open thread – October 7-8, 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 :)

{ 1,449 comments… read them below }

  1. YYR*

    A few weeks ago, there was a question about whether it would look bad on a resume if you stayed too long with a retail job after graduation (specifically in the medical field if I recall correctly). Tweaking that slightly, would it look bad to be at a job for a significant period of time with no raise, promotion, or even title change?

    I work in a government office for going on two years now. I recently asked my boss about what the future might hold for me here and she told me that the only way to get a raise and promotion and all that is the apply and transfer to a next level job in another department (I told this to family who works in government jobs and they had mixed feelings on the truth of that statement).

    Either way, I have no interest in staying within government work and have been job searching for a few months now. Knowing how long the search can take, will it look bad on my resume that I’ll have been here 2 or 3 years with no changes? I’ve gained a few small responsibilities but nothing to write home about. One of the lines I have for cover letter/interview is how I’ve reached the limit of my potential here and am looking for more. But I’m still worried about looking stagnant on paper. Is this a justified worry?

      1. ZSD*

        Yeah, I was in my last job for four years with no changes, and I didn’t have trouble finding my next job.

    1. Murphy*

      I don’t think so. 2-3 years isn’t a terribly long time to be in one position. Raises aren’t terribly common in the government anyway. I think your line about reaching the limit of your potential is a great one.

    2. animaniactoo*

      2-3 years shows job stability in the ability to hold the job and not get fired or be laid off from it.

      5 years you might have an issue, but not 2-3.

      1. Ella*

        +1! 2- 3 years is a normal amount of time to stay in a job, and it be unsurprising that there’s no changes.

      2. SystemsLady*

        And if you’re in a client-facing field where you’re frequently doing different kinds of projects, 5 years+ would almost be all the more in your favor.

        You get so much varying experience that way I don’t think staying in the job would look bad at all.

      3. matcha123*

        I have 5 years and 2.5 years in government in a role that offers no promotion or growth…I am worried…

        1. Anna*

          If you’re looking, you have a ready-made reason for why you’re looking. Don’t let an off-handed comment about how long is too long to be in a role make you think you won’t be employable. If you’re happy with where you are, that’s a reason why you haven’t looked before.

          Seriously, if you find you’re applying for jobs and not getting interviews, it’s very unlikely that it’s because you’ve been in your position for X number of years. It’s probably a far less nefarious reason like you need to tweak your resume or you’re applying for jobs that don’t match your skills as closely as they should.

        2. ithinkyouhavemystapler*

          I’m leaving a local government position that’s I’ve been in for 5.5 years (with union-dictated raises) this week for a very different although adjacent field. It’s still with the same local government, which I’m sure helped me, but I was also able to show the 5.5 years as having gained a lot of expertise.

          But oh man, getting the call that I had gotten the job was a HUGE relief.

        3. animaniactoo*

          Note qualifier in my comment *might*. It all depends on the kind of role you were doing and what you’re looking to move to. Also whether you can show responsibilities added to the role that you’ve successfully taken on or if you’ve been able to improve the performance/handling of the role. There are all kinds of situational factors.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Nah. The whole idea with that letter was that she was staying in a lower-prestige job like retail when she had a more advanced degree. That doesn’t apply when you want to stay in roughly the same track.

      1. Natalie*

        Not just an advanced degree, but a medical degree – from what I understand your degree is basically worthless if you don’t get a job in the field within a short period of time, since the knowledge base in constantly changing.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Right – I was being vague but this is a good point. There are some fields where if you’re not working in them pretty quickly, you’re going to fall behind.

    4. Barbara in Swampeast*

      I’m not sure you should include the line about reaching the limit in your current job in your cover letter. The letter should be all about how you will be in the new position.

      Your relatives may have old info about government jobs. With all the cost cutting and job elimination going on, employment with the government agencies at any level (except Congress, because they take care of themselves) is going to only get harder.

    5. Ayla K*

      I don’t think so. I was at my last job for 4 years without a promotion – a particularly toxic manager told me in no uncertain terms that she would see to it that I would never get one. It actually worked out well in interviews because when I was asked why I was looking to leave my current role, I could talk about the lack of advancement opportunities.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Even though that manager was a jerk, at least she was honest. I’ve seen too many managers string people along with the hopes of a promotion telling them that if they do X, Y, and then Z, then they’ll get a promotion only to turn right around and <i<not give said person the promotion. You at least knew where you stood and that if you wanted to move up, you’d have to move out.

        1. Anonamoose*

          THIS. I have been told every year that there would be more opportunity to learn and 3 years later, still doing the same stuff. I would leave but I am comfy. Though incredibly bored.

    6. Moonsaults*

      I agree with all the other comments that 2-3 years is just stability, not anything to worry about.

      Lots of jobs do not have title changes or pay raises, that doesn’t reflect on you or your abilities. Depending on your career path, I really wouldn’t think too much on that.

      This is actually the perfect reason to use to find other employment when you’re ready. “I’ve hit the ceiling and I really want to excel somewhere and grow within a company.”

      Also most places are going to understand a government job is a different can of worms than working in the private sector.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        Yup. I’m five years into a career path that is unlikely to involve more than one title change, ever, and maybe not even that!

    7. Mike C.*

      It really depends on the industry or the position. No one bats an eye at a mechanic, plumber or doctor who has just been doing that one profession for decades, right? So long as you can show that’s you’re doing/learning new things and you’re current on the latest developments in your field you’ll be fine.

      This whole job hopping thing where you “have” to move jobs every few years to show that you “can handle new things” is getting out of hand.

    8. thehighercommonsense*

      Fellow government worker here! In my experience, raises and titles, etc tend to be pretty stagnant–often an agency needs one person in a particular role, and because turnover tends to be low, it’s hard even to move up to a higher grade in the same specialty. But even that is highly agency-dependent.

      I’ve found it’s helpful to focus on what you achieved in terms of projects–taking on more interesting or complex ones, working on a project that was highly visible, etc. If that’s not possible (like, your job was data entry all day every day, for the exact same thing), even showing the public impact can help (e.g. not “processed TPS reports” but “processed TPS reports for X Agency; data allowed agency to increase child support compliance by 7% over the fiscal year” or something).

      Also, 2 years isn’t that long to go without a raise or title change, especially in government. Showing you did good solid work is likely to be fine.

    9. Lily*

      I was in my current job for 5 years before I received any kind of upward movement….and it was a very, very VERY small move–in spite of glowing yearly reviews every time.

    10. Gene*

      Government is different. It’s not unusual for people to have the same title for decades. But there are areas where advancement is considered normal. An example here is the Treatment Plant Operator series; one gets hired as an Operator In Training and advance through to Operator IV. My group is different, we only have three types of positions; Water Quality Tech, Industrial Waste Inspector, and Program Manager. I was hired as an IWI and I’ve been here for 25 years with the same title. And unless I get the Program Manager job when my boss retires in a year or so, I’ll retire in 6 years with the same title.

    11. Joe Manager*

      I agree 2-3 years isn’t enough time to be worried about. However, if in an interview you said that there was no opportunity to move up or advance that could spark a good conversation during the interview.

    12. Former Retail Manager*

      I concur with all of the other commenters here. First and foremost, 2-3 years in the same position without a title change isn’t unusual, regardless of government or private sector. I feel like it takes at least 2 years to become really proficient in most positions anyway, assuming we aren’t talking about entry level clerical positions. And to remain in the same position in Government for that long, or waaaayyy longer, is not at all unusual. In fact, if anything, the fact that you have been in Government is your easy out for anyone who bats an eye. Most hiring managers have decent knowledge of how government works and knows that you can remain “stuck” in a position for years beyond when you’d like to move on due to budgetary constraints, union restrictions, organization politics, and a whole other slew of reasons over which you have no control. You shouldn’t be concerned about this issue. Best of luck in your future endeavors!

  2. Ayla K*

    I’m in HR. We have a group of non-manager employees from different departments that meet once a month as representatives of their team’s work. We want to recognize them at next month’s meeting to acknowledge the work they’ve put in this year. If everyone were in the same office, we’d order a nice breakfast or lunch for the meeting, but over half the group works remotely and getting them all together isn’t an option at this point. We thought about ordering breakfast for the 40% of the group members that will be here and offering the remote employees the ability to expense lunch for themselves that day, but it still seems lopsided. What can we do to recognize this group in a way that seems equal?

      1. Collie*

        Or Amazon. If I were in their shoes and you felt that verbal acknowledgement really wasn’t enough, that’s what I’d want.

      2. Isben Takes Tea*

        I would just note that if you do gift cards, to give gift cards to everyone, and not just the remote workers. Then you might have the in-house workers annoyed that they didn’t get to choose their meal.

      3. Jadelyn*

        Be careful with these, though – I believe gift cards count as employee compensation and have to be taxed. From SHRM:
        According to the IRS, gift certificates that are redeemable for general merchandise or have a cash equivalent value are taxable, but a certificate that “allows an employee to receive a specific item of personal property that is minimal in value, provided infrequently, and is administratively impractical to account for, may be excludable as a de minimis benefit, depending on the facts and circumstances.”

        Accordingly, a gift card or gift certificate that can only be redeemed for a specific, tangible item (for example, a ham, movie pass, or box of chocolates) may qualify as a de minimis fringe benefit under limited situations, but the IRS would view even a $5 gift card to a general retailer as income to the employee.

        1. Red Reader*

          Yup, we had a manager send out $10 gift cards to our team as a thank you and she got smacked by HR for it. (Following this sub-thread though — I lead a remote team of 20 currently and our management team is constantly racking our brains coming up with ways to reward the team without ticking off HR — if we weren’t all remote, I’d bring in cupcakes or donuts or whatever pretty regularly, but without that being an option….)

        2. Oryx*

          Yup, we get Visa gift cards for our Holiday bonus and they provide information related to the IRS and taxes, etc., so nobody is surprised.

          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            For everything but gift cards. Gift cards of any value have to be reported.

          2. Belle*

            Unfortunately all values of gifts cards are taxable. In addition, if the company tries to offset the taxes for it, this additional compensation would also be taxable. When I process payroll we actually use a separate form now to track gift card amount and any other additional compensation for reporting it correctly. A pain — but we try to make the gift card amount high enough that employees don’t mind the small tax.

            Here is a good link:
            https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/compensation/pages/holiday-gifts-taxable.aspx

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      I think that’s a great solution, actually. If I were working remotely, I’d be floored with the fact that you actually considered us and provided an equivalent meal. (Providing, of course, you made it very easy to expense the meal and have print reimbursement. If the remote workers don’t usually expense things, they could feel hesitant to take you up on the offer.)

      1. Ella*

        Ditto- this is a perfect equivalent, and shows that you’re thinking of them. If you give one group lunch, and another group amazon gift cards, it could get tricky since it’s lopsided but since it’s both meals, I think it’s great!

        1. Ayla K*

          Ella – this is exactly what I was thinking. I wouldn’t want to give a “gift” to some employees while the on-site folks just get food in a conference room. I think we’ll stick to the original plan of letting everyone offsite expense their lunch (most of them do expenses on occasion, so it shouldn’t be anything new.)

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      I think a gift, consumable or not, is a good way to show appreciation to everyone. Then everyone gets recognition, and it’s probably a pleasant surprise for the remote employees.

    3. NaoNao*

      Perhaps instead of an organized lunch, could you mail out or send online gift certificates? That way the person can spend it on their own time at the place of their choosing. Your other option would be perhaps an extra PTO day or some other non-monetary thing like “Leave early Friday” or something?

      1. Ayla K*

        I do love this idea, but unfortunately that’s not really up to us – we’re in our busy season so everyone is doubling down. PTO and time off is really at the manager’s discretion. Also the goal is to celebrate together a bit, and letting everyone leave wouldn’t give us that time.

    4. Moonsaults*

      It doesn’t seem lopsided to me, they understand that they work remote and I would be thankful that the office went the extra step to extend their in-office meal offering to me. It’s truly a thoughtful situation.

    5. BabyShark*

      What about allowing them all to expense lunch no matter where they are? Or are these meetings during lunch so that the on location employees have to be in the office during lunch

      1. Ayla K*

        It’s a morning meeting in our home office (Pacific Time) but we have employees in several different time zones across the U.S., so it will be breakfast for the on-location employees and then lunch for some remotes, breakfast for others.

    6. Lizard*

      Why not just send them each a $20 gift card or something? (My company does spot awards like that–they are always Amex gift cards, usually $50-500). It’s always nice to have free money to do with as you wish.

    7. TotesMaGoats*

      If you can get them all together at the same time but not the same location, why can’t you order a breakfast for the remote people unless I guess they are working from home?

      1. Ayla K*

        That’s exactly it. We have one office and about 15% of the company works remotely – from home. That could mean they are 4 hours from our office or on the other side of the country. We can’t really order breakfast to be delivered to 5 separate people’s houses. (Plus for a few of these people – on the East Coast – it would be lunchtime)

    8. LoFlo*

      Gift cards and gift certificates no matter the denomination have to be reported as W2 income. The last place I worked started giving actual items to get around the taxation. How about gift baskets of coffee, candy, etc sent to the remote staff, and a meal for the on site folks?

  3. ZSD*

    Any AAM readers current or potential federal contractors? Last fall, President Obama signed an executive order granting paid sick time to all federal contractors, and late last week, the Department of Labor issued the final rule.
    For all federal contracts awarded January 1, 2017, or later, everyone working on the contract will be able to earn up to 56 hours of paid sick time per year (or at any one time – it’s complicated). So if you, say, work in a fast food restaurant in a federal building, your employer will now have to give you paid sick time. (Paid sick time is for short-term absences from work, like if you need to take one day to take care of your kid who has the flu, or if you need to take two hours to go to the dentist.)
    Link to follow in another comment. I’m happy to answer questions.

    1. Barbara in Swampeast*

      I just want to point out that it is an executive order, not a law passed by Congress, and therefore can be undone by the new president.

    2. an anon for now*

      I work in that space and soooo many of our SCA clients are just not getting that they can’t pay for sick leave using SCA fringe dollars. It’s driving me batty. Most people can get that if the benefit is required by law = the employer pays for it, not the SCA fringe dollars, but for some reason a lot of clients are processing this EO as not “required by law.”

      End extremely specific complaint.

    3. zora.dee*

      oooo, my Dad is! I’ll make sure he knows about it… wow, that’s kind of a game changer for him, he’s been a contractor for decades, and has never had PTO.

  4. Sunflower*

    I’m really interested in jobs with international travel. I’ve been considering moving into a sales/relationship manager or project management role but I’m pretty open. I currently work in event planning and I’m finding limited roles with extended travel.

    While I’m sure it depends on a number of factors, are there any industries where international travel is common and I should be looking at specifically? Any other suggestions for me?

    1. ZSD*

      My brother is in sales and does international travel all the time. Of course, it depends on the type of sales, and some people (read: me) would really hate to sell things for a living.
      Also, just a warning: whenever I ask my brother how Singapore, Turkey, Russia, etc., was, he says, “PowerPoint looks the same in every country.” Jobs with international travel don’t always give you the opportunity to actually see the country!
      If you’re interested in *living* abroad, there’s the foreign service.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes, this. And you don’t always get to go to the nice or interesting places abroad. Sometimes it turns out your company’s remote office is in the international version of, say, Peoria.

        1. the gold digger*

          I had coffee with a guy who works for a company headquarted in Finland. I said it must be neat to travel there. He said nope, Helsinki is the European equivalent of Beloit.

      2. Sunflower*

        I’m in event planning so I know the experience of being stuck in a conference room with a beautiful ocean outside that you can’t see from 6am-8pm. I’ve always traveled in my jobs- although my current job I travel more but the trips are shorter- and I want to get back to traveling further/longer in my next job. I’ve thought about living abroad(haven’t researched it at all) but thought this might be a good way to feel it out.

      1. Lizard*

        Except you can’t really specify that you only want international projects…and if you want to do management consulting in international development, that usually requires significant expertise and experience in that field. Besides, most of the big firms have local offices anyways in home countries.

        1. Blue Anne*

          It’s very common to go on secondment to those offices, though. When I was in Scotland, my department (Big 4 audit) had people on secondment from America, India, Egypt, and people from our office out on secondment to Australia, France, and India. Secondments were usually 6-24 months and pretty good for your career. I think it was even more common in consulting.

          1. MC*

            Firms have been restricting cross country assignments unless, as noted, you have specialized skills because of housing, per diems and other cost factors. However, some firms have contracts with the State Department that involve copious amounts of travel. Others have programs in which you commit to a project in a developing country for 6 mos to a year.

            As someone who travels a lot for work – it’s true that sometimes your Zurich trip involves little more than showing up for some meetings and going right back to the airport.

    2. Bob Barker*

      Arts or education development (fundraising) often has a big international travel component, although I think that’s the sort of thing that is regarded as a perk for high performers or people with high rank. There tends to be domestic travel to New York or LA or other Money Locations more often, but 10-14 days in London or India or Japan are relatively common, depending on the org’s focus and the potential donor pool.

      (IME, there are shorter trips where the fundraiser works solo with donors, and longer trips where the fundraiser is basically a guide/fixer to introduce Internal bigwig to donors.)

      It can be a pretty tough field, with a lot of social conformity pressure and backbiting — as you would expect, every nonprofit is fighting the others for the attention of a very small pool of large donors. But if you can hack that (and if you’ve survived event planning, you probably can), then it might be worth a try.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Agree with ZSD. I took this job (corporate event planning) for lots of reasons, one of which was the opportunity to travel several times each quarter — both domestically and internationally. I have only been able to experience the city I’ve traveled to one time, and that was because I extended my trip for 3 days and took vacation time.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I agree. I just got back from D.C. All I saw was the inside of the hotel and the event center. I suppose with international travel, you might rack up frequent flier miles so at least you could go somewhere for free one your vacation time, but unless you add a few days or fortunate to be done on a Friday or Thursday and not fly back ’til Sunday, my experience with travel (domestic or international) for business was that there was no time to any touristy or fun things, unless the company or business you are consulting with is eager to show you a bit of local culture.

      2. It happens*

        That’s a great field for travel in general, especially for companies with large sales forces. They have LOTS of ‘conferences’ in interesting locations. Of course, you’ll be working your tail off during the conference, but there are scouting trips and extensions…

    4. Jilly*

      A lot of it depends where you are located. My cousin worked in the international education office at a university so she traveled a lot because she was dealing with study abroad programs. So that type of thing is a possibility anywhere in the country.

      International development requires lots of international travel, but to developing countries. Many implementors (both for profit and non profit) are located in the DC metro area. But Mercy Corps is in Oregon, CARE is HQ’d in Atlanta, RTI and FHI 360 are in the Research Triangle area for example.

      1. Kate*

        I’ve worked a lot with university international education offices. Yes, they do get to travel a lot, but man, is the work ever brutal.

        The batch we were dealing with would do two days in each country x7 in a two week period, 15-18 hour days. One day would typically be spent at a huge education fair and the second day would be going from high school to high school, 8-10 schools in a day.

        No huge surprise that they were all young, single, and EXHAUSTED. And because these education tours cost the universities a small fortune, more and more of them were contracting out the roles to educational consulting companies, so one rep would represent 3-4 universities at once.

    5. Collie*

      This gets a little deeper into the field weeds, but depending on how much you want to invest, there are some companies that do foreign investment (USAID or World Bank, for example). Those are both DC-based, but I’m sure there are others around the country. I think project managers sometimes do go on trips, but you’re more likely to be traveling if you’re doing something that’s more specific-skill-based (that sounds way judgy when I don’t intend it at all, I just can’t think of the word or phrase that describes what I’m thinking of — foot, meet mouth).

      1. ZSD*

        Oh yes, I have a friend who works for the world bank and travels to various parts of Africa all the time. And he actually gets to see the countries he goes to because he’s out in the field teaching people to use a certain tool.

        1. Collie*

          My S/O used to work there and traveled three or four times a year (Africa and Eastern Europe, primarily, but a bit of Asia, too). I wonder if they knew each other. Small world!

    6. Caledonia*

      What about university recruitment? It depends where you want to travel as they would be targeting prominently areas such as Asia for the students to come over and study or study on a campus there (some UK universities have campuses world-wide). Otherwise there are other event planning type jobs but may not have the travel element.

    7. Ella*

      If you’re working in program development in study abroad, for either a university or a third party program provider (like API), then they do international travel. Also, alumni travel positions at universities. But not all positions in any of those fields have international travel- it depends on your job level, and your responsibilities.

    8. Beancounter in Texas*

      My step-mother-in-law works for a bank services company that manages ATM networks and clearing houses for banks. She moved into a role that teaches other project managers and the bulk of her job is traveling internationally.

      Maybe a personal assistant for a jet setter?

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I once met somebody who was one of 2 PAs for a Middle Eastern Bigwig. If memory serves, one PA travelled with him for his meetings, the other remained in the location (she had relocated) to handle his personal/family organisation.

          1. vpc*

            Yeah…I am a minion who interacts with other minions, and relatively frequently those other minions are PAs to someone seriously high up. They universally burn out after less than a year. Part of that is the always-on nature of the job (whaddaya mean it’s not ready yet? it’s 6am and I sent it to you at 3:30! no way should that have taken more than 45 minutes!) and the high-profile personalities they’re surrounded with.

            Pepper is awesome, and I thoroughly enjoy her boss as portrayed by RDJ. Do I want to be her, or deal with him? H to the NO.

    9. MsMaryMary*

      Are you interested in short term travel, or long term, or either? There can be longer term (~6 months or more) opportunities with companies who have sent work offshore. Generally the only qualifications are familiarity with the work being done, willingness to coach and train others, and the desire to live abroad for several months.

      1. Sunflower*

        I could be interested in both. I’ve thought about living abroad at some point down the line(have done absolutely no research on it so no idea what it entails) but thought this might be a good starting point.

    10. Raytheon Person*

      Aerospace and defense frequently sends people to overseas customers and suppliers. Many have turned more to the international market since sequestration, so that’s a plus for you. Many have foreign offices or extended overseas assignments. Foreign language skills are a plus. I work for Raytheon, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been hearing from my supply chain and contracts colleagues about open positions, if you’re inclined.

    11. Elle the new Fed*

      World Bank and UN have event planning roles on occasion for conferences mostly. Also a lot of internation orgs will indicate how much time is travelling and where to. If you have interest in development work, there are a lot of NGOs that do field visits to projects. One title that comes to mind is Business Development Manager.

      My experience is similar to others in this thread. Although I do work with international colleagues, I am parked in DC at our main office mostly interfacing with the American public. I had assumed working with an international org would automatically mean higher likelihood of intl travel but it’s only some roles going into the field. Sigh.

    12. AliceBD*

      Depending on your role, one of the big tech companies. A close relative is a computer engineer at a company you will be familiar with. He travels to London for a couple of weeks a few times a year, and is currently in Paris for a few days for work after being in London for work. He works normal work days and then has evenings and weekends to see the cities. He has also traveled around the US for his position.

      1. OhNo*

        This seems like a pretty good bet to me. I know two different people who work in computer security (what exactly they do I’m not sure – I tend to glaze over whenever they try to explain it to me), and they seem to travel pretty regularly for regular work and for conferences. Just judging from their stories, it sounds like they usually get to see some of the city they’re visiting, too, since their jobs can usually be done in a 9-5 schedule.

    13. AcidMeFlux*

      I once gave a language/communication training course to some doctors in Mallorca, Spain. I saw the airport, my room, and the classroom. I hear the hotel had lovely spa service and beautiful gardens. Maybe I’ll go back some day as a guest and see for myself, but since I was working from 6 a.m to midnight, I kind of missed out…

    14. Xarcady*

      Well, my brother’s in the Army and he has spent 23 of the past 29 years out of the US. And not in war zones, either. (It’s a running joke in my family that everyone who got out of the military after 5-10 years, or only did active reserve duty, has been in war zones more than once. The lifer, nope, not ever.)

