open thread – November 25-26, 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 :)

{ 697 comments… read them below }

  1. Go Team*

    I’m usually pretty good about ignoring my family’s bad job search advice but they’re being really insistent on this latest bit that it’s almost sounding like a good idea?

    I have an interview scheduled for an admin position with one of the big-league professional sports teams of my state. I am of course really excited for this and would love to get an offer (the look on the faces of my awful boss and coworker, major fans of this team, if I went to work for them would be amazing! – aside from the great opportunity anyway). Here is the advice for the interview my family is urging me to take.

    1) That I should wear the team colors. Not like walk in wearing a jersey or official T-Shirt. The colors are black and yellow, so it would be simple to wear black jacket and pants with a yellow shirt, or even black jacket/pants, white shirt, and a yellow, or logo-carrying necklace. I think even for trying something this subtle is too much (plus I have a go-to first interview outfit that I prefer to wear because I always get compliments with it).

    2) That I should bring in a piece of team memorabilia to show my interviewers. Among the merchandise I have from the team, I have a small item with a lot of sentimental value to it, that is also fairly rare because they stopped making it. It’s small enough to fit in my purse so my family thinks I could carry it in and take it out when talking about how much the team means to me. I think I can talk about such things without needing an actual prop.

    So thoughts? Again my family is really insisting on this stuff but I think both of these things are going overboard.

    And an additional question: while I’m a fan of the team, I don’t follow the sport very closely. Like I’m happy to hear when they win but only watch a couple games a year on TV and couldn’t tell you stats or players names to save my life. How much should I fake being a sports fan in the interview? Not going to lie an say I attend every single game but also don’t want to admit to being a not totally committed fan.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Nope, nope, nope. Wear whatever makes you most comfortable. I’ve been known to wear jewelry that echoes a company’s brand, but that’s usually for client interactions (I wore black and gold jewelry to meet with a company whose colors are black and gold, for instance). But for an interview, be comfortable and professional. And don’t bring the souvenir. They probably get a ton of fans applying for jobs, thinking their fandom automatically makes them qualified. Go with your instincts.

      As far as the sports stuff… For an admin position, I wouldn’t worry too much about the competition. You can gauge how much of a fan you need to be during the interview. Don’t bend the truth. If they need the person in the position to know stats and players, then that will come out in the interview, and the job won’t be for you.

      Good luck!

      1. AMT*

        If anything, they may NOT want someone who is a rabid fan. You wouldn’t want them to get the impression that you’re applying because you’re obsessed with the team and not because you want to do the job.

    2. A Jane*

      I wouldn’t wear team colours, it sounds too tacky to me – go with your preferred interview outfit. You’ll feel more comfortable in it.
      Don’t take the memorabilia – if there is a point to mention it then feel free, but don’t force it into the conversation either.
      And tell the truth about your support for the team – honesty is always the best policy.

      I’m assuming that the role is unrelated to (for example) promoting the team, where knowledge of the players etc. would be essential. This that assumption in mind, I assume they are looking for an admin person who will be best at that role, not who is the biggest fan.

    3. CatRobot*

      Team colors reads as trying too hard. Especially if they are an odd combination that will make it obvious you are wearing their colors (like purple and orange).

      I wouldn’t bring in the souvenir. If you want you can mention having it, if it feels natural but I wouldn’t bring it in. It seems a bit too much.

      I don’t think anyone expects you to know players stats. Knowing a few names might be useful on a psychological level. I doubt they will ask you who your favourite player is or anything like that but if it would ease your mind to know a bit more than there is no harm brushing up a bit on their most recent season. You don’t need to memorize stats or anything that extreme to do this though.

    4. Qwerty Birdie*

      #2 Nope.

      #1 Maybe.

      I had an interview in KC near the time that the royals once the world series. I knew that folks were fans, so I wore a blue camie with my black interviewing suit. Almost everyone was wearing blue and a lot of folks joked that I “fit right in” with the color of my outfit.

      That said, it wasn’t a major change in my outfit. I simply switched the camie out for a blue one instead of a white one like I normally wear to interview. Both were equally professional and I, and this is the important part, was equally confident in both. Wear what makes you feel confident and calm.

    5. SM*

      I would agree with most others and summarize it in one point: Be Yourself. If you were a mega fan and you owned lots of the team’s colors, you always kept that memorabilia in your purse, and you’ve had season tickets since the 90s, those things would make sense. But that’s not you. You’re (I assume) a skilled admin that would love the opportunity to add value to the team. Be that instead.

    6. Anon in IL*

      Don’t know how much truth there is to this, but I read yellow/black combo can be subconsciously seen as threatening/upsetting because they are the colors of warning/danger/caution signs & bumblebees/wasps. When I wear yellow, I am careful not to pair with black for this reason.

    7. animaniactoo*

      Mostly, I would be concerned that following this advice would lead me to being seen as somebody who is TOO into the team and would be a problem to work with due to lack of appropriate judgement about boundaries.

      So… I vote with a “no” on both, but feel free to talk about your support for the team in a relatively enthusiastic but mild and laid-back way. Yes, I realize that’s contradictory, but if you can pull it off it’s a great space to be in.

      1. JMegan*

        I agree. I think the kind of balance you’re going for is a sort of Wikipedia-level of knowledge – that is, you know the basics of the sport itself, you can name most of the players on the team, and you know their chief rivals and how the team has generally done over the last few years. Not detailed stats or anything, but you need to know if they’re more like the 2015 Cubs who haven’t won a World Series in forever, or if they’re more like the Yankees and have been in and out of the playoffs pretty regularly.

        No also to the black and yellow, and to bringing in the souvenir. Just be yourself, and treat it like any other interview. You want to wow them with your awesome admin skills, and not look like you’re a superfan trying any means possible to get in the door. Good luck!

        1. DragoCucina*

          I think Wikipedia knowledge is a good way to put it. Go Team: Research the team to the same extent you would any other company.

    8. all aboard the anon train*

      No to both. I have a friend who works for one of the sports teams in my city (and another who works for a major sports TV station) and they always complain that the people who do things like this in interviews are obviously more interested in the team rather than the job, and that it comes off as really awkward and trying too hard. Both prefers people who are interested in the league/sport/team but aren’t crazy intense fans because from their experiences, crazy intense fans usually suck at the job, especially when it’s not actually related to anything that directly impacts the team (like, say, doing finance or IT or admin work where if you swapped out the company name it’d be similar work for any other industry).

    9. anon o*

      I strongly urge you to not do any of this. It’s actively unprofessional. I work in an industry that is sort of similar and it actually turns me off if I’m hiring and someone says they are a fan. This is my job, it’s not a lark, it’s serious to me and to treat it like leisure fun is a little insulting. (But I really do understand why people think of it that way.) I also worry that the candidate will be disillusioned quickly because they will overlook the negative aspects of the job until they are actually doing the day to day work. I’ve had that happen before, where people were kind of surprised that we just use excel and word all day doing boring things like everyone else when they want to do what they think are the fun things – that aren’t necessarily their job. There are great things about my job and I love it but it’s also A JOB and I treat it that way and job candidates should too. That said, you do want to demonstrate some understanding and knowledge of the industry if you have it and it’s necessary for the position. Our bookkeeper doesn’t know much about the “exciting” side of what we do, but he’s an excellent bookkeeper and that’s what matters. But it’s helpful for me that my assistant knows who the players in my industry are and the competitor’s product. Good luck at the interview!

      1. Honeybee*

        While I’m not put off when people think my job is fun – it is kind of fun – I definitely agree with the second part of your statement. I sometimes worry that a candidate who is a little too excited about the games part of the job will quickly become disillusioned when they realize that the job has downsides and tedious bits just like every other job in the world. I was expecting it, but I was still pretty amused when I realized how corporate this job can feel. We’ll be sitting around in a modern grey conference room like every other big company in corporate America having a boring meeting like every other worker bee, but we’re discussing ways to improve how quickly you can shoot enemies or whatnot. It’s kind of funny.

        I also have lots of students ask if they can shadow me, but aside from the confidential nature of much of the work I do, I’m always like – it’s just going to be boring! 80% of the time you’d just be watching me sit at my desk writing a report or responding to endless emails. LOL!

        1. animaniactoo*

          Ditto – it’s only interesting the first time or 2 you watch me work unless you’re interested in watching the creative process over and over again in a loop. Along with the attendant filing and organization needed to keep on top of working on several products at a time and needing to get licensor approval on most of them. Plus, sometimes the creative process is slow. Particularly when my brain is stuck and nothing I’m trying is working.

        2. FiveWheels*

          Likewise so many people get into law expecting a TV show.

          Sorry kid, litigation mainly involves pouring over documents and banging your head on a desk. You don’t get to make dramatic courtroom speeches. Ever.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Well, you do, if you do trials…. which will be many years into your career and dramatic speechifying is maybe 1% of what happens at trial anyway. If you want to play Atticus Finch, go into acting.

            1. Aurion*

              My impression is that real life courtrooms actually don’t have the dramatic speeches you see on TV. Do they actually happen, like, at all? The passionate monologue with no one interrupting and everyone waiting for your tangentially related point with bated breath?

              1. FiveWheels*

                I once saw a judge tell an attorney who was trying a dramatic speech to sit down and shut up. Those were his precise words.

              2. Artemesia*

                I have watched trials and have seen especially on personal injury cases dramatic over the top pleas. Always remember the ‘little Johnny will never play the violin’ said of the hulking adolescent who had been injured years earlier on a carnival ride.

              3. sstabeler*

                no ta a minimum, the opposing attorney can legitimately ask you to get to the point, IIRC. Neither lawsuits or trials care about the background surrounding what happened except as it directly relates to what happened- so, for example, in the lawsuit Artemesia mentioned, if the kid really had been stopped from playing violin, you can bring it up when justifying how much money you want awarded- it’s a valid point that a kid was stopped from pursuing a hobby, so helps back up an otherwise-nebulous request for compensation for pain and suffering compensation- but a long monologue? you’d be told to get to the point. Nobody involved wants to be there any longer than they have to be.

        3. all aboard the anon train*

          Yes, this. So many people think publishing is reading books all day or talking about your favorite books or authors or talking with famous authors, but it’s rarely that. I try to make it clear in interviews for entry level candidates or someone new to the field that it’s a lot of boring work. I get wary when people start talking unprompted about their favorite books in interviews or talking about their dream to be an editor or writer instead of answering my questions about work experience.

    10. New Girl*

      I’ve work for professional teams fans and to be honest most of my coworkers weren’t big fans of the team when they started working. Usually we’d too busy during the season to even watch games. We’d still have to follow the team and games so we’d get interested but again, not big fans.

    11. MissGirl*

      I’d like to hear from someone who works at a sports team. I’ve met with the CEO of the local team and he talked about how passion for the sport is important to get hired on there. I also talked with a rep of a huge sports company and she’s not allowed to wear her college teams clothing to work on game day even though everyone else does. Her clothing is made by the competitor and she would be fired.

      Sports people are a little more manic than other industries. It might be good to have something unobtrusive as part of your attire like the necklace.

      1. animaniactoo*

        If you need to have a passion for the sport even to do an admin job, there is something seriously dysfunctional about that workplace. Respect for it, okay. Passion for it? Run far far away.

    12. Honeybee*

      I work in an industry that also produces a lot of fans that want to apply for roles (video games). It’s always a good idea to talk about interest and passion in the industry and the specific team that you’re applying for, but #1 probably won’t even be noticed unless you point it out, and #2 would probably just be regarded as gimmicky at best. The fact that you own a semi-rare item of memorabilia says nothing about your ability to do the job, which is really what they are interested in. Someone in an earlier thread about applying to passion jobs also mentioned that seeming too overly interested can also be detrimental, because it can come off like you’ll be unable to take a balanced approach to the work that you do.

      Also, I don’t think you should pretend at all. You’d be surprised. Before I got my current job, I had never played any of the games my current company makes. I was an avid gamer, but mostly played other kinds of games by competitor companies. My employer didn’t care about that – they were more concerned that I understood the industry and how games work but more importantly that I was able to do the job I was being hired for. Likely this position is the same – being a fan will be appreciated but they’re really more concerned with whether you can be the admin they need.

      1. anon o*

        Yeah you can learn the industry and the sport or games or whatever fairly easily, but it’s a lot more difficult to teach someone to be a good admin and good employee.

    13. Marisol*

      I don’t see a problem with either of those suggestions, provided that they can be done while maintaining decorum. I think dressing in the team colors is a problem only because wearing black and yellow to an interview would be a weird choice, not because they are team colors per se. I don’t wear black suits, and for interviewing I would stick to charcoal or navy, but if I could incorporate the team colors into my normal interviewing suit, for example…charcoal suit, pastel shell, and maybe a little silk scarf with a print that incorporated black and yellow, or some topaz-colored earrings, then I would totally do that.

      For the trinket, why don’t you just keep it in your purse just in case? You can plan your talking points about it, but don’t bring it up unless you get the impression that doing so is a good idea. I could see this being helpful if you are asked how closely you follow the sport, for example. You could say you don’t watch the games every weekend, but you did want to show the interviewer this really cool item that had sentimental value for you. Yes, it’s a bit of a suck up, but so what? If it’s sincere and not inherently unprofessional, and if you bring it up in the proper conversational context, then I don’t see how wanting to impress your interviewer could really hurt you.

      Honestly, I don’t see why showing enthusiasm for a company is a bad thing. And I disagree with the idea that you don’t want to appear to be too “into” the team. There’s a big difference between having some emotional investment in the team and being a rabid freakazoid.

      Years ago I started a little business, and I was concerned that because I had simple marketing materials and infrastructure (basic website, printed-for-free business cards, only one phone line) that I would seem cheesy. A friend of mine said something like, “in my experience, if something isn’t cheesy, then it won’t *seem* cheesy” and hearing that allayed my concerns and made me realize that it was fine to show up exactly as I was, an entrepreneur with a shoestring budget. My point is that you’re not some mega-fan weirdo, so you won’t come across that way.

      That said, if either of the proposed interviewing ideas feels like it simply isn’t you, then don’t do it. I am an enthusiastic person, and I consider my enthusiasm to be a big personal strength, so bringing a little trinket and expressing strong interest in a position would probably be a good move for me personally because it aligns with my values and personality. But if wearing team colors, etc. feel like it’s in conflict with your basic “self,” then you shouldn’t do it.

      In the same vein, definitely don’t lie about your knowledge of the team or sport.

      1. FiveWheels*

        My experience is that if players turn up to tryouts in team colours they’d look slightly desperate and this would reflect badly. I think it would be even more so for staff.

        Staff will potentially know things that fans can’t – players engaged in criminal or immoral behaviour, compensation packages, locker room disputes, a star player who is a nightmare to work with, an upcoming but unpopular trade. And the team only works so long as that stays out of the public eye.

        It’s fine to be a fan, but only if it can be turned off during work.

    14. FiveWheels*

      Nope, don’t do it. You don’t want to seem like a fan. As an imperfect analogy, if you want to befriend a given celebrity, do you have a normal conversation or do you ask for their autograph and a photo?

      You can BE a fan of the team – but Work You shouldn’t be acting like a fan, even if Civilian You does.

      If you have any knowledge of their business dealings, certainly bring that up, but in a business/sports development context.

      VERY generic examples:

      Good – That trade was a tough decision. Letting a franchise hero go was never going to be popular, but it was a great deal to take two young players into the system in return for an older guy with just a couple of good years left.

      Bad – Superstar was great, I miss him, I hope the new guys fill his shoes!

      Bad – It’s awesome that Superstar coaches kids for free, he really seems to care and the kids love it.

      Good – The little league coaching is a great idea. Gives the team a good profile on the community and if you make a kid a fan, you can make his whole family fans. Volunteer coaching can look good on a player’s post-sports resumé – does that opportunity attract a certain kind of guy?

      1. Marisol*

        But she’s applying for an admin position, which I took to mean an administrative assistant. Given that, saying something like “the little league coaching is a great idea. Gives the team a good profile on the community and if you make a kid a fan, you can make his whole family fans. Volunteer coaching can look good on a player’s post-sports resumé – does that opportunity attract a certain kind of guy?” comes off as rather presumptuous to me, since most admin aren’t really in a position to opine knowledgeably about business development or the career development professional athletes. (Speaking as an admin myself). Also, speaking as a woman, it sounds a little mansplain-y.

        On the other hand, expressing sincere admiration for a player’s civic mindedness (“he really seems to care and the kids love it”) is just a nice thing to say.

        1. FiveWheels*

          I’m lost at it being mansplainy… I don’t know what gender the OP is but I’m a woman (who worked for a pro sports team, albeit many years ago).

          My point is that if you’re going to discuss the team in the interview, do it from the perspective of the business, not as a fan.

          1. FiveWheels*

            I’m probably explaining myself badly because I’m trying to be overly general with the examples, I’ll try again…

            Volunteer coaching for career development or growing the fan base is relevant to the business side of the team. Volunteer coaching because the player is a great guy is a fan issue and nothing whatsoever to do with business goals.

            1. Marisol*

              I think I may have taken your general idea to address the business side rather than the fan side of sports a bit too literally; you weren’t offering a script per se but I sort of read it that way.

              On the other hand, if the position she is interviewing for is clerical, then it doesn’t seem appropriate to me to opine on business strategy, period. It would be good to ask some beginner-level questions in that context, but I think there is a danger of looking foolish. That’s where I got a mansplainey vibe; I’m imagining myself as the interviewer, someone who has a level of expertise in my field and what my reaction would be to a candidate who made an assessment like that–it would seem to me like the candidate was talking above her paygrade, which is what men do when they want to impress women and wind up seeming arrogant instead.

              But, I understand you were illustrating a concept more than anything else and heck, this is an online forum, not a screenwriters’ group and no one has the time to come up with perfect verbiage for every imagined scenario.

              I think we may have different ideas about how the family’s suggestions would be implemented. I’m imagining a professional person with a solid resume who implements a clothing strategy with subtlety. When I think about all the effort that goes into packaging and market research, it doesn’t make sense to me to disregard a suggestion like “wear team colors” just because it *could* be executed poorly. It could also be executed brilliantly.

              This past weekend I was listening to the Radiolab podcast and they talked about an experiment where the researchers asked the participants to evaluate how well they liked someone after speaking to them briefly. Before they gave the evaluation, the confederate person asked the participant to hold a cup of coffee: “would you mind holding my coffee while I open this door?” that sort of thing. Overwhelmingly, the study participants liked the person when they had been handed a cup of hot coffee, and disliked the person when they had been handed an iced cup of coffee. It was theorized that the temperature of the coffee primed the participants to feel either “warmly” or “coldly” toward the confederate in the study.

              Hopefully that quickie description made some sense–my point is that tiny details can be powerful determinants of opinions and behavior. So I wouldn’t dismiss the team colors idea without giving it some thought.

              I think you and others might be picturing some sort of buffoonish gesture, like that of a rabid fan with an airhorn and a styrofoam “we’re no. 1” finger. Obviously, inappropriate dress and behavior is inappropriate. But I cannot fathom how expressing that you genuinely like the team you want to work for with some enthusiasm would hurt your prospects for getting hired.

              You mentioned a desperate guy showing up for team tryouts in the team colors. Well, you’d be evaluating him based on his athletic ability, wouldn’t you? If he was gifted, I would imagine you’d take him regardless of what he wore, and the spirit he showed by wearing team colors would be seen as a value add. Alternately, if he sucked, then yes, you’d see him as *even more* pathetic for having tried so hard, but it wouldn’t be the clothing that ultimately made your decision not to take him on.

              So I see more upside than downside for the OP to “show team spirit” as it were. Ultimately I think she should do whatever feels right to her and I’m not gung ho on either of the two proposed ideas; I am however against the idea that it is better to show aloofness and restraint than enthusiasm in a job interview, which, while no one is saying that exactly, is kind of what’s coming across to me.

              Now, given that it is 9:37 on a Friday night, there can be no doubt, if there ever was, that I currently have a very boring social life. Off to assemble my ikea clothing rack…

              1. FiveWheels*

                Re tryouts, team colours invariably make the guy look desperate. If you look like a poor candidate before you start interviewing, even if you’re as good as another candidate you’ve made things difficult for yourself.

                One thing I think is clear is don’t wear colours of the big rival team :-D

    15. DEJ*

      Been away from my computer all day, but I do work for a major sports team so I’m happy to chime in. Plenty of people have had a lot of good advice already.

      Wearing team colors is ok as long as it’s still a normal outfit and doesn’t look like you are trying too hard. To use your example, pairing a yellow shirt with black jacket/pants is fine, or a white shirt and yellow necklace (but it should NOT have a logo on it).

      The one thing you should not wear though is if your team has a really big rival, don’t wear the colors of the rival team.

      I would also say no to the memorabilia. If it comes up naturally during the course of conversation, you can certainly talk about it though.

      Don’t fake being a superfan – and I’ll even add that being a superfan is something that can go against you. It’s definitely helpful if you are interested in the team and/or sports in general – and your post indicates that you at least have some interest – because sports can be such a different industry. A lot of people in the sports industry do not work a standard 9-5 job, and that’s something that’s important for you to understand, especially if you are an admin for a group that does not work 9-5 (even if your particular job is mostly 9-5). If I knew what sort of admin position it was I could probably tailor this advice a little more.

      Good luck!

      1. Go Team*

        Thank you so much for the post! I really appreciate hearing from someone in the sports industry. The department of the position I’m interviewing for is Communications and Marketing. Any tips you have from inside the industry would be greatly appreciated!

        1. DEJ*

          I wonder if community relations is also under that umbrella because I know for some teams it is. If you’re an admin for that group, it’s definitely helpful to know what’s going on with the team, especially if you are answering phones – does marketing have anything special planned for an upcoming home game that you will get questions about, is there something about the team making the news that the communications group might be a little busier with? I wonder if you’re a personal admin for someone who oversees the group or for the whole group? If you’re an admin for the whole group you’d want to find out how the position works with each arm between the communications group and marketing group, and if there are certain projects with each group that you’d be responsible for – for example, our admin does a lot with media credentialing for games. You’d want to find out if you do have any game day responsibilities.

          One thing about working in sports – the department vibe tends to ebb and flow with how the season is going. People are really upbeat when things are going well and things can get really negative really quickly when things are down.

          Good luck with your interview!

    16. Bluesboy*

      I spent three years organising training for one of the top 10 football (soccer) clubs in the world and got to know the HR manager pretty well. I can tell you that he couldn’t care less whether he employed a fan or not. He had zero interest in the sport before starting as a junior in HR, and he offered me a job on staff despite me being an admitted fan of the local rivals.

      This is my experience, and it’s just one person and other teams/HR people might feel differently of course. But I got a strong impression from him that if someone was a fan, great. But if they gushed, he would feel that they weren’t interested in the job, but in the team.

      Good luck!

    17. One Handed Typist*

      As a former employee of a professional sports team, NO. No, no, no, no, no.

      Being a fan of the organization can be a hindrance. There were many times when our team’s venue hosted championships and my job was to support the venue and not the team. In fact, I was specifically told to not wear team colors or team logos. I could wear League logos and colors, but not team. And good god, it is SO HARD to be on the sidelines/bench/tables (depending on the sport) and keep a stoic expression. We were very specifically not allowed to respond to events on the court/field/pitch. Additionally, if you are a fan, you have a different perspective of the organization and making some decisions can be extra hard. Especially if your husband is a super fan of a particular player or coach that you know is leaving or needs to leave…

  2. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I learned yesterday that when I start my new job Monday after next, I’m getting an office. In a corner. With windows. This is totally unexpected and makes me inordinately happy.

    1. danr*

      Congratulations!!! an If you’re in a cold climate, bring an extra sweater. Corner offices can be cold. Especially if the office is on the north side of the building.

  3. ElaineCorbenic*

    I work in a bank and had yesterday off because we are closed. This morning, I woke up not feeling very well and decided to skip the gym. About 30 minutes later, I started experiencing intense gastrointestinal issues less than every ten minutes. I called out because I didn’t really know what else to do. I’m still fairly new at my job (less than 6 months) and haven’t called out before. My boss let me know that I couldn’t use sick time because it was the day after a holiday. She seemed very irritated that I was calling out. I’m okay with that because I understand the bank’s position. She said if I felt better, I could try to come in and then I could use sick time for the morning. I actually have two questions: 1. If I can’t make it in, what can I do to make sure this doesn’t hurt my professional reputation at my current company? I feel like I have great work ethic otherwise and am well thought of.
    2. If I can’t make it in, is there a way to make it obvious that I really was sick? Basically, I just want to protect my professional reputation either way. I’m fairly new to the job world and kind of nervous. (Probably not helped by the fact that I’m really sick right now.)

    Thank you!

    1. caryatis*

      Your office sounds pretty restrictive on sick time, which means you might need to tough it out as long as your illness isn’t contagious. I would try to make it in if you can do even part of your job–you might have to take frequent bathroom breaks, but that could be a good thing as it will show you’re really sick and not just looking for another day off.

      1. Natalie*

        If I’m reading OP right, they have food poisoning. I’m not sure that’s one that can be “toughed out” unless you can do your job from the bathroom.

        1. Chaordic One*

          Or it could be food allergies, which you also cannot “tough out” unless you can do your job from the bathroom. I’m just sayin’.

    2. A Jane*

      This is a tough situation and I’ve been through it myself early on at a job. Manager’s can’t help but wonder if they’ve employed someone flaky when they take sick time early on in a job, especially when it’s after a holiday day.
      I would explain to my boss clearly that I wasn’t well, but without going into too many gory details and also apologise for letting them and the team down (if appropriate). Acknowledging that you realise your absence impacts on others is important.
      Then do the absolute best you can not to take anymore sick time for a long while, especially after a holiday. But if you are sick and not well enough to work then you need to take the time off to recover too.

    3. fposte*

      Unless you have existing GI problems, there’s a reasonable chance it’s contagious, so I wouldn’t go in if you were still hitting the bathroom.

      You can’t undo being sick on a suspect day, but your manager will eventually see that skipping out on a fake excuse isn’t you, and you just have to be patient. Apologize when you come back and say you appreciate the slack; if there’s any other relevant short info (“My sister-in-law had it too and we suspect the potato salad”) you can stick it in, but don’t push too hard on the “I was sick, I swear!” because it doesn’t help and can make the absence look even more suspicious.

    4. Seal*

      Calling in sick the day after a major holiday never looks great, but things happen. If you’re too sick to go in at all (and it sounds like you would be unless your commute is less than 10 minutes) trying to drag yourself in will probably make it worse; they may tell you to turn around and go home anyway.

      As far as protecting your reputation goes, so long as you don’t make a habit of calling in sick for every little hang nail and continue to demonstrate a great work ethic you should be fine. When you get back, make a point of apologizing to your boss for bad timing. Any halfway decent boss will realize that people get sick and emergencies happen when they happen even to the best of us.

    5. Qwerty Birdie*

      I would not come into the office at this point, that confirms that you do not know when you are “sick” and thus “could have worked the whole time”.

      I would go into work once you are feeling better and expect some side-line eyes but pretend you don’t see it. Next time you are feeling sick come int to be the office hero. People will send you home and realize that you only call out sick when you are REALLY sick.

      I had to do that once. I purposely came into work when I knew it was only a matter of time before I would begin vomitting. One vomit episode on the bathroom floor and suddenly it was “take all the time you need” each time I called in. It’s stupid I had to “prove” that but thems da rulz.

    6. Audiophile*

      I’m confused about your company’s sick policy. Your manager said you can’t use sick time because it’s the day after a holiday, but then said if you come in later because you feel better, you could use sick time for the morning?

      1. ElaineCorbenic*

        You can’t take a full sick day right after a holiday but you could take a half day due to illness or a doctor’s appointment.

        1. Q*

          I used to work at a place that if you were not there on the days you were scheduled to work before and after the holiday then you would not get paid for the holiday.

          1. Audiophile*

            Yeah I’ve seen that policy before, which kind of makes sense because they’re assuming you’re trying to lengthen your vacation time v

          2. Kittymommy*

            Ours has this. You can use the suck time for the day you call out on, but no holiday pay without a dr note.

    7. TGIF*

      Don’t know how much advice I can give but wanted to let you know that this happened to me! Within a month of coming to my current job, I was struck with some intestinal problems that mean I need to stick close to a bathroom for an hour or two. I knew it would pass after that time so I told my boss and she didn’t mind me making up the lost time (since I also couldn’t use sick leave) by staying late.

      I know employers are often really suspicious of people calling out ‘sick’ after a holiday so that might be the thing that’s making your boss be a bit prickly. Not sure how much you need to prove your sickness when you return but I often find saying that it was a bathroom related issue stops all questions.

      Good luck and hope you feel better!

    8. Stellaaaaa*

      Is your manager intuitive enough to know what you mean if you say, “Um, ya know, ~*stomach problems?” If she asks for details, tell her she doesn’t want to know.

    9. Marisol*

      My only advice is that you stick to your guns and take care of your needs, and don’t apologize too much (if at all). Taking good care of yourself is a mark of integrity. If you are a good steward of your own health, refusing to compromise your own well-being, then you can be expected to be a good steward with company resources and similarly uncompromising when business principles are at stake. Demonstrating that you have good boundaries shows that you are not a weasel and that you can be trusted. Six months is a long enough time to give your manager a sense of your work ethic so I would try not to worry about this. Just move forward confidently.

    10. Fish Microwaver*

      As someone who intermittently has severe gastrintestinal issues, I say don’t worry about it. These things happen. Shortly after I started my current job I had a flare of my GI issue which lowered my immunity and I then got a bad dose of flu. Since then, I have had a few days off but I struggle through most illnesses to keep the days for when I really can’t come to work.

  4. TJ*

    With the help of this comments section, I asked my manager for more responsibilities as our team grows — and got them.

    But, no raise. They were already doing raises for a lot of other people because of the overtime rule, and apparently there was nothing left over. It’s also not officially being called a promotion, even though I’ll be doing a lot of high-level stuff that my manager used to do. (I work for a small company, so new titles/positions are usually created as the need for them arises.)

    I’m happy that I got the new responsibilities, but it feels unfair to be doing more work for the same amount of money, and without any officially-recognized change in position — especially because now I have the same salary as people who are doing much less. Management says they won’t even discuss a raise until the spring.

    Any advice for how to be happy with my new responsibilities even though I’m not getting paid more to do them?

    1. OpsGal*

      Look at it as having to prove to them that you deserve a raise – one you have been doing the job for 6 months and have wowed them, then they’ll have no excuse to deny you a raise in the spring. You may even get a bigger one.

        1. SarahKay*

          I have seen it work – specifically it happened to me. I took on extra, with no proven track record, on the grounds that it would be looked at in six months. I was lucky in that I had an excellent manager who not only made good on his promise, he actually did it slightly before the six months, and gave a better raise than I had hoped for and been led to expect. On the minus side, this was getting on for 15 years ago in a rather better economic climate.

          1. TJ*

            My manager’s great, but she can’t control (and usually can’t accurately predict) whether upper management will grant a raise. It’s happened at least twice that she’s promised a raise that was denied, so I don’t trust those promises anymore. I’m sure I could get her to promise to talk about a raise in the spring, and I’m sure she’d genuinely intend to try to get me one, but I know that doesn’t mean it will actually happen.

            Is there any way around that, you think?

            1. Artemesia*

              Oh then you can count on it not happening and so my advice below is even more spot on. Do well, get good and move on.

              1. SarahKay*

                It can happen, but certainly doesn’t sound likely here. Treat the increased responsibilities as experience to help you move on to an awesome new job where they recognise your worth with more than just words.

      1. Artemesia*

        I’d take it as a bad sign about this company and while working hard to dazzle in the new role, I would begin the plan right now to use this new experience to find a better job with a company that will pay you what you are worth. You don’t have to move on if this company comes through — but I bet they don’t and it will feel good to have mentally planned on leaving and begun the process of identifying opportunities, developing your network and being prepared. And sometimes that kind of ‘blank it all’ confidence results in better results where you are. i.e. if you are really good and really confident about your worth they may actually worry about losing you. In my experience though, this doesn’t work for lower level positions very well and so I’d have my eyes on the main chance and begin actively seeking it out.

      2. Honeybee*

        Conversely, why would an employer give you a raise and a promotion when you have already proven that you will do the additional work for the same price? I think this depends entirely on your leadership team.

    2. neverjaunty*

      I would keep a sharp eye on what happens in the spring. If the company really can’t afford a raise right now but is happy to give you one in the near term, great. But lots of companies use “no money left over” to mean “well clearly we don’t need money to motivate you, so why should be give you a raise?”

    3. SM*

      If they’re open to it, have a discussion about your trajectory. Now that you have new responsibilities, try and gauge how that might put you on a fast track or put you in line for an above average raise in the spring. The journey can be just as exciting as the destination. So see what you can do to make it count!

    4. Chriama*

      Use this time to really kick A and in the spring be prepared to talk about all the ways you’ve gone above and beyond. Also start job searching at that time, just in case.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes — if they don’t ultimately come through with more money, then you’ll be able to parlay your great performance with more responsibilities into a better job somewhere else.

