when should a new manager start doing real work, correcting errors in other people’s letters, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. How new is “too new” before a manager starts to do real work?

I’ve worked at a company for 17 years, and for the past 8.5 years in a break-out division that’s now the fastest growing/most profitable of the company. Our management was pretty compressed, but in the past six months a former peer became my supervisor and her manager (formerly mine too) has had another layer of management added above her. There are about a dozen of us under my supervisor now. This new manager, Jane, has been on the job about six weeks and is supposed to get our business unit into fighting shape, which implies that the success we’ve generated has been accidental, l guess. Jane sat with me for 25 minutes one day to see what I do, but that’s been our sole interaction.

So far, her accomplishments are 1) requesting we each bring a favorite poem to our first getting-to-know you “all-hands” meeting, to read it and talk about what it means to us 2) having coffee mugs ordered for our team, with the name of the business unit 3) asking us all to provide pictures of ourselves and biographical info for a team Facebook page (we all already know each other very well; most of us have worked together at least eight years) and 4) having her office redecorated with fixtures nicer than even C-level staff above her, in our adequate but dated and somewhat dreary building.

Meanwhile, six months ago, we acquired our biggest competition and are integrating them, we have multiple aging systems that don’t communicate well with one another, our clients have the same problems repeatedly that we have to address because of our inadequate systems, our warehouses are continually behind because of the increase in business, and all of us have more accounts than we can give enough attention to. We have made these obstacles known and offered suggestions of how they could be managed, but are being offered coffee mugs. My immediate supervisor and her boss seem a bit intimidated by Jane and are keeping their heads down and being overly diplomatic about her ”newness,” but how long is a high-level manager too new to ask about when we are actually going to get started on solving our real day-to-day problems?

Six weeks in, I wouldn’t normally be alarmed if you weren’t seeing concrete evidence that your boss’s boss’s new boss was settled in and doing real work. Since you’re several layers of management removed from her, it wouldn’t be surprising for you not to be able to clearly see what she’s doing yet.

But there are certainly things that you don’t want to be seeing in this context, and the poems and other fluff certainly fall in that category. Whether it’s really the case or not, it makes it look like she’s focused on the wrong things and avoiding doing real work that will address the division’s biggest needs. So at a minimum, she’s being thoughtless about optics.

it would be appropriate for your manager’s manager (the one who reports directly to Jane) to take her an agenda of issues that need her attention and ask for time together to delve into them. Seeing how that goes will tell her a lot about what to expect — but that’s something that can only really be done a couple levels up from you.

2. Is it okay to correct errors in letters I’m printing without checking with the people who wrote them?

I am a recent-ish graduate about a month into my development coordinator job at a nonprofit. I frequently have to print/send letters that my superiors write to donors and foundations. Unfortunately, I do notice that sometimes there will be fairly glaring grammar/spelling mistakes in the letters. (Today I read one where they misspelled the donor’s name!) I have been wondering whether to check with them before making corrections, just go ahead and make the changes on my own, or bite my tongue and send the letters out with errors. Right now, I have been doing the first one, but in a very deferential, non-correct-y way, and it feels ridiculous and almost passive-aggressive emailing to say “is it okay if I fix the spelling on this before I send it out?”

I would have no problem letting the errors go if they were internal, but these letters are going to important donors, and I feel as though glaring mistakes make a bad impression. Can I just start fixing things without bugging my bosses, or should I keep asking for permission to correct them?

Don’t keep asking case by case, but ask about the overall situation: “Hey, sometimes when printing these I notice a donor’s name is misspelled or there’s a spelling or punctuation mistake in the letter. Is it okay for me to just go ahead and fix those without checking with you, or do you want me to keep checking with you individually on them as I’ve been doing?”

The reason for asking this is that there actually could be legitimate reasons to keep checking with them on at least some things. For example, you might hear, “Oh, Rachel Smith and I have a personal relationship and I address her as Rach — but I haven’t changed it in the database since other people shouldn’t address her that way.” Or you might hear, “Go ahead and fix things but give me a heads-up on what you’re changing so that I’m in the loop” — which is something I’d say to someone if I don’t have total confidence yet that their changes will be correct 100% of the time.

3. Is it strange if a company doesn’t involve HR in the hiring process?

Is it strange if a company that seems to have a functional Human Resources department doesn’t involve them in the interviewing and hiring process?

I seem to be a top candidate for a mid-level position. My first phone interview was with the person who would become my direct supervisor. About a month later, the senior director who interviewed me by phone asked me to come in for an in-person interview, where I met with him and five other senior staff members from his department. The senior director reached out to me a few days after the interview to ask for two references, which I supplied. After talking to both, he asked for a third reference a week later. A couple of days after that, I got an email from someone I had interviewed with on site (a senior VP, a couple of levels above the senior director) asking me how much money I made at my current job, and what I thought this new role should pay.

I responded back with the range I was seeking, and implied that I had some flexibility on salary if the benefits were good (from what I heard in the in-person interview, it sounds like they are). I realized after sending the email that this is the first time I’ve been asked about salary so late in the game — usually there’s some discussion of required compensation in the first phone interview to make sure we’re on the same page. What if I had emailed back a crazy number and they had to go back to the drawing board? Then I began to wonder, is it weird that all of this has taken place without the involvement of an HR professional? From what I can tell from their website, they have an entire HR team.

Nope, it’s not that weird, and I’d argue that it can be better, as long as you have managers who are trained to hire well since they’re always going to have a more nuanced understanding of what they’re looking for than HR is. I prefer to do my own hiring without HR involvement, and a lot of other managers feel the same. Or it could be that because this is a new position, they want to drive the process themselves to figure out how it can best work in the future — or that HR is giving advice behind the scenes and you just don’t see it.

With the pay thing, it’s not terribly unusual for pay not to come up until later in the process — not smart, necessarily, but definitely not uncommon — so I wouldn’t read anything into that. You had a phone interview, an in-person interview, references, and a salary discussion; so far, none of this seems particularly strange. They should have asked about salary before taking up anyone’s time with references (their time or your references’ time) and they should have only asked what you’re seeking, not what you’re currently earning, but those are both “how people should do things” criticisms rather than “they are totally out of step with other employers” criticisms.

4. Strangers keep contacting me on LinkedIn for job help

I was recently hired by a very well-known and prestigious consulting firm. It is my dream job with great benefits and interesting work, and the company rates among the many “best employers” lists. This is great!

Except it attracts multitudes of people who want a job at said firm to ping me on LinkedIn under the guise of a legit connection. I will always screen the invites and most/all look appear to be accomplished professionals in my field, who I would normally want a connection with. Then, in about 50% of cases, I get a message asking me about a job, or the recruiting process, or info to get an “edge.” I get disappointed and annoyed that strangers would do this, and usually just refer them to the hiring website of our company. But then…do I drop them after realizing they only wanted to use me to get my company connections? Do I just remove my employer from my page to stem the tide? And why are people doing this in the first place? It strikes me as rude.

Yeah, some people use LinkedIn this way, and it’s odd. It’s probably a misapplication of the advice to use LinkedIn to try to network with people at companies you’re interested in applying at. That advice doesn’t mean “cold-email strangers asking about jobs,” or at least it shouldn’t, but some people seem to take it that way.

