thinking that makes solving the problems easier. But what that mindset is changes as you move into different types of math – I definitely have the brain for solving algebra and calculus problems, but set theory, topography, and other types of more theoretical math are definitely outside my wheelhouse. It’s why I got a bachelor’s degree in math but didn’t go on to grad school in the subject: I couldn’t find a grad-level program that focused in the type of math I like and am good at.

      That said, I like math despite of the instruction I received as a kid and despite the way it was tested. All my friends that are not big on math seem to cite the way it was taught as a major factor in why they dislike it.

      1. Anna*

        I can do math if I do it the way that works for me. I think the reason people struggle with it is because there’s this lock-step way we’re supposed to learn it and it doesn’t work for everyone. So there are things I absolutely understand. Functions. I love functions. There’s a table and each step is logical and follows the one before it. Statistics. I get them. I understand the kind of abstract way you have to talk about them (sample versus population, 17% of the 25% that voted, etc). However, fractions kill me now. And no matter how many times I solve the same sort of equation I will never be able to solve it or follow along a lesson without seeing each individual step written down. I cannot go from step 1 to three without getting completely lost unless you show me step 2. Every. Single. Time.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Stats. One prof said, “Statistics is what ever you make of it. There are no rules so you do whatever you can make sound good to other people.”
          Yeah, I learned a lot in that class. NOT.
          I retook the course. One should not take statistics over the summer because something about hours every day all week long is just not right. Even this other prof said, “Statistics is something you incubate. You put it down, look at something else and then come back to it.”
          I had a hard time shaking off what the first prof said.

          1. catsAreCool*

            I took statistics too. I never fully believed that it was right, but the teacher let us bring a “cheat sheet” into the test, so I wrote down the formulas and applied them. Can’t remember any of it now.

      2. Ife*

        Hmm, you sound a lot like me :) I also hated math as a kid/high schooler and once I got to college and they taught us algebra and calc properly, it was great and I majored in it. I joke that once they took the numbers out, math was easy!

        I think the reason I hated math at first was because it is (a) not intuitive — you need to memorize all your arithmetic, and (b) it feels very judgmental: “No, you are wrong.” Especially compared to things like literature or social studies, where if you don’t know the answer you can draw on your background knowledge and probably get something halfway correct. With math, if you do not know it, you can’t BS your way to a half-correct answer (until college when you start doing proofs!).

        So, math *is* hard in the sense that you have to do a lot of memorizing and remembering, and it’s not forgiving. Those aren’t traits that most people find endearing!

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          So, math *is* hard in the sense that you have to do a lot of memorizing and remembering, and it’s not forgiving.

          This is my issue with it. Anything having to do with formulas or equations I have to memorize is a no go. If I have those things in front of me, I can kind of stumble into the answer, but it takes a while.

          1. Tau*

            The frustrating thing for me is that that’s… not actually maths? It’s arithmetic. And it might be the way maths works for engineering and science subjects. But actual, academic mathematics? Is seriously one of the least memorisation-heavy subjects I’ve seen. At university, I used to joke it was the best subject for lazy people because of that fact. Still think there’s a definite element of truth to that.

            Instead, you needed to *understand* the area in question. If you had a good, deep understanding, then that was basically all you needed – definitions and concepts became natural and obvious, the statements of theorems became basic facts about how those concepts behaved, and with a vague idea of how the proof worked you could rederive it in an exam instead of memorising every step. Actually getting that understanding was really, really hard, but once you had it you were basically home free. No rote memorisation needed. I’d look at my flatmate who was doing biology with her telephone-book-thick textbooks of material she actually had to know by heart and shudder. No way could I have done that, all the memorisation would have driven me mad…

            1. Tau*

              To clarify – I’m not frustrated with you, I’m frustrated about the fact that the way we teach maths (or, really, “maths”) in school leaves people with this seriously warped idea of what the subject is and how you learn it. I happen to love maths, and it’s sad to hear people go “I hated it/I’m bad at it because X” when X shouldn’t be a factor. I imagine it to be a bit like someone who really likes classics and hears people say they dislike reading and literature because they could never diagram sentences correctly and they don’t do well on spelling tests, or someone who loves art having people go “ugh, I hate art, I always got told off for my lines not being straight enough in art class in high school.”

              1. Kristina L*

                I did well in math but also felt that a lot of teachers don’t teach math well. Maybe to some people, math is so obvious to them that they can’t explain it to the rest of us.

                I’ve been (very slowly) building a website where I try to make math, etc. more fun and explain how some math works. It’s totally free; I eventually want to put ads on it to at least break even :)

    5. AthenaC*

      I think there’s an issue with the way math is taught in school, at least in the US. I remember being so frustrated how every damn year in elementary school, we began the year with single-digit addition and subtraction. We focused nearly all our time on “basics” and speed drills. Nothing about the nature of mathematical concepts and numerical relationships.

      Which is fine in itself, but the problem is that we didn’t really start introducing algebraic and other abstract concepts until high school, or 8th grade if you’re lucky (when kids are 13 – 15 years old). And then they throw it all at you at light speed and expect you to go from basic algebra to AP Calculus (although still single-variable calculus) in three to four years.

      Now, they are starting to change this by retooling how we teach elementary school kids – I’ve seen my kids’ math homework in 3rd – 5th grade (ages 8 – 11) making kids think through multi-step problems and write WHY a solution is the way it is. I hope that by warming kids up to more abstract thinking early on, a higher proportion of them will be ready to learn advanced math and won’t be scared off by it.

      1. AthenaC*

        Side note: When I tell people I work in accounting, the most common reply I get is: “Oh I could never do that – I’m so bad at math!” Okay – let me state for the record that my job involves almost NO math. Any math I do is simple arithmetic and Excel does it for me.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          Heh. Me and every other accountant I know gets the “Oh I’m so bad at math!”

          I always say, “Yeah, I’m not the best either! Good thing I don’t have to do any!”

          (I don’t count adding a column of numbers on a calculator or typing a formula into excel as “doing math”. Not at the simple level I deal with, anyway. )

            1. NJ Anon*

              I’m in accounting. People expect me to be able to do complicated math problems in my head. I’m no, please pass me the calculator!

        2. Manders*

          Ooh yes, that’s something I didn’t mention in my answer: my marketing job actually involves a fair amount of data analysis and turning columns of numbers into actionable insights, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the work. What I struggled with in school was mental math and manually doing things that I knew a computer could do for me. So I still say I’m “bad at math” even though I spend a lot of my day in Google Analytics and Excel.

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

          I was told that a lot in my accounting classes, except all of our homework was math.

          1. De Minimis*

            In general I agree, though I also agree with something one of my profs used to say, “If I ask you for 10% of a number and you have to use a calculator, you may not be cut out for accounting.”

            But it’s way more important to know what the numbers mean…

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

              Yeah I think the problem was they turned over the teaching to the textbook company who had no other way to grade things than by using straight math. I don’t know what the teacher did, it was like she just read from the book and then assigned the homework which was all online through the textbook’s website.

        4. Former Retail Manager*

          HA! Yes, same here! If you can do basic math, you’ll be fine in accounting. No differentiation of equations to be found here….and I am perfectly fine with that.

          1. AthenaC*

            Hehe – although there was one time where a coworker and I got bored in training and tried to figure out how to write the integral of an equation in one of the training excel files. He had been a math major and the task was simple enough that it wasn’t completely beyond the Calc I remembered from high school.

            Although, the partner teaching the class gave us this look like we had suddenly grown a third arm.

        5. Sydney*

          Or the adding machine. There’s very little math in accounting and that’s why there are adding machines (or spreadsheets). Why do people think that? It’s not like we are sitting there with slide rules.

        6. MsMaryMary*

          I worked with pension calculations for a long time, and there was very little “math” involved. Anything vaguely math-related was done by the actuaries. I used excel and simple arithmetic.

          However, most of my coworkers were “math people.” We were having a conversation once about school, and several of my coworkers were saying how much they hated essay questions: there was no one *right* answer, they had to write a bunch of things and hope it was what the teacher wanted. I said, “Are you kidding? Essay questions were the best, you could just write a bunch of stuff and as long as you made a strong argument, you’d get full points.” They looked at me like I was an alien.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yes! They assumed you forgot everydamnthing over the summer, every year. So the first half of every year was back to baby steps. Soooo boring.

        1. AthenaC*

          Exactly – so I spent that time being bored, thinking I was “sooooo good” at math. And I actually was okay because it took until AP Calc in high school for me to really hit my wall. It wasn’t because I didn’t understand the concepts; it was because: 1) for me there wasn’t enough time to let the concepts really sink in for me to be able to use them effectively (going back to my light-speed comment earlier); and 2) I have naturally horrible attention to detail which resulted in many, many mistakes and incorrectly-solved problems.

          Even as an adult I have horrible attention to detail, but I have strategies for managing it and a profession where literally everything a person does is reviewed by a different set of eyes.

      3. themmases*

        Yes, especially to formal algebra being added so late. I see adults all the time smug that they were right about never needing algebra again… algebra is just an extension of the arithmetic you should have known how to do for years before! It’s just a way of problem solving that brings together your knowledge of basic math. The fact that you aren’t sitting down with a pencil and a calculator to simplify an equation doesn’t mean you don’t use algebra.

        In the US it is socially acceptable to claim to be bad at math and never use it, without it apparently implying that you’re stupid. It makes it easy just to give up when math gets tricky and decide it’s an inborn characteristic. In contrast no one would shrug, claim to just not “get” reading, and then brag that they sure showed their first grade teacher!

        1. Kelly L.*

          We had algebra early, but they didn’t tell us that was what we were doing. Maybe one or two days a year, in elementary school, the problems would be like “8 + ___ = 12.” And of course that’s algebra! Put an “x” instead of the blank, and yep, algebra. But it was only once in a blue moon and they didn’t really explain the connection to the “official” algebra we did later.

        2. AthenaC*

          Agreed. I usually respond to the “I never use algebra – haha” comments by explaining that even if they never formally set up and algebraic equation again, you have taught your brain a new skill set about how to tackle problems and engage with reality. I fail to understand why you would neglect the opportunity to make your brain a bit more limber, but that’s just me being a nerd, I guess.

        3. MsMaryMary*

          Something happened in my mathematic education (a curriculum change, maybe? Or a teacher who skipped part of the cirriculum, or maybe ran out of time in the school year?) and I never learned about the graph part of algebra until high school. I’d solved for x before, but no one had ever mentioned that whole x – y axis thing. I was already not confident in my math skills, and playing catch up for all of algebra I made things much more difficult. I really never caught up. I did well in geometry, but barely muddled through alegbra II and pre-calc.

          1. MsMaryMary*

            Now that I think about it, I think the way math education builds on itself, and how screwed you can get if you miss or don’t understand a step, might be part of why so many people don’t like math. If you transfer schools or have a lousy teacher and never learn about the Napoleonic Wars, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have trouble in your next history class. You may not be able to decipher James Joyce at all, but there’s a good chance you’ll be fine (and maybe even make up the bad grade you got on Joyce) when you move on to reading Hemingway. But if you’re absent the week the teacher introduces fractions, or never get a firm grasp on quadratic equations, it can be very, very hard to progress to the next concept.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          I have heard DOCTORS say, “Don’t worry about math, you will never use it.” hmmm.
          Yes it does seem that people will freely state that they cannot do math but hide the fact that they cannot read. It could be because of reading campaigns from the 1960s maybe changed the tone of society? Even now there is Literacy Volunteers where people can go get help if they choose.

          I have met a few people who cannot read or can barely read. It does not come up in conversation unless necessary OR unless I have known them along time. It is much harder to fake not being able to read and society pretty much demands that you have some basic reading skills. I know I have tried to help people find help for their reading but I do not try if they are complaining about math. I suspect many people have similar responses.

      4. Lily*

        That’s an interesting point! I was born in China, but emigrated near the end of first grade. The expectation there is that all children should know their multiplication tables /before/ they start elementary school, and we were doing long division before long. (Education was an intense exercise there, and doing homework til 9pm as a first-grader is perfectly normal.)

        When I started school here, I was surprised that they were still teaching single-digit stuff (not that I didn’t enjoy the change in pace!). But since I already knew all that stuff inside out, there was this perception that I was shockingly good at maths somehow (and that carried all the way through school). I think this is also why Asian children get the reputation that they’re somehow naturally gifted at maths – in some cases that might be true, but a lot of the time we just start earlier and have been doing it for longer.

    6. Darth Brooks*

      As a society, we need to eliminate the math-brained concept. People learn differently, and a lot of teachers only know how to teach math one way. If kids aren’t great at it immediately, they’re dismissed as “not a math person” when they might just need a different approach, a little more practice, or just the knowledge that some skills take longer to develop. This is especially true for girls, who are often expected to not do well in STEM courses. We’re all capable of doing it, but we all learn differently.

      1. Apostrophina*

        This is really true. The first “B” I ever got was in math after years of straight “A”s, and after that, everyone just decided I wasn’t very good at it. It took a friend who was researching intelligence testing and SAT scores to actually start ranting at me that no, my SAT score of [whatever] meant that I was better at math than [largish] percent of people and I just needed to stop saying I was bad at math—and that whoever told me that in the first place was full of crap.

        Dude was a math major, so I guess he would know. :p

        Did I mention I was about 39 when that conversation took place? I’d just believed the party line since I was 12 and never tried to challenge myself at it. There are a couple of stats classes I wish I’d taken in college now…

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I think a lot of people are in your situation, particularly smart people. My best friend from back in school says she is bad at math. She took through Calc I in high school & was able to hang with me grades-wise. There’s no way she’s bad at math compared to the general population, but compared to people who enjoyed math (and hence chose math-related careers) or compared to herself in subjects she was better at or enjoyed more, sure, she was bad at math.

          I actually won “Outstanding Senior Math Student” in high school and “Outstanding 8th Grade Science Student”. (Kind of forgot about it until I was cleaning the basement and came across the plaques.) I think this probably had a big impact in my career choices, because I was also slightly higher on my English scores on the ACT. Having other people tell you you’re good at stuff matters. (The flip side is that I might be happier in a career that didn’t follow the math path, because I’m not thrilled with it right now, but whatever. I did it anyway & I’m 20 years past deciding my career path.)

        2. Anxa*

          This is a great point.

          I’m actually better at math than most Americans. I was doing some pretty basic math and not confident in at all in a not-very-math focused lab (molecular bio). I was faster than the grad students and post docs and there I was dismissing my ability. Imagine my surprise when people came to me to do math?

          So even though math is one of my weaknesses to me, maybe being mediocre at it is actually a strength?

          Also, I legit got a B in a math class, so I couldn’t get into the AP Calc class. Calc was very unpopular, and there was only one class for it. It interfered with a language class I was VERY interested in taking. While I’m not longer good at that language, I was really quite good with foreign language and it would have been devastating to have to quit that for a math class. So I signed up for AP, which fit in my schedule. I had a grade in the low 90s which flagged me over the summer. I was pulled out.

          I went from fall of junior year to freshman year without math because I had a B. I didn’t care if I failed AP Calc, I just wanted to take math. I had my credits. I didn’t care about grades. I knew I could get into a good college but they were all about “but you’re traaaaaanscripts! But your collllllege applications”

          To this day, I think my college experience would have been different if I hadn’t struggled with Calc and Chem (math heavy). It was a very bitter experience. I think they were worried they’d have one less ‘good college’ acceptance banner to put in the guidance counselor office if I jeopardized my transcript for an actual education.

      2. designbot*

        This was so true for me. Somehow I can take perfectly good numbers, put them into a perfectly good equation, and come out with the wrong answer. But when you give me a problem I can draw, I do great. So geometry and trig were cool with me, algebra not so much. Now everything that I was taught to do with math in high school is done with autocad or a modeling program, where I can SEE what needs to change to reach a solution.

      3. MsMaryMary*

        I think it can be extra difficult to be a good teacher when you are naturally gifted in your subject matter. Math teachers tend to be really good at math. It comes easily to them, the concepts make perfect sense, and with a little hard work and practice everyone should be able to learn the same way they did. I think this is also true for music teachers and phys ed teachers (and other subjects, of course, but math, music, and athletics seem to be the best examples). Some teachers are excellent and realize what worked for them might not work for their students, or that the way one student learns is not how the person next to them learns. But when something comes easily to you, it can be really hard to understand why someone else struggles.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Great point. My calc teacher should have been teach grad school level. He had no patience for newbies at all. I got a D for the year but aced the course because I took the questions for the final home with me. We all did. He knew he was in trouble because no one in the class could finish the final in the allotted two hours. I stayed up to 3 am but I figured all those problems out. I decided I could not do calc. For whatever reason, I took advance placement test for math for college. I had 15 minutes left and I had only answered 75% of the questions. I made pretty patterns on the bubble sheet for the remaining questions. I got the advance placement. That was when I knew I could not do this advanced math stuff. (I got the advance placement by luck not because I actually did all the work.)
          Teachers who have to work at math make much better teachers.

          1. Kristina L*

            I had 2 calc classes in college. Both teachers would give an hour’s lecture on the theory and spend no time talking about how to solve the problems. Then I went to the campus mathematics lab, and someone there would explain how to do the problems – it usually took about 5 minutes to explain.

        2. Tau*

          This was such a challenge when I was doing tutoring at uni. Trying to teach concepts that have become intuitive to the point where you can no longer quite imagine *not* understanding what they are, and have to draw on super-vague memories of that-time-before-you-got-it – when even back then you were a Very Good Student and so what helped matters click for you probably won’t be enough for your students – NOT EASY. And hard enough with early undergrad material – I have no idea how I’d even begin to teach, say, fractions.

          (I did my absolute best and got to have a few gratifying moments where I could see the metaphorical lightbulb go off over someone’s head, but overall I’m not sure how effective I was. :( Pretty happy I didn’t go on to be a teacher.)

        3. Em Too*

          I agree. I remember our advanced maths class trying to help someone’s sibling with basic algebra and all we could do is go ‘but look! it’s the same! it’s obvious!’. That seems a particularly maths thing.

      4. Christopher Tracy*

        True story – but I only passed math classes taught by women. Looking back, I think a lot of my male teachers just naturally assumed that because I was a girl, I wouldn’t get it, so they didn’t even try to help me when they saw me struggling.

      5. Library Director*

        This X 10000 squared. My sons and I have dyscalculia. I remember being in the remedial math class with a large group of students and the teacher rushing through problems. The tools I taught myself to get by (touch math) were criticized. Each year we would explain dyscalculia to our sons teachers. Not one ever attempted to change her way of teaching. I do believe we jump students into an abstract approach to math concepts. Instead of taking them through a concrete understanding to semi-concrete and then abstract understanding. I succeeded in algebra because the teacher explained almost every concept in relation to real life.

    7. ThatGirl*

      I’m not averse to math, per se, but I got as far as pre-calculus and really struggled to “get” it. I did well in advanced algebra and actually weirdly enjoyed it, but the advanced trig and precalc never quite made sense to me — I had to constantly refer back to things and struggle my way through equations.

      I do believe that some people’s brains just aren’t built for math – I don’t think that’s a moral failing. But there are different ways to teach it that can help it make more sense to people with different learning styles.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I had the same experience — I was fine with algebra, rocked the heck out of geometry and geometric-based proofs in high school, but once I got above that… oof. I could have someone take me step-by-step through a problem in precalc, but it never made sense to me why things worked the way they worked, and I could rarely replicate it.

      2. Poppy*

        I have this theory that people are generally stronger in calculus or statistics, but not both. So if you’re somebody who’s brain is geared more towards statistics, but you first learn calculus and struggle, you tend to think you’re bad math as opposed to just a specific branch of math.
        I did fine — great even — in math until I hit calculus, when things just stopped clicking for me. It was so frustrating! I really lost confidence in my math skills until I ended up in a stats class in college. Suddenly I was able to solve and even enjoy math problems.
        I think we tend to lump different branches of math in a way we would never do with, say, science, where people are a lot more comfortable saying “I’m good at biology and physics, but not as strong in chemistry”instead of “I’m bad at science”.

        1. Lily*

          That doesn’t make much sense though, since there’s a lot of calculus used in statistical concepts. What were the specifics in the different branches that clicked (or didn’t click) with you?

        2. Tau*

          I wouldn’t say calculus and statistic specifically, but I definitely agree with you (and rambled further downthread) about subarea-specific differences.

          I do think with statistics, it does tend to use a pretty different thought process from most of maths (the two aren’t actually considered the same subject in… any maths department I’ve seen…?) and so to a mathematician it can be a rather mind-bending experience. So it may not be calculus/statistics but statistics/maths that you’re picking up on as a common split.

    8. Muriel Heslop*

      When I taught remedial math, one of things I noticed was how hard it is to teach math (especially higher-level math like Algebra and beyond) to a group. With English and History (my primary teaching fields) I had a lot more flexibility with assignments; with math, I had to teach it from the book. I had a lot more success when I worked with students one-on-one, could address their questions, and was freed from the textbook.

    9. F.*

      I am female and have a B.S. in Mathematics, so I am definitely NOT math-averse! Growing up in the ’60s & ’70s, females were not encouraged to seek professions that used higher level math, though that has definitely changed for the better. I think there are two general types of math-averse people (of both genders): those who have actual learning disabilities (dyscalculia, etc.) and those who just don’t like math or were not taught properly. In the latter case, it is more of “to each their own”. I would rather do math (or just about anything else) than analyze a story in English literature, for example. That is just my preference, though.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The fear itself can be crippling. I see the same with computers, some people are so afraid that their unwillingness to try becomes their downfall. Some people can be coaxed along, after they have a few successes it’s less tense.

    10. Meemzi*

      I was in second grade, staring down at my classwork, which was pages of rows of addition or subtraction. What second grader is interested in that? I have ADHD-I (inattentive) and it was incredibly hard to focus on that kind of work. Cue subconscious “wrong with me/stupid/can’t do it” feelings. Push that snowball down the hill and it grows until it destroys any future in liking mathematics.

    11. Folklorist*

      Honestly, numbers just *don’t* make sense to me. I’ve always been a language/visual person. In fact, I took a bookmaking course in my arts program, which involves a lot of math and precision measurements, and the rulers didn’t even work for me! I could painstakingly work out measurements and measure the papers four different times and get four different outcomes with the same number and ruler. My bookmaking teacher finally just told me, “it’s OK, some people just aren’t meant for this,” while praising my creativity and painting skills, acknowledging my hard work, etc.

      My mom and my aunt were both math/engineering majors, so it’s not even that I didn’t have strong female role models! If anything, the fact that I didn’t get math quickly and easily (like they did), meant to them that I wasn’t “meant” to do math and that I shouldn’t try as hard. I got patted on the head a lot and told, “Oh, honey, you’re so good at art and writing! Let’s just focus on that!” Now that I’m older and working for an engineering magazine, I’m wishing that they had pushed harder with different learning styles.

      Then again, when something like art and writing make so much sense to me, and I’m interested in science, I’ve found that I’m really good at asking questions and writing stories that bring science/math closer to people like me. I really enjoy my job! I just wish that this skill was considered as “difficult” and “worthy” as what I was writing about, and that my pay reflected it.

    12. Hello Felicia*

      My son has done very well on standardized math tests. 99% percentile well. My daughter, who is brilliant in many other ways,…has not. She struggles very much with math and I suspect part of it is that she is convinced she isn’t good at it, so why try? Part of it is that she doesn’t want to compared to her brother and found lacking. Part of it is definitely her relationships with her teachers. She has had really incredible teachers that made a huge difference. In those years, she did well. In the years she did not click with her teachers, she did significantly worse. I don’t think that those teachers were bad, more that they weren’t willing to politely put up with her trying to talk her way out of doing the work. OK, maybe the teacher that gave her ‘A’s on all her homework because she had an answer for each problem but never checked to see if those answers were right probably did not the right teaching style for her. She had no idea what she didn’t know how to do until she took the tests and got bad grades which was very frustrating. She has at least one more year with this teacher (small school), so we’re going to try to find a tutor for her this fall.

