open thread – August 12-13, 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 :)

{ 1,398 comments… read them below }

  1. Mariah*

    I’ve been thinking about the recent comment in an open thread that discussed an HR associate who had distributed a list of employee names and salaries that provided strong evidence of gender-based discrimination in pay. While a lot of the conversation centered around whether she should have distributed this information given that her role requires careful handling of confidential materials, I have a question about what the appropriateness would be for someone to do a similar private analysis using company data that is actually freely available. Let me explain:

    I work for a consulting company in an associate-type role. Because we need to share staff rates when we submit quotes to clients, and nearly everyone in the company will work on some aspect of these quotes, everyone has access to a database of unloaded staff rates. While this isn’t EXACTLY employee salary information (doesn’t include benefits), it’s a pretty good way to tell whether someone’s salary is higher than another’s.

    Would I be violating any serious professional norms or laws if I took it upon myself to use this database of rates to analyze whether men are being paid more than women (white people are being paid more than minority staff, or anything else)? Let’s assume the following:
    – This type of HR data analysis is not at all part of my job description
    – I wouldn’t do the analysis on company time
    – I wouldn’t share the information with anyone except to bring it to the attention of my direct supervisor or HR
    – I would share aggregate descriptive statistics only (e.g., compare the average salaries of women and men with a certain job title)

    The thing I’m concerned about is a potential response that says “this is none of your business, HR handles this kind of thing and we’ll take care of it, how dare you overstep.” While I’m sensitive to the fact that I don’t have the whole picture (although from these data, I certainly have a lot of it), this logic requires me to believe that the company is always being above-board in considering pay inequity. From everything we KNOW about how companies typically function, I don’t think it’s reasonable for a company to expect the benefit of the doubt in this situation. Also, this kind of analysis could bring to light a serious issue that otherwise could go unnoticed.

    If you were me, what would you do? If you were my manager, and I came to you with this kind of an analysis, what would you do?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    1. Leatherwings*

      I think that doing this kind of thing might potentially be valuable for employees – if there are discrepancies in pay based on protected class even more so. However, you probably can’t realistically do it without blowback of some kind. I just can’t imagine an employer saying “wow, thanks for taking this data and using it in a way we didn’t pay to do in order to figure out if we’re doing something terribly wrong”

      You have to be aware of potential worst-case-scenarios going into it.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        I think that if you want to do this on your own time and your own dime because you are interested in it and have no intention of sharing whatever conclusions you arrive at… go ahead! The problem is that once you know it, you can’t un-know it. It will probably colour all your interactions with people at the company.

        Since you can’t present it to The Powers That Be because they didn’t ask you do to it, they will not be happy with being given all the things they are doing wrong (or that you took this kind of initiative, some bosses are like that). You can’t share it among your colleagues because no one likes finding out that Mary is paid more even though she does jack-squat and Jane is paid next to nothing even though she busts her hump.

        If you think that your compensation is out of alignment with others in your role, having this kind of information could be useful to you in a “Yolanda is paid the highest, but she has $TheseCertifications I don’t have, perhaps I should work towards those” kind of way. It could be a way for you to talk about your advancement within the company “What do I need to do in order to be on track for promotion?” (in terms of responsibilities, that is). Or to help you negotiate a higher raise or benefits — just not in a “but Xenia is paid more for the same job!” way.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          +1 on not being able to un-know. Truthfully, there’s no pleasant outcome to arise from any discrepancies you might find:

          1. You don’t tell anyone, and you stay there and are just resentful.
          2. You don’t tell anyone, but you quit because you’re resentful.
          3. You tell people who then become resentful and quit… or file a lawsuit against your employer.
          4. You tell your employer, who then retaliates against you, and then you have the option to file a lawsuit or just deal with the retaliation.

          1. Mike C.*

            5. The company performs a solid analysis of their own and either accounts for discrepancies or adjusts salaries accordingly.

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              I mean, that’s what you want the company to do, but realistically that’s not what’s going to happen, at least not without some kind of retaliation or blowback.

              1. Mike C.*

                It depends on the company, and it shouldn’t stop this analysis from happening in the first place.

                1. Mike C.*

                  And you can still take the data to the appropriate labor regulatory agencies or to an employment lawyer.

                2. Whats In A Name*

                  But she’s using confidential data for personal use without consent. That in itself stops the analysis.

                  I agree its a good idea – I just don’t see a good outcome here.

                  I mean, I have access to 3000 employees medical information but I can’t do an analysis on my own time without permission and expect no blowback, even if I kept the people anonymous.

          2. Mariah (OP)*

            6. Maybe I don’t find any discrepancies, and I feel better about my company now that I know they treat people equitably?

    2. Dawn*

      I would say that Staff Rates might not be the exact same thing as straight up Salary, so it probably isn’t a good idea to use them to find evidence of a wage gap in your company. You could use the info to see if men are commanding higher rates than women across the board, but again, not the same thing as proving malicious intent with a wage gap.

      1. Jadelyn*

        A wage gap doesn’t have to have malicious intent behind it to be real and harmful. In fact, I’d probably say that most don’t – a combination of cultural factors, subconscious biases, and gendered expectations (like women will take maternity leave at least once or twice, etc) create the environment in which wage gaps happen, rather than it being malicious and deliberate on some individual’s part.

        1. Mariah (OP)*

          Agreed – if I find a discrepancy, I don’t plan to assume it’s malicious. If I were in charge of HR and someone came to me with this information, I’d like to think I would thank the person for raising this, take the issue seriously, do what I could to investigate it, and move forward with some concrete solutions.

          Everything else I know about how my company handles things makes me feel optimistic about how they might handle this. But obviously I can’t know for sure how it would be received.

          Also, I’m not talking about billable rates, I’m talking about unloaded rates that correspond to salary.

    3. KathyGeiss*

      If I were you, I’d totally do it. But, I can’t say I’d do anything with the analysis once I had it done. I’d have to weigh the egregiousness of the difference (maybe there will be no difference at all) and the potential blowback. But I don’t think my curiousity would let me not do it at all even for my own personal knowledge.

      For example, I combed through our internally published org chart to understand how many men are in certain types of roles compared to women. It’s abysmal and I’ve used that info in a few convos with leaders about my opportunities. But, that wasn’t as deep of analysis as what you’re talking about.

      1. designbot*

        +1 for doing the analysis and deciding what to do with it from there. For instance, you may find there’s only a small gap, or only a gap in certain teams–if that’s the case, it might motivate you to use the data differently than if you discover a really egregious gap firm-wide. I think it’s actually premature to even think too much about what you’d do with the data before first knowing what the data says.

    4. nofelix*

      If it was me I’d do the research privately and use it to evaluate the need to campaign for HR to do their own investigation into discrimination amongst salaries. If people asked why I thought there was a problem, mention the research results only, i.e. “There seems to be some inequality in our charge out rates so it’s worth checking if this has come from inequality in actual compensation”.

      Don’t lead with “I did this lengthy investigation into whether you’re evil” because it’s beside the point and focuses attention on you rather than the question of inequality. Leave your employers free to think you’re just very perceptive and had a good hunch, not that you’re out to get them. Whether they paid for the time spent on research is probably going to be of lesser concern than your general loyalty.

    5. F.*

      If I understand correctly, you are using “rates” to mean billing rates that you quote to customers. I don’t know how your rates are set up, but ours are based in part on the employee’s education level and experience and do not necessarily correspond directly to salary levels. These are factors you do not have access to unless you are in HR.

      Using company resources (including wage data) for personal purposes (whether curiosity or to prove a point) is a very dicey proposition. Even if you keep the results to yourself, you need to be prepared to lose your job if it is discovered.

      1. Jennifer M.*

        OP says the database contains unloaded rates. I do a lot of budgeting of rates for technical services contracts and unloaded rates typically means base compensation. Loaded rates would include Fringe, OH, G&A, and Fee.

    6. OlympiasEpiriot*

      If you are going to do this, note that the unloaded rates also don’t include profit-sharing if such a thing exists at your company.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Yeah, and profit-sharing is not always evenly distributed. That’s a more hidden way of playing favorites or having uneven compensation.

    7. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Could you ask your employer if this is a project you can take on? Bring up some recent articles and explain the benefits of having this type of analysis done (proof of good hiring practices if the outcome is positive for the company and can use that as part of an ad campaign or marketing strategy to bring in better candidates and/or more clients or gives them the opportunity to fix any issues that do arise before a public flogging of the company’s reputation.

      1. Mariah (OP)*

        The thing I’m concerned about here is that they’ll say no, and that they’re handling it. The thing is, it’s very unlikely that I’ll know for sure what they’re actually doing to handle it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          “Well, since this info is available, it’s likely that someone will do it in the spare time anyway. Wouldn’t it be good to crunch the numbers and make sure we are in a good place?”

      2. designbot*

        But that’s just alerting them that they have a potential whistle-blower on their hands, before she even has anything to blow a whistle about! This just puts a big “troublemaker” sign on her back.

    8. Mike C.*

      It’s freely available data and you could be uncovering potentially illegal or unethical behavior, so go for it. Just make sure you’re doing a solid analysis and include your methodology with your results so that others can confirm your results and improve upon your analysis if needed.

      The kind of person who says “stay in your lane” or “none of your business” just wants to hide bad behavior.

      1. Slippy*

        Sure but if you do uncover something it is unlikely (not impossible, but unlikely) that management will be jumping for joy over it. Essentially you would be uncovering a problem that nobody was complaining about and will cost the company more money. If Mariah is going to go ahead with this she needs to tread very carefully because good deeds are not always rewarded.

        1. Mike C.*

          It will cost a whole lot more money if someone exposes the company or reports them to the feds for gender discrimination.

    9. Lucky*

      I would wonder if your staff rates actually correlate to salaries. Back in my law firm days, we (three associates, all women) learned that the other associate, a less-experienced man, was making significantly more than us, though his billing rate was the same as two of ours, with the third’s rate being slightly higher. He had come in as part of a group from a much larger firm, and kept his same big-law salary.

      We brought it to the managing partner’s attention and were told that it was none of our business. It was not an isolated event – there was rampant sexism throughout the firm. We all left within a year.

      1. Mariah (OP)*

        Since they’re unloaded (and not billable rates), I’m pretty sure they correspond closely to salaries. I know for a fact that mine does.

    10. Cáilín*

      If you are in the EU this would be a purposeful breach of data protection legislation which says that employee personal data which includes salary can only be processed “for cause” and that cause need to be reasonably predictable. So while it would reasonably predicteable it is shared in bids your data project would be unlikely to meet that burden. However my understanding is the US doesn’t have any such similar legislation.

      1. Mariah (OP)*

        Hmmm, that’s a good point. It may not be illegal, but it may be counter to our employee policy guide. I’ll definitely double check.

    11. RoseTyler*

      You should not do this kind of thing on your own time, or without talking to your supervisor first. If I were your boss I’d be very concerned you’d spent your own time (in an insecure data environment maybe, if you did it at home) poking into client’s data in an unapproved fashion.

      Separately, your clients’ HR departments do not want you to send them the report out of the blue, as once you have informed them of a potential disparity, likely in writing, it can potentially be legally discoverable should they later be involved in a lawsuit alleging pay disparity by gender.

      Your enthusiasm is awesome, but I’d channel it by going to your boss and saying “I’ve had this idea. Could we talk through whether it makes sense to turn it into a product we’d offer clients?”

      1. Mariah (OP)*

        It’s our own firm’s data. I would not be touching any data that belong to our clients.

        1. paul*

          are they going to be OK with you using their data at home? Or, alternatively, using a remote log in to a work station for personal use?

          They might, they might not be; mine would be OK with the remote log in but not me having data on my personal computer.

        2. Whats In A Name*

          The key phrase in your response here is: “It’s our own firm’s data”. I know you have access to the database, but that access is granted for business-related purposes, not personal research use. I think what you want to do is great – I am just not sure that going about it is wrong. You may find unethical/illegal behavior – but you might not either. And if you find it, would it be defensible if you “stole” the data (again, know you have access but not in a way intended for your use) and if you didn’t find anything but go found out, you’re likely out of a job. Just my 2 cents.

      2. Mike C.*

        I don’t really think this is the sort of issue that can be solved by asking permission first. That puts all of the risk on the OP without the potential evidence or element of surprise to counteract the advantage the employer already has.

    12. Chriama*

      Do you have something like an anonymous ethics hotline? If you’re really concerned about retaliation then I think you could try reporting the data there first. Of course, then you might not know if anyone does anything with that info. I think this is something you could reasonably bring up but be prepared for potential blowback. You would obviously have legal recourse at that time but it might not be the ideal.

    13. Jbean*

      From a research perspective, I would want to understand the company’s hiring and vetting policies; the types of contracts they work on; variations in duties, complexity of tasks, and expectations of clients across roles; differences in experience levels; and if government work, any agreed upon rates for work being performed. I would want to know all of this before I conducted an analysis of the unloaded rate data. What kind of analysis were you planning on doing? Details, please. Are you planning on sending this data to your email or downloading it onto a thumb drive then taking it home? How would you determine the race or ethnicity of an individual, if you’ll be looking beyond sex? Is it only through observation, with the implication being that observed racial or ethnic differences would lead to unloaded rate differences? I would want to see any unstated assumptions clearly articulated. I imagine you’ve already seen some discrepancies that led you to believe it may be systemic.

      But, in the end, if one of my reports came to me with this information that actually showed true discrepancies in pay, I would have to determine what control I had over changing it and if I had little to no control, I would have to determine what strategy I would need to employ to make things right. And that latter step would likely require spending a lot of capital and putting my own reputation on the line for potentially no gain. How much control would your boss have over these decisions?

    14. even more anonymous than usual*

      Oh, I actually just did something like this. I didn’t set out to do it, but I needed a bunch of numbers to run some budget calculations and some things really stood out just from that set of data points. I groused about it a little to one of my project managers (because she had just been talking about how much more valuable I am to her team than some of the other staff, who it turns out are men who have less experience but are paid more than me) and she said she would casually bring it up to someone in upper management.

      I totally agree with recognizing that you can’t un-know the information, though. The experience definitely fed into this general feeling of being under-valued that I’ve been having recently. I came out of the last review cycle feeling good about this big raise I was given — but now that I see more of the big picture, it feels kind of meaningless.

    15. stevenz*

      First of all, you’re going into with a strong bias: women/minorities/whoever are being paid less than men. Not a good start on credible research. More important, though, is that you seem to want to take on the position of equity cop. It’s not your business to do that and your company will not thank you for your efforts. If you’re just curious and want to crunch some numbers, have at it. However, even if you do it, are you privy to all relevant information? Is it possible that your numbers are not calculated according to industry standards or government regulations? There are *massive* demographic and economic databases on pay rates, and huge econometric models have been created to do comprehensive analyses. Do you have access to those? Everything you KNOW about how companies operate may be contradicted by the one or two things you DON’T know. And don’t forget about unintended consequences.

      I have a feeling, though, that the company knows a lot more about this than you do, and whatever doubt you won’t give them the benefit of is of no interest to them. Do it if you want but unless this kind of work is your specialty, it will have no validity. And don’t show it to anyone in the company unless you want to wear a big sign on your back that says “kick me.” I sense that you’re just on a high horse, and you should climb down before you get thrown. Your energy would be better spent by joining a local activist group or serving on a board or commission.

  2. Anonymous Poster*

    I’ve accepted another offer and am starting a new job in a couple weeks! Thanks Alison, your help has been invaluable in my job search process!

  3. TotesMaGoats*

    So, I’ve got a question for the group. I found a great job opportunity that I’m in the middle of applying for. I actually know someone there and called to get more info. It was a great conversation and got great insight. She tells me there will actually be two positions opening. The one I can see now and then hers. It’s actually the same role just in two different colleges within the university. Some duties are slightly different but not major. They want to post both jobs together to widen the pool. If you can do one job then you can easily do the other. She advised me to apply for both. The two “schools” are very different in terms of academic programs but the roles are almost identical.

    Any advice on applying to two jobs at the same time at the same company when the jobs are essentially the same…and you’ve been told to apply to both…and someone on the hiring committee already knows you pretty well.

    1. Megs*

      It sounds like she’s been really helpful and encouraging – could you drop her an email and ask what the best way to apply would be? I would guess the main difference is whether to submit one application listing both jobs or two mostly identical applications, both of which seem a little awkward but possible.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        I do know it’s two separate applications and she directly said to submit an application for both positions. The one she’s leaving (getting a promotion to a different role) hasn’t been posted yet but should be soon. So, it’s not like I’ll submit application #1 at 11:30 and application #2 at 12pm. There will be a delay.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Is the posting just for one job, or are there two separate postings? If it’s just one posting, I think I’d include a line in my cover letter indicating that you’re applying at the recommendation of Friend, that you’re aware that there are two separate positions open, and that you’d be interested in being considered for both roles.

      If it’s two separate postings, just apply for both and adjust the line in your cover letter to simply say you’re applying at the recommendation of Friend. Are you sure the friend is on the hiring committee for both roles? It would be odd for someone from one school to be on the hiring committee for another school within the university.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        My friend is only on the hiring committee for the role that she is leaving. Although, given the roles and the school it would not be unusual for her to be on the other committee either. She’s been in the role for a while and knows it well.

        1. Not a Real Giraffe*

          Okay, then given that it’s two separate applications, I’d stick to the “Friend referred me to this opening” line, then tailor your cover letter to each specific role/school. And then of course let your friend know you applied so she can help fast-track your applications :)

    3. J.B.*

      If universities are pretty bureaucratic, I would think you need to go through the standard process. HR needs to screen you and then the hiring committee would review in more detail. Especially given what you’ve been told I wouldn’t see a downside for applying for both at the same time.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        I guess my question is more how to different should the two cover letters be when the roles are essentially the same and there are high odds that the hiring committees will see both of them?

        1. nofelix*

          Are you expecting them to see your name a second time and be surprised your cover letters are similar? That’s unlikely and they’ll probably be thankful they don’t have to read yet another letter. It’d be kind of suspicious if there were big differences because you are the same person with the same interests. A clear structure to the letter will help them see which bits are the same and which parts are tailored to the specifics of each role.

    4. Lemon Zinger*

      I work at a university. That is VERY common. Just make sure your cover letters are tailored to each position, and mention in each that you’ve applied to the other position.

      1. Lia*

        Agreed 100%. It’s not uncommon at my university for identical positions in various units to be open at the same time, and many people apply to multiple roles. Just follow Lemon Zinger’s advice, above.

        1. TotesMaGoats*

          Thanks all! I can’t mention in application #1 that I’ll also apply for position #2 because as a member of the general public I’m not supposed to know that position #2 will be available. I only know because my insider is a friend and shared it. But if the timing isn’t extreme, I’ll include it in position #2 cover letter.

          1. Yup*

            You can absolutely mention in application N˚2 that you’ve also applied for n˚1, and that your commitment to and interest in this type of role drives you to apply for n˚2 after having applied for n˚1. That said, if the search committees are different – which it sounds like they would be for two distinct university colleges – you may not need to address it at all. HR plays a very, very different role in academia and they would not be vetting applications in the same way as in the non-ac job market — meaning, it’s possible no one will notice.

      2. BeezLouise*

        I actually have slightly different advice. I work at a university and definitely agree that it’s super common to apply for multiple positions at once. I would agree to make sure your cover letters are tailored to each position but I wouldn’t mention that you’ve applied to both. I’m not sure that it would help, and it may seem like you’re not as interested in one or you’re applying to everything you see (and the committees are likely made up of different people — even if it’s possible your friend could conceivably be on both).

  4. Gaia*

    Thank you everyone for your advise last week regarding whether or not I was being reasonable in firing Felicia. Ultimately, after reading the posts here I made the case to our HR group and my manager and everyone agreed Felicia needed to go. The final “nail in the coffin” so to speak was an incredibly inappropriate email that she sent to our Vice President demanding a change to a process. She apologized almost immediately after but it was too late.

    I fired her yesterday. It sucked and was full of drama but today I can literally feel the weight off myself and my team. They are joking with eachother again, everyone is talking about how they’ll make changes to pick up the extra work and asking about referrals for the recruiting.

    This was the right choice. Thanks to everyone who encouraged me and helped me see I wasn’t being unreasonable. It was unreasonable to let her stay so long.

    1. Dawn*

      Yay! Firing someone ALWAYS SUCKS, and I think that it’s totally human to not want to fire someone even if they’re horrible and terrible and do bad work. I’m glad it all worked out in the end and that your team is breathing easier with Felicia gone.

      I would say that before you hire her replacement, take a step back and look at the processes you have in place for hiring. Are they robust enough that you feel confident you won’t get Felicia 2.0? How did Felicia get to the level of dysfunction that she got to before she was fired? Do you need to have a 90 day probation period on new hires going forward? Learn from this experience!

      1. Gaia*

        Hi Dawn,

        We have a very robust hiring process. Felicia was my first hire in this role and there had never been anyone at this site in this role before. In addition I was brand new to the company so there were a lot of gaps. And, if I am being honest, there were concerns from more tenured folks even back then. But I saw the potential and didn’t understand enough about the company culture yet to realize just how bad this hire would be.

        I’ve been here several years now and have hired a few other folks. I have a really clear idea of what will work and what won’t (and I am better about listening to advise from others when they have worries!). I am confident that we’ll get someone great in – because I’d rather have no one than another Felicia.

        1. higheredrefugee*

          Congrats on realizing that you’d rather have no one rather than a Felicia. I have met far too many managers who never understand that concept and its impact on team dynamics.

      2. Gaia*

        Oh and as for how she got there? Again, that was on me. I kept giving her more chances because I saw the potential (and she HAS potential she just gets in her own way)…and I didn’t want to admit I’d made a bad hiring decision. Trust me, I’ve learned.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      Isn’t it amazing how one person can make or break a team? Congratulations on making that decision and following through with it! Bye, Felicia!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Good for you for doing the right thing. I am so glad that you can see the difference in your team so quickly. It’s nice to have the positive reinforcement from the group.

  5. Letter Writer*

    I’m the letter writer from earlier in the week with the boss who made the drug addict joke in a reference call. As luck would have it, the very next morning after my letter was posted, I was offered the job! They’re paying me even more than I asked for, so I’m very excited. I informed my boss via phone (he’s on vacation and not checking email), and he’s both salty and happy for me… so he says. We’ll see what happens when he’s actually back in the office.

    Thank you all for your comments on the letter! They were entertaining and comforting.

    1. AdAgencyChick*


      I hope your new boss’s first words to you on your first day include some version of “Um, your old boss is kind of a loon.”

      1. RVA Cat*

        No kidding! I’m sure it immediately cleared up any doubts they had about why you were leaving – to get away from Salty McSaltypants.

      2. designbot*

        I hope it’s, “And I’m sure you won’t mind, but did we mention that we drugtest all our employees?”
        Just to show they are in on the joke.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      HOORAY! Congratulations! So glad that jerk didn’t ruin your chances. Now you can head for greener pastures. :)

    3. Artemesia*

      Maybe the fact that your boss said he would counter offer meant that they offered more than you were asking initially or if they didn’t know your expectation that they went high knowing you were valued where you were.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Great point. Salty boss might have accidentally helped your cause, OP.

        Congrats from me, too!

    4. vanBOOM*

      Congratulations! I feel for you. Your boss’s personality reminds me of someone who I will soon be relying on for a reference in terms of making things all about himself. I wish you well in your new company!

  6. Searching for zen*

    Need advice: how do you keep calm and respond professionally in situations that leave you feeling frustrated? For example, when there’s a miscommunication from a manager, but they insist they’re in the right and you’re not really in a place to give any pushback? Like being told I’m doing something the wrong way when the right way was never specified. These are things I know aren’t worth arguing over, but still I get the urge to defend my position.

    I’ve been reading a lot of stuff on how to be zen, and how to swallow pride and keep smiling even when facing someone you despise. Growing up I’ve never been good at hiding it when I dislike someone, but professional settings are not like schoolyards and I really don’t want a spur-of-the-moment outburst to negatively impact long-term prospects.

    Basically: I need to learn how to fake respect.

    1. Dawn*

      Internally screaming to myself “NEUTRAL FACE! NEUTRAL FACE!” and then scurrying off somewhere private to get salty for about five minutes to get it out of my system is how I deal with it in the moment.

      You’ll get better at neutral face in the long term, and you’ll get better at navigating situations when someone is totally in the wrong. It just takes practice being zen in the moment for it to become a habit!

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Oh man, I have this problem too. I’ve gotten better at holding back sharp words, but probably not so much with telegraphing my emotions on my face.

      The only thing that seems to work for me is thinking of difficult people as characters in a dinner theater. But I don’t always remember to do it!

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve been thinking a lot about this exact thing! I was remembering how these situations would drive me crazy, but now that I’ve been working for so long, I can look back and realize that I just needed to swallow my pride and accept the situation. It’s part of office politics. Sometimes you have to let someone win so you can stay on their good side because things will eventually change.
      Looking back, my “big grievances” were actually small when I think of my big career picture. Being nice will almost always get you moving forward.

