open thread – November 4-5, 2016

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

{ 1,470 comments… read them below }

  1. Ella*

    I’ve been at a company for about a year and it’s becoming more and more corporate all the time… more programs to push forward a “change management model”, employee vision, employee recognition program… it used to be a very family oriented/employee friendly business but more and more they keep pushing people to work more and more, making changes all the time… it’s really turning people off and becoming a very cold environment.

    An employee survey was done and not everyone was honest, results looked more positive than they are and when management team members tried to speak up saying this isn’t reflective of what they are hearing they were dismissed. There is a huge gap between the management team and the staff and there doesn’t seem to be any way for the management team members to wake up and get it. Those that do seem afraid to say anything.

    Anyone have any experience with this? Even my husband’s company is implementing more and more ideas from books and corporate programs and it seems like the thinking is all we have to do is implement a program, put a logo or design to it, roll it out and people will be happy. It’s very odd to see people that out of touch. Any suggestions?

    1. Ella*

      Let me add that we are a non-profit organization and that employees are starting to become concerned that if they don’t show excitement about these programs that it could affect their evaluations. One roll out was met with lukewarm enthusiasm and the lead manager seemed frustrated that people were thrilled and engaged by the presentation. Even our “Leadership Team” does not consist of all our managers but only managers who have gone through a LIEB Works Leadership program so even in that instance people start to see the preferential treatment if you buy in to the new thinking.

      Thanks in advance for any comments.

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Yup. LEAN Management?

      There are definitely some really good upsides to implementing some facets of this culture, but not at the expense of treating employees like cogs in a machine. There are a lot of growing pains with these types of models, and employees often don’t feel safe being honest on surveys about them.

      1. Anon7*

        I wonder if there are any reputable studies about the fact that employees aren’t always honest on surveys that management might pay attention to. If you could convince them that survey results aren’t the be-all, end-all of what’s going on at the company, maybe some of them might be more receptive?

        Where I work, everyone in management seems to be wearing rose-colored glasses, and everything that contradicts their “this new management style is great and everybody loves it!” attitude is ignored, unfortunately. I think they’re just blinded by the shiny new toy, and hopefully once the edge wears off they’ll be more open to feedback.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I have a background in social science research with a side of user research and I unfortunately do not have specific citations, but it is a generally known thing in fields that do survey research that respondents have a pronounced tendency to try and tell you what you want to hear. And that’s when they’re doing it for research and will never see you again. I can’t even imagine how bad the bias gets when the survey is run by the people who sign their paychecks.

          In the fields where I’ve done surveys we tried to control for this by concealing the “desired” response wherever possible and by corroborating survey responses with actual behavior (e.g. if 80% of people say they like a feature on a survey but only 30% of users use that feature, they clearly don’t like it THAT much). You probably can’t hide the ‘desired response’ in a workplace survey, though.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      My last organization suffered from this. It was a well-funded nonprofit startup, and when I was hired (as the 23rd staff person; by the time I left two years later we were around 150) it was scrappy and creative and we all just figured it out together. Over time, our leadership developed more and more systems to manage our work — many of which were effective and helpful, but some of which made the work feel overmanaged.

    4. Jessesgirl72*

      A few things to note here: Some people really just like to complain. It doesn’t mean they weren’t honest on the (I assume) anonymous surveys. Or the complainers were just a vocal minority, and everyone else is happy enough.

      The other thing is that these things in books usually don’t work out. So a company will implement them, some parts of them will be an utter failure (What, you can’t accurately account for every minute of your workweek a week/month ahead, because you’re the one in support writing the patches, and don’t know a week in advance what is going to break? That messes up the nice forms!) So then they’ll give up on that, and things will go along for awhile until they get the next hairbrained idea. It goes in cycles of every year/every other year. Which isn’t really helpful, except in knowing that “This too shall pass”

    5. spiralsofgrace*

      Do you work at my company? Because it feels exactly that way where I work too. I was hired on ~5 years ago, about 6 months after they hired a new CEO, and I’ve noticed a definite push since when I started from what I think was ‘a meaningful business that does quality work while being fun to work at’ to ‘a meaningful business that is trying to grow it’s profits because the CEO had a grand plan to do so’. .

      I work in a field where mistakes could mean people’s lives. Nobody is a robot, nobody can just work more and more hours without sacrificing quality and/or life outside of work. The company I joined five years ago seems to be disappearing in the midst of ‘can you take on one more project?’, and the turnover rate has started to reflect that.

    6. H.C.*

      RE: misleading results, maybe inform HR that there should be clearer communication to all-staff about the anonymity / confidentiality protections of the employee survey, as well as the importance of honest answers (i.e. “We can’t fix problems that we don’t know about.”)

      As for the culture itself, is it possible for you & your co-workers to organize informal activities to bond & connect? Such as lunch outings, after-hours mixers, weekend hike, volunteer activities? (and if you can get your org’s support for these things – such a comp time for volunteering or sponsoring one of these socials – even better.)

    7. CMT*

      Question: How can you be certain that the results of the survey weren’t accurate? Could it be that people who do like the new system aren’t as vocal about it?

    8. HRChick*

      We get that complaint a lot with the changes we are implementing – getting too corporate.

      But, I’ve got to say that we never implement anything without a reason. That and someone will always complain.

      For example, we’ve begun writing more policy because there was an issue with favoritism and managers being afraid to say “no” or not having the right guidance. Not because we like to tell people what to do, but because people need to be told what their options are.

      An employee recognition program, for example – here, the SAME people would get rewards over and over because there was no standard guidance. With the program, new people are being recognized for their work.

      A performance management problem – we had a huge issue with employees complaining that everyone got the same increases even though they were bad employees and Susie Superwoman wasn’t motivated anymore because what’s the point.

      Now we get complaints about how they don’t like to be evaluated, though lol. So, you can’t win.

      And I have found that in life, people like to complain. Vehemently. Even if when it comes down to it, they’re accepting the change and understand why it happened. So, the things you hear people complaining about are probably because they are given the opportunity to do so.

      Lastly (and I know this is very rambly!) – anonymous surveys are never anonymous. There are a thousand different ways that identity can be found out from the IP to the content. That also might be why the survey was lighter.

      1. Pari*

        Much of that is because you didn’t have a consistent management philosophy. Now that people see how you’ve chosen to operate they are deciding whether or not they like or are willing to live with it. It will get much easier going forward when you can discuss this up front with candidates

        1. HRChick*

          Things change – even in business. While some people like the “family” style, many find that it encourages a lot of favoritism and bias.

          Having a consistent management philosophy, to me, is less important than having good change management.

          1. DragoCucina*

            +1–We’ve had people complain about us not being as “family oriented/employee friendly business”. Yet, some of the things that made us that way were actually illegal. As you mention, a history of favoritism and bias. There was also a history of “mean girl” cliques. When we went to treating everyone more equitably I received complaints that we were “colder”. Policies were implemented prior to problems rather than in response to them.

            As for honest surveys. Some people will give the answer they think I want to hear and then whine and complain. We simplified our website address. I explained why. Everyone nodded their heads. Then when I was on vacation I had one person tell everyone that she refused to use it because she didn’t think it was valid. She was still complaining about a software change from four years previous.

            1. Ella*

              That’s really an interesting point I hadn’t considered. I came on board while the place was already moving away from being more family oriented and what is left of it I actually find odd at times, I’ve never seen certain things in a professional setting. But coming from a very abusive manager I have tried to warm up to certain things. I don’t think I’m great at it though, I prefer to work.

              But yes I can see where that could be an issue. I don’t have a problem with structure or policies, there is much in this place that is broken but what they are doing now, rolling out one thing after another, isn’t efficient or effective. And because decisions are made at the management level the mess and confusion created is left to the rest of us to deal with.

          2. Pari*

            Eh not everyone is going to be okay with changes no matter how well you manage them. There will always be some who say that’s not what I signed up for

    9. Annabelle Lee*

      My nonprofit employer has become much more “corporate” over the last few years too. Our CEO is from a large tech company (think printers) so has no concept of how nonprofits typically work.
      Our “anonymous” survey is a joke. HR management spends tons of time trying to figure out who in each area is the unhappy one (or more). Then if a whole group gets a low culture score, they have to go thru mandatory team building training. I’ve heard managers tell their staff to lie on the survey so they don’t have to do the team building.

    10. Ella*

      Thanks everyone for the feedback. It’s interesting that we are a non-profit in the healthcare industry and have recently had a few executives, including a new CEO who came from hospitals and so I assume that has been part of the change we are seeing. We certainly needed to up our game and could certainly stand to update some processes but the change models and programs do not stop… for example there was a recent re-org in a few departments and while it was announced and went into effect on 10/24 the managers of these teams still don’t have their new titles. It would just be good to slow down a little… but later this month they are having an all day retreat to discuss plans for next year and talk about more models, one that still hasn’t been presented to the staff (non-management). Managers are in so many meetings that their own staff can’t get a hold of them during the day and managers are frustrated that they can’t get their own work done. But it just keeps going.

      We haven’t seen a huge turnover given the benefits at this company are so good but people are starting to feel that it’s worth seeing what other companies are offering.

      I like the team building ideas but I wonder if they will think ‘why is that needed?’. We used to have ‘denim days’ in our company, where you would give $5 and wear jeans to support a local charity but now we haven’t done that for a few years. In our all day retreat coming up the thought around maybe not working through lunch was that could be team building time. But I think something more constructive would be positive.

      The survey HR used was not communicated as anonymous until people asked so they later clarified it was. But they used Survey Monkey and the link in the email received clearly said, under the access button, to please not forward as it is specific to you. So clearly not as anonymous as advertised!

      1. TheLazyB*

        I send out surveys!! It’s likely to be that each recipient gets a one-time-only link to stop people from completing it more than once. So it may still be anon.

        Our staff survey is contracted out, so the company who administers it could probably look at specific results, but they don’t know me so why would they care?

        We also send another survey. It’s analysed anonymously, but we can link it back to respondents if necessary – but would only do so in very limited circumstances. When we’ve done so on the past the recipients have been grateful.

    11. Chaordic One*

      I have not had good experiences with “change management.” In my experience, it amounted to a lot of additional work for already overworked and overwhelmed employees, with pathetically little in the way of actual support, recognition or even gratitude.

      In exactly the ways you describe, too few employees received recognition. Many of the employees who did receive recognition were undeserving. They were usually the ones who didn’t really have to deal with that much in the way of change, and not the ones who did the heavy lifting. The people who speak up with legitimate objections have those objections dismissed.

      The employees who options move onto better jobs or take early retirement, but a fair number of employees get thrown under the bus. When there is no actual increase in productivity and/or profitability, or when there are high rates of turnover, management will reconsider and institute some new program to address the problems. But not until there are significant problems. The ball is in management’s court. For the majority of employees there is “No recourse.”

    12. Not So NewReader*

      It sounds like there is more of a narrower focus on the work itself and less about employee’s needs and concerns.

      It would be wise of management to explain each change as it is happening and why the change is necessary or important.

      I do know that regs have gotten off the charts crazy. Compliance with these regs has people jumping through hoops like we have never seen before. This chews up huge amounts of people’s time and that personal connection steps out the door as everyone is buried in redundant paperwork.

      I think changes are especially noticeable the longer you stay with a company. I stayed with one place for over a decade. By the time I left the job was nothing like when I started.
      The work itself was easier and safer on many levels.The good news ends there. However, the infighting and backbiting was through the roof. Our regs that we worked under basically straight-jacketed us as we could not do the most basic things. Most of us felt a huge energy drain trying to come up with ideas that were workable given what we were allowed to do.

      To console myself, I made myself recall the way the job used to be. There were many scary days. I also consoled myself by reminding me that I had been there a while so I knew where the pitfalls were. I knew what not to do, I knew who not to mention what to and so on. And in a snarky way, I used to say, all these changes only create SMARTER workers. I meant smarter in the context of people became more clever about finding ways to torpedo the company. Because that is what happened
      On a day-to-day perspective, I would take each change and ask myself, “this effects me HOW?” Surprisingly, many of the changes really did not impact me directly. It did not make the workplace more pleasant however.

      Tell yourself that no matter what they come up with you are still YOU. You are still a thinking, creative, hard-working person. They can’t take that away from you, if you decide not to allow it. Sometimes the best we can get is that we can live with ourselves. There were nights where I went home and slept JUST FINE. I knew I had done a day’s work with sincerity and integrity. Other people, not so much.

  2. Kipper*

    How do you get over the fear of moving from a not-great job to a worse job? It’s time for me to move on from my current job (the culture has never been a good fit and I’ve spent years struggling against it), but I’m afraid of giving up my good job (tolerable, great compensation, good people) and landing from the frying pan into the fire. All of my screening, intuition, etc. failed me here—they misrepresented their culture so thoroughly in the interview process.

    How do I feel confident that I’ll move on to something better, not something worse again?

    1. PanicAttack*

      Are there specific things in this culture or about the job that you can articulate and specifically ask about? It won’t prevent people from lying, of course. One way of looking at it is that you know you will not be happy if you stay at your current job. You have a chance of being happy if you go to something new.

    2. ButFirstCoffee*

      I am dealing with similar feelings. To me, writing stuff down always helps. So write down what you don’t like about your current job, and use it to form questions for your interviewer, as Panic Attack mentions. Then compare those answers to your current job. This might give you some peace to see what you can look forward to (as long as they are a trustworthy interviewer!)

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        There is a danger, though, of going the opposite extreme—instead of finding a healthy balance of things, you find a company that is very wrong in the other direction.

    3. Moonsaults*

      I had my breaking point a couple of years ago and was scared to move on because “what if it’s worse.” The key is to remind yourself that you cannot color your POV based on one terrible experience.

      It’s much like what if you’re in a relationship with someone who sucks, they lie to you and turned out to be a real jerk. Do you then say “Well I cannot move on because the next one will be just as bad or even worse!”

      You have to take the plunge and go through with the break-up. It’s much worse when you’re looking at it with those negative beat down eyes, I know all too well.

      It does get better. You need to do those internal pep talks. Remind yourself that you’re a great asset to a team and you will find your fit.

      I was truthful when I went into my interviews to the extent that I used this as a reason to tell them who I was and what I was looking for. I didn’t go in thinking that I had to do anything to get the job, as Alison says, this isn’t a one way transaction.

      1. chickabiddy*

        I am not picking on you specifically; I just chose this post to respond to. I do think that there are some good parallels between jobs and relationships, especially in the interviewing/dating phase. But there is one major way that this fails for me. I got a divorce even though I didn’t have a new husband lined up and everything is just fine and I’ll start dating or whatever when it feels right. If I quit my job, I probably won’t be just fine and I’ll likely have to start the process of finding a new one ASAP and not when it “feels right”.

    4. Marcy Marketer*

      I am in a similar place. I had a toxic job, and I interviewed a few places and ended up with two offers. I chose my current job because I thought it would be a better culture fit, but it was not what I thought. As you said, all my screening questions failed me. Still, I have great benefits, vacation, and I like my day to day. I’m afraid I’ll leave and have it worse elsewhere.

      I would say for your next job, read and believe online reviews, be honest with yourself, and try to find friends or connections who work at companies you’re considering to ask for the “inside scoop.” Try to at least go for a position that offers a better title or salary, so if it isn’t a good fit, at least you’ll be better compensated! And good luck :)

    5. Ella*

      I can relate and I feel for you. In my situation I don’t know if I’m trying to make the best of it or if I’m just convincing myself to stay and shouldn’t. I try not to kick myself that I felt like I did my due diligence coming in and should have seen certain things but I did my best at the time. We’re all human.

      I would hope that your current experience would help you NOT select the same kind of place moving forward. You just start looking and I would bring it up in the process as someone else mentioned, that this is what you are looking for and this is part of why you are leaving. Now you know better I would think you could use your experience as a tool to get you to a better place.