      I’ll be interested in seeing other responses, maybe I’ll get some better ideas of how to help her!

    13. Manders*

      My math hatred comes from a weird place: as a kid I was highly motivated by competition but bored by busy work, so I’d often place into an advanced class because a competition was involved, then struggle and fail when the coursework was a long slog through solitary homework.

      I was growing up at the very start of the educational craze for eliminating competition between students, so this was a constant struggle for me throughout school. And I’m a woman who grew up in a conservative area of the country with highly defined gender roles, so even though my family was supportive, there was extra pressure at school not to compete with other students/not to “show off” too publicly.

      I don’t regret my math hatred too much, but I do wish I had stuck with programming (although that’s a field with its own gender problems).

    14. Snargulfuss*

      For me it’s a bit of both. When I think back to my favorite, most engaged teachers in school, they were English and history teachers. I had a couple of good math teachers, but many were tuned out or just not great teachers.

      I also don’t find math logical…I know that sounds like the weirdest thing to people who get math, but my brain just works differently. Before I took the GRE a co-worker helped me brush up my math skills. When I would do problems, even if I got to the right answer, I would take the longest, most circuitous route of getting there, and then I would look at how my co-worker had solved the problem and it would be completely different (and much more straight-forward). Doing something like multiplying both sides of an algebra equation by x would never occur to me because where does the x come from? How can you just pull an x out of thin air?

      On the other hand, I loved physics because it gave math a practical application. All of those variables made sense because they were tied to real phenomena like gravity and friction.

      1. Spot*

        I really enjoyed geometry because that had real-life applications. My dad built a lot of stuff, so I could see how geometry could be used when measuring and building. But algebra? No way.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        You would have made out better with practical applications for algebra. This was the problem I had with calc. I could not understand where anyone would actually use this stuff and the teacher never explained. To me the word problems were nonsensical and absolutely useless in life. It was worse than memorizing lines of Shakespeare. At least the Shakespearean line might be meaningful at some point.

    15. Slippy*

      Can’t speak for others but I’m bad at math because I had poor math teachers through high school and college. I went to a Catholic high school that tended to focus more on the liberal arts and so teaching math fell to the teachers with the lowest seniority that drew the short straw. In college all of my math classes were big cattle-call 300+ people classes taught by grad students.

      Anecdotally I think we have fewer people who are actually bad at math and more that have never received a good education in the subject.

    16. LabTech*

      Slightly tangential, but I always found the concept of lack of math as a career limiting factor interesting, having come from the other side (B.S. in Math) with little to show for it. While I’m sure a strong quantitative background makes me look better (“sound smart”) to interviewers, it has yet to land me an interview for mathematically-oriented position. If anything, my mathematics focus seems to limit biologically-oriented chemistry positions which are at the other end of the spectrum (with the exception of biostatistics types roles, but I’d need specialization in stats at the very least to qualify for those kinds of roles).

      My main field is chemistry (B.S. there too), yet I have never gotten a call back for physical or computationally-heavy chemistry jobs I’ve applied for at my level. Part of that is not having an advanced degree, but I can’t help but feel my math B.S. hasn’t done anything for me in terms of employability.

      So, basically, mathematics has been career-limiting for me too.

      1. Jennifer*

        Well, I can’t speak for your work in general, but if you don’t have the math skills, it ruled me out of any kind of science-y type major or science-related job. Which is why I’m a clerical worker–you don’t have the range of jobs you could have tried or applied to if you can’t handle more complicated things. That’s probably what the general population is referring to when they say it limits them for a career. I like science, but I can’t do calculus for the life of me, so that means I couldn’t get a degree in anything that required it for the degree.

    17. Kelly L.*

      Disorganized, off-the-cuff thoughts on why I’m not crazy about math:

      -Too much focus on drill-type off-the-cuff rapid-fire spitting out of answers, in some contexts. I really don’t think I’m great at mental math, and the reason is that I’m not super fast at it. I’m just fine at pencil and paper math.

      -Weird math-is-superior-to-other-disciplines mindsets by some math teachers, and by my dad (who was once a math teacher, though he had quit by the time I was born). I got some degree of guff as a kid for liking the humanities better because that was soft mushy stuff. This led to me resisting math just to rebel, to some extent.

      -And then had a different kind of annoying math teacher in high school who hated girls, thus encountering the “girls can’t do math” garbage for the first time.

      -Endless. repetition. of. boring. arithmetic. In the early years, math homework tended to consist of doing 50 problems that were all basically the same problem, conceptually. It wasn’t hard, it was just dull. The first time I encountered a logic problem, I wanted to marry it. That was so much fun. I liked geometry later, when we had it, also because there was some degree of detective work involved as you tried to figure out how to go about proving the whatever. I thought matrices were kind of fun once I understood them. I could put up with the math in chemistry because I liked the chemistry part. I can still sing you the quadratic formula because I had this one awesome teacher who ingrained it in our heads by having us sing it. I think there are some teachers who maybe don’t like math themselves, and so don’t teach it in an interesting way.

      1. Anxa*

        I felt like a freak because I actually liked word problems. I loved having the context for the equations. If anything, I wish there had been more. I think one of the hard parts of math is that topic by topic, the math can be easy.

        Then on the final it’s like …wait…which way should I solve this.

        I wish there was a way to just do pattern recognition and logic puzzles all day long.

        1. Kelly L.*

          And even better–when it was word problems, they only gave you like 10 of them instead of 50! ;)

    18. Jules the First*

      I loved algebra and long division (I still do it when I’m stressed). I hated geometry and trigonometry. I loved calculus, but didn’t really get the hang of it until I did quantum chemistry the following year.

      I never thought I was bad at math (sure, I got some lousy grades, but that was because I didn’t do the homework). I also never thought you had to be special to be good at math. But I do think some of it was down to the teaching – the basics were never really explained in a way that left me feeling like I’d mastered the concept, so I could solve the problems the way I’d been shown and it would work, but if I made a misstep, I had no larger understanding to help me troubleshoot it. There was also a lot of math where I didn’t see the point of learning how to do it (graphing hyperbolae, I’m looking at you!) and unlike algebra and calculus I didn’t find it objectively fun, so I was not particularly motivated to learn it. If I’d had more maths teachers who were genuinely excited about their subject, it might have been different (my maths grades got a lot better after I spent a summer with my grandmother – who was an engineering computer before she married – and her brother – who taught imaginary numbers at a university)

      1. Anxa*

        Honestly, I wish we had taken a bit of a ‘pause’ before the graphing parabolas, etc. It was important in physics, but before that I found it just discouraging. I think just being like “Okay, now we’re changing gears” would have gone a long way in keeping me discouraged.

        So much of this comment rings true to me!

      2. Lily*

        I hated trigonometry as well when I first learnt it because I found it so dull, but I was glad I stuck through it because it builds a lot of the tools used for subjects in high school such as imaginary numbers, which I found quite fascinating.

    19. AnotherAlison*

      I am good at math. I’m an engineer. I think people are indeed bad at math.

      My husband entered college taking Algebra-for-people-who-aren’t ready-for-college-algebra. I helped him with all his homework, and he still got a D in it. My son has just spent 4 years at one of the top high schools in our state. He’s been taking some form of Algebra since 6th grade, and he is starting college taking Algebra-for-people-who-aren’t ready-for-college-algebra. My other son is entering 7th grade in some sort of common core pre-Algebra. He’s good at math. I swear, with my husband and oldest, you could explain 50 times that you subtract 4x from both sides of the equation to get all the “x” terms on one side and they just could. not. get. it. Which is fine. I don’t get a lot of things that they’re great at. My youngest son, though, you say that once, and he’s all, “Oh, okay.” He just gets it.

      All that aside, most of us are only talking about Algebra, Geometry, and Calculus when we say we’re bad at it. What bothers me is that people who may not get left brained math might be really great at the abstract real “maths” but they never get the chance because they drop out of the study it as soon as they can.

      1. Bob Barker*

        It took me a while to admit that I’m not bad at math. (Bad at arithmetic, yes! I have almost no innate number sense. But bad at math, no.) My real stopping point in the college-math track came somewhere in precalc, when I kept going, “Okay, but what’s the point.” I resented the difficulty level, because the stuff I was learning didn’t seem to apply to anything in the real world. Once I started feeling like math — calculus-oriented math, college-math — was increasingly a set of hoops you jumped through because I said so, I stopped being able to care enough to learn it well.

        I dropped down from the college-math track. I took statistics and some course that involved learning how compound interest works. I enjoyed the hell out of them! And felt like they were math that (a) made sense and (b) mattered. I have no idea to this day why those weren’t considered prestigious, college-y forms of math. Certainly, a basic (rusty) understanding of compound interest remains useful to me, these many years later.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Laughing about the 4x. I lost a lot of time saying “but why is there an x there?”
        And I lost more time saying, “But we know what x is in problem #5 because we solved for x in problem #4, so x is no longer a mystery!”
        Somehow I got over these hurdles but I don’t know how.

    20. Beezus*

      I’ve casually said that I’m bad at math before, but it’s not really true. I’m careless with arithmetic, and abstract math bores me. Real-world problems that require math to solve are an entirely different matter and I do well at those.

    21. lfi*

      for me.. it’s a language i struggle to understand. i’ve had to repeat algebra classes, only went as far as algebra II in HS, and it has always been a struggle for me (and my family). I’m much more of a visual/creative person. excel has become my friend. however, ask me for a percentage of an item on sale and i’m your gal.

    22. Jennifer*

      Probably both. I strongly suspect I have dyscalculia because I tend to just not remember numbers and I can’t do math in my head. I would have people going over everything with me for hours on end and forget it by the next day, and I usually have a pretty good memory.

      I really don’t think anyone could have helped me to love math, though. My brain is just defective. And most people aren’t exactly geared to teaching math to people who have huge problems learning it.

    23. W.Irving*

      I think you hit the nail on the head, at least in my case. Mathematical concepts were often difficult for me to understand since I never got my teachers’ A-HA! connections, and they rarely presented the material multiple ways to cater to different learning styles. I never dreamed I could consider a career in statistical or quantitative data analysis (where I am now) until my grad school stats professor made statistics accessible.

    24. Em Too*

      The way I was taught at school there was a whole lot of repetition of techniques – 20 different additions, 20 different divisions, etc, none of which had any meaning. Feels like learning to read through practising reading and writing lists of words rather than reading *books* and writing *stories*. And no, it doesn’t have to be that way. We could spend far more time asking questions like ‘how tall is that tree over there? How many leaves does it have? What’s the most calories you can buy from this shop with $5?

      Have you come across ‘The Mathematician’s lament’ by Paul Lockhart? ‘If we taught art like we do math…’

      I tend to transpose numbers too. Luckily I never have to do any sums at work; I’m a statistician.

    25. JOTeepe*

      For me, I thought for a long time I was “bad at math” after having a rough year trying to get trigonometry in high school. Meanwhile, I completely discounted the fact that I had little difficulty doing large sums by hand (and, simple enough sums in my head), and was very VERY adept at algebra.

      My issue was more that I was one of those kids who didn’t have to try all that hard in school, so when I encountered a subject (or, in this case, a sub-subject!) where it didn’t instantly click in my brain, I balked and panicked. There have been studies done that “smart kids” actually have very poor academic coping skills and study habits because they’ve never had to develop them.

      However, because of the “Girls are no good at math” rhetoric that permeates society, coupled with the fact that my mother (probably) had an (undiagnosed) learning disability in math, I just thought I was wired to be no good at it, even though the evidence was all to the contrary. In hindsight, I wish someone had pushed me harder. I had a teacher who wanted me to take AP Chemistry and I told her I “couldn’t do the math,” which she looked at me like I was nuts, because I was doing the math just fine in regular chemistry. I wish she had pushed more for me to do it, though I think she was trying to respect my decision, which I also appreciate.

      I do love my career now, so it’s moot, but perhaps I would have become an engineer, or maybe even a veterinarian, or [insert cool STEM career here] if I hadn’t been scared off of math for stupid reasons.

    26. Marillenbaum*

      I used to really love math through most of high school, but when I was in my final year, we moved and my new teacher didn’t have the “this-is-a-skill-you-can-learn” mindset of my old teacher (who would work you to the bone, but you knew that if you did the work you would master the subject). It was really discouraging to spend a year in his class, and by the time I got to uni, I was just ready to take a C in calculus and move on with my life. I’ve gotten more interested in statistics recently (thanks, FiveThirtyEight!) and I’m hoping I can nurture that interest again.

    27. Nanani*

      I blame standardized testing for a lot of this.
      It means kids get taught to implement formulas (quadratic, for example) very quickly with little-to-no time spent on the FUN PUZZLE SOLVING aspects of math.

      However, “crunch formulas quickly” is a computer’s job and not what humans with math and science jobs do.
      The misconceptions will persist until educations is overhauled with less memorisation and regurgitation.

      1. Manders*

        You’re right, that’s a huge part of it. Especially when teachers don’t bother to break down the concepts they’re supposed to be explaining, all kids see is that they’re doing all this work by hand when they know there’s a faster way to get it done, and they don’t understand why they’re doing it.

    28. C Average*

      I have a diagnosed learning disability (nonverbal learning disorder) but wasn’t diagnosed until my late thirties. My early experiences with math were very, very frustrating. (It’s important that I distinguish arithmetic from math. I was and remain very good at arithmetic. It’s when we got to the material that involved applying formulas, solving for unknowns, and that sort of thing that I found myself unable to comprehend the material.)

      The learning experience itself was frustrating because even though I did the exercises and paid attention in class, I just simply didn’t GET it. Sometimes, in the moment the teacher was explaining something, I’d get a little flash of comprehension, but I could never hang onto it once I walked out of class, so I’d often have the experience of starting a homework assignment feeling confident and then quickly realizing I didn’t understand the material at all. And my lack of understanding was so profound that I didn’t even have the vocabulary to seek help. My teachers were conscientious and capable, but when I’d miserably complain that “I just don’t GET it,” they’d press me for information about which part I didn’t get, and I couldn’t tell them. It felt absolutely insurmountable.

      And then my frustration was compounded by the dismissive way everyone treated my inability to wrap my head around the material. My parents and teachers told me I needed to try harder, I was plenty smart enough to do my assignments, I should be doing better, I was lazy, etc.

      After a time I DID stop trying, because I found that whether I tried my best or did the bare minimum, I wound up with Cs. I preferred to take my Cs without the side of stress and anxiety. I actually remember the exact day I decided to stop trying. It was in Algebra II, when we began learning about imaginary numbers. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the square root of negative one. I had expended all of my math-related willing suspension of disbelief. Math and I were done.

      After my diagnosis, I thought maybe a “knowledge is power” mindset would make a difference. I entered an MBA program knowing I’d have to take a statistics class. I figured with lots of study and the help of a good tutor who broke things down for me, maybe I could do it. I couldn’t.

      I can’t speak for other people, but I’m utterly convinced that my math-related limitations are real and probably insurmountable.

    29. matcha123*

      When I started elementary school, I loved math. Everything really clicked, and I don’t know…it was good. But the next year I had a teacher that battled me over everything. And the further I progressed in school the less I was able to grasp math. Based on your writing, I assume you’re in the UK? I don’t know if you had word problems, but when I was in elementary school we had such stupid word problems that were supposed to be based on “real life” situations.
      ex: Cashews are $3/lb, peanuts are $2/lb and sunflower seeds are $3.50/lb. You want to buy 2lbs of cashews, 0.4lbs of peanuts and 1.5lbs of sunflower seeds. How much money do you need to ask your parent for?

      I mean. When I was in elementary school, I’d buy nuts from the bulk section and there was a scale that printed the weights with the adjusted prices. And why would I ever buy such a strange pairing??

      From there, it just got worse. I’d follow the example formula in the book and get the wrong answer. I’d work through problems with the teacher and I’d always here “why are you doing this?!” (I thought that’s what I was supposed to do!) or “don’t use your fingers!” It seemed that no matter what I did, I was wrong. Now, I can’t do simple math without using my fingers and double-checking on a calculator. Every problem I ever did was wrong.

      Heck, I broke down crying the other day while working on some stuff on Codeacademy that asked you to solve a math problem. Every answer I put in was wrong and I got frustrated thinking about math in code, because I like html/css/etc. and I don’t want it ruined by math!

      And…if there was a formula or trick that people used, they didn’t teach it to me. I never thought that math was for boys or anything like that, either. I just never knew where to start. Whenever I try to read a math book, like the GRE, I can’t understand why this number is being multiplied or not. It just doesn’t make sense. I can’t visualise the problem and answer in the way that I can with the written word.

      1. LabTech*

        Now, I can’t do simple math without using my fingers and double-checking on a calculator

        If it makes you feel any better, I still secretly use my fingers for simple calculations, and consider myself to be good at math. I used to be ashamed of it until I met my favorite math professor, a successful number theory researcher who didn’t know 6 x 7 off the top of his head!

        1. Tau*

          For the record, a running joke among STEM types basically goes “for the love of god, don’t ask the mathematicians to do basic arithmetic EVER, everyone knows they can’t count.” There’s actually a lot of truth to the joke – it certainly keeps getting reinvented in independent groups. Mental arithmetic just doesn’t actually have anything to do with mathematics as an academic subject, which is all about abstracting away the details and discovering basic facts about how concepts interact. And that bit draws a lot of people who are good at the abstract logical thinking side of things but can and will add up one and one to get 3 given the first opportunity, while the ones who were good at mental math may be put off by the fact that the skills that got them through early years are now entirely irrelevant.

          I’d say that for mathematicians, being bad at arithmetic can even act as a weird sort of badge of honour. So you’re in good company! :)

    30. addlady*

      I thought I didn’t like math because I mix up numbers like some of the other commenters (could it be an LD? Who knows?) and I also struggle with basic calculations in my head because of my adhd working memory.
      These things helped:

      1. I hate researching and writing large papers, so English went out the window.
      2. When I got to college, there were many women math majors to encourage me.
      3. Even though I was an econ major, I had to take calculus courses. I did better than I had thought I would on those first calc courses. Also, because of that, my math major friends assumed I was also a math major, and would tell me to take this or that math course. I would agree, because why not? Peer pressure ftw.
      4. Because I struggled early on with working memory, I developed an early habit of writing every single step down. This is absolutely necessary when you get into the more complex stuff, so I gained a serious advantage over those who had sailed by by just doing it in their head. It also helped me get into programming later on.

      Honestly, the last bit was the most important, because if I hadn’t struggled early on, I would have been shocked by the struggle later and assumed that I was failing.

      1. Anxa*

        I have a tough time remember the numbers I’m working with.

        So I am SLOOOW.

        I would have to look at a simple polynomial like 5 times while I transcribed it. It’s such a minor thing, but I loved doing math out of a workbook. I hated copying problems from textbooks to paper.

    31. Ande2923*

      For me, I think the difficulty came in a combination of A) not “getting” the concept out of the gate and getting more and more behind from there, and B) being placed in more advanced classes than I feel I should have been assigned to in elementary school, based on my good performance in other subjects. (Thus exacerbating problem “a”.) It’s something I really struggled with, and in some ways still do, from a self-esteem angle. Like, why is this so easy for everyone else and not me? (Or so it seemed.)

      Does anyone have suggestions for how to improve math competency as an adult, short of re-enrolling in 4th grade? Though it’s obviously a common complaint, so often arriving at that “I hate math” point is like the end of the road. Would love to see if I can improve my skills from here, but just don’t know where to start.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I’d start at the book store and see if anything appeals to you. My husband was a very smart man. He could explain nuclear science to you. He could not add two plus two and get safely to four. When the mortgage person said, “your monthly payment will be x dollars” his response was “I don’t understand.” I was not sure what there was to understand. We went to the book store to look for something helpful. He spent hours look at the math books. One by one he ruled out each book there. Moral of the story is you will either find something that fits you or you will figure out that you know more than you think. So spend some time looking through and see if you can spot something that you want to study closer.

        And it’s not easier for some people. I put in incredibly long hours just to get a C. Then I found a teacher who could actually teach the subject and I zoomed up to a B. (All my friends got A’s. I never said anything so people assumed I was doing as well as those I hung out with.) I still put in long hours and it involved a lot of crying, probably from exhaustion. The teacher after that good teacher, hated women, hated teaching, came to class stoned, and I got a D there.

    32. Friday Brain All Week Long*

      I always thought/said I was “bad” at math. Turns out, I am just not the type of person who can do it in her head and I’ve made peace with that. But OMG, give me an excel spreadsheet and I will math anything every which-way for you.

    33. Felicia*

      Im not actually bad at math, it just didnt come as easily for me as English or history, it was the only subject I had to try hard on… i still did relatively well I just didnt like how hard I had to work at it. I also had a series of math teachers who didnt know how to teach math to people that didnt just quickly and naturally understand it. I think a lot of math teachers just naturally grasp mathematical topics and dont know how to teach people who dont have the natural grasp they did.

      I was also just really good at language arts, so in comparison, being just ok at math was being bad at it in comparison. I do think, in general, math is not taught very well unless youre the type of person who naturally gets it, and its not taught in a way that is very applicable to most people.

      I also do the thing where i get numbers mixed up in my head, which makes taking down phone numbers or credit card numbers hard for me, and which doesnt have much to do with math.

      After I graduated, there was a course called math for every day life, and I wish I had a chance to take it.

    34. Liane*

      Not bad at mathematics, I just took a longer time than many to “get” algebra. Eighth grade, I was moved back to pre-algebra to keep me from failing a math course. Next year, 9th, I was pulling Bs and As. When I told my teacher that year that it was my second try, she found it hard to believe because in her experience, there was seldom that much improvement. I did have problems with calculus and trigonometry. Those are due mostly to me–yes, the gal with a BS in a science, Zoology–having a similar view on logic to Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy. The one part of calc I found easy was when it involved trig–because it was *all words*!

      As for the idea that women are not as good at math, here’s a couple fun facts:
      **Way back in the 1950s (when supposedly “everyone” agreed womenfolks shouldn’t work outside the home) Robert Heinlein wrote the classic military science fiction novel “Starship Troopers.” The book’s explanation for why most of the starship pilots were women? Women are way better at the complex mathematics!
      *Actress Danica McKellar went on to get a PhD in Math (co-wrote the Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem) and has written several math books to help middle school girls. The covers look like the covers of teen magazines like Seventeen–fashion shots of Ms. McKellar along with blurbs like “Negative numbers, Inequalities, Exponents and more!” “Are You Bold or Shy? Take This Quiz!” and “20 Ways to Beat Stress.” The inside mixes the promised quizzes, tips and so on with lessons on advanced arithmetic, pre-algebra or algebra. I think the quizzes and tips used the math concepts as well. Can you tell I bought my daughter all of these when she was in middle school? (For the record, she is better than I at math, just doesn’t like it.) Yes they are worth the price!
      Titles: “Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle Math without Going Crazy or Breaking a Nail”
      “Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who’s Boss”
      & “Hot X: Algebra Exposed!”

    35. Ever and Anon*

      An interesting point, and I think there are several pieces to it.

      1) If, like in the US, you did fractions through 8th grade, learning abstractions, proofs, variables, functions, etc in 9th grade will be hard for anyone.

      2) kids don’t practice hundreds of problems to get basics down. (Just like they no longer do grammar drillsin US elementary schools, at least in some states – and it shows.) It’s really hard to get factoring and stuff if you never learned to add fractions. It’s doubly hard to do calculus if you have trouble with sketching graphs and such.

