open thread – October 14-15, 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 :)

{ 1,381 comments… read them below }

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      It’s like off to the races! Sometimes I come in here and there are only 30 comments. Sometimes I’m “too late” and see 768 comments…

    2. Catabodua*

      Is there a trick to see unread comments?

      I know they are marked with the blue line, but any way to filter them? Or hide comments I’ve already read?

      1. Ama*

        I don’t think you can hide read comments, but usually about halfway through the afternoon I hit the collapse all link when I refresh because it’s easier to relocate the threads I’m following that way.

  1. all aboard the anon train*

    I’ve been interviewing a lot recently, and lately I’ve been hearing a lot of interviewers saying “work hard, play hard” in regards to questions about company culture. I take that as a small warning sign because in my experience “work hard, play hard” usually means just “work hard”. Things like 9 – 6 hours or 50 hour work weeks, “managing your own time” aka expecting you to log into email on the weekend, and “flexible hours” that aren’t really flexible. To me, play hard usually ends up being a lot after work activities or forced volunteer days or perks like free snacks and beer, but low pay.

    I’ve had a few people tell me that I’m being too hard on businesses and that “work hard, play hard” is what companies do to succeed, so I’d love to hear opinions from other people here. What do you think of when someone says the company culture is “work hard, play hard”?

    1. Bend & Snap*

      Nope. Work hard, play hard in my experience = no work life balance, no boundaries, expected booze-fueled socializing.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        Absolutely. I worked at a “fun” workplace like this. It wasn’t fun– it was mentally draining.

        1. esra (also a Canadian)*

          Same. Also, they never sent us home early for holiday weekends or after crunches, because don’t you want to spend more time with your super fun (drunk) work family?!

      2. Charlie*

        I was gonna say more like “We will work you like a rented mule, but we occasionally have mandatory happy hours where you can watch your boss take shots of Jaeger like he’s still a finance major.”

    2. Rincat*

      I think I’m just automatically suspicious of any company that describes their company culture in the job description, especially if it sounds like they are trying to sell it to you. I’m sure there are many companies who are perfectly normal and healthy, but it just sort of sets off my Spidey sense.

      If an actual employee told me they were “work hard, play hard,” and then explained what that meant, I’d be more inclined to believe them. But in a job description…it just seems like sales talk to me.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        It’s mostly been in the initial phone interview with HR or whoever is doing the screening where the “work hard, play hard” comes out. But even then, I feel like a lot of people use the phrase in such a way that it’s become a cliche and they can’t really accurately describe what they mean by it.

    3. Leatherwings*

      I’m like you, I take that as a huge red flag. Primarily because I don’t “play hard” all that often, and particularly don’t prefer to do it with coworkers. In my experience, it signals that an employer overworks its employees and likes to make up for it by going to happy hours or parties. I’ve done that, I hated it, never doing it again.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Exactly. I don’t mind going out for drinks once in awhile or doing a trivia night with coworkers, but I’m wary of companies that brag about “we have a quarterly volunteer day!” or who brag about sushi rolling classes/5Ks/yoga afternoons/movie nights/etc.

        I think I’d be more okay with that if they were optional or were a bonus in addition to a high salary, but apart from that? Eh. I don’t know.

        1. Anna*

          I get where you’re coming from…except for the volunteer day thing. I don’t really understand the aversion to it, unless you mean mandatory volunteering. Voluntolding?

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            Yeah, I’m not a fan of mandatory volunteering. It’s happened in the past and it’s either places I don’t support or things that I wouldn’t normally do (like build a house or something with babies/kids). When I volunteer, I like to choose my own organizations to donate my time too. I’m much more a fan of the volunteer days where nothing is chosen for you.

            1. Anion*

              I worked at a place with the mandatory volunteering; it was one of those companies that constantly pats itself on the back for being so employee-friendly and professional but was actually not remotely either.

              Anyway. I woke up the morning of my volunteer day with a raspy throat and clogged sinuses, but went anyway because it didn’t seem too bad and it was volunteer day! I was going to get to do something fun with my co-workers, I didn’t want to miss that with a sick day!

              Our volunteer activity was painting a community center. With no ventilation. My slightly-raspy throat and sinuses were so bad by the end of the day–and we put in a full eight hours, and the “lunch” they provided for us was baloney sandwiches, which I can’t stand, so I hadn’t eaten and had nursed a single can of Coke all day since there was nothing else to drink–that I was practically in tears, dizzy, and felt like I was going to pass out. And then, of course, we had to stand around in a circle and “give feedback on the experience,” which basically meant recite platitudes about how wonderful it was to work for such a caring company and how much the opportunity to help others meant to us.

              The best part was that not only was our group the only one that had to do anything resembling physical labor for our volunteer day, but we were the only group that actually had to stay for our entire shift. The others did things like playing with kids at a pre-school, and all of them were sent home by lunchtime. Just one more time (out of many others) where our particular work group got the seriously short end of the stick.

              How I hated that place. And yeah, I don’t like having someone else choose my volunteer activity for me.

              1. dawbs*

                FWIW, I work in the nonprofit world…
                There are lots and lots of exceptions, but I try to know who is earning “community service” hours and who is truly a ‘volunteer’–because I can tell you which ones I prefer to have to manage when I’m at a huge event for 1000 kids/fundraiser for 10k/whatever and of my 35 new people, 10 are there because they believe in it, and 20 are there because their bosses said to be.
                (I have had some awesome ‘community service volunteers’…but they’re the exception, not the rule–especially when I’m saying something (something annoying, I know, but still, it’s what I need right then–and trust me, I don’t get to change how we recruit and assign volunteers or I would) like “ok, I need 3 people to do solo-non-glamorous-work (like stacking glassware or entering ticket information or sitting at a table, giving directions to lost students))

      2. Laura*

        I’ve had two jobs that didn’t go well because of the emphasis on drinking. (I drink but with my friends not my coworkers) I was discussing this with friends – how do you ask during an interview if most meetings are around the bar across the street?

        1. Tips*

          I wouldn’t ask this in an interview, and it probably depends on your field whether or not this will be normal.
          It’s very common for companies to have after work informal happy hours etc. – you don’t have to go to all of these, but it’s good to go sometimes (and fine to not drink at them). This is going to be harder to avoid, although again, you don’t have to always go.
          If you work in an industry where it’s a lot of client meetings, sales, etc. meeting at a bar as part of the workday may also be the norm – but you would know better about whether this was a common industry thing or specific to the companies you worked at.

          When interviewing, things I’d watch out for – Is it a younger crowd? Is the job in a city down the street from several bars (as opposed to in the suburbs where you’d need to drive to go somewhere)? Ask more generally about the company culture. If the job involves clients, ask about a typical day or a typical client project to try to get a sense of whether it’s a lot of wine and dine vs. just meeting in the office.

      3. Artemesia*

        I have heard this phrase for 40 years and it has always seemed to mean long work hours and lots of drinking — the ‘play hard’ means we like to party.

      4. AnonAnalyst*

        Yeah, this. Or, IME it could also be shorthand that they all work 80 hour weeks, but have a beer fridge. (Totally agree with the other comments that it often signifies a “bro” culture, too.)

        I’ll be honest – if someone says they have a “work hard, play hard” culture it’s an immediate red flag for me. I’m not going to end the interview right there, but I am going to ask for more details and seriously consider removing myself from contention unless they say something that convinces me that it’s not what I think it is.

        Unfortunately, my current workplace which used to be a “we are all A players and strive for excellence, so we work hard but also try hard to maintain work/life balance” culture is turning into a “work hard, play hard” culture as we get more young employees and some individuals on the management team try to recapture their youth (yes, it is as sad as it sounds). So I will soon be on the hunt for a workplace that does not have a “work hard, play hard” culture.

    4. Shoe Ruiner*

      It always makes me nervous, too. I always think it means “work hard and drink heavily.” Which, nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you want. But it always makes me pause and think about what I want.

      1. Journalist Wife*

        Yes, this! That phrase always takes me back to my early career days as a female admin working in a chain of car lots rife with alcoholism and misogyny. The bro mentality and mandatory drinking nights (weeknights, for pete’s sake!) were just too much to handle. I gave them 4 years, which was about 3-3/4 too many.

      2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        I interviewed at a very established local company who stated they had a “work hard, play hard” mentality. Apparently it included regular 60-70 hour weeks, but they had a Bloody Mary bar every Friday morning (onsite at the corporate headquarters!) and frequent after hour events that featured an open bar.

        1. RVA Cat*

          What, is this Mad Men? I remember the ep where they’re telling Ken it’s “a day job and a night job”. Better get out before it costs you an eye!

    5. Sunflower*

      Are these place start-ups? I agree- I think you’re looking at a place that requires you to work but also attend after hours type things. My friend works at a start-up and everything you’ve described is his company. He really likes it but it’s not for everyone. They aren’t crazy about you answering emails on your off time but they do expect you to check your email at home.

      If you are the type who likes to separate work and life and wants to completely disconnect from work when you aren’t there, I would say shy away from any place that uses the ‘work hard, play hard’ motto

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Some are start-ups, but I’ve had a few big corporate companies use that language recently during interviews. So I don’t know if they’re trying to pick up on the trend, but that’s what made me ask. I expected that phrase from start-ups, but not from established corporate companies, you know?

        1. MillersSpring*

          Established organizations tend to be more aware of the legal risks of company-sponsored boozing. And their HR is heading it off too. Makes me imagine the Wolf of Wall Street.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      I think part of it depends on how you regard mandatory fun. I’ve met and worked with people who consider “lot after work activities or forced volunteer days or perks like free snacks and beer” to actually be play, when I consider it just useless extra work.

    7. Anon Accountant*

      That means little work life balance and little time for a personal life. There’s a good question in the archives along the lines of what time you usually leave at or how many times in the last few months have you worked past 6. Something along those lines.

    8. the.kat*

      “Work hard, play hard” has always been a mismatch for me. I just don’t play that hard and it seems like (at least in the cases I’ve seen) if you’re not down for both, you’re really not fitting the corporate ideal.

    9. Charlotte, not NC*

      IME, “play hard” indicates that there will be a lot of expected after-hours socializing. We’re having our regular weekly meeting on Tuesday nights at that Italian joint. Make sure to come to the company fair this weekend, and the four fundraisers per month, and the charity events every Sunday afternoon…

      1. Jake*

        Yeah, my current boss and I were talking about some folks that work at his old employer still and if they’d be up for coming over to work with us. He said, “NO WAY! over at [that place] they got a free dinner once a week at Alexander’s steakhouse, expensed meals whenever the bosses came by…” etc. etc. etc. I had to explain to him that for a lot of people all that means is that my typical 50 hour exempt week just turned into 55 hour exempt week to account for these work meetings disguised as meals and the fact that now once a week instead of going home around 4:30 or 5:00 I’m going to work until 7:00 and go to dinner until 9:00 because its not worth my time to go home for an hour just to turn around and go to dinner. He was genuinely shocked that I didn’t consider these dinners to be THE BEST THING EVER, or that anybody wouldn’t absolutely love it so much that they’d turn down a raise to leave. Heck, I’d turn down the free meal at a steak house just to be able to spend that time with my wife instead!

        When I hear “play hard” I here, “work in a social setting”

        Either that, or its just used as a cliche that doesn’t actually mean anything.

    10. Eddie Turr*

      I would definitely approach with caution for all the reasons you mentioned, but I wouldn’t write them off just yet. Sometimes people just repeat common phrases (“We’re a family here!”) that aren’t really an accurate reflection of the culture.

      Full disclosure, though: I work in one of those offices with free soda and snacks, a foosball table, and a lot of alcohol. The people in this office who choose their words carefully wouldn’t describe it as “work hard, play hard.” It’s more that our busy and slow times come in waves.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        That’s a good point. Most of the “work hard, play hard” has been from the HR phone screenings, and I’m sure each department would describe the culture differently.

        The one promising interview I’ve had I’m waiting to hear back on had “student loan relief, pet insurance, yearly stipend for hobbies, free snacks, and stipend for professional development courses outside work” as their play hard. That’s something I’m definitely into versus the “drink a lot, spend hours each week socializing outside of work” version of play hard.

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            Right? I was actually pretty shocked about this, and I think it’s such a great perk/benefit that would help a lot of people!

    11. Jessie*

      “work hard, play hard” equals, in my experience, a place where you’re expected to work late nights and often on weekends without complaint, and also when you finally leave the office at 10 pm on a Wednesday night, you all need to head to a bar together and drink heavily before going home. But YMMV.

    12. Fortitude Jones*

      That’s not what it means in my division at my company (can’t speak to the company as a whole). I absolutely would describe our environment as a work hard/play hard environment because the volume of work we receive, and the complexity of what we do, means that we have to be focused and, yes, sometimes work more than 40 hours.

      However, in the nearly nine months I’ve been here, I’ve only worked “OT” (that’s in quotes ’cause I’m salaried exempt so traditional OT doesn’t apply) maybe once a month, and my OT was capped at five hours at the max. My pay is market rate for the position in my area, I can come in whenever I want as long as it’s between 7:30-9, and I’ve taken three weeks of vacation so far this year with two weeks remaining. Now, are there people who regularly work 50+ hours a week in my division and rarely take vacations? Yes – but that’s because they choose to. My division SVP is constantly reminding us to take PTO so we don’t burn out (we’re in a high stress industry), and he himself leaves early some days to go play golf or grab beers.

      We’re also the fourth most profitable division in our company out of 30+ divisions.

    13. Amy the Rev*

      Hehe this reminds me of how I used to describe divinity school to non-div folk: “Work Hard, Play Hard, Work Hard, PRAY Hard!”

    14. PK*

      It’s a warning flag for me too. The one place I worked at that described it that way basically meant a lot of hours and beer (like others have mentioned). Very much a ‘bro’ type culture. It was alright for a couple years but ultimately, the excessive events and the coupled drinking just became a bit too much for me.

    15. nonymous*

      It makes me think that the employer is somehow co-opting my personal life (e.g. volunteer activities, socializing, exercise) for their gain. While it may be attractive as a new grad, or as young professional relocating for work to outsource managing one’s social life, I wonder how sustainable it is for employees with significant commitments outside work such as chronic illness or elder care? Some of the “high-paying jobs” have a lifestyle expectation that makes a stay-at-home-spouse unfeasible.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, that’s exactly it for me — I don’t really want my employer to have an opinion on my “play” time, other than that I should have some and it’s mine to do with as I please.

        I would consider it a warning sign, but I’d ask some follow-up questions about work-life balance first to see if that’s really how they are interpreting it.

    16. Anon 12*

      I find it usually means they use the excuse that they have limited boundaries around availability/time in the office as an excuse to consider normal office behavior norms to be uptight so they can act as stupidly as they want as well as having no work/life balance. I, by the way, work very hard and am always available by email and phone. No complaints about that, I enjoy it, but I bristle at the definition of work hard equaling being physically in the office at all hours.

    17. Koko*

      I think it really can vary from one workplace to another. I might describe our office that way, and what I would mean by it is, “Everyone here is an overachiever which means we don’t have to hold anyone’s feet to the fire with rigid butt-in-seat policies; also we drink in the office a lot.”

      In other offices it will mean something more like, “We plan to work you to death every week, and every now and then when there’s respite everyone will get blackout drunk to deal with the cumulative stress.”

      They sound similar, but they couldn’t be more the same.

    18. KR*

      This reminds me of my friend who is the office manager for a mechanic shop. It’s solid M-F hours, but occasionally there’s required parties on the weekends – free food and drink. All paid time. But she loves it, so go her.

    19. TheBeetsMotel*

      Yep, this is exactly the kind of culture which is a very bad fit for me. “Work hard, go home” is my policy. That doesn’t mean sprinting for the door at 5, necessarily, but it does mean that my free time is important to me and largely reserved for my husband and friends, not my work colleagues.

    20. Marillenbaum*

      This is how I feel about any office that describes itself as “like a family”–it means you all spend way too much time together and want to leverage personal relationships so I neglect my boundaries. How about I do my job well and you pay me for it, and us being friendly outside of work can be a nice bonus if it happens?

    21. Stellaaaaa*

      I associate “work hard play hard” with new companies with very young management who don’t know what they’re doing. Any company that bothers thinking about its employees social lives (“play hard”) isn’t going to be great with serious HR stuff. How can you report harassment or bring up a legit grievance when you’re supposed to be having fun??????

    22. Chriama*

      It would raise red flags for me. I went to business school and when I heard it from people who were sincere they were living the exact lifestyle this phrase evokes. Type A, alpha male personalities with lots of drinking and party culture on top of competitive personalities and aggressive desire to succeed. If it’s in a job description or mentioned in a meeting with HR then I’d be less alarmed, but if a hiring manager said it then I’d *really* want to probe into his opinion about work-life balance and also talk privately to your would-be coworkers.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        In my case, it’s really only come up with HR phone screens, and I know overall company culture can vary a lot from department/team culture.

        It’s come up a few times with in-person interviews with the hiring manager, but for one of them their idea of “play hard” were during work hour pot lucks or catering or baking contests around holidays, which doesn’t really seem “play hard” to me, and more of the norm for a lot of companies. And then on the opposite end, one of the hiring managers – around my age – did end up describing the “drink and party” lifestyle. Which, you know, a drink or two with coworkers is something I do, but I don’t want to get drunk or go to a club with them.

    23. Relly*

      I’d assume “work hard, play hard” is a very high-pressure, competitive, stress-filled environment, and I’d steer clear of a company that said that for that reason alone. (Also, speaking of personal biases, it seems like a very “bro” phrase to me, and that would influence me as well.)

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I do think it’s a bro phrase, though interestingly most of the people who’ve said it to me during interviews have been women!

    24. hi.*

      in my experience, the “play hard” portion means “semi-mandatory play [drink] hard with coworkers after work.” i’m an almost-40 year old married person with a 90-120 min commute each way, so “playing hard” with coworkers is literally a hundred times worse than working hard. i work with 20-somethings in tech, i’m almost 40, i just want to go HOME and see my family. i don’t want to do “it’s not mandatory but it’s really looked down upon if you skip it” after work events at this stage in my life.

    25. Brent*

      To be honest, I’ve described my job like this when selling it to someone – I generally alternate between 50 hour and 30 hour work weeks, and there are great benefits if you’re a “play hard” kind of person but which probably aren’t worth it if you’re not. I think it depends on the company whether it’s a red flag or not, but if you’re someone who puts a lot of stock in relaxation and 8 hours of sleep every night it might not be the right fit.

    26. Red*

      To me, “work hard, play hard” and “flexible hours” are both synonyms for “run like the wind, this is not the place for you”. I want a place where there are inflexible hours and I know I’m leaning on time and not taking work with me!

    27. anon for this one*

      I have once used “work hard, play hard” to describe my lifestyle and here’s what I meant: It was a job that was staffed 24/7 so work hard meant night shifts, weekends (3 out of 4 a month for awhile there), lots of 5-hour energy to get through a shift, everything is a disaster that must be fixed right away, with pressure from on high to make it “look easy.” Play hard meant that after our shifts, we went out drinking. Even at 8am. It meant that I frequently woke up on the couch where I had passed out drunk at someone’s house, washed up, and dragged myself back to work for the next shift. It meant I kept a change of clothes and a toothbrush in the car so I didn’t have to go home between partying, crashing, and working.
      It also meant a work culture with almost no boundaries between personal and professional life. Coworkers were friends and friends were coworkers. There was lots of intra-office dating. And parties inevitably devolved into work talk, or at least trashing mutual work acquaintances.
      It was not a good work environment at all and I do not recommend it. I was 22 at the time, it seemed fun and exciting. We used to joke that the job was killing us, but the job was only half of the lifestyle that was killing us.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Oh God, that sounds awful. I couldn’t do nights, weekends, or seeing my coworkers damn near 24/7. I like (most) of them well enough, but not that much.

    28. DArcy*

      “Work hard, play hard.” tends to be pretty toxic as a company culture, even for those like me who embrace that philosophy in personal life. In practice, it tends to mean, “Work hard , be too exhausted to play.”

    29. Honeybee*

      It depends – I have to listen for other cues. More companies these days are using it to mean simply working hard, but I have interviewed at several places where it means what it sounds like – yeah, 9-6 hours and 50 hour work weeks, but also teams going to lunch together, hanging out together, having happy hours and gaming sessions and morale events during the day (all of these things between the hours of 9-6 as well). The managing my own time has been at face value – true flexibility, no expectation of checking email on the weekend, flexible hours within reason (most people are around between 10 and 4, but that could mean starting work at 7 and leaving around 4 or starting work at 9:30 and leaving around 6, which is me.

      Usually what I hear it as is a culture that does work around 50 hours a week on average (which is fine for me) but who also likes to take part in fun activities together (which is also fine for me and the kind of culture I’m looking for in a workplace).

      1. Anion*

        Yeah, I had that thought re the “play hard” part, too. It might not mean drinking so much as being expected to participate in a lot of intra-office sports and games, and being offered prizes to do extra work.

    30. Chaordic One*

      While the “play hard” part often means lots of after hours drinking, I’ve run into situations where it means the office encourages having out-of-the-office relationships, such as doing charity and volunteer work and being members of civic organizations with the intention of employees networking with other organizations and companies in order to make the employer look good.

      People were sort of “pressured” to participate in these organizations. They weren’t told to participate in a particular one, but to participate in something.

      It was O.K. for some, but not for others who were introverted and needed time to recharge or who had a lot of family obligations.

  2. Semi regular poster with a Friday vent*

    Just a vent about my sucky work situation today. My sister-in-law had her baby yesterday and I’m so tired because I stayed late at the hospital visiting her. I just want to go home and sleep. Today I’m stuck doing a job that I have no idea how to do, because my boss insulted my co-worker’s religion and she walked out. She’s Russian Orthodox but she has been very private about her faith. During a meeting my boss made some awful remarks about the Romanov family (the last ruling family in Russia who were killed during the revolution) and my co-worker took offense because they are saints in her religion. She told my boss this and nicely asked him to stop but he didn’t and kept going so she walked out and left. I don’t know if she quit or is ever coming back. I don’t blame her at all for this but I don’t know her job and I’m really hating having to do it. My boss just keeps saying he didn’t know she was religious even though she told him she was when she asked him to stop. 5:00 can’t come soon enough…

    1. Harrison B*

      That’s so bizarre! Who has such strong opinions about the Romanovs that you’d go on an unstoppable diatribe about them at work?

      1. RVA Cat*

        Who the heck thinks it’s funny to joke about children getting machine-gunned and then bayoneted? Oh yeah probably the Creeper McCreeperson who made Sandy Hook jokes and objected to the OP’s “tone.”

        1. RVA Cat*

          I mean, seriously, I’d expect the only work-inappropriate Romanov conversations would be about Black Widow.

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        Seriously. Whatever their failings, it’s not okay to harp on people who were brutally murdered WITH THEIR CHILDREN.

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Bingo!

          (No to mention, really, this is about a hundred years later…wtf about going on about THIS?!)

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      So your boss thinks it’s OK to say bigoted, insensitive things at work if he thinks there’s no one in the room who would get offended. Even if there is.

      Good to know. (That your boss is an ass, and doesn’t care if he upsets and/or denigrates people.)

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        To be fair, I wouldn’t have considered talking smack about the Romanov family to be “bigoted” before hearing this — I had no idea they were saints in the Russian Orthodox church, so I wouldn’t have thought it was any worse than saying “Man, Kaiser Wilhelm II was just the worst Hohenzollern.” TIL

        Still no excuse for carrying on after someone asks you nicely to stop. (Leaving aside that I’m struggling to think of a reason to go on a long tirade about dethroned royal houses at work — and I’m a history buff!)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I wouldn’t have known either, but if I found out that I disparaged the holy figures of an employee of mine I would be mortified. This boss just felt the need to justify themselves, which is why we know they’re an insensitive ass and think that religious bigotry is OK.

          As an atheist I’m not crazy about a lot of religious beliefs of all types, but I don’t badmouth them to their adherents, whether they’re acquaintances of mine or not.

          1. Anna*

            Eh. A lot of jokes are made about Joan or Arc and any number of other Catholic saints. I think making a joke about it is a little whatever, it’s the continuing to do it and being a jerk about it after you’ve been asked to stop that’s the real kicker. And maybe it’s a distance over time thing. Joan of Arc died a lot longer ago than the Romanovs. I dunno. I would have been a little baffled by her reaction, but I would have been really pissed if the boss didn’t immediately drop it.

            1. fposte*

              This is where I am. I don’t think it’s a forbidden subject for humor unless you’re taking the stand that tragedies are off limits, period (which I can admire the consistency of), but once somebody tells you it’s a problem for them, you stop.

          1. EmmaLou*

            We don’t know what he said though. Wouldn’t it be an EEOC thing once she told him and asked him to stop and he didn’t?

          2. Hlyssande*

            I have a feeling it was a ‘straw broke the camel’s back’ situation more than JUST that. This boss is a jerk for not stopping when she asked and I have to wonder what other crappy stuff he says.

          3. OG Anonsie*

            That’s kind of what I thought at first, but since he kept needling her after she asked him to stop I doubt he was only harping on the Romanovs at that point. That’s directly and aggressively mocking someone.

            I also agree with Hlyssande– if she was willing to walk out, this may very well only be the 428374820th time she felt antagonized by the guy.

        2. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Well, I *Still* have some strong opinions about Harold Godwinson and the Norman Invasion.

          Did you know that 70% of the land in the UK is owned by 1% of the population, the majority of of whom are descendants of Norman lords? (This bit of information I got courtesy of Greg Jenner, the historian who seems to be in charge of the Horrible History series.)

              1. Creag an Tuire*

                “When Denmark sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and their going a-viking on us. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and pillagers. And some, I assume, are good people.”

                “We need to build a Danelaw, and it’s be the yuuugest Danelaw you ever saw. Believe me.”

    3. SometimesALurker*

      Ugh, that situation sucks. We’re here for you, to the extent that strangers cheering you on can help. And congratulations on the new nibling!

    4. Addie Bundren*

      “awful remarks about the Romanov family”

      I’m really curious to know what these were. It’s certainly not a great thing to discuss at work (then again, you could be working at a publisher or an academic institution where Russian history would be quite relevant), but the responses here are surprising me–Nicholas II was a vicious anti-Semite. My ancestors, and probably many ancestors of other Jews you know, were forced to leave Russia because of pogroms under his regime. So I’m not seeing criticism of the Romanov family as inherently bigoted, as others on this thread are now saying.

      1. Relly*

        I think this is a useful distinction — that no one should be exempt from legitimate criticism simply because they hold a position of honor in someone else’s religion — but the update sadly makes it clear that the comments weren’t qualms over his positions but rather base insults.

        Having said that, there’s also a way to be respectful while criticizing — the difference between “I understand that your religion canonizes the Romanovs, but they were viciously anti-Semitic, so I don’t share your veneration” and “Nicholas II was an anti-Semitic jerk, and any religion that supports him is just as bad.” So even having legitimate concerns wouldn’t necessarily exempt the boss.

      2. Just Poppin In*

        I think the problem is less that disliking the Romanov’s is inherently bigoted, and more that the coworker asked him to stop because they are saints in the Russian church and he ignored her. As a non-Jewish Jew who is a practicing Orthodox Christian, I have no fealty to the Romanov’s and don’t think they should be honored as saints, but I would politely decline from talking about that at work if some Russian person asked me to.

    5. Semi regular poster with a Friday vent*

      To answer some of the questions, I can’t even remember how it came up in conversation, it’s a financial company so nothing to do with work but my boss called the father/husband a slur and then went on about his witch with a b dog of a wife and how their children are now concubines of the devil (only in not so nice language). My co-worker was very professional when she told him these were saints in her religion and asked him to stop but he just continued. The rest of know he is an ass. We didn’t know she was religious either and while I know fault can be found in every religion with violence towards others and problematic figures in the faith I found what he said abhorrent. I am so tired now and just want to go home.

      1. Lowercase holly*

        That is just…what?! Seriously unprofessional remarks even if no one had a religion that would be offended. Not a work topic.

      2. orchidsandtea*

        While also Russian Orthodox, I don’t feel the need to defend the saints — they’re doing fine, y’know? (And I think we all have to agree that Nicholas II was not a great ruler.) So if he were criticising them that’d be one thing. But making jokes about a bunch of people who were murdered is distasteful, and considering some were children it does sound upsetting.

        I’m sorry you’re having such a rough day.

      3. Creag an Tuire*

        I… what? What? Why would you even… what?

        It’s bad enough when people say things like that about current politicians, but at least I can understand getting worked up about people who do or might soon have significant power over your life. Why would you go on a slur-filled tirade against Nicolas II? Did your boss time travel from 1919? Did Leon Trotsky fake his own death, develop an immortality serum, and become your boss?

        I cannot even.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        It does not sound like he was talking about historical facts, he was just saying whatever random nasty thing that came into his mind. The intent behind the words was to malign, hurt, and be off-putting. If she did not walk, this probably would have gotten worse. He was using his sentences like verbal bullets.

        Wisely, she realized you cannot reason with this. This is so far removed from normal/acceptable that the only answer is to walk away.

        Bullies do this. You tell them to stop and you have basically shown them where you are vulnerable then they go in for the “kill”.
        I wonder who he will do this to next.

    6. Sibley*

      Your boss was incredibly rude, then he was a jerk. It sucks even more that you’re paying the price. At least it’s Friday.

    7. Karo*

      Legit question: is that legal? Because it sounds like religious harassment, which is punishable by the EEOC. She has a sincerely held religious belief, and he insisted on denigrating her saints, even after she asked him to stop.

    8. Karo*

      Looks like my previous response disappeared. (If it was moderated and this is now a double post, I apologize.

      That said, legitimate question: Isn’t this illegal? She has a sincerely held religious belief, he insisted on insulting that belief even after she asked him to stop. I would’ve thought that would qualify as religious harassment.

  3. Time to get Ready*

    TL;DR – I’m looking for advice on a career change after a very long break from working.

    My background (probably enough to figure out who I am, but c’est la vie): I’m a service academy graduate with almost twelve years of commissioned service. My degrees are a BS in English (yes, really) and an MFA in writing popular fiction (which I would only bother putting on a resume for a writing position, of course). I left the military to become a full time care provider for my children. I have experience managing teams ranging in size from one to over a hundred people, but by the time I get back in the saddle I will have a ten year gap in employment. I think my background lends itself to the HR and operations management fields in most industries.

    My question: Over the next three years, what kinds of things can I do to prepare for my transition back into the workplace in those fields? Child care is incredibly expensive in my area, so part time work is unlikely to be financially viable (it would cost more than I could make). I could cram a course or two into my evenings or even an online/low-residency masters degree. I could also do some occasional volunteer work (though I’m unsure what kind of volunteer work would be useful).

    1. Technical Editor & Resume Reviewer*

      What kind of work are you interested in? With a degree in English you could probably very easily transfer into copywriting, marketing writing, or even tech writing. Depending on what kind of writing you want to do, there are plenty of online and college/university resources to take advantage to brush up on your tools knowledge. Maybe start with something that is applicable to all kinds of writing, such as SEO/SEM, WordPress, advanced Microsoft Word, or project management?

    2. Anon 2*

      I would think that the volunteer work would be the most valuable at this stage. And perhaps joining the relevant professional associations in your area to start the networking process.

      Do you have direct experience in HR or Operations Management?