      Good luck! I think starting to take action can build some momentum and help you feel better. All you can do is your best.

    6. Namast'ay In Bed*

      Been there, done that, looked back later and wondered why I stayed so long.

      My last job made me miserable, wasn’t teaching me anything, treated me poorly, and paid me terribly. The only “positive” was my coworkers – misery loves company! Despite all the negatives, I was terrified by “what if the next place is somehow even worse??”. Now that I’m at my current job where I’m happy, learning all the time, get treated awesome and paid great I kick myself for staying at the old job so long. It can get better – way better!

      Now that I’m done annoying you with my positivity, here’s my advice – talk with people who work at the company, not just the interviewers. If you get the opportunity after your interview, take a walk around the office, get a feel for the environment. If they don’t want you talking to people or seeing the office, that’s probably a bad sign.

      What really worked for me was I got my current job through a friend – they were able to give me an honest representation of the company and I got to really know what I was walking into. Talk with your friends and colleagues about what their company is like. If it sounds like a place you’d be interested in, ask them to keep an ear out for openings in whatever your department is, or if they’d be comfortable passing along your resume. I know you might not want to bother your friends, but they probably know you’re miserable and want to help get you out of there! (A possible referral bonus is even more motivating!)

    7. anonycat*

      I took the leap of faith a month ago. While some parts of new company are behind the times, overall the culture is 100x better. I decided if I didn’t take the jump now I never would, and I was so incredibly miserable. I went by how I felt when I came out of the interview. I felt like I just “fit” unlike the interviews I’ve had in the past couple of years.

    8. Jessesgirl72*

      If you’ve been at your job for “years,” know that there are better research tools available now. Glassdoor was really just getting started during my last search 4 years ago, but now it’s loaded with reviews and detailed information.

      The other thing to remind yourself is that nothing is permanent. Gone are the days when the norm was you started with a company fresh out of school and stayed with them until retirement. People are a lot more mobile now, and that’s expected in most industries. So if you get a new job that is an even worse fit for you than your current job, after the usual settling in period, then start looking again. In the meantime, at least you’ll be making more money.

      1. Ella*

        Yes Glassdoor is really an excellent tool. I will say in my current role, where during the interview process it seemed like a great company, I did notice the reviews for my company were not as high as I had hoped when I first looked them up!

    9. Golden Lioness*

      Just flip it around. Tell yourself… What if it’s better? Why not? All you can do is ask questions and your due diligence. If for some reason a new job s not a good fit, you can always find another one whenever you are ready to job-hunt again.

      The reality is that a lot of people don’t “love” their jobs. For most of us our jobs are just like what you’re already describing. Fortunately, the really bad, toxic or unhealthy situations are not the norm… it’s just that we hear more about them because they make such good stories… good luck!

    10. SS*

      I was at a terrible job for too long and just started a new job a couple weeks ago. I was scared of the same thing, but this new job is soooooooo much better. While it is a leap of faith, keep a close eye on small signals while interviewing. When you ask about expected hours, do they look nervous? Conversely, do they answer so quickly you barely finished your question? Those are both probably bad signs. Do they seem genuinely excited about you? Do the people there look relaxed and cheerful? Are they pushy at all?

      Take every little detail you notice and blow it up 10 fold in your head. If you’re misunderstanding questions, it’s likely you’d have communication issues working there. If theyre running late, expect them to be late to everything. If they don’t really listen to your answers and are just going through the motions, they probably won’t listen to your input/opinions that much. In retrospect there were a lot of red flags when I interviewed for my last job, but I didn’t notice them because the work seemed great and I was too nervous during the process. This time around I asked very detailed questions, paid close attention to all the details, and wrote down my feelings immediately afterwards to reflect back on. I tried to really step back from the shiny presentation of the work and benefits, and imagine the tedium of day to day life with these people.

    11. MC*

      Each new move is an opportunity and you learn more each time. I went to a place and three days in I knew I made a terrible mistake. Terrible terrible terrible mistake. Timing was on my side because three months later I had lined up a new job. I’ve been with them for close to 20 years now. Holy cow, I’ve been with them close to 20 years.

    12. Anonymous Commenter #143*

      I’m dealing with something similar right now. I remind myself that since this is the worst place I have ever worked, it’s unlikely nextjob will be as bad or worse. I don’t know if that will help you since your current job isn’t The Worst Job Ever. Good luck to you!

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        Thanks for asking this question. I’m in a similar position and have the same concerns about moving on. I think that’s the downside to reading this blog. Lots of helpful advice but apart from the positive updates, we mostly only hear about problem offices. (Although wasn’t there a thread a while back about good things readers’ bosses had done?) It’s easy to start to believe that the majority of workplaces are dysfunctional.

    13. Chaordic One*

      You don’t really ever get over that fear, and there’s always a chance that your new job will turn out to be worse than your current one. But you feel the fear and “do it anyway.” You know that you’ll do your best in any job you take and that’s about all anyone can ask for.

      If you wait long enough the problem will take care of itself. (You’ll probably get fired from your current not-great job and get thrown from the frying pan into the fire.) Or you can take charge of things, and start looking and conducting a discrete job search and hopefully you’ll find something before the problem takes care of itself.

  3. DevAssist*

    Woohoo! Friday!

    So…my boss fired our IT guy vary mysteriously and suddenly this week and now we have no IT department for 100+ employees. Ugh. We were also told that if he calls the office to report it to her, and I’m just wondering WTH happened because he’s super nice.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Back in the 90s our IT guy got fired for running a Nigerian scam using our computer equipment (yes, he was nigerian in case anyone is wondering)! He was married and kept asking me and a couple of other women to go out on dates with him. Blech.

          1. Golden Lioness*

            You know it! with a 50,000,000 fortune that he wants to generously deposit into your bank account!

          2. DragoCucina*

            Ha! My oldest son roomed at college with a Nigerian prince. He (the prince) used to laugh and say it’s because in his village his family had more goats. The body guard for his parents implied otherwise. It was a running joke among the him and the students that they were all going to share in his fortune–divided out it was about $7.25. His fortune wasn’t as big at the computer guy’s obviously.

        1. De Minimis*

          An IT guy was fired at my workplace for working on outside work projects using our IT resources on company time. I wasn’t around for it, but apparently he accidentally e-mailed something to the entire staff that revealed what he was doing.

        2. Anon for good reason*

          In my old team last year a guy was sacked for helping run a pirate radio station from his office laptop. The rest of us were speechless.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think you should wonder what’s going on. It’s very likely something serious if you think your boss is a reasonable person. It could be theft of some kind. Using company resources to host something unsavory. It could be anything. No real point in speculating what happened.

      I think the more important thing is whether your IT guy will be replaced… or is like the budget cuts from the letter from yesterday…

      1. DevAssist*

        See, but I don’t really think my boss is reasonable. We receive emails every week highlighting different parts of the handbook because my boss doesn’t really treat us like adults (lots of policy change/enforcement for silly things). In addition to the IT guys, another employee has resigned. Since January, 4 people have left (two were fired and two resigned). I don’t get how my boss isn’t recognizing that our turnover is kind of high for our field.

        1. designbot*

          For 100+ people that kind of turnover isn’t generally considered to be that high. My office is in the same range and I think we’ve had half a dozen since I started in April.

          1. Pen and Pencil*

            Yeah that isn’t high. I used to work at a 30 person office and since Jan 1 2016, 9 people have been fired or left. 27 people turned over in three years. These were all non-retail/short term positions.

      2. DevAssist*

        The position is open, but the offered salary is insultingly low for experienced IT people. I don’t foresee the hiring process going well.

        1. Golden Lioness*

          That is so frustrating! I understand business need to cut costs, but I wish they were not so dismissive of what an experienced worker brings to the table… ugh!

      3. Anna*

        I think it’s completely reasonable to wonder what’s going on. Just don’t, you know, start or spread rumors.

    2. NarrowDoorways*

      Not our IT guy, but the other month our sales person was fired and the CEO asked that if he contacted us to let him know.

      Turned out he’d spent weeks applying for jobs on company time, from his company email.

    3. Kara Zor-El*

      At a previous company, the IT director was fired very quickly when management found out he was embezzling (ordering equipment and keeping it/reselling it).

    4. ExceptionToTheRule*

      The one we fired was watching porn in the basement… so, you know, you might not want to know.

  4. Sunflower*

    Asking about work from home policy as a non-exempt when you’re in a different position from your coworkers

    Non of the non-exempts in my office have remote access on their laptops, therefore, they can not work from home. The only ones that have it are me and another non-exempt on my team because we travel. There isn’t really a formal policy on non-exempts working from home because the no remote access kind of takes care of it. WFH leniency varies between other teams in my dept although my boss does WFH a lot.

    I live in Philly and SEPTA is on strike so subways/buses are not running although our trains into and out of the city are. I walk to work so I have not been affected, however, the other person on our team asked to work from home this week and it was okayed. I know this is somewhat of an extenuating circumstance, however, 80% of our office relies on public transport and has managed to make it in(she lives 2 miles from a functioning train stop) plus my company has set up a carpooling program with reimbursable parking.

    While I don’t expect to regularly be able to work from home, I would like to ask if it’s okay in rare cases (like doctor’s appt, getting furniture delivered, etc.). So how do I go about that- especially now that someone else on my team was given the okay. FWIW she asked my bosses boss, not my boss so I’m not sure if that affected the OK decision.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Why don’t you use the strike as a way to bring it up? Something like: “the fact that some coworkers are working from home during the strike got me wondering – when is it ok to work from home? for example, there are times when I am under the weather but would be able to drag myself to my home computer and work; would that be a feasible situation to ask to WFH?”
      My boss doesn’t like us to WFH and it pisses me off. I had a stomach bug last Monday and still had to use a sick day even though I worked from home all day.

      1. LizB*

        I don’t know your situation, but if I take a sick day, there’s no way I’m also going to work at home that day. I’m going to take the day to rest. Is that an option for you? I’d be super annoyed if I had to take a sick day and also was expected to still work.

    2. Caroline*

      I’m non-exempt and I recently asked to work from home.

      I just asked, and went through the process that was represented to me when I did ask.

      I would NOT point to what treatment others are receiving as reasons why you should get what you want. That kind of comes off as your paying too much attention to their business. I’d just bring it up with your boss (do you have a standing meeting or something where you just check in? That is how I brought it up with my boss) and say you were wondering if partial WFH would be something you could arrange. It’s also if you’ve thought through how you would be accountable for your work, hours, etc., but I’d start with just asking respectfully whether or not this would be something they would consider.

    3. Temperance*

      I’m so jealous of your carpool program.

      Your coworker might not have it so easy. I ride the Regional Rail, and I have to say that it’s really difficult to deal with right now. They’re making us wait in lines for 30+ minutes just to catch a train home, because they’re adding stops for bus riders (who also refuse to respect basic train etiquette, but that’s a gripe for another day). My trains have been late every morning, and overcrowded, and getting home is a freaking nightmare.

      I think you should ask for WFH when you need it.

      1. Sans*

        I worked in Phila for almost 30 years. I love the city but between the commute and the wage tax, I don’t miss working there.

        1. MarketingLadyPA*

          Yes!! The wage tax is why I’m now in suburbia. I’m in Chester County now and it’s just as good, if not better, than city living for me.

        2. DoDah*

          Former Philly myself. My father used to call the wage tax ,” a fee for the pleasure and privilege of working in the City of Philadelphia.”

    4. Triangle Pose*

      Another Philly person here. You’ve got my sympathies. I live in the city and walk to work, but a ton of my coworkers rely on regional rail and it’s painful just listening to the stories. Even walking it’s been insane because of traffic from people who are driving in instead of taking the train. I really hope the parties resolve this before Election Day or alternatively the city wins an injunction for Election Day. Letting the strike continue on Election Day is pretty much the definition of irreparable harm and would be such a terrible precedent for disenfranchisement.

      1. Talvi*

        Ugh, that didn’t even occur to me! There needs to be more support for ensuring people are able to cast their vote, tbh. Voting is important!

        1. Sunflower*

          We got an email that SEPTA will go to court to force employees to work on election day. Hoping this mess is sorted out by then though!

    5. Paige Turner*

      I’m salaried non-exempt and I work from home quite a bit (like now!), and I’d say you should just ask your boss. Maybe something like, “The SEPTA strike got me thinking about work from home. If I had a mild cold, or we had a major snowstorm, for example, would working from home for a day be something that I could do?” If your boss says, no chance, then you may not want to push it. But it’s possible that you boss would be fine with it, and I don’t think that asking once is something that a reasonable boss would get angry at you for asking about.

  5. SJ*

    I’m asking something on behalf of my brother, and it’s a bit of a tale. The short version: my older brother, a chemistry academic, is really struggling in his postdoc due to possible Asperger’s, and I want to help him find resources that will make him more successful in his work.

    The long version: he’s never been diagnosed, but both he and I are pretty strongly convinced he has Asperger’s. He’s 30 years old, has a PhD, and works as a postdoc in a chemistry lab (he’s on his second year; he got a grant or something to continue after his first year). When he was young, he was “socially awkward” and had trouble making eye contact, etc., but he improved a lot as he got older, and it was sort of forgotten by the time he hit middle school because he’s so intelligent and seemed to be getting on fine. He was still a little awkward, but he had a good group of friends in high school (a bunch of math and science nerds like him), and he made some connections in college and grad school.

    He mentioned the possibility of Asperger’s a few years ago, and I sort of brushed it off because I didn’t know the extent of his difficulties, but he clarified them for me recently. It’s very difficult for him to understand nonverbal cues, and he struggles with understanding other people’s motivations; when there aren’t specific expectations of him, he has a hard time trying to figure out what he should be doing; he has a really hard time with putting coherent papers and Powerpoint presentations together that “tell a story” because everything seems important and he doesn’t know what to omit (he said a professor once told him a research paper he wrote seemed totally “stream of consciousness,” and another professor had zero clue what point he was trying to make in a paper he wrote).

    All of these problems are exacerbated because his boss, who he does research for, is one of those “I expect you to read my mind” types (he straight-up said that), so he often doesn’t give clear instructions. The boss has ~a vision~ for research, and his employees are tasked with figuring out ~the vision~ with very little direction. My brother doesn’t know what his boss cares about research-wise, and his boss won’t clarify. Someone without Asperger’s might thrive in this sort of situation, but my brother doesn’t — it’s a huge weakness of his. He said his boss often treats him like a first-year grad student because of his problems trying to figure out what to research and how to put presentations together. I had a boss just like this guy (essentially “read my mind, and if you need to ask clarifying questions, it means you’re slow”), so I understand the difficulties.

    My brother told me he basically just doesn’t talk to people unless it’s necessary because conversations can be so difficult for him, and that just breaks my freaking heart, honestly. He hates his lab, his boss is a jerk, and he has no real friends (partially due to his social issues and partially because he basically lives in the lab), so he’s unhappy and lonely as hell. He basically doesn’t have a life and is totally demoralized. Ugh, I’m crying just writing this. It’s so upsetting because his hands are tied. I’d love for him to just peace out and come home (he lives halfway across the country), but he needs to stick it out because he needs a good recommendation from his boss to continue in his career, or else the last 2 years would have been a waste.

    Despite the terrible situation in the lab itself, I know my brother would be more successful navigating everything if he had some strategies for addressing his communication and human-behavior-comprehension (is that a thing?) issues. Things will never improve if he doesn’t. He’s just the hardest-working person I know, and so kind, so it’s really difficult to hear all of his problems and feel like I can’t do anything. I’m hoping to jump-start some research for him and gather some resources (though I know he ultimately needs to do all the heavy lifting).