I don’t think there are any must-do’s for your side of this though. You don’t need to disconnect from people who do this, but it’s also fine to disconnect if you prefer to. Don’t remove your employer’s name from your profile though; that would be overkill.

You might be someone who prefers to only connect with people you know in some way or who at least include a message explaining why they’re requesting the connection. It’s fine to ignore messages from strangers asking you for an in at your company, or you can just keep referring them to your company’s hiring website.

5. When to disclose Parkinson’s during a job search

My husband has early-onset, early-stage Parkinson’s. This means that he stared showing symptoms much earlier than average, and he is still in the early stages of the disease. He is as sharp as ever mentally and can do all the things he’s always done. He’s a software engineer and using his computer is not a problem. However, even with the proper medication, his tremor is visible.

This was not a problem at his last job, since he began years ago when the tremor was less noticeable and was able to tell people about his condition once they already knew and liked him and his work. But now he’s looking for a new job.

When’s the best time to tell potential employers about his condition? A few opinions:
• Husband: Disclose during any phone screen so that employers will know what to expect when they meet me.
• Career counselor: Don’t mention it at all on the phone or in person since hiring managers are looking at your skills, not your physical condition.
• Wife: Don’t mention during phone screen and give a brief explanation when you meet any potential employer in person, showing through your physical presence and matter-of-fact attitude that your condition is not a blocker to working and putting a stop to any worst-case-scenario speculation.

It’s pretty clear where I stand, but husband is giving serious consideration to the first and second options, so I’d love to know what you — and readers who may have had experience with this sort of thing on either side of the hiring table — would advise.

I agree with you. I’d wait until the in-person interview and just say matter-of-factly at the start of it, “I should mention I have a condition that can cause a tremor — nothing to worry about if you notice it!”

{ 205 comments… read them below }

  1. Wendy Darling*

    My outplacement agency job coach 100% told me to cold-email people on LinkedIn if I wanted a job where they worked. This is definitely advice that is out there. She seemed to think that as long as the person was a 2nd or 3rd connection it was fine, but I’m pretty sure I’m a 3rd degree connection with like 75% of the tech workers in my hemisphere. She got pretty cranky when I declined to send a specified number of connection requests per week.

    (The job coach was terrible and I got rid of her.)

    1. H.C.*

      Ha, I’d be wary of even contacting 1st connections unless I know there’s a relevant opening at the company they’re working at.

    2. Jeanne*

      Before LinkedIn I used to receive emails from new graduates at my college. They would just email everyone the alumni office had listed as the same major. The email basically said “Are there any jobs at your company I can have?” No research about me or my company. These LinkedIn contacts are the same thing and it’s a sad way to look for a job. I would never respond positively to a contact like that.

    3. LeRainDrop*

      Same here. I went to the first meeting with the coach, and this was just one of his tips I heard that made me think, “Alison would never approve of that!” He kept saying, “You look really resistant to these changes. Try to keep an open mind.” I could’t make myself put trust his advice after that. My measuring stick is, “What would Alison say?” So, I went back and reread my “How To Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager” book by Alison.

      1. Over-Networked*

        I posted this down at the bottom, but now noticed there are a lot of poem threads (haha) so I moved my comment to the more relevant thread. :)

        Letter writer for #4 here (the LinkedIn post). Thank you for posting an answer to my question!

        I understand the temptation must be intense to try to “network” with employees at a company you’d like to work at, but network (to me) means give and take, and forming meaningful connections. At first I attempted to help a few people and answer their questions or assess their “fit.” But after spending time on answering their questions in great detail, I’d never hear from them again- not even a thank you. This reflects very badly on the applicant and is an example of how this kind of “networking” can hurt you. If this person’s CV came past me now, I would not remember them positively but, now, negatively. They would have been better off applying via the usual channels. Which is what I will now recommend that they–and everyone–do. After being at my firm for a while, I also see that contacting an employee on LinkedIn rather than going through usual channels is considered unprofessional and a faux pas. If a job coach or someone else is encouraging you to do this, I would think hard about doing it.

    4. KH*

      I use LinkedIn a lot and actually got my current job through it. As part of my previous firm separation package,I received job search training that included a course on using LinkedIn and other social media.

      There’s nothing wrong with cold-mailing people on LinkedIn. There are systems to discourage connecting to someone you don’t know professionally and there are limits to how many requests can be made with no connection), so you are unlikely to get totally spammed.

      It is, however unrealistic to expect many responses and a recipient of such request is under no obligation to respond. If it happens frequently enough, I don’t think anyone would be offended if you just ignored them.

      In the training we were encouraged to only connect with people with whom we have a real relationship or have met in real life. Only add people with whom you intend to maintain a relationship. If you don’t who they are or what they want, turn down or even ignore the invitation to connect.

      If you connect with someone and later find out they just wanted to pick your brain and provide nothing in return, don’t be shy about “unfriending” them. They already got what they wanted from you (or they already know they won’t get anything from you), and will not be insulted if you unfriend them later.

      These tips may not apply in a very tight knit industry such as where you are likely to come across the person professionally in the future.

    1. Remarkable*

      I was going to say the same thing. At my job we use hr to run background checks and to notify us if anything is omitted and or on the application that’s not true. No one we hire speak to them until the offer is accepted.

    2. Newish Reader*

      Where I work, HR is very involved in the hiring process, but it’s not obvious at all to candidates. The hiring manager has to work with HR with every step of the process, utilizing HR’s knowledge and expertise about hiring laws and techniques.

      1. HR Expat*

        This. The hiring manager and I collaborate on the process. HR is very involved, but that doesn’t mean that the candidate sees me. For most of my business’ roles, me interviewing doesn’t add any value. It doesn’t make sense for me to interview because it only slows down an already long process. If it’s a senior leadership role, I will generally interview because I’ll be interacting with the successful candidate on a daily basis. I’ll also interview if the hiring manager asks me, but I’ll set it up with another interview so we’re not adding another layer to the process.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        At my last job HR was involved with hiring but only after we’d selected our finalists. We did all the interview scheduling ourselves because it was faster (and because for a while our HR rep was overworked and also not very good with scheduling, and made a metric ton of mistakes).

        We basically just told HR what we were doing, and then when we decided we wanted to make someone an offer they vetted the person and wrote the official offer letter for us.

        HR definitely did not interview any of our candidates ever — that would have been pointless. HR did not have expertise in the things we were hiring for, so all they would have been interviewing for is “was this person raised by wolves”, and we sort of folded that into the other interviews already.

    3. Anja*

      Yep. For us HR is involved in writing the original posting, they’re the ones that put it up, they do the initial screening (for minimum requirements – eg. don’t send us people that don’t meet educational requirements), then send the hiring team resumes. If the hiring team has a person who has done the interview training then HR doesn’t come to the interview – if the team does not have anyone with that training someone from HR will attend as kind of an auditor to the process. Then once a decision is made, the hiring team (again, assuming appropriate training) makes a verbal offer, and if that’s accepted puts it back up to HR who processes the written offer and forwards it to the candidate. So in our process very often at least at middle and lower levels people may never hear from HR until receiving the agreed upon written offer though they’ve been involved throughout.

      1. De Minimis*

        It’s similar where I work [and I perform a lot of the HR functions for recruiting.] I post the job, though in our system most of the process is automated. The hiring team is the one that reviews the pool of candidates and selects interviewees, and they handle the rest of it until the offer/reference checking process. The only time I’ve been more involved is when it’s for a role that works closely with me.