    5. ALICE*

      The new overtime rule being placed on HOLD for either good or until its adjusted, I wonder if they’ll be sticking to the raises for all the other people after all… (next couple weeks should be interesting at a lot of places) and if the money is in fact avail?

      In the meantime, this is resume boosting stuff and you can definitely use it to further your career.

    6. krysb*

      I don’t know what to do in your company; it really depends on the culture of the company and how irreplaceable they see you, how much power you hold, etc. I’ve been in similar situations. I was actually promoted (and by promoted I mean either take the promotion with title, or do the job without the title) and had to go without the raise for a year because our director of operations at the time was a dick. Then, when raise time came about, I was offered $0.65 + bonus plan or a flat $0.75 an hour. I said nope, that was insulting. In the end, I negotiated $1.50 + bonus plan. A year later, that assface DOO was fired. The next DOO put me on salary with a $12K/year raise.

  5. CatRobot*

    I hate my job. I love my colleagues, my manager, my hours, the commute, the pay is below but okay. But my role involves working with um sensitive materials some of which can involve inquests into the deaths of infants, sexual assaults and other distressing stuff. I try my best not to look at it but sometimes you can’t help it. Plus I do have to look a bit to see what it is I am working with. I’ll never know until I am working with something that it is going to have something distressing in it.

    After 8 months its really starting to play on my mental health. I already suffer with depression and anxiety issues and have gone to counseling for it in the past. Last month was particularly bad as it was pregnancy and infant loss awareness month and so I felt that everywhere I turned there was something about dying babies and
    its making me scared to have my own and afraid for the women I know who are pregnant now. Not to mention all the news media and recent events I feel like I can’t get an escape from all the deaths, sexual assaults, hate crimes, etc.

    This is only about 25-40% of the role depending on the day/week. But I can feel its impacting on my world view and is making my depression and anxiety significantly worse. I’ve missed between a day and 3 days for mental health each month for the last three months because I reach a point where getting out of bed feels impossible and/or leaving my house leaves me a nervous wreck.

    I thought I had done a good job vetting this place when deciding where to work but I didn’t realise the impact this part of the job has on me. My work history of the last few years is spotty (not by choice) because of two short term contracts, and two roles where the job was moved outside the city to different places and neither made sense to
    move with. I was hoping to stick it out until at least the two year mark but I am not sure I will survive that.

    I don’t really want to get a new job again as I want my cv to look better. Should I speak to my boss about it? I’m not sure that she can remove this whole area from my work but doing less would be good. Also I think if I could compress it to a 4 day work week instead of 5, having that extra day off which I have done at past roles, would help
    with my mental health. But how do I ask for this? Or is it better to just move on?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Have you talked to any of your co-workers? I’d be really surprised if such a high-stress environment didn’t have resources available to help you through it. Even just a quick commiseration might help you suss out what other people have done.

      I’d talk to them first (people who have been there a while, in particular), and if no solutions are offered, then yeah, talk to your boss. You might be able to call an EAP, or get that 4-day week, or set up a weekly therapy appointment to help you work through it. And I’m sorry– that sounds really hard.

      1. CatRobot*

        I have asked colleagues if it bothers them and they all say no or some variation of “I don’t really notice anymore.”

        Though most of my colleagues haven’t been here that much longer than me. We have a really high turnover rate. Though I suspect that is less to do with the sensitive materials and more to do with it being a very strict hierarchy type environment that has a lot of processes for the sake of having processes and as one former colleague said “gets in their own way a lot.”

        I’ve thought about going back to counseling but I’ve only been out of it a year or um 14 months. I did it for two years so it feels like I shouldn’t be going back to it so soon.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Evaluating when you go back in is about how you’re feeling *now*, not how long you’ve been managing without it. Please please please do not make that your evaluation stick.

          Fwiw, counselors often see other counselors because dealing with people’s problems is so stress-inducing (and sometimes depressing – my godmother has two suicidal patients and some days keeping them propped up leaves her with not much energy to take care of her own life). Social work, all of these kinds of things have a high emotional toll that people either burn out of it, become numb to, or find some active way to help manage, like peer counseling or an external counselor.

          Talk to your manager about whether they have any company resources for helping to manage the emotional toll. But if they don’t, external counseling to be able to unload may be what you need. You might also check around for groups that deal with the same kind of stuff that may be a lower-cost and lower-maintenance way of helping to wade through some of it.

        2. Cat steals keyboard*

          If they don’t notice any more that’s not necessarily healthy either.

          Tip for you to help cope right now: call a helpline (EAP, a crisis line, whatever works best) to debrief whenever you need to. I work in suicide prevention and I ring the EAP every time work thoughts bother me to get them out my head. I also have a ritual for leaving work including listening to a particular song to help me leave it at work.

          With counselling there is no ‘should’. No rules about how long you should need it or when you should need to go back – everyone is different. Try to compare it to seeing your doctor. You wouldn’t say well I had some medical treatment recently so I don’t think I should need more.

          It’s not weak or wrong to need more counselling for any reason. And this sounds like a time when it could help.

        3. Yetanotherjennifer*

          Counseling doesn’t have a shelf life, and for what it’s worth, a year is a long time to go without a refresher. Look at it this way, going back now may well be easier because you still have the counseling habits. You won’t need as long to feel comfortable opening up, the remedies will feel more familiar, etc. I think it will do you a lot of good.

    2. caryatis*

      “I already suffer with depression and anxiety issues and have gone to counseling for it in the past.”

      I would consider counseling in the present. That would help you get some guidance as to what is likely to improve your mental health so that, ideally, you can work with upsetting material, as many of us do, without letting it upset you. Or, if you need to ask your boss for an accommodation, you can do so with more information and confidence.

      “Or is it better to just move on?”

      No. Don’t just quit without attempting to solve the problem–I would say that to anyone, but especially given your work history.

    3. Nerfmobi*

      I don’t know how your work assignments are set up, but is there ever the possibility of swapping cases with a co-worker? Are there certain kinds of issues you have an easier time dealing with and would be willing to trade for if you could hand off the really tricky ones? Some strategies like that might help, along with counseling.

    4. Joanna*

      I have a job which is somewhat similar to what I think you’re describing (involves dealing with the financial issues left after someone dies) so I’m often dealing with death certificates with horrible things written on them or family members who unprompted tell me distressing details. Something I’ve found helpful is to remind myself of the scope of my responsibility and ability to help. I remind myself that most of the things going on for this family are 100% outside my control but the one positive thing I can do is to do the task in front of me really well. It helps with not getting emotionally drawn in ways that are unhelpful.

      It does sound for you like the impacts are going beyond the normal working in a sad field ones. You should absolutely speak to your employee assistance program or to a councillor if that is not available. They should be able to help with coping strategies and how to negotiate for more appropriate work arrangements with your boss.

    5. YaH*

      Is there a way for you to reframe this? Like thinking, “okay, this is awful but the end result is that I’m helping people *insert appropriate phrase*(never have to experience anything like this again/recover from this/get justice/make the world a safer, kinder, better place). My job deals with some pretty awful stuff but I compartmentalize the specific and horrible details in order to focus on the broader picture of how I’m helping children. It helps a lot. A therapist could help you learn how to take a step back from the bad stuff in order to view the big positive picture.

    6. Anlina*

      I think you should try and find a solution before moving on, if the job is otherwise decent.

      However, if you do need to switch jobs, you should note on your resume that the short term contracts were just that, and not you job hopping. Completing a job that was for a limited term reflects quite differently on you from getting hired in a permanent position and then leaving a few months later.

      I have several short term contracts on my resume, and I just put (term) next to each one (I’m sure there are other ways you could indicate this too,) and as far as I can tell, the length of those jobs has had no negative impact on my desirability to employers.

  6. OpsGal*

    Re objective setting for 2017 – how much do your goals change from year to year and how much do they stay the same?

    1. Joseph*

      IMO, there should definitely be a mix of both new goals and continuing goals, though the exact proportion depends on your level/experience/age/etc. There are plenty of different strategies on this, so I’ll just list off the way I personally do it:
      1.) Overarching multi-year goal (e.g., “become manager of the Teapot Design group”). This goal mostly serves as a personal north star to make sure I’m heading somewhere. So it generally doesn’t change much year-to-year. In fact, there will likely be a few times when you’ll end the year and feel like you’re not all that much closer to it.
      2.) Several middle-term goals (e.g., “become a licensed Teapot Designer”, “gain experience in all aspects of Teapot Design”) which support the big goal. These goals might be more than a year, but should be reasonable enough that even if you don’t fully complete it, you can see clear signs of progress (or not) towards the goal every year.
      3.) A few specific, short-term goals (e.g., “take Chocolate Teapot Design class”, “sell 20% more Vanilla Teapots this year”). These change every year and should be measurable enough that you can easily tell if you succeeded, just missed, or were way off the mark.

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      I add one and delete one. I limit myself to three yearly goals, since anything more loses impact. The one I remove is the one I have best completed. If nothing from the previous year has been completed (sadly, it happens), I remove the one that I gave the least attention to.

  7. AnotherAnony*

    Any librarians here? I had an interview and one of the questions was, “A parent thinks that a book is inappropriate for the young adult section and should be moved to the adult section. What do you say/do?”
    Any thoughts?

    1. Oryx*

      The library probably has (or should have) a collection development policy yiu can refer to. If they insist there is probably some kind of process, like a form, for challenging a book that they can submit.

    2. fposte*

      Your library should absolutely have a challenge policy. If it doesn’t, you’d be remedying that tout suite, with the aid of ALA guidelines.

      1. fposte*

        ETA: If you might be covering teen, this is a big thing, so you’re going to want to get familiar with book challenges, privacy issues, and various other interesting details.

        1. Qwerty Birdie*

          It’s so weird. Lot’s of parents flip out about “My Forbidden Face” and similar stories of young people dealing with horrible situations but not succumbing due to “violence” but they are perfectly content with their 7 year old watching Marvel movies. I just don’t get it.

          1. fposte*

            People freak out about the thing that’s prominent yet unfamiliar. The best was the Newbery winner with the word “scrotum” on page 2. It was a perfect storm.

              1. fposte*

                The gay penguins amused me because they ended up with the wrong message, since the real penguins seemingly *were* just going through a phase and ended up heterosexual again.

    3. Seal*

      Ideally, when preparing for the interview you would have familiarized yourself with the library’s collection development policy as well as its policy for dealing with requests to remove or ban books outright; that would allow you to give the most informed answer. But if not, or if they don’t have either of those in place, your answer should be “I would tell the parent that I would bring it to the attention of my supervisor” and detail how you plan to follow through with that. You want to demonstrate that you would take the parent’s concern seriously and treat the parent with respect, but that you also want to acknowledge that you can’t make a decision of that magnitude based on a single complaint.

      1. AnotherAnony*

        That’s what I said- that I would bring it to the attention of my supervisor, in case there have been other complaints about it.

    4. Finding Nemo*

      My friend is a librarian and had this happen to her a few months ago. A mom came up with her daughter and a children’s book about biology in her hand. Her daughter had chosen the book herself. Even though the book is very obviously aged for kids, the mom was upset by the diagrams and words used in it depicting the human body, specifically the differences between girls and boys, and she wanted the book removed.

      Don’t remember exactly what was said but the end result was the book returned to its place of origin in the kids section. I think she told the mom that the age range of that book was targeted towards kids so it would go back there, with an undertone of ‘Police your own children’s reading if you don’t like it’.

      1. Honeybee*

        …I mean, does she think the child will remain blissfully ignorant of the differences between the human body until age 18, when she will magically have this information deposited straight into her brain?

        This thread makes me want to go hunt down some blog posts and articles from librarians about dealing with this. It’s fascinating to me.

        1. fposte*

          If you work in youth services, this is a regular part of the job, and a library without a challenge policy really is asking for trouble. If you go to ala dot org and search for “Frequently Challenged Books,” you can see a list of them year by year with some descriptions about rationales. It’s fascinating. (These of course are situations that have gone further than merely a parent coming up to say something to a librarian, but they’re still really interesting.) And remember some of this is a parent coming up to say “You have this book from the 1950s that has unacceptable treatment of female characters/minority characters/gay characters,” too. One reason you have a library policy is so that you’re not making decisions based on how sympathetic you feel toward the complaint brought to you in the moment but on your library’s philosophy.

          There’s a professor, Emily Knox, who researches what’s culturally behind challenges, and she’s found that a sharp demographic shift in a locale, not even necessarily for the worse, makes the chance of a significant challenge much higher.

        2. Bibliovore*

          the book your want is IT’S PERFECTLY NORMAL or IT’s So AMAZING by Robie Harris. I used to have a challenge to one of these each season.

        3. Oryx*

          Oh, it’s totally a thing and most definitely happens more in teen and kids service. I’ve always worked with adults post-MLIS, but in high-school I worked in my public library as a page and circulation desk and that meant being the first person they saw when they walked in the door, which often meant the person they directed their ire towards just because I happened to be there. (And would always get my manager)

    5. Someone*

      I was on this from the other side. I read a book about child marriage, having a child, with a really grim ending, I suggested moving it to the teen section. The answer was really interesting in this case. She said the book was assigned by local middle schools, but if they moved it to teen, it would be pushed off the shelves by trendier books (thats not the word she used, but teen is mostly vampires and dystopias). She felt it was important to have it in the collection and to ensure that, she had to keep it in childrens. Im a frequent flyer at my library and I really appreciated the nuanced explanation. I would listen to the librarians on the thread when it comes to interviews, but I did think that was interesting.

    6. just another librarian*

      Other commentators are correct. We would expect you to say something like “I would follow the collection development policy, give the patron a copy, and have her fill out the Reconsideration of Library Materials Form” and we would expect you to do exactly that. We don’t remove a book while it is under the review process so it would go back on the shelf.

      Our process is basically:
      -Have patron fill out the form
      -Collection Development Committee receives form, everyone reads the book, and they meet to discuss.
      -Committee makes a decision and patron is notified.

      This has been standard operating procedure at all 3 public library systems I’ve worked in and I’ve done children’s and/or teens in all of them.

    7. DragoCucina*

      Last year we had a book challenge for a juvenile biography of Sigmund Freud. The person also included on the Request for Reconsideration form that we remove all biographies of Freud. She actually wrote, “Children might see them on the shelf.”

      In addition to knowing the professional collection development and challenge ethics I would add a couple of things.
      1. Listen calmly to the parent. Most of the time they will talk themselves through their concerns. I had a parent who was concerned about the depiction of women in manga. She ultimately said that she needed to be proactive in talking to her sons and daughters and never asked for anything to be moved. Sometimes things are miss catalogued. Just because The Boy In Striped Pajamas features a child doesn’t make it juvenile fiction. Not all anime is for children or YA.
      2. Be able to explain that the decision won’t be immediate.

      1. Misc*

        “Not all anime is for children or YA.”

        Heh, it certainly isn’t. I had to point out that some Manga in the ya’s graphic novel section was in fact explicit porn once XD

        1. DragoCucina*

          Oh yes. Miss Catalogued has made some assumptions at our library too. Many years ago we contracted out cataloging and we’re still finding errors.

      2. fposte*

        Honestly, I don’t want an interviewee talking about ways she would wing this. This is close to the library equivalent if food safety–you don’t want to hear somebody talking about how they would wash stuff real well, you want them saying they’d abide by the regs and follow posted kitchen procedures.

  8. Secret Santa*

    A coworker is organizing a Secret Santa gift exchange for our department. It is completely optional with a price limit of ~$10. At first I thought, “Sounds like fun,” and I was ready to sign up, but on second thought, I realized (a) it could end up causing drama, and I do not need any more of that in my life, and (b) I have no idea what gift I would give, especially with a $10 limit, especially if I get somebody I don’t know very well.

    I am looking to you, wise and brilliant commenters of Ask A Manager, for advice on whether or not my worries about office Secret Santa drama are founded, and also, if I do sign up, for some great ideas for gifts to give. Thanks :)

    1. Kate in Scotland*

      I pass on Secret Santa. I have seen drama (and I don’t work in a dramatic place at all). And thinking up a present takes up brain space I don’t have. Ymmv.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      $10? I think that sounds like fun and would be relatively drama-free. The drama starts when you hit about $25 bucks and people feel like they have to out-spend each other. My suggestion? Socks. I have a growing collection of socks from a company called Blue Q– they make the most hilarious, cheeky socks, and I get them for either $9 or $11. Magazine subscriptions are also good, as are ornaments (if your recipient celebrates Christmas).

      Other ideas, based on my current retail job:
      Fun dishtowel
      Wine bottle stoppers/covers

      1. Marisol*

        I love the socks suggestions. I see those blue-q socks (and other blue-q items too, I think?) on Amazon. You could get it done in ten minutes.

      2. Ann Furthermore*

        Coasters are a great idea. I got some once made from sandstone. They’re porous, and absorb the condensation from your glass. Genius.

      3. Franzia Spritzer*

        Inline with the kitchen stuff, for Secret Santa stuff I always get a set of measuring spoons and or measuring cups, I know it sounds stupid, but it always goes over well.

    3. Catalin*

      Go for it and stick to neutral, respectable gifts. Think scarf, mug, their favorite tea/coffee/cocoa, picture frame or SD card if they’re into tech. Think about what you’d give your boyfriend’s sister.

      1. Artemesia*

        In my experience the favorite gifts are usually toys that adults like to tinker with too. I was at a dirty Santa swap last year where the gift everyone wanted was a bathtub submarine toy. Another one that people seem to like are those collections of colored markers — like 50 colors, you can get for about $10. They work well and lots of people like to doodle and draw. I got a set for when my grandchild visits and she is enthralled with having so many colors to work with.

        I don’t know too many people who don’t have more mugs than they can use, but good candy, fun little toys or adult coloring books and such seem popular. We had one person who gave fancy cocktail napkins and those were also well received. Almost everyone has guests from time to time and there is a use for attractive small napkins with the drinks and snacks.

    4. AFineSpringDay*

      At my job we’re forced to do it but you’re not allowed to use holiday wrapping paper. Um, what? The only other paper I have is baby and wedding paper, so I guess someone’s getting that!

      1. Joseph*

        You can also improvise with newspaper or the like.
        I once worked for a construction company which produced full-size (24″x36″) drafting drawings, so around Christmas, people would just grab a few old sets from the recycling bin and use those for the company Secret Santa. It actually worked pretty well, all things considered.

        1. Artemesia*

          In our household we almost never buy wrapping paper anymore. My daughter gets a local paper and she uses the Sunday comics to wrap presents. I collect the little handled bags you get from nice stores during the year — they are often colorful or have attractive pictures and then I use them like pricey gift bags with a little colored tissue paper and tie the handles together with ribbons. We all feel better for re-cycling and the packages look as festive as ever.

      2. Violet Fox*

        Do they still call it a Secret Santa? Would solid color wrapping paper count? or the backside so it’s white?

        Growing up a friend of mine’s dad used to wrap everything in Sunday comics, but not sure how much those are a thing.

      3. MillersSpring*

        One year I wrapped all gifts in brown kraft paper then used red and green sharpies to write a single festive word in cursive on each package.

    5. fposte*

      We do that. It’s been drama-free, and quite a bit of fun. My main problem is that I work with people who are very good at crafts, and I’m not, but sometimes I muddle through with a good idea anyway (I have one that I hope is good for this year).

      So I’m with neverjaunty–if your co-workers are drama-filled, opt out, but if not, there’s a reasonable chance it will be fun. In addition to previous suggestions, a mug filled with premade cocoa mix, candy canes, whatever is a workable go-to. You can often quiz friends of the person (or if it’s through Elfster, you can ask stuff) to get a little better idea, too.

    6. Tau*

      I think it’s easy to get a skewed idea about this stuff from AAM because a) people will tell the stories where it went terribly wrong, not so much the ones where it went fine and b) my impression is commentators here skew towards people with stronger than average professional boundaries and a lower than average tolerance for socialising/’fun’ at work who are less likely to enjoy something like office Secret Santa (probably because those are the sorts of people more likely to read a workplace advice blog?).

      So, re: drama – like neverjaunty said, this really depends on your coworkers. Do you think a Secret Santa involving them is likely to end in drama and tears? If not, don’t worry about it. I’m doing Secret Santa with some of my coworkers and I’m not particularly concerned about it going wrong, even though I can see how it might be a worry with different personalities involved.

      Re: gifts, I think these are all pretty good suggestions. I’m personally planning to look into those little kits you can get at some bookstores (I don’t know if this is a UK thing?), like little get-started-with-origami sets and whatnot, but my Secret Santa has more of a quirky theme and I think most of the people I work with would get a kick out of that sort of thing.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Re: your first paragraph — yes, very much so. I think I’ve inadvertently contributed to that myself and now am reaping what I’ve sowed. I’ve had an intensive focus on “be aware that not everyone enjoys this stuff and it should be optional” and I think it’s inadvertently nurtured a very vocal “people don’t enjoy these activities and you shouldn’t do them” viewpoint in the comment section.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Eh, I don’t think you nurtured it – when there have been letters that say “they’re doing X at my work and I don’t like it”, you also get a lot of comments from people exclaiming how they’d love it if their work did X.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Yeah. I never make it to the holiday party because I work remotely and the timing doesn’t usually work out, but I’d have no qualms about participating in a secret Santa or gift swap type thing with my team–because theyr’re a fairly low-drama team and I know them well enough to guess what would work and what wouldn’t. It’s true that e.g., chocolates aren’t a universally good gift, because some people are allergic, don’t like it, etc.; but I wouldn’t be buying for Hypothetical Anyone, but for a team member, and I have a pretty darn good idea how many of my teammates like chocolate. Or who would get a kick out of a “funny” mug and who would be better served by a neutral “pretty” mug. Or etc. Not even because I know them so very very well as just because I work with them, you know? I can casually observe who goes diving for the chocolate box as soon as it ends up on the shared food table, and adjust accordingly.

        If you think your team is likely to be dramatactic, or you have genuinely no idea what you’d get for anyone, or etc. etc., then yeah, skip it. But it certainly *can* work out fine, and any given individual probably knows their team better to judge whether that’s the case than a bunch of random people on the Internet.

        1. fposte*

          Some of the best ones I can’t describe without completely outing myself, but we’ve done some great media-based jokey (or not so jokey, now that I think about it) craft stuff.

    7. all aboard the anon train*

      I always avoid them. I like Yankee Swaps and when I have participated (or been forced to), I usually go with chocolate or wine or coffee or gift cards. Something most people like or could easily re-gift. Those gifts rarely cause drama and are usually the most popular and sought after.

      But I try to avoid them because there’s always that one person who thinks it’s funny to bring in a dumb gift to embarrass someone or that no one wants and the one person who gets stuck with it feels bad.

    8. animaniactoo*

      Page-a-day desk calenders are also really good that usually fall under the $10 limit, and you can find some awesome ones out there like the one put out by One year I got one for my nephew that was a big hit which was each day was instructions for how to construct a different kind of paper airplane and you could use the previous day’s one to do it.

    9. Raia*

      Honey House Naturals small lotion and chapstick combo should work out to $10. Everyone gets dry skin in winter, right? A pack of nicer non-skip pens could work too.

    10. Emmie*

      Subway / public transport cards in major cities are great.
      I once bought a pizza cutter that played the anthem of a local favorite sports team. That was a hit.
      Starbucks gift cards.
      For higher limits, a Foreman grill.
      BBQ tools.
      Gift certificate to the local lunch spot.
      Something from a local bakery.
      Some offices have drama no matter what! Good luck with your choice!

    11. Katie the Senual Wristed Fed*

      Having just gone through a very intense Marie Kondo-style purge, I’m trying hard to stop bringing stuff into my life. So token gift exchanges are a big no-no. I don’t want some random crap. All my gifts and things I want are experiences, not things.

    12. Temperance*

      I would lean towards gift cards to places like Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, or a local movie theater. Everyone loves movies.

      I also recommend Fluxx – it’s a card game you can get on Amazon for around $10 depending on the version.

      The only thing I’ve honestly not liked when I’ve done a Secret Santa or a Yankee Swap was when we won holiday candy and socks. I hate socks. I only wear them at the gym because I hate them so damn much.

    13. ALICE*

      holiday mug with coffee selection samplers or hot cocoa and marshmallows,
      adult coloring book and markers/colored pencils
      cute little desk organizing set to hold pens/paperclips etc
      2017 desktop calendar with a nice little easel stand or something
      a craft book (my fav was one my grandmother got me in my youth it was all these really creative ways (think bowties or frogs etc) to fold a dollar bill. It came with a dollar attached to it. She used to give us our money like this for holidays and birthdays and I was always really into it, so she got me that book. They still sell it. I need to buy a new copy)

    14. Secret Santa*

      Thanks for the input, everyone! I think I will take a chance and sign up for the Secret Santa. My coworkers do sometimes have a tendency to create drama, but the fact that other workplaces have done it drama-free gives me some hope. Since it is completely optional, I am hoping that the people who sign up will have a good attitude about it and have fun. You have given me some great ideas for gifts, so I feel pretty confident that I will be able to pick something appropriate no matter who I get.

      1. dawbs*

        I think we never hear about ‘drama free’ because…well, there’s nothing entertaining about drama-free.

        I mean, I had holidays with my parents and m in-laws yesterday and managed to have diametrically opposed political people at the table, passing around the pies…and I hvae no entertaining Thanksgiving stories because nothing happened.

        If I go through my however-many years of workplace gift exchanges/cookie exchanges/secret Santa/whatever, I have a few stories from years when there was something entertaining….and Iat least 10 exchanges where there are no stories, because “I gave away something and got something–nothing earth shattering” is not a story to share–it’s just…Tuesday.

        (And worst comes to worst? $10 is cheap for a kick-ass story)

    15. Ann Furthermore*

      When in doubt, go with a gift card. Even if it’s only $10, that’s 10 fewer bucks you have to spend on lunch, which is always appreciated. The job I just left does a white elephant gift exchange, and I hate those. I avoided participating when I could. Don’t know what they do at my new job, if anything.

    16. krysb*

      We do Dirty Santa at my office. That way, there’s low expectations and you can fight for what you want.

    17. joanium*

      A lotto or scratchie card? Whatever they’re called in the US. I’ve always bought a lottery card for my Secret Santas. They’ve never won before but the gift was the thrill. I like to think I’d feel excited if they won.

      1. Secret Santa*

        Oh, that’s a really good idea that would work for almost anyone (as long as they’re not morally opposed to gambling or anything)!

    18. AliceBD*

      My office always does this (also with a $10 limit), and it’s great fun! The most popular ones are always the bottles of wine. Last year I got an adult coloring book and colored pencils. We’ve also had dishcloths with cute/funny sayings on them, and things to chill wine/beer. Lots of people in my office like drinking, so alcohol-related ones are usually a safe bet. I don’t drink so if I got one that was alcohol-related I would either a) reuse it in a different gift exchange (I know of at least 1 other adults-only one I’m probably attending this year, and possible 2). If your office doesn’t really have a drinking culture I would just get cute/funny things for the home.

    19. SMT*

      I’ve done Secret Santa a few times with a $10 limit. Usually I would get a basket or pretty dish (from Dollar Tree or Target) and add Dollar Tree purchases to it for a theme (candy one year, nail polish and related accessories another). Everyone participating filled out a survey about favorite TV shows, stores, hobbies, etc. so the person getting a gift would have an idea. A very popular gift was a $10 gift card to a favorite store.

  9. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    I’ve had jobs in fast-paced places and my bosses have had attitudes where it seemed like they hated me/wanted me out. They went out of their way to praise other employees in front of me; yelled at me over trivial things, and accused me of misplacing things even though they weren’t. These signs usually mean trouble, right? But when I gave my notice, they were surprised and asked me to stay longer. (I didn’t.) But I keep wondering, how do you know if they’re just tough or if they truly want you out?

    1. A Jane*

      Does it matter which it is? If they treat you like that and you don’t like it then it’s not for you and you should leave.

    2. neverjaunty*

      What you are describing of their behavior is not “just tough”. It’s obnoxious and unprofessional.

    3. CatRobot*

      Praising other employees in front of you might not be about you. It could be about giving them public recognition. Unless its done in a snide way of see Amy Farrah Fowler why can’t you be more like Barbara here?

      The other two especially yelling are annoying and unprofessional and definitely a bad sign.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s not a management style that works for me, but some bosses “get tough” with their best employees to hone them into even better employees.

      Confusingly, there are the mind-game bosses when confronted who say, “I never wanted you to leave! I never said that.”

      I will say that fast-paced jobs have an atmosphere of their own. Things are allowed that don’t happen in slower paced jobs. You might try to find something at a slower pace. OTH, if you find yourself in this situation again, make more of an effort to hear what is going on when you are not in the immediate vicinity. This would include listening to what others tell you is happening to them. I had one boss who was fond of telling me that everyone hates me. Come to find out, she went around and told everyone else that they were all hated, too.

      It’s very easy to be aware of what happens to us, but it takes a deliberate effort to find what is happening in the big picture. In my story here when I found out she was doing that to everyone I still landed in the same place with my thinking: it’s time to leave. But at least I knew that it was her approach to management and not me personally.

      It’s been helpful to me to push myself to see the bigger picture.

    5. AFineSpringDay*

      I had a boss once give me a 60 day “shape up or ship out” notice, and he was astonished when I quit. I admit I was in a bad place, grumpy and short tempered. I do get short tempered when I have to answer the same exact questions for the same exact people every other month. Nothing has changed, folks!

      I had tried so hard to get promoted to the management of the department, and was passed over for him from the outside because all they cared about was someone who could make them more money. He made it clear he would never really respect any contributions I made, and yet was still amazed when I quit. People- how do they work?

    6. Scape Goat*

      I’ve been in workplaces where over time the job changed. Additional job duties were added to my position, new tools didn’t work as well as the old ones they replaced, and managers I worked well with left for a variety of reasons. I could never get my supervisors to recognize or appreciate the additional work I did, or that I really was on top of things.

      Then after I either quit or was fired, they begin to recognize all that I did. They either had to redesign the job and reassign some of the tasks to others in the office or else hire an additional worker. But they would only do it after I was gone.

    7. Bluesboy*

      I think the thing is that they actually think their behaviour is normal. I mean, most people don’t think that they’re nasty. They think that they are observing office norms, so why would you be planning to leave, unless it’s for more money, or suchlike. Office culture is a big part of it.

      My experience is also that often they on some level see giving you a job as almost a favour, so you should be grateful to them.

      Leaving aside avoiding job hopping, these are the wrong jobs, and you should keep looking for a place where you’re treated with respect. Sometimes you might have to stick it out in one of these for a couple of years for the experience or to put a longer term on your CV. Otherwise, keep looking. Agree 100% with A Jane above – whether it’s touch or nasty, it’s not for you!

  10. Qwerty Birdie*

    Anyone else felt like they are held to a different standard than their peers?

    I am starting to really struggle with this in my current role. If someone misunderstands what I say, then I’m in the office with the boss being lectured about communicating better. If someone isn’t clear with me, and I “misinterpret” what they say, I’m in the office with the boss getting lectured about the importance of active listening.

    It’s simply exhausting and it is really starting to bother me that any mistake or error with the team is coming back to me.

    Help folks! Commiserate, make suggestions, I’m all ears.

    1. AFineSpringDay*

      Yep. My last boss was a terrible person and a terrible boss, and blamed me for mistakes that happened before I started working here. Literally refused to believe anyone but me could be an idiot. Also let my colleagues get away with murder and came down on me for everything. Always complained about me taking vacation, too.

      It really starts to play on your self esteem, doesn’t it? The only thing that stopped it was her passing away, so I’m afraid I have no real advice on dealing with it.

    2. fposte*

      Oh, that’s never a good feeling; I’m sorry you’re in that position. If you had to guess why, what would you guess? Conversely, do you think there’s any possibility that your mistakes aren’t actually in a par with the ones other people make in significance or frequency?

      In general, the advice is to have a calm sit-down with your boss about the seeming concerns about your performance. Is that something you’d consider?

      1. Qwerty Birdie*

        Oh how I wish. I tried to initiate 1 on 1 with bosses when I first started, they cancelled them. Then we agreed that we needed to meet at least monthly this year, and cancelled by the second session. I am getting 0 feedback other than one off complaints or emergency help me sessions. It’s weird too because my overall scores, and thus raise, was great. When I speak to other leaders they say all feedback about me is phenomenal.

        I think the piece that is getting to me more than the feedback, is that its all done publicly. I see others making similar mistakes at the same frequently or even more often, but if they are getting negative feedback it’s not publicly like me.

        1. fposte*

          Either book a meeting for the specific issue, which is less likely to be deprioritized than a regular check in, or when you’re in the office with the boss being corrected next time, raise it then and there as long as you can keep it nondefensive.

          Third choice is accept that this is what they do and you can accept it or move on.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Sometimes, when I have felt I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, I have asked a blunt question. In this case, my blunt question would be, “Why am I the only one getting public feedback for doing the same thing others are doing?”

          Depending on the boss, that can stop the behavior dead in its tracks.

          OTH, if you have an at work friend you could check in with them for their thoughts. It could be that the boss only does that to newbies/women/people of a certain age/whatever and it’s widely known that you have to call the boss on it. I’ve seen stuff play out this way also.