    So: Are there specific resources out there for academics/scientists with Asperger’s? Or are there any good resources in general geared toward helping people with Asperger’s in higher education and/or the workplace? I do know there was an AAM post about a young person with Asperger’s back in 2012, so I’m looking through that, but I was hoping to find something a little more specific to my brother’s case. He works at a large university, so I’m going to suggest that he tries to see if there’s a learning support center or what have you. He’s sort of in a weird place because he’s technically a professional but still engages in work that college-aged students do, like Powerpoints.

    If you made it to the end of this long-winded post, thank you!

    1. Emi*

      He should definitely check if there’s a learning support center. Some university counseling centers might be able to offer resources as well, or refer him to something. Is there a Dean of Postdocs or a Grand Advisor of Young Faculty or anyone like that? Even an undergraduate advisor might be able to point him to something specific to his university if he shoots them an email (probably less stressful than face-t0-face).

      He could also try searching and/or asking for resources on Academia StackExchange, which I’ve seen deal with a number of questions dealing with ASD.

      Also, is there anyone else in the lab he can talk to? I’m generally decent at picking up cues but if my PI literally expected me to read his mind, I’d be *super* cheesed off and therefore very sympathetic to other researchers’ worse struggles. If a lab mate came to me and said “I’m bad at social cues [with or without mentioning Asperger’s] and having to read Dr. Annoying’s mind is really stressing me out, can you help me figure out what he wants?” I would be more than happy to help him, even if we weren’t good friends. And given the topic, I wouldn’t be weirded out if he approached me in an awkward way.

      I’m really sorry your brother has such a terrible boss.

      1. SJ*

        Thank you for the suggestions! And yeah, the boss is truly awful. My brother’s advisor in grad school wasn’t exactly cuddly, but he said she and the other grad students were more willing to help him out with reorganizing his frequently abysmal presentations. This boss just couldn’t care less about any of it: just wants results, results, results.

        1. Jules the First*

          What about getting external help reorganising his presentations? I did some work at university as an editor (PhD and post-doc stuff) and I had at least a couple of people whose bills for my time were being paid by the university as an ADA accommodation…though he may need to jump through the hoops for a formal diagnosis to take advantage of that option. I still do the occasional paper – and I’d volunteer to do a trial run, but these things work much better face to face (especially if he’s no good at social cues).

          1. zora.dee*

            Another thought for a place to seek out some advice, my friend teaches classes specifically about how to write a Masters dissertation at his university. Maybe someone who teaches a class like that would also be willing to give some advice and help outside class to a colleague.

    2. Manders*

      Oh man, this sounds really tough. I’m sorry your brother is going through this.

      Do you think a writing tutor might be helpful for him? Many tutors are willing to work with adults. I know that many people with autism can write well, sometimes extremely well, so I think he might be able to improve in that area with some help.

      Honestly, his boss sounds like a nightmare. I would struggle in a work situation like that, and I have no problems with reading social cues. Unfortunately, that’s often the nature of academia: there’s often no one above a bad boss who can coach or punish them unless they really cross the line (and sometimes, not even then). Do you think your brother might be happier outside of academia? It’s hard to believe that there’s an exit when you’re in the middle of a postdoc, but perhaps he would be happier at a company with more reasonable hours and a boss who actually knows how to manage employees.

      1. Paige Turner*

        Seriously, terrible bosses in chem seems to be a thing…and it sounds like many people, with or without Asperger’s, would be miserable having a boss like this. Possible ideas: yes, writing tutor could definitely help, especially with the “everything seems important” issue. This might not help with this boss, but in general, it could be really useful. Also, how much longer will your brother be working with this boss? I get the impression that a second year in a post-doc is uncommon and it might be about time for your brother to start looking for the next thing, anyway. If he does start interviewing for either academic or industry jobs, it might be helpful for him to ask some questions at interviews along the lines of “I’ve found that I work much better with someone who can clearly tell me their expectations instead of wanting me to read their mind. What’s your management approach and how to do you prefer to communicate with your employees?”
        Good luck and keep us posted :)

        1. Bye Academia*

          A 2-3 year postdoc in chem is pretty common, sometimes even longer for biochem. It can take a year or two to get out a paper after you start in a new lab, and it’s better to have something from the postdoc on your CV before you apply for jobs. Since the academic hiring cycle is so long, this means tacking on an extra year of postdoc while you are applying and interviewing.

          I definitely agree that whenever he decides to interview, it’s a great idea to ask questions about the structure of the management and how expectations are communicated. I don’t know what his plans are, but he may be happier in industry. If he stays in academia, he’s going to have to structure his own projects 100% and he may not enjoy that.

          1. SJ*

            Thanks for commenting! Yes, one of his main focuses right now is getting a paper out to add to his CV, since he’s at the beginning of his 2nd year. He actually had a meeting today with his boss to discuss a draft of his paper for a project he did back in the spring — haven’t heard back about it yet, but I know he was really nervous about it.

            And I also brought up the question of whether or not he’ll be happy in academia. I was on an academia track and switched to higher ed admin because I didn’t know if I could hack it — I think he needs to ask himself the same questions.

        2. TL -*

          Chemistry across the board has one of the worst reputations in STEM academia (Organic chemistry has the worst, so…)

          The cultures of chemistry departments are generally quite bad, the sexism and probably quite a few other -isms tend to be rampant, and there is an expectation that your job is your life and you’re either good at it or not – if you’re good, there’s no need to teach and if you’re bad, there’s no point in teaching.

          There are departments, lab, and entire universities where this is not the case! But it, overall, has a really, really bad reputation.

      2. SJ*

        Thank you! I agree a writing tutor could help, though I’m thinking he’d need to find a tutor with a science background to even understand his papers. I was a writing tutor in college (I used to tutor grad nursing students and the like), and I tried reading one of his publications from grad school once and barely got past the abstract. It was just letters and numbers to me :X

    3. aelle*

      I don’t have the exact answer you are looking for, but my sister is in the process of getting diagnosed as Asperger’s / autistic as an adult. It is particularly poorly diagnosed in women, and in my sister’s case, the communication problems related to autism were hidden behind the fact that she suffers from a heavy speech impediment. Beyond the personal satisfaction and closure of getting a proper diagnosis, she hopes to receive (small) disability benefits, and maybe disability accommodations in future jobs. Also, her therapist’s office offers support groups and she is really thriving in the company of people who think like her.

      I hope you can find resources for your brother and that things improve for him. I know the sadness and powerlessness that comes from seeing a disabled sibling struggle.

      1. SJ*

        Thank you for commenting. I’m glad your sister is finally getting the diagnosis and support she needs!

    4. TheAssistant*

      This sounds awful! I’m so sorry he’s dealing with this.

      I’m not on the spectrum, but I have a lot of similar problems: I’m awkward as heck. I can’t read a room for non-verbal cues for love or money. Sometimes I even have trouble with verbal cues. I have a monotone voice so others don’t pick up on MY verbal cues sometimes. And my brain goes 1,000 MPH so by the time I’ve gone from A-Z in making connections, those around me are still on B and utterly lost. It is a struggle sometimes professionally.

      Your brother has a terrible boss. There’s no getting around that. But here are some things that may help:
      –Have him find a person on his team who he trusts – I use either my boss (I have an incredible boss) or a trusted peer to bounce things off of sometimes. Things like “hey when I said X, how did it come across?” Or “I’m thinking about doing Y because of A, B, and C reasons – what am I missing?” Helps me fill in the nonverbal part and also helps close logic gaps I’m incapable of recognizing.
      –Definitely hit up the learning center at the university – there SHOULD be one at a large school. Heck, my 1,800 student undergrad had a robust one.
      –Also look into any Writing tutoring the school may have. Again, my undergrad was tiny, but we had 15-20 writing tutors at any given time to help with academic writing. We even had a small staff of Chemistry/Biology writing tutors since that tends to be a different beast.
      –When your brother is writing a paper, suggest an outline. Like I said, I jump from A to Z and also have verbal diarrhea sometimes – everything seems so important and interesting and I just go on a rambly tangent about it. It is weird. But doing that while typing really helps – I get all my thoughts on paper and take a walk, then start to organize into a cohesive structure. I like to write out all of my ideas in each section, then prioritize. I love making lists, so this works great for me. I also like to apply the “who cares” rule for every finding I have in a research paper. “Great, so X is statistically significant. But…who cares? Just me? Okay, maybe shelve that one for later…” is a methodology I have used.
      –Science writing is great for this because there is always SOME sort of structure. If his boss isn’t telling him about ~the vision~, he should start by reading/skimming his boss’ published work to see what the boss does, and what he DOESN’T do.
      –If it is a big university, he may be able to seek help from other academics who aren’t his boss, just to see if they have any advice. Also have him seek out folks who have “graduated” from this post-doc or this researcher for survival tips.
      –Re: conversations, I like to practice in my head (which sounds ridiculous) and in a mirror. I have an arsenal of go-to phrases with the proper pitch that have been proven to move conversations forward.
      –I lose focus on the task at hand sometimes because I have 10 other things running through my mind. To cope, I always have a notebook by my side (on my desk, at home, and a travel notebook for spontaneous ideas I get while walking) and then I clean them up later, with a little distance, in Evernote. Here also is where prioritizing and “who cares” comes in.

      I fear I have rambled as well. Good for you for trying to help him! I hope things get better for him.

      1. TheAssistant*

        Oh! And when he’s editing, he should read the paper out loud to himself. It is WEIRD the first couple of times you do it, but you really notice things like Being Out Of Breath Because Of Your Run-On Sentence or I Just Said That and I Said It Again: A Lesson In Repetition. Maybe he could start a little editing group among his peers to get other people’s eyes on his work.

      2. SJ*

        Thank you for the thoughtful comment! I was a writing tutor in college, so I’d like to dig into his process a little, even though I probably couldn’t help with the actual papers since it’s all just letters and numbers and reactions and stuff I don’t understand. I think someone with a science background would be better equipped to help.

    5. the_scientist*

      Ugh, this sounds so, so tough. You sound like a caring, supportive sibling and that’s so awesome! I think the suggestion to avail himself of University resources is a great one- I know postdocs are technically “employees” and not students, but they may have services he can use, or be able to connect him to community resources.

      Honestly, ANYONE would struggle with a boss who expects employees to read their mind, so maybe it would help your bro to just know that this isn’t really a reasonable expectation? It doesn’t do anything to solve the problem, but it might help re-frame it from “there’s something wrong with me” to “my boss is a jerkface.”

      1. SJ*

        Thank you so much for commenting! I mentioned it briefly in my post, but my last boss sounded very similar to my brother’s, so once I started talking through similar unreasonable expectations/etc. that my boss had of me, he started to get that his boss is a terrible manager, and he really does get it now. Despite that, he still feels like he’s coming up short in other areas that aren’t directly connected to his boss’s terribleness (like presentations not making sense, etc.) and I think that’s what he needs to work on for whatever he does next.

    6. Kim*

      The most important thing your brother can do for himself is to find a cognitive/behavioral psychologist, preferably one who specializes in autistic spectrum disorders. A qualified therapist can help him tremendously in developing strategies to improve his social and communication skills. Even though what they will teach him will seem completely unnatural, it will help him navigate through the neurotypical world the rest of his life. He sounds like an amazing guy to have made it this far in life successfully and it’s not unusual for people on the high functioning end of the spectrum to go undiagnosed. Also, having a diagnosis in hand can make it possible for him to access his university’s ADA programs/accommodations. That’s very possibly not going to make his way smooth since his boss sounds pretty unreasonable (really — read my mind??) but you never know how sympathetic he might be. I’m not an Aspie but my grandson is and it’s really opened my eyes to seeing the world through such an unusual lens. I’m not familiar with the specific type of resources you’re looking for but both of you should read Temple Grandin’s “The Autistic Brain” and Oliver Sacks’ “An Anthropolist On Mars.” Good luck to your brother and to you for being such a great supportive sister.

      1. SJ*

        I hope he’d be receptive to the possibility of a psychologist, but we haven’t talked about it yet. Thanks so much for commenting!

        1. Mananana*

          I don’t have any experience with the academic end, but perhaps he may find his “tribe” here: Having an online world where there are others working through the same issues can be a life-saver. And they have a community for those “neuro-typicals” who love someone on the spectrum.

    7. Bye Academia*

      I may not have Asperger’s, but boy do I have experience working in a lab where my boss gave no direction and then wouldn’t like the direction I chose on my own. However, I was a grad student and your brother is a postdoc, so he has a little more power. If I were in his shoes, I’d try a few things.

      Since he has a hard time figuring out what he should be doing without knowing other people’s expectations, he can try setting some for himself. As a postdoc, he should be transitioning to that anyway. He may not end up following the vision the boss expected, but hopefully he can end up following a vision he can be proud of and that will set him up for designing projects totally on his own in the future.

      I’m not sure from your post whether he’s okay figuring out how to research and just gets stuck writing/presenting it, or if trouble conceptualizing the project also makes it difficult to design his day-to-day experiments. If he’s on a grant that’s tied to a specific project, he should at least have an idea of the broader goal. Especially for someone who gets stuck in the details, it could be helpful to take a few days just to refocus on that goal. What is the main topic being studied in the lab? Why is it important/what are the broader impacts? What part of the topic is he personally interested in figuring out? What work has been done in the past on his lab or others? What new angle is he interested in taking? It may be beneficial to write all this down for practice as an introduction to a future paper or presentation.

      As he does his experiments and starts getting results, he can refer to this introduction. For every detail he thinks is important, he can ask himself: How does this detail move me closer to the goal I outlined? Does it support what I thought would happen? Does it go against what I thought? Do I still need more information to decide? These types of questions can really help put his results in context. Also, if the detail is interesting/important but doesn’t provide information towards the goal, he can decide not to include it.

      As he works through this, I think your idea of having him see if there is a learning support center or a writing center at his university is a great one. They probably won’t be much help in terms of putting together scientific papers and presentations specifically, but they may be able to help him focus his work more so it isn’t presented as a stream of consciousness. Also, does he have any coworkers from his old lab who may be willing to look over some of his new work? Perhaps his graduate student advisor, if they have a good relationship?

      The hard reality is that, Asperger’s or no, this kind of vision thinking is difficult for everyone in academia. A lot of successful scientists still struggle with writing a clear and concise paper. Trust me, I’ve read many in high impact chemistry journals that are neither of those things. I would urge your brother to keep working on these things because it will make his career a lot easier if he can communicate his findings effectively, but at the same time, he shouldn’t be too hard on himself. Academia is notorious for setting sky-high standards and forcing you to figure it out on your own because so many mentors are terrible. Not all, of course, but people get jobs in academia for their ability to research, not their ability to train students. It shows.

      Good luck! I hope your brother is able to figure out a way to get out a paper or two soon so he can move on with a good recommendation, and that he is able to find resources to help him navigate his possible Asperger’s.

      1. SJ*

        Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment! I have grad school experience myself, and lots of workplace experience and advice thanks to AAM, but I’m a humanities person, so all the processes of doing scientific research and working in a lab are beyond me.

        He actually had a meeting today to discuss a paper draft with his terrible boss — I haven’t heard how it went yet, but he always comes out of those meetings so discouraged. But he definitely wants to get a paper on his CV sometime soon.

    8. Jean*

      Good vibes to you for being such a caring, attentive sibling! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
      I don’t know all the answers but you’ve taking a great first step by asking intelligent questions. Here are my thoughts, as a parent of an Aspie still in high school and as someone whose Aspie-mom status has prompted me into learning a lot about outreach, networking, and information-gathering.