      1. the gold digger*

        Sometimes the military will send you abroad. My dad was career military. He enlisted in the Coast Guard after high school, then went to college on the GI Bill, then joined the air force. In his career, he was stationed in Guam, Spain, and the Panama Canal Zone and had to make frequent, long trips to Germany, Italy, and Turkey. Oh yeah – and he spent a year in Vietnam.

        If you don’t mind being shot at (or exposed to Agent Orange) as part of your job description, don’t mind spending a lot of time away from your family, want to make almost no money at all and have Congress, which consists of people who make a lot more money, including pension, for work that is not as dangerous, try to cut your retirement benefits dramatically, the military is for you.

    15. Bex*

      So I think you might need to consider why you want the international travel. Because frankly, in most jobs, it really isn’t as glamorous as it might seem. My husband LOVES to travel and he used to get cranky that I’m always heading off to Bogota or Mexico City or NYC. So I started sending him pictures of the windowless conference rooms, generic hotels, and crappy airport meals. And the agendas that start at 8am and end at 10pm, because if they are paying for you to be there they are going to squeeze as much in as possible. Including exhausting working dinners, followed by a few hours of email at 11pm when you finally get back to your bland hotel and have to catch up with everything that happened while you were in meetings.

      Obviously there are some positions that are easier or might have time for sightseeing, but those are few and far between.

      1. Sunflower*

        Trust me, I find work travel to be far from glamorous. I’m an event planner so I’m usually the first one in the conference room and the last to leave! I traveled in my last job domestically (usually 3 days trips) and I actually travel more frequently in my current job(shorter trips) so I don’t intend to use it as a vacation or way to see the world. I’m usually exhausted by the time I’m home but I find it rather energizing while I’m there and a welcome change from sitting at my desk all day. I knew I wanted my next job to include more travel and figured I’d try to spread my wings across seas

      2. the gold digger*

        True. I had to go to Dubai twice. It’s a ten-hour time difference. They start their work week on Sunday. So you leave the US on Friday, arrive there late Saturday night, and have to go to work Sunday morning after trying to sleep through jet lag and the 4:46 a.m. call to prayer, which is completely audible even when you are on the tenth floor of the hotel.

        You spend the day at work trying to stay awake and then get stuck going to work dinners. You do this until Thursday, which is when you fly back to the US, arriving Friday – and your boss expects you at work on Monday.

  5. Zoe Karvounopsina*

    I have a new manager, and am currently rolling around making joyful noises at the breath of fresh air she may bring us. She has given my my Very First Project.

    This distracts us from an upcoming Away Day. We’re being bribed with fancy breakfasts. So, commenters, what are your MUST EAT/NEVER EAT at working breakfasts? (It is all going to end with egg on my blouse. And face.)

    1. Brigitha*

      Dude, just get the smoked salmon eggs benedict and bring an extra blouse. I don’t mess around with breakfast. Enjoy!

      1. Bob Barker*

        Eggs royale, please! (Eggs benedict with salmon instead of Canadian bacon.) That way you can make a Pulp Fiction joke about Eggs Royale with cheese.

    2. Lauren*

      I never use pepper since I fear a piece getting stuck in my teeth. Same for cooked greens (like spinach in an omelet).

    3. orchidsandtea*

      Bring a machine-washable sweater to wear over your fancy blouse (just at breakfast) and wet wipes in your purse to wipe your face discreetly.

      I eat anything that looks delicious and I’m not allergic to. Breakfast is the best.

    4. Rincat*

      I try to avoid things I have to eat with my hands, like sandwiches. I don’t like having to constantly wipe my hands, especially since I’m always on the computer. As for clothing – bring stain sticks and an extra shirt. I work at a university and have a stash of school shirts I keep in my office, since t-shirts are okay if they are school shirts.

      Breakfast is the best meal of the day, so I am very jealous.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          I don’t eat breakfast unless it’s a weekend and/or I didn’t eat dinner the night before. *shrugs* I don’t get hungry early in the morning, and I won’t force myself to eat anything just because people say you’re supposed to.

          1. Honeybee*

            Yeah, me either. I love breakfast, but I don’t eat it on the weekdays. I don’t get hungry until around 11 am and at that point it’s better to just wait for lunch.

            I usually eat a nice big one on the weekend days though.

            1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

              Same here! I have to be up for at least 3 hours before I’m hungry. I do love brunch on the weekends though.

            2. Christopher Tracy*

              Ha! That’s the exact time I get hungry. When 11 roles around, I role out to lunch. And then I’m hungry again by 3.

    5. LCL*

      A granola/protein bar or pastry or piece of cheese in my pocket, in case they have done something to breakfast so it is inedible. Cause it makes me want to cry when I am promised a treat breakfast, skip my home breakfast in hungry anticipation, then get to the venue and find that everything has been covered and stirred in with onions. Green onion garnish is one of the signs that evil is afoot in our world…

    6. Ayla K*

      Stay away from anything with poppy seeds (bagels, scones) or sesame seeds. You’ll be fighting those things out of your teeth all day. And skip the onion-chive cream cheese.

    7. Lady Blerd*

      No restrictions, I just go with what I usually eat when I’m eating at a breakfast place ie French toast, pancakes or a western omelette, all with sausage links as a side. Sometimes I got for a bagel with smoked salmon

    8. Elizabeth West*

      MUST EAT: *channels Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson* Waffles and bacon!! :)

      NEVER EAT: Anything too spicy, because then I have to ask for milk and it makes me look like a special snowflake. I only have sriracha on my eggs at home, where I can pour a bucket of it.

  6. Scared*


    I wrote a couple times recently about my new job:
    here and here. Under different names both times because I’ve been trying to stay anonymous.

    I finally quit on Tuesday. This was after having a serious talk with them a couple weeks before about my frustrations. Some things improved but only slightly. There was a general plan to fire the awful, scary employee prior to me quitting, but on the day I told them I was quitting, they came back to me later in the day and basically said “you’re going to fire him today. here’s his last check, here’s his severence and release”. My boss and I fired him. This guy legitimately scares me. He didn’t make a scene and it was uneventful, but I’m still concerned that he’ll sit on it and anger will build. And one of the temps who works for me said something the next day like “I hope he doesn’t come back with a gun.” This guy is military, really into his guns, has a major chip on his shoulder, blames everyone, never takes responsibility and is a misogynistic. His email is now being forwarded to me and last night I got his Youtube subscriptions update email and it was all stuff about snipers and guns – I know it’s not a crime to be into that stuff… but still worries me in light of everything else.

    I have told my boss that it concerns me and I told my boss about the comment the temp made. But he is very dismissive of it. I gave a pretty generous notice (4 weeks – 33% of my time employed there!) and now I’m questioning it. I really don’t know what to do. I can’t work remotely 100% of the time but I really have zero interest of being in that building. Am I overreacting? Is there anything I even can do about this besides choosing not to go back to work? We’re a small company, and you can get into our building easily because there is no security measures taken (plus his girlfriend and mother in law work there). He hasn’t broken the law or done anything concrete that I could report him for to anyone else.

    What do I do?

    1. Lisa*

      Reconsider your notice period. Tell them today that your safety concerns are paramount, and clearly THEIR safety concerns were a part of them deciding that YOU should fire him – knowing that you would be the target and leaving soon anyway – removing the target of any anger that may be there. What a horrible thing to do. Tell them that and cut the notice off. Give them another week, but part WFH.

      I’d also cut off your social media for a few months too – suspend everything – including LinkedIn. Better safe than sorry. Honestly having the GF and her mom work there is prob a good thing to divert anything potentially happening, but what if the GF breaks up with him? That would be another good reason to get out of that building – put a lock on the door, buzzer, or at least a camera. Yes, not all people who like guns are going to hurt people, but the aggressiveness in the past would make anyone worry about firing someone without knowing the gun stuff.

      1. Salyan*

        I can totally understand the OP’s concerns, seeing the past history of this ex-employee. That being said, I would like to point out that MOST people who like guns are not going to hurt people. The subset of violent offenders+guns is actually pretty small, considering the overall population of gun owners, and those that do choose violence would do so whether they have access to a gun, a knife, or a baseball bat.

        1. Anna*

          I’m not disagreeing with this, but I am saying that in this particular case Scared has seen other worrisome signs and that the ease of access to guns in this specific case means they have a right to be worried and shouldn’t have those worries dismissed.

      2. Zoe*

        Seriously, work from home. You’re not going to be able to focus at work anyway. The issue isn’t that he likes guns, the issue is that he likes guns AND is a scary guy with a reason to want to hurt you.

        Highly recommend reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker if you haven’t already. The author is a security expert who talks about how to trust your gut instincts and keep yourself safe.

    2. Xarcady*

      Call the police, on the non-emergency number. They will have advice for you. Seriously, your manager/HR should be doing this, but since they won’t, take charge and call them yourself.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yes, absolutely. My father had a case like this with someone he managed, and the company was extremely concerned that he would come back and do something. The police department was very helpful and spent quite some time talking through different scenarios and tips to keep the office safe – and this was 20 years ago, before this kind of thing was (unfortunately) more commonplace. I’m sure they will have some practical advice to share.

        Frankly, if it were me, I would do what Future Analyst suggested, but if you want to try to work out your notice period with some days onsite, the police might have some suggestions you can implement yourself.

      2. OhBehave*

        Years ago my husband had to fire a guy who he thought could possibly retaliate in some manner. They hired an off duty cop to sit in the lobby for several days until things calmed down.

    3. Hope*

      Make a plan for what you will/would do if he got back into the building (1st–how to run out, 2nd–how to hide if you can’t run, 3rd–how to fight back if you can’t hide). Try to keep out of the building as much as you can. If you’ve got HR, talk to them about your concerns and show them the YouTube subscriptions update.

      It might all be an overreaction and nothing will come of it, but it’s the kind of thing that should be taken seriously by those above you. And it might be a good thing that the girlfriend works there, as maybe he’s less likely to show up ready for a shooting rampage while she’s there.

    4. animaniactoo*

      I don’t have a better resource, but I would say that you might be able to get one – or just straight up advice – by calling the National Domestic Violence hotline and laying this out for them, and ask them for advice. 800-799-SAFE.

    5. Lauren*

      I honestly don’t know. But just reading your update scares me too. And I realize that if it was me in your position, I think I would go to my boss and say that while I do not want to act in an unprofessional manner that my safety–which I view as “at risk” now–trumps all. And I’d apologize and make my last day today. There is nothing, not etiquette, not professional norms, not even ending a job, that can take priority over safety–and this situation is one of those.

    6. Future Analyst*

      Woah, that’s definitely scary. If you’re okay walking away, tell your boss you’ll need to work remotely for the remainder of your time there, and if he tells you that’s not possible, have that be your last day. I know it can be hard to make such a decision if finances are tight, but someone like that would scare the daylights out of me, so if it were up to me, I’d just never go back to the office. Good luck!

    7. Blueismyfavorite*

      A gun hobby does not mean that he’s a murderous psycho. Plenty of law abiding citizens own guns. Being ex-military also doesn’t mean he’s a murderous psycho and that actually an offensive judgment to make against vets. So yes, I think you’re overreacting. He’s rude but he hasn’t threatened you. It’s a big leap to go from rude to murder. But that said you should take safety precautions. Have someone walk you to your car, etc.

      1. SystemsLady*

        The gun part wouldn’t have scared them if it weren’t for the other behavior.

        Nowhere was it said all gun owners act like that. On my end I know plenty of gun enthusiasts (vet and police) who can control their rage – I would never, ever assume they would go on a shooting spree just because they watch gun videos and own several.

        1. Scared*

          Yes – exactly. I know plenty of people who own guns and are vets and I’ve never even thought they’d go on a killing spree. He’s been more than rude to me – he hasn’t verbally threatened me, no, but I think there are plenty of instances of violence where there was no verbal threat beforehand. Him being in the military doesn’t really concern me as much as the easy access to guns. It was the other employee who expressed concern who mentioned the guns and military and the hostile attitude. All that combined with just being fired is what concerns me.

          That being said, it’s fair if you think I’m overreacting. I know it’s a possibility, in spite of others sharing the same concerns.

          1. JLK in the ATX*

            To Scared:
            As a Veteran, I found your statement ‘he’s in the military’ offensive, rude and not necessary to the description of your experience.

            Being in the military doesn’t mean he has any access to firearms or access to any time of equipment. Perhaps he has some at home, but those are personal items. And it’s not easy access to firearms if his are registered and he has license to carry them (if that’s allowed in your city/state)

            “It was the other employee who expressed concern who mentioned the guns and military and the hostile attitude. ” No, you stated this. Your reference to the temp, was their saying, “I hope he doesn’t come back with a gun.”

            As for overreacting, only you know that. Contacting the police is a bit over reaching, but they’ll tell you that should you that you are/n’t within your rights to explore legal options.

            Overall, your painting (male) military members in this light furthers the issues we (Vets) deal with re: work. It’s not like we don’t already have to bend over backwards to convince employers to hire us over their fear we’re hopped up on combat and PTSD.

            1. Scared*

              you’re right. I’m sorry my comments were offensive and insensitive. My biggest concerns are legitimately his craziness and his constant talk about his firearms combined with his termination. It was ignorant of me to even mention that he’s in the military – I apologize.

        2. Blueismyfavorite*

          And I didn’t say she thought all gun owners act like that. I understood her point the same way you did. However I think him being ex-military and a gun hobbyist isn’t the salient point. Her fear of him is. She’s afraid of him so she should take steps to protect herself. But she shouldn’t horriblize the situation either because she’s only going to cause anxiety for herself fearing the million to one chance he’ll shoot her.

      2. Scared*

        Correct. I said I know that stuff isn’t a crime but in light of everything else, it concerns me. And obviously concerns other people.

    8. SystemsLady*

      I met a guy like that, and had a moment with him that was reminiscent of a moment that drew impossible for some in the audience to stifle laughter in a recent political debate. It wasn’t funny to me, of course.

      But you know what? Everybody around supported me, and offers were made by people he hadn’t treated aggressively to boot him off the property immediately (he was a contractor). He didn’t get a second day.

      Asking YOU to fire an employee who treated you like that!? That’s ridiculous! You’re right to be concerned for your personal safety, and angry HR or your manager didn’t handle the firing. Either they’re completely oblivious, or he treated everybody like that and was kept only because they were scared (keeping him longer only increases the danger/his rage, so awful thinking on their part if that was the case). +Ning do whatever you need to do to feel safe, and I hope your next job is a lot more supportive.

    9. MissDisplaced*

      Does your building have security? Bring them in ASAP so they can be alert of the guy and potential trouble as he has been fired.

      Call local police. Same thing, give them a head’s up that said person was recently fired and could be a potential problem. Consider filing a restraining order against said person.

      Take all precautions, especially in these first few weeks. Walk out with others, park near door. Try not to be unescorted when arriving/leaving work.

      If you do have/ consider arming yourself. Hate to say this, but I would (as I do feel comfortable with guns (Marine dad!)) especially if I felt I had an enemy like this. But this is certainly a personal decision.

      Hopefully nothing will come of it, but given many recent events, it is wise to take all precautions to stay safe.

      1. Scared*

        No security and it’s accessible by the public as well. I legitimately have considered getting a gun and I’m really not a fan of them. I’m nervous about doing anything, too, because I worry my employer will react poorly. I know I can just quit without notice, but ugh the whole situation has just been a nightmare. I wish I’d never taken this job.

        It’s in a very busy neighborhood so walking to my car, I’m never really “alone” so at least there’s that…

        1. Gene*

          Don’t get a gun unless you are also willing to train with it as soon as you have it.

          The Four Rules of Firearms Handling
          by Jeff Cooper

          Rule 1
          All guns are always loaded

          Rule 2
          Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not prepared to destroy
          You may not wish to destroy it, but you must be clear in your mind that you are quite ready to if you let that muzzle cover the target. To allow a firearm to point at another human being is a deadly threat, and should always be treated as such.

          Rule 3
          Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target
          This we call the Golden Rule because its violation is responsible for about 80 percent of the firearms disasters we read about.

          Rule 4
          Be sure of your target and what is beyond it
          You never shoot at anything until you have positively identified it. You never fire at a shadow, or a sound, or a suspected presence. You shoot only when you know absolutely what you are shooting at and what is beyond it.

          1. Scared*

            Oh – I would definitely train. I haven’t the vaguest idea what to do with a gun and I have a healthy respect for / fear of them, knowing what they’re capable of.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I don’t think you need one at this point–besides, it would take time to do training, and guns aren’t a magical protection against harm, no matter what people would like to think. I guarantee this dude has way more experience with it than you have.

              I second the advice to let the police know and see if they have any advice, plus the advice to ask your boss if you can work from home or let this be your last day. Because frankly, they SUCK making you do the firing. I would have told them to stick it and walked out over that alone (but that’s me).

              And please keep us up to date.

              1. Scared*

                It caused a fight. They argued they I should do it since I was the one having problems with him and was his manager. I argued that clearly they thought it was an organization-wide problem if they wanted to fire him, knowing that I’m quitting anyway. They essentially hired me TO fire him because they didn’t want to it themselves (I didn’t know this – I wasn’t hired to manage anyone and this is my first time doing it.)

                In the end, both of us were present for the firing. My boss did most of the talking but I was the one that had to address his performance issues (I didn’t even think we needed to get into specifics because I’ve addressed the performance issues as they occurred… over and over). I so wish I had walked out. They need me more than I need them. I don’t know why I didn’t.

                I’ll ask if I can work from home. I have a feeling it will cause a fight and a guilt trip and just all sorts of drama as usual. It sucks because I feel like I’m the drama queen with all the issues i’ve had since starting!

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  You are not a drama queen. Please get this part, write it down if you have to. They set YOU up in a very nasty way. You had no way of knowing, you have done nothing wrong here.

                2. Polka Dot Bird*

                  I mean, if they hired you because they were too incompetent to manage him, then the problem is definitely not you. They handed you a broken situation.

            2. DragoCucina*

              Thanks to Gene for outlining the essential rules.

              Scared, there isAnother factor. Unless you are prepared to carry all the time you may not want to make a commitment to a firearm. You may be better off with a pocket size container of pepper spray. It’s not perfect but is a non-lethal step in self protection. I second the working from home recommendation.

    10. neverjaunty*

      No, you are not overreacting. Your boss is dismissing, your workplace is obnoxious (really, telling you that YOU have to fire Scary Guy on YOUR last day?!), and this employee is ten pounds of problems in a two pound bag.

      Also, keep this in mind: Your company wouldn’t even force this guy to punch his time card. Why do you think they’re suddenly going to grow a spine when it comes to making you show up physically in the building, when you’ve already quit?

      Shorten your notice period and work remotely if you’re more comfortable with it, but you have every right to refuse to go in physically, and they’re clearly not going to do anything about it.

      1. Scared*

        What would be reasonable to expect them to do about it? I’m curious because is there even anything they can do besides pretend to take my concerns seriously? Or tell me I can work from home the rest of my notice period? I felt like they made me fire him the day I quit as punishment, honestly. My husband didn’t want me to be a part of firing him from the beginning becuase HE was scared and my husband doesn’t really get scared. Yet another reason I quit … but apparently I had to do it anyway.

        1. neverjaunty*

          As you note, they didn’t have a problem having the police there when your boss was worried about his safety! If they don’t take you seriously (and they clearly don’t), you can’t depend on them to step up security, act if this guy’s relatives start harassing you, or anything else.

    11. Elisabeth*

      Has anyone here read The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker? This feels like a very classic case that would be represented in the book. Please trust your gut. “I hope he doesn’t come back with a gun” is a very clear warning sign from someone who wasn’t even his manager. If this was a job that you needed financially to survive, I would consider it a really tricky situation, but you’ve already quit – what do you have to lose? A reference from a job you hated? (It sounds like you’ve had previous jobs that went well and lasted for respectable amounts of time).

      I agree with the other commenters — tell them you’re changing your notice period, and work from home as much as possible until it’s up. If you’re feeling that sense of fear, it’s not worth it to ignore.

      1. Scared*

        I have read that book! Also, even though my boss is being dismissive now, he apparently thought it was worthwhile to have police outside while we were firing him (but told them to leave before the guy even left the building and didn’t escort him out…..). And we’re a small company so getting the police to wait outside isn’t a normal company procedure. I mean, I can’t guarantee he’ll do anything obviously, but I definitely don’t want to risk my life or safety for a job I already loathe.

        1. Zoe*

          Holy cow…I have never heard of having police outside for a firing. This guy is bad news.

          Don’t ask, TELL them that you’ll be working from home for the duration of your notice period for your personal safety, and if that won’t work for them, you wish them well.You can always make up for a lost paycheck, but you can’t come back from the dead. Don’t go back to that office!

          1. Elizabeth West*

            The cop thing happened at one place I worked, but the dude had been belligerent and apparently made threats. That’s not to say anyone who makes threats will do something, but it’s wise for a company to take it seriously.

    12. Scared*

      Guys – I legitimately apologize for the insensitive and ignorant military comment. And I recognize that people have a right to own guns and that owning a gun doesn’t mean the person will be violent. My concern is not with guns – it is with this individual who happens to have easy access to guns. I’m not scared of every person who owns a gun. I don’t want this to turn into a debate about gun ownership and people who own guns.

      1. CMT*

        You’ve made it really clear that a passion for guns != scary psycho murderer and that you have other, legitimate reasons to be afraid of this man. I don’t think you need to apologize.

      2. Maria*

        It’s ridiculous that the PC police are lambasting you while you are frightened for your well-being. Ignore that nonsense.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I agree that the criticism is ridiculous, but I confess to some amusement at a vigilant defense of pro-gun people now being “PC”.

        2. Alex*

          I was under the impression that the commenters here were for the most part a part of the leftist “PC” crowd. In any case, people weren’t criticizing her for being concerned for her well-being. People were critical of her for automatically equating dangerous people with military service. She has since apologized for it. It is not “nonsense” for people to want to correct her. If you for example want to correct someone for example, who posts something negative about women then that’s fine. If someone wants to correct ignorant statements about the military, just leave them alone if you can’t come up with anything nice to say. Stop with the double standards!

          1. Not Here*

            She wasn’t making an ignorant statement about the military, she was complaining about a specific person with military experience who seems threatening. That is all.

    13. CMT*

      I would be scared, too. Can you make it work financially if you leave your job immediately? That’s probably what I would try to do.

      1. Scared*

        I can, yep! I wonder if you can collect unemployment if you quit because you feel you’re in an unsafe situation. Probably not, though. but even without that, I can quit. I mostly feel bad about doing it because I feel like it’s unprofessional, but they clearly don’t care about protecting me so why should I care about protecting their interests?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Not a lawyer–I think it depends on what state you’re in, but sometimes you can, if you can prove that the company didn’t take an unsafe situation seriously.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Be sure to mention this story when you apply. Give the people at unemployment the opportunity to discuss this with you at any rate.

  7. Brigitha*

    I need a reality check.

    I work part time as a personal assistant to an artist.

    The other day she sat me down to talk about a recurring issue she noticed with me: I often forget small, non-work related things. Examples:

    She let me borrow a baking dish which I forgot to take with me.
    I left my sunglasses behind in her studio.
    I forgot my laptop power cord at home (this didn’t impact my work: there were others I could have borrowed, but ended up not needing to).

    In fairness, this is something i’ve noticed about myself for years. I often leave the house without my coffee cup, or will remember as I’m pulling into my garage that I was going to go to the store on my way home. It really annoys me when this happens. In the past, I’ve kind of beat myself up about this, but lately I’ve tried to relax and realize that I’m an imperfect human, and I haven’t failed at life if I have to make an extra trip to the store.