    3. animaniactoo*

      Is there something visibly physically different about you than your co-workers?

      Are you the newest hire?

      “Can I ask why you think this was a lack of listening on my part vs a simple misunderstanding or unclear wording on Jane’s part?”

      followed up if need be with “I’m not trying to throw Jane under the bus or say that this is not on my side. I’m simply trying to understand what you’re seeing that I may not be because it seems that no matter which side is speaking, if there’s a miscommunication, you address me as the person who needs to correct what they’re doing to prevent it in future.”

    4. Seal*

      It may be a sign that your boss and others are mobbing or bullying you. The same thing happened to me in my first FT job way back in the 90s before such behavior well-understood or properly labeled as such. At first I was considered to be very good at my job and had a great relationship with my immediate coworker; to this day she’s the best work friend I’ve ever had. We were considered a great team and were well liked and respected throughout the workplace and especially by our employees. After a few years she left; one of our employees was promoted to replace her. She assumed that she could just step into my now-former colleague’s place both professionally and personally and didn’t seem to understand that such relationships are built over time rather than automatically inherited. When things got uncomfortable and I tried to set some boundaries, she retaliated by turning our colleagues and employees against me; being young and dumb myself I didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. Despite continuing to do the same high-caliber work I had always done, everything I did was constantly questioned and challenged. It never mattered that I was always able to defend myself by pointing to existing policies and procedures or indisputable facts. In the eyes of my colleagues and employees, I was always wrong and it was always OK to pick on me. It was exhausting and all but destroyed my self-esteem. I found myself stuck in an endless loop of knowing that the problem wasn’t me but not having enough self-confidence to quit my job and find something better.

      My advice is two-fold: start documenting all of these incidents and start looking for a new job. You will most likely see a pattern of behavior that can be traced back to one person or a group of people or perhaps even your boss. The other thing you can do is follow up all meetings or conversations with an email stating something to the effect of “As I understand our conversation, I’m going to do A, B, and C”. That way you will have something in writing to refer to if someone accuses you of something you know you did or didn’t do.

      But seriously consider looking for a new job. It’s very hard to get bullies to stop targeting you, particularly if one of them is your boss.

      1. Insert name here*

        I’m so sorry you went through this. I also went through this and it hurts when your boss is in on it and basically the leader of all of it. It didn’t matter how hard I worked, he just pointed out my flaws to everyone and took note of every time I messed up. Yet when I was covering and saving his @$$, it didn’t matter. He didn’t tell anyone about it. He passed all of the work off to me and he did other non-work related things. He involved other people, so they all bullied me and basically bullied me out of the place. I quit and the higher ups tried to get me to stay- this was after I heard them bashing me- not that I would have stayed, I had another position to go to, but it sucked. It’s absolutely soul-crushing and so horrible. Never. Again.

    5. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Ugh, this is the worst and I’m sorry that you have to deal with this. It’s tough and confusing. A fellow co-worker left because even though she excelled at the job and could have been running the place, the boss went after her for everything- she was wearing the wrong shoes, she wasn’t wearing nice enough clothes, etc. She told me that she was afraid of being fired, so she booked it outta there and it is a BIG loss for the company. Not even a week later, the boss was asking me how she was! The boss liked her, but was either intimidated by her or on a power trip, I don’t know. It definitely messes with your mind and sometimes the only solution is to start job searching and move on.

    6. Temperance*

      Uh, yes. In my last job, my boss required me to constantly jump through hoops and do extra tasks and was very quick to punish or reprimand me when she did not treat my male counterpart or her pet the same way, even when we had the same exact title. She clearly disliked me and had no problems showing it.

    7. Zip Silver*

      I don’t know about being held to a different standard, but I’ve noticed that my boss leaves me alone to manage my 3 departments, while my counterpart (same position, same management duties) is under more scrutiny. The funny thing is, counterpart has more experience than I do.

    8. Mreasy*

      I’m exec level and in constant fear of my job because of a level of scrutiny given to my “attitude” that isn’t applied to my colleagues & peers. (For the record, I am quite clearly one of he most well-liked members of staff – but a couple off known-difficult clients have complained about the way I’ve delivered bad news.) Any guesses as to what the difference between me & my much-grouchier exec peers is? I’ve tried for three years; at this point I can only get a new job (with EEOC & discrimination lawyers’ contact info at hand in case I’m fired first). It is such a difficult situation. I’m so sorry you’re in it!

        1. sstabeler*

          I suspect one of:
          1. age difference- albeit slightly unusually, a case of discrimination based on low age.
          2. Gender difference- unlikely, but either a male exec with a female-dominated board, or female on a male-dominated board. “attitude” can be a complaint levelled unfairly against female managers and execs…
          3. skin colour. It is an unfortunate fact that- partly because there IS still something of an “old boys” network at exec level- there can be similar issues to those women face.

    9. MillersSpring*

      If it’s a new role or a new boss, are they not familiar enough with your work? Do they maybe feel that you’re still learning the ropes?

      I like the verbiage others have given along the lines of very neutrally asking, “Could you help me understand how you’re seeing this as me not listening rather than Fergus not being explicit enough? I want to improve my performance, etc.”

  11. Catalin*

    I felt like such a grown-up this week when I wrote a commendation for my admin. We work for different companies under the same contract, but all companies like to hear their employees are kicking butt at their jobs. Hopefully they’ll read my note and reward him $.

    1. Mreasy*

      That’s the most fun part of any supervisory position – getting to talk up great folks who work for you!

  12. Jules the First*

    So all week I’ve been super grumpy because my boss asked me to prepare slides for a presentation today that was going to be a huge amount of effort for relatively small results. I’ve spent at least three days this week wrangling incomplete and badly organised data and patching it together into six charts that show what he wanted to show (despite the fact that the data don’t actually show that) and then last night he said that he wanted me to talk the meeting through the slides this morning. So then I had to go in and present data that I disagree with, with zero time to prep speaking notes.

    And it went well. Half the meetig attendees have dropped by or emailed to say thanks for the info and that it was super helpful and I did a fabulous job of presenting it. Which made my week.

    So – in the spirit of this week, what was good about your week?

    1. Audiophile*

      I’d say the only good about this week was that I worked a shortened week. Only worked Mon-Wed and was able to leave early on Wed.

      It sounds like the presentation went well and that’s a pretty nice way to wrap up the week. Congrats, that’s awesome.

      1. krysb*

        I only worked Monday…. but, in my defense, Tuesday I had a vet appointment (with not-the-best news) and on Wednesday there wasn’t enough physical work in the office to necessitate me going in. All I can say is unlimited vacation is the best.

    2. periwinkle*

      In the spirit of “I thought this was going to suck but it actually went well” – I’m a teapot consultant who works with our internal customers when they ask for teapot development. I had been supporting a single customer but after a re-org I’m part of a team supporting several customers. For my first time working with one of those other customers, I wound up on a very high-profile project which was stressful considering that their teapot analysis process was so rigid and precise and totally unfamiliar to me (with my former prime customer it was “get it done however it needs to be done”). And then my project was assigned the teapot developer with a reputation for being skilled but blunt to the point of being offensive and quick to go in for the kill if any weaknesses were exposed.

      And we’re worked fine together. Did the full handoff of the customer project from my plate to hers this week, no drama and no worries. Heck, I’d be happy to work with that person again.

    3. SarahKay*

      I had an unexpected disagreement with someone to whom I give direction and a certain amount of training (although don’t manage) about a process to follow. Unexpected, because IM conversations earlier this week (we’re in different countries) implied that he’d remembered the process from when it happened six months ago, when today he claimed the opposite. I found the relevant IM’s and emails from earlier this year, and sent them through to confirm that yes, it was what he should do, and yes, it was what he did last time.
      His response to being corrected was incredibly graceful, and referenced one of the very definite ways you can be ‘out’ when playing a sport we both enjoy. His sports phrasing made me laugh, and his grace at accepting the error was awesome.

    4. Puffle*

      On a similar note, today a surveyor came to my workplace to assess an insurance claim, and I was the person who showed him around and prepped all the info. Apparently in the past we’ve had very rude surveyors who treated everyone like dirt and had an attitude of “How dare you bother us for this?”, so I was super nervous. In the event, the guy was really nice and agreed totally with my assessment of the damage, so yay!

  13. CC*

    After Alison’s post a while back about how to tell if you’re managing your career effectively, I realized not only was I not doing so, I didn’t really know how to start doing so in an effective way. From the discussion in the comments, I realized I wasn’t the only one in that position. So now I am collecting resources for learning how to manage your career!

    My training and experience and interest is in a specialized technical field (chemical engineer) so I am biased toward resources for how a technical person who doesn’t want to be a people manager can manage their career, but how to manage your career in general, whatever path you’re on, will still be helpful. Also very welcome are suggestions from people who do manage their careers, for how you personally handle this sort of thing, from figuring out what you even want to pursue down to the nuts and bolts of how to actually do the thing.

    Unfortunately, google is not being very helpful. A search for “how to manage your career” got me a lot of stuff like “set goals! network! consistently be an overachiever!” repeated on many pages, and… I know those words. They come up in every piece of advice about business ever. Most of those pages, when taken all together as in google search results, look to me like people who want to seem like they know what they’re doing parroting the same superficial information and trying to convince you that they’re somehow uniquely insightful and therefore you should hire them as a consultant or coach or buy their book. I also don’t know enough about the subject area to separate the parrots from the useful advice that is repeated often because it’s useful, or the stuff that feels right but is wrong from the stuff that feels right and is right, or the stuff that’s repellent because it’s toxic from the stuff that’s repellent because it’s outside my comfort zone.

    Links and information I’ve collected so far to follow. I’m also interested in any comments you might have on the contents of the links.

    1. CC*

      Alison’s article “Have You Managed Your Career Well?”

      A TED talk by Susan Colantuono titled “The career advice you probably didn’t get”. (Spoiler: I didn’t get that advice either. And it’s not “network!” or “work harder!” because everybody already gets that advice.)

      A LinkedIn article by Mel Wilson titled “10 things I’ve learned from working in the sustainability field for 25 years”. (Some of the items are things I’ve noticed myself and apply outside of sustainability.)

      Manager tools podcast (suggested by Alison)

      Mentoring: not just for recent graduates! My professional association offers mentoring for all stages up to senior executive level. Other similar associations might do the same.

      Organizational suggestion: a spreadsheet for tracking long-term goals or options, the steps needed to get to them, opportunities that come up that could be relevant, and notes on milestones and time frames (suggested by Mela)

    2. Thomas E*

      It’s pretty hard to manage your career when you don’t have a clue what you want to be when you grow up.

      Which is just about where I am now.

      1. CC*

        Indeed… I followed the steps, did well in school, made choices from the options presented to me according to what classes I was good at and recommendations from my favourite teachers, and when I got into the workforce I found that while I do enjoy the field I ended up in, I had no idea how to direct myself without the structure of a school program that somebody had designed and I was following.

    3. Clever Name*

      I’m a scientist who doesn’t want to manage people (or even projects). The best advice for managing your career is to have a mentor. It doesn’t have to be a formal thing. Basically you want to collect people for Team You for your career. They don’t necessarily have to be someone who does what you do, although that’s helpful.

      Attend professional association meetings. Don’t try to be all sales or networky. Just show up fairly consistently and talk to at least one person at each meeting. Ask them about their work. Find a person who is standing alone and introduce yourself. It gets easier the more you do it.

      1. CC*

        Yeah, networking is something I’ve definitely fallen down on in the past. My current job very sharply limits how much I can do; all of my professional association meetings and events happen in the middle of my shift. I’ve already promised myself that once I get an engineering job, going to those events and getting to know people is something I will do. But right now… I can’t afford to simultaneously take a day off work *and* blow more than a week’s worth of groceries on the event fee.

        The manager tools podcast episode on networking was quite helpful in explaining how to build a network without being one of those slimy sales-y elevator pitch when they corner you for 5 seconds people.

  14. LBK*

    Does anyone else have a cliche corporate buzzword or phrase that they secretly love? I use “directionally correct” all the time, which I hate myself for but it captures the goal of a lot of my work so accurately and succinctly. “Apples to apples” is another one I use a lot.

    1. CatRobot*

      I don’t know if this is what you are looking for but I use percussive maintenance sometimes. It basically means hitting something until it works.

    2. fposte*

      Oh, that’s funny; I secretly love a lot of buzzwords and I never use those, so now I have to.

      I love talking about silos and siloing because 1) it’s apropros and 2) we’re a land-grant university with real silos.

      1. LBK*

        Ha, I used to use that one a lot in my old job since we did heavy cross-departmental work so we had a lot of silos, but sadly they were all metaphorical.

      2. Ghost Town*

        Siloing is a huge thing in my uni. And that term just encapsulates it so well; not sure of another word that works as well.

      3. Certified Public Ac-cow-tant*

        I used to be the AES (Agricultural Experiment Station) accountant for a land grant. When people asked me what I did for work, I said I was the accountant for the cows, pigs and chickens.

      4. Jillociraptor*

        I also secretly love most buzzwords and corporate lingo. One that always cracks me up in my workplace is that everything’s a space: “He showed up very well in that space.” “It depends on how you operate in that space.” It always makes me chuckle.

    3. MommaCat*

      This isn’t so much corporate, but I love the phrase “high-impedance air gap.” It means something is unplugged.

      1. Lynn anon*

        Also not so corporate but one I find darkly amusing: my partner works in aviation and the term they use for when two aircraft get too close together, ie. amost crash, is ‘loss of separation’.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        My old boss was a big fan of this one. It got confusing when a project for Contract Lifecycle Management started up.

    4. Sandra dee*

      Decimal dust – when working with large flat amounts, rounding errors create decimal dust. And I am not looking for a couple dollars, when the amount is hundreds of millions, it’s decimal dust.

    5. animaniactoo*

      Do the ones that make me laugh a lot count?

      Like “We don’t have the bandwidth to handle that anymore”.

      Said to me by a licensor who was telling me that instead of them custom applying and providing assets for a special-format packaging setup for each brand of theirs we carry to use as an example for our range, we were going to have to figure it out ourselves and create the assets from the regular guides. Based on the examples done by them for 3 out of the 20 or so.

    6. Anon for this*

      Going anonymous because if any of my colleagues read this, they’ll identify me quickly because I use this all the time.

      “I see excellent opportunities for improvement.”

      Translation: Listen up as I tell you what you’re doing wrong and how to fix it, you halfwit manager.

    7. Tomato Frog*

      “Modular” and “scalable.” I love to use them but also hate myself when I do. I think perhaps these aren’t too buzzwordy for people in the right field, but they’ve certainly been buzzwords in the contexts I’ve heard them used. Sort of like how “curator” becomes a buzzword when it’s used outside museums and galleries.

      Come to think of it, I also like to refer to things that are not exhibitions as “curated.” As an archivist I am deeply ashamed of this.

    8. Edith*

      I work at a graduate seminary where all of the higher ups are both professors and ordained ministers, so most of the buzzwords I hear are theological terminology. My favorites were the time the VP went off on a tangent in a meeting and apologized for “going homoletical” on us, and the time gossip was getting to be a problem so HR decreed they wanted us to transition from a hermeneutic of suspicion to a hermeneutic of trust.

    9. MillersSpring*

      I’ve had to get used to saying bandwidth and resources. All over the corporate world, the VPs and SVPs seem to value the language of McKinsey-type consultants, and they feel more serious or “business-y” when problems are couched in buzzwords. It’s too simple to just state that we don’t have enough time, people or money.

    10. vpc*

      When talking about dissimilar things, I often use the construction, “…it’s not even apples to oranges; it’s apples to platypuses.”

  15. Nicole J.*

    I had an unhappy customer today. I’ve dealt with it was as far as I can practically; but I can’t seem to get over being bummed by it. I’ve felt kind of low and depressed all day, and my confidence has taken a bit of a knock. I was wondering if others felt this way and if so, how do you move past it? I know it will pass and I’ll move on, but I was wondering if anyone had ways of speeding the process up a little.

    1. LBK*

      Were they unhappy because of something in your control? If no, I think you just have to acknowledge that it wasn’t your fault (doing it out loud sometimes helps) and give yourself permission to move on. If yes, I think explicitly identifying to yourself what you could have done differently and resolving to make sure you do that going forward can help. If it was a one-off situation or fluke and not something that you could resolve systematically in the future, I would ask yourself “Is there anything I can do about this right now to fix it?” If the answer is no, make a conscious decision not to think about it any more, and any time it comes into your head, just repeat to yourself “There is nothing I can do about this right now.”

      I often find myself laying in bed at 2AM worrying about something in the future and trying to play out the situation a million times or figure out how I’m going to address it, and the way I move past it is to say “There is nothing I am going to do about this right now at 2AM” to myself and thus give myself permission to not think about it anymore.

    2. Raia*

      Actively telling myself the truth, that there is nothing else I could have done and that I exhausted every avenue I knew of, helped me get through faster. I was bummed for a day or two though.

    3. Chicken Fishing*

      Tips I give my team:
      1. Remember that there are some people that you won’t be able to please even if you do everything right.
      2. Talk through it ONCE with your manager or a trusted, experienced peer for their perspective and advice for handling similar situations the future. Do not rehash it repeatedly, really.
      3. Start writing down really great experiences and compliments from customers/co-workers/managers to remind yourself of when you have a bad interaction/day. This helps a lot.

      The people like you who worry over bad interactions are usually the ones who are or will be the best at their jobs. The fact that you care is why you’re great! Keep smiling!

    4. periwinkle*

      It’s entirely normal. Negative stuff sticks in your mind but you can counteract it by reminding yourself of all the satisfied customers and tricky problems you’ve resolved and times you went above & beyond. If you could have done something better, resolve to do it better going forward. Think of it as pride in doing good work – someone without that pride wouldn’t care.

      Sure, I still remember some unhappy customers from my days in tech support, 15 years ago or so, but only the jerks who made themselves unhappy. And those memories make me cringe on their behalf, not mine!

    5. Marisol*

      Call a friend and talk to her for 10 or 15 minutes on the subject. Get everything out. (There’s a specific exercise that you do with a friend that I love called “spring cleaning;” it’s taught by a life coach named Regina Thomashauer teaches; you can google that if you want.)

    6. Not So NewReader*

      When a particular thing sucks, I tell myself “Well, at least now I know and I won’t be blindsided* by that one. The truth is now out in the open. I know the limitations here and I can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

      *I think of being blindsided by something as the ultimate worse. If I have a warning that something is going to go bad, or if I become informed of the limits in place then I can tell myself well at least I had the heads up.

  16. CapitalR*

    I met with an internship coordinator at my alma mater to look at my cover letters and resume recently, which was great since I haven’t gotten any interviews since graduating last May. He advised me that my cover letter felt very canned – not at all specific to the companies I was applying to, even though I wrote a new letter for every application. It was something I’d been thinking myself. I’ve written a number of cover letters in the past few months, and given how easy it is to develop a habit, I’ve fallen into a rut. My sentences and qualifications all sound very stale, because I’ve written them a number of times. Now I need to freshen up my cover letters.

    Does anyone have suggestions on how to write a cover letter, without it being too canned? I struggle with writing a letter that isn’t too casual (in my location and industry it’s very formal writing) while showing interest. How can I show passion? How can I show that I meet their qualifications?

    1. Frustrated Optimist*

      Hone in on an aspect of the job description and/or requirements, and then provide a vivid account of something similar you have done.

      Example: A job description mentioned dealing with sensitive information. In her cover letter, an applicant described an experience coordinating a visit from the United States Vice President to her previous workplace. Staff were not notified; the visit was a surprise. But this applicant, in her office manager duties, had to communicate with Secret Service agents, etc., and keep it all confidential. She got the job at the company she was subsequently applying to. =)

    2. Thomas E*

      He’s almost certainly wrong. The cover letters sound stake to you and him because you’ve both read similar things dozens of times.

      Your audience has never read your cover letter before.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hmmm, I don’t know. Most cover letters I receive sound way too canned; it’s a pretty common problem.

        CapitalR, my advice would be to look for inspiration at some of the cover letters from real-life people I’ve posted here over the years; one of their strengths is how un-canned they sound.

        1. CapitalR*

          Thank you Alison! I’ll take a look at them. I’m determined to get out of this rut, if I find my own letter dull to read I can only imagine how a hiring manager would feel. Hopefully your archives will help me figure out how to show interest and suitability without it being canned.

    3. Overeducated*

      I think it can help to tell someone out loud why you are excited for the job and a good candidate for it. We tend to get to the point faster and in less stilted language out loud. Then use that explanation as a starting point for a new cover letter.

  17. Frustratedatwork*


    I have been in my position for nearly 6 years. For three of them I’ve been on a management development plan designed to help our group promote from within. As part of this program, which my manager signed me up for, she is supposed to be teaching me the skills I would need to move to another site and become a manager. Every year at one to one time she says that we’ll make headway on this this year and every year I push for a bit but she makes excuses how she doesn’t have time and every year I give up. It’s clear that in spite of the fact me being on this program was her idea she doesn’t really want to teach me the things I’m supposed to learn.

    I’m at the point now where I think I have developed all I will ever develop from the job I do now. I’m thinking that the only thing I can do is apply for the next step up openings and learn on my feet once I get one. If I wait for her to teach me these things I will be stuck here forever. She is generally well liked in the business and it’s a small department so going over her head about this is a retaliatory minefield waiting to happen.

    There are several things that make me feel this way. Manager is so keen to avoid confrontation it’s untrue. So she’ll just deflect stuff for ‘later’ and know that later will never come rather than tackle issues. Part of the reason I’m at the point of moving on without this training is her.

    She’s moody. You never know if she’s going to snap your head off or not if you ask for help/advice. What was the right answer today will be the wrong answer tomorrow. She told me at my last one to one that I’m the moody one but the reality is I spend my life walking on egg shells because I don’t know what will set her off. I’ve asked her several times if it’s me, because she treats me like she wants me to drop dead during these times, but she insists it’s not me, it’s things she’s dealing with from further up the chain. I get the feeling it’s me and she’s so against confrontation she just doesn’t want to say, but she’s my boss and I’ve pushed for feedback and she won’t give it, so what can I do? I’ve had 5 and soon to be six glowing yearly reviews.

    So, just after opinions what others would do. I’m comfortable in what I do here. I’m good at it, to the point where it’s so easy it’s gotten a bit boring. The customer base is small and loyal so I know a lot of them very well, and get on with them very well, to the point where I’ll miss them. My commute is reasonable. My salary is ok for the industry and the brand we work with makes people a bit of a captive audience, so we do pretty well with customer retention. However, my manager is only a few years older than me, so I was always going to have to start that part of my career somewhere else as she’s not going anywhere. She’s said several times that moving up any higher in our org doesn’t interest her either. To add to my feelings on this matter my only equal level colleague is the type that doesn’t do what he said he would a great deal of the time and spends a vast amount of time not at his desk. When he is there he has time to be messing with his phone but not getting back to people ect. I’ve had to learn to basically give him enough rope to hang himself because otherwise I’d just be doing everything while he messed with this phone. I feel like this has actually caused me to back slide because I’m bitter about the imbalance. It’s not the kind of role where you can just leave things undone forever as customers will be let down and maybe even complain. From previous experience she will just say to sort it out amongst ourselves but he is one of those people who always knows best and as I don’t have the authority to push back at all, it’s pointless to try. For background, we have set lunches but generally on a Friday someone will do a run out for fast food. This happens toward the end of his hour or into my hour. Two weeks running he has announced we are shifting lunch hours half an hour to accomodate the fact he wants to partake in the fast food and as he doesn’t drive, he needs to do this with the rest of the team. As we are customer facing someone must be in the department at all times so overlapping dinner hours can’t happen and we can’t eat in a customer facing area. He thinks it’s ok to just tell me this is happening, not ask if that’s ok or if I mind. This is the second week on the bounce this has happened and I pushed back that I wasn’t happy to move my lunch later every week and got told that he wants the fast food and he’s not being held ransom to a lunch hour basically so I’ll just have to deal. I try to be flexible but I’m generally starving by my lunch hour and I’ve had that same window for lunch for six years now. (He’s been with us 2.5.) These things are building up my resentment to the point that because I know she won’t tackle these issues (again from experience) I feel that perhaps leaving is the best option all around.

    So, what do I do? There are two roles that I would consider the next step up for me on our careers website. I’m scared sh*tless of the change because it would be a big step out of my comfort zone. It would likely mean a (no doubt small) raise and a slightly longer commute, but on slower roads so likely the same net fuel cost over all. The change in role and a fresh challenge apeals to me, as does learning new skills and maybe getting onto a team that isn’t lead by a passive agressive manager. Sometimes though, it’s better the devil you know and as a person outside of a work situation I really like my manager. There is also the nagging feeling that I may be held back or retaliated against for the move or attempt to move because filling our last opening took ages and I know she won’t want the department at half strength. I know in the depths that I’m ready and that I won’t get any readier and it’s only the fear of the unknown holding me back, and the fact I will miss this place a great deal on the whole. I’m not going to grow any further here and risk actually sliding backward. But change and especially so much of it scares me. I’m developing a complex about making decisions here because what was right today will be wrong tomorrow in the same situation, so I find myself asking for more imput on my decisions just because making her decision in the first place is better than making the wrong one. So, dear readers, would you try to tackle the things that make you unhappy or would you take the boredom with the work and all the other unhappiness on top as a sign it’s time to grow into the next stage?

    1. fposte*

      I’m not sure if you’re in the U.S. or not, but after six years I’d definitely stop waiting for my manager to initiate movement. You talk about the jobs on your org website–I would expand consideration outside the org, even, so that new jobs within the org are a choice, not an inevitability. If you stayed in this job until you died, would that be okay with you? Because I think the longer you stay, the scarier it is to consider leaving, and the greater the chance is that you’ll end up a lifer. (I’m in a bit of a glass house here as an academic, but my positions have changed and the job does keep expanding–plus there’s nowhere I could be promoted to.)

      I also think this is related to the conversation upthread about managing your career–it’s time you took up those reins. What would you want your future career to look like? What’s the next step for that?

      1. Frustratedatwork*

        Essentially she’s supposed to teach me how to do various reports ect that are relevant to management roles in our org. She won’t so much put me forward for a job as she is supposed to be helping me know what to do when I find one. The onous is very much on me to watch the careers section of our website and know when there is a job I would be interested in. Our group is sites spread out over a vast part of the country so some of them will be further than I would be willing to travel but only I would know that. So if she had taught me the things she was supposed to I would have better familarity with the systems and be better placed to go after a promotion. I like our group and I’m in no rush to leave, so the two jobs that look good on paper both appeal. But out of professional courtecy and the chain of command I shall have to tell her I’m thinking of applying for one or both.

        1. Frustratedatwork*

          I can learn on my feet assuming that I’d be taking over for someone who’s around to train me on the job. I was using that more as an illustration that she isn’t interested in helping me achieve if you see what I mean, and it’s part of the reason why I think I’m ready to. ARGH, I’m so confused!

        2. fposte*

          Still going back to what I said: don’t wait for her. If you are in the U.S., you’re in danger of becoming stale where you are, and really should consider looking outside of that organization.

          1. Tempest*

            I’m a not British person who is now based in Europe.

            I am resolved to the fact that it’s time for me to move on from my present role (I knew that already but a kick in the butt from strangers online is more impartial than my other half, who has something to gain from the whining at home about my manager and colleague stopping!) but can I ask why you say I should look beyond my organization? They are widely accepted as one of the best groups to work for in our industry. I wouldn’t take my current manager as an indication of a bigger issue group wide. All the sites in group are run independently of each other under a board of directors so in no way does she reflect the organization across the board. But I’m interested to know if there’s a wider issue I’m missing here?

            Essentially we are a group of about 50 businesses operating about 15 different franchises. This move would take me out of a very small franchise (we have only one of the franchise I work for) into a bigger franchise of which we have about five scattered around, or into a big franchise of which we have about seven depending on which if either role I secured.

            They widely focus on happy staff and are legitimately committed to providing places to advance to internal applicants before hiring externally. They have reasonable benefits in our industry and pay pretty well. The largest group outside of the one I already work for is widely renowned for treating staff really poorly and having poor benefits, so my group is likely one of the best to work for in our industry. It might be hard to secure a promotion with equal focus on happy staff.

            I was a huge job hopper before this. I was in the call centre industry in North America which lead to more or less when you were unhappy at one you moved to the one down the road for a few extra cents an hour but the same crap role so I have loads of 1-2 year stints in those type of jobs, and a few 1-2 year stints following on from that in my current industry, not helped at all by the fact I moved continents of course! This is the longest I’ve ever stopped in a job since the five years I spent in fast food in my teens, and for reference I’m now 35.

            1. fposte*

              It may not apply outside the U.S. But in the U.S., six years of stasis and a fear of change have too high a chance of combining into a rut that severely limits your career.

              1. Frustratedatwork*

                Sorry for the swap of username, work pc vs home pc and the Tempest name is one connected to me other places but no big deal!

                Taking one of these promotions would be a vastly different job with a different brand all together so I think I can start there and if nothing else get a year or two of building those next level skills. Essentially I’d be moving from front of house staff to back of house manager. That is the recommended next move for me before department manager roles will open.

                I can then look outside the group for my next move if that makes sense. Also, at some point in the next five years our intention is to move back to Canada so at some point, I’m going to have to move on from the group. I’m just not sure it makes sense at this juncture, but leaving this role deffinitely does. The new roles are both in a different city so it will be a very different job in a very different place! Thanks for your comments. The impartial feedback on the situation helped a lot!

    2. neverjaunty*

      This is beyond happy or comfortable – this is about your career stagnating, which would be very bad if your company hit a downturn. You are in an excellent place to move on because you have great recommendations and solid experience, but you have not been there so long that people wonder why you were stuck.

      Whether you like your boss or not as a person doesn’t enter into this. She is not a good boss and she will be a drag on your success.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Time to move on.

      Look at it this way on a good day, you are walking on eggshells because although your boss is happy now, she might not be in five minutes. Your boss refuses to train you the way she is supposed to. Then you have Bob who holds your lunch break hostage. And this is a good day.

      You know you best, for me if I am bored with the work, there are other things going on that are nagging at me. I am “easily amused” I can get myself interested in almost anything. If I am bored there is a larger problem going on.

      If I were in your shoes 2017 would be my year to start my new job. Six years out of your life is long enough with this place.

      PS: She may actually be right that management at the top is lousy. Just because a boss is a bad boss does not mean everything they tell you is wrong/misinformed. I had a bad boss warn me that the next boss was worse than her. I quit. Later I found out that the next boss was indeed way worse than her. I did not think that anything could be worse than the boss I had, but yet, it happened.

      1. Frustratedatwork*

        I appreciate that she takes a lot of grief from the level of management under the directors in her role. I would move into a role where none of the people she is interacting with daily were anything to do with me due to a shift in division. IE, her boss at head office wouldn’t be my new boss’ boss in head office as I would be grouped into a different ‘group’. To be honest in our industry it’s pretty standard flack she’s dealing with. Along the lines of make more money and make the customers happier by doing this BS process we’re going to put in place so we make more money. All businesses in our industry will be pretty similar in these regards.

        I can complain to her on Monday about Bob and his lunch hour BS but the thing is with her she might tell me to stop being so mean and let him have the half hour shift on a Friday or she might see that he’s being ridiculous and tell him lunch hours are set and he needs to ask if he needs to move his. She tends to go softer on the boys for whatever reason she has. When we hired him he was supposed to be on the edge of getting his licence and that was three years ago. She just kind of goes what can I do? Um, manage him on the fact he told you he’d have it within months and then three years later still hasn’t bothered?! (We work with cars so it’s kind of a BFD to not be able to drive. It’s not a completely irrelevant qualification to expect.) From my point of view the fact he’s a grown person who’s chosen not to get a driving license isn’t my problem to manage. It’s his. If I want fast food on a Friday I go obtain it because I have a car and a license and we’re within 10 mins drive of every kind of fast food you could possibly want. The fact he can’t do that so needs to make due with what he can walk to if I won’t eat at 130 to suit him isn’t my problem, it’s his, so I don’t see why I should have to starve over it, which makes it my problem. Maybe I am being mean? Maybe more so because it’s a symptom of also picking up his phone while it rings off the hook and he’s not there, and dealing with all the customers who come while he’s not there. But once in a while I’m ok with, if he asks me if it’s ok to organize it. It’s the fact he seems to think because he likes to eat that on a Friday and can’t go get his own, I should just be ok with being told he’s having half the lunch hour I’ve had for six years.

        Boss takes the attitude that because she can’t see his desk from her desk she can’t manage him on his time away from his desk or his excessive mobile phone usage, which I know is another symptom of her not being a great manager from a people management point of view. Her admin is second to none though, to give some background why she’s well regarded in spite of this.

        1. neverjaunty*

          There’s nothing to be confused about here. Your boss is awful and she’s not going to make it possible for you to improve.

          1. Frustratedatwork*

            Yeah, I kind of already knew this. *sigh* I really love my customers :( I knew going into this role that my management aspirations were never going to be realized in this business but I will miss it when I do move on. Thanks for the comments. The kick up the backside I needed.