    3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Look into the local SHRM chapter and get involved. A lot of them have workforce readiness committees who might be good resources. Even if it is a smaller chapter, they often look for help with all kinds of different things, and as someone who is home currently, in theory your current schedule lends to being more flexible in making phone calls for programs, assisting at a job fair (which a lot of us can’t because we are working FT!), etc. Or even if you don’t want to do that, attending some of the meetings/sessions held will give you a chance to network within the community.

    4. the.kat*

      Are you at all interested in design? Taking some classes in graphic design might round you out a little more. You could also do some social media study and manage a non-profit’s social media presence.

    5. Ella*

      Since you have a large gap, I think some way to get recent experience in whatever fields you’re interested in is key. This could be either volunteering, working from home, doing part time– just something that will be fresher. I would go more for the experience than another degree. When I’m hiring, just having a degree in my field isn’t particularly helpful. I’m generally seeking people with experience over someone with an online degree. If weekday volunteering is problematic to childcare, perhaps there are occasional evening or weekend events you could volunteer for.

      Another thing that may help is seeking mentors in your chosen field. If there are professional organizations in your field, sometimes they will have mentorship programs. I’m currently mentoring a stay-at-home mom with a young child. If there aren’t any formal mentorship programs, you can try cold-calling or cold-emailing, or even just stopping by. Even if mentorship is a stretch, you could also ask to do an informational-interview with someone in your chosen field. It’s a nice way to make connections, and since it’s usually just a one or two time thing, it’s low in term of commitment for both you and them.

      Good luck!

    6. Anonon*

      See if there are any free or low-cost MOOCs you can take. For HR, MOOCs related to legal issues in HR would be especially helpful. I’m a corporate recruiter who’s recruited for HR positions. Those openings get A LOT of candidates, including ones in HR-adjacent positions. Those candidates typically have some transferrable skills, but can’t compete with the candidates already in HR positions when it comes to understanding the legal ins and outs.

      Get on LinkedIn if you’re not already, and join groups related to fields you might want to work in. You don’t need to be active in them, but occasionally following the discussions can be helpful in really understanding the nuances of fields.

      Good luck!

    7. Charlotte, not NC*

      I’m really intrigued by the BS in English, and would love to know more if you’re comfortable sharing.

      1. Time to get Ready*

        My alma mater has a very math and science heavy base curriculum. Everyone graduates with a BS, regardless of major.

        1. JustaTech*

          Now I’m desperately curious if your alma mater is the same school I went to (dorms named after cardinal directions?). I have a friend with a BS in English and another friend with a BS in History (both with minors in physics).

    8. nonymous*

      Can you try grant writing as a volunteer? I’m not talking those giant grants, more along the lines of local city types. For example, my City will provide matching funds for neighborhood improvement projects, and taking the lead on wrangling volunteers, coming up with the proposal and navigating the (unpublished) bureaucracy would demonstrate skills in a measurable way.

      Certainly, blogging will provide a recent writing sample, as well as allow you to expand technical skills in the area of web design. This could position you nicely for copy writing/technical writing, especially if you look into the stylistic differences of different media subtypes. Just be careful about how you brand yourself, and focus initially on building an audience (don’t worry about monetizing unless it really takes off).

      1. DragoCucina*

        Oh my, volunteer grant writers are gold. We had one and she moved out of state (how dare she want to live close to her grandchildren). There are many different, smaller grants that are available to non-profits. We’ve been discussing seeking a grant writer that works on the percentage received up to a certain dollar figure. The advantage is that most of it can be done from home.

        1. Grant Writer*

          Very late to conversations. I’m a grant writer and it is pretty much considered taboo for grant writers to take a percentage of a grant. The grant writer can’t guarantee that you will get the grant and you can’t guarantee you will get the grant either. The grant writer should be paid for doing the work. Unless they are a true volunteer grant writers don’t work for free.

    9. Maya Elena*

      I’ve never been in your shoes, but have worked for companies that have been friendly for career changers (e.g., paying for training) and former military. I think insurance companies and large military contractors (especially the more general-services ones, rather than the Boeings and Raytheons of the world) are good for this.

      For insurance jobs like claims and damage adjusting, I’m pretty sure you get on the job training; and anything that is a generic “content, media, marketing, research, program” analyst could be a good fit.

      The best skills to develop, I’s say, would be Excel and publishing software, so you can write, graphic-design, and do spreadsheets in a pinch. And – others may dispute this- but outside of large prestigious companies and tech hub cities, being able to do even basic programming and web design raises you high above the mean things that crawl this earth.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        For insurance jobs like claims and damage adjusting, I’m pretty sure you get on the job training

        Licensed adjuster here. This really depends on the company. They do expect you to do continuing education every two to three years depending on whatever state is your designated home state, but a lot of continuing ed is self-study or conference based. Some companies will train someone with no adjusting experience, but some companies will want you to have years of experience in whatever their niche is (e.g. if they sell truck physical damage insurance, they will want to hire former truckers or truck repair shop employees/managers because they will have experience estimating damages and knowing how long repairs should take). Plus, most companies have tight deadlines for newbie adjusters to become licensed (between 30-90 days after the start date), and the exams are tough. Claims is definitely not something people should get into lightly.

        But that said, an English degree and HR experience might work in other functional areas within the insurance industry.

    10. self employed*

      If you’re a women, check out apresgroup . com. They are a site devoted to women returning to the workforce after a gap. If you can do strategic, high-level volunteering (like school board vs. helping at the bake sale) it would be helpful. Depending on what you want to do you could pick up contract / project-based stuff. For example, if you want to get into copywriting, you could pick up some projects to build a portfolio that would be helpful when you’re ready to do full-time. I believe you’d need some recent evidence of HR / operations to be a really compelling candidate, but others may have a better sense.

    11. Time to get Ready*

      I should add that while my degrees are in English, my work skill set is leadership/management based. My jobs typically involved being given responsibility over a portion of a very expensive teapot (or teapot project) and the people/money needed to maintain (or create) said teapot.

      I could do writing jobs, but that’s what I do for fun. Making it work would take the joy out of my personal writing.

      1. MillersSpring*

        I would look at customer service call centers, where you need leadership skills to manage a group of people who often are dealing with difficult callers. You could get some experience as a PT remote agent.

        You also could look at product development, which involves taking an idea and ushering it through all the steps to commercialize it, from messaging to pricing to production.

        Another idea could be trying to lead a team of web content writers for an agency. Your writing experience and leadership experience would be a natural fit. Gain experience by freelancing as a web, blog, PR and social media writer.

          1. Nickibee*

            I’m in product development at a bank. Duties include market research, product design, writing requirements, working with technology, operations and quality control to get the software built or bought from a vendor, providing content to the training and marketing teams, coordinating legal, risk and compliance, and P&L management once the product has launched.

            To summarize all thought, we think about our role on the HBT spectrum. We need to understand the Human aspect (usability, interface design, driving high adoption rate), Business knowledge, and Technology savvy. Plus you’d need a healthy dose of project management skills. Product management / development roles typically don’t have direct reports. You’ll be leading your peers through influence, but not supervising them. Most of software development is Agile now

            I’ve seen ex-military without any specific financial services background do very well in this field, but my company has a great support structure for vets. Check out the Military Times list of best employers for vets to see who else might be supportive. Best of luck!

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              I’ve been in the financial services industry in some capacity off and on now for five years (been back in it now for almost nine months on the risk management/insurance side), and this sounds like something I could see myself doing once I hit the ceiling in my current career trajectory. Thanks for breaking this all out.

  4. Good_Intentions*

    Dealing with delayed payment to college student fellows

    Background: I am an independent contractor working with a small nonprofit focused empowering college students to vote. The organization is based very far from the swing state where I work.

    For my position, I have hired student workers for the fall semester. They interviewed, trained, and meet with me weekly about their respective on-campus goals. The organization was supposed to have sent them a check with half of their stipend after their first few weeks on the job. To date, none have received their checks.

    Issue: The lack of a paycheck to any of the fellows led to a revolt at one campus. The students spoke with me about it two weeks ago, I followed up with the headquarters and was told things were in process. I relayed this information to the students, who seemed on board with waiting, but that changed yesterday.

    One of the students emailed me with a very direct threat of the entire team quitting unless they were paid immediately. I forwarded the email to my supervisor in the main office and left a voice mail message on her cell phone for good measure. Turns out, she was at home sick and hadn’t checked her email, so we talked for a few minutes, and she agreed to update the students on the status of their respective paychecks, which should arrive by early next week.

    Questions: What’s my role in the paycheck debacle? I am bringing a member of the headquarters’ team to meet the students Wednesday for an introduction, a campus check and a presidential debate watch party. How should I handle this? Do I need to send an email confirming they understand what’s happening with their stipend?

    Thanks for your time. I look forward to reading your sage advice.

    1. Thomas E*

      In all honesty, it seems to me you’ve already fulfilled your role in this debacle by bringing the students together with higher management who can fix it.

      For what it’s worth I’d take this as a huge red flag for yourself as well. Your company may be struggling.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I have to say I agree with Thomas. It sounds slike you have been as proactive as you can be, bringing the information to both the higher-ups and letting the student workers who interact with you what steps you are/have taken.

        I also agree (based on other stories here) that delayed paychecks are never a good sign.

        The only thing I can is, maybe, if these are all new student workers who have never worked with your company before, there could have been some small delay in the system getting them all set up, paperwork, etc. — but then, really, your boss should have passed that information along right away.

    2. Whats In A Name*

      I agree with Thomas. I think you have done what you can at this point; delays in paychecks usually mean inability to come up with the money.

      I would also consider being very ready and prepared for the possibility of this happening again for the 2nd half of their stipend. If they are truly relying on this money, as most fellows are, you might want to somehow let them know when things happen it’s usually NOT in a vacuum.

    3. Gene*

      I think you’ve done all you can on the employer side. Are you being paid in full and on time? If so, it’s likely the parent organization is overwhelmed by a big hiring surge.

      You may want to look at your state’s laws on paychecks – if any of the students are smart, they are already looking at this, there could be a big liability brewing. And if the headquarters person doesn’t show up with checks in hand (if they haven’t already been paid by then), expect a lynch mob.

      1. Overeducated*

        If this is structured as a fellowship it’s not going to be subject to the same laws as regular payroll.

    4. liameow*

      I agree with other folks who say that you’ve done all you can on the employer side. As a student who was doing work and due a paycheck two (or more weeks) ago, I think you might have to be prepared that some students decide that they can no longer do the work unpaid.

      If you’re talking to students weekly, I think demonstrating that you are aware of the situation, doing all that you can, and that the organization hasn’t forgotten that they’ve not yet been paid is important. Transparency (as much as you’re able to give) is also good. I don’t think you “need” to send an email, but you should, validating that this is a problem (and you recognize it as a problem). If your supervisor could also cc you on the email (assuming that they have more contact with you than with your supervisor), it also makes it seem like you both are on the same page and in sync.

    5. It happens*

      You’ve done what you can. If you know who from the hq will be with you Wednesday a direct email to that person could be warranted. The person should have the paychecks to deliver in person if they haven’t been delivered on Monday or tuesday… as well, I would hate to be that person walking into a meeting with a group of people who haven’t been paid in weeks… I really hope that all of you are paid what you are owed.

  5. AFineSpringDay*

    It’s performance review time! My boss quit this year, and our new boss (former senior colleague) just spilled the tea on how old boss parceled out the bonus pool. A very dumb way of doing it, IMO. In her mind, what was most fair was this – people who had been here the longest got the most money, people who had been here the shortest got the least. Period. End of story. So not merit or performance based at all, and there is almost no point in striving to improve your performance each year, because you’ll never be rewarded for it until someone else quits, retires, or dies. So this means some people who have serious performance issues (that old boss never wanted to deal with) are making 5-10 times what I make, and I have no performance issues. New boss has made it clear he never agreed with her way of handling this and he is not doing it this way. So I’m hoping for a nice chunk of cheddar this year.

        1. Hermione*

          Specifically gossip or sensitive information (“spill the T(ea)ruth”). It’s apparently been a phrase since the late 1970’s, but it’s been revived recently. Origin is murky as best as I can tell.

          1. Anna*

            Very popular among drag queens and the show RuPaul’s Drag Race made it more widespread.

            I heart that show so much.

            1. Sophia in the DMV (DC-MD-VA)*

              I do too but that finale was underwhelming.

              The women in RHoA also use the phrase

      1. Sensual Shirt Sleeve*

        ‘Spill the T’ or ‘Spill the tea’ = Reveal the gossip/news. T stands for for ‘Truth’. A variation on ‘spill the beans’.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      My last company, which was horrible in a lot of ways, used to have a manager that would parcel out bonuses based on family status. So those with 3+ kids would get the most, then those with 2, those with 1, those who were married or engaged, and lastly the single people. She was of the frame of mind that people with more mouths to feed deserve more money than someone supporting themselves.

      I was glad I was never in that department, and I left before HR finally got around to dealing with, but I totally share the sympathy. My current company gives the same raise percentage across the board regardless of merit or performance, which doesn’t really inspire me to be a high performer anymore (I have never once gotten a bonus in this industry because it’s on the downwards spiral).

      I hope you get your nice, big bonus this year!

      1. AFineSpringDay*

        That’s terrible! I’m not that opposed to across the board sameness, because that’s a more fair system than arbitrary decisions about butt in seat times or family sizes. But sometimes I miss my old job, where I got a percentage of the profit I brought it. Work harder, get more!

      2. Piano Girl*

        Those of us that are paid hourly no longer get bonuses because “we can still earn overtime.” Gee, thanks.

      3. aeldest*

        Even if this method was in any way acceptable, I’d just like to point out that being single is way more expensive than being married/living with someone! I spent half as much on rent and a third less on food when I was living with my ex, because sharing a bedroom = cheaper and I could buy food in greater bulk.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          Oh, I totally agree! I’m perpetually annoyed that a lot of things in life penalize people for being single and not having dual income households.

          My friends with spouses complain about saving for down payments on houses, and I always want to point out that they have two incomes to use while I just have mine and it’s going to take me twice as long to save up money for a down payment than if I had another person bringing in a steady income.

          1. AFineSpringDay*

            I just bought a condo by myself – I feel your pain! It took me a years to save what I needed, plus extra for an emergency fund. I was as frugal as I could be. But it was all worth it in the end – the mortgage, maintenance fees, and property taxes are still less than I was paying in rent.

    2. nonymous*

      ergh, oldboss sounds like a variant on what my mom faced, to the point where accomplishments were withheld from performance evaluations so that a more senior person could get the raises.

    3. Ama*

      Blargh. I hope you get a nice raise.

      We had a department head here not long after I was hired who quit when we got a new CEO (although I now suspect she was perhaps asked to quit, as you’ll see). We were still in the growing pains from being a very small org to a medium org and performance reviews were done by the department heads who then made their decisions about raises for their whole department — including themselves. Turned out this department head had been telling her most junior report every year that there was no money in the budget for raises and then giving herself an extra bump with that money. (Tellingly she didn’t try to pull this on her other report who had a position that put her in frequent contact with board members.)

      Needless to say, the new CEO dramatically revised the performance review process so there’s actual oversight involved and no one determines their own raise.

      1. AFineSpringDay*

        Wow, I’ve never heard of someone being allowed to determine their own raise!

        I once had a boss that was told to quit or be fired, because she flat out lied to HR, saying one of my colleagues had stopped showing up to work with no notice (so she could promote her office bestie into his role), when in fact he was horribly ill with a parasite of some kind, and kept boss informed the whole time. I still don’t know how she thought she would get away with it.

      2. Artemesia*

        I know someone who did this; she was given a nice bonus pool and gave it all to herself for several years till someone tipped the board

  6. Fact & Fiction*

    New record: I’m posting two weeks in a row. This week’s interview went well and I think I rocked the writing test. I sent my follow-up note and now it’s time for the focusing-on-other-things-while-waiting game.

    I’m not really actively job seeking because I love my employer and parts of my job but this position would be amazing do keeping my fingers crossed.

  7. Sunflower*

    So I have to have the convo this week with my boss about our team assistant who has a bad attitude, doesn’t care about the job and other managers complained to me about. I’m super nervous even though I know it needs to be done.

    Has anyone ever had to talk to their manager about another person on their team? What did you do? How did it go? The idea of having to talk to my manager about all the problems with this person who I sit next to and share a workload with is nerve wracking!

    1. Swimmergirl*

      You might want to write down some points prior to the meeting. Just be straightforward and provide examples for her behavior. For example, Jane has a bad attitude. On Thursday, she swore at a customer and refused to answer the telephone when Jim asked her to.

    2. the.kat*

      You might also want to identify your goal in meeting with your boss. Do you want TA fired? Do you want TA disciplined? Identifying what you want before you go in will help you maintain control of (at least your half of) the conversation.

    3. NW Mossy*

      I’ve been on the receiving end of these conversations as a manager, and here are the things that help your case:

      * Keep your focus on what behaviors you’ve observed and the impact of those behaviors is on you, using neutral language. You didn’t offer a lot of details for me to help craft a script of what this looks like, but one thing you can say is “Fergus and Wakeen (the other managers) have told me that they’re dissatisfied with Lucinda’s work,” and then follow that with what the fallout is, such as “…and so they ask me to take tasks that would normally be Lucinda’s.”

      * Avoid extreme words like “always” and “never” when describing Lucinda. Just like on the SAT, these statements tend to read false because it’s so rare that a person is always/never a particular way in every scenario. Words like “often,” “recently,” and “frequently” get the same point across without the risk of sounding overblown.

      * Resist the urge to say to your boss “You should definitely do X to fix this.” Your boss has a different perspective and different goals from you, so you may not have access to information that would cause you to realize that your solution wouldn’t work as well as you thought. Instead, focus on what you propose to do yourself (“I’d like to tell Fergus and Wakeen that they need to continue to work with Lucinda on [task]”) and/or offer suggestions (“It might be helpful if we clarify expectations about what Lucinda and I are responsible for”) that alleviate the impact of her poor work.

      * Do not under any circumstances make it personal or talk disrespectfully about her, no matter how terrible she is. It’s fine to critique her behavior, but critiquing her as a person (“Oh, Lucinda suuuuuuuuucks!”) is out of bounds and makes it very likely that your legitimate critiques will be taken less seriously. A good rule of thumb is to think about how you’d want a peer to present feedback to your boss about you, and do your delivery the same way.

      1. Sunflower*

        Thanks- this is extremely helpful. I’ve had bitter feelings towards this person for numerous reasons and I thought it was my bitterness that was causing the dislike towards her- plus, no one is perfect, I make mistakes too, and I wasn’t sure if I was being too hard on this person. It wasn’t until I heard confirmation from several other managers and co-workers that I realized it wasn’t just that. So I really want to make sure I keep any personal feelings towards her(and how she got this job) out of it.

        1. MillersSpring*

          Take copies of any evidence you may have, such as emails from her, sloppy work she’s submitted, errors you’ve had to fix, emails from customers or coworkers, etc.

    4. nonymous*

      Focus on how TA’s poor performance affects you, especially cases of quality (where you have to do rework) or if you do duties that TA is getting credit for. Any verbatim notes you have from those other managers – at least date/time/incident – help keeps this neutral. As an anecdote, my supervisor has shown surprise when he finds people on our team apologizing to stakeholders in specific situations because he would prefer that we professionally push back. Remember, it’s not your job to manage TA’s performance, but it is your job to deal with the outcome of TA’s efforts; very reasonable to ask for guidance if that is not going well/has changed.

      1. BookCocoon*

        Agree on talking about how it affects you, or how it reflects badly on the organization. It sounds (and feels) more like tattling to say, “So-and-so does this bad thing,” than to say, “I’m concerned about how So-and-so’s actions are affecting my work / appearing to clients.” For me, it was making it less about “Coworker doesn’t appear to have retained anything in the six months she’s been here” and more about “It’s difficult to focus on my work when Coworker is asking me questions 10-12 times a day, often questions I’ve answered multiple times the same week.”

    5. Whats In A Name*

      I have both successfully and unsuccessfully; I learned a LOT from the unsuccesful and my manager coached me about it afterwards, which was nice. (He was my favorite manager ever)

      Use very specific examples from more than one person.
      Fergus said Fiona refused project X when approached.
      Fiona said Y to customer in regards to our product and we are concerned.
      Fiona has been asked repeatedly to help with A & Z and has refused or not completed tasks.

      Vague statements (She is difficult to get along with) come across petty or gossipy and blanket statements (never willing to help) are the same. And without concrete examples there is nothing that can really be done or observed by management.

      Lastly, don’t tell the boss what you think he needs to do regarding disciple. I would start with “Chip, Flip, Skip and I have concerns and we wanted to discuss them with you.” Then let manager decide where to go from there. If he asks your advice or what you were hoping to achieve I would reinforce “We didn’t come to you to suggestion punishments, just offer some concerns that we thought were serious enough for management to be aware of but not appropriate for us to address employee to employee.”

      1. Whats In A Name*

        PS: I really hope it goes well for you! My successful attempt resulted in a vastly improved working relationship. It was because I currently have a great manager as well and she spoke with the employee in a very mentoring yet no-nonsense way.

    6. Office Plant*

      Make it behavior-specific and give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s possible that she has a bad attitude. It’s also possible that she’s dealing with difficult circumstances outside of work or a health issue. There also could be workplace issues that you’re not aware of. If you talk to her about it, give her a chance to open up about anything like that.

  8. AMD*

    Is anybody else stoked for the spicy food-stealing update? It prompted a conversation between me and my husband about the commonality of office food thievery, which I’ve never experienced having never worked in an “office” setting.

    1. Murphy*

      I forgot about that one! That was ridiculous!

      I’ve had my food stolen. (I think it might have been a mistake–it was a frozen meal.) I also had coworkers who threw out my (empty) reusable tupperware a few times.

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I was just about to comment about this! The other night, I went a little overboard on the kimchee and chili paste on a recipe I found, and it was incendiary to the point of giving us both stomachaches (and we both love spicy food!). Oops. I have the leftovers for lunch today and spent some time this morning making some additional rice and a sweet chili sauce to mix in and tone it down. It’s still going to be fiery, I’m sure …

      I’ve been specifically waiting for the open thread today to mention this, and then I see this comment! Too funny!

    3. Harrison B*

      I didn’t know one was coming but now I am! That’s one of my favorite recent AAM posts. Certainly outdoes the frozen chicken patty-thief incident at my own office.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I love it when you do that–I can’t tweet at work so I don’t get on Twitter. But I check it while having my coffee, and then I see something and go, “Ooh, I can’t wait to get to the office and read THAT one on AAM!” :D

    4. JBurr*

      Whenever Old Boss and I are explaining our connection to new friends, we always tell the story of Art, the Operations Manager, who stole my cookies. When I mentioned it, he explained that anything on top of the fridge was communal. I almost believed him, except that both Old Boss and Old Grandboss were right there and yelled, “NO, IT’S NOT, YOU FAT ASS!”

      He brought in three bags of cookies for me the next day and never stole my food again.

      1. Newby*

        We do have an area for communal food where I work (it is on top of the fridge) but people usually also leave a note next to it explaining what it is, so it’s clear that it is meant to be shared.

        1. JBurr*

          Too clarify: not a misunderstanding. He knew he was stealing and was just trying to cover his ass.

        1. JBurr*

          They did. It was that kind of workplace. I once got to tell a customer to shut the f*** up, too. He thanked me by the end of the call.

  9. Fluffernutter*

    My senior person approached me today to ask about moving to the next level in terms of a management designation (such as “VP”). He is the middle manager (without a manager title) in the department; I’m the manager and there are 6 people below his level. He’d like to know what additional work he needs to do to get there. I’d actually been thinking about it prior to him asking and feel he’s pretty much already there. I don’t really feel there’s anything additional to take on; however, when I approach my boss, it’s likely she will want to know what I will require of him once he’s a VP, which is totally reasonable; I totally get that a higher title means more responsibility.

    He does a great job of keeping everyone on track, keeps everything moving, etc. Basically, he makes me look good and makes my job easy, which is awesome. I’m struggling to come up with something concrete. He already helps with new hire training and works with another person on the team to make changes as necessary. He keeps on top of all the day-to-day stuff, and he helps the others with their goals. I’m thinking of maybe moving the performance review/coaching process to him. Not sure if that’s appropriate. Any suggestions? (Without naming my industry, I’ll say it’s highly regulated.)

    I think the reason I’m struggling so much is that, even after being here a couple years, I’m still having a tough time with managing multiple people. Prior to being here I was a bit of a one-person show, with one or two direct reports over the years at different times. And their jobs—and the company size–were such that there just wasn’t a next level to go to. I cross-trained where I could or had them help other departments, but there really wasn’t any preparation for management or anything like that.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      Would your boss be open if you stated just what you stated here, which was that you feel he is performing at a higher level than middle manager and has already unofficially taken on many duties that you wouldn’t normally expect a middle manager to take on and the title would really be formally recognizing this along with adding the performance reviews and coaching to his role since he is already working so closely with the employees regarding goals and day-to-day tasks?

    2. MarketingLady PA*

      I would recommend he take on more strategic duties as a VP. I’m not sure what your industry is, but I’m assuming the VP role is a lot different than most actual VP level duties (which are very high level) and more like a manager?

      1. Mazzy*

        I second this. What Fluffernutter describes sounds just like basic managing work, you need more strategy control and expectations and/or a goal for increasing revenue somehow.

    3. It happens*

      And for the unpopular response, does your area require someone at the VP level? Or Does this person have to move to another department for a promotion? When you speak to your boss will you be able to justify a higher salary for someone without taking on more work? Or is there more work that you would like the department to take on that would justify a higher-level report for you? I also agree with the commenters who have noted that you’ve desceribed managerial-level tasks and strategic, bigger picture, cross-department work tends to be necessary to move up a level. This is tough stuff, you got it.

    4. Chaordic One*

      I’m (favorably) impressed that you’re asking the question here!

      You seem to have a good handle on things and the other commenters have offered good advice.

  10. Anon Accountant*

    Semi work combined with personal. This morning I fell at a client’s office and told my boss when I returned to work as I thought this would be considered a workplace injury since it was while working for the company. Well right now our company isn’t current with the workers comp insurance aka no coverage now.

    My knee and ankle hurts and I’m steaming mad because this is ridiculous they let that policy lapse. Is there anything I should do?

      1. Anon Accountant*

        I was thinking of limping back with a stack of files and beating my boss with them. Reason 1 million why many small family owned businesses have “don’t work here” written all over them. Ugh

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Seriously, isn’t worker’s comp like auto insurance, something they’re required to have? And if they don’t have it, they’re fully liable for anything that happens as a result. (I Am Now A Llama.)

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          Yes, they are, which is exactly why we maintain ours so diligently. Anon Accountant, if you want to be nice, ask them where you should go and what paperwork they’ll need. Otherwise, go get it looked at on your own and send them the bill.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Actually, depending on the state, they’re not required to have it. Texas and Oklahoma for example allows employers to opt out of statutory workers compensation plans and have non-subscriber plans instead.

              1. Natalie*

                In the sense that you can win a lawsuit, yes. But that’s a much slower process than a typical workers comp insurance claim.

    1. Anon Responder*

      Why not tell your boss, “I need to go to the doctor for an exam because my knee and ankle are in pain because of the fall” and then go to the doctor?

      I’d prioritize making sure the injury is not serious. I’d keep a receipt from the visit (if there were out of pocket costs) and ask my boss when I got back, in email, “How should I get reimbursed for this visit for falling while at work?”

      If they won’t pay and I needed additional expensive treatment to recover for the injury, I’d see about a lawyer. If they won’t pay and I need no treatment or the treatment isn’t terribly expensive, I’d look at my options in small claims court and do some research myself on the lack of worker’s comp. (Worker’s comp gets the employer off the hook for getting sued for workplace injuries. If the employer is not paying for worker’s comp, I’m not sure they get to have their cake and eat it too. Definitely something to research or consult with a lawyer about.)

      No matter what, if they won’t pay, start looking for a new job because that’s super shady and the company may be in financial distress.

    2. Duncan*

      If they let their policy lapse, aren’t they essentially self-insured since its required? I’d go to the doctor and give them the bill.

      1. E*

        Yes, you need to put the burden of payment back on them. It’s even possible that by not having workers’ comp coverage currently that they are in violation of state law. But the bottom line is that you got hurt on the job, so they need to cover your treatment. It’s perfectly reasonable.

    3. Natalie*

      Your state probably has a procedure for this. In my state there is a special fund that pays the injured employee’s expenses, and then pursues the employer for that amount plus a fine. Or the employee can sue, and the employer can’t use some of the typical defenses because they didn’t have the insurance.

      So I would go the doctor for sure, and check your state laws about failure to provide workers comp. Your state Department of Labor (may have a different name) is probably the first place to start.

      1. Lurking Leigh*

        I was coming out of lurking to say more or less this. A lot of states will consider your company self insured if the don’t pay for coverage (or if you are too small to be required to have the insurance) and they just have to pay out of pocket. A Google search of your state’s WC laws should tell you if there is a fund or if you have to get a lawyer if they refuse to pay the bills. It would be cheaper if they just paid for it than getting the state agency (or an attorney) involved. Then they pay the premium, your bills, attorney fees, and a fine. Good luck!

    4. Cookie*

      I work in worker’s comp and it depends on your state, but generally you can still file a claim and get compensated. But your employer will pay dollar for dollar for your injury (and a penalty for letting coverage lapse).

    5. Teapot project manager*

      Check with whatever department in your state is over workers compensation. Employers are required to have coverage, not optional.

      The state may have a fund that covers situations like this and they may be able to direct you on how medical providers would need to file to get paid

    6. Anon-a-llama*

      Can you at least get checked out under your own insurance coverage (so you can get needed treatment) and enlist the insurance company’s help in filing it to worker’s comp? Whenever I’ve had an injury like that my insurance company wanted to know location and details so that they could subrogate the claim if possible.

    7. nonymous*

      well, urgent care clinics in my area charge about $250 for a clinic visit, and about $100 for a basic xray (we found out when my mom developed walking pneumonia, long story) – will your boss approve that? If you just had a mild sprain or superficial abrasions, you might not need a follow-up, and it will rule out more serious injury.

    8. SophieChotek*

      Not an accountant – but would the place you fell at have any liability coverage also? (If push came to shove?)
      I mean, I know even personal residences can have liability coverage–I just went through signing up at my place. (Cf. the woman who sued her nephew over broken/hurt wrist…)

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup, I would report the injury to the client site. Their CGL policy may cover this under the Med Pay section.

    9. Mockingjay*

      Also, while it is still fresh in your mind, write a brief account of what happened: location, time, purpose of client visit (to prove it is work-related), how the fall happened (tripped on electrical cord, slipped on stair), description of pain/visible injuries.

      This is not necessarily for a lawyer, but is useful for answering myriad forms and processes among your company, the client company, doctor’s office, insurance, state agency.

      Here’s hoping you heal quickly, and that this issue is resolved!

    10. Anon Accountant*

      Well I returned from urgent care. My knee was twisted in the fall and my ankle and foot are sprained. So I’m in this “shoe” brace n on crutches.

      What a way to end the week.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        A little cheer-up anecdote for ya: The first time I went bowling, I was so uninformed about bowling, I didn’t realize the lanes were highly waxed compared to the rest of the floor. There was a gutter ball which had bounced off the pin-clearing thing and came back somewhat close to the beginning of the lane. My turn was next, so I went to go get the ball and just walked right out onto the lane. I quickly slipped and fell on my wrist. Then I got up and immediately slipped and fell on my wrist again. I ended up spraining my wrist from falling on it with such force.

        Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

  11. Scorpio*

    I was wondering if anyone could give an insight to my situation.