    In the discussion she did tell me that this wasn’t a problem with my work, and that she appreciates how organized I am and that I get everything done so quickly. However, my boss obviously thinks this was a big enough deal to bring up, and her discussion with me included phrases like “as adults, we get to change the things we don’t like about ourselves.” and “maybe there are deeper issues around leave-taking we may have based on our past.” She encouraged me to stop and take another look behind me when I leave the room. It was a bit … patronizing? Maternal? I don’t know just weird.

    So, on the one hand, I can see where it might be worrying to notice a pattern of absentmindedness in your assistant. On the other hand, I don’t want to have to add this to my list of things to worry about. I’m legit afraid of forgetting something now, and I hate the extra anxiety it’s giving me.

    So … do I bring this back up with her? Do I just move forward and hope it doesn’t become a big issue? What would I even say? “Your close scrutiny of my occasional forgetfulness is making me hyper vigilant and stressing me out?”

    1. Murphy*

      If it’s not a problem with your work, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. It sounds like she was trying to be helpful, if being a bit weird about it.

    2. animaniactoo*

      “I appreciate that you are trying to help me by bringing this up. It’s something I’ve noticed myself and hate, and I likely will work on at some point in the future. For right now however, I think it’s more important to focus on being okay with being imperfect and stop beating myself up when it happens, so that’s my main goal at the moment.”

    3. Kelly L.*

      Ugh, that would annoy me too. Especially the royal we. Let me guess, she used that “I’m talking to a kindergartner” voice? I think if it’s not work stuff being forgotten, she should take a looooot of steps back.

      1. Brigitha*

        I think there’s a little of this, but she wasn’t being super gross about it. She is used to having a couple young apprentices around, and I think she likes giving the younger people life advice. I’m the first actual employee she’s had in a while and I’m 35 so I think she doesn’t quite realize that the boundary lines between us should be different.

    4. MacGirl*

      Well, first of all, this conversation has everything to do with her and nothing to do with you.
      You are busy. You may forget non-work related things, but you are obviously a high performer and are great at what you do. Her observations of your “personal habits” seem to suggest that she is probably more of a perfectionist (or possibly that she is projecting her desire to be more put together on you by scrutinizing what little things you forget).
      You just keep being you. If your habits upset you, then you change them. But I don’t think you are in danger of losing your job or anything.
      As for whether or not to follow up with her about this, I would just ignore it unless she brings it up.

    5. Lily*

      If it isn’t something that is having an adverse effect on your performance, it was kind of odd of her to bring it up. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth making an effort to improve, but that also doesn’t mean you should stress out.

      Maybe you could make a short list of a few strategies to try to combat this problem of yours, and try to implement them one at a time. For example, maybe one week you can say to yourself, “This week, I will pause for thirty seconds as I’m walking out the door to review if I’ve forgotten my computer charger.” And then don’t think about this issue for the rest of the day.

    6. fposte*

      What would you hope to achieve by bringing it back up with her?

      I’m not asking that rhetorically; I lean toward letting it go myself, but maybe there’s something I haven’t thought of. If it’s for her to take back what she said or apologize or acknowledge it was too personal, I wouldn’t do it, because you’re not likely to get that; if it’s for her to reassure you that your work is okay, I’d raise that as a question on its own based on her intervention (“Given our conversation last week, are there work areas you’re seeing me underperforming in? While that seemed to be more a personal conversation, I want to check if there were also relevant work areas you’d like to see improvement in”).

      1. Brigitha*

        The thing is, it didn’t bother me much at first. Then yesterday she asked me get a deposit ready for the bank, then a couple hours later told me she was just going to do it herself because she was going into town, and then I internally freaked out wondering if she’s going to count this against me. I would hope to achieve an understanding that unless there’s an actual measurable problem, there’s no need for me to have this level of stress and worry.

        1. Beancounter in Texas*

          Don’t read into her actions. She said she would take it because she was going into town, so leave it at that.

        2. fposte*

          That sounds to me like an attempt to outsource anxiety control to somebody who shouldn’t be in charge of it, though. I wouldn’t.

    7. Moonsaults*

      This certainly sounds like she’s addressing you as a concern for your forgetfulness, however she’s a turd because it’s actually very much something that some folks cannot just “fix” or “grow out of”, it has nothing to do with “becoming an adult” or anything of that sort.

      Your anxiety relief has to come from inside of you though, as someone who has severe anxiety as well, I understand why you’re fixating on it. Talking to her will not help you, you have to find coping mechanisms to remind yourself.

      1. Brigitha*

        Yes, this was exactly where I was … until THE TALK. Sigh. I’m sure it will smooth over and my anxiety level will normalize. I think it’s effecting me so much because it hit a little close to home.

        1. SystemsLady*

          As somebody who has ADHD/worked her whole life learning “don’t forget the thing”/has a case of abnormal absentmindedness that’s being treated:

          Forgetting all of those things is perfectly normal. I still forget little trinkets like that all the time! Unless you want to make comprehensive “bring to work” and “return from work” lists and check them every, single, day (overkill if you ask me)…this is going to happen sometimes.

          If I’m assuming correctly her studio is in her home…hmm, I wonder why she doesn’t ever have these problems…

          1. Brigitha*

            Part of why it’s so galling is that she does have forgetfullness problems. It’s one of the reasons she hired me. She’ll forget entire conversations we’ve had and the conclusions we came to. It’s one of the reasons I write everything down for work.

            1. knitcrazybooknut*

              If she has these issues, that conversation was about her, not you.

              I can’t stress this enough. She’s trying to help you not make the mistakes she has made in the past. Unfortunately, any advice that involves a time machine is automatically invalid.

              Don’t add her worries about her own stuff to your back. Thank her for her well-intentioned kindness, and let it all go.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Ahhh…. I am not surprised here. She is projecting herself on to you.

              If you basically like her and everything else is okay, I think I would wait and see if she mentions it again. IF she mentions it again, (she may forget, not trying to be funny here) then you could say something like:

              “You know I thought about what you said. And you are right there are many ways to practice mental discipline. Remembering small things is one of those ways to exercise the mind. Since I see you forget things too, I thought we could trade some tricks and tips for improving our ability to carry though on some of the smaller things we forget. For example, I decided to put a clip on my key ring. I can clip my keys to my purse once I arrive at work and later arrive at home. This will help to cut down the amount of time I spend looking for my keys. When you come up with a good idea let me and we can keep sharing back and forth, you see? It might actually get to be fun.”

              This might work IF you have an otherwise good relationship with her. Take a collaborative tone and see how it goes. Only you know for certain if this idea might work in your setting.

          2. TootsNYC*

            some practical advice: instead of lists, have a physical place.

            A basket, your tote bag, whatever. And when you set something down (like that baking dish), you put it in that “place.” When you finish using your computer at home, you put it and the cord in that “place.”

            (also: things that are truly important, like chargers, can be doubled-up; get one to be at work, and one at home, and one that floats in your tote bag (and label them) so you can eliminate the number of things you have to remember)

            Forgetting stuff like this is perfectly normal. Grownups do it all the time.

            And those grownups who don’t forget stuff have habits, and habits are something you can learn.
            Or they have workarounds.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Oh yeah. For years I had a “work basket”. I carried so much junk in my pockets that I had to have a place to put it all or it would not go to work with me the next day.
              It was kind of handy, I would throw letters in there that needed to be mailed. Some nights I would be really tired and notice my keys out of place, so I would toss them in the basket on the way to bed. It did help. My underlying issue was that this was a toxic job that I did not want to go to. But I still put stuff in my own way so I remember it. I think it is pretty normal not to remember the dozens of little things it takes to get through the day and we have to help ourselves remember.

            2. Trillian*

              I was born absent minded. If I am going to take something with me, it has to be attached to me or my bag. I have pouches, stuff-sacs, keystraps, clips. (If I ever become world dictator, I shall decree that women’s clothing is made with proper pockets so I will have somewhere to put small objects other than down.) I also have duplicates of things like power cords so the ones in my bag does not need to come out at home.

              And as for putting things back in the proper place — you gotta be kidding. Until I had the bright idea of putting labels on things with their destination. So now my kitchen scissors say ‘kitchen’, and they’ll find their way to their hook in the kitchen while I keep thinking about grep syntax, colonizing Europa, or composing a rebuttal to that person who is Wrong on the Internet.

      2. Thomas E*

        In my own case ( I have anxiety and depression treated by doctors) I found an increased amount of forgetfulness was part of the deal: it was a symptom of my disease which reduced when I treated the depression.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Great point.
          Grief also causes bucket loads of forgetfulness. Pretty normal to forget everything else BUT the thing we are sad about. In times of grief it’s not a bad idea to build a plan to help stay on track.

    8. Bend & Snap*

      That sounds totally condescending and unnecessary. If it’s not impacting your work, it’s not up for discussion.

    9. Manders*

      I ran out of the house without my engagement ring on today. I used to be a hyper-organized admin assistant, and I’m still the keeper of the to do list in my department. I really doubt this is a big deal–just normal human behavior. We’re not constantly inventorying the dozens of items we have in our bags and on our person at any given time, and sometimes that means things get misplaced.

      Your boss sounds like she’s giving advice because she enjoys giving advice, not because you need it.

      1. TootsNYC*

        agree. Also with the comments here that say it was condescending, esp. in wording. You ARE a grownup!

    10. Blue Anne*

      Urgh, I really don’t like the language she used. That’s just so condescending. And if it’s not affecting your work, why is it even her business? I’d let it go and hope it doesn’t come up again.

      For what it’s worth, though, my tendency to do stuff like that was flagged up when I was being assessed for learning differences. I have the same problem, bad enough that I’ve had to develop coping mechanisms like having a bowl by the door for my keys, or putting my passport on the coffee pot the night before a flight (because I know for SURE I’ll make coffee in the morning, so I’ll be sure to see and bring my passport). It was one of the big things mentioned when they eventually diagnosed me with mild dyslexia and dyspraxia. I think it would be stupid to infer that you have dyspraxia or something, but maybe that’s what your boss is trying to flag.

      1. SystemsLady*

        I had to develop the same mechanisms for ADHD (which also means they were only ever half successful, and I often chose that day not to check the obvious spot…sigh…).

        I think there’s reason to flag if keys or the laptop itself were the items frequently being forgotten, or it was the same minor item once per week. But a laptop charger that didn’t even end up being needed, sunglasses left on the table, and a dish to borrow (the latter two probably being out of the ordinary)? Wow.

        I’m sure you agree, but I’m more convinced this isn’t coming from a place of actually wanting to help Brigitha.

        1. Blue Anne*

          I totally agree. I’m just thinking… you often get jerky people who “are just trying being helpful!” Like my mother trying to convince my sister that her son is autistic because he’s having trouble with potty training. Concern-trolls.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I developed coping mechanisms and habits and safeguards just because I’m HUMAN.

        I truly don’t think that neurotypical people have less trouble forgetting stuff. They’re just better at developing the mechanisms that minimize it.

        1. Blue Anne*

          I agree. I also think it’s pretty silly that they used that to give me a diagnosis, honestly. I think the occupational health person was playing it up so I could get more allowances made for the issue I actually had – anxiety.

    11. Fabulous*

      I have these absentmindedness issues too! Two things I’ve found that combat it are to:

      1) Download a reminder app (I’ve been using one called Life Reminders for years) and use it to casually remind you of the little things. For example, I set a reminder for 5:00 pm if I want to stop somewhere after work, so that it’s fresh in my mind as I’m leaving, or snooze it for 10 minutes if I think I’ll forget by the time I get down to my car.

      2) If you think to yourself “I’m probably going to forget this” as soon as you think of something (like grabbing your coffee cup) DO IT NOW – YOU WILL FORGET. And then remember 4 hours later.

      1. SystemsLady*

        I only think this would have helped for the dish in terms of things that were specifically brought up, but I second the recommendation otherwise!

        Calendar apps are my lifeline.

      2. Kay E*

        +1 for calendar reminders.

        I do something like that (e.g. leave my lunch in the fridge at home) at least once … okay, twice … a week. Don’t take THE TALK to heart. She was trying to be helpful.

        Everyone has things they want to improve. I pick a few goals or things to work on each year. If this is something you want to work on, then create your plan for improving. If its not a priority or important to you, don’t worry about it.

      3. Snazzy Hat*

        I try my damnedest to do it now to avoid forgetting. If I can’t physically do the thing, I’ll leave a note near my purse or shoes that says what I need to do. For example, “Your water bottle is in the fridge” or “You were charging your phone. Go unplug it & put it in your bag.”

    12. ZVA*

      What she did sounds super condescending. If it’s truly not impacting your work, this is none of her business… It reminds me of something my high school art teacher once did to me: she called me into her studio during lunch to tell me that I needed to work on my self-confidence, that my foundation was the wrong color for my skin (!), etc. She was a wonderful woman and meant well but the way she went about giving me this (unasked-for) advice? Sooo inappropriate.

      I wouldn’t let it stress you out, and I wouldn’t bring it up with her again (the anxiety it’s causing is really your issue, not hers), but I would advise you to work on your absent-mindedness… I say this as someone who forgets little stuff like that myself all the time. Maybe make a checklist of the things you always need to take with you & consult it before leaving the house, even take another look around before you leave a room, as she advised… I think this is something you can improve upon w/ not too much effort and I encourage you to try—not because of what your employer said, but because I think you’ll be happier for it!

    13. Lady Blerd*

      As an incorrigeable forgetful person I feel you but it sounds more like it’s her own issue and not yours. If it’s not impacting your work, I’d let it go.

    14. Anna*

      You listed three things that are…normal. People forget things sometimes. It is not a sign of overall disorganization unless the entire world of everyone is disorganized.

      Your boss is being a jerk.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        I’ve been reading through all these responses and I’m surprised at how relaxed a lot of the responses are. If your boss is micromanaging your not very important small incidences of forgetfulness, I’d distance myself from her emotionally. I have friends who have worked for people who were famous artists, or at least quite well known in their field and behavior like this is endemic. I don’t know if it’s just that people whose life and work revolve all around themselves can’t create boundries with others, or that they just like to control other people and their work gives them the opportunity. I gave up on being a slavely to the creative types a long time ago. Give me a nice organized accountant any day.

        1. AcidMeFlux*

          Or, as Mrs. Parker said

          Authors and actors and artists and such
          Never know nothing, and never know much.
          Sculptors and singers and those of their kidney
          Tell their affairs from Seattle to Sydney.
          Playwrights and poets and such horses’ necks
          Start off from anywhere, end up at sex.
          Diarists, critics, and similar roe
          Never say nothing, and never say no.
          People Who Do Things exceed my endurance;
          God, for a man that solicits insurance!
          Dorothy Parker

    15. Former Retail Manager*

      I would write this off mentally as eccentric artist because really, what artist employs a personal assistant? As another said, if it doesn’t impact your work, I’d just say thanks for pointing it out and let it ride. If she brings it up again though, I would point blank ask why she’s bringing it up if it doesn’t impact your work. And kudos to you for even being a personal assistant. I cannot imagine being employed in that capacity. Maybe I’ve just watched too much TV but it seems like it would be tough and seems like most of the people that employ personal assistants are high maintenance to say the least.

      1. Brigitha*

        Just wanted to say: it’s actually totally normal for a successful artist to have a personal and/or studio assistant. I aspire to have one myself when I am more established in my own right. Eccentricity and personality quirks are definitely things all artist assistants must deal with, but an artist who cannot keep an assistant isn not usually a successful one. The flamboyant hot messes you see on TV are not my experience of artists as a group.

    16. TootsNYC*

      I just saw this–you’re in good company!

      Obama forgot HIS cell phone and had to go back for it.

  8. Isben Takes Tea*

    If you can’t get enough management advice through Alison, my second-favorite management advice source is @PicardTips on Twitter: Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s wisdom distilled into easily digestible chunks that makes you wish you worked on the Enterprise.

    What fictional characters do you wish you worked for?

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      Who wouldn’t want to work for Mr. Fezziwig?

      Also, the Addams family always seemed like really nice people to work for.

      1. Trix*

        Hell yeah. I think Hermione would be a difficult boss for some people, but I think that our styles would really work well together. I’d be stoked to report to her.

    2. Rincat*

      I wish I worked for Captain Sisko on Deep Space Nine. It seems like a really interesting place to work, and he’s an awesome commander. Engineering team, please – the Chief is the best!

      1. Blue Anne*

        I would love to work for Sisko. or Picard.

        The thing that I love about Trek is the inherent trust Starfleet officers have in each other. You can be the only person on the ship having crazy visions of doom, or seeing that everyone else is going mad, and when you report it, you’ll be taken seriously.

      2. GlorifiedPlumber*

        I can imagine it now.
        Captain: “We need to get 10% more power from the engines or we’re all going to die!”
        Chief Engineer: “Sure, I’ll just bust out a completely revolutionary upgrade to a set of ultra-complicated engines that cost 1 trillion bars of latinum and collectively represent 1 billion man-hours of work by 32,000 people over 15 years. When do you need it? I could probably do this in a month… but you probably need it, ‘Just in time’ I bet?”
        Captain: “Yeah, you’ve got 3 hours!”
        Chief Engineer: “…”
        Chief Engineer to E1 Junior Engineer: “Hey can you get this 10% more power WARP engine project done in 2 hours? I’m going to need a powerpoint presentation on it too… and can you get it QA’d with Scottie before you’re done? He’s available by subspace conference.”
        Junior Engineer: “…”
        Junior Engineer to herself: “Ugh… I need a new job… I wonder if I can get 20% more money jumping ship to the Romulons. I heard they have free booze in the cafeteria.”

    3. Lillian Styx*

      Picard would be nice, but I think my boss is more like Janeway. Personable and tough, but makes some questionable decisions… Can’t get away from Trek now that it’s been brought up… I tell myself that a vulcan would be an ideal boss, but in reality that first unfeeling critique would definitely leave me in tears. But there would definitely be value in a boss who is not swayed by their emotions.
      I think I would like to work for Dr. McCoy. Personable with a sense of humor and strong moral fiber… no nonsense when it comes to his job. AND you could shoot the breeze with him over a mint julep if you were so inclined.

      1. Maxwell Edison*

        I’d work for McCoy in a heartbeat. Would never work for Kirk – my kid and I are watching what we call “Old Trek” and because I never watched much of it back in the day, it’s kind of a revelation what a jerk and a terrible captain Kirk is.

        1. Rincat*

          He really is! I’d work for any captain except him. Janeway would be awesome though…I’m currently watching through Voyager and have been impressed by her management skills.

    4. Jadelyn*

      Delenn from Babylon 5. No contest. “I cannot have an assistant who does not look up. You will be forever running into things.”

      1. Blue Anne*

        Yes! Delenn would be excellent to work for.

        Pretty much *anyone else* from that show… not so much.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Idk, I think Garibaldi (pre-season 4) might also be cool. Demanding, maybe, and it would take a particular personality type to keep up with him, but I could see it working.

    5. Manders*

      Sam Vimes didn’t seem like he’d be great at giving positive feedback, but he trusted his employees and brought out the best in them.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        I adore Sam Vimes and would work myself to death to earn a satisfactory nod in my direction from him.

    6. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Jed Bartlett for sure. An old coworker of mine and I used to compare various people we worked with to West Wing characters with our director (of course) as Pres. Bartlett. When Leo hired Ainsley Hayes, he said to her, “The President likes smart people who disagree with him,” and that actually was also very true of my old director. He was a fantastic boss.

    7. Red*

      That’s my favorite Twitter account! He’s definitely the fictional character i would love to work for. He seems to think everyone has inherent value and deserves his trust, and that’s a beautiful quality for a person to have – and an especially ideal one for a manager. I also like how he handles the cultural differences he encounters, such as with Worf and Ro. In general, I really look up to Picard.

    8. Rocketship*

      Malcolm Reynolds. Space pirate cowboy with a soft gooey center? Sign me up.

      Actually, I’d work for Nathan Fillion too, come to that.

      1. GlorifiedPlumber*

        Nice! Wife and I watched our first two episodes of Fireflay LAST NIGHT… so good, can’t believe I waited this long.

  9. New Girl*

    My SO works a part-time job waiting tables a few night a week. This week the schedule came out on Saturday and he got schedule for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday night. Sunday morning, he realized he had an appointment on Thursday so he asked a coworker to switch shifts with him. She happily accepted and he worked for her that same Sunday. Thursday rolls around and coworker texts him at noon (2 hours before the shift starts) saying that she can’t work for him anymore, she has a lot of school work to do. She says she texted the boss to let him know but her texts weren’t being delivered. Meanwhile, SO is a teacher so he can only check his messages a few times per day. He gets the message at 1 PM so he had to be the one to call and actually tell boss the situation.

    By that point he’s fuming because she had five days to figure out what her homework situation was. His appointment was flexible so if she had let him know a day prior her could have figured something out, rescheduled the appointment, asked someone else to work or pretty much anything. To make the story more complicated, SO works for my parent’s business.

    1. Do you think there is any course of action that parents should take against this employee?
    2. How do you think my SO should of handled it? He was obviously mad and originally typed out a long ranting text about how mad/upset he was that she screwed him over but decided it wasn’t the best idea and just said thanks.

    1. Sadsack*

      Now he knows she is not reliable, so don’t ask her again. Not sure what you mean by action against her. Do you want her punished somehow by your parents? I don’t think that makes sense.

      1. New Girl*

        I guess reprimanded. When she switched shifts, that shift became hers. The only person she contacted to say she couldn’t come in was my SO which isn’t helpful considering he’s not the manager/

        1. SophieChotek*

          At my coffee shop, this is the same. If manager knows (and approved shift) then this really is on her, but if manager never knew about shift switch, then it might be an issue (just a he said/she said) sort of thing…At my coffee shop, all switches have to be approved by the manager. Hope you get it worked out.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            This is exactly how I handle shift swaps between employees: 1) they have to be approved & 2) once they’re approved that’s the new schedule.

        2. OhBehave*

          This is probably something that needs to be address by the owners (parents). What are their rules for swaps? In most places, once you have accepted the swap then it’s yours. If you can’t work YOU find your replacement.

    2. Dave*

      I don’t know from the restaurant business but was the schedule updated to reflect the swapped shift? My thinking would be that if they swapped shifts, the shift she couldn’t make was hers and it was her responsibility to fill it, not your SOs. I also think having too much homework is a terrible reason to miss a shift. As you say, she should know her workload and plan accordingly.

      1. H.C.*

        I can confirm that as a former foodservice worker – as long as you told the manager about your shift switch/substitution, it’s the new person’s responsibility to get that shift filled if he/she can’t be there after all.

      2. DragoCucina*

        This. Once I approve a swap it’s on the person who is to fill the shift. This type of nonsense is also why I rarely approve swaps anymore.

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      1. No, this between the employees. Unless this means that your SO will now be earning overtime and the owners don’t want to deal with that, I think they should stay out of it.
      2. I think your SO did right thing.

      I don’t think there’s any further course of action, really, except never switch with that co-worker again. (And your SO can reasonably never volunteer to help her out of a bind in the future. He doesn’t have to give the reason, and probably shouldn’t, but he no longer has any obligation to be accommodating.)

    4. Natalie*

      Unless your parents would normally get involved in this kind of shift-switching issue, no, they shouldn’t take any kind of action. Aside from being favoritism, is would likely negatively affect your SO’s relationship with his coworkers and his ability to get shifts covered and so on in the future.

      If I were him, I would have (hopefully) taken a middle ground between a long rant and nothing: “Hey, I wish you would have told me this sooner so I could have made alternate arrangements” or something.

      (And FWIW, you don’t actually know that she had five days to figure out her homework – stuff comes up last minute, needs to be reworked, takes longer than expected, etc)

      1. New Girl*

        I’m really stuck on the homework thing. I understand that things come up last minute and get switched around but she agreed to the shift and it was officially hers. Makes me wonder if she would do the same thing if was a day she was originally scheduled for.

        1. Natalie*

          Quite possibly, if it was something important enough that came up. She is out the money, after all, since your SO already worked her shift.