            1. ALICE*

              You will miss it, but the likelihood that you will grow into a new role and love those customers or the work is also high. You won’t know if you don’t find out. You’re, instead, making excuses to not try. Which is normal when something scares you. But they always say you’ll never be able to see new worlds if you don’t have the courage to lose sight of the shore. So it’s time to sail. You are doing yourself a disservice by making excuses to stay.

              Your boss isn’t going to do anything to help you leave her. Why would she? You do the work of 2 and she’ll be left with someone she has to actually manage. Why would she help you advance?? Come on… think of yourself here. Maybe a little bit of imposter syndrome telling you that you cant do it.

              You’re either going to spread your wings and fly or be stuck on the leaf with a co-worker who isn’t pulling his weight and a manager who won’t manage. MOVE ON.

              It’s okay to miss your old role and your old customers, but let them be fond memories instead of this resentment that is building and that will affect your career. When something better comes along with Bob or Lazy Boss, they won’t be thinking about you, so do yourself a favor and grow.

              1. Frustratedatwork*

                Thank you Alice. There is at lot of truth in your observations as I deffinitely suffer from imposter syndrom. Which is silly as while it’s a different industry I did work my way up through fast food as a teen and was doing very well managing a site before I left the industry. I’ve also done stints of workforce scheduling in another call centre life and being organized to the nth degree with a keen focus on the details is always mentioned as my strength so I know I have all the skills I need to do well, I just need some training how to apply them to the next role up the chain, which I’m sure will be offered if I secure the position. As you have said it’s time to give my self enough credit to at least try to spread my wings and grow into something bigger. Thanks again! :)

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      Time to move on.

      I worked for a boss similar to this in my last job, which I just left about a month ago. For about 3 years I asked her repeatedly what I had to do to be promoted to the next level. For about 3 years she gave me vague answers, or no answer at all. I asked on multiple occasions if we could sit down and develop a plan of things I had to do (get certain training, take on more leadership responsibilities, whatever) and she would promise that we would do it, and then somehow nothing would ever happen. The most concrete feedback I ever got was once during a one on one, when she said, “You’re moving in the right direction.” Gee thanks. Care to give me any specifics? Almost all of my co-workers had told me I should have been promoted long ago, including one person who I didn’t always get along with — we both have quite strong personalities, so we clashed sometimes. Didn’t matter. In my review earlier this year, my boss made it very clear to me that nothing I did, short of bending over and saying “Thank you!” with a big smile on my face no matter badly people crapped all over me, was going to get me promoted. Ever. So I found a new job and quit. I’m about a month into my new job and the more I think about it the happier I am that I’m out of that toxic environment.

  18. lionelrichiesclayhead*

    I have a question about everyone’s favorite topic: gifting up.

    I’m not a fan but in my office it is the norm for our team to give our sr. manager a gift. It’s usually a $10 donation from everyone. This year, I’m the only person in the group to not only report to our sr. manager but also a manager (i’m the only non-sr analyst in the group and it was done as more of a formal mentorship but she is my manager and I’m her only direct report). So now I’m in the awkward position of being included in the gift for our sr. manager but then also having a manager that only I report to.

    So do I get my manager a small gift as well? Contribute to the sr. manager gift but do nothing for my own manager? Contribute to the sr manager gift and write my manager a thoughtful note? Use this as the time to bow out of everything (this is what I want to do but I feel like it’s against office norms so it make me feel very grinchy).

    Suggestions on how to handle with the least amount of awkwardness would be great.

    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Does the manager contribute $10 as well? I would go in on the usual $10 and a christmas card (if you feel like it) for your manager. Why should you be held to a total of $20 in outlay when no one else is? Also, your manager may not be expecting it anyway and it could make them feel awkward.

      On a side note- love the user name!

      1. lionelrichiesclayhead*

        Yes my manager will be included in the group spending $10 for our sr. manager. I agree with your thoughts about my own manager and think I’ll go with a card but skip the gift. Both of my bosses have written a number of heartfelt notes to me so I feel comfortable doing that.

        And thanks for the user name love!

    2. Marisol*

      This may not help you, but if I were in your shoes, I would do exactly jack shit. I mean I guess I’d fork over the $10 for the Sr guy because it seems to be expected. But regular manager? Nada. If you’re not pooling with anyone, you can’t get any sort of nice gift without spending way too much, and your manager doesn’t need a $10 gift card to Starbucks (does he?) and I think the most uncomfortable thing of all would actually be a card because, what, are you going to write some heartfelt message? No, that’s ooky, and if you only say something like, “best wishes!” well then that’s pointless and he’ll just chuck the card anyway.

      I don’t know anything about your office culture, so like I said, I may not be helping, but if nothing else, take this as my encouragement to do what you want to do anyway, which is nothing.

      Although I guess, if you decide you absolutely have to get him something, you could spend $5 on a box of 4 truffles at See’s candies, or a golf ball from the sporting goods store or something that clearly is a tchotchke, meant to be just an acknowledgement of the occasion and of him, so that the meaning is in the “ceremony” rather than in the gift per se. Something jokey maybe, like I know my wealthy boss likes Pabst Blue ribbon beer because he drank it in his youth, so I might buy a single can and put a bow on top of it. Something cutesy that says, “I like you and I acknowledge you.” But that is the most I would personally do.

      1. lionelrichiesclayhead*

        None of my bosses are men but I’ll consider the general thought behind your advice. I’m planning on the card being a minimum because I have received many heartfelt notes from both so I guess in my office those things are appreciated, though I understand it wouldn’t be the case in many offices. I do think that I’ll take the chance to bow out of the gift though.

        1. Marisol*

          That’s interesting that you have an office where you can get kind notes from your bosses! They must be a lot more open-hearted than what I am used to, which sounds lovely.

          1. lionelrichiesclayhead*

            It is lovely and actually quite a different environment than I’m used to as well! I’ve only been at this job for a little over a year and the distinct change in attitude/environment from my old job still shocks me sometimes, in a positive way.

  19. AliCat*

    Can anyone comment about the differences/similarities between British CVs and US resumés?

    My fiancé is British and has been applying for jobs for a while now and he’s been using the same CV for everything. Having read AAM religiously for a couple of years now I’ve noticed quite a few things about it that really aren’t working to sell him to employers. However, not knowing much about British CV’s I don’t want to help him rework it based on the information I’ve learned here only for it to hurt him more than help him.

    Also cover letters…are they a thing there? For reference, he’s applying for more technical, in the field kind of roles.


    1. CatRobot*

      I am in the UK and use AAM’s advice for my CV and it helped me a lot. I have advised friends to re-do their CVs based on AAM’s advice and it has helped them all find new jobs. For the most part the advice here works regardless of what you are calling it.

      Yes, cover letters are a thing here in the UK.

    2. caledonia*

      Cover letters are a thing here.
      Thank you notes are not.

      I have used AAM advice for my cv/cover letters/application forms. I think alot of it is universal.

      1. SarahKay*

        So glad to hear that thank you notes are not a thing here. I’m in the UK, I’ve never done them, and since reading this column have been wondering if I’ve been missing something. I shall relax now :)

    3. Jules the First*

      I am also in the UK – I revamped my CV using the principles Alison suggests and got interviews for every position I applied for, resulting in three offers. All the stuff she has to say is valid, with the exception of thank you notes. We don’t do those here.

    4. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Dumb question, maybe, but is he applying in the US with a UK CV, or is it UK applications and his current CV isn’t cutting it?

      I used a US resume here with some slight tweaks based on Allison’s advice and have been successful. If he is applying in the US he may have things like A levels on there he can probably take off now, and he should send a thank you note.

      1. AliCat*

        No he’s applying in the UK with his current UK CV. I honestly think the problem isn’t so much his CV as his job history which is mostly military with very little civilian applications. He also doesn’t have a degree so I’m guessing his CV isn’t making the cut for any of the systems with electronic filtering.

        1. Cat steals keyboard*

          Electronic filtering isn’t as much of a thing as people think, honestly, although if he doesn’t have a degree that may be an issue if a job requires one.

          His CV should make it clear what his skills are which is often where people fall down. He will have transferable skills for sure.

          Also, with UK applications you often need to skip the CV altogether and fill in their application form. The key thing here is to take the person specification point by point and explain why you meet it. Regardless of whether you think this is covered elsewhere in your application.

          I would normally suggest writing about a paragraph for each item in the job spec.

        2. Baker's dozen*

          Is he applying to places with application forms? Because if so then the CV and cover letter are gonna be pretty irrelevant.

  20. Kit*

    I’m a newish supervisor, and recently my manager had to sit me down to tell me most of my staff has individually approached her to complain about me leaving early. My manager sees no problem with the leaving early, since I’m getting my work done and also my mom died less than three months ago and I’ve been sick for the entire month of November. So her message to me was more about having more open communication with my team so that they don’t automatically think the worst of my work ethic and so resentment doesn’t fester. Meanwhile I’m a bit stuck feeling hurt that I’ve been cut no slack by my team. We were understaffed when my mom died, so I was back at work three days after her funeral, working on my weekends to ensure coverage. The same cold that had my manager out sick for two days, I worked through because I had to.

    How to I even begin to have conversations about this with my staff?

    1. Qwerty Birdie*

      I guess my first question would be how did your manager handle this?

      She should have shut down each person who came to her office with something like “Have you spoken with Kit about how her leaving early is impacting your work?”
      “Um well, no.”
      “Speak to Kit about your concerns and come back to me if you can’t reach a resolution. Thanks for your time. ”

      The fact that she states every single employee came in makes me wonder if she was more accommodating. I would get on the same page with kit about what she said to them before moving forward here.

      1. lionelrichiesclayhead*

        Yeah I’d be interested to find out more about the conversations your employees had with your boss so you can speak directly to your employees to find out what the issue is. Are they upset because you leaving early is causing them some hardship in their job that you aren’t aware of? Are they unable to solve issues because you aren’t around? Do they want the same type of flexibility with their schedules? Are they complaining about this particular issue but there is really something larger going on here? Do they understand that you put in hours on the weekends?

        It’s seems strange that a generally happy staff would choose to complain about this and take it up a level so I’m wondering if there is more to the story on their end than just you leaving early. Otherwise it’s incredibly petty.

    2. CatRobot*

      Take a step back and don’t take it personally. I know thats difficult when you have a lot going on but try to distance yourself a bit for your own mental health.

      If all of them have approached your boss individually that means that likely there have been times they needed/wanted you that you weren’t available. I would say something like this:

      “It has come to my attention that some people have spoken to x about me not always being around. As you are likely aware I have been sick recently, and prior to that I recently lost my mother so have a lot going on in my personal life. I am however committed to being here and helping the team. If there are any concerns about how to handle certain situations when I am not around, or if you have any communication concerns etc. I would be happy to discuss this.”

      I would however stick to it as approaching them to discuss how you can minimise the impact of you not being around on them, rather than a discussion about why you are leaving early or that you are valid to be doing so.

    3. Ant*

      Sorry to hear about your mother. That makes the criticism extra tough.

      My advice is, first of all, to remember that your staff does not have your wide perspective of everything that you have going on, so generally speaking it is fairly normal for a staff to overlook a manger’s contribution.

      And second, when people don’t have information, their brains will insert information in the gaps. Combat misinformation with information. Whenever your schedule is unusual, send a quick email: “I am leaving early today for an appointment, and will be finishing up my day at home if you need me,” for example.

      1. Kit*

        I think this is the heart of the issue; my manager and I both help on the floor with production as well as working in our office doing scheduling, accounting, sales reports, etc, and my team seem not to understand that I am working when I’m in the office. I have two days a week which are supposed to be office days, and two of the staff specifically complained that I’m not on the floor on those days, when I’m not supposed to be.

        I’ve posted previously about my manager not backing me up when an HR person mistakenly thought I was doing something wrong (she said “I’ll talk to her about it” and then did in a “Mel thought you were doing something wrong, what a weirdo” way). It would not surprise me if she met the complaints with “I’ll talk to her about it”.

    4. fposte*

      As a manager, I don’t expect a new team to cut me slack. I expect them to be watching me and taking their cue from what I do–not the decisions I made that they didn’t see. It’s not unfair of you to do what you’ve been doing, but it’s also not unfair of the staff to read it the way they’re reading it.

      So talk to them. If the time you’re leaving is the time you’re always going to leave, say “I’m working 7-3 because that’s allowing me to communicate with the UK office; it sounds like there may be needs for a manager from 3-5 that I didn’t anticipate. Can we talk about that?” Or if your leaving early is a temporary thing, say “I’m expecting to take a short day once a week until my mother’s house is cleaned out in January, which the company is on board with. I should have been clearer with you all about the plan on that, and I’m checking in now to see if problems are arising from my being absent and to talk about what we do about those.”

    5. Observer*

      Why do you expect them to cut you slack, if they don’t know what’s going on? You’re relatively new to them, so they don’t have any context to know that there are probably good reasons for your behavior.

      Your supervisor gave you the information you need – don’t ignore it. Clearly you are not communicating with your staff about what’s going on with you. Given how many supervisors DO take time when they don’t cut their supervisees the same slack, they have no reason to think any differently of you without history or information. Also, if all of them came to your supervisor, it’s also almost certainly the case that your absence has been causing an issue that you’re apparently unaware of. That’s largely on you. Either they tried to bring it to you and you shut them down, or for some reason they felt like they couldn’t bring it to you. So, you need to open the channel and find out what the issue is.

      1. Graciosa*

        Echoing both Fposte and Observer on this – managers need to communicate to their teams, and new managers need to communicate even more than those who have already established themselves.

        Your question seemed like it could have come from an individual employee stating that other employees approached your mutual manager about all the time off you’ve been taking, leaving you puzzled because you cleared it with your manager.

        But you are now a manager with a new team, and communicating to your manager and getting permission is not nearly enough. Part of your job is to provide the steady, reassuring presence at the helm. This doesn’t require you to always be present, but it does require a LOT of communication with a new team.

        Change is scary. A new manager – with enormous power over a major part of an employee’s life – is scary. The only “issue” may be that the new team just doesn’t understand what’s going on, what to expect, or what to do if there’s a problem while you are out. Even if you told them once, it may require repetition (both to help the message sink in and provide the reassurance of consistency).

        Once the team settles in to understanding how you operate and what to expect, it gets easier. Think about how you can help them get to that point quickly. That is your job as a manager.

        Best wishes.

        1. Honeybee*

          Yes, this. My manager has taken extended time off before, but she’s let us know as soon as she decided to take it and explained exactly what coverage will look like during the time, as well as given us plenty of time to ask questions and get things resolved. When she took a month off this summer, she told us all a month early. If ever she leaves early, she always comes to find us in our offices and let us know she’s checking out for the day. She usually also explains why, although she doesn’t have to.

      2. Kit*

        I’m not new to them. I was promoted internally and have worked with each of these people for at least a year. They also know my mom died and that I’ve been sick.

        I think the issue from my manager’s perspective IS that they didn’t bring it to me, but as I am new to supervising I guess my question is more or less “how should I approach talking to my staff about coming to me with issues like this rather than going over my head?” I don’t see any issues that have arisen from me leaving 30-45 minutes early on occasion for two weeks, and neither does my manager. I think they just don’t see what I do as work, because they watched me go from doing tangible production with them to intangible office work that they don’t value. What does “opening the channel” look like? I talk to each of them daily, ask for updates on what their day looks like, and regularly ask if there are any issues I should know about.

        1. Honeybee*

          I think that question may be a secondary concern here. It’s possible that your staff talked to your manager because they don’t feel comfortable coming to you or don’t feel like you’re available to them. It’s telling in this case that they all individually and separately approached your manager. It’d be one thing if one or two of them did it, but since almost all of them did, consider the notion that that may be stemming from some discomfort talking to you rather than a deliberate effort to “go over your head.”

          Also, there’s the root concern – which is that for whatever reason your staff is concerned about you leaving early. You and your manager don’t see any issues, but it’s possible that your staff DOES. Actually, you know they do, because they complained to your manager. So it may be worth understanding what issues they’ve been having with you leaving early – issues that were big enough they decided to complain to your manager. Rather than assume a motivation (i.e., they don’t see your work as work) it may be better to actually find out their true motivations.)

          One of the things my manager has done really well is told me directly, but gently, what my issues are and then told me straight-up to ask for help. For example, a recent conversation produced what basically amounted to “You need to learn to set deliverable timeline expectations with your product teams without giving them a hard and fast date that you later can’t hold to. Here are some ways that you can do that effectively. And if you are ever in this situation and need help, ask me! This is something I am telling you to do, no matter how small or insignificant the problem seems.” She said it in a really nice way, but also made it clear that by not asking for help I was potentially holding my own career back (in those words, actually).

          So maybe it’s the case that you need to be more direct – rather than asking about any issues that they should know about, maybe identify some things that could potentially be issues and make a point of asking about one specifically every week.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          You know, the problem might be due to the fact that you were promoted internally – they’re treating it as a peer issue, not a manager issue.

          So what they’re doing is seeing some one who they view as a peer regularly leaving early, and are complaining to a mutual manager because they either see it as unfair, or think you’re slacking. If you genuinely a peer, you manager would shut it down – tell them they know, it’s approved, and they should be glad they work for a job that is understanding and flexible when life crap happens, because some day they may need it.

          The problem is that you’re not a peer anymore, and they should be treating you as a manager. But “You’ve been leaving half an hour early a couple times a week and it annoys me” is not really something you say to your manager unless it actually has an impact on your work.

          Can you send work related emails at weird hours, like 10 pm, or 8 am on Saturday? That could emphasize the fact that you work when they’re not actively monitoring you?

          1. Kit*

            Yes! This is what I think it is! Two of my staff haven’t complained, and they’re the two I hired. But we’re not an office, and my team don’t have work emails (I’m a butcher, so much of my work is away from a computer). One of my staff texted me on my day off yesterday for help creating an invoice, so they’re comfortable coming to me with some stuff at least.

            1. Artemesia*

              A new manager who is leaving early a lot even with your extenuating circumstances, particularly a former peer, is going to feel off to most employees. I would think that the hallmark of a new manager would be doing more, working more hours, demonstrating commitment to getting up to speed as the new manager. There are lots of tasks a new manager routinely undertakes including sitting down with each supervisee and discussing their issues and concerns — a new manager just obviously works harder. If you haven’t spent time with the individuals and shown them you are doing new and different work not just taking advantage of status to slack off, then you get this kind of reaction. I know you are having a tough time and need to be taking some time off to deal with both grief and the details of dealing with a loss like this but then it is incumbent on you to communicate that to your team — and let them know you intend to step up, and address management issues actively – if belatedly. It sounds like you were promoted and haven’t done different things but just done less than usual (maybe I misread this) Given the feedback from your manager, you need to sit down with each of your people and discuss their issues and also let them know that your short hours are temporary and due to circumstances and that you will be doing X and Y differently as this gets straightened out. don’t let this drift.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      “My manager sees no problem with the leaving early, since I’m getting my work done ”

      Change that to the plural pronouns: My manager sees no problem with the leaving early, since we are getting our work done.

      Is this statement accurate, also?

      One thing I have always thought about management is that I am no longer an “I”, I have become a “we”.

      Having lost a parent and getting sick myself while supervising people, I know it really makes you feel stretched. And some times I could feel like my life issues required 24/7 attention and I was distracted at work. This went on for about 8-9 months before I could wrap up the estate.

      Let your people know that you are being pulled in a lot of directions. I think that setting up something to have regular check-ins with them might help you. For example, if they knew that everyday between x and y hours they could bring their current problems/questions to you that might help them.

      The other thing to look at is would they be granted the same amount of time off if they had a similar emergency. IF the answer is a resounding NO, then that is probably half your problem right there. If this is the case, then barest minimum thank them. Yep. Tell them thank you for helping you to find the space so you can handle this life changing event you had. People are amazing in what they will accept. They may not like the fact that management would not give them the same consideration but they WILL remember the fact that you thanked them.

    7. Temperance*

      Are you expecting your team to stay late to meet the challenges of your workload? Do they see you leaving early every day? Do they have the same flexibility?

      I think you should be honest and frank with them.

    8. SMT*

      In addition to having the conversations with your team that others are suggesting, is there somewhere you can post your schedule for them to see? (Showing when your ‘office days’ are, and what time you expect to leave, if you are often leaving earlier than what is considered typical in your role?). This might help them be able to identify what you are doing (it’s not that you’re not on the floor, it’s that Thursday is your office day, so that’s where they will find you if they need anything) and by making your leaving time public knowledge, communicating that the schedule you’ve arranged with your manager is not something you’re trying to hide.

  21. Aurion*

    Man, it’s been a hell of a month for me over here both on the work and personal front.

    My biggest work woe is that my sales rep for my biggest/most important vendor resigned. This guy outstripped any other sales rep I’ve ever worked with by miles–I’m talking white glove service here, y’all. (My boss suggested I list out his five best points to send to his boss, both as a nod to his awesomeness and for his replacement to follow suit. My response was “just five?!” I ended up writing six, but with so many sub-points I might as well have written 15+. Apparently he sent a nearly-identical list to his boss for training purposes and his boss kinda freaked.)

    His leaving makes my life much, much harder. And since he left due to newly enacted systematic changes in his company, it’s a fair possibility that he won’t be the first to leave. I’m happy for him and his career; he wrote us a really wonderful goodbye email and all of us wrote him personal responses. But selfishly, I want clone him and chain him to his desk.

    Good workers definitely have options, as the saying goes.

    1. Artemesia*

      Companies that make changes that disadvantage their high performers deserve to lose them. They also deserve to lose customers. Maybe it is time to see what other vendors have to offer with the qualities of this rep in mind when you are auditioning other companies.

      1. Aurion*

        He definitely set a very, very high bar for sales reps in my mind!

        This company isn’t the only place I have to source these specific teapots, but it was my favourite because of the combination of inventory/price/white glove service. I’m already in touch with the other major players that distribute these teapots, but like I said…this guy’s service beat the others by miles.

        I hope his replacement will follow in his footsteps. I guess I’ll find out.

  22. KatieElderberry*

    I interviewed a woman last week with my boss; she spoke almost exclusively with him and called me “dear” on her way out even though I was introduced as her potential manager. She did not get the job.

    1. Observer*


      I know, you must have been more than slightly ticked, but still the image made me laugh.

      Did she ask for feedback? If so, will anyone tell her?

    2. Dealership HR Lady*

      I laughed when I read this. You go girl! It’s unbelievable to me how so many women are so prepared to disregard and even demean other women in the workplace DURING the interview process. It’s great that you and your team stood up for you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I see too many examples of how women do the very thing that men would get slammed for. Sometimes I think we need to take a hard look at our own selves.

  23. Wendy Darling*

    My job has been terrible for a long time but this week we went from my boss not respecting me to my boss being actively hostile — I asked a clarification question that I needed answered to complete a task and got a lot of angry snark and no clarification in response. There’s no one over my boss to complain to who would care (she reports to someone who didn’t think they should hire for my position period and thinks it’s my job to personally prove it was worth it) so I’ve decided it’s time to go.

    Now I have to figure out how to have the “I quit” conversation with a hostile boss when I have nothing else lined up. The thought of having to work out a notice period makes me feel sick (on the “plus side” (??) I’ve never seen anyone work a notice period at this company so possibly they don’t do that). Considering my boss freaks out when I ask completely normal work related questions, I’m pretty sure she’s going to freak out when I quit. And if she freaks out hard enough at least I can just say “Okay, I wanted to give two weeks’ notice but it doesn’t seem like that’s going to work, so today is my last day, here’s my stuff.”

    Advice for quitting when your boss is probably going to lose it on you welcome.

    1. Qwerty Birdie*

      Sorry you are going through this, but is it at all possible to stick it out until you land another position? It’s much easier to find a job when you are employed. The market is in turmoil right now, new administration, rapidly changed laws, etc. I would get an offer firs and then leave.

      Alison has several scripts for quitting with unreasonable people. I will post the links soon.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I’ve been trying to stick it out until I land another position for the last few months, and have been interviewing, but meanwhile the situation at my current job is actively deteriorating to the point that it’s demolishing my mental health. I’ve done some pretty epic pros/cons lists and it just doesn’t make sense for me to keep hanging on. I’m a pretty hardcore just-stick-it-out stiff-upper-lip person (I once stuck it out at a temp job where my manager refused to give me time off to sit with my dad at the hospital while my mother had brain surgery) but I cry about this job 3-4x a week.

        At this point the level of disrespect and mistreatment at my current job is so severe it’s impacting my ability to interview for other jobs, because I’m struggling to sell myself in interviews when my current job is telling me how horrible I am at literally everything. (I’m not, I’m pretty good.)

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          My suggestion is to try to stop doing the things that are getting to you. Extra hours – no. Going above and beyond – not any more. Engaging with a difficult boss – pull away and ignore. If things don’t get done, that’s OK. The worst they can do is fire you, which is not much different than you quitting on your own.

          Instead, focus on yourself and making the job more tolerable for you. If they don’t like it, too bad. In the meantime keep looking for a new job, and leave your existing job as soon as possible.

          1. SMT*

            This. I didn’t have a hostile environment in my last job – I just hated so many different things about it. I used to always work a little past my scheduled shift to get my 40 hours in (OT was never approved), or to help out if there was a call out. I stopped doing that, and just took the slightly lower paycheck so I could be home on time everyday. I stopped looking for projects, and just focused on the list of things I HAD to do in a shift, plus maybe some employee recognition on slow days (there were several different programs to acknowledge our employees for helping out each other or our guests).

            Best of luck in your job hunt!

    2. Qwerty Birdie*

      I am struggling to get the links, just search “quit” on Alisons search bar for a myriad of good posts.

    3. neverjaunty*

      You don’t need to make it a conversation. You’re delivering a piece of information to your boss. You do not have to engage further. “I’m letting you know that I am resigning and my last day will be ______.” You don’t have to explain why or offer reasons or engage if she argues with you.

      1. fposte*

        Yup. She doesn’t have to accept it, or agree, or be okay with it, and you have the perfect cutoff excuse of plenty of transition work to do that you need to get back to.

    4. Artemesia*

      You don’t need advice if you are quitting without a job. You hand her a two sentence resignation letter and if she fulminates, you either stand there and listen or you say ‘Well, I appreciate that you are going to miss me thanks for your good wishes’ and walk out. What do you care if she ‘loses it.’ Look on it with curiosity as an anthropologist; it doesn’t matter to you anymore.

      The real challenge will be when you find another job and give two weeks notice. And I would strongly caution you to keep working with this jerk until you have lined up another job. When you give notice, your idea of how to handle it is perfect. You work if they allow it gracefully; you walk if she is ugly using the sentence you already have in hand.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      In the long run, I have always been proud of myself when I take the high road.
      This means the less words I use the higher the road I am on.

      Keep in mind that no matter what you say to a person like this it will probably become a battle ground to show you how wrong you are. Once you have decided to leave a job it no longer makes sense to fight these battles.

      People often say don’t quit until you have something lined up because they want you to be able to maintain your quality of life. But if your job is going to cause you to have thousands of dollars in medical bills from stress related illness then it might be time to cut your losses.

      If you do suddenly find yourself with plenty of free time, scour AAM archives for tips on avoiding toxic work places, so you will end up with a good employer. You deserve to have a good employer.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I’m fortunate enough to have a LOT of savings and a supportive partner, so I can afford to quit. If it takes me a year to find a job… that will suck and I will go on no vacations for a while, but all our needs will continue to be met.

        In retrospect there were a lot of red flags when I took this job that I didn’t notice because I was too busy being like, YAY A JOB. On the plus side I now know a lot more about what’s important to me in a job than I did when I took this one, so hopefully it won’t be too difficult to avoid getting into a similar mess.

    6. Belle diVedremo*

      Sorry it’s gotten that bad, glad you’re in a position to leave without something else lined up.
      First, be sure that you have everything personal off your computer (links to anything personal, any files you plan to take with you – eg, Wendy Darling you did an amazing job on X, contacts you want to maintain.)

      Figure out what date you’d like to give for the end of your two weeks notice.

      Then write a short letter; all it really needs to say is that you’re resigning effective Y date. Consider cc-ing your HR contact. Make a copy for your own records. Ask your boss for a meeting and present the letter to her; if you can’t get a meeting that day then you may want to email her with a copy of your letter and again cc HR (so she can’t tell them you were fired.) Don’t let her delay your resignation. Have anything you need to turn back in to her ready at hand, too, including anything you might use at home if anything.

      With everything personal out of the office, you’re set if she tells you not to work out your notice period or behaves in such a way as to deprive her of it.

      Cheering for your taking care of yourself.

  24. Aurion*

    Ploy for sympathy/commiseration:

    Screwing up one’s phone alarm = way oversleeping = an hour late for work + utter mortification. My coworkers were wondering if I was in a ditch somewhere.

    This happened last week. I am thankful none of them have ribbed me about it since because I may just dig a hole, crawl in, and die of embarrassment. I’m still inwardly cringing.

    1. CatRobot*

      It happens to everyone eventually. And it is horrible.

      On the plus side if they were worried you were in a ditch somewhere thats a sure fire sign you are so reliable that they thought something really off must have happened. Sort of silver lining?

      1. Liane*

        Yes. I had things like this happen one in a while at an old job and that was the usual reaction. Once
        I was running late due to Car Issue and didn’t call right away because it would be fixed by the time someone answered*. A day or 2 later my manager talked to me about it: “Glad everything was okay. You’ve already made the time up, right? Let me go in right now & approve it so it won’t count as 1/3 Ocurrence.”

        *major store chain’s policy was call the robo-phone to take info but then transfer you to talk to Live Manager.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think that is sweet/endearing that they were worried about you. Tell them thanks for their concern and, I dunno, get a second alarm clock if you are still rattled by this.

        I have one alarm clock here but it has a dual alarm and battery backup. We spent too much money on it. But the thing has lasted and lasted, it shows no sign of wearing out. I enjoy the peace of mind with being able to set two alarms.

    2. Talvi*

      I had that happen once, to a graduate class I was auditing. I arrived about half an hour late, and they had been concerned because I was often the first person to arrive!

  25. all aboard the anon train*

    I’ve worked at several different companies and I think I’ve finally hit my limit of another year of 1% cost of living increase (or no increase) + rise in out of pocket healthcare costs that is more than the 1% increase = making less money each year than I did the previous year.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you email me, I can let you know if I’ve got it in the “definitely answer” queue or not. (I’m pretty backlogged but have lots I plan to get to. I don’t think anything that has come in recently has been answered yet but plenty will be! So it’s okay to check.)

  26. Tiberius*

    I want to ask for a raise but my job has an unclear reporting structure.

    I’m a paralegal, which classifies me as support staff, reporting to the Office Manager, who also fulfills our HR functions. However, this person has no idea about what my performance is like. The four lawyers I support do, because they depend on work delivered by me, but they have no formal authority over me. BigBoss is the one who will have to approve the raise, but he has very little contact with my work directly (though he was satisfied with my performance on the one project we’ve worked together over the past year).

    What confuses me is that advice regarding making a case for a raise all involves presenting your achievements to your manager – which makes sense – but what do you do if your manager has no idea how well you’re doing? I think the only correct person to bring this up with is the Office Manager, but I feel making my case to her is going to be difficult, because she’s never seen my work. I want to bring up specific achievements on projects A, B and C and she doesn’t have an idea about those.

    This can’t be that uncommon a situation, right? I mean, what sucks is that my office doesn’t have any formalized review for paralegals (lawyers have regular performance evaluations with their team leads, secretaries have yearly evaluations with the office manager and paralegals somehow fell through the cracks). I get case-by-case feedback on my work from the lawyers, though so I know I’m doing well. But in principle, there must be plenty of people whose direct manager doesn’t know their work. So do I just explain my achievements and leave her to follow up with the lawyers to verify if she needs to?

    1. neverjaunty*

      Ah, law firms.

      I would definitely flag the names of the lawyers you have been supporting so your manager knows who to follow up with.

    2. MillersSpring*

      Yes, make a list of your accomplishments, any extra responsibilities you’ve taken on, the names of the attorneys who are familiar with your work, and the target salary number you’re wanting.

  27. Rebecca*

    I am so thankful I found a new job. I sleep better, I feel more relaxed, I don’t dread going to work any more (I mean, when you wake up and groan, oh no, not again, it’s time to move on). I canceled my request for a doctor’s visit to discuss anti anxiety meds. No more need! It’s amazing what a difference an sane working environment can make.

    I feel bad for my former coworkers, as I suspected, manager’s friend is still slacking, and some of my coworkers are even more overloaded after taking on my work load that was too much for me for over 2.5 years (hence the whole push for me to get a new job!). I am really worried about one of them, she was using words like overwhelmed, ready to break down, can’t take it, etc. and of course my former PHB said she just has to deal with it. It’s not fair to treat people this way, and apparently, management and HR didn’t listen to me during my exit interview. The one good thing that happened is PHB was asked to retire at the end of December. I’m hoping things get better for my former coworkers after that.