      1. designbot*

        The most helpful thing for me was an office presentation that helped me redefine what “winning” looked like. The presenter mentioned that for them when it comes to client interactions, winning =/= being right, winning = preserving the relationship. If you can find a way to spin things to change your goal, you can still win.

    4. MsMaryMary*

      Fast walking around the office helps me burn off steam. I can take some deep breaths and work off some energy before having to be rational and calm.

    5. Hellanon*

      A better way to handle things might be to turn it around a bit by saying, “Oh, hey, thanks for the clarification – are any other processes I’ll need to check with you on before starting? I’d hate to see this happen again.” That way you are putting some of the responsibility back where it belongs *and* giving them a chance to manage their processes more actively – giving them the chance to be the boss in a positive way.

      And, thinking about this situation as having to learn to fake respect, not as having to learn to hack your department’s processes can really backfire on you -setting up an adversarial relationship where you don’t really need one can suck up a lot of emotional energy that might be better directed toward something else in your life.

      1. Searching for zen*

        Maybe ‘faking respect’ was the wrong way to put it, but basically it’s more about what I show on the surfaces as opposed to how I’d go about handling it afterwards. Once the process is clarified I don’t have any problems following it (and even if I prefer my own methods I understand I need to follow their protocols etc). The only part that I have trouble with is controlling my anger/annoyance when facing the person in the heat of the moment. I don’t yell or raise my voice or anything over the top, but I become a lot of curt in my responses and probably scowl quite a bit, so yeah…need to practice my poker face (which ironically, is quite good when actually being used in poker lol).

        1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

          Haha. I will tell you that my coworkers tell me that my neutral face gives me away when I’m not happy–I go from being animated to neutral very quickly.

          Luckily, they also tell me it’s only obvious when people know me. I don’t usually have to use it on people that know me very well, so I consider it a win. :)

    6. MoinMoin*

      Grrr I had a big long response but the page froze up and I lost it. Bottom line, I’m also hugely prideful to my own detriment and I’m really trying to work on it so I empathize with you. One thing that’s helped me is tabling the discussion or moving the venue when I can. If it’s a long back and forth email getting nowhere, pick up the phone and see if it can be hashed out more easily. If it’s a testy conversation, leave it pleasant but vague, gather your thoughts, and send off an email. (“Maybe there’s a piece to this we’re missing. Let me look into it and get back to you.” And later in the email, “Let me know if I’ve misunderstood, but I was under the impression you thought Y because of X, but some other guy told me X is not an option due to Z, which is why I suggested W. Here’s the information I got. Do you know another aspect I don’t? I really appreciate you taking the time to help get this figured out.”
      It’s a little easier when there’s a clear ranking between you and the other person and you’re not on top, at least for me I can then try to rationalize that even if they’re dumb, they’re going to get the last word, but they “win” less if I don’t exert much energy over the inevitable. I’ve done my due diligence by giving them information, that’s all I can do. Other times, I remind myself of the Get Bullish article about social class (linked) talking about shaking an enemy’s hand and looking them in the eye and I tell myself that the other person can be wrong all they want, I can be smug about being right and doubly so by not letting them get to me. These aren’t always charitable thoughts, but sometimes when I’m getting overly emotional and invested in something stupid like this, I have to cling to whatever raft will get me out of there.

    7. knitcrazybooknut*

      I start thinking of myself as a scientist observing atypical behavior in the wild. I have a white lab coat and a clipboard, and I’m recording the interesting behavior being demonstrated right in front of me by people who are under observation for a reason.

      “Hmmm, what an interesting response. I must record this and report it in my latest scientific journal article next year.”

      This gives me the necessary detachment from the moment that I need, and later, I can vent appropriately. You might also want to think about where this stems from. I know that when I find a raw spot where I’m reacting more intensely than the situation calls for, I know there’s something in my past that I need to think about and work through. (Sorry if this is an overstep.)

      1. Honeybee*

        Heh, this is how I deal with it, too! I am a behavioral scientist, so I just put my researcher hat on and I’m like “this is a very interesting example of negative human behavior. Wow.”

    8. Temperance*

      If it’s an honest incident of not understanding the rules, apologize and confirm that you’re doing it right next time. I would also ask for clarification if this keeps happening: “How would you like me to process these chocolate teapot orders?”

    9. Batshua*

      Acting confused or curious helps because it doesn’t come off as adversarial. It sounds like you might be able to pull off confused given that your manager is being confusing. Also, if the person is saying words but the semantic content isn’t actually important (ie they are ranting/rambling), just stand there and nod and think of something else?

      Then again, I am a very defensive and argumentative person, and I gotta work on pushing back with more … finesse and tact?

    10. Soupspoon McGee*

      I hear you–I have no poker face, and I tend to take things like this personally. Somehow, in the last few years, I’ve been able to make a mental shift, where I don’t feel as attached to one comment in one situation. I can be a neutral observer and feel less defensive. Part of this is just age and changing priorities. Part of it is a realization that one comment doesn’t mean my boss now perceives me as an idiot. Part of it is experience with working for a bad boss who DID perceive me poorly, so I learned that it didn’t matter what I did, good or bad–so I began to be almost amused at the inane things she’d criticize.

      Even when I am annoyed or frustrated, I just thank the person for giving me feedback and make sure I am doing what they want. If I have ideas to improve a process, and if my boss is receptive, I offer those. This works because my current supervisor told me she doesn’t care why I made a mistake, so no need to explain–just do it differently. It’s clearly not personal.

    11. Tomato Frog*

      When I was an arrogant jackass in middle school, I complained to my mother that I was smarter than all my teachers and that it was hard to act respectfully towards them. My mom told me, “You salute the uniform, not the person,” and I still rely on this thought. I found it helpful to couch my treatment of people I didn’t respect in terms of self-discipline and self-control, rather than it having anything to do with them. I can act respectful because that’s part of my job, and I’m good at my job.

      1. Marcy*

        I work in a technical area, so I’ve learned to translate my internal screaming to an expression of intense concentration–a mild frown while nodding–which people do not seem to take so personally. When disagreeing with someone’s recollection, I routinely say “Oh sorry, I thought last week you said X. Do you really mean Y?” It used to gall me to apologize for someone else’s mistake, but now I see it as just softening the blow. Frustrating interactions with my boss can be complicated, but when I feel myself getting frustrated, I try to step back to try to confirm next steps forward, without pushing back or considering how I feel about the step itself. I feel like knowing what the clear path forward is is calming in itself, and at least it is something I can influence vs. something I cannot. It would go something like this: “Okay, so you’d like me to draft a twenty page proposal on how to mount lasers on shark’s heads. Should I address the materials the mount is made of? Should I include a cost proposal? When would you like this? Monday? Ok, the proposal for snow cone carts in volcanoes is also due on Monday, how should I prioritize?”

        1. Isabel C.*

          I try thinking of myself as Natasha Romanov in the Avengers: sure, it’s disgruntling in the *moment* to have to swallow my pride and act like the evil demigod has gotten to me, but if I can play him by doing so, it’s all worth it, right? Just replace “evil demigod” with “asshat co-worker” and interpret “play him” as “get a salary while avoiding giant fights,” and I feel usefully badass about the whole thing. :)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        The uniform vs the person. When I started supervising people, I could see where some did not like me very well. And I could understand why, on a social level we would never hang out or even do a simple activity together. We were just very different people.
        I genuinely admired people who were able to put that to one side and still maintain a good boss – employee relationship. They understood that we did not have to be friends, we did have to be civil, be accurate and meet deadlines.

        This may or may not fit your boss, OP, but sometimes bosses see where a particular boss-subordinate relationship is not what one would hope for, but the work gets done anyway. Make it your goal to get the work done accurately and be on time. It is amazing how many problems fade when we do those two things. It takes time for this to work into something so give it time.

        This works into a tool that you can use the work is primary, what you think of the boss becomes secondary. Am picturing a Dr. Spock type approach to matters.

    12. RR*

      Re : “I’ve been reading a lot of stuff on how to be zen, and how to swallow pride and keep smiling even when facing someone you despise.” Why waste the emotional energy in despising this person? Easier said than done, but this might be a helpful way to re-frame the situation. It’s not about faking respect; it can be about respecting yourself and how you choose to present yourself professionally. Also, it’s generally better to assume good intent and that miscommunications can happen even with the best of intentions. If something wasn’t communicated before, it was more likely an oversight rather than a deliberate slight. Is everyone well-intentioned? Of course not, but starting from there is easier on one’s emotional well-being.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Amen. OP, think of it a building a life skill rather than dealing with any one person or situation. Think big picture rather than going instance by instance.

        I read something that really helped me. People who are able to keep a cool head do have some better quality of life. Oh, this was so motivational to me. My family wasn’t much on practicing how to keep a cool head. So I had to deliberately teach myself this stuff. I am not totally where I want to be but I am much, much better than years ago.

        Okay, so what is loss of temper? In part, loss of temper can be an admission that “I do not have the skill set to handle this situation.” One way to teach ourselves how to stay level headed is to reflect on the day’s events and pick one or two events. Look at each conversation and ask yourself, what did I do right and what would I like to do differently next time?” Build a better plan one instance at a time.

        So, doing an example of where you were not informed of something you needed to know. I suspect you will encounter this over and over so build a plan of what you will say when you encounter it. “Gee, Boss, I did not know I was supposed to include A in the XYZ report. I used an old XYZ report as an outline to build my report. Going forward, I will make sure that A is in my reports. I would also like to find out what else I should add to what I am already putting in to the report.”
        Break this apart:
        1)Briefly state what you have been doing.
        2)Important: Assure the boss that going forward you will do this additional step.
        3) You check to see everything else is okay with that particular task. If you need to find out how to get regular updates or replenish materials this is the time to ask about that also. In short you are saying, “Jeepers, is there anything else I should know here?!”, but you are saying in a calm and specific way.

    13. Diluted_TortoiseShell*


      I find that if smile slightly while inhaling and hold my breath then release slowly my stress plummets and I’m a lot less likely to interrupt.

    14. Rocky*

      Seconding “act confused/curious” and keep conversation focused on whatever the shared goal is, not who’s wrong or right. The last time this happened to me was with trying to get a proposal approved, and the reviewer said I had failed to include some required information. Ummm. It was all right there. Exactly what she was asking for. Right where she said she was looking for it. I said something like, “Huh, could you clarify where in the paperwork that’s supposed to go, because I thought it was supposed to go [where you told me to put it.]”

      1. K130*

        Not ever ever. Just at this awful job. I’m going back to school and doing a bit of freelance work this fall.

  7. Coffee Incognito*

    Need some advice on how to keep my impostor syndrome in check before I do something really stupid and lose my job.

    Long story short: I’m a consultant. Clients pay the company I work for a lot for our/my services, and my company pays me a respectable 6-figure salary, so it’s expected that I come to the job with a high level of knowledge. Trouble is, I’m not sure I really do. I’ve been in the industry for 5 years and with my current company for 2, but started a new project with a new project manager last month, and suddenly have a strong sense that I’m in way over my head/have no idea what I’m doing. I have a project plan (created by the PM before I started the project) that describes what I’m supposed to be working on when and how long I have to complete each step, but it only provides a general outline; it’s up to me to figure out where the client is now and how to get them to that end point. While I can do this, my work style and the route I take are invariably different from the PM’s, and I’m sure it takes me a bit longer to get there.

    I’ve never met the PM in person, and only hear from him by phone or email a few times a week. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, no. It seems like every one of these contacts is something along the lines of “we need to do this” or “we need to provide XYZ for the client” or “we need to talk about the rice sculpture cataloging task to make sure we’re on the same page.” None of these directives give me enough information to know how to proceed, and the few times I’ve asked, I get a response along the lines of, “Oh, we just need to connect the flugelheimer to the snuffleberg box. It’s easy.” The real details make about as much sense to me as these fake ones do, and I’ve started to feel nauseated and panicky every time I see the PM’s email address or phone number pop up on my screen.

    This project is slated to take about a year, and I don’t know if I can spend the next 12 months waiting for the other shoe to drop and worrying that I’ll be fired or demoted due to incompetence. On one hand, I’ve struggled with impostor syndrome before, and I usually figure things out and become more confident over time. On the other, this is my first time in a lead role, and it was clear when I started this project that I wasn’t as strong in some of the more technical areas as I am in the analytical and functional ones. Part of me wants to talk with the PM, and just tell him straight out that I don’t think we’re communicating clearly/often enough, I’m concerned that I don’t understand his expectations, and I want to avoid finding out after the fact that when he said “reconfigure the spout angle to maximize flow per second,” he had other parameters or conditions in mind that I might not have known about. But another part is terrified that he’ll take any such convo as an indication that I really don’t know what I’m doing, and I’m not fit to be in a lead role. (While the PM isn’t my direct supervisor, he’s pretty influential, and having him decide I’m not lead material would make it much less likely I’d be assigned to any other projects in the future.)


    1. Dawn*

      “tell him straight out that I don’t think we’re communicating clearly/often enough, I’m concerned that I don’t understand his expectations, and I want to avoid finding out after the fact that when he said “reconfigure the spout angle to maximize flow per second,” he had other parameters or conditions in mind that I might not have known about.”

      This is absolutely 100% OK to do, and what you should do. If your PM isn’t even on site and you only hear from him a couple of times a week then there’s no way you can read his mind about what he wants. First of all, I’d recommend having a good sit-down with him and tell him your concerns about communication. Bring a list of ways you propose to solve this issue with him- daily check-in emails, weekly 1:1 phone calls to talk about how the project is doing, etc.

      IT IS ALWAYS OK TO ASK FOR CLARIFICATION FROM SOMEONE. Always. And it makes you look like a stronger employee to go “hey, PM, I need your help here, I want to make sure that I understand all of your communication, let’s come together and figure out a way to ensure that happens throughout the life of this project.”

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        It is not always OK to ask for clarification. At some point you have to figure things out for yourself.

        Please note, I’m not saying that Coffee Incognito shouldn’t ask for clarification in this situation. But I’ve seen people ask for clarification when they’re really asking to get out of certain tasks. Like, “Please clarify my role in regards to XXXX.” I’ve also seen people ask for clarification when they’re just doing CYA stuff, which gets annoying and can sometimes be a bit insulting if you’re the leader. I’ve also seen people ask for clarification hoping to get a step-by-step flowchart for a task they supposedly know how to do. I don’t think any of these situation apply to Coffee Incognito’s particular case. But saying it’s always ok to ask for clarification is overstating things.

        1. Dawn*

          Yeah, I guess I just assume most of us around here know where that line is. I meant more “It is OK to ask for clarification if you feel like you have missed some communication somewhere, or if you are not clear on exactly what the PM wants.”


          1. Trout 'Waver*

            IT IS ALWAYS OK TO ASK FOR CLARIFICATION FROM SOMEONE. Always. If you know where the line is. In certain situations.

    2. Anna No Mouse*

      I would start by temporarily putting the PM’s project plan out of your mind, and creating one that you think more accurately reflects what you envision. How do you see from getting from point A to point B and how long will it take you to get there. Then compare it to the one from the PM, and ask to have a call specifically to get on the same page with the project overall. Let your PM know you’re feeling a little lost in the details and you want to make sure you can get this project completed on time and having met all deliverables.

      If you aren’t sure what your PM means by something, ask him. There’s no reason for you to feel confused when you have someone who knows the project. If you think there might be a better way to approach something, let him know that too. Any reasonable PM wants to work with their team to ensure the best outcome possible.

      Good luck!

    3. Christy*

      Oh my god push back against the PM. If the project fails, the PM fails. And the PM right now isn’t being a good PM. If you as the consultant are not able to do the work with the information the PM is giving you, then it’s the PM’s responsibility to connect you to the right resources.

      Pushing back is the best possible alternative. What is the other option? Waiting an hoping and dreading the next year?

    4. Elfie*

      Oh, I really feel for you!! I’m in a very similar situation, except not with a PM, with my line manager. Every time I ask for clarification of anything, I always get back something along the lines of “Well, it’s your job, you should know.” The trouble is, my line manager has never done my job, so I suspect that he doesn’t really know what he wants. It sucks.

      But with your situation, I genuinely believe that one of the main parts of a PM’s job is communication, and (almost always) if you don’t understand what you need to do, then it sounds like he’s not doing too great in that respect. How about, when you have these sessions with your PM, you play back to him what you’re going to be doing, in whatever level of detail you need, and you get his agreement that that’s the right thing to do? It probably feels rough to have to do this, especially if you think you OUGHT to know better (trust me, I get it!!!), but if his comms aren’t descriptive enough, fill in the detail yourself and get his agreement that that’s the way forward. At least you’ll feel more comfortable with yourself.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        How about, when you have these sessions with your PM, you play back to him what you’re going to be doing, in whatever level of detail you need, and you get his agreement that that’s the right thing to do?

        This is exactly what I do at work. I don’t really go and ask anyone in management what I should do about anything unless I’ve absolutely without a doubt hit a wall and truly can’t figure it out myself. I typically just come up with a plan of action, take it to management and say, “This is what I’m doing – do you agree?” If they don’t, we discuss it, but usually they’re like, “Sure – go for it.” I think they actually like the fact that I bring my own solutions to the table – it saves them time in the long run.

    5. Mabel*

      These are all great ideas! I just wanted to add that in my experience when something like this is going on, it could be that the other person is a bad communicator. I always used to think the problem was me until my manager would make a comment about how bad the other person is at communicating and how difficult it is to understand what his/her emails are about. In the future I’m going to step back for a minute and think about whether I need to do something differently (and ask my manager if I’m not sure) or if the problem might not be on my end.

      1. Mabel*

        Not that you can just ignore it, even if that’s the case. But it does help to lower one’s stress level and make it easier to deal with whatever the issue is (rather than worrying about being fired).

      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        I work in a similar type role to you but internally and my most recent boss was one of these types where it appeared easy TO HIM in HIS BRAIN but he couldn’t actually phrase/explain/outline the process to anyone else. Everything was locked up in his head and never written down anywhere. As a result I would usually have to pump him for information/find out later a key piece of information/question him repeatedly, which I could tell annoyed him and definitely frustrated me. I learned to ignore the annoyance because if that was the way to get the info, that was how it was going to have to go down. He also fancied himself a bit of a genius/has some narcissistic tendencies and quite possibly didn’t know the best way to lay out a project and is a terrible communicator anyway, in any situation (verbal, written, social, etc)

        Its best to clear the air at the beginning of a project – if you don’t then the feeling of unease will only increase and possibly end up with a poor result or a ton of frustration at the end on every side. Get everything out into the open and on paper so you can proceed.

    6. Jadelyn*

      Definitely talk to him! But I would frame it as “getting clarity around key issues” rather than “what the hell are you talking about??” It’s entirely reasonable and, I would argue, your due diligence as a part of this project to make sure that you have all the information you need, and if you don’t feel you’re getting that from the PM, make him aware of that. “Can we schedule a few minutes to go over XYZ – I’d like to make sure we’re on the same page before I move forward, so we don’t have to worry about doing things over again later if it turns out that we were focusing on different things.”

      You’re not asking anyone to do your job for you or hold your hand, just give you the information you need.

    7. Rocky*

      I think I’d start by trying to put together a list of information that I need to know but is missing, whether it’s “overall technical paramaters for project” or “specifications for connecting the fleeblesnifter to the schnerdlebump,” and then break it out into stuff I need to get from the PM, stuff I need to get from someone else, and stuff I need to figure out myself. When you request the information you need, avoid the temptation to say “Maybe I should know this, but…” or “Sorry to ask but…” and keep it to, “I’m missing some key information I need to continue my work on this. Can you please send me/discuss with me the following…”

    8. vpc*

      If the PM isn’t your direct supervisor, have you discussed these concerns with the person who is? Perhaps they have worked with him in the past and would have some suggestions for you.

    9. stevenz*

      You don’t necessarily have to ask for clarification to get clarification. Schedule progress reports or updates or something like that. It will allow a more wide-ranging conversation than a particular task that you need clarification for, and that will give you more to go on.

      And remember, you’ll know a whole lot more tomorrow than you know today.

  8. Lillian McGee*

    Today is a problematic colleague’s last day. It’s being called a layoff but I know it’s really a firing, just way way overdue. Embarrassingly overdue (and aint that a long story…)

    Anywho, the protocol here when someone leaves (willingly or otherwise) is to pass around a ‘thank you and good luck’ card and maybe possibly a treat and gathering in the conference room for a final farewell. Last week another layoff departed and had requested no gathering which was honored. However a card was circulated and I discovered it—left on their desk—on Monday when I went to clean it out for the next person. I wasn’t in the office last Friday so I don’t know what the prevailing attitude was. They didn’t leave an exit interview either so I don’t know what their feelings were and whether the leaving of the card was intentional or not.

    Any-anywho… today management has asked me to circulate a card and procure a treat for today’s departure. Personally I am glad to see them go and I am not alone. I know some others feel differently though so I am going to slap a happy face on it, as they say…

    But I’m not alone in thinking this is weird, am I? If I was being laid off (or fired) I would not want anything.

    1. Megs*

      Yeah, that does seem kind of weird. Did this current person get asked about whether they want to do the treat/card thing or not?

      1. Lillian McGee*

        No, the boss decided on his own. I might pop in and give the person a heads up under the guise of asking what kind of cookies they like…

        1. Sadsack*

          That would be kind of you. Even if they are not going to be missed, it would be awful to put them in an awkward situation.

    2. Purest Green*

      It seems very weird to me. The only times I’ve dealt with farewell gatherings were for resignations and retirements. And I would want a farewell if I were being fired or layed off.

    3. Augusta Sugarbean*

      It’s certainly possible to genuinely wish someone well while not wanting that person to be an co-worker. But to go further and act all “We’ll miss you!” with a gathering and food? Ick. That’s a Lumberg Birthday Party.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        Meant to add – so a card wouldn’t necessarily be weird since some people might have liked the person.

    4. the gold digger*

      I was laid off for real (not laid off as a disguise for firing) and my co-workers wanted to take me out to lunch. I didn’t want to go, but they wanted to do something. I went because I liked (and still like) them and didn’t want to be difficult.

      (I had been pissy about my office being decorated for my 40th birthday and realized that was not very nice – that people I really liked had wanted to do something nice for me and I had been cranky to them. I didn’t want to go down that path again.)

      1. AF*

        But you have EVERY RIGHT not to want those things, and they should respect that. Some people make others’ joy about them, and get indignant when you don’t share their enthusiasm. They need to get over it and you shouldn’t be stressed out by unsolicited gifts.

      2. Bob Barker*

        I did the same one time I was laid off. Colleagues wanted to take me out to lunch, I wasn’t really feeling it, but I went along because — I realized after — that it was an important part of the process for them, as survivors of the Great (and unheralded) Massacre, to express their anger and their sadness in a way that felt constructive. And it was good to feel, you know, that despite the company wanting no more of me, my coworkers still liked me fine (and gave me references for my next job).

        1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

          This. I was fired/contract not renewed last week after almost 8 months of drama/anger/resentment/stress (note: I was informed they were not converting me to full time in January after I had worked here almost a year but it was at the beginning of the contract renewal for six months which was renewed again in May when they realized they were in Deep S**t and needed someone with experience/capability/org knowledge/connections to finish a lot of high profile/high stress projects). I refused all requests for leaving drinks/lunch/gifts/cards for a long time – most of which where honored (except for the grandboss who decided not to convert the contract and gave very dubious reasons, but never to my face). For HIM it was important to give some big show – I dont know if it was to alleviate his guilt or what.

          In the end, however, I decided I didn’t want to be a crank and I realized that there were a lot of people who wanted he chance to say goodbye/express their anger and frustration that I was going, and I wanted to say goodbye to them too. I did lunch with one team I worked closely with and they got me a lovely small gift and I had a larger drinks with my own team/wider org. The gift the office gave was extremely generous and I was very touched.

          (Oh and the grandboss? I chose to not include him on the invite and my boss actually had to pull him into a room that day and tell him no, it wasn’t an oversight, no he wasn’t invited, and if he had the temerity to show up regardless he would be escorted off site and his behavior reported. What is with some people?)

          OP – definitely give the person a small heads up so they aren’t blindsided and maybe play down the appearance – “Oh, just a few treats to thank you for your service” or something like that so they know the extent of what is coming.

        2. Isabel C.*

          When my department got shut down, my boss and the HR team member who did it took us all out to lunch, and the boss was like “…you guys can totally have something stronger than Coke if you want.” I thought it was pretty nice: it was clearly a financial rather than a performance issue, we all got a chance to sympathize and discuss future plans, and it was a good gesture of sympathy on their part.

          That said, they were very careful to note that we didn’t have to, and we could just go home that day, and so forth, which I think is always a good idea in these situations, since everyone reacts differently.