        2. MC*

          The excuse doesn’t matter. She’s shown herself to be less than reliable. If this is a single instance, accept that it was a bad excuse, likely not the actual excuse and let it go. If she’s bailing on the shifts the manager assigns, then yes, she should be warned and then if it continues let go.

    5. Sunflower*

      I think your parent’s need to come up with a formal plan for how switching shifts work. Switching shifts is sooooo common in restaurants. At my last job, there was a very set procedure. If you were switching/covering shifts, you and the person had to both sign the schedule and have a manager sign it. Once that is signed, it’s official. The person you are covering for is off the hook and it’s like they never had that shift to begin with.

      Having too much homework was NEVER an excuse to miss work and I worked at a restaurant on a college campus. I would have your parents(her boss?)talk to her and say this is not an acceptable excuse.

      But really they need to set up a system for this sort of stuff. This isn’t your SO’s problem- let the boss deal.

      1. New Girl*

        They do have a system pretty similar to the one your describing. They both agree to it, tell my father and he makes the change on the schedule. The shift was officially hers.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Right, I’m not understanding this either. If the shift was officially hers and she didn’t show up, that’s on her.

        1. Sadsack*

          So your father should reprimand her, as you suggested. I am curious if you know for sure that he didn’t. It probably is best for you not to be involved at all no matter how your father handled it. Your boyfriend should have a conversation with your father about it if he wants, but it isn’t your concern as an employee or a daughter.

    6. Brigitha*

      I’ve worked in food service for years.

      This will not be the last time your SO will have to deal with this. Unfortunately that’s the nature of having to find someone to cover your shift.

      However, I think this should have been handled differently. When your SO originally got a person to cover their shift, it’s that person’s shift. It was that person’s responsibility to find someone else to cover it when they decided they couldn’t, not dump it back on your SO. If your SO didn’t loop in the boss when the original shift change was made, they really should have. The boss should have known that the thursday shift belonged to the person covering it, not your SO.

    7. Menacia*

      There needs to be a policy around accepting someone else’s shift. If you can’t complete the shift as promised, you must find someone else who can’t, telling the person whose shift you took an hour prior to the shift they can no longer do it, is absolutely not acceptable.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Most retail jobs and wait staff jobs (year ago) I had the policy was you could get someone to cover for you but if that person did not show up it was YOUR fault. Apply that rule of thumb to this situation and it would be up to your SO to find someone else.
      The “punishment” came when the employee would not get extra shifts and no one would change shifts with her. So, no, I would not expect your parents to say anything. I am not sure that I agree with how this all works but this is what I have seen.

      What I did was find one or two people who were reliable and we would bail each other when necessary. Let’s say I work with ten people. Maybe Sue and Bob proved to be reliable, so I would just go to them each and every time. Likewise, I would bail them out in return.

    9. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      1) As lots of people have said (and you sort-of confirmed): There’s usually a policy with an approval step for schedule switching. Once approved by the manager, it’s the official shift, and the new person is 100% responsible.

      2) It occurs to me on further reading that it’s awfully convenient that the shift-trader didn’t call the restaurant to call off. I’m guessing the restaurant has a phone (and not just your parents text #?)

  10. Penultimate*

    Yesterday I found something on the printer that my manager had printed: a ranked list of the employees in the department. I know I shouldn’t have looked, but once I realized what it was, I couldn’t help myself. And I was ranked #14 out of 15! My company uses a forced ranking system for annual raises, and this will put me in the 0 raise category.

    I was shocked, absolutely shocked. At first I thought I must have a really inaccurate perception of my own performance, because I thought I was doing a damn good job. I work hard; I push myself to the limit every day. I do more work than anyone else — at least I thought so — and it is very, very rare that I make a mistake. I started asking myself if maybe I’m not accomplishing as much as I thought, or I’m making mistakes that nobody told me about, because I totally expected to see my name in the top 3 spots on that list.

    The more I think about it, though, the less it makes sense. The first time I met our new director, he told me that everyone says I’m the best employee in the department. In my mid-year review, my manager went through all of my performance objectives and had nothing but praise. At the end, she was supposed to summarize strengths and areas for improvement, and the only negative she gave through the whole review was that I get frustrated when other people aren’t doing their jobs and she wanted me not to show my frustration as much. Valid point, but the way she put it, it seemed like an afterthought just so she could put something in areas for improvement.

    I have had a couple of conflicts with coworkers, basically about the fact that people take advantage of my work ethic by neglecting the things they’re supposed to do and leaving them for me, partly because I take pride in my work and can’t stand to see important things neglected or done poorly, and partly because my manager knows I am highly productive and just expects me to do more work. It is a shift work job, so when the previous shift doesn’t do what they’re supposed to, or when the other people on my shift slack off, it directly affects my workload.

    Now, I get that part of my job is getting along with people and I should work on improving my relationships with my coworkers, and I can understand if they knock some points off my rating for that (though, for the record, not everyone hates me; I really only have conflicts with the worst performers, the ones who surf the Internet all day and leave a bunch of extra work for me to do, and the ones who make a ton of mistakes that I have to fix). I just don’t get how that puts me second-to-last in the department, when it seems that there is agreement that my work is the best in the department. It makes me sick to think of how hard I have worked all year while other people take two-hour lunch breaks and spend hours on Facebook and they’re all getting raises (except one other person) and I’m not. Two years ago, I was ranked #1 in the department, and I have gotten better in every measurable way since then, except my increasing frustration with other people’s neglect of duties, which management knows about but won’t do anything except pile more on the hard workers. Also, there is a male employee who is known for having conflicts with every single person in the department, and he was ranked #4, so why doesn’t he lose points for not getting along with people?

    If I hadn’t found this list now, I would have been completely blindsided at my performance review. Forewarned is forearmed, though, so I am wondering if there is anything I can do here. Should I try to make a case for myself? Prepare a written rebuttal? Obviously I need to start looking for another job, but that could take a long time (it took me two years to find this one).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Maybe a silly question, but are you absolutely sure that it was ranked highest to lowest and not lowest to highest (with 14 being second from the top)?

      1. Penultimate*

        Yes, it specifically said, “ranked highest to lowest,” and there was a numerical score for each person that goes into the raise calculation, and the person ranked #15 is widely agreed to be the worst performer in the department.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Are you sure the ranking was in terms of job performance? Could it have been a negative ranking somehow? (Most likely to be let go, for example?)

          1. Penultimate*

            I wish there were some other explanation, but it seemed pretty unambiguous… It said it was for annual reviews (which are coming up since our fiscal year just ended) and was in order of highest to lowest performer.

        2. animaniactoo*

          Unless you want it to be known that you found this list, I would not prepare a written rebuttal.

          I would, however, be prepared not to sign your performance review and to challenge the rank you have been given within the department and ask them to justify it to you over (pick 3 colleagues who are demonstrably worse than you and their issues to lay out). That can look like you’ve thought on your feet, vs you came in pre-armed with this knowledge.

          1. Key to the West*

            I don’t think a “but Mary missed that major deadline and John forgot to send the submission to our biggest client” approach is appropriate for the work place.

            OP should focus on how they excel at their work and how they do a good job without comparing themselves to their colleagues.

            1. animaniactoo*

              Sorry, but they have to compare themselves – it’s inherent in the setup where they are being ranked against each other. If LW is going to push back, they have to be able to raise “co-workers made these major mistakes/have these repeat issues, explain what mistakes I have that are worse which justify ranking me worse than them”.

              1. Oryx*

                If you want to compare yourself to an employee, explain why you are better — not why they are worse.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  This.

                  If you’re having conflicts with other people, however, then yeah, I can see you getting ranked lower. I myself have completely skunked my merit raise for the year with my performance this year, so I know whereof I speak. :P

                  So instead of getting mad, focus on improving that part of your performance. There’s really nothing else you can do. You aren’t responsible for your coworkers’ behavior–only your own.

          2. Penultimate*

            You’re right, I don’t want her to know I saw this. Unfortunately, that also means I can’t use my knowledge of the rest of the rankings, like the male employee who starts arguments every day and is ranked #4. I could give plenty of examples of people who have notably bad performance, but would it make me look even worse to throw my coworkers under the bus?

            I think the biggest advantage of knowing in advance is having time to digest it. I cried when I first saw it because it was such a shock, but now that I know, I can stay calm and collected when she tells me.

            1. animaniactoo*

              You don’t have to bring up their rankings because if you’re ranked #14, it’s not possible that these 3 or 4 people are all ranked worse than you – the only possibility is that all of them but 1 is ranked better than you. You are being told what *your* rank is, so that’s all you need to be aware of here.

              If you’re calling out known factors then it’s not throwing them under the bus to ask what you do that is worse than those things to justify the ranking that you’re being given.

          3. Karo*

            I could be mis-remembering but I think Alison has recommended in the past that you still sign the review since you’re normally just signing to acknowledge receipt, but if you want it to be clear that you don’t agree you can make a note to that effect. I believe she has said that not signing is one of those weirdly adversarial things.

            But yeah, definitely prepare mental statements/notes to argue to your benefit, not a written rebuttal.

            1. Whats In A Name*

              I had a ex-boss/now friend do this once. She signed off on a performance review that she did not agree with under the impression she was signing as an acknowledgement of reciept.

              Even though her department exceeded all goals by leaps and bounds, her supervisor opted to give her a lower than usual score because she was on a 12-week vacation and someone else was running her department during that time. The 12-week vacation? MATERNITY LEAVE.

              She typed up her rebuttal, specifically citingthe use of the word “vacation” essentially being used as punishment, and outlined the very deatailed plan she left for the person taking over her duties.

              HR told her becuase she signed off on it there was nothing they could do and that she should have refused to sign. She never got her ranking, raise or any type of apology. She is no longer there thankfully.

        3. anonymo*

          You sound like a great worker not appreciated by your company. You’ve been there at least 2 years, and were job hunting for current job for 2 years. 4+ years ago the economy was worse, maybe in your field it is much better now! You’ve got more experience now. Don’t worry about the rebuttal, or trying to make too much of a case for yourself. Don’t bring up Mr. #4. It sounds like they are pretty subjective, so one guess is your gender/ethnicity/hairstyle/alma mater/favorite TV show/lunch food or something else that shouldn’t matter are factors here. Thank them for the suggestions on what to improve, bring up mild questions if you have them during your review. (Can you be more specific or give me an example of problem X?) Act very positive and trying to learn, even if their comments are garbage. (“You screwed up project A.” When you know Mr. 4 and Mr. 6 screwed it up.)

          I wouldn’t go from 100 to 0, but it sounds like you are already at a 110 or 120, in terms of performance/hours/effort. I would dial this back a bit. Don’t take 2 hour lunch breaks and become the Farmville master, but don’t work extra hours off the clock, unless it’s a true emergency. Joe not getting his work done and throwing it to you with no warning it not a true emergency.

          Good luck!! You’ll find something soon I bet!

          1. Penultimate*

            Thank you for your kind words. I hope it will not be as hard to find another job this time around, but I’m not optimistic. If anything, my field has become even more competitive since I started this job due to some large employers in this industry going out of business,

            Yesterday was another day where I had an impossible workload because three people called in sick and my manager expected me to pick up the slack. After I found that list, I thought, “Why should I bust my butt to get all of this done when I’m not even getting a raise?” But the work we do is important, and I can’t justify to myself not doing my best work when public safety could be at stake. I really take pride in my work and it hurts that my rating is not going to reflect that.

            1. TootsNYC*

              I wonder if you might need to go to your boss and say, “I just want to point out that I had this huge workload with stuff that was not mine. And I got it done! That’s because I’m organized with my own work, so I had bandwidth to take theirs one. And I don’t make many mistakes, so that helps.
              “I know review time is coming up, so I wanted to toot my horn a little, so you don’t forget how awesome I am, and how willing I am to go the extra mile and put in the extra effort when it’s needed.”

            2. Elizabeth West*

              You do the best you can do, and tell your boss, “I have X, Y, and Z–I can get two of them done by the deadline, but not three. Which ones should I prioritize?” etc.

            3. Ineloquent*

              Penultimate, had your bitterness about the extra work and lazy coworkers become more visible in recent months? Have you been vocal towards non-involved parties? People tend to think badly about frequent complainers, particularly if it feels likes you’re grinding someone else into the ground to put yourself on a pedestal.

            4. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

              Speaking as someone who is seeing it happen–make sure this extra stuff that you are “getting done” is in-line with your performance goals (and not Fred’s/Wakeen’s/Lucinda’s). If not, see if you can get the work appropriately re-prioritized.

              “Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

              More PC: “Boss, there seem to be a lot of urgent tasks that you would like me to complete on a semi-regular basis. Can we have a one-on-one to discuss my current priorities and to assess what you consider the top 2-3? I want to make sure I’m working as efficiently as possible in alignment with company goals.”

              1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

                I meant to add–you may be working your butt of making other people look fabulous. :(

    2. Sunflower*

      Before jumping to conclusions, find out what the ranking was based on. It could be in reverse order. Or could be lowest earrings. Definitely find out before you start doing anything.

    3. Ella*

      In your comment, you mentioned that in your mid-year review they addressed your frustration with coworkers, and you mentioned that that has continued to increase. It could be that they view this as more of an issue than even getting work done. So maybe that’s something to work on going forward? Possibly finding an outside place to vent (I like counseling), or doing your best to be polite, even when frustrated. If they addressed it with you, and it’s continued, but you’re still really productive otherwise, that seems like it could be the missing factor in why you’re ranked poorly.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        Craigslist Rants & Raves is my favorite place to vent about workplace frustrations. I pick a random city not in my area, lest anyone actually randomly read it and figure it out.

      2. Penultimate*

        Well it is definitely something I will work on, but I still can’t understand how that is weighted so much that it could put me lower than people who do half the work I do and make 10 times as many mistakes. It is a very results-oriented company, and our performance objectives reflect a focus on results. I can’t even imagine how they could get the numbers to add up this way from the performance objectives.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I don’t know either, but at Exjob, we had people who were flat out incompetent and didn’t get in trouble. The only way I could deal with it was to stop caring, unfortunately. It got really bad before they started laying people off, and then when the new VP got rolling, a couple of them got axed as well (that was after I got laid off).

          It was frustrating as hell, though, so I understand how you feel. But me being frustrated didn’t change anything. I could only change how I reacted to it. :(

    4. H.C.*

      This depends how soon your performance review comes and whether that ranking document is final or still a draft in progress. If the review is within weeks & the document looks final – I am not sure how much of a rebuttal/appeal you can do pre-emptively (and expect to change your superiors’ minds and your ranking)—you might just have to sit through the review, see if their reasons/concerns for your low ranking is valid and decide if you want to stick it out for another year with no raise (maybe you can bring up your concern from given the dissonance of the praise-laden mid-year review, but again – I wouldn’t expect this to change their performance evaluation either.)

      On the other hand, if your review is a while away & the document looks like a working draft, you can initiate more frequent check-ins with your superiors and co-workers about tasks, projects, etc. and if everything is going fine and what you can do to help.

      Lastly, is there a possibility you’re being considered for a promotion or upward transfer – thus prompting your boss to save the regular raises for others who will be staying in the same roles?

      1. Penultimate*

        I’m not sure exactly when the annual reviews are happening, but they should be pretty soon because our fiscal year just ended. Technically, the reviews are supposed to be for a single fiscal year, so anything I do right now would be part of next year’s review.

        I don’t think I’m being considered for a promotion because (a) I would need a good rating to show that I deserve a promotion, and (b) I have never previously applied for a promotion or transfer at this company, while others in my department have. It is a weird situation because the shift work job comes with a lot of overtime, so a promotion to a non-shift work job would actually end up being a pay cut, which is why I never apply.

        1. H.C.*

          I wouldn’t be too sure about the “anything I do right now would be part of next year’s review” part; in an old job fiscal year end & performance review time for that year are 4 months apart, and come review time my managers have always brought up matters (good & bad) in that timespan that’s technically supposed to be part of next (current) year review.

    5. NW Mossy*

      One possibility – is there a chance that you’re ranked this way because they’re intending to promote you? I know that when I have promos in my group, they may not get a performance-review raise because they’re going to get a significant bump out of their promo. Promos and raises come out of different parts of the performance evaluation budget in my org, so if yours is similar, it may be that the data you saw isn’t wrong but simply incomplete.

      1. Lisa*

        She may also be at the top of her range as it is, but I never understood not rewarding someone with $ for great work, just because of being paid well already.

        1. NW Mossy*

          My org uses salary bands for different role tiers, and getting to the top of the range is definitely a challenge. I have some flex in that we also do merit-linked bonuses that are separate, but for long-serving high performers, there’s not much I can do salary-wise. The company’s basically saying “This role has a ceiling in how valuable it can be to our overall business, so we’re not willing to exceed that max value in paying someone to do it.”

          I’m candid with my folks who are near the top of the range that their raises are likely to be small even when they do really well, and the only way to see a major jump in base pay is to go to the next salary band via a new role. It’s hard to hear that your ceiling isn’t infinite, but even the world’s most amazing file clerk is going to have a hard time adding enough value to a company to be worth a six-figure salary.

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            My company is the same way with the pay bands. I have a work friend who’s been with my division 15 years, and she’s still only at a Senior level (I was promoted to this level in January). She’s at the top of the pay band for our salary grade, management has no intention of promoting her any further, so they give her performance bonuses instead of raises since she can’t exceed the band.

        2. Penultimate*

          Sadly, I’m not even close to the top of the range. If I were, I could still get a good rating, but my raise would be capped to prevent going above the top of the range.g

    6. Sibley*

      I’m going to be blunt. Because I am, and because I don’t see anyone has really spelled out what the underlying issue is: your attitude.

      Here’s what I’m getting about your attitude from your post: You’re resentful of people who surf the web, check email, take long lunches, or make mistakes. (But you don’t hand the mistakes back to the person so they can fix them and thus learn.) You’re allowing your frustration to build up, and spill over to the people around you, even after your manager discussed it with you. Your attitude sounds unpleasant and negative. This kind of attitude brings the entire office down. Of course you’re getting a bad review – I’d be shocked if you didn’t.

      Now, I suspect that either your manager didn’t do a good job of explaining how big an issue your attitude is or that you didn’t get the message clearly. That’s why you’re feeling blindsided now. But they did warn you, and you didn’t improve. In fact, you got worse.

      Stop paying attention to how hard someone else is working, or long lunch breaks, or whatever. If someone is slacking off, the manager will deal with it. If someone makes a mistake and it affects your work, politely send it back and ask them to fix it. No resentment allowed, do not carry grudges. Let your frustration go. You need to retrain yourself, because you’ve gotten into a pattern that is ultimately unhealthy.

      1. Penultimate*

        I appreciate your candid response and I will certainly work on my attitude going forward, but I don’t think it is as simple as you seem to believe. This is a shift work job, and sometimes mistakes need to be fixed now, not, say, three days from now when the person who made the mistake is next scheduled to work. If I’m here now, I have to fix it now. The manager is not always around to see people taking two-hour lunch breaks or surfing the web for half the shift, and even though I know she is aware that certain people don’t pull their weight, she has not done anything about it (or, if she has, it hasn’t worked because it keeps happening). Instead, she often piles more work on me because she knows I’ll do it, e.g., “Jim and Dwight didn’t get this done last night, so I need you to do it now (in addition to the normal workload for the day).” Jim and Dwight spent half the night on Facebook and they’re getting raises while I’m not. I’m sorry, but it’s hard not to let that affect my attitude.

        1. TL -*

          Okay, so that’s bad management and your problem should be with your manager in terms of your workload and not your coworkers in terms of their productivity.

          It is very much coming across like your attitude is a problem here. I get that it’s frustrating and you really value your work but it’s a huge problem if you have issues with multiple coworkers.

        2. CMT*

          If they do bring up your attitude in the review, please don’t try to immediately make excuses for it. That will make the problem worse. It sounds like you would work better in a different type of work environment, so you might keep that in mind if you do decide to look for something new.

      2. self employed*

        I would have said it a bit more gently than this, but I basically agree. I bet your displeasure with your coworkers comes off more negatively than you realize. Even in a results-oriented company, demeanor still matters. Is is possible you’re impacting morale without intending to?

      3. Whats In A Name*

        This is blunt but great advice. It took me a long time to realize the importance of staying in my own lane when it came to the comings and goings of others.

      4. Chaordic One*

        If this is an accurate assessment of the situation, then definitely give people back their incorrect work and have them fix it themselves. Try to have documentation, such as an email trail. If something doesn’t get turned in on time because of someone else’s mistakes or someone else waiting until the last minute to turn something in, so be it.

        They’ll probably come back to you with requests for instructions on how to do it correctly. Try to explain things in person or over the phone, instead of having to type out written instructions (which will usually take more of your time).

      5. Rocketship*

        Whoa, hey. I get where these “Your attitude is the problem” comments are coming from, but I totally disagree that the answer here is “Shut up and take it.”

        Penultimate, I’ve had problems with coworkers that sound very, very similar to yours. And it’s ENRAGING. You know what? It’s ok to be enraged. It’s ok to be super crazy pissed that these assholes are taking advantage of you. Your comment about “there’s a male employee” leads me to assume that you are a ladyperson? If not, I humbly beg your pardon for the misinterpretation; please feel free to disregard this upcoming Feminist Rant ™ if it doesn’t apply.

        You’re absolutely not wrong, Penultimate, to resent your shitty coworkers who are taking advantage of your work ethic. You have every right to be angry. But as women, we’re taught that anger is Not Okay and that it makes us Problematic And Difficult. We’re blamed for our own misuse, we’re told that we need to adjust our attitude. Nope nope nope. You don’t win any prize for being The Most Helpful Little Martyr at work. You just get…. more martyrdom.

        Here’s what I’ve noticed. In my case, all of the slacker employees who made my life hell were dudes. All of them were higher-paid than me; two out of the three made more than double what I do. And all of them benefited from this look-the-other-way, the-crazy-antagonistic-lady-is-the-problem-here bullshit mindset.

        So I started documenting. I brought it up to my manager. When he did nothing, I brought it up to his manager. When that guy ALSO did nothing (seriously, dudes, get your shit together) I took an opportunity to escalate it one step further. By this point we are at someone with the word “Global” in their job description.

        Essentially, I made it clear to all of these managers that I wasn’t going to make it easy for them if they decided not to manage. I set clear expectations: If Theon doesn’t send the ravens, I cannot do my job, he has to send the ravens it is not optional. Please make sure he understands this. Polishing the armor is not my job and I do not have the time nor the expertise to do it, therefore I need you to ensure that Janos does it. I will let you know if I notice that the armor is going un-polished. I’ve noticed that Gregor spends a lot of his time saddling and un-saddling horses; could you please speak to him about proper horse-saddling procedure and also make sure he knows he needs to put the bridles on too? I’ll be checking in with you about that later. I becaome a broken fucking record, to the point where managers were openly acknowledging that they were only doing things because they were sick of hearing about it from me. My philosophy is essentially this: I don’t give a damn how you feel about it, as long as it gets done.

        In my case, Theon and Gregor both voluntarily resigned. Janos is still there, but for unrelated reasons is no longer in my part of the Seven Kingdoms. He’s widely regarded as a jackass, and the Westerosi around me are mostly glad he was sent across the Narrow Sea.

        So I guess my point is this: If your boss isn’t horrified by the fact that someone is ignoring tasks that will affect PUBLIC!!! SAFETY!!! in favor of Facebook (?!?!) then I strongly advise going up the chain until you find someone who IS horrified. Make liberal use of phrases like “I am at capacity,” “I cannot accept [x]’s responsibilities on top of my own.” Make liberal use of the words “unacceptable” and “accountability.” The problem here is not that you have a bad attitude about being blatantly used and dicked over; the problem here is that everyone seems to think it’s ok to blatantly use you and dick you over. Set boundaries and stick to them. Be unwavering in your expectations of your manager with regards to addressing the situation. Stand up for yourself. And, unfortunately, it probably wouldn’t hurt to polish up your resume.