    I’ve been in a relationship for 5 years now (college sweethearts) and the last 3 years we have been long distance (just 2.5 hours) while he finished his master’s degree. He just started a job in his area and the idea is for me to look for jobs there and finally begin our life together. He’s living with his parents now until we are able to get a place together. He’s not making enough to support us both while I look for a job, so I need to stay at my current position until an offer comes through.

    My problem is that it’s a highly competitive metropolitan area and I don’t feel like I will be competitive as a long distance applicant. I also have 3 years of experience but it’s sort of varied and I don’t feel like I’m an expert in any one thing. I have money in savings and so I’m waffling between the idea of staying up here for a prolonged and painful job search or moving down there, getting something to pay the bills, and continuing to search in that area.

      1. Scorpio*

        I guess so. Maybe the situation is more complicated than I can express here, but I really want to make a move that’s good for my career too, not just his. It’s a sacrifice for me to move to this location that I don’t truly love and I don’t want to take a job I’ll dislike too (I already have that here!). I feel like if I make too many compromises for the relationship I will end up bitter. I guess maybe I just answered my own question.

        1. Marvel*

          Yeah, it sounds like you’re not really okay with moving there in the first place. I’d address that before moving on to the more practical concerns.

          1. Scorpio*

            It’s just not my first choice. I’m ok with it but I had other things in mind. But you gotta go where the work is!

            1. Relly*

              Is it better for both of your careers to go to his town? Or do you feel locked in now that he got a job there? I’m curious why him relocating to your area wasn’t a possibility — are there not as many jobs?

              1. Scorpio*

                Good question. I’m in a rural area and I work at a college there which is pretty much the only employer outside of the government. He works in the art/publishing industry. There are zero opportunities for career growth for me and none for him either.

                1. Scorpio*

                  I should have added that I don’t love living where I do; I just live here because I work here. I’m far from my family, it’s a very…not diverse population, and it’s better for retiring to. I would like to explore more places. It’s a cute college town but I don’t want to live here forever.

                2. Relly*

                  (Replying here because it’s nested.)

                  You may be thinking of this as a binary choice, but it really isn’t. His town is better for both of you than yours is, but that’s certainly not saying that you can’t [i]both[/i] pack up and find another spot.

                  My now-husband and I did LDR for a few years, then I moved to his town while he finished his master’s. Neither of us really liked His Town, though, so a couple of years later, we reviewed all of our options, and decided on another city 2-3 hours away that had career opportunities and felt more “us” to both of us. We’ve been here over a decade and it’s been wonderful.

                  Just because you can’t stay where you are, doesn’t mean you have to live where he is, if you don’t like it, and it sounds like you don’t.

    1. justsomeone*

      Can you use his parents’ address as a “local” address for applications?

      I was in a similar situation when I graduated. Thankfully my SO’s parents didn’t mind me moving in with them while I job searched, so it didn’t cost me anything extra to be there, rather than where I had already been living.

      Temping is also a good idea. I did a couple of contracts to bring in a bit of cash while I searched.

      1. Scorpio*

        Good ideas! I love his parents but I’ve been on my own for 3 years now and I’m not sure I could handle that. They’re great people but worry a lot and can be helicopter parents (out of love). Thank you.

        1. Cristina in England*

          You won’t really need them to do anything though, apart from them to be ok with you putting their address on a resume. Until you get an offer and a contract mailed to you (if that), then everything will be done by phone or email. Or am I missing something?

          1. Scorpio*

            Oh I was referring to the idea of moving in with them but the address definitely wouldn’t be a problem.

      2. bohtie*

        Yes this! I have definitely let some folks borrow my address for applications when they were planning to move somewhere and were worried about not being taken seriously.

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      If you’re worried about the distance making you less competitive, can you use his parents’ address when applying to companies in his city? If it’s only two hours away and you have reliable transportation, you probably don’t even need to worry about tight turnarounds on interviews either.

      1. Scorpio*

        Thank you! For the address thing, I think it would look weird to have an address a few hours away from where you currently work. But if it’s an applicant tracking system, I will start to do that since it’s probably just used to filter people out. If I’m submitting to HR or something by email, I will probably just use my own address. Thanks!

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          If you’re confident they’ll look at a cover letter, I think Alison has advised addressing the move there, as well. As long as you frame it as a more or less done deal and make clear that you’re looking at that specific city and not just getting out of your current locale.

          1. Scorpio*

            Do we think it’s enough to put like “I’m relocating to Wonderland and want peruse a career that continues to bring my experience in blah blah blah to the teapot community” in the first paragraph?

            1. Awkward Interviewee*

              I just finished a long distance job search (600 miles) and got a 50% response rate by just putting “I’m planning to relocate to X city and think I would be a good fit…” in my first cover letter paragraph. It took me about 6 months to get an offer. But obviously it will vary quite a bit depending on field and experience level. I had almost 6 years of experience at my old job and was content with a lateral move. (Lateral moves are totally fine in my field.)

              1. Scorpio*

                6 months ughhhhhhhhhhh. That must have been so difficulty. I feel like I can’t handle 6 days…6 hours! But I know them’s the breaks. It’s nice to know it worked out for you! I will definitely include that tidbit in my CL.

    3. anonderella*

      Oh! I don’t have anything incredibly concrete to offer, but hope is a good start.

      A year ago, my story sounded crazy similar to yours – met/started dating in college, were long distant for 4/5 years, 9 hours apart; we both moved back to our respective hometowns to finish college. I started completely over with a new degree, so he finished a year before me and had landed a seriously good job through lifelong family contacts by the time I was finishing my BS. I had a degree, but had seriously struggled the last few years with newly-discovered manic-depression, and my grades had gone from spectacular to gutter-some. I also had *no* office work experience; my most recent work had been pizza delivery and waitressing jobs, most of which I’d been fired from. SO & I had a serious ‘sh*t or get off the pot’ conversation about our relationship, and made the decision to, as you put it, finally begin our life together.
      Anyway, my SO was also living with parents when I moved up here; he actually was already making enough to support us, but I felt so, so horrible living off his money, especially while I had practically no student loans, and his were/still are very much a concern. My savings took a pretty big blow from moving several states away, and then having to live until I found work – I couldn’t stay in his mom’s house for long; she is awesome, but I’d been living alone for the past 6 years, with no roommates, let alone parents. The new town is also $$$much more economically-lucrative$$$ than my old town; while I don’t think I would have had a hard time finding work in my old town, I know I wouldn’t be making as much – that’s possibly something you can look forward to in your new “highly competitive metropolitan area”. Remember, good employers are competing via their benefits package to retain you, too.

      Personally, I am in Camp-move and find something you reasonably like while discovering the area and trying out different jobs, then if you like where you are (and the two of you don’t plan to move somewhere else soon) try to ease into a career path you enjoy more. Make your career goal just getting job experience, or a certain type of job experience, and let some time go by while you two enjoy yourselves! Holding down a job for more than a year (and being a somewhat decent employee) will also increase your attractiveness to employers that you’d like to work for in the future – remember to come armed with one or two short talking points about how much you love your new city when you interview; they will ask, and you will want to say something positive, even if you haven’t been there long (or in my case, HATE your new city).
      Can’t offer any long-distant interview advice; I was working on my last semester (online classes for that semester) when I moved, so I was able to positively spin the ‘I’m a very, very recent grad – blank slate attractiveness!’ But I bet you will do fine; this will be a fun adventure for your relationship and for yourself, personally. Capitalize on your fortunes and roll with the punches; and don’t ever give up once you start making a move! Good luck

      1. Scorpio*

        Thank you so much. I really appreciate you sharing your success story! Hope is good. Very good. Thank you!

        1. Lily Rowan*

          It’s been a while, but I’ve never found a job in the new location before moving. It’s just too hard when you aren’t super in-demand and/or senior, because it’s so much easier for them to find a local candidate. And it’s a huge hassle for you if you are getting interviews, because then you have to get to New Location on short notice, etc., etc.

          Sorry to be kind of a bummer, but good luck!

          1. Scorpio*

            Sometimes the truth hurts! I think I’ll give it till the end of the year and then give in. And save every penny until then too. Thanks for your honesty & input.

  12. Shoe Ruiner*

    Much of this might be a know-your-office situation, but any tips to run a holiday food drive at work and not annoy everyone? Or make anyone uncomfortable?

    1. Leatherwings*

      We’ve just had a box by the door to put preferred canned goods in before. It was great because a lot of people appreciated the opportunity to give back at work, but it wasn’t like someone was going around asking for money or keeping track of who put what in the box.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yes, this seems like a good way to do it — a few boxes around and a few email or sign reminders here and there.

          1. Anna*

            Exactly what we do here, with some specific suggestions on what to bring. I also include what not to bring (no fruit cocktail, for Pete’s sake).

            1. fposte*

              Is there a story behind that? I wouldn’t think fruit cocktail would be a terrible thing–our foodbank takes canned fruit–but I also wouldn’t have expected you to get a lot of it.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Sidebar: a friend once asked if there was anything she could bring to a party I was throwing. I said, “You know, I don’t have any fruit, so that would be awesome.” She brought a can of fruit cocktail. No serving dish or bowl, just a can of Del Monte. She purchased it at a market that has a ton of cut-up fresh fruit options, and this is a woman who brags pretty openly about her wealth. I kept that can and considered taking it to every party in our social circle.

              2. esra (also a Canadian)*

                I was going to say, canned fruit was kind of a lifesaver when I was younger and needed the foodbank. Anything remotely healthy. They give you so much freaking KD and cookies and chips.

              3. Snazzy Hat*

                My guess is it’s a common “and i guess i’ll get this for the food drive” item. I occasionally buy canned fruit for myself. I never buy canned fruit cocktail, although I will eat it if it’s offered. I can imagine canned fruit being on someone’s grocery list, and when they arrive at the canned fruit aisle they pick out what they want to have at home and also something they don’t plan on eating but will just give away.

      2. Lady Blerd*

        That’s how we do it at work. You know when a giant box covered in gift wrapping paper appears by the entrance door that it’s for the Holiday food drive. Usually an email is sent out to advise people of this.

      3. Sunflower*

        Yes- Send an email to let them know when the boxes go up and when they will come down. I would send an email the day before they come down letting people know its the last day.

      4. Lemon Zinger*

        Definitely the best way to do it!

        DO NOT send out repeated emails begging for donations, like one of my coworkers is currently doing for United Way…

        1. EA*

          I despise our company’s United Way drive. It’s completely “Optional”, but even if you don’t donate, you have to sign into the website and indicate that you don’t want to donate. If you don’t, expect to get at least 3 emails from managers.

          1. Temperance*

            I was stuck handling our United Way campaign the past few years, and that’s one of their suggested techniques to drum up donations. We didn’t do it because, well, it sucks ass.

      5. Garland Not Andrews*

        If you do this, be sure the signage includes where the food will be donated and the date the drive ends. Then after the drive, if the organization sends a “Thank You”, be sure it is posted in a prominent place for the employees to see!

      6. Honeybee*

        Yes, this. And keep the email reminders to a minimum. I’d say if the food drive is over by December 15, three times between now and then is plenty. The food box in a highly visible location is most of the reminder anyone will need.

    2. Temperance*

      Yes! This is something that I do as part of my job:

      1.) Don’t go through a faith-based or controversial org. If you’re in Philly, Philabundance is great. (I might be an outlier, but I refuse to donate to my neighborhood food bank because a church runs it and takes credit for all the donations.)

      2.) Don’t send targeted emails. Send one or two blasts, put posters up in common areas, and make it easy for people to donate without getting noticed. I’m still pissed at the woman who kept sending me targeted emails and phone calls about donating blood.

      3.) If you’re going to accept money, as well as food, make it clear! Many people aren’t going to want to lug a bunch of canned goods on public transit, but they’ll happily give you $5.

      1. Ama*

        I’d also add — I’m sure there are plenty of food banks/charities happy to take your donations, but make sure you check with them ahead of time if they have any restrictions, or foods they badly need (or really *don’t* need). And also find out what their preferences are for delivering the donation — some places have a pickup service, some do if you hit a certain volume, and some need you to deliver everything yourself.

        There’s nothing more frustrating (on both sides) than to call up a nonprofit about a donation only to find out they can’t take half/all your donation for logistical or practical reasons.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Yes, definitely check on restrictions. After volunteering a few times at the food bank where I live, I can say it’s pretty depressing as a volunteer to go through huge boxes of donated items and literally throw 40% of what came in in the trash.

          If your company is going to go to the effort of trying to get items to help people in need, make sure that you’re getting items the organization you are donating to can actually use!

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        +1 for the advice on monetary donations. For my entire working life I’ve worked in large cities and have been either walking or taking public transportation to work, so my participation in these drives is usually more limited than I would like if monetary donations are not accepted. It is a pain to lug a bag full of canned goods onto a train or bus!

        Also, my understanding is that some organizations prefer money to actual goods because then they can ensure that they are able to acquire food/supplies that can actually be distributed to people in need, so it may be worth checking with them in advance so that you can give people proper guidance. I know the food bank in my city throws away a good portion of donated items because they are deemed unusable, either because they are in a product category they can’t legally distribute (i.e., health or personal care items), they are damaged or past the expiration date, or they contain ingredients that just can’t go into their warehouse until the items are distributed to local centers because they will go bad or attract pests.

        1. It happens*

          Yes yes yes. Can drives make the givers feel good, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but food banks can get MUCH better rates on food and then they can buy what they need. As someone else noted, the donated goods also need people to sort the donations. Cash gets put to good use fast. Is it possible to have a coin can drive? Like here’s a big can, let’s fill it with change (no pennies!) for the food bank…

    3. beachlover*

      Is it for a Charity/food Bank ? We have one every year here for the local food bank and Shelter. They put barrels down in the break room. Office Mgr sends out an email asking for donations of canned food, but no other pressure. You can also donate money to help purchase perishables – Turkeys, Veggies etc. As long as they don’t start hounding the workers about it, no one should be uncomfortable.

    4. justsomeone*

      Make it easy, and make it no-pressure. We do a book drive in our office. I chose a non-religious organization. I put up a nice, decorated collection basket in a common area. I sent one general email with the dates up top in bold. Then I outlined the organization’s mission and linked to their wishlists. I sent one final office-wide email the day before I took it down.

    5. nonymous*

      I’m in a big building and our food drive goes on for awhile, so the people who organize it put bins near entrances and then periodically empty it to a central table. The also weigh it and there’s a little chart so we can see progress compared to last years’ take. That might be more pressure than you’re going for, but I find it fun to see how big the pile gets (and if a lot of mac ‘n cheese shows up, maybe I’ll bring beans instead).

    6. OhNo*

      All I can think of is a list of things not to do. Don’t track who participates. Don’t offer incentives for participating (in case there’s someone who can’t for whatever reason). Don’t let others track participation or shame people who don’t participate. Generally just make it 100% anonymous and optional. If you want, you might also offer the chance to donate cash. I know many food shelves and charities like getting monetary donations, and it might be easier for some people to donate cash rather than food items.

      The biggest “don’t” I can think of is: don’t let anyone track what is donated until you are taking it over to the donation site. A few years ago there was a food drive going on at my internship location and several nasty emails were sent out by someone (not one of the organizers) who had donated something and “happened to notice” that it was no longer in the donation bin. I don’t know what happened to it and I don’t care, but I was thoroughly disgusted with her insinuations, when this was a school with a ton of staff and students who were barely making ends meet and might have needed the food. Please don’t let anyone do that.

    7. Scorpio*

      If you have the chance, you can collect “box tops for education.” That’s great for me because they’re already on the products I buy and I don’t have much money to spend on donations, especially around the holidays.

      Last year our office was assigned peanut butter and jelly as part of an organization wide drive. I felt bad that I could only bring in a few jars. So…don’t assign specific people/offices certain foods. It seems like a good idea to make sure you have the variety you want to donate, but it limits who can contribute (especially when you are people who would normally pull a can of their own food from their shelf).

    8. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Yes to much of what has already been said. Have a beneficiary picked out beforehand so that people know who it is going to so they can decide how much they want to support that particular organization and have a letter or something from that org explaining what they do, what they can and can’t accept, and what is the most needed. Send out an email a day or so before you put up the box and attach letter from org. Put up the box with a copy of the letter and, as another option, a lock box if people find giving cash more convenient. Send out one more email a day or two before the end of the drive as a reminder and that’s it!

    1. Murphy*

      In my opinion, leggings are not pants, and you’d better be wearing something plenty long if you’re going to wear leggings in the office.

      1. NonAnon*

        My office just went “Contemporary Casual” which allows for leggings and yoga pants M-F when worn appropriately. It’s been…interesting. Personally, I won’t wear those items out of the house unless it’s an emergency grocery run, etc, but that’s me and I like to look nice at work. As a side note, I was once called “high maintenance” by a co-worker who has never seen me outside of work and knows nil of my personal life. I asked why he felt that way. Ensue this conversation:
        Him: I think you’re high maintenance because you always look nice
        Me: Because I always look nice, I’m high maintenance?
        Him: Yes
        Me: I look nice at work so this means I’m high maintenance in general?
        Him: Yes
        Me: What would you suggest I wear then?
        Him: Oh, no! Don’t change it. You look nice, just, you know, high maintenance.
        Me: *mumbling while walking away* I’m just not going to win here….

        1. Relly*

          I … would feel very uncomfortable about this, because I feel like “high maintenance” refers to how someone acts in a relationship, and your co-worker is making remarks about how you’d be as a significant other, when you are, you know, AT WORK.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          It sounds like he does not understand the concept of high maintenance, he just went with the straightforward meaning of “you work hard to keep yourself looking professional everyday”. He does not realize the expression comes with negative connotations of someone else having to do all the work.

      2. Anna*

        Precisely this. I work with young adults who are learning professional norms and that is my mantra. Wear them under a skirt, or a tunic, or a dress, but they do not take the place of slacks or a skirt or anything else that would cover your ass.

      3. Newby*

        I think leggings are a good way to turn a shortish dress into work appropriate attire. But I agree, they are not pants.

        1. Karo*

          Yeah, this is how I normally wear them. All bits are always covered, but if the dress wouldn’t reach the tips of my fingers, then I’ll throw on leggings.

        2. SJ*

          Same – I’m 5’10 so a lot of dresses are short on me. I mostly resign myself to not wearing any of those dresses to work when it’s too warm for leggings and then bringing them back into my rotation when it’s leggings time.

    2. Collie*

      I wear mine if my shirt is long enough to cover my butt. No one has said anything and many others in the place err more toward business professional (though they interact with people outside the office more frequently).

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      I think it really depends on geography, industry, and company. Some places it would be outrageous as business casual. Other places, it is business casual.

    4. KL*

      That’s a good question! I’ve seen them around my office now that the weather’s turning cooler, but I always thought of them as more casual than business casual.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Even if your top covers your butt, if the top is an over-sized chambray button-up shirt (which is what I see people around here wearing), then it is still casual. I wear leggings under a dress to bring the dress from dressy to casual, so I think leggings can be business casual if worn under a dress. Otherwise, they’re just casual.

        1. Scorpio*

          Agreed. I work at a college and many people dress like the students. One of my coworkers came in the other day in a sports jersey (not our school’s team either), leggings, and like fuzzy moccasin slippers. I thought she was sick it was so absurd!

        2. Sharon*

          I think in that case they MIGHT be business casual with a blazer or sweater over the shirt and the right shoes/accessories/styling… but if you’re just throwing on any ol’ baggy top with your leggings and sneakers and day 4 messy bun, that’s like leisure casual or slob casual. No bueno.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yeah, I wear mine under long dress blouses, long dress sweaters, and with blazers. I also make sure that when I go with this look my hair is braided into neat chignons/buns, I wear nice jewelry, and I wear dress shoes (no Uggs or anything of that ilk).

    5. Early 20s/no leggings*

      You know what’s funny, in my law office the people who wear leggings to work are all late 40s/early 50s/older. None of the women in their 20s and 30s do.

      1. Early 20s/no leggings*

        And by wearing leggings to work, I meant solely as pants, not under a dress or long shirt.

      2. DragoCucina*

        I’m now officially embarrassed for women in my age group (50s) who do this. I apologize that they don’t have better sense.

    6. Eddie Turr*

      Jeggings would be absolutely fine in my office. With regular leggings, it’d be safer to cover the butt, but we don’t have a real dress code.

    7. Jesmlet*

      Depends on the style and what you’re wearing with it. No one in my office wears them but at another location we have, they’ll wear something like plain, thick black leggings with boots and a long sweater and no one seems to care. As long as they don’t have a weird pattern or made of really thin material and everything is covered, I don’t see why it should be a big deal.

    8. Lady Blerd*

      Depends on your work evironemnt and opinions on this vary. I’d wear it with a bum covering tunic/very long shirt or a dress.

    9. just another librarian*

      I wear mine every day under a dress or skirt to work. My work would never go for leggings as pants, but is pretty cool with funky colors and prints. I have a public-facing job.

    10. Sunflower*

      No. Not to say I don’t occasionally slip them into my work wardrobe on days I just don’t feel like being here. I ALWAYS wear a shirt long enough to cover everything. If they are worn under an appropriate length dress I think they are fine though.

      I may or may not be wearing them right now at my desk as i type this…..

      1. Orca*

        Haha I saw this post and was like “guilty!” I have a dress that covers my butt but would definitely be too short even on my own time with nothing underneath. Though I also work in an extreeemely casual environment.

    11. NW Mossy*

      I treat leggings as footless tights and dress accordingly. I wouldn’t wear tights as pants, so I don’t wear leggings that way either.

    12. A Nonny Mouse*

      Did anyone else wearing leggings to work today read this and start freaking out that they are dressed too casually? (Under a long, butt-covering tunic/dress thing)

      1. Cheese*

        Lol, not wearing them today, but I did yesterday! And I would be panicking about it if I hadn’t seen two other more senior people in my office wearing them this week, so I think I’m safe?

    13. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      In my office they are allowed as long as your shirt is tunic style and the hem lands within 3 inches of your knees. In my office they are worn all year long by many employees, including upper management.

      1. DragoCucina*

        This is our rule. We had to send a student worker home because she kept coming to work in leggings as pants. We had talked to her that we knew she was building a professional wardrobe. We give everyone a work related t-shirt and made sure hers was long enough to cover her bottom. After the third time we called the career office and said she couldn’t come back.

    14. Rocky*

      Context – I’m in a business casual environment, but in a big city on the West Coast, and we’re generally more casual here:

      Leggings worn as tights – totally fine, no one would even notice
      Leggings worn as pants – totally fine if top covers butt, otherwise not OK
      Jeggings – totally fine, but you’d probably want to pick something else if you were making a presentation or going to a meeting with higher-ups.

    15. Leggings Have Never Been Pants!*

      Leggings are essentially footless tights and thus meant to be worn under something–skirt, dress, tunic, lederhosen–anything long enough that were leggings not present, the world would not see whether you go commando or prefer granny panties, thongs, boxer-briefs or 100% cotton bikinis.

    16. anonderella*

      I think the butt-covering thing is key; there’s nothing like walking up the stairs behind someone wearing leggings as pants and finding yourself front-row at a show you did *not* buy tickets to.
      I don’t care how old, what personality, what body type; never ever ever ok, but esp. not at work! *shudder*

    17. Nervous Accountant*

      My office is considered business casual, so pretty much anything that’s not ripped or smelly goes. I’ve seen graphic teeshirts, suit & tie, jeans, and extremely short skirts. Neither I nor anyone I know has been disciplined for it.

      I just started wearing leggings as pants (would wear them with dresses before)….I definitely would never wear a crop shirt, but a tank top that covers the private part and a loose shirt over it is appropriate to me.

      I’m in NYC, so outside of the office you see pretty much nearly every single thing under the sun.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        And I don’t know if it matters but I’m 31….. I would definitely never have worn this kind of stuff when I was in my 20s/job searching/newbie.

    18. Fridaaaaaaaay*

      Totally depends on the leggings… I have thin ones that are a step up from thick tights – those I’d never wear as pants. But then I have some thick weight ones that are tailored like pants. TBH they look just like pants with a zipper, and unless I bust a yoga move, it wouldn’t be apparent how much stretch they have.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        I wear ponte knit leggings – like you said, they just end up looking like tailored skinny pants.

    19. Clever Name*

      I wear them with dresses (so basically like tights) to work, but never as pants. I do very occasionally wear them as pants on the weekends, usually paired with a tunic or a long sweater and boots.

      1. Clever Name*

        Oh, and a few coworkers do wear leggings to our casual office, but I think they’re unprofessional, even when people can wear jeans. Our front desk person used to wear leggings and people actually complained. She had one pair that was white with a pattern and as God as my witness, you could see her underwear through the white part. When people mentioned this to her, she basically told people they were wrong/lying. Don’t be her.

    20. TheCupcakeCounter*

      I am ok with leggings at work as long as their top is long enough to completely cover the butt and crotch. I do not think camel toe is work appropriate. The first time I wore leggings to work I spent 5 minutes in front of a full length mirror making sure that no matter how I moved, bent, squatted (to get files or something from the bottom of the breakroom fridge) everything stayed covered. When worn appropriately I find them fine its when they are worn in lieu of pants with a normal length shirt that I have an issue.

    21. Fire*

      I was reading through this thread, utterly baffled, and googled “leggings as pants” and discovered leggings fit me VERY differently than other people.

      (i’m really tiny. they essentially look like slim pants on me.)

  13. LawCat*

    I’ve been curious what the AAM community would think of this article: “The Rise of the (Truly Awful) Webcam Job Interview.” https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-12/the-rise-of-the-truly-awful-webcam-job-interview

    I think it’s terrible, but I could also see it eventually becoming a new normal if it becomes widespread with large employers at the entry level (at that level, people can have fewer options and may normalize their first professional experiences as how things are done).

    Thoughts?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      For shy people, it may be a dream come true. No firm handshake needed, and sure, you smell fine. And wouldn’t we all love the redo option after making up an answer and mumbling it, too?

      Got to disagree with this. I used to work at a company that did these, and no candidate (shy or not) wanted to do it. The problem is it actually is more nerve-racking because you can redo it. That means there’s never an excuse for imperfection. If you meet in person and flub up somehow, the moment has passed, and you can move on. If you pre-record an interview and flub up, you have to keep recording and re-recording, and re-re-recording.

    2. Elle the new Fed*

      My company wants to do this for some basic questions (why this org?, what this location? Etc). For some reason, all the higher ups think it’s the best thing ever. I dislike the idea hugely and wouldn’t apply to places where this type of interview is a Thing.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        I think a lot of whether this takes off or not will depend on the market. If the employer has the upper hand (lots of applicants, few available positions), the employer makes the rules, and that employer can say “No, you have to jump through this hoop,” but if it’s the other way around, the employer who insists on applicants doing these videos will be the employer with no employees (or the weakest of the pool).

    3. Emmie*

      It makes sense for some industries – like where virtual or remote presentations are common. Plus, a recruiter can see in some systems how long it took an applicant to answer a question and how many retakes the applicant made.

      1. LawCat*

        “Plus, a recruiter can see in some systems how long it took an applicant to answer a question and how many retakes the applicant made.”

        I don’t understand what meaning that information can have, but I’m not a recruiter. What insight is to be gained here?

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Yeah, unless it took them 35 retries, I wouldn’t glean anything meaningful from it. 1 retry vs. 3 retries… does that really tell you something?

        2. Emmie*

          We all make our own assumptions about these things. A strong applicant with an especially brilliant and quick response *appears* more efficient and more well versed than another strong applicant who took much longer, and did multiple retries. Again, re-recording these things or taking longer might not be a deal breaker (or even something some hiring managers look at), but being fast, efficient, and having superior responses with higher quality speaks to competency for some folks.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            I think that conclusion may depend on the type of job you’re hiring for. If they’re being hired to make polished video presentation in a short amount of time, then you want someone who can do them in few takes. But how someone records a video is a bad indicator of how they’ll be in person if they have an in-person customer service role.

            1. LawCat*

              I still don’t get it unless the applicants know that how many retakes is part of the robo-inteview evaluation criteria. Why even allow multiple retakes if getting it right without a retake is a criteria?

              It reminds me of people who judge others when others turn something in on the day it is due because “they shouldn’t have waited until the last minute.” The criteria was to turn the thing in, not meet some secret unknown standard of getting it in before that.

          2. Honeybee*

            I don’t see this as being relevant unless the company is hiring for someone who speaks well in spontaneous circumstances (maybe sales?). If I’m hiring a software developer or a market research analyst or an HR representative, why would it matter to me that they took longer and more retries to record an answer to an interview question? Even if I am hiring someone who needs to speak well quickly, talking to a camera on a recording is very different from interacting with a person.

    4. Tris Prior*

      I had to do this for my current job. It was incredibly awkward and uncomfortable and I was certain I’d bombed it. It was just so odd to be talking at no one! And more difficult than it sounds to keep “eye contact” with the webcam while also looking at the multipart question that flashed on the screen (to make sure I was addressing all parts) AND keeping one eye on the timer that was running.

      When I did it, we had no option of redoing our answers. Though we could redo the “practice” answers as often as we wanted.

      I did get the job….. but wow, I hope I NEVER have to do it again.

      I will admit that one advantage is that I could do it whenever I wanted and didn’t have to take time off work or try and find somewhere private to talk by phone.

      1. Ama*

        We have remote staff and have a couple times experimented with doing videoconferencing for all staff meetings (usually they just call in to the conference room speakerphone). I’ve realized recently that I get more flustered speaking during conference calls because I can’t see people’s face and check whether they are following me, and it’s almost worse when I have to present in front of the webcam — the reactions are delayed, so it feels like I’m making absolutely no impression.

    5. Searching*

      I had to do one of these last week. Even though I knew it was coming (someone close to me is a supervisor at that company and actually tipped me off in advance), it was indeed truly awful. No human face to interact with, just a written question. No opportunity to review how I’d done. No retakes.
      What also really irked me was that the privacy policy for this webcam interview was horrible. Basically you have to agree they can use this footage for any purpose, without additional consent, for time and all eternity. Yet without doing the “interview” you have no chance to move forward in the process. When I was reading through the consent screen I actually seriously debated not going on with my application. Yuck.

    6. Franzia Spritzer*

      As someone applying for jobs on the other side of the country, I’d love to have an opportunity to do video interviews! I’d rather they be skype type interviews than a robo video thing, but at this point I’d rather have an opportunity to interview than not.

    7. Honeybee*

      I think this is part of a larger problem of companies trying to turn to technology to zero out costs by eliminating as much of the human element as possible. Technology is supposed to help human lives become better, not eliminate humans from the equation altogether. When you interview someone in person you can probe them about their answers, read their nonverbal language in response to the things you ask, and make changes on the fly as necessary.

      And if you’re doing this instead of first-round phone screens, you’re not really saving any time. You’re not getting rid of the time spent scheduling; you’re simply outsourcing it to HireVue (they still have to coordinate the instructions with the candidate, teach them how to use the software, collect the information from them and prepare it for your company). You still have to take the 30 minutes to listen to/watch the recordings anyway. Maybe the only benefit is that the applicant can do this on their own time rather than having to take off or take phone screens during their lunch break.

      I’ve done a Skype interview before, but it was in place of the traditional phone screen. That I liked, because again – the alternative was a phone screen, and I could see the person on the other end and their body language and facial expressions.

  14. ZSD*

    October is domestic violence awareness month. AAM has had some great posts here in the past about how workplaces can be supportive of employees who are DV survivors, but I wanted to add one thing to the conversation.
    There are 19 jurisdictions (at least) with statutes ensuring that employees can use their paid sick time as “safe time” to seek legal help, social services, medical care, etc., related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. In some jurisdictions, safe time only works when the employee her/himself is the target, while others also allow it when employees’ loved ones are targeted.