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      Yeah, I think it’s weird. Recently my coworker quit to spend more time with her children and work on her graduate degree. She was a little sad to leave, and we were sad to see her go, so of course a card was circulated.

      Contrast that with this situation: another coworker is quitting next week to work another job. She has always been a bitter, unfriendly person. Because she’s my work partner, I’m sure it’s expected that I’ll circulate a card, but I’m not going to. She hates attention and won’t really be missed anyway.

    6. Temperance*

      I’m petty. I would get a nasty cake like carrot cake or somethign like bran muffins. Or would fantasize about it. ;)

      1. Isabel C.*


        So not at work, but in a tabletop roleplaying group, we used to have That One Person who made everything into a giant dramatic issue and threw tantrums all the time. They announced their departure and jokingly-but-not said we should get them a cake. One of my friends and I exchanged some snarky comments on the way home, but I wasn’t expecting him to do anything until I showed up at her last session and he’d brought a cake box.

        I thought it might say something like “Good Riddance,” and that would be more drama, but instead it was a very nice torte with, like, berries and kiwis on it. About halfway into my slice, I realized: wait. This cake has fruit on it. This is a cake with fruit. This is…a fruitcake.* J, you magnificent bastard.

        * I assume that an actual fruitcake would have been too obvious, and also inedible.

        1. CherryScary*

          Brilliant. I think every group has “That One Person”

          …. I think we just escaped from ours

      2. Jules the First*

        Hey! Some of us actually like carrot cake!

        You can keep the bran muffins, though. Bleuch…

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          As a lover of both carrot cake and bran muffins, I would be delighted if I got either when I left my job, and very touched that my co workers honored my preferences!

      3. Balance Beam*

        An old boss actually made me bran muffins for my birthday one year. She was mad that I didn’t make a big deal out of my birthday like she did (she would tell people weeks in advance that her birthday was coming up) and she forgot it until like a month later. She was known for bringing these delicious and elaboratingly decorated cakes for other people’s birthdays…and then she brings me bran muffins out of a box. I totally knew where I stood after that.

        So glad not to be in that job anymore!

    7. BRR*

      I was fired last year after a long PIP and I got a card on my last day. It felt insulting. Everybody figured out that I was being fired so they all played it safe and just signed their name. My manager wrote thanks for your contributions.

      I think it’s a situation where people go “should we do something? It feels like we should do something.” But the answer is don’t do anything.

      1. Soupspoon McGee*

        I chose not to renew my contract while on a lengthy PIP. The ladies in my office kept saying we should go to lunch or get drinks, and I was okay with that, but nothing ever materialized. It just made me roll my eyes as a reflection of that particular flakey culture.

    8. Rebecca in Dallas*

      In most situations, I don’t think that person would want a “thing” made out of it.

      My old job did a surprise cake for me and another colleage who were being laid off (we’d had a month’s notice). My colleague bowed out (I’m sure she got wind of it ahead of time) but I was honestly so happy to be leaving that place that I just thought of it as a celebration that I never had to come back! I also had gotten another job offer, so that probably helped my attitude a little bit.

    9. Lillian McGee*

      Surprising and speedy update. It went well. Boss had some nice things to say about colleague and colleague didn’t seem upset or uncomfortable. Maybe the parting was more mutual than I thought!

      And the good donut place hadn’t sold out before I got there!

  9. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    When it rains, it pours–I have not one but two different interviews on Monday! Both are good opportunities, but one’s a part-time (20-hour) position I’d be perfect for, and one’s a one-year mat leave cover position that I’d be a stretch for, but full-time. I’m extremely pleased that I got some new interview clothes the other day, but if we could only solve the Eternal Ladies’ Button-Down Problem, things would really be great!

    1. Sadie Doyle*

      It takes a bit of finagling, but back when I wore button downs fully-buttoned (instead of half-buttoned to show a shirt or totally unbuttoned), I used to use a small safety pin in the gap section to hold it closed (the finagling part is that you have to do it from the inside and maneuver it so that you don’t stick it through in a way that it’s visible on the outside). Practicing in a mirror helps.

      Good luck on your interviews!!

        1. Hermione*

          I have a button-down dress which easily fits slipped over my head, and the spaces between the buttons are crazy wide. I plan to eventually sew them shut, but until I do, I’ve been using safety pins and covering them along the inside of the dress with tape (mostly medical tape, bc it’s soft and sticky without residue) to keep them firmly in place and from sticking into me.

          1. anonintheuk*

            If you are in, or ever buy from, the UK, Marks and Spencer now have a fuller bust range which includes kind of internal buttons. Things can’t gape.

            1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

              I’ve bought some of these. They are great – the little hidden button really holds stuff together.

          2. CS*

            There is also fashion tape. It’s double sided and does not leave a residue. You just need to use a new piece of tape every time.

      1. Judy*

        I’ve gotten snaps from the fabric store and sewn them in between the buttons of most of my button down blouses. I did have to get my MIL to show me how to line them up properly. (Sew one half on, then snap them together, and chalk up the back. Button up and press together to mark where to sew the other one.)

    2. Minion*

      My sympathies on the button-down problem. Completely understand and it’s so annoying.

      Good luck with your interviews!

      1. Rowan*

        Yes, fashion tape is a miracle! You can get it at a lot of drugstores now, at least in the US. I found it much easier to apply than a safety pin.

      1. Batshua*

        Boob gapping.

        If one is a busty sort of person, button-downs rarely look flat and neat, especially around the wides part of the chest, regardless of whether or not they are the proper size. The cloth will gap between the buttons, showing off whatever is underneath, be it underwear or skin.

        Not only does this look unprofessional from a modesty standpoint, it looks sloppy, and there isn’t an easy built-in fix. One often tapes or pins the sections in question closed in order to make it work.

        1. LiteralGirl*

          When I took a sewing class in high school we made shirts. The teacher said to put the first button exactly where the gap would be, and measure the others from that. It was genius! I wish shirt makers would do that.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            Yeah, that’s how they should be made. The ones I own do have buttons in the right places.

        2. OlympiasEpiriot*

          I just buy properly made shirts that fit (I’m currently a 36C). Unfortunately, since there is a term for this, I gather that most aren’t and don’t.

          I guess that emergency double-sided fabric repair tape would be the way to go?

          1. Oryx*

            It’s not about what we aren’t doing or aren’t buying. Some button downs just don’t want to play nice and for some of us on the really busty side (I’m a DD), MOST button downs don’t want to play nice.

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              It is that clothing manufacturers are greedy and make stuff poorly and without regard for the variety in the human body. To make matters worse, precious few women’s clothing stores even offer alterations or customization. Most men’s stores do. Indeed, often (but not always) the men’s alterations are included in the price of the garment. Women’s never are.

              I see people wearing poorly fitting clothing lot. I usually notice shoes, though. I wish manufacturers still made a broad range of sizes. They don’t like to though.

    3. TheCupcakeCounter*

      As a former swimmer (i.e. broad shoulders) and being quite well-endowed I gave up button down’s long ago. I go with a formal looking shell that has a very modest scoop neck (absolutely no cleavage). Made life much easier.

      1. Goats*

        Yeah, me and my 32H’s gave up on the button down game loooong ago. All about knits over here.

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah I would have to get a men’s XXL in order to get something that would button across my chest. And then it would be huge everywhere else. I just wear shells and nice knit tops that can stretch over the girls.

    4. Sarah*

      I cannot recommend Pepperberry highly enough to solve the Eternal Ladies’ Button-Down Problem. I literally cannot wear any other type of button down. They are quite pricey, so I’m lucky that my office is casual enough that I only wore one for the interview, but still definitely worth it :)

      1. Formica Dinette*

        I like their tagline. :D

        Bummer for me they don’t make anything above US size 14, but at least now I have your recommendation to pass along to smaller folks. Thanks!

        1. Jasmine*

          But you might find you’re actually smaller than usual if you get the right size bust. In most brands I’m a size 18/20 on top (UK sizing) but in Pepperberry I’m usually a 14 super curvy. You never know!

    5. Formica Dinette*

      Unsolicited advice ahead! If you haven’t already tried this and can afford to do it, I recommend buying a too-big shirt and having it tailored.

      Best of luck to you on Monday! I hope you like both jobs and end up with two offers.

      1. I'm Not Phyllis*

        You could certainly do this … I use double-sided tape (which is fairly cheap – they sell it at the drugstore) and it works like a charm.

    6. BeezLouise*

      Good luck! I gave up on button down’s years ago. I’m too busty for them to ever look good (and that’s when I’m not a nursing mom — I can’t imagine what one would look like right now).

    7. Bentoro*

      There’s a place called Gender Free World in Brighton Uk that does shirts based on body shape (straight up and down, bigger chest than hips, or bigger hips than chest) with a hidden button to solve any problems. They are expensive but great quality and the fit solved my work clothing problem. I ordered online and they must dispatch overseas too.

    8. Callietwo*

      Lane Bryant is selling button down blouses that alternate buttons inside & outside the placket… and they buttons on the outside are the normal distance apart.. so the blouse looks perfectly normal but then inside, between each of the ‘normal’ buttons are the secondary ones. Blouses stay perfectly inline without any gaps. (and I’m an F cup if that gives you an idea of my problems with regular blouses!!)

    9. AliceBD*

      I stopped wearing button-downs, in part because of the button problem but mostly because I hate ironing and my modest knit shells don’t need ironing if I dry them carefully. But I remember maybe 8 or 10 years ago getting Levis(?) button downs from Walmart that had hidden buttons and never gapped. Not sure if they still make that same exact kind, but that’s not a specialized store at all so they might be more widely available than we think.

      Good luck!

  10. Vanesa*

    My boyfriend is interviewing for another position at his company and he wanted me to ask a few questions:

    1) We are currently planning a three-week trip to Europe next May. His request hasn’t been officially approved, but he has brought it up to his manager who has mentioned that it should be okay. Should he bring up the request during the interview since it is for three weeks off or is it too far ahead? On a similar note, when should I ask for the time off at my job, I am in an industry where long vacations are normal during the summer months, but still want to give enough notice. We were initially thinking of getting formal approvals in October.

    2) His office has a very casual environment and they wear jeans. Should he still wear a suit or slacks, button up shirt and tie? Any other tips?

    Thank you!

    1. Leatherwings*

      1) Bring it up during the offer stage, not during the interview. As for your job, October seems fine. I’m taking time off in October and requested during May. Although why wait that long? If you know the dates just give it as far in advance as possible. Maybe wait until your boyfriend’s interview process is over and then request?

      2) I would lean towards a button up and a tie. If that feels too weirdly formal, maybe just nice slacks and a button up.

      1. Vanesa*

        Thank you! Good idea. I always think you need to wear a tie for an interview, but I’ve never had an interview for another department in thr same company so we have no idea especially since it’s a casual environment.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      1. Never bring up vacation requests until you have a legitimate offer from the employer. You should probably ask your employer ASAP, since that’s a long time to miss work (but you obviously know your workplace best– do what others do)

      2. He should wear a suit if the position is management or higher than his current role. If it would be a lateral move, a button-up and tie are probably fine.

      1. Vanesa*

        Thank you! Well we are slow in May and June and pick up July to October so I wanted to wait until after busy season. And it isn’t set yet – I am studying for CPA exams and we will go if I pass.

        But I should know around the time he knows if he gets the job

      2. vpc*

        I recently brought up planned vacation during an interview, but it was a much closer timeframe – the interview was mid-July, the start date was early August, and the planned vacation is the first week of September. So I’ll have been in my job for only three weeks when I take ten days off.

        But, it was an internal hire, and my new supervisor recognized that I had made the vacation plans while in my old job, long before the interview request came in. Bonus that the beginning of September is actually a slow-ish period in my new job, which apparently we make up for in December, so people take very short holiday season breaks.

        Also, even for that internal interview with someone I’d met (but not worked with) before, I dressed as though it were an external hire and a new encounter: dress, heels, suit jacket, jewelry. No makeup, but that’s culturally appropriate at our workplace (thank whatever deities you believe in, b/c I HATE makeup).

    3. TheCupcakeCounter*

      1. Vacation negotiation at the offer stage unless asked about it or a project that will cross-over that time is brought up at an earlier stage. October is fine but if the date are set and tickets purchased I would tell now.
      2. Without knowing more information I would probably dress in between a suit and jeans – pressed pants and a button down but probably skip the tie. Other option would be nice, newer dark wash jeans, a button down and sport coat. He will want to look like it is important to him and he has respect for the process but internal interviews, in my experience, tend to be in the middle of a workday and since you are somewhat of a known commodity the first impression suit isn’t as important. Granted I have always taken extra care with my appearance on those days but didn’t go the full suit route just a bit nicer than normal. If possible he could ask someone who has been through the process before that they thought.

      1. Vanesa*

        Good idea! He does have a coworker that went from his department to the department he has the interview for but that was before they changed to casual.

        The dates aren’t set yet or anything, but we have those specific weeks because that is when he is on break for school. My industry is very slow in May and June. I wanted to wait until October because that is after our busy time too. I will tell him to bring it up if he gets the offer.

  11. New Girl*

    My mom sent a job posting to my work email today and didn’t understand when I kind of got annoyed by it -_-

    1. Gina the Conqueror*

      Oh moms! When I applied to a local (yet massive) company, my mom decided to help me out by asking her neighbor to ask her brother at the company to put in a good word for me–never mind that I hardly know the neighbor and definitely don’t know neighbor’s brother. She also didn’t understand why I was annoyed :/

      1. Valkyrie*

        Ugh, my dad did that once too! I had to email him back and say “please don’t send these to my work email, my particular email address isn’t totally private and my coworkers will look through it for client information if I’m not yet in the office/on the clock, it could be really detrimental to my career if one of them saw it. I appreciate you looking out for me, but can you please send these to my personal gmail instead?”. He was mortified and hasn’t done it again. But I definitely felt panic initially!

      1. Naomi*

        Seconded. I never give my mom any of my work details so she can’t do stuff like this. My first job she kept calling me.

        1. CMT*

          My dad has occasionally sent stuff to my work email (just random emails) because he clicked the wrong one in his address book.

          1. RKB*

            Both my work and regular email have my first name in it, so sometimes I email mom at work and sometimes I email her from home. I think when she types in my name it fills in the most recent address because sometimes she mixes it up.

    2. SophieChotek*

      Yep, Moms. Trying to be helpful but so often must missing it.
      And then when you try to explain…they just say you’re negative…(at least sometimes)…

    3. Temperance*

      I get annoyed when my mother tries to find jobs for me (because they’re in her area, 2 hours away, and I don’t want to live there), but that’s so much worse~!

    4. Sibley*

      Not just parents. I occasionally get an email or phone call at work from recruiters, who you’d think would know better! I’m pretty rude to them. “Do not contact me at this address/phone number.” That’s all they get.

  12. bassclefchick*

    I’m so heartsick right now, I can’t even describe it. No one should have this much bad career mojo.

    Some of you may recall how excited I was to start a new job last month. It was supposed to be a fresh start. I got it on my own (not through a temp service) and it paid well with full benefits.

    The first couple of weeks were a bit rough, but my boss kept assuring me I was doing well. After one really stressful day she took me aside for a chat and again told me I was doing great and not to worry. I indicated I was nervous because the last permanent job I had I got fired and I knew I was making mistakes in this job. She looked me straight in the face and said she wouldn’t fire me.

    Well, this week I got fired. After a month. My boss said I wasn’t catching on as quickly as they would like. One of the tasks I was supposed to do was taking to long and she said it should be done in 2 hours, not 7. She never said I was in danger of being fired, never told me the mistakes were getting to be too much. I was completely blindsided when she let me go.

    Now, I understand I was in the probationary period and the rules for performance issues are a bit different. But to keep assuring me that I was doing really well and not to worry and then just fire me? Not cool. After it happened and I was packing up my stuff, I told my coworkers goodbye. They were all really shocked. They thought I WAS doing well. One of them had just told me the day before that my job was really for one and a half people. There had been a lot of changes to my position and they all thought I was handling it really well. I guess I wasn’t.

    I really don’t know how to move on from this. I’m just devastated.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I have nothing to say other than I’m so sorry. What an awful thing to go through. Hugs to you.

    2. JustTeaForMeThanks*

      I am so sorry this happened to you! You must feel sidelined by your boss telling you one thing and acting completely different. It is especially difficult if it comes completely unexpected.

      I don’t know what to say other than hang in there – I know, it is difficult, but the sun will start to shine again!
      The best of luck on your job search!

    3. Gaia*

      Wow. Your boss sucked. To tell you she won’t fire you and then a week later do it with no warning? I can’t even imagine how shocking that would be.

      I’m sorry this happened to you. Good luck with everything!

      1. RVA Cat*

        The only bright side to this is that you should never have to deal with that two-faced boss (thinking another b word) again. If she hadn’t blindsided you this month, she would have eventually.

    4. bb-great*

      Ugh, I’m sorry. If it makes you feel any better, it sounds like your boss really didn’t handle this well at all and that’s on her, not you.

    5. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Do you think there is any chance there was something else going on? Like your boss had to hire the owner’s kid or something? It seems weird that one day you’re doing fine and the next day not. And your coworkers thought you were doing well. It won’t help you with that job I know, but maybe it wasn’t really due to your performance. Good luck. I’m sorry you are dealing with this.

      1. The Alias Gloria is Living Under*

        I agree with this. Something similar happened to me. I was at a job a month and got fired. I thought I was doing fine and all the feedback I got said so. Then a client mailing got messed up. They blamed me. I own up to my mistakes, but I don’t think I did what they say I did. But whatever. I was gone. But the day before about 11 people out of a 30 person department had also been fired. To me it sounded like a layoff or budget concerns or something. I think something else was going on and I was the scapegoat.

    6. AMT 2*

      I’m so sorry!!! that was handled absolutely terribly by your boss, who should have been honest with you (either upfront about the issues or about the real reason you are being fired – the two don’t match up!)

    7. SophieChotek*

      I am so sorry! Sympathy and hugs.
      And what an awful boss to say you are fine and then turn around…

    8. Batshua*

      I am offering you all the hugs. Don’t blame yourself.

      Do some self-care and remember that you are awesome.

      I hope things pick up for you soon.

    9. Jadelyn*

      It’s bosses like that that give the rest of us trust issues. I’m borderline paranoid about any mistakes I make because I’ve had that happen to me, too – a boss who didn’t mention ANY concerns about performance until the day she fired me. I was so angry at the time, because if I had known I would’ve been happy to change the way I was doing things (the issue wasn’t that I was doing things *wrong* so much as my process was different from what she expected), but she never gave me a chance to improve because I didn’t know there was an issue.

      Yours sounds even worse, though – she flat out LIED to you about your performance and standing. That’s not just avoiding a tough conversation, that’s outright cruel to deceive someone like that. I’m so sorry to hear that. And especially since your coworkers were so shocked, I’m thinking it really wasn’t anything to do with your performance. Your ex-boss was terrible and you, unfortunately, are paying the price.

    10. Christopher Tracy*

      Now, I understand I was in the probationary period and the rules for performance issues are a bit different. But to keep assuring me that I was doing really well and not to worry and then just fire me? Not cool.

      That really wasn’t cool at all. I’m sorry :( Some people really just fail at being able to have an open and honest conversation with their employees. And if they like the employee on a personal level, that often doesn’t help. The best thing for her to have done once you expressed your concern would have been to tell you the truth so you could have resumed your job search. This sucks, but have faith that something better is on its way for you.

    11. Formica Dinette*

      Wow. If it’s any comfort, what your boss did sounds mean. You said it yourself: “But to keep assuring me that I was doing really well and not to worry and then just fire me? Not cool.” I’m so sorry this happened.

    12. AK*

      I am so sorry that happened to you! I had the same thing happen, twice in a row, and it was awful. It made me feel like there was no hope, I’d never get a job again, etc. I ended up in therapy (which was actually very helpful, honestly) because I was so stressed out and depressed by the experience. I went back to job searching and got an interview almost right away – and then spent the next day crying to my therapist because I thought for sure I’d blown it.
      I ended up getting that job and it’s a much better fit for me, and I’m so happy the way things ended up. But I know that nine months ago I couldn’t see that something better was ahead and I was terrified. I wasn’t at all sure bouncing back was even possible, but it was, and it is, so hang in there! The small amount of therapy I had really helped me keep things in perspective – It’s the one thing I’d recommend it if it’s possible for you.

    13. LO*

      I am SO sorry. What an awful situation to be in. To be blindsided like that is terrible.
      I know how you feel because I had similar feelings when I was laid off Christmas of 2014 from a job I really loved.

      But you know what? Use this situation to your advantage. After many nights of sobbing into cartons
      of ice cream and vanilla oreos, I was determined to prove that this company should’ve never laid me off.
      At my next job I got, I took every single assignment and killed it. I got more opportunities tossed my way and I tossed them right back in a professional pile of glitter and awesomeness. I refused to go down without a fight and pushed myself to new levels of professional awesomeness that I didn’t even know I possessed.

      After you take some me time, come back stronger than ever and show your new job what you’re made of.
      Not because you have to, but because you can. You will get past this terrible situation and be apart of a company that will appreciate you and tell you the truth when you’re struggling.

      Good luck!

    14. Elizabeth West*


      It sounds like your manager didn’t really know how to manage–if you were making mistakes (and most people do when they are totally new!), she should have sat down with you and gone over them, not told you, “Oh, you’re doing fine.” She blew it big time.

    15. bassclefchick*

      Thanks, everyone. Much appreciated. I absolutely loved the job AND my coworkers, even the boss. Which is relatively rare for me. I usually love one or the other, not both. LOL. Boss even went so far as to say she was “really upset about this” and she was “up all night worrying about it”. OK. whatever. Go ahead, make it all about you.

      On the plus side, my temp service welcomed me back with open arms (even though it was too soon to call and I ended up crying when I said I needed a placement). They’ve got me set up for a phone interview on Monday for a temp to hire position. AND I have a phone interview with a different company, too.

    16. I'm Not Phyllis*

      Yah that’s not cool. Even in the probationary period a head’s up that you need to improve is a kind thing to do.

    17. Be the Change*

      I’m so sorry. This happened to a family member of mine except the place waited until the last day of the probationary period to do it. *Thanks*.

      This was not about you or anything you did or did not do well. This is about seriously effed up something else going on. /hug, if wanted/

    18. TempestuousTeapot*

      I am so, so sorry you were put through that. I’m actually furious with you now ex-boss over it. Seriously? Hired you for a job that requires ore than one person, gives no true support,correction, or feedback. “You’re doing great” is NOT feedback, it’s reassurance, which is great and very kind, but not feedback. Actual feedback on expectations, tracking, comparing improvements, in-depth communication are needed. I’m never going to understand the mentality that insists every new hire must come aboard like an experienced industry insider consultant, and the one who created the role being filled no less.

      All the hugs, all the tea,and all the green tea and carrot cake petit fours you want over that nonsense! You deserve far better and I think you dodged a bullet on that one.

    19. Not So NewReader*

      I am so sorry this happened to you.

      It’s times like this that I wish we knew the name of the company so we could boycott it if we so chose.

      Good for you with calling the temp agency. I think I would have spent the day crying instead, so this is impressive.
      Wishing you nothing but great bosses from here forward!

    20. SeekingBetter*

      Man, I would have been completely devastated if this ever happened to me. I’m really sorry to hear this happen to you. That’s just really weird for your boss to never tell you how you were doing in her eyes.

    21. Been There, Done That*

      Don’t beat yourself up. It stinks to be out of a job, but what you have to move on from is a lying, deceitful boss, not a failure on your part. I’d put more credence in your former coworkers’ view of you. Sounds as if they knew you and the job better.

      Many years ago I was fired after 2 months. Boss said my computer skills weren’t good enough and I was slow. They tested my computer skills before hiring me, and my biggest project was a 20-piece mailing (yep, twenty pieces) that I completed a day ahead of deadline. There was a huge paperwork backlog when I got there and I got sacked right after I caught it up. Hmm. A job-search coach told me they probably hadn’t meant to keep me long-term when they hired me and that that actually happened a lot.

    22. Troutwaxer*

      Just keep moving. Just keep moving. Sorry this happened to you, it sounds like you had a lousy boss!

  13. AnonLibrarian*

    I could use some advice. I’m hiring for a trainer position. I run the computer lab of a medium sized public library. Someone from another department has applied. This person is very competent and smart, but there is something going on that I can’t quite explain. Immediately after I posted the position, rumors began going around that I had already hired her (which was not the case). I pulled her into my office and explained to her honestly that I think she’s very talented, but that I need to evaluate all candidates objectively and that I wanted her to wow me in the interview, as she would if she was interviewing any other place.

    Now, there are some other issues going on with her and other departments, and conflict between her and the director. I thought it was kind of me to talk to her and reassure her that I thought she was competent. Instead, she went completely cold. Every time I smile at her and say hello, she looks at me as though she’s just bitten into a lemon. She avoids eye contact with me, and I’ve caught her whispering about me a few times. I feel like I’m in high school. I don’t like playing games, and I don’t think this behavior is going to fly in my department. Her interview is today, so maybe she will wow me. Who knows. Between this and some other drama going on, I’m just tired of it.