      3) higher level math – the abstract, problem-solving and proof aspect – is, in fact, hard, so it makes sense that people could be bad at it.

    36. Aurion*

      I’m not sure if I’m truly bad at math or not, but I usually say I am.

      I found most high school math a breeze. Trig, algebra, etc…straight As through all of it. My first B was in calculus, though I feel like I could’ve gotten that A if I spent more time on homework.

      Come university differential calculus, doing the exact same thing as my calculus class in high school (same textbook, even)…nearly flunked the course. I barely scraped a pass in that class and every math class thereafter, as well as every strongly-math-related science class (quantum chemistry, physical chemistry) . I outright flunked two.

      Abstract and theoretical mathematical concepts don’t make sense to me intuitively, so I’ve long given up on that. I don’t have much in the way of spatial processing and I usually need to long-hand write out all the equations/drawings for me to know how to apply the reasoning/formulae (even for things I aced, like algebra, chemistry, etc.) Once I entered university where the pace of classes was much faster, I fell behind (I also wasn’t the greatest at time management). I probably wouldn’t have ever intuitively understood the concepts for all theory/abstract math-y subjects (calculus, quantum chemistry, etc), but I probably could’ve done better at the classes if I practiced my homework more. It’s been years since undergrad and I still occasionally get nightmares about it. But other sciences like chemistry did make sense to me–I could work out how to solve problems years after I last touched upon the subject.

      The quality of teacher also helps (my high school calculus teacher was amazing and truly loved his subject; it showed. My math teachers after him were far less passionate about teaching), but I think it really came down to self-discipline, which I had none of back then.

    37. Eugenie*

      This whole thread is fascinating. I always scored relatively highly on the math sections of standardized tests when I was a kid and got placed on the advanced track in Junior High. Then I just did not get Algebra at all and moved back down to regular math for High School. Taking Algebra I again I LOVED it, soared through that and Algebra II, Geometry was my absolute favorite (loved the logic of solving proofs, I could usually do them instantly in my head while my classmates just kind of stared at me like I’d given the answer in a foreign language).

      I totally bombed Trig and Calc though, I think it had to do with what some other commenters have mentioned about not understanding WHY problems have to be solved in certain ways. Took physics in college and that was great, it had practical uses for all that math I took in HS! I think it really helps to know the context behind a discipline – I still couldn’t tell you what you use calculus for in real life!

      Also, Dad was a physicist, both his brothers were engineers, Mom was an art historian and my older sister was very artistic from an early age. There may have been some gendering because of this family dynamic, but I ended up studying history and now manage a large department at a museum – I let excel do all the arithmetic for me, but figuring out the logic behind those spreadsheets is actually kind of enjoyable now. There are definitely times I wish I’d gotten more into the advanced concepts and stuck with it, I think I would have really enjoyed a career focused on that kind of logical reasoning skill.

    38. Elsie_D*

      I’m not necessarily “bad” at math, but I’ve never found it engaging. I don’t know if it’s the subject, or the way it’s taught.

      Additionally, as I got into more advanced math in high school and beyond, there were less and less girls in the classes. (There were 3 girls in my HS calculus class, out of about 20 students- and 2 of the girls, including me, dropped the course.) I wasn’t interested in trying to fit in in a boys’ club, and I often got talked down to by other students for not “getting it” right away, so I stopped trying.

    39. NJ Anon*

      I always loved math. I think people just throw up a wall and say they can’t do it because it’s too hard or they don’t want to be bothered. In my next life I want to teach freshman algebra. I get some weird looks with that statement!

    40. animaniactoo*

      One of my high school teachers SUCKED at teaching math. I looked up his stats. I came out of his class into an accelerated class, but going through his class is what made me be determined to be a math teacher. Life has taken me in a different direction, but maybe I’ll get back to it someday. When I challenged why so many of my classmates had dropped to the extended learning track after his term, he told me it was a hard portion of the course. Well yeah, it kind of was. But other teachers had 1/3 drop into extended. He had 3/4. That was him.

      My youngest son was the first student through a revamped math program and it was awful. I was talking to the teacher and daily reviewing what he was getting (it was an on-line course) at her request to try and get some of the worst stuff fixed as fast as possible. Ever since that course, he has been convinced that he can’t maths. And I have to keep addressing that yes he can, he just gets frustrated by it and loses it because he dislikes it so much after that. It’s fine to not like it – but when he’s working it regularly, he absolutely can do it, and he was fine before that course.

      1. Em*

        x1000 on the role of teachers. In grad school I had a couple of extremely bad stats profs (confusing explanations, and an attitude that if it all wasn’t obvious to you, you must be an idiot). I spent the first couple of years convinced I was an idiot and nearly quit my program. Thanks to books and classes in other departments with teachers who cared about teaching I *did* eventually learn it…well enough that I now have a job doing statistical modeling and serving as a technical resource for other analysts. I also have a huge administration for those who can explain complex math is not easy, but I think that those who can teach it understand it way better than those who just “know” it but can’t explain it to anyone.

        I’m also retroactively angry at those early professors…the problem really was them, and the fact that they were too lazy/important to put effort into teaching.

    41. Jaguar*

      Math was always my best subject and something I just “got,” so I’m not intended audience. But I did tutor some of the worst-performing math students in high-school, so I have experience with the learning process of people on the other end of it. I think there’s pretty clearly a spectrum of people who are mathematically capable.

      I think the bigger problem is that, culturally, we value mathematics (and general STEM subjects) as valuable and the test of intelligence, so doing poorly in them or not being able to grasp the concepts is incredibly frightening and frustrating to people. The subtext from the point we start school, the blatant cultural subtext (and, often, outright plainly stated text) is that math and science are important while arts and humanities are along for the ride. It’s why someone who can look at something and discover the artistic merit in it (a trait I’m astonished by, admire, have tried to cultivate in myself, and am intensely jealous of others for having) but can’t do math isn’t seen as intelligent while someone who is strong in math but has no artistic sensibilities (and often shuns the whole idea) is seen as brilliant. Kids of all age can pick up on that cultural narrative. It’s not a particularly well kept secret, and even the attempts to work against it are half-hearted lip-service that’s easily seen through. So you can fail in art class and nobody thinks less of you for it and it doesn’t affect your future prospects but failing in math often pigeonholes you into lower prospects and being less intelligent. As a result, people that aren’t mathematically oriented get questions about “are people really bad at math?” like this while people that aren’t artistically oriented never do. Who cares if people aren’t artistic? Rarely is anyone ever asking the question, “for people who are averse to arts: was it the content or the method of teaching?” Nobody even thinks about it. It’s not seen as a personal failing the way not being good at math is.

      1. matcha123*

        If I may ask, I’ve always been pretty bad at math and I remember breaking down and crying when a friend offered to help me in middle school. I assume people came to you because they wanted to learn, so what kinds of trends did you see?
        Any tips to help understand concepts/formulas better?

        1. Jaguar*

          I had a lot of people break down like that when I was tutoring them. It always made me feel incredibly awful and sympathetic. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that.

          They didn’t really come to me so much as I was assigned to work with them because I was willing to do it.

          Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of advice, because what worked for one person was often different than what worked for another person, so I would typically just try different approaches until I figured out what worked for a person. One piece of advise, though, is to get out of studying it in an intense environment like a classroom. In that situation, you’re under a time limit, you’re implicitly competing against other students, and there are limited one-on-one resources. If you can find a personal tutor that can address all your questions as they come up and as they come up, that will be a huge benefit. As well, resources like Khan Academy can be very helpful as you get the benefit of an excellent instructor who patiently and thoroughly explains the concepts as well as being able to go back to review as needed, re-take the lecture as necessary, etc. (it also has a really nice coursework system, although I haven’t tried it in a few years now).

          Also, and this usually isn’t a problem for struggling students, but try to keep ego out of it. Recognise the difference between kind-of understanding a concept and fully understanding it and continue working at it until you fully get it.

    42. Pearl*

      If I have time and the ability to double-check my work with something that is not my brain (paper or calculator), I can do basic math. If I have to do it in my head, I can’t. I think part of it is being unable to “hold” the numbers in my head long enough to finish calculating. Part of it is not being confident – in school I was definitely drilled not to trust myself because I made too many mistakes when called on and had to immediately have the answer to a new problem. I remember being satisfied when I was doing statistics homework at night, alone, at my own pace. I also made a 5 (out of 5) on the AP Stat exam, which stunned me.

      But school didn’t care because what they wanted was that spontaneous reaction that I just couldn’t always do. If I couldn’t do that, then I was bad at math. So now I say I’m bad at math because otherwise people give me looks for wanting to double-check myself or use a calculator.

      I also can’t spell out loud. I tend to either go very slow, air-write, or physically write it down as I’m saying it. I feel like there’s some ‘brain to mouth’ speedway connection I’m missing. When that’s what 12+ years of schooling/culture demands in order to rule you “good at math,” you just say you’re bad at math instead.

    43. Elizabeth West*

      I do have a rather severe LD in math, but I wish I didn’t. I would have loved to become a scientist and you can’t do that without math. Archaeology, or something with animals. :)

    44. super anon*

      i was never good at math in school and now as an adult i can do the bare minimum of basic math to get by, and nothing else.

      when i think back to math in school all i can remember is frustration and feeling really stupid when i didn’t understand it. i rarely had that moment of “a ha! i get it!” when i was learning it in school. i remember struggling with those mental math worksheets in elementary, and never being quite able to memorize my multiplication tables either. i remember failing the probability units in math in high school, which were considered to be the “easy” sections. math is associated in my memory with a lot of sadness, frustration, confusion, and ultimately me feeling incredibly stupid because i was never able to understand something everyone else seemed to get so easily.

      i find that when i’m faced with numbers it’s incredibly confusing for me and it doesn’t make sense. i had to take econ for my degree and the first teacher i had was heavily math focused. he would use equations to explain concepts and i couldn’t wrap my head around it. i had to drop the class late because i knew i was going to fail. the second teacher i took it with was more concept based and i pass easily, because it didn’t rely on equations and numbers. i can understand concepts when they are taught to me, but as soon as numbers show up, it’s game over. i

      as an adult i feel ashamed of not understanding math and numbers and essentially being illiterate in an important subject, but i also find the idea of having to go back and start learning math from middle school humiliating and scary. i also get embarrassed when people comment on my inability to do math and how slow i am at picking up concepts and understanding. when my boyfriend (who is great at math) tries to explain things to me and i don’t understand he gets frustrated with how slow i am and it makes me upset so i give up. i’ve had friends and bosses laugh at me for using an online percentage calculator to figure out percentages, because i don’t know how to do that kind of math when the numbers aren’t out of 100.

      i can’t think of what would help me to give it another go – i suppose i would need a patient teacher who wouldn’t make me feel humiliated and stupid when they have to explain things in 50 different ways to get me to understand, but even then i think my negative feelings surrounding the subject as well as the sheer amount of learning i would need to do hold me back from ever trying to learn it again.

    45. Mander*

      There are probably many different answers. For me, I’m not afraid of math, but I do have an unfortunate tendency to get simple things wrong and for some reason I’ve never been able to remember the multiplication tables, for instance. I still did relatively advanced math classes in high school (trigonometry, pre-calculus, etc) and sometimes I try out math for fun but I’m just not naturally all that fluent in it.

    46. NoWhiteFlag*

      I loved math as a kid. In fact, people often think that I am good at math because I can do a lot of it in my head. From a standardized testing perspective, I am quite good. However, I failed geometry in high school and had a very difficult time with calculus and statistics in college.

      I think my dislike/avoidance of math stems from the fact that I could never get a decent answer on what I was doing wrong in math class. I would have the right answer but my work was always wrong and no one could explain what I needed to correct to get the work right. If I can’t correct the problem, it seemed pointless to continue. Other times, they would just tell me not to worry about it as “women aren’t good at math”. Of course, this is the wrong thing to say to a person with a minor in math. So I switched my majors from Computer Information Science/Accounting to Business Computer Science/English. I completed my minor in math. I make my living as a programmer specializing in financial systems.

      I would be willing to try math again but not in an academic setting.

    47. Claire (Scotland)*

      I think some people aren’t good at maths, and some people weren’t taught it well, and some people aren’t good and weren’t taught it well.

      I was put off maths by everything you mention. I hated it. It didn’t make sense to me. I remember two of my high school maths teachers who had completely different approaches and personalities. One was terrifying and stern and scary, the other was calm and kind and relaxed. Neither of them could make me understand the subject. I just don’t understand the concepts. And while I could work intensely on something simple until I could do the examples given, I could NOT retain that learning at all – an hour later I’d have forgotten everything. Maths homework was a nightmare – no matter how much I tried, I never understood what I was supposed to be doing.

      I could do Physics! I remain bitter about the fact that my guidance teacher (Mr Brown, Biology) made me drop Sixth Year Studies Physics (the most advanced course in high school) to concentrate on my retake of Higher Maths. I was getting a solid B in CSYS Physics, and failed the Maths retake. Maths remains the only subject I have failed an exam in. Twice.

      1. on the subject of mathematics...*

        That’s ironic, physics was the only science subject that I enjoyed since a of it relied on maths and less memorising terminology etc (couldn’t stand biology at all).

    48. Anxa*

      Oh wow!

      I think for me, math was one of the first subjects I struggled with. Looking back, it was probably more of a discipline issue. I’m not trying to sound snobby, but I was considered the smart kid in class. But buy middle school a lot of other students started outpacing me (once school shifted from learning and knowledge to organization and discipline). Anyway, I don’t think I did homework enough to practice it.

      Also, I think my teachers were a little bit disappoint in me because of that, but instead of realizing it could be a problem with skills and not motivation, I got reamed out a lot for it (they probably just wanted what was best for me). I remember getting an 114 (there was 20 extra credit points that were legit hard) in middle school and my mom getting a phone call about my performance. I mean, they were right to be concerned, but I felt like I could never be good enough. Even my mom was like, “well, how bad did she do on the test?”

      More than that, though, I’m a quick thinker but a poor follower. I’m slow to process direct information and steps and processes, but I’m quick to synthesize the information. So I coudn’t follow along well. In other subjects, this was less of an issue, because a lot of the content was stuff you could have known already from reading or being really observant (which I was good at).

      Also, often you have math teachers, not math scholars teaching. I had some great math teachers, but I felt like they couldn’t answer my questions. Like, I had difficulty understanding why you couldn’t divide by zero. Instead of a long discussion about the philosophy of one and zero, you have to just take that at face value until maybe middle school at the earliest. I also feel like I never fully understood HOW we knew what we know about math.

      And I do have a lot of subtle symptoms of discalculia. I have issues with my 7s and 4s. I’m afraid that in a job I could make a huge mistake one day by switching them. The thing is, rationally, ANY job could involve that kind stuff. I went into biology instead of a more math heavy discipline, but that’s silly because at least a fifth of the curriculum was still math heavy (Chen, physics, calc). Some of those symptoms may be ADHD related if I have that, as there’s a good amount of overlap. Also, I only have some symptoms. I’m really good with maps and train schedules and clocks (but maybe bc I was reliant on them to succeed)

      Also, I like stats, but I took it twice still don’t really get it. One class I took when I was in a bad phase of my life academically. Another time I felt like I was just learning how to use one specifics software tied to a textbook publisher…not even matlab or excel or statsx or R anything transferable and a graphing calculator.

      I think I just really would have liked a more discussion-based math education and it was also more problem solving based.


    49. Ragnelle*

      I’m not “bad at math”–I always made A’s in my classes, partly because I was lucky enough to have good to great math teachers throughout school. In fact, I even outscored my physicist husband on the math portion of the GRE (I put it down to being nervous about it and over-studying). But, I don’t really enjoy it. I feel like it takes me too long to work out the logical framework of the problems and I suffer from must-show-all-steps syndrome. We had to show every step in school, so now I feel like it’s wrong if I don’t. I do enjoy basic statistics, especially because I’m starting to use it more in my job (and because I do love Excel…I think it’s a logic thing, not a math thing).

      But everyone has their strengths. I have an M.A. in English and use my language, rhetoric, and communication skills every day. That feeling you describe about sitting down with a problem and being able to find creative solutions–I get that almost every time I sit down to write something. It just “clicks” for me. You know your content, your audience, your goals, and you craft something that meets those needs. Sometimes I get frustrated at my coworkers who “hate writing,” but I have to remember that what comes easily or naturally to me doesn’t to others. I taught freshman composition for a while, and I was often astounded at how poorly my students were prepared for college-level writing. Like you with math, I wish people would work harder on writing and communication skills. Perhaps it’s an overall problem with our education system.

      My parents really wanted me to be an engineer or a doctor. Heck, when I get my paychecks, I wish I was an engineer or a doctor. But I don’t think I’m really suited to a STEM career, and that’s okay. I wish people wouldn’t devalue the inherent skills offered by the humanities in their push for more and better STEM education (and I say this as someone who promotes STEM learning as part of my job).

    50. nonegiven*

      My husband told me about high school when he was in algebra 2. There were kids in the class who had taken some special course of study over the summer and were already familiar with the work so the whole class skipped several chapters in the book and he was completely lost. I remember that class, we had no special students and no summer studies, we skipped several chapters, too. The concepts were different than the earlier chapters but it really wasn’t like we had skipped something we needed. He just got blocked because he felt like he had been cheated. Every algebra 2 class skipped those same chapters.

    51. Tau*

      *puts on maths PhD hat*

      …as you can probably guess, I don’t fall into the “averse to maths” camp. :)

      Anyway, I totally agree with what you’re saying here and I think it’s sad maths has such a bad rep. I also think that the way it’s taught in schools isn’t in any way conducive to understanding what the subject is actually about – a bit as if music classes consisted solely of practicing scales and writing out chords for different keys, without once ever listening to any music. I was good at maths throughout school (this was helped by being from a maths/science academic family where I was sort of expected to be good at maths, which worked out pretty well for me because I was and it negated any “girls aren’t good at maths” my environment tried to push on me)… but I’d say the first time I encountered anything I’d now consider actual mathematics, which so happens to coincide with the first time I went “oh my god, this is freaking cool!”, was in my twelfth grade AP-equivalent course. (Epsilon-N definition of a limit, represent.) Which is… really sad, because there’s a lot of cool maths out there, and you could totally teach some of it to kids. In fact, you could totally teach some of the maths we already teach to kids using cool maths. I might link an exhibit in another comment.

      I also think the mathematical mind BS has a lot to answer for, honestly, because it encourages people to think of mathematical talent as innate and rare, meaning the first time they struggle = guess you don’t have that spark, then! Which is absolutely not how it works, puts a lot of people off the subject, and is sort of weirdly insulting to actual mathematicians because it discounts the hard work they had to put in to get where they are. (I seriously cannot count the number of times I told people I was doing a maths PhD and they basically went “oh, wow, you must be some kind of genius.” It’s not really a helpful way to approach it – if that’s genuinely what I’d thought you needed to do a maths PhD I would have dropped out the first time I went to a seminar where the only words I understood were “and” and “the”.)

      And – yeah, not everyone is going to be good at maths, because some people are bad at some things. (Me and sports. Good god.) But there are considerations here:
      – a lot of the reasons people give are reasons for being bad at arithmetic, not maths. E.g. someone mentioned hating rote memorisation upthread. Which, yeah, I totally get that, I really dislike having to memorise meaningless stuff. Which is actually why I went into maths in the first place. Memorisation needed minimal, everything is about developing an understanding of the concepts at play and how they interact.
      – similarly, I’m not even sure how good of a predictor being good at arithmetic IS for how good you’ll be at maths. I am really not joking when I say that among science types, mathematicians are notorious for being absolutely terrible at basic arithmetic. It’s a running joke in pretty much every STEM-heavy area I’ve ever seen. And I have met NUMEROUS mathematicians who embody the stereotype. I’d say me being reasonably good at mental arithmetic actually made me rare.
      – as someone very astutely pointed out upthread, there isn’t even one single kind of “good at maths”. I do best in (abstract) algebra, I’m also pretty good at number theory. Geometry/topology… I’m okay, but I’m hampered by the fact that I’m not a particularly visual thinker. (That’s actually a bonus for algebra, as it means I have an easier time reasoning about very very very abstract concepts without trying to force them into visual depictions.) Things get steadily worse the more applied we get. I literally had to learn differential equations three different times before the concept made any kind of sense to me, and I’m still pretty wobbly with them. Calculus worked okay, and complex analysis was GREAT, but my multi-variable calculus course was downright painful. I have a love-hate relationship with statistics, which is always really mindbending for me. Of course, you have to view these statements in the context that these are university-level courses for the most part and so I’m probably still pretty good overall, but the point stands – there are aspects of maths I’m better at and that suit how I think better and aspects where I’m worse.

      In general, I feel like a decent predictor of how much you’ll like university-level maths is NOT how much you like elementary/early-high-school level maths, but how much you like logical puzzles. Those puzzles you get a la “Cersei rode the brown horse, the person riding the white horse came before the one wearing a purple hat, Ned Stark’s wife did not come first, [a bunch more facts] – who won the race?”… I DEVOURED those as a kid. I loved the puzzle-solving aspect to it. There were other things (a love of abstraction) but that puzzle-solving aspects was one of the big parts of what drew me to maths.

      …I could actually go on about this for ages (historical views of mathematics! When dabbling in maths was considered fashionable!) but I appear to have written a novel so I’ll stop here.

  18. SlowGoings*

    I’m dealing with a bit of something at work. Due to a previous job, I’ve got a health issue that interferes with my current job. I had been getting medications from my doctor to help but those ended up with some serious side effects that I am still dealing with despite not having had them in months. This leads me to call out sick more than either I or my manager would want. It isn’t seriously impacting work but work would prefer to have me when I am scheduled.

    My last performance review was actually really good a few months ago with the only thing my manager was concerned about was the amount of sick time I am using. Too be honest I am not happy about it either and I have been seeing a doctor regularly about it. The problem is things are just not getting better fast. They are incrementally getting better but I’m pretty sure that is not what my manager is seeing since I am still using sick time from time to time.

    I’m not happy about it either since any time I call out sick I am basically losing money since I am hourly and don’t get paid sick time but I also know the problem will get worse if I ignore it to work through it. Is there any way to convey to my manager that I am working on the problem of using too much sick time beyond talking about seeing my doctor regularly? I can’t talk about the minor improvements I have seen in my health issues without feeling like I am lying when I end up using sick time again. They are also very slowly improving the work environment but have done so more in response to people ending up with more serious stress injuries then mine.

      1. SlowGoings*

        I’m in Canada and I probably could under whatever the Canadian equivalent is but I really can’t afford to.

        1. fposte*

          Maybe there really isn’t a Canadian equivalent, but FMLA isn’t an “afford to” thing. You invoke it to protect your job when you have health problems, and you don’t have to take a full leave on it–you can take intermittent leave, which is what it sounds like you’re doing.

          Maybe another Canadian can shed some light on possibilities here, especially if you state your province.

          1. SlowGoings*

            Newfoundland. I really don’t see it as intermittent leave though given it is only a day at a time and I can go two to three weeks with no problems at all.

            1. SlowGoings*

              Also I am in a union that is pretty good about these things so my job is already protected.

              1. fposte*

                Then it sounds like you’re okay. (But taking a day off every few weeks is absolutely intermittent leave. I filed it for having to leave earlier in the afternoons the first weeks back from surgery. It just means any non-consecutive absence for the medical condition.)

              2. Kalli*

                Can’t you ask your union rep or shop steward to help you have the conversation, or point you towards helpful resources?

    1. Jules the First*

      I know how hard it is to have conditions that don’t respond as expected to the drugs (I was once given an anti-migraine med which, in me, has the opposite effect – instead of shortening them, it tripled the duration!)