  2. Sami*

    This would be my poem for Jane – a haiku even!
    No, no, no, no, no
    No, no, no, no, no, no, no
    No, no, no, no, no

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      Right?! A poem? Biographical info and photos for a team Facebook page?! What the what?!

      Now, I am, however, onboard for the coffee mugs. In fact, I think I’m going to suggest that to the committee in charge of buying my division’s swag.

    2. ginger ale for all*

      Since it is banned books week, perhaps Howl by Ginsberg with a long explanation of it’s obscenity trial and various bannings, the FCC fines that are assessed when it is aired, etc. I would bet poetry readings would end. But this scenario should only happen in people’s imagination.

    3. Swoop*

      The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Beowulf are all poems…just sayin’… :)
      (and they all deal with people getting stuff done!)

        1. Xarcady*

          My go-to poem, when asked for my favorite, which happens oddly often, is the first 18 lines of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, recited in Middle English. And I’ll provide a translation if asked! And an explanation of every line! Thank you, Sister Miriam, from senior year high school English class. You thought you were punishing me by making me memorize that, but instead you gave me a life-long party trick.

          Works great if you want people to leave you alone.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              So did my Brit Lit teacher in college! We had to do the Middle English with accent and everything! It was especially great because she had a wonderful Bronx accent, and those two combined to glorious effect. I still have the entire incipit committed to memory.

          1. VintageLydia*

            We read Robin Hood in Middle English in 6th grade (which looking back was INSANE for 6th graders! Even for the honor’s class I was in!)

            That’s not relevant to anything. Your comment just reminded me.

        2. Kore*

          Since I studied Latin in high school, most of my favorite poems are in Latin. Oh, and while they have been translated to English, poetry IS really better in Latin so I’ll read that aloud.

    4. caledonia*

      My favourite poems are unfortunately the 2 my mum had at her funeral – 1 of which is the famous one in the film “four weddings and a funeral” so that wouldn’t go down well with me.

    5. Dangerfield*

      I’d love to be brave enough to start reading Evidently Chickentown by John Cooper Clarke as gravely and seriously as possible, and see how many lines into it I was allowed to continue.

        1. Miss Betty*

          I love that one! Or Roald Dahl’s “Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf”.

          Or if I were actually being serious, I’d quote in it’s (brief) entirety “If thou couldst empty all thyself of self” and then we could begin a theological discussion, following all kinds of tangents into various other topics (I’m pretty sure I could drag Star Trek in without trying too hard) until we’ve spent the entire meeting discussing really interesting things instead of having a boring meeting. Hmm – maybe there’s something to this favorite poem thing after all!

    6. Construction Safety*

      When you talk of blood and gore
      When you’re fightin’ in a war
      And the enemy is chargin’ for the kill
      Then you ought to haul some water
      Like that brave & fearless couple, Jack and Jill

    7. Purest Green*

      Bleem miserable venchit! Bleem forever mestinglish asunder frapt.
      Gashee morphousite, thou expungiest quoopisk!
      Fripping lyshus wimbgunts, awhilst moongrovenly kormzibs.
      Gerond withoutitude form into formless bloit, why not then? Moose.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          Not gonna lie, I would probably bring in “Ode To A Haggis”, recited in its full Burnsian glory.

        2. Purest Green*

          It’s actually the following verse to what The Cosmic Avenger posted below. It’s from a Hitchhiker’s Guide text-based game.

    8. The Cosmic Avenger*

      You REALLY want to shut this poetry reading down?? Throw down this gauntlet:

      Oh freddled gruntbuggly,
      Thy micturations are to me,
      As plurdled gabbleblotchits,
      On a lurgid bee,
      That mordiously hath blurted out,
      Its earted jurtles,
      Into a rancid festering confectious organ squealer. [drowned out by moaning and screaming]
      Now the jurpling slayjid agrocrustles,
      Are slurping hagrilly up the axlegrurts,
      And living glupules frart and slipulate,
      Like jowling meated liverslime,
      Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turling dromes,
      And hooptiously drangle me,
      With crinkly bindlewurdles,
      Or else I shall rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon,
      See if I don’t!

    9. ceiswyn*

      Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
      I must now conclude my lay
      By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
      That your central girders would not have given way,
      At least many sensible men do say,
      Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
      At least many sensible men confesses,
      For the stronger we our houses do build,
      The less chance we have of being killed.

      (This is genuinely my favourite poem, though not for literary reasons :) )

    10. Dot Warner*

      I’d be tempted to read something by Shel Silverstein and pretend to find all sorts of deep meaning in it. “You see, the way the entire kingdom focused on opening the king’s mouth after he ate the peanut butter sandwich is a representation of the class struggle…”

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        “I cannot go to school today,”
        Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
        “I have the measles and the mumps,
        A gash, a rash, and purple bumps.
        My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
        I’m going blind in my right eye.
        My tonsils are as big as rocks,
        I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox–
        And there’s one more, that’s seventeen,
        And don’t you think my face looks green?
        My leg is cut–my eyes are blue,
        It might be instamatic flu.
        I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
        I’m sure that my left leg is broke.
        My hip hurts when I move my chin,
        My belly button’s caving in,
        My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
        My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
        My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
        I have a sliver in my thumb.
        My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
        I hardly whisper when I speak.
        My tongue is filling up my mouth,
        I think my hair is falling out.
        My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
        My temperature is one-o-eight.
        My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
        There is a hole inside my ear.
        I have a hangnail and my heart is–what?
        What’s that? What’s that you say?
        You say today is. . . Saturday?
        G’bye, I’m going out to play!”

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              Yup, Shel Silverstein. My fourth grade teacher had us memorize 15 poems (well, some weren’t technically poems, such as the alphabet in sign language and all the presidents up to George Bush, for extra credit) and this is one of the ones I still remember. I would totally read that and then say it means a lot to me because that’s the kind of thing she’ll be hearing from me next time she wants me to read a poem (and I’m an English major!).

    11. Cleopatra Jones*

      She would get the totally dramatic, interpretative dance version of Maya Angelou’s, ‘Still I Rise’. Poetry time would officially stop after that.

    12. Beezus*

      I eat my peas with honey,
      I’ve done it all my life,
      it tastes a little funny,
      but it keeps them on the knife.

      -no idea on source, but I recited it so often at the dinner table that my parents forbade it in annoyance. Also taboo for the same reason: an even less mature rhyme about beans, that you probably know, so I won’t post it.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Another childhood one (for me):

        I never saw a purple cow.
        I never hope to see one.
        But I can tell you anyhow,
        I’d rather see than be one.

        *takes a bow*

      2. Paige Turner*

        I never saw a purple cow
        I never hope to see one-
        But I can tell you, anyhow,
        I’d rather see than be one!

      3. Paige Turner*

        One fine day in the middle of the night,
        Two dead boys got up to fight.
        Side by side, they faced each other,
        Drew their swords, and shot each other.
        The deaf policeman heard the noise,
        And came and killed the two dead boys.

        This is so morbid in retrospect…I must have been eight or nine when my mom first busted it out :)

        1. Finny*

          I was three and had just learner to read when my father told me that one. It’s among my favourite poems and miscellany.