      Hopefully your brother’s campus has an Office of Disability Services. My understanding is that these offices were created to support students with disabilities, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if they could help a post-doc or point out other resources on campus (is there a dean whose portfolio includes post-docs, or a professor in your brother’s department? are there people in the psychology department, or possibly other departments, who might be helpful allies because their work focuses on the topic of People With Autism in the Workplace?) or in the community. If there’s not enough support on his own campus, check out other local or nearby campuses, including community colleges. My own home-county community college has a good reputation for being especially helpful to students on the autism spectrum.

      Re other community resources: Check with one of the several nationwide organizations that cater to children with Asperger’s or Autism and/or their parents. As the kids grow up (and age out of K-12 services) they and their parents become more aware of young adult issues, such as finding friends and learning to navigate the workplace successfully. I’m thinking of

      One resource specifically created for adults is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN ) which has the motto “Nothing About Us Without Us.” Their web site looks like it has a lot of information.

      There’s also a ton of general information online. It may not seem “local” enough but you might still get ideas, resources, or even individual names that prove helpful.

      Your brother can do a lot of the Internet searching and email outreach. As for the eventual interpersonal contact, you can make some phone calls to start with. You might also want to see about local-to-your-brother social skills groups. The skills to reach out and befriend someone are the same as those needed to improve workplace communication and manage one’s self-advocacy. If there isn’t a local agency, there may be local counselors (probably Ph.D. psychologists, or MSW social workers).

      Good luck to you. This won’t change overnight but you and your brother should not be discouraged. Your cause is just. The world needs more people to march under the banner of neurodiversity. Sorry for the preaching.

      1. SJ*

        Thank you so much for all the wonderful suggestions! I really appreciate it. Wishing you and your son/daughter the best.

    9. Kelly White*

      I don’t have much solid advice, but I feel for your brother (and for you!).

      I would think the first thing he needs is a diagnosis. Once he has that I would imagine that accommodations can be made. I’m not sure you say this specifically, but if he is connected with/working at a school, I would think they would have a department to help students with special needs.

      My brother has some learning disabilities, and I remember that when he did some testing for work to get licenses, my mother (an educator), made sure he knew that he could be allowed extra time and stuff like that.

      I don’t know anything about post-doc education, but does he have an adviser who could at least steer him toward the right people?

      Or, if he is not in an academic environment, I’d start with his doctor, who can probably help get the diagnosing process started, and then once he knows what he is dealing with, he can (and you can help) reach out to the appropriate organizations for support.

      Hopefully he can find the right kind of help to make things easier for him!!

      Good luck to you both!!

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah, I was wondering about your first point too. I don’t know if a post-doc is considered a student or an employee (or a hybrid) but as a student, if you have a diagnosis, you can meet with a disability counsellor to get reasonable accommodations put in place. Now, if he’s not considered a student, maybe the ADA help him? Regardless, I think a diagnosis could be helpful. And universities often help people access affordable care (i.e. a cheaper psychologist to do an assessment).

        1. TL -*

          A postdoc is a very cheap employee that is often not counted as a employee, or enrolled into the university’s complete benefits programs. A lot of times they don’t have access to university resources either. He needs to figure out what his university offers but there is a not-insignificant chance it will be nothing.

          1. Yup*

            No, postdocs are employees on salary – only the salary comes out of the PI’s grant (in STEM, not humanities or humanistic social sciences). At public universities in particular, post-docs would certainly have access to resources — SJ, please encourage your brother to check or, if it helps, you can have a look through their website yourself.

            Things to look for:
            – If there’s a diagnosis, then absolutely, he should register with the Disability Offices. This will protect him legally.
            – In terms of Writing Centers, I’m not sure that a post-doc would use the student services. BUT!! Please know that faculty have access to Teaching and Learning professional development as well, and he should avail himself of these services too.
            – Consider also the Uni’s oral communication center, which usually falls under the aegis of the Teaching/Learning Center at most institutions. They help with presentations by offering practice and feedback. I worked as a tutor after my PhD with PhD students (maybe some postdocs? I forget), and the same services may be available for postdocs.
            – Most universities have a postdoctoral association (made up of postdocs) and some have an office dedicated to that population. If not, the National Postdoctoral Association offers multiple resources, standards, and advice on navigating the experience. My point, in brief, is that contacting others for help will probably help him feel less like he’s in a downward spiral. It’s hard, but these bodies are there to help!
            – Are there other postdocs in his lab? Talking to them may help, too.

            1. TL -*

              A lot of universities (at least in the USA) don’t track postdocs or pay for/offer benefits for them or offer postdoc support beyond what the postdocs organize for themselves – the postdoctoral association.
              They’re not treated as full employees (where I work now, they left about 2 hrs early for orientation because they weren’t eligible for what was covered on the last two hours – which was all benefits.) Mind you, I’ve worked mostly in private universities, so the public world could be very different.

              So yes, he should absolutely contact others! But also it is a very distinct possibility that there’s fewer resources available to him than to other members of the university. (Also, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a university with an oral communication center – I don’t think they are that common in the USA?)

        2. AChem*

          At some institutions post-docs fall under the purview of the academic union, which might be a resource to point him toward programs/assistance if he can’t access the student resources.

          As far as writing goes, there are several good books now that talk about how to tell a good scientific story, with exercises you can complete to help improve your work. It’s not a perfect substitute for having someone else read what you write but it can be a good place to start.

      2. SJ*

        Yeah, I have no idea how the postdoc thing works either, but this is definitely something to consider. Thanks so much!

    10. TL -*

      So, short term your brother should probably get his paper published, strive to get a diagnosis and start learning strategies. Is there any way he could collaborate with another PI/lab? If his project allows for it, he could definitely look for someone who would be able to help him with his project and his storytelling skills.

      Mid-term, he should get out of his lab. If he’s planning another post-doc, he should make it a priority to look for a small, supportive lab with a PI who really believes in mentoring that he feels a connection to; I would advise that he stays out of the big-name labs unless they have a really, really good reputation for mentoring and support.

      Long-term this “he has a really hard time with putting coherent papers and Powerpoint presentations together that “tell a story”” is a big problem, especially at the postdoc level. If he can’t tell a story, he can’t get published and he can’t get funded. Hopefully, a diagnosis and CBT will help him navigate this!
      But, Powerpoints aren’t what college students do in STEM, they’re what the professionals do. This is a hugely important skill (they don’t have to look good but they do have to tell a story!)

      A good place for him to start is to look through the most relevant journal for him and going to as many talks as he can. Start analyzing them – whose presentations are most convincing, and why? Who presents in a coherent manner and what makes it work? What does the work that looks like his commonly present as evidence? What do they leave out of the presentation that makes it in the paper? What does he know had to be done but wasn’t in either?
      He should be outlining his papers and presentations before he gives/writes them, so maybe he can working a few excellent, relevant papers backwards from the final products to the outline. The “relevant to who” question is a good one – is what he presenting necessary for evidence? Is it something someone else can significantly build on? If not, why is part of his presentation?

      It sounds like his PI is not a good mentor (and many people struggle with the storytelling aspect of science to varying degrees) and what he really needs is a PI who is willing to sit him down and work with him on his skillset, while he develops strategies on his own time for his particular challenges.

    11. Anon Aspie*

      Female aspie here. There’s a lot of debate in the community about whether getting a professional diagnosis is necessary, but this is one of the times it can help – you usually need a professional diagnosis to get accommodations, whether through school or work (I’m a little unclear on what would apply here).

      His boss sounds like a nightmare. I often have found it helpful to ask for things but phrase them a little loosely, such as “It would help if you were blunt/said what is on your mind, because I’m not one to pick up on the subtleties. This helps with avoiding disclosure, but getting what you need. This might not help with the boss, but maybe with colleagues? Happy to chat if you have any questions.

    12. Ultraviolet*

      I’m really sorry your brother’s having such a bad time. It’s genuinely touching to read your support for him. It’s so easy to feel isolated in a situation like his. Your support probably means a lot to him right now.

      Assorted thoughts:

      -Is your brother close enough to his PhD adviser to ask for some advice on the difficulty he’s having with scientific communication, and the fact that his postdoc adviser is not helping him improve? Or even to ask whether he knows of resources for scientists with Asperger’s?

      -If your brother is planning to do another postdoc, he could also ask his PhD adviser to recommend a postdoc adviser who will help him develop his communication skills.

      -If he’s planning an academic career, he should very seriously be thinking of another postdoc unless he can turn this one around in a big way. It sounds like his current adviser would describe him as “not independent,” and regardless of whether that’s a fair assessment, it’s a really bad thing for a hiring committee to hear about a postdoc.

      -It’s worth a try to see if your brother can use the university health/counseling centers, but I predict he won’t be able to. Postdocs are not students in any way. He should ask university human resources whether he can access any EAPs. Unfortunately I’m guessing that’s also not possible. He could ask whoever he talks to there for a recommendation about what to do, but I have no idea what they’d say. Possibly the health/counseling center would be able to give him the names of some off-campus professionals to whom they sometimes refer students.

      -Even though his boss is being a jerk about it, it is truly critical for his career that your brother improve his communications skills. There might be some online resources about this. But it’s also possible that there are resources within his department that are aimed at helping grad students with this, and he can probably take advantage of those. If he’s not already on the grad student mailing list, he should ask about being added. If they have any kind of grant writing workshops or classes, that would be especially helpful.

      -When your brother doesn’t know what his boss has in mind, do you have any idea what kinds of things he asks in order to get clarification? It’s important to make these requests for clarification sound as little as possible like, “I don’t know what I’m ‘supposed’ to do.” So if he’s not sure what the current priority is, it’s better to ask, “Do you suggest prioritizing A or B?” rather than “What should we do first?” It’s probably better to proactively suggest things and have the boss disagree than to directly ask what the boss wants. I recognize this could be tricky if your brother has trouble with unspoken cues.

      I really hope your brother finds some helpful resources soon. Good luck to him!

    13. AnonAcademic*

      I am a postdoc and in my observation, disability issues that are accommodated more easily during the PhD phase of people’s careers can become a bigger challenge during a postdoc. It is in part because your level of independence is expected to be greater (including generating original ideas and forming collaborations), in part because it’s usually a 2-4 year commitment instead of the 5 years doctoral programs provide so added time pressure, and because the stakes are higher at each academic transition. So for better or worse your brother sounds pretty “normal” in that regard. I have one coworker who is going through the same adjustment where their ability to execute certain technical tasks independently is not where it needs to be for our environment yet and they are also treated more like a 1st year grad student when it comes to those things. Another who came from a different country with different cultural norms and struggled with the collaborative aspect of projects, and was drowning under an insane workload trying to do everything himself for a while as a result. And in my case, my depression and anxiety symptoms that stayed mostly at bay in grad school, really reared up when I started my postdoc since I manage a very, very expensive and very complicated study that involves human patients and all the fun that brings.

      The good news is there are probably resources like a faculty-staff help center, professional development office, etc. I actually just signed up for a postdoc stress management group at my U! He might even be able to audit undergrad classes on presentations or get tutoring. If it’s a big U they definitely have these things, he just needs to reach out.

      And he should talk to literally any other postdoc because I think every single one of us has our own struggle.

    14. Mander*

      Just as a note of solidarity: when I met my husband he was doing a PhD in chemistry. He hated it and ended up dropping out and getting a job in IT. Several years later he was diagnosed with Aspergers and just knowing the symptoms helped him enormously. I hope your brother can find a similar help.

  6. Wondering*

    At my job, if you have sick or vacation time during a week you worked overtime, instead of getting overtime you get the sick/vacation time back. Is this standard practice? It feels kind of weird.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Yes, that’s standard. Vacation or sick time doesn’t count as “work” time so if your actual “work” time doesn’t go over 40 hours, you get paid entirely in straight time dollars.

      1. fposte*

        No, I think you got it. As long as there wasn’t OT in the work hours even before you add in the time off, of course.

      2. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I think you read it right as well (unless they are in a state like CA, where OT is daily).

        If an employee works 10 M, 8 T-Th, and then leaves 2 early on Friday because they were sick, they would still be at 40 hours for the week, which would not kick in OT.

        1. Anna*

          I understood the question to be that if you work 10 M, 8 T-Th and leave two hours early on Fri because you’re sick, they swap out the hours you worked over for the sick hours and your sick hours go back in your bank. So you come out with a 42 hour work week with no OT for those two hours AND the two hours of sick time.

          1. fposte*

            Right, that’s what I thought. It’s a 40-hour work week + 2 hours of sick time. They’re not required to pay you OT legally, but since you worked a full 40-hour week they don’t ding you for the sick time.

            1. Oryx*

              Yup, this is what my manager and I did when I had a brief period of time when I needed multiple doc appointments several weeks in a row after maxing out my sick time post hospital visit.

    2. seriouslywtf*

      That seems weird to me. At my job you don’t get paid the overtime unless you *worked* the full time, if there was any sick or vacation, the overtime is null and void. I would love to get the time back instead. I bet it depends on your state’s laws what they can do.

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      It feels weird because they’re replacing a lower compensation for a higher one…you’re not getting a fair exchange! I don’t know if it’s illegal, but I would bet it is in some states (like California). Check with your labor board!

      1. CMT*

        Except you’re not actually working overtime if you worked 40 hours and had say, 8 hours of vacation time. It would be weird to pay overtime for time you weren’t working.

    4. Sunflower*

      Hmm good question! I know it’s not standard (at least at my company) but not sure what the legal rules are.

    5. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Every place does it differently, but this is definitely legal (except maybe in California?). Basically what they are doing is giving you comp time within the same work week so you don’t go over 40 hours (or, say, you only go over to 42 instead of 45, for example).

      1. Jennifer needs Thneeds*

        In California, OT sets in at 8 hours each day, plus there’s more required breaks. (I believe it changes again at 10 hours, but it’s been so long since it touched my life that I don’t recall the exact details.)

        And if you don’t work more than 8 hours/day but you go over 40/week, then OT also applies. Again, I think it goes up again at 45 hours, OR on a 7th day without time off, but please see previous disclaimer.

        (Source: life-long CA resident and read-aholic who has read an awful lot of those required DOL posters over the years. And yeah, I know this isn’t Reddit. :) )

    6. Murphy*

      That’s how mine works. You only get time and a half if you worked over 40. Otherwise you get what we call “extra” leave, which is basically just getting your hours back. (It just goes into a different bank.)

    7. Red Reader*

      That’s how mine worked. It was represented less as “getting the time back” and more “You worked 37 hours this week, so only 3 hours has to come out of your PTO for Tuesday instead of 8” — not getting it back so much as they didn’t take it in the first place.

    8. Moonsaults*

      Wait, so you say you take Wednesday off sick, that would regularly be paid for 8 hours out of your sick time.

      But between Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday you worked say 45 hours.

      They pay you for 45 regular hours and credit your sick leave back?

      Usually if you physically work OT, you have to be paid as OT. But I haven’t encountered this system so I’m scratching my mind trying to figure out their angle.

      You can always ask your state labor board about it and see what they say. You don’t have to open an investigation particularly to seek advice from them.

      1. MC*

        In your scenario you’ve physically worked 45 hours. In that case, you should be granted your OT. But you would not qualify for 53 hours for the week or 13 hours of OT. You only worked 5 hours OT.

        In a different scenario if you work 33 hours on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday but take Wednesday off with 8 hours sick leave, then at the end of the week, you’d have worked 33 hours physically (no OT) and received a benefit of 8 hours totaling 41 hours. But you didn’t physically work OT. So instead, you’re given one of your sick hours back making your work week 40 hours (No OT) including use of 7 hours sick time.

        Totally legal. Very common.

        1. Moonsaults*

          Thank you for breaking it down for me. That indeed is legal and makes sense.