      If you’re worried about it, I would say tell your manager that you know you’re using more sick time that she’d like (and that you’re using more sick time than you’d like to) but that you and your doctor are still working on a complete solution. You can even say that although your sick days aren’t yet getting less frequent, they are less debilitating and you’re hopeful that your treatment is moving in the right direction.

      For example, I have a chronic digestive disorder which no one has actually managed to diagnose; the meds which work make me super bitchy and enormous, so it’s not in my best interests to take them. It took eight years to get my related sick days down from three per month to one or two a year, and there were definitely years where it didn’t budge.

      Can you adjust your schedule to work around the worst days/times? Work from home/in a different location part time?

      1. SlowGoings*

        I did ask for and get a reduction in hours in the length of my shift but unfortunately that’s about all I can do for accommodations. I’m working retail so work from home isn’t an option and there isn’t a consistent period where the problem flares up. I really wish there was to be honest because that would be so much easier to deal with then hoping from day to day that there won’t be a problem.

    2. Blue Dog*

      Why can’t you just explain it to your manager just like you’ve explained it to us? You did a good job explaining it and I would think a reasonable manager would be glad to know you’re not happy about the amount of sick leave you’re having to take and that you’re doing what you can to improve your health.

      1. SlowGoings*

        I’ve tried but to be honest she isn’t very good at feedback and often I am working when she isn’t so I don’t know how she is taking things right now. I guess I just feel frustrated by the whole situation and how slow things are getting better. It is good though that I can explain the whole situation clearly though, I was a bit worried it sounded like a mess.

    3. animaniactoo*

      “I am not happy with the amount of time I need to be out either. Partly because I lose money and partly because those days are miserable for me physically. There is improvement, but it’s slow and it’s incremental, so while I am improving and I can see it, I can understand how it might not look like that while I am still taking sick days.”

      Can you point to fewer sick days being taken? Longer gaps between them? Or just explain things like the severity of your flare-ups is reducing, but unfortunately hasn’t reduced enough to be able to work while you’re having them? But progress points towards a day when that will be possible?

      1. SlowGoings*

        The problem is I really can’t point to anything like that. The stuff I am noticing towards it getting better is things like more energy after work, work not being as rough on me and things like that. Nothing concrete in numbers to give to her yet. The biggest difference is now sick days are less from terrible medication side effect build up and more from the problem I was taking medication to ignore. They are sort of happening less but a bad week at work can easily shorten the gap.

        1. animaniactoo*

          It sounds like you just defined what you can tell her. 8•)

          “There’s nothing concrete in terms of numbers, but in terms of effects, these are the differences I am noticing so I am feeling positive about my progress and that I will get to a point where I won’t need to be out so often.”

  19. Folklorist*

    So, I have a kooky co-worker/officemate who is running for political office (local re-election) and talking about it non-stop. She doesn’t seem to really WANT to do it; she’s dragged her feet on getting a team and funding in place and just complains about it CONSTANTLY.

    Apparently, her competitor is a self-aggrandizing douchebag, but all of the young liberals will vote for him because he’s black, but he’s really acting in a conflict of interest because of [board that he belongs to]. She doesn’t have a team together and is SO TIRED and SO BEHIND, and hey, Folklorist, do you want to be my campaign manager/photographer/social media manager/treasurer? Are you sure? Here’s a paper; just spend the weekend walking around your neighborhood and collecting signatures for me. (I’ve been very open about the fact that I don’t want to be involved in any campaign whatsoever from the beginning of learning that she was in office, but she conveniently forgets this every damn time she asks me to be part of her campaign—because she doesn’t feel like searching for/paying for someone who is actually interested.)

    She launches into 20-minute rants about obscure school board issues apparently in the middle of whatever thought she was just having and doesn’t take the social cues to shut up and let me work on my real job that I’m here to do. I’ve tried gently suggesting that maybe she shouldn’t run and that she’s over being in office, but then she just said, “But who else would do it?!” (Umm…the guy running against you?) Now I’m just making monosyllabic grunts every time she does this and waving every request off with “Sorry, but good luck!” I don’t even know that I think she should be in office or that I will be voting for her! (DEFINITELY not going to tell her that, though!) Any ideas for getting through an already stressful election season?

    1. Pwyll*

      Unless you work in politics, you could try something like “I really wish you the best of luck, but I really prefer not to discuss politics at work.” And if she brings it up again, “As my momma always said, at work don’t ever talk about religion or politics!”

      1. motherofdragons*

        Ugh! I feel your frustration. I’d be more direct, just because you’ve already talked to her about it (making it clear you don’t want to be involved in elections, saying ‘Sorry but good luck’, etc). Maybe being more direct and less gentle will help her get it. If she asks you again to help out, say firmly and evenly, “Leslie, I do not want to be involved in your campaign. Please do not ask me again.” And if she brings it up again: “Leslie, we’ve gone over this. Stop asking me.” For when she launches into a tirade about the election or school board, feel free to interrupt. Literally hold up your hand and say, “Leslie, I am in the middle of something and don’t have time to discuss this right now.” She’ll probably get huffy, and that might not feel awesome, but hopefully it will stop her in her tracks and let you survive this election cycle, at least at work. Good luck!

  20. follow ups*

    I had an interview two weeks ago and they said they’d follow up by the end of next week with more details on the next round. I haven’t heard anything yet, so do you think it’s okay to follow up? Should I follow up with the person who interviewed me?

    1. Audiophile*

      I would wait until next week, since Monday was a holiday for a lot of businesses. Many people took last Friday off and were off on Monday, so they had an extended weekend.

    2. Snazzy Hat*

      I just want to let you know I’m in the same boat. I’m still scared, but I’m trying to be rational.

    1. Christy*

      Never mind, I decided to pry it apart. It’s disgusting. I highly recommend doing it yourself.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        I used to pick off all the keys for my home keyboard and then vacuum it. It was sooo satisfying.

        Otherwise, maybe use a paper clip to drag out all the dirt and crumbs. I’ve done that before too. I’d like to do it with the crevices in my mouse…

        1. Kate H*

          I always want to do that but I’m too afraid that I won’t be able to put the keys back in place when I’m done.

          1. Bowserkitty*

            My mom used to be really warey of me doing this for that exact reason! It took a couple of times to convince her I knew what I was doing. Admittedly, this is much easier with mechanical keyboards!

    2. Sarah*

      There’s a putty you can buy on Amazon that will get down in the cracks of your keyboard and pull stuff up.

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

          I’ve tried that, doesn’t work great on cat hair.

    3. Hlyssande*

      Shake it upside down to get as much of the crumb/dust/gunk out as possible, then wipe down with some sort of cleaner on a cloth? :(

    4. Annie Moose*

      I’ve been holding off cleaning mine because of how nasty I know it is… I’ll wipe down the keys with a little hand sanitizer sometime (it’s not water-based, so it can’t cause any harm… we have like no cleaning supplies on this floor so I make do with what’s available), but the inside is probably just nasty.

      For people who’ve never taken a keyboard apart before: if you get something sturdy and flat (like a metal knife or nail file), you can pry underneath keys and pop them right off. Usually you can just snap them back on, although sometimes they come apart and you have to do a little more finagling to get them back on. Unplug your keyboard first, though. :P

    5. Packers Fan*

      A clean, unused, paint brush. Does the trick every time! I hate gross keyboards.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I have used a cheapo toothbrush (obviously not one that touches my teeth!). Works best if you take the keys off (which is a pain but so nice when you’re done).

    6. Nanani*

      However you clean it, I recommend getting a keyboard cover after.
      It’s a piece of clear plastic that molds itself to the shape of the keys. For some keyboard models it comes pre-molded with the keys printed on top.

      Keeps cat hair out of my keys like a charm.

    7. Gabriela*

      I showed our IT manager mine and he was so repulsed he made me throw it away and gave me a new one…

      1. A Non E. Mouse*

        I showed our IT manager mine and he was so repulsed he made me throw it away and gave me a new one…

        This. They are cheap. I throw them away regularly and give people new ones.

        Some have been so groddy I make the person throw it away themselves – I won’t even touch it.

    8. Mander*

      Oh man, I was just going to rant about this today! ;-)

      I normally work in the field but I’ve been in the office doing some data entry and I’ve been using other people’s desks. The one I have been using was fairly icky and some of the keys were sticking, but I managed to shake a few crumbs out and it improved things. However, the one I used today was deeee-sgusting. There were little crumbs of stuff all over the desk and the chair (it’s one of those kneeling types so there’s a little padded bit that catches stuff falling off the desk) and the keyboard was just plain gross under the keys. All kinds of crumbs and dust and little splatters of some kind of spilled gunk on the keyboard and the monitor. If I didn’t know that this person would be back on Monday and I’ll be using yet another desk I would have taken the keyboard apart and scrubbed it!

      Maybe I’ll brink a little kit in with me next week and do some surreptitious keyboard cleaning.

    9. knitcrazybooknut*

      I recommend rubbing alcohol and q-tips after you pry the keys up. I do this about once a year. It’s disgusting but really satisfying for the obsessive types among us.

  21. Mel*

    Should I try to interview the best qualified women and minorities even though the most qualified tend to be white males?

    1. Kristine*

      How do you know the most qualified people in your applicant pool are white males? Did you look them all up on Linkedin first or something?

        1. Kelly L.*

          And if I got an email about an interview from a “Mel,” I would have no idea of the gender or race of the person I was about to meet. You might be surprised.

          Also, double check yourself to make sure you’re not forming preconceived notions about people’s qualifications based on what their names “sound” like. There have been studies about this–it’s a real problem, and a subconscious one.

        2. Spot*

          Take it easy on that. I have a name that sounds INCREDIBLY African-American, but I am whiter than a ghost.

          1. A Non E. Mouse*

            I have a name that sounds INCREDIBLY African-American, but I am whiter than a ghost.

            Wait. Are you me?

        3. Jubilance*

          WOW. You’re admitting to making assumptions about people based on their names?

          Listen my husband’s name makes him look like an Irish man, when he’s really Black. I suppose your brand of bigotry would grant him an interview..but as soon as he walked in the interview and you saw he was Black, would he suddenly be out of the running?

          You need to strongly rethink your screening procedures. Maybe HR needs to take names off the resumes before you get them, since you can’t be trusted to not discriminate based on names.

          1. Mel*

            Ha. Sure there’s a picture in my head of a white female when I see a Brittany smith . Or I picture a Latino male when I see a Jorge Perez. Or someone of Asian descent when I see an Asian name. So what? How does that make me hateful of other races?

            1. Natalie*

              Jubilance didn’t say “hateful”, she said you would be discriminating, which is accurate. Discrimination is way more often a result of subtle, unconscious biases than it is of an active, aggressively hateful person.

              1. Random Citizen*

                I think Mel meant that they identify the most qualified candidates, and can tell from the names that those candidates are most likely white males, not that they decide who’s most qualified based on them having white male names.

          2. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

            I read what Mel was saying as being that s/he is concerned that the best candidates appear to be white males, and s/he wants to ensure that women and/or BME candidates are represented in the pool, so s/he would be glad if someone s/he had thought ‘sounded’ white turned out to be black. But I may be wrong….

        4. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

          Leaving race out of it (as that is covered below) I would presume ‘Elizabeth’, ‘Melanie’, ‘Kathryn’ are women and ‘John’, ‘Simon’, ‘Thomas’, ‘Michael’ are men. It’s possible that that’s wrong but unlikely.

          Robin, Chris, Jamie, Jack, Alex, I won’t make any assumptions.

          I’m only very rarely involved in any shortlisting and our application process removes names before shortlisting anyway.

          1. Mander*

            And you might get British men with old-fashioned names: Hilary, Lacey, Leslie can all be men’s names here, for instance.

            1. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

              Usually Lesley is a woman and Leslie is a man, but not always. Kelly, Kerry… there are tons of potentially ambiguous names. I presumed one name i hadn’t heard before was a man’s name this week and it turned out to be a woman. I found out on a call with my team manager, aaargh. I’m usually really careful about that too :(

            2. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

              Evelyn. I knew there was another one.

              1. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

                Also in conversation with a colleague recently it transpired that we’d each been wrong in our presumptions in the gender of a couple of colleagues we’d only spoken to by email.

            3. Merry and Bright*

              Ha ha! I remember as a teenager being very amused to discover Mr Tupman in Charles Dickens’ “Pickwick Papers” is called Tracy.

            4. Snazzy Hat*

              I have known women and men (i.e., at least one woman and one man for each) named Ryan, Courtney, Ashley, Leslie, Jaime, Alex, Angel, and Mickey. I also have a cousin whose gender-absent first name is her mother’s maiden name, like if Maggie Simpson had been named Bouvier Simpson.

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      You should interview the most qualified, but try to do a better job looking for well qualified women and minorities.

    3. Pwyll*

      One thing we used to do is have the names stripped from the applications before the hiring staff reviewed them. This was because we were in a TINY industry and didn’t want our decisions regarding first-round interviews based on who we knew. That way, we could very clearly point to the fact that everyone who was interviewed was selected based solely on their resume.

      You shouldn’t be basing your interview decisions at all on race or gender (or any number of other protected classes).

      1. Mel*

        Sure I consider what protected categories they’re in when I’m reviewing resumes. i might make sure to give a little extra attention or spend a little more time on a resume of a veteran or a female in a predominately male job or an older worker if my team is all young. Why is that a problem?

        1. Pwyll*

          Because basing hiring decisions on gender is illegal (in the overwhelming majority of instances).

          Favorable treatment to veterans is generally okay, though.

      2. Mel*

        For the sake of argument let’s just assume I’m correct and all of my best candidates (at least the ones good enough to interview) turn out to be all white males. Do I hire the white male or go back to the drawing board until I find good women and minority candidates?

        1. Pwyll*

          I think there are two different issues we’re discussing, but combining:

          1) You should be hiring the most qualified applicant you can hire, who will fit the company.

          2) You should be attracting an applicant pool as diverse as possible.

          So, if your most qualified applicant is a white male, hire the white male. But if your company wants to get the benefits of being a diverse and inclusive workplace, you SHOULD be reaching out to and publishing your job vacancies in minority-oriented professional associations.

          So, don’t base hiring decisions on race and gender, attract MORE races and genders to join the applicant pool.

          1. Mel*

            Agreed but what do I do if all of my interviewees turn out to all be white males and one of them is great? Do I hire him even though I haven’t seen any great minority or women canddiates ?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              If you do the work of building a diverse applicant pool, all of your interviewees shouldn’t turn out to be white males. If that’s happening, it’s a sign that you haven’t done the work of building a strong enough diverse applicant pool, and that’s where you need to focus.

    4. Natalie*

      If you’re in the US I don’t believe you’re allowed to take that into account. Civil rights laws cut all ways, they apply to men as much as women and white people as much as people of color.

    5. Chriama*

      How much have you eliminated bias in your hiring process? Can you get HR to pass you resumes without names or addresses and decide who to interview from there? From that point on, can you identify non-tradition strengths that all applicants may bring to the table? I think if all your best applicants are white males it may be a problem with the industry but you’re probably unconsciously falling prey to selection bias.

      1. designbot*

        Or alternately get someone coming from a different background than yourself to review the applications as well and compare notes. It may be that your notion of the white men being the most qualified is more subjective than you realize.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds like there’s an issue with your applicant pool. What have you done to build your pool of applicants to make the pool itself more diverse? (More complicated: What have you done to ensure your workplace is an attractive place for women and minorities to work?)

      1. Mel*

        I don’t reach out specifically to any groups. I just post on my website and the biggest industry association website and get plenty of really great resumes. There’s really not a dire need to look for more good candidates. I have more than I can handle already.

          1. Mel*

            I really don’t know for sure how many candidates of the total applicant pool are minority so it’s hard to say the pool as a whole isn’t diverse. I just know the ones who scored the highest (my system scores on yrs of exp, skills, etc) tend to be white male sounding names. are you saying I shouldn’t hire anyone until I reach out to those groups? Even though I likely have a great candidate now?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Do you care about diversity? If so, it sounds like you haven’t done a thorough recruiting job for the position and need to remedy that. I’m working from the assumption that you do care, since you’re asking the question.

            2. Chriama*

              I’m a little confused because it sounds like you recognize there might be problem with the diversity of your hiring pool but you’re kind of asking ‘how can I do the bare minimum to improve diversity in my hiring’. And to be frank, I don’t think that’s a reasonable question — or rather, it’s reasonable to ask, but you aren’t going to get very many helpful answers.

              Anyway, it’s illegal to make hiring decisions based on race or gender — yes, even if that decision is biased toward a traditionally disadvantaged group! So no, you should not hire a minority candidate over a more qualified white male. But if you’re concerned about diversity in your hiring process, lots of people have suggested ways to improve that. As a first step, I would *really* recommend finding a way to get anonymized resume information and make a decision on who to interview based purely on the resume. From there you can move into more time-consuming stuff like reaching out to more minority-focused professional associations.

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                I’m a little confused because it sounds like you recognize there might be problem with the diversity of your hiring pool but you’re kind of asking ‘how can I do the bare minimum to improve diversity in my hiring’.

                And we have a winner.

                Just ugh to this whole thread.

    7. Spoliokus*

      You should look at your recruiting methods. The methods you are using now are mostly attracting white makes. Where/how else could you advertise jobs that would bring in a more diverse group of highly qualified candidates?

      1. Jillociraptor*

        And also: have you assessed whether your vision of “qualified” is biased? Systems of oppression continue to limit the access marginalized people have to many opportunities, AND reinforce an image in our heads of leadership and competence that is often a White man.

      1. Sadsack*

        I think Mel’s point is that the majority of highest qualified candidates based on resumes are white men, or so he thinks.

        1. strike*

          Is there some kind of diversity quota they’re trying to hit that would make them pass over more qualified applicants based on irrelevant to work details like race or gender?

    8. CMT*

      Oh! Have you read the interviews Samantha Bee has done about how she’s managed to hire a very diverse team to work on her show? I’m guessing you’re not hiring writers for a comedy show, but some of the ideas probably apply, like getting the word out in circles other than traditionally white, male networks.

    9. Observer*

      I suggest you start screening your resumes without the names on them.

      I’m betting you’ll find yourself surprised.

      1. Chriama*

        Addresses too, because in some city that indicates race and/or socioeconomic class (which again, is strongly correlated with race).

    10. stevenz*

      I’m not going to flame the OP, just answer its question. Yes. But do try to hire the best of the lot.

  22. Anon for This*

    I want to ask to go part time at work. While there is precedent, we are getting ready to launch something new in 6 weeks and I have the kind of boss who will take this personally. While my quality of life benefits are great, I haven’t had a raise or a bonus in almost a decade – my company does neither and it’s a big part of why I need to go part time. I can’t afford the expense of care for my children. Suggestions?

    1. Chriama*

      I would say if you haven’t had a raise in almost a decade and are paying too much in childcare to make the job worthwhile then you should look for a new job. The benefit of choosing to work rather than stay at home to cover childcare costs is that, as your work experience increases, your income does too. If that’s not happening then you kind of just have a crappy job, don’t you?

      Do you see yourself sticking around here until retirement? If not, ~10 years is long enough that you should be looking at a new company anyway. Remember, staying too long at one company is another of those things that companies find unattractive in a job applicant.

  23. Anne*

    Are maxi skirts and dresses work appropriate? I talking about a business casual environment.. And no slits in the skirt and no see throughness

    1. Hlyssande*

      Most maxi skirts, I think so. Dresses would still depend on the neckline, cut, print, etc.

    2. taylor swift*

      I have 2 maxi skirts that I wear every now and then- they’re not my favorite so I don’t wear them that often. My office is business casual, and every time I wear one, someone makes a comment that I look very nice, or that I must have an interview that I’m dressed up for, or that I must have dressed up for something else. Whereas I kind of view them as a last-minute, couldn’t find anything else to wear so settled on that. So I’d say that yes, they are appropriate for business casual.

    3. Effective Immediately*

      I think it depends on your industry. In most social services/nonprofit worlds I’ve encountered, they’re considered perfectly appropriate business casual. But a business casual dress code at, say, a small bank or more broadly conservative industry might not count maxi dresses as appropriate.

      I’d lean away from them if you don’t see other people wearing them; they read as really casual to me.

    4. Bowserkitty*

      I’m curious about this as well. It seems to (stupidly) depend on your body type. I see taller girls get away with it a lot but I’m shorter and curvy and feel like I’m getting a lot of undeserved, unspoken critique when I wear shorter skirts/dresses in the office. (They make my legs look longer! :( )

      1. Bowserkitty*


        ……in that case, I’ve worn a maxi skirt before and had no problems!

        1. Nanc*

          Undercaffeinated commenting . . . we’ve all been there!

          I, too, think maxi skirts are fine in a casual office environment. Bonus points if they are cute with usable pockets (what do designers have against usable pockets in women’s clothes? And by usable, I do not mean chest pockets!).

          1. Bowserkitty*

            I’m really good at PG insults lately. My mom used to (and maybe still does?) call people duck eggs..

        2. Elizabeth West*


          People wear them all the time in my office. I don’t wear skirts much because little belly and chafing but I might get some spanx or something. I have a long black skirt i never wear. I should or get rid of it!

          1. Blue_eyes*

            If you want something without compression (I like something to prevent chafing but don’t want slimming because, uncomfortable), try Ellen Tracy slip shorts (available on Amazon). I just bought a bunch of slip shorts and spandex shorts to try and the Ellen Tracy ones are by far my favorite. And $24 for a 3 pack is not a bad price.

    5. Persephone Mulberry*

      Maxi skirts would be appropriate in every business casual office I’ve worked in (I’m wearing one today!).

      Maxi dresses I agree with the above comment about sleeves/necklines – since most of the dresses I see are tank-style on top, you’d probably want to pair it with a light cardigan.

      1. notfunny.*

        I’ve also worn a maxi dress with a shirt underneath, or camisole and a jacket on top! Lots of styling options if the top is revealing, as long as the skirt is not see through and it’s ok with the dress code.

      2. NCKat*

        There’s a temp in my office who wore a maxi dress yesterday. Nothing wrong with that, except that it was a bare-shoulder neckline (that is, one shoulder was bare while the other was covered up). I was aghast. This is a company where jeans are not worn and open-toed sandals are frowned upon.

    6. the_scientist*

      It was nearly 40 degrees celsius where I live yesterday, so I wore a maxi dress to my casually business-casual office. I did not have any meetings with external stakeholders. Many of my coworkers wear maxi dresses in the summer, but I think the following needs to be in place:

      1) my dress has a higher, scooped neckline and thick shoulder straps. A lot of dresses in this style have thin straps and lower necklines, which probably aren’t appropriate
      2) I wore a light, drapey cardigan over it, although sleeveless tops/dresses are considered OK in my office
      3) I was wearing a half slip (slip shorts, actually)- light jersey can be *really* clingy and see through so a slip is critical to create a smooth line and avoid unfortunate show through.

      I resisted the maxi dress trend for a long time, but they’re basically like wearing socially acceptable PJs (so soft and comfy!) and now I’m kicking myself for not jumping on the bandwagon earlier!

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        Upon further reflection, scratch the “pretty much” . It’s literally all I ever wear.

    7. Different Anne*

      I wear maxi skirts to work occasionally and think they’re fine. I usually try to dress mine up a little bit with jewelry and a shoe with a small heel since I’m short (5’1).

    8. Kelly L.*

      I think the length is fine as long as the fabric is worky. Probably not those flowy beach dresses that feel like PJs. But I think a skirt of that length made of the same material as professional pants/shorter skirts is fine.