    As for me, I love my new position, office, coworkers, and I like being in a quiet, pleasant, sane atmosphere. I cannot believe places exist like this. It’s been so awful for me for the past 5+ years. Now my former coworkers, and some friends, are still trapped there. I hope they can escape, too. I owe this blog a debt of gratitude. I used quite a few techniques for my resume gleaned from here, the interview guide, noting how people dressed, following up with thank you’s, etc. and I truly believe it made all the difference. Thank you AAM and Alison!!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      That’s awesome!! What a difference I new job makes. A friend of mine just got a job at my company and she basically doesn’t dread work anymore and actually looks forward to coming in.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Awesome! Congrats!
      I have often wondered how much of the national health care tab can be attributed to toxic work places, unreasonable work loads and unhealthy conditions in general.

      Will your friend look at AAM? Maybe it can be a life line for her, too?

      1. Rebecca*

        She sent me a draft of her resume, and I recommended this site, the interview guide, and to search for specific questions/situations to read about. I told her that she can have hope, too! It might take time, but not to give up. I will be a reference for her too if she needs it. I know this isn’t my circus or my monkeys, but she is a good person and a good friend and I hate to see her suffer.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You have done your absolute most here, I hope things change for your friend very soon and she has a new, GOOD job.

  28. Not Today Satan*

    My office uses Lync for a lot of communication. I have to say I have a (probably disproportionate, lol) annoyance towards people who walk over to my desk to ask me something without Lyncing me first.

    1. LBK*

      My boss does this and it drives me bonkers, especially for quick questions that I could’ve easily answered in one sentence via Skype. Whyyyyyy.

      1. BRR*

        This might be an unpopular answer but one or two people in my office don’t answer Skype or emails for days if at all. So if I want to get my work done, which is for them, I have to go over in person.

    2. Jack the Accessibility Guy*

      I actually often prefer that someone come to tell me if something is important – otherwise it can just drown in the various emails/messages I deal with every day.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        I don’t mind people coming over, I’d just prefer a “Is now an ok time to stop by?” type of warning beforehand.

        It also annoys me because my boss works behind me and there’s like a constant stream of people walking to her desk, even when she’s not here–which they would see if they looked on Lync first.

    3. Perse's Mom*

      I have one of those. He stands just in the edge of my line of vision and waits for me to notice him.

      Even odds on whether he starts talking before I pause whatever I’m listening to and take out my earbuds, or if he waits for me to do that and only THEN starts to formulate his question. Sometimes it’s not even a question, he just wants a second opinion. Sometimes on things he knows I don’t know anything about.

      When it gets truly bad, I just hold up one finger and tell him it will be a few minutes, so I can at least finish what my brain is already concentrating on before I have to deal with him.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Thank you!!! These days me team members use ear buds, but at my last two companies people had radios and it sucked. I have a very hard time concentrating when I hear music. At my first company I could shut my door. At the last place I was in a cube and the person next to me played her radio and sang to it, and the person two cubes down played hers on a different station. It was wonderful…

      1. The RO-Cat*

        Going on a tangent here, but I had a hell of a time falling asleep with music or chatter around (I bought an ancient Soviet-era reel-to-reel only for the white noise of its electric motor). I even had a kind of ongoing war with my then-teenager child several years ago. I’ve been doing mindfulness meditation for several years now and I can sleep like a log even with a cross between a Rose Bowl match and a full-fledged orchestra singing Khatchaturian’s Sabre Dance. It’s a kind of unexpected by-product, but a nice one!

        1. fposte*

          Whoa, I had no idea–that’s quite a selling point. (BTW, I feel like I haven’t been seeing you much lately–it’s nice to see your Romania–or fish :-)–again.)

          1. The RO-Cat*

            Thanks! I lurked mostly, lately, because I had a lot of work (good news for a freelancer!) and all I could do at night was read AAM – and your comments (which I can’t for the life of me figure out how can they be so balanced and compassionate, yet so clear and firm; can you share the recipe? I get quite heated sometimes…) and sleep.

            About mindfulness meditation – the above result is a by-product, never intended. The real things I got… I would go into TMI trying to explain them. But if you can imagine an ex-suicider turning into a happy-go-lucky, life-enjoying dude, you can imagine its main benefits.

  29. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I am spending Thanksgiving in Alabama, on the Gulf Coast, with my wife and family.

    She held my hand while walking around today. I don’t know whether to feel proud of our bravery, or idiotic. But we won’t change how we act just to conform to bigotry.

    1. AL reader*

      Glad you’re enjoying your trip, but please know that not everyone in the South is a bigot. There are many issues here, sure, but I also know many kind, loving accepting people who also happen to live in Alabama. :)

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        Thanks! We were just at an outdoor mall and saw someone with a shirt saying “deplorable is my name, Trump is my game” glaring at us. I just moved closer to my wife and she said, “I claim shotgun for the way home! Aren’t I a nice WIFE?” Nothing happened, but oh man, if looks could kill!

  30. Audiophile*

    I’m dreading next week, because we’re prepping to send out a direct mail campaign and despite attempts to keep things organized and moving, it likely won’t go out until next Thursday or Friday. The original plan was for it to have gone out in late October/early November.

    I was also surprised on Tuesday with a 3 month (actually in this case 4 month) review, by Big Boss and New Boss. Big Boss asked if I’m happy in the role and do I see myself staying put for “years” and I said “yes, sure.”
    New Boss and I have discussed my frustrations and she acknowledged after the meeting that she was surprised at my responses. I said I wasn’t expecting to walk into an evaluation and that when I feel unprepared like that, I have a tendency to make it seem like everything is fine. I agreed to let New Boss schedule another meeting with Big Boss and New Boss said she’d sit in and that she totally has my back, so I could disclose my frustrations to Big Boss.

    Interestingly, the next day a plan was put in place to start transitioning the other parts of this role to me. But honestly, I’ve been there 4 months now and it really feels like too little too late. I have no plans to quit the job without something else lined up, but I’m also not going to stop applying for jobs.

    1. Graciosa*


      I understand that you were caught off guard, but I hope you recognize it as an opportunity to learn to be a better advocate for yourself. I’m glad there will be another opportunity.

      Good luck.

  31. bon-bons for all!*

    I need advice for improving my poker face in meetings. I sometimes show shock at news, or in my team meetings, I make a face at ideas that I don’t think will work. Suggestions appreciated!

    1. Jules the First*

      For me what helped most was enlisting someone to flag it for me when it happened – I had an arrangement with someone who would sit the other side of the table during meetings and signal discreetly when I was rolling my eyes. Seeing exactly how often I was doing it cured the problem.

    2. SarahKay*

      I sympathise, I have the same issue a lot of the time. If you’re really into the discussion it can be really tough not to show your feelings. I found that my best bet is to think at the start of the meeting “remember, smiles or poker face only”. It still doesn’t always work, but I think (hope) I’m getting better at it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “If I don’t keep a straight face someone will be sure to point out to me how I am wearing my emotions out on my sleeve.” Sometimes threatening myself like this works.

      One thing that I have had to take a look at is how I take in new-to-me news. Just because something sounds bad, does not mean the entire thing is bad. Sometimes good outcomes result from what appears to be a bad idea. Conversely, when something is good that does not mean it is ALL good, and we never consider the flip side of news, we only consider the bad side of news.

      You could decide that you will postpone your reaction until you have more facts. I have used this also. Sometimes I can be the one asking questions, other times other people are asking the same questions I would ask. You can decide to listen rather than react.

      Lastly, it never helps a person to be known as Negative Nancy or Negative Ned. You don’t want a rep for being the first person to always say why an idea is bad.

  32. The Other Dawn*

    So, does anyone else have a family member that just doesn’t get how being an employee and/or manager works these days?

    My dad is 82. I’m 42. I started off in Retail, and then went on to banking. Most of my career was spent in one company and I worked my way up over the years from part-time frontline employee to VP (third in charge, very small company). I’m at a different company and I’m a VP here now, too, and manage 5 people. My dad worked a blue collar job in a steel company for more than 40 years and was the union rep.

    Through the years, every time I needed time off and couldn’t get it (usually Retail), my dad would tell me that I “have put my foot down and tell them I’m taking the time off whether they like it or not,” among other things. Most of the time I couldn’t get time off because it was the holidays, which meant the store was very busy and we needed coverage, or someone else had the time off already. It was the same as I worked my way up the ladder at the bank. Even as a manager. He still tells me that I “should take the time off and let my team work. It’s [my] decision and should be telling them what to do.” Yes, I have seniority and I’m the manager, but I’m pretty sure my team would lose respect for me and morale would plummet pretty quickly if I hogged all the time off around the holidays without letting other people take their time off. Sure, we can have several people out at once, but I can’t leave the department totally empty.

    It came up again this year, because I already have two people out this week. He said I should just leave and take the time off, who cares what they think. I just ignored him.


    1. animaniactoo*

      “I care, Dad. I care that doing that kind of thing could get me fired. And it would be a crappy way to treat those who work under me to hog all the holiday time to myself or leave them shortstaffed and stressed out on holidays. It would also be a crappy way to treat our customers who deserve better than to have to face short-staffed stressed-out workers and longer lines. This is the nature of the job and it’s not going to change.”

      And then… “We’ve been over this, dad. It’s not going to change.” and yeah… ignore, let it go. Start playing games with it – how long do you think it will take him to bring it up? Make bets with yourself (or others if they’d join in as a light fun thing). It’ll help you smile at it and see it as him, not you.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Oh, I definitely know it’s not me. I just chalk it up to that being the way of thinking when he was in the workforce…the early years, anyway. The boss was the boss and the boss did what he wanted to do, and damn everyone else. And on the employee side, well they can’t run a company without workers so they’ll deal with it, otherwise people will quit.

        I just ignore it these days.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t think that’s true. Certainly at the bottom of the chain it’s never been all that easy to “just put your foot down” and “tell them” ANYTHING, much less that you are taking off during a hugely busy time. And while it’s true that in the past a boss could more likely do something without direct pushback from staff, being an effective boss has always has always meant being cognizant of these issues, in most lines of work.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            I didn’t mean it was necessarily always true; however, that definitely was his experience in the company he worked for based on stories he’s told me, and that was his way of thinking on the employee side of things (kind of surprised he never got fired, actually, since he liked to challenge authority). He was never a manager, but that’s how some of his early managers behaved; it was their way and there wasn’t room for pushback.

    2. JMegan*

      Ha, my dad is like that. Different topic, but he always has lots of advice for me, of which about 99% is not applicable to my industry or profession. I just thank him and move on. Solidarity!

    3. all aboard the anon train*

      My parents have always worked in the public sector and don’t really understand that the corporate world works very differently. I usually have to say, “if I do X like you suggest, I’ll get fired” or “that’s not the way it works at my company. If I say Y or demand Z, there’s a chance HR will be informed and A, B, or C will occur”.

      They’re the type who made me call up companies and go in person to ask about jobs after I graduated because that’s what they did way back in the day. I don’t listen to any of their advice and either tell them what I mentioned above or smile and nod before moving the conversation to something else entirely.

    4. Artemesia*

      My brother was the CEO of a major fortune 500 company in the retail business; on Black Friday he was up at 3 am to get ready to start driving to the big box stores in his region to ‘who the flag’ on the biggest sales day of the year. He hit the first one at opening and drove several hundred miles that day dropping by dozens of stores. That is what the boss does, not sleep in on important days for the business.

      Have you ever asked ‘what would you think of a boss who expected you to work the holidays and never showed up himself when the going got tough?’ But actually just ignoring him is probably just as well.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Looking at labor history, I sincerely doubt that he put his foot down like that.

      I assume you have tried telling him that the times are different now, or that you are in a different industry and attitude like that would get you fired.
      How about a subtle redirect, where you ask him a question about his work in his era? Get him reminiscing about old friends or old projects. He may not even notice that you have gone off track.

      I have a friend about 80 and he talks a lot about work. It could be that work is what your dad has to talk about.

  33. Raia*

    First of all, I should have seen this coming. I was talking about getting Christmas gifts with a colleague from a different department who I sometimes get to have conversation with. By conversation’s end, they basically laid out expectations to receive a Christmas present from me. Now I’m buying 4 other colleagues gifts bc if that one person gets one, why not this other person I like more?

    So, I’m spending about $7.50 each on the 5 colleagues, including one pseudo manager… that’s probably not something that counts as a major gifting up/preferring certain colleagues over other colleagues issue, right?

    1. fposte*

      Depends on who else is there alongside the colleagues and your relationship with them. It’s also more Christmas gifts than I’d wish to give individually in the office, which is why we turned to a gift exchange draw, but that’s a personal call.

    2. Raia*

      The people receiving gifts are 2 colleagues in my department of 8, of which some are remote, and 3 in a different department that I see daily. It’s more money than I’d like to spend of course, but it could be worse… and it’ll be easy to give the gifts in my department secretly.

      Lesson learned: keep my Christmas searching woes at home next year and avoid this whole guilty feeling and expensive mess.

  34. SeekingBetter*

    I’m currently approaching one year of unemployment and wonder if I’m already becoming a less attractive candidate to employers. I’ve been volunteering in my field on a project-to-project basis for an organization that I’ve been with forever and have been doing super part-time freelance work for a small business. Additionally, I have been going to networking and industry events. Is there anything else the fellow AAM community would suggest or recommend I do to make myself THE candidate an organization wants to offer a job to? Thanks!

    1. Jack the Accessibility Guy*

      Be sure to present your volunteering and part-time work on your resume, and present it well! It’s not like you’re doing nothing.

    2. Artemesia*

      A close relative just landed her perfect low 6 figure job paying about 20% more than her last job after being out of work for a year. She has done contract work and been professionally active and during that time had many interviews that didn’t pan out either from her side or theirs. But now she has landed exactly the job that fits what she is great at — so hang in there and keep thinking about exactly what it is that YOU in particular excel at and bring to the businesses you are applying to. And focus on how your freelance work has built that expertise so you are highlighting that you haven’t been unemployed but have been doing contract work. It really helps to have a clear vision of what your particular strengths are and focus on showing how those are a great fit for the jobs you are applying to. Hope it looks up soon.

      1. SeekingBetter*

        Thanks for sharing the positive story about your close relative landing a permanent job! I’ve been sharing my accomplishments from my volunteer and part-time freelance positions in recent interviews. I’m starting to apply for jobs that would fit my strengths better. Thank you for your well wishes!

  35. Jack the Accessibility Guy*

    I have a new colleague who is scheduling several meetings a week on a project, to the point where it is hampering the project’s work. This is contrary to our workplace culture. Any tips on how to get her to cool down a bit with the meetings?

    1. Jules the First*

      Insist that she provides an agenda for every meeting she books. Someone could also take her out for coffee and ask how she’s settling in…at which point you can also mention that she books a lot of meetings and that’s not something that’s really done here, if things can be dealt with over email or one on one. Make sure you can give her suggestions for how else to get what she needs, because she may be accustomed to working everything through in meetings and unsure how else to get things done.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I’m not sure that the agenda thing is a good idea. What happened in my experience is that she would email out the agenda and ask for additions or changes, which someone would always make and email back to her (but copy everyone else) and it just made even more work and spam before the meeting ever took place.

    2. Graciosa*

      You could also be candid about the fact that the volume of meetings is getting in the way of the work. Discuss what needs to be accomplished that she has been handling in meetings and the best (mostly alternative) way to do it.

      If coordination / updating is the purpose, one meeting a week should suffice. If these several meetings a week are not scheduled far in advance (which seems likely), you could point out that changing to one a week will limit schedule conflicts and disruption to schedules. Even if scheduled in advance, there is a limit to how much time can be devoted to meetings.

      I would be candid about that and set some boundaries if needed. It is perfectly reasonable to say that you can’t spend more than X amount of time – assuming scheduled in advance – in meetings each week / month and still get your work done.

      If other items are smaller (“I need to know if Lee wants the curlicue on the teapot handle to be blue or green!”) then discuss how those types of issues are resolved in your company outside of formal meetings. You might also share information about what happens if someone doesn’t do their part (for example, if the usual practice is email, how long should you wait for a response and what do you do if you don’t get one by then).

      I’m a little nervous that asking for agendas will only make her provide them, and I’d recommend a little more directness and boundary setting to get the outcome you want. You can do it kindly – telling someone that something isn’t working doesn’t have to involve screaming – and the less you treat it like a Big Thing the more likely it is that she will be able to accept the information and make a change.

      Keep in mind that a little honesty here will actually be doing her a big favor.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Then there is the one I heard:

          “Don’t waste people’s time with irrelevant meetings.” But I really don’t think the screaming part was necessary.

    3. Artemesia*

      For the next meeting request, I’d push back with ‘spending so much time in meetings is hampering our ability to get the work on this project done, I’d like to suggest we consolidate them into one meeting a week and work through our project agenda then. ‘ Is she somehow in charge and in charge of setting meetings on this project? If so then push more softly but request a firm agenda and fewer meetings. If not then be just this aggressive about it.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      Maybe she used to work at my old company. They were big fans of the “daily stand-up” meeting, which someone would decide was necessary when a project was starting to slip. Yeah, that’s a great idea. Pull everyone into a meeting every freaking day and waste even more time. The meetings were allegedly only supposed to last 15 minutes ( hence the name “stand-up,” meaning that they were short enough that no one would need to sit down), but were never less than half an hour, and often longer. OMG. It drove me insane.

  36. FishCakesHurrah*

    My boss wants to create a brand new position for me in the company. I’ve been tasked with coming up with a job description and job title. I’m a bit of a Girl Friday, so I could use some help and brainstorming on what an appropriate title for my job would be. It’s sort of an administrative job, but I won’t be supporting anyone and I’ll have a lot of autonomy and some power to make decisions. The job will most likely expand in scope in the future. Here’s what I know at the moment:
    – Can’t have any aspect of “communications” in the title, as we have a communications person and my boss doesn’t want to alarm them.
    – Lots of proof-reading and formatting high level, confidential company documents. I will be creating a unified format and style that every single one of our documents will adhere to. I will also be creating a style manual that all of our employees will follow, and probably also a small manual on plain language usage in all communications manuals. I’ll be making a lot of templates and maybe some databases to plug into templates.
    – I will be organizing our files (mostly electronic) and flagging anything I feel is redundant or could be streamlined. This will probably be expanded into improving processes as well. Because of this, I will be expected to have a very good understanding of how the company operates.
    – I will probably tackle a re-design of the website at some point (I have that in my background).

    Any ideas? I’ve been looking at Document Specialist and Document Control job descriptions but they don’t seem quite right.

    1. Graciosa*

      Coordinator of Special Projects / Project Coordinator / some variation

      Senior Administrator [if that won’t be misleading regarding support responsibilities]

      Deputy / Assistant [Boss]

    2. animaniactoo*

      Creative Coordinator/Manager. Or Creative Control Specialist. Creative Standards Designer/Coordinator/Specialist, pick your flavor.

    3. Jules the First*

      Brand Guardian or Branding Manager or Information Manager would all work, I think.

      When I held a similar role, my job title was “Resident Genius”, which was bith awesome and accurate, but it was one of those companies that loves wacky titles, so I wouldn’t necessarily use it as an example!

    4. Cat steals keyboard*

      You sound like a document ninja. As you probably can’t use that though, you also sound like a brand guardian. Which I see someone else suggested too. How about brand application specialist? House style ninja?

  37. Cath in Canada*

    What are some unusual or creative compliments you’ve heard in the workplace?

    The best one I’ve ever heard was “If there’s ever any kind of emergency, I’m sticking with [colleague*]. If she’d been on the Titanic, she’d have had teams of people set up making boats out of seaweed within ten minutes of hitting the iceberg”.

    The best one anyone’s ever said about me: “This is Cath. She translates science into English”.

    *This woman is a dynamo. The first time I met her I was somewhat intimidated as she stomped around our planned conference venue in high heels, interrogating the staff and making ten decisions a minute. The second time I met her I decided I want to be just like her when I grow up.

    1. fposte*

      A colleague of mine was described as being a superhero. “She’s mild-mannered, she wears glasses, and she achieves impossible tasks without anybody realizing she did it.” (It’s absolutely true as well.)

    2. anonymous nicknames*

      My last job was in health insurance. In my second month I bulldozed through an important project for a high-profile client company, Coaster (not its real name). I corrected errors on several hundred employees’ individual records by myself. After I completed it flawlessly with time to spare, my supervisor called me “the Coaster Queen”.

      And this one isn’t really work, but it’s school and that’s relevant for the Open Thread. When I was in undergrad, my fellow bachelor[ette]s had been given secret nicknames by the graduate students who might or might not know our names so they could talk about us freely. The valedictorian got a name like “Smarty” or “Genius”, there was another guy called “Dirty Hippie”, things like that. I had a few grad student friends, and they revealed that my nickname had been “Goth Girl”. I took that as a compliment.

    3. Katie the Senual Wristed Fed*

      We had an amazing admin who I used to describe as “she doesn’t say no; she helps you figure out a way to yes”

    4. Red*

      I’m the Excel Queen at work, simply because I work in a place where no one really knows how to use it, whereas I can make Excel do things they can only imagine. I’m not even that fantastic at it, lol. I used to be, way back when I was a Chemistry major and desperately needed it to do all the hard work while I ate pizza, but I’m out of practice. I just take it as a huge compliment that that is almost as common a nickname for me as Red.

    5. Cat steals keyboard*

      I’ve had a lot of experience of signposting people to help resources. If you have a problem I will be able to tell you where to get free advice, where to connect with others in the same boat and some random legal loophole or other information that means it’s more solvable than you think.

      A friend recently called me ‘Wikipedia on Legs’ and you have no idea how badly I wanted to write that on my last job application.

    6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      My favorite, when I was still in training even (!!) was “Don’t bother with the intranet, just ask Boochie.” I am a bit of an information sponge.

  38. LizB*

    Oof. My whole department went hourly on Monday to deal with the DOL exempt threshold changes (which now might not even be happening), and the infrastructure to make it happen definitely wasn’t ready. We don’t have a physical time clock, so we’re reliant on being able to get on the network to punch in… and the network has been down two of the four working days this week. We don’t yet have the ability to punch in from our phones, even though many of us work in various community locations most of the time instead of in the office. There appears to be no rounding in the system, so if you start work at 10 you must punch in EXACTLY AT 10 or you risk not getting your full 40 hours, which leads to spending the last five minutes of lunch breaks nervously watching the clock to make sure you don’t miss your time. It’s a little bit of a disaster.

    1. self employed*

      Ugh. Can you set a phone alarm for, say, three minutes before your break ends? Then you could at least relax.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Sounds like retail and many other jobs. Yeah, you do end up standing at the time clock waiting for it. It’s a lousy way to work, I can say that.

    3. Overeducated*

      That’s annoying and seems so unnecessary! My last hourly jobs (earlier this year), I just filled out a time sheet at the end of each week. It doesn’t have to be so inconvenient. I’m sorry.

  39. Lunch lady*

    Being treated to lunch by the big boss – what to do?!

    I’m currently on secondment to a business area where my boss’s boss is also my mentor. Usually our mentoring sessions take place in the office, but my mentor emailed me to ask if ‘I’d like lunch next week, his treat’. I’m worried about what to do when it’s time to pay, not because I can’t afford it but because I don’t want to look like a douche.

    I can’t help it but I’m really awkward about money, I feel bad when people treat me to things. Any idea on how to handle this?

    1. fposte*

      By having a protocol and committing to it. He said his treat, so I wouldn’t reach for the check but merely say “Thank you–this is kind and it was great to catch up with you.”

      You don’t have to rise very high before treating people to a meal isn’t a big thing. There’s a certain professionalism in accepting that, which can be hard to weigh against the impulse that says you’re being unfair to let somebody else pay more. You’re now in a matrix where you’ll be paying for somebody else’s meal down the line–that’s how payback works once you’re there.

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        Exactly this. Don’t worry, he probably will expense it anyway so go, enjoy the lunch and informal atmosphere and the time he is giving to you, and remember to pay it forward later down the line.

        Try and translate your discomfort into graciousness – no need to go overboard on the thanks, but I like to tie in a thank you for the meal, how enjoyable it was, and that I was glad we were able to [insert something positive that came from the discussion here]

      2. Lunch lady*

        That is a great line. I think knowing how to convey I’m thankful at the end is my problem here, I will make sure to remember that before I go into our lunch!

        Thanks to you and everyone else who commented, I appreciate it.

    2. Graciosa*

      Very much agreeing with Fposte – you need to get over this (or at least pretend)

      Do not project your discomfort onto your host.

      Refusing to allow the purported host to pay for a meal is a traditional way to reject the underlying relationship, whether it is social or business. I’m not seeing anything to indicate that there is likely to be an affront to your honor that requires you to throw some cash on the table and walk out at the end of the meal.

      Appearing to be uncomfortable accepting makes it look like you’re still debating this internally. Just don’t do it when it’s not required.

    3. Nerfmobile*

      If he explicitly said his treat, then just say thank you. This is an expected part of what managers do and he’s probably expensing it to the company so it’s not a personal cost to him, if that’s what you are worried about.

    4. Artemesia*

      He made it clear he was paying so there is no awkwardness. You eat, you talk, you sit there when the bill arrives and he picks it up. Afterwards you thank him for lunch and tell him how valuable you thought the conversation was.

      He said he is paying. It is awkward when it is ambiguous and so you don’t know for sure. He took the awkward out when he said ‘my treat.’ You would actually look like a doofus if you tried to split the bill or otherwise indicated you think you should pay.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      If you really can’t get over feeling bad, then let the Big Boss know the meal was delicious, or if you enjoyed a part of the meal you could say, “That was the best soup I have had in ages.”

      There are things that money cannot buy. If a person is satisfied by a gracious act such as buying a meal for them, that satisfaction can be very rewarding to hear. Small, sincere compliments can really resonate with people.

    1. Graciosa*

      How do you think you would otherwise get paid?

      Businesses are also generally required to have and maintain these records (for tax purposes and sometimes labor law as well), but even if they didn’t, not having a record of when you worked would make it difficult to calculate your pay.

      1. fposte*

        I’m guessing this was in response to LizB’s post upthread, where it sounds like they’re simultaneously insisting on punching in and completely screwing up punching in.

        I don’t think punching in has to be a big deal, but I think LizB’s company is really mishandling the transition to it; you can also track hourly employees without making them punch in, and at least around in my academic world that seems to go just fine. (They just fill out timesheets online or on paper.)

        1. Oh what, oh what, oh what*

          Unfortunately not everyone is trusted to not cheat. You can write down 8-12, 1-6 (8reg and 1OT) but the clock will know it’s really 8:15-12 and 1-5:45 (8reg and 1/2OT).

          1. fposte*

            These are people who weren’t cheating last week–why would they be cheating this week? Timesheets work fine as long as managers do their jobs.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              If one is infected with a suspicious mind set, then their MO is to assume that anyone can change course at any time. Hyper-vigilance is an absolute necessity, assume nothing, question everything. sigh….

        2. LizB*

          The weird thing is, I’m 90% sure that there are some hourly employees in the organization who were using paper timecards (although it might just have been part-timers?) so clearly our payroll department can handle that if they want to. We’re not allowed to work any overtime at all, though, so I think it probably just has to do with making sure we don’t go over 40 hours by even a little bit.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Additionally, if they get audited the company may need “punches” to show accurate record keeping.

        Some companies prefer punch clocks because employees call the DOL on a regular basis.

    2. LizB*

      I think this was in response to my post upthread? It’s just the way my organization is choosing to handle it, I guess. It works fine for the hourly employees in all other departments, but they all have time clocks they can use if the computer system is on the fritz. My department is structured in a weird way, so we don’t have that option. It’s really kind of a mess.

  40. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

    My sister just started her first “Real Job” in a big, well known corporate. I want to get her a book on surviving corporate, or good career tips, etc so she a) has the guidance I never had (my parents are NOT corporate people!) and b) knows to make the right moves and how to best understand why things happen the way they happen and c) how to ask and get what you want and manage difficult situations.

    Does anyone have any good title suggestions?

    Wish Allison would write a comprehensive book or series! :)

    1. Graciosa*

      Managing Up was helpful early on.

      I’d Rather be In Charge (Charlotte Beers).

      Dealing with Difficult People is another useful one if you can find it. There’s a summary out now that isn’t nearly as helpful, but you might check out other books in a similar vein.

      Negotiation books – Getting to Yes is one example, but again, there are a lot.

      If she doesn’t have a finance background, she needs to pick that up fairly quickly. There are an *amazing* number of decisions that don’t make sense unless you understand basics of finance and accounting (like revenue recognition if you negotiate deals).

      I use a Vestpocket MBA with what I’ve picked up over the years, but there are a lot of other resources now (Barron’s Dictionary of Finance and Investment Terms, The Personal MBA, Finance & Accounting for Non-financial Managers, etc.). I would start with something less comprehensive or academic to cover the basics, then see when she’s ready to move on. For some people (like me) this stuff becomes memorable when you see it impact the business. If she has a finance background already, she will be way ahead.

      The most useful thing she can do, however, is watch and ask questions. For example, if she wants to be perceived at a certain level, she will need to dress as people at that level do in that company – which may be totally different from how people at the same level dress in a different company. Observation skills and judicious questioning will take her far – even without books.

      – But I hope one of the books helps. :-)

      1. Artemesia*

        Just want to reinforce the comment about learning finance. So much upward mobility depends on being able to read a financial statement, create and manage a budget etc. You do’t have to be an expert but you do need to know the basics and know how to read and understand the financials if your goal is to rise in any organization, corporate or non-profit.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yes, yes, yes.

          My father told me to take an accounting course. OP, you don’t have to be good at it, but you do have to see how companies take in the world. It will make you a better employee and it will help you to understand why bosses pick their choices.

          I took two semesters and it has helped me so much.

    2. Marisol*

      I got a book reco from someone on this site: “Limbo: Blue-collar Roots, White-collar Dreams” and while I haven’t read it, it looks promising as a way to address the corporate ethos.

      For negotiation, I liked “Getting More” by Stuart Diamond.

      1. Artemesia*

        And Difficult Conversations Every manager and every subordinate being hosed by management needs to have these skills.

      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        I don’t know where this reply ends up – but THANK YOU everyone for the recommendations. To the Amazon I go!

        Actually, I may buy some of these for myself. Our father is in arts academe, which is a whole other kettle of influence and politics, but came from a blue collar background. Unfortunately none of us need fancy gallery representation, which is about all Dad’s network is good for :/ He may like the Limbo book though.

        Thankfully my sister was smart enough to do a minor in Accounting!

  41. Snazzy Hat*

    Any advice on being at the bottom rung of the ladder and telling a colleague they’re talking too loudly? Context follows:

    I’m not exaggerating about my position. My department has about forty people and I am the only temp & the most recent newcomer. I’m surrounded by customer service reps who are mostly very quiet people — only those within a one- or two-desk radius are close enough to hear clearly & they’re easy to tune out — who seem to be on the phone occasionally. This woman, whose desk is the equivalent of two back and four across from mine, can lower her voice, as she tends to do so when speaking to a colleague at their desk. But her phone voice and her “you’re close enough for me to talk to you without getting up” voice are loud, nasal, and shrill to the point of distracting me from my work.

    She seems like a nice enough individual, but I am terrified of doing the wrong thing. If I get upgraded, this will be my first official job in a non-retail setting, so I really don’t want to piss off anyone or damage my reputation in any way. To complicate matters, I’m not sure who her supervisor is (I’m pretty sure we don’t share a supervisor), and I’m worried that a complaint about her now would point the finger at me, the person who hasn’t gotten used to her loud voice yet.

    By the way, yes I struggle with anxiety, and my biggest work fear is getting a strike in a “one strike and you’re out” environment, which is what I feel like I’m in currently.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Ask your most friendly peer if anyone else seems to have an issue with her phone voice level. Said person will likely offer you advice about how to handle it – from “don’t mention it” to “yes, several people have complained but nothing has changed, you can try if you’d like.”

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        This method would be really easy, actually. I get along with a bunch of my colleagues, and I’m even work-friends with one. Great idea!

    2. fposte*

      I think unless there’s a specific situation (“Hey, Jane, can you hold the volume down until I’m off this call?”) you let it go and develop your focus.

      You would never (okay, almost never, for whoever’s thinking of an exception right now) go to the supervisor over this first. You’d take it directly to Jane, and your best bet is to blame the building or the setup rather than her. “With cubicles, the sound bounces around like crazy, so noises seem to be amplified.”

      But right now you’re the new girl and the temp in a group of people who are managing to work despite this; the expectation is generally that you will adapt to the office (see posts in the archives about starting at an office that plays the radio, for instance) rather than they will adapt to you. Follow the example of your co-workers who are working on despite this and see if you can get better at ignoring her; it will be a valuable skill, since there’s almost always going to be noisy people around, and a lot of times you have no option but to work through it.

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        An excellent series of points. I suppose my intro sentence should have read, “Any advice on being at the bottom rung of the ladder and telling dealing with a colleague they’re talking who talkes too loudly?” Thanks again, fposte!

      2. Marisol*


        I always keep ear plugs with me as I am very sensitive to sound. If you can do that discreetly then maybe that could help.