          I’ve never been in a position where a company is that rigid about never paying over 40 hours, it’s frequently done around here where you take a day off, then work say 33 hours over all. So you would just get paid 33 work hours and 8 sick pay without only allowing a 7 hour cash out. The thinking behind that is that you don’t want people taking increments less than a day, so to keep stuffing an hour here and there, it makes things difficult when you end up with 6 hours of sick leave and they’re like “well you don’t have a full day, so sorry nothing we can do about that until you accrue the next 2” >_<

    9. Nobody*

      Where I work, it depends on when the overtime is and when the vacation/sick time is. If you are scheduled to work 4 12-hour days, the last 8 hours of the 4th day are overtime. If you take the whole 4th day off, you get paid 40 hours of straight time (36 hours worked plus 4 hours of vacation pay), and the 8 hours of overtime is basically just cancelled. On the other hand, if you took the third day off, you would use 12 hours of vacation time and get paid for the 8 hours of overtime if you work the 4th day.

    10. fposte*

      Even in California, OT is based on hours actually worked; if you worked 8 hours M-Thurs and then came in for 4 hours on Saturday after being sick on Friday, you’re not legally entitled to OT.

      It’s not uncommon for union contracts (looks like it’s particularly common in government) to get that OT as standard in bargaining, but that’s different. I hadn’t heard of giving the time back–that’s kind of nice.

      1. zora*

        Right, the exception in California would be if you worked 10 hours on Tuesday, but then were sick on Wed, you would still get overtime for those 2 hours on Tuesday.

        But if all of your days are 8 hours or less, it would be the same as in every other state.

      2. beachlover*

        In CA it is not based on total hours worked, but on daily hours worked. So if you came in M-Thur and worked 10 hours that on Monday, you would get overtime for the 2 hours on Monday. Even if you are work less than 40 hours total.

        1. fposte*

          Right, you earn OT either way there–that’s why my California example didn’t go over 8 on any of the days but still would have qualified for OT based on the weekly hours if there hadn’t been the sick time.

    11. BRR*

      I get how it feels off. But as others have stated, overtime usually applies to hours worked. I think in CA it would be different because OT is classified as over 8 hours a day.

    12. Princess Carolyn*

      Are you saying that if you take, say, 8 hours of vacation but end up working 38 hours over the rest of the week you’ll get 2 hours of vacation back? (So your timesheet might say 42 hours but you didn’t actually work 42 hours.) That’s how my office does it, but it’s the first time I’ve encountered that. In the past, I did a lot of 40-hour weeks in four days and still spent my 8 hours of vacation for the fifth day. Annoying.

    13. Jessesgirl72*

      No, it’s not standard. Anywhere I’ve worked wouldn’t give you the sick time back, or the OT pay.

      If I got OT for a week where I took a PTO day or there was a holiday varied.

    14. Jadelyn*

      I’ve never heard of a place doing that before. I agree that it feels weird, but afaik it’s perfectly legal – although I guess that depends on where you work:

      So, say you work in a state other than California so you only get OT for hours over 40 in a full week. You work 8 hours on Monday, take 8 hours of sick on Tuesday, work 8 a day for Wednesday-Friday, and get called in for 4 hours on Saturday. You’d have a total of 44 hours on your timesheet, 36 hours of actual time worked and 8 hours of sick. In that case, I feel like it would be weird, but it would be legal to just use 4 hours of sick for Tuesday and leave the other 4 hours back in your PTO buckets. Kind of sucks, since instead of getting a 44 hour check you’re still only getting a 40 hour check, but you keep the extra 4 in your PTO bank, so not inherently unfair and definitely not illegal since you’re still getting paid for all the hours you actually worked, which is all the law requires on a Federal level.

      And in fact that scenario would still be legal in California so long as you didn’t go over 8 hours in any single day, because CA’s weekly OT threshold matches Federal’s. The only time it would differ is if you had any days that week where you worked more than 8 hours – for example, if you worked 9 hours on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and took 8 hours of sick on Tuesday: you’d end up with the same total 44 hours where you had 36 hours of actual time worked and 8 hours of sick. In this case, though, even if they took back 4 sick hours you’d end up with a uniquely Californian situation, receiving a normal 40-hour check for the week but with 4 hours of it as OT because that’s daily OT, regardless of whether your weekly hours worked broke 40 or not. (And I’ve worked in CA my whole life and STILL think that looks weird, tbh.)

      Any other CA HR people want to chime in re our new sick time law – I want to say I don’t think that would affect this, I don’t think it requires that an employer pay sick time if that would take the employee into weekly OT, but I’m not 100% sure of that so if anyone else knows please chime in!

    15. DragoCucina*

      No, our employees don’t collect OT unless they actually worked more than 40 hours. Vacation or sick times isn’t used. If a non-exempt employee works 36 hours Monday – Thursday and takes a full day off (say Friday) only 4 hours of vacation time is used. They don’t collect 32 at regular pay + 8 hours vacation + 4 OT.

    16. KR*

      We have a general aversion to over time at my job but if you work Sunday you can do it because even though you get paid time and a half still the Sunday pay gets taken out of a different account since we make time and a half on Sundays. Similar circumstances so it may be helpful

  7. Audiophile*

    So this week hit a new low with this job. They managed to miss payday and checks were late for everyone including those with direct deposit.

    I was given a small advance and told it would be deducted from my next paycheck. Meanwhile, I’m trying to argue with my bank to waive the overdraft fees I incurred because my direct deposit was late.

    This is the second or third payroll issue but the first time they’ve completely missed payday. I can’t afford to quit until I have something else lined up, but I did add this job to my resume and will now cite these payroll issues as my reason for looking to leave.

    1. ButFirstCoffee*

      I think that is a understandable reason for any future employer to consider. Sorry you’re dealing with that and good luck.

        1. Kyrielle*

          But they paid everyone, just later than they said they would. Assuming it’s still within the “must be paid within X days” value for that state (if there is one – a couple states don’t even have that, I don’t believe), wouldn’t they be okay in most states?

          (To be clear, I think it’s a bad thing to do to employees – at its *very* best it would be an unfortunate mistake, and if it was knowingly delayed then it is worse – I’m just not sure it’s illegal as long as they fixed it quickly enough for the terms of whatever state they’re in.)

          1. Audiophile*

            I’m in NY, I do believe we have a specific language for when employees must be paid. I’ve never really looked, because I’ve dealt with a crappy staffing type agency for 5 1/2 years, who regularly met payroll but held additional checks like training that they mandated we attend, sometimes for 2 or 3 months.

            As far as I know of, I don’t think I’d have a claim for the DOL because they did pay us, it was just held up, according to them, because of the glitch with the company that processes the direct deposit. I don’t buy that since the checks were late and it wasn’t just direct deposit that was affected.

          2. Pwyll*

            Yeah, this is really going to depend on the state’s paycheck laws. I’m also not entirely clear on what’s going on: if you weren’t paid, but you were given a small amount less than your paycheck, it’s not an “advance” it’s a partial payment. And having it deducted from the next check doesn’t make sense. Is the advance to cover the expenses of the late check? It’s all fishy to me, and might justify a call to the state labor agency.

          3. Jadelyn*

            In California, I think an employer can be penalized for paying employees later than their regularly scheduled and clearly stated payday, even if you’re still within the “X days” period for the days worked. But that will of course depend on the state, I don’t think there’s any Federal requirement of that kind of thing.

          4. Observer*

            It’s definitely a legal problem to delay pay. There are two issues – you need to pay within a certain time, and you need to pay when you say you will. This came up for us right after Sandy, because our fiscal department was scrambling their heads off to make sure we didn’t miss payday the week after the storm.

            I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know how severe the penalties would be, but it’s definitely asking for trouble.

            1. Audiophile*

              This is interesting, because when I started a new job last December (a different company from this one, but also a nonprofit) because of when I started and the way their pay periods were structured, I didn’t get paid until January. No one told me this when I started though this would have been helpful, and I certainly didn’t think to ask, or I would have been willing to start sooner.

    2. Dzhymm, BfD*

      Have they provided any reasons/excuses for these payroll issues? I’ve read other stories about cash-strapped companies missing payroll and the excuses start to get downright comical if the situation weren’t so sad…

      1. Audiophile*

        They’ve never really provided a reason for the other issues, though Big Boss was responsible for at least one or if not both of the earlier issues.

    3. Kyrielle*

      Ugh. If the bank won’t waive the overdraft fees, I would ask your company whether they will cover those, since they were incurred because payroll was late.

      1. Audiophile*

        It’s pretty clear to me that they’re not willing to do that. Big Boss apologized but said she can’t promise that there won’t be an issue with direct deposit again, because it’s so new to the agency. She keeps saying that the agency has money, but I’m concerned obviously.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Ugh. Yes. In which case, I don’t suppose there’s any way you can move the bill pays out a few days from the expected deposit to protect yourself from future screw-ups? Stilll not something you should have to do, but it sounds like you may need to anyway, just in self-defense.

        2. MWKate*

          I’m always very skeptical about companies saying direct deposit is new to them and therefore difficult. Unless they are completely unable to communicate with their bank (doubtful) they should be able to get this done. This is not a new process, and it’s a pretty straightforward process.

          Also, they can now send the deposit same day if it was missed for some reason, if it’s caught early enough. It’s slightly more expensive (depending on what their bank charges), but they should be responsible for covering the cost if they messed up.

            1. Natalie*

              Concur. It literally takes less than 5 minutes for us to process, and it’s incredibly easy to cancel and re-process in the event of an error.

          1. zora*

            Seriously, that’s total crap, keep looking and get out of there as fast as you can. The chances are this will only get worse.

          2. Heather*

            Yeah, either their payroll provider is incompetent, their internal payroll people are incompetent, or the boss isn’t telling the truth about the money being there.

            1. Audiophile*

              Our payroll is done by an offsite bookkeeper. I have no real way of knowing if the money is there or not.

            2. Audiophile*

              I do think the bookkeeper is incompetent. She’s supposedly in her 80s, and there’s been several issues with her screwing up checks.

              1. zora.dee*

                ooooo, this is new info. Honestly, if it were me, I would be banding together staff, especially people at higher levels if possible, and going to the Big Boss to insist that they find a new bookkeeping service. If paychecks have been screwed up in the past, then it’s clearly her, not direct deposit that is a problem. And you don’t have the difficulty of firing someone, this is just a matter of finding a new service.

                In non-profits I’ve worked in, this is something senior staff would have standing to bring up at management level meetings as a serious issue for the functioning of the organization, and insist that a task force be put together to search for and select a new bookkeeping service ASAP.

                1. Audiophile*

                  I just need to walk away, it’s been made clear that employees have complained about the payroll issues as they’ve cone up. No one is willing to do anything about it. Since it’s become clear this isn’t the first and I was told to my face that I couldn’t be promised it wouldn’t happen again, I need to move on.

          3. Audiophile*

            In this case, it is new to them. The agency has been around for more than 20 years but only started offering direct deposit a few months ago.

            1. MWKate*

              I work in bank operations, direct deposit is really really not a difficult process. Especially if they are outsourcing it and only need to provide basic info – unless they chose a company that is absolutely incompetent in which case they need to find another solution.

              I would really tend to assume this is a money issue and not a ‘this is a hard thing to master’ issue.

            2. Natalie*

              That doesn’t really matter. Accounting software and banks are all set up for direct deposit, so it’s generally just doing an initial setup where people’s bank information is input, and then generating and uploading a form to your bank.

            3. Moonsaults*

              It’s probably because they don’t follow the very simple rules the bank sets down for them. They have to have the information for direct deposit 48 hours prior to the deposit. So if you’re paid Fridays, if they don’t have them by Wednesday at about 10AM, those deposits aren’t going in until Monday.

              This is only typical because so many people don’t realize they have to understand the pretty basic rules >_< Then they tell employees "oh no, it's a tricky process…" no…no it's not, get things done, deadlines are real.

              1. MWKate*

                The thing is they don’t need it that far ahead. I mean each bank can have their own internal policies on how far they need it in advance, but the bank can send a direct deposit for credit tomorrow – and if you do it early in the day you can send it for same day credit (as of the end of September). So – they really have no excuse for not being timely about it.

          4. Bellatrix*

            Exactly. I’m European and cheques are practically unheard of here (I’ve only held on in my life when I briefly lived in the States). Most people go for a direct deposit, though occasionally someone insists on being paid in cash. I can’t imagine it being hard, I can set up a direct deposit to someone else (like my ISP) in Internetbanking in under a minute.

            I understand it’s a bit less common in the US, but it’s really not a difficult spell!

            1. Audiophile*

              It’s not that uncommon in the US though I’d say the only places that probably don’t have direct deposit are likely small mom and pop companies. This is the first place I’ve ever worked that didn’t have a long history of direct deposit.

          5. MsChandandlerBong*

            I would buy that excuse once, but only because I was once a new payroll person using an archaic system and know that it is very easy to make a mistake. Long story short, I did payroll for a company that had two divisions set up as separate divisions (e.g. Johnson Teapots and Johnson Tea Distributors). The company was cheap, so we used Excel to do payroll for 200+ people. Then I had to send a .txt file to the bank to tell them how much to deposit for each employee; it was the same file for both divisions, except I was supposed to go in and change a 1 to a 2 to indicate different account numbers. The first time I did payroll alone, I forgot to change the 1 to a 2–on Christmas Eve. I realized it immediately, but when I called the bank, the lady said there was nothing we could do about it. I frantically called every person with check-signing authority and managed to convince one to come in and write a check from one account to the other to cover the extra payroll. Deposited a check for $103,000 in the bank at 2:48 p.m. (bank closed at 3:00 for the holiday). Was so flustered that I drove back to the office with the vacuum tube from the bank drive-through still in my car. Turns out someone at the bank noticed my mistake and fixed it, but didn’t tell me, so we ended up overdrafting the account by about $100,000 (we only kept enough in it to cover payroll; we had different accounts for other expenses).

            So direct-deposit errors do happen, but usually not more than once or twice.

        3. neverjaunty*

          Big Boss is lying to you. Period. There is nothing weird or difficult about direct deposit. There is nothing about direct deposit that justifies their pretending to give you an ‘advance’ on a money they actually owe you. What’s going on is that your company can’t afford to make payroll.

          Please, for your own protection, search for ‘when employees must be paid’ and your state to find your state’s Department of Labor rules. Some states mandate that employees must be paid by a certain time (i.e. no late paychecks). And start job hunting immediately.

      1. Audiophile*

        I tried, the day it happened. Big Boss did a dance to avoid writing a check in the first place. Tried calling the bookkeeper to see if my direct deposit could be changed, bookkeeper said no, so the workaround was to give me an advance and then take it out of the next paycheck. Believe me, I’m not happy, this was there mistake and they should cover the fee(s). It’s clear that they’re not willing to do it and I don’t feel I can really fight them on it.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Get the hell out and then flay them alive on Glassdoor. Prospective employees should know they’re probably signing up to NOT get paid on time.

        2. Observer*

          Get out, and then report them to the DOL. Oh, and perhaps the IRS. Please keep your pay stubs so you can make sure that your taxes are being taken out and that you can prove that they were deducted.

          You see, I wouldn’t be surprised if your company isn’t depositing tax withholding in a timely fashion. And, if they keep them altogether, the IRS will come after you unless you can prove that you had good reason to believe that the money was paid. (You might still have to pay and go after your company for theft, but you won’t have to deal with all the other potential garbage.)

    4. Pari*

      im curious non profit or for profit? I have a theory that people at non profits put up with this more or longer. Every person I know who’s had this happen at a non profit sympathized more given the challenges of non profit funding and the cause.

      Obviously that’s your prerogative, but funding and payroll issues usually aren’t a temporary thing.

      Also, I wonder if the executive team has their checks delayed? I wouldn’t bet on it.

      1. zora*

        You have so many negative things to say about nonprofits that I think are really unfair, and paint an inaccurate picture of nonprofits.