    9. LizB*

      I think they’re fine depending on the fabric — some maxi dresses, especially the cheaper ones, have thin fabric that isn’t see-through but tends to cling in a kind of revealing way. As long as they don’t have that problem, you should be fine.

    10. Rebecca in Dallas*

      Honestly, I think most of the time they are too casual but I think it will depend a lot on your particular office. I love maxi dresses and wear them a lot for casual events, but I only have one that I think is appropriate for work. But I style it very differently for work than I would normally. It has a high neckline with a little bit of a keyhole (not cleavage-revealing). It is sleeveless, so I put a cardigan over it. I also wear ballet flats, no sandals. It is a muted-tone color as well, no bright colors or loud prints. And I still wouldn’t wear it on a day I have a big meeting or something.

    11. EP*

      YES! Its like wearing work appropriate yoga pants – I have like 5 and end up in them a lot.
      As long as you stick to solids or basic patterns they tend to go over fine. And I wear them with either a tank top under the dresses that are lower cut than appropriate for work, and always just throw on a jean jacket or cardigan.

      I also wear mine year round with boots.

      1. Elsie_D*

        At first, I thought you were saying that work-appropriate yoga pants were a thing and that people should wear maxi skirts like they wear these yoga pants… O.o

    12. Spondee*

      I wear and see both in my (fairly casual) office. Maxi skirts are more common and I see a bigger variety of styles. Maxi dresses seem to be juuust becoming acceptable. They’re almost always paired with a cardigan or casual blazer. The best rule I can think of for whether or not a particular maxi dress is appropriate is to imagine it knee length. If that dress would be appropriate, then you’re good to go.

    13. Dorothy Mantooth*

      I have a black maxi skirt on heavy rotation during the summer. My office is mid-level business casual. I think if you can pair it with the same types of tops/blouses you would wear with dress pants you’re fine.

    14. Clever Name*

      I wore a maxi skirt the other day, and discovered through conversation that it’s older than our receptionist. :/

    15. NaoNao*

      I would say that, although it depends on your position and industry, I must politely disagree with most commenters here and say that maxi skirts and dresses are too casual to wear to work.
      Generally, knit (stretch) fabric reads as far more casual than woven fabric. It took me a long time to work out why my “business casual” clothing seemed to always fall on the “too casual” side. Then I stumbled on something in a blog that explained this, how knit material will always look more casual than woven. Bingo. Problem solved. If one item in the outfit is knit (such as a ponte shift dress) the other items should be woven, and major shoes and jewelry is in order.

      Generally, the items that “go” with a maxi are very casual. One doesn’t generally wear a button down and a blazer with a maxi, or a merino wool v neck pullover. –tank tops, cardigans, low sandals or slip on flats, etc. The overall look will read as very low key and wash and wear. Again, nothing wrong with it inherently, but it will be casual-looking and feeling.

      *function/ status*
      Most maxi dresses were made to be comfortable alternatives to palazzo pants or short, breezy sundresses. They’re made for play/fun. They’re often in loud tropical colors, fun prints, or read “playful” (I had one that had sections of black and white stripes set at angles to one another).
      This next part may be open to interpretation, but generally the lower on the “decorative/ delicate” scale one’s clothing goes (the difference between a crisp white blouse and a pencil skirt vs. pull on knit trousers and a long sleeved v neck pull on sweater, let’s say) the lower on the status scale one is perceived to be. For example, the lawyers of “Suits” TV show very rarely are seen at work in maxi anything, because it’s a “low status” item. Does this make sense? Is it fair? Is it modern? Oh gosh no! It’s a holdover from the blue/white/pink collar designation days where someone’s “work clothing” indicated their societal status. That’s why what we call rompers used to be called “playsuits”—because people wouldn’t wear the same clothing to work as to “play” if they were of a certain social class.

      The only exception I could think of for this would be a very high quality (like Eileen Fisher) black, stone, charcoal or optic white maxi, with “serious” shoes (like Rachel Comey) and statement jewelry and a linen tunic over it, like “Ms. Art Director of a Certain Age With Impeccable Taste”.

      YMMV!! not saying my word is law!! I’m still figuring out my own wardrobe and am no expert.

  24. taylor swift*

    An update to last week’s open thread post about driving my coworker to/from work –
    I mentioned (again) to my boss about how I was frustrated by her attitude and the driving, etc. It didn’t really go anywhere, just a general “well that’s how she is” and a consensus that we’re all a little annoyed but it is what it is, and a look of frustration that I was bringing this up again. I mentioned that it might be time to find something a bit more sustainable long-term. After that the conversation was dropped as someone else came in and we had to get going on another project.

    It was my scheduled day to pick her up the next morning, and about 15 minutes after I left work, I got a text from a different coworker saying that she’d pick up coworker … I responded “if you want to !” and she replied back “just trying to help!”

    So I’d imagine news of my frustration spread and other coworkers are doing more….as such, I haven’t had to pick her up or take her home all week. So it’s not really resolved, but other people are doing it, and I imagine that once they start getting sick of it, more will be done but as of now I’m off the rotation. I do still think that something more sustainable needs to be worked out, but if everyone else is okay with driving her then I guess that’s what’s going to happen but I am no longer on the chauffeur team.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For what it’s worth, you’re still hinting rather than directly saying “I won’t be able to drive her anymore.” So if the problem returns, please keep in mind that you need to say that!

    2. Hlyssande*

      I agree with Allison. You need to be blunt about it.

      Also, if you’re having to drive her home and then go back to the office, then go home at your normal time, have you been claiming the mileage and wear/tear for your car?

      1. AF*

        Excellent point! If everyone starts submitting for mileage reimbursement (and it’s costing the company money), they may push back a bit on this employee to find a different transportation method. Even if the distance isn’t super far, this is legitimately damaging your car.

      2. AF*

        Also, if she has a medical issue that prevents her from walking, and your town has a bus/public transportation system, there may be a program available to her where she can get transportation to and from work, and it could be paid for through her insurance. I’m not saying that’s YOUR responsibility to figure that out, but suggesting it may help your employer find a solution for her.

    3. Sadsack*

      Why are you asking for permission to stop? Just say you can’t do it any more due to other obligations.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        This. It might make it easier to say “I can’t do it after this week”, so they can’t complain that you left them suddenly stranded, although it sounds like your coworkers will be picking up the slack. And if they don’t mind driving, that’s their business. But then if they do mind, it’s on them to say no for themselves.

        1. taylor swift*

          Because my only reason for not being able to is “I don’t want to.” Which feels insufficient, even though it shouldn’t.

          1. Biff*

            No is a complete sentence. I took me every so long to learn this. Too long. Please say no. There are tons and tons and tons of people out there who are happier when they can outsource their problems, such as your coworker is. Don’t feed that beast.

          2. strike*

            Can you please explain to us why it is ANYONE from your companies problem that this lady cant get to work. It’s not the employer or other employees jobs to get someone to work. It’s the employee who needs a rides responsibility.

            Not to be rude or start getting deragatory, but It sounds like little miss carpool needs to take up walking or buy her own car.

            1. Biff*

              Last week it was revealed that she owns a car but cannot drive due to anxiety. Frankly, it sounds like to me that she needs more appropriate treatment.

              1. strike*

                Yeah treatments for anxiety. Or an agressive exercise routine so she can get where she needs to go without a car.

          3. Sadsack*

            Not wanting to/not having time/whatever is a good enough reason. I would not even be talking to my manager. I’d tell my coworker directly, be nice about it, but be firm. You are the only reason you are still doing this! I feel bad for you because you are obviously a kind person, but your coworker has really taken advantage of your kindness and is now undeserving of your generosity.

            1. Dweali*

              Agreed…I tell people “No, I’d rather not/don’t want to/can’t” all the time. I see it as a perk of being an adult (along with buying alcohol/drinking coffee/choosing bed times/naps)

              My personal time is valuable, whether or not I have anything more planned than lounging around the house naked doesn’t matter.

              I get around sounding like a curmudgeon by using a cheery/nice tone while saying “I won’t be able to do this anymore” sometimes followed with a smile. But always matter of fact and no long winded explanations.

          4. Always Anon*

            All you need to say is that you aren’t available to serve as this person’s personal taxi service.

            You don’t need to explain why. It’s no one else’s business. There will be people who will mention that you are being mean. But, you shrug them off. You’ve given this person a ride to work for 8 months. I suspect that she has not been providing you with money towards gas, or any of the other things that typically go along with carpooling.

            So you say you aren’t available anymore. Leave it at that, and then wait for things to blow over. Someone else will probably pick-up the slack for a few weeks, and then they’ll start bitching about it.

          5. fposte*

            Your “No” needs some bulking up–get it some steroids :-).

            You don’t need a reason. You especially don’t need a reason for not doing something unreasonable. You don’t have to default to “yes” for every request. It is not your obligation to do everything people ask of you unless you have a court-acceptable reason not to. It is not obligatory for being a good person, a nice person, well-liked, respected, etc. Building up your no will serve you well in life.

          6. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, as was discussed pretty thoroughly last week, you don’t need to say “I don’t want to.” You can say “I’m not driving to work anymore” or “my spouse needs the car from now on.” What’s your resistance to those options?

            1. strike*

              Alison, I would argue that those options are avoiding the issue.

              Op shouldnt HAVE to carpool anyone unless they’re in a company vehicle.

              ‘I will not pick up jane anymore with my personal vehicle’ is a perfectly valid decision unless the company is providing compensation for the service.

              Op should not be forced to be unable to use their car because of an unreasonable coworker.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Of course, but I want to give the OP wording that she’ll actually use, and she’s made it pretty clear that she’s not comfortable with just saying “I won’t do it anymore.”

    4. Marzipan*

      I still vote for stopping bringing your car – at least in the short term, while you break the cycle of doing this. I remember you said it was a walkable distance for you, so it’s quite doable and gives a really obvious “sorry, can’t” reason.

      1. MoinMoin*

        Agreed, and for most places in the US, it’s a beautiful time of year to set a precedent.

    5. COT*

      Remember that it’s not your office’s responsibility to make sure that this woman can get to work. It’s hers. It’s a natural consequence that if she is entitled, crabby, or unkind then her current free ride service ends and she needs to look for another option. That’s her problem, not yours.

      1. I'm Not Phyllis*

        This so much. Nobody cares how I get to work as long as I get here. I don’t understand why your company or manager or whoever is the driving force isn’t holding her to the same account as everyone else. If she is having some personal troubles and needs a drive to work then they can go the extra mile by paying for a taxi, but they shouldn’t be asking others to shuttle her around. This is taking the burden off of her, and off of the employer – sure – but it’s placing it onto their employees. Not cool!

    6. wanderer*

      Ok, so I wasn’t here for last week’s discussion and I did not read the full thread of comments, but I have to ask why are you even consulting with the boss on this at all? If this has not been officially added to your (and co-worker’s) job description, then the discussion should be between you and her. It is not your responsibility to even have to think about her need for sustainable transportation, let alone discuss it with boss/co-workers. It sort of reminds me of parents and two sets of grandparents taking turns getting the child to and from daycare. In terms of her need for sustainable and reliable transportation, don’t kid yourself: she HAS thought about that and figured it out for herself. She’s probably quite pleased with herself that she has come up with such convenient and affordable (free, in fact!) transportation to and from work.

      Take a hard line on this one, Taylor, and stick with it. Like Dr. Phil says, lol, you teach people how to treat you.

    7. Rebecca*

      I am really puzzled by the fact that someone’s boss can mandate that they provide transportation to and from work for another employee, with a personal car no less. I could see if you were provided with a company car, but my car, my car payment, my car insurance payments, my upkeep, my rules is how I see it. I know I’ve run into car pool issues with my manager, who wanted our car pool to include yet another person in the office, and we held firm and said “no”. This person is a smoker and we wanted no part of being trapped in a car with her for over an hour a day.

      Does this coworker ever offer money for gas or upkeep? Or does she just expect that people will shuttle her around at her behest?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The office hasn’t mandated it. She’s agreed to do it but no one has told her it’s required. She just needs to un-volunteer herself and the problem will be solved.

    8. Pineapple Incident*

      I’m sorry you’re stuck in this situation- it sucks that people have come to just expect and accept outlandish behavior from this coworker of yours. I’m glad that you seem to be out of the rotation for now, but keep in mind that it might only be for now. I want to echo everyone’s sentiments here and say to draw a hard line and you’ll be glad you did- this person’s minimal good will is not worth wear and tear on your car, interruption of your workday, and any other costs or inconvenience incurred by driving her to and from home.

      It feels weird to not qualify or adjust your “No” or “I won’t be able to continue driving Jane to/from work anymore,” but fight that impulse to justify your reasons. No one is entitled to your reasons, and she is not entitled to your continued (and free) help. Her situation is arguably not rosy, but she sucks for treating you like a chauffeur, displaying any kind of entitlement about this, not contributing money to this extended favor, and for letting her coworkers take on this problem for 8 months with no end in sight.

      Be like Dory- but instead of “Just keep swimming,” it’s “Just No.”

    9. Gene*

      From what I gathered in reading last week’s thread, you live 8 blocks from work and the only reason you are driving to work is to give her a ride.

      Here’s a script for you, “Can’t do it. Now that summer is here, I’m going to be walking to work.” Then start doing it. You’ll get your morning and afternoon mile walk in, and likely feel better for it; not just the exercise, but the relief from getting this monkey off your back and not having to interrupt your work flow at 3:30.

    10. Perse's Mom*

      Take this break to set up a new pattern for yourself. Start walking/biking to work since you live quite close. Make it clear that your car is not available. “The weather’s been so great that my car never leaves the garage anymore.” “I love the peace and quiet of my walk to work.”

      I got out of this sort of thing myself after months of it, but only because we hit a massive project and I stopped trying to adjust my schedule for hers when our hours were constantly shifting (I was working longer weekdays to try to preserve my weekends, she went the opposite direction). I did have to say point blank that at least until the project was over, she would have to make other arrangements. By the time the project was over, the other arrangements just continued.

  25. Effective Immediately*

    Manager question: how do you address a staff member that is widely regarded as lazy, when you don’t have any solid data to back that up?

    I have a staff member on whom I’ve gotten numerous, independent reports from trusted employees of laziness on their part. I tried to probe a little deeper–ask what it is in particular they’re not doing, what makes the reporting team member say that, etc–but because the industry I’m in isn’t predicated on hard deliverables, I’m stumped as to how to address this. It’s basically that they’re slower in taking on necessary tasks, not as helpful as they need to be in a team environment, etc. I don’t really have any way to measure that, and I don’t have any specific examples to fall back on. I’ve examined their performance along every metric I could think of and come up dry, but I find it very hard to believe that even team members that travel from remote sites (who have little to no interaction with the core team and have no reason to lie) would be making this up.

    I really don’t want to shrug it off as hearsay and say there’s nothing I can do about it–I want my staff to know I hear their concerns and take them seriously–I’m just not certain what that conversation with the alleged lazy employee would look like. Help AAM hivemind!

    1. Leatherwings*

      It sounds like you really don’t have a handle on what the “laziness” reports actually mean. That’s up to you as a manager to figure out. If your employee is getting her work done in a way that’s satisfactory to you, then I don’t know why you would speak to her.

      It sounds like you need to get a better handle on the way your team works. There may just be some interpersonal issues at play, or maybe your team member really does need to speed up. Regardless, you can’t talk to the person unless you know what the actual issue is.

      1. JaneB*

        Can you ask the people complaining to give you some concrete examples of how it affects their work, or suggestions of what they’d like to see change?

        Or can you find a way to get data on these little details, if the person never does some task everyone’s supposed to pitch in on like refilling the copier or avoids picking up tasks for ultra picky client so they can just cherry pick easier tasks, you could try collecting some data – be open about wanting to be sure things are evenly distributed & working well, and get folk to email you/ add to a check list/ whatever every time they do the thing for a fixed period. That might also give you interesting insights into how the team work which you could follow up later – does Julie mind that she refills the copier about half the time or is she someone who likes the excuse to move around a bit during her work day? Does Tina like doing invoices for picky client becausr she’s a stickler for detail herself and likes the challenge, so would like to do more of it, or does she resent the way it ends up on her desk so often?

    2. Hlyssande*

      I think that you need to ask for concrete, specific examples when someone brings it up. If they can’t provide actual examples of an incident, then all you really have is hearsay – especially since the employee appears to be performing up to standards as far as your performance metrics are concerned.

      Or maybe the metrics need to be tightened up. Is Employee A getting task Z done in two days while Employee B gets it done in three, but the metrics say three days is appropriate?

      /not a manager

      1. designbot*

        I was wondering the same about the metrics–it sounds like Effective Immediately might be measuring by a different metric than their employees are. Are they comparing to someone else who is abnormally fast about this stuff? Or have they assumed a certain level of experience in this employee that is incorrect? It seems like there must be some basis for this misalignment of expectations.

      2. Ama*

        Also, I have been in work situations where “lazy” was thrown at a person who declined to do a task a coworker asked them to do when a) the coworker had no authority to delegate to them and b) the task was outside the “lazy” person’s job description. Sometimes this was something the complaining coworker knew full well they weren’t supposed to delegate and sometimes it was a miscommunication. Concrete examples will do a LOT to clear up exactly what’s happening.

    3. Anna*

      I don’t think you can bring it up unless (as otherwise noted) you have a more concrete idea of what that means. It would be incredibly frustrating for the employee if you pulled her in to talk to them about “laziness” and not be able to point to anything specifically. Alison advises against that frequently. So yeah, get a handle on what you’re measuring and how this employee is producing compared to that and then have the discussion. (Remember, you don’t have to have the conversation RIGHT NOW to be addressing their concerns. Gathering information is also acting on them.)

    4. Dawn*

      The next time you have someone bring that complaint to you, ask them what they’d like to see instead- “I hear you Fergus, and I understand your frustration. In this situation, what would you like to see from Hamilton instead?” That will probably result in a pattern of people saying “Well, I’d like Hamilton to get back to me within a day instead of taking a week to respond” or, alternatively, “I’d like Hamilton to use Times New Roman instead of Garamond.” And then you can take it from there.

      1. Biff*

        This is a great idea!

        Also, even a team without completely concrete deliverables should have metrics and standards against which they can be judged. Develop them.

    5. LCL*

      It sounds like what your employees are really saying is that your worker lacks initiative. They might not be lazy, they just might not mesh with the other employees. I have been through this more than once with my group, where two or more people will divide up the work amongst themselves and deliberately cut out the other person, then slag them for being lazy.
      One way around this is for the manager to ask everyone at the morning meeting their plans for the day, and if they want help.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      If she meets the metrics, what about the others? If everyone else is doing 20% more with regularity that could be the problem there. Conversely, if she is not taking her turn at tasks, then her numbers might be higher than everyone else’s as they absorb her share of the task work.

      I don’t see anything wrong with asking her to pick up speed on necessary tasks and telling her to offer to help more often. No you can’t measure this, but you can watch to see if the complaints go down. If she is not taking her turn at necessary tasks as frequently as others that can be addressed by scheduling the task on rotation, if she does not pick up her pace.

      If it seems natural to do so, can you sit at a desk near her and quietly observe while doing some of your own work?

  26. Carmen Sandiego JD*

    Newjob starts next week!! Eeek! That said, I’m feeling jittery/nervous. It’s a more advanced position/exciting company and all. With some JD-ing involved.
    1) How do you relax in the week before a new job?
    2) How do you lessen imposter syndrome? (I’m working in a very male-area and I’ll likely be the youngest too)

    It’s a superb company, but I get terrified I’ll have a scary team, or scary project manager, or….etc. (My 1st job outside grad school was with a horrific manager who gave me job-ptsd, I got shoulder pain/body pain from sheer stress of that job).

    1. bassclefchick*

      Yay! Congrats. My new job starts next week too. I’ve been bingeing on Orange is the New Black. Yesterday, I went to the zoo (the zoo in my city has free admission). Of course, part of my week was spent getting the pre-employment drug and physical tests done. I’ll be working in health care, so I had to get a TB test.

      I’d say, I hope you did all the things that you wished you had time to do when you were working. Especially the stuff like “go to the beach and hang out” and all the lazy things we want to do, but don’t because we “should be” working.

      As for the imposter syndrome? Well, I’m struggling with that myself, so I’ll be looking for suggestions.

      1. Annie Moose*

        Re: imposter syndrome: same. I just had my midyear performance review, where I was told, “you have the skills to do your job, you just need to have more confidence in yourself!” It was reaffirming to hear that (because I really do wonder, a lot of days), but it doesn’t just magically make my doubts go away.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      2) Read up on the Dunning-Kruger effect.

      Imposter syndrome is a sign of intelligence and competency. Remind yourself of that any time you feel it creeping up.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Peppermint oil for the shoulder pain, but probably only after work, not during work. One drop for each shoulder, rub it in.

  27. Bowserkitty*

    Today is the day I turn things around at work. I’ve been in a depression slump for the past several weeks and I am determined to make it through.

    1. Lawnonymous*

      First – I love your determination and the decisiveness of your comment. You can totally do it!
      Second – it is very comforting for me to hear that others have depression slumps as well. I’ve been having one for what seems like months now. Basically I’m no longer enjoying a job I used to really like and I am absolutely irritated with my co-workers (for what seems like no good reason). I’ve never had a slump last this long before and I don’t know how to turn it around. Anyone have any ideas?

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Oh man, depression slumps are the worst. I had one that lasted… ugh, I wanna say like two years. I’m just grateful that my team (unrelatedly) managed to go through three different managers in that time, so I didn’t have any one boss around long enough to get sick of it and fire me.

      2. KL*

        I’m sorry, Lawnonymous. I was going through a slump that kind of sounds similar to yours and I think I may have finally gotten out. It took me a while, but I sat down and asked myself what did I feel was missing/wrong. I tried re-framing the issue and remembered to practice my gratitudes (sorry, I don’t know a better way to phrase it) from my mindfulness mediations and it helped me figure out what I needed to change to get myself back together. And it may sound harsh, but I’ve also stopped doing more social things, like lunches, coffees, or stopping by to chat, because I realized that I could handle some of the more annoying coworkers and their comments better if I just wasn’t around them.

        1. Lawnonymous*

          Thanks KL – I really appreciate your comments. I know that there is something wrong/missing/bothering me about work but I haven’t been able to put my finger on it – I’ll keep trying to figure it out though and in the meantime, I’ll try your suggestions. Thanks again.

    2. KL*

      Go Bowserkitty! You’ve got this. As another person who battles with depression and anxiety, I wish you all of the strength you need to keep fighting. :)

    3. LizB*

      I believe in you! I’m in the throes of a depression slump right now, and trying to fight my way out. We’ll get there!

    4. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Yes, you can do it!
      I just pushed out of my own months-long slump– sending cheers and good vibes!

    5. Bowserkitty*

      Thanks everyone for your kind words :) I’ve gotten quite a bit done today and I almost wish I wasn’t too busy to come in a bit this weekend (eep) but at least I’ve gotten things out of the way that I’ve meant to do for a while. Desk isn’t any cleaner but it will be soon!

      1. Bowserkitty*

        I also meant to say – it feels comforting to know I’m not the only one going through this.

      2. Snazzy Hat*

        My advice is coming from a household perspective rather than a work perspective (though I wish I could give you the latter; I’ve been unemployed & searching for over six months now), but with all the crap that accompanies depression.

        I’m really glad to read “I’ve gotten quite a bit done today”, as I have had way too many days which fall into one or more of the following categories:
        1) food-sleep-food-sleep
        2) I know I have stuff I need to do, but…
        3) I don’t care how hot it is in here, I’m not going outside.
        4) I have to get out of this damn house. (Bonus: s.o. has the car all day)
        5) How annoyed would my dad be if I asked him to come over and help me clean?