    Safe time means that you can, for example, go to the courthouse to file a restraining order on your abuser without losing pay or getting fired – you can use your job-protected paid sick time.

    These laws (all of them, I believe) also have provisions preventing employers from asking for documentation/certification of the need for paid sick time when the employee is absent for less than three consecutive days. For normal sick time, that means that if you’re home sick for one day with a bad cold, your employer can’t make you get a doctor’s note to prove that you needed the time. In the restraining order example above, it means that if you don’t want to disclose your situation to your employer, you can just say, “I need to use my sick time tomorrow afternoon,” and they can’t ask you for certification.

    Jurisdictions with safe time provisions:

    California
    Connecticut (subset of employees)
    Massachusetts
    Oregon
    Vermont (effective 2017)

    Washington, DC
    Cook County, IL (effective 2017)
    Montgomery County, MD

    San Francisco, CA (2017)
    San Diego, CA
    Santa Monica, CA
    Los Angeles, CA
    Chicago, IL (2017)
    Minneapolis, MN (2017)
    St. Paul, MN (2017)
    Philadelphia, PA
    Seattle, WA
    Tacoma, WA
    Spokane, WA (2017)

    Note that there may be others! These are just the ones I know about.

    1. ZSD*

      Here are some of the previous AAM posts on domestic violence:

      https://www.askamanager.org/2012/02/another-ask-the-readers-when-an-employee-is-being-abused-at-home.html

      https://www.askamanager.org/2012/02/dealing-with-domestic-abuse-in-the-workplace.html

      https://www.askamanager.org/2012/09/ask-the-readers-dealing-with-the-professional-aftermath-of-domestic-abuse.html

      Links to summaries of laws with safe time as part of their sick time laws:

      http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/work-family/psd/paid-sick-days-statutes.pdf

      http://www.abetterbalance.org/web/images/stories/Documents/sickdays/factsheet/PSDchart.pdf

    2. TheCupcakeCounter*

      We were just having a conversation at my work the other day about the upcoming (potential?) changes to sick time. Right now we have a accrued PTO time plan bucket but going forward we have to split it into sick and vacation to comply with 7 paid sick days (I believe it is federally mandated but by executive order at this point so could change depending on election results – please correct me if you know more about this than I do). The main point of the conversation was that we needed to communicate to the payroll clerks and supervisors that the sick time can be used for anything wellness related (physical, mental, and emotional) and in one hour increments and should not be questioned about what it is for. So it seems like this will expand that protection to more states since it is federal.

      1. ZSD*

        The executive order just covers federal contractors. If you work for a federal contractor, then this will apply to you. (Technically, it applies to new contracts awarded starting January 2017, so it will apply once your company’s contract is renewed.)

        However, to be clear, PTO policies meet the requirements of the executive order, as long as you’re allowed to use your PTO for all the purposes laid out in the EO (preventive care, safe time, etc.) and that you can carry your PTO over into the new year the way you have to be able to carry over the sick time. Your company doesn’t actually have to split your PTO into vacation and sick time to meet the requirements of the EO. It’s possible your HR has decided it will be easier to prove compliance that way, but they’re not actually required to do so.

    3. Emmie*

      Excellent post. I believe California might require certification under certain circumstances. I recommend checking the rules in your jurisdiction.

      1. ZSD*

        If you’re out for more than three consecutive days, your employer can ask for certification. (They don’t have to ask even then, but they’re allowed to.) There might be situations in which certification is required earlier, but I’m not aware of any.

    4. ZSD*

      Update: I’ve now learned that Vermont’s law doesn’t have the provision that employers can’t require documentation until after 3 consecutive days of paid sick time use. So if you’re in Vermont, you still have access to paid safe time, but you might have to provide certification of your need for the time after even a brief absence.

  15. Computer woes*

    This feels really dumb to complain about… but I’m in my first few weeks of a new job and I just got my office computer. Since no one asked me whether I preferred to get a Mac or a PC, I just assumed that a PC was the only option. As a Mac user I knew it would be tough to transition, but I was willing to power through because I thought Macs weren’t an option. Well I later came to find out that many people within the office have Macs, so there is a solid Mac/PC mix. I’m feeling a little frustrated that no one consulted me or asked which system I prefer, since I’ve been using Macs full time the last 7+ years and really would prefer one over a PC since it’s what I’m used to.

    I’m debating whether it’s worth it to bring this up to someone. My boss has generally been very accommodating since I started (e.g., telling me I can have what software I need, telling me I can have whatever furniture I need for my office, ordering me a brand new office chair, etc.), otherwise I wouldn’t even consider bringing it up. Since I already have my computer, I realize it’s probably unlikely I can make a switch at this point, but I still feel like it could be worth it to ask. At the very least I could find out why I was given a PC so I’ll be less salty about it (maybe there’s a reason that’s just not clear to me now?). I also think it could be worth it to bring it up now so that sometime down the road if I need to get a new computer, they don’t just automatically order me a new PC and I can make a case for switching to a Mac then. This is a place I can see myself working for a long time, so there will inevitably come a point where I’ll need a new computer.

    I realize this is a very dumb, privileged thing to complain about and I’m lucky to have a job at all let alone one that gives me a computer. I’m just having a really hard time adjusting to the PC since I am so used to Macs. Any advice? Should I just suck it up or is it worth it to mention it to my boss?

    1. Collie*

      Definitely mention it! The worst they can say is no and I’m guessing they have at least a few computers on deck for when people join the force.

    2. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Yeah definitely say something so that they know to check with new employees going forward and they are aware so that maybe the next person coming in would prefer a PC so they can give them yours and you can get the Mac sooner.

    3. Temperance*

      Why not ask? There might be a situation where your company makes some limited exceptions, but you’ll never know unless you ask.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think it’s horrible to bring up. In fact, the sooner you bring it up, the better. It’s extremely weird for you to use it for months or even a year, and then ask for a switch then.

      Who gave you the machine? Your boss? The tech department? Whoever gave you the machine just ask, “I wasn’t asked if I prefer a Mac or PC. I’ve got a PC and can make due but would much prefer a Mac. Is that something that can happen?”

      They’ll either tell you “yes” or “no” (and hopefully give you a reason why if it’s “no”).

    5. Computer woes*

      Thanks everyone! I really thought I was being a big baby about this so I really appreciate everyone encouraging me to say something.

      1. Product Person*

        You are not being a big baby! In my last job the same thing happened to me; I initially talked to the HR person who was in charge of those things (my boss was always away from the office), and a couple of weeks later they replaced my PC with a Mac. My productivity went up 150% right away! There are always new people being hired who prefer PCs, so mine was quickly reassigned, and I’m sure the same will happen in your case, so definitely say something.

    6. Lemon Zinger*

      Bring it up!

      We are dealing with something similar. My last work partner requested three monitors and after one broke, it was fixed just before she quit. Her replacement does NOT want three monitors so we’re going to have one removed for her.

      Trust me, your boss just wants you to be comfortable and happy with your equipment!

      1. Ama*

        Yes my boss likes to say “technology is supposed to be a tool that works for you, not against you” when it comes to questions about upgrading or changing tech stuff. If it would make your job considerably easier to get a Mac, you should definitely ask.

  16. But Why*

    I wrote in last week about having an interview for a job that was a reach but is basically my ideal position right now. I got a call yesterday that I was being rejected because I didn’t have enough experience. I was an internal applicant and they have copies of my resume/application, so I’m not sure why they interviewed me if I didn’t have enough experience — they had to know what my experience was and whether or not I was qualified. I’m thin on PTO right now, so I’m frustrated that I had to use it for something I never had a chance for. While I appreciate internal courtesy interviews, I’d rather get a sincere, “We considered your application but you simply don’t have enough experience,” letter than waste time like this. I spent more time preparing for this interview than I have ever, so it wasn’t just time spent going to the interview itself.

    I guess it’s possible I was qualified just by the skin of my teeth and they’re saying I don’t have enough experience from the perspective of “don’t have enough experience compared to others to make it to the next round,” but couldn’t they have told that from the application materials?

    They want me to apply for some upcoming, lower-level stuff, but…I’m a bit bitter at the moment. We’ll see. Sigh.

    1. Scorpio*

      I had a similar situation but the interviewer (who I continue to work with) never got back to me about the position. We had a great interview and I knew I was underqualified but we definitely had chemistry. I sent two follows ups that were polite and just asked about the status of her search since it went on for 4-6 months. I knew it was a reach and I was happy with my current position, so any kind of response would have been fine. She just ignored me and I learned the position was filled when I met the new person. It was weird and alienating, especially because I still work with this person. It just wasn’t a big deal and she made it one by never sending even a canned rejection from HR.

      1. But Why*

        I do appreciate that they let me know — in fact, I was told at the interview it might be a month before I hear anything just about the first round, and I heard a little after a week.

        But like…why bother? It’s so frustrating.

        1. Scorpio*

          It’s possible that more qualified people came along later in the process, which would explain why they got back to you so quickly. It’s definitely demoralizing but I would try not to think of it as wasted time because it sounds like you did have a shot at the position. Sorry buddy. It sucks.

    2. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Wait…you had to use PTO for an internal interview? My old workplace was bad but even they didn’t make me use PTO for an internal opportunity.

      1. But Why*

        I have three jobs. I had to use PTO at my full time job for an internal interview at one of my part time jobs.

    3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      It’s entirely possible that it was part courtesy, part sincere consideration – like, an external applicant with your background would not be considered, but you were because you were a known quantity. I’ve been on both the receiving end and the interviewing end of this. I have mixed feelings about courtesy interviews in general, but it sounds to me like they wanted to interview you and perhaps you are someone they are going to be thinking about for future roles.

      That said, as an internal applicant, it’s kind of cruddy that they made you use your PTO for the interview. :(

      1. But Why*

        Clarified the PTO thing above. I should’ve been clearer about that! :)

        I hope that’s the case. I’m hoping to catch up with one of the panel members to get a better idea of what happened.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Ahhhhh, okay that makes sense.

          And to answer your question, re: the application materials? In theory, sure. However often how you answer questions, etc., that simply isn’t as evident on paper. As an example, recently there was a situation I was privy to where there were two candidates – one internal, one external – who on paper had similar experience, but upon interview it was clear that while the internal candidate was excellent, the external candidate actually had a lot more experience the org was lacking, so they went with her.

          1. But Why*

            That’s fair. I think I’ve seen Alison say a few times that most hiring managers don’t/shouldn’t bring someone in for an interview if they don’t think the person is qualified, so I guess I’ve just taken that too much to heart.

    4. Leatherwings*

      Hm, I think you’re looking at this wrong. They didn’t necessarily know that you didn’t have a chance when you came in. Maybe your experience was a bit of a stretch, but they wanted to talk to about it to see if the fit would be right. After talking to you and a few other applicants, they decided that it was indeed too much of a stretch and they wanted to focus on other applicants.

      Application materials are more of an initial screen that the person /could/ do the job than a comprehensive evaluation of whether or not a person is going to be the best fit for the role. You qualified for that screen but not quite for the fit thing. The good news is they want you to apply for more stuff! That’s a good sign, not a bad one. I don’t think you should be bitter.

      1. But Why*

        I probably /shouldn’t/ be bitter, but who isn’t after a rejection? It’ll pass and I’ll get over it, but I don’t necessarily want to submit an application that’s pretty much identical to the others I’ve sent them in the past for a new position(I’ve moved around already in this organization and applied for other positions), so it just seems like a lot more investment on my part than is necessary.

        I’m being a big baby about this. I’m working on it, but I’m in a tight field and there are other circumstances surrounding all of this that make it extra difficult to swallow.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sometimes it’s “this person doesn’t have quite the experience we’re looking for, but there’s enough strong stuff here that let’s interview her and see if she blows us away.” It’s a good chance to get, even if it doesn’t ultimately lead anywhere.

    6. CMT*

      It’s entirely possible they didn’t make this decision until after they interviewed you. I would try to let it go. (Easier said than done, I know.)

    7. Honeybee*

      Well, maybe they didn’t decide you didn’t have enough experience until after they interviewed you. In other words, maybe you did have a chance! It could be that they decided to just talk to you anyway since you are internal and they liked other things about your resume, but once they talked to you they realized that you weren’t a good fit for the role because of your lack of experience.

      We interviewed someone like that at my job recently; his background was in an adjacent field and he had just finished a master’s program in our field, but there was nothing on his resume that indicated that he had enough experience to do the job we were looking for. We decided to interview him anyway – sometimes people who don’t have direct experience in our field have adjacent experience and the business intelligence to transfer the skills easily to our field/work. But his interview made it clear that he was unable to do this and that his lack of experience was going to be a significant problem.

    8. My opinion*

      It’s possible that they would consider a candidate with your # of years of experience, but after talking to you and getting a feel for what you know/don’t know, what you’ve exactly done at your job, etc, decided that you didn’t have quite enough experience compared to other candidates. It’s also possible that other candidates applied after they had invited you for the interview, and they had more experience.

      Experience requirements are rarely black and white. Though I can see bullet points about your job responsibilities on your resume, it’s hard to get a sense of how qualified you are and what exactly your experience entails until talking to you.

  17. Manders*

    I’ve been put in charge of putting together an internal newsletter “for morale.” Everyone who has touched this project is getting increasingly frustrated and demoralized, because the information that’s supposed to be in there is so disorganized and random parts of it have been assigned out to people who don’t turn in their parts on time or don’t understand why they’re supposed to do certain things. And the one person who *does* reliably have the information I need just likes to come into my office, interrupt me in the middle of another project, and stage-whisper extremely boring gossip.

    Has anyone ever done a morale-raising project that… actually raised morale? I don’t know how many more weeks to give it before letting my boss know that this is turning into a mess.

    1. the.kat*

      No. To be honest, I’ve been put in charge of several morale raising events and none of them have felt awesome.

    2. MissMaple*

      Were you given clear goals for the project? Maybe approach the boss now and say that you’re getting bogged down in details and would appreciate an overarching theme/goal to focus the effort. It might help, but it also may make it clearer to your leadership that this really isn’t the right way to go about “raising morale.” In my experience, the best moral raisers are just good management; keeping people informed, making sure contributions are recognized, and not making people feel bad for using vacation/sick leave/other benefits. Good luck!

    3. Temperance*

      Newsletters don’t raise morale. No one reads them, and they are just stupid busywork.

      I think you should talk to your boss about it.

      1. Sunflower*

        This is harsh but 100% true. I don’t understand internal newsletters or why people think they will improve morale?

        If I have time to read an internal newsletter, I have time to read articles actually relevant to my job/career.

        1. Manders*

          Haha, yeah, that was my suspicion so it’s great to get some outside confirmation. Apparently, people have been complaining about being left out of the loop on things like staff turnover (but the stuff they actually want to know, like why another person quit with no notice and who’s supposed to be taking over that work, is information I don’t always have and am not supposed to be putting in a newsletter anyway).

          In fairness, I think my boss does genuinely want everyone to be happy, she just doesn’t have control over the things that are making them unhappy, so she’s looking for a solution that will address the symptoms instead of the cause.

          1. Temperance*

            Yeah, a newsletter isn’t going to make people happy. If anything, it’s just going to annoy people.

            I had to do a newsletter at my first job, because my annoying boss thought that it would really generate a lot of interest and help promote cohesion (shared office space). And then, of course, because people didn’t actually read it, I was tasked with surveying people to ask why, and then told that it was my content that was boring. You know, the content that they told me to include, to sell services. That no one wanted.

      2. Cambridge Comma*

        I think that can depend on the workplace. I started one at a previous workplace (research institute) and it had a super high open and click through rate. People loved that everyone knew about every single article they published and fellowship they got, and everyone else was increibly nosy. It was 2—3 hours every other week to write, well worth it.

      3. Honeybee*

        I was thinking the same thing. Why would a newsletter raise morale anyway? What could possibly be in there?

    4. Swimmergirl*

      I’ve worked on a lot of internal newsletters, and they often have the problems that you described. It’s best if you design sections, and then if someone doesn’t contribute info to that section, just eliminate the section for that particular newsletter. Typically, internal newsletters keep people in the loop about what’s happening at the company, to push out corporate initiatives and disseminate benefits info and new procedures. For morale, have you tried a corporate philanthropy program such as volunteering?

    5. Karo*

      Ugh, I had to handle an internal newsletter to raise morale for a few years. It was completely wasted effort. Sorry you’re having to handle that!

    6. ANewbie*

      I’ve never seen a newsletter raise morale. A curated list of interesting, relevant articles has sometimes been appreciated and good for getting people talking about how to take advantage of improvements and new tech, but do it too often and it’s just taking up inbox space.

      Winner of the best morale improvement program I’ve seen is our time off award. It’s usually ~1 day of leave, given for going above and beyond, picking up a collateral duty, or some other achievement. It’s not much leave, but it comes with a nice write up from the boss on why you’re awesome, and because it’s small, they can give a lot of them out rather than it only being awarded if you climb Mt. Everest blindfolded.

    7. Dzhymm*

      My experience with newsletters is that if you’re in a situation where morale needs to be raised then they have the exact opposite of the desired effect. The reason is that newsletters tend to emphasize the positive while completely ignoring the hard issues that are damaging morale in the first place. One large corporation that I used to work for (and that no longer exists) had a newsletter essentially called “Teapots Today”. I always mentally translated this as “Teapots Toady! All corporate happy news all the time!”

      Unless your newsletter is empowered to run such articles as “The Incredible Shrinking Payraise”, and “10 Reasons Why We Can’t Fire Fergus Even Though He’s A Total Idiot”, your embittered employees are going to be seething at having Happy News forced down their throats while they’re miserable…

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yes, this. My last workplace had terrible morale for the last 8 months I worked there, and sending around the company newsletter announcing birthdays and “fun” upcoming events was like a tangible symbol that all of the concerns and issues that led to the morale problem were being deliberately ignored.

        This was only one initiative designed to help raise morale that completely backfired.

        1. Snazzy Hat*

          all of the concerns and issues that led to the morale problem were being deliberately ignored.

          Scene: my last job during the busiest time of the year; minimum two hours overtime every day. Mandatory OT on weekends.
          Event: An hour-long seminar on stress management and reducing stress in the workplace.
          Attendees: My sub-department of about 12 people, plus our supervisors.
          The big reveal of our ultra-low morale: When one of my colleagues complained that this was a waste of time and we needed to get back to work because of how busy we were.

    8. Lemon Zinger*

      Yes, but it was simple: we went outside and played corn-hole together for an hour or so.

      A newsletter will raise nobody’s morale.

    9. PaidPeanuts*

      The only thing I’ve seen actually raise moral is giving people things they actually want. And they seem to be either super cheap, or incredibly expensive.

      Things like thanking folks sincerely, recognizing hard work, and letting people have some bonus or benefit (like an afternoon off, or jeans day in a business dress office) are helpful, but aren’t going to overcome a bad work environment. I’ve also had good luck throwing parties where employees picked the theme and happy hours where bosses/management were only there for the first half. There’s also the free bowl of fruit, or snacks in the break room. Anything enforced, or anything that feels like work goes over like a lead balloon, and people know it for the bullshit it is.

      There’s also deeper work, like getting vulnerable and talking about the hard parts, or bad decisions from the past, and how we move on. Sometimes having a very skilled outside facilitator can help with that.

    10. Honeybee*

      I have – I’m on the morale team at my office. We have monthly awards. People can choose one person that has assisted them in some way that goes above and beyond their job duties. They write a little description of what the person did, and that person gets a copy of it (including who it was from) and a $5 Starbucks gift card (we have Starbucks locations walking distance). I help organize and deliver them and people are genuinely happy when they receive them.

      We also periodically organize casual social events, but they are completely optional and during business hours. They’re really a chance for folks on the team to get together and chat and have a good time.

  18. Anon for this*

    I am getting incredibly burned out at my job. This week has been one of the worst weeks of my career. We work in pairs and my work partner was out on medical leave for the whole week, so I had to do the work of two people by myself. My manager refused to bring in anyone else on overtime to help me, even for one or two days. Plus, Monday was a holiday, so the manager gave half the department the day off to minimize the number of people getting holiday pay (2.5x regular pay). Our work doesn’t stop or slow down on holidays, so those of us who had to work the holiday had a double workload. I am always a hard worker, but every day this week, I got more work done than I ever thought was humanly possible for one person to do alone. Yet, the whole week, my manager never once thanked me for covering my partner’s workload or even acknowledged that I had a virtually impossible workload.

    This type of thing is happening with increasing frequency. The manager used to try to bring in someone on overtime if we were short-handed for some reason, but now she pretty much expects everyone else to make up the work for those who are absent. I can’t even remember the last day I worked that there wasn’t someone absent (on vacation, out sick, attending mandatory training, on disciplinary suspension or work restriction). I can’t remember the last day I just had a “normal” workload to do.

    I think part of the problem is that all of the managers in my department were promoted from the ranks, so they think they know our job and our workload, but there has been a major change to our company’s operations since they became managers (say, we used to make only chocolate teapots, but now we make both chocolate and vanilla teapots), and I think they severely underestimate how much more work there is than there used to be.

    Maybe I shot myself in the foot by working so hard to get my work and my partner’s work done, because now the manager thinks it’s possible. I am willing to work extra hard in a pinch once in a while, but I can’t work like that every day, but I pretty much have been for months, and I don’t know how much longer I can keep it up. I feel like I barely have time to breathe. I am exhausted by the time the day is over, and my feet and knees hurt so much I can barely walk. My house is a mess because I’m too tired to clean it, and I’m eating too much junk food because I’m too tired to cook. How the heck do I convince the manager to stop piling so much on me before I can’t take it anymore?

    1. Dawn*

      “How the heck do I convince the manager to stop piling so much on me before I can’t take it anymore?”

      Stop busting your butt so hard and scale back to producing what’s reasonable for one person to do. If you keep producing at a crazy high level and never go to your boss and say “This is literally killing me, here’s exactly how our workload has changed and I cannot continue to work at this pace” then you boss is just going to think everything’s fine on your end. Do be prepared for your manager to shrug and say “well, deal with it anyway”- at which point you’d want to look for a new job.

      1. Anon for this*

        Well, if I stop busting my butt, the manager will think I’m being lazy (“You got this much done last week, so why didn’t you do it this week?”). If we miss something or make a mistake, we just get criticized for it. The managers love to play Monday morning quarterback and tell us how we should have prioritized differently, but it’s one of those things where we can’t win, because no matter which way we go, the manager will say we were wrong after the fact. It’s useless to ask a manager about priorities ahead of time because their position is always that everything has to get done and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to, and/or tell us to put off work with longer deadlines even though that will just result in overloading us later when the deadlines approach.

        1. Natalie*

          Just because you did something once doesn’t mean you are locked in to doing it forever and ever. “I was able to work overtime the last few weeks because it was a temporary issue, but that is non sustainable.”

          Longer term, though, you need to leave. Your management team sounds like assholes, bluntly, and that’s a lot harder to push back on.

          1. Anon for this*

            Yeah, they are assholes… It’s not about the number of hours I work (we are non-exempt, so they have to pay us overtime, and they’re cheap so they prefer to minimize overtime), but the amount of work I have to cram into a given number of hours. If I do 50 things in 12 hours today, they think I can do 50 things in 12 hours every day, even though the “normal” workload is 35 things in 12 hours. If I say I can only do 45 things in 12 hours, they’ll wonder what I’m doing with the time today that I spent doing those extra 5 things yesterday. I’m not even trying to get time to take extra breaks or surf the Internet, but to do things that will help the department like improve SOPs to make them easier to follow or set up spreadsheets to automate calculations, but if I ask for time to do those things, they’re not urgent and I can do them “some other time” (which never comes). And also, it would be kind of nice just to work at a more relaxed pace, but I think my managers think we are robots and should be able to work at full speed 100% of the time.

            1. Natalie*

              My mistake, I misunderstood the overtime issue. You can still push back on the pace you’re working – just change “work overtime” to “work at the pace I’ve been working at”.

    2. Scorpio*

      You can phrase it as something like “I’m proud that I’ve been able to get this work done under these circumstances, but it’s really not sustainable.”

      1. Junipergreen*

        To piggyback: “Thank you for bringing up last week’s projects/deadlines. It was extraordinarily stressful to have XYZ added to my plate when even completing ABC was a challenge. When I have to cover so many projects, I simply don’t have the time to perform quality control/format correctly/double-check numbers etc…” Spell out what you have to sacrifice when they overload you.

    3. SeekingBetter*

      It almost sounds like you work for a small mom-and-pop restaurant! I used to work at one and got SOOOO burned out from the demands of the workload – and my boss’ refusal to hire more help – that I had to go on antidepressants to keep sane and not bust out crying at home all of the time. From my experience, these people who decide to never hire additional help are doing so to save money. And by saving money, they will lose great employees and not realize all of the burdens they created for those employees.

      If your boss CAN afford to hire additional help and isn’t doing so, then I would definitely be looking for a new job asap. Save yourself now before your emotional and physical health get worse.

      1. Anon for this*

        Haha, it is actually a huge, multi-billion dollar company, and they act like paying one person in my department a single day of overtime is going to push the company into bankruptcy. I know this is bad but sometimes it is so stressful that I start crying at work, usually when there is nobody around but I have been caught a few times.

  19. MissMaple*

    For those who have gone back to an old company after being gone for 1+ years, do you have any advice for opening the discussion? Pros, cons, things I haven’t thought of about potentially going back? I left because commute + grad school was too much of a time suck, but finished school in August.

    1. Pwyll*

      I’ve done this: make sure you’re very clear with yourself about the positives and negatives about the job, and the changes you’ve gone through in your own career since you left. I went back somewhere and IMMEDIATELY fell back into my old habits (as did everyone else). Which would have been fine, except that I had grown professionally, and now had a Master’s, and in many ways it felt like a step backward.

      That said, if you’re stepping into a NEW job at the old company, it can feel really awesome to return with your new skills if you liked working there.

    2. NicoleK*

      Has there been any changes to your commute? Improved? Gotten worse? Your graduate degree, does the former company have opportunities for that degree? How was your relationship with your previous supervisor?

    3. OhNo*

      I guess the advice depends on a couple of factors: Is it the same job? Is it the same work group/department/coworkers and boss?

      Even if it is the same job and group, keep in mind that things may have changed significantly while you were away. You should really approach it like a brand new job, because things like office politics, norms of behavior, and expected duties or work output may have changed while you were gone. Unfortunately, you can’t really assume that you know the answer to every question any more, because something may have changed.

      I guess that really boils down to the fact that you can’t assume you know what you’re getting into even though you’ve worked there before. Evaluate it just like any other job and make sure you’d really be happy working there.

    4. Kara Zor-El*

      I did this earlier this year. My background:
      – I left the job on very good terms, to go to another company with a better commute and for a change of scene
      – I kept in touch with my old supervisor
      – When my new job got acquired, I got in touch with old supervisor about opportunities
      – They brought me in for interviews

      I work for the same supervisor, but my duties are quite different, I’m making more money, and I was able to negotiate 1-2 telecommute days a week to offset the commute. I think changing it up is vital — whether it’s a new boss, new title level, or just new duties. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming stagnant.

      Also, a major thing for me has been remaining humble. I was gone for several years and there were a lot of new faces/processes put in place during my absence. I couldn’t come back thinking I knew it all — rather, I focused on listening to the new processes, and sharing what I’d learned in my time away. It’s been a good experience, and I’m glad I came back!

  20. Confuzzled*

    Can someone give me advice for how to add accomplishments to my resume…

    I’ve done nothing particularly amazing in any of my jobs – I basically do my job. I haven’t cured cancer or have been solely responsible for saving the company from the brink of bankruptcy. Everything I’ve done is because that is what my job is and anyone who filled my job could’ve accomplished the same tasks.

    Not much I have is a measurable outcome, and nothing is 100% my doing. I do AR work and I could claim that delinquent accounts decreased by 30% since I started… but that is just a coincidence. I may be on peoples butts to pay us but my boss stopped taking on risky clients that don’t pay us, while Jane in legal has perfected the collections threat.

    It feels like an exaggeration to include anything but my job description and I feel these ‘accomplishments’ are for people that are high up in organizations that actually have the power to make big changes and have people that will easily back them up. If someone called to ask my boss if I really implemented a new invoice organizational system, he’d have no clue… because it is just a minor accomplishment that makes the job easier for me.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I think there’s an overemphasis here on touting things as accomplishments instead of descriptions. Yes, of course, if you can list an accomplishment do (and I do when I can), but a lot of times there aren’t easily quantifiable or measurable things you’ve done that you can easily put into a bullet point on your résumé.

      I’ve gotten plenty of jobs (almost all the jobs I’ve gotten) just listing descriptions. We can always talk accomplishments and details during the interviews.

      That said, I’ve never had a sales job. I would imagine if you do something like sales, you would want to put in how many customers you gained/retained or how much profit you made for the company or whatever.

      1. Marvel*

        I agree with this to a point, but I think the key is to frame your descriptions AS accomplishments. What did you do well in this position that someone less competent than you would have screwed up?

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not that you’ll never get hired if you don’t list accomplishments; of course people do all the time. It’s that you become a far, far stronger candidate (who will overall get interviews more easily and generally come across as more compelling) if you do. When your resume is one in a sea of resumes from similarly qualified candidates with similar professional histories, this is the thing that makes you go to the top of the stack.

        Confuzzled, this might help:

        https://www.askamanager.org/2013/06/how-to-list-accomplishments-on-your-resume-when-your-job-doesnt-have-easy-measures.html

    2. OhNo*

      Doing your job consistently counts as an accomplishment, I think. When describing your job, can you add any language that points to how quickly/efficiently/consistently/well you were able to do you job? Phrases like “Processed all payment requests within three days” or “Maintained on-time payment status for 95% of received invoices” might work. You also might be able to mention any new tech you started using, and procedures you wrote for the company or your coworkers, giving you points like “Integrated new billing software into previous system”, or “Wrote new software procedures for team.”

    3. Sunflower*

      A couple things to ask yourself:

      What have i done in my job to improve what was being done before?
      What have I done to make other people’s jobs easier?

    4. I hear you*

      I am in exactly the same situation. I do AR also. In my case, according to boss, I am either being too lenient on credit (over 90 is up) or if my 90 days is great he thinks I’m being too strict on credit and stifling his sales.I can’t win with this guy. I’m coming up empty for accomplishments too and job searching.

  21. Venus Supreme*

    Mini rant: Our organization doesn’t have direct deposit. We’ve been a successful nonprofit since the 70’s and our business manager, who’s been here since the beginning of time, doesn’t believe in direct deposit. She loves handing everyone their checks on payday. It’s frustrating when I’m out of the office on payday and I live paycheck to paycheck.

    I had a summer job where the boss was very old and carried a Rolodex around with me… and we still had direct deposit.

    End rant.

      1. Venus Supreme*

        We’ve tried! I don’t know what will convince her. Coworker had his rent check bounce “due to insufficient funds” because his mobile deposit of his paycheck didn’t clear fast enough. It’s infuriating!

    1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

      My last job had no direct deposit AND handwritten cheques. Or we did until we got an administrator who dragged my boss kicking and screaming into the world of printable cheques. She was tired of sending handwritten cheques to suppliers for hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was such a revelation to start at my new job here with direct deposit and emailed paystubs! The future is now!