        I have NEVER had a nonprofit mess up my payroll, and I have worked at many for many years. The only place I’ve ever worked that screwed up getting me my paycheck in time was a medium sized for-profit corporation.

        Any nonprofit I’ve worked for has been extremely transparent with staff about where we were financially and let people know at the first sign of trouble so that people could plan responsibly, and started laying down positions rather than get to the point that they struggled to meet payroll. And many nonprofits actually have a higher bar for financial responsibility because of foundations and government grant money and federal reporting responsibilities that come with nonprofit status. It’s much easier in a small for-profit business to hide the financial situation from employees, and take the money and run, when the owner has no accountability to anyone above them.

        1. Pari*

          I’m not suggesting it doesn’t happen less frequently at for profits, just that non profit employees may be more forgiving of financial difficulties because of the emotional tie to the cause. If you think that’s not true I’d love to hear why.

          1. H.C.*

            The better part of my career is in non-profits and I certainly wouldn’t be more forgiving of operational/administrative/financial mishaps like this, since that means the non-profit is not going to be effective in the causes they’re supposed to help.

          2. zora.dee*

            Actually, I think nonprofit employees are no more or less forgiving of a missed paycheck than for profit employees.

            The one difference I wouldn’t be surprised to see is that nonprofit employees tend to be making less money and have less of a financial buffer, so a missed paycheck would actually cause a lot more freaking out because people would be more in danger of not being able to pay bills. And the bosses would scramble to figure out a fix as quickly as possible because they know this could cause a major hardship for their staff.

            There’s a difference between being more forgiving of being paid less on the whole, and being forgiving of actually missing your rent because someone screwed up.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        Have you ever read Dear Prudence? The most egregious and sensational workplace letters always came from people who worked at non profits. Either the employees themselves were more forgiving because of the “cause” or their employers expected them to put up with just about everything because of the “cause”

        Now maybe that was just the prejudice showing of who was choosing the letters, but it really was a theme!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This comes up a lot here, and I’ve paid a lot of attention to the breakdown of nonprofits vs. not-nonprofits in letters, and I can honestly say nonprofits aren’t over-represented in horror stories here. But people are very likely to say “I work for a nonprofit” whereas they don’t say “I work for a for-profit” (really, how often do you hear anyone say that?) so the nonprofit ones jump out because we hear it more.

          What ARE over-represented in horror stories here are small organizations, regardless of sector.

          1. Pwyll*

            Are they really over-represented, though? Small businesses are half of the US workforce, so it’d make sense that a ton of the stories come from them.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t know if they’re over-represented in the sense of their relative share of employers in the U.S., but they are over-represented in terms of their share of stories here.

          2. Jessesgirl72*

            It also could just be more memorable to people, (and as you said, is mentioned specifically) so appears to happen more often than it actually does.
            I can remember two specific cases where either the employer or employee did mention the cause directly in why the employee should put up with whatever the bad situation was. A private sector company isn’t going to tell you outright that you have to suck it up for the sake of the teapots. The teapot is very rarely going to be a compelling reason.

      3. Audiophile*

        Pari, it is a nonprofit. I can’t say I agree with your theory. While I support this nonprofits mission and the missions of all the nonprofits I’ve worked for, this is a job not a volunteer role. I’m not willing to forgive missed payroll. The other payroll issues while not exactly minor, didn’t rise to this level.

        Everyone’s paychecks were delayed, in addition to the direct deposit. Which is why I’m skeptical that this was a truly a glitch.

        1. OhBehave*

          I’ve worked for a nonprofit for years and when they moved to direct deposit there wasn’t a glitch at all. It was a smooth transition. I’ve also NEVER had any issues with payroll.

        2. Observer*

          If it’s a non-profit, when you get out (and not before), please drop a line to the organizations that fund them. This is inexcusable.

    5. just another librarian*

      Your company should pay the fee absolutely. The one time it happened to me as a retail worker at a small shop, the store owner gave me it immediately after the bank called her. I didn’t even know it had happened yet until she handed me some cash and had me sign a receipt.

    6. Rebecca*

      Until you can get a new job, I would not set up anything to auto deduct from your bank account. I think it would be prudent moving forward to pay the bills yourself, on each website instead. That way, you can avoid future overdraft charges at least. I know when this happened to me, several times over the past 10 or so years, it’s been some sort of glitch and it wasn’t because the company didn’t have money. But it sounds like you’re having issues over a short period of time, so you need to take steps to protect yourself.

      1. Audiophile*

        I don’t have any of my bills set for autopay for this reason. I just happened to set up my phone bill to be paid that day, and had another bill that the bank processed the day before. So both bills hit around the same time, so far it seems the bank is only charging me one fee. I should be able to get that back. I’m more concerned about this becoming a regular issue. I’ve been told a few times that they have the money to pay people, but this certainly doesn’t make me confident that that statement is at all based in reality.

    7. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Ugh, I’m sorry this is happening to you. I used to work for a hotel management company with bouncing paychecks. My boss, the owner, would ride the float and make several telephone transfers during payday and the day after of just enough money to cover whatever checks had come in. If she missed, checks would bounce. She was very good about reimbursing the bounced check fees but meanwhile it was trashing my reputation. Plus, her bank would sometimes pull back a deposited check even a week after I deposited it, so I was never sure if a deposit would stay put. To protect my banking reputation I set up a savings account and started depositing my paychecks there (company was too small for direct deposit). Then I set up direct transfers from savings to checking to cover my bills. This takes a little extra money, but not that much, really. I was horribly underpaid and lived paycheck to paycheck and I managed to make it work. Honestly, I doubt I had more than $50 float at the beginning. Start with transferring only enough money to pay the bills due that payperiod. And do whatever you can to get one paycheck ahead as soon as possible. Then when a check bounces it only affects your savings account and not the checks you’ve written or the bills you need to pay next pay period. It’s actually a great way to save money fast. Hopefully your company won’t bounce another check soon so you’ll have time to build up your buffer.

    8. tink*

      Ugh, my partner had to deal with this a few times at his current, and it made things super stressful for us since I’m not working right now and we’re on a super tight budget. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with it.

  8. AyBeeCee*

    Any suggestions on getting certain coworkers to chat (as in instant message) less? There’s one who chatted me multiple times over the past few days. Sometimes it was because she had a question, and then it wasn’t a question I could answer so I advised her to send an email to [folder where she commonly sends emails]. Other times she’ll email [folder] and then immediately chat me. These are not for urgent requests. I think part of it is because she works remotely and is seeking more contact but it disrupts my workflow and frequently is something that would be better done through email anyway.

    1. ButFirstCoffee*

      Have you asked her to maybe try to send one email a day summarizing all her questions? You could make it sound like it will be easier for her, because she’ll have all the information in a place easy to go back to.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      Could you just let her know that your chat window is often closed/hidden due to your workflow, and you’re better ripped to respond if she just emails?

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Can you set your chat status to busy, or put up an “away message” that says something to the effect of, “I’m at my desk but am focused on a project. Please email unless request is urgent”?

      Otherwise, I think your best bet is to just be direct: “Sarah, would you please route non-urgent requests like these to my inbox? I am trying to focus and the chats are distracting to me.”

      But truthfully, if you were online and set to “available” in the IM program, I would assume it would be no big deal to chat you for requests small, large, urgent, or not.

      1. Amber T*

        Yeah, we’re prohibited from discussing *actual* work on our messaging system – it’s supposed to be used for “do you have a few minutes to discuss the Teapot deal?” or “the file is saved in x.y.z folder,” (or, if you’re my boss’s boss, simply “please stop by” which is always heart attack inducing…), but talking about the Walking Dead, sharing recipes, or finding funny things on Amazon is probably what I use it for 50% of the time. But it’s also acknowledged that, if you don’t respond, you’re probably busy and will respond when you can and have time. You email or call if anything is time sensitive. I also have a coworker who flat out refuses to use the IM system because there are already too many ways to get in touch with her (her words), so just call her. Another coworker has his set to “busy” all the time, I’ll still message him with non urgent requests for FYIs, and he’ll still respond, but it let’s it be known he’s not one for small talk through IM.

        I think it’s fair to say “I don’t really like using the IM program, would you mind emailing me any future requests?”

      2. Wheezy Weasel*

        Setting chat statuses has worked well for me in the past, especially if I can tell a specific individual that I always have an up to date status, and I can hold myself to that promise. Some chat systems will integrate with your calendaring system and show you as ‘busy’ when you have a meeting, as well as ‘do not disturb’ when you are doing a screenshare via the message system. That was always helpful, as I could block out 2 hours a day where people wouldn’t expect an answer.

        Remote work is very hard if the company culture doesn’t agree on how to use an IM system effectively…the best I’ve seen is that the IM status is ‘The Word’ about whether a person is available, and if their status is green at 1am, they’re free to do work, if it is red, interrupt at your own risk.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I would start by telling her you would prefer her to email instead of chat for non-urgent requests. When she doesn’t listen, since you were already straightforward with her, just don’t chat back. When she chats you a non-urgent request, wait about an hour or two and email back (don’t chat back). Then if that doesn’t work, just stop responding altogether to non-urgent chat requests.

    5. Jayne*

      Is there a reason she feels she can reach out to you via chat? Maybe you told her once to let you know if you have any questions, and so she felt that was the best way? Figuring that out might help and then you can address it accordingly. “I know I told you in the past you can ask me any questions, but I’d really prefer if you e-mailed me instead, and then I’ll answer it when I have a moment.”

    6. Jules the First*

      I just explained that chat was for short, urgent requests that were holding up his workflow; or for letting me know that he’d just emailed a complicated question that was urgent and holding up his workflow, and that everything else needed to be emailed to me, with a timeline for when he needed to have a response. It took a few weeks for him to get the hang of it, but he’s now a superstar at only chatting when it’s appropriate. The other thing that helped was to explain to him that chatting me multiple times was just as inappropriate and annoying as sticking his head into my office every five minutes….

    7. Jennifer needs Thneeds*

      Stop replying *instantly*. If it’s not urgent, then it’s not urgent. Reply after an hour or so. Reset her expectations about how available you are, and make it more about giving her information and less about giving her a conversation. And then one or both of these things will probably happen:
      1. She’ll stop sending you IM’s all the time (because it’s not so fun)
      2. You’ll stop feeling picked-on by the IM’s (because you’ll be in charge of your time)

    8. Rubyrose*

      I like all of the suggestions above, but as a last resort, research your instant messaging options. Some (I’m thinking Lync) have an option where you can appear offline/unavailable to selected individuals. This prevents any messages from them to get to you.

  9. New rules grinch*

    So my company’s response to the new rules was to switch everyone single employee (excluding executives) from salaried to hourly and put a policy in place that says no overtime or working more than 40 hours a week (no exceptions). We have work cell phones so we could check emails and voice mails and do some work on weekends, holidays and after hours but the company is canceling them of November 25 and taking back the phones. As of December 1 there is no access to work outside of the office and no doing work on weekends/holidays/after hours. There will be set office hours and the same 30 minute lunch break for everyone. Days off must be taken in full or half days (3.5 hours or 7 hours) and there is no more flexible time where we could leave an hour early or stay an hour late etc. Our benefits and number of paid vacation and sick days are staying the same and no ones pay will be reduced. We checked and it’s all being done legally. I won’t lie, I’m not happy about the changes and I am looking elsewhere but the market is tough where I am? I know some people are happy about the new rules but I can’t be the only one who isn’t right?

    1. AshK413*

      That sounds so terrible and if I were in your position, I would also be looking for a new position. I value flexibility in my work schedule so I would be very unhappy in such a rigid environment.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      Yeah, it sounds legal but the most EMPLOYER-friendly / least EMPLOYEE-friendly way of implementing it.

      1. Observer*

        Actually, it’s not terribly employer friendly either. There are very few businesses today that benefit from this kind of rigidity and total containment of business into “standard” business hours.

        I wonder how long this will last.

    3. Mike C.*

      Your management folks are being absolutely nuts. Oh noes, they might have to pay out a sliver of OT every now and again to ensure that the business runs smoothly, what a horrible fate! The bits about only being able to take time off in half/full days and no more flex time are especially childish. I’m not going to lie here, I get a strong impression that they see hourly employees as trash and treat them accordingly.

      I’ll bet that once they find out that this doesn’t work, they’ll loosen up.

      1. ThatGirl*

        We’re only allowed full or half day PTOSo that doesn’t bother me, but no flex time would, if we need to leave early for an appointment we make the hour or whatever up.

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          That’s what I don’t get…why is an employee shifting their time something that has to go away?

          1. OhNo*

            Seriously, the flex time isn’t going to hurt their bottom line. Why did they get rid of it? That’s such a punitive measure with no reasonable excuse behind it. What a pain!

      2. General Ginger*

        My office has done the same with PTO — you can only take it in half-day or full-day blocks, that’s it.

    4. Pwyll*

      I suppose the question is whether this is a knee-jerk change, and whether this will loosen up a bit once they’ve figured out how these new policy will actually work in practice. But it still sucks in the transition, I’m sorry.

      1. Sunflower*

        Agreed. I’m non-exempt and while I pretty much have to be here 9-5(1 hour lunch), flex time is totally fine every so often if you ask your boss.

        They might just be freaking out and unsure how to handle all this so they are defaulting to what is the easiest.

    5. seriouslywtf*

      And the annoying thing will be that the higher-ups are not going to stick with this like you are expected to. They are going to get to still take their one hour lunches and leave early when they need to. It is going to cause a lot of resentment. I imagine they are going to have to backpedal on at least some of these changes.

    6. The IT Manager*

      Yeah, that’s a huge pain. So very little freedom that will feel like step back for people used to managing their own schedule.

      I want to give your employer some kudos for implementing the new law legally unlike other places where they sound like they are planning to lie their way around it or ignore it. “Oh, a few minutes answering a work phone call doesn’t count” attitude.

      1. The IT Manager*

        OTOH, I’m not sure what it says about the rest of American companies if following the law is worth giving someone credit for.

        1. Gaia*

          I thought the same thing, “ooh, well at least they followed the law! Wait…what does that say about the state of employee/employer relations in this country?”

    7. Gaia*

      The thing that would really irk me here is the half and full days of PTO. That is super stingy. We require 1 hour blocks only because of the type of work we do, I cannot imagine telling someone that needs 1 hour that they have to take half a day!

      1. General Ginger*

        Being able to use PTO only in half- or full-day blocks is really common across employers in my area

        1. BAS*

          Same. If you’re out of the office for 3 hours or less, it’s considered flex time you can make up later in the week or just gets written off as we are mostly salaried. 3.5-6 hours out of the office are counted as a half day (4 hours) and 6.5+ are considered a full day (8).

    8. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      This is happening to me as well; if I knew where you were located I would wonder if you were one of my co-workers. I started applying for new positions this week. It’s a shame because I love the work I do, my boss, my client contacts and my co-workers, but this is not the arrangement I accepted when I was hired and I’d not have taken the job if I could have predicted what would happen. I’ve only been her 18 months, so I feel like I’ve been bait and switched. I’m already underpaid for what I do, but the flexibility always balanced that out. Now that that’s going away I’m outta here as quickly as I can.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        My company is doing something similar to a lot of formerly exempt employees. Some of these people weren’t being paid at market rate, but were at least given flexibility, and now they’ll have to track their hours and will not be able to do flex or comp time. And since so many of these people will now be owed OT pay if they work over 40 hours, I can see a lot of divisions in my company outright banning anyone from working over 40, which is going to be a huge problem for people in my job family.

        I have a feeling this won’t last long and they’ll revert back in a year. Otherwise, a lot of work won’t get done, employee morale will tank, and high turnover will cut into division profits, which will in turn cut into division presidents’ bonuses.