    1. Leatherwings*

      What? How bizarre! I can’t imagine treating someone who’s about to interview you like she’s treating you. I would absolutely not hire just based on that behavior. Give her the interview then reject later and say you found someone who was a better fit.

      She sounds like she would be nothing but trouble to work with.

    2. TMA*

      It appears she has already given you enough information to influence your hiring decision. I mean maybe her interview will be great, and she has all the technical qualifications, but I don’t know if I would want to work with someone who reacts this way to an honest discussion clarifying the hiring process.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Especially hiring such a person as a trainer, whose entire job will be to interact with others in a patient, polite way.

        1. LQ*

          YES! Even when they are rude or frustrated you have to continue to be patient and polite.

          Though I think you can be good in some situations and not in others. (When I’m in “trainer” mode or “support” mode I’m endlessly patient and impossibly polite even when being yelled at, but I don’t do great when someone catches me off guard with it.)

        2. Hellanon*

          Oh yeah. People who don’t have adequate control of their self-presentation don’t tend to make good trainers, because part of training/teaching is getting challenged & knowing how to handle it for everybody’s benefit. Plus, that kind of drama-lama behaviour makes day-to-day functioning in a small department much harder than it needs to be.

            1. higheredrefugee*

              Not only is she to be patient, polite, even kind as a trainer, she is also expected to maintain a degree of confidentiality. No one wants a trainer that tells everyone else that Sally never learned teapot painting or Bob struggles with remembering teapot pricing tiers. Talk about a way to kill team and public trust.

    3. Amanda*

      If she’s giving you that kind of attitude while she’s trying to get you to hire her, that says volumes about what she will be like to manage! Is she going to act childish like that every time you have to give her negative feedback?

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Wait, you said there were rumors, but I’m confused as to why you rebuked the applicant about them. Do you have at least one direct, unimpeachable source that told you that they heard the rumors directly from the applicant? I would not normally assume that rumors are not started by the subject of them, whether they’re good or bad.

      1. Seal*

        Agreed. While your intents may have been good, it sounds like you insinuated that the internal candidate started the rumors herself. That would have irritated me, too. Doesn’t excuse her subsequent behavior, though.

      2. Kelly L.*

        This is kind of where I’m landing–workplaces are gossipy, and in my brief experience, public libraries even more so, and I wonder if the chat with her sort of blindsided her. If she didn’t start the rumor, maybe didn’t even know the rumor existed, I think it would be a little disconcerting to be preemptively brought in and told, essentially, not to get too big for her britches.

        (I’ve told the story here before, but in my library job, I actually did get called into someone’s office about a rumor I didn’t know anything about! It was one of the weirder work experiences of my life.)

        1. AnonLibrarian*

          It’s possible she might have been blindsided, but I made it very clear that I wanted her to do well. I just didn’t want her to be confused by the rumors. I don’t know if she’s the one who started them or not, but now that I’m witnessing this behavior, I’m starting to feel that maybe she did. I’ve honestly never seen her act like this before. Who knows, it may have nothing to do with me – it might have something to do with other issues.

      3. AnonLibrarian*

        Oh no, I didn’t rebuke her. I didn’t want her to hear the rumors from somewhere else and be confused. I honestly had no idea this behavior was going to happen from her.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          OK, then, sorry if my comment sounded accusatory! :)

          Then her reaction was a huge red flag that she’ll likely take offense at imagined slights and be a nightmare to work with. It’s a good thing you found out now!

          1. AnonLibrarian*

            Yeah, this whole thing has been weird. :-( I’ve always interacted pleasantly with her before.

    5. Naomi*

      Can you talk to the director or other departments about what issues are going on? That could give you further information on how she’ll fit into your role. But obviously you only need to do that if she does well at the interview.

      1. AnonLibrarian*

        I don’t think the director wants to hire her at all. I think if I told the director what was going on, she’d immediately say no. Maybe I’m being too soft. I really do want to see her succeed. But I have a feeling it’s not going to be with me and my department.

    6. JustAnotherLibrarian*

      Public libraries seem to have the most drama of anywhere I have ever worked, which might be why I don’t work n them anymore. Back when I worked at one, there was always this assumption that the internal candidate would get the job, no matter what. In fact, hiring outside people if there was an internal candidate was seriously frowned upon. (Don’t get me started on the problems that could cause.)

      So, I am wondering if maybe there is a historical culture at your library of a similar attitude? Either way, I’d ignore it and just try to hire the best person for the job, but I would also document every decision you make in case it comes back to bite you. Trust me when I say, discrimination lawsuits are no fun at all.

      1. AnonLibrarian*

        I’ve only ever worked in public libraries. The culture is different depending on the size, leadership etc. but yes. Drama abounds. I often wonder if workplaces without drama exist.

        I hire a mix of internal and external, and document everything. Every time I don’t hire an internal person, I have a talk with them about it – similar to what I did with this person. Everyone has always been professional about it.

    7. Susie Carmichael*

      Sounds to me like this rumors and whispering thing has gotten to you and apparently has gotten to her too. Someone has said something to her in the negative about you, the way that is has come across to you that she was being made a favorite by you prior to the interview even happening. Yeesh! Library drama!!

      I’ll keep eyes open for an update on this one!

    8. Not So NewReader*

      In my initial reaction to her awkwardness regarding your talk with her was to feel empathy for her. Personally, I might not find that conversation reassuring that you thought I was competent. What I would hear would be, “You are on the same level as Jane who walks in off the street and you have to prove yourself. What I have learned about you by working with you will be disregarded.” I have seen these conversations before and usually they happen when the boss has NO intention of hiring the internal person.

      But with added info I think you see what you would be hiring.

  14. MsChanandlerBong*

    My mom works for a (for-profit, ugh) health system. They just put in a new computer system, but they didn’t tell most of the staff it was happening, nor did they provide any training. Work has been super stressful for everyone because the system is not intuitive, and there has been no training, so no one knows how to get the info they need. Yesterday, my mom told me that it came down from on high that anyone caught saying anything negative about the new system would be fired immediately.

    I’m wondering if this would fall under the “you can’t tell employees not to discuss their working conditions” rule. I can understand reprimanding someone who says “this system sucks a**” in front of a patient or something, but I don’t understand why you would fire someone who is discussing legitimate concerns with coworkers.

    1. Manders*

      I tried looking it up and found some articles saying it maybe could be protected speech, but others seem to interpret “working conditions” to mean physical aspects of the job like dangerous conditions, amenities, noise levels, and so forth.

      Honestly, the whole directive is so crazy that if I were in this position, I’d focus on keeping my head down while job searching frantically. I seriously doubt a workplace that will fire employees for this is otherwise a great place to work.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Yeah, it’s really gone downhill. My mom used to LOVE her job. The system was nonprofit when she started, but it was bought by a for-profit company a few years ago. Before I moved, I was a patient in the hospital a few times, and they have really run it into the ground. They outsourced all the cleaning and security positions, but the outsourced cleaners don’t get enough shifts to keep up with the work. The bathrooms are dirty, no one comes in to clean the patient rooms (I was admitted for five days; my bathroom trash can was so full that there were paper towels all over the floor because there was nowhere else to put them), etc. I actually stopped going there because it got so bad.

        I doubt she’ll look for work elsewhere. She turns 60 this year, and I think it would be hard for her to find something new when she is going to be retiring in five years.

        1. RVA Cat*

          If the systems issues are impacting patient care, could she anonymously report them to their regulators?

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            I don’t know exactly what the issues are, but I can suggest that she make an anonymous report if they are impacting patient care in any way.

        2. Susie Carmichael*

          This is horrific! Trash cans in the hospitals around here that we’ve spent time in (and the time has been considerable over the years) are emptied several times a day. Housekeeping is always coming through even if its just a quick sweep of the room, almost as much as the care team makes its rounds. I couldn’t imagine being in a hospital with dirty grounds. That’s really scary… no wonder things like MRSA spread…

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            Yeah, the last time I was an inpatient, my mother actually had to come up to my room on her lunch break and clean up the bloody gauze that fell on the floor because the cans were too full. She also wiped down my little table so I could eat without worrying about getting cooties in my food. Pretty bad when a patient’s mother has to do the cleaning (esp. when they charge like $1,500/day just for the room).

      2. Natalie*

        That’s definitely not the case – “working conditions” covers all sorts of non-physical aspects of the job, including staffing levels, behavior of customers, having to pay for work supplies, and so on. You can read a bunch of selected cases at the NLRB’s site.

        Plus, even if that was true, a computer system would count just as much as a piece of factory equipment or something.

      3. Observer*

        The NLRB certainly doesn’t take such a narrow view, and by and large, the courts seem to support them. Give a look at their actions around employee handbooks, and you’ll see how far they take it.

  15. Bowserkitty*

    I tried to turn it around, I thought I had more time, but my saga in this job comes to an end. I was given my notice on Wednesday when I came back from a short vacation. :(

    They told me they’re approaching this in an uncommon way though, that because they still like me so much (and it’s just not a good fit for me), they’re giving me two weeks to tie up loose ends and the bosses are going to give me good references and hope I try to remain in the system. I’ve already found some internal jobs to apply for and they both think they look good for me.

    I somewhat saw it coming, and I knew I had a rocky first several months doing all of these new things, but I was so confident next year would run smoothly. I was already getting a headstart.

    I don’t want to be “that person,” but I really disliked event planning and didn’t understand that’s what the job basically was when I got into it. I just needed money and a job at the time. And I hated it but I kept telling myself I could make it through this.

    It’s hard not to feel like a failure when you’ve been ousted from two jobs in the span of a year.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      (on a side note, why did this comment go through moderation? I didn’t think I was a problem T_T )

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If the spam filter is down (which sometimes will happen for a minute or two), it will send everything that comes in during that time through moderation. Other times it just makes weird choices. Don’t read anything into it!

    2. Jersey's Mom*

      I’m so sorry…..but I don’t think you’re a failure at all. This last job sounds like it was a bad fit for you and you wouldn’t enjoy it long term anyway. It sounds like you made a couple of excellent connections there who will give you good references and have agreed that there’s a couple of possible internal jobs that might fit. It absolutely sucks to be fired, but you’re walking out with some positives – some extra time/paycheck while you’re getting ready for the next round of applications, and excellent references.

      Maybe it’s time for a “pity weekend”, where you just hang out, watch movies in your pjs and eat a few high-calorie foods for a couple days. Then you start fresh and get the resume ready for those internal job applications while wrapping up this job. Just keep looking forward — you’ll find that job soon.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Thank you so much for this. You’re absolutely right, even though I felt like I could be more prepared for the events next year I wasn’t looking forward to it and knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do long-term, but I also wasn’t ready for a job search. The universe has its ways of MAKING me ready, I suppose!

        I REALLY like this idea. I’m going to go spend some of my FSA this weekend (they cover massages here!) and try to really take some time for myself, because I haven’t had that for a while.

    3. bassclefchick*

      I’m right there with you! Chin up, we’ll find something better! At least your company is working with you.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Thank you! We sure will!! I’ve already found something on the academic side of campus that wants someone with my background, so I’ve worked on a cover letter for it today and will focus more on that Saturday or Sunday.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I am so, so sorry, but I am glad they’re trying to make it smooth for you. Best of luck with those internal jobs and, yes, take the weekend to completely chill out. You will be GREAT.

  16. what is this thought process?*

    Ever been asked something by a co-worker that totally threw you?

    At a previous job, I was casually chatting to a co-worker about colours (can’t remember what the context was) and I mentioned I liked red. He asked me if it was a communist thing (!).

    (I am originally from a communist country, but we left a long time ago)

    1. Leatherwings*

      This question is rude, given your background. I think a Carolyn Hax “Wow” would be the best response.

    2. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      Yes! I am from the southern U.S. and I use to live in New England. We were talking about architecture on college campuses. I mentioned that my school had beautiful antebellum architecture with multi-floor veranda’s and rocking chairs for reading or relaxing.

      My coworker then states – “Did they have slaves on your campus too?” And then, I kid you not, does a slave impersonation stating “Here’s your shirt there master Diltuted_Tortoiseshell”.

      ?????? I was so shocked! I don’t quite remember my response. But I”m pretty sure I made a face and stated “What!? No!?” and walked off.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*


        One time at work, someone mentioned traveling to China (for work) and she and another colleague immediately burst into this Asian stereotype impression. It was so bizarre, I literally just dropped my jaw and walked away.

        What the hell is wrong with some people?

      2. nonegiven*

        My cousin’s 19 yo grand daughter was disappointed when she came to visit and Oklahoma wasn’t like the old west in the movies.

      3. Been There, Done That*

        It’s astounding in 2016 how some people have the utterly provincial view that the South is still stuck in 1863. The worst of these folks I’ve encountered have been from liberal, progressive, pro-diversity bastions.

    3. Lillian McGee*

      “Something something you Irish sure like drinking bla bla bla…” I have an Irish name but am totally ‘Merican… the Irish ancestry only comes from one side of the family and from like… a long long time ago. I guess I’m lucky that it’s a pretty benign stereotype but it still made me give the WTF eyebrow.

    4. JustTeaForMeThanks*

      That was very rude of your co-worker. Some people just don’t have a filter and just blurt out anything without thinking about how others may perceive it. Not at work and no where on your level of uncomfortable, but my cousin’s wife asked me how my love life was going (really not comfortable discussing that with her), when I said I wasn’t dating anyone, she asked me when I was planning to have children… I felt incredibly uncomfortable and didn’t know to respond.

      1. vpc*

        A close friend asked me that when I was with a new partner for a while. While it didn’t offend me in the least – we are that close – I turned it right back around on him. “Pretty good, actually. How’s yours?” “Not bad! [subject change]”. That was several years ago now and I’m no longer with that partner, but he married his :)

    5. Not Karen*


      Not a coworker, but once at a party someone asked why I wasn’t drinking, I said I didn’t like beer, and they asked me if I was a Mormon.

      1. Lillian McGee*

        Oh dear, forgive me but I snorted. That’s quite a leap (unless the party was in Salt Lake City)

      2. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

        Eh. I now live in a community with a pretty high proportion of Mormon’s so I kind of get this question. My husband doesn’t drink either, and I was asked if he is Mormon. It turns out the teams bosses were both Mormon and because of that did not drink.

        This place is weirdly fixated on religion though. I know everyone’s religion. I am atheist so I do not talk about religion. Not sure if they have guessed this yet since I am fairly educated on the bible. More educated than most of the Catholics and baptists I work with even!

      3. Blue Anne*

        I once went along to a movie with a friend’s Mormon youth group. One of the guys and I went to pick up the tickets while everyone else was having pizza. He asked if I was LDS and I said nope, I’m a Quaker.

        “Oh, all I know about Quakers is the pacifism thing. That’s pretty much all there is to it, right?”

        I was tempted to say the only thing I know about Mormonism was polygamy. :P

        People come out with some super blunt, weird questions when they don’t filter.

    6. Manders*

      Hah, my previous job was full of people like this, although they wouldn’t ask questions, just make weird statements. All of these are from different people:

      “I don’t believe anyone whose mother isn’t Jewish can really call themselves a Jew.” (She knew my mom is not Jewish and my father is, AND SHE HAD BEEN TO A HANUKKAH PARTY AT MY HOUSE AND EATEN ALL MY LATKES) – The other receptionist

      “I don’t know why God keeps giving the Jews all these chances, he should just let the Rapture happen already.” – The accountant (I had just told her I had relatives in Israel)

      (Discussing a rapper who had grown up in horrible poverty) “I wish my childhood had been like that. Growing up like that gives you character.” – The boss’s rich, extremely spoiled daughter/office manager

      (During the ebola outbreak) “I don’t understand why they’re letting planes from Africa into the country. They should just quarantine them all.” – The boss, who was a doctor

      The pay was good and I was desperate for a job at the tail end of the recession, so I kept my head down and said nothing until I could get out of there. And those statements are just the tip of the iceberg.

      1. Cheese*

        Oh my god, my eyebrows just went higher and higher after every one of these. I’m currently searching for them somewhere near the crown of my head.

      2. Mike C.*

        I don’t understand people who police the membership of others in their self professed religion. “Not a real Jew”, “Mormons aren’t actually Christian” and so on are really, really gross things to say.

        1. Manders*

          Judaism has a long, weird history of arguments over who is and isn’t really Jewish. Weirdly, she came from a family of very much reform Jews, but would brag about being the “most religious.” She didn’t keep kosher and wasn’t frum or anything like that. I think she was just a really sad, lonely person who wanted some kind of proof that she was more special than me.

          My fiance is the son of a now-female rabbi who didn’t officially convert to Judaism until after he was born. His dad is Jewish and he was raised Jewish and lived in Israel for a while. Whether or not another person who considers themselves a Jew believes he is Jewish is sort of a religious litmus test for us.

      3. Bowserkitty*

        Now THESE are some statements. I’m trying to rack my brain and I can’t think of hearing a damn thing even along these lines! What a place! I’d be curious to hear more if you remember them.

        1. Manders*

          Oh man, do I ever have some stories. The thing about being a receptionist at a small company is you’re just kind of… stuck in place when a weird coworker wants to go off about something.

          1) Overheard my boss telling his daughter to invest in gold. Realized after about 5 minutes that he genuinely believed America is still on the gold standard.

          2) Other receptionist, apropos of nothing, began to rant about 50 Shades of Grey. Now, I love a good rant about a bad book, but about 10 minutes in she revealed that she believes that women who read the wrong kind of romance are personally responsible for her sexual assault. She would also bring up said sexual assault every time I mentioned enjoying a piece of media she didn’t care for. She had a particular thing against anyone even mentioning Game of Thrones in her presence.

          3) Other receptionist would go through periods of extreme forgetfulness where she would ignore work that was right in front of her. When I asked if she was ok, she said she had “chronic ringworm” and the medication she took made her unable to remember things, but she was still able to come to work and collect her paycheck just fine.

          4) Boss’s son, who did work for the company remotely, moved to a different country and told his sister and me but not the boss about it. The boss didn’t find out about where his own son was living for months.

          5) The daughter went on a month-long yoga retreat to India and was pretty much non-responsive to emails during that time. She would also regularly go on yoga retreats to countries where yoga is not generally a big thing, like Mexico. She had a young son and would just kind of leave him with random relatives during these time periods.

          6) The daughter had read a book about how different blood types required different foods, and fed her infant child a vegan diet as a result of it. He ended up with really messed up baby teeth from lack of calcium.

          7) Boss’s personal assistant (and maybe girlfriend? I never quite figured that one out) quit in a huff one day and stole the microwave.

          8) Other receptionist talked endlessly, and I try not to armchair diagnose people, but there was something wrong with her for sure. If you left the room, she’d just keep talking with the empty air.

          9) When I put in my two weeks notice, my boss was on vacation, and he just… didn’t respond to calls or emails. He did make me come back for a meeting after my last day in which he just handed me a piece of paper saying I didn’t qualify for COBRA. Then, when I asked to be paid for my time coming to that meeting, his daughter got angry and sent me a really long, weird text rant.

          10) Our first accountant died in her sleep over a long weekend. No one had a number for her home phone or emergency contact.

          11) The boss had a habit of yelling, then feeling bad, then giving me raises. Which is part of why I stayed so long, my partner was in grad school and I was being paid a lot more than that job is usually worth.

          12) On my first day at my new job after that one, one of my new bosses introduced himself to me and said that my old boss was a real jerk. I guess his reputation got around.

          1. Bowserkitty*

            Holy cow, these are all gold!!

            I especially like this one:

            7) Boss’s personal assistant (and maybe girlfriend? I never quite figured that one out) quit in a huff one day and stole the microwave.

            HOW. I take body building classes and it was still work for me to move my microwave when I moved across town last month! That’s hilarious.

    7. anon for this one*

      I’ve gotten “how did you know you liked women?” or “who’s the ‘man’ in your relationship with another woman?” (which is just a different way to ask who tops and it’s disgustingly heteronormative and offensive) or some variation of “I don’t get bisexuality. Does it mean you just can’t make up your mind?”

      Honestly, half the reason I never talk about my sexuality is because it’s either offensive questions by insensitive people or questions by allies who think they’re being supportive but are really just being invasive and clueless (these in my experience are usually the people who are all, “Oh, I love X gay/bi/queer celebrity” or who love to say they want a gay best male friend to go shopping with and talk about boys with which ugh stop).

      And on a different note, I’ve also received some “but you’re so smart for someone who’s Polish!” comments. They used to be really, really frequent where I was growing up and even in school after learning about WWII and the reason that stereotype came about, those comments didn’t stop but got way worse). At my last company, the VP of the department was from Britain and used to love making comments about me being Polish (and towards another coworker who was Jewish). HR didn’t do anything. Fun times.

    8. Lemon Zinger*

      YES. I have a coworker who’s a super nice guy, but definitely socially awkward. Yesterday he was telling a story about how some “cholos” helped him when he got locked out of his car. He thought they were going to get in to the vehicle, then drive away, but “I was so surprised, they were really nice!” And this coworker is Hispanic!

      1. Oxford Comma*

        I’ve heard people use “cholo” the same way one would use “gansta”–to suggest that the person looked tough/ had tattoos. Maybe that’s what he meant? Not white knighting, just trying to give the benefit of the doubt.

    9. Feo Takahari*

      I was on the phone with my manager, trying to get special approval to do a refund under unusual circumstances. The manager was less than enthused about giving this customer a refund. He asked me “What is she?”, and when I played dumb, he confirmed that he was referring to the client’s “ethnicity.” I knew he was racist, but I thought he was the 4chan kind of racist, not the kind of racist who directly asks things like that.

      1. Observer*

        He seriously asked you about the customer’s ethnicity to figure out whether to accommodate? Grossness aside, it this guy playing with a full deck? Does he do this in email? (Part of me hopes so, because one day that’s going to be discover-able n a trial.)

    10. Jillociraptor*

      I was being introduced in a meeting when I was very new at this job. Everyone around the table had 5+ years of service here and many had 15+. I said something like, “I’ve only been here for a few months. I’ve got NOTHING on you all!”

      And apparently, several people assumed that I meant I didn’t have any dirt or gossip on them yet. ?

      That maybe says a lot about my workplace, but…

    11. shep*

      That is SO incredibly rude!

      I’m half Iranian, but I think my features read mostly European-descent. (Also my dad looks more Italian than Iranian anyway.) My name, though, totally throws people because it’s clearly something “not American” and it’s lead to a lot of benign and kind of clueless attempts at stereotyping. All very minor, and not often, but still irksome.

      I remember a person I’d gone to high school with commenting on one of my Facebook posts. I’d expressed sadness over the oppression happening in Iran, where people were leading peaceful protests and dying in the streets, and he made some ugly “funny” comment about how he thought that was odd considering the country’s relationship with us. I gave him a very terse, “I have family over there,” and he immediately backpedaled and apologized because he didn’t know I was Iranian. My response was a more eloquent version of MAYBE YOU SHOULD BE APOLOGIZING BECAUSE WHAT YOU SAID WAS BARBARIC AND NOT BECAUSE OF MY ETHNIC BACKGROUND.

      A bunch of other well-spoken people I’d gone to college with jumped on him too. I don’t normally advocate a pile-on, but man that felt good.

      1. Formica Dinette*

        Good for you and good for your friends! That’s the kind of pile-on I can totally get behind.

    12. anon anon anon*

      In my very first meeting with my new team, a coworker accused me of lying about my race to get my job, and then told me in front of everyone after I refused to discuss my race at a planning meeting that I wouldn’t be able to do my job successfully because no one would trust me if I wouldn’t disclose my race.

      I had another coworker ask me if I went back to the “homeland” when I went on vacation to see my dying father. I live in Canada and had just gone to visit another province.

      This same coworker spent 15 minutes in my car telling me that it was the nicest car she had ever been in and I must have such an amazing life if I could afford such nice things – praising me to the point that I felt incredibly uncomfortable. I drive an 11 year old Acura with significant body damage that is worth less than $10,000, and this coworker made significantly more money than I do.

    13. Elizabeth West*

      Not that I can recall, but I just noticed that in the empty cube we use for food days, someone put a small green tent card with the word “Jesus” in gold script. I think I know exactly who it was, too.

    14. Kenji*

      Casual lunch conversation with a co-worker/friend had turned to cute actors – she said something along the lines of “oh that’s right, you’re bisexual.” A coworker who both of us were only casually acquainted with was passing by, commented “I don’t believe in bisexuals”…and just kept walking. Offhand as a comment on the weather. My friend and I spent a good five minutes in “did that just HAPPEN” silence

  17. themmases*

    How have others handled working with a friend that didn’t go well?

    I have been taking occasional freelance work from a company run by a friend from a previous job. However everything with this last job went wrong– the assignment was ghostwriting, the deadline changed to something I absolutely couldn’t do, and the owner contacted me at my day job to talk about all this. I got the work is done so far in order and withdrew from the project that night.