        2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I know that one, too! Except my version had two more lines–

          If you don’t believe this lie is true,
          Just ask the blind man– he saw it too!

          Another favorite is:

          Yesterday upon the stair
          I saw a man who wasn’t there.
          He wasn’t there again today.
          Gosh, I wish he’d go away!

      4. Rowan*

        I’ve always thought that was Shel Silverstein, but apparently not! Although it’s a common enough misconception that his estate has issued a formal denial. ;-) (Link to follow in separate comment.)

      5. Frozen toad*

        One of my favorites I memorized as a child:

        See the happy moron, he doesn’t give a damn,
        I wish I were a moron,
        My God, perhaps I am

        Have no idea of authorship, I think I just loved it because it had a cuss word.

      6. Salyan*

        If you don’t believe in dragons
        It is curiously true,
        That the dragons you disparage
        Choose to not believe in you.

    13. LCL*

      Resume by Dorothy Parker
      Razors pain you
      Rivers are damp
      Acids stain you
      And drugs cause cramp
      Guns aren’t lawful
      Nooses give
      Gas smells awful
      You might as well live

      1. JayemGriffin*

        I don’t recall the title, but my favorite (I think it’s also Dorothy Parker):

        Drink and dine and laugh and lie
        Love the reeling midnight through
        For tomorrow we shall die!
        But, alas, we never do.

    14. C Average*

      ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
      All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe . . .

    15. Elizabeth West*

      A fly and a flea in a flue
      Were imprisoned, so what could they do?
      Said the fly, “Let us flee,”
      “Let us fly,” said the flea.
      So they flew through a flaw in the flue. — Ogden Nash

      I had this limerick book as a kid (still have it) and it’s packed with Nash stuff. :)

    16. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      Listen my children, and you shall here
      Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere
      On the eighteenth of April in seventy-five
      Hardly a man is now alive
      Who remembers that famous day and year.

      He said to his friends, “If the British march
      By land or by sea through the town tonight
      Hang a lantern aloft of the belfry arch
      of the North Church tower as a signal light.
      One if by land, two if by sea,
      And I on the opposite shore will be
      Ready to ride and spread the alarm
      To every Middlesex village and farm
      For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

      Thank you, Miss Shepherd.

    17. Adonday Veeah*

      “Go ask Papa,” the maiden said.
      The young man knew that Papa was dead.
      He knew the life that Papa had led.
      He understood when the maiden said, “Go ask Papa.”

    18. Meeeeeeeee*

      Recited in full on poetry recital style:
      “Brrrah, brraaah! I am Hercules Mulligan
      Up in it, lovin’ it
      Yes I heard your mother say “come again?”
      Lock up your daughters and horses, of course
      It’s hard to have intercourse over four sets of corsets”

    19. Meri*

      Laziness, by Robert Service.

      Oh it’s noble to sweat, pounds and dollars to get,
      But – it’s grand to do nothing at all.

  3. H.C.*

    OP2 another reason you want to give the author a heads up before sending – so he/she can adjust the “final” version that was saved, preventing the errors you caught from propagating if, say, a higher-up wants to send a few more copies later on or if a new team member was given that document to repurpose for other materials (& not knowing the donor’s name has been misspelled).

    1. Brussels manager*

      Totally agree with H.C.

      It is common to reuse materials, email templates, etc. and it can be quite frustrating to keep reproducing mistakes because whomever noticed didn’t share / update the main file.

      So correct and inform / share. And in doubt, ask before correcting.

  4. Blurgle*


    Last week i might have suggested reciting the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” as pompously as possible – but not today.

  5. Jeanne*

    #5, The recommended wording is good. Don’t mention Parkinson’s during an interview. Many people still have unconscious biases against those with a disability. If he doesn’t need any accomodation, I would recommend not mentioning it until he’s worked there about 6 months. We have a long way to go in this area of potential discrimination.

      1. Liane*

        Stay away from Petronius, though. “The Satyricon” is pretty much nothing but NSFW, even in the original.

  6. MegaMoose, Esq*

    I’m not much for poetry, but I do like this one ever since it was quoted on Babylon 5 when I was an impressionable pseudo-goth teenager:

    “Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

    Maybe not so great for work.

    1. Ann On for this*

      PERFECT for work

      Possibly not so good if you want to appear like an enthusiastic professional though

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Ooh, I remembered another one I liked a lot as a teen:

          “Because I could not stop for Death –
          He kindly stopped for me –
          The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
          And Immortality.

          We slowly drove – He knew no haste
          And I had put away
          My labor and my leisure too,
          For His Civility –

          We passed the School, where Children strove
          At Recess – in the Ring –
          We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
          We passed the Setting Sun –

          Or rather – He passed us –
          The Dews drew quivering and chill –
          For only Gossamer, my Gown –
          My Tippet – only Tulle –

          We paused before a House that seemed
          A Swelling of the Ground –
          The Roof was scarcely visible –
          The Cornice – in the Ground –

          Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
          Feels shorter than the Day
          I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
          Were toward Eternity – ”

          I was one of *those* kids.

    2. J.B.*

      Half a league, half a league,
      Half a league onward,
      All in the valley of Death
      Rode the six hundred.
      “Forward, the Light Brigade!
      Charge for the guns!” he said.
      Into the valley of Death
      Rode the six hundred.

    3. Jayn*

      Personally I have a fondness for “May all my enemies go to Hell, Noel Noel Noel Noel” but that may just be because my English teacher recited it while doing a headstand,

  7. Cat steals keyboard*

    I once had a boss who didn’t talk to any of us for ages and never did one to ones or anything he should have done. He was fired in the end. Long story. But we did take a cheesy team photo that practically brings me out in hives when I think of it.

  8. Daisy Steiner*

    #2 From the opposite perspective, I’ve had people ‘correct’ things in my work without alerting me, only for me to find out later on that they introduced errors instead of removing them. It’s utterly infuriating! So just be REALLY careful that you’re sure it’s an error before you change anything (nothing in your letter led me to believe that you are doing otherwise, just thought I’d mention this as it’s come up for me a few times lately).

    1. Blueismyfavorite*

      I’ve had this happen! At my job, I write reports and attorneys will edit for legal sufficiency but in doing so they sometimes edit in grammatical errors or extraneous words and it drives me nuts! The Elements of Style says, “vigorous writing is concise,” so when they stick in unneeded words it makes me twitch.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Omg, me too, and my supervisor has a bad habit of doing this every now and then to some of my coverage letters – it drives me nuts. I end up removing a lot of the extra bits and correcting misspellings and the like, which eats up more of my time than I’d like.

    2. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*

      Hah, yeah, me too. I once had someone change “is loath to” in a report I wrote to “loathes to”. Serve me right for being slightly pompous in tone, but that is a very different meaning, yo!

    3. Liane*

      This is why I always ask what the writer wants when I proofread–fix typos, call them out in comment function or email, etc. Even someone I know well and have worked with a lot may want something different this project.

    4. Lucy Honeychurch (OP #2)*

      Yes, I am for sure being careful! I am not even touching matters of usage/syntax, just very obvious mistakes like apostrophe misplacement or subject/verb not agreeing.