    2. Lillian Styx*

      I admit, there is some satisfaction in delivering the paycheck to the one guy who doesn’t do direct deposit (I have so little good news to deliver…) but come on. They should at least give you the choice!

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Is there a compromise your business manager can make, where she can be proactive about saying “Today’s pay day. If anyone’s leaving early, please let me know so I can have the satisfying feeling of handing you your paycheck before you go”?

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes, that’s more work for her, but it’s also more work for her to keep doing this and not do direct deposit. It’s more work for everyone, really…

      2. Honeybee*

        That doesn’t solve the problem of what if someone is out for whatever reason on payday? If I’m not around on my pay day I still get paid, because direct deposit.

    4. Lia*

      I’m amazed that they can afford this. My mom was dragged kicking and screaming into direct deposit a few years ago, when she was the last holdout in her office to receive a paper check. Apparently her desire for a paper check was costing the company a ton of money, since their payroll was set up entirely for direct deposit. She was offered the choice to join the 20th century or find another job.

      1. Natalie*

        For whatever it’s worth, in most states you can’t mandate direct deposit, and in the ones that allow it you have to have some kind of procedure for people who don’t have bank accounts (paycard, check, cash payment).

        1. Venus Supreme*

          Dangit. I looked at my state’s rules– only state and municipal employees are required to have direct deposit. I’m in nonprofit.

    5. Aunt Vixen*

      I had a job where having direct deposit didn’t mean the whole thing was paperless. Can’t the business manager get her kicks from handing people their pay *stubs*?

      1. Natalie*

        Right, 95% of the employees at my company use direct deposit, but I have to hand out pay stubs to everyone.

      2. Venus Supreme*

        Exactly- every time I’ve had direct deposit in my past jobs, I always received a paper stub from the payroll person.

    6. Judy*

      Tell her she could allow direct deposit, and then print out the pay stubs and hand them out.

      Back in the 90s, when DD was not mandatory at one company, the managers handed out envelopes each payday, you couldn’t tell if they were the pay stubs or the pay stubs with checks by looking at them. Now we have to go to an online portal at this job.

    7. SophieChotek*

      I can see where that would be incredibly frustrating – (!)
      I remember how frustrating it used to be to take time out on Fridays to run to the bank to deposit/cash my check, and be stuck in a line with everyone else.
      (We do direct deposit, but company still sends paper statements. Wish we would go paperless.)

      1. NACSAJACK*

        I miss paper paystubs. We now have web online paystubs through our company intranet. Think on this possibility. What if you lose your job? What if you don’t get your end of year W-2? What if you have to prove employment and salary for a loan or credit? I recently refi’ed and I had to print off my own paystubs which, honestly, anyone with Adobe and MS Word can alter and make look good. Last time I applied for a loan, I carried my two paystubs to the bank and showed them. I liked that. I don’t want to spend my time at work having to print off my paystub every paycheck and then run around to the printer to catch it before anyone else sees it. I make too much to have it get around how much I really make. We do have protected documents now, but I’m not convinced someone couldnt get around that little check. Not when I can see what’s on the printer queue. I’d even settle for emails to my home account, but that carries risks too.

        1. Honeybee*

          I save my pay stubs as PDFs so I have them later, but most jobs will send you paper copies of the pay stubs if you lose your job You’d just have to ask for them. I’ve used those PDF copies to prove my salary for a loan. I’ve also used them to prove work history – and since I had PDF copies I transmitted them electronically. Quite frankly, if you could doctor up an already existing PDF pay stub you could also create one from whole cloth using Adobe or MS Word even if your company gives you paper ones.

          Honestly, giving everyone paper pay stubs every paycheck is a tremendous waste of paper, and paper costs money. Most people don’t use or need paper pay stubs every month – only occasionally for situations like the ones you described above.

    8. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is the kind of thing where in any reasonably functional office — even a halfway functional one — if you gather 75% of your coworkers together and make a stink about it, it’s likely to change. But do it as a group, and the more of you the better.

      1. Venus Supreme*

        I’ll work on this! I’m relatively new (5 months in) but I know this has been an issue since way before I got here.

    9. The Friesl*

      Worked for a non-profit that handed out paychecks as well. I was fortunate to have a great Treasurer who would come in early in the week to do them for employees who were low on cash and needed theirs pronto Friday morning.

      Here’s a kicker… In 2000-2001 I had an office admin job and printed paychecks on Paymaster Check Writer. I relished the -kaching- of the impressions. Don’t know what the Paymaster is? http://www.ebay.com/bhp/paymaster-check-writer

    10. Agile Phalanges*

      My boss looks phone numbers up in an actual phone book. And doesn’t know how to copy and paste. And thinks he can only access his personal e-mail (Yahoo) from his personal laptop, so he schleps it back and forth every day and opens it up for a while at lunchtime. And many other examples. Yet we still have direct deposit. My sympathies.

      1. OhNo*

        Just as a side note: I work with a lot of older, technophobic people and SO MANY of them do the same thing with hauling their laptop around just to access certain accounts. But even they are aware that they CAN log in on other computers; it’s just that they have their login info saved on their personal computer and they never bothered to memorize it.

        1. Agile Phalanges*

          I’ve told my boss he could log in on his desktop here at work, and he truly didn’t know that. (He still doesn’t now that I’ve told him, either.) He also sent me an e-mail once and asked me to forward it to my co-worker (we three are the only ones in the office) because she wasn’t in his address book. He didn’t know he could just type it in (firstname@companyname.com) and it would send it to her. He’s been stymied by the numlock key more than once. In two minutes. Oh, the stories I have working with him… :-)

        2. Honeybee*

          I’m a younger, tech-savvy person and I have the same issue, so I don’t think it’s isolated to folks who are older. I just have a terrible memory – my login information is saved on my personal computer, mostly, and I forget all the combinations of super-secure characters and numbers my eleventy-billion accounts have required me to have. I partially solved this problem using Google Chrome’s keychain functionality that saves passwords to multiple sites, but it doesn’t always sync correctly.

          1. Callietwo*

            I swear by Lastpass for my passwords, credit card numbers, form fill ins.. I pay for the dollar a month to have access to all that info on my iphone, ipad, mac, pc and kindle. Its a total life saver! All I have to remember is that one master password!

    11. Elizabeth West*

      Why not suggest doing what Exjob did? They had direct deposit, but the bosswife liked handing out paychecks, so she just gave out the printed stubs. That way our money was in the bank when it needed to be but she still got to go round and be magnanimous.

      1. Venus Supreme*

        I really like this idea. I understand the satisfaction of being the bearer of good news, but part of our organization has employees out of the office 99% of the time and a live check isn’t very reasonable.

    12. Dzhymm*

      Do you do payroll in-house, or do you outsource it to a payroll service? The business that I own does the latter, and I have been strongly pushing all my employees to use direct deposit after an incident a couple of years ago:

      One employee was still receiving a hard check. One week the pay packet was delayed in the mail — enough so that I thought it may have been lost. I rang up the payroll company and they offered to expedite a duplicate hard check to us. Check received, employee deposited it. Then, nearly a week later (this is biweekly payroll) the pay packet finally arrives. You can guess what happened next: the employee, running on autopilot, deposited *that* check as well. Much hilarity ensued as we worked to straighten the whole mess out.

    13. BRR*

      I’m with Alison that if you band together you should be able to raise a stink. This is a hill I would die on. Is there someone else above them you can bring this to? Point out about people being out of town on pay day or the possibility of someone’s paycheck falling out of their pocket. This might sound rude but frankly I don’t care how she feels when handing out paycheck. I feel good knowing I’m getting my money and don’t have to take extra steps to put it in my bank account. She’s inconveniencing a ton of people. I also might use Judy’s suggestion of letting her hand out pay stubs.

      1. Venus Supreme*

        I’m really glad you said that. I was wondering if this would be a hill to die on (exact phrase!). We will be physically relocating come spring/summertime, and there’s a very likely chance the employees will be spread out over various locations and I’m planning on pushing for direct deposit to be implemented before the big move.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        Yeah, bringing it to someone higher up is what I was going to suggest if she’s still not willing to implement it, assuming you are able to get a sizeable group of coworkers together to complain. It is totally ridiculous that someone’s rent check bounced because she had to give him a paper check, which took longer to clear. Even if the business manager isn’t swayed by those complaints, I think most reasonable people would find that to be an unreasonable occurrence and would force her to move payroll processing into the current century. It’s not just annoying; it’s causing real financial hardship and penalties for people.

        (I also really hope your coworker was reimbursed for the bounced check fees, although I suspect he was not. I would be livid if I incurred fees from my bank because the person managing payroll wanted to hand me a paper check and I couldn’t get the funds in my account due to clearing/processing time before my rent was due.)

        1. Natalie*

          I agree this company is ridiculous for not having direct deposit (particularly since it seems to be an emotional decision rather than a business one) but they absolutely don’t owe the employee for their bounced check fees. It doesn’t sound like there was anything wrong with the employee’s paycheck that caused it to be delayed or NSF, they just (wrongly) assumed it would clear faster than it did. That’s called “playing the float” and it’s risky, particularly in the days of electronic check processing.

          If you’re living paycheck to paycheck such that you can’t pay your rent until your paycheck clears, your problems aren’t going to be solved by direct deposit. They’ll just move temporally to a day or two before your deposit hits.

  22. Pwyll*

    You guys, I got a job offer. I’m moving in-house and kissing billable hours goodbye forever and ever. Fastest job hiring process ever: I applied was interviewed and received the offer all over the course of one week. AHHH!

    1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

      Ahhhh the holy grail! Congrats! (I don’t do billable either, but that’s because I’m in public interest work.)

      1. Pwyll*

        I miss government, honestly. I’ll be doing some quasi-public interest work though, and will be doing a ton of interaction with regulators to develop plans in the industry, so I’m at least inching closer. :)

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          I love it because I love I’ve public defense work, the experience can’t be beat, and the benefits are nice. Burn out will probably come, but that’s true for any aspect of law, really.

  23. AngryButUnaffected*

    I recently found out that my workplace is refusing to pay non-exempt people for their overtime. This has nothing to do with the new rules–my workplace has always classified people in these positions as non-exempt. The problem is that their bosses want them to work overtime, including staying late at the office or traveling to conferences on the weekend/off hours, but they refuse to approve their time sheets if they enter time worked beyond their official number of hours they are hired to work.

    Some bosses are issuing informal “comp time,” but the workers feel that they don’t have the opportunity to use it. For example, one woman I spoke with told me she has a full two weeks’ worth of comp time saved up from her overtime hours. I’ve recently learned that this is an illegal way to handle non-exempt hours. Other bosses just flat out refuse to compensate their workers in any way for the overtime–no pay, no comp time.

    When I learned about this–on two separate occasions in conversations from different people–I was absolutely shocked. There’s no way I would tolerate being required to work hours for which I was not being paid. They told me that there was nothing that they could do about it because they were told it was “the culture” of our workplace, and that if they complained, they were worried about being labled as a bad cultural fit.

    I am also non-exempt, but I don’t have a role that works overtime. Still, I feel strongly that this is wrong, illegal, and that if the people at the higher levels knew about this, they would not approve at all (I work in a small part of a VERY large organization, and I’m almost positive that central HR would not allow this to go on. I worked in a different part of the organization a long time ago, and was certainly paid if I worked overtime). But since this is not really affecting me, do I have any standing to say something? Do I just mind my own business? On the one hand, I don’t want to be seen as sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong, but on the other hand, people around me are being taken advantage of because they are afraid for their jobs, and they feel powerless to stop it.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That’s not just illegal, it’s cheating so many low-paid and lower level employees out of pay that they’ve earned! I’d report it to the state and Federal Departments of Labor. You should be able to report it anonymously, or at least confidentially.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        This. You can be counseled/disciplined for working unauthorized overtime, but you have to be compensated for it. Document, document, document!

    2. Spunky Brewster*

      Encourage your coworkers to contact the state department of labor. Your company “culture” sounds horrible. My sympathies!

    3. Gandalf the Nude*

      A culture is not worth defending if it’s acting illegally or immorally.

      Please report this to the appropriate agency.

    4. Coffee Owl*

      Oh man, that is so many kinds of illegal. Okay, ONE kind of illegal but a big one.

      Since you work for a large company, do you have any kind of anonymous ethics line that you can call to report? I definitely nth the people saying to report to the state labor board, but if you are concerned about appearances, maybe that’s the better way to go.

      Are you particularly close to any of the people you spoke to that you could encourage and support them to go to HR?

      1. AngryButUnaffected*

        The part of this that is actually tripping me up is how nonchalant the people who are getting this treatment seem to be about it. I mean, they see it as an annoyance, but seemingly not more than other workplace annoyances. I did encourage them to take it up with someone, and told them that it would be dealt with because it is illegal. But they just shrug it off and say, “we were told this is the way it is. Sucks but that’s life.” They feel powerless to change it and also resigned to accepting it. I’m not sure if my sticking my nose in this would be seen positively by them, and also…I don’t have all the details. Or any proof, myself. Just what I’ve heard people say they’ve experienced

        I mean, the second they tried to do this to ME I’d be marching into whatever office I thought would help me (I think I’d try the head of our department first, but I don’t know how high up knowledge of this goes).

        1. JBurr*

          So, bizarrely, we had a similar workplace culture historically, except our employees seem to have a bizarre case of Stockholm Syndrome about it. Like, I’m trying to get them to stop working off the clock, etc., but they’re looking at it as pitching in or donating their time. It makes me want to scream “LET ME PAY YOU PROPERLY, FFS!”

        2. Coffee Owl*

          You and me both! I’m sympathetic to your coworkers because I’m sure they’re scared about rocking the boat and getting blowback from it, and it definitely sounds like they have been gaslighted into believing that This Is The Way Things Are Done, and that’s awful.

        3. Honeybee*

          I do research on this. It’s a coping mechanism. If you feel powerless to reverse something terrible and unfair happening to you, one of the best psychological things you can do is disengage in such a way that you can credibly claim it doesn’t bother you and rationalize it away. If you’re constantly agonizing over it or dwelling on how much it hurts, that can be very psychologically damaging.

          That doesn’t mean that they aren’t actually bothered by it or even that they wouldn’t admit it if asked directly. It just hurts less not to focus on it. This is especially so if you work in an environment where everyone else seems to be doing the same thing.

      1. Ordinary Worker*

        This.

        I’d personally start with HR if it’s a large corporation. They will want to fix the issue to avoid running into problems with the law. Why start with the state when it will/could be handled much faster in house?

    5. Lurking Leigh*

      Does your company have an Ethics Line? They are usually third party so they can keep your identity anonymous. If you do, send them all names and ranks of those committing the illegal act. The more concrete examples you can provide, the easier it is to investigate. Timesheet systems usually have audits that would show managers deleting hours that would support the case. I’d list every employee as examples they can check in that department so they can’t try to pin it on any one person. [Also, calling a line like this puts all the whistleblower/retaliation protections in place bc despite policies, there will be people who try to figure out who reported it.]

      If your HR department is good at the corporate level, they should have a chance to investigate and resolve before pulling in the state and federal agencies. Most will care and want to fix it.

    6. Anion*

      IMO, it’s better (in some ways) for you to speak up *because* it doesn’t affect you. That way none of the people it DOES affect can be held responsible if there’s blowback, and all of them can genuinely appear surprised and truthfully deny reporting it if asked. It also gives you some plausible deniability, in that if you’re asked you can say, “I’m not even in that department and their pay doesn’t affect me, why would I even know about this?” or something similar.

      And this isn’t you sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong, this is you A) helping victims of abuse; and B) potentially–if you go to HR–preventing your workplace from facing very severe legal consequences. It’s your workplace; that is your business. You wouldn’t decide to not call CPS when you saw your neighbor treating her ten-year-old as slave labor, on the grounds that it’s “sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong,” so don’t turn your back on this abuse, either.

      Best of luck to you! I really hope this gets resolved quickly.

  24. Not Karen*

    Project Lead asked me and Coworker to send a summary of some work we had done on a project. When Coworker sent hers, it contained a typo, but the intended correct phrasing was obvious. Project Lead e-mailed back with “your summary contains a typo, next time make sure to get it right the first time.”

    I’m speechless. Not only was the typo one anyone could have made, but Coworker is not an native English speaker.

    1. Xarcady*

      Ah, the grammar police.

      If the summary was intended for publication, or had to be forwarded to the CEO or something, I could see getting picky about a single typo. But if the summary was just to update Project Lead on the status of the project, and could be understood even with the typo, eh, just let it go.

      And I’m a professional editor. Mistakes happen.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I agree. Especially if it is an internal document. It probably took more time to send that email that correct the one typo. I work as an editor too and I miss things..and cringe when I realize it weeks later…

    2. self employed*

      Please start referring to her as the Project Lead (pronounced Led) until she stops being ridiculous. That’d get her where it hurts!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I guess Project Lead won’t be making any mistakes on anything she writes.

      People like this put themselves out there for hyper-scrutiny and ridicule from others.

    4. Mander*

      Ugh, I hate this kind of attitude! I also have some copy-editing experience and I’m sure that I have missed plenty of mistakes over time. And I pride myself on good spelling. But expecting perfection, especially when it really doesn’t matter, irritates me.

  25. Achilles*

    Would love thoughts on a situation that happened this week.

    (Apologies it’s long) I’m like a shift supervisor not in name but how our manager treats my job duties/asks me to do things, managing everyone on the day to day because our manager doesn’t work in this office. Sent out an email reminding people that a piece of procedure was being missed and asking everyone to remember it’s required and that I appreciate the hard work and if anyone/everyone wants to go over procedure as a group to just let me know and we’d set up time for a refresher. This has been a chronic problem for us and I’m leaning into it now while we’re about to start fresh on a new project. An employee who is also treated like a shift supervisor by our manager, came storming in after I sent it and said my email was “insulting” and “he doesn’t send out an email about every little mistake” because He took it as a personal attack on herself. He isn’t the only one to have made this mistake, just the most recent, so I half understand where He was coming from (not that I implied in any way in the email that this was related to any employee) but He was red, shaking, and nearly crying at me in the middle of our open floor plan office. I shut him down calmly, explaining that it was not geared at anyone person and if it had been a problem repeated by only one person I’d have talked to the one-on-one. Something I’ve done before! He apologized and said He was being over sensitive and had already been wound up about something not work related this morning. We left it at that. Except I’m angry myself, that He’d think I’d do something like blast one person over an email to the entire office, or that He thought it was appropriate to go off on me like that in our office even if it was mostly empty at the time. Part of me wants to cool down and go back later and ask him that, a) if we’re really truly straight now and b) I would appreciate not being spoken to like that again but that seems like kicking the hornets nest. I’m not sure who’s out of line here because I’ve never had anything happen like this before and maybe I just need to rant about it to get over it but my Red Alarm bells are going off that this could blow up if something further isn’t said. Employee has habit of blowing up “drama” in order to stomp out “drama” in the past to make himself look good in front of the management…

    1. Emilia Bedelia*

      You should let it go for now. He did apologize for his outburst, so he recognized that it was inappropriate to speak to you that way. You mention that you’re angry that “he’d think I’d do something like blast one person over an email to the whole office”- that’s an ego thing. Instead of telling him that you wouldn’t do that, concentrate on demonstrating that you’re a reasonable person who addresses problems fairly. Everyone else in the office read the same email that he did; they know that he’s the one that has the problem, not you. You’re right- talking to him again will just be kicking the hornet’s nest. Give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming that he’s a reasonable adult who wouldn’t hold a grudge against you.

      1. Achilles*

        You’re totally right and I know that. I’ve been a bit jump the gun lately in regards to this employee. He has a friendship with our manager, a history of going out of his way to make employees he doesn’t like look bad on purpose just short of blaming them for things they didn’t do (but I’ve been in his good graces so far and haven’t had to deal with it), and I was given a promotion that put me on the same level as him this year which means we now share responsibilities/I was given ones he used to have so he’s been prickly about a lot more. Makes me a bit more prickly than normal myself!

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          This guy and his attitude is not a reflection of your skills as a manager. You don’t need to prove anything by keeping control of him. This gets said all the time around here, but it’s so true: it’s HIS issue, not yours, everyone at your job can see that, and the very best way to respond is by handling your responsibilities to the best of your ability and being as fair as possible with him. Work with him as a peer, and if he’s reasonable, he’ll see that you respect him and are just trying to get your work done. If he’s not reasonable, nothing you can do will fix that anyway so don’t waste your effort.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          It sounds like this guy might let his emotions lead him around.

          The problem with people like this is that their emotional intensity can be contagious. We find ourselves getting emotional where we otherwise would not have gotten emotional. If you can, slide into Dr Spock Mode with him.

          I have had a few people like this and I trained my brain to remind me, “Here comes the emotional stuff. Insist on logic and insist on truth and fairness. Each time, every time.” This means when he is right, he is right. Ignore the emotions and cut to the agreement.
          Other times you might have to hunt around for parts that you can agree with. It’s helpful to lead with what you agree on. Sometimes the best you can do is, “oh, I see what you are saying…” or “hmm. yeah, I can understand how a person could think of this…”

          This is a person who privately believes things are out of control. Don’t let his loss of control become yours. Decide that you are, indeed, in control of your own work.

      2. Anna*

        Yeah, if he doesn’t normally react so strongly to things, I’d just let it go and act like the whole thing is behind you. Your reaction is a bit like his; it feels personal when it’s really not.

        1. catsAreCool*

          His stormy blow up at Achilles might not have been personally about Achilles, but in Achilles’ shoes, it would have felt very personal to me.

  26. Ada Lovelace*

    Regarding my boss who delayed in telling my job was in jeopardy due to budgets: I received an email this morning forwarded from her. I am now an official part of her budget. This has been the most stressful 6 weeks, not knowing day to day if I would have a job but I started looking for new work earlier because of it. On the plus side, I just had a followup phone call from an employer I met at the job fair at school. It went pretty well (following Alison’s resume and interview advice has been a game changer) and they invited to formally apply. Even if it doesn’t work, this is the fourth time I’ve gotten contacted and interviewed from a job fair. Small victories.

    1. ButFirstCoffee*

      Focusing on the small victories is what keeps your spirits up during a long and tiring job search. You are doing the right thing by focusing on them. Wishing you all the best.

  27. Librarian Ish*

    Asking on behalf of my sister!

    She is concerned that her supervisor is using a handicap parking space without being handicapped. She has no obvious physical disability (though my sis is very aware that invisible disabilities exist). However the supervisor parks in the handicap space every day. If that was the only thing it’d be infuriating but she could let it go. Unfortunately, what my sis heard is that this supervisor is making her coworker let her use her handicap tags so she can park there.

    Readers, what would you recommend?

    1. Murphy*

      Ignore it. If they have the tags, there’s nothing you can do. Plenty of people have non-obvious disabilities, as you said. Perhaps the rumor that she was stealing someone else’s tags came from people speculating about her lack of obvious disability.

    2. Dawn*

      If the boss has handicapped tags then your sister needs to stay out of it. As you said, invisible disabilities exist, and right now it’s just gossip that the boss is using a co-worker’s handicapped tags. Unless the boss went to your sister and said “I, Boss, being of sound mind and body with no visible or invisible disabilities am abusing my position of power to force one of my direct reports to give me her handicapped tag so that I may park in the only handicapped spot in the entire lot, which is forcing other handicapped employees to park further away, so that I can save ten seconds of walking time in the mornings and the afternoons MUAH HA HA HA HA” then your sister needs to throw it down the memory hole and go on about her business. Nothing good can come of confronting the boss.

    3. Temperance*

      Wait … the supervisor is bullying a person with a disability and using their tags for her own car?

    4. Ineloquent*

      Wait, the boss is not disabled and is using someone else’s tags? That’s bad, but I don’t know what you can do about it.

        1. Marvel*

          I think that’s going a bit far for something the sister heard secondhand, which may not even be true.

          1. SophieChotek*

            Yes. At least in some states. My mom has handicap tags but she can only use them when my Grandma is in the car. She got a ticket once (for several hundred dollars) when she “ran into for a minute” to do something and parked in a handicap space with the tags. She thinks someone called it it in becuase she didn’t look handicapped and there was a cop sitting behind her car so she couldn’t leave. To be fair, my mom admits the tags weren’t for her and paid the fine; but she said the cop wanted ID and could tell based on the tag number they were issue for my grandmother, and obviously my Mom was not my Grandmother and my Grandmother was not in the car.

            1. Bob Barker*

              In my state they now issue hanging/temporary tags with the disabled person’s photo on it. On the one hand, instant verification for the doubters: why yes, Grampy Bob IS legally disabled, here is the state thingy to tell you so, you can tell because it has Grampy Bob’s face all over it. And on the other hand, instant proof of any illegal use: Granddaughter Jenny, you look nothing like Grampy Bob! Unless you have Grampy Bob in the back seat under an invisibility cloak, you are using his tag illegally, and will now get a nice big fine.

              1. Person with Disabled Parking Permit*

                I would find that humiliating. And possibly discriminatory. Imagine the outcry if everyone had to hang a photo of themself from their rearview mirror.

        2. Murphy*

          But there’s absolutely no proof. Just a rumor and the absence of a visible disability. How bad would it be if they were wrong?

          1. Not Karen*

            Obviously only call if she observes it happening herself, and I wouldn’t do it while the boss is standing there. If she’s wrong and the police come and check against the tags and they match, they nothing happens. Is that bad?

    5. Librarian Ish*

      Slight clarification – she’s pretty sure the coworker has to use a regular parking space (and said coworker is visibly disabled, using a cane)

      I’m still leaning towards “ignore it”, but that addition makes it a little more complicated. But still at best this would be a cautious question to the coworker.

      1. Anna*

        There’s no good way to find out if the coworker with an apparent disability is being bullied in to giving the boss the tag, or if the boss has an invisible disability and is legally using a tag.

      2. LCL*

        OK, there is one way to try without appearing suspicious, but think about what the next step is if the rumors are true. If you know where the person using the cane parks, arrange to cross paths with them at the start or end of work day. If it is far away, offer to help them with the application process for the handicapped placard.

      3. OhNo*

        As a person with a disability: please tell your sister to report it to the police. Chances are that the police will ignore it. If they don’t, they can verify based on the boss’ ID (drivers’ license/permit, state ID) whether the tags are actually for them or not. Either way, all your sister has to do is call the non-emergency line and give them the info. Then at least her conscience will be clear.

        Also, I HATE when people use someone else’s tags to park in a handicapped space. Even if it’s “just for a minute”, even if the disabled person says it’s okay by them, doesn’t matter. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to try and push my wheelchair through a foot of unshoveled snow because the handicapped spots were all full.

        1. Honeybee*

          I hate it too. I know someone who uses a relative’s tags to park in handicapped spots, and it infuriates me. Before they had access to tags, this person used to rant about handicapped parking spots and basically how unfair it was that they couldn’t park there, and the sense of self-satisfaction and entitlement now that they have access to the tags is grating. I am not even sure how this person got them – I believe that they have the type you are only supposed to use if the person is in the car with you. I am not exactly in a position to call the non-emergency police line on this person, but I am oh so tempted to do so now that I know this is a thing.

          1. catsAreCool*

            I’d want to call the police on this person too. Does this person ever think how tough it would be to have a condition that would allow them to park in one of these spots? I’m grateful I don’t need to park there and that people who do have a place to park where they don’t have to struggle as much.

    6. Ordinary Worker*

      Call the Parking Enforcement department in your city. They will have someone come out and check the Disability tag against the car registration to make sure it’s the same person.
      If it’s a legit tag for the boss then no harm, if he is using someone else’s tag he’ll get a hefty ticket.

      I used to work in the police department and would get calls to pull up tag information all the time from parking enforcement officers.

      They’ll appreciate someone looking out for the possibility and you can do it anonymously.

    7. LCL*

      To add the obvious point that sailed right over my head- your parking lot can have more than one handicapped parking stall. We had a fight over this at my job that went nuclear because of the temperaments of the players. The whole thing could have and would have been avoided if the parking area would have had official handicapped reserved spaces. It does now. It had been informal, with the understanding that people that needed it got to park closest to the door.

  28. MYOB*

    So my company has been doing a lot of management workshops where the concentration has been on being vulnerable and building trust, meaning sharing person information and talking about feelings. I am a really private person and I hate sharing and anything remotely touchy-feely. I also tend to be fairly honest, so when I’m uncomfortable, I tend to just say so and decline to share whatever is being asked for. I’m a little concerned that this is going to get a me a reputation as someone who is not a team player. I’ve tried just making stuff up, but lying (even innocently) really rubs me the wrong way. What’s your feeling? Does knowing personal stuff about your team really mean better working relationships? Are you comfortable being vulnerable with co-workers?

    1. Dawn*

      I think there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this in a professional setting. To me, the right way (especially when it’s a management workshop) is to encourage managers to form relationships with their employees and recognize that they are fellow human beings with a life outside of work. To that end, fostering clear communication, encouraging a mutual respect for each other, and being sympathetic to an employee’s life outside of work is absolutely a must for building trust. It doesn’t mean you have to get touchy-feely or have weekly cry sessions or sit on the floor and sing Kum ba yah together!

      And yeah I think that knowing personal things about my team builds a better working environment because it allows us to see each other as fellow humans with ups and downs and things going on outside of work. If Bob comes in on Monday morning and seems tired and short-tempered, I can either think (as his manager) that he must not be committed to the job and Have A Talk About Attitude At Work, Bob; or if I know Bob a little better and have fostered a personal relationship with him then I might know that he is taking care of his sister’s dogs because she’s in the hospital and they wake him up at 5am every morning. That personal touch means that I can be a better manager because I understand the *reasons* for Bob’s actions and don’t just assume he must be a Terrible Worker and Not A Team Player.

      1. MYOB*

        I guess some of what I’m reacting to is the forced nature of the sharing and the lack of choice I have with the participants. I feel like have good relationships with the people I work directly with and we share stuff, but I always get to choose who and what I share.

    2. ZVA*

      Ugh, this sounds like my worst nightmare. I would do exactly what you’re doing: politely decline to participate. Hopefully these workshops are a temporary thing? I’m not at all comfortable being vulnerable with my coworkers and I don’t believe sharing personal information leads to better working relationships.

      As to whether or not this will give you a reputation as “not a team player”? I think that depends on your company’s culture. I’m curious how your coworkers feel about these workshops—does everyone else seem super into it? I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re not the only person who feels uncomfortable…

    3. Relly*

      This would really, really bother me, too. I have a long history of depression. It’d be hard for me to open up and be vulnerable without drowning my co-workers in a sea of information they really do not want. So I’d have to either decline, or lie politely, and both of those feel weird. Can you push back on this?

    4. AnonAnalyst*

      Ugh, agree with the others who say this sounds horrible. I guess I think about relationships with my coworkers differently. I know some personal information about my coworkers, but that’s come out organically, as we’ve interacted during our time here. I do think that having some insight into who my coworkers are outside of work has built stronger working relationships, but I don’t think it works if you force it by making people share personal info in workshops.

      I would feel uncomfortable about forced sharing in this kind of environment, and honestly, there’s a good chance that knowing some of that info would make me feel uncomfortable around my coworkers, depending on what was shared and how comfortable they seemed to be sharing it. If it seemed like something they preferred not to share, knowing that information wouldn’t make me feel like we had a closer relationship. It would just feel weird and uncomfortable to know something a coworker would rather keep private.

      As for whether you won’t seem to be a team player, I think it really depends on your office. If everyone else is happy to share and participate in these sessions, you might come across as standoffish or disinterested if you refuse to participate. If it’s more of a mix and others are also uncomfortable sharing, declining to participate is probably less likely to make people think you’re not a team player.