    I am shocked at how it all went down because my friend is normally great to work with. Looking back I should never have taken the job, but was flattered to be invited by someone from my toxic former job… and i was way madder about the whole thing than I think i would have been if they were just any client and not a friend from this particular job. I’ve gotten over being angry though and just want to put it behind us and never work together again. Would you avoid server taking about it? Terry to clear the air? Our old job really hurt both of our confidence and I’m worried criticizing my friend’s work, even gently, will make it worse.

    1. Elle*

      Personally I would make a joke about how friend and I were a disaster as a team and try to laugh it off from there, but that’s the kind of relationship I typically have with friends. If this is not the relationship the two of you have then joking about it will probably be inappropriate.
      Since you’re already decided to not work together again, I would focus less on voicing criticism, and more on apologizing/emphasizing how much you value the friendship. You could also mention that you appreciate the opportunity and are disappointed it didn’t work out as well as you’d thought/hope.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have a friend who successfully navigates stuff like this by just leaving the person alone for a while. Then, by happenstance, he will reconnect months later. He usually does not talk about what happened and just lets things land in a peaceful place. But the friendship is forever changed.

      I prefer not ducking and avoiding people, so I like the idea of putting in a peaceful place. However, it is helpful to try to figure out where you want the friendship to be in the future. It looks like you have made a few decisions about that. I think given that you have decided never to work together again, you could try offering, “I made a mistake. I should never have taken the job when you offered, this whole awkwardness would not have happened if I just realized that I don’t have the time/energy to do your project justice.” Draw it back on yourself with the idea in mind that you will not be taking any more work from him anyway. Just a suggestion.

      As far as the confidence part of your question, there is more than one thing that goes into having good self-confidence. Add in the fact that you have graduated from coworker to friend, your role in your friend’s life has changed. As a friend, work related inputs may not be welcomed at all annnd as a friend that’s no longer the role you play anyway. Maybe the best way you can support your friend is through commiseration (Yeah, Old Boss was a real glassbowl.) and cheerleading (You can do better, you don’t have to work for jerks like that. You have talent. etc.)

      Last, take a look at your own suffering from the Toxic Company. Two birds, each with a broken wing, are going to have a hard time teaching each other to fly. Work on building yourself back up so you are not making decisions based on how flattering the offer is. Put some time in to reknitting you. And this could be anything, it could be good books, exercise, mediation, whatever.

      I am sorry this happened to the two of you, it sounds like you are two good people just trying very hard to make a go of it.

  18. Christina*

    I am so confused/bummed out. I was interviewing for a great position. Had two phone interviews followed by 4 in person interviews. On the last interview I was told that she was going to be able to get me a higher salary than the one I have now and then she gave me a tour of the office and showed me where my office would be. That was two weeks ago today and there has been total radio silence. I have been agonizing over this, I’ve even put on weight. Is it time for me to stop stressing? I did send an email on Monday checking in and she said she would be back in touch later that day with next steps. I didn’t hear back. Another thing to note is that she told me at the very beginning of the interview process that she would let me know if I was not the candidate because she hates when companies leave an interviewee high and dry without at least letting them know. UGH!

    1. Leatherwings*

      Yep, you gotta move on in your head.

      All that stuff about the tour of the office and the higher salary comes with a caveat “if you’re hired.” There’s just no guarantee of that. It’s very possible that someone who needs to sign off on the hiring process is on vacation, that another promising candidate can’t interview until next week, that they are swamped by a different project, etc. There’s no way of knowing if they’ve even made a decision yet. Assume you didn’t get it and let it be a nice surprise if they do end up getting back to you.

    2. Christian Troy*

      Ugh, that sucks but is not uncommon. I understand your stress and being emotionally invested. I believe people may have good intentions when they say things like that, but when reality hits, they may not be able to stick to the timelines they proposed. I’m not sure i would continue reaching out, but that’s just me.

    3. Menacia*

      I realize it may be difficult, but you should continue focusing on your job search as nothing is a guarantee and it will keep your mind off the agonizing wait. Anything could be going on at the company, they are not putting all their focus on you, so you should not put all your focus on them. You want to have multiple opportunities to choose from so you have options and leverage. Good luck?

    4. Susie Carmichael*

      As Alison suggests in letters like these, you did all you can do and now you move on as if you didn’t get the job in your head and let it me a great surprise when they contact you with an offer.

      She also often mentions that hiring processes often take longer than anticipated for a myriad of reasons, and that is why you shouldn’t get married to a specific timeline. Remember the people hiring you are often also working on their own projects, continuing interviews, or possibly even fall ill. So don’t stick to a proposed timeline, move on from this in your head. You’ve done everything correctly. You had great interviews and you followed up after a week. You don’t need to do anything else.

      Continue your job search and remember to keep yourself detached emotionally from any job until you’ve been given a written offer! Hopefully you will hear from them in the next week or two with an offer or a rejection, but in the meantime, work on letting it go — for your peace of mind and so you can be productive in your continued search.

    5. Jules the First*

      Two weeks is nothing! She might be advocating for you right now, or she could be on holiday, or struck down with appendicitis, or slammed with huge deadlines.

      Keep job hunting and let this be a pleasant surprise if they do eventually show up with an offer.

      1. Isabel C.*

        Yep! I got a call today from a company I’d interviewed at about a month ago, saying that I was still in consideration, things were just taking a while because of holidays. (I hear the hiring process is super slow right now, because everyone and their mom is on vacation.) Which, a) is awesome of them, and b) is evidence that sometimes things are just slow because they’re slow.

  19. AntsyLibrarian*

    I’m hoping for some general wisdom wording help.

    I recently applied for a library paraprofessional position. After the interview (which went really well), the head of the search committee emailed me to let me know about a professional position they were hiring for in the same department (he/she would the paraprofessional’s boss). I applied for the professional position since it seems like such a great place to work and my current job is … not so great (huge budget issues, not enough work, not a good cultural fit, etc.). I’m going to hear a yes/no about the paraprofessional position after my interview (they only do one – a videoconference interview) for the professional position but before I get a yes/no about the professional position.

    Here’s the issue – If they offer me the paraprofessional job, how do I ask what my standing is with regard to the professional job? The professional job would be a huge opportunity for me, but, honestly, I’d take either one. They both would be a step up for me, and it sounds like such an awesome place to work. I don’t want to come off sounding like I don’t really want the paraprofessional job, but I also don’t want to pass up the opportunity for a professional level job in my field if there’s a chance to get one.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      This is all being conducted with the same search committee, correct? If so, I think they would be very understanding about you wanting to know the status of the other position before making a decision. I’d try to be as candid as possible, something maybe along the lines of,

      “I am really excited about the paraprofessional role, and about this offer. Before I make a decision, would you be able to provide me with an update on the professional role? My candidacy for that role would, of course, factor into my decision-making for the paraprofessional position.”

      FWIW, if it is the same search committee, I’d be surprised if they offered you one job if they also thought they might offer you the other job.

      1. AntsyLibrarian*

        The head of the search committee is the same, but I’m not sure about the rest of the committee members.
        Thanks for the wording advice!

      2. EmilyG*

        Also a librarian, and I like this wording. Everyone will understand that you’d prefer the professional position so it’s not weird to bring it up.

    2. bb-great*

      Is the hiring being done by the same committee (or is there overlap in the committees)? I would be surprised if they didn’t bring it up proactively since they know you’re interviewing for both. I don’t think anyone (reasonable) would hold it against you if you asked about the professional position before accepting the paraprofessional one, especially if you’ve gotten to the interview stage.

    3. JustAnotherLibrarian*

      Oh, tough one. Having been on both sides of the hiring situation, I’d say that it is highly unlikely the committees have all the same people or the same process.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying (after you get the offer for the paraprofessional role), something about how excited you are about the job, but asking about the timeline and the situation with the professional role. Here’s a thing to think about: At my institution, we hire paraprofessionals in a month or two of work, but professional jobs can take six or eight months to go through the whole process.

      I’d also remember that they may not have a good answer for you after you ask that. There can be really tight HR rules about what you are allowed to tell a candidate, so don’t be shocked if you get something vague. I think you can push for timeline, but you probably can’t push for a decision, because they just might not have one for you, especially since the committees are likely to be different. So, you may have to decide how much risk you want to take.

      Good luck!

  20. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

    The weirdness continues!

    After getting a high performance review, coupled with over an hour of negative feedback, one of my bosses gave me the task to list a team mates work responsibilities and make suggestions for work this team mate could take from me. This flew in the face of the negative feedback I got, which was that I needed to have people “follow” me vs me “telling them to do X”.

    I chose not to do the task, instead providing a list of tasks I work on with suggestions for items that can be moved (with no mention of who to move what items to).

    So glad I did this! Because the day before I turned this in, I caught up with my other boss, who told me quote “We would never ask you to provide a list of [Team Mates] responsibilities. I don’t remember asking you to do that.”

    I forwarded my assignment along with the email that clearly states Diluted_Totoiseshell to provide a list of [Team Mates] work.

    It’s just weird!!!!

  21. sparklealways*

    GMAT Studying –

    I have always been good at school and decent at standardized tests, but this one is killing me. I had an emotional breakdown and could not stop crying the other day. I only have a month left before my test.

    Does anyone have advice on…
    1. best prep materials for those who don’t have a lot of time.
    2. ways to maintain your sanity while studying for this test
    3. or just any words of encouragement…

    1. Diluted_TortoiseShell*

      I hope it helps to know you are not alone.

      I’ve been accused of being a genius. Complex algorithms and theories come naturally to me, I was a published scientific first author by the age of 21, and I can program in 7 different languages all self taught. All of this despite being born into poverty with a family full of violent drug addicts.

      I suck at standardized tests. My math GRE exam was pretty low. My SAT’s were the same, I scored on average 200 pts less than those in my class whom I had higher grades then in high school/college.

      Unfortunately, you really just need to know the test. I just learned that you use to get penalized for answering incorrectly on the SAT vs leaving a blank! That alone probably explains my worse scores. If you can afford it, I think you have to play the game and take a course. If not, I wish you the best of luck. Maybe reach out to a trusted college mentor who can teach you some testing tricks.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      I’m pretty sure breaking down and crying are part of the required studying for and exam like that.
      My suggestion is to get the study book they have for that test and a bunch of colored pens and just tackle it one question at a time.

    3. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I used a couple of methods but what worked best for me was just doing online practice tests over and over and over, identifying where I may have messed up, going back and reviewing the problems/theory and then doing some more online tests.

      I’m old enough that when I did my SATs I did them on paper, which I found to be a lot more comfortable in being able to read/figure. Learning to do the GMAT all on the computer took some time for me.

      Best prep materials? I think I spent $20 on a Princeton Review book just to get a feel for the topics/common pitfalls in a format that I could read wherever. I think I just googled for free practice tests from Kaplan (this was 6 years ago now) and did those at home in my spare time. I am sure there are now places where you can buy packages of practice tests. For me it was more about feeling comfortable with the format and covering the areas I didn’t know.

      My set up: I gave myself I think a week to get through the book and a practice test at the end of the week. I then assessed weak areas, worked on those through the book (or other online sources). Took another practice tests a week or two later (in as-like test conditions as possible). Rinse and repeat. Planning and sticking to the plan, with plenty of “downtime” made sense to me.

      Check out forums too. A lot of those folks can help point to special resources/math shortcuts/etc

      Ended up doing pretty well with a 690 and full marks on the writing section! Never went to B-school though, I needed the 700 for a scholarship and I wasn’t going to go into debt for my one option otherwise.

      1. sparklealways*

        Thank you! My plan A was using Manhattan prep, but it was not working for me. I think it is great if you have months to study, but otherwise I need something that gets more to the point. Coincidentally, I did get a Princeton Review book earlier this week after my initial meltdown, so thank you for validating you were able to get through the concepts quickly and just practice, practice, practice (ugh, I hate that phrase!).

        I’ve been trying to keep my head on straight and it is so hard sometimes. It is such a different test compared to all of the other ones – I did decently on the SATs over a decade ago and took the GRE about 8 years ago, and while it has been a long time since I have studied for anything like this, I am having such a hard time remembering to forget the first statement in a data sufficiency problem, or not cringing with how horribly the sample sentences in the sentence correction section are written.

        I just cannot get myself to think like this test, but the support from strangers means so much!

    4. Yogurt lunch*

      Magoosh test prep online. They Taylor your program to how much time you have available to study.

    5. Jaydee*

      My prep for similar tests (SAT, LSAT) has consisted primarily of practice tests and study guides that reviewed and analyzed the types of questions and answers on the test. Unlike a test of substantive material (how much do you know about this topic? how well can you apply this concept to a novel situation?), these tests primarily test certain skills (logical reasoning, reading comprehension, persuasive writing, etc.). The best way to build those skills is to practice them.

      To maintain your sanity during test prep:
      — Take good care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy foods. Get some form of exercise multiple times a week.

      — Treat yo’self. If ever there is a time to reward yourself for studying with candy, retail therapy, a new haircut, a fancy dinner at your favorite restaurant, etc. this is it.

      — Compartmentalize. Set up a study schedule and stick to it. Don’t think GMAT when you should be doing something else. And don’t let other things creep in and make you postpone studying.

      — Don’t overdo it. Research shows that the most effective way of learning things is by multiple repetitions over time. Cramming really doesn’t work. And sitting there trying to focus on the same thing for 5 straight hours when you’re tired, hungry, cranky, etc. tanks your effectiveness. Your best bet is to study for short blocks of time each day and take one or two days each week off where you don’t study at all.

      — Socialize. Don’t forget to make time for friends and family. Call your parents. Grab coffee with a friend. Combine this section with the “take care of yourself” and “treat yo’self” sections for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. You might not be able to go on that weekend camping trip right now, but you can probably tear yourself away from the books to go see a movie.

      And for words of encouragement – “Good luck! You can do this!”

  22. AshKet*

    Any tips on sticking it out long-term in a job you don’t like? I’m three months into my new position and though this is not the worst job in the world, I’m still pretty miserable. I moved to a new city for this job and the primary reason why I’m miserable is because I did poor research prior to moving and am realizing that I don’t really like living in this new city. My coworkers haven’t been the most friendly and I feel super isolated. I’m also pretty sure one of my bosses (I have two) didn’t want to hire me. On my first day when I walked into his office he said “Ugh I don’t want to see you” and he always acts put-out when we have our weekly meetings. Unfortunately I can’t leave because I have a series of short job stays. I stayed in my first job for two years, moved to a new city and ended up temping for a total of 18 months and then I stayed in my previous jobs for two years. If I leave now I’ll definitely look like a job hopper so I need some tips to make staying here for the next 3-5 years bearable!

    1. Heyo*

      Are you me?

      I’ve focused on self-care when I’m not at work — making sure I do things that make me happy (hobbies, spending time with particular people, going to events I’m interested in, etc.) — and regularly reminding myself that it’s not personal, it’s probably more a them-thing than a me-thing, and my ever-wonderful mantra, “This, too, shall pass.” It won’t last forever. Keep telling yourself that and the days go by. Good luck!

    2. oh.canada*

      I firmly believe it takes at least a year to feel at home in a new City, maybe even a little longer if you really loved where you were living before. Sounds like you need to focus on making the new City a home, rather than the job itself being an issue. Maybe try some inter mural sports, walking meet ups, pottery classes, cooking class, french lessons (whatever you might be in to) to try and make some friends and get to know the City better.

      1. AshKet*

        I get where you’re coming from, but I’m having issues more with infrastructure than with meeting people. I just moved from Boston (and before that NYC) so I’m used to decent public transit and easy access to anything you could imagine. This city is completely different. I don’t have a car so I don’t have easy access to things like a decent grocery store, etc. I didn’t even think about things like that prior to moving. I’m such a dope sometimes.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          Can you afford to buy a car? It doesn’t have to be new, in areas where public transit is bad, there is usually someone selling a car in their driveway or a used car lot. Just talking to your coworkers about that, it could be something they open up about. If you don’t have your driver’s licence, take lessons and get it.

          Sometimes, when you’re the “new kid” people make assumptions simply knowing where you come from. They might be thinking you’re stuck up because you’re from NYC (and you know what those people are like, always comparing everything to NYC <– sarcasm ). It’s really easy for people to interpret shyness as being stuck up.

          You’re not a dope. If anything, this experience is going to teach you a lot!

          1. Gina the Conqueror*

            If you can’t afford a car, what about a scooter? A new one can be cheaper than a used car, and a used one is very cheap. It depends on where you live, but you can usually ride one 9 months out of the year. Good mileage, cheap insurance, lots of places to park, you look cool, it’s a conversation starter–the benefits are endless!

        2. Natalie*

          If your budget will allow it, I would budget for carsharing and cabs/Uber/Lyft, even if it means you’re temporarily saving a little less than you want or what have you. I lived car-free in a sprawling Midwestern city for 5 years that way.

          Is moving to a more active neighborhood an option? It may cost a bit more, but again, if you can afford it the extra expense is probably worthwhile for your mental health.

          Do you bike? Do you have a bike or could you acquire one? Even if you are in a place with winter, you should have at least 3 good months of biking left.

      2. Gina the Conqueror*

        Volunteering is a great way to meet people and get to know your city! Plus, some places have fun perks for volunteers–I volunteer at an independent theater, and get free movie tickets for each shift, which are easy to use as a low-risk invite for new/potential friends: “I have free tickets to see Captain Fantastic, wanna join me?”

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      There was a post in last week’s open thread from someone who had a really well-paying job that they hated, and there were a lot of suggestions as to how to make the job more tolerable. Besides those, in general I find comfort in owning my decisions. Remember that you DO have a choice, but you feel that finding and accepting another job would do damage to your resume, so you choose to put up with this job for a while instead.

      Personally, I’m not convinced that one more move will be a problem, and if you research the job well enough, you may stay there long enough that this “job hopping” will be ancient history by the time you move on from that job. But that’s totally your choice to make!

      1. AshKet*

        I’m so behind on these open threads so thanks for the link!

        You’re totally right about owning my decision. I might have to rethink this.

    4. WellRed*

      I wouldn’t take the ugh it’s you comment personally. Some people just see new employees as extra work compared to people already in the job.

    5. CMT*

      Three months isn’t very long. I think any move will have a slump at around that time where you think, “Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into?” Give it some time!

    6. Susie Carmichael*

      My first thought reading this was “be kind to yourself.”

      Firstly, it’s only been 3 months. That might feel like forever right now to you because youre feeling down, but it’s such a short amount of time… to get acclimated to a new environment, to a new job, to warm up to new people, to make friends, to find things to do.. etc. Be kind to yourself.

      Ick at the boss thing.. I would try to tell myself (whether true or not) that the remark wasn’t personal and that boss just his high strung with poop mouth and says things that come across rude when stressed. I would frame him that way in my mind to make him bearable.

      Kick ass while you are here. Do well on your work, deliver on time, get involved where you can with your team. People will open up, you will find yourself more at home as long as you are kicking ass on your work no one can say you weren’t a good hire.

      Be kind to yourself. You’ll find things to do outside of work. You’ll find a way to get around. You’ll meet people. 3 months is probably just beginning the shedding of the shock of the move, now you can start to stretch your legs a bit.

  23. Elf*

    Hi all, I have a I’ve been put in charge of my companies holiday giveaway for this year. I know posts here have discussed what people actually want – cash and time off – but I’m not authorized to give either. I was hoping I could get some options on gifts you’ve received that you liked, or gifts you would like to receive. I know it’s impossible to get a gift that will please everyone, but it’s my first year so I’d like to do a good job. Last year the company did a portable charger which was pretty popular. Thanks in advance!

    1. Leatherwings*

      Maybe coffee shop gift cards? That might be too close to cash though. I think the gift last year is going in the right direction though – a gadget that can be used by most everyone.

      Maybe some nicer earbud headphones? A really nice pen? Wireless speakers?

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I’d second the wireless speakers. We’ve given away cheapy tablets which were a big hit, but may be out of your budget. One of my favorite work gifts was a fluffy bathrobe. I also like umbrellas, but I think some people already have a dozen of them.

    2. TMA*

      A few suggestions: Send out a survey to see what employees would like. Maybe give them categories (e.g., gift cards, apparel, travel accessories) that they can choose from, and then you narrow down specific items? Second suggestion is to give them a choice. Maybe purchase a few items that employees can choose from that way they aren’t stuck with a gift that doesn’t interest them.

      1. Hallway Feline*

        Multiple gifts that the employees can choose from is a great idea! Just keep in mind that if more people want Gift A than Gift B, someone might get stuck with a Gift B when they wanted A (if for instance 50 of A and 50 of B were purchased for the 100 employees, but 51 people want gift A). That’s the only probably issue with the scenario.

        1. BRR*

          I think it works better though to give at least some people a choice rather than say everybody gets A. It’s unfortunate the company isn’t giving cash or vacation days. Giving out items usually results in some people being unhappy. Who thinks “no money or time off as a gift for employees, they should all appreciate this egg slicer.”

        2. CMT*

          Yeah, if you have choices I think you should really do some research to make sure interest in each is approximately equal. If there’s a gift that everyone preferred, I’d be pretty upset if I were at the end of the list and got stuck with the obviously worst gift.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Are these staff-wide giveaways, or prize giveaways (do you need to get a bunch in bulk, or just one or two items)? Do you know what the per-item budget is? I’ve got lots of ideas for bulk items, but they range in price.

      Swell bottles are nice and useful, and you can order them in bulk via the website (and if your company wants, customize with the company logo). We’ve also had success with: Bluetooth speakers, picnic blankets that fold up into tote bags for easy carrying, Bluetooth headsets (noise-cancelling or otherwise), etc.

      1. Elf*

        They are staff-wide. I haven’t been given a set budget, so I plan to make a few suggestions at two or three different price points to see what the higher ups approve. All your suggestions sound good though! I know one of my coworkers loves Swell bottles, so I’ll definitely look into that.

        1. BeezLouise*

          I will say that if you do reusable water bottles, make sure they don’t feel super cheap. My office hands them out when you first start, and they’re handwash only and feel very, very cheap. Swell bottles are nice (and don’t feel cheap), I just wanted to give a slight warning!

      2. Hallway Feline*

        Reusable water bottles are generally a safe go-to gift in my experiences. That way the employees will always have a water bottle while at work if they want (going green initiative, anyone?).

    4. Lauren*

      What is your budget? Is this something that you are going to give individuals? If so, does it have to be the same gift or just in the same price range?

      Since you can’t use time off or cash how about something everyone can use, a gift card to a popular grocery store? Food is always a necessity. Maybe it could be a splurge card like to Whole Foods. If you like this, perhaps you can make up baskets in which the card is just one item, prettily wrapped among some other specialty small food items like coffee, chocolate, fresh fruit, cheese & crackers, etc.

      1. Lindsay J*

        If doing gift cards, I would make sure it’s someplace everyone can get to. I live in a city and I’m not even sure where the closest Whole Foods is, and I wouldn’t appreciate having to make the effort to locate it and drive through traffic to spend a $25 gift card. (Not saying Whole Foods specifically is an issue, because I know in many towns etc it would be close to everyone. Your post just made me think of it.) My aunt in Florida used to send us gift cards to places that were nowhere in our state, which was frustrating.

    5. SophieChotek*

      I don’t know budget, but:

      ipods, ipads, high-quality noise-cancelling headphones, high quality portable wireless speakers, kindle(s), macbooks/laptops/tablets, all might be populars

      (If you can’t do gift cards, cash, or PTO. I know at my last job, we got small products equally X amount; I had a good relationship with my manager and she asked what I wanted that cost X, and I asked “Can I just have the cash?” and she laughed and said “No, it had to be a thing, so she could expense it”– so if gift cards also end up being an issue…)

    6. bobbie ganoosh*

      Gift cards to the movies, restaurants, retail stores. Food baskets. Wine baskets (if alcohol is not forbidden). Electronics (iPads, the like). Spa gift certificates.

    7. BRR*

      If you can do gift cards start there. Places like Amazon and Target which I consider almost as good as cash. If not I’d ask whoever makes the decisions to allow people to choose. If the portable charger was popular would that work again? Nice tea or coffee? Contigo travel mugs are top of the line. Britta water bottles.

      I don’t envy you for having this job. Hopefully that helps.

    8. tandar*

      My company has given us a choice of packages from a Mail Order Gourmet Food Company for our holiday giveaway in the past. They set it up so we had a specific link and passcode to use that let us choose between a limited set of MOGFC’s offerings. I think we had 3 or 4 options with at least one being vegetarian. I’d honestly rather get the cash they used to give out (I’d never spend my own money on this company’s food because I think it’s overpriced) but it’s better than at one of my old jobs where my boss would get us scratch-off lotto tickets.

    9. Observer*

      I’d say stay away from food or gift cards to specific food places, unless you have a group where you really know it will go over well.