      1. Daisy Steiner*

        Again, I totally believe you are being careful, but it’s funny you mention apostrophes because that’s literally what this person changed: I wrote “3 days’ time” and they changed it to “3 day’s time”. *angry eyes*

    5. Mephyle*

      Freelancer translators know that clients or users will ‘correct’ translations even though they paid you to do it right in the first place.

    6. irritable vowel*

      Yep – I have definitely had this happen, too. OP, once you’ve been at that job a year and everyone has a good comfort level with your proofreading skill, as your supervisor I would have no problem giving you free rein to make corrections, but a month just isn’t enough time for me to have assessed your skill at doing this. So, I would definitely want you to run any changes by the person who wrote the letter, for the time being. (And if I’m not the letter-writer, loop me in, too, so I know that you’re doing this for people! If that’s a skill you have and are using in the workplace, I want to know about it.)

    7. Elsajeni*

      Yes, and I’d definitely always double-check before correcting the spelling of a name — you don’t want to be the person who “corrects” someone’s unusual name to a more standard form.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          I went to junior high with an Erin and Aaron who both had the same moderately common surname – no relation, of course. Chaos definitely ensued.

  9. HR Expat*

    I could be totally off-base, but OP1’s situation sounds like there might be something else going on at a higher level with employee engagement or morale that this boss has been asked to address. Bringing poems is a silly idea, but the actions sound like morale-builders. It could also be an attempt to cultivate relationships and gain support prior to digging in and fixing the issues. Maybe I’m reading too much into this letter…

    1. Random Lurker*

      This was my hypothesis as well. I also have to give a little side eye to the OP for claiming the poem, Facebook, mugs, etc were her only accomplishments. This person has much different job requirements than OP. Why would OP know what expectations have been laid out for Jane by someone 4 levels higher than her? Maybe Jane sucks at her job. Or maybe not. But OP is looking at Jane with entirely different optics than Jane and her manager are.

      1. LQ*

        Yeah, the idea that my boss’s boss’s boss’s work would be something I could see is pretty strange to me. And I actually would have fairly good insight from my org into that. Other people think he does nothing but walk around. (This is something I’ve frequently heard about him.) And if my boss or my boss’s boss complained to me about him? I’d think that was even stranger.

        That said the things people think he’s done include similar things like a halloween cube decorating thing and a couple emails out to all staff under him (which is about 300-400 people total) about things that impact all of us.

        I would never expect him to worry about my computer, when I needed a new one I talked to my boss, who did have to push it up to his boss (who was nearly offended that I’d waited so long to ask for a replacement), the great-grandboss doesn’t even know because one computer out of 400 doesn’t matter that much in that scheme of things.

    2. Sybil Fawlty*

      That was my thought as well. The new manager may be aware that the solutions to these problems will be unpleasant, and is hoping to build some team spirit before she has to get to the hard stuff. Or she may want to see what the situation is, who will cooperate, who will fight with her, how people are working together right now.

      I’d take it as a good sign that she’s making change slowly, it will be more likely to be effective. Hope it works out well!

  10. Iain Clarke*

    The was an employee from Nantucket
    whose new boss had the brains of a bucket.
    The boss loved to plug
    her ideas, like a branded mug!
    So, the employee gave up and said, “**** it”

  11. amy*

    Letter writer with the Jane boss here. These are indeed meant to be morale builders because even the most optimistic and patient of us is turning into a cynical, overbooked mess. These just seem poorly thought out, and chosen at random from a dated supervision book or magazine article. A better approach might have been for her to ask all dozen of us for three ideas each for something that would be welcome and make our worklives easier. Mine would be 1)new laptop to replace my 8-year old desktop 2) that would enable me to work from home at least one day a week in order to get more complicated projects done without interruptions 3)offsite meeting (in a non-dreary location) with no distractions, in order to generate and compile (again) ideas of what we need to do our work better. Those index cards or charts with all the markered ideas on them might keep her busy for awhile. Next I’m expecting a Halloween decorating contest, maybe between departments. (We will OWN you, Finance)

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      At Evil Law Firm, we had a cubicle decorating “contest” for Halloween (it really wasn’t a contest since everyone won something) where the theme was Favorite Scary Movies. I did Pet Sematary (not my favorite by the way, just one of the easier ones to do with the decorations found at Walgreens), and it was really fun. Plus, we got to work on the decorations during the day, and even though I normally hate arts and crafts during work hours (this isn’t kindergarten, and our whole firm was already on mandatory OT because we couldn’t keep up with the volume of work we had coming in), drawing and cutting out leaves for my cemetery kept me from snapping in overworked fury a couple of times, so it was all good. And the cube just looked so cool.

      1. LQ*


        I waited a super long time limping along on a machine that wasn’t good enough for me. (It wasn’t that old, but it did not have the power I needed for the work I do.) When I finally went in and asked my boss he was a little bit hesitant and asked me to write up justification for it because it did need to get pushed up a level. When it was my director (boss’s boss) came over and was nearly upset that I’d waited, he admonished me that he can only help with things he knows about and stuff like an old computer is incredibly simple to fix so yes! Ask sooner on those things! It was great to hear. But ask. No one knew how frustrated I was even though I thought it was totally obvious.

        Talk to your manager. This is the person who should be bringing it up the line.

    2. seejay*

      Yeah I agree with you that morale boosters aren’t going to do diddly squat when you have work to do, your department is already a group of people that have worked there long enough to know each other for years, and you’re already struggling in the management department. It sounds to me like a morale boost would be getting someone who can manage and get the team moving forward, not start an arts and crafts class and put lipstick on a pig (pardon my vernacular).

      We’re adults in a business world, not 6 year olds needing sparkles and glue. If my manager came to me and wanted to run a contest to dress up our cubes, I’d look at him like he’d lost his marbles… and my office is pretty relaxed and has happy hours and social stuff out the wazzoo on a regular basis. We just have a group that’s designated to run it, the managers… you know… manage.

      Sorry, I’d be side-eyeing that manager and finding out what’s going on. That’s my two cents worth on it at least.

    3. Lora*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s been booked solid with training and meetings for the first several weeks. Lots of companies, especially large ones, tend to do that sort of thing. Part of it is so you can see how your new department fits in with the other ones – they presume you know pretty well what your department does or what you want it to do, but you have to learn how the other departments work together with your crew and what the business systems are.

      At some point, Jane should walk around and make an effort to learn what you all are doing now and the current state of affairs, so she can get a sense of baseline and then decide what, if anything, she wants to change, and then she will have to propose that to her boss and see what resources are available to make those changes.

      As with all jobs, sometimes you walk in and see a great many obvious changes that need to be made, and then you are told no, you can’t change them because (whatever). Sometimes Whatever is a legit reason such as “we don’t have the capital budget this year but maybe next year” or “we have hired support people for that function and they won’t be starting until next month” or “we are planning to get more headcount for you in the next quarter but for now it’s still up in the air exactly how many”. Sometimes it’s a stupid reason like, “Joe Schmo, the CEO’s nephew came up with that nonsense and now we are stuck with it, you’ll have to figure out a work-around.”

    4. animaniactoo*

      fwiw – I just wanted to comment about your “which implies our success has been accidental” – not accidental, but as you state here – you’ve got a lot of stuff which could make you more efficient. You’re burnt out and cynical to some extent due to the inefficiency.