        1. Yeah right*

          Awesome, Rocketship. This is my workplace right now…you have inspired me to change my attitude about being a martyr and to get the boss to pull his finger out of his arse and actually do his job – by getting the slack dumbos in my office to do what they are getting paid to do. Thank you so much.

          1. Rocketship*

            <3 <3 <3 I'm so glad I could help! It burns me up to see anyone picking up the slack for someone else who is obviously coasting, especially when the folks who are supposed to stop that sort of thing just kinda look the other way, and then later act like that's just the status quo. Nope. No sir. Not gonna stand for it.

        2. Penultimate*

          Thanks for this. You are correct that I am a ladyperson, and while I don’t like to play that card, I can’t help but feel like that has something to do with my being expected to do my own work plus other people’s and keep a smile plastered on my face while doing it. We get lectures from management all the time on how vital our work is and how important it is to work to the highest standards, but if I dare to point out when the work is not up to our standards (or not done at all), I’m basically told to keep my mouth shut. My manager has hinted for a long time that she knows certain people aren’t pulling their weight (she even checked web surfing records, so she knows exactly how much time people spend on Facebook and YouTube) and she is doing something about it behind the scenes, but I haven’t seen any results.

          I have thought about taking my concerns up the chain, and maybe going to the company ombudsman, but I have this fear that they will just roll their eyes at the crazy, antagonistic lady. You’re right, though, that somebody should be horrified about this, and maybe I need to keep looking until I find that person.

        3. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

          Damn, Rocketship. That was nice. I may need to save this on my PC to come back to when I get tired of rattling cages.

        4. Chaordic one*

          You said it much better and more emphatically than I did. In my experience, the ratio of men to women with the problem was about 50/50, but this will vary. The problem at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. was made worse because the company had a very high rate of turnover and I was constantly having to train new employees about procedures.

          I ended up making a number of cheat sheets that I could send as a PDF attachment in an email to new employees and that helped. However, I ran into a problem when I.T. found out about a cheat sheet that gave instructions on how to use our new computer system. (I was getting calls from new employees at branch offices complaining about information not being posted to the system when in fact, it was there, but they couldn’t find it because they didn’t know how to use the new system so I sent them a copy of the cheat sheet.)

          I.T. became irate because there was a “help feature” in the new system (although most people couldn’t find it). Also the language used in describing how to use the system in the help feature was obtuse and not all that helpful. I.T. also claimed that at some point in the future the system might actually be upgraded and the instruction would become inaccurate. (The cheat sheet did say that the system might change in the future or be upgraded.) So no more computer cheat sheets after that.

          So maybe come up with written cheat sheets that explain to your co-workers how to do the work they need to. I would add, be nice when bringing it to their attention, but make sure they do the work and you don’t do it for them.

    7. Qweert*

      1 This could be an error. Take it from someone who accidently sorted on a vlookup and scrambled everyone’s bonuses. Come prepared for your review like you would even without this knowledge. Try not to obsess over it. Focus on on your achievements and think of a few ways you can prove appearing frustrated.

    8. neverjaunty*

      You should start looking for another job. That your company uses forced rankings systems is the real problem here – and those systems are, as you now know, not based 100% on merit. (Read some of the stories on ‘stack ranking’ at places like Microsoft, where managers made deals with other managers to game the rankings so they got to keep high performers.)

    9. Althea*

      If you go into your review and really hear that you are #14 (and it’s not some kind of misunderstanding), I’d prepare a number of questions like these:

      “From my perspective, I’ve seen you give me additional work that I understood to be assisting you with correcting the errors of others. For example, you asked me to fix John’s teapot glaze a few weeks ago, and there are other examples. Can you tell me how this kind of thing has played into your ranking?”

      You also have to work on saying this in a neutral, inquisitive tone – because you really do want to know how they got to this ranking. And it gives a gentle reminder of the things you have done well.

      There are 3 possible outcomes: you are doing worse than you think, and you need to know about it and fix it; you are doing really well, but they are prioritizing other considerations that you are not privy to; or you are doing really well, and they are prioritizing totally BS reasons. Regardless, you need to go into the meeting with an open mind. But you need to practice your questions until you can ask them without sounding defensive and frustrated.

      1. MsMaryMary*

        I think this is an opportunity to ask what it would take for you to be ranked #1. If you do have performance issues or attitude/interpersonal issues that are impacting your work, your manager should be able to tell you what to work on to fix it. If this is a BS ranking, your manager won’t be able to offer constructive feedback or will tell you something totally unreasonable.

    10. Former Retail Manager*

      Maybe another viewpoint….even if you’d been in the top 3 or 5 how much would the potential raise be? I feel like companies that use these types of systems for raises also tend to not give very good raises to begin with. (A blanket assumption on my part, I realize.) If the money just isn’t there, perhaps it might be worth looking into positions in related industries or for a large vendor/supplier in your industry. I think the bigger picture concern I would have if I were you would relate to longer term opportunities at your current employer. If they offer mostly praise to your face and in writing, with only minimal afterthought type criticism, and then rank you in this manner, I would wonder what else goes on behind the scenes that you don’t know about. It all just sounds two-faced to me. As others said, I wouldn’t disclose that you found the list unless you are ready to call them on the carpet and potentially quit depending upon their reaction. So sorry this has happened to you. I’ve been in similar situations and it always felt like a punch in the gut.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      I read down through everyone’s comments and your replies OP.

      This sounds vaguely similar to something that happened to me. I needed to sell more. Okay fine. Well I did not push as hard as I could have because I did not understand that this would be THE KEY talking point for my next review. I did not get that out of the conversation AT ALL. Next review, everything plummeted because I was not DRAMATICALLY improved.
      Sigh.
      The boss went on and on about how I am a heck of a worker but because there was not a huge improvement my rank/raise was low. I said, “I don’t get this. You mentioned it in passing. I have improved. Why is this such a problem?”

      And that was when I found out the rest of the story.

      Because of my longevity/pay rate/etc. my bar got raised. I was being held to a higher bar for performance than everyone else. He NEVER told me that a different standard was being applied to me, he just started using the standard without mentioning it.

      I did not last too much longer at the job. Because of the setting I ended up with enormous workloads that I never got thanked for. I remember one time I did tasks 1 through 23 in my shift. I felt pretty spiffy. All the boss said was “you missed task 24”. That was it. I was falling down tired and all I heard was you missed task 24. I knew I would never be able to help this company.

      My current boss marvels that I get tasks 1 through 13 done and ignores the fact that I missed tasks 14 through 18. Differences in people.

    12. Candi*

      Let’s see if I get this:

      You have to do your work and a ton of other people’s work.

      The work must be done now. It can’t wait, because of the nature of the work.

      You have so much of other people’s work to do because they make massive errors or majorly slack off.

      You are very stressed because of all this.

      You push back, wanting people to do their work instead of you hauling the entire wagon half the time.

      The manager refuses to address the problem re: slacking workers. He dumps more work on you (and others who actually work).

      You are told you have a bad attitude and need to get along better with your coworkers -the very ones responsible for your stress. The ones who aren’t being managed. By the manager telling you your attitude is a (the?) problem.

      Then you find you are near-bottom of the pile in ranking for raises and promotions.

      I think your chain is being yanked and your current workplace is dysfunctional. The situation I can see is not long-term sustainable.

      Your choices are:

      Document and escalate or:

      Endure or job hunt.

      Best wishes on whatever you do.

        1. Bibliovore*

          I would get out in front. Document your work- job description, productivity etc. Document the “passed on work” Rate of errors. Do a time study of two weeks. Then. request a meeting to discuss, how well you are doing. Focus on yourself.
          State the expectation of your performance evaluation.

          I did something similar when I hear that ” oh, there is no way to get the highest rating two years in a row”
          The raise wasn’t much but if I didn’t deserve the highest rating there was something wrong with the system.

  11. Frustrated Employee*

    Maybe people who have been doing this thing long enough to explain it to me.

    My company is required to list all positions open, even when the promotion has been promised to someone else. They don’t tell anyone this, so on multiple occasions, I have applied for a promotion, been interviewed, been given all sorts of vague promises of a follow up – and then I find out that I didn’t get it because it was already promised to someone else.

    To me, this is a really crappy way to treat employees. Why jerk around a long time employee into thinking they have a shot at something when you know all along that they don’t? Is there a way I can outright ask “Hey, is this position REALLY open, or is this one of those ‘we’re interviewing because we have to'” so I don’t get my hopes up again?

    Thanks!

    1. ZSD*

      If you work in the public sector, they might actually be legally required to post all jobs. And oh, do I know the frustration. I’ve gotten all excited when I’ve interviewed well, only to learn…
      If you don’t feel comfortable asking, one secret code is often how long the job posting is open for. If it’s open for the minimum amount of time (say, five days), they probably have someone in mind already. If it’s open for longer (like three weeks), they’re probably actually open to considering various people.

    2. J*

      Even if it’s not legally required, sometimes departments have to at least make a show of doing “due diligence” for an opening. They have a candidate in mind, but HR (or someone higher up) insists that the posting is public and other candidates are brought in. The only way you’d know that it wasn’t truly available would be to have the inside track from someone on the hiring committee.

      I’ve been both the job seeker and the hiring manager in such a scenario and it sucks all around. It especially sucks when you like a different candidate personally, but you know you’re still going to give it to the person you already had in mind. It wastes both your time and the candidates’s.

    3. Joseph*

      Even if you’re not government (as ZSD suggests), posting open positions is a fairly common policy. The theory here is that (a) promised employee might leave or take a different position or something, (b) someone might come in and be so otherworldly awesome that it’s worth taking them over promised employee, and/or (c) those applicants might be impressive enough that you can redirect them to other open positions.

    4. NW Mossy*

      This is something that happens in my org, and so often that we have a name for it – “the line,” as in “who’s next in line to be promoted?” I found it very frustrating as well because I didn’t like my position in the line and wondered why I couldn’t leapfrog the heir apparent when I was better at X or had Y skill.

      What ultimately helped me get past that attitude was reframing it as “what do I need to do to become the heir apparent before the next slot opens up?” For me, that ended up being a switch into an individual contributor role in a very different part of my business line. From there, I used some social knowledge I picked up about a manager in that area preparing to retire, started to learn about what she did, and floated a “Hey, when Lucinda retires, I’d like to be considered for her role” to the departmental big boss. Lucinda ultimately retired about a year earlier than anyone thought she would, and it ended up being a win/win for big boss and me that I could smoothly take over for her.

      I’ll probably end up needing to do something similar when I want to jump levels again, particularly the part about leveraging my contacts and the informal grapevine to get out ahead of future openings. Playing politics like this often feels weird or sneaky, but it’s a good way to get practice in the sort of wheel-greasing and horse-trading that comes with being in management.

    5. Bad Candidate*

      I’m not sure if it happens in my company, if it does, I haven’t seen it yet. My husband’s company does this though. He got a semi-lateral slightly up position that he was told was his if he wanted it. But they had to post for it. They didn’t interview anyone externally, but they did interview someone internally, one of his coworkers. It hadn’t been announced that he’d get the job in the department, so I think coworker thought he had a shot, but really even if it hadn’t been promised to my husband, he was the better candidate anyway. However the next time this employee posted for a job and didn’t get it it ticked him off enough that he started looking for a new job and found one, paying considerably more, at a different company. That job hadn’t been earmarked for anyone, and he would have gotten it if he hadn’t blown the interview, but two in a row plus a few other things drove him off. I think they should be more up front about that stuff. Especially if it’s a small group and your pay is terrible and you have a hard time retaining employees.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      The one thing I would caution you about is to watch where this info comes from that they have selected someone.

      Let’s call her Negative Nancy. She was negative for many reasons. It was a hobby of hers to tell everyone that the position had been decided on before it was even posted. So people would take Nancy’s word as gospel and they would repeat the information. Superficially, it seemed like all these people “knew” the job was filled. NOooooo. All these people had talked to Nancy- think patient zero who infects everyone. Was the position pre-filled? Maybe not, but Nancy did her absolute best to keep people from applying. It satisfied her in some messed up way.

  12. Sofia*

    Can I give my manager a deadline?

    We have a deadline coming up next Monday and there are still a lot of items that haven’t come in that I need in order to complete some assignments. Add to that, my manager will be out two days next week for a religious holiday. I am getting very stressed that all assignments will come in on the last minute and I will have to work both days next weekend to meet the deadline. My birthday is next Sunday so I don’t really want to have to work that day. I am caught up with everything I can do at the moment, but we are getting a new assignment tomorrow morning, so I will be working all day tomorrow to complete this assignment and taking this Sunday off. Is it okay to tell my manager that anything I don’t get by Monday afternoon I can’t guarantee will be done on time and that I won’t be working Sunday? Or should I just give up my birthday and come in next Sunday if I need to?

    Note: If I don’t get the assignment by Monday it wouldn’t come until Thursday because of the holidays.

    Thanks for your help!

    1. A.Z. Lazuli*

      I do that all the time. My project manager is so busy that I need to tell her when I need stuff for her to do it. I often have to remind her multiple times that she needs to do something for me.

      I do it nicely and politely, of course.

      1. Sofia*

        I keep reminding him, but the problem is he needs the information from different clients who aren’t providing the information.

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          I would talk to your boss and ask if there is a way that, due to the holiday, the client send the information directly to you instead of going through the boss so that you can still meet the deadline. Instead of saying you don’t want to work on your birthday maybe frame it as having firm plans for the weekend and therefore limited time to work on it and you want to be able to produce a solid product that isn’t rushed at the last minute.

          1. Sofia*

            That’s not a bad idea! It’s very frustrating to me though to think that I have to justify not working on a Sunday when he is taking two days in the middle of the week and took two weeks off last week for a holiday as well. I guess those are the perks of management!

            1. neverjaunty*

              Is Sunday a religious observance day for you? If so, then you should probably have a talk with your manager about that.

              If it’s just that Sunday is normally a work day off – the holidays you’re talking about are almost certainly the High Holy Days, and they’re kind of a big freaking deal; it’s not really a ‘perk’ to take them off like taking a weekend.

              1. Sofia*

                I didn’t mean it in an offensive way and I understand they are important. I meant a “perk” as in a way that he can take the days off even if it means my coworkers and I will have to work all weekend to meet my deadlines.

                No, Sundays are not a religious for me because I don’t care about religion. But it is my birthday and my birthday is important to me. I know some people don’t make a big deal of it, but to me it is important.

                Also, I don’t consider having two days off as a “perk”, but rather something that is required of a job and I am already working long hours during the week and on Saturdays to meet the deadline.

                1. Sofia*

                  After rereading, I don’t I explained myself the way I wanted to. I don’t mean to be offensive or imply the holidays aren’t important because I understand that they are, but it is affecting me personally and I don’t think that is fair.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Keep in mind that that kind of religious accommodation is required by law in the majority of situations in the U.S.; it’s not because he’s a manager.

                3. Sofia*

                  Thank you! I’m not in any way saying or trying to imply that he shouldn’t have those days, but I think my time should be respected as well.

                4. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

                  Right, but there’s a difference between “important to you” and “religious holiday.” Specifically – one is legally protected and the other is not. I get that you’re stressed and frustrated about this, and you have every right to be, but you’re coming off a tad snarky on the fact that he’s taking religious days of obligation off.

              2. Sofia*

                My question if more of is it okay to tell him I won’t work on Sunday and might not meet the deadline if we don’t get the information in a timely manner or should I just come to work on Sunday and forget that it’s my birthday?

            2. Whats In A Name*

              The holidays you are likely talking of are not “perks” and the days are not spent doing the same weekend-type things that normally occur on a weekend off.

              It sounds like you are seeing his observance of the holidays as a burden to you, and I do hate that part of it. I think asking to have the client contact you in his absence is a way to find a potential solution. And if he skips the holidays (equivalent of a Christian skipping Christmas) and sits in his office, is there a guarantee these clients will contact him? You said they are not responding at current time.

              1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

                I literally just had this very conversation with someone because I have 3 Jews on my team right now, and someone wanted to know why they were all allowed to take leave at the same time. Nobody raises an eyebrow when half the workforce wants the day after Thanksgiving off, or Christmas Eve, but this is somehow an issue?

                1. Sofia*

                  Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that he shouldn’t take the holidays off and I am definitely not against him taking the time off because they are important to him and I understand that. I don’t see it as a burden to me because you are right that there is no guarantee that the clients will answer during those days and they probably won’t because they will be celebrating those holidays as well.

                  I’m sorry if I came of snarky and not understanding of the holidays, I know it did come off that way after I reread it so I apologize for that. It is frustrating to me, but I also understand that they are important.

                2. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

                  It’s ok! You’re really really stressed right now. I think you got a lot of good suggestions here for how to handle the specific situation – I also recommend suggestion the clients send stuff straight to you so you don’t have to have your manager as the middleman.

                3. Whats In A Name*

                  @Sofia.

                  I agree with Katie! You got some good suggestions. Just don’t use the same choice of words you used with us and you’ll be fine with boss man :o)

              2. Sofia*

                Thanks for your comment. After reading your message, I agree that taking the holidays are not “perks” as I originally stated, but rather something employers have to and should offer. I understand that the holidays are important and don’t mean to imply he shouldn’t have them off. The reason I initially said they were perks is because I don’t celebrate any religious holidays so to me having those days off are “perks”, but I realize now that to the person celebrating those holidays they aren’t perks.

                Clients will be celebrating those holidays as well so it’s not not likely we will get anything in those days as you mentioned. It is also not likely that he will agree to have those clients not celebrating the holidays speak directly to us as there are only a handful of clients that he likes us to communicate with directly.

        2. dr_silverware*

          Have you told him you probably won’t be able to work next Sunday? You could try, “Boss, we have a lot of stuff coming due that can’t move forward unless we get this stuff from our clients. I won’t be able to work Sunday of this weekend, how do you want to handle this?”

          1. Sofia*

            I asked what are our plan was to make sure we get everything done on time. He said all we can do is wait for our clients to give us the information. The problem is he procrastinates a lot and there is a big rush before due dates here. Some of this information we have had since May or June and I need additional information, but he doesn’t contact the client until the pressure is on…or sometimes he just won’t forward me the information. This morning he contacted a client for a question I had asked in June and the client replied that the had already given him that information and sure enough he had because he found the e-mail back from June. I’ve continued to follow up throughout the months but he ignores my e-mails or tells me I don’t need to follow up because he knows what he has to do.

            I just don’t know if it’s appropriate to set my foot down and say I definitely won’t come in Sunday or if I have to suck it up and come in.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I think it’s appropriate but perhaps phrase it as “Given that you quite understandably won’t be available during the holidays, and I need that information before Friday, how would you prefer we handle this? We could do [any of the suggestions from the above].”

              But the bigger problem is that your boss is a horrible procrastinator. You can’t really fix that.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      This is classic “managing up.” Would it be appropriate to offer to “take following up with the clients off his plate” so that you have more control over getting what you need on your timeline?

      1. Sofia*

        He doesn’t allow us to do that though. Certain clients we can follow up with, but the majority only he wants to talk to.

    3. Jillociraptor*

      It’s not really giving your manager a deadline but it is totally reasonable in my opinion to share the implications of not getting something by a certain time, along the lines of, “If I get this by Monday afternoon, I’ll complete it by Friday without issue. But if I don’t receive it til Thursday, it won’t be possible to complete it until next Tuesday.”

      1. Sofia*

        That’s what I’m thinking too. Would make sense on Monday morning to say anything I can get by end of day today I can finish by the deadline, but anything I can after I will do my best. I can come in Saturday, but coming in Sunday is where I draw the line?

        I asked him “What is our plan to make sure everything gets done by the deadline?” He said he would try to get the information, but some we won’t get until the last minute. I told him I wasn’t planning on coming in on Sundays, but can come in Saturdays (which I am planning on)

        1. Jillociraptor*

          Are you scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays? As in, are those days part of your normal work week? Either way I think it’s always reasonable to say “I won’t be in the office that day so how can we adjust the timeline or the deadline so that things get done as appropriate?” But if you’re not even scheduled/required to work Sundays, you can just repeat, “I won’t be working on Sunday.” and hold to that.

          If there are occasional times when you need all hands on deck to finish a project, that’s one thing. But it sounds like your office actually has a pretty big issue with process management if it’s a standard part of your operations that people need to work weekends in order to meet deadlines. The better question for your boss is “We need to adjust the deadlines to reasonable timelines for getting information from clients. How can we fix that issue so that staff don’t have to regularly work on their days off?”

          1. Sofia*

            We can’t change the deadline because it’s a federal deadline. We need to work Saturdays during certain times of the year, but when I interviewed they said we would just be working Saturdays and not Sundays. This isn’t one of those times where we are supposed to be working Saturdays or long hours, but I am still trying my best to complete my work in time and just don’t know if it’s appropriate to say that I won’t be working Sunday or if I should just come in,

            One of my coworkers mentioned that she will just do the best she can and is only working Saturday as well.

      2. Joseph*

        Correct – you aren’t setting deadlines or his schedule, you’re providing him with information that’s important to the company. Most notably, if your deadline is related to a client deadline, you *absolutely* should point that out. “This report is due to Alpha Client by Friday, so I need your comments by Thursday to give us enough time to address and then mail it out to them.”
        Also, to the extent possible, it’s great to give heads-up about these things ahead of time. Hey, I’m working on the Alpha Report, so I expect to get it to you by Monday and if I can get it back by Thursday, then we can get it out to them on Friday and meet their deadlines.

        1. Sofia*

          Thank you. So everything is due to the different clients by next Monday and I still have about 10 different assignments that aren’t in yet. I am just worried that all 10 will come in Thursday or Friday!

    4. ThursdaysGeek*

      I made a deal with a manager years ago, in an attempt to get him to get some work done. I worked in a shoe repair, and he was always off doing other things, so customers would come in and yell at me because their shoes weren’t done. I got tired of it, and offered him a deal: if he got all of his work done before the end of the week, I’d pay for him and his wife to go to an expensive dinner in town. If he failed, he’d pay for me and my spouse to go to dinner. I knew I couldn’t lose: either I’d get a nice dinner or I wouldn’t get yelled at.

      He accepted the deal. I got a nice dinner.

  13. Lily*

    I’ve been at my current job for several years, and I’m feeling like it’s time to start looking for something new. This is only my second “professional” job. I stayed at my previous job for about two years, and before that, I was doing something else entirely, which allowed me to also complete graduate school.

    My question is about references. I’m in a bit of a bind concerning who to list as a reference. Listing my previous supervisor is problematic. He got fired around the time that I left. He had already been given his notice (they actually gave him the option to resign as a courtesy to help him save face a bit, but it was well known he was fired) when I was offered my current job and gave my own notice. Part of the reason he was fired–though definitely not all–was his supervision of me. Specifically, assigning me work way beyond my job grade, including work that was actually his to do and that he was taking credit for behind my back. He also had a lot of other problems, and I highly suspect that most of them stemmed from a very serious problem with alcohol. He came to work drunk several times, and frequently called out “sick” after posting pictures of drunken escapades on facebook. Since leaving, I know from viewing his profile on LinkedIn that he has held and left one other job (less than a two year stint), and seems to be currently unemployed. I also heard through the grapevine that his marriage fell apart.

    When I gave my notice six years ago, he was very annoyed with me while at the same time begging me to extend my two weeks’ notice. I’d always done excellent work there (which was why he was so annoyed–he flat out said that they wouldn’t be able to find someone else who would do work at the same level that I would for so little money, as if this was my fault), so he really should be able to give me a good reference. But he’s never been the most stable person, and was certainly known to act out of emotion and spite in several circumstances. I’ve also seen him lie. Because of this, I’m a bit nervous about asking him for a reference. Because I’m sure that his feelings about our former workplace are probably not that positive, and part of his demise there included me, I have no idea how he will react. Even though he has absolutely nothing to gain from badmouthing me, I have no reason to think his stability has gotten any better. I certainly wouldn’t want a prospective employer to call him and him answer the phone drunk. I’m not confident that that wouldn’t happen.