  29. Snorlax*

    I’m wondering how to list this on my resume. I worked for Teapots, Inc. for many years. Then they merged my department into Teapots Unlimited. Teapots Unlimited was a new company formed by the merger of two full companies, plus my department. So I can’t say “Teapots Unlimited (formerly Teapots, Inc.)” because Teapots, Inc. still exists as a separate company.

    I could just list Teapots Unlimited as a separate listing, but my accomplishments at Teapots Unlimited are the same as at Teapots, Inc. because I literally do the same job with the same clients. I’m not sure how to make this clear on my resume.

    I recently found out I’ll be laid off next month so updating my resume is a top priority right now.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Could you just put down:

      Job Title
      Teapots Unlimited 2000-2016
      Teapots, Inc 1990-1999

      What you did goes here…..

      1. Product Person*

        Another option:

        Job Title
        Teapots Unlimited (originally Teapots, Inc.) 2000 – 2016

        Then if someone decides to do a background check based on you resume they’ll know your job started in one company and ended in another. I like to make it as clear as possible that I wasn’t changing jobs, so when my title changes or there is a merge, I try to keep everything together, just showing the progression in title or in company name.

  30. Roscoe*

    I’m curious to get everyone’s take on this. We have a pretty diverse office of around 40 people. However in the last year there have been 2 “exclusive” social events. One was a “Ladies Night” where all the women went out after work on a Friday. Most recently all of the LGBT staff members had their own social event. I’m all for diversity, but these just seem to be making things more divisive. It just leads to more clique’s in the office of those groups. Our office is VERY inclusive and not that big, so its not like these things are professionally needed.

    I’m a black male. I feel like if I tried to have a “non-white” social event, it wouldn’t go over so well.

    I know it sounds petty to bring it up, but I just feel like while it may be bonding for those groups, it is generally making the office less social with everyone.

    1. Jubilance*

      Flip side – people need communities where they feel safe and can speak freely. While you may feel that your office is very inclusive, others may not agree. Or they may simply want to talk shop & socialize with a demographic they identify with. I’d also caution you against assuming that these things aren’t needed – you may not know the struggles that some folks are going through.

      If these aren’t company sponsored events I’m not sure you even have a standing here – you can’t tell folks they can’t go out together because they’re women, or LGBT, or Black or alums of the same college.

      And why can’t you make a “non-White” event? Serious question.

      1. Roscoe*

        I get what you are saying. But like I said, it just leads to more little crews in the office, and who is to say those things don’t impact work.

        I guess my thing is a what point is it too much. If you have equal numbers of men and women (which my office does), would it be ok for me to just invite every guy out for happy hour but no women?

        1. AnotherAlison*

          If you have equal numbers of men and women (which my office does), would it be ok for me to just invite every guy out for happy hour but no women?

          The reason we have the women-only events is because that has happened for decades. I’ve never worked in an equally split office, but it happens all the time in my office/industry.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Roscoe, because of past issues in gender discussions, I’ve asked you previously to steer clear of gender stuff here, both recently and longer ago. I welcome your contributions here, but I need you to respect that (and you’re continuing to pretty flagrantly ignore that).

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Alison, I’m assuming that this is the same person who used to comment under a different name. Are you willing to say if that is true or not?

            Please feel free to delete this without responding if you don’t want to get into it. I’m asking because I know I had a lot of bad experiences with that commenter and am carrying those experiences into my reading of and interaction with Roscoe.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think I should go with no comment on that, out of the desire to let people change user names without being outed (as long as they’re not engaging in sock puppetry or something like that), but I can appreciate the question.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I can definitely see where you are coming from.

      I’m in a leadership role (volunteer) for our newish women’s employee resource group. We have no budget, we volunteer our time, and sometimes money, to make events happen. All our events are open to everyone, but we only advertise them to the women. We don’t want to be excluding people, but we also are the ones doing the work to sponsor the events. My company is only ~15% female, and we are a historically male-dominated business, so it is really important to us to have this group. I can see where another minority or disadvantaged group could be bothered that they don’t have their own events, but our take on it in our company is that any group can start their own ERG like we did.

      I know you said it wouldn’t go over well if you had a non-white social event, but I think you could approach it from a “starting an employee resource group for minorities” perspective and actually do it without as much objection as you imagine. Establish a mission and make it clear to senior management why you need the group. Once you establish the business purpose, then you can have the fun events. Warning: it can be A LOT of work.

      1. Roscoe*

        See, in your case I understand it a little more because it seems more of a professional group than a social one (but I could be wrong). So while I understand why at a big engineering firm or something, a woman’s professional group may be necessary, it seems like just having these as a social groups is a bit different.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I do see your point that it seems more social, but what strikes me is that my company (I’m talking about my division/location only), is around 1000 people, where yours is 40. We had to have a lot of structure, where that might be more than the 20 or so women at your company need or can take on managing. We had a happy hour recently, but we focused it on a business purpose. From the outside though, you may have just heard that a bunch of women got together at a pub.

    3. Temperance*

      My office has a diversity committee, and each affinity group regularly gets together. The group for African-Americans actually has the most exclusive events out of any group. The LGBT group gets together quarterly and has one fun social event. The Asian/Pacific Islander group is small but has a few events.

      There admittedly have been some (justified, IMO) complaints about the AA group getting the most resources, because our diversity chief is in that group and he plans events that he wants to.

    4. Jessie*

      “…so its not like these things are professionally needed”

      But how do you know? You may really not be in a position to understand what their experiences are, because you do not live those particular experiences.

      There are ways to do all sorts of targeted networking and bonding without raising issues for people or making reasonable people uncomfortable. At OldJob there were several identity-based networking groups – an “alliance” group for LGBTQ and allies, a “women in law” group (OldJob was a law firm), a “people of color in law” group. They all sponsored their own networking events. Generally, however, they were not exclusive – you did not have to be a member of the particular minority to attend. But it was clearly sponsored by a group and so drew largely from that group, which allowed people who have historically felt (and actually been) excluded by our industry feel welcome. I think that is important when doing that kind of targeted networking. It helped, too, that there were *plenty* of events that were sponsored by non-identity-based groups as well (groups that were practice-area based). So no one had to feel they were missing out on networking and bonding time.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I find women in law groups especially interesting because as a younger attorney, I’ve encountered a decent bit of pushback from people citing gender balances in law school admission and at the associate level of larger firms, the argument being that women have “made it” and there’s no more need for these support groups. Assuming these people are well-intentioned, I think they just don’t see how much widespread sexism there still is in our field, or how few women become equity partners, or retention problems generally, or even how small firms are often still male dominated.

        1. Jessie*

          Yes – there are plenty of women in law school, and at the less-experienced associate ranks. But partners are mostly male, and mostly white at that. Law is *such* a Boys’ Club. That “up or out” mentality still ends up pushing out mostly women lawyers, as when it comes time for the partners – largely white men – to vote on who to invite into their ranks, they vote for, of course, mostly more white men.

        2. It happens*

          There was an article in the New York Times that female law firm partners made 40% less than male partners. So, yeah, it’s still a thing. (And reasons cited included men being better rainmakers for BIG cases and better at taking credit.)

    5. Christy*

      That’s interesting–I work for the federal government, and we have a Blacks in Government group in addition to our many other diversity-related groups. Apparently we even have a group specifically for Christian fundamentalists.

      I think you could totally make an event for non-white employees.

    6. Elle the new Fed*

      You should totally have the non-white event. My org has all sorts of groups like this, including Black/African American/African, Hispanic/Latin American, Asian/Pacific Islander, LGBTQ, and various religions. We don’t do a women’s group because we are majority women. As an outsider to all of the established, I find them really great for the communities in the office and hope that it’s something my next office has. They also provide great resources to people who identify with that community and those who don’t.

    7. Pwyll*

      Are you sure the LGBT event was closed? In the last few workplaces that had LGBT organizations, all of their meetings and social gatherings were open to “allies”. Also, I agree with the others, you should absolutely be able to have non-white or African American focused events.

      1. Honeybee*

        Yes, I am in an LGBTQ group at work and we have never had an event that was closed to non-LGBTQ people. First of all, how would we even know? We don’t ask for people’s identities at the door. Second of all, I’m relatively certain that’s illegal in my state. And we wouldn’t want to do that, anyway. Allies are welcome.

    8. Maya Elena*

      I think depending how these are done, they can indeed be divisive. But as long as it’s social and not agitation, which is probably really rare in work settings (“You member of group X! You are oppressed at this company and don’t even know it!! JOIN USSS! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”), it has to fall into the space of nuisances that you brush off, just as you’d expect others to do.

      If all you can do is to “do you”, as it were, then don’t be clique-y yourself, call people out when their cliques negatively affect your work or when things turn irrelevantly partisan, and generally stand for the principles you think are right when truly important things (your job, your good name) are at stake, but I’d let it lie otherwise.

    9. New Bee*

      I think “inclusive” is in the eye of the beholder, and affinity groups (as my job calls them) play an important role in marginalized folks making sense of their identities in the work context, even if the group is not strictly “professional”. For example, my org is social justice focused and Black staff have put together spaces to talk about our contributions to the org, reflections on its response to Black Lives Matter, etc.

      A book I’d recommend is Dr. Beverly Tatum’s “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” Also, if you actually want to have that event, I’d label it as fo POC, not “non-white.”

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I think it’s pretty normal for people to seek others who are similar to themselves. A group of 40 people is large enough for subgroups to form. I would expect that to happen. And the longer the group remains intact the more subgroups you will see. Of course, the subgroups would be people who had things in common with each other.

      You say things seem more divisive. More? So things were divisive before this? I am confused how a very inclusive office can grow more divisive.

      I think that you can go different ways with this one. You could create a social event for everyone, which might satisfy your enjoyment of cohesion. Or you could create an event for minorities which might lay to rest your worry about it not being a welcomed idea. Or you could do both if you have lots of energy.

      Sometimes we get inspired to do something and that inspiration comes in a form of restlessness like you are showing here. In other words, good ideas sometimes start in the form of feelings of awkwardness/discomfort/concern.

    11. Mander*

      Speaking as a white person I wouldn’t have a problem with a black/minority networking event, in the same way that I don’t have a problem with, for instance, women’s networking events. People who belong to a group that tends to be disadvantaged will have issues they’d like to discuss with a group that has had similar experiences.

      Now, if your office never has any kind of team-wide social events, that would be kind of weird.

  31. De Minimis*

    At my job we’re finding ourselves having to deal with the aftermath of what is essentially fraud by a former employee–they lied about various medical emergencies and took donations of sick leave and even money for services. Not sure what we can do about it, though apparently options are being explored. Anyone else have to deal with anything like this?

    I’m a total advocate now for snooping on social media, I wish we had done so sooner.

      1. De Minimis*

        We have an attorney on our board [we’re a non-profit] so hopefully he will offer some advice. I don’t think a criminal charge would probably happen due to how things were structured with the donations [nothing was given directly, but the money was used to pay for services to benefit the fraudster.]

    1. SophieChotek*

      I admit to being curious – What about the donated sick leave? Is that gone? Or can the company restore it? Ugh, sorry to hear that..

      1. De Minimis*

        That’s what I’m wondering….it was donated by staff members who were maxed out so at least it wasn’t coming from people who didn’t really have a lot to give.

        What bothers me is I just found out someone did money directly.

  32. Lilian*

    Mini–rant here: I am new grad with my first full-time job.
    There are two issues:
    1.I don’t feel much appreciated at work. I pull these projects using where I do things completely alone and there is nobody in the office who can help me , so I have to figure it out myself . I pull these crazy hours, yet it seems nobody notices. Other people, in more established departments, succeed and get awards but there is someone helping them always since company has done this since beginning of time. While our department is so new, so often I have to figure it out myself how to do it.
    2. The system migration project, I’m managing. I am scared of what will happen. They sold this idea to the client as an easier, faster, way of getting reporting, and we are supposed to show client that we are just as good as consultants. But, the system I’m working with has limitations. I don’t know if I can make it as pretty or as good as what the consultants are offering. I just fear that if the client doesn’t like it, then it reflects badly on our team, but I can’t do much if the product is limited and they oversold the idea. Has anybody dealt with high expectations and the realization that you might not be able to deliver on it?

    1. Dawn*

      1- this is normal, doubly so because you’re in a new department. In school, you’re used to getting that sweet sweet A+ when you bust your butt on a project but that doesn’t happen often in the work world. Also “I pull these crazy hours”- STOP. DOING. THAT. Work your 40 hours, then go home.
      2- Consultants ALWAYS oversell to the customer. Always. If there’s stuff that you know can’t be done take it to your manager and ask how they want to handle it, but don’t tear your hair out trying to publish a full spread magazine only using Powerpoint (as an example of trying to make a software do something it wasn’t ever designed to do).

    2. Hlyssande*

      I agree with Dawn, but would like to add:

      If you’re pulling crazy hours and are non-exempt, MAKE SURE YOU ARE GETTING PAID FOR THEM. It’s the law that they have to pay you overtime if you’re non-exempt.

  33. Recent College Grad*

    I have been waiting all week for a chance to pose this situation to AAM commenters:

    I had a department planning retreat the first part of this week, with mandatory “team building” dinners each night. The second night, Myron is talking about how wanted to go to The Teapot Restaurant in a city we all travel to frequently, but was just too full. My boss, Fergus, then says “I have a solution to that: purging!” and proceeds to make a gesture like he’s sticking his fingers down his throat. I nearly died from an eating disorder several years ago and did not find this funny AT ALL, but I was too shocked to do anything besides sit there and glare at him. I don’t think anyone at work knows that history, but I’ve written about it before using my real name, so if you Googled enough you would find it. When we were done I practically ran to my car and then completely lost it. In hindsight, I realize the best thing would have been to say “That’s incredibly inappropriate, Fergus” in the moment, but I was just try to hold myself together in public. I also thought about saying something later, but as much as this whole situation bothers me it feels like making a mountain out of a molehill. Any advice? And is my boss a jerk, or a I taking this way too personally?

    1. Dawn*

      Your boss is being a jerk. IF you feel like you can, it would be good to take him aside and tell him why he was being a jerk in a very clear, level-headed way- “Fergus, I don’t know if you realized it at the time but your purging joke the other night was extremely upsetting. I have friends who have nearly died of eating disorders and it’s not something to joke about.” (using the “I have friends” line so you don’t have to reveal your own history). If he’s a decent human being, he’ll be mortified. If he’s an asshole, he’ll gaslight you and say “oh it was just a joke lighten up.” Either way you’ll learn something about your boss.

      I’m recovered from a binge eating disorder myself and haaaaaaaaate calorie talk at work with a firey passion, so I understand a little bit of what you’re going through. I often don’t speak to anyone about it however because I don’t want to get into it with anyone so I mainly just go fume in my office.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      Your boss is a jerk, but I think a non-malicious one…in the same way people toss off “I’d kill myself if…” or other insensitive hyperbole.

      I think it’s completely understandable that you didn’t say anything in the moment, so don’t feel like you’ve failed yourself or others by not speaking up. As to whether you want to say anything now, you should do what is best for you. It may be really important for your self-regard to defend yourself by gently confronting this guy, but it might also be important to not be vulnerable with this particular person.

      Perhaps you could try role playing a response with a trusted person for any future surprise encounters–that may help you feel more in control without staying stuck in this one moment.

    3. Recent College Grad*

      Thank you! I should add that I already know Fergus is a jerk for unrelated reasons. And Isben Takes Tea, this feels more malicious than your example because it was a 30-second monologue. People didn’t get it at first so Fergus followed up with the gesture and gagging sounds. I’m ashamed to admit that I used to be guilty of “I’d kill myself if…” until the first time I heard someone express suicidal ideations.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m ashamed to admit that I used to be guilty of “I’d kill myself if…” until the first time I heard someone express suicidal ideations.

        I’d argue that’s the key here — because it’ll help to realize that comments like these are often made from ignorance, not deliberate callousness, and that it’s a call for education more than anger. By all means, say something to him (the other suggestions in this thread are good), but this element of it might be helpful with the anger part of it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          When I encounter this, I tell myself, “Here is a person who has not been actually exposed to this type of thing in life.”

          My husband passed away in front of me. Fast forward several years later I had a boss that thought it was hysterically funny to say, “Yeah, if you are are stupid enough to die on the job we will just step over your body and keep going.”

          I thought my tongue was going to bleed, I bit so hard.

          I seriously considered having a sit down chat with Boss. But after looking at the bigger picture, I realized I needed to chat with ME. I needed to get out and find a better working environment, because the boss was correct, the company did not care if you died on the job.

          OP, you got caught off guard and that is not any wrong doing on your part. You are totally correct in thinking about having a plan of what to say the next time you hear something like this and even having a chat with the boss. And yeah, you owe it to yourself to have some words lined up that you can say something. Think of it as a gift you can give yourself.

          It’s not fair that the people who have suffered or are currently suffering are the same people who have to explain these things. But it is helpful to know that this is how it goes all too often.

          In my own story, I congratulated myself for holding my words. And I congratulated myself for using the big picture perspective rather than fighting incident by incident and wondering why the job was so difficult.

      2. Isben Takes Tea*

        That definitely changes the tenor. I agree with Alison–if you feel comfortable, I’d bring it up in an educational way. I really like Dawn’s wording, too.

    4. TheCupcakeCounter*

      You boss is a jerk and it would be completely appropriate to sit him down not that you are calmer and explain that his purging suggestion/joke was not funny and could be a trigger for someone. There are a lot of points you could make without revealing your history but still making it very clear that eating disorders are a real problem and not something to be joked about.
      I’ve never had an eating disorder and I find it incredibly crass and inappropriate especially for a work outing.

      1. Recent College Grad*

        That’s the culture though. This followed an hour-long conversation on the presidential election where, if you didn’t believe the same things as Fergus, it would have been very awkward for you. I should also add that my sister in law is about to be hospitalized for an eating disorder for the third time in 1.5 years, so I was locked and loaded with this subject. I appreciate the advice, but at this point I think it’s better to use this as job search motivation.

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          An excellent plan! And if you are comfortable enough at your exit interview either with him or HR you can bring it up as a reason/motivation for leaving.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Ah. Am seeing this now. Yes, these remarks can and sometimes do point to a larger problem and the conclusion is that it’s time for us to move on.

    5. ZVA*

      It sounds like he’s more of a thoughtless (and tasteless!) jerk than a malicious one… Like he didn’t even associate “purging” the way he was pantomiming it with eating disorders, much less consider the fact that he might be sitting with someone who once suffered from one… (It reminds me of the time I blurted out “I’d rather kill myself” re: some trivial thing the week after my young neighbor committed suicide. My mom quickly set me straight; I was mortified.)

      Do you want to say something to him? I think it’s entirely up to you—there’s no right or wrong way to proceed here. If it were me, I might wait until the next time he says something insensitive, then shut it down in the moment (like “Whoa, that’s so not something to joke about” or w/e). I think that might be more effective (and easier on you) than pulling him aside now… Hopefully he’ll watch his words more carefully after a check like that.

      1. Recent College Grad*

        He used to say “I just had a stroke” every time he blanked out in a meeting in front of the woman whose dad had just had a stroke (and he was aware of it). It made her livid but she never wanted to confront him because the department is kind of a dictatorship.

        I don’t think I’d gain anything except grief for saying something to Fergus, but I appreciate the suggestions for how to react should I encounter this situation again with a kinder, more receptive person.

        1. ZVA*

          So maybe more malicious than purely thoughtless, then… I’m sorry to hear it :/ There are people like this in my office (tho not my bosses, luckily)—this one guy in particular makes crass, misogynistic comments within earshot of me all the time, but never directly to me, so I’ve not yet had the chance to follow my own advice and try to shut it down… I’m not even sure what good it would do. Ugh. So I empathize, and I wish you luck weathering it if you decide to stay at this job!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          When my father had his heart attack and almost died, Olivia Newton John came out with her “heart attack song”. I shut that song off every time it came on the radio.
          I so get what you are saying here.

          I have said things like, “Do you need an ambulance?” or “Maybe you should see a doc, you say that a lot, I am concerned something is actually going on there.” This works with some people, not with everyone.

  34. Savannah*

    I have a question about forced unpaid lunch breaks and exempt employees.
    My department is mixed between non-exempt employees who punch in and out for the day and also at lunch, exempt employees who punch in and out for the day and managerial level exempt employees who do not punch in or out. Our exempt employees who do punch in and out for the day just got reprimanded by HR for having some weeks with lower than 40 hours on our clocked in time. Upon further investigation it was announced that payroll automatically deducts 2.5 hours from every exempt employees weekly clocked time for a half an hour lunch break, which none of us were aware of -I’m exempt and clocking in. So everyone thought they were working 8 hour days but we were really only clocking in 7.5, and thus were lower on some weeks. (Of course in our busy time we are routinely clocking in 65-70 hr weeks) We are in a state that requires a company to offer a half an hour meal break for any shift over 7.5 hours but as exempt employees we are generally never ‘off the clock’-not at home and not at work and our work events and meetings often go through the day without any time for a half an hour of truly no work. When asked about if we really needed to stay from 4:00 to 4:30 ‘not working’ but still on the clock to reach our 8.5 hours for the day HR said ‘we think so, otherwise you are changing your office hours”. I am sure this is legal but is it a common way to handle lunch breaks with exempt employees?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I used to work in a place (yes, I was exempt) that mandated you take a 15-minute break between start and lunch, and mandatory 30-minute lunch break (you could take longer if you were exempt, but it had to be at least 30 minutes), and then another 15-minute break before leaving (but not at the very end of the day—in other words, you can’t just leave 15 minutes early).

      I suspect your HR is trying to follow the letter of the law but not the spirit of it. If they’re letting you stay from 4:00 to 4:30 not working, that defeats the purpose, which is to actually give you a break in the middle of the day and not just keep working straight through lunch.

    2. Natalie*

      I’m not clear exactly on what they’re asking you to do. It sounds like no one is being reprimanded for not taking a lunch break, so presumably either the lunch break isn’t required for exempt employees in your state, or they don’t care. Are they trying to insist your time card show a specific amount of hours? If so, why? It doesn’t matter (legally) as you are exempt employees what your time card says.

      Since you’re exempt, the easiest thing to do would be to stop requiring you to punch in. Crazy, I know.

      1. Savannah*

        We are being reprimanded for not having the right hours on our time cards because we are ‘supposed to work at least 40 hours a week’.

        1. Natalie*

          Then they’re being ridiculous, IMO – since you’re exempt, there’s no requirement that they keep track of your time in the first place and it doesn’t sound like they have a business need to keep track. Assuming your state allows you to waive your lunch break or doesn’t require it for exempt employees, you’re completely in the clear there. So they are essentially asking you to stick around for an extra 30 minutes so that an unnecessary piece of paper “looks right”.

          Personally, I wouldn’t stick around for an extra 30 minutes every day for appearances sake. Exactly how to effect that, though, depends on your workplace.

          What is HR’s relationship with management? In a lot of places this wouldn’t even be HR’s business (since no laws are being broken) but I know in some business HR acts like they are the management cops. Have you asked your boss about this, and if so, what did they say?

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I work somewhere where 30 min is automatically deducted for lunch. Not everyone takes a lunch break, but the time is deducted. It’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

      1. Savannah*

        This is the case where I work- most people who are exempt do not that an official meal break ever- we either have working lunch meeting, events that feed us but we are ruining the whole day or we simply don’t take a lunch- both of my managers do not eat lunch at all. why do you say its a lawsuit?

        1. Natalie*

          If the non-exempt employees are working instead of taking a lunch period, they have to be paid for it. Depending on how the time clock works, it may not be obvious that 30 minutes is being deducted, or the employees might not realize that they need to be paid for all time worked.

    4. Pwyll*

      So, I’m confused on this one. If HR is deducting a half hour each day for your lunches, you shouldn’t be clocking out for lunch. They’re effectively double-deducting your lunch time. I’ve worked places where salaried folks clocked in in the morning and just clocked out when they left for the day. I’ve also worked where you clocked in and out for lunch, but there was no deduction from the hours taken.

      1. SittingDuck*

        I think OP is saying there are two categories at the company
        1. Those who clock-in in the morning – clock out at lunch – back in after lunch, and out at the end of the day
        2. Exempt people who clock-in in the morning and out at the end of the day

        Its the second group OP is talking about that gets the deduction of 30min a day, not the first group

    5. Anon 2*

      Where I work we have something similar. Exempt employee’s are expected to clock in at least 45 hours a week, as 5 hours a week is backed out for a lunch break. Some people are religious about taking an hour for lunch, but most of us really are not. It’s dumb, but it is what it is.

    6. BRR*

      I’d look first in your employee handbook to see what it says about hours and lunch breaks. I’d then explain the situation to your manager and ask them how they would prefer you to handle it.

  35. Lady Blerd*

    The upside to fire drills at work is the socializing. Downside is it interrupted a time sensitive phone call…

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Every time we have a fire drill, I hope that the ice cream truck is waiting and the drill just to initiate an ice cream social.
      Still waiting.

      1. Hlyssande*

        That would be awesome.

        We’ve had the building management company provide cookies in the lobby after a drill once, though. That was a happy surprise, especially after having to traipse down from the 12th floor.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I always hope it’s not raining or cold out. We have to go all the way to the back of a huge parking lot. At Exjob, they always tried to do it in the middle of the damn winter.

        1. MsMaryMary*

          In college, my dorm caught on fire in the middle of the night in January. No one was hurt and the damage was limited to one room, but there were a lot of half dressed very sleepy college students shivering on the green before someone let us into the basement of another building to keep warm. But now I always remember to grab my coat, purse, and keys during a fire drill.

        2. Garland Not Andrews*

          Right now would be a problem for us because they are re-surfacing and re-striping the parking lot that is our designated destination!

    2. NACSAJACK*

      me and a co-worker made a coffee run, just said to her boss right behind us, you saw, we checked in, he said ‘yep’, we said, ‘Later!’

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      Right?? I was once on a VERY important call at work and the alarms went off. It wasn’t a drill– turns out there was smoke somewhere in the building! So although I enjoyed hanging out with coworkers outside, that call was pretty tough to end. I said something like “As I’m sure you can hear, our fire alarms are going off. This isn’t a drill so I really do have to go, but I’ll call you back the second we’re let back in!”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        When a tornado hit my old job during a derecho, the power went out but the phone didn’t. People kept calling and asking, “Why isn’t my fax going through?” I said our power was out because we had been hit by a tornado. Almost everyone was like, “Oh my God! Are you all okay? I’ll try to fax it tomorrow!” (we were all okay, btw)

        But one person said, “Oh.” *beat* “So when can I send my fax?”

    4. Lone Rhino*

      A couple of days ago we had afire at work. It was big enough to evacuate our small hotel, but easily contained. It was also our new hotel managers first day. I said to him “welcome to the big leagues”.

    5. Bob Barker*

      You know, I haven’t had a workplace evacuation drill in 7 years. It really bothers me. Yeah, they’re a hassle, and half of the people don’t take it seriously, but some of the buildings I’m in, I would have to think about it to figure out my nearest/easiest egress route. That’s one major way people die in a fire: not being able to get out by rote, and having to think about it, and not having enough time to think.

      By contrast, I used to work in a bigger city, in a 15-story building, where we had evacuation drills at least once a quarter. They were a huge pain, but the head honcho set the tone for them: she would stand at the rally point and count heads as we crossed the street to meet her. She took absolutely seriously the idea that she was responsible for our lives, in the unlikely event that something happened. I really appreciated that.

      1. Lady Blerd*

        We hadn’t had one in a year and had a high number of new personnel who didn’t know where the meeting point was, even I had to remind myself to take the stairs that I normally avoid because it leads to an emergency exit.

      2. smthing*

        I used to work at a museum in San Francisco, the original of which burned down after the 1906 quake. If anything incentivizes practice, it’s having already lost a building (and the museum collection) to disaster. They had an evacuation drill every anniversary. You really need to with a lot of employees. Practice helps ensure an accurate assessment of who is and isn’t inside the building for rescue workers. Plus we always got donuts after the drill, so there was that.

    6. MsMaryMary*

      Both my Chief Consulting Officer and the company Owner have a habit of refusing to leave the building for fire drills. They’re much too busy and important. Last time the fire marshall threatened to cite and fine them if they continued to ignore the fire alarm.

      Personally, even if I didn’t have a healthy respect for fire, fire drills, and our safety forces, how anyone could get any work done with the noise and flashing lights from the fire alarm is beyond me.

  36. Cruciatus*

    I’m a little bummed out since I applied to 2 different (yet similar) positions at my current employer (a university) and I haven’t heard anything at all, not even for the one they were “moving quickly on.” I’m mostly qualified for both, and have the experience working here already so knowing the resources and departments and things like that. I know it’s not necessarily a lost cause as things can move slowly but there aren’t many ways to move up here at all (I’d be going from administrative to an advisor or mentor position, which my Master’s would actually be helpful for). If I don’t get either of these I don’t really know why I would continue to stay. The rest of the jobs on campus would just be lateral administrative moves with no pay increase unless I moved up a grade (of which there is only one grade to move up anyway). Just a bit of a bummer to realize your currently employer doesn’t have as many opportunities as you were lead to believe at the beginning. But I’ll hold out hope until I officially get the news they aren’t interested…

    1. Relly*

      I’ve never worked at a university, but I think I’ve seen here on AAM before that they typically move slower than non-academic settings, so don’t be discouraged just yet.

      Also, is that your cat in the picture? S/he’s cute.

  37. AMT*

    Am I crazy for thinking my office is too rigid? I recently got scolded for taking unscheduled sick days, even though I had them banked, because it “looks bad” on my record. Didn’t inconvenience anyone, but apparently these things are tracked and we’re considered to be abusing the policy if they’re mostly unscheduled. Earlier this year, HR staff yelled at me when I went down to ask about their bereavement leave policy: “Didn’t you hear what I told your supervisor?! You can’t use bereavement leave policy for grandparents!” Now I’m being nitpicked about previously-agreed-on comp time for work I did outside normal hours. It’s infuriating and it happens constantly. It’s not all about PTO, in case anyone was wondering — those are just the examples I can think of off the top of my head.

    My performance/attendance is good and I get along with everyone very well. I’m just…having trouble adjusting, I guess? My former boss had no problem letting us come in an hour early and stay an hour late if we needed to, or take sick days when we weren’t feeling well. Even when he couldn’t go against policy, he was understanding and flexible. The rigidity I’m experiencing now kind of makes me want to look for another job after a year. It’s hard to gauge whether this is a larger cultural problem or I’m just being petty.

    1. Murphy*

      That’s what sick days are for…I mean, I use them for doctor’s appointments as well, but you can’t schedule which days you’re going to come down with a bad cold or a stomach flu. That’s ridiculous.

    2. Jubilance*

      Wait – you have to schedule sick time? So you need to know in advance if you’re going to be sick? I’m so confused here. I thought the whole point of sick time is when you’re unexpectedly out…cause you’re sick.

      1. AMT*

        They’re okay with *some* sick days being unscheduled, but supposedly they’re for doctor’s appointments. I have migraines and usually schedule my appointments in the evenings for this reason. My boss suggested that I use FMLA (unpaid!) instead of a sick day when I get a migraine so it would look better. She also gave me some unsolicited medical advice, so helpful!

        1. LCL*

          They are jerks. Is your job high turnover, with a lot of young people who generally will get sick less often? If so, your bosses may have unrealistic expectations. Your job may be one of those horrid jobs where they don’t want to keep employees long term because they believe high turnover is cheaper.