    9. New rules grinch*

      Thanks everyone.

      The new rules and policies will apply to everyone (including management) except the executives who sit on the board. I doubt they will go back and losen things up because of all the money the (normally cheap) people in charge spent to get ready for the changes.

      They company is touting it as some great thing. They are saying it will stop burnout and promote work life balance because work is now only done at work and everyone will have evenings/weekends and holidays free and can’t be pressured into doing work at home or staying late/coming in early. That’s the rationale for the half day/full day off with no flexible time. They say that by making a policy that time off can only be a full day or in a block from 8:30 to 12:00 or 12:30 to 4:00 it eliminates spoken or unspoken pressure to come in early, stay late or rush to/from appointments. Without work cell phones management and coworkers can’t bother people outside of work. They say they are doing this to make our lives better and that the policy is there so there is no misunderstanding and it applies to everyone where management can’t get around it. Many of my coworkers are excited about it but I am not.

      1. OhNo*

        If they were really trying to promote work/life balance, you’d think they might have asked employees how they would like it to work rather than just issuing an edict from on high.

        Does your work ever run on strict deadlines? I have a feeling how they handle those under these new rules will be really telling. Will they conveniently okay overtime once they’re running up against an important deadline? Will they not okay it and then blame the employee for it not getting done on time (or worse, expect you to put in unpaid overtime)? Or will they say, “It’s okay if this project is running a little late, it’s more important that you keep to your regular work hours and maintain your work/life balance”?

        1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          I have a customer facing role, and I’m still waiting for my company to explain to me how I’m supposed to just hang up on a client when they call with a problem at the end of my work day. Also, my main client is in the habit of texting me on the weekends occasionally, and in the past I’ve always responded. Still waiting on direction if I a) Ignore the text or B) Tell the client she can’t do it anymore since I’m hourly now. I absolutely refuse to work off the clock, since they’re the ones forcing me to do this in the first place.

          I’ve already heard rumblings of “If you have to work overtime, it may be because you’re not working efficiently enough.” That in itself was enough to make my mind up to look elsewhere. I escaped an hourly job where my time was strictly micromanaged to take my current position, so I’ve seen how that witch hunt begins and ends. No thank you.

          1. Not my normal alias*

            Still waiting on direction if I a) Ignore the text or B) Tell the client she can’t do it anymore since I’m hourly now.

            If you’ve actually asked, and haven’t received an answer, it might be time to force their hand. “I’m going to assume you want me to not respond to client texts when I’m off the clock, since that would force me to go into overtime. If you prefer that I do answer them and keep track of my hours, please let me know.”

        2. New rules grinch*

          Because of a new process that was implemented this year we don’t really deal with things in real time so out deadlines are no longer urgent and can wait until the next day. So the company is using this as one of the justification for the changes.

      2. MissGirl*

        Other than the come in an hour early and leave, which they may loosen up on as time goes by, this actually sounds very fair. I love the idea of no weekends or evenings and leaving work at work.

        Change is frustrating but they’re being transparent and you’re getting paid for the work you do rather than extra hours. I would let it play out for few months before you make any big decisions. If it still doesn’t work then look for a new job.

      3. Ann O.*

        I have to admit, I’m a little perplexed why this isn’t the case. The lack of flex time would be a problem for me (and I don’t fully understand the rationale), but otherwise it seems like a good thing for preventing people from essentially providing free labor to the company or overworking.

        What do you see as the downside?

    10. Stellaaaaa*

      It seems odd to me that literally no one at your company got the bump to $47k (or whatever) that would enable them to keep being exempt. If the higher-ups were given the raises, it would still make the junior level employees feel better, like there’s room for growth and that management understands the needs of the business.

      But seriously, this is a business where salary taps out at $40k?

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        Mine taps out at $42K for my position, which is a high-level client service analytical role. I function much more like an Account Manager, but I’m told my employer refuses to classify us as such because we aren’t specifically held to sales goals.

    11. Pari*

      Why is this a bad thing? Less responsibility outside of normal hours and therefore more personal time for the same pay sounds like a positive

      1. beachlover*

        my thoughts exactly. they are not reducing your pay or benefits and you are working less hours. Which actually works out to more dollars per hour. Lets say you make 800 dollars a week as an exempt person, but you regularly work 50 hour per week = 16.00 per hour. Now you will be making $20.00 per hour. I guess the biggest drawback seems to be the restrictions on time off.

        1. Pari*

          I’m wondering if its rooted in feeling like its some sort of demotion with less responsibility and flexibility

          1. Gaara*

            I get that, but as a private practice lawyer, man what I wouldn’t give to literally not be able to work nights and weekends.

      2. Caroline*

        Sometimes people’s jobs don’t fall neatly into the 9-5 hours, and not being able to access work causes delays or lapses in communication and cause more stress.

        1. New rules grinch*

          Our work used to be this way but a new process was implemented this year which means that things are not dealt with in real time so deadlines are not urgent and waiting for another day will not have any affect. This new process would have happened without the new rules but the company is using it as one of the justifications for the change.

      3. OhNo*

        Except they’re also cutting flex time, which means employees who used that are likely going to be stuck using up more of their PTO for mundane things than they did before.

        The strict no overtime rules could also cut into some employees’ professional development or non-urgent projects. For example, where I work, there’s a set amount of stuff that needs to be done every day and you have to fit in your development around that. If I was suddenly banned from going even a minute over my end time, my opportunities to work on PD would plummet, since many of the resources I need are only available at work.

        1. New rules grinch*

          That would have been the case before, but since a new process was implemented this year we don’t deal with things in real time. So we no longer have urgent deadlines and things can wait another day. The company is using this new process as a justification for the change along with the new rules and they say that since we no longer have urgent deadlines they will expect the work level to be lower. The new process would have happened even without the new rules but in my opinion all the changes still bite.

      4. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        When you are expected to deliver the same level work in 40 hours that used to take you 45-50, with no approval for overtime or plans to increase staff it tends to stress one out.

      5. H.C.*

        I think this sounds good in practice but will likely result in non-paid work time (& associated disgruntlement) in practice. Such as projects that won’t meet deadlines in the allotted time frames, or customers/clients/VIPs who call in with urgent requests near end of day.

    12. Caroline*

      That’s so weird. I’ve always been non-exempt, but I’m allowed to:

      work from home sometimes (pre-approved)
      take PTO by the hour
      take my lunch when I’m f’ing hungry, and for however long I want within reason (15 minutes or 60 minutes or whatever)
      shift my hours around in the day to accommodate a dentist appointment or whatever

      None of what your company is doing is something they are being “forced” to do by the new laws. Seems like they are resentful of this and are taking it out on the employees.

    13. Anna*

      Well, I think it’s hard to be happy about it when the company you work for misses the mark by such a wide margin in implementing it. I was watching a show last night where someone said they had a million ideas on how to do something and they happened to pick the worst one. This is what it sounds like they did.

    14. Princess Carolyn*

      I don’t blame you for being concerned, but you might not hate it as much as you think you will. It might actually help work-life balance, but that’s going to depend a lot on how much the company was previously relying on unpaid overtime. If everyone was regularly working 60 hours a week, they’ll need to scale back their projects or hire more people. If people were usually working right around 40 hours, you might find you enjoy fully disconnecting from work when you leave.

    15. Girasol*

      It sounds like they’re going overboard to be sure they don’t screw up. Change can be scary to those at the top too. I wonder what would happen if after a few weeks into the whole process, after nothing disastrous had come of the change and people were settling in okay, you asked to flex a day or asked how to handle an hour’s trip to the doctor. They might say “You know the rules!” but they might surprise you and be more reasonable than you expected. Can you afford to play along for a month or two and then test the waters?

      1. New rules grinch*

        Unfortunately not. They have spent a lot of time resources and money to switch and get everything ready for this. They went so far as to update the employee handbook and policies from 1996. We had a meeting about it and were told verbally and in writing that anything less than a block of 3.5 hours will be denied unless it is bereavement related/life and death and there will be NO exceptions. If anyone asks, they get a warning the first time and then after that they get pulled in to meet with their boss to explain the policy to them again.

    16. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      Something similar is happening with us. To cover weekend reference hours (which is basically two Saturdays a month and luckily not every Saturday and Sunday), we have a rotation. My position is not reference heavy (except for weekend reference), so I have to plan to make sure I have good desk projects ready when it’s my turn.

      As it is until the 1st, we accrue comp time. This is great because taking a random day off during the week can hurt my productivity. And I can pool my comp time and have more than 12 days of vacation a year. On December 1, no one can accrue comp time. Even the senior staff who make more than the threshold. Because that’s what’s “fair.” Since we are government, no one’s salary is a secret. And the government is not going to raise anyone’s salary to bump them up over the 47k threshold. Because that’s a waste of tax payer money.

      Another problem, for us, is that there will be a fight for who gets to take off what days. It’s already a fragile balance with the pages and it will compounded with all the professional staff having to do this too. The solution is to stretch the rotation, but that means no one is available to float (and assist in areas getting slammed).

      This policy will also hamper our ability to do special events and public outreach. Sometimes you don’t know if the VIPs will linger an extra hour or two. Or that tear down took longer than expected. If the event is Sunday through Thursday, then its fleasible to take the time off. But for Friday and Saturday events, nope. Due to making it fair, our patrons are going to feel the new law.

  10. Good_Intentions*

    Applying for jobs as contract ends

    Any tips on applying for positions as a current contract winds down?

    I have about three weeks left on my current contract and am uncertain if it will be renewed after Thanksgiving. Therefore, I am applying for jobs but find myself feeling awkward about writing “short-term contract” on my resume.

    Please share any advice or experience you have with this.

    Many thanks and have a great weekend!

    1. Camellia*

      I think it should be fine to put ‘short term contract’ on your resume; that’s exactly what this is, right? I’ve worked several contract positions and that has always worked for me.

    2. Pwyll*

      You should absolutely put that it’s a contract on your resume. When I interviewed people, I never held contract jobs as “job hopping” because they’re designed to work that way. And working on contract can be great experience.

    3. Anna*

      I have a contract position I list on my resume because it directly relates to the work I’m looking for. I list it as Interim Person Who Does Things, or Person Who Does Things – Interim. Because I was. I was there to bridge a gap while they changed some things around in the department.

    4. msmorlowe*

      ‘Fixed-term contract’ could also work, particularly if you’ve been there a good few months and don’t particularly want to call your time there ‘short’. It can also imply (without you having to spell it out) that there wasn’t really an option of the contract being extended–don’t know if that’s something that applies in your case, or if it’s something that you want to imply, but it does mean you could get out of answering “and was there a reason it wasn’t extended?” if that’s likely to come up.

    5. Golden Lioness*

      I have 2 jobs as a contractor on my resume. I put “contract” right next to the title and I have never been questioned or looked at negatively. Do it on your resume, and managers will understand this.

    6. Jennifer needs contract Thneeds*

      I’ve been working contracts for years. I don’t love it, but that’s life. My jobs are always listed as contract positions. Often I’ll put the start and end dates, and then directly under that, I put “7-month contract” (or however long), just to spell things out.

      Do be aware that job-hunts in the 4th quarter can be hard. Lots of places might be interviewing but won’t have projects start until the new year. Lots of places can’t even interview until the new year. (This might be endemic to my field and usual industry, dunno.) Oh, but again, this is for contracting and if you’re looking for permanent jobs it might be a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        4th quarter hiring is actually pretty easy in my field (risk management/insurance) – in fact, my company has a ton of open positions they’re currently recruiting for. But these are also non-contract, permanent positions.

    7. Chaordic One*

      Don’t feel awkward about writing “short-term” or “fixed-term contract” on your resume.

      Personally, I prefer using the words, “fixed-term,” but it really doesn’t matter and it avoids the “job-hopping” impression.

    8. Mander*

      My field is almost entirely short term contract based. Everyone who knows anything about the work I do knows this, so I don’t worry about it at all.

  11. TJ*

    My department used to be just me and my manager. But as our (small) company grows, we’re hiring more people in my department and I’m starting to feel less actively involved in decision-making and more like I’m just part of a machine churning out projects.

    I still really like a lot of the aspects of my job, though — I just miss feeling more … important, I guess. Is there something I could suggest to my manager that would make me feel more involved again? Or am I stuck with this from now on?

    1. Sunflower*

      Can you ask to take on some of your manager’s work? I would think you being the most seasoned in your department would let you take on some projects that new people(possibly even more experienced, yet new) could not.

    2. Purest Green*

      It might help if you tell your boss what’s going on – not the churning out projects part, but the desire to be more involved in decision making.

      And if it would make sense, you might also approach your manager about a promotion to a lead/senior/coordinator role where you’re automatically part of the decision-making process.

    3. Happy in My Job, But I Could Move Up*

      another thing you could suggest taking on is codification of best practices.

      (this “cog in the wheel” thing is coming up in my job, and I’m not looking forward to it, at all!)

  12. Desi*

    I got the job!!!! So excited!

    Now nervous about telling my boss I’m leaving, but I’m SO. FREAKING. HAPPY!

    1. Desi*

      Not sure why I’m nervous though. They’ve shown they don’t value me.. My exit interview is going to be delightful :)

      1. Carmen Sandieago*

        I’m much in the same boat, I landed a new job and now working my notice, my boss is being super strange about the whole thing. Including criticising my letter of resignation and other strangeness.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Because it’s like a breakup. Breakups are awkward.
        You’ll be fine. And once it’s done, it’s done.

    2. Cass*

      Congratulations!! And good luck with the resignation. (I honestly wrote out a little script for myself to somewhat-memorize when I did.)

    3. Golden Lioness*

      Congratulations! Once you go ahead and tell then you quit you will no longer be nervous. Best of luck!

  13. Editor Lady*

    I’m in a bit of a conundrum. I received a verbal job offer two weeks ago, and informally accepted it. The new company has been emphatic that I shouldn’t quit my job etc. until I receive the formal, written offer (no way I would; I’ve read the horror stories here). Unfortunately, the formal offer process is brand new and apparently taking forrrrreverrrrrr. It’s now looking like the job offer may be coming next week while I’m on vacation. Would it be better to come in on one of my vacation days to give notice so my boss has more time to plan? Or just give my notice on the 14th, saying my last day is the 25th? Should I give my boss a heads up today, even without the formal offer?

    Side question—I’m also going to be leaving my current company in a bind. We’re already short a person and I’m supposed to be training the new person we hire. (Our training is long, complicated, and a huge time suck because what we do is so complex. 100% delighted to be leaving it behind.) They are absolutely not going to have the bandwidth to train two new people. I know it’s not my problem, but I would love some advice on dealing with the inevitable guilt trip from my manager on this topic. I do already feel a bit guilty because I’ve been acting as though I will continue to be here forever when I know I am totally leaving.

    1. ButFirstCoffee*

      Don’t feel guilty because you are doing what’s best for you. I would say still wait for the formal offer. If coming in one of your vacation dates is easy because you are local, it would certainly be nice on your end to make sure it is the 2 weeks and it might help alleviate any guilt tripping they do on you, since you definitely don’t have to do that!

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      Could you offer to record videos (like a WebEx meeting of just you talking and “sharing” your screen) as a training resource?

      1. Editor Lady*

        We actually already have a bunch of BrainShark videos and exercises and other resources to make the training process a bit easier on the trainer (and hopefully the trainee as well). We just have a ridiculous amount of turnover for new hires (they get fired for not learning fast enough), and reviewing their work is the biggest time suck.

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          Well in that case I wouldn’t feel guilty, since it’s not so much a “I’m taking away valuable institutional knowledge at an important juncture” as just not being a (trained) warm body.