    His management style created such a toxic environment that eventually almost everyone in my department left voluntarily or was forced to leave, including all other senior people (I was the most junior person). There is actually only one person left who was there when I was, and she did not have any supervisory responsibilities. Even if I could track those other people down, which I’m not sure I could, I don’t know how appropriate asking them for a reference would be considering that they weren’t really my supervisors.

    When I applied for my current job, I listed my supervisor that I had in my last job that was NOT related to my current industry. It was fine at the time–but that reference was much fresher then than it is now, and also it did not raise any red flags when I did not list what was at the time my current supervisor. But I don’t have that excuse now. How should I proceed in regards to references with my next job search? Can I get hired without having to rely on a reference from this unstable man or listing my current supervisor (which I don’t want to do for obvious reasons)?

    1. Fabulous*

      Yes, co-workers are definitely the way to go. Use someone who was more senior than you with whom you had a close working relationship, i.e. a senior admin or team lead. Or perhaps someone who worked jointly on a project with you.

      1. Lily*

        They’ve mostly all left–there is literally one person there who worked there when I did, whose position is pretty junior. I only am in touch with one other person, who really didn’t work closely with me. There were some other senior people there, who didn’t exactly supervise me (their boss was also my boss), but they were all also forced to resign or otherwise made miserable enough to resign on their own. None of them had other jobs lined up when they left, so I’m not sure how to contact them.

        My boss’s boss was VERY high up on the ladder, and has actually moved on to a different position now, although I do know what that is. But I’m not sure that such a junior person as me (I had literally the lowest level job in the department) would have much luck getting him to respond to a reference, even though I did know him.

        And even so, don’t hiring managers want to speak to a manager? Won’t it red flag my application that I don’t list anyone who ever supervised me?

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          I didn’t have any supervisors on my reference list because the job I left after 5 years was my first out of college and I was still employed while looking. I would look for some coworkers at current job that trust and you have worked directly with enough that they can attest to your skills. Then after you have a firm offer if they still want to talk to a supervisor they can call your current boss. Besides a lot can change in 6 years and some places want references that are “fresher” and can speak to your current skill set and behaviors.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      Oh man, you definitely DO NOT want to list your former supervisor as a reference. When you apply to new jobs that ask for a previous supervisor, say that your former supervisor is unwell and you’re not comfortable using him as a reference. That’s when you offer up other employees from that workplace. Most employers will be fine with this, and I’m sure your former coworkers would be happy to help.

    3. NaoNao*

      I have actually been hired on most of my jobs without a reference check that I heard about at least. Part of that may have been that some of my supervisors and references are overseas but I think maybe some hiring managers just need references “on file” and actually don’t check for most office jobs.

      So in this case what I might do is list a co worker, a friendly person who is related to your department who can speak about your work who is senior to you, or list the person who was this boss’ boss? Most places will understand that a current manager is not likely to give a reference since they may or may not know about the job search.

    4. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Do you have any mentors from, say, graduate school that could serve as references?
      Would you be comfortable discussing with your current supervisor if you knew you were a candidate of choice? Hiring managers typically don’t call references until they’ve already made a decision to hire, and it’s a last check to make sure there are no major red flags.

      1. Lily*

        I do have school mentors, but that was quite a long time ago now. I appreciate all of the feedback here and will probably go with not listing this guy and trying to use coworkers + current manager with the caveat that I’d like to be notified before the call so that I can warn her.

    5. Photoshop Til I Drop*

      Your boss has left the workplace in question. Is it generally considered reasonable for you to have to track someone down in order to use them as a required reference? It’s a bit weird and intrusive to require a candidate to play detective. Would I really be expected to figure out where in Florida my previous boss ended up retiring to, for example?

      I’d give the info (I worked here during these dates, under this person) and let the new job call and find out that the supervisor is now gone.

  14. ithinkyouhavemystapler*

    Today is my last day at Old Job! I have been trying to leave for so long and I am SO EXCITED for my new position within the same organization but at a different site. Hooray for moving forward!

    1. Snazzy Hat*

      Woo! Congratulations! We must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

  15. AnotherAnon*

    I have received this question twice during two interviews: “What are some challenges that you expect to face in this position?” I gave an answer, but I don’t think it was what they were looking for. Are they looking to see how you would solve problems on the job?

    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Did you just give a flat answer about potential issues, or did you also state how you would address those shortcomings? Ive always found that this question is a good clue to some key issues on the job, and they want to see if you would know from experience or intuition how to handle them without necessarily additional help. It also gives you a heads up about potential problems – if the answer to this is ever “organizational resistance to change” keep on walking once you walk out the door!

    2. Charlotte Collins*

      I think that’s a poorly phrased question, and you could ask to clarify. (To be honest, they have a better idea of what might be challenging in a position than you do, since they presumable know more about their own workplace/positions.) I wonder if they’re actually asking what might be your weakest skills of those required for the job.

    3. Sunflower*

      Before you go into a job interview, I would look at the job description and identify what parts of the duties/requirements you have limited or no experience with and think about how you would learn those things or how your experience in other related/similar areas relates to that. You’ll need something better than ‘I’m a quick learner/I like to learn!’. For example, my new job is a lot of client service and my last job was very limited in that. So I had to explain to my now boss why I could handle that or what I would do once I started to excel.

      I think maybe what they are asking is ‘how do you handle new challenges’. This could also be a form of ‘what is your biggest weaknesses’.

    4. Pwyll*

      Yes. In an ideal world, you’d refer to something the interviewer has discussed with you or that was clear from the job description. Something like, “It sounds to me like this position requires a lot of coordination between different departments, which may have their own goals. This is similar to the time I did x at y job, and what I did was z.” or “It sounds like this position really needs to get a handle on all the records for z project. I’ve had to clean up the documentation for projects like this in the past, and would do abc.”

    5. hbc*

      I ask a similar question, and I expect to hear something along the lines of the most challenging part to you or the most challenging part in general. “I’ve never worked with an ERP system before and it sounds like that’s a heavy part of the job, but I’m pretty fast at learning new programs.” Or “The hardest thing is always the people. I can learn any equipment or process, but figuring out what motivates the people under me takes time.”

      Of course, they may be looking for a particular answer, like the last person was terrible with paperwork, and they want to hear about how the paperwork will be a challenge but that you’re awesome at it. They really should give you a nudge in that direction, though, if you don’t hit on it the first time.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I actually always pretend they’ve asked me that question.

      And I “answer” is (bcs they seldom actually ask it) by highlighting the challenges I think are endemic to the position.

      Like: a copyeditor has to have an eye for detail; to be able to focus in the middle of chaos and deadline pressure.
      At my current job, the place has a bad reputation for chaos and lateness, and EVERYbody knew it, so I said, “I think the organization’s reputation might make it hard to recruit and retain quality staff, so I’d offset that by carving out comp time and paying a little better than most places. I also have a good track record of keeping people coming back by treating them well and giving them autonomy, which makes them feel like a valued contributor.”

      Managers have to motivate staff after layoffs; they have to make sure everyone has the same marching orders and standards (harder when the staff is larger or more disjointed).

      File clerks have to deal w/ people who provide information in a haphazard way; they have to handle big piles of stuff arriving suddenly; they have to handle boredom; they have to deal w/ new formats, outgrowing the file drawers, etc.

      So I would say everyone should think, “What do I think will be the tough parts of this job? How will I do them, or what experience can I point to that will prove I can handle the tough parts of the job?” Sure, you won’t know everything, but you should be able to identify the generic “hard parts of the job.” And any research you can do about the company, or the department, would be valuable as well (it helped me), though you don’t want to go over into “negging.” Just, if you can say, “I’ve spoken to people who’ve told me there’s been a lot of turnover. I would think that smoothing that out would be one of the challenges.” Or, “I know that you’re trying to carve out more market share in printing services, so identifying new customers, or ones we can poach, would be a priority, I’d think.”

  16. Bloop*

    I had an interview for a job that I applied to as a reach earlier this week. It had been so long since I submitted the application that I had kind of figured I had submitted too late (the post came down the day after) or they had decided to pass on me. I feel like I did really well in the interview and prepared for it more than I ever have because it’s essentially the job I’ve wanted since I was sixteen. At the end of the interview, they said they expected to make first-round decisions by the end of October. It’s going to be a loooooong month. I’ll take it, though.

    1. ButFirstCoffee*

      Congrats on getting an interview for something so exciting! Waiting is the worst, I know. Just wanted to say best of luck and be sure to try to occupy yourself as best you can in the mean time. I have been that person who sits and refreshes their email every 15 minutes.

    2. Fact & Fiction*

      Good luck! I have an interview Monday I’m super excited about. Hope we both rock it!

  17. Laid Off 5 Months Before Maternity Leave*

    Other than temp/staffing agencies, are there any other places to look for short-term work?

    In March we’re having a baby. I’m getting laid off in December. And my hours are being halved in November.

    I plan to stay home for a year and pretend the US is a civilized country, but in order to do that we need my income now! I’ve applied with 5 temp agencies, but I’d love to hear other suggestions if you have any.

    1. Pwyll*

      Check out the jobs, and especially the “Part time” portion of Craigslist. Just be careful to take everything with a grain of salt, as there are some scammers on there too. But I’ve done some side work sourced from CL in the past.

    2. It's Not Ideal*

      This could be really physically demanding and I have no idea what your endurance looks like, but food service might be an option if you get desperate. I worked at McDonald’s for four years and we had women working up until they gave birth. It can be physically demanding, but food service typically expects high turnover, so you leaving after a few months wouldn’t be a big deal. And I’m betting you can probably request jobs that are a little less physically demanding (only be stationed at the cash register, for example) if you accept a job. Libraries (as a page or circulation desk) might be another option, but jobs there are really tight right now.

      1. It's Not Ideal*

        And you may also consider being a nanny. Nextdoor (the social media-ish website) is a great place to look for opportunities/offer your services.

        1. orchidsandtea*

          Nannying is good; it pays a little better than foodservice, and I have a lot of experience in that arena.

          Your suggestions are really helping. For a 5-month position I can leave off my resume, it’s okay if it’s not in line with my career goals. It’s just a matter of bringing in income while I can.

      2. orchidsandtea*

        Library jobs are hard to find at the moment. Foodservice is an option, and I make a good cashier. I like the idea of just searching for an open position that expects high turnover. The problem’s money. Around here minimum wage is $7.25; better than nothing, but not even half of what I need to make ends meet.

        1. SeekingBetter*

          You could try applying to restaurant establishments that need waitstaff. Some places are busy enough that, even when making only $3 an hour, with the tips from your shifts, you could be making closer to $15 dollars an hour. It’s very hard work and you’re on your feet a lot, but it’s something to consider if you can do it. Good luck!

    3. Sadie Doyle*

      If you’re able to be on your feet, maybe try retail — one of my coworkers is currently applying for a short-term second job in retail, and stores in the local malls are already interviewing in anticipation of Christmas shopping season.

      1. M*

        Motherhood maternity and Gymboree love hiring pregnant women. At Motherhood you can get a commission so that might help increase your hourly wage.

    4. Zombeyonce*

      Will you be getting unemployment? I believe that if you get laid off (and even when your hours are cut significantly in November), you may be eligible for it in the U.S. It may be affected by the amount you make for temp jobs (likely lower than your current pay) since it bases it on a certain number of months of pay. Be sure to run the numbers to make sure taking a temp job here and there won’t adversely affect unemployment you plan to apply for that can get you through what would have been maternity leave. I hesitate to suggest it, but taking work that pays you under the table may be a good option for you to maximize income now and during unemployment time.

      Since the U.S. is so backwards when it comes to family leave, this situation could actually be helpful, since you may be able to collect unemployment instead of having an unpaid maternity leave. (And if you were hoping to transition to something else anyhow.)

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Another note: Depending on how much you make, unemployment benefits could bring in more money than a minimum wage job at 40 hours a week, which will get harder and harder (especially in food service) as you get closer to your due date. I work a desk job and I could hardly get through a full day the last 1.5 months of my pregnancy.

        1. orchidsandtea*

          Yeah, I worry about that. I’m already a small lady with a big bump, and the bump’s growing fast.

          I just did the math. 47% of my current salary is still greater than a minimum wage job at 30 hrs a week. And most minimum wage positions here are 20-30 hours, to avoid paying benefits. I don’t know if I’ll have the stamina for one 40-hr-a-week job that keeps me on my feet; I definitely would struggle to hold 2, 20-hour gigs.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            I found a calculator where you can put in your income for different quarters and find out how much unemployment you’d receive (based on your state): http://fileunemployment.org/calculator.

            It could help you quite a bit when looking at temp jobs to decide if the money from that would make a big difference in your unemployment benefit dollars (and if minimum wage, it’s pretty likely it would make your unemployment checks go down).

          2. Yetanotherjennifer*

            Plus there is the money you could save by not buying things and eating at home. It’s not a huge amount but if you’re not going to a mall shop every day you’re not seeing things to buy and seeing the great deals you could snag by using your discount. And you’re not grabbing mall food for meals. You’ll also save on gas. Yes, you can be disciplined and avoid spending money where you work but it’s not for the faint of heart. Especially when you’re pregnant.

          3. Trillian*

            What’s your most valuable skill, in hourly wage and/or in demand? Can you turn it to freelance work or consultancy e.g., admin, marketing, or accountancy for local small business people or solo start-ups who need the skill but don’t have the work or can’t afford a full timer. Do you have a local office for startups and small business?

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        I worked at a craft store for three and a half years. After New Year’s day, no one was ever let go due to lack of business. Yeah, we had our hours chopped like onions during January and February, but the only seasonal employees who didn’t stay after (or through) the holidays left of their own volition. If you’re up for it, I’d suggest working at a place with that kind of turnover. I’m not sure if any other retail establishments have similar “no layoffs” guidelines.

    5. Anonon*

      Universities often have their own in-house temp services. Google “school name” + “temporary employment” or “temporary services.” They’re typically looking for short-term administrative workers to cover while a position is being filled or while someone is on leave.

      Get your resume on file with them now so you can complete any background or reference checks they require. Once you’re available to work immediately, call and let them know. Recruiters for temps are extremely high volume, so someone who’s upbeat, says they’re able to work immediately, and sounds professional on the phone stands out.

      It helps to take anything that’s offered, even if it’s below your skill level (like receptionist or filing clerk when you’re capable of being an exec admin or coordinator). Once one department gives you a good review, you get a lot more placements, and may even be requested by name. Recruiters go back to the same candidates if they’re good.

      1. Dragon*

        I second this university suggestion. You may find a temp job to cover holiday/January break time.

    6. Fact & Fiction*

      If you meet the requirements for your location, you could look bro substitute teaching.

    7. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      Any call centers in your area? While not true temp work, they are used to people only staying a few months.

    8. BobcatBrah*

      Why not Uber? You set your own hours and it’s a sit-down job. Plus you get a hefty tax break for mileage.

  18. Mimmy*

    There’s a job at my state university that I’m thinking of applying for. The hitch is that I’m going away the week of the 17th, just 10 days away. How should I handle this? I know it can take a long time for university hiring, but this is a long-term temp, part-time position, so I have a feeling the process may not take as long.

    Oh, and it’s one of those things where they want a list of references right off the bat. Seriously?! For a temporary “casual” position??

    1. Ella*

      I work at a state university, and for us it’s really rare that we’d interview that quickly. Maybe, if they’ve posted a job closing date, it’s possible, but the process is often really slow. We typically do phone interviews first, which if you’re going away, you could hopefully do. We also request references right off the back, but we only contact them if someone is in their final stages. Obvi this could be different at your university, but that’s how it is around here!

    2. Murphy*

      I wouldn’t worry about your trip until it becomes an issue. (Assuming you’d be available to answer phone calls or emails.)

      It’s pretty common for a lot of job applications to ask for references up front. Particularly someplace large like a university that probably has a template.

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      I work at a state university. You’re fine to go on vacation! Just indicate in your cover letter when you’ll be gone, and whether you’ll still be reachable by phone/email.

      They want your references now BECAUSE this is a temporary part-time position. They need it filled now, so they want to cover all their bases ASAP.

      1. Bibliovore*

        For these kinds of positions, I do ask for references after seeing the resume and deciding that there is a fit. The references are pretty simple- do they show up on time? Can they work independently? Do they meet deadlines? How are their written and verbal skills? Can they take direction and ask questions?
        I usually do that by email.
        Second Lemon Zinger. It took me so long to get that job posted another few weeks won’t be a big deal.

    4. Mimmy*

      Thanks guys.

      But ARGH this is one onerous application system! I just don’t get the point of making me upload my resume and references list when you’ve already asked for that information in the online form!! Especially for a temporary, part-time position. I still have yet to do the required cover letter too.

      Being somewhat loopy on Benadryl (for severe poison ivy) is NOT helping matters :'(

  19. A.Z. Lazuli*

    I’ve worked one year at my current, fairly demanding job. It’s my first job after grad school.

    I’ve done ok but not great. Partly because of “external circumstances” like family issues and an unexpected medical emergency.
    But most of all because of my lack of structure and organization.

    Long story short, I’m starting ADHD-testing next week and hope that I will get additional tools to deal with my issues.

    I’ve been open with my boss about my family and medical issues and they’ve been incredibly supportive.
    I don’t plan on telling them exactly what I’m doing (hi mental health issues stigma) but should I give them some sort of heads up?

    Like “I’ve been dealing with even more medical issues but once that’s resolved I’ll do even better” or just (hopefully) just let my increased performance speak for itself?

    I’m not American so ADA is not applicable.

    1. fposte*

      I wouldn’t. I’d just let your increased performance speak for itself. All telling them would do is set up expectations, and I don’t see that being to your advantage.

    2. AnonAcademic*

      By “ok but not great” do you mean you’ve gotten lukewarm feedback on your work, or is this solely a self judgement?

      I feel like I’m at the “competent but not exceptional” level right now but all my coworkers think I’m a high performer and my boss doesn’t give much feedback, but all that I do get is positive.

      On the other hand I have a coworker who probably thinks they’re doing “ok but not great” but actually, they are a low performer because they’re so unreliable and hard to work with that no one wants to be on projects with them. Part of their issue is a lack of self awareness. However, the fact that you’re asking this question suggests you are not that person.

  20. Abovelevel*

    After several months of job searching, I finally have 2 offers! One is from the place I have also been volunteering for about a month, let’s say Nonprofit A. Actually, I didn’t even really have to formally apply. The volunteer coordinator knew I was looking for work, so she referred me to the director as soon as a position opened up and all I had to do was sort of informally talk to her about it. The other position would be the same type of work at a slightly smaller organization, Nonprofit B.

    To be honest, both positions sound great in terms of the actual work I will be doing, but the commute to Nonprofit B would be MUCH easier (20 minutes vs 45). However, I feel sort of indebted to Nonprofit A and would feel bad turning down the position. Particularly, the director of Nonprofit A has been extremely kind and encouraging in trying to help me get the position at her organization. How can I approach Director A and let her know I’m not actually taking the position? Or am I totally off base and should I accept the position with A, given that I know the staff very well already and we clearly get along professionally?

    Thanks for any help or thoughts!

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Do not feel professionally indebted! Take the job you are most excited about. If that’s Nonprofit B, you tell Director A that you appreciate all the opportunities you’ve received while volunteering, but the next best step for you professionally is to accept a role with Nonprofit B.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        This. You don’t owe any organization fealty forever just because they’ve been kind to you in the past. If a long commute is a deal breaker for you in the long term, go with option B.

    2. Sunflower*

      There’s limited information here so I just want to make sure you are not basing your decision totally around the commute time. A short commute rocks but knowing you can work with your co-workers is golden. As long as you have a legitimate good feeling about B, then go for it! Just make sure you are considering ALL the factors.

      That being said, if Director at A is at all sane, she will understand and be happy for you. I’m sure there are lots of other qualified candidates they can hire. I would simply say ‘Thank you so much for considering me for the position of Teapot Maker. As you know, I have been job searching during my time volunteering here and I have been offered another position that I have accepted. My last day of volunteering(or can/do you want to continue to volunteer through this employment?) is XX/XX. I hope we can stay in touch in the future(if thats true).’

      Congrats!

      1. Abovelevel*

        Thank you both. You are definitely right, it is a close to entry level position so I’m sure they can easily find someone else!

        Just to clarify – yes, I am definitely excited about B for other reasons, though the commute is a huge bonus. Specifically, I would be in a much smaller department at B, and therefore I would taking on some higher level responsibilities. Also, everyone at B seems great, but having worked with people that were difficult in the past, I am extra cautious about not ending up in that situation again. Though in this case, nothing seems to indicate that the employees at B are anything but totally normal and lovely!

        1. neverjaunty*

          You owe A nothing other than courtesy and appreciation for their opportunities. You don’t owe them sticking around to ‘pay them back’.

          1. Bibliovore*

            Since A is a non-profit, you can continue to support them by making small contributions and mentoring those who wish to continue in your line of work.

    3. BRR*

      Stop feeling indebted to Nonprofit A (or ever to any employer) and then make the decision. Salary, benefits, commute (I have a super long commute so this one is important to me at the moment), office culture etc. Sunflower has perfect wording.

  21. Dave*

    Ahh, what a week!

    I was waiting to hear back from one job (A), while prepping for a second interview for another (B).

    On Tuesday, I got an email from somebody at organization A, not associated with the position I applied for. They said the hiring manager for Position A gave them my name and they were wondering if I would be interested in an entirely different position. I said I’d be happy to come in and chat, but asked what this meant for my candidacy for the job I applied for. They explained that the hiring manager for A was very impressed but they had another candidate who was just perfect and had more experience. Anyway, I went in the next day for an interview and to learn more about the job. It was … okay. But not nearly as interesting as the job I applied for. Lots of data and numbers and that’s not something I am sure I want to do every day. Plus, one of the interviewers—with whom I’d work directly—had a weird manner (kept interrupting me and was very brusque asking questions).

    By the time I got home, I had an invitation for a second interview, a short one (1/2 hour), with someone in HR. They also asked for my references, which I provided.

    Then yesterday, I had the second interview with the other organization. It went really well, I think, and the job and organization sounds great. But they said at the end they’d like to have me back for a THIRD round, in the next week or two.

    My worry is that A is planning to offer me the job and I won’t be able to buy enough time to see B through all the way. I want B so much more—it’s way more interesting work, the commute is better, the location is better—but I’ve been unemployed for close to 4 months now and need a job. I’m not sure what I’ll do.

    I mean, I don’t know for sure if they’re going to offer me A, but I know they’ve contacted my references. I have the call with the HR person at 4:00 today and they said they want to move fast so I am not sure what to do here. I guess it’s a good problem to have, but… the second job sounds so much better…

        1. Dave*

          I looked at these posts.

          My main concern is less the “protocol” of handling it, which I am comfortable with, and more that the timing will mean that I’ll be faced with having to turn down Job A and gamble on Job B, or take Job A and then face missing out on a job I’d like much better. I’m not sure how to make that decision. If I was presently employed, it’d be easy to turn down A and wait on B, but I’m not.

          A friend I discussed it with said just take A and then back out if B comes through but I’m not sure if I am ethically comfortable with that. These are both huge massive companies, but I’d hate to inconvenience these people that much. It’d be a more welcome problem if the job at A was the original one I applied for (way more interesting than one I may be offered now). The main reason to look forward to A is it would get me in a big organization and I think there might be opportunity to change jobs down the road but I don’t know if that’s a good enough rationale for taking a job.

          1. Collie*

            I think sometimes there just aren’t ideal options. You may find that A ends up being better than you first perceived and works out okay. You certainly could back out of an offer (Alison’s used language like, “An opportunity came up that I just couldn’t pass up.”) with the understanding that you’re burning that bridge. Meanwhile, it doesn’t sound like A has offered anything yet, so you’ve got a little time. Good luck! I’m potentially going into a similar situation over the next few weeks, so I empathize.