      One of the things that’s landed me as unofficial team lead in the past few years has been my push towards formalizing a bunch of stuff which makes it easier for us as a team to be more consistent, and to be more organized. Some of those things had been requested by other departments for years – even before some of the things were directly our responsibility. Some of them were revamps of previous poor executions or updates of aging stuff that was poor in comparison to what we could do now.

      Our success as a team has been due to our talents. But using those talents meant working *around* all this stuff, and yeah we pulled it off, but yeah we still need to be quite streamlined in order to enable us to move forward and stop being frustrated/tripped up by the stuff we’ve been working around.

    5. Mephyle*

      If you could put those ideas into a poem (I would do it, but I don’t have talent for poetry; anyone else?), that would solve multiple problems with one fell swoop. It would of course be your favourite poem because it would address ideas that would build up your morale by making your work life easier.

    6. Sketchee*

      I recently had my unusable computer replaced. It would be ridiculous if I sat around trying to use an eight year old machine. The process for getting it replaced was difficult. I just was honest with everyone “I’ll get you that soon. My computer is so slow it’s going to take me longer.”

      Speak up and don’t wait to be asked. I know it’s a dangerous approach because some will think I’m a Complainer(TM) with Excuses(R) who should Deal With It. Still, those are the ones who end up grumbling about issues for years. Meanwhile, I have the tools I believe I need to do my job promptly and properly. Efficiency saves money and my morale is somewhat boosted, though I also suggested ways that they can improve the normal channels for these kinds of requests.

  12. J*

    OP #2, leave “track changes” on and make the edits. They can accept or reject the changes as they will.

    Also, if various people do have their own salutations for donors–the CEO calls Mr. Frederick “Bunny” on account of them going to prep school together–there’s usually a special field in the database to record salutations. That way, the organization calls him “Bunnimas” (his given name) but if the letter is coming from the CEO, the mailing list will include “Bunny” instead. If the org isn’t making use of it, that might be something to suggest.

    1. Lucy Honeychurch (OP #2)*

      We have that database field for salutations! I’m not talking about alternate names for donors, but typo-like mistakes: “Smiht” instead of “Smith,” for example.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think the problem is the “final” letters are given to OP#2 to “print/send” with the expectation that the person who turns the letter in to the OP is done with them, so just raising the question again is a bit awkward.

      I agree that clarifying how much discretion they should use across the board is the best way to go. Each submitter might have different standards and proofreading abilities, and if the OP can be flexible and keep those in mind that would make them an excellent person to handle this particular duty.

    3. Mabel*

      But be careful with this! Many, many times I’ve seen people change the view to “Final,” which doesn’t show the markup, and then send it. What they don’t realize is that if they haven’t (1) accepted the changes and (2) turned off Track Changes, the file will open on the recipient’s computer with the “Final: Show Markup” view, and it looks terrible. Doesn’t reflect well on the sender.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Fourthed – don’t use track changes until you’ve spoken to the people you work with about it. I got in a bit of trouble for using track changes when I worked as a judicial law clerk – too many people didn’t know how to work them properly and there were concerns about confidential material getting out, so they were barred across the board, even just editing your own stuff.

          1. Golden Lioness*

            Ha! I was reviewing a contract and used track changes… when I sent it to the client he called in a panic (I thought he was going to have a heart attach!) yelling at me that I had ruined his document, What had I done to his document!

            Did not get in trouble, but boss wasn’t amused.

        2. Cassie*

          One of my coworkers sent out an event schedule and asked us to proof it. I turned on track changes and made a few corrections – I didn’t want to be presumptuous and make the changes, in case she had a reason for having something a certain way.

          She reported me to HR for picking on her.

  13. VioletEMT*

    OP#5 – To be clear, don’t even disclose at the interview stage that it’s Parkinson’s. Just “I have a condition that can cause a mild tremors. Just a heads-up in case you notice; it’s nothing to worry about.” But do not say Parkinson’s. Nobody there gets to know until after he’s hired and through any kind of probationary period. Otherwise they will probably find another reason not to hire him or make him permanent.

    1. Temperance*

      This is probably me being dense … but are there other medical conditions that cause tremors? I hear “tremor” and immediately associate it with Parkinson’s disease.

      1. Judy*

        Many people in my family have “familial tremors” or “essential tremors” when they get to a certain age.

        It’s primarily of the hands, head and voice, while Parkinson’s usually involves more of the body. My mom had to take some OT to help figure some things out, because the essential tremors happen more prominently when you are using your hands, while Parkinson’s tremors happen more when your body is at rest, at least initially.

      2. TL -*

        Yup! Some people can just have tremors, too – my mom and brother both have really unsteady hands and between age and head injuries my mom’s have gotten much worse. (She takes some medicine that helps a lot.)

      3. Elle*

        My dad and sister both have hand tremors, and neither has Parkinson’s. No one seems to know what causes it. My dad’s subsides after a beer, oddly enough.

      4. ThatGirl*

        My mom has tremors from a genetic condition she’s a carrier of, Fragile X Syndrome – it can look like Parkinson’s but it’s not. (I suspect this means I will have FXTAS myself someday…)

      5. SJ*

        I take an antidepressant that causes tremors and occasional twitching (usually if I drink too much caffeine). Not super noticeable — just annoying when I’m trying to be precise with lipstick or eyeliner.

        1. Jaguar*

          Yeah, if someone says “I have tremors but it won’t affect my job,” I would be thinking he or she is talking about the DTs. And my dad’s had Parkison’s disease since the 90s. I think if you’re intending to be vague about the issue, saying that you’re going to show up at work with tremors and be hesitant to go into why is likely to cause your husband to be disqualified on suspicion of something even worse.

          1. LW#5*

            Yes, this is exactly the dilemma. How to mention tremors without being specific about what causes them — and then how to get around people’s perceptions of Parkinson’s. My husband has many productive years ahead of him, but it will take a special kind of employer to see this.

            1. Jaguar*

              I have two direct experiences with Parkinson’s. My dad, as mentioned, is two decades into it, and my boss at a previous job announced it and was going through the first visible symptoms while I worked for him. In both cases, their primary worry was health coverage as it’s a degenerative disease, so even if a company doesn’t have any misconceptions of it, they would be potentially bring a pre-existing condition onto their coverage plans. It’s something both your family and your husband’s potential employers should know about and consider before starting a job.

              I don’t know about biases and preconceptions people have about Parkinson’s, but if you are concerned about it, I would bring it up with employers only after your husband has established his competency for the job, and at that point explain what the disease is and how it will potentially affect their working abilities. I would stress, since your husband is a knowledge worker, that it’s a physical disease, not a mental one. That’s a bit of a white lie, as you might know – there’s no hard line between physical and mental problems and the disease can, in the long term, impair mental functioning (but so does normal aging in a comparable way, so I don’t think you need to acknowledge that).

              One thing that I’ve seen first hand, though, is that even if the physical limitations won’t obviously limit your husband’s work, it’s worth considering temperament as well. Both my dad and (especially) my old boss dealt with the frustrations of not having the physical abilities they took for granted their entire lives, like being unable to write legibly at the speed they used to or making more errors typing, which forced them to type at a slower and more agonising pace. In terms of knowledge work, this was by far the biggest effect I witnessed with Parkinson’s – intense frustration with having to reset their expectations of how quickly they can accomplish simple tasks. I’m not sure how you would present that to an employer (and I’m not sure you should), but as someone with a decent amount of experience with it, I thought I would pass it along.