        1. Snazzy Hat*

          I was thinking of keeping one earplug in the ear facing her side of the office, which would be convenient since the open ear would face my supervisor’s desk. I also have a nice flexible plastic pair that doesn’t affect quality as much as foam plugs do; I’m pretty sure I would be able to hear my next-desk colleague talking to me.

          1. Mreasy*

            Also bear in mind that your colleague may be aware of it but unable to do anything. Some of us, particularly women, whose voices are usually in a higher register, have voices that carry more than others in the office. Cubicles amplify the issue. Think of this as an office design problem first, and almost certainly not something your colleague is being willfully inconsiderate about. It’s incredibly tough to modulate your normal speaking voice while you’re thinking about other things, like at work. I know because I’m the loud one in our new cube farm of an office!

          2. Marisol*

            ha ha ha just make sure if you only wear the one that faces her direction that it doesn’t come across like you’re trying to make a statement!

  42. Rubbery Dubbery Smiles (my new name)*

    I’ve been with my current employer for 10 years. During this time, it’s grown from a startup with just a handful of employees (& clients) to being a stable company with almost 100 employees. My job description has changed dramatically over the years & I have been happy here until recently.

    There was a company-wide reorganization about a year ago, and I now report to a different department head than before. He is now proposing to totally reorganize my department. Under the proposed plan, drawn up by the dept head and the supervisors in the dept., the 3 non-supervisors who currently report to him (including me) will now report to one of the other supervisors. “Jack” allowed the other 2 non-supervisors to choose their new supervisor, but is requiring me to report to a specific person, “Jane.”

    This is deeply upsetting to me. In 10 years, I’ve never reported to anyone other than a department head, so in terms of hierarchy this is a demotion. (For all 3 of us, not just me.) The other piece of this is that I’ve heard from multiple sources that Jane has said (in their hearing) that she wants my job. I have a unique skill set that required special training, so not everyone can do it (and I’m paid more because of it). I’m afraid that Jane will require me to cross-train her and then either cut my pay or force me out.

    If the reorg goes through as planned, I want to report to a different supervisor. How can I best present this to Jack?

    (I realize that the part about Jane may sound paranoid, but it’s true. I’m leaving out a lot of detail to make my question as generic as possible.)

    I am polishing up my resume just in case, but would appreciate advice for the meantime!

    1. animaniactoo*

      Well, first, you need not to see it as a demotion for you vs a promotion for the other supervisors. And as a company grows, adding these layers of reporting structure can be really necessary to keep a company efficient and department heads from being overwhelmed. Particularly if some of them already have enough direct reports right now that they’re currently feeling overwhelmed.

      Honestly, I would ask Jack why Jane is being chosen as your supervisor. I would also express your concern. “I’m not sure if this is the company rumor mill, but several people have said they’ve heard Jane say that she wants my job. If that’s true, how do you see that working with my reporting to her?”

      Because not to scare you, but what I would be most worried about in your situation is that Jack is on-board with Jane cross-training and leaving you as deadwood. BUT it could just as easily be that as the company grows they recognize the need to have a backup for you and that for the health of the company it is dangerous to have whatever it is you do completely reliant on you to be able to do it. In case you got hit by a bus tomorrow or accepted a job elsewhere and they had to scramble to replace you. So they’re putting safety guards around it and protecting themselves but nobody including Jane has plans to push you down or out.

      1. Rubbery Dubbery Smiles*

        Thanks for the feedback! Have to say that I do wonder if Jack is on board with pushing me out, but I felt as if I sound paranoid enough without bringing that up. ;)

        They *are* framing this as the need for backup for me. I can’t really argue with the catastrophic part of that, bc who plans to be hit by a bus? In my field, it’s common to give a month’s notice before leaving. If I were to retire or go elsewhere, I would certainly train someone else during that month.

        The part of my job that’s affected involves early planning for new product releases/upgrades to existing ones & is usually scheduled several months ahead of time. So barring emergencies, it’s easy to schedule time off around the product schedule.

        Hm. I’ll have to start repeating, “Jane is getting a promotion” over & over. Maybe I can believe it by Monday!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am trying to wrap my brain around why Jane would want your job if she is your boss. Wouldn’t she have enough of her own work to keep her going?

      At any rate, if you can pick out who you think you should report to and why. Offer a solution with a logical explanation. I think that will help strengthen your case.

      1. Rubbery Dubbery Smiles*

        I’m trying to understand that, too; it’s not like she sits around with nothing to do! Thanks for the suggestion of finding a logical reason. :)

    3. Jerry Vandesic*

      Unless Jane has been officially promoted (company wide announcement, new title, etc.) you should assume that this is a demotion. It’s just the way it is. And unless you have someone in the company that is helping you grow your career at this company, you should assume that this demotion is a bad sign.

      The primary reason people leave their jobs is their manager. A manager sets the tone for your work experience. If you are not working for someone you want to work for, you need to be looking around ASAP for a new job.

      1. Rubbery Dubbery Smiles*

        Thanks for the advice — food for thought.

        My former manager was very helpful in growing my career; Jack (current mgr) not so much. I’ve been dissatisfied with the structure implemented last year anyway, and have serious reservations about the coming reorg.

        Up until now, I’ve always been acknowledged as a top performer, by managers in other depts as well as my previous manager. Current mgr doesn’t seem to know what to do with me, though.

        There aren’t a lot of job openings posted in my field right now, although I’m checking regularly. That should change after the holidays.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          Also, don’t take this change at work personally. Sometimes you just end up in a situation where the fit/relationship with your management changes. Happens to all of us at some point. In many cases it’s not you, it’s them. Things change. The key is figuring out what you want or can do about it. Maybe it’s finding a new manager at the same company, sometimes it’s sticking it out, and sometimes it’s moving on. But if you do decide to move on, do it sooner rather than later. You are more likely to be in charge of your destiny if you are proactive and don’t wait until you have to make a move. The fact that you are a top performer should give you a strong background to draw upon when looking for something new. Industry contacts, examples of successful projects, a reference from your former manager — these are all important.

          Good luck.

  43. Wrench Turner*

    Motorcycle riding to do some Black Friday shopping for work tools today since it’s nice out. I got a cordless impact driver and drill kit w/ 2 batteries for $150. I need the driver and 2 batteries, but the driver alone + 1 extra battery would be $80 more. I don’t need the drill so I can ebay it, and if I get $50, it will be a good day.
    Back to the roads! There are bargains out there!

  44. Lisa L*

    I’d like to get other commenter’s thoughts on this. I have a 45 minute commute into another city for my job. I’m salaried and my co-workers are aware that I commute. This week, I got a flat tire and wasn’t able to make it in, at which point I immediately emailed my work letting them know the situation and that I would be in once I was able to resolve the issue. My presence does not impact my co-workers work (as in, they do not need to provide coverage for me)

    My roommate was aghast and suggested that I take a bus (think Greyhound, not a city bus) or $80 cab there and back again, and that she would never say that a flat tire was the reason she wasn’t coming in. In my mind this is an unfortunate personal emergency, much like a child being sick and unable to go to school, and it was simply something I had to handle. In her eyes, I’d committed a serious professional faux pas. Thoughts on which of the two of us is correct?

    1. Katie the Senual Wristed Fed*

      You’re correct. If there was some dire, pressing need that you get there, then you can take a bus or cab. But if it’s just a regular work day, you can take time off to get your tire fixed.

    2. Artemesia*

      You work there. Presumably you know the norms not your roommate. If you had an urgent reason to be there e.g. a business pitch you were responsible for, or a client meeting, then you suck it up and take a cab or whatever. Otherwise, you let your office know and then you make up the time in some way explicitly e.g. to boss ‘I will stay late tonight to get the Lemur Report done since I got held up this morning.’ OR maybe you work long hours sometimes and it is the norm of your office to not make a big deal of something like that. But you know your office and the norms and if you need to ‘even out’ or just not worry about it. And you presumably didn’t have an urgent need to be there that day or you would have mentioned it.

      My husband once had a car break down on his way to a court proceeding out of town; he phoned the local legal rep that he wouldn’t make it and managed to get a lawyer in court to take care of the issue. If it had been critical, he would have had them get a continuance but the local contact could take care of the routine matters in the case. Stuff happens.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Your co-worker is being ridiculous. Why on earth would this be a serious professional faux pas? =

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It depends on where you work and the norms for that company.

      I know of several companies that an ice storm and the county being closed (illegal to drive) is not a reason for missing work. There are some hard-headed companies out there.

      I say the both of you are correct, but only for your own particular setting.

      I know several people who carry small air compressors and cans of Fix-a-Flat for this very reason, a flat tire is not an acceptable reason for missing work. I do have both items in my car but it is more for the reason of helping a stranded person.

      It is always good to know the norms of your company and it sounds like you both have a good handle on what is expected from your own workplaces.

  45. Katie the Senual Wristed Fed*

    I know we’re not supposed to talk about politics, and that’s not what this is. But right now things are really, really bad because of the upcoming transition. People are so worried and demoralized – looking at hiring freezes and changes to compensation and pensions, not to mention the practicality that what we do all day may no longer be considered valuable. Some of the changes being discussed might be good, like making it easier to fire people (although that needs to be backed by a change in culture because there are some deeply ingrained bad management habits). But others seem designed to make federal employees suffer because there’s a pervasive myth that we’re overpaid, lazy, etc.

    I don’t know how much more of this we can all really take, especially after the shut downs and other things in recent years. I don’t even know how to keep my own team feeling like their work matters right now. Might be time to look at the private sector.

    1. animaniactoo*

      I’ve always fought back against this kind of stuff with “The problem is not that they’re overpaid, the problem is that most people are underpaid comparative to the true worth of the contributions. It seems counterproductive to me to attack them instead of our own pay/benefits/etc.”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think that we have a responsibility to each other to encourage each other to have Plan B. And that is regardless of one’s setting/sector. This advice was prevalent during the Great Recession and it is still valuable advice.

      As far as myths go, there are many professions that suffer the same stereotyping, lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc. And some of that will never go away, ever. Because there are people who enjoy being Dan Downer or Negative Nancy and their main goal in life is to run others down. To those chronic complainers I say we get to choose if we want to complain or if we want to develop solutions. Personally, I don’t want it on my grave stone: “NSNR, she was GREAT at complaining.”

      One day at a time, I think you know that. To your advantage you have been reading AAM for a long time so you have volumes of helpful advice embedded in your brain, this is an asset. Encourage your team to focus on what they CAN do, right now, today. It’s really easy to get stuck thinking about what we can not do, so this is why this is a good exercise. It also offers a momentary relief from the pressures and in some settings the best we can get is momentary relief.

    3. Colette*

      That sounds like a really stressful environment. I spent too many years on a company that was hurtling towards bankruptcy, and I know how much that casts a pal over everything. This sounds similar.

      Here’s what I think you can do:
      – admit that the situation sucks – but then discourage contestant moping on your team. Talking about it constantly won’t make anything better, and it will make things worse. (In my situation, I wasn’t concerned about getting laid off myself – I knew I’d be ok if I was laid off – but I was absorbing a lot of stress from worried coworkers).
      – make a point of recognizing when people do things well, and, if you can, explicitly mention the skills/traits that they used. This will help them if they need to start job hunting.
      – continue to hold people to a high standard. Slacking breeds slacking, which leads to wondering why you care about your job, which leads to wondering why you ever cared. That doesn’t go anywhere good.

      Good luck!

      1. animaniactoo*

        I’m sorry, you hit my giggle box, my stomach is going to hurt from this just as soon as I stop laughing uncontrollably here.

        “… discourage contestant moping …”


        It’s almost better than the sport my parent and their friends wanted to have as the next hot thing for the Olympics. Napping.

        And yes, my stomach hurts now. Ow. It was worth it.

    4. Christy*

      I empathize. I really do. I comfort myself by reminding myself that I have skills and I *am* underpaid for my skills, and I could get a job in he private sector making double the money if I had to. And like, I really like what I do, and basically everything else about my job, but it’s nice to think about how many nice things I could buy.

      Plus I have heard lots of people say that current employees wouldn’t lose the FERS pension. Even when they did away with CSRS they grandfathered existing employees in.

    5. Zip Silver*

      From what I’ve gathered from the incoming administration, the plan is to let the federal bureaucracy shrink through hiring freezes, rather than sunsettimg current programs and agencies. Might still be a good idea to look in the private sector, but I wouldn’t panic right away.

      1. Elle the new Fed*

        >the plan is to let the federal bureaucracy shrink through hiring freezes

        Because only being able to hire 1 person for every 3 that leave (and STILL have the same ridiculous 9-12 month delay in getting that person on board) is totally not worth panicking over.

  46. Marisol*

    Are American Girl dolls still considered cool/desirable? If not, what is a girl’s toy that costs around $100? I have so few people to buy gifts for at Christmas that I always get a nice toy to donate to my office toy drive.

      1. Marisol*

        Thanks. A big part of the satisfaction for me is actually getting something that’s a little pricey. Most of my family doesn’t exchange gifts and the ones that do have an unspoken understanding not to spend too much. I don’t give that much money to charity throughout the year, so I look at this as a charitable contribution that I have a lot of fun with.

        1. nonprofit manager*

          Another thing to consider about American Girl dolls is all the accessories and etc that go along with these dolls. You can’t just buy the $100 doll and be done with it. There are clothes and furniture and accessories. These are all very pricey and add up to much more than the doll cost. If you/the recipient are near an American Girl store, there will be the temptation for the recipient to go there and eat lunch with the doll, get the doll’s hair done, admit the doll to the hospital for repairs, etc. These are all costly. The thought is nice, it might just come along with pressure to spend even more.

          1. Elsajeni*

            The great thing about the Toys R Us versions that Oh What mentioned above, though, is that they mean clothes and accessories that fit American Girl dolls are way more accessible than they used to be — Target and Wal-Mart both carry a line of 18″ dolls now, too, along with outfits and furniture and whatnot. Heck, I think Joann Fabrics even carries some in their larger stores.

    1. Artemesia*

      My concern about such a nice toy for a toy drive is that it would get skimmed off along the way by a volunteer. I used to do the Angel Tree thing every year where a specific toy went to a specific child. I always bought bicycles and choose kids who wanted bicycles from the tree. I would be reluctant to give that to a general toy drive though because in my long life I have known of volunteers at thrift stores and in book drives who have grabbed the goodies. If the office is sponsoring a particular family, that would be great, but otherwise I would get things that are likely to actually make it to the kids they are intended for.

      1. Marisol*

        Yikes. I will see if I can learn anything about this toy drive, but if I can’t be assured that my gift will be received by the intended kids…then I guess I will trust that whoever ends up with the doll is meant to have it, and that my charitable contribution was to them.

        1. Temperance*

          I’ve also seen it happen far too often where the parents of the child requesting the gift intercept the item and then sell it. Something like an AG doll would be far more at risk than a cheaper version.

          1. Marisol*

            hmmmm…this is making me think I should keep doing some research, in case it really is a losing proposition to donate something nice. it just makes me so sad to think that these kids would be getting short shrift in a toy drive–usually when I look in the toy drive boxes, I see things like stuffed animals, puzzles, things that maybe cost $25 or less, and I don’t want to sound like I am judgmental of the people donating, because something *is* better than nothing, but I imagine that this experience is just one more time when they get the message that they don’t deserve as much as the other kids who are in a higher socioeconomic group than they are. And it’s just one little toy, not much consequence either way, but I don’t want to participate in something where I am effectively saying, “I’m only going to give you a third-rate gift from ToysRUs, because I don’t know you or really care about you and you should be grateful you got anything, so here’s a coloring book.” Does that make sense? I’m probably being too sentimental about it.

            1. nonprofit manager*

              I think your heart is in the right place, but I also think that giving an American Girl doll to a girl with a family of limited means could end up being disappointed very quickly because of all the expensive add-ons that go along with an American Girl doll that her family might not be able to afford. The doll is just the beginning and I don’t know one girl who stopped at just that.

      2. catsAreCool*

        In that case, I might buy multiple less expensive toys – less likely to be taken (I hope that doesn’t happen often) and that way more kids can have toys or a kid can have more than 1 toy?

        1. Marisol*

          That practicality is what makes me sad though. I think these kids have a steady stream of getting cheap stuff and more cheap stuff isn’t the antidote. I will do some online research into toy drives though–maybe that is indeed the best strategy.

    2. LisaLee*

      Oh, definitely. I have a much-younger sister (she’s 10 1/2) and she’s asked for AG stuff every year since she was 4 and hasn’t outgrown it yet. If they have any Dolls of the Year left, those are always pretty desirable for the preteen set.

    3. Temperance*

      They are, but I wouldn’t recommend getting one for an office toy drive. The Target version is still very cool, and you aren’t running the risk of an unscrupulous parent hocking it.

    4. Sophie Winston*

      Another voice for not doing this unless it is for a specific child. Toy drives can have difficulty with more expensive items – balancing gifts for multiple children in a single family is one that hasn’t been mentioned. Maybe contact a local shelter and see if there is a specific child or family you could buy for?

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Oh yeah. I just showered my 8yo niece in my old American Girls (Felicity and Samantha!) and a giant rubber tote full of clothing and accessories, and she just about lost her mind in delight.

  47. fishy*

    So, I started a new job this week. (Finally! I enjoy the work too, so I’m very happy.) They’ve said that they’re pretty flexible about hours – they schedule you for a specific time, but they say that it’s fine if you, say, come in and leave an hour earlier than your scheduled start/end time. I would prefer to start and end my day early, so I’d like to take them up on that. But I’m thinking that while I’m new, I should probably come in at the scheduled time, at least until I get a good feel for how the business runs. Is that reasonable? If so, how long do you think I should give it before I start taking advantage of the flexible hours?

    1. Observer*

      Wait three months or so, and see what actually goes on. At that point, you can revisit the question.

    2. Office Plant*

      I think coming in early is fine. If you wanted to work later hours, I’d take the watch and wait approach. But early arrivers tend to be appreciated.

  48. Apple grumble*

    Warning: this comment is partly about suicidal feelings.

    I just wanted a chance to say somewhere, anonymously and quietly, that I think my new-ish employer (2.5 months) is basically the employer of the century.

    I have been feeling suicidal. This isn’t new: I have had a number of mental health issues and lots of therapy and I’m now at a point where I feel this way sometimes, especially in the run up to Christmas, but mostly have the skills to cope with it. However this is the first time I’ve felt like this while working somewhere that is super on the ball about mental health.

    They listened to me when I said I didn’t plan to act on my feelings and didn’t want to go to a hospital or go off sick as being at work is positive and helpful. My manager asked what adjustments would help and I said can I take extra breaks and she said sure. HR arranged a regular appointment with a therapist who provides some of our workplace support and officially agreed with him to add his number as an emergency contact so I can call or text him if I’m really not okay. I probably won’t as knowing I have support for a crisis means I’m less likely to reach that crisis.

    If that’s not employer of the year I don’t know what is.

    1. animaniactoo*

      That is really awesome. I hope that the support continues this well and you continue to feel supported and happy there.

      1. Apple grumble*

        And of course I’m starting to feel better much faster than if they had judged or stigmatised.

    2. Rahera*

      I’m very glad to hear this. It sounds like a great place to work and it’s wonderful that you have so much support. :) Wishing you well.

  49. Lady Blerd*

    I just did a mid-year performance evaluation for my direct reporr and boy do I hate doing those. But it went well because she is over all a good employee and she takes criticisms well. I was able to say my points not covered by the written eval and discuss her future plans calmly. Still, I’m glad that’s over with.

  50. Mazzy*

    I’m still having issues with communication among younger staff members. Maybe it’s just the difference of growing up with technology vs. not?

    The beginning of this week again saw much email overload. People over-cc’d by using group email address and then others would respond that they had gotten the email and would look into it, then respond half an hour later with the actual answer.

    Then a junior staff member would chime in on a group email that just went out, even though it was obvious that a more senior and specialized staff member should have been given the floor to respond.

    Then there were emails that were blocks of three and four paragraphs, which had a lot of good information, but most of it is probably getting lost.

    I’m trying to teach my younger staff and colleagues:

    A) An issue isn’t solved or even aired just because you send out an email about it. That doesn’t entitle you to check it off your to do list or put it in someone else’s court (unless you’re sending out a simple question or work in an email-heavy environment)
    B) Pace emails you send out. If you send out 10 meaty emails in a day, most people are only going to read a few of them. Maybe it makes sense to hold off non urgent ones until the following week.
    C) Be sensitive to the workloads of others. Some people read other things for hours during the day, so it may make sense to change it up and pop by their office or call them so they don’t have to read even more
    D) Technical information isn’t communicated more effectively if you use bigger words. In fact, try to dumb it down
    E) Not every issue can be solved by email. You can’t force certain issues to be a certain type of problem that can be solved with a few yes/no questions or emails back and forth. Some things are indeed more complicated and solving them needs to start with face to face interaction.
    F) And my pet peeve which may just be me, enough of the emails back and forth between two people in the same office wearing earphones! Have a conversation already!

    1. caryatis*

      C) and F) are just personal preference, though. If you prefer a phone call or visit to email, and you’re senior, say so, and I wouldn’t mind accommodating that. But, in general, even if someone is in the same office, I’m not going to interrupt their workflow with a call or visit when it’s not urgent. Better to send an email that they can deal with at their convenience.

      I’m also not sure I agree that information in emails that are “three or four paragraphs” gets lost. Isn’t your staff capable of reading three or four paragraphs? Or are you saying that they assume it’s not important because it’s “just email?”

      1. Mazzy*

        I’m noticing alot of stuff getting lost. To me it’s not about preference but about the fact that the growing reliance on email by some people isn’t working. I see some people sending out a large number of emails, some long, and the points they are addressing aren’t actually being addressed. I do think 3-4 paragraphs is too long to send when the information gets technical. If you have to re-read every sentence twice and think about what other issues overlap and why the problem exists and if any of the solutions will work and not hurt anything else.

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s fair to set rules according to office culture, and according to what you personally think will work better if you’re the boss. We actually use email as IM a lot in the office so B and F wouldn’t apply, but I don’t think that matters–your underlying point is that you need to have a conscious intra-office communication strategy now, so here are your guidelines. I definitely support that.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          For important technical stuff, I find longer emails can be really useful, but it’s only really useful if the person writing the email has put a fair amount of thought and effort into it. Long, rambling, slightly incoherent technical emails, though, take time and effort to read. If I’m getting multiple lengthy emails in a day from the same person, it tends to be the equivalent of the person at a meeting who loves hearing themselves talk, and I stop paying close attention.

          I also find that I can handle poor writing style in short, to the point emails, but not longer documents, and mis-spellings, erratic formatting and other errors make it more annoying to read.

  51. Myrin*

    Alison, I’d love to address this comment to you because it’s about this site and since this is (part of) your work, I think it’s fitting to post it here? I’m completely willing to re-post on Sunday so please just let me know and I’ll copy it over there once the time comes.

    Anyway, I read in today’s other post about your frustrations with the commentariat lately – which I for the most part share and understand despite not having a cranky month myself! – and I wonder if there’s anything you’d like us to do to help ease some of that frustration? As far as I can see, you’re referring to behaviours of regular readers, so this is clearly not a case of just waiting out the wave of annoying drive-bys to leave again.

    Are there things you’d like all of us to keep an eye out for? To just simply not do anymore, full stop? To call out and shut down in the future?

    I’m really loving this community, I love the feeling that it’s like its own little world with regular people you feel you get to know a little through every comment, and I’d hate to see especially OPs get a (justified) negative impression because people react in ways to letters that are over-the-top or focusing on the “wrong” thing or just being unkind. So, would you say there is anything at all we as a collective can do?

    1. Chilly*

      I admit that I sometimes make comments that would be considered less than useful; however, I must say that I get so, so tired of seeing the same debates come up over and over again. Whenever I see a post that seems like it might spark such as debate, I tend to just avoid it. It’s not that I don’t think certain debates have merit, but the same things are said ad nauseum. I also get tired of letters being picked apart to the most minuscule detail.

      That said, I won’t stop reading this site. I’ve read lots of great advice and perspectives here. But I will definitely continue to skip certain posts, and also try to avoid making less-than-useful comments.

      1. Myrin*

        I’m the same! I rarely actually skip an entire comment section but there are many topics where I don’t comment at all because I feel like the original advice has already covered everything.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thank you for asking! I appreciate it.

      For anyone wondering, this is the comment Myrin is referring to. Basically, I’m frustrated with how often letter-writers get nitpicked and (in my opinion, unwarantedly) criticized in the comment section, with pretty uncharitable assumptions about their intentions. And I don’t feel good about inviting letter-writers to share their problems here, knowing that they might get attacked for it. I definitely don’t feel good about proactively encouraging them to read the comments, which I have traditionally done and am now questioning.

      I’m not sure if there’s something people can do, although I’d love suggestions. I don’t want to say “never criticize a letter-writer” because of course that’s not unrealistic. I’d like to say “be more generous and kind to people, and don’t assume the worst,” but I’ve basically done that in the commenting guidelines. I’d also like to say “it’s fine to say ‘have you considered that X might be the case?’ but it’s not okay to say ‘X is obviously the case and thus you suck’ when we don’t in fact know that” … but I think that’s a really hard one to enforce, because it gets into people’s own communication styles, etc.

      I’d love other thoughts though.

      1. animaniactoo*

        “Please think about how your comment would come across if you were face to face with this person. Please do not treat your read of the situation as fact vs a possibility.”

      2. AMT*

        Thank you for posting this! I would love it if I never again saw a comment with “What if the LW is actually the antagonist because [wild speculation]?” It’s one thing when the LW’s take on the situation is obviously out of step with professional norms. It’s another thing when ambiguous wording and innocuous turns of phrase get twisted into something resembling conspiracy theories.

        1. FishCakesHurrah*

          I would love that, too. Not only is it obnoxious, but it isn’t helpful to the OP or any readers looking for advice.

      3. Katie the Senual Wristed Fed*

        Yeah…I’ve found it kind of offputting lately too. I think comments sections in general on the internet can get nasty quickly, and this was one of the last bastions of good intent.

        Maybe it’s worth putting something where people comment (instead of a link to the commenting guidelines which a lot of people probably won’t read like) “Please keep your comments constructive – we are here to help the letter writers!”

      4. Cath in Canada*

        The problem is that most people won’t read the commenting guidelines. So unless you plan to make everyone take a quiz before they’re allowed to comment (which would be awesome, but not exactly convenient), an alternative approach is needed.

        Perhaps temporary bans for the worst offenders? If people get more than X bans within a month, they have to email you an apology (or take a quiz!) to get reinstated?

        Or maybe come up with some canned text for the scenarios that come up the most often (e.g. gender dynamics, Kids These Days, sandwiches etc.). If you create a post or page for each individual scenario, you can then include the list of relevant links at the bottom of each potentially contentious post. e.g. at the bottom of the post you could put:

        “Please resist the temptation to revisit the following recurring sidetracks:
        – gender dynamics
        – Kids These Days”

        It would be quite a bit of work initially, but not much extra to add the links once everything’s set up. And more people would see it, compared to the commenting guidelines.

        1. fposte*

          I think you’re right that you can’t (and don’t want to try to) create a comment guidelines that forestalls all quagmires.

          But I think what happens when things go well isn’t simply that everybody has read the commenting guidelines; it’s that enough people know them to model conversation that doesn’t go there and nudge people away from conversation that does, sometimes with an explicit statement about site policy. What you’re looking for is the commenting equivalent of herd immunity–what will reach people who don’t get inoculated as those who do.

          I’m also reading a lot of it as people seeing their own situations in the OP’s. And while obviously similarities can give people some good wisdom, it also means that people’s anger about their own bad experiences can color the responses. I’m not quite sure how you’d phrase that in a guideline, though–“This isn’t the person you know and don’t like, and please don’t act as if it were” is too reproving, but that’s kind of what I’m getting at.

          Getting even more meta, I think what happens sometimes is that people see this as a safe space for certain kinds of emotion without realizing that it’s not necessarily a *useful* space for that. Maybe direct venting to the Friday thread? Or have a separate vent thread?

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I probably would too, and there are other elements to consider about that, but I’m wondering if diverting the impulse would be more successful than just telling people to not.

              1. Aurion*

                I really don’t like the idea of a vent thread. We already have two open threads weekly, and I feel like comments on other posts should nominally be about the actual submitted questions. Sure, we all relate our own experience as advice to the OP and sometimes there are derails, but it’s at least in the spirit of trying to answer the OP’s question. Having a dedicated vent thread feels like its replicated the open threads at best and a total derail from the site’s purpose at worse, especially as vents tend to bring about more heightened emotions.

                1. fposte*

                  I also think it changes the overall nature of AAM, so I don’t disagree with your point and have reservations about it myself.

                  But I also see a lot of the posts we’re talking about as coming from people who really want to tell their story, and that’s a hard thing to squelch, and when you squelch it people tend to feel really…squelched. Is there a way to do a soft redirect to the open thread? “If it’s more about you than the OP, consider bringing up the issue in the open thread”?

                2. Aurion*

                  I feel like squelching the urge to make it All About You isn’t an arduous thing to ask for, so yeah, I’m fine with “please keep it on topic or take it to the open thread”. I don’t think Alison has been policing on-topicness very hard, even.

                  It’s the difference between “I experienced something similar with my sister, here are the details, this is what I suggest based on that” vs “this sounds like my sister, here are the details, I’m still so pissed off” where the latter has a clear lack of advice/commiseration/anything relevant to the original topic, and the former at least tries to draw the story back to the original topic. This goes double if the anecdote has the character analogous to the OP in the wrong.

                3. Anon for this*

                  I agree about venting threads, also with fposte’s suggestion to redirect personal comments to open threads.

                4. fposte*

                  @Aurion–The thing is that they’re not that clear-cut. It’s not so much “I had a bad boss too! Mine made me set the school on fire and I went to jail! Hahaha!” It’s “My boss told me I couldn’t take a longer lunch any more too, just like you, OP. Mine did it because he was sexist, so I bet that’s what’s going on here; his next move will be to fire all the women for sure, just like mine.” This is a post by somebody who believes she’s relating useful information but is mostly working through her own experience. We’re not a “Cool story, bro” crowd, but if we could come up with a kinder version of that that’s a bit of a codeword à la “sandwiches” so that we don’t always have to be told directly when we’ve gone off into our own catastrophizing, that might help.

      5. caryatis*

        That’s the Internet for you, nowadays. You win when you find that one in a million who isn’t covered by a generalization. Hence why every letter seems to get “but what if they have a disability that LW isn’t thinking of??!” Not sure if there is a solution other than pushing back in comments. Anyway, IMO anyone who writes to an advice column should know they are risking getting torn up in comments (if not the actual answer).

      6. New Bee*

        I think your disclaimers at the top of posts have been useful, though people don’t always read them (and you can’t always predict what might cause controversy). And sometimes I think your answers are just so spot-on that folks can’t help going in other directions–kind of like how the republished posts on Inc. become more general discussions than advice for the OP.

        I read some sites that have “read the thread before posting” and “if your point has been made multiple times, move on” rules, but I don’t know if those quite fit here–I think most times people chime in with a spirit of “let me add evidence of how this does/doesn’t fit with workplace norms” (especially given variation by industry, region, etc.), not intending to pile on.

        I’ve basically said nothing helpful, but thank you for all of the work you put into this site and for the transparency and trust you give to the commentariat!

      7. Not So NewReader*

        Not a researched thing, but I think overall the attacks are tamer than they used to be. I think there is a downward trend. I also think that you, Alison, are watching more closely than ever, which might make it seem like there are more attacks?

        It could be me, but it looks like if the OP does not fill in the blanks for posters, then posters come up with their own added details. And then we have derailments. It might be good to remind people that OPs are not required to participate in the discussion and in some cases the OP may not be able to read AAM at work or they may chose not to read the comments at all.

        It seems like commenters really enjoy it when the OPs talk with us. I have seen some of the more talkative OPs get some very nice compliments here along with amazing encouragement. It might be counter-intuitive to tell them to talk more but sometimes going in the opposite direction works very well.

        Also, I think that some people are just detail oriented, their belief is that details make a difference. It might help to show why a particular detail would have no bearing on OP’s setting.
        This is learning about discernment. A teaching moment perhaps? How does one discern which details matter and which details don’t matter? I’m willing to admit, I like to watch to see which details you choose as being important, Alison, and which ones you let go.

      8. MissGirl*

        On other sites, they have a like function. This really helps sort out the bad comments or the pile-ons. If I feel the need to add a comment but I see my point made by someone else and probably better than I could have, I simply like it. This keeps me from adding another unnecessary voice and helps relevant topics float up. I read all comments sorted by most-liked and when I start to get to repeats or the more aggressive comments, I stop reading.

        This would also be very helpful to the letter writers. They wouldn’t have to worry as much about missing a particularly helpful comment. The community would do a the job of sorting through the comments for them. Also a flag button might help inappropriate comments get removed more quickly.

        1. copy run start*

          I think I like that there’s no comment rating system here. I think like/dislike or +1 systems work best when there’s no or very little moderation, so the community has to self moderate out the trolls and the disrespectful/rude comments. I have no idea how much moderation Alison does here, but I would guess she’s fairly busy based on the lack of comment spam alone. Or has a good system to filter it out.