          1. AMT*

            It’s actually a mid-level professional job! I’m in my late twenties and the job requires a clinical master’s degree. It’s on the higher end of the payscale in my profession. Which is why I’m baffled at being treated like a teenage theme park employee.

        2. Anna*

          Well, they aren’t just for appointments or they’d be appointment time and not sick time. Your office sucks.

          1. Anna*

            Also, I have never worked anywhere that wouldn’t let you take bereavement leave for grandparents. I would take a look at that policy and see what it says. They usually spell out what is meant specifically for bereavement (example: grandparents, yes. In-laws: no).

        3. Honeybee*

          This doesn’t make any sense! That’s why they are called sick days. Your workplace is weird and unnecessarily rigid.

      2. SophieChotek*

        Yes I was confused at first and was reading vacation-time, but then I realized you wrote sick-days. That we could all *plan* on being sick…let’s see…I want to be sick on May 1st…oh, wait, I want to be sick…never…

        Seems unreasonable to me. I don’t think you are over-reacting at all.

    3. ASJ*

      Um, wow. That is not normal and you are not crazy. I also get migraines (they run in my family) and while I can sometimes pinpoint when they’ll happen – usually about when the air pressure changes – sometimes they just… happen? How could you possibly know that?

    4. ThatGirl*

      As others have said, super jerky. You can’t schedule being sick.

      Also, I appreciate our extensive bereavement leave policy now… it very clearly spells out who you can use it for, and yes, grandparents are included.

    5. Bob Barker*

      I got dinged on my annual review this year for taking unscheduled sick time (once) and scheduled vacation days (any). That was an “interesting” conversation, as my supervisor started it by saying I was of course allowed to take vacation days, because both my union and my state have strong feelings on that topic, but made clear that I should not take vacation days.

      Needless to say, I am job-hunting.

    6. BRR*

      Addressing the sick time specifically, they’re jerks. I would probably go about it by asking questions. They aren’t even leading questions because the obvious answer is you can’t plan on when or how often you get sick(I do have a cold penciled in on Nov. 3). . You want them to figure it out on their own by asking things like “what should I do if I wake up with a fever?”

    7. Relly*

      They’re upset about … unscheduled sick days.

      Not that you take too many, or that you aren’t notifying the right person when you’re out, but … the fact that your sick days are unscheduled.

      These people are crazypants.

    8. Rookie Biz Chick*

      I once worked for a firm who totally touted the work|life balance and generous benefits package which included 80 hours of sick leave. The third year I worked there I had a terrible time getting newly-diagnosed hypothyroidism under control and took close to 60 hours of sick time over the course of a year. Come review time, I was chastised for taking more that three days worth, because 1.) it doesn’t look good to other departments if I’m always sick; 2.) our billable rates AND our department’s revenue goals were based on staff not using more than three days each; 3.) the 4 or 5 out of 5 on the review scales were based on taking three or less days per year. What?! Wonder if there’s something like this – with unspoken and illogical rules enforcement – going on with your company.

      Hope you can work this out there or eventually find a place with more genuine leave policies.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Ask them how they schedule for vomiting/flu/strep etc.

      Seriously, though. If you cannot use the sick time it is the same as not having sick time. And that is what I would tell them. “Well, this company should not be saying it offers sick time when it doesn’t.”

  38. Wolfman's Brother*

    Training a new employee! I recently was promoted and my job had morphed into doing the work of 3-4 positions after people had quit. I have a supportive boss and have been slowing transitioning tasks from those positions to my staff where they make the most sense (we aren’t getting the people back for half of those positions, which is fine as not everyone here had a full plate).
    Now that I have a person in for one of those positions I am realizing that she may not wind up with a full plate because of how I transitioned some of the tasks. I hate to give her some of the duds as this is someone I want to stick around, but she is so fast at what she did I feel like I’m going to run out of ways to fill her day.
    Also, I am so thrilled that she is picking this up quickly. It makes me realize how thinly stretched I have been. Some projects that have been half started by me finally have some traction.

    1. Scorpio*

      She sounds like someone who may be able to create her own projects to fill the rest of her time. I was in a similar situation as her and I brought forward some things I wanted to do to modernize some of our processes. If she’s into technology, there may be an opportunity to ask her if there’s anything she wants to implement. I also have found it’s good to have a little downtime because you can take time to reflect and debrief or experiment with some projects rather than constantly doing them the same way. And, if you’re a hard worker and always take on new projects, eventually you will end up with a full plate. So it’s definitely not a bad thing that she’s not at 100% yet, because you have the flexibility to add things later.

    2. E*

      Let her know that if she finishes her assigned tasks and has down time, that she can always review/write up Standard Operating Procedures for her tasks, or even take the opportunity to cross train with others in the department (if that’s an option).

  39. Trout 'Waver*

    For the smokers out there, I have a quick question. As a manager, is it rude to interrupt people on smoke breaks with work questions? Or should the manager wait until they’re done with the break?

    1. Temperance*

      Are these people exempt or non-exempt? Are they getting paid to smoke?

      At my office, there is a lot of hostility against secretaries who smoke, because, well, they get to take breaks on the clock to light up. In that scenario, totally fine to ask them work questions.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yes, if it’s a paid break, ask away. If not, try to wait.

        We had two fifteen-minute paid breaks at Exjob, and I would just smoke on those instead of taking extra breaks. I had to forward the phone so I couldn’t just sashay outside whenever.

    2. Eddie Turr*

      I would treat it like any other kind of break, which means only interrupting if it’s time sensitive. If I can wait 15 minutes for the answer, then I wait. I wouldn’t chase after someone who went for a walk around the block or interrupt someone’s personal phone call for something that wasn’t urgent.

      That’s assuming they’re on the clock. If they’re not being paid for their smoke breaks, then you really need to leave them alone.

    3. Cryptic Critter*

      This is easy. Unless it’s vital, wait till people come back in. As corny as it sounds, a quick smoke break can be anything from “I need to walk away from this while I get my cookies together” to “If I don’t stretch my legs I’m going to fall asleep” Generally only the smoker knows which it is. Unless of course your smokers are taking advantage in which case I’d be livid and interrupt. (Eight hour day, paid lunch and yet still four plus smoke breaks) Speaking as a responsible smoker who doesn’t abuse the privilege in this day and age it really fries my bacon when it’s taken advantage of.

    4. Rat in the Sugar*

      As a smoker, I say it’s fine to interrupt when you are the manager. I prefer for peers to wait til I get back inside because cigarettes cost money, dontcha know, so I don’t like stubbing them out before I’m done. (They taste awful when you relight them so once I stub one out it’s done for me). Managers, however, get to interrupt however much they want because my vice isn’t theirs to accommodate. If my manager kept interrupting me while I was smoking, I would consider it my obligation to start checking in with that manager before stepping outside to make sure they didn’t need anything.

    5. SittingDuck*

      Personally, as a non-smoker, I think its fine to ask someone a question on a smoke break.

      Non-smokers don’t get to just take random 5-10 minute breaks throughout the day whenever they feel like it, so they are presumable around to answer questions – so why do the smokers get additional breaks/time they aren’t required to be available for work questions.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Is it an actual break or is it just a smoke?
      Is this something the manager does daily/regularly?

      I say it’s no different than going up to a pair of coworkers who are just chatting and interrupting with work questions. I have never had a problem interrupting lengthy (1o minutes or longer) personal conversations with a work question. I see no difference.

      But in either instance I would give it a few minutes to see if the person returns or if the conversation ends before I approached.

    7. Anion*

      It’s worth asking them, too. If I’m standing by the ashtray having a cigarette and staring into the distance on a short break, I’m happy to talk or answer questions about work. If I’m sitting down reading a book while I have a cigarette on my lunch break, I do NOT want to be asked about work.

      I guess it does largely come down to whether or not it’s a paid break, but everyone is different, too.

  40. Miss Mouse*

    I need to apply for benefits at work due to my husband quitting his job, and I just found out that the person I will need to deal with in the Benefits Dept. is someone who is very close friends with estranged members of my husband’s family. I can’t complain about it without implying that she’d be unprofessional with the information, which is not at all what I’m saying. I just really, really don’t want someone who moves in that social circle to know anything that personal about us.

    1. ASJ*

      Yeah… I think it would be okay to request someone who is completely impartial to your case. It’s not necessarily implying that you think they would be unprofessional… just that you would prefer someone different and to me, that sounds reasonable enough.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      HR is used to dealing with things like this! You should ask for someone else to handle your case.

    3. Relly*

      If for whatever reason you [i]couldn’t[/i] switch to another person (and I don’t mean to imply that you won’t be able to) you could always just keep it professional and non-informative. This person doesn’t need to know why you are applying for benefits; you simply would like to apply for benefits, please and thank you.

      If they ask why, you raise an eyebrow and say “I wasn’t receiving benefits before, and I would like to, now.” That’s all they need to know.

      1. Natalie*

        Assuming they’re outside of their workplaces open enrollment period that’s not entirely true. They will have to share which qualifying event they experienced and possibly provide documentation (for example, I had to provide a copy of my marriage license once it was filed with the court). However, that documentation doesn’t have to have tons of details. The spouse will presumably get a HIPAA letter from their former job which should suffice.

  41. Ineloquent*

    I just found out that the management position that’s been open for my group for the last two years is being filled with someone who I find… very abrasive. Should I apply for other openings? I like my coworkers, I like my higher up leadership, I’m paid well and have decent perks, but I really don’t like/respect this person and my company is going through some struggles right now which directly affect my organization. The market for my skills looks ok, though…

    1. Leatherwings*

      Seems like a good time to start hunting. It’s worth seeing what’s out there. If the new management person turns out ok, you don’t have to leave.

    2. ASJ*

      I agree with Leatherwings. A job search could take a substantial amount of time, so it’s better to start now and see what’s out there than wait and wish you’d started sooner.

  42. Blue Anne*

    I’m about a month in to my new job at a small accounting firm. Everyone is really nice and it’s a good job. It’s going to be totally fine. Logically, I know this.

    But right now I am FREAKING OUT anyway. They’ve thrown me straight at people’s tax returns – deadline for people with extensions is Monday – with very little explanation or hand-holding, and knowing that American tax is the one field of accounting I know NOTHING about. (British taxes? Sure! Give me your return! I’ll do it for funsies!) I’m pretty smart, I know general accounting rules, the software is pretty straight forward and everything goes through review by a colleague and a partner before being submitted to the IRS, but OH MY GOD, I cannot turn off my anxiety. Clients are coming in today and calling me this morning asking how much they owe, and I’m breaking out my best lovely corporate schmoozing while trying to squish the internal screaming of “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT ANY OF THIS MEANS, I HAVE NEVER STUDIED ACCOUNTING IN AMERICA AND BUT I KNOW I HAPPEN TO BE EXACTLY THE AGE OF YOUR DAUGHTER, MISTER RICH AND EXACTING PERSON!”

    Oh god.

    Help? Anyone have tips for getting through this? I know that it will be fine and in the future, I’ll enjoy working here. I just need to get through the nerves of the first few months and the first big deadlines.

    1. ASJ*

      Is there a more experienced coworker who can answer questions? Last year’s tax returns that you can look at to see how they were done?

      1. Blue Anne*

        For sure – looking at last year’s records is the first thing you do in any accounting job, really. (Why did the accountant cross the road? Because she checked and that’s what they did in last year’s file.) But I really know *nothing* about American taxes. I don’t know enough to be able to ask good questions or know what I’m looking for.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Develop a check list of basics:

          Name
          Address: have they moved?
          Social Security Number
          Dependents: has there been a change in status?
          Incomes: Work/interest/dividends/other
          Outgoes: Taxes paid, medical, mortgage interest
          If they owe, how will they pay?
          If they are getting money back, where do they want to receive it?

          You will have to add to this, but you get the idea. Do each one the same way until you get into the swing of it.

          Breathe. You will be okay. Your work will be well checked over.

        2. Ello ello ello*

          Ha ha the chicken joke is so true. Check out the IRS website; it’s daunting but if you do a search (even a google search) you can get a lot of info. Sorry they’re throwing you right into all this. Only a few more days!

        3. Sophie Winston*

          Ha.
          First rule of audit: Don’t copy last year’s workpapers.
          Second rule of audit: If you aren’t sure what to do, look at last year’s workpapers.

    2. Rat in the Sugar*

      Ugh. No advice but you have all my sympathy. This sounds exactly like my first job out of college, where my boss was too busy to train me or do practically anything, so I got thrown in the deep end. I ended up quitting suddenly when I started waking up in cold sweats in the middle of the night.

      Breathe deep and google which post office closes the latest on Monday, tax returns usually only need to be postmarked by the due date to be counted as on time.

  43. Gary Seven*

    I could use some advice if anyone’s willing to give it! I’m a recent graduate and this is my first real office job(I’ve been here for about 4 months). Part of my job is to coordinate projects where everything needs to go exactly on schedule, otherwise the law says we have to start the process all over. For the most part, things have gone smoothly, but for my most recent project, an element got fumbled because the person in our fiscal dept didn’t turn in the paperwork I handed him until two weeks (!) after I brought it down to him, which meant a vital part of the process didn’t happen when it was supposed to. And now I may have to explain to the project manager that everything will have to start over and put his unit behind schedule. I recognize that part of the blame falls on me here: I thought I had made the deadline clear but I could’ve been better about checking to make sure everything was done on time. But I’d never had this problem in the past and I’m not really sure what happened this time. Basically, I’m not sure how to explain to the project manager what happened without making it sound like I’m trying to pin the blame on someone else, but I also don’t want to come across as completely incompetent. Any advice?

    1. Jessie*

      I think it is fine to simply be straightfoward. Don’t pretend “Fergus” wasn’t late, but own that as coordinator you will be more on top of looking deadlines from now own. “Fergus got the information to me on xx date, which unfortunately was xx days past when we needed it to stay on target with the process. Going forward, I’ll make sure to remind people about upcoming deadlines a few days beforehand so that this doesn’t happen again. In the meantime, though, we do have to start again.”

    2. ZVA*

      I think you should figure out exactly what did happen this time, both so you can explain it to the project manager and so you can lay out what you’ll do differently moving forward. It sounds to me like you should have checked in with the fiscal dept. person to make sure he was on track to turn the paperwork in on time—if that’s the case, you can say that, then promise you’ll do so in future.

      It sounds like this wasn’t entirely your fault, but as the project coordinator, I would take responsibility for it regardless. Mistakes happen—that doesn’t mean you’re “completely incompetent,” and the way you handle them says a lot (sometimes more than the mistake itself). Take ownership, figure out what you’ll do better next time, then do it! I’m sure that’s what the project manager will remember down the road.

    3. Dawn*

      “Dear Project Manager: It looks like we might miss the deadline for Project X.

      Regarding Project X, here’s the timeline for when all of the steps have gotten done:
      -Thing 1, estimated time to accomplish was X, actual time to accomplish was Y
      – thing 2, estimated time to accomplish was X, actual time to accomplish was Y
      – Paperwork to fiscal, estimated turnaround time was X, actual time to accomplish was X + 9 days

      If we do have to re-do Project X due to missing the deadline, here’s what I propose to do differently on my end to make sure we meet the deadline this time around: [list of things including standing next to Fergus and breathing down his neck until he gets the damn paperwork back to you]. Do you have any other ideas about keeping things on track for next time?”

    4. AndersonDarling*

      All you need to do is state the facts, and do it soon. The longer you wait, the bigger the problem will feel. Your manager will probably look into the situation themselves.

  44. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    How do you handle the cleanup from being out sick for a week?

    I was out sick part of last week and most of this week (I foolishly came in on Tuesday but was back out after that). It’s the first time in my career (and I’m in my late 30s) that I’ve been out for this long — long enough that it caused real problems (missed deadlines, and more deadlines that will need to be adjusted) but not long enough that it made sense to shift work around… and not long enough for any real sympathy! I guess I’m just going to soldier through, but ugh. It sucks.

    1. Jersey's Mom*

      One suggestion, if you typically get many emails throughout the day.

      Scroll through them all before you start replying. You will find that a number of the requests/questions will either morph throughout the day(s) or someone else will have answered it.

  45. Nervous Accountant*

    We finally moved!

    New office is so much bigger and nicer. We moved about 6 blocks over, so commute didn’t change drastically but it’s a joy looking for new eating places. I’m not thrilled with the bathrooms but what can ya do. My desk is so much bigger. The anxieties I had about the new place are gone! yay!

    Surprisingly–CW left. He gave his notice last week and his last day at work was our last day in that office.

    I am however extremely perturbed at the following turn of events. CC (creepy coworker)—–who complained incessantly about me being loud and messy and god knows what else, even after requesting to sit 1 seat away from me—-ended up sitting 3 rows away. His back was to my back so I NEVER had to see his face. Amazing right?

    Literally hours later, his seat was changed to sit directly behind me…..we all have our theories as to why this happened.

    The seat next to me is empty too.

    The saga continues…

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      Eewww, oh I’m sorry you’re dealing with this! Is there any way YOU could get your seat changed?

  46. WhiteBear*

    I was really curious about y’alls’ thoughts on a Dear Prudence question that was asked this week. Normally these are life advice and etiquette questions but she’ll occasionally get one about a work scenario. In this case, someone at OP’s work wants to move up the ladder to earn more income, but OP feels that by clocking in and out at the precise time every day (i.e. no overtime), always taking her full hour for lunch at the same time each day no matter what is going on, using sick days during busy work periods, and sometimes declining to do something because its not in her job description and isn’t a task she was hired to do, this employee has no chance of moving up in the company.

    Prudie’s response was that this is fairly typical employee behavior and one should not be punished or prevented from moving up for using sick days, mandated breaks, or by not letting themselves be taken advantage of by the company (I guess unpaid overtime, not using benefits, skipping/shortening lunch). A lot of her readers disagreed saying the employee sounds lazy and entitled and had no idea how a typical office works.

    I thought I would share the article with the open thread and see what you guys thought: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/dear_prudence/2016/10/dear_prudence_my_boyfriend_won_t_let_me_meet_his_new_female_friend.html

    1. Kai*

      I read that. It might be true that in that company, staying late and not taking your entitled breaks means not moving up…but ugh, it’s really disheartening to see that so many people feel that this is just the way it should be. During busy periods, or when you have to cover for someone–sure. But when it’s just business as usual, the idea that you have to be busting your butt and working long hours constantly–and judging coworkers who don’t–is ridiculous.

      Who knows, maybe OP’s coworker doesn’t pull her weight when she IS working, which is a problem, but taking the breaks she’s entitled to and leaving on time is hardly lazy.

    2. ZVA*

      This was an interesting one! I disagree with the LW’s description of their coworker as “a slacker,” which seems unwarranted and pretty harsh, but I am curious whether what some might call the coworker’s rigid attitude toward work is hurting her prospects… The LW says “No matter what crisis is going on, she leaves for her break at exactly the scheduled time”; maybe this company is looking to promote people who are a bit more flexible, who will adapt to a crisis by taking a later break or by staying late when the occasion calls for it… Maybe this woman is perceived as doing the bare minimum and nothing more, and that’s preventing her advancement.

      It’s also impossible to know whether she’s getting passed over for promotions for other reasons, though.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yeah, to me that reads like bare minimum. However, without knowing whether or not her work product is excellent, and that does make a difference, I can’t say for sure she shouldn’t be promoted. People shouldn’t have to put in an inordinate amount of facetime in the office to advance, especially if they’re getting all of their work done and knocking it out of the park in 40 hours. But someone who says no to things that aren’t expressly in her job description is probably not very likely to be a secret superstar employee, so yeah. I can see why that letter writer would believe her coworker may have problems moving up if going above and beyond your job duties is highly regarded by upper management in their company.

    3. Emily*

      I was surprised at her advice. It’s been my experience that in professional jobs, people who want to do well cut lunch breaks short and work late during crunch time. The jobs I’ve had haven’t regularly required more than 40 hours a week, but I’ve certainly had projects which necessitated working during the occasional evening or weekend. Like, if my boss’s boss’s boss requests something for a meeting the next morning, I’ll sacrifice a couple hours of my evening to get it done. That’s what you do as a good employee — and as a good boss, your boss expresses appreciation and treats you as a professional who can manage their own hours and have some flexibility when it isn’t crunch time.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Eh… I can see both sides of this. On the one hand, there are definitely toxic workplaces that will take advantage of you and want you to essentially work through lunch, never take a sick day (or demand a doctor’s note to prove you were sick), and put in face time when you’re not actually needed. On the other hand, if the employee is taking sick days only or primarily during busy work periods, sounds as if she is a slacker and really inconsiderate of her co-workers.

      I didn’t see anything in the original letter about whether she’s exempt or non-exempt.

      I’ve had only one position in which I was non-exempt, and I came in exactly at the same time every day and left at exacty the same time every day and took the exact amount of lunch time, because that’s exactly what they were paying me for, and I also didn’t want to get the organization in trouble. If she’s non-exempt, she’s doing exactly what she should be.

      That said, if she’s exempt, that isn’t showing a great attitude. Exempt people will sometimes leave early if it warrants, but they will often stay late when necessary (and definitely during the busy work periods)… at least if they want to help the organization.

    5. Temperance*

      I really disagreed with Nu Pru, which wasn’t shocking because I almost never agree with her advice. Nu Pru has clearly never worked in an office.

      I’ve worked with people like LW’s coworker, and they show that they aren’t a team player, IMO. Being unwilling to ever go above and beyond shows that you aren’t really management material. Why should the person doing the bare minimum, and maybe even screwing over coworkers in the process, get a management role? What’s she going to do when there is an all-hands-on-deck crisis?

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        The lunch and showing up and leaving on time aren’t the problem. It’s the taking the sick days when things get busy, which means more work and stress for the co-workers. And, again, a lot of this will depend on exempt v. non-exempt.

        1. Temperance*

          I actually see those things as a problem, too, but I work in an industry where sometimes, you just can’t leave for an hour in the middle of a huge project or event.

        2. Pwyll*

          Agreed. Also, refusing to do work that “isn’t my job” usually doesn’t reflect well on a person wanting to move up. Sure, redirecting to the appropriate person, or pointing out that you lack the expertise in an area is one thing, but flat out “that’s not my job” is rarely something that should be said at work.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Yeah, I’ve done plenty of things that weren’t my job in almost all of my jobs. That said, if it’s unsustainable and essentially too much to be part of your job, that’s when you talk to your manager about “I don’t know how I can manage all this. What do you want me to prioritize?” and not just say “Uh… not my job.”

          2. Bob Barker*

            Eh, depends on the workplace. I’ve been in workplaces where telling people “That’s not my job” is a survival skill, because of a culture of pawning work off on a small number of productive people. (And management that doesn’t curb this behavior.) Those productive people burn out or stop being productive if they don’t learn how to say “That’s not my job.”

            In a functional workplace, it’s a sign of a bad worker, because functional coworkers cooperate and do each other favors all the time, and problem pawner-offers are referred to management, rather than the worker having to do it herself. And then there are the Hobbesian, battle-of-all-against-all workplaces, where cooperation is often a fatal trap.

        3. Mustache Cat*

          Really? I don’t know, I’m of the view that you can’t really predict when you get sick enough to take a sick day. Sometimes team members have to stay home even if it’s a busy time. Obviously it’s good to make more of an effort to come in when it’s busy, but sometimes you’re just sick and need to take a day off. Nothing can really be changed about that.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            I took it to mean she’d happen to get “sick” any time there was a busy time. Not coincidentally once when there was a busy time.

      2. Honeybee*

        I actually think she’s worked for several offices – she worked for Gawker and other news/media sites before writing for Slate. Besides, I have worked in offices and I don’t find her advice that off the wall, although I do agree that if this person is looking for a management position her rigidity won’t help her.

    6. Mustache Cat*

      I was pretty surprised by the reader response to that letter! I didn’t exactly agree with Prudence’s advice here, but I did read a fairly typical employee in a more hard-charging workplace.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Hmm, the first two aren’t that problematic to me. There’s nothing wrong with taking your breaks and lunch on time and taking all of it, unless you blow off emergencies to do it. If they’re mandated, she has to take them. And it may be that she was told not to incur any overtime.

      The sick day thing could be, however, especially if it is recurrent. Nobody wants to put someone in a position of responsibility if they think the person will bail the minute things get hot.

        1. Honeybee*

          Me too. At best, drinking on vacation one-on-one with the woman you claim to be trying to set your friend up with is shady.

    8. BRR*

      I’m curious if because the friend is in a union, is that playing a part in this? It sounds like part is attitude but I know that union rules can dictate this as well.

    9. Girasol*

      That caught my attention too. I still wonder (after too many years) how to navigate the rules where a company says “you are expected to arrive at 8:00, lunch hour at noon, leave at 5:00, and we offer X days vacation, Y days sick leave” and yet there are unwritten rules that are completely different. Team players come at 7:30, leave at 6:00, skip lunch, and pile up vacation/sick days while bragging (to be sure that gets noticed) about how much unused vacation time one has. Then it gets competitive: earlier starts, more overtime, conspicuously worked weekends. Are you a slacker if you don’t or a pawn if you do? What should good reasonable people do?

    10. Not So NewReader*

      While OP’s friend maybe technically correct in her choices, she is not connecting with her peers and tone deaf to the needs of her employer. These disconnects will cost her in the long run.

      I guess I would advise the OP just to tell her friend to say, “It’s important to do as others around you are doing. Find someone who does their job well and copy what they are doing.”

      As a friend, it can be very painful to watch this stuff.

    11. Honeybee*

      I was pleasantly surprised by Mallory’s response but I just felt kind of neutral about it. It kind of depends on what LW’s job is, whether she’s hourly or not, and whether the nature of her work requires some flexibility on her end. It also depends on how truly rigid she is about it. Will she refuse to take on a task that is her job if it will delay her lunch start by 10 minutes, or is she simply refusing to take on giant projects at 4:30 pm? Does she refuse to do anything that isn’t directly outlined in her job duties even if she would benefit professionally, or is she refusing to be assigned tasks she shouldn’t be doing either professionally or ethically (like a woman refusing to take the notes at a meeting every meeting, or a lawyer who won’t waste billable hours doing filing)? Is she using those sick days because she’s truly sick or is she using them to get away from the busy times at work?

      The unfortunate truth, though, might be that if the LW is unwilling to change then she may simply not ever be considered for a promotion at her current company no matter how right or justified she is in her decisions, and she might have to go elsewhere to move up.

  47. Gwen*

    I’m going to be talking to manager today about potentially taking on a huge new responsibility. I’m excited but also slightly terrified. Any advice on how to work through a big transition? I know I’m going to need to discuss getting rid of some of my current duties in order to do the new thing, but it’s hard to figure out what I can let go of that will free up enough time for me to do this properly.

    1. ASJ*

      I think you should sit down and figure out what takes up the most time – i.e., filing takes up 20% of your time, data entry takes up 50%, etc…. Then figure out what you have to keep (what duties are something only you can handle?) and ideally, what you’d like to keep. Then hopefully you’ll have some items that you can take to your boss and say “I’m happy to take on [huge new responsibility’, but I would need to let go of doing X, Y and Z.” If the math isn’t working out, I still think that will leave you in a better position to negotiate.

  48. Leatherwings*

    I’ve been asked for references by a few employers recently, and I have a question: When I’m filling out a reference form in the box labeled “Organization and title” do I put the organization/title they currently hold, or the org/title they held while they managed me?

    All of my supervisors were laid off with me but have found new jobs since, so it’s weird to put their new job, right?

    1. Scorpio*

      Is there a space to put your relationship with the person? If so, I think it makes sense to put their current position and title in the area you described and to put their previous info in that area.

    2. LawCat*

      I always put their current job or retired from [last job]. It didn’t occur to me to put something else though.

    3. Pwyll*

      I usually put down their job at the time I knew them, with “former” if they’ve since left.

      John Doe
      Former COO, OldCompany, Inc.
      Phone: (current phone number)

  49. Mononymous*

    Question about negotiating raises during a promotion:

    We’re approaching annual review time, and I’ve been working toward milestones set with my boss during last year’s review to move up to the next level of my title (so, same basic job with a higher number at the end of the title and higher level work/responsibility to go with it). I’ve never negotiated my pay before, including when I accepted this job, so I’m trying to figure out how that would go if I do get the promotion.

    Pay ranges for each job title are standardized in my company and are known to all employees. A 10% raise would get me to a bit less than the middle of the range for the next title level, but ideally I’d like to aim higher because promotions appear to be the only way to get a good pay bump here short of leaving and coming back as an external applicant, which I don’t want to do… My merit raises for the past four years have averaged 0.75% (yes, that’s three-quarters of one percent).

    But is that a good enough reason to ask for a higher raise with a promotion? Should I even mention the small merit raises as a reason for wanting a bigger promotion raise, or just stick with market rate comparisons and my achievements alone? I’d be happy with the 10% bump for now, but assuming I’ll have another 3-5 years plus of pathetically tiny merit raises (which I don’t see changing) before I’m ready for another promotion, I’d be much better off long-term if I could get to 12%+ now instead.

    Thoughts?

    1. Mononymous*

      Oh, and to clarify one thing: my boss knows how small our raises are, and actually apologized and seemed pretty uncomfortable with it last year, but his hands are tied because of the tiny bucket the company gave him from which to hand out raises. He does go to bat for us, but can only do so much because Bureaucracy.

    2. ASJ*

      Based on what you’ve said, don’t mention the merit raises and stick solely to your achievements. They must like your work if you’re being promoted, and you say your boss is typically willing to go to bat for you (plus your boss knows exactly how bad those raises are already). Those are both good things! Focusing on your achievements is, I think, the best way to get what you want here.

  50. JustaTech*

    OK, this might be a super weird interview-fashion question: if you’re interviewing in the health/science/public health sphere, are fingernail stickers like these a no-go?
    “https://www.espionagecosmetics.com/collections/nerd-manicures/products/fibonacci
    Or these: “https://www.espionagecosmetics.com/collections/nerd-manicures/products/gradients?variant=17489917190”
    I wear them 1) because they’re cool and 2) they protect my fingernails from wearing gloves all day. They come off with minimal damage, so if I have a day or two notice for an interview I can take them off and look normal, but if it’s a last-minute thing, are they a no-go?

    1. LA Gaucho*

      I’m in public health…for an interview I’d say no. As usual, it depends on the culture of the company so if you were interviewing for Oscar Health (I see them on IG all the time – fun/playful ads), I’d say keep the nails. If you were interviewing for my government agency it would come off a little immature, but after you got hired rock that ish everyday. So cute!

    2. Murphy*

      I probably wouldn’t for an interview (much as I love them) unless you knew that kind of thing was OK.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I agree with them — those are awesome, but I wouldn’t wear them for an interview. At the same time, don’t freak out if you realize you have them on at an interview! The last time I really panicked about nail color, assuming I was interviewing at a very conservative place, my interviewer had black nails.

        I wish the nail stickers worked better for me. I really want those!

        1. JustaTech*

          They’re really fantastic. No glue, no heat, no remover to get them off. When you put them on they smell faintly of beach balls (vinyl) and they stay on pretty well. When you’re done they peel right off with minimal damage (less than gels).
          And they’re easy to put on because you get a few tries to get the position right.

  51. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Inspired by a comment a while ago about an organization that gave big raises to employees when they had children (which got me thinking about the values that underlie how we choose to compensate people): in your perfect world, how would compensation be determined?

    1. Goji*

      Some formula of past experience + work ethic. How you’d quantify either/both I have no real insight into. I would bet in my current role I’d be paid more if I were a man and/or had children….