      If you have the budget and it’s not “too cash like” for your bosses, a gift card for a useful amount is nice. What is a useful amount varies, but it HAS to be enough to buy more that a knick nack at the place it’s for. A $25 at Nordstrom is probably stupid, as you probably can’t get more than one sock there for that money. But, $25 at Target actually can get you some nice stuff.

      If you are looking at a small budget, I’ve found decent insulated / travel mugs are nice. So are water bottles. I used the one my office gave us for a long time. I don’t even care if it’s branded. A small folding umbrella, if it’s not total junk. One year we got these really high intensity emergency flash lights – small enough to go in a pocketbook, but the batter lasts for a looooong time and quite high intensity (it was probably a LED).

      The thing with these small items is that they needed to be presented with the understanding that these are tokens, NOT “big deal gifts”.

    10. OhBehave*

      Not being given a budget ahead of time is tough.
      If they gave out portable chargers last year, that may be a clue to the budget you will be given. Were they imprinted with the company name/logo? Portable chargers really vary in price from $60-$15.00.
      Staying along the lines of electronics, portable speakers, earbuds, flash drive/pen combo (I love mine!), or something similar.
      Food gifts are iffy due to allergies, diets, etc. Also no alcohol. I worked for a company who gave out liquor. Not good for the alcoholic in the bunch! DUH!
      Also think about a high quality insulated coffee tumbler or water bottle (double-wall, no sweating). You could offer a choice of the two.
      You know your company culture – would they be ok with you sending out a survey trying to gauge what people would want? Or do they like the idea of a surprise?
      Have fun!

    11. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      Somebody say they were in the market for teapots?

      Okay, A#1 importance is your budget. This is the first question we ask people when we’re suggesting gifts for them, because the budget guides everything. You need to be armed with the general budget person and the approximate quantity of people you need to buy for. Holiday budgets for our customers are ALL OVER THE PLACE. Some people have $5 a person to spend and some people have $100 a person to spend. You have to start with your approximate budget or you’ll waste a zillion hours of your time.

      Overwhelmingly popular holiday gifts:

      tech items – speakers, chargers, headphones
      cheeseboards/cutting boards
      drinkware gift sets

      These are unisex, season appropriate, available in wide price range choices and useful.


      1) plan well ahead for delivery before the deadline date you need the product. Many of our customers plan to receive their orders directly after thanksgiving which means they need to order weeks before that.
      2) get samples of any products before you place your order. You must see a sample before you order.
      3) think about inventory. stuff flies off the shelves in the run up to the holidays. People who take 2 months to decide the exact item and then order, may find that exact item is out of stock. Order early to get your first choice.

      Good luck! If you have any more questions, you can always mention “wakeen” in an open thread post and I’ll likely catch it. ;-)

  24. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m five months pregnant, and I’ve only told a few relevant higher ups. That’s it. I have no issue there. A group of nosy busy bodies, who are ground zero for gossip, figured it out. They’ve cornered my co-workers to confirm, and a couple are going to ask me to my face. The others, who I rarely speak to, have made excuses to come by my office and force personal chitchat. I’ve deflected successfully.

    If someone asks me directly, what do I say that isn’t rude? I’m not interested in confirming or denying it. I want to be left alone. My status is irrelevant to them. They’re admins and do not interact with my job duties.


    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I love “I’ll forgive you for asking if you’ll forgive me for not answering” as a stock response to rude questions.

    2. Nunya*

      Huh…what an interesting question…(said with a slightly puzzled demeanor, like why are you asking me this). Then silence until they realize that’s all you’re going to say.

      1. TempestuousTeapot*

        Someone I knew was asked that at her work and she responded, “Do I have that glow?” and left it at that.

        She wasn’t but had never lost that extra weight from her last one. I’ve always found it odd to just confront someone with a pregnancy question. Too personal and not professional at all, ugh!

    3. Murphy*

      I would make a joke about it being inappropriate to ask a woman if she’s pregnant. (Though internally, I’d be going NONE OF YOUR GD BUSINESS!)

    4. Hmmm?*

      While I understand that you want to be left alone, I do find it weird that you don’t want to acknowledge your pregnancy–even when it’s obvious. I think “Yes, I am. I’m very happy about it” will be more than enough.

      Unless you’re not happy about it, then ignore my suggestion.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        Even if she is happy about it, it’s no one else’s business. If she doesn’t want to disclose it, it’s entirely up to her not to.

        1. NarrowDoorways*

          Eh, nothing has made me think, based on the post, that the other women are being caty. Some people get really excited about this kind of life event and like to talk about it/share with others who’ve experienced something similar.

          It’s completely valid to not want to discuss it! But there’s no reason to be dismissive just because they don’t work with you closely.

          1. Honeybee*

            It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re being catty. It’s flat-out rude to ask someone about personal information directly like this, even if it’s simply because you’re really excited. She has the prerogative to not talk about it with others if she doesn’t want to – some people simply don’t like sharing non-work private stuff with coworkers, for example.

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I am but I don’t want it to be a big deal. I don’t want to talk about it or have it be the focus of conversation and unwanted advice every time I see them. Plus I’m tired of answering all the same questions. With a stranger, I can leave or ignore them. With someone in the office, I can’t.

        With personal topics like this, it’s never a once mentioned and then dropped with these women.

        It’s just this group at work. No one else brings it up unless I do, which i prefer.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          Which is why I assume they’re itching for me to tell them. I figure as long as I never bring it up, they can’t bug me about it.

          I’m not exaggerating. They would bug me about it every time I saw them. That’s what they do.

          1. NarrowDoorways*

            Lol! I know those people. Then yes, go with the top answer! “Forgive for asking if you forgive for not answering!”

          2. Anna*

            I think the problem is though that you are clearly having a big issue made of it even though you haven’t confirmed it. If you acknowledge it with them, you can at least maybe start controlling the engagement about it.

            Congratulations also!

            1. OlympiasEpiriot*

              It won’t control the issue. And she isn’t making it a big issue, the nosy parkers are. There is no reason they need to know.

              Hard to believe, i know, but some women just don’t actually want to talk BAAABBBBIIIEESSS all the time the minute they get pregnant. Not everyone wants to share life experiences.

          3. Infinity*

            I’m in your shoes, in every way except literally it seems. What has helped me is actually just announcing it, I brought in baby donuts and sent the customary email. But now when I get these weird personal invasive questions, I just always deflect by repeating the question back to them (if can make even remote sense). For example “How are you holding up today? (said while staring at my stomach)” “Fine, how are you holding up today? (staring at her stomach).” Or, “Was this one planned?” and I responded with, “I don’t know, was your son planned?” This was said with a smile and so pleasantly, so it wasn’t snarky. The woman was aghast that I would ask such a question and responded with “Well of course he was, it doesn’t matter if he wasn’t anyway!” And I just returned a knowing smile to her.

            I know that people think you can set boundaries, but for admin you have to work with it’s really hard. Except in the extreme situation, like when one admin started explaining a miscarriage scare her daughter went through, and in detail the picture her daughter went through. When she was done I just said, “okay” and walked away. “Okay” did not make logical sense.

            I think their games are only going to get worse. If you satiate their desire to “know” then it will be easier to deflect the other things, that with this type of person, are going to come at you no matter what. They have slowly gotten the hint and things have gotten better.

            1. Honeybee*

              Was this one planned?” and I responded with, “I don’t know, was your son planned?” This was said with a smile and so pleasantly, so it wasn’t snarky. The woman was aghast that I would ask such a question and responded with “Well of course he was, it doesn’t matter if he wasn’t anyway!” And I just returned a knowing smile to her.

              LMAO, this is the best. The lack of self-awareness…

          4. Cheese*

            Oh god this is my exact worry. I’m just a few weeks behind you and haven’t told anyone at work yet because I just know EXACTLY how it’s going to go. After I tell my boss I’m planning on one office-wide email to let everyone know just to get it over with–and then I plan on being absolutely unsatisfying to talk to about it (one word answers, changing the subject, etc). Still kind of dreading it.

            1. vpc*

              Can you put anything in your email about, “thanks for helping me out by not making a big deal of this – it’s not going to affect my work in any way, and boss and I are already planning how to handle my projects while I am out on maternity leave.”

          5. AFT123*

            I can see how this is irksome. I am past the point of being able to hide a pregnancy and I seriously feel like it has become my identity – I am not longer AFT123, but “Pregnant AFT123”. One the upside, people are generally VERY kind to pregnant people. On the downside, it’s all anyone wants to talk to me about anymore, including my boss. I feel as though all of my professional value is out the window because all anyone cares about is my pregnancy.

        2. Jessie*

          What about something along the lines of “thanks, I don’t want to talk about my health at work” or just simply ignoring the question and saying something else work related to start another topic?

        3. Susie Carmichael*

          I think the best way to control this scenario is to just make it known matter-of-factly and then use the tips here to shut down further engagement on the topic. Right now it’s FUN to try to figure out if fact and be the one to get the “deets” from you. Take that factor away from them. Then you have the control, imo.

      3. Lady Blerd*

        I’m with Hmmm? on this one. A short “yes” or “yes, thank you” without elaborating is easier to manage then whatever script you want to use to deflect the questions.

      4. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Because it is no ones biz. Because once a woman is pregnant, her body becomes some bizarre kind of public property where everyone and their auntie thinks they have a right to talk about BAAAAABBBBBBIIIIIIEEEEESSSSSS and tell one what to do. Because it is none of their biz. Because there will be people who think they can pat her belly now. Because it is none of their biz. Because there will be people who start asking all kinds of judgy questions about how they are planning to feed, diaper, raise the kid. Because it is none of their biz.

        And lots of other reasons.

        It isn’t about “acknowledging” her pregnancy, it is about not discussing it with gossipy people.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Yes! I don’t have any kids (and don’t plan to) so I’ve never experienced it personally. But it is just mind-blowing the things people will say or do to pregnant women that they would never do to someone who wasn’t! I felt so bad for one of my coworkers when she was expecting, it seemed like several times a week someone would say, “You’re getting so big!” Um, rude!

          Haha, I was discussing this same thing with a friend of mine (who is pregnant) and she agreed. Not 5 minutes later, a (male) friend walked in and told her, “You look so healthy!” We started cracking up because that was actually a nice thing to say!

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            I got my abdomen grabbed from behind by one of the secretaries while I was standing talking to a partner. I had total strangers reach over and pat my belly while I was waiting on line in a women’s room. The file clerk at my company lectured me how “You’re going to *have* to get a tv now that you’re having a kid. You *can’t* have him left out!” The guy in charge of the mailroom tried to prevent me from reaching over my head or using a library type of step stool. I had people questioning what and how much I ate. I had random girly-girls at bus stops and on the subway start telling me about the importance of epidurals or their favorite stroller or telling me how much fun it was to get mother-daughter mani-pedis.

            I made sure to spend nearly all of my pregnancy in the field. In carhartts everyone looks lumpy and no one knew until I told a couple of guys at week 35 that I needed them to lift something for me. Both looked surprised and asked if I was injured. Neither gave me away and two weeks later I was on leave.

            Also, I love *my* kid but I really do not want to have conversations about babies with people.

            I don’t know where people get this idea that women get to be open season and turned into nothing more than a vessel once pregnant.

          2. Isabel C.*

            I have a friend who, at seven or eight months, encountered someone in an elevator who looked at her for thirty seconds and then announced, “You sure are pregnant!”

            Like, thanks, I was going to take the test but now I don’t need to?

        2. Snarkus Aurelius*

          Bingo. I get that these women love babies and have no qualms getting TMI with each other, but they don’t recognize that not everyone else is. I know they’d have zero shame in telling people, including my boss, what kind of ultrasound I got: vaginal or belly. They think that’s normal cube discussion. I’m the polar opposite. I acknowledge nothing until the other person says something.

          I can think of over two dozen intimate questions (like whether fertility treatments were used or my bra size) they’d have no shame asking and sharing answers with other people. So far, by not acknowledging anything and acting normal, I’ve disabled them a bit.

          I never thought they’d jointly decide to straight up ask me directly. Who does that?

          Thanks, all.

    5. bb-great*

      Honestly…you 100% have the right to refuse to discuss it at all, but in practical terms I can’t help but think refusing to confirm it is just going to provide more grist for the gossip mill, not less. It’s not something you can hide indefinitely, after all. I would think confirming the fact and then refusing to discuss any details would be the best way to make everyone eventually lose interest.

      1. bb-great*

        Although let me be clear, your coworkers are still being hella rude if they’re fishing for personal info that you haven’t offered.

      2. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        I agree with this. I’d probably just say, “yep, I’m due mid December.” (Or whenever, because that’s a legit thing that might impact work schedules) And if they ask more questions just say, “I really prefer to keep my focus on work while I’m here, thanks.”

      1. Mike C.*

        I like that this addresses the bad behavior. I get frustrated that current norms often prevent us from doing so.

        1. BRR*

          I like that too. While it’s not always smart I am a big fan or not just shutting it down but pointing out the bad behavior.

    6. Perse's Mom*

      Your other comments indicate that once they know, they’re not going to let it go, right? But… they’re going to know. Even if you’re a master of deflection, they’re going to know because eventually you’re going to have a baby and be out on maternity leave. I think you’re better off putting a stop to it NOW rather than being in permanent deflection mode (I suspect it will actually get worse once the baby is outside the womb, because then there are baby pictures and surely everyone wants to share their baby pictures with everyone else, right?!?!?!?!).

      Do they all have one boss? Are you comfortable speaking to their manager about options on getting them to stop? Even if it’s just “this is my position on the matter, this is what I would like to say to them, is that clear enough, do you have my back?” (This is mainly because depending on how you phrase a refusal to discuss it, they might be irritated enough to complain to their boss about how “mean” you are.)

      Otherwise… “I don’t discuss my private life at work. Did you have a question about something work related?” Clear boundary, bring it back to work.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        F*&k no. Not everyone wants to share baby pictures. I don’t look at theirs, they better not ask me for mine.

      2. Honeybee*

        I don’t understand this logic, though. Once she has the baby and she’s out on maternity leave, the busybodies won’t be bothering her because she’d be out. And OP still will be in permanent deflection mode after telling them, because she’s made it clear that they will not leave her alone once she does tell them. It might be preferable to be mysterious and noncommittal than to endure 4 months of endless baby chatter and unsolicited advice.

    7. Garland Not Andrews*

      I’m all for the silent creepy stare. Deadpan face, silence, stare at them either not blinking or with very slow deliberate blinks. Tends to make people leave you alone if you can pull it off well.

    8. H.C.*

      Since the busybodies at your workplace have figured it out, the jig is pretty much up. At this point, I’d go with a simple, brief, to the point “Yes, I am expecting/pregnant. But right now I have to [attend a meeting/take a business call/work on X project/etc.]” Rinse & repeat as needed.

    9. Jules the First*

      Question: “So, Jules, are you pregnant?”

      Answer (shocked face): “Did you really just ask me if I’m getting fat?”

      Works a treat.

    10. Amanda*

      So…I’m about 6 months along, and both my husband and I went through the same contortions because we’re both really private people, we generally don’t like sharing our personal lives with co-workers, and we both thought it would become a Huge Thing, with co-workers trying to force unwanted intimacy on us just because we were having a baby. We both decided to just tell some key people as needed, and otherwise just let the word get out. It got out pretty fast once I was visibly pregnant, and other people started asking other people.

      And…everyone has been really awesome about it. I swear the questions are limited to, “When are you due?” “Do you know the gender?” and “Do you need a ____? We have one we don’t need now our kids are older.” It’s not a Huge Thing at all. No one has been intrusive because, uh, they know me already. They know I’m a private person and I’m not going to talk to them about my birth plan, show them the ultrasound pics, or let them touch me. The whole experience has told me more about my assumptions about other people than anything else.

    11. Been There, Done That*

      How about a shocked, incredulous look and saying nothing? or “I was just going to ask you that.”

  25. Audiophile*

    The newest issue… I’m now the glorified IT person at this job.
    Biggest problem: they have no antivirus software and numerous staff are having computer issues. Spoofed email address, spam not being filtered out, etc.
    There isn’t much I can do other than commiserate, because I don’t have any standing to say “you need to renew your antivirus software.”

    A new job can’t come soon enough.

    I’m tempted to start saying my hands are tied because I’m not certified, nor do I really have the required knowledge.

    1. Feo Takahari*

      Do you have standing to download programs like Malwarebytes that don’t run continuously? A quick cleanup could fix a lot of issues.

      1. Audiophile*

        I have. Mostly found tracking cookies but there were some things found.

        But apparently this has been an ongoing issue for some employees, dating back as far as a year. This leads me to believe it’s much bigger than just a few computers.

        Everyone is connected to the server and everyone can see all files on the server. I’d be highly surprised if the server was secure and not infected in some way. One of the employees who’s had the most issues was disconnected from the server and said the problems got better. That’s not good. Right?

        I haven’t had any problems yet, but I was only recently connected to the server.

    2. Slippy*

      Avast is a free AV that will only occasionally annoy you with ads. If they don’t like it they can shell out for Kaspersky. Set up a dedicated rotation of running MalwareBytes on computers and get a open source log management tool. If you set aside about an hour each day to read the logs you will catch much of what Avast may miss. Also force everyone to update their browsers or force a switch to Chrome or Firefox which do it automatically. Finally grab Ghostery and Adblock Plus plugins for all the browsers. This will filter out about 75% of the nasty crap that will get thrown at you can if you bust your butt you can get it done in a couple of weeks or less.

      1. Audiophile*

        That’s a lot of effort and I’m not the IT person. Technically, we don’t have one. Based on what I’ve learned so far, I think it’s more than just a few computers.

        The server is running WS 2008. That also ran very slowly when I was attempting to load driver files to give staff the ability to use LAN faxing.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Technically, we don’t have one

          This is the real issue, not antivirus. Honestly, I’ve run antivirus at every org/school I’ve worked at, and it’s been almost entirely useless. People with administrative rights on their computers (and I haven’t worked in a single school that hasn’t given its teachers/staff admin rights) are very determined to click on and install whatever garbage they can.

          There are two effective (far more than “antivirus”) solutions to malware and they are 1) user education and 2) restricted user privileges. Since #2 happens so rarely (except in large corporations), #1 is critical, but that requires time and energy, and if you have no dedicated IT person, #1 will slip through the cracks.

          1. Audiophile*

            We use an off site company that can remote in to look at problems.

            Regardless, most users don’t have admin access on their computers. (On some machines, I was able to download, install, and run antivirus software. On others, it asked me for the admin password.

            Weirdly, everyone has the ability to change files on the server. There doesn’t seem to be any access restriction there.

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              That’s odd. There’s certainly malware that’s targeted at user accounts instead of trying to compromise the whole system, but you do get the occasional adware installation that’s local only. It could also be that your off-site company isn’t monitoring these computers as well as they should be for security patches (for Java and Flash, for example).

  26. ThatGirl*

    I work for a big Fortune 500 company and we have seasonal contractors to help us with big projects during busy season. There’s a guy here this summer who worked here last summer, too, and I am totally at BEC stage with him. He just annoys me.

    He seems to do good work, and thankfully does not work directly with me, but is on my team. But he just seems to be clueless about a lot of small professional and societal norms. When people are joking around, he takes it a step too far; he makes really oblivious comments; he dresses in professional-enough clothes but they are wrinkled, sloppy and ill-fitting; most irritatingly to me he feels the need to check in with his manager every morning just to let her know he’s here. We do not have time clocks, or even specific times we need to be here, and it’s expected that you’ll show up at some point, do your work, and account for your time without a lot of oversight. So it really bugs me that he walks by every morning loudly proclaiming that he’s here.

    This has been an irrational rant. Thanks. :)

  27. Cactus*

    I’m having issues with an intern. I actually have two problem interns but one is beginning to affect my own job. I work in IT and his internship lasts a year but I want to terminate him – I think I’m acting on emotion so I need some help navigating it. This is my first position as a manager so I’m very new to this.

    He has been working with me since the beginning of June and has already missed 8 days of work. These days have always been callouts the day of work – he used to call out 3-4 hours in advance but now it’s 5 minutes before his shift starts. One time he missed an entire week (he works 3 days a week) and only emailed once and never followed up the rest of the week. I’ve received complaints this week about his quality of work and have put out (political) fires as a result which takes time away from my own duties. He’s also deleted important documents “accidentally” by being careless and when he’s here he won’t troubleshoot issues, instead automatically asking me how to do it. I am a friendly person but I am becoming angry and aggressive with him. The purpose of the internship is to learn skills that he can put on his resume once he graduates. I’ve spoken to him about all of this and in the moment he says he understands but continues to show the same behavior. He was supposed to clock in an hour ago and emailed 4 minutes before his shift saying he was tied up, but gave no ETA. My company chooses to use interns as part-time employees instead of hiring permanent employees so being down an intern puts a huge strain on our day-to-day work.

    If it helps, I’m a woman and my male co-worker says he thinks it’s a gender issue and that I should be more forceful/aggressive. The intern is male, and I have issues with another male intern who backtalks me (co-worker says the same about him). A third intern (also male) is wonderful and produces great work and respects me as his boss. Co-worker says I show him favoritism but I feel good work should be rewarded.

    My boss won’t fire interns because: A.) it’s too much paperwork and B.) it hurts their career to have that mark against him. While I agree with B, boss hasn’t helped resolve the situation. Advice?

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      I think the reasoning against firing an intern is seriously flawed. Your firing him isn’t hurting their career, HIS ACTIONS are hurting his career. The only way forward to really deal with the situation is to sit him down, tell him his job is in jeopardy, outline what he needs to do to improve, and then fire him if he doesn’t. Your company isn’t doing him any favors by letting him slide.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        Also, have the same conversation with the backtalking intern. That behavior is unacceptable. This isn’t a gendered issue, it’s an appropriate-behavior-at-work issue.

        1. Observer*

          It’s almost certainly a gender issue. But, it’s a good idea to focus on “You can’t talk to me that way. Period.”

          1. Isben Takes Tea*

            It’s true that the cause may be a gender issue from the intern’s perspective, but I meant the solution is not–as you said, focus on the “You can’t talk to me that way.”

      2. TCO*

        I’m also confused by reason B. I’ve actually really respected bosses who fired people when it was necessary. It shows good management skills to recognize that someone you hired (even if that hiring was a mistake) isn’t working out and to be bold enough to do something about it. Keeping on bad employees is not a sign of good management. At all.

      3. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes to this so hard. I’m getting flashbacks to a handful of difficult parents I’ve dealt with over the years who believe I was giving their children lower-than-A grades on assignments rather than the students earning those grades. Likewise, this sort of reasoning scarily reminds me of rape cases in which horrible people accuse rape survivors of “ruining” promising careers of rapists by pointing out that the rapists rape, instead of the actual rapist ruining his own career…

    2. Lauren*

      I’d fire him immediately, ideally before he comes in to work again so you can revoke his access before telling him. (That second intern may need the same treatment; if they are friends at all or even just know each other, it wouldn’t be impossible one would take revenge for the other.)

      It sounds as if he is constantly pushing boundaries. His reasons for what he is doing may be because of gender issues but honestly, his reasons are irrelevant. He is doing a crappy job, has taken more than 15 percent of his work days off as of today, and has proven his won’t do his work and, scarily, may be “working up” to sabotaging you and/or the company.

      You say that your boss has those reasons, but paperwork should never prevent you from taking the steps you need to take to protect your company and yourself. As for the black mark, the intern is asking for it. You are not, by your own statement, inflicting it on him.

      I disagree with your co-worker unless you think he might be right, that are you under-forceful. I just don’t think this is a situation where force should be needed. Neither of those two interns are acting professionally, and to allow them to continue means you could be dealing with far more than your day-to-day workload.

      My sympathy. I say do what needs to be done now and move on. The Band-Aid has to be removed; whether you rip it off and get over with or pull it off one agonizing hair at a time is up to you.

    3. Leatherwings*

      This might be a gender issue – the interns gender issue (if he can’t take you seriously because you’re a woman). Regardless, this guy has to go. If you’ve outlined the problems and he isn’t taking it seriously, then he needs to learn the way of the working world – you’ll be doing him a favor. The working world isn’t school and bosses aren’t teachers who will give everything to catch your mistakes and make sure you succeed. It’s up to him to succeed, and he hasn’t figured that out.

      I would push back with your boss by talking about how much extra, unnecessary work this is putting on you as a result. If Boss won’t give in, relegate this guy to the sidelines, take away his access to important files and make him do shitty filing work or just twiddle his thumbs. Don’t allow him to continue to take up your energy managing his workflow.

    4. Enough*

      Regarding B – what’s worse for their career, 1) being fired from an internship or 2) being fired from their first job?

      1. Careerapalooza*

        Actually, being fired from an internship (for legitimate reasons, obviously) can be a tremendous learning experience for a young person. So I’d argue that terminating the intern is actually in his best professional interest.

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      Wow. Those are all totally unacceptable things for a regular employee to do, let alone an intern. He knows better, I guarantee it. Fire him!