              1. Jaguar*

                Strictly as it relates to when to announce it, though, unless you really want to screen against employers that have biases against Parkinson’s (if that’s a thing), given that it’s only slightly an impediment to knowledge work, I would bring it up after competency and cultural fit have been established. If your husband was a programmer and was diabetic, in a wheelchair, or epileptic, when would he feel the need to bring that up?

      6. ZVA*

        My grandma has what’s called a benign tremor… I’m actually not sure what condition causes it, or if anyone even knows, but it’s definitely not Parkinson’s. It causes her head and hands to shake.

      7. Kore*

        One of my best friends has tremors – her hands shake a LOT, but zero Parkinson’s. I’m not sure what medical issue caused it because, frankly, she has had a ton, but she’s quite young and still tremors.

      8. Alice Ulf*

        “Essential tremor,” like Judy mentioned above, is a neurological disorder that is more common than Parkinson’s but has similar symptoms. Katharine Hepburn had it–you can see the subtle shaking of her head in her later films.

  14. Temperance*

    LW 5: I’m so sorry that your husband is dealing with this. I actually lean on the side of not disclosing unless the tremor is noticeable at that particular moment. If he’s a software engineer, he doesn’t need to flag the issue that he might be unable to use his computer at a certain point. I don’t think he should disclose in phone interviews, because that’s going to shut it right down.

    1. justsomeone*

      I’m of this mind. My husband has T1 diabetes and doesn’t bring it up until the first day of the job UNLESS his pump goes off in the interview. Then he pauses and takes care of it and says something like “Oh, it’s a medical device, nothing to worry about” so they don’t think he’s playing with his phone. He only addresses it if there’s something drawing attention to it. So if your husband is having a good day and the tremors aren’t noticeable, I wouldn’t mention it at all until he shows up for work and needs accommodation or someone says something about the tremor.

  15. Jan*

    I agree that he shouldn’t mentioned Parkinson’s. From the letter, it sounds like the tremors are definitely noticeable, in which case I agree with VioletEMT – better to say he has a condition that can cause a mild tremors than hope/assume they won’t notice.

  16. Product Person*

    Not that I blame Alison for her interpretation given the description provided, and it might not change her advice, but in the first letter, I think that OP 1 meant that the structure went from OP1->Boss to OP1->OP1’s peer->Jane->Boss, not OP1->OP1’s peer->Boss->Jane as assumed in Alison’s answer.

    If my interpretation is correct, the problematic manager here, Jane, is OP’s boss’s new boss now, not “boss’s boss’s new boss” as assumed in Alison’s answer (i.e., the “another layer of management added” is between OP’s new supervisor and their former boss, not above the former boss).

    OP1, can you clarify?

    If that’s the case, I believe the only change needed in Alison’s answer would be to remove what’s in bold:

    it would be appropriate for your manager’s manager (the one who reports directly to Jane) to take her an agenda of issues that need her attention and ask for time together to delve into them. Seeing how that goes will tell her a lot about what to expect — but that’s something that can only really be done a couple levels up from you.

    1. LQ*

      I can’t tell if this is my headache or if this is just this confusing. But yeah, clarification would be good. I was assuming Jane is the great grandboss. Though for most people I think the advise would hold if it was a grandboss too.

    2. Myrin*

      I’m pretty sure you’re right safe for where the new layer was added – it is indeed above the former boss as OP says “[new supervisor’s] manager (formerly mine too) has had another layer of management added above her. […] This new manager, Jane…”. But Jane is not the big boss, since she had “her office redecorated with fixtures nicer than even C-level staff above her”, so there are still higher-level people she reports to.

  17. Greg*

    I do not like this, I’m not a person who avoids his coworkers or anything like that but I’m not always the most social and honestly I hate fake touchy feel crap. Just let me do my job, stop trying to emotion your way to success.

  18. ZVA*

    For LW #2: I think Alison’s answer (ask about the overall situation) is spot on. It might seem like a no-brainer to correct glaring errors like you describe, but I always err on the side of checking in cases like this—because you just never know… Your superiors may say “Sure, correct misplaced commas [or whatever] but always check w/ me about names” or “I’d actually like you to check with me before making any changes at all”… Regardless of the answer, you’ll at least have peace of mind going forward—and if some kind of issue does arise, you’ll be able to say you were told to handle it the way you are.

    Also, if you alert them to the errors, you may start seeing fewer of them!

  19. Pwyll*

    A bajillion years ago I worked at a big company going through a merger, and the new Great-Grandboss decided morale was a serious problem. The solution was to force thousands of employees, in cross-departmental subsets of 20 each, to read a book about penguins and reflect upon the moral of the story. Each group that went through the program got a mug and a stuffed penguin (which you had to keep on your desk to show you completed the training) and we were strongly encouraged to say things like, “Is our iceburg melting?” or “What would the Professor say about this?” any time we encountered coworker negativity or resistance to change.

    I feel like sometimes CEOs tell their subordinates “fix our morale problems” and these people grab the first google hit they can find (which is an ad for someone’s poem and mug company, or something.)

      1. LQ*

        Aw, that sounded like the best part of it to me! I’d take a stuffed penguin and randomly say things like “OUR ICEBERG IS MELTING!!!!!!!”

        I may do that anyway.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          This reminds me of the episode of Master of None with Paro the robotic companion seal. Which is a real thing, by the way!

          Wait, don’t seals eat penguins?

      1. Paige Turner*

        Sounds like Our Iceberg is Melting (similar to Who Moved My Cheese?). But I googled the Peacock book and now I’m wondering why penguins are apparently a management books theme.

        1. Pwyll*

          Ding Ding Ding! It was indeed Our Iceberg is Melting!

          To book itself is a fun and interesting read (as is Who Moved My Cheese) but the entire cottage industry of consulting behind it is eyeroll inducing.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      Reminds me of the Shark Tank episode where a couple had what they though was a brilliant idea to avoid arguments – they had a stuffed elephant in a custom lucite box, and when the elephant came out, they were supposed to take a break and de-escalate. And they wanted people to pay $60 for the elephant. Not only did they get laughed out of Shark Tank, their marriage didn’t last more than a year after that!

    2. Ms Ida McTeapot*

      Wait a minute you got a mug!?!? I did not get any desk decor when my company rolled the morale building penguins.

  20. James*

    I’m sympathetic to the coffee mug thing from the first letter, on two fronts.

    First, as an employee, it sucks if some people have company-logo stuff and you don’t. I’m not talking big-name items, but if you’re the only one at a meeting without a company-logo coffee mug people may assume you’re not with the company.

    Second, as a manager, it’s an olive branch, a way of saying “We’re all on the same team”. The more cynical side of me says it’s the same reason drug company reps give doctors free pens/notepads/whatever–give someone something and they’re more likely to agree with your requests. Plus, there may be issues you’re not fully aware of. My company once did a campaign to use durable goods instead of paper/plastic. We’re an environmental firm, and after a few hundred washes a ceramic coffee cup is more environmentally friendly than disposable coffee cups. It was a way to advertise that we actually cared about this stuff people were hiring us to deal with. You’d be surprised how far that can go with clients and regulators.