          2. N.J.*

            I can’t give you concrete advice on which to choose but this is the process I would use. If you don’t take A when offered and B falls through as well, would you be in dire financial straits i.e. Do you need a job, any job, as quickly as possible? Do either of the positions differ significantly in pay or benefits? Do you know what the typical career progression path would look like at both places? So if you took B be a side that is the one you think has a better commute, are you likely to be stasified in that position if there is no room to move up? The same for A–it isn’t a position you particularly like, so how likely is it for you to move into a different position and in what time frame? Is either organization more or less stable, interesting etc.? Does either have some sort of stellar reputation that would open doors for you at other places in the future? Do you have a better chance at excelling with the job duties of either one? How much do you like the current director of A—is this one of those situations where everybody at A is so fantastic and inspiring and works so well together that it would be worth it for the atmosphere alone??

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, wait, are you doing the part from the post about calling A once you have an offer from B and saying “I have another offer — are you able to speed up your process?” That’s the crucial part.

            1. Dave*

              I will, if I do get an offer. But part of the holdup with B is that the department head is away and so it may be impossible to proceed any more quickly.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Oh, right, I mixed them up! Sorry. Ah, then that makes more sense and I see the issue. I think at a minimum you can try asking if they can give you a sense of how strong a candidate you are (explaining you suspect you’re soon to get an offer somewhere else, but B would be your first choice). That might not give you useful info, but it might — you might learn that they have a strong internal candidate or they’re talking to a zillion people or so forth, and you could factor that in.

                  But beyond that, I think you just have to decide how upset you’d be if you turned down A and B didn’t come through either. I’d try to avoid taking an offer you think you might back out of.

                2. Doodle*

                  Sorry, Alison — wasn’t trying to pile on about the A/B confusion! Just didn’t refresh in time. :)

                3. Dave*

                  Yes, as others have pointed out, B is the one I want. My naming convention is far too confusing.

                  As it turns out the Friday interview was another interview. Strangely, it felt more like an initial interview than the earlier interview did. This second one was with HR and it was a lot of standard questions (“Tell me about your career goals for the next 5 years, tell me about a time when you failed”). But they did say I was a finalist and that they were contacting references (which my references had already told me) and that they want to make a decision by the end of next week.

                  I am not sure if I should wait until I have a formal offer before I contact position B or if I should contact them immediately and say “I was told I am a finalist and they expect to make a decision this week but you’re my first choice; it’d be great if we could have that next chat very soon.” Since I don’t actually have an offer there’s no REAL urgency, but I would much prefer to not miss up the second opportunity because somebody on their end was away last week :/

          4. EyesWideOpen*

            I would not advise taking Job A and then back out if Job B comes through unless it is okay for you to burn that bridge with Job A. Given that Job A is a big organization, burning that bridge might be a bad decision.

            I know this is a hard decision. I have been here myself and I made the wrong decision by taking Job A and not waiting for Job B even though Job B kept telling me to be patient an offer would happen. Did Job B explain why they need another round of interviews? Is there any way to push the Job B interview forward by telling them you have another job offer but you would prefer their position.

  22. Lacie*

    Any tips for dealing with an absentminded/overbooked boss? We have a high volume of work to do at our tiny company, and lots of it slips through the cracks due to her forgetfulness. I’m new to the workforce, but very diligent and detail oriented, so I have caught a lot of her mistakes. She’s already started cc’ing me on most of her emails so I can remind her to follow up– but it’s not enough! She forgets about meetings, misses deadlines, etc. Any advice on how to tactfully manage the manager here?

    1. Sadsack*

      What kind of calendar system are you and she using? How is she forgetting meetings? Are they not on a calendar, or does she just not look at her calendar?

      1. Lacie*

        We’re using google calendar. I believe she’s using it, anyway– but often she’ll leave early for the day, take a long weekend, or go out for lunch, and then someone will come in saying they have a meeting with her. My guess is they are on her calendar, but she doesn’t look at it and the reminders get buried in her overflowing inbox.

        1. Murphy*

          I keep Calendar open in a browser tab all day and I have pop up alerts, so it will either pop up or flash before a meeting. Really helpful to me when I lose track of time.

      2. Mazzy*

        I think the problem with calendars is people don’t look far ahead in them. They will forget about a meeting until the 30 minute reminder pops up and sometimes even then they just instinctively close it because it is an interruption. Believe it or not people still do miss stuff even though it is in their calendar

    2. fposte*

      Can you outright ask her? I count on my staff to be just this sort of safety net, and it’s fine if they want to ask me how to help track my workflow/schedule/deadlines.

      1. Lacie*

        For sure! I asked her about it at my 6-month review, which is why she started CC’ing me on her important emails. But it’s been about a few weeks since then, and it’s definitely not a complete solution. I don’t want to come across as harping her on it by bringing it up again so soon.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, that makes sense; I think you’re right to turn now to coming up with possibilities on your own.

    3. Barbara in Swampeast*

      Google calendar? It can send updates to her phone to remind her of meetings.

      Make up a daily calendar report to give to her each morning listing meetings and deadlines and info you need to complete your work.

      1. Lacie*

        Oh, that’s a good idea. I’ll talk to her and see if she’d be amenable to that. My concern is that I’m not officially in any sort of secretarial or office manager position, so I worry about how far I should be managing her schedule for her. My role is as an inside sales and AR associate, but we’re so small that I’ve unofficially been wearing the secretarial hat since day 1 (if I didn’t, I couldn’t get the info necessary to do the sales and AR stuff that is my official job).

        1. TheCupcakeCounter*

          I second Barbara’s suggestion. Even if you aren’t in that type of position if it is easy to print it out at the beginning of the day just do it. Even better if you can do it at the end of the previous day so she can plan lunches etc…the night before.

          1. OhBehave*

            I was going to suggest a similar solution. In addition to handing this to her – printed – grab a few minutes to quickly review the schedule. Seeing and hearing about her commitments may help trigger her memory. If you’re comfortable with this, keep her schedule at your fingertips so that when she does leave for xyz, you can gently remind her that she has a meeting with Tea Pot Painter. I know being her keeper is not your job, but as others have said, working in a small company many hats are worn.

            That being said, if this becomes too much to handle in addition to your hired responsibilities, definitely speak up. It sounds like she’s coming to rely on you to keep her ducks in a row. You should be compensated fairly for this additional task.

        2. Garland Not Andrews*

          The thing with small business is that you have to wear multiple hats. I think managing her calendar is a necessary thing as it impacts your primary work.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Draw it back on yourself.

          “Boss, your schedule is so full, I can’t keep track of where you are! I decided I needed to make a copy of your calendar each morning (or night before) so I can be sure. Would you like me to make one for you too?”

          Then go situation by situation. “Sue came in for her meeting with you and I told her you were not here. How would you like me to handle this going forward?” (This assumes that meeting with Sue is different from meeting with, oh, say, Bob. Different people, different ranks on the ladder, different topics, etc.)

    4. Mazzy*

      I don’t have any magic tricks or tips to use, but since you say you’re new to the workforce, I wanted to say that it is totally fine to “manage” your boss. Catching your boss’s errors, reminding them of deadlines and meetings – all completely acceptable to do, and even more so in busy environments. I know it can seem annoying because you feel like you’re doing part of your managers job, or because you feel more responsible than they are even though they are in a higher level role, but you have to trust that they are being forgetful because they have alot of other work on their mind. They are probably grateful when you come to their office as say “hey did you remember the meeting at noon?” or whatever.

      Also, a little bit of chaos is good. I worked somewhere shortly when everyone was on top of everything, and it was pretty boring. A boss who’s disorganized is an opportunity to take on new work.

  23. AngtheSA*

    Hi Everyone,

    I am currently working in the Accounting department of a Medium sized company. I really love this job and could definitely see a future in accounting. I have my finance degree though. Would it be worth it to go back to school and get my accounting degree and then maybe sit for my CPA. Does anyone have experience doing this? What were some of the challenges you faced working full time and doing this?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Friday Brain All Week Long*

      If I were you, I’d just go back to school to get enough credits to sit the exam. Unless you are in a state that requires a masters, then you may as well get the masters of accountancy.

      I have an economics degree and I passed the test last year. Not going to lie – it is HARD to get into the rhythm of studying while working FT. But it can be done, especially if you are careful with your time. This’ll easily be two or so years of your life, if you need more schooling beforehand. Just make sure you build in rest/social/self-care time as well as a ton of studying time and treat is as a marathon, not a sprint.

    2. Blue Anne*

      No advice except that I’m looking at doing the same thing myself. Degree is in philosophy, now I’m working as an accountant and I’ll probably have to do a master’s to become eligible for the CPA. (It wasn’t a requirement when I was working in Scotland!)

      Everyone I’ve talked to seems to think it’s eminently do-able and very much worth it.

    3. AngtheSA*

      My state requires you have at least 150 hours from an accredited institution, I currently have 135 but I also have to have specific accounting course, so basically I almost need my accounting degree to get it. I am only 18 hours short of getting my degree so it is duable. How long would it typically take to get my CPA?

      1. Natalie*

        It depends on your state, but there’s always a required amount of hours that you work under a licensed CPA, in addition to passing the test and completing the education requirements.

    4. Natalie*

      I have a history degree, got into accounting, and am now back in school. It is hard, but manageable. You will probably have an easier time since there is typically some overlap between finance and accounting as far as required classes (there are a lot of finance students in my accounting classes).

      Check the requirements in your state, and talk to the other people in your accounting department.

    5. Sibley*

      There’s a lot of misunderstanding happening here. You don’t need a masters to take the CPA exam. You need the required number of credits and the required classes (those vary by state). A lot of people are getting a masters because they graduate and don’t have enough credits to qualify. Before the credit hour requirement, a Masters of Accountancy was a joke in the profession (masters in tax was good).

      If you either need the credits or the accounting classes, a masters is perfectly valid. Not required.

      The CPA exam itself is a ton of work. It’s a full time job to study. If you want to do basic accounting (bookkeeping, etc), then you probably don’t need a CPA license. If you want to do auditing or go higher, then a license will be required or very helpful.

        1. Friday Brain All Week Long*

          Each state makes their own rules about requirements and I think some do require an actual Masters. But I think all require the amount of units a Masters would be. I did my supplemental education mostly at junior colleges.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        THIS. No need for OP to go back for a whole new degree (a bachelor’s would make no sense; a master’s would be a better choice). Just get the required credits, but focus on studying for the CPA exam!

      2. Sibley*

        I didn’t phrase that right. There’s a lot of misunderstanding happening in general, not specifically on this comment. I’m a CPA, and the way I hear this spoken about a lot people don’t seem to understand that’s there a difference between needing a master’s degree and needing more credits so they got a master’s degree.

    6. Master Bean Counter*

      I did it. I got my Master’s online and I can not over state the sheer benefit of the flexibility of that kind of format. Mostly you just have to carve the time out of your schedule to study. If your employer is willing, sitting at your desk and working on school work during lunch breaks is a time saver.

    7. TheCupcakeCounter*

      It depends on your state and where you see your career path going. If you are working at the corporate level and have no desire to go work in public accounting than a CMA might be just as valuable (sometimes more so depending on your area) although it is not a widely recognized as a CPA. My state require 150 credits with a certain concentration in accounting plus a year of public accounting experience so it isn’t worth it to me since I will never work public accounting. If you state does not have than requirement and you see yourself ever working in an audit or tax area it is worth it. With a Finance degree you can probably just take a few accounting classes to brush up some skills and get to the required number of credit hours as someone suggested without go full masters route.

    8. AngtheSA*

      Thanks Everyone for your comments. This is really my first accounting role that is just all accounting work.(I use to work as a admin but I did some accounts payable) I am a bit overwhelmed and just though that maybe brushing up with some accounting classes would help me with this fish out of water experience.

    9. baseballfan*

      If you have a degree in finance, you have already taken some accounting, but probably minimal.

      Some states require a minimum number of hours of accounting to sit for the exam, in addition to the minimum total college hours.

      I would focus on those requirements, specific to your state, rather than getting a whole other degree. There are a lot of very specific topics covered in the CPA exam that, frankly, may or may not have been covered in any class. It’s just that comprehensive. I took the CPA about 20 years ago and then recently I have been tutoring a couple of people who were planning to sit for it. Despite the fact that you can now take it part by part and don’t have to take it all at once, it’s still very difficult. Studying is at least a part time job (expect to put in a few hours a day at least).

      All that being said, it’s possible to have an enjoyable career in accounting without a CPA, especially if you are in house. Public firms will expect it, but otherwise, you can probably dispense with it.

  24. Nervous Accountant*

    It’s moving day!!
    So excited!!!!!! (especially because I have to do NONE of the work!)

    !!!

    1. bluesboy*

      None? How did you manage that? I move on average every 3-4 years or so and find I have so much to do with throwing stuff away, packing up boxes, even if a removal crew does the heavy lifting it’s still a lot of work!

      Congratulations, I hope you love your new place every bit as much as you’re excited about it!

  25. Lunch Meat*

    Feeling sleepy during meetings.

    I work for an organization of less than 100 staff. We don’t have all staff meetings that often, but when we do there tends to be a lot of talking by some not very dynamic speakers. I was drifting off during this week’s meeting. I hadn’t had as much coffee as usual, but I was drinking water, squeezing a stress ball to give me something to do, sitting up straight, focusing on breathing and the words the speaker was saying. But even so I drifted a couple of times. Not snoring or jerking my head when I woke up, but at least one person did notice that my eyes were closed for a few minutes at a time. Any suggestions when this starts to happen? I feel really bad and I’m nervous because the people talking were high-level people.

    1. A.Z. Lazuli*

      If it won’t be too noticeable, might a hair tie or rubberband on your wrist that you can “snap yourself ” with?

    2. BabyShark*

      I tend to bite the inside of my cheek when I’m struggling to stay awake, I find it helps. Taking notes is also helpful because it forces you to focus and you get the bonus of looking incredibly interested and studious.

    3. Friday Brain All Week Long*

      No solutions, but this is me too. Yesterday I checked the label of my starbucks two or three times to make sure it didn’t reference decaf. And this was a meeting I was actively participating in too.

        1. Master Bean Counter*

          Just do it. Claim your back and the chair aren’t getting along if asked. Also it helps if you sit in the back to begin with.

    4. justsomeone*

      Take notes! Even if you’re just going to recycle them at the end of the meeting, by taking notes, you’re more actively engaged in what’s happening.

      1. A Good Jess*

        +1 on this — I always bring a notebook and take notes. If the meeting/speaker is reeeeally terrible, then sometimes I’ll be making planning notes about something else I’m working on, but still. If you take notes then you stay awake and nobody will question you.

    5. the_scientist*

      The elastic on the wrist trick works for me, usually. I also find that I get sleepy during meetings when the room is warm so I’ll shed a layer since if I’m a little bit chilly I’m suddenly not sleepy anymore.

      Also, was the meeting just after lunch? Eating a big meal and then sitting in a boring meeting = instant sleepiness for me.

      Finally a check on any meds you’re taking and if those could be making you drowsy might be a good idea, if this is a regular thing and not a one-off. I had to step the dose of my antidepressant down recently because I was literally nodding off at my desk in the morning, like I could NOT keep my eyes open. Fortunately I don’t drive to work!

    6. Ultraviolet*

      I’ve been there! One thing I sometimes do to stay awake is tune out for a few minutes and think about one of my own projects and write down some notes about it. It’s not ideal obviously, but better than sleeping.

      Also, sometimes I start focusing on what kind of feedback I might give if someone asked me to critique the presentations. I enjoy that, so it tends to wake me up.

      If it’s really bad, can you fake a coughing fit and step out for a second?

      Also, I might be misunderstanding your meaning, but focusing on breathing sounds to me like a way to relax and fall asleep rather than stay awake! Unless you’ve had success with this method in the past, I’m not sure I’d keep trying it.

    7. BRR*

      Not being snarky but I would suggest more coffee if you know it’s going to be something boring.

      Is it acceptable to get up and use the restroom? If I’m nodding off I need the hard reset of getting up.

    8. NW Mossy*

      Just as a general comment (not saying it applies to you necessarily), if you persistently have trouble staying awake during passive situations like meetings, lectures, and movies, it may be a sign of a sleep disorder. Mr. Mossy struggled with this during his teens and early twenties, only to learn through a sleep study that he actually has a mild form of narcolepsy – other symptoms can include falling asleep very quickly and extremely vivid dreams. It took a while to get his medication dialed in, but once he did, he started sleeping better and is more able to manage his symptoms. His diagnosis prompted both his dad and brother to get tested, and it turns out that both of them also have narcolepsy.

      Sleep disorders can really wreak havoc with your life but it’s really easy to attribute the symptoms to just not getting enough sleep. While that can certainly be true, if the sleep you do get is poor quality, trying to sleep longer may not be enough.

      1. Somniloquist*

        I was just going to reply with this! Thank you! Before I was diagnosed (hypersomnia here!) my coping mechanisms were lots of coffee, not eating any simple carbohydrates at lunch (no sandwiches, nothing with sugar in it), and a cup of cold water in meetings. I wasn’t allowed to stand up.

        Taking notes didn’t work for me because I would fall asleep while taking them, although it was a good cover, people don’t always know your eyes are if you’re looking down and your hand is moving… (this is not a good solution though)

        I take a medicine to keep me awake now, when I need to, but the no sugar at lunch is really the most helpful.

    9. Trix*

      I agree with a lot of these suggestions. Water (the colder the better!), taking notes (even if they have nothing to do with what’s being said), and standing up (whether to just lean against the wall for a few minutes, or to take a quick bathroom break).

    10. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      The only thing that works for me is sleep the night before. I will say that my brain is remarkably adept at going to sleep, though…even when reading…or writing… or (supposedly) focusing…. I even fall asleep while drinking a very disgusting Monster energy. :(

      Don’t think I’ve nodded off while eating, though. You might try that. Something not loud, but not gum.

  26. G-Unit*

    How do you keep yourself in check and not quit a job when you have a horrible boss?

    I had two interviews this week and really hope one pans out, but I can barely phone it in right now – my boss is so awful. Other people in the office have come up to me and apologized on her behalf for how badly she treats me. I just got off the phone with her yelling at me for something someone else did and it was all I could do not to quit on the spot.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Mindfulnesss and self-care.

      You control how you respond to people. Don’t give up that control. When she yells and blames and acts like an idiot, it’s no failing on your part that she’s incompetent and can’t communicate effectively.

      Actively pursue things outside of work that make you happy. Be a little selfish and take time for you do the things that you know will reduce your stress level.

      Don’t focus on the negativity. Some kvetching is OK. But constantly complaining or turning every conversation into how your boss is an asshole will just make you more angry and negative. Not your fault, obviously, but maybe set a 15-minute bitching session time limit and move on to positive things after you’ve vented.

    2. Jadelyn*

      Try “detached observing” – like you’re an anthropologist investigating a new culture. Think about it like you’re making notes about your field study of this culture. It helps you get a bit of emotional distance.

    3. neverjaunty*

      In your spare time, job hunt like a mofo. Even if you don’t get any hits or don’t find anything super exciting, you will feel like you are giving yourself chances to get out.

    4. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Music is my outlet. I have certain songs or playlists for a variety of situations. If you can’t use headphones at work take 5 minutes to go out to your car and blast a song that will de-stress you (depending on what else is going on for me that is either a very hard rock/metal song with lots of bad words or something calm and soothing). If you can get away and take a 5 minute walk that might also help.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      The reality might be that you need to leave. I can’t tell for sure.

      However, remind yourself that you do have support from these other people who are apologizing. Find reasons to talk with these people, even if the best you can sneak by with is “Good morning!” make that effort to connect with them randomly through the day.

      If you can get to chat with them longer ask them what others have done in your position that worked for them.

      Give yourself DAILY treats, but make the treats an investment in you. For example a walk after dinner. Touch base with a friend see how your friend is doing. Deliberately weave something positive in to your personal life each day.

  27. Aggravated Admin*

    I’m an office administrator, but due to the small size and nature of my organization I wear many hats. I do everything from answering phones and overseeing the calendar to planning special events and managing various projects. In regards to the phones, our system is set up so that when there is an incoming call, everyone’s phone will ring. I am the “first line of defense” in that if I am at my desk and available, I will answer the call on the first ring. If I’m away from my desk or tied up with something else, another staff member will try to grab the phone on the second or third ring.

    I have noticed there is one staff member in particular – let’s call her Emily – who is pretty ambivalent about lots of calls she receives. We have caller ID, and some people have a tendency to glance at their phone to see who is calling when the phone rings. Often times if I pick up a call that is for Emily, I will call her desk and she will answer the phone and instead of saying something like “hello,” a very typical response for her is “Ugh! Nooo I do not want to talk to that person. Send him/her to my voicemail.”

    This doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens often enough that I’m getting really tired of the negativity. I also find it a bit rude. Most other people will pick up the phone and say “hello” to me when I ring their desk with a phone call. Emily’s greetings, or lack-there-of, almost makes me feel like she is talking down to me. I get we all have calls we don’t want to take sometimes, but I sometimes get the impression that she feels my main job is to screen her calls for her.

    Am I being over-sensitive here? Is this worth bringing up to my manager, or should I try talking to Emily directly?

    1. J*

      Are you picking it up before Emily gets a chance to? Or is Emily ignoring the call and you’re picking it up as a courtesy?

      If it’s the latter, maybe just stop answering calls for Emily. She doesn’t seem to appreciate having the filter and she can make her own decisions about when she has time to respond to the caller.

      If it’s the former, maybe just send Emily’s calls to her voicemail without checking in with her.

      Either way, you don’t need to screen her calls. Just give her a heads up that this is how you’ll approach it in the future, and let her sort it out.

      1. Aggravated Admin*

        I’m picking up the calls because I’m expected to answer the phone first if I am available. Sometimes she may recognize the caller but I won’t, or caller ID isn’t specific (ie it’ll say Unavailable) and when I tell her who it is she reacts negatively. I wish I could not answer her calls, but unfortunately that’s not really an option since it’s not always easy to tell who it is. :(

        My manager attempted to change the way our phone system works, in that she wanted it to become more automated. Right now if someone calls our number, the phone just rings 4 times before it goes to voicemail. My manager had my change it so that the caller would hear the company greeting, then an employee directory, and then “if you don’t know who you need to talk to, press this number.” This would have been the perfect solution to my problem, but unfortunately our director was not on board with this system so we had to change it back.

        1. EyesWideOpen*

          I would let it go even though it is annoying because it is your job to answer the phone if you are available. Though if you want to be passive-aggressive, the next time someone calls for Emily just put them straight through to her voice mail. If she calls you on it just explain that since she always seems to prefer to have calls sent to her voice mail, you just started to do this as your general practice.

          1. J*

            You don’t even have to be passive aggressive about it. A simple, “Hey, Emily, I’m at a loss for how to handle your calls. How would you feel about me sending them to voicemail and you can prioritize them when you have a moment?”

    2. fposte*

      Is she otherwise civil to you? Then I’d let it her comments go and consider that you’re just getting her unfiltered response to a cold call and she’s sharing with you, not rejecting you. If the problem is that you’re not supposed to send callers to voice mail, I’d raise that with her specifically.

      1. Aggravated Admin*

        Yes, otherwise we get along fine. I think you may be right in that I’m just getting her initial reaction. I don’t think she MEANS to be a jerk, she just sounds like one.

        Another issue is she (and some others in the office) do not like getting voicemails. If I send someone to her voicemail, often times she will question me about it. She’s not particularly rude here but I get the sense she much prefers if I instruct people to email her rather than leave her a message. I do this when I can, but some callers prefer to leave an actual voicemail.