    6. Pwyll*

      I’m usually on team “Don’t Fire your Interns for teachable moments” but I think in this case it’s justified, given you’ve repeatedly told him the standards and he hasn’t performed. And the attendance thing at this point is egregious. Perhaps try going to your boss and outlining with numbers just how much time and energy the intern’s lack of performance is costing you and others in your department? And how much could be saved getting another intern into the position who actually performs?

    7. Elizabeth West*

      My company chooses to use interns as part-time employees instead of hiring permanent employees

      Wait, what? I thought that wasn’t allowed. Aren’t interns supposed to NOT be doing actual employee work?
      I think this guy needs to go, and so does the one who is backtalking you (seriously!?). And your boss is a nit.

    8. writelhd*

      Did you find out why he was missing work when he calls out last minute like that? That’s my burning question when reading this. Because if he’s sick, that’s one thing. But if he’s not…then what’s the deal?

      1. Cactus*

        Hi! The week he missed was for a sore throat which he described as something that you get in winter (?) and wasn’t sure how he got it. The other times didn’t have an explanation (“I have plans today”) and today he was stuck at college with an advisor…for 5 hours, apparently. No call/text/email after I responded “Okay, get here after you’re finished.” I also missed scheduled training due to his absence and was scolded for not showing.

    9. Observer*

      Your co-worked is probably right that the interns won’t take anyone seriously who is female. That’s NOT ok. So, you need to do something about getting him fired, getting him to shape up or at least minimizing the damage he can do.

      1. Document EVERYTHING

      2. Start the paperwork process. Your boss is too lazy to do it? You do it. Sure, it’s a pain, but still better than the damage this intern is doing.

      3. Start getting assertive. Back talk gets cut off. Tell, don’t ask. I know that Alison often suggest “can you do this?” wording. Don’t that here. Just tell him “You need to do X”. Explain tings ONLY ONCE. Do NOT allow him to engage you in discussions of why anything is done until AFTER he has done what you told him, the way you told him to. (And document when he gives you problems.) And, even then don’t let it be an argument, just en EXPLANATION so he has a chance to learn something.

      4. Make him redo work that is done poorly, incorrectly, or not the way he was told to do it. DO NOT redo it for him. (Another set of things to document.)

      5. Limit his access. If he asks you for wider access than he has, make explain to you EXACTLY why he needs it. If he actually does need access, then you give it to him and then revoke it when the task is done. It’s a pain, but he needs to know that being careless and doing damage has repercussions. And, it keeps you from having to recover from his mess ups.

  28. Nunya*

    Welp. After trying to quit New Job multiple times (due to concerns about support from company owner, unreasonable workload, work/life balance, etc), my partner accepted a really nice raise, a gratifying promotion, and has decided to throw in for the time being. All of her concerns have been met with sustainable solutions (hiring an assistant, getting approval to take over certain management facets with full authority to make policy and procedures, getting to ditch a fair chunk of basic admin tasks, and recognizing that her working hours are no more than 40 per week and less if possible).

    It’s a small but growing family-owned HVAC business that has recently been taken over by a new generation, so it has potential to be either a shitshow or a fun challenge for a higher level professional. Fingers crossed for the latter, but we always have plan B (quit to manage our farm full time).

  29. Amber T*

    Is it normal (or becoming normal) for recruiters to call you at work?

    I was promoted back in Feb (same company). I updated my LinkedIn to reflect my new role going from admin into a specialty. Immediately there was a lot of interest – my profile views went up, recruiters wanted to connect. Cool, but since I was JUST promoted, I wasn’t interested.

    One recruiter, maybe a week after I posted my promotion, called the front desk of my office and asked for me. I wasn’t at my desk and she was very cagey with the receptionist (standard practice at the front desk is to ask for name and company before transferring – she wouldn’t give her the company). I don’t post the phone number on my LinkedIn, only “Teapots Associate and Teapots & Co.,” but a google search will give you the main line. She also took the time to find my personal email (also not on LinkedIn, I’m guessing from an old resume that’s floating around on the internet?), and sent me a message on LinkedIn. Talk about too much.

    Just this morning I got a call AGAIN from a different recruiter at the same company. Again, I wasn’t at my desk, but when I walked past reception she told me I had a missed call from “Catherine” who wouldn’t tell her where she was from. Listening to the voicemail, it was for another opportunity at a different firm. She also emailed my personal email and connected with me on LinkedIn.

    I’ve had recruiters from various firms email me with opportunities and the standard “are you interested or do you know of anyone who is?” I usually just respond with “thank you but I’m happy with my current employment, I’ll keep you in mind” and no biggie. But is it just this one group that seems to be overstepping boundaries or is this a new practice?

    (I haven’t updated my LinkedIn since my promotion nor have I made any updates on any other job sites in years. Other than responding to a few recruiters from other places with “thanks but no thanks,” I’m really hardly on LinkedIn at all.)

    1. Amber T*

      To clarify – it was two different recruiters from the same company calling about two different opportunities at two different firms (one back in Feb, one just today).

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I bet neither of them knows that the other has contacted you. They are just contacting as many candidates as they can find in hopes of getting one.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      This used to happen to me a lot — recruiters find your name somehow, but they don’t have your contact info and the easiest way to get to you is to lie to the receptionist. In the past 3 years or so, though, this kind of thing has moved almost entirely to LinkedIn messages, at least in my industry.

      So I think the LinkedIn messages are normal, the phone calls not so much.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          I’ve never experienced this, but maybe it’s industry specific? I’ve definitely had them blow up my personal phone and send me private messages, though.

        2. Spondee*

          It’s not normal, but it is a thing that happens.

          From what I’ve gathered from the recruiters who have contacted me at work, they get a certain number of unsolicited LinkedIn messages. (If you friend them, then they can message you without counting against that number.) Invariably they run out of “free” messages, but they can see your current employer from your profile, so they call the main line.

    3. Jules the First*

      And this is the kind of thing that makes me love my current employer’s nutso screening process – if you can’t satisfy our bulldog reception team that we’ve spoken before or I’ve asked you to call, you don’t get put through. They are so awesome at winnowing out the time-wasters and scam artists. (Downside – hiring people for our reception team is super hard, and occasionally I get comments from new consultants about how hard it was to get through reception.)

  30. Jessen*

    So I have a bit of a question about what’s considered work appropriate.

    At my last job, me and a coworker (let’s call him Mike) would sometimes talk about religion. These were completely consensual, non-hostile conversations and stayed away from anything controversial. Think stuff like “what was the lesson on at church today?” “oh, it was about how you have to live out your faith by being kind to others, not just go to church on sunday.”

    Separately, Jane, who was an atheist, often made hostile remarks to me about religion. This would be stuff like “I’m not into brainwashing” or “Don’t get married because you’ll have to have lots of kids and stay home.” These remarks were typically unprovoked.

    When I asked advice, I got some people who were of the opinion that because me and Mike talk about religion, we were being inappropriate too and thus I had no standing to complain about Jane’s behavior. (Note that these conversations did not typically take place in front of Jane.) Is this correct – is religion something you just shouldn’t talk about in the workplace, even if you’re both interested? Or is Jane covered by having the right to express her opinion, even if it’s kind of rude?

    1. Amtelope*

      I think Jane is being more rude by making hostile remarks. However, I’d prefer to keep all talk about religion out of the office, even when it’s between coworkers who share similar religious beliefs and aren’t offending each other. There’s just too much room for offending others or making them feel that they can’t escape a discussion that they’re uncomfortable participating in even as listeners.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      As an atheist, I find Jane rude and obnoxious, and I would have no trouble with the kind of discussion you say you have. In fact, I’m interested in comparative religious studies, mostly because I like sociology and anthropology, and I’d probably join you if invited, as long as the discussions were more of “what I did this weekend” rather than “yes, they taught us how to hate the sin and love the sinner, especially so we can tolerate that icky, ungodly gay marriage crap” or something like that that offended me greatly.

      1. Jessen*

        Yeah, I think both of us had enough sense to not discuss things like abortion or gay marriage or anything that would be particularly controversial at work. So it was a lot more of “be nice to your fellow human” type stuff than anything.

      2. SophieChotek*

        Of course, Jane has a right to her opinion too, even if she is obnoxious and rude, just as you two have the right to respectfully discuss your views/differences
        – if you are both mutually interested in religion/philosophy and not trying to ‘convert’ the other to me that would be fine, although once again might depend on the office/setting/co-workers

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      While you all have the right to express your opinions, I firmly believe that religion (or ones lack thereof) should NOT be discussed at work under any circumstances.

      And I’m religious.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        As with Cosmic Avenger, I don’t find anything particularly annoying with your conversation. The fact that Jane is butting in with her personal viewpoint is rude. But, LemonZ also has a point.

        I think that if you want to talk about religion with your coworker, you should do it out of the office, or when it’s just the two of you with no danger of being overheard. Eat lunch outside, hang out after work, take breaks together and leave the office. Because there’s someone in your office who has shown they are intolerant about your religious views and doesn’t have the good sense to just keep her lip zipped. Now if you were going around asking coworkers if they have heard the Good News, that would be something completely different.

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      That’s why a co-worker and I discuss religion while we’re on our break, out on a walk. If there are others with us, the conversation usually goes in different ways.

      When I’m talking with people within the office, religion can come up, because for some of us, it’s part of our life, and we’re talking about our life.

    5. Hazel*

      If the conversations don’t happen in front of Jane, does that mean she never overhears them either? Because that would be the only way your conversations would be acceptable, as benign as they seem to you. A lot of the time, people who make these kinds of comments are often because they were raised in an oppressive religion with traditional gender roles. They can’t see that there are religions that don’t brainwash (aggressively, at least. all belief systems require a bit of brainwashing).

      I was just like Jane for a while, just lucky enough to outgrow it/realize it wasn’t true as an adolescent. I was raised in a very strict, fundamentalist religion and my mother didn’t work because my father wanted his children raised by a stay at home mother. She wanted lots of children and I do honestly think she genuinely agreed/wanted to do all this, but let’s just say I found out because she was frustrated with her life, years later.

      My guess is that Jane is just working through that process still and is still a bit traumatized from her own experiences. Hearing about “harmless” religious comments may not be helping, and it takes time before you can civilly discuss religion. She’s just unfortunate in that this is all happening at work as an adult instead of during her college years.

      Note: it is possible she’s just a jerk and thinks she’s better/smarter than religious people. But more often than not, I do think it’s the above, or being raised by people like that. I do think she’s being rude either way, but if you’re subjecting her to religious talk, this might be her imperfect way of trying to shut it down.

      1. Jessen*

        I think a lot of the animosity is that Jane was raised in the same religion/denomination that I currently belong to. I know Jane is very upset about her upbringing. But yes, these conversations don’t typically take place where Jane could overhear (Jane did not work in the same department as Mike and I did).

        1. Hazel*

          Another thing to keep in mind is that the same denomination in a different location, with a different leader and parents can be two wildly different experiences. Most members of my religion (including the leaders!) ignored many of the “uptight” rules, but my father followed them very strictly, so give her the benefit of the doubt and assume any negative feelings she has are coming from a genuine place. If it were me, I would consider it to be the Christian thing to do to really never mention religion in front of Jane at all. (I do identify as a Christian today, it just took a lot of time not being shoved down my throat)

    6. BRR*

      This is two issues to me. I think you just shouldn’t talk about religions, politics, or money at work. Even if you are both interested, you never know if some opinion might vary eventually and it’s just probably better to not do it.

      Jane is a separate issue. If your conversations happened in front of her she should have probably just let it go*(saying that as a fellow atheist). If her comments came out of nowhere it is completely uncalled for and unprofessional. Not talking about religion at work includes not criticizing it.

      *It’s possible you might think things are less controversial than they are due to your personal beliefs. We’re all often clouded by our own principles. So while you feel it shouldn’t offend others to hear it, it’s possible it sounded like you were screaming about religion to someone who isn’t religious.

      1. Jessen*

        Jane’s comments are typically coming out of nowhere, or at least out of much more benign comments (e.g. “I’ll be a little late on xx date because of yyy religious holiday”).

    7. Mike C.*

      These are two different issues. If you and your coworker want to talk about religion among yourselves that doesn’t affect work, then who cares? The argument against is that “you’re not supposed to because it would make others feel uncomfortable” doesn’t really apply here because it’s just the two of you and the argument that “you’re not supposed to talk about religion at work because there’s a social rule that says you’re not allowed to talk about religion at work” just kind of falls flat here as well.

      The other person making shitty remarks about religion needs to knock it off before someone starts to see the issue in the lens of protected class. Having an opinion is one thing, but this is knocking at the door of harassment.

  31. jsmitty*

    In job interviews, is disclosing that the reason you are wanting to leave your current job due to a lack of resources at your current organization a “safe” answer? And that you are looking for a new job where the organization is in more solid financial footing?

    I am job hunting because constant budget shortfalls and a lack of organizational structure to support my job and advocate for my role has resulted in a situation where there is a lot of demand internally for X,Y and Z to get done. However, we have no budget to accomplish any of them until we ask the Board for more money next year. And this apparently is a cycle for this nonprofit organization where the operating budget is allocated by a Board.
    A couple of the Directors are being very adamant and bordering on abusive in their approach to get me to do X, Y and Z and it is getting to be very stressful and unpleasant to work with that type of pressure breathing down my neck.

    So I am targeting larger, better-funded organizations (also nonprofits) which, frankly, have more money and have the organizational structure to properly support my role and function.

    1. Doug*

      If that’s a common problem in your industry then I worry that it would be a bad idea to say that’s why you left.

    2. Augusta Sugarbean*

      I would think the non-profit you are interviewing with would certainly understand funding issues but you just really want to make sure you are not sounding critical of your current organization in any way. Is there some other more neutral reason you can legitimately use? More like “looking to move into a job with XYZ duties.” or “new challenges”? If not, can try to say carefully something like “well, I don’t have to tell you that funding a non-profit is a challenge. I’m sorry to say that the funding for current organization isn’t as good as we hoped and for me to continue in this field, I need more financial stability.” Good luck!

    3. TCO*

      I think your stated reason for leaving is very legitimate and won’t scare employers off. I have a nonprofit background and while it’s an expectation in most places to be creative, flexible, and cost-efficient, there are plenty of employers with more financial stability and a better connection between their goals and their budget. Those employers value having that stability and won’t be turned off by a candidate who values it, too.

      I’d recommend having some clear information about how the lack of budget made your goals impossible to achieve. Saying, “I never had enough budget to do anything,” might not impress a nonprofit. Saying, “I was asked to do seven outreach events a year but didn’t have any travel budget, day-of staffing, or marketing budget,” makes it more clear that your last employer was extreme.

    4. BRR*

      I work in the nonprofit industry in a role that requires additional resources and I don’t think it’s the worst answer but I probably wouldn’t use it. You have no way of knowing the resources other organization’s have and whether they will have them long term. An organization with a bigger budget doesn’t mean more resources. I have a $25,000 budget for what I need. I just interviewed for a job at a much better funded nonprofit and they told me they had $5,000 allocated.

      I would try and find something else that interested you about that job. Hearing “I am leaving because I don’t have the tools to do my job” isn’t going to come off as enthusiastic to me if I was an interviewer. And I totally get not having the money to get your job done.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree with this and I would add, if you live in a less populated area where people tend to know each other, then the company you interview with might already know about the goings-on at your place. I think I would just say that I am looking for a larger company and I want to grow my role.

  32. Matilda*

    Happy Friday! I applied for a job recently and never heard anything other than we have received your application. Today I noticed the position had been reposted. I shouldn’t reapply (with a reworked cover letter), right?

    1. Leatherwings*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t. Reposting means they didn’t see someone they thought met their needs during the last round of applications.

    2. Gina the Conqueror*

      I say don’t reapply, but take heart! You may not be out of the running. A position I interviewed for was reposted a week after the interview, so I considered that my rejection and moved on. Imagine my suprise when another week went by and they told me I was one of their two final candidates and invited me back for another interview! While I didn’t get the position, it made me glad that I ignored the advice from friends and family to aggressively follow up. Maybe the hiring manager in your situation is like my boss, who will post a job several times, collect a large number of resumes, and then decide who to follow up with.

      1. Matilda*

        Thanks! I thought as much, but wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that they just want a larger number of resumes!

  33. MsMaryMary*

    I read a really interesting article this week on dream jobs. I thought many of you would appreciate it, I’ll post the link below. Basically, the authors of the article use these criteria to define a dream job:

    – Work you’re good at
    – Work that helps others
    – Engaging work that lets you enter a state of flow (freedom, variety, clear tasks, feedback)
    – Supportive colleagues
    – A job that meets your basic needs, like fair pay, a short commute and reasonable hours
    – A job that fits your personal life

    I loved this viewpoint on a dream job. Particularly as someone who has spent her career doing work that no child dreams of growing up to do. It’s more inclusive, too. We’ve talked here before about how “doing what you love” is kind of classist and elitist. There are so many more jobs that could meet everything on the list while not being a stereotypical dream job.

    I generally don’t believe in dream jobs, but I think I will make it a goal to find a job that ticks all six of these boxes.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      Hmmm….so I guess by this standard, I actually do work a dream job. Huh. It’s about dang time.

    2. AliceBD*

      By this standard I work at my dream job. I knew it when I interviewed and when I moved here for the position. Everything about my day-to-day tasks is SO GREAT I almost don’t want to be job searching — but upper management takes away all of our budget and wants us to hit the same goals we set when we had money to spend, and while the salary I got when I started here fit my experience at the time, I am now massively underpaid for what I am doing.

  34. TMA*

    I have to share something that happened to a coworker (May) the other day. Another coworker (Dennis) kept repeatedly asking May if she wanted a pastry. May kept saying no, and he responded with, “Well, you’re eating for two now, so you should take one.” May isn’t pregnant. May gave him a death stare and said, “Nope.” He responded with, “Oh you’re eating for three!” as in she is pregnant with not one child, but two. She again gave a death stare and said even more firmly, “Nope.” He then proceeded to talk about how twins ran in his family.

    Something similar happened to me when I returned from maternity leave. I was in the kitchen, and a coworker and I were making small talk. He then asked me, “So when are you having your baby.” I laughed and said, “I already had her, can’t you tell?” He was so embarrassed, and honestly (and I was kind of proud of this), I really didn’t care. A few years ago, it would have hurt my feelings, but watching him squirm was hilarious.

    TL/DR: Unless the woman is giving birth in front of you, don’t ask if she’s pregnant.

      1. Megs*

        My dream response (which I have not yet been brave enough to use) is to laugh and say “Oh god, I hope not! Why would you think that?”

      2. Rebecca in Dallas*

        My thought exactly!!!!

        My poor dad apparently made the mistake of assuming a woman was pregnant decades ago. (My mom introduced him to a coworker and he asked “When is the baby due?” She replied, “Last year.”) He still will not acknowledge a pregnancy until he knows it for a fact. I’ll even tell him someone is pregnant and he’ll ask me, “Are you sure?”

        1. Newby*

          My dad did this too! To be fair, it was in the maternity ward at the hospital. The woman sharing the room with my mom had had her baby the day before. He learned to never ever make that assumption again, even if it seems a pretty safe bet.

      1. Batshua*

        Is it bad that my default response is “they are men”?

        I feel kinda guilty, but kinda not. :>

    1. Amanda*

      I made the latter faux pas once. A colleague (not close) was pregnant. Then I didn’t see her for a while. Then I saw her again and asked about her pregnancy. Uh, the baby was like 3 months old. I routinely refer to this as The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done in My Life. I’m a woman BTW.

  35. JustTeaForMeThanks*

    I’m a bit disappointed. I have been searching for a “proper” job for the past four years. The day before yesterday I had a second interview for a great position with a company that made me feel like I would fit in wonderfully, the interview went very well. Unfortunately, yesterday, I heard that I did not get the job. It was a difficult decision on their part between me and one other person, and I was told it could have gone either way. Very disappointed. I was so close! On the plus side, I do get invitations for other jobs, so there is hope, but it just seemed like the perfect job that wouldn’t require me to start job searching any time soon (sooo done with job searching). Also done with sitting at home…

    1. Megs*

      I’m in the four year jobs search boat too, and man it stinks to get so close then nothing. I got ghosted a couple of weeks ago after three interviews in short succession. In hindsight, it might not have been the match I wanted, but it still stings to go back to the job searching grind. So very, very done. Good luck to us both!

      1. Research Assistant*

        If it’s at all encouraging, I just got a job after a 4-5 year job search. If you’re getting to the final round of interviews that’s great, but it’s so frustrating to be rejected that far along. It does mean you’re qualified for the job, so hopefully next time you will come out on top!

    2. Chaordic One*

      I hope that this doesn’t sound snotty, and I hope that I’m wrong about it, but I’ve been told the same thing so many times. I sort of wonder if that isn’t what “they” tell all prospective job applicants as a way to mitigate some of the disappointment that you’re bound to feel when in that situation.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        FWIW, I told a person that recently and I meant it. Because of reading here, I tried to say some more specific things so she could see I was thinking about what I was saying.

        My advice is hold it in the best possible light because it is not helpful not to. It does nothing to help you press onward by telling yourself, “oh, they were trying to be polite [or whatever].” Assume they were trying in the ways they knew how to encourage you.

  36. anonymaaaasss*

    How do I tell people at work to stop contacting me by phone?

    Backstory: a few months back I had to check my email on a vacation day. My manager emailed me asking to call him urgently, with no other details. So I did (and it was NOT something that required a phone call). Now he’s saved my phone number and uses it occasionally for unimportant or unnecessary messages, and has given it to other people who have used it!

    I hate hate hate being contacted by phone, and I am not in a job that requires this level of availability. How do I unravel myself from this?

    1. ThatGirl*

      Not everyone has phone anxiety, and some people prefer to contact others this way, so I’m not sure you can get it to stop entirely.

      But it sounds like you do have some phone anxiety. Can you say to your manager “I really prefer text/email/other means of contact unless it’s a true emergency”? Likewise to others who call “I know manager gave you my number but I really prefer e-mail whenever possible”.

    2. Murphy*

      Do you mean your personal phone? (Because that’s not OK) Or your work phone? I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask people not to call your work phone, but if it’s your personal cell phone, it’s completely inappropriate for that number to have been given out. I would mention to anyone else calling you on it “Hey! Just do you know, this is my personal phone and I prefer not to use it for work matters. If you could call 555-WORK or email me instead, I’d really appreciate it!” They probably don’t know.

    3. Megs*

      Leaving aside the phone portion, can you frame this as a concern that you’re increasingly being asked to respond to work requests while at home? It shouldn’t matter if you’re hourly or salaried (although you have a much stronger case with the former, since you MUST be paid for that time) – if it wasn’t a part of your job before, I think you’re in a good spot to ask whether this is a new job responsibility and, ideally, discourage it continuing.

    4. JustTeaForMeThanks*

      I had something similar not too long ago. It took a while for me to get my company phone, therefore I used my own phone for a couple of weeks – no problem as far as I’m concerned. When I received my work phone, I made sure my boss had my new (work)number. Yet he kept phoning my private phone instead of the work phone, even after I asked him to change the number and actually saw him change it. How I solved it? Blocked his number on my private phone. When he asked about it I would just say that I had my work phone with me but didn’t receive any messages. Eventually, he managed to ring my work phone. If your boss is reasonable (mine wasn’t, hence the slightly passive agressive solution), just talk to him/her. What you definitely should address is your boss giving your private number out to other people. I was always taught that when someone asks you for someone elses phone number, you take their number and tell them you will pass it on. That way you are helping to establish a networking connection, but not giving out private phone numbers (although I realise that this seems to be an ancient practice these days).

    5. BRR*

      I think you’re well within your rights to do the following (assuming it’s your personal cell phone):
      -Ask your manager to not call you
      -Ask your manager to tell the people he gave your number to not call you
      -Tell your manager to not give out your personal number
      -Tell anybody who calls you to email you
      -And maybe (this is a judgement call) you can block the numbers if you know certain people who are calling you will never call you with a work emergency

      Now is this going to stop all calls? Maybe maybe not.

    6. Perse's Mom*

      I would talk loudly and frequently about the amazing new callblocker app I just got is. Silly telemarketer scammers! WINK WINK.

      Throw in a “Who even answers calls from a number they don’t recognize anymore?!”
      (No, Bob, I don’t save my colleagues’ *work* info in my *personal* phone. Whyever would you need to contact me about work on my personal phone, Bob? That’s what my work number and work email are for.)

  37. Feeling dissapointed*

    I just got a job offer and the salary is a lot, lot lower than I had expected. I know money isn’t everything but I’m almost afraid that if I take it it’ll color my perception of the job/people and I’ll end up resenting them and the work. Anyone else experienced this? Also can we please stop with the convention of not bringing salary up until the offer stage? I’m not sure I would’ve pursued this job at all if I’d known the budgeted salary was so low -_-

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Will you be happy at that salary? Is there room for negotiation? Will the benefits package compensate?