        Eventually, the little accomplishments and distractions add up to success, even if they’re surrounded by fog and sloth (alas, not a herd of sloths). I am embarrassed at the time I finally got out of bed today, but the dishes are clean & put away, the stove is clean, and the bathtub is clean. I’m proud of myself for putting away said dishes most of all, because I took the extra step beyond “well, they’re clean, isn’t that enough?”

        So! You are awesome! Keep up the task taming, pace yourself, take breaks or diversions (example of the latter: Task A for fifteen minutes, Task B for ten, then back to Task A), and you will get there!

        We all will! Woo! Go team! {waves pom-poms}

        1. Bowserkitty*

          Many hugs to you!!!! It sounds like we’ve got something in common here. I truly hope your job search turns up lucky soon.

  28. Anon29*

    How does one deal with moving to a position with less responsibility? I was a supervisor for team A, and while on paper I got excellent feedback from my managers, they did not provide support when I asked for help or advice. It was hard and stressful. After much resistance from team A’s management, I moved to team B as individual contributor. Now, I’m learning new skills, get exposure to up and coming industry, and it’s much easier. At the same time, it hurts that my opinion no longer matters and I’m angry at myself for sabotaging my career in this company. Have any of you stepped down? What happened? Did your career ever recovered?

    1. Kalli*

      Reframe it. All the reasons that you had to leave Team A are valid. You have positives about Team B. Since it’s an up-and-coming industry, you are well-placed to be able to move into a supervisory position on expansion, or if you leave the company. But right now you’re taking care of yourself too, and that’s just as important.

      If your opinion doesn’t matter, that’s a sign of bad management – your opinions should matter, even if they’re not acted on. They’re making you angry at yourself for them not being supportive of you. If you can focus on the positive parts, and they outweigh the sucky attitude at this company, that’s great; it sounds like they’re not doing wonders for your career, though. Generally, anyone who changes industries has to start from lower down and work back up, but many of the skills from supervising and management are transferable – you can keep those sharp, though.

      My experience in “stepping down” is when my position was made rather tighter in scope as it had been rather laxly defined and poorly enforced. My career was fine, but I didn’t recover from the bad environment that led to the change in time to do well in it. That was a company issue rather than a me issue, and the space helped me recognise it and GTFO.

    2. anon again*

      A few years ago I was in an extremely stressful job. I was managing a department, supervising several employees, and my manager kept adding to my workload while taking away resources. I was overworked, overwhelmed, stressed and cranky. I voluntarily took a demotion to move to a different role in a different department. It was great to work a humane schedule with reasonable expectations.

      After two years, I was able to move back to a higher-level role, though without regular supervisory responsiblilities. That’s not a bad thing, though. I enjoy what I’m doing and have a better work-life balance. I’m much nicer to work with and be around because I’m not stressed and overwhelmed all the time.

      Taking a step back can sometimes be beneficial. And working in multiple levels and different areas of a company can make you more knowledgeable and valuable to the company. At least, that’s a big part of how I was able to advance back up the ladder – my broad knowledge of the company allowed me to be extra valuable to a department wit newer staff that needed an experienced resource.

    3. NicoleK*

      I was a manager for Company A. Like you, I did not feel valued and supported. I left Company A for Company B and moved back into an individual contributor role. Now I have more of a work/life balance but I don’t have the organization support at this time to advance my career. It’s only been 6 months so things may change.

  29. AnotherAlison*

    Well, so far today is a fail. Had my voice break on a conference call with a client, while talking about equipment. He said something with a nasty tone that blindsided me. (I said we would do some due diligence on a price they received from a vendor and he got very nasty and said don’t you dare.) Anyway. I went off my birth control for the first time in 1 years 2 days ago and completely have lost my self-control. Very embarrassing. (Explained it at a high level to my man-boss after, that it was a med change. Ugh.)

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Doesn’t sound like a fail, sounds like dealt in very good but not perfect fashion with a high-maintenance problem client. The client is the only one who should be embarrassed. You may have room to improve there, but don’t we all?

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I wrote a response to this 3x, and I can’t adequately explain the situation without TMI. I can say that we know they aren’t lying, but it’s one data point that is an outlier with our experience. They want to go with the outlier.

        1. animaniactoo*

          So it’s likely “don’t you dare screw up this rate for me”?

          In which case, he’s a jerk – and please send him my way and I will happily explain why a low rate usually means either substandard work/equipment, or that the full scope of the project isn’t included in the rate, and therefore it is necessary to check that out pretty thoroughly to make sure that you don’t get bitten by it.

          1. Snazzy Hat*

            therefore it is necessary to check that out pretty thoroughly to make sure that you don’t get bitten by it.

            “I’m sorry, but in accordance with our CYA clause, I will need to conduct due diligence on the price.”

            Seriously, if you do what you’re supposed to do, what can he do to retaliate??? Jerk.

  30. References*

    I have an interview soon for a position that I was encouraged to apply for by a former coworker (we’re both at new organizations now). The catch is my manager from where we worked together isn’t a good reference because I was going through some mental health issues and started to have issues come up with my performance (I don’t dispute that I started to slide but I know my manager was going through some personal issues and it was affected her judgement). I took a new job because my job there was in serious jeopardy. I was there 2.5 years (the coworker left 8 months before I did), there’s no gap in my job history, and I left for a position with more responsibility so it doesn’t look bad on the surface.

    But I don’t know how to get around the fact that I won’t get good reference from my former manager that my former coworker knows. I haven’t spoken with my former manager since I left but I did inquire about a reference while I was there just to see and she more or less said that she could give some strengths but because of the circumstances she suggested it would be best for me to not list her. I can’t really give a reason why not to contact my former manager since my former coworker knows her and I’m seriously concerned it would cost me an offer. I know not to count my chickens before they hatch but I believe I’m a really strong contender for the position because I always produced excellent work for my former coworker. This job is really important to me because I’m in a really toxic environment now and I don’t really have any other options for the foreseeable future (it’s a long story). How do I get around this bad reference?

    1. ASJ*

      Could you contact this manager and ask her to give a very basic reference (like, confirming dates of employment and nothing else)?

    2. Biff*

      Can you ask that they also speak to your former coworker to get a more ’rounded’ picture? And then ask the coworker to bring up that the manager was having an emotional time when you both worked there? I can see how that would give the hiring manager the idea that perhaps ex-manager isn’t the best judge of your capabilities.

      1. References*

        Thank you for your help. My former coworker is the hiring manger although I will report to someone else (they’re also hiring for that position). I’m hoping that she won’t even do a reference check or that the organization will only do a date of employment type check. My former manager has an amazing reputation and I’m not sure that this suggestion would work in this situation. I think it’s a great suggestion though.

        1. Biff*

          Oh dear. It’s always bad when someone who actually has a lot of issues/is a terribly manager has a sterling reputation.

        2. Kalli*

          Your former coworker probably has enough information to see through anything the former manager says, since they know you.

  31. TheLazyB*

    Someone I know at work sent me a link for an internal job post this week saying she thought it was very me. It is, but I’ve only been in my current job just over a year, and it’s not really where my career path has been going until this point. There’s been a ton of change in my team recently and I am now the only person who knows in detail how one of our work tasks works…. So from my teams point of view it would be pretty bad if I went. However it looks like my directorate is going to shrink and i think my job would be an obvious cut.

    I’m going to apply, but I’m really nervous…. I kind of think I could be really good, and it does look like an exciting opportunity that would rejuvenate my career path….. but it would be a bit of a stretch.

    Thoughts? Suggestions?

    1. notfunny.*

      Apply and see what happens! It sounds like it would be a good opportunity to find out more about this option, and then you can think more carefully about whether it’s a stretch you’d like. There will never be a good time to leave a job but you have to put yourself and your career first (because your workplace is not going to do that). Good luck!

    2. designbot*

      At this point it’s just a conversation. It doesn’t mean it’ll be offered, and it doesn’t mean you have to take it if it is. No harm in having a conversation with a team that you think will appreciate what you can offer.

    3. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

      Oh interesting that you all say the same thing. I’m sure I remember Alison saying at some point that if you get offered an internal job you’d have to have an extremely good reason not to take it so I think I heard that as you’d better be pretty interested before you apply. I am going to… but I’m nervous!

      Should I offered the post (which is unlikely but stranger things have happened….) I would try and negotiate an extra week’s notice period (5 instead of 4) so I can make sure everything is documented and handed over the best of my ability.

      Thanks, always helpful to have a place too think these things through.

      1. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

        Part of my wariness is that the recruitment process will be application form+ one interview so there’s not really time to drop out…

      2. anon again*

        With an internal position you may already have knowledge of the company and it’s culture, but there may still be things about the new position or department that you could only learn through the interview process. So still do much of the same due diligence you would if applying at a difference company to learn all you can about the position you’re applying for and the team you’d be working with.

        And don’t be afraid to turn down the offer if it really doesn’t seem to be the best option for you. It’s better to turn it down than have it not work out. I’ve turned down internal offers in the past, or self-selected out during the process, if it really wasn’t what I wanted to do. The hiring managers seemed appreciative that I was honest about my reasons for declining and It never seemed to impact my ability to apply to other internal openings in the future.

    4. JennyFair*

      Do you have the option of a pre-application meeting with the hiring manager? I know I’ve done those in the past, just a coffee type meeting to discuss the job and how it would suit me. Depending on where you work, this can be a benefit to applying for an internal promotion/transfer.

      Good luck :)

      1. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

        Unfortunately not, I’ve been working at home this week and the deadline is this weekend. Shame as otherwise that would have been really helpful.

    5. Merry and Bright*

      I would say definitely go for it, especially if the opportunity looks exciting. I had a feeling of deja vu reading this because I was in exactly the same position a few months ago.

      My old directorate was full of restructure rumours (which look like coming to pass as it happens). My line manager sent me a link to a vacancy in a separate directorate. I went through my usual “Could I do this?” routine for a few days then decided to give it a shot. I locked myself down for the weekend and threw everything at it. Doing the online application seemed to take forever but then I was pacing myself over the two days (and drank so much tea in the process).

      I was pleasantly surprised to get an interview. I was the only person being interviewed that day and the interview over-ran by 45 minutes which my manager said was a good sign. Maybe he was right because the following afternoon HR called and offered me the job. It’s going fine so far.

      One advantage you have as an internal candidate is you are already familar with the organisation’s culture and so on, so you can concentrate more on the actual team and really tailor your own questions. I found this a big help.

      I can identify with everything you have said but best of luck if you decide to do it. You will probably rock it :)

      1. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

        Thank you i really appreciate that! :)

    6. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

      Working on my application now. Scary but exciting.

    7. catsAreCool*

      If your job is likely to be cut, anyone should understand why you’d look into transferring.

  32. MsMaryMary*

    A few months ago, my company interviewed several candidates for an open position. One of them had strong qualifications, but we had other candidates whose experience was a better fit for our position. The candidate we rejected found a different position, and she just hired our company to replace one of her existing vendors (it’s not unusual in my industry for people to go from in-house teapot managers to external teapot consultants, and vice versa). She specifically said that she was so impressed with our organizaation during the interview process that we were the first name she thought of when it became clear they needed a new vendor.

    I thought both job seekers and hiring managers would appreciate the story. You never know how the situation might change and the power might shift. Yesterday’s candidate might be tomorrow’s client!

    1. Pineapple Incident*

      That’s so awesome! Thanks for sharing that- I think people need to know the good stuff comes back around if you dole it out.

  33. WGU?*

    So I’m thinking about furthering my education, I would have to do so online because I work full time. Does anyone have a degree from Western Governors University and if you do or know someone who does what did you think of it? And for those hiring manager out there what’s your opinion of a degree from them?

    1. Teapot Project Coordinator*

      Oh yes! I’ve been considering Western Governor’s too!
      VERY interested to hear what hiring managers think of it and anyone who already has a degree from WGU if it’s been beneficial.
      Also, I have a co-worker who is working on his degree through WGU and he seems to enjoy the six month semester format a lot, says it helps balance working full time and having an under-one-year-old son.
      But he hasn’t finished, so unsure if it will be “worth it” or not yet.

    2. cjb1*

      My boss has his MBA from there and was extremely pleased with it. Everyone I know of rates it the highest out of all the online schools.

    3. Pwyll*

      WGU is one of the few online universities that has regional accreditation (which is what you want, it’s the accreditation that traditional non-profit colleges get), and is non-profit. They have a really terrific reputation.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        I work in higher ed and this is SO IMPORTANT. WGU is a perfectly legitimate choice for online education, as is ASU and a few others.

    4. Yet another Allison*

      My fiance got his BSN from WGU after getting his associate degree and RN license at a community college. He was happy with the program overall, and now works at one of the most prestigious hospitals in our state. Nursing does have its own unique norms though.

    5. PeachTea*

      I considered WGU when I was looking for an online school. What shifted me to No was how their classes work. They do not have normal credit hours. They have “competency credits.” So if for whatever reason you’d need to transfer, etc… none of your credits will transfer because well, they’re not credits.

      Second, you must have every exam proctored. And by protored, I mean you must have a person watching you through the camera/remoted into your computer to show that you’re not cheating or whatever they think you might be doing. The number one reason I wanted to go to an online school in the first place was flexibility. I like being able to take an exam at 3:00am if I want to. With WGU, you have to schedule within their business hours which really is counterproductive to me.

      However, I have not heard anything negative about them from hiring managers. So it’s really your comfort with how different they do things from a traditional college.

      1. Aubergine Dreams*

        Actually, the competency credits are equal to semester credits, so they would transfer, they are just called something different. :)

        As for scheduling exams, that’s true, but they do offer a lot of times for take exams. I used to take mine between 7-9pm. I don’t know about in the middle of the night, because I never did that, but they have a lot of flexibility there.

      2. Library Director*

        We proctor for WGU at least once a week at the library. We schedule evenings, days, weekends. Yes you have someone in the room with you, but that’s pretty much the norm. When my husband was working on his JCL with the University of Lueven he had a Latin proficiency exam done by Skype. He had to pan the camera around the room to show he didn’t have cheat sheets on the walls.

    6. Aubergine Dreams*

      I have my Master’s from WGU! Some hiring managers don’t know much about the school or program, so I would say be prepared to talk about how it functions and what the benefits of it are, but in my case, the principal at my school was very familiar with WGU and thought highly of it. He said some of his best candidates came from there because they were self-motivated and knew how to find/use resources. If it wasn’t for WGU, I wouldn’t have been able to go back to school.

      You have to be self-motivated and a cheerleader for your own education at WGU. They have systems in place to help guide you, but really you are teaching yourself. This can be very frustrating sometimes.

  34. Stupid librarian??*

    Anonymous for this question, because I feel like an idiot!

    Okay, so I’m currently working as a school library technician in Canada (not sure if that’s a job title that exists in the US, but basically it’s a paraprofessional role). At the school I work at, I basically run the library. I manage the budget, do all the purchasing, catalogue books, help the student/teachers navigate the library, etc. I actually don’t mind this position, and if it paid more I’d LOVE it, but it doesn’t. Because of my “skills” I feel a very, very strong pull to go back and get my MLIS and use my skills in a proper library. I know the field isn’t very “robust” at the moment (ever?), like I completely 100% understand that. If I were to go back to grad school, I wouldn’t be taking out any loans (which I’ve heard is a no-no for an MLIS) and I can’t imagine myself going into any debt. Ideally, I’d be working part-time at the school and getting the degree part-time and I think even the union I’m in might pay for a portion of my courses.

    I know the field isn’t strong and that people struggle to get a job after getting their MLIS, but I’m really strongly pulled towards the profession. I’ve talked about this with a few colleagues who are actual librarians and while they seem hesitant about the field in general, they were positive about my chances to get a job after graduation. But I don’t know. In an ideal world I would do this, but I just wonder if I could be making an awful mistake. Any advice?

    1. Pwyll*

      My cousin has an MLIS and is really struggling to find a job. But she’s never worked in a library in any sort of professional role, except for during Grad School.

      So, I’d say that if you can go for free while you’re in your job, I don’t really see the down-side if that is the work you want to do.

    2. Jax*

      As a MLS holder in a paraprofessional position- there are jobs if you are willing to move. If you want to stay in your current location then I would talk to librarians there to get a feel for the job market. In my area at both the academic and public library, you need to get your “Librarian” experience (meaning: title on your resume) before they will consider you for Librarian positions. I don’t know how it is other places, though. I am in the US.

      I hope I don’t sound bitter- I love the experiences I’ve gotten. But I don’t think I’ve necessarily needed an MLS for them. I also have commitments to my area so right now it isn’t an option to move across the country for a job.

      1. Jax*

        Also, if you do decide to get a MLIS, I would suggest doing more than just coursework. Get involved in projects and volunteer and plan things (I don’t know what type of library you are interested in working in but things like story times, programs, digital curations). I did not do any of that while getting my degree (because I was already working full time in a library) but I think I did myself a disservice by not.

      2. Stupid librarian??*

        No, you don’t sound bitter at all! I feel very torn on what to do. Like, getting an MLIS “feels” right for me, but I seriously realize how bad the market is, which makes me hesitate. However, there are opportunities out there and people do get jobs, I think I’d be willing to relocate (I say that now, who knows about the future). I just can’t decide if the risk is worth the reward (unemployment vs a career I’d enjoy?).

        1. Catherine*

          If you would enjoy getting the degree and you can do the program without incurring debt, why not? I think you have to ask yourself, how much certainty do you need to have, that this degree will advance your career for you to still want to pursue it? Everyone is different. I work in a professional position in an academic library and am pursing a masters in a different field because even with my library experience, jobs are scarce and employers are going to want to hire someone with librarian (not just library) experience, especially where I live.

      3. Anxa*

        I don’t know how to reduce the imposter syndrome.

        At my job, I really DO feel like an imposter. I do tutoring and I have failed classes.

        Many students and my supervisor have told me I’d make a great instructor, but because of my college grades (not in the subjects I tutor) make grad school very unlikely (or at least, a major uphill battle). It’s very awkward, because even in the moments that I recognize I’m doing a great job, I still feel like I dont’ belong, since it’s hard for me to break into moving up to full time without a masters.

      4. Library Director*

        Spot on! I tell people this all the time. I’ve sent job notices to my staff for librarian jobs that pay more. I’m usually told a. I don’t want to move or b. I don’t like X aspect of the job (e.g., teaching undergraduate students). I was told from the start (the 80s) that there were no jobs in libraries. As with many careers it’s cyclical.

        In the late 90s I used to get cold calls from schools offering jobs. That dried up. A few years ago at ALA in Chicago I had universities jumping in front of me offering me jobs. Neither one happened because I’m special, but because they needed to court librarians to move. This year it was the National Library of Qatar.

        I would suggest you research Paralibrarian programs. We have a certification program with our state association. It may help clarify your goals and give you a piece of paper that’s not the MLIS, but does prove skills.

        1. Stupid librarian??*

          I already have a diploma in library & information technology, I should have stated that in my original question, sorry. So I do have training in libraries, but not quite the same as an MLIS. I feel limited as a library technician and that’s why I’m considering getting my masters.

    3. Maxine*

      I’m one of those MLIS’s who has not been able to get a job in the field (long story short, I ended up pigeonholing myself into a very specific niche and wasn’t able to make a shift after layoffs so have ended up back in legal administration. Yay?). My take on it is that your work experience in the field matters much more than the actual degree does when it comes to getting hired later on. Budgeting, purchasing, cataloging, reference, and experience with the public – all things you’ve already got going for you – will serve you well. I might suggest taking that experience and those strengths and looking for another job in a “proper library” first- one that builds on your current job duties and also pays more but does not require an MLIS. It sounds like you won’t be losing anything by pursuing this strategy, but the degree by itself may or may not help you in getting your next job.

      The MLIS is mostly a management degree, especially for those who have good library experience as you do. Management jobs will usually require one but you may be able to find something that satisfies you without it, depending on your area. I’d recommend looking closely at your job market to see if you can find a place to follow your “very, very strong pull” before deciding you need one.

    4. Nanani*

      I know people in Canada with an MLIS and the ones who have jobs at all don’t have them in their field.
      Sorry :/

      Maybe do it anyway, if you get in and don’t need loans and so on, but do so ONLY if you really want to do the degree work itself, not because you’re holding out for openings in your field.

    5. synonym rolls*

      What kind of job would you hope to get after graduation? Look online to see what jobs are currently being advertised, and where. (In the US, ALA Joblist is perfect). This will give you the best sense of the market. I’m always surprised by the number of MLS graduates who don’t do this type of research before they start school. For example, a relative of a friend just recently got his MLS and is horrified to discover that almost all the academic reference librarian positions require instruction. He had wanted to just do reference. Dude, those jobs don’t exist anymore.

      If you decide to go, definitely look for internships and volunteer opportunities to make you stand out from other graduates, as recommended above, and be prepared to move anywhere to get that first position.

      I absolutely love love love being a librarian- if you can accept the constraints and make the schooling happen, I wish you similar joy!

      1. Stupid librarian??*

        I’m pretty open to any position in the field, but what I’m most interested are areas of knowledge management, digital libraries, management of information (working with documents, records), etc. (which sounds vague….). I’m really open to non-traditional “librarian” roles. That seems the way libraries and information management are going, from my research.

        Although, lol, I’m sure that my current experience would make me suitable for a children’s/youth librarian position (yikes!!!).

        1. Research Assistant*

          I have no idea what the market is like now, but this is something to think about. I have a number of relatives with an MLIS, but the only one who could ever find a job in the field was my grandmother, who worked for many years as a corporate librarian for a large engineering company. I have two aunts with the degree as well; one has a business doing editing and indexing and the other (who went to school to be a children’s librarian) works as a teacher’s aide. My grandmother has been retired since the 90’s so I don’t know how much current demand there is, but if you’re open to non-traditional roles then you should look into corporate librarianship where you work in information management rather than running a normal library. Best of luck!

        2. cardiganed librarian*

          I’m an MLIS-holding library tech in Canada. My gut feeling is, if you don’t particularly care for the librarian job title, the MLIS won’t help you that much. I went to library school with archives experience, planning to do records/information management, but I ended up taking co-ops that related more to traditional librarianship and then, without direct experience, I found my MLIS was worthless in the IM world. I put out dozens of applications for “information specialist”-type jobs and never got an interview for a single one.

          My feeling now that I have steady employment in a library is that it’s best to get into records at the ground floor. I am now overqualified for records clerk jobs, and don’t want to take the pay cut to start there anyway. You’re probably in the same situation, but if you do think you want to do records management, maybe try to transition directly. You could then see if the MLIS would help. Again, with the benefit of hindsite and bitterness ;) I feel like a lib tech diploma plus a business or IT degree would be much more useful in non-traditional information jobs. I think the MLIS tends to signal to employers that you want to be a library manager.

          And yes, my first thought was that a former school library tech would be a great children’s librarian. Sorry! Are you in the Atlantic provinces, by any chance? (I ask because in some provinces, school librarians tend to be B.Ed + certification, not lib techs.) I am as well and have witnessed the gutting of school libraries due to demographic decline, and I totally understand why you would want out.

    6. fposte*

      When it comes to hiring in libraries, opportunities vary by specialization and region. In my state, the challenge is that a lot of schools don’t have money, so they’re hiring paraprofessionals like you (or making a teacher do double duty) rather than hiring a credentialed librarian. However, our school media graduates are still finding jobs–but they’re on the lucky end of the national scale. One problem in the US is that there can be state licensure involved, so that a candidate may not be able to search in another state; if that’s true for provinces, that can be a significant limit on your job search (though provinces generally cover a lot more ground than states!).