          1. Aggravated Admin*

            Yep, I think that’s accurate! It makes no sense that we have continued with the current setup. Apparently the final decision makers feel that switching to an automated system = bad customer service.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              That’s so annoying that they won’t consider it–I know customers don’t like it, but when others don’t pick up their calls, it amounts to the same thing.

            2. catsAreCool*

              It depends on the automated system. I’ve had problems getting past my cable company’s automated system and sometimes have reached a dead end and had to hang up and call again. I remember one time when I was so frustrated by it, it took some self control not to yell at the person who finally did pick up. And I’m not a yeller. I didn’t yell (I was actually pretty nice); I knew it wasn’t that person’s fault, and I didn’t want to be one of those obnoxious customers who blame the person who is trying to help, but for a few seconds, I really wanted to. And I’ve worked in customer service, so I know better!

              I guess my thought is, if the automated system isn’t fairly easy, people will be more stressed and tough to deal with when they finally get to you.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Can you just push the call through to her desk without announcing it to her?

          Can she tell her people that the easiest way to contact her is email? (As opposed to you delivering this message?)

    3. Manders*

      Is Emily in a position where a lot of vendors might be cold-calling her or calling her repeatedly to try to get a response? She could definitely stand to be politer, but I understand a certain amount of frustration if she’s trying to get someone to stop calling, but then you’re picking up the phone and saying she’s available.

      1. Aggravated Admin*

        She gets some calls from vendors but her position has changed to where she gets less. I think she prefers communicating with people via email rather than phone, and I know she gets irritated when people email her and then call if she hasn’t responded soon enough for them. She’s okay with responding to emails within 48-72 hours but some people she works with expect a quicker response than that.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Yeah, this is definitely her reaction to being annoyed by these people calling her and has nothing to do with you at all. She probably feels comfortable enough with you to respond the way she does and likely would be upset to hear that her approach has hurt your feelings. I know I’ve definitely done the “Ugh, NOOOOOO,” when my office admin has grabbed a call for me in the past. I know for me, at least in my previous role, I had people who would call me and say, “Hi, you are on speaker with [entire team of people] and we want to discuss [thing we intend to steamroll you on that we couldn’t get away with over email]!” It’s exhausting.

          I would try not to take it personally, because, having been in Emily’s shoes, I can very much assure you that it is NOT personal.

        2. TootsNYC*

          yeah, 72 hours would be pretty long for a business email if I have a legit reason to contact her. 48 is about the outside, actually.

          1. OhBehave*

            I agree that 48 hours is too long in responding to an email. My limit is 24 hours.

            Her reaction is not directed to you. Most likely it’s an interruption in her day and you really don’t know what the caller wants. Perhaps it’s a long-winded person who blathers on about nothing. Sometimes I get so engrossed in what I’m working on that I react to interruptions grumpily. It also sounds like she’s not comfortable speaking on the phone and would rather be in control, which makes email communication ideal for her.

    4. TV15*

      Eh, I think you are being a little over-sensitive. I don’t see anything condescending in how she’s responding. Sure it would be nicer if she said “hello, can you send him/her to my voicemail please?” but what you’ve described doesn’t seem to rise to the level of escalating it to your manager.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I agree that you should some how disconnect from this situation, it definitely is not personal.

      I would find it annoying if others answer their calls and Emily is Most Likely to Not Answer.

      Maybe your solution is to send all her calls to voice mail and let her sort that out herself.
      You could say, “you know, I see that you like your calls going to voice mail a lot. Would you like me to just send all calls there and you can handle it as you see fit?”

      I can’t tell but it could be you have an underlying concern that is masquerading as annoyance with her frequent use of voice mail. If customers are annoyed with Emily’s slow response time then that is what you need to talk about. “Emily, Bob was pretty upset when I shipped his call to your voice mail. How do we handle this differently so that I can cue you when a customer reeeeally needs to speak with you? “

  28. Anon for this One*

    Dear HR folks. If you send out a form rejection e-mail to all applicants, that’s fine. I get it. But it’s rude and condescending to say you “extensively reviewed my resume and application” and that you were “greatly impressed by my skills”. If you did in fact extensively review my resume, you’d see that I listed accomplishments and not skills. If you both extensively reviewed and you were greatly impressed, but you chose not to contact me in any meaningful way, then I am seriously questioning your hiring practices. But whatever.

    I know why HR people do this. But I am very well qualified and have a strong track record of success. Getting a condescending form e-mail makes me less likely to apply for future openings at that company. If that’s intended, well, good for you.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh. I’m going to push back on this. I think you’re nitpicking on accomplishments vs skills (and having accomplishments makes it clear that you have skills). And you can absolutely be impressed by someone’s achievements and still not think it makes sense to interview them for a particular job (wrong fit, better candidates, lacking some particular thing you need). I see this idea of “if they were so impressed with me, why didn’t they interview me?” come up a lot here, and I think it’s sort of missing a fundamental point of how hiring works; you can be amazing and still not the right person for a particular job.

      That said, it’s a form letter, so by definition it’s also going to people who they weren’t at all impressed by. But it’s really not rude/condescending to send a polite form rejection that attempts to be kind to people — and I think if you’re at the point where you’re feeling huffy about that, it’s probably more a sign of frustration with the search process or something else.

      1. Anon for this One*

        At best it is insincere. And I don’t view insincerity as politeness. There are many ways to write rejection letters that are both polite and sincere. This was not one of them.

        And honestly, softening bad news is something you do to children, not professionals.

        1. Anon for this One*

          I mean, “softening bad news with insincere flattery”, not all forms of softening bad news.

          1. Anon for this One*

            First off, this more intended as a vent than anything else. This isn’t a big deal and I’m past it, other than posting about it anonymously for comment in an open thread filled with people on both sides of the hiring process.

            But also, I think I’m a pretty reasonable person and I know I’m a strong candidate for this and other roles at this particular company. I did feel insulted by this form letter because I thought it was insincere and unprofessional. Words matter.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Words do matter! Which is why I’m pushing back when you say that some of this is rude and condescending, since I believe strongly that it’s not. (And I also believe strongly that reading too much into form letters takes people in all kinds of wrong directions, evidence of which ends up in my mailbox nearly every day.) And it’s basically impossible to write a form rejection that will please everyone. But we can agree to disagree.

              1. Anon for this One*

                It felt rude and condescending to me, the person who got the letter. I doubt it was intended to be rude and condescending. But that’s how it came off to me.

            2. fposte*

              Sure, but that doesn’t mean they’re not true, or that they have to be literally true. You write “Dear so-and-so” to people who aren’t dear to you, right?

              It sounds like this might be a particularly fulsome rejection letter and that fulsome is not your style; that I can get behind, and I’d find it particularly annoying in that situation.

            3. Jadelyn*

              When you start a “vent” post by directly addressing it to a specific group of people, a not-insignificant number of which are part of the AAM community, that’s a lot less a vent and a lot more a borderline attack, on the profession if not the individual.

              Honestly, you may be a very reasonable person most of the time, but this comes off like you’re taking this rejection WAY too personally.

              Out of curiosity, what would it have taken for you to not be angry about it? How would you suggest such an email be worded, especially to a candidate who is a strong candidate but still not being invited to interview (because there are other candidates who more closely fit the specific role)? I’m genuinely curious.

              1. Anon for this One*

                Angry is a strong word. I’d probably go more for ‘miffed’.

                A simple thanks for applying and that they decided to go with another candidate is perfectly fine. Keep it professional instead of fulsome. (Love that word, fposte)

            4. TV15*

              I understand the need to vent. It can feel so disappointing when the interview process concludes in a way that makes you feel they didn’t take you seriously and weren’t being authentic. It sucks and IMO, it’s perfectly healthy to whine about it sucking and get it out of your system.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I agree about the “putting an awful lot of weight on the specific wording in a form letter!

        2. Charlotte Collins*

          I just wish more places would send out rejection letters instead of just leaving one hanging…

          On that note, I would have liked it if the tech company I applied for and spent what amounted to a full-day worth of testing and phone interviewing with had personalized their rejection letter a little more. I basically retook my ACT for these people – a little feedback would have been nice. (As would have not had *the exact same* writing test given to me twice – I was pretty tempted to just write, “See my previous answer.)

          Also, it would be nice if my company did not send form letter rejections to internal candidates. It’s pretty cold.

          1. Florida*

            Agree that a form letter is better than leaving one hanging. I’d take an insincere form letter over nothing any day of the week.

          2. voluptuousfire*

            Many companies don’t give direct feedback to avoid potential awkwardness. I once was given feedback from a job interview via a scheduled phone call (no mention about feedback, just about my candidacy). I thought I was being offered the job, but they rejected me and told me why. It was really odd and very off-putting and put the company on my mental blacklist for future job applications.

            While I completely understand where you’re coming from, its mostly to avoid awkwardness, potential pushback and even threats.

          3. OhBehave*

            I received a form letter addressed to the WRONG PERSON but at my address! I didn’t even know the addressee. This was with a huge corporation.

        3. Mazzy*

          I can 100% honestly say I’ve been impressed with many candidates’ resumes and would never consider them for the job, so it isn’t always a word game. Sometimes I think their skills or computer knowledge is too different from what they’d be using, sometimes they seem overqualified, sometimes the cover letter doesn’t explain why they would be a good fit, all despite having great resumes.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Eh. I take it with a grain of salt and don’t really find it condescending. At least there WAS a reply.
      Better wording to me is just simpler, more along the lines of
      Thank you for applying for Position XX, but we’re moving forward with other candidates… type of thing.

    3. Karanda Baywood*

      You’re assuming something that isn’t there. Form letters are jsut that: anonymous and unfeeling and a tool for telling you “no.”

      Honestly, one is just like another. Bottom line, you didn’t get the job.

    4. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

      I know you’re venting, but I do want to tell you that I think you’re over-personalizing this. I think this is a good argument for why some people don’t give clear feedback on why you weren’t selected – because candidates try to argue with them. Nobody is saying you’re not qualified or that you don’t have a strong track record of success, but you might just not have the specific background they’re looking for.

        1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

          Right. And what I’m saying is that the way you’re responding is part of the reason why places send form letters instead of more specific stuff. You’re arguing with the content of a form letter – how would you respond to specific issues they raised.

          1. Anon for this One*

            Are you suggesting that places send form letters because some people feel insulted by some types of form letters?

            1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

              No, I’m suggesting that no matter what an employer sends, someone will take offense to it. If they send nothing – that’s rude. If they send a form letter, then were insincere and should have given personalized feedback on specifically why they weren’t selected. If they send personalized feedback, then the reasons they cited were wrong or they were wrong about you or they didn’t have the whole picture.

              There’s really no way to reject someone that they’re going to feel good about. Really the only relevant information is that you didn’t have what they were looking for at the time.

              1. Anon for this One*

                I think we can at least agree that there are bad form letter rejections out there and that form letter rejections should be professionally written and free of condescension, though. And, it is possible to write a sincere and polite form letter rejection.

                The fact that not everyone can always be satisfied doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to avoid insulting people.

                1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

                  Maybe, but this one doesn’t strike me as all that rude/condescending though. It seems pretty run-of-the-mill.

                  That’s what I’m struggling with – I don’t understand why you’d find it insulting.

                2. Anon for this One*

                  Because, as I mentioned above, insincere flattery and white lies are how you soften bad news to a child, not a professional.

                3. TootsNYC*

                  I hate to say this, but I think you’re reacting more like a child than a professional. Certainly you’re reacting more emotionally than intellectually.

      1. neverjaunty*

        I think it’s pretty clear at this point that Anon for this One isn’t so much venting as complaining about being rejected in a way s/he doesn’t like – which is why all the responses nitpicking word choices and ignoring actually helpful feedback.

          1. BRR*

            It’s coming off to me that way as well. There’s not going to be one form letter that everybody is ok with and I’m not sure other wording would have actually satisfied you. I think everyone should just read rejection letters as “you didn’t get this job” and don’t read into it any further.

            “If you both extensively reviewed and you were greatly impressed, but you chose not to contact me in any meaningful way, then I am seriously questioning your hiring practices” There’s nothing that makes that statement not true though. They could be moving 5 people forward out of 100 applicants and you were number 6. Or if by meaningful way you mean a custom rejection letter which is way too much work for anybody.

            1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

              “There’s nothing that makes that statement not true though. ”

              Yeah, I agree. Like, I got an amazing resume once for someone who spoke Esperanza and 5 other languages, had a PhD in archeology, had done amazing, interesting, impressive things…but they weren’t what we were looking for in that particular job. However, I would have loved to invite her to a dinner party.

    5. Kaybee*

      You don’t know that they *weren’t* impressed with your accomplishments/skills. Some companies are looking for more than a certain skill set.

      An example: one hiring process I was involved with was for an assistant for a manager who was the biggest micromanager most people will ever meet. All the other assistants in that department had their own space, but this manager insisted that her assistant be in her office, so she could watch the assistant at all times. She not only had access to her assistant’s email, but told the assistant how to organize folders, etc. She even had a system in place for the assistant’s folders on the assistant’s personal drive, “in case I ever need anything on your personal drive, I’ll know where to find it.” Should the assistant do any work in a hard copy format, the assistant needed to make a photocopy of it for the manager. And there were incessant verbal check-ins all. day. long. since they were sharing the same space. I could write pages on this manager. And while in a functional workplace someone might have intervened in this behavior, this manager happened to the president’s wife. Who reported directly to her husband. (Yes, this was an incredibly dysfunctional workplace that most people, including me, quietly left as soon as they could find a new job.)

      So when we were hiring, we were looking not just for someone who could do the job, but someone who enjoyed being micromanaged. And who was comfortable having someone in their space at all times. It was a tough hiring process to find someone who could tolerate someone literally breathing down their neck. Anyone who used the word “independent” in their cover letter, for example, was instantly weeded out. Ultimately we did sacrifice on experience for someone who could stand to be micromanaged – and that was better for everyone involved.

      So it’s entirely possible that you could have a perfect set of accomplishments that did impress HR, but for other reasons that they can’t possibly share with you, just aren’t the right fit for the job. That said, I know how disappointing it is to not get a job I felt qualified for – try to hang in there.

      1. Anon for this One*

        If someone impresses me, I do a little more than send a form letter.

        If a resume impresses me, but I don’t think they’d be a good fit for my opening, I e-mail them and explain and then ask if I can pass on their resume to a more relevant hiring manager. Or I ask if I can hang onto it and contact them about future openings that they might be a better fit for.

        1. fposte*

          Then you have more time than me :-).

          Often when I hire it’s from a pool that’s already high-performance and highly skilled; just about everybody in it impresses me. I personalize the emails to those who were interviewed and I pass on resumes if there’s somebody I know who would be interested, but I only give feedback once in a blue moon. The rest get form letters; nice form letters, but form letters.

            1. fposte*

              Everybody does! They’re great, and I’m lucky. (And the one recent time I gave feedback it was to somebody I hired later anyway.)

        2. TL -*

          But what if you’re hiring for Google and you get 500 okay, 250 terrible, and 400 truly excellent candidates?How many emails are you going to write?

        3. Chaordic One*

          When I was in HR I really didn’t have time to do more than a form letter. However, I had more than one form letter. If someone looked like a promising candidate for a similar or other job in the future, they would get a form letter advising them to please, in the future, apply again for specific openings.

          (Even though we kept all applications on file, after a position was filled no one ever looked at the applications again to consider hiring that person for a different position and there was nothing I could do about it. At Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. I’m not aware of anyone ever being hired in response to a general inquiry and who did not apply for a specific opening.)

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I worked for a woman for quite a while who had a way of speaking that was like a recording.

      “Good morning, NSNR, and how are you today?” Every day. Day in, day out.
      “Thank you for your efforts and have a good evening.” Every day. Day in, day out.

      Her sentences were the spoken equivalent of a form letter. Like you show here, nothing in her sentences was blatantly rude. But I got to wondering about her sincerity. It sounded to me like she was on autopilot and not really thinking about what she was saying.

      My father pointed something out. He said even if her replies sounded automatic and she sounded disconnected from what she was saying, she STILL had enough of her wits about her to realize that she needed to say something. So maybe she could not muster the most sincere sentences in our language, she still knew that her inputs were necessary.

      By assuming the worst about others we only shoot ourselves in the foot. We lose something when we cut off a company or another person. We only defeat ours own selves.

  29. Lady Julian*

    What is your take on putting up election paraphernalia at work?

    I teach at a tiny faith-based college in the Midwest. I am politically moderate but keep my views largely to myself (Rumor gets around though; I’m known as the campus feminist, even though I haven’t spoken openly of this for several years.) One of my colleagues has posted a Trump/Pence sticker on her office door. Yet if I tried to put a Clinton/Kaine sticker on *my* door, I am certain that I would get in trouble, if not from my admin at least from my conservative students.

    What do you think? In a religious environment like mine, should campaign stickers be verboten? I feel as though if both sides cannot be displayed, neither side should be.

    It’s worth noting that because I dislike conflict and don’t know the person with the Trump/Pence sticker very well, I probably won’t ask her to take it down. I’m more interested in the idea of the thing, the place of election stuff at work, when work is a religious environment.

    1. Anon 2*

      Personally, I would ask someone in HR.

      Where I work our HR person announced in the spring, that political conversations/emails/paraphenalia should not occur or be displayed in the workplace, because they had a tendency to make people uncomfortable. This policy was instituted after one person in the office started forwarding pro-Trump emails.

      I don’t think it matters that the institution that you work for is religious. Unless working for a political organization, politics of this nature don’t belong in the workplace.

    2. Hope*

      Honestly I wish all election stuff would stay out of the office–unless you’re working for a specific political campaign, in which case that’s kind of the point of being there. I don’t want to know my coworker’s views and they don’t need to know mine unless we’re close enough that we already talk about it. Especially because in some areas, people supporting the minority opinion just aren’t going to feel safe displaying it.

      1. Lady Julian*

        “Especially because in some areas, people supporting the minority opinion just aren’t going to feel safe displaying it.”

        Yes!! This is me. I am in the minority politically, I don’t feel safe displaying it, and so it feels unfair that the “other side” gets to put their stuff up. It would be better not to have any campaign stuff at all.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This.
        1. It’s just too hot a topic.
        2. I don’t want to know who supports who, or I would probably run screaming out the door.

        I don’t think I could work for a faith-based org, either. At least not the ones around here–they wouldn’t hire me anyway because I don’t fit any of their behavioral requirements. :)

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      Frankly, I think this sort of thing should be more verboten in religious working environments than normal ones, because it implies that certain candidates are more religiously correct than others, and therefore your support or not reflects on your personal religious purity, and since it’s a religious environment, it could have implications for your career. Ugh.

      1. Lady Julian*

        Yes! This is my feeling exactly. Putting the Trump/Pence sign up implies that he’s more religiously correct than other candidates, but I (who, despite being an outlier where I work, am largely orthodox & traditional) actually see him as the *least* religiously correct candidate.

        But I can’t put my own sign up, because you’re right – it *would* impact my career.

        This is driving me nuts.

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          I would be SO TEMPTED to add a little note under that sticker quoting “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s…”

      2. Natalie*

        Agreed. I also think it should be more verboten in tax-exempt environments, which I assume this is, because part of the deal is staying out of politics. I’m not speaking to whether or not this legally crosses the line, but to me it definitely *morally* crosses the line.

    4. Sadsack*

      Does your school have rules about this? I’m not someone who puts signs anywhere regarding candidates, no matter how strongly I feel. I’d probably ignore her sign. If anything, I guess she just told you something about herself, for whatever that is worth.

      1. Lady Julian*

        Very much so. I can’t say that I particuarly connected with this person beforehand, and I will *definitely* not connect with her now.

        If I find out that someone is voting for Trump, I will have a dimmer view of that person; and so in order to preserve my relationships with people, I’m making it a point not to ask at all. I have close friends & family who will probably vote for him, and I think it’s better that I not know for sure which way they vote.

    5. Ella*

      You might talk to HR to ask about their policies about election signs at work, and mention that you’ve seen some around campus, and see what they say. You can say that you were considering putting up your own candidates sign, but wanted to check first.

      I personally wouldn’t put up a sign like that at work. I think it’s in poor taste, even if it’s allowed, and I would worry that it would create unnecessary friction in work relationships.

      1. Lady Julian*

        We don’t have HR, I think, as we’re a college. I don’t get along well with my boss, so I don’t want to talk to her, either. I’m not sure that I have any recourse at all, actually.

        1. Pwyll*

          Err, most colleges I’ve ever heard of had someone handling the HR role. I suppose it might be handled by another department if you’re very small, but I’d be very surprised if you didn’t have some kind of HR team (even if they’re called something else) given the hoops colleges have to jump through with the government.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Colleges do generally have HR departments. I suppose yours might be an exception, but colleges in general aren’t an exception to that.

            1. blackcat*

              Huh. I went to a small college (<1,500 undergrads), and there were definitely at least two HR people, because two different HR people took one of the psychology classes I was in as an undergrad. I guess maybe we had a high faculty/staff to student ratio?

              I also worked at a private school (~600 students) and we had an HR person. I LOVED her. When a new administrator came into the school, though, she lost her job because "it was decided" that the HR role required a college degree. I was so sad. Her replacement had a college degree, along with a high level of incompetence.

              Maybe you can ask if your school outsources HR. I know that can be common at small places.

      2. Charlotte Collins*

        I wouldn’t, either, but it would depend upon the workplace. (Somebody mentioned election headquarters, but other political/nonprofit groups probably also allow signs – if your employer actively endorses a candidate, then I could see it.)

        On the other hand, I proudly display my “I voted today” stickers. And I love my “Smart Women Stick to the Issues” magnet. (http://smartwomencompany.com/)

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          FWIW, non-profit groups that engage in politics are in my experience pretty strict about banning any campaign paraphernalia from public areas, unless it’s produced by the organization itself. Can’t muddle the message.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            That completely makes sense to me. Especially if there’s a specific issue that’s the focus.

    6. Garland Not Andrews*

      I work for the federal government. That could get me fired! I don’t think it is appropriate anyway. We have to work together the rest of the year and knowing that co-worker supports him/her for whatever hotly contested or not position could impact daily interactions.

    7. Former Retail Manager*

      Ehhh…while I don’t care for it either and wish it would stay out of the workplace, I feel like you signed up for this when you took a position at a conservative, faith-based college. Students that attend schools like that and the people that are drawn to work in them, tend to lean that way politically. I’d just avoid the topic if you can and wait for the election to pass. Even if HR would hear you out, I feel like it would be hard to say that you’re bothered/offended by a political candidate that, in theory at least, espouses/represents the religious views that I’m sure are prevalent at your university. Best of luck!

    8. JKB204*

      My neighbor put a Trump sign on his lawn, and while I don’t care and it’s his lawn, I also don’t understand it. Putting a sign of any political bent is just ensuring that half of your neighbors are side-eyeing you.

      1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

        I don’t know. Someone in my neighborhood put up a specific sign and I sent her a note telling her that her daughter has my girl-scout cookie business until I have a daughter of my own :)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t put them on my car for the same reason. Plus, once that particular election is over, it looks weird to have a sticker, especially if your candidate loses.

        1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

          This is really funny, because not 10 minutes ago I saw in a parking lot with a Gore/Lieberman bumper sticker and I was texting my husband about it. It was the only sticker on the car.

      3. SaraV*

        Well shoot…in some states, putting a sign/flag/paraphenalia on your property for the “other” college team in the state will have you receiving side-eye. ;)

    9. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

      Strictly illegal in my line of work, actually. Putting up a political sticker in the type of federal office I work would have me brought in front of the Inspector General. And I really like it.

    10. Photoshop Til I Drop*

      I have a coworker who put up a bumper sticker on his cubical wall that says ‘Even Bill didn’t want Hillary’ and it is so gross and obnoxious. It’s completely changed my opinion of him and I avoid dealing with him whenever possible.

      Politics should stay out of the office, unless you’re working directly in that field. Doubly so in your case.