          I’d be open to a trial of a rating system, but my concern is that it would turn into a hivemind where the minority opinion is downvoted to oblivion like some subreddits tends towards. Or that well-known posters would get more upvotes and we’d see less from less well-known or newer posters.

          Maybe we could “highlight” a particularly good comment? Instead of changing the order of presentation or assigning it a numerical value (likes, upvotes, etc.), we could highlight it as high quality? Kind of like how Alison’s posts are blue — it’s super easy to find where she’s chimed in. Make them gold or purple whatever, something that’s easy to pick out.

          1. Elsajeni*

            I’ve mentioned this before, but I think a site that did this very well was The Toast — the commenting setup they used there had an option to “thumbs-up” a comment, but no option to “thumbs-down,” and comments could be sorted by rating but that wasn’t the default setting. So that takes care of some of the pitfalls (bullying-via-downvote maneuvers, useful comments getting lost or hidden just because they don’t get a lot of upvotes, etc.). I also think an upvote system can help prevent pile-ons, since people don’t have to add their own reply to say “Wow, that was rude” or “You are seriously wrong about this”; they can just upvote the replies that are already there.

      9. Myrin*

        For some very blatant ignoring of stated guidelines, I’d actually think it would be completely fine to delete the whole thread. I’m not talking about extremely rude and hurtful things (like the commenter last week who was super mean about the OP who had lost her baby daughter) but stuff like when a couple of weeks ago, you asked at the end of the answer to one letter to please not talk about X Topic and the very first topic went “I know Alison said not to talk about X but here is why I still think X is important” and then it had like 50 replies. Talking about the topic Alison had explicitly asked us not to talk about. And yeah, I think if you disregard a site owner’s statement like that, it’s okay to actually delete the whole thing.

    3. Mazzy*

      I just think the comment sections sometimes get way too long, and I scan them and it just looks like a wall of text. I spot read some comments and if I don’t find them interesting, I don’t read. And that had been happening more recently. For example the one earlier this week where the coworker was taking the full month of December off.

      I totally don’t want to say “comments should be this way or that way” because I’m not sitting there reading them most of the time anyway due to time constraints, I read maybe 5%, and I actually find it entertaining how some comment sections get side tracked. But at the same time, I probably miss alot of good comments because I don’t have time to find them. With the coworker off of December one, there was alot of space taken up discussing if there is such a thing as an inconsiderate coworoker or if people should put in their PTO in January for the rest of the year which frankly just take up space and are not comments from which the average reader or OP is going to garnish any useful advice.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t really have a problem with there being a lot of comments, although I know that makes some people less likely to read or engage. My problem is with letter writers being treated poorly.

        1. Jules the First*

          Is there a way to automatically flag people who’ve made a lot of comments on one thread in a relatively short space of time – like a pop up reminder when you hit submit for the tenth time on a comment thread that says something along the lines of “It looks like you’ve been pretty active on this thread. Can we take a moment to make sure this comment is still supportive and helpful to the letter writer?”

        2. Sled dog mama*

          As a LW who recently got a rather unexpected reaction to my question in the comments I think that Allison and everyone here does a great job of policing commenters.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      At the risk of being criticized, I will say that what I’ve found increasingly frustrating is how discussions get derailed and go off into all kinds of crazy directions. Of course, that’s going to happen to a certain extent; it’s the nature of an internet comment community. But posters will make a suggestion about how an OP might handle a situation, and then the discussion gets derailed because others will kind of jump all over that person for not considering every conceivable possibility under the sun before offering advice: food allergy/environmental sensitivity/social anxiety/financial situation/what could or could not be considered a trigger for some people/etc. And I am in no way trying to minimize or diminish any of those things. They are all serious things that people struggle with every day, and I truly empathize. But it’s not realistic for everyone to be aware of every, single, solitary thing that could possibly be a reason for a suggested course of action to be inadvisable.

      As an example, there was a question about gifts for bosses once a couple years ago. I offered up a suggestion that everyone throw in $5 for a gift card. We used to do this for my old boss, and every year we got her a Starbucks card to use in the cafeteria in the building, and it would come up to between $40 and $50, which is a very nice gift that she really appreciated. $5 is a manageable amount. There were a bunch of replies criticizing me for assuming that everyone can afford $5, how $5 is really a lot of money for some people, some people have to budget down to the very last penny, and so on. I’m well aware of that. There was a time in my life where I was in that exact situation, and thankfully, those days are behind me. I try to pay it forward where I can. What was lost in all that is that there plenty of people who can afford to spend $5, and maybe that was a viable option.

      It’s exhausting.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I agree that’s exhausting! That’s what the “not everyone can have sandwiches” rule in the commenting guidelines was intended to address, and I think it’s mostly stopped since that was implemented, or at least I hope it has!

      2. Anon for this*

        I have seen that, too. I’m also sure that I have participated in it, too! Maybe we could redirect “not everyone can have sandwiches” threads towards either addressing the OP or towards open threads?

      3. mazzy*

        I just thought of this when looking at the other open thread, and it always perplexes me, when a question comes up about an employee getting overpaid, it always starts a thread about how it’s unreasonable to expect employees to check their pay stubs, and then seems to devolve into a competition of who has the most indecipherable pay check, people saying they have such complicated payment arrangements or get paid so infrequently or whatever so they think they can’t check their pay checks, or that their profession has the most complicated payment methods. It always perplexes me because of course an employee can check if their tax or gross pay makes sense, especially as there are more and more tax calculators online. Probably nothing to do about this one, and they aren’t necessarily bad comments, but I do find it odd because the natural tendency should be to try to understand what your getting paid as much as possible.

  52. Cafe au Lait*

    I have taken on responsibilites at work that now included attending meetings. A lot of meetings.

    I am a horrible note taker. I get bogged down in what people say and miss what’s currently being said. Or I take brief notes as people are talking, but the notes are completely unuseable when I’m done.

    Any suggestions on how to improve? These new responsibilities will open a ton of doors for me, and I really want the reputation as someone who is on the ball.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Are you the official note-taker at the meetings? If not, you might just be taking too many notes; typically you can confine yourself to just taking notes on action items that will affect you.

      1. Cafe au Lait*

        I am not. Mainly the meetings I need to take notes are the smaller two to three person meetings. There’s a lot of planning that comes from those meetings. I always jot down dates/ times but I can miss entire chunks of plans if I don’t write them down.

        1. Sophie Winston*

          Maybe you need to reframe these small meetings? Is the point of the meeting to discuss the items, or to have the action plan on paper by the end? If the latter, the way I like to do this is to use a conference room with a computer hooked up to a projector (if one is available) so all of you can see and contribute to the notes as they are typed. Good luck!

    2. The Other Dawn*

      What I did at my last two places–I was the minute-taker–was to make my notes directly on my copy of the agenda next to/under the items. Obviously I often needed more space since I had to write up minutes afterwards, but it helped me to keep track better. It was so hard at first, as I often got bogged down trying to write everything said, but then I eventually learned to hit the highlights (you’ll learn what those are as time goes by) and avoid certain things (you’ll learn those in time, too).

      1. Artemesia*

        I am the world’s worst note taker and successfully usually avoided it over the years although as often the only woman in the room it wasn’t easy. This seems like a really good idea and I wish I had thought of it. Since Agendas are usually emailed, you could also expand the agenda by putting more space under each item and printing it off so you would have more room to take notes under each topic.

    3. animaniactoo*

      It might be the style of notes you’re trying to take.

      I tend to be a visual thinker so if you look at my notebook, you’ll find lots of arrows and things that are boxed off so that they are visually organized for me. Somebody else looking at it could probably follow a bunch of what’s there, but it wouldn’t be automatically obvious to them.

      How good are you at selecting keywords that will jog your memory? Have you created your own shorthand? (Most people do this as time goes on, I tend to use mathematical logic proof symbols as part of my shorthand because my brain likes them.)

    4. copy run start*

      When there’s discussion, try to just summarize the outcome. If needed, you could throw in the main areas of concern. But don’t get bogged down in who said what.

      When there’s a decision made, jot what you can. Then at the end of the meeting, before everyone leaves, review what was decided with everyone for the record. This will also help ensure everyone is on the same page if no one else is doing so. (In my experience, the meeting leader or most senior person usually does this, but if no one’s doing it I think it’s a fabulous thing to introduce.)

    5. skyline*

      Some of my strategies:
      – Highlight all my action items with ticky boxes, so they are easy to find at a glance.
      – Prioritize record other people’s action items, too -what they’ve promised by when
      – Review notes as soon as possible after meeting to fill in things that I remember but didn’t record in the moment. I have a lot of days with multiple meetings, so don’t always get to this the same day, but I still find this helpful 1-2 days after the meeting
      – If I’m really unclear on something from my notes, and it’s important, I just follow up with the other attendees to clarify. This is fine in moderation, and better to clarify earlier than later, when you might have dropped the ball on something.
      – If it’s a larger, more formal meeting – someone should be designated the notetaker. In that case, I trust that person to capture most of the details and focus my personal note taking even more on action items.

      I find I have to take meeting notes by hand, on paper –I retain a lot better that way.

  53. Michaela*

    For reasons that don’t bear exploration at this juncture, I’m interested in exploring possibilities for employment in New Zealand. I’m a front-end/UX developer with five+ years of experience, primarily in U.S. higher education (I’ve also worked at an agency and would consider positions at one again), including significant Drupal experience — does anyone here know where the Kiwi tech scene posts job vacancies? Or should I just find the specific companies I’d be interested in working for and wait for them to post their vacancies on their site/email them?

    My usual GitHub/StackOverflow/LinkedIn alert lists don’t seem to have many NZ opportunities in their archives, and Seek seems to be littered with recruiters, whom I don’t really trust (they don’t seem to grok front-end, in my experience).

    1. Ross*

      Tricky. On the assumption that you will need a visa, IT skills are in demand but the difficulty is in finding an employer who is prepared to sponsor a visa. This tends to be the larger employers; most NZ businesses are very small and are unlikely to be interested in the visa process. I did it through having a personal contact out here who could point me at likely companies. It’s also reportedly quite hard to get a job offer unless you are prepared to come over here in person for interviews (or even in the hopes of getting interviews) – I think many people have been burned by lid-lifters and no-shows.

      (My background: UK origin; software engineering; NZ work and then residence visas on that basis; now in broadcast tech. Been in NZ for 5 years.)

      Seek is a very common place to look for jobs; in my experience many employers do post there directly if you can wade through the tide of recruiters. There is also a professional body you might care to check out, IT Professionals NZ (itp dot nz), though I don’t know how well known they are with employers in general. There is much to be said for contacting companies direct. Good luck!

      1. Michaela*

        Thank you; it’s good to know that your information seems to match with my intuition! While it’s not what I’d like to hear, it is certainly understandable. Wheeee research time.

    2. Office Plant*

      I’m not a Kiwi. But there are a lot of tech companies in Sydney, both local ones and US companies with offices there. They’re pretty welcoming to people with tech skills. A lot of companies offer sponsorships or you can apply as a Skilled Migrant.

      There are also a lot of Kiwis living in Sydney. I think it would be fairly easy to get a tech job there and then network your way to one in NZ.

      Or you could look for US tech companies with offices in NZ. A lot of the bigger tech companies have offices all over.

  54. Elli in Cali*

    I work in an area that needs 24/7 coverage. One of my coworkers who works swing shift recently returned from materintiy leave. Previously she was working FT. After she got back, she asked to drop to four days a week. Now she is asking those of us on day shift to swap with her on Thursdays and Fridays, indefinitely. She says she and her husband, who also works evenings, are having trouble finding babysitters on those nights.

    I have a Thursday evening committment, and I just don’t see why I should work her Friday night shifts, especially because her request doesn’t take into account that I work daytime weekend shifts as well. So I would get less than 8 hours off the clock between shifts. There is some management pressure to do these swaps, because this person has said she either will get the schedule she wants or ask for a further reduction in hours, and they’re already short staffed. Am I being a heel and letting down the team for refusing to swap? Or is this the time to put me and my needs first?

    1. Artemesia*

      Someone else’s benefits shouldn’t be coming out of your hide. ‘That won’t be possible as I am already working day shifts on the weekends’ ‘That won’t be possible as I have commitments on Thursday and Friday evenings and I am also working day shifts on the weekends.’ Put your needs first or you will be the go to doormat.

      It is one thing to have a very short term crisis — someone had a heart attack, someone has cancer — but she has a life and it has changed and she needs to learn to manage it; it is not a short term crisis — finding evening coverage for kids will be no different next month or next year.

    2. neverjaunty*

      If she asks for a further reduction in hours, that’s management’s issue to deal with. They should not be outsourcing it to you under these circumstances.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      In my state there has to be at least 8 hours between shifts. You might check your state laws/regs to see if there is anything to support your request.

    4. self employed*

      It sounds like your reasons are equally legitimate– a commitment and weekend shifts. Bringing those to mgmt attention in a calm, clear way will help your case. You’re not being a jerk but you can’t pick up the shifts. That should be okay.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      Stand your ground. It’s wonderful that your co-worker and her husband had a baby, but that is their responsibility, not yours. Say, “I don’t mind helping out from time to time, but it’s not possible for me to do this on a regular basis.” Repeat as necessary.

      1. Temperance*

        I actually would advise against saying that you would help out “from time to time”, because that’s just showing Susie Steamroller that your schedule really IS flexible, and that you COULD help but don’t want to.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Point taken. There is value in being willing to pitch in and help out, but this could be a situation where standing firm is a better answer.

          1. Marisol*

            maybe amend to, “I didn’t mind doing it the first few times while you transitioned back to work, but it’s no longer possible.” I think maybe what you were getting at with the “from time to time” remark was, you wanted to frame Elli as a reasonable, cooperative person? She can accomplish this by mentioning the way she helped in the past.

    6. Temperance*

      Nope. Put your needs first. After all, your coworker is putting herself first, why shouldn’t you?

    7. copy run start*

      Nope, refuse. You don’t even really have to explain why, but your reasons are totally legitimate and, as others have mentioned, there may be issues with your local laws on time between shifts.

      It sounds like this job is no longer a good fit for your coworker. Odd-hours childcare is notoriously difficult to find and often even more expensive, so I’m surprised she didn’t work this out earlier. Either way, there’s no reason it should fall on you or your other coworkers. Your company should start looking for an employee who can work all the hours and shifts required if this employee just can’t make this work, as heartless as that may sound.

    8. Observer*

      Stand your ground.

      Check you state and local labor laws – your employer may be required to allow a certain amount of hours between shifts. But even if not, that’s not only totally legitimate, but it’s something they should be concerned about as well. A less than stellar employer may not care about your commitments, but even they are basically functional, the should care about this.

  55. Gen*

    This is kind of work adjacent so sorry if it should be in the other thread.

    My husband has just qualified as a member of a pretigeous professional body after five years of hard work. I attended his graduation ceremony and I get the impression that there will be similar spouse-attendance-required networking events every year. I’m an illustrator by profession and work from home. Whilst I did work in his field (accountancy/finance) it was nearly a decade ago now and I was mostly in software/admin. I don’t know how to talk to people from the big city in suits that cost more than our car and I’m worried it shows. I don’t want to embarrass him but for some reason people insisted on talking to me as well, and of course “illustrator” is an interesting sounding job so then I get sucked into talking about that. Except I work on a lot of odd things (for example – a book on renaissance vampires). I never know how to answer- whether I’m blunt or I try to generalise (they always probe for more details) because there’s this moment when they get that “wow that’s wierd” facial expression and I want to sink into the floor. I have no issue talking about these things with other creatives but I don’t know how to handle or deflect things in an executive environment. Any advice on how to handle this kind of small talk without humiliating either of us?

    1. Artemesia*

      “One of the things I love about the job is that I get such diverse requests and some of them can be pretty off the wall. I illustrated copy for used cars and clothing sales one week and then the next I get a call to do illustrations on a book on Renaissance vampires — it is really a hoot and there is always something new.” You are probably the most interesting person in the room.

    2. animaniactoo*

      In an executive environment, when you get that weird look, you can address it “You look like that’s the oddest think you’ve heard [laugh] and I have to admit it can be pretty weird. I pride myself on being able to find a way to make it work, and there’s a lot of research that goes into making sure that I’ve got the period dress right while still finding a way to deliver the impact of something like a vampire. What’s your biggest challenge in your job?”

      Then you’re talking about the challenges of the job and everybody can understand the challenges of trying to deliver what a client wants/getting the project right – and you’re pivoting back to them and giving them a way to “re-join” the conversation with something they can contribute or sidetrack it off into something else.

    3. Em too*

      This corporate person, admittedly in a rather cheaper suit, thinks that sounds fascinating. Obviously I’m not seeing the expression – any chance it could encompass ‘weird but definitely not boring – tell me more’? If not for that person, then someone somewhere in the room?

      If they’re asking more I’d assume they’re interested and possibly deeply thankful they can stop talking about accountancy. Can you talk to them like they were creative too (who knows, they may be when they’re not accounting)? People in car-priced suits will probably have no problem turning the conversation back to finance if that’s what they want.

      1. Cam*

        I think that reinterpreting their facial expression is the best option. Instead of assuming it’s their “ew that’s so weird” face, think of it as their “wow that’s fascinatingly weird!” face. It’s okay for them to think Renaissance vampires are a weird topic, but I am willing to bet they are thinking it’s a fun sort of weird, not a judgmental kind of weird.

    4. Temperance*

      Honestly, I would love to meet someone who worked on jobs like you do, and I am a big-city-suit-wearer. If people are giving you cues that it’s strange, why not just shift the conversation to the more vanilla stuff that you do?

    5. Marisol*

      You might like a book called “how to talk to anyone” by Leil Lowndes. It addresses this kind of stuff; I got some good insights from it.

      Generally speaking (in my experience), the more successful a suit is, the more socially savvy they are. So if you’re talking to a suit who gets a weird look and allows the conversation to stall when you tell him what you’re working on, it’s the suit who made a gaffe, and it gives you a clue as to how big a player he is (not very). I mean, is it so hard to have some stock responses in mind? They could ask you something basic like, “is that your favorite kind of project?” or “is vampire lore an area of particular interest to you?” or whatever. But if they fail to do that and instead blanche at the mere mention of something creative, it’s on them, not you. And if they’re out-and-out contemptuous about it, like they have a sneer or something, then that means they’re a small time sucker on a power trip and not to be taken seriously.

      I would employ a strategy of 1) elevator pitch–a summary of your work or other talking points you expect will come up, anticipating any weird reactions so that you can address them in advance, 2) addressing the wierd look directly as Animaniac suggests–it’s a dialogue, so just ask them what’s up! You can be insouciant and charming about it; 3) change the subject to ask questions about them. Come up with a list of things you can ask, ideally things you are interested in, so that you can assert yourself a bit, learn interesting things, and make the suit feel important/interesting. I mean, list your questions out in advance of the event. Basic conversational questions–where they are from originally, how long they have been with the company, as well as things about the industry/company that might benefit your husband to know.

      Then get good at ending the conversation gracefully and moving onto someone else. “Well, it was great meeting you!” turn and walk away. Next person. The more you do this, the faster you’ll spot conversational beats and negotiate them.

      And my final thought on the weird look is that they might be having a moment where they are not judging you, but feeling woefully inadequate themselves as they don’t speak the language of creative. I’m assuming these people aren’t being jerks to you, just awkward. And yes, you’re a little awkward too, but which is worse: to be a little clumsy at networking because you’ve been working from home in solitude lo these many years, or to be a little clumsy at networking *despite* wearing a suit that costs as much as a car and participating regularly in industry networking events? Not that either of you *needs* to feel humiliated, but if anyone does, it’s the suit!!! Not you.

    6. Office Plant*

      First, people are more or less the same regardless of how much money they make, how much their suits cost, or where they live. Don’t be scared of them. Look them in the eye and talk to them like fellow human beings, like they’re the person sitting next to you on the bus, at the bar, whatever scenario is familiar.

      Second, humor goes a lot way in these situations. Do you have any funny stories about your job? Projects that people might find amusing? Two projects you can mention that would sound funny together? Usually, if you just say something funny or entertaining, it gets the ball rolling and the other person will take it from there.

  56. Butchered Name*

    At the job I’ve been at for several months, I often have to get written approval for transactions above a certain dollar amount from remote managers (not my own manager). These approvals typically consist of “looks good–approved” or “I approve this” in response to my e-mail. One of the managers started addressing his responses with a “Hello [name]” format, but he’s getting my name totally wrong. My last name is similar to a first name if you add/subtract/rearrange some letters, and he’s been using that (for example, if my name was Steven Grenard, he’d be calling me Gerald). I’m not offended and don’t really care since I have no other interactions with him, but at the same time I think it’s bizarre that he’s butchering my name that badly and I don’t know if me not correcting him adds to the weirdness. Any thoughts?

    1. Aurion*

      Just matter-of-factly correct him. The longer this goes on, the weirder it will be when he discovers he’s been calling you the wrong name all along, and he probably will discover it eventually. It’s one thing if he wrote the wrong name once (we’ve all been there), but it sounds like this is a pattern.

      “Thanks [for the approval], Bob. By the way, my name’s actually Steven.” –Done.

  57. Gift Ideas*

    What are some gift ideas under $10 that we could buy for our employees? We usually get everyone chocolates, but want to do something different this year. We were originally thinking of getting everyone gag gifts, but spending $1000+ (we have about 100 employees) on gifts no one will ever use seems like a waste of money.

    1. AMT*

      I am a huge fan of gift cards in these situations. So much less waste, so much more appreciated. If you want to personalize them, maybe include a few pieces of candy or notes thanking them for their hard work.

    2. Tempest*

      Personally I’d rather the chocolates than a gag gift.

      I’d be happy with the Starbucks gift card or is there maybe a grocery store most of the staff would do their shopping at? Then they could get chocolate or wine or put it toward their turkey?

      We get wine from our company and if nothing else I can take it round to share with friends at some point over the holidays but obvs not everyone partakes in wine/alcohol.

    3. periwinkle*

      Gag gifts go right in the trash. Don’t waste your money.

      I like mugs and water bottles, logo’ed or otherwise. They’re useful at work regardless of your beverage of choice. For mugs, I really love the diner-style that has some heft to it. Or how about canvas re-useable grocery bags?

    4. Temperance*

      Don’t do gag gifts! Gag gifts are the worsssst.

      1. Starbucks/Dunkin Donuts GC
      2. Gift card to local lunch place
      3. A movie theater gift card – $10 is a ticket and part of a treat

      1. ALICE*

        In 1995? Movie tickets alone are about $14-16 now!! lol. Not even going to get started on prices of food at the theatre (which is where the theater makes their money)

    5. copy run start*

      Something to brighten their work day. We recently all got nice coffee mugs (branded, but you could skip that if it’s over the limit). How about some nice push-pins/magnets or a small picture frame or two, perhaps a tasteful 2017 calendar, some small flash drives, etc.? Things they could use in their cubicles/offices aren’t too expensive and will probably be well-used. And if they go home with the employee, it’s not a tragedy either.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        One good conference hand-out I got was coffee mugs printed with the participants’ names. Giving everyone matching coffee mugs makes it easy to mix up and lose them, named ones get back to you.

        The other good handout was a good, study cloth shopping bag, designed so it can easily fit over my shoulder. I still use it for grocery shopping at the traditional market.

        Other than that, gift cards for a Starbucks or other similar place near the office.

        1. copy run start*

          I’m not too worried about the mugs getting swapped around; ours are all 100% identical so I doubt I’d even notice if my mug was swapped.*

          *Of course if I’m suddenly drinking out of my cube mate’s mug and it hasn’t been through the dishwasher first… eugh!!

        2. chickabiddy*

          Yes, nice sturdy shopping bags! I have a “thing” about taking a store-branded reusable bag into a different store but haven’t yet invested in a good bag of my own and would love it if my company gave me one.

    6. Artemesia*

      For my whole career I always wished one of the many Christmas gimmes or longevity gimmees would be a good pen — even a pretty good pen and I never got one. They seem like a cliche but nevertheless I never got one. I would have loved a good classy looking pen and I’ll bet they exit in bulk for $10.

    7. Rachel*

      I’m not sure if this would be considered too close to the gag gift side, but at a previous job, I gave my coworkers board game keychains for the holidays. (Think things like Operation, Mouse Trap, Trouble, Monopoly, etc.) My coworkers just loved them! They generally cost around $5-$10 each.

  58. Jascha*

    My manager is currently in a very stressful work period. For the last month or so, we’ve had a lot of high-impact projects on short deadlines, most of which relied on outside contributions that were late, weak, or changed substantially at the last minute. We expect the short deadlines to continue for another month or two, although the behaviours of our outside contributors are not something we can predict.
    Not only is that situation causing trouble, but he’s also dealing with a lot of higher-level stuff I’m not privy to that is adding to both his workload and his stress levels. It means he has very little time to devote to our shared workload – which is fine; I can handle it. In fact, I could handle all of our shared workload if needed, leaving him to deal with the things I can’t do – and I’m perfectly willing, even eager, to do that. (He doesn’t want to relinquish any more duties than he already has, though, which is another discussion altogether.)
    But as the stress on him skyrockets, I find I’m being treated a little harshly and almost unfairly. There are certainly areas in which I can improve, but I’m getting the blame for things like having the outside contributors miss deadlines even when I’ve been following up regularly and they’ve promised to meet them. I can’t exactly go back to them and say, “No, really, I ACTUALLY MEAN IT” after they’ve already confirmed their acceptance of a given deadline. Also, my manager and I have less time than ever to interact, so our interactions are basically limited to times when I receive criticism.
    So how do I handle this? Addressing it point-blank with my manager wouldn’t be a good idea (and would probably add even more to his stress), but I also don’t want to start looking like I’m massively dropping the ball or not doing my own job well, either.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Can you send your boss an email saying, “At some point, I would like us to talk about how I can help you lighten your work load in some manner. I see you have a lot on your plate. I want to help. Please let me know.”

      When outside contributors miss deadlines, ask what the boss would like you to do differently. I agree you can’t make people do anything, if they don’t do it then they don’t do it. Perhaps there is a way you can develop a plan B if plan A falls through?

      1. Jascha*

        Thanks – that’s a good idea! I might ask him if we can talk about that shortly before or after the holidays, as both of us will be flat-out until then and I don’t want to burden him unnecessarily. I have been offering to take on anything he needs to hand off, but I’ve been doing it verbally “in the moment” and should probably establish that I want to lighten the load permanently going forward, if I can.
        We usually have plan Bs for outside contributors, but unfortunately by the time it’s the day of a mutually agreed deadline, we’ve usually passed the point at which we can default to plan B. I’m going to see what I can do about establishing a stronger pipeline so we do have more flexible fallback. Thank you!

  59. Green T*

    My company told me I now need to punch in and out because of the new overtime rule. The thing is, I make more than $47,476 a year by about $1000. So did they make a mistake or are there other things that would make me fall under the new rule? I tried to talk to the one HR person handling this, but she was trying to talk to everyone this week and she had no time. And the company is sticking with the change even though it has been put on hold.

    I was kind of looking forward to it because my boss told me I could have a small amount of overtime or go home early on Fridays. But now I feel I should speak up.

    1. CAA*

      It sounds like they have reclassified your job as nonexempt. They are allowed to decide that you are an hourly employee and pay you overtime even if your base wage (and your job duties) would otherwise qualify you for an exempt classification. They may have done this because other people with your same job title and duties are earning less and are therefore required to be nonexempt and they want to keep everyone who does the same job in the same classification.

      I think it’s worth having a conversation with your HR person once she has some time available, just so you can find out the reasoning behind the decision, but in the meantime, you should follow the directions you were given and use the timeclock.

      1. fposte*

        It’s also possible that they realized Green T met the salary test but not the duties test; I think the personnel re-evaluation with the threshold change showed some companies that they had a few other irregularities floating around.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Or they decided to apply the new procedures to all the jobs of a similar type, for simplicity, and so people don’t switch categories if they get a modest raise.

  60. Worn out worker*

    Anyone have any recommendations for dealing with a manager who takes quite a good cop/bad cop approach to management? Ie: sometimes they’re nice, positive and encouraging and sometimes they’re negative, demanding and critical with the change between the two not really properly correlating with substantial changes in work behavior or output? Dealing with the constantly changing approach is wearing me out.

  61. Jemerson60060*

    To set the scene, I work in a small (5 person) laid back office at a non-profit. I work under a few “co-workers” in a support role, they give me tasks to complete. While they are not my supervisors or boss, as in fire/hire or give raises, they are my supervisors. We currently have no actual boss in our office, we have someone from another office who is technically our boss but rarely has any involvement in the office. We have all spent time outside work together, a few concerts in the park, happy hours etc. where we have met each other’s friends and significant others. Recently the most senior “co-worker” was watching her 5 year old nephew to take him to a doctor’s apt but needed to do some work in the office so she brought him with for a few hours. Recently her nephew said he wanted to come back to the office so she brought him for a full day.

    My question is my partner works about 30 minutes from my office. Recently we were going to meet up after work by my office for dinner and a show. That same day she happened to have a 2pm meeting right by my office. We kinda joked that she should just come and work in my office suite (we have about 4 empty office) but I dismissed it as inappropriate/ not professional. For the record my partner has met my co-workers and gets along with them. This happened after the first time the nephew came to the office but before the second time. Now after the second time the nephew came I’m thinking I wouldn’t have been out of line for asking. I’m not planning on making a habit out of it, but maybe once in a blue moon if a similar situation happens again?

    Ps. Since we don’t have a boss right now but the company is looking to hire one, I’m well aware that the policy on this may change when a new boss comes in.

    1. Colette*

      I’d say no. It’s enough out of the norm that it will probably color someone’s opinion of you, and not in a good way. If one of my coworkers did that, I wouldn’t say anything, but I’d wonder about the boundaries and judgement. Stopping by to say hi/have lunch is ok, but working from there is too much, IMO.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I’d say no, also. Because she is using or benefiting from your company resources in the process of doing work for another company. Now these resources might be tiny, like a little electricity and a restroom. But I’d still say no just on principle. Someone could point out that she could go to a library or a Starbucks instead.

      As I am saying this, in the back of my mind I am thinking the person who is bringing kids in is going to get told not to do that once the new boss is in place. I think it puts you in a good spot not to start doing this stuff.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      Yeah, I’d say no too. Personally, I wouldn’t care if it was every now and then, but other people might. I think it would have to be an unusual, one-off type of situation. Like, if she’d had that meeting right by your office, and getting back to her office, or home, would have been a huge pain because an injury like a broken leg would make driving or using public transportation really inconvenient or take twice as long as it normally would.

    4. Temperance*

      It depends how large your office is. I could very easily bring Booth in and set him up to work in my office, but I’m at a 600 person-ish org and we have an entire floor of empty offices and conference rooms. As long as I booked it, no one would see him.

    5. Cat steals keyboard*

      You can’t just use an office premises for another business purpose. There are insurance and usage issues.

  62. EvilQueenRegina*

    So I’m feeling like maybe I should have stepped in with something where our manager was out of line, didn’t in the moment, and that may have been the wrong thing.

    Basically, there’s been a bit of gossip going round the office that Ruby my coworker has a crush on David, this married man who sits opposite her. This is the coworker I’d posted about previously who ignores her ringing phone and has caused some annoyance when she’s claimed to have no time to take her calls but does have time to constantly chat to David. (David doesn’t exactly discourage it but is rumoured to have said he was getting fed up of it especially on Facebook).

    So it kind of flared up today – David and his team got moved as part of an office move, so Ruby and David no longer sit anywhere near each other. Kathryn, another coworker, had made some jokey remark about Ruby using the photocopier near David just so she could chat to him instead of using the one near us, and then using the one by us quite happily when David was on lunch. When this remark reached Emma, our manager, instead of shutting it down appropriately Emma had said something loudly in the middle of the office so lots of people could hear “Ruby, your friends have been joking about you, how you use the photocopier over there so you can flirt with David!” Ruby was not happy, said she didn’t think that was funny but made no more of it than that.

    It really wasn’t the best way to handle it. Whether Emma really thought Ruby was being inappropriate or whether she saw it as a joke, I’m not sure she should have said that quite so publicly. In the moment I didn’t quite know how to react at all and didn’t say anything. But talking about it with my boyfriend later, he’d mentioned that had it been him, he’d have flashed back to an incident along similar lines in his schooldays, and it made me wonder whether this could even have hit on any kind of trigger like that for Ruby. It’s the kind of thing people don’t bring up at work. People wouldn’t have known. I feel like maybe I should have said something more but I don’t even know what would have been best.

      1. Boardwalk Kingdom*

        Second the above advice. Man, Emma really went too far on her joke. What is this, third grade?