      1. LA Gaucho*

        I agree, past experience (40%) + work ethic (60%). This simplifies it, but in my previous role I couldn’t stand that “Mary” and I were paid the same even though I had 5 more years of experience and produced 10X the work.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I’d probably go more 30/70 than 40/60, but, yes. I hate seeing slacker veteran employees getting paid a ton just because they’ve been there forever. Yes, experience matters, but productivity matters a whole lot more… or it should.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Are you all using “work ethic” to mean “performance?” Because it strikes me that they could be different? I could have great work ethic but actually suck at the content of my work, right?

            1. Anonymous Educator*

              Good point. Performance is actually more important, but I do think work ethic matters, too. It sucks to work with someone who “performs” well but has a crappy attitude.

            2. Lily Rowan*

              Before I read the other replies, I was thinking about effort, not even performance. But that’s probably because I work in a field where the results are only somewhat to do with each person’s performance. You can do great work and still not get anywhere because so much depends on other people.

    2. matcha123*

      In my perfect world? A company would take my financial situation into the equation and give me a fat paycheck because I’ve probably worked harder and longer than other employees with fewer benefits; I’ve done consistently good work; I continue to study to improve and finally because I’m an all around nice person and don’t bring drama into the workplace.
      I really wish there was a way for companies to factor the difficulty level of life into your pay. I feel that it’s unfair that I’m expected to perform at the same level as someone who’s had a life free of financial stress. I could do much better work if I wasn’t always worried about money.

      1. chickabiddy*

        I understand the appeal of this ideology, but I do not agree with it. I obviously did not get a huge raise and improved benefit package when I got a divorce. My ex-husband made considerably more than I did and his job offered good benefits. I no longer have access to those (and he isn’t paying the child support that he’s supposed to, but that’s not a work thread topic). My financial situation changed significantly and my employers did not step up to fill the gap, nor should they have. It certainly would not have been fair for me to suddenly be making more than my peers just because some parts of my life are challenging.

        1. matcha123*

          I wouldn’t really count divorce, marriage or childbirth because if you are living in the US, they are things you have some control over and can plan for. But you can’t control whether you grow up in poverty, with a disability or in an abusive home…all things I think make achieving higher education an even more difficult task.

          1. chickabiddy*

            I am not interested in participating in the Suffering Olympics. I know this is not the thread for politics, but I will say that while I am definitely in favor of a strong safety net, I think that is a totally different topic than discussing how employees’ contributions should be compensated. Paychecks should be based on some equation of skills (whether acquired through education or experience), work output, and soft skills. If a person is truly disadvantaged, by whatever definition we agree on as a society, that person should have access to assistance. That doesn’t mean a “fat paycheck” from an employer, especially if that paycheck would be fatter than those of her peers who are performing at the same level.

      2. Chaordic One*

        I’ve been in situations where one worker might cherry pick working with accounts whose customers are easier to work with and very profitable, while another one might end up with a bunch of demanding customers that are not particularly profitable. In a perfect world, my supervisors would recognize the hard work of having to deal with demanding yet unprofitable customers. But in reality they don’t. In fact they act like the worker with the demanding customers is a goof-off.

        1. matcha123*

          This is very true. The amount of effort put into something shouldn’t always be the determining factor, but in situations like the one you described, the results have nothing to do with the employees ability. Why should they be docked for taking on more difficult tasks?

    3. Office Plant*

      Local market rate for the job duties and any qualifications that tend to affect that rate (ie, field specific degree). Then give people raises and promotions based on their performance.

      I think that’s the most fair way to do it. Use that as a starting point and then work to address workplace inequalities.

      Giving people raises for having children is outrageous. What does that have to do with work? What about people who can’t have children?

  52. TotesMaGoats*

    So, no actual movement on my job search which is super frustrating because every single day is IDGAF and get me out of here. But I’ve tried to be more proactive.

    1. Emailed the dept chair where I adjunct asking about what I’d need (beyond my PhD) to be a serious candidate for FT faculty options. And reminding him that I’m interested in getting my feet wet teaching online. And point blank saying that should JOB X ever come open again, I’d jump on it in a heartbeat. It’s a combo of teaching, relationship management for our internship program. I already send the person in charge of it tons of referrals and have found fantastic places for our interns. Who knows.

    2. PM’d the person who recommended that I apply for both JOB A and JOB B at her institution. I hadn’t hear a thing and it’s been more than a few weeks. HR hadn’t responded to my email asking about a status update even though I dropped her name in the email. I kept my message very low key. “I understand if you can’t tell me…I don’t want to take advantage…I understand hiring moves slow…I might not be the right fit.” Blah blah. No response but I know she’s seen it. If she doesn’t respond or does, I’ll drop it either way.

    3. DH has a family day event tomorrow. Lead recruiter at his company knows I’m open to anything and I used to do a big amount of work in that industry from the higher ed side of things. I know I could elevate their community engagement with chambers of commerce and such. I can sort of speak the cyber/DOD language and I’ve got the people skills that I know they need to make those connections. So, I’m honing my elevator speech for them to make a position for me and bought a super cute new outfit. So, we’ll see. For the record DH and I would never work together as his job is entirely inside a box where he can’t talk to the outside world and I don’t have a clearance.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        DH-dear husband, sorry it’s a standard short cut on mom/parenting blogs
        PM-private messaged on facebook

    1. SeekingBetter*

      2. I really hate it when the company doesn’t respond to emails at all about status updates or follow-ups. I’ve just had this happen to me recently after the person wanted to schedule a phone interview, but never did. At least you know you may or may not get a response, but I’m sure it doesn’t make waiting for a response fun.

  53. Eddie Turr*

    Is there a good way to express the sentiment “I don’t like this task, but I’ll do it” to your boss? I’ve been recruited to help with an internal newsletter, something I’ve done at past jobs and really didn’t like. I have a journalism degree but specifically avoided a reporting career because I don’t like approaching people and I’m not great at finding stories (obviously, there’s no crime beat in an office newsletter).

    It doesn’t seem worth truly pushing back on, but I’m worried that my boss will think this is the kind of work I like doing and direct me toward more projects like that. I’ve already been recruited for the United Way committee, another thing I have experience doing and also really don’t enjoy. Is there a good way to indicate preference without refusing to do what’s asked of me?

    1. ASJ*

      Maybe you could tell your boss where your preferences do lie? Like, “While I’m happy/don’t mind/am willing to work on A, B and C, I really enjoy working on X, Y and Z and am wondering how I can be involved with more projects along those lines” or something like that…?

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think it’s that awful to do that. Are you super cheerful to do the actual parts of your job that aren’t the internal newsletter? If I was your boss, I’d take it seriously if you were otherwise eager and helpful and enthusiastic in every other regard.

    3. Temperance*

      Are you a man or a woman? Just asking because things like newsletters and the United Way (shudder) are often dumped on women. I was stuck chairing our firm’s campaign for the UW for the past few years, and there are few things I hate more than dealing with the UW. (They don’t seem to understand that we have jobs, and those jobs aren’t working for the UW.)

    4. Pwyll*

      I’ve used “I’m happy to help where I can, but I’ve found in the past that newsletters like this really aren’t my strong suit.”

      But only where I’m performing very well on my actual job responsibilities.

    5. Rocky*

      Yeah, I’ve been voluntold for certain things because of my background and some of the customer-facing aspects of my department. These are often projects that are perceived as fun or cool unless you actually have experience doing them. I’ve had good results saying, “It’s very nice to be asked to take on Fancy-Sounding Project from Hell, but my strengths are actually xyz, and this project would take a lot of time away from my work in those areas.” As others have said, this will work better if you’re already a high performer and enthusiastically take on other tasks.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      “I am happy to take my turn at it and I will do that. However, I feel I lack A, B and C and you may find that other people are a better fit.”

      The only time I have seen this work for me is if I do not ever say this. So it works once. I make sure it’s worth it to me to die on this hill. I could end up doing something I like even less and that would be a bad deal for me.

      It could be that your boss comes up with a creative response of giving you sections to do that do not require so much A, B and C. I have done that with people. I tweaked what they were assigned so that they were using their strengths. There were times, though, I had no way to do that given the constraints of the task.

  54. Goji*

    I’m a people manager and I hate it – there are no words to describe how much! I don’t know if I’m especially bad at it, have been unlucky with teams…or both. Any creative career ideas to move away from managing people? Disappointingly in my industry (non profit) that’s where the money is….

    1. N.J.*

      Well, project management can pay well, if you have the domain expertise and get enough experience or the PMP certification. You would still “manage” per see but would be more responsible for setting the deadlines, finances and deliverables for a project. I would caution, though, that even though PM is a reprieve from the direct people management aspects performance reviews, disciplinary duties, coaching and the like, you are held responsible for the outcomes of people’s work as it relates to your project and it can be a special type of disheartening to be “in-charge” of a portion of someone’s work without having the leverage that a manager does (authority over that person’s work) if a project member is not up to snuff. It can be an interesting career focus though.

  55. Lumos*

    My coworker died earlier this week under some really suspicious circumstances. Like, this entire series of events could be happening on a CSI episode. Her only living family member is arranging the funeral, and most of us do not wish to go, as we’re all very certain (and I do mean certain.) he’s at least indirectly responsible for her death. I think it would be nice to have a party for her, she adored food, but I’m not sure how to go about this tactfully. Any suggestions?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      That is bizarre and sad to hear, but I watch too much Dateline so I’m not at all surprised.

      Could you make it a fundraiser and a celebration of her life? Maybe something like having a potluck dinner after work or during lunch, and everyone also brings an item to donate to a women’s shelter for domestic violence victims or something. You could make the donation in her name.

      1. Lumos*

        I work for a non-profit local government agency, so I’m not sure we would be allowed to do a fundraiser. We have a lot of red tape for everything we do. I’ll propose the idea of a pot luck though. :)

    2. LA Gaucho*

      Oh my word! That is so sad.

      What came to mind after reading this was that you could have a “celebration of life” party/potluck. The title is a little cheesy, but I think it could be a nice way to remember/honor your coworker and if anyone knew her favorite food they could bring that.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        Wonderful idea. It would be a great time for everyone to remember the coworker fondly and have some closure.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        This was what we did when my partner’s mother passed away. She was adamant that she wanted people to celebrate her life, not mourn her passing. Most people brought food, and then everyone told all of the funny/memorable/endearing stories they had about her.

        It ended up being a really lovely event and I think it helped give everyone some closure.

    3. Xarcady*

      Having hugged the husband of a co-worker at her funeral, only to read in the newspaper two weeks later that he was arrested under suspicion of killing her, I can only offer my condolences.

      You could still go to the funeral, to celebrate her memory, and just avoid the family member as much as possible. And then later have a small potluck/memorial at work.

      I’m sorry you are having to deal with this.

      1. Lumos*

        I don’t know if I’d even be able to look at him. This has been months of strange situations culminating in this and even if, by some magic, he wasn’t responsible, he’s done enough to convince me he’s the most evil person.

  56. Addison*

    (what’s up, it’s the OP from the clerk who calls me names and says my tone is the problem posts…)

    So we have our employee reviews coming up. My boss has given overtures of leaving within the next year or two, so I set my mind on working hard to get promoted to her job. Not a wild or unreasonable idea, I thought- I meet all the minimum requirements and do a lot of the things she does already anyway (or know a lot about it because we work in very close proximity all the time). On our review form, there’s a section where you can enter any desired career paths you have in mind. Next to the job title you select, there’s a box for writing comments. Since I had never put anything in that box before, I saved my review as a draft and went to go ask my boss what I should write (“I’m putting a couple different job titles down and I’m not sure what to put in the comments – is it why I want the job, what I can bring…?”). To my horror she went into the review database, opened my saved draft (only her, the director, and I can see it, but she can’t make any edits to anything until I submit it- basically I review myself and then she reviews me next to what I’ve written) and looked at what I had selected. I had at that point only selected her job title and nothing else yet.

    She snorted in kind of a laugh-y way. And then told me the box was for “and why”.

    I mean, she was going to see I wanted her job anyway, and I haven’t really been secretive about it so much as I just haven’t brought it up. I just didn’t really want her to look until I had filled it out completely so she could see my reasoning all at once. But after that derisive snort I kinda lost heart. I filled it out, but I’m feeling pretty crappy. Sooo… I’m enrolling in school to get my B.S. in Business Management starting pretty dang soon. It’s all online, so it’s not like I’m quitting, but I’m sure I’ll be taking my booklearned self elsewhere once I’m done (or maybe before- even just being in classes with a projected graduation date looks good or so I’ve learned here!). I was hesitant to go back to school because I thought I could just work my way up the ladder without it, but now… I dunno, I’d rather work my way out into the world than up the tiers in a place where your boss snorts at your desire for upward movement.

    Rude Clerk was shockingly supportive when I told him. He even helped me with my FAFSA. Probably can’t wait for me to go. Me either, Clerk! Me either.

    1. ASJ*

      Yeah, at this point I think you’re better off getting as far away from that place as possible, OP. Your boss doesn’t sound very professional or like they’re a great boss.

    2. justsomeone*

      Your boss is a jerk! Good luck with your going back to school! I’m jumping down that path right now too, but in a different field.

    3. Mustache Cat*

      Wow, what a workplace of ups and downs. You are perfectly right to want to get out of there, good luck with your degree!

    4. Junipergreen*

      Can you go back to your boss and say something along the lines of… “When we talked about my review and aspirations for my career path, you laughed a bit when your own title came up. Can we talk a bit more about what you think I should focus on to advance my path forward if I’ve got this type of role in mind?” If she doesn’t have specifics, ask broadly for advice about what someone in her role needs to succeed.

      I’m also wondering if her reaction might not have been derisive toward you but rather a little self-deprecating or jaded… in the vein of, “Really, THIS job? Even I don’t want it!” Either way, not very helpful. But I think there’s a chance for you to get some info from her here.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      YES LEAVE THIS CRAPHOLE
      I hope you find a really cool job in the meantime, which will totally support you in getting your degree, and that Rude Clerk falls down a manhole into the Upside-Down.

    6. Honeybee*

      So I think you should leave your workplace because of Rude Clerk.

      However, in the matter of your boss, it’s sort of difficult to tell from this whether she snorted because she was being derisive towards you or for some other reason – “heh, I told them that review form was difficult to understand!”, “Heh, they’re already circling for my job and I haven’t left yet, lol!”, “heh, what she doesn’t know is this job sucks,” etc.

      Also, in my experience it’s pretty common for bosses to look at the draft in the review tool. If you don’t have a draft that you’re ready for your manager to see, you may want to try drafting it up in a note-taking or word processing tool first and then pasting it into the tool later. That’s what I do until I have a draft I’m ready for my lead to review.

  57. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    I need a pick me up this week–those of you that love your jobs, what is the #1 reason you stay?

    You only get one! :)

    1. Lillian Styx*

      The mission (nonprofit, obvi)! Even though I’m not in direct services anymore I still love hearing the stories, cheering on my coworkers, seeing actual change happen… you know, all that warm fuzzy junk.

    2. ZVA*

      The opportunity for personal growth! I have a job that forces me out of my comfort zone pretty much every day, and I’m loving the chance to challenge myself on a regular basis. I see the benefits in other aspects of my life as well. I love discovering skills I didn’t know I had and succeeding in something I’d never have thought I’d be able to do.

    3. Pwyll*

      At my last long-term job: the people. I worked with such cool people (professionally and personally) at that job.

    4. Anonon*

      That I have work/life balance. Short commute, reasonable hours, a family-friendly boss, ability to flex hours when needed (not regularly, but it’s not an issue if my kid is sick).

    5. Lemon Zinger*

      I help students from low-income backgrounds see that college IS possible for them. It’s incredibly rewarding and totally worth the long hours.

    6. Sparkly Librarian*

      Well, if the #1 thing is what would keep me here when offered a different job with similar circumstances, I’d say it’s the location. I’m close enough to my house to walk to and from work (if I got up on time; I normally take a bus in the mornings). I’ve turned down a couple of opportunities that were the same job or a preferred transfer because the worksites were out of the way.

    7. ANewbie*

      I get to work on really cool projects! It’s the sort of thing you just don’t get to do anywhere else. On days where the government bureaucracy and hypocrisy gets me really frustrated, that’s why I stick around.

    8. Relly*

      My job is immensely, hugely satisfying. I get to help people and convince them to believe in themselves.

    9. TheLazyB*

      Because I contribute, in some small way, to the health and wellbeing of the UK population, and I do so by playing in excel. It rocks.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      Money.
      I only work because I need to eat. This ain’t the kind of work I want to be doing. And now it’s getting busier to the point where I’m tired at night, too tired to write. :( I’m going to have to change something in my schedule to compensate.

    11. Felicia*

      I really enjoy writing and like that I get paid to do it. I also work with great people and make more money than I would elsewhere doing the same thing.

    12. DodoBird*

      Children’s librarian here, and honestly, I really like my job when I can do something creative (creating flyers, digital displays, etc. I recently completed a large wall display with like 14 Pokemon characters lovingly created with construction paper; I also make felt boards for my weekly storytime).

      I kinda love doing a weekly storytime: man, it gets your blood pumping when you have a whole audience of toddlers transfixed by a book you’re reading or a scarf activity. But to balance it out, storytime can chaotic and awful (crying babies and disinterested kids).

      Perhaps my favorite part of my job is when I help a child who is clearly a voracious reader find a new/interesting book. I love that.

      1. Honeybee*

        As a childhood voracious reader who spent a lot of time in the children’s library being helped by the children’s librarian, I salute you! Finding a new and interesting book was like finding a diamond for me. I love good children’s librarians.

    13. Red Reader*

      I only get one? My boss and grand-boss are amazingly supportive of my long-term goals to be their boss someday and are stuffing me headlong into every education, training and advancement opportunity they can find to give me the most opportunities possible when I finish grad school and am ready to continue moving up the ladder. (I don’t want to leave my current position while still in school because of the fantastic level of schedule flexibility I currently have.)

    14. Fortitude Jones*

      I kick ass at it. There’s no greater high for me than doing something well (and being endlessly praised for it).

    15. Not So NewReader*

      My boss uses her position to give people meaningful help where she can. Sometimes people choke up in gratitude. I get to help her do more of that.

    16. Mon Mon*

      Freedom! I moved from financial services to retail (super interesting) and my new boss is a higher up and basically leaves me alone. I spend my days working on ideas I want to pursue and things I think need improvement/tweaking/etc. And no one questions it!

    17. Brent*

      It can be very exciting. My job depends on a lot of things getting done by specific times, and if I can make that happen despite other issues and delays it is SO satisfying.

    18. Honeybee*

      I love the work that I do! I get to use my background and specialized skillset to make immediate impact in an area that’s fun and important to me.

    19. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      You guys rock. This is great stuff. Thanks! It’s been an interesting week, and it’s nice to remember there are reasons to work (besides the fact I like living indoors and playing on the internet).

  58. LA Gaucho*

    I wrote this whole paragraph and just deleted it. Basically, I looked into a great grad school program to further my career and it’s 65K for the 4 term program. *CRY* I already have a masters in something else that helped get me where I am today and I have no debt, no student loans…I should just keep it that way.

    If accepted, I’d be one of the few students to go not from Google, Amazon, FB, LinkedIn, etc. Sometimes I wish I worked at a place that would help pay for tuition.

    1. Charlotte, not NC*

      Some schools offer significant discounts to employees. You might be eligible even doing something small and part-time, like being a weekend janitor. If you could swing that and still work your regular job, it might be worth looking into.

      1. LA Gaucho*

        Excellent suggestion, but I already work for a sister school (imagine the program is at UCLA and I work at UC Santa Cruz) and the tuition reduction I’d get doesn’t apply because it’s online. Insert hysterical laugher: here.

        Although, maybe I can find a similar program at my closest campus (I work remote) that is in person instead! Duh. Thanks for helping me realize this Charlotte :)

    2. H.C.*

      Any possibility you can stretch out the program so you don’t have to pay $65K over four terms? When I was in grad school, I had a classmate who stretched out a typically two year program into five years because her work only pays enough to cover 1-2 classes per semester.

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      Might there be scholarships available? The tuition for my masters program was pretty pricey, but the school gave out a decent number of merit scholarships as a recruiting tool. I would guess that only about half of the students in the program were paying full freight (possibly even fewer). Since your company might not pay for it, you may have a better shot at any scholarship funds that are available.

      (I also have to ask: are you by chance a UCSB grad? I don’t see many fellow Gauchos where I live now, so your username piqued my interest!)

  59. QuickVent*

    I applied for an engineering position with my federal government earlier this week and it’s the most frustrating experience I’ve ever had. You copy and paste your resume into a box – which means no formatting, and it’s then harder to pick out individual sections – and don’t submit a cover letter. Normally I don’t mind that, it saves me the trouble, but the reason there’s no cover letter required is because you have to answer approximately forty to fifty questions yes-or-no questions, and for each yes you then have to provide examples. That’s not bad in theory, but it seems silly to ask if I have experience in applying engineering principles and theories – I have a degree and I’ve held several positions, I feel like it goes without saying that I have experience in applying engineering principles.

    (Some made sense – like asking if you’ve, for example, got experience in maintaining electrical systems or mechanical systems – that’s fine! But the sheer number was awful.)

    1. nonymous*

      The purpose of the questions is to score applicants appropriately. The is a point value (or filtering) associated with each question, and these points are used to identify who will be called for an interview. My experience is that if HR has to do the scoring manually from reading your CV, it doesn’t turn out well because they simply are not familiar with the duties of that job. For example, they may not recognize that sewing experience is more relevant than teapot lid manufacturing experience for the teapot cozy division.

      From a practical perspective, who says “no”? Whomever wrote the questions or selected them from the library is not being savvy, because there are multiple choice options that are a better screen which the hiring manager could have chosen.

  60. Fabulous*

    I recently switched from just a “log your hours” hourly position to now “clock in and out” hourly position. It’s incredibly frustrating when I clock in or out a few minutes early and/or take a short lunch – they system dings me every time! Even if I’m already over 8 hours by the end of the day, I get a ding by clocking out even 1 minute early. I don’t want to sit and twiddle my fingers for 4 minutes when my work is done, I’m already over 8 hours, and my presence in the office has no affect on its operation. Talking with my manager about this later this afternoon… wish me luck!

    1. ASJ*

      I wish you luck, but I’m not sure how much your manager will be able to help. If it’s automated system – and it sounds like it might be – it’s probably not something that can be changed.

      1. Fabulous*

        I’m mainly hoping that the dings won’t mean anything in the long run. Some of the more ‘rigid’ positions get written up every 3 points or something like that. 1 point for clocking in/out 6+ minutes early, etc. Since my position has nothing remotely client facing, I’m hoping I can just ignore the red marks on my time card or that feature can be turned off. If it didn’t matter before, why should it matter now?

    2. BRR*

      I hate these systems. I never had to use one but I saw others who did and they arrived at work early so they wouldn’t clock in late but couldn’t clock in early. Etc.

    3. Brent*

      My workplace uses a similar system but it has some leeway built in – you can punch in or out early (up to 14 minutes punching in and 4 minutes punching out) without it flagging you. One minute does seem extreme.

      It might be worth finding out whether your boss has a problem with you being over on hours (since with zero wiggle room you will probably be over or under). Depending on where you are the length of your lunch might be a legal issue, so it might not be okay for employees to take shorter lunches. That’s how it is at my workplace, and at least half the full-time employees get paid some overtime every week even under normal circumstances, which is just how it works out if people clock in on time and don’t take long lunches.

      If your workplace is anything like mine, your manager is equally annoyed by the system and will be happy to share with you the best ways to get the most out of it – whether that means how to work more and get paid more, or work less and get paid less. Since you already work long hours I expect your manager will be concerned with giving you incentives to keep you there, assuming the long hours are useful…if they aren’t, look for instruction on where to cut back.

    4. Fabulous*

      Thankfully my manager says that all the she can actually remove all the “dings” on my timecard. One of the good things of working longer hours last week is, the week before I had to leave a couple hours early for an appointment and the extra time I put in this week actually covered that absence so I didn’t have to us PTO. I was still slightly over 80 hours on Friday AND got to leave about 20 minutes early.

  61. SittingDuck*

    Is it ever okay to mention work/life balance in a cover letter.I’m applying for a job that I’m really excited about. Its working in my industry, with organizations I deeply admire.

    The position is a contract position, and only 15 hours a week – right now I work 9-5 M-F for a 40 hour work week.

    I’m wondering if it might be beneficial to mention that this job appeals to me because of the work/life balance it will allow me to have – working way less hours per week will allow me more family/down time.

    Is this something you would mention in your cover letter, or better to just leave it out?

    1. Murphy*

      I think so, as long as you don’t go into a ton of detail about it. They’d be likely to ask you why you wanted a switch from full time to part time.

    2. Temperance*

      I would strongly advise against it. What I would think if I saw a CL with “work/life balance” on it was that the person didn’t really want to work, and was just phoning it in for a paycheck. That’s my opinion, though.

    3. LawCat*

      I wouldn’t mention it in a cover letter. I’d stick with why your excited about the position and why it’s a good fit. Regarding the reduced work hours for you, I’d just add something like, “Additionally, I am looking from shifting from working full-time to part-time and understand that this position is 15 hours per week.”

      Save any further explanation, if they even care to ask, for an interview. I still wouldn’t use “work/life” balance then as it is such an abstract concept and different for every person. “I am looking to spend more time [doing whatever].”

    4. Pwyll*

      Actually, for such a hyper-part time position I think this works. If I were hiring someone for only 15 hours per week, I’d want some kind of acknowledgement from the applicant of why this will work for them. Especially if it won’t lead to a more permanent, full time job in the near future.

    5. SittingDuck*

      Thanks everyone, some good things to consider here.

      I guess its also not immediately obvious from my resume that my current job is full time – as I don’t list the hours I work (as I don’t think anyone does) – so they could even assume my current position is part time and i’m looking to supplement, or looking for a different part time gig.

  62. Master Bean Counter*

    Opinions wanted:
    There will be a weight loss challenge at my work. My team invited me into it at the very moment I was stuffing a left over brownie into my mouth. I took that as I sign i should join in. This is completely voluntary and possibly my fault. I brought in healthy snacks last week to change the sugary snacking situation around here. They have decided that they all want to work towards being more healthy. All good.
    My quandary is that this competition involves money. I don’t feel right at the possibility of taking money from the people I manage. I have no issue giving up my money if one of them wins. So should I fudge my numbers if it looks like I’m going to win? Should I play fair and just refuse the prize, if I’m that lucky? Should I take the prize money and turn it into more healthy snacks? Or is there another option that I’m not seeing? thoughts?

    1. Scorpio*

      I think it’s great you want to join! You shouldn’t fudge your number, that just seems silly. I think if you refused the money, it would be weird. Would they have to distribute it back to everyone? Then it would be like there was no point in joining the initiative.

      I think if you did win, you could insist that it goes to the 2nd place winner. We recently had a raffle and by chance one of the HR ladies who planned it was chosen. She refused it gracefully and they went with the second name drawn. She looked gracious and the other person was happy to win.

    2. LA Gaucho*

      If I won I’d take the team out to a healthy lunch so that we’d all get to celebrate. This is assuming the prize money covers lunch for the amount of people on your team.

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      This is what I would do: back out from “official” participation with money, but participate on the side with keeping track of numbers, check ins, and everything.

      I think you’re right that you should not be involved in a money situation with underlings, but you can still be supportive and part of the social aspect.

      1. justsomeone*

        Yeah, MBC could be the “administrator” of the challenge. Be involved, but outside of the eligible winners pool.

    4. Emilia Bedelia*

      I agree with your qualms at taking money from people you manage. I like the idea of taking the prize money and using it for healthy snacks or some other office perk that everyone can share (celery party for everyone who participated!) Maybe even suggest that instead of giving the prize money to one person, have a group celebration/prize at the end for everyone. You could also decline to participate monetarily, but join in on the challenge. I would love to see my boss participate in a contest like that, even if they weren’t part of the competition.

    5. pussycats and toast*

      Uhhhhhh maybe don’t do a weight-loss challenge at work? Weight loss /= improving health 100% of the time. Not everyone can lose weight safely at the same rate, so it’s not a fair contest, and it’s also kind of an uncool thing to incentivize when lots of folks feel this pressure on a regular basis. Even if it’s voluntary, I don’t think this will do a lot of net good for your company culture or health. Involving money makes it especially sticky.

      Stick with the healthy snacks and consider forming something like a walking/jogging group or an after-work sports team — still voluntary, without the monetary complication.

      1. Leatherwings*

        +1. If you’re managing people and in a position to make this thing disappear, please take it.

        I’ve been struggling to stop weight gain for a year now, and this kind of challenge would make it extra hard (mentally, I’ve already put a lot of pressure on myself). My SO on the other hand desperately needs to GAIN weight and obviously wouldn’t be able to participate.

        My point is there’s all sorts of people for whom this challenge might create a really uncomfortable environment, and having a manger in on it makes it even more uncomfortable.

      2. Master Bean Counter*

        But this is their idea not mine. I’d hate to be the one to squash what they want to do.

        1. pussycats and toast*

          I mean, you know your own team better than I do. If every single member is passionately committed to having a weight loss challenge, sure — go right ahead. As kind of a blanket rule though, weight-loss challenges in the workplace can be super alienating and depressing for people who already struggle with their weight, have been the targets of abuse because of their weight, or have experienced (/are experiencing) an eating disorder — and it’s a tough topic to discuss in the workplace, so you might not even know if that’s the case for someone.

          If there’s room for suggestions, what about a walking challenge? Everyone records their steps and whoever takes the most steps all month/week/whatever wins?

          Again, you know your team best, but if you’re in the management position, you should think about the potential negative impacts of any “team-bonding” activity. Especially if it’s incentivized by a cash prize.

          1. Morning Glory*

            +1 to the walking challenge idea.

            My office has a challenge for everyone to get 10,000 steps per day every day for a month, with prizes for people with the highest averages and people who meet their goal. It’s voluntary, and not everyone does it, but it’s not potentially harmful to the people who do opt in.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But there may be be other people in your group who aren’t speaking up about their discomfort, and they matter too! This is obviously an extreme example, but if your staff was excited about the idea of holding a team event at a Hooters, you’d presumably steer them away from it — sometimes it’s reasonable to squash things.

          1. pussycats and toast*

            AAM, literally I was just reading the comment thread on your post about hosting a work party at Hooters and thinking about the parallels. Get out of my brain!

          2. Master Bean Counter*

            Good points. I’ll shift the focus to something more activity based. While I’m fairly certain they’d come to me if they were feeling uncomfortable, the focus should be shifted.
            Personally I’m just happy this will stop the breakfast burritos from appearing once or twice a week.

            1. pussycats and toast*

              Cool, thanks for listening! TBH I would be one of those people who would struggle to say something but secretly hate and feel depressed by a weight-loss challenge, and would feel relieved if my manager went to bat to change it. So thumbs up to you.

      3. Emilia Bedelia*

        Agreed on the point that people can’t lose weight at the same rate- someone who weighs 400 lbs. could safely lose 50; someone who weighs 150 lb. probably could not.

        Maybe set healthy activities as the goals instead of weight loss- everyone commits to not drinking soda, not eating potato chips, walking or exercising every day, etc. People could then pick which goals they want to stick with (or even choose their own goals), and if someone does want to lose weight, that’s on them.

        1. Master Bean Counter*

          I’m going to get it changed to activity minutes or something like that. One person is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to weight to lose.