      If you aren’t sure give it time to think about it. I’d been in a similar situation and was very resentful but YMMV.

      1. Feeling dissapointed*

        No I don’t think I’d be happy with that number, and to be honest, I’m a little concerned how it could impact my future earnings if I have to list it in a salary history when I decide to move on to another position. The benefits package seems decent, but the salary itself is just so much lower than I was expecting (like $15k lower) that even with a little wiggle room with negotiation, I’m not going to get to a number close to what I was expecting.

        How did your situation turn out? Did you end up not staying in the job very long?

        1. Anon Accountant*

          I stayed about 3 years and left. I was resentful and got to BEC stage within a few months. It affected my ability to have the cash to make a few major purchases like I’d wanted and take a vacation. I wasn’t happy.

          If you don’t think you’d be happy with it maybe consider passing on the opportunity and keep looking for the next one. Sorry job searching sucks.

    2. Christian Troy*

      I think this is why I’m very pro ask about salary in the beginning. I ran into that situation last summer and ended up with an offer I could not realistically take. I would have never applied for the job knowing how much it paid.

      1. Feeling dissapointed*

        Agreed, if nothing else this will be a learning experience for me. If I decide not to take it, you can bet I’m going to start bringing up salary in my interviews moving forward. It’s really a silly convention not to bring it up until the very final stages.

    3. Always Anon*

      If you don’t need the job, and the new job won’t negotiate and pay you what you feel is reasonable then I would encourage you to walk. Because, I do think that the resentment of feeling like you are underpaid and undervalued will eat away at you over time.

      1. Feeling dissapointed*

        Thanks for this advice. I’ve just finished graduate school so I think that’s impacting things in a few ways. I think from their perspective I’m coming into this job with no experience, which might account for the lower salary (though I would argue spending 5 years earning a PhD should count as experience). I also don’t know if I’m being too picky or overly critical since this will be my first “real” job out of school.

        So yes I do need the job in the sense that I’m otherwise unemployed, but I do have at least one other lead that could possibly turn into to something (unfortunately the timing won’t work out to juggle offers from both places). It just feels crazy to me to be turning down a job in favor of continued unemployment and hoping something better comes along. Man this process is hard.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          It just feels crazy to me to be turning down a job in favor of continued unemployment and hoping something better comes along.

          So you have to ask yourself what would be harder: hoping for (and working towards) something better, or taking this job and not having enough money to pay your bills from it while being resentful of the amount and not having time to continue your job search?

          I think that if you can negotiate with them to raise the amount, then try it. If you have information about how often raises are given or how quickly you might be promoted, that might add weight. Otherwise, IMO they have bargained with you in bad faith. Would you have applied for the job if you knew the pay was that low?

          You’ve got another interview coming up. I don’t think you have much to lose by looking around a while longer. You’ve also learned something valuable, ask about what the salary is as soon as you can if they won’t provide that information to you. It could be that this is was the entry-level pay is in your field. Or maybe right out of the gate you’ve found someone trying to snow you.

          1. Feeling dissapointed*

            Thanks for this. You’ve given me a lot to think about. I’m honestly not sure that I would’ve applied if I’d known how low the budgeted salary is. I think the problem is that this is an organization that has a set formula for how the calculate starting salary (based on education, years of experience, etc.), so I don’t know how much they’ll be able to deviate from that in negotiations. I guess I’ll just have to try it and find out.

        2. misspiggy*

          I think if it was a company that offered a clear trajectory upwards as you gained experience, that would be different. It’s not unreasonable to treat you as entry level, because you are in a way. But if your pay wouldn’t leap upwards after a year or two there, not worth it for all the reasons you mention.

          1. Feeling dissapointed*

            Yeah, I did ask about advancement and it seems like it’d take several years before I’d be able to get a substantial raise (i.e., more than ~2%/year). So that lack of immediate advancement is something I’ll have to consider

        3. Honeybee*

          When I applied for non-academic jobs I did treat my PhD as experience. I listed my role as a research assistant and listed accomplishments and duties. The PhD is so much like an apprenticeship, and I did learn and use valuable skills during it.

          Do you think that you would enjoy the job otherwise? Depending on the field and the job you may be able to work there for 2-3 years and then negotiate the salary you want in your next position once you have experience.

          1. Honeybee*

            And to be clear, I didn’t expect experienced level pay when I was applying. I still recognized that I was entry-level and would be considered as such. But if they said they wanted 3-5 years of conducting research, then I would still apply to the position because…well, I had that.

    4. JustTeaForMeThanks*

      This has happened to me. I was very excited about the position and was so excited when I was offered the job. Then it turned out that they were offering me over 10.000 less than the salary range I had given them – and I really wasn’t over-asking(!). I turned down the offer: I felt used and I hadn’t even started to work for them yet. I had given them my salary range in both the first and second interview – why they thought I would even consider it is beyond me. I’m not from the US and where I’m from, it is getting more and more common to talk about salary (in general) in early interviews. However, as you see, it doesn’t always prevent these types of situations. I have learned from this to always ask whether the range I have given them will work for them. I wouldn’t have gone in for a second interview had I know that this was their intended salary.

      1. Feeling dissapointed*

        Good to know, I’m sorry that happened to you! It’s crazy to me that they wouldn’t clarify the budgeted salary range after you gave your expectations. People do jobs for money after all! It’s a key factor in deciding fit, I just can’t understand why employers don’t make sure expectations are in line earlier on in the process.

    5. JustAnotherLibrarian*

      I had this happen to me. The salary was WAY lower than either I would have asked for or expected. However, it turned out to be a job in my hyper-specialized super-competitive field, so I took it. Long story short, I got a huge raise after my first year and have continued to get large raises. So, it turned out fine for me.

      Here’s the math I would do (and the math I did): How likely are you to get another job offer in your field? For me, I knew what I wanted to do was pretty darn specialized and I was willing to take the hit to get my foot in the door. However, that’s not true for everyone.

      One thing that helped me a huge amount, was asking my best mentors for advice at what they would do. So, if you know someone in your field to ask about it, you might want to do that.

      1. Feeling dissapointed*

        Thanks for the advice. I do have a few mentors in this area who I’ve emailed to get there thoughts. You raise a really interesting point about considering if I would be able to find another job in this area. I think I could… but it might be worth it to take this lower paying one and get my foot in the door. It’s something I’ll have to consider. Thanks for bringing it up!

    6. Jesmlet*

      It’s not worth it. There will inevitably be something wrong with the company and you’ll be going into work every day thinking ‘I don’t get paid enough for this s***’. That happened at my last job and I was completely miserable.

    7. TheCupcakeCounter*

      You need to do some research on what the market rate is for your field and see if the job is out of whack or if your expectations are. No employer will look at schooling (even at the PhD level) as work experience so you really need to look at entry level rates not experienced rates. Really unless it is required or highly desired for your field if might be hurting you more than helping you.
      If the job is still well below the market rate and they won’t meet you at least half-way I’d pass it up. You mention you have another lead so learn from this and find out now what that salary range is pronto.

      1. Susie Carmichael*

        Yeah I was going to say this same thing. You ARE entry level. Work experience is often counted higher than education HOWEVER these days you almost always MUST have education in order to be given work experience. Such a double edged sword. Are your expectations realistic for being entry level (first job out of school… so no real work in between degrees?) and is what they’re offering enough to have a decent quality of life — will the experience lead to better things, either in that org or in a couple years when you move on? If the compensation IS reasonable, but just not what you expect for your level of ed. *(which is what I am gathering and could be off-base) then weigh it a little more. However if they are still far below your level of WORK experience vs. other companies in your field then I’d keep looking…

        1. Feeling dissapointed*

          Thanks to both of you for the helpful comments. I think there’s a combination of factors at play here, including me not being totally realistic and the salary being a little lower than market rate. A different job that I previously interviewed for had similar responsibilities, but the salary range we discussed for that was ~10k higher. BUT the big difference there is that this was at a non-profit and the offer I have is from a university (and what I’m gathering from my reading is that those salaries tend to be lower, and are also developed in a more formulaic manner).

          Also just to add, I do realize that I’m technically entry level (though I did work for a few years between undergrad and grad school). I wasn’t trying to argue that 5 years in school is directly equivalent to 5 years of work experience. However, if I’m going into a job that’s responsibilities are heavily researched based (collecting and analyzing data, writing reports), and those kinds of tasks are what I’ve spent 5 years in grad school doing, doesn’t that count for something? Again, not equal to 5 years of work experience doing that, but certainly more than nothing. If it doesn’t count at all, then they really shouldn’t be making me an offer because the role requires experience in that area. It just seems unfair to me that those experiences would “count” towards my qualifications but not at all towards my years of experience in my field, but maybe I’m being unreasonable. This is all a big learning process for me, so thanks again for the comments.

          1. JOTeepe*

            “BUT the big difference there is that this was at a non-profit and the offer I have is from a university (and what I’m gathering from my reading is that those salaries tend to be lower, and are also developed in a more formulaic manner).”

            Yes and yes to these. However, while this is not always the case, it is worth considering: universities often have better benefit/perks packages than nonprofits. NOT a universal, though this has been my experience. Definitely take total rewards into consideration on this.

    8. Chaordic One*

      Have you done any research into what comparable jobs at other companies in the area are paying? If your expectations are reasonable, and the compensation is substantially below what is reasonable, I would suggest that you pass on the offer.

    9. Feeling dissapointed*

      Not sure if anyone comes back and reads these, but just in case, here’s an update. I did some research and talked to my mentors in the field and they agreed it was a low-ball salary for my level of experience and education. With their help, I put together a reasonable counter offer with a higher salary and the organization accepted it! I’m so glad I took the time to get input from my mentors and make a counter offer rather than just writing off the low-ball salary all together. Many thanks to everyone who replied and gave comments/advice!

  38. animaniactoo*

    I posted a way too long post last week about being nervous and freaked out because I wasn’t sure if my boss was intending me to lead a meeting on a subject that was my initiative, which she’d previously had resistance to and I’d gotten grief over before.

    I had intended to ask her if having me send out the meeting invite meant that she was intending for me to lead the meeting, but didn’t get a chance to. We got to the meeting, covered something else urgent that had come up in the meantime, and when I asked if we were ready to move on to the other she said “Well it’s your meeting, so go ahead.” I was semi-prepared in that I knew what I wanted to put out there about the changes I was proposing, and that I was looking for feedback from the others there using the program, so that showed up well.

    Overall, it went very well. She wasn’t nearly as aggravated about the whole thing as she has been before, everybody seems to have seen the benefit of the program, and was much more willing to approach it as “now we need to refine this so it works better for us”. So yay. Changes have been made, fingers crossed that this next portion shows off well and can then roll out my next push around this. :D

  39. Anon Accountant*

    I have GREAT NEWS!! Our secretary, “Jane”, that was so mean with clients and employees is retiring TODAY! She’s the one that has yelled at clients, bullied clients and staff until they’ve left, lied to management to get people in trouble and has been a total nightmare. She’s worked for my boss for 20 years and has gotten away with all of this for so many years but now it’s OVER!

    She’s so mean that several clients have said how happy they are when they’ve heard she’s retiring. 2 even went so far as to sing the song from the Wizard of Oz “ding dong the witch is” and changed it to retiring. 2 weeks ago a client called from the parking lot and said “I’m dropping stuff off for my books. Can you send someone out” and he said when my coworker walked outside “I don’t want to deal with Jane”. Jane disliked him and actually called him a pig several times in front of him and in front of other people.

    This week she’s been worse than ever and she’s made a lot of trouble with coworkers and clients. But it ends after today!

      1. SophieChotek*

        Of course how jane got away with this when even clients openly dislike her is somewhat disturbing/confusing to me

        1. Anon Accountant*

          It’s like she had something incriminating on the one boss or something. It was completely out of hand.

      2. Anon Accountant*

        She’s truly the worst coworker I’ve ever encountered in 17 years of working (since my first job as a cashier). We’ve never figured out why he kept her so long without firing her but finally over!

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      I remember you posting about Jane! What a nightmare. So happy for you and your office that she is leaving!

      1. Anon Accountant*

        She said it right in front of him!! And in front of other clients would tell my boss on the phone “that pig, John Doe, called for you again”. She’s chased off a lot of clients.

    2. Susie Carmichael*


      I’m surprised you all were able to retain clients with this going on. You all must offer some reallllly valuable service they can’t find elsewhere or are otherwise really kick-ass because if I am paying YOU I would not being paying to be bullied or called names!!

      So, I’m happy for you all that she’s leaving. My only lasting concern is a boss that has allowed this for so long sounds like someone who may have other management flaws and I REALLY hope she’s some random one-off situation and that going forward you will have good co-workers/teammates!!

      1. Anon Accountant*

        The only thing that really pulled the company through was we were fortunate to have a few groups of really large businesses that brought in a lot of revenue. That really kept us afloat through some times. With many clients we reassured them she didn’t do taxes and would arrange for us to go to their offices so they wouldn’t have to come to ours, some called our cell phones to avoid her answering their call, etc. We did everything we could to work around her.

        Our firm is the largest in our small town within an hour’s drive and thankfully clients have had good experiences with the rest of us, she was the exception. Our management is bad and most of us are looking for other jobs. There are great people employed here but it’s sad how she’s treated people and they’ve allowed it.

        Hopefully it’ll be a great future. :)

    3. Honeybee*

      I am surprised she hasn’t been fired before now. She sounds like a nightmare and, in a client facing role, has the potential to lose your company business. I certainly wouldn’t patronize a company whose secretary called me a pig or who was so mean to me I was compelled to sing a song when she retired.

      That said…preaching to the choir and all that. I’m glad she’s gone!

  40. Zzz*

    I did a huge thing yesterday– emailed two old professors to ask for letters of recommendation for grad school! I’m almost done with my personal statement and all that’s left is to ask my boss for a letter of recommendation and advice on how to get the most out of our tuition assistance plan. And then, of course, actually get in to the program!

    Any advice on how to juggle working full time and a part-time Master’s program (3-8 credits per semester)? Luckily my company is very flexible and willing to allow remote work, but I’m so nervous that I won’t have any work-school-life balance. I’m sort of dreading four years of no free time.

    1. Collie*

      I had a FT job and two PT jobs while doing grad school. I say this not to brag, but to insist: you can do this. The most useful thing for me was making sure I had all of my events in one place (class meetings, work schedule, other events) like Google Calendar (and I made sure it was set so I’d get an alert on my phone 30 minutes before the event) AND I used lots of to-do/assignment lists. My program was online, so that helped some, but you can make it work. Keep in mind that lunch breaks can be a great time to do bits of homework/reading, too!

      1. Zzz*

        This is great advice, thanks– I’m definitely worried about missing work deadlines or class deadlines. I generally have good time management but I get easily overwhelmed when I’m really really busy.

        1. Collie*

          And I think that’s okay. There was a point last summer where I worked 41 days in a row, had a two-day weekend, and then worked another 34 days in a row because I was training at one of my PT jobs, so I was also working 11-hour days and commuting while taking nine credits on the condensed summer schedule for school. Boy, did I have breakdowns (and learn a valuable lesson). It’s important to acknowledge there will be times that you’ll be overwhelmed and it’s okay to feel that way. You feel your feels, you get ’em out of the way, and you soldier forward.

    2. Anon for this one*

      My husband did this. Not gonna lie, I nearly divorced him over it, because three years is a really long time to go with little to no contact with your spouse. What hurt the most was that he made time for the gym, but not time for date night. I felt like I had all the extra work of marriage (I cooked, cleaned, did laundry for two) and none of the benefits, because I rarely saw my husband and when he came home, he was always mentally drained and wanted to watch mindless TV instead of talking to me.

      If you’re in a romantic relationship, please make sure your partner is on board with your plans. I’m not saying sacrifice your dreams for someone else, but if your partner is not OK with being a grad school widow(er) for that long, maybe you need to part ways. Or decide how you’ll fit in quality time for him/her.

      Anyway…whether you have a partner or not, I’d say to be very clear with yourself what your priorities are, so that you can carve out time for one or two things that you love and be ruthless about slicing away the rest.

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        Yes this also is very key, it can and may take a toll on your personal relationships. I completely second making sure that your romantic partner is 100% on board with this!

      2. Zzz*

        Thanks for this advice. My partner is definitely on board, and has stuck with me through a job where I worked 12 hour days and cried every morning, but that only lasted six months and this will be years. My priorities would be (1) my partner, (2) my job, and (3) school. My partner and I are hoping to get married sometime in the next few years, and we are both very family-oriented. I would be willing to take fewer classes per semester or even take time off if it starts to take a toll on our relationship.

      3. Honeybee*

        Yeah, this is important. My marriage was rocky during my PhD and my husband and I had to do some work to bounce back. Graduate school is a really intense experience, and it’s easy to get stuck in a fog and think about it and assume that your partner simply understands. Even if they’re on board at the beginning, it can be hard for them to stay on board for an extended period of time and you may not realize how much things change because you’re stuck in your grad school fog. Honestly, if I had the choice I wouldn’t do the PhD over again, and one reason is the way it affected my relationship.

        Constantly checking in with your partner and yourself are essential for staying sane in graduate school, especially if you will also be working. Make a day that is your day off and stick to it. Make a night every week that is your night to do something fun with your partner and stick to it. And make time every day to check in with your partner, even if it’s just an hour of watching TV together. I learned this pretty late in graduate school, and we had a lot of problems to claw ourselves back from by the time I’d figured it out.

    3. Anonymous Poster*

      This is very doable! I’ve done it for my MS and am doing it for my MBA! Here’s my advice:

      – Part time grad school is about time management and prioritization. Make your priorities very clear, and they’ll vary from person to person. But grad school has to be in your top 3 or else you’ll be more likely to drop out.
      – Your social life will take a large hit because of school. People understand, and you hopefully will make friends in your program. Those new friends are your future professional contacts! This is a good thing.
      – I gained weight during my MS, and learned to better plan out meals. My takeaway is you need to really plan your life out more than you were before to avoid pitfalls like late assignments, or tests sneaking up on you, or weight gain, or whatever else may trip you up.
      – Give yourself a little bit of time everyday to wind down. I didn’t do that for my MS, and have learned my lesson after suffering through insomnia and bad work performance. You aren’t a robot!
      – Enjoy what you’re learning! If you find out that you really hate all the material (and not just a class here and there), that’s a sign that this is not worth the effort you’re putting into it.

    4. Sparkly Librarian*

      It’s doable! I did full-time grad school (online) and full-time work (in office, hour commute each way) and got married the fall of my second year just after midterms. It was a grind, and I am DONE with academia/extended formal education, but it was worth it.

      1) SCHEDULE. Actually block out time for work, schoolwork, sleep, meals, showering, time with family, time with your partner, fun time, etc.
      2) SIMPLIFY. If you can eat the same lunch every day for a week, do that. Maybe you cook a bunch one day a week and have leftovers, or do prep and set up meals ahead of time. Don’t start anything new. Maybe drop a hobby or team commitment (I left choir because with travelling it took up most of one day a week that I desperately needed to recharge).
      3) DELEGATE. Don’t take on any new tasks if you can help it. Keep doing good work, but don’t go looking for extra — most people will understand that you have additional commitments now. Work out a plan with your partner about who does household stuff. I couldn’t have gotten through school without my wife’s practical support (emotional support aside) of cooking and feeding me and reminding me of bedtime.
      4) COMPARTMENTALIZE. When you’re at work, do work. When you’re working on school, it’s school. When you’re spending time with your loved ones, enjoy it and don’t worry about work or school.

    5. Red*

      I’ve been in some combination of full-time-plus work and full-time-plus school for the last eight years with at least two more to go, and I will say that your two best friends will become your calendar — make it accessible to you everywhere and put everything on it immediately — and a crockpot. Especially if you have a household, partner and/or kids — enlist their help. One of my coworkers is doing this and has four kids — during the school year, Tuesday is the high schooler’s dinner night and Thursday is the middle schooler’s. Dinner might be sandwiches or pancakes, but she doesn’t have to make it. Her partner does two or three nights a week depending on his work schedule, and she crockpots pretty regularly. Chili, soup, sweet and sour chicken, pasta sauce with meatballs, BBQ chicken or country style ribs, pot roast, all dirt easy to prep in a crockpot. And if it’s just you, most of them will make great leftovers too.

      Decide what you’re willing to let slide and what you’re not. If you can cope without dusted knick-knacks, don’t worry about it. If not having a shiny sink will drive you crazy, put “sink shining time” on your calendar.

      Remote working helps a lot. I would have to do a lot more schedule finagling if my department wasn’t completely WFH. As it is, when I have to leave from home at 4:30 to get to class on time, I log out of work at 4:15, because I’ve already been in my regular clothes and I don’t have to commute home to get my school stuff. But do try to make a distinction between a work space, and a school work space, and a personal computer area (if you’re a video gamer or YouTube watcher or whatnot). I can do all of those things in my comfy chair because I have different devices for each purpose, that might be enough for you. If not, something as simple as “this end of the dining room table is for work, that end the dining room table is for school” may do the trick.

    6. Ama*

      My coworker is doing this, and based on her experience I’d advise, (if it is an option with your program), to try and avoid signing up for any class that’s scheduled for more than 3 hours at one sitting. Last semester, she thought taking a class that met on Saturdays for 6 hours would be easier than having to work all day and go to school in the evening, but what it meant was she barely got any rest time and she also had a hard time concentrating for the full six hours. This semester she had the choice to take her next class again as a six hour Saturday class or as a class that met on two weeknights for three hours each and she picked that one because even though she’d have two long days during the week she’d have a real weekend to recover.

      1. Honeybee*

        Six hours sounds like a nightmare. My longest grad school classes were 3 hours and I was itching to get out by the end of hour two. At some point your concentration just breaks down, especially if it comes at the end of a long week.

    7. BRR*

      Stay as far ahead on school work as possible. There are only two options with working and school. You either stay ahead on work or are very behind.

    8. MJ*

      I am in my 2nd-to last semester in the same situation as you. My saving grace is that it is ok for me to do school work at work if all of my tasks are done. It is considered staff development and the nature of my work allows me to work ahead at times. Not knowing what you are studying I would say just do one class per semester if you are in a hard science. If you aren’t two may be feasible, it just isn’t for me. Choose your advisor/committee wisely! I was a full time grad student with an assists hip about 13 years ago but younger me did not choose well and my advisor was a whackadoodle who kept changing my thesis research! This time I thoroughly vetted 6 potential advisors and made a very detailed spreadsheet of their pros and cons before contacting 4 of them (you must have an advisor on board to get into my PT program, I know some PT grad programs suck but mine is at a “public Ivy”). My main advisor and 2 committee members are AWESOME! They are 3 of the 4 I approached when I applied, the 4th already had too many grad students and was going on a Fulbright scholar trip for a year.

    9. Random Citizen*

      I started working FT while taking classes FT this summer and will be continuing for the next year. Everyone has given such awesome advice! I’m saving all of it. :)

      Few things I’ve learned:
      Time-suckers: I was taking classes online, which meant I spent most of my time at home on my computer. The weeks where school got really overwhelming I would end up fiddling away my homework time on social media and any random sites (doing it right now, as a matter of fact :P), because I just wanted a break, and then I’d end up past midnight finishing homework and barely sleeping. Setting a timer for even, say, 20 minutes to work straight through helped a lot. Then I’d get up, walk around the house, get a snack, drink – just breathe for a couple minutes, and come back and set the timer again.

      Compartmentalize: So huge. I ended liking my time at work a lot better than my time with homework this semester, because nothing could invade my time at work. It didn’t matter when my homework was due, or that I needed to eat supper, or take a shower, or get ready for going anywhere – while I was at work, I could only do work stuff. Next semester, I’m going to make more of a point of trying to extend that to the rest of my schedule.

      Time to breathe: Like others have said, block off times when there will be no work or no school. Doesn’t even have to be the same times or consistently, just something to give you a break sometimes. I’d sometimes decide, yup, I can live without getting more homework done tonight, I have time yet before it’s due, I’m going to sit and watch this movie with my family/meet a friend for coffee/go for a walk now. At some point, I had to say, “School will be fine, work will be fine, and I need a break more than I need to write one more paragraph right now.”

      Good luck!!

    10. Valkyrie*


      I did this a few years back, I was working full-time as a 5th grade teacher and going to school at night to get my MA. I worked it out with my boss that I could leave early when my kids were with other teachers (Tuesdays and Thursdays they had PE, Art, Music and Spanish which I didn’t teach) which made it possible for me to get studying and homework done. It was tough at times, but I made sure to stick to a routine which helped tremendously, I luckily had enough time to get from work to class and have an hour or two before the late-late one started which was great for the reading I didn’t always do in advance.

      If you have group projects, make sure your classmates are clear on your availability/schedule–I had several classmates who didn’t work and expected me to be able to meet across town at 2:00pm on a Wednesday and after that happened once I made sure that I was up