      Would the school you’re working at be interested in having you back as a librarian? Sometimes wanting the person is enough for them to raise the standard of the position. We frequently have graduates going back as librarians to schools and public libraries where they worked as techs or paraprofessionals.

      1. Stupid librarian??*

        Yeah, I don’t think I know of any professional librarians who work in schools in Canada (actually, I think I know of ONE who works for the same school board I do). I’m not sure if my school would have me back as a librarian, we’re getting a new principal this year, so I’m not quite sure about him yet. If worst comes to worst, I would definitely consider that.

        I would really like to get a more substantial role in the field, though. As much as I enjoy my position, I feel that I could go further in the field with an MLIS. Although that really depends on the opportunities that exist for librarians.

        Something about going for the MLIS feels really “right” to me, but then I think about the unemployment horror stories. Trust me, I’m aware of how terrible the field is. Part of me wants to do it anyway, which I don’t understand.

        1. Ann*

          The field isn’t that bad in Canada, honestly. There are still more libraries in North America than McDonalds so there are jobs – but you’re right a lot are done by techs and other paraprofessionals. I’d go to school if you are interested and able to – worst case scenario is you lose some earned income while in class. Talk to placement officers at Western or other highly regarded Canadian schools if you are worried

          1. Stupid librarian??*

            I’ve gotten the impression that the field isn’t as terrible in Canada as the US (but still, it’s not great), as well. This is such a tough decision, so many pros and cons in each direction. And I know of people who’ve got their masters in the last few years who have gotten decent positions. Now, a lot of people don’t end up getting a position, that’s true… but I still find that encouraging?

    7. TheCupcakeCounter*

      If you can do it without leaving your job, without taking out loans, and possibly getting it at least partially paid for I don’t see a downside.

    8. Anonacat*

      I’m bummed out that you’re basically already working as a Library Manager/Librarian, but not getting paid for it …
      As someone who worked in libraries for several years, I’d advise getting the MLIS only if you’re more interested in the tech side of librarianship. ‘Traditional’ librarianship is very much in decline, although with your work experience, you’d be better placed than most. (I have heard that some people go to library school without ever having working in the field!)

      1. Stupid librarian??*

        Lol, don’t get me started on my position! I’m actually really interested in the tech side of libraries and because I know that area is really where lots of the jobs are going, I’d be willing to learn more about it and take the relevant tech courses. I don’t have much interest in being a reference librarian (lol).

    9. Seal*

      I was a paraprofessional for many years before I finally got my MLIS. For me, the deciding factor was that there are far more opportunities for even mediocre librarians than there ever will be for the best paraprofessionals. I was sick and tired of watching absolute idiots move up and get paid more than I was just because they had that little piece of paper. Other librarians have likened an MLIS to getting your union card; in most cases, it’s something you need to have in order to work librarian.

      Also, I worked full time as a paraprofessional while going to library school. I found that my work experience was excellent preparation for my course work. In fact, the people that did the best in library school and beyond tended to be those who had already worked in a library at some point.

  35. NoOneKnowsWhyTheCagedBirdSings*

    Another week has gone by and I’m feeling incredibly stuck AGAIN. I had practically nothing to do all week. I try to find things to do but there’s just nothing. Even when I try to do different things that I think would be helpful, I’m discouraged to do them because I’m just a secretary. I’m so frustrated. *heavy sigh*

    1. vpc*

      My solution to this was to sign up for free online courses, like through Coursera — I did things that interested me, but could be related to the business environment, so no one would question me working on them. And you can always pause the videos / come back to an exercise later when something does come up.

  36. Marzipan*

    I got the last mark back for the secret Open University degree* I’ve been doing for the last five years, so it’s done and I got a first! (I think the US equivalent would be a 4.0 GPA?)

    I had sort of planned to reveal it to the world at this point, ta-da! – but now I think I’ll do a Master’s, and people will clearly guess about a secret Master’s if they know I just finished a secret Bachelor’s, so maybe I’ll keep my mouth shut for another couple of years…

    (*Not secret for any reason other than it amused me. I do have a BA already, so doing this one has basically been a hobby.)

    1. Caledonia*

      Oh you go Marzipan!!
      Smart lady, you.

      (I think I’m going to end up with a 2:2, which is fine because I’m not a natural student and my brother got the same.)

    2. Expected to pay more than my fair share*

      I get the amusement factor. My husband never told anyone at work when I was pregnant with our first child. So when he brought in the requisite donuts to celebrate there was a lot of surprised people.

  37. Delilah*

    How normal is it for employers to be really rigid with interview times? On Tuesday I had a company (that I’m excited about!) contact me to schedule an in-person interview. They gave me the options of next Tuesday afternoon or next Wednesday afternoon. I let them know I’m out of town on a business trip both of those days and asked if it was possible to schedule a time for later this week (now past), later next week, or early the following week. They told me they were only interviewing candidates next Tuesday and Wednesday and that’s it.

    I was thankfully able to schedule a Skype interview for next Tuesday and work this meeting into the business trip, but should I be expecting this much rigid scheduling from other potential interviewers? I haven’t interviewed in about 6 or 7 years.

    1. Pwyll*

      I’d say it’s not entirely uncommon. If they were absolutely unwilling to make any accommodation, I think it’d be a huge red flag. But, it sounds like they’ve set aside those days as interview days for busy managers and were willing to make it work via Skype instead of in-person, so I think it makes it less of a red flag than it’d normally be.

    2. Dawn*

      Very. Depending on their hiring timeline and how many people need to be there for the interview it can be super rigid.

    3. Jen*

      Not uncommon for some places. They might be flying execs or other non locals in to do interviews, or at minimum clearing schedules for a round. Maybe the hiring manager or others doing the process have crammed schedules and are really difficult to work around.

      That said, not everywhere is like that. The more people you interview with the less likely they are to be flexible.

    4. Lemon Zinger*

      That’s extremely common. Hiring managers are often busy enough that they can really only arrange to be free for interviews at very certain times.

    5. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

      My current job stated the date of interviews in the advert. Only four of the nine interviewed candidates interviewed on that date (because of the candidates not being available), so I had to wait an entire week to hear I’d got the job.

      Interestingly the successful candidates both interviewed on the date listed….. make of that what you will!!

    6. Jennifer*

      I’ve been told “make it at 2 p.m. on Wednesday or that’s it, we’re only interviewing on one day.” They don’t even offer a choice of time any more. So yes, that’s typical now.

  38. straordinaria*

    I’ve been offered an internship in a major international institution starting in autumn — so excited! One problem: it’s my first ‘professional’ role, it’ll involve moving internationally by plane, and I have NO IDEA what clothes to start stocking up on in advance. (I’m currently a postgrad student, living in skinny jeans, Doc Martens/Nikes and t-shirts which really need replacing.) There isn’t really a dress code, as it all depends on the department – I’ll be in communications. I don’t want to be overdressed having spent a fortune on unnecessary business wear, but I also don’t want to get pulled up about being unprofessional. It would also be great if my work clothes could double up as outfits outside work as much as possible (as I’ll probably be limited to 2 suitcases).

    Obviously I’ll take a couple of suits for conferences, important meetings, etc., but could anyone give me an idea of what constitutes a basic, not-super-formal “beginners” work wardrobe: clothes, shoes, accessories? (I’m UK-based, if that helps.)

    1. Slippy*

      Congrats! Either call or shoot them an email. The dress code is a reasonable question to ask, but always overdress (suit) your first day since first impressions and all that.

    2. Marzipan*

      I’d just recommend going with plain things. Assuming we’re talking women’s clothes, I’d hit up Primark and get some plain black or grey trousers (you can get them for like four quid) and some tops (preferably not too flowery, and not t-shirts or similar) to go with them, and that’ll take you a long way.

      1. Marzipan*

        Actually, Next are really good for smart-but-interesting things, if you’re up for spending slightly more.

        1. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

          Next is my usual work-wear place and I think I get the type of stuff you’re after. Also I’ve had extremely good luck in charity shops. I interviewed in a charity shop Next dress and recently was complimented on it by my team’s manager. I have two black jackets from an Oxfam shop in a posh area, cost £30 total so not mega cheap but cheaper than brand new. I’ve also had some luck in H&M and Dorothy Perkins but I find them rather hit and miss, not found anything in either my last couple of visits.

          Also congrats :)

    3. Becky with the anonymous hair*

      I work for the major international instituion that you probably think of when someone says major international institution, and the dress code is ridiculously casual. Unless you’re going to Geneva, take just a couple of outfits and shop when you get there and can see what’s normal.

  39. bassclefchick*

    Oh, my goodness. My new job starts Monday! SO excited. I’ll have a day and a half of orientation. I know I can do this. But, I’ve never worked in healthcare before. And my last permanent job ended with me being fired and then getting stuck as a temp for 5 years. I’m mostly feeling terrified. My basic job will be to schedule patients for their rehab appointments. Sounds easy, right? But I REALLY don’t want to fall into the same pattern of having a job for a couple of years and then losing it and then getting sucked back into temping. So, yeah. Terrified is the right word. Please send all the calming and encouraging thoughts my way as I start this new chapter!

    1. babblemouth*


      Two things to remember: plan your Monday outfit on Sunday afternoon, and go to bed early! (I’m sure you’ve thought of these already).

      1. bassclefchick*

        Thanks! Monday is an orientation day and my HR rep told me to dress business casual. I’ve had the outfit planned for a week. Because I’m paranoid that way. LOL I just need to remember to take a deep breath and do my best.

      2. Yep, me again*

        don’t stress it. If they didn’t want you, they wouldn’t hire you.


    2. Snazzy Hat*

      Congratulations! When you’re learning stuff, take notes. It sounds obvious on the surface, but you don’t want to be so nervous during your new phase that you worry about coming across as ignorant. You are ignorant, they know this, everyone deals. My last two jobs, I took lots of notes and periodically asked, “okay, this is what I have so far…” especially if I was doing a brand new task or project such as analyzing data that I didn’t even know we collected. At first there were times I was worried I would be seen as “too detailed” or “high maintenance”, but eventually that evolved into knowing I could do the job correctly the first time and having proof that my supervisors & coworkers knew I could do it correctly too. Think “dedicated” over “nit-picky”, perfect audits, efficient workflow, etc.

      You mention fearing a pattern of job loss; please try to separate ~why you got fired~ from ~challenges this new job may pose~. Hypothetically, if I were fired from a CS job for angrily swearing at a customer, and months later I got a job as an order picker at a warehouse, I have no chance of being fired for the same reason if I never interact with customers in any way. Crashing a vehicle into the storage racks may be grounds for firing, but knowing that fact will encourage me to be a safe driver.

      {waves more pom-poms}

  40. Tuckerman*

    I co-supervise interns in a highly specialized field. I work more in operations and have limited industry knowledge (just what I’ve gained from work experience), while my co-supervisor (“Kim”) has industry specific knowledge and credentials. Supervising can be challenging because while I can do a fair amount of coordinating and assisting interns with managing projects, I can’t really teach them a lot of the industry specific skills they need to learn. I have to ask other staff to do that. The reason I’m part of the supervisory team, as I understand, is that I have lots of supervisory experience and my manager likes how I supervise. The problem is, I keep taking the lead on supervising because 1) It’s hard to co-supervise equally and 2) Kim doesn’t seem to want to take the lead. I’m planning to leave this job this year and my manager wants me to make sure someone is cross-trained in everything I do.
    How can I nudge Kim to take the lead? Or should I even nudge her to take the lead?

    1. Pwyll*

      I would try pretty hard NOT to have this forced on an employee who doesn’t want it, for the sake of the interns. Instead, why not talk to your boss about the transition and ask whether they’re planning to bring on someone with supervisory experience who can take over the day-to-day management, while continuing to leave the technical mentoring to the professional staff?

      I used to manage the workload of interns, but I wasn’t a specialist in their work. So, I spent a lot of time keeping track of what they were assigned, and discussing how they should go about getting the information they need. “Kim assigned you to paint the teapot. Did you ask her what color? Or what type of paint? Sometimes at work people ask you to do things without realizing you may not have the details, so it’s okay to ask.”-type stuff. While I made sure the intern was DOING the work, it was up to my “Kim” to actually supervise the CONTENT of that work, because I didn’t make teapots. So, a better question is whether there is someone else around after you leave who can handle the administrative-part of managing the interns. And it may not hurt to clarify with Kim that her role is really meant to be a mentor for teapot making.

      1. Tuckerman*

        Thanks for your input. You bring up a really good point about making sure interns have someone enthusiastic about supervising once I’m gone. It sounds like we were in a similar situation, focusing more on the administrative aspect of supervising than project content. I do assign a lot of the intern’s work, but the less technical kind. To clarify, there is no one else with supervisory experience in our department, and we’re on an indefinite hiring freeze. Also, I have a lot of faith in Kim and I think she wants to be a good supervisor, but hasn’t had much mentoring. We also get really high quality interns who are pretty easy to supervise. Maybe I’ll talk to Kim and ask what she needs from me so when this gets handed off to her she’ll be confident she has all the information she needs. We’re already working on a manual together.

        1. Pwyll*

          That makes a lot of sense. Our program got 100 times better when I met with “Kim” and explained that she needed to assume our interns didn’t know anything about teapots and explain things, but that I would take care of managing the workflow and deadlines and troubleshooting. It was a huge load off her mind knowing that she didn’t need to do all of the management stuff that “wasn’t her job” and could just focus on being a pro. And bonus, most professionals I know LOVE to talk about their work, so it just works (with the right foundation and support).

          Good luck!

  41. ACA*

    Just a bit of a rant about frustrating situation at work this week. Since the beginning of June, I’ve been trying to schedule a training class (to be held at the end of August), but my contact in the department kept stringing me along all month and refusing to finalize the info. At a certain point, I thought we had the date confirmed (I assumed wrongly) and were just trying to see if they could do an afternoon class instead of a morning one. Nope! And it turns out, they don’t even do afternoon sessions at all, ever – though why it took her a month for me to get that information, I have no idea. So we scheduled the class for the date we wanted but at a time that only half our students can make, because that was the best we could do. And at the end of all this, she has the nerve to tell me that next time, I should make sure to schedule several months in advance! Lady, if you had told me the info I needed in June, we wouldn’t even be having this problem!

  42. Natalie*

    I got a new job! Sort of at the last minute, actually – I’d already decided to finish my classes full time as a last resort, so I’d put in my notice already. I just changed the date (and dropped a bunch of my classes for next semester). And I have a week off between them, hurray!

    I have been at my current company since I graduated from college 8 years ago, so this will be a big change.

    1. fposte*

      So this year is new house, new marriage, and new job year! Very exciting–I hope you enjoy them all very much.

      1. Natalie*

        I’m actually just over the one year mark in my house, but close enough. Also, new dog. :)

  43. Amy S*

    Looking for advice on how to deal with an unhelpful vendor.

    We ordered some new furniture which was delivered just over a week ago. Some of the chairs we received turned out to be very uncomfortable. The backs provide no support and are too short, the cushions are flat and hard. I cringe at the thought of asking guests to sit in these awful chairs.

    I told our vendor of my concerns and asked what our options were. He responded that the chairs were non stock items and therefore were not returnable, refundable or exchangeable. I was pretty taken aback by his response. I read the sales order form and saw the policy to be true, which sucks. I didn’t fully realize this when placing the order – I thought the larger furniture which had to be specially ordered and assembled in pieces could not be returned. Surely some chairs could be taken back, but per the vendor, this is not the case.

    I let him know of my unhappiness with this situation, and told him it was unfortunate they couldn’t do anything because these chairs will not be used. I have received no response. I understand the policy, but this guy has an unhappy customer on his hands and is hiding being the policy to avoid having to do anything. Should I call the store and ask to speak to his supervisor? If so, any thoughts on what I should say?

    1. KR*

      I think you’re stuck with the chairs. To you it seems like he’s hiding behind the policy, but he probably can’t do anything to change the policy or bend it, so he’s trying to signal to you that there’s nothing that can be done. Could you try selling them or putting them somewhere where people don’t usually sit, but it seems like there should be a chair?

      1. Amy S*

        These chairs were pretty expensive, so we would probably be more inclined to sell them than put them elsewhere in the office. We also have limited space and I’m not sure where else they might go.

        I guess this is the first time I’ve ever had an experience like this where the vendor won’t try to do anything to fix the problem. This particular furniture vendor also buys and sells used furniture and he didn’t even offer to buy it back (although it may be up to me to look into that).

        I feel like this policy encourages poor customer service, but maybe I’m way off base here. I just know if we had a customer claim they disliked a product we made or delivered, we would try to work with them to fix the issue. Not simply day “sorry, nothing we can do here.”

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          It’s not all that uncommon with furniture vendors, to be honest; I deal with enough chargebacks going to them! Especially if they weren’t stock items, they become difficult for the vendor to move and/or stock for later sale.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      First off, what you’re dealing with here, I believe, is non stock items that were ordered for you, so there are costs, maybe considerable, to the vendor if they do take the chairs back and have to send them back to their supplier. At least: shipping and delivery to them, delivery to you, retrieval from you, shipping back to the supplier and any restocking fees that the supplier imposes. I don’t know how many chairs you ordered, costs, bulkiness, but it could be hundreds of dollars so that’s to keep in mind as you approach them again.

      Reflect on the process and where things could have gone better. Do you think the chairs were not described properly? Were promises made that weren’t fulfilled?

      If you can’t (in true honesty) come up with a legitimate instance of how the vendor’s process led to your dissatisfaction, then one of the things you can do is to offer to pay a restocking fee if they will take the chairs back. If you approach the salesperson’s boss with an attitude of participating in the solution, you may have a result you can live with.

      (This happens in our world at least once a month where a customer has not understood what they are ordering OR did understand but didn’t communicate to other decision makers properly and then suffers buyer’s remorse. There’s not anything we can do with $3000 worth of teapots with Stark Enterprises printed on them; no they aren’t returnable . We DO however work with customers who come to us with a cooperative attitude and can help them solve their problem if they participate in the cost.)

      1. Dawn*

        Oh man Wakeen you hit the ball outta the park with this one. Thank you for suggesting the wording that I couldn’t come up with for my post!

      2. Amy S*

        We have ordered furniture from this vendor before, but it has been several years. We ordered desks and chairs that are similar to what we already have. We saw a picture of the chairs in a catalogue, and assumed they would be like our current chairs. We did not expect them to be so uncomfortable, as the comfort level is extremely different from the previous chairs.

        We are willing to work with this guy – we are talking about six chairs here, and we can even take them back to the store if that helps. I understand if we can’t get a full refund, but the bottom line is this is not what we were expecting. He also has been unhelpful in other ways – I feel like he has blown me off and acts like we are a small account not really worth his time. This has not really helped me form a positive opinion of him from the get go.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          I’m sympathetic. We have to deal with business customers ordering from website/catalog and we make a living off of trying to meet customer’s expectations 100% of the time. To do that, we have to first understand their expectations as well as understand our products. If we just let everybody order whatever shiny product, we’d have a lot more cranky customers than we do.

          So… I’m sympathetic because I’m not hearing a lot of effort on the vendor’s part.

          Anyway, pursue it above your guy but I suggest a “what can we do together to solve this problem” approach, which doesn’t mean you have to offer to pay anything up front, just the attitude itself may get you what you need.

          (And they CAN return them, of course they can. It’s all just a matter of what it costs to do so and who pays how much of it.)

          1. Amy S*

            Thanks for your input. I’ll definitely try to approach it with the right attitude. I don’t expect him to work miracles or anything, but I would like to see some effort on his part to at least work with me on figuring out a solution.

      3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        My favorite story in the regard:

        University program ordered a combination headphone/microphone set with their logo on it. It was a pricey piece, $60 sell, total order over $5000. First we sent a sample (free), then after they ordered sent a product proof with their logo on it (free), for them to approve before we ran the order. They approved everything, order ran, order delivered.

        Three weeks later the contact us with a pretty abrupt “We are returning the order.” Get to the bottom of it, it turned out they were buying the product for (whatever kind of) conferencing and the headphone/microphone set did not work on the device that people were using. Even though they had two samples over the course of weeks, and even though they approved the samples, nobody ever actually tried the samples for their intended use.

        So we spend hundreds of dollars sending them samples, they never tried them, and they expected us to eat $5000. “But it’s grant money!” Yeah well, that 5k is “money to pay salaries for the people who worked so hard on your order!”

        Anyway, no matter what the reason a customer finds themselves in jam, we’re happy to help them solve the problem if they’ll work with us.

        1. Amy S*

          Ugh what a pain! How could they not even test it once?

          Really commendable that you guys still did what you could to make the customer happy.

    3. Dawn*

      1) You didn’t realize the no-refund/no-exchange policy on the order you placed, which is *your* mistake, not the vendor’s.
      2) The vendor isn’t “hiding behind the policy”, he’s stating the terms of the contract that you entered into at the time you purchased the chairs, and his hands are likely tied.
      3) If you go over his head and speak with his supervisor, you’re going to be taking the “I’m a customer and I’m always right, even when I didn’t fully read and understand the contract that I signed, and I demand an exception be made” stance. Is that a stance you want to take in this situation?
      4) If you do go over his head to speak with his supervisor, are you comfortable burning a bridge with this vendor if the supervisor does not give you what you want? Because if you double down and the supervisor does say “no, sorry, that’s the policy” then you will be forever known as high-maintenance by this vendor (at least, that’s my guess having been in the vendor’s shoes in this situation.)

      Bottom line- is the monetary value of these chairs worth the possibility of burning a bridge with this vendor?

      1. Amy S*

        1) Yes, I understand this. And I made this he clear to the vendor (“I didn’t understand this and that was my mistake.”)
        2) We didn’t fully understand the policy, in that when he verbalized it to us, it sounded like it only applied to the larger furniture that required assembly. Should have asked for clarification, but didn’t. Half the chairs we ordered are returnable (the ones we like), and half the chairs we ordered are not (the ones we hate). I suppose after seeing the sales order form, I could have asked him to point out which items were returnable and which items were not. This was my first experience and I will take it as a learning experience moving forward. Will probably not be buying non stock furniture ever again.
        3) I’m considering going over his head because he hasn’t responded to my last email, which was very polite and in no way demanding. I will try calling him if I don’t hear back by Monday.
        4) If it comes to that, I am fine with burning the bridge. There are other vendors in the area and I am already working with someone else on getting a new conference table. We only reached out to this guy because we worked with him before, 7-8 years ago.

        1. Dawn*

          Welp, I say go over his head and then go find a new vendor! From your clarification posts above it definitely sounds like he didn’t do a great job of letting you know what was and was not returnable, and you aren’t pleased with his customer service. I really don’t get why he didn’t do the totally basic step of “Thanks, Amy, before I put this through let me go through exactly what is non-refundable about this purchase so you can be exactly sure that you’ll get what you want.” That seems like a no-brainer to me!

            1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

              You aren’t the first or 100th customer they’ve had who has received furniture from them who has sat on it and said “this is not what I thought it would be at all”. That’s the nature of what they DO, and what they are paid to do and they should be anticipating issues within the pre sales process.

              Yes, you have a part because you made assumptions, but it’s not like they gave you two free sample chairs and you never sat in them first, either. ;)

  44. Dave*

    My job hunt after getting laid off a few weeks ago continues. I’ve had some interest—I had an interview earlier in the week and have another one later this week. The first one went very well. They don’t have any positions open but based on my resume and cover letter and the interview they said they’d like to create a position for me, assuming I don’t cost too much. I sent them what I thought was a fair salary based on some research I did and now am playing the waiting game.