  63. Sled dog mama*

    I submitted my resignation last week for current job (4-6 weeks is standard notice in my profession). I asked my boss to hold off saying anything to coworkers until at least after the thanksgiving holiday.
    Because we provide services on a contract basis, only one other person at one of my sites is actually employed by my employer (at the other I’m the only one). My problem arises with this one coworker who is actually at one of my sites, he isn’t my supervisor but he is the site supervisor. This coworker has pawned off much of his work on me, said rather inappropriate things (some I suspect of being a cultural thing, others generational, and others just ?), made me cry because I took the initiative to handle intermediate steps of something he told me to do without consulting him, and in general has led me to the conclusion that my departure is going to lead to another hissy fit from him.
    He is the main reason I asked my boss to wait to tell people. Now I am faced with Monday morning and having to tell him or wait until my boss does, if it were up to me I’d just not tell him and let him figure it out when I don’t come back, sadly that option is not acceptable to my boss, although he did consider it (he’s stuck with this guy for two more months because of a client being weird).
    How do I handle a grown (60ish) man having a hissy fit over my departure and make sure he doesn’t cause everyone else in the department (which is toxic and co-dependent) to over react when I just want to finish out my last weeks with as little drama as possible (I’ve given up on no drama).

    1. Artemesia*

      Cold as ice. ‘Grendel, I am flattered that you are going to miss me, but let’s focus on what we can do to make the transition go as smoothly as possible.’ And then have a list of steps you propose taking to do just that. And when he fulminates, think about kittens until he stops. Seriously. Find it interestingly amusing rather than personally threatening and don’t reward him with a reaction other then ‘Well I understand it is going to be more work for you when I leave, so what can we do to help make the transition go smoothly.’ You’ll be gone so this is a show for your entertainment not something that can touch you.

  64. Nedra*

    I have a question about my resume. I have a graduate degree in a field that is no longer offered by my alma mater. Should I indicate this in some way on my resume? I worry that potential employers will google the school and think I am lying because there is no longer a program in my field there.

    1. misspiggy*

      No – this isn’t unusual, and if it gets to the stage of them needing proof they’ll ask for transcripts/certificates.

    2. Cat steals keyboard*

      I have a degree that technically never existed. I asked to combine two subjects that weren’t usually available as joint honours (I’m in the UK where this is a thing) and they let me. I used to worry that someone would question it but nobody ever has. And if they do I can show them the certificate or they can call and check.

      If they used to offer your programme I’m sure that will show up in online searches in any case.

    3. Sled dog mama*

      I’m in the same position, I just explain in an interview that I was in the last class for that degree and University chose to close the program for XYZ reasons.

    4. Boardwalk Kingdom*

      Universities will usually have a website to verify degrees for all past alumni. You can try and see if your uni has a service like this, and if any future employer have any doubts, you can direct them to the link.

  65. Resume Question*

    I asked this last week, but I posted so late, it didn’t get answered.

    Say you’re 40 and you babysit as a side job. You started doing this when you were 15. What do you put on your resume as the start date? It seems weird to list something as starting during your teenage years when you’re an adult. But on the other hand, you want to be honest and accurately represent yourself.

    1. Sophie Winston*

      That’s a toughie. If it adds relevant skills not shown in your primary job, or it is one of a couple part time jobs that show you are working full time, you would need to include it…

      Maybe instead of giving a start date, think about what they need to know? For example if you want to show full time effort when combined with your 30 hour per week day job? Then something like “average 15 hours per week since 2012” would provide that info. In that situation, that you also babysat before 2012 may not add anything to your application.

      Or if there are one or two specific clients that you work for regularly, set the start date to when you started working with those clients?

      1. Resume Question*

        Yeah. I do need to include it. It’s relevant. There are multiple things I do now that I started doing when I was in high school or middle school.

        I just updated my resume put the year I started college as the start date for the middle school one, and the real start date for the high school one. I think, “I’ve been doing this since I was 13,” sounds weird on a resume now that I’m decades older. But including high school isn’t as weird, somehow, at least for that type of job.

  66. Office Plant*

    Send some good job search vibes my way! I need to find a better job soon. I” in a pinch, so busy doing low pay gig economy work that I don’t have time for an actual job search. I’m working about 12 hours a day and I’m still struggling to make ends meet.

    I’m sure I can find something. I just need an extra bit of luck right now.

    1. Snazzy Hat*

      {does that weird bag-shake thing Sid Haig’s character does in The Forbidden Dance, directed at your job search, not you} {tosses confetti in your direction, though}

      I went through ten months of unpaid unemployment & job searching but now I’m three weeks into an amazing temp job that I hope will be upgraded to official full-time employee status. I am sending you the best of luck!

    2. Baker's dozen*

      I’ve got my fingers crossed for you. The gig economy is so exploitative. I hope you can get out soon.

    3. Office Plant*

      Thank you, everyone! I’m fortunate in that I have an advanced degree, some impressive past experience, and I have about five jobs right now . . . The issue is that it’s a hodge podge of volunteer or nearly unpaid jobs in my field and a gig economy thing that I do to pay the bills. It’s a situation I took on by choice. I was tired of doing whatever salaried job in my field I could find so I decided to do the work I want to do as a volunteer while supporting myself through other means. It’s been a positive experience. But now I need health insurance and some financial stability. It’s not easy to transition back, but I’m sure I’ll find something eventually.

  67. Gene*

    I got called in to work at 2330 last night. I’m the call-in person for building alarm stuff, and the water sensor in the basement triggered. So I got to get up, get dressed, and drive in.

    Turned out that the storm drain pump couldn’t keep up with one heavy rain coming through (we got over 2″ of rain yesterday) and there was about 1/8″ of water in the low spot where the sensor is. The storm drain pump had caught up by then, so I dried the sensor and set it up so if we got 1/2″ down there is get another call. Then I called the alarm company to let them know what was going on, petted the office cat, and came home.

    90 minutes from call to back in bed. Three hours call out time and a half overtime pay. Totally worth it.

  68. AusAnon*

    Can I just say what a difference a good boss makes? Six months ago I left the job I’d been at for five years with a renowned, respected and absolutely terribly boss, and moved to a smaller research group with a less well-known research lead (but at a higher rated university). I was sick of the terrible management and concerned about the impact it was having on my output (I’m an academic, and publish or perish is very true). I spent about six months before I left talking with the man who is now my new boss, to ensure he would be a good boss, and that it would be a good fit, and … wow. I can’t explain what a difference it’s made. Now I actually get to see my boss, to discuss research ideas and student progress. I am asked to join grant applications, trusted to develop research ideas. I was thanked for all my work on a project that was difficult, but that I made work. I’ve even submitted another three manuscripts for publication in the last three months! And last week I told my new boss that I need to have major surgery and will be off for six weeks. I said how I felt bad about given I’ve only been there for six months and already spent a month away (preplanned trip) and he was fabulous about it, saying not to worry at all, that I had to look after myself. (A very different experience from my old boss who wanted me to come into work when I had gastro, and always was angry when anyone took vacation leave, as she rarely did.) There are lots of things which are just the same at this job as my last one (open plan, long commute, long hours, lack of job security as pre-tenure), but having a boss who respects me, values my work, and treats me well makes all the difference. AAMers, they do exist!

    1. Rebecca*

      Yes, good working environments do exist! But when you’re in a miserable situation, it’s hard to see. Good for you!!

  69. Professor Marvel*

    A late comment behind the curtain.
    I’m a manager at a non-profit. The development director (DD) is on my last, frayed nerve. She is only in the office once a week, “working from home” the rest of the time. That means she brings a whirlwind of chaos every week. We have the non-profit and then the foundation. The DD works for the foundation, a separate entity, so she doesn’t report to the ED. She has alienated the entire staff of the nonprofit because she treats them as her personal staff. She will pull front facing people into her office to assist with the exact same thing they taught her to do the previous week. She loses information. Relies on the staff to compile facts easily found. Complains that she doesn’t get information even though she provided an email she never checks. She schedules events that include non-profit staff and facilities before seeing if either are available. I was in a meeting with the ED and DD in the spring and she told this cannot happen. It happened again in September. She tries to make exceptions for donors that violate the law. If she were the ED’s direct report she would’ve be on a PIP. ED has spoken to the foundation offices. It seems that DD is lacking in basic skills to be a DD even though she’s been in the profession for several years. Worse to me is that she keeps trying to get the Foundation or non-profit to hire her various family members. Arrrghh!

    1. Rebecca*

      How frustrating. If the DD doesn’t report to the ED, who does she report to? If she’s pulling in your staff, treating them as her personal staff, and causing chaos in your office, if you’re the manager, can you step in and tell her that from this point on, she must go through you for any staffing needs, as you manage your staff’s time? The worst part is that she tries to make exceptions for donors that violate the law. That alone should raise a red flag with someone in the foundation, as I’m sure they wouldn’t want to run afoul of laws governing what they do.

      Good luck. Maybe if you could put your foot down and stop your staff from providing the weekly support sessions, this situation will resolve itself.

      1. Professor Marvel*

        According to her contract she reports to the president of the foundation. He’s a very nice person, but not confrontational. The treasurer seems to be a more direct supervisor. It makes sense since she’s supposed to be raising money. I don’t think she’s covered her salary this year. I did put my foot down and said she couldn’t pull people off the front desk. A few hours she tried to. I was in ED’s office and DD came in to complain. The ED told her no. It got loud as the DD pounded the desk and said she’s raising money for the non-profit. ED said, “Yes, that’s your job.” While emotionally satisfying it doesn’t seem to take. ED is planning a sit down with the foundation officers with expectations.

    2. Temperance*

      Who is her supervisor? This woman sounds like a monster. I’m guessing that she comes in once per week to work, spends the rest of her time doing nothing, and tries to boss people around because she feels superior.

    3. Bluebell*

      Sorry to hear this. Repeating the same question: who does she report to? The other big question – is she meeting the organization’s fundraising goals? Often that can override many smaller issues, but breaking the law isn’t small. Can the cfo get involved? Or is there a separate controller for the foundation? One other resource should be the board members of the foundation. Does the ed have any allies there?

      1. Professor Marvel*

        No, she’s not really raising enough. She likes taking certain donors to lunch, but doesn’t do much to recruit new donors.

  70. Captain Crunch*

    I recently been through a bit of life upheaval – quit a long term job, then quit another job because the working environment just wasn’t right, I am on my way to this third job now… and tips on how I can make sure this job goes smoothly? How do I maintain a positivity about any roles I will be given? (Because if by job 3 it STILL isn’t working out, I am pretty sure its a ITS NOT YOU ITS ME situation now),

    1. Graciosa*

      Can you explain a bit more about why you left your previous jobs? There isn’t much here to go on.

      I will caution you, however, that expecting a job to go “smoothly” may be an unrealistic expectation (depending on what you mean by it). You can expect to be paid when your paycheck is due, for example, but if smoothly implies that nothing ever goes wrong on the job, well, that is not typical of any endeavor involving human beings.

      I make mistakes at work. Other people make mistakes at work – or they just decide other things are more important at the moment than finishing the Teapot Handle report which was due yesterday. You deal with it when it happens.

      If everything went smoothly all the time my job would be a walk in the park. It isn’t.

      Coping with problems is part of the job.

      There are situations where the type or frequency of issues rises to the point where staying in the job is not a reasonable expectation – but you’re not giving us any color or details that would help us figure out if you’re “I’m out of here!” meter is too sensitive, so I’m not sure what else I can tell you.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      The job/relationship analogy isn’t perfect, but there are times that it’s useful. Just because you aren’t a good match doesn’t meant that it’s your fault or the other party’s fault. Sometimes one party or the other are dysfunctional, and so they may never have a healthy, reciprocal relationship, but sometimes two perfectly decent parties just don’t mesh very well.

      But the analogy fails because people can and should be fine living outside of a relationship, and some people prefer it, but being jobless is not quite as healthy a long-term situation. You may have to make more compromises with a job than you do with a relationship, at least until you can line up another one.

      I think the way to tell if it’s you or your job is to think critically about what you would like to be different, and how realistic that might be. You feel underpaid and wish you were paid a lot more? Most of us do, but how realistic is that? If that’s a realistic wish and you really are underpaid, you should be able to move on to a better-paying job. If you’re already well-compensated according to the market, then it’s not them, it’s you.

      Work on picturing what you want, and how you can get it, and you might find that either you could do better, or that your wishes are unrealistic. Either of those should help you adjust your expectations accordingly.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This might sound odd initially, please bear with me.
      I try to learn people’s names, what they do and some thing that is of interest to them.

      I have found that this has carried me through many awkward or tense situations. If people know you, or think they know you, they are less apt to think ill of you and more apt to approach you directly with concerns.
      For me, it keeps my mind occupied. I spending less time fretting over Things That Don’t Matter and more focused on the job itself.
      I also found that by allowing myself to become known around the adjacent departments that a bully ends up getting less traction if the bully tries their BS with me. Their strength is diluted because of the amount of other people I interact with, even it is just very casual and random interactions.

      I have come to believe that jobs are less about the work itself and more about how well do you get along with those around you?

      From personal experience I have found that learning how to spot (or guess at) a toxic environment while at the interview stage is very helpful.

      This is a scatter-gun answer because I am not sure where the stumbling blocks are in your experiences.

    4. Captain Crunch*

      Thanks Graciosa, Cosmic Avenger, Not So New Reader for the advice. I am really scared to go into details, because my story is quite recent, and I am afraid my boss JUST might be a reader here. But I’ll keep your words in mind for my next step.

  71. Layla*

    Pretty late to this open thread –
    In one of the posts this week, there was a comment made that “. You do not have to answer the question that is asked” ( in a personal context or if you are a politician )
    Does this work for work contexts ? Like if a client asks a question for which you don’t know the answer to or the answer is too sensitive? I’ve seen people doing it and sometimes to me it seems like they did not understand the question genuinely. Or they were pretending. I can’t always tell.

    I guess if you can pull it off and divert the attention successfully , it’s good ?

    1. Graciosa*

      Not in my view.

      I certainly think it’s acceptable to refuse to answer personal questions from a stranger when it is none of their business.

      But if you’re working with a client and don’t know the answer or can’t share confidential information (about another client, for example) just say so. Looking like you have integrity is not a problem, and only builds credibility with people of similar standards. There is nothing impressive about not appearing to understand a question.

      I personally HATE it when politicians are asked appropriate political questions (position on X) and avoid them entirely while they pivot to a sound bite. They are almost always running for something – which is basically a job interview – and refusing to answer job related questions in an interview because they think they have a better chance of getting hired if they *deceive* you instead does not speak highly of their ethics and integrity.

      I don’t think this is an example to follow.

    2. Bea W*

      I hate this approach, even for people who are expected to take it (like politicians). When did it become a bad thing to just be straight with people? I’d argue it’s not working so well for politicians, at least in terms of being trusted in held in high regard.

      When working with clients in a business, you want people to trust and respect you. You do that by being honest with them, particularly around deliverables. These are people who are paying you for a product, and are counting on your to deliver. Depending on the type of work one does, that ability to deliver impacts your client’s business. It is important for them to have information up front to be able to communicate that back to their own bosses and plan.

      If a client or co-worker asks me a question to which I don’t know the answer, I tell them I don’t know the answer. Then I tell them what either I will do or what they can do to get the information they need. This actually happens in my work quite frequently, where I am a lead on a project and all kinds of questions end up on my lap that are “out of my wheelhouse” so to speak. I refer those questions to someone who can answer them or I have to tell a client I need to look into it further and will get back to them. This has been my default approach for many years, and it works well. My manager consistently gets positive feedback from people on this every year come annual review. The people I work with are more concerned that someone is responsive, not necessarily with all the answers, but that their inquiries are being acknowledged, and that even when I don’t have the answer, I am helpful in directing them to someone who does or taking the time to find out myself.

      I also work with sensitive information, and there are times I can’t share certain things. I tell people that when it happens. They are generally understanding. They may be slightly annoyed, but overall they understand a straight answer, and accept it. Sometimes people ask who they would have to talk to for something, and I’ll let them know. I often have the luxury of referring to someone above my head, which is helpful. People understand you have to do what your boss says, and they understand when you can’t disclose something due to things like privacy laws. If you work for yourself, they will be understanding as long as they get a reasonable explanation of why you can’t do something.

      I do also work with service providers that stall and divert. This drives me nuts. This drives my manager nuts. The worst is when I can tell they are diverting and will never actually give me a straight answer. It’s insulting and frustrating.

      What you are seeing is probably a mix of things. Some people just didn’t understand the question and are answering it in the way they understood it, and others are probably diverting because they don’t know the answer or for some other reason. I see the former happen all the time. I’ve done it, answering the question I heard, not realizing it wasn’t the question that was asked, or think I understood when I don’t. These are honest mistakes everyone makes. The difference is when the client comes back and clarifies, you realize you misunderstood and then clear up your answer.

      I don’t know what kind of job you work in, but generally speaking, don’t try to emulate diversionary tactics. You do your clients and yourself a disservice. At worse you make yourself and the company look bad and they take their business elsewhere. It’s also just easier to be honest and not have to keep up a rouse, much less brain energy.

      1. Layla*

        Thanks for the in depth reply ( and also Graciosa above )

        Yea I prefer integrity. I may err on the side of being too straightforward in my answers sometimes … But I shan’t try to deliberately divert… Thanks !

  72. Jascha*

    I know this is both late and my second question this week, but I’m partially responsible for planning some in-office “fun” events for employees at my company. These are the kinds of things that can be done in the space of an hour or two without leaving the office, like a potluck lunch or a sketching class by a visiting instructor. All of the events are, of course, completely optional and no one is penalized (even informally) for not attending, regardless of the reason.
    For those of you who like or participate in such events… what kinds of things do you, or would you, enjoy? I’m looking for activity inspiration for the coming year. The more ideas I can assemble, the better, because I can bring them to the decision-makers and let them choose which ones are best for our office culture. (They care deeply about office morale and making sure we work hard and play hard – but we’re not a Silicon Valley tech startup; we don’t have the money for a company masseuse or slides on the staircases…)

      1. Captain Crunch*

        also second the amazing race idea. Although the office was pretty MEH when it was announced, on the day itself everybody had a lot of fun.

        1. JaneB*

          paper aeroplane contest (especially if you have a big hall or high staircase so you can have a ‘how long do they stay in the air’ contest at the end). Did this once at a conference, someone brought along a pile of different designs (I think it was a kids book on paper plane making cut up, actually) and a stack of paper, and it was a great time.

          Chocolate tasting – single source chocolate, get someone from a specialist shop to come along. Also tea-tasting, coffee tasting, cheese tasting, whatever might be popular or is locally relevant.

          I love the idea of a sketching class! I might actually do that and I am definitely a hide-in-a-corner type at work events.

          1. Jascha*

            Thank you for this list! I think the latter ideas might appeal to management, and I can think of quite a few people who might enjoy the first suggestion…

    1. Temperance*

      My office has done “Minute to Win It” contests. They’re always popular, and I think you can find similar ones online.

      What about the Office Olympics?

      1. Jascha*

        Ha! I’d never even heard of “Minute to Win It,” but I’ll circulate the idea and see if there’s interest!

    2. Bellatrix*

      Call me boring but I’m at the stage in my career where free food is the best type of fun. Plus, it’s generally inside everyone’s comfort zone (as long as you take food restrictions into account), whereas I can’t draw and don’t want to appear incompetent in front of everyone.

      Again, I know I sound boring, but I don’t really want to do art or sports with my coworkers, it’s too personal. But I’m imagining a pumpkin&mango wrap with tahini… catered by the company though, potlucks are simply too demanding of your employees. And it’s easier to bond over food. Is that something you could fit inside your budget?

      1. Jascha*

        Free food and drink are fun! We’re already doing a few of those types of events – ice cream socials, happy hours, the company’s annual birthday party, summer and Christmas parties – and there are always snacks and treats at the non-food-type events. But we’re a small company and we can’t cater all the time, so it can’t be the only thing we plan. Of course, everything is optional, as I’ve said, so no one has to participate unless they’d like to (and there are no formal or informal consequences for not joining in).

      1. Jascha*

        I like that! The management would actually like to take us all to a movie theatre one day next year for a matinee, so I imagine they’d certainly be open to movies in the office – though we’d have to choose carefully.

    3. Marisol*

      My office had a krav maga instructor give a lesson and I heard it was a big hit. I wanted to go but couldn’t on that day. I don’t know how the instructor is compensated but I think it might be a nominal charge or even free, because it is a way for the instructor to drum up business, so it’s win-win.

      From time to time, employee feedback is solicited using brief company-wide surveys, so we tell management what is important to us, what we like or don’t like, etc. Maybe you could get input directly from the folks you work with in similar way.

      1. Jascha*

        That sounds awesome! I’m involved in martial arts (though not very advanced) and people are interested in what I do, so I’m sure something like that would be popular.
        I do invite input from people on a regular basis, encouraging them to bring me ideas and suggestions – but although they all say they have them (and most seem to enjoy the events that are planned), they never seem to get around to sending them to me!

    4. Iron Chef*

      My office runs an “Iron Chef” competition each year, which is very popular. Like the TV show, a special ingredient is announced and teams have to cook a dish based on this, with up to 4 other ingredients. We cook on the office sandwich presses. Lots of fun!

      1. Jascha*

        Ooh, that sounds great! We have office microwaves and a toaster, but I’m sure a few people I know could be persuaded to bring in their sandwich presses or George Foreman-style grills (I’ve got one). I’ll definitely have to think about that one further – thank you!

    5. Theguvnah*

      Cookie decorating contest
      Cocktail making competition
      Sundae bar
      For holidays we include costume contests or ugly holiday sweater competition
      Department trivia – there are some websites that let you create games if each department enters a couple facts/answers questions

      1. Jascha*

        Thank you! The cookie decorating might be fun for Christmas, and I bet a lot of people would have fun with the cocktails. I’ll check out the trivia option, too – we ran a demographic survey recently, so that could factor in as well.

  73. Old Dog*

    I anticipate receiving a job offer early next week from an organization I’m quite interested in, but I’m unsure about how or if to negotiate salary due to an earlier conversation with HR about salary. Before initiating a phone screen the recruiter went over my experience, year by year, seemingly calculating the number of full time years of employment I have under my belt, before giving me a specific salary figure. I said it made sense to move forward ( the number was in my ballpark and not unreasonable) and the recruiter pressed,” Are you ok with that figure?” I said “Yes”. I’ve never had this experience before and find it refreshing and respectful of everyone’s time, but don’t know how/if I can negotiate for more after agreeing to the salary ( in order to move to the phone screen). I don’t want to leave any money on the table, particularly as I would like to stay with this company for a long time and all future increases will be based on this initial salary. Btw, there were no surprises about the tasks or scope of the job revealed during the interview process that I could leverage to request a higher salary. The only unknown was cost of health insurance. Thoughts?

  74. Cat steals keyboard*

    I’m late but just want to thank the people who recently reassured me I had handled something well. I made an ill-judged use of reply all, not fully realising it was going to our entire team as another colleague keeps accidentally including our all-team email. As soon as I sent the damn thing I realised I seemed like I was undermining my manager even though that wasn’t my intention.

    So I told my manager exactly that: that I had realised she might feel undermined and I was sorry as this wasn’t my intention. She said yes, she did feel like that and reply all was the wrong choice here. I listened, told her I understood why it was the wrong choice, and asked if there was anything I could do. She said just make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    I felt sick but hoped I had handled it well and commenters reassured me I had so thanks for that.

    With a bit of time and distance I think I did handle it well. I have discussed it with a couple of people in my life who said “but you were right” (yes I was, but that’s beside the point) and that they would have got defensive and also pointed out that other colleague copied everyone in first. I was able to just listen to the feedback and ask what was needed. I think I would be happy if I was the manager in that scenario.

    1. Marisol*

      I think you can make a great impression by handling a mistake well–you can make more of an impression than if you never made a mistake in the first place. Now your manager has seen you handle a mistake gracefully, and that gives her valuable insight into the kind of employee you are.

  75. Jonathan*

    People have often suggested tailoring your resume for particular positions that you are applying for. But what about tailoring it in order to use it to apply for multiple positions with the same company and specifically stating in the objective or summary that you are looking to work for that particular company in some capacity? Would this be a good strategy or would it make you appear desperate and insincere?

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I would do the resume tailoring the same as you would normally — it’s a marketing document for how good you would be at the specific position you’re applying for, after all! I would not use the resume to say that you really want to work for the specific company. That’s a cover letter thing, and you really don’t want to lean too heavily on it. Focus on the position and why you’d be great at it, and throw in a sentence or two about how you’re keen to work at the company because they do X, Y, and Z things that you are really passionate about.

    2. Bellatrix*

      I don’t really like objectives on resumes. Tailoring your resume means emphasizing the most relevant aspects of your past experience – as Countless said, your future goals belong in the cover letter.

  76. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


    So I know I kind of dropped off the face of the earth as far as AAM is concerned — well, my job at my last employer ended, no drama no fanfare, at the end of September. I had six weeks (half my severance period) to bum around and not really do anything, and then my new job has started.

    It is CRAZY but also awesome. Right now, we’re in intensive studying mode preparing to take the series 7 exam (general securities registered representative). I basically have no time for anything in my life but studying — my apartment is a wreck and my social life has vanished. But my training team is fantastic, and I’m really happy to say that I know of at least 5 people from my old employer that made the jump to the current location with me.

  77. NewBoss2016*

    Update! I posted a few weeks ago about a new employee being excluded from “big fun trip” because they were just shy of the 1-year mark. Well, they are not going to be sitting at the office alone! Turns out the CEO didn’t even remember the rule (although office manager did and was making sure they were being excluded). Everyone is going, and I am so relieved to have that awkward situation taken care of so easily!

  78. Hazel Asperg*

    Good news – my manager has been amazing regarding my new fibromyalgia diagnosis. My overly chatty co-worker evidently finds it awkward that I have a new condition, and is avoiding me (yay!) and my office buddies are being really supportive.

  79. Anon Geek with Resigning Boss*

    I accepted a great job offer this week and officially gave notice! I owe a lot to this site and Allison’s resume review.

    I was really excited by the company’s mission and track record, but I don’t have the required experience in their specific industry. I originally interviewed for an analyst position; despite lacking the required their-industry experience, after in-person interviews with several team members, they did a follow-up interview and then hired me for a position that’s three title steps higher (and matches my current title). Thanks to Allison, my resume and cover letter really emphasized that I succeed and quickly start delivering when I get thrown in the deep end (and that I LIKE debugging and fixing things).

    It’s a growing company and the team I’m joining is VALUED! On holidays, they actually turn on monitoring on whether anyone is sending company email etc., to enforce a workplace norm that you should NOT be working on holidays. I’m trading in my commute to a miserable job that I’ve outgrown for an easy commute that’s 1/3 the length where I’ll be learning new things and finally using my statistics training from graduate school.

    Thank you, everyone!

  80. Anon, Anon, Anon, old job*

    Posting late- not sure if anyone will reply, but here it goes.
    I’m at a stage in my career where people usually leave the job I’m in- there is a marker that, when people reach it, they usually leave for better-paying, less stressful jobs. I reached that marker about 10 months ago; at the time, I talked to my boss and he asked me if I wanted to stay. I said I did because, overall, I like my job and money is thankfully not a big concern for me. My boss indicated, at that time, that he would “work with me to keep me” as he really needs people who have passed that marker. I also have a sub specialty of teapot making that makes me very desirable to my company. Recently, I got some press for this skill in local media. Also, I have the best relationship with a source for customers, to the point where they ask for me specifically when referring people for teapot services.
    However, in the past couple months, my boss has seemingly gone out of his way to make me look bad to the source for teapot customer referrals. He also has become upset when the source for customers refers to me specifically or praises me. He has asked me to cross-train other in my teapot making specialty, which I have tried to do- but no one else really wants to learn about chocolate teaspoon manufacturing and I can’t force them. When they see a need for chocolate teaspoon manufacturing, they try to give those customers to me. I tell them to talk to boss, but they usually end giving the customer to me after talking to boss-he approves them handing the customers over. Thus, I haven’t done much cross-training. And my boss is annoyed with me.
    Now, I have an offer for an easier, better-paying job. I was going to offer to go part time at my current job to help with the transition and to cross-train on my specialty- it would be possible to do with the new job. But my boss’s behavior gives me pause- he has actively tried to make me look bad and I’m worried he will do it even more when she knows I am leaving or if I am part time and not as available as I have been. He has done things in the past like this. He does not hesitate to call me on my days off and is upset if I do not reply promptly. The stress from this has caused me health problems and I am scared for my future health. If you read all this, thank you and I’d love your thoughts.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t see any benefit to you of going part-time at your old job while you’re starting a new job, and I see a ton of reasons why you shouldn’t do it.

      You get to leave this job. You don’t owe it anything even if your manager had been a flipping saint for this past year, and he wasn’t. It’s okay if he’s upset; he’s a grownup and he’ll get over it.

    2. Belle diVedremo*

      Sounds like you’ve done your time there and are free to move on to this better paying, lower stress job. Your boss has shown you how you’d be treated if you offered to help him after you start your new job. Why would you set yourself up for that instead of focusing on the new job and what you’d like to focus on moving forward?

      1. Anon, Anon, Anon, old job*

        Thank you. I think I know that, but it is hard because I feel grateful that boss gave me a job when I was fresh out of grad school. But I know this move is best for me and my family- current job basically would make it impossible for me to have children, due to the stressors of the job and my health problems. I need to move on. Thanks to you both for replying.

        1. ALICE*

          Remember, as Alison always tries to hammer the point, a job is not doing you a favor by hiring you. You have entered into a MUTUALLY beneficial BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP. You do not owe gratitude for someone (especially not indefinitely at the expense of your peace of mind) hiring you when you were a good candidate for the position. You work, you’ve done well, you are compensated for your contribution. You added to the company over the years, and you are allowed to move on, guilt free. Don’t set yourself up for guilt trips that need not exist. Best of luck and ENJOY that new job. Give 2 weeks or 3 weeks or whatever notice, do your best to leave some useful notes and wrap up projects and leave. They will figure it out just like they would have to do if you were hit by a bus tomorrow.

        2. animaniactoo*

          If you need any further impetus – just think, if this is the way he’s treating you while trying to work with you to keep you around because he *needs* you and your experience… how do you think he’ll treat you when he’s not trying to “work with you” anymore?

          Also – he did not *give* you a job. You were the best candidate for the job, based on whatever number factors, and you got it because of that. YOU got yourself the job.

          That simple. Whatever gratitude might have been theoretically owed has been paid back by doing the job. He has already been paid back for it. You owe him nothing further than due consideration based on your business relationship with him today.

    3. Bellatrix*

      I agree with fposte and Belle.

      You somehow feel obligated to ensure the transition. I had that feeling at a previous job I was leaving, thus causing me to give ridiculously long notice, but looking back, I realise my old job simply had poor documentation and contingency planning. It was this poorly set out policy that meant a lot would go wrong if I wasn’t there personally and what made me feel guilty about leaving. But people leave jobs all the time and it’s definitely normal to leave a job after ten years. You don’t owe your company anything – it’s their responsibility to ensure the transition goes smoothly. If they suck at doing that, it’s their problem, not yours. And that seems to be a case: the fact that an employee hasn’t been ordered to learn chocolate teapot manufacturing is poor management.

      Part-time is really going to be a huge imposition on you and won’t allow you to fully concentrate on your new job (where you want to make a great first impression in your first few weeks). Add in a hostile boss, who doesn’t respect your set working hours, meaning he’d continue to call you outside your part-time hours. Add in the fact whoever you’d be cross-training would be unwilling. It wouldn’t be fair to you.

      If you really want to be nice to your current company, which you really aren’t obligated to considering how they’re treating you, try to produce some written documentation (how-to guides) in your remaining time. Three weeks notice could also be generous if you really want to, but please don’t sacrifice your well-being for a boss who doesn’t respect you.

    4. Manda*

      Congratulations and don’t feel guilty for doing what’s best for you. I wouldn’t mention that you’d considered the part-time option; I hope that you recover your health soon.

    5. NicoleK*

      I’ve been in your shoes. Felt guilty about leaving and overcompensated by going above and beyond for Old Company after I left. My relationship with Old Boss had deteriorated significantly by the time I resigned ( I should not have ignored that red flag). Ultimately, my efforts really were not appreciated and the experience left me bitter. Looking back, the only obligation I had to the company was to give adequate notice and to complete high priority tasks that could be accomplished during my notice period. The rest was no longer my responsibility.

  81. Anonymouse*

    Also jumping in rather late, but it’s probably a rant more than anything. Went for an interview with Company A (small firm) early November and Company B (big international) a week later. Company B said I’d hear by the end of that week. At the end of that week Company A offered me a job and I asked them for a week to think about it. I’d rather work for Company B as it’s more money, more interesting and closer to my hometown. When Company B didn’t get back to me that week I emailed them as their deadline has passed and told them about Company A’s offer. They said I’d hear by the next Monday, which has now gone. I’ve managed to squeeze a couple of extra days from Company A, mentioning I wanted to visit the city and check out rentals before I fully commit. But they’re clear they want someone to start soon and I can’t keep stringing them along, especially as this is eating into time I could have spent looking for somewhere to live (it’s not possible at all to commute from my parent’s house). I should have been firmer with Company B and given them a fixed deadline, my parents keep telling me they’re sure I’ll hear the next day but how long can I give it? I’m convinced the second I accept Company A’s offer or put a deposit down on a flat I’ll get a phone call from Company B offering me a better position.

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