    And I think that last point is something to consider. I don’t know what my boss’s boss’s boss does for a living. I have a general idea, but the idea that I could tell what he was working on is just silly. The reason is, a lot of the work he does isn’t directly related to my work–instead, he delegates (through tiers of management) the management of projects and tasks to lower-tier folks, and focuses on things like getting the work, setting up systems for managing the work, dealing with regulators, building our firm’s relationships with the clients, and the like. It’s not that what he does isn’t important or doesn’t affect me; it’s just that it’s not simple to translate his work into my work. Six weeks may not be sufficient time for the projects he’s won to develop to the point where I need to act on them. Of course, different companies are different.

  21. C Average*

    I used to get a ton of cold contacts on LinkedIn. I was working for a big brand in a pretty visible and at the time “cool” role, and people wanted to know a) whether our company wanted their semi-related vendor services, b) whether I could help them get a job at my company, or c) whether I could advise them on getting a job like mine at another company.

    I created a form response I could send out to such people. It went more or less like this:

    Dear __________,

    Thanks for reaching out to me. I receive many messages like yours and unfortunately don’t have time to personally respond to all of them, so yes, this is a form message, but I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

    I am happy to help job-seekers IF they have clear goals and IF, in my professional judgment, they could potentially be an asset to [my company]. For that reason, I’m only able to assist people in my geographic area who are pursuing a specific position at my company and are willing to meet me for coffee in person to discuss that position. I cannot offer general career advice to the aimless and undecided, though they certainly have my sympathies!

    If you are in my area and are interested in a specific role at [my company], shoot me a resume and a link to the job in question and I’ll let you know if I think it has the potential to be a good fit. I warn you: I will be 100% honest. Not everyone who wants to work here is qualified to work here, and not everyone who thinks they’d be a good fit here actually would. I will tell you what I really think.

    I have helped a number of great people get hired here. I’m immensely proud of that. Within the constraints outlined above, I’d be happy to help you, too.



    If someone disregarded the content of the message, I just ignored them going forward and ended the connection. I actually did wind up helping a few people get hired, though. I still keep up with them, and it’s fun to see them climb the corporate ladder and to know I helped them get that first leg up.

  22. Unegen*

    A poem, eh? I would probably bring in “Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff,” which I think has a pretty decent takeaway (life generally sucks so you may as well prepare for the worst and then celebrate the rare good times) but everyone seems to get bogged down in the rollicking meter and references to boozing and hangovers.

  23. FD*

    I will say that I’m more than happy to have a conversation on LinkedIn if someone messages me with something a bit more detailed. For example, just asking if there are any jobs, which is something that you can easily gain from the website? Ignored.

    But if you ask a more finessed question, I’ll be happy to respond. For example, someone did ask me on LinkedIn how I transitioned to doing some of the independent contractor work that I did (it’s not obvious how it’s connected to my jobs). I spent about 30 minutes drafting an email to explain, and I was happy to do it. I’ll even meet people for coffee or whatever, if they seem polite and interesting.

  24. NW Mossy*

    I have a bit of sympathy for new-boss Jane, because she’s coming into a difficult situation as a manager. By the OP’s description, this is a rapidly expanding group that’s been largely left to its own devices. The fact that the group has been very successful raises the bar for Jane to clear – after all, if they were doing great without much management, there’s going to be skepticism that she has any value to add even if she’s the world’s greatest at what she does.

    OP, I hear what you’re saying that Jane’s poem thing and remodeling looks like a poor use of her time. But the fact that she’s already met with you one-on-one with the express intent of learning about what you do is a positive sign, as is her interest in getting bios of all of you. You may all know each other, but she doesn’t know you yet, and these steps indicate that she’s trying to.

    And if I can be blunt for a minute, you’re asking her to accomplish a substantial laundry list – complete an integration, decommission legacy systems and transition to new ones, get more stock, hire more staff, upgrade IT hardware, support remote work, and have offsite meetings to generate yet more ideas of things to improve/change. It’s not realistic to expect all of those things to happen in 6 weeks. It’s not realistic in 6 years in many organizations. It also doesn’t include any of the things that are happening at the managerial level you might not be aware of yet, such as plans for future expansion.

    A reasonable big boss should be in data-gathering mode in the beginning, and it sounds like Jane is doing that. However, it can actually be in your interest for Jane not to jump straight to implementing every good idea that crosses her desk. She, like all bosses, has constraints on budget, resources, and time, so planning and prioritizing is essential to using those limited resources effectively. She also is accountable to other people whose priorities are different from yours. The fact that she’s not doing what you specifically would want her to right away doesn’t mean she doesn’t care – it could just as easily mean that she cares quite a lot and wants to hear a lot of input before she sets the priorities.

  25. HelpdeskManager*

    LW#4 – That one really goes both ways. As a hiring manager, a pretty sizeable portion of my connections are recruiters who come to me periodically to fish for placement opportunities in the hopes of floating some of their candidates my way.

  26. memboard*

    I am wondering if LW5 shouldn’t consider a change and go from full time to contractual. It’s my understanding that this is common enough for programmers. This would shift the risk from the employer to the contractor and it would take Parkinson off the table as an issue since this employer is unlikely to be the one running into any difficulties related to the disease. He could turn this into transitioning into “semi-retirement” to explain why he wants to do contracts. It might make it more likely to find work than going for full time work.

  27. nonymous*

    I’ve definitely emailed people on LinkedIn, but only when there was a specific job opening that I was applying for and I always approached it from the “cultural fit” perspective. Realistically, my CV should cover the educational/portfolio type screening, but there are other intangibles that may not make it to the advertisement. I had one boss who would only initiate an opening if he already had a candidate pool lined up, because HR screening was just that awful. (We had a situation where over 300 applicants when a permanent position opened and the current temp was deemed unqualified due to education. With this pre-selection strategy, my former boss was able to reopen the position the following year with a greater weight on experience.)

    While I don’t think it’s appropriate to pester strangers for an “in”, I do think that many organizations today expect their current employees to support recruiting efforts at a grassroots level. By this I mean being generally positive about the work environment/culture and being friendly and approachable to potential future co-workers. Does this mean that current employees should be talking up their workplace in the grocery check-out? No. But certainly it is reasonable at a networking event (LinkedIn is a virtual networking event, right?) for job hunters to chat up potential mentors and for happy employees to keep an eye on what their future colleagues are able to bring to the table.

    Also note that some employers do give preference to applicants with an internal reference and reward current employees for making that referral (at one of my past employers it was $500 on hire and $500 at their first anniversary).

  28. Over-Networked*

    Letter writer for #4 here (the LinkedIn post). Thank you for posting an answer to my question!

    I understand the temptation must be intense to try to “network” with employees at a company you’d like to work at, but network (to me) means give and take, and forming meaningful connections. At first I attempted to help a few people and answer their questions or assess their “fit.” But after spending time on answering their questions in great detail, I’d never hear from them again- not even a thank you. This reflects very badly on the applicant and is an example of how this kind of “networking” can hurt you. If this person’s CV came past me now, I would not remember them positively but, now, negatively. They would have been better off applying via the usual channels. Which is what I will now recommend that they–and everyone–do. After being at my firm for a while, I also see that contacting an employee on LinkedIn rather than going through usual channels is considered unprofessional and a faux pas. If a job coach or someone else is encouraging you to do this, I would think hard about doing it.

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