    The second one has me feeling weird. A friend works at the company and I am sure he vouched for me. But after researching what the company does a bit, I don’t know that I could work there for ethical reasons. (I don’t want to get too far into it here, but let’s just say it troubles my own personal ethics.) So I’m not sure. The job in and of itself sounds great but I don’t know if I could do the specific job for this specific company. Sigh.

    I’ve had a few other LinkedIn notifications from people who work at places I’ve applied, but that’s about it. The first meeting was certainly encouraging, and I’ve had two other places tell me they love my skill set but just can’t hire me right now.

    1. fposte*

      Bummer about the layoff, Dave, but it sounds like you’re getting some good possibilities out of the gate. I know that it’s awkward when there’s an ethical component, but hopefully the first job will give you a great offer and it’ll be a moot point.

  45. babblemouth*

    I’ve just received a really really good half-year review from my boss, and the department I work in is probably going to go through a re-org within the next six months. My manager has basically told me that I have a very good shot at a promotion, and asked to think about what I would like to do. It’s fantastic on the one hand, but on the other hand, I don’t know where to start! I’m basically asked to imagine my dream job, but it’s hard to do that when I don’t know how the whole re-org is going to go.

    Any tips to start my reflection?

    1. JaneB*

      What parts in f your current job do you want me o do more of? What ch parts do you want to do less of? Imagine each task was going to be given to a new hire – which ones are you upset to lose?

      Where do you want to be in 3-5 years? How could you move towards that – harder projects, management opportunities Es, liaising with particular other teams or clients…

      If you can tell your boss what you want more of, where you think your strengths are, where your interests lie, then they can look at options within the reorganisation process…

      1. Ama*

        These are all great questions. Something else that might help is looking at job listings for comparable/slightly larger orgs — are there positions that really catch your eye? My org is planning for some major growth in the next two years, and I will probably see the area I cover split off into a few different positions — looking at how bigger orgs structure jobs in their versions of my department has given me a lot of food for thought into the ways we could consider restructuring when we get to that point.

    2. Belle diVedremo*

      Additional questions
      Where does the work you do go, and what part of the next steps is of interest to you?
      Eg, if you write content, does editing content pieces look interesting?

      Enjoy the compliment!

  46. Librarian Ish*

    Hello all! Are there any science librarians here?

    I currently work as a library paraprofessional. I’m happy with my job as is, but I know that if I ever want to move up or out, I’ll need an MLS or MLIS. I’m beginning to do research on grad schools but I’m pretty overwhelmed at the variety of specializations available. How do you choose? I have a BA in chemistry, so something with a more technical/research bent sounds ideal. Thoughts?

    (also ideas on how to have the money to go to grad school would be amazing. Short of selling my eggs, y’know?)

    1. bb-great*

      Maybe you’d be interested in research data curation/management/archiving? If you haven’t already, go find the blog Hack Library School; they have a post about data curation and many, many other lib school topics that might be helpful.

      The money problem is a big one. There is virtually no funding available for MLIS degrees and the field tends not to pay that well even if you do find a job (although if you do have solid tech/qualitative skills you may be better off than most). The best advice here is just to limit cost from the outset as much as possible. Can you do in-state tuition? Can you do an online program so you can continue to work and take classes part time?

    2. LabTech*

      Not a librarian, but one of my classmates in a similar position (Chemistry BS in a library positions) pursued restoration-type work.

  47. vpc*

    I’ve been waiting for this thread to go live this week! Readers, I have a question with some long-winded context. I’ve already made my decision, but what would YOU do?
    I received a job offer this week, a position in another department within our mid-size (about 15K employees, 12K US-based and 3K international) company. My current position was able to match the offer. Should I stay or should I go?
    Job A (my current position, where I have been for six years)
    • Has a body of work that I know well; I am respected as a leader among my peers, and my managers think highly of me. To put it into Chocolate Teapots: I make the best-ever milk chocolate teapots, all the people I work with tell me so and ask for advice on how to make theirs better, and I’ve been able to play with dark chocolate and white chocolate for the last year too.
    • Is a client-facing position, advising others on how to improve what they do in our technical areas
    • Includes opportunities to grow new skills on the operational/implementation side, which will be an asset in future career steps. Now we’re talking about mint-swirl teapots with strawberry dippers. Not a hypothetical opportunity – we already have a plan in place to do this, starting this month, gradually increasing my involvement over the next 6-12 months.
    • Is contained within a department that is new-ish and may not survive the anticipated change of leadership in the next year (although the work will certainly survive, just in a different place on the org chart).
    • Current Boss A is widely acknowledged by current supervisees, me included, to be a fantastic leader and manager with a real focus on building her employees’ skills and training them with an eye to their long-term career growth and potential. Current bosses B, C, and D are cut from the same mold. Yes, I am matrix-managed, and that works for me.
    Job B (the new position)
    • Has a body of work that is substantially related to the kind of work I do now. There will be a significant learning curve on the 30% of the job that is a growth area for me, and the hiring manager and I discussed this during the second interview – he has no reservations about my ability to learn it, his only concern is that I will be frustrated by the six months or so it takes before I can be a fully-functioning team member with my own project load. (I know it’ll be fine; that’s part of taking a new position.) This is chocolate tea services, not teapots, and I’ve got to learn about sugar bowls and cream pitchers.
    • Is an internally-facing position, working across the company to improve what other departments do in our technical areas
    • Includes the opportunity to grow new skills on the strategy / budgeting side, which will be an asset in future career steps. This is chocolate coffeepots!
    • Is contained within a unit operating out of the C-suite, which may acquire a new name in the coming leadership change but is unlikely to move positions on the org chart
    • New Boss A is widely acknowledged by mutual acquaintances / other people he has supervised in the past to be a fantastic leader and manager and intends to remain in the position for several years; I personally know that his former manager (from whom he learned “how to boss”) has a company-wide and industry-wide reputation for both technical and soft skills (I have worked with him previously on cross-department projects and know him to be an amazing mentor). New boss B and C (yes, also matrix-managed) are unknown to me. I have heard good reports from other people who have worked with them, but I don’t know anyone they’ve previously supervised.
    In both positions, promotion potential and current salary/benefits are exactly the same. I will be looking to move on from either one in 18-24 months at the most, into a first-line supervisory position in a new department (new boss knew this before making the offer, and of course current boss knows). Mentoring / management style / leadership will be perfectly suited to me in either position. I’ve probably got 30 years of career ahead of me, and I’d love for 15-20 of them to be with this company.
    So… Teapots in milk, dark, white, mint-swirl, and with strawberry fondue?
    Or tea services and coffeepots?

    1. Leatherwings*

      Wow. First of all, great use of the chocolate teapot metaphor here.

      Second, it sounds like you have two really great choices here. I’m not sure you can make a wrong choice, which is awesome. I think I might personally choose the new job, because you’ve been where you are for so long and because there’s a chance that it will look a lot different after the transition/reorg. Who knows if your awesome bosses will still be your bosses right? But you obviously have a better handle on how overwhelming the learning might be in Job B, which could tip the balance. If that’s something you can handle, I would go for it.

      Seriously, though no matter what you pick it sounds like you’ll excel. Good luck!

    2. orchidsandtea*

      That sounds incredible. Since both are interesting work with increasing new challenges, and both involve fantastic managers, I’d start looking at how they relate to your long-term goals. Which would help you more with the first-line supervisory position you want? Which would look better on a resume as the years go by?

      When the org chart shifts, if you stayed in your current job, is there any risk you’d end up with a lower title or some such thing that might be unpleasant for the next step in your future advancement?

    3. vpc*

      After some heavy reflection and speaking with several mentors, I went with Job B, for the reason orchidsandtea pulls out: which one will be better for the job I want ten years from now? eight years in my current position, or six years in my current position plus two years in the new position?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Two in two weeks, when it had never happened before in nine years. I don’t want to look a (revenue) gift horse in the mouth, but it turns out that’s exhausting. I will not mind when things settle back down.

      1. CMT*

        Hearing about all the comment moderating you had to do (which sounds not fun at all) made me wonder if you ever truly get to take a vacation? Do you ever hire out the comment moderating so you can take a few days off?

    2. Mander*

      The graduation one actually got posted on a page I follow on Facebook today (nobody I know IRL reads this blog). It was interesting how the story changed slightly and the comments were almost entirely about how it had to be fake.

  48. Forrest*

    I have an interview with a women’s health org which is important to me on many levels. I suffer from PCOS, which this org works towards and I was wondering if I could bring that up in the interview?

    1. Anna*

      I think you can if it’s appropriate. Like if they ask why you’re interested in working for them, etc. I don’t think you can mention it otherwise.

      1. JaneB*

        Especially if you can broaden it out/ link it to the role – “…therefore I’ll be able to empathise with my clients/be a role model/already understand the range of treatment options and found your website the most fair and balanced when researching by, which encouraged me to apply to you/ struggled when first diagnosed and would have benefritter from your new outreach programme, so want to help others avoid the same problems etc

        So it’s about you – but also very clearly about what you can do for them, why it makes you better suited to the role

    2. Women's Health Org Worker*

      As my name suggests I work for a women’s health org and think this is such a good questions. Depending on the work they do it would come off as a little too personal. I would find it a little too personal but I imagine there are others who would disagree. If they only deal with PCOS then it might not come off that way. It might also differ depending on what type of position you’re applying for. I work in development so when I hire it’s different than when the programs department is hiring.

      I think when it comes to nonprofits, there are personal experiences that are more shareable than others when it comes to why you support the mission. I might go the route of saying why you support their mission as a whole vs. bring up your own personal situation.

    3. Audiophile*

      I interviewed with a nonprofit org last year, that serves students with disabilities. I mentioned in my interview that I had been in special education classes for certain subjects. It came up as a natural part of the conversation and it seemed to win over my interviewer. Although I didn’t get the job, they remembered me when they were looking to fill the position again and I happened to apply on my own.

      Long story short: I don’t think it will hurt you to mention it. Just don’t let it overwhelm the conversation. Mention and keep the conversation moving forward.

  49. KS*

    I currently work in a permanent full-time job with the government (Canada). I’ve been offered a temporary full-time position with an organization that I would love to work at. However, the position they’ve offered me is a one year contract with the possibility of extending for about six more months, and then an additional possibility of it becoming permanent in the future. The overall compensation package of the contract job is a few thousand dollars less than my current compensation (salary, benefits, pension, vacation time, etc.), but has the potential to get much better if I switch over from contract to permanent.

    My current position is fine – not great, and not terrible. I’ve had my eye on other positions for quite some time now. I’ve been in the position for almost exactly two years.

    The thing is, I just bought my first home and my partner works as a researcher where his job is dependent on grant funding and while it is fairly secure in the short term (1-2 years), there is no certainty about the long-term future of his position.

    Given that, would I be crazy to give up my permanent, full-time job for something uncertain?

    1. ASJ*

      Given that I was unemployed for 8 months and only just found a job within the last year, I would not take the risk – but then I’m not much of a risk-taker, and a stable job is extremely important to me. I think you should sit down and realistically calculate what the odds are that you’ll be left surviving on only one salary. What if your partner’s job ends? Can you survive on your new, lower salary? What if your (new) job doesn’t get extended, can you survive on your partner’s salary? Do you have enough money set aside for the (admittedly slim, but you never know) possibility that you both ended up without jobs?

    2. AF*

      I was actually thinking that you should go for it! Dazzle them with your amazingness, and then hopefully it leads to even bigger things. I get the desire for security, but I think you might regret it if you don’t at least try to apply. Good luck with whichever path you choose!

    3. Sandy*

      If you are full-time with the Feds, you may not have to decide!

      Talk to your department’s HR folks, and inquire about the possibility of an “interchange agreement”. If the type of work is remotely similar and the organization agrees, your HR department can put together an interchange agreement. Interchange agreements are like secondments but for NGOs, the province, NATO, a university, etc.

      Basically it means that your federal department loans you out to that organization for at least year, normally up to three years (renewable every year). Your position with the Feds is held until you come back. If you choose not to come back, then it is released, and the organization can choose to keep you.

    4. Cookie*

      Sounds pretty risky to me, especially since your partner’s work is grant-dependent and may dry up in the same time that your temp job ends (and you just bought a home!). Also, job searching in general is exhausting and stressful and I’d avoid it to whatever extent possible. That’s not to say that you should stay in a job that’s just “fine,” but maybe you could search for another permanent full-time job.

  50. Dynamic Beige*

    Based on all the buzz about the Intern’s Post, and my own non-intern experience, I was wondering if there was a manual for getting the most out of your internship? Maybe all that would be needed is people to post what they wish they had done here, or what they did do that turned out to be great?

    Whether it was about solely for the Intern or the People Who Would Have To Put Up With Them, a roundup of tips might not be a bad idea?

    1. alice*

      I think the schools are not preparing them well. When I did internships, I got no guidance whatsoever from my professors or career center. That said, there is such an abundance of info on the internet that I do have a hard time sympathizing with the interns who “just don’t know any better.”

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I think this can depend on the school. My college did a wonderful job in this area – one of the few areas I think they excelled at actually! My advisors and professors worked with students to find internship opportunities that fit their interests/needs, career center helped with resumes (which were okay – Alison’s are better!), and set it up so you received a lot of feedback during your internship.

        I actually had three professional internships during college, because after the first one I realized I didn’t want to do what I thought wanted to do (it took two more to figure that out, haha).

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Yeah, the university I attended did a really good job at prepping us for co-ops. They made us take a 10 week co-op readiness course where we did mock interviews, drafted resumes and cover letters, discussed dress codes, etc. By the time we were done, we had a pretty good idea about professional norms in white collar workplaces.

      2. Sophia in the DMV*

        But I’m not sure how professors can prepare them – isn’t the point of an internship to learn in a business setting? The viral post was an extreme case, and most likely not the norm. Professors are not the experts at preparing interns for non academic professional norms

    2. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Biggest advice is that interns need to understand that they are going to learn more about business/industry norms, practices, and culture. If there is ever a time to not rock the boat it is during an internship.

  51. Persephone Mulberry*

    Strategies for quitting smoking at work?

    My husband works in retail, in mall, and there are a few other smokers on staff, so there’s a pretty established “smoke break” culture in his store. Going outside with them but not smoking seems like an exercise in futility (my sister who successfully quit confirmed this), so he really needs something to take the place of the smoke break. Any ideas?

    1. KR*

      Could he take a walk around the parking lot? Also, could he try non-tobacco vapes? My boyfriend is in the military and there is a strong smoking culture there. He’s successfully quit by vaping – he can still hang out with his friends in the smoke pit and take breaks with them but skips the cigarettes.

      1. The lazy b (with spaces today for no particular reason)*

        I was going to suggest vaping too, apparently it’s helping loads of people quit without actually intending to. Which is weird.

    2. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

      A friend of mine cut a straw into a piece the size of a cigarette and would blow throw it when she felt the urge. She had to have something in her hand and it helped having the tactile straw.

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      Is there a destination within the mall he could walk to in lieu of a smoke break? Coffee or a smoothie? A fountain where he can throw in a coin and wish for the cigarette craving to disappear? Anything that would be a new routine might help. Best of luck to him – this is a brutal habit to break. I see teachers struggle with this all the time and most of them go to the vending machine instead (they have to leave school property to smoke and it’s virtually impossible to do during the day.)

    4. matcha123*

      I knew a women who quit smoking by using a plastic cigarette. She said that the act of bringing it to her lips and “puffing” gave her a lot of comfort. She’d walk around with the “cigarette”, too.

    5. Emilia Bedelia*

      Can he enlist fellow non smokers to take a walk, get a drink, whatever with him? That way it’s still a social time, with the added bonus of having accountability from others to not smoke.

  52. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

    So I have a person from another department, mainly teapot quality audits who has this reputation of throwing things on other departments at the last minute that she has advance warning about, sometimes of up to a month. Whats the best way to communicate to her that this is kind of rude and stressful on the receiver, not to mention she’s not getting the best we can give her if we get warning about it in advance.

    1. AF*

      Is it possible to push back, and tell her as soon as she gives you something last minute, that you can’t guarantee you can get it to her by her deadline? I don’t know how that impacts your overall work, but telling her that if she gets things to you earlier, the quality of the product you create will be better. And then explaining the repercussions (lower quality work) if she doesn’t tell you about it sooner. But this is totally aggravating. Good luck!

      1. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

        She always quotes things at me like ‘ But the city dept of teapot quality needs this today!’ with the implication that i will be blamed for not meeting her deadline. What i want to do is communicate to her that we need to know as soon as she knows that the teapot quality trending data needs compiling by X, and the data will be likely available by X-1, so i can reserve the time and not be blindsided by these demanding last minute requests. Last one took 6 hours of my day! Not sure if the best approach is ‘can we talk about your workflow when you get teapot quality trending requests?’ or simply ask to be included in the workflow as soon as she gets wind of it.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          My BF had this issue with some of his leadership for a while, but luckily they have a weekly feedback tool, as well as opportunities to review management. So he tactfully said something on both those mediums and it stopped. If you don’t have anytbing like hat I’d 1. Look at her dead on and do that blinking thing next time and ask whe she knew about this (politely) and 2. Try and enlist your own manager to say something.

          1. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

            I thought about bringing it up with my manager, but I don’t want to sound like i’m whining about her. I really don’t mind doing the work she needs, i just want some warning its coming.

            1. TootsNYC*

              That’s not whining. That’s feedback. That’s asking your boss to suggest how to approach this problem.

        2. non-profit manager*

          Sometimes you have to let people suffer the consequences before they learn. Everyone keeps accommodating her, so she no incentive to change. Next time she does this and throws out, “so and so needs it …”, you can respond something along the lines of, “well, you should have gotten this to us earlier.” Let HER take the blame. Just make sure you really are loaded with work before you try this.

    2. AF*

      So not telling her it’s rude, but that this is the consequence of her actions. And possibly explaining your own workload, and that you have other priorities besides her work.

      1. East of Nowhere south of Lost*

        She’s basically clueless that other’s workloads and workflows exist, from what I’ve seen. At least one other department has noticed this behavior from her, so mine is not the only one she picks on.

  53. Anonymous for thissss*

    I have a question for all the hiring managers/people who hire.
    I was arrested 4 years ago when I was 18 for possession of a controlled substance (marijuana). I was fortunate enough to just have to take a diversion class (a month long class with a police officer and other people my age about avoiding substance abuse) and have good behavior for 6 months. My state has medicinal marijuana and is slowly moving towards decriminalization, so this kind of thing is common for first time offenders. I don’t have a criminal record (I pulled it about a year ago to make sure I would pass a check for housing) but the police log from when I was arrested shows up on the first page when you google my name (along with my age at the time and where I lived then). Would this deter any of you from hiring me? It doesn’t mention the outcome of the arrest, only that it happened.

    1. Elle*

      It would not deter me, especially if you have shown a good work history in the meantime, and got great references. I strongly believe in second chances. Plus, if your record is clear, and the only thing I found was Google reference to an arrest, it would matter even less. I can only speak for myself though, I’ll be interested to read some of the other responses.

    2. Leatherwings*

      An arrest for marijuana wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me, particularly in a more liberal state where it’s legal in certain circumstances.

      That being said, there are things you can do to make that disappear into the second or third page of google searches by heightening your online presence and having other, newer things show up on the first page. I would look into these things, since this is something you have a teensy bit of control over. Good luck!

    3. Graciosa*

      Well, I have two answers for you.

      First, it would not deter my company from hiring you. We do run formal background checks, but Google is not part of that. Honestly, we have a standard process and it looks like it wouldn’t trigger anything for you. I wouldn’t worry about it.

      The caveat is that we are federal contractors and do drug test. So it will look like you have a clean record and can get hired, but if your marijuana use shows up in a drug test (either at hiring or later) you would lose the job. As long as you don’t plan to continue using in the future, you should be fine.

      The second answer is that if you asked me about it as myself (and not my company, which has policies) whether I hired you or not would depend very much on how you presented the information. If the gist is early mistake – experimenting – foolish youth but grew up – benefited from diversion – never, ever again – then I don’t care. People do stupid stuff and it shouldn’t be held against them forever.

      If the gist of your answer is a rant about how it ought to be legal and it’s not a big deal and you can’t wait for it to be legalized so you can use regularly / openly, then I’m not going to hire you. I realize other people have different views about marijuana use, but I don’t want anyone working under the influence and marijuana stays in your system longer than many people realize.

      If other people are fine hiring users, that’s up to them and I’m not trying to stop them, but this is the choice I would make for my business if I was the sole decision maker.

      I’m trying to answer the question without starting a war about marijuana, so maybe it would be best to consider it a cultural issue for hiring purposes.

      1. Anon with a Google result*

        So you would ask about it if you happened to google my name before interviewing me? That’s useful. I don’t plan on applying somewhere that does drug test because I think it’s an invasion of privacy and I currently use mainly for anxiety (which isn’t covered under my state’s medicinal program) but it’s helpful to know your angle from the perspective of someone who is Not Okay with marijuana usage.

        1. Graciosa*

          Absolutely I would ask you – otherwise, I would be making decisions based on assumptions without ever mentioning it to you, the most obvious source in addition to being most affected.

          As a manager, I really try to be very straightforward and direct – much easier on everyone in the long run. ;-)

    4. CR*

      You should look into the possibility of sealing your arrest record. Generally you are able to seal your criminal record for crimes like this.

      From personal experience, I was arrested 6 years ago for selling a harder drug. Received a deferred judgment depending on completion of probation. After I completed probation, I was able to seal the case and arrest record so that nothing shows up on a standard employment background check.

      I’m not sure what the laws in your state are but there are definitely options out there to help people who made mistakes when they are younger.

      1. Anonymous for thissss*

        Thanks! I’ll look into this. I can pay a $100 fee and they’ll take the arrest off my record, but since the police logs were posted through a newspaper, I’m not sure if they will remove it from their website.

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      This would probably prevent you from being hired as a teacher if we knew about it. I can’t imagine it would be a big deal in other fields. Good luck!

    6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      To be honest, I’d think being arrested for having marijuana at 18 would not even surprise me much, let alone be a deterrent. I’d just be like “Yeah, you and half the country.”

      1. Anonymous for thissss*

        Half my friends have arrest records for weed – maybe that speaks to who my friends are but more so I think it speaks to the current policies for nonviolent drug offenses both in my state and in the US. Thanks – your input is really helpful.

    7. CAA*

      My employees need to be able to get U.S. government security clearances, and all our offer letters state that clearly. I wouldn’t hire you if I thought there was too high a risk that your clearance wouldn’t go through; and you wouldn’t want that anyway because we’d have to fire you if you started work and then couldn’t get a clearance.

      1. zora.dee*

        But would an arrest with no conviction prevent a security clearance? I don’t officially know the answer, but that doesn’t sound right to me. From what I understand, it shouldn’t. Maybe super high level top secret, but not a standard clearance.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          It depends on a few factors: how long ago was it before you applied for the clearance? Typically, in a case like this you would want at least two years between the charge and your application. Secondly, did you mention it in every section of the application where it was relevant? In most cases like this where someone is denied a clearance, it’s less about what you did and more that the person lied about it. Dishonesty gets you in trouble every single time. Plus, most agencies that require background checks/clearances have a line where you can ask anonymously about your circumstances.

    8. Lemon Zinger*

      I completely support legalization, but you would not be hireable for my workplace (a state university). It’s awful, but that’s how things go.

      1. Anonymous for thissss*

        I was considering applying for an admin job at a local private school, so I was afraid of this. I’ll apply anyway in case it’s not a significant barrier at this school. It’s a reach position so I wasn’t too attached to it anyway. Thanks!

    9. Cube Farmer*

      Because arrests can be biased due to race, religion, and many other factors, I would never look at an arrest as an indication of someone’s guilt. Add to that your age at the time and the 4 years since, and I wouldn’t even give it a passing glance.