    3. Isben Takes Tea*

      Also, if NewJob is taking forever to get you the formal offer, it’s reasonable to expect to push your start date back to give OldJob the proper notice…I wouldn’t interrupt your vacation unless absolutely necessary.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        +1. Don’t come in on your vacation, and do give a full two weeks. If new company is dragging the process out they should be willing to wait a few days more.

    4. Persephone Mulberry*

      If the offer finally comes while you’re on vacation, I would tell the new company that you plan to give two weeks notice when you get back from your vacation. They’ve dragged it out this long; a few extra days on your end won’t kill them.

      1. my two cents*

        yep – agreed. NewJob should at least be readied to be flexible on the start date, especially knowing the formal offer has been delayed a bit.

      2. Joseph*

        Yes. In fact, given that they were explicit about telling you not to quit your current job yet (a fair thing to say), it’s likely that they’re reasonable enough that they won’t blink an eye when you ask for a few extra days. Also, if you happen to be in the US, nobody is going to think twice about your request for a few extra days since it’s super common for people to be in and out around Thanksgiving.

    5. Ella*

      I feel like this stuff happens all the time. If you really feel like you want to let your company know while you’re on vacation, then you can call them. But I wouldn’t cut short your vacation. It’s just part of business– the best time for you to leave may not always be the best for the company, but it’s not personal.

    6. my two cents*

      Since NewJob has already acknowledged that you should wait for the offer, and also that their offer is taking longer than expected, you could ask NewJob if you can give OldJob a little additional notice and push out your start date with NewJob by a week should OldJob be super-mad about you leaving. But really, Allison says it all of the time because it’s really true – there’s no ‘good time’ to leave a job.

      Also, be sure to document any processes you can, even if it’s just spinning out a word doc of various checklist items or a doc detailing where any additional docs/reports/software/demos might be hiding on the server.

    7. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, if the offer comes in during your vacation, I’d explain that to NewCompany and ask if you can set your start date accordingly to give two weeks’ notice.

      As far as leaving your company in a bind, document, document everything you can that isn’t already, do your best you can in the time available (this does NOT mean working holidays or late nights – just the best you can with the available work time)…and then it’s on them.

    8. Jessesgirl72*

      Don’t give notice or hint of notice until you get the formal letter!

      If you are able to give notice when it comes through, then that would be the nice thing to do. If it would inconvenience you, slightly less than 2 weeks notice will just have to do.

      My husband’s now former manager gave less than a week’s notice! Talk about putting them in a bind!

      Don’t feel guilty. You are doing the best you can, and their problems are not your problems. You can be sympathetic to their plight, but don’t let them put that on you.

    9. Golden Lioness*

      Don’t feel guilty! You have to do what’s best for yourself. You don’t have to come in to give notice (though it would be nice) You can call your boss and immediately send an e-mail. Another option is to ask your new employer if they’ll allow you and extra week so you can give the full 2 weeks notice.

    10. H.C.*

      Don’t worry about interrupting your vacation, if they are taking a while to produce a written offer – you also have a bit more leeway in providing your response too (also, you should factor in some time for negotiation too). Wait until your written offer comes, agree upon a start date (& everything else), then give notice to your current employer.

      RE: leaving current job, if you can swing it – maybe give a more generous notice date? But if you can’t, just tell your manager that you’ll do everything possible to 1) complete existing tasks and 2) provide documentation on projects still in-progress when you leave. But like AAM often said, employers deal with this all the time (& those who can’t are typically dysfunctional in other ways too).

      Enjoy your vacay!

    11. Oryx*

      Don’t say anything until you have the formal offer.

      I’ve had this happen before, where a formal job offer came in while I was on vacation (I faxed my letter back using the machine at the hotel!). I just came back like normal and put my two weeks in the day of my return. I felt a little awkward with the timing (“sooooo I know I just got back from vacation…”) but my supervisor was very understanding.

    12. Happy in My Job, But I Could Move Up*

      If they can wait long enough to get that offer-letter process going, they can wait a half week so that you can give 2 weeks notice on a Monday.

  14. Amy the Rev*

    I’ve signed up with a Temp Agency while I look for an ordainable call (aka a full time job as a Reverend). It’s not ideal, but it covers my rent, and there’s a food pantry near me so groceries are all set. One of the reasons I’ve taken up temping is that I needed something in a high-turnover industry, since getting a job in my field is my top priority, and openings are too few-and-far-between to commit a year in an entry-level position somewhere and postpone my search. In other words, I need to be able to submit my profile to any opening that comes up, be it in a week or a month or a year, but I don’t want to have to burn a bridge in the process.

    My current temp assignment is awesome, and the organization has extended my placement a few times, but my last day is finally approaching. The Temp Agency just told me about a new assignment that would begin 2 weeks after my current one ends (which will be financially tough but my savings will just cover the gap), and would last 3 months, with a dollar-per-hour increase to my wage.

    The only caveat is that I currently have a (very strong) lead on a Minister position, and I have no idea what the church’s timeline is going to be like for hiring (sometimes all the steps happen over the course of 2 weeks, sometimes 3 months, etc.). The Temping Agency told me that they would need a “firm 3 month commitment” for the new assignment, since I’d be filling in for someone’s maternity leave. I feel like I can’t in good conscience give a 3 month commitment when it’s very possible that I might need to leave before then, but at the same time I’m terrified of turning it down and then not finding another assignment soon enough and running out of my savings.

    My instinct is that it would be Not OK if I were to give that commitment and then end up leaving after 2 months, for example, but at the same time, I have zero loyalty to this Temping Agency because they misrepresented their benefits as well as their wage scale. Is this one of those situations where I do the Ethical Thing that might hurt me in the short term but leave my conscience clear, or is this something where ethics don’t even come into play and I’m making it more of a moral issue than it really is (occupational hazard in my field)?

    1. AshK413*

      Can you ask the hiring committee of the Minister position about their anticipated timeline? I know timelines aren’t set in stone but it could give you a rough idea of what to expect so you can make a more informed decision about what to do.
      Or perhaps you can fully commit to the three months that the temp position requires and negotiate for a later start date for the Minister position if offered. I’m not sure if that’s reasonable for your field but I just wanted to throw it out there.

    2. JK*

      Is it possible to check in with your contact for the Minister position, and ask about their hiring timeline?

    3. Pwyll*

      I think this one is going to depend on the contract language (and I’m not even talking legally, but ethically). Are they also providing that they will absolutely not let you go during your 3 month commitment, or can you be let go prior to that time for any reason? I’m not a big fan of employment “commitments” like this that are one-sided. If you’re at-will for them, they should be at-will for you, and you should not feel bad about resigning should a permanent position come available. If they include in writing that you’ll only be let go for “cause”, that makes this murkier ethically, but even then sometimes you have to singe the bridge a bit to get to the other side.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      I don’t know a ton about church hiring timelines, but I have seen churches wait a looong time for a new pastor to start. So I feel like you’re probably in the clear to commit to the three months — even if you got the call quickly, you should be able to postpone your start date, I would think.

      Good luck!

      1. zora*

        yeah, this, too. The last time my parents’ church hired a new minister they waited at least 4 months after they offered the position for the person to start. If you get the offer but you feel like it would really be a hardship for the company you are temping for, ask if you can finish your commitment before you start at the church. If it’s only 1 or 2 months, they can probably get by with lay services for a bit while they wait for you.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that the church will wait for you.

        You might be able to ask them about their timeline, and explain your setting.

    5. YouDontKnowMe*

      how can you give a “firm 3 month commitment” to a job you’re not sure would be a good fit. If something better comes up then take it. I feel like they’re asking for the commitment because it will make their agency look good if you stay the whole 3 months. Im sure that employer wouldn’t think twice about keeping you on if you aren’t working out.

    6. not so super-visor*

      We use a lot of temps here, so we’ve gotten pretty used to temps leaving us, but it the company only uses temps to cover maternity leave or extended leaves, I could understand how that might put them in a bind. Your temp agency, however, should be extremely used to this kind of thing, and remember, you’re actually the temp agency’s employee. You won’t be the first temp that’s ever quit on them. I would say to take the job unless you think that you would need to leave within the first couple of weeks. When you’re interviewing for the Rev position, you can always try to feel out how soon they would need you.

    7. zora*

      I wouldn’t worry about it, take the job, say “I definitely plan to be here for 3 months” (because you do now), and if you get the Minister position, feel free to give a little bit of notice and leave (1-2 weeks)

      They are a temp agency. They have a whole bunch of temps. They will find someone to take over, and everyone will deal. This is what they do.

      Good luck on both jobs!!

      1. Sunflower*

        I agree. Temp agencies are used to dealing with this and part of the reason the company is using one, is because they are looking for someone to do a job that they don’t need to be trained on.

      2. zora*

        If you want to be extra super duper nice to make up for possibly leaving before the 3 months are up, start some hard-core documenting on your first day. Especially if the person on mat leave hasn’t left good instructions.

        Make really solid directions and check lists of everything that the position does, and where all relevant information is. Then if you do have to leave early, you have all of that ready to hand off to the next temp and they can hit the ground running. I did this when I had to leave a temp job a few weeks before the permanent replacement was coming on, and I have heard from my former boss that all of my documentation is still being used regularly a year later. That might make you feel better about leaving early.

        1. I Heart Oregon*

          Super good idea. Be the bigger person and the best temp they’ve had. You never know down the road what could happen or who there knows who, and it could benefit you.

    8. Jenbug*

      As someone who works in the office for a Temp Agency, the most likely thing that would happen if you decided to end your 3 month assignment early is that they would tell you they couldn’t assign you again. If you’re not going to want/need to rely on them in the future, that’s a risk you can take.

      But sometimes assignments don’t work out for a variety of reasons and we often have to replace people so I would imagine even though they’re asking for a “firm 3 month commitment” they are aware that something could happen.

    9. Jessesgirl72*

      There is often some leeway about start dates for Minister positions- No place you’d really want to work for would expect you to leave a church right before Christmas or Easter, for instance. Likewise, they should be glad to postpone a start date for someone who shows they are committed to living up to all their promises.

      But in the end, remember just Who you are representing here. The Temp Agency’s dishonesty doesn’t justify your own, especially when you’re about to start out as a Person of God. And the company where you’re being placed doesn’t deserve it either! You know what the rules are- don’t try to wiggle out of them. :) Things always go smoother if you do the right thing.

    10. Golden Lioness*

      I would both take the job and ask the committee for their timeline (like most comments have already said). Chances are with how long their hiring takes you will be able to work the full 3 months. If you get an offer in the 2nd month, for example, could you ask about a 4 week start date so you can finish up ‘all current project?” I know this may not be possible, but just a thought.

      Hope you get the minister job soon!

    11. General Ginger*

      In my experience with temp agencies, they may not be willing to use you again if you have to end an assignment early, but they do deal with having to find replacements on a regular basis, and most likely will have contingencies in place. And (like the others are saying), chances are that the hiring process may take long enough that you could reasonably give the church a start date that would be after the temp job ends.

      I really hope you hear about the Minister position soon! Good luck!

  15. Nobody*

    I have a friend (former coworker) whose employer, a chocolate teapot company, is going out of business. He has a new job lined up, but since his employer was the only teapot company in the area, he has to move halfway across the country for the new job. The new job is at a vanilla teapot company, the same title as his current job, with slightly higher pay and similar benefits.

    When he told me about the new job, I congratulated him and told him I am looking forward to talking vanilla teapots with him (I started my career in vanilla teapots before going to a chocolate teapot company). He proceeded to complain bitterly about everything that sucks about the new job. He hates the location, his kids are going to hate changing schools, he doesn’t know anything about vanilla teapots, etc. The only positive thing he had to say about this job is that it’s better than being unemployed.

    I’m sad that he feels so negatively about the new job. I feel terrible for him that he is losing his current job through no fault of his own, and I know from my own experience how hard it is to move to another region for a job, but I wish he could find some reason to be excited about the new job. He’s a great guy and normally very personable, but I’m afraid if he brings this negativity to his new job, he could make a bad impression.

    I’m trying to decide if I should say something to him about this, or if this is just one of those situations where being a good friend means letting him vent and saying, “Sorry, that really sucks.” I’m not sure how he would take it, especially coming from me because I’m definitely a glass-half-empty type of person (then again, I think it says something if even I think he is being too negative about this). Should I say something, and if so, how do I put it so as not to piss him off? Should I try to talk up vanilla teapots? Or should I just hope that he gets it out of his system by venting to me?

    1. Blue Anne*

      I had a boyfriend once who, when I was venting, had a habit of asking (very genuinely) “Do you want advice, or sympathy?” and then sticking with what I told him I wanted.

      It was the most wonderful thing ever. Because a lot of the time I just needed to vent and advice would have been annoying, but sometimes I was open to advice even if I didn’t like hearing it. And it was great to be able to straight-up say “I need this/I won’t react well to that.”

      It might be worth just asking him if he wants some advice along with the supportive ear.

      1. msmorlowe*

        It’s something that I actually got into the habit of prefacing any venting with: initially with my father, but now I do it with nearly everyone. I was getting fed up of venting in order to feel better only to be met with “Why don’t you just _____ ?”, so now I start off with “Just venting–all I need you to do is make appropriate noises” or “So, I’m looking for advice about ______”.

        1. SJ*

          I need to do this with my mother. I love her dearly, but she’s a Problem Solver, so I always get advice when I just want sympathy.

      2. MoinMoin*

        My first thought was, “How popular could a radio station be if all they do is play ‘Yohoho and a bottle of rum?”
        That’s an excellent phrase and I’m going to use that.

        1. MoinMoin*

          ….And disregard that first line, it was a response to another comment that I decided was stupid and shouldn’t post. Yet here we are, smdh

          1. aeldest*

            I was trying so hard to figure out what it meant! And it didn’t help that I misread “yohoho” as “yoohoo”, as in the chocolate flavored beverage.

            “Is this about not giving the same advice to everyone, because everyone’s situations are different? Where does the Yoohoo come in? Why on earth would you mix it with rum? That sounds terrible. Is it about not giving the same terrible advice to everyone? Why is a radio station giving out awful mixed drinks? What is the radio station in this metaphor?”

            I figured you were just way smarter than me or something. I think this is how cults form.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              “I figured you were just way smarter than me or something. I think this is how cults form.”

              That’s right! lol.

            2. Mander*

              Now I’m wondering how bad yoohoo and rum might actually be. Maybe blended into a hard shake with some ice cream it wouldn’t be too bad?

      3. Golden Lioness*

        I love that! I think even when people want advice, offering sympathy first anyway is never amiss, no?

    2. Caroline*

      Change is hard for some people, and a lot of his negativity probably is coming from stress and anxiety. Hopefully, all will work out with him–he will grow to like the new location, the kids will like their schools, he will turn out to be a vanilla teapot wizard.

      But you don’t know for sure that that is all going to happen. I’d just try to listen and sympathize while at the same time wishing him the best.

      In my experience, no one wants to be talked out of a feeling they are having.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        This is all very true, but I know someone who got fired a mere 7 weeks after relocating 500 miles, because their employer felt they were so negative about the location and job.

        The OP is right that his attitude could make things really bad!

        1. Natalie*

          Still, that’s his risk to take and fallout to deal with. Unless they are fairly close, then it might be worth a broader “hey, is everything going okay?” kind of conversation.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            The OP describes him as a friend, so that probably mean they are more than “Fairly” close.

          2. So Very Anonymous*

            Also, there can be a difference between what someone says/conveys to a friend and what they say/convey at work.

    3. neverjaunty*

      In addition to Blue Anne’s excellent advice, you might try telling him ‘you’re coming across as a lot more negative than you probably mean to’.

  16. Hermione*

    Been having major motivation/concentration problems the past few months, with personal projects, work, and my grad class – to the point of having to create checklists for even minimal tasks because I’m so absent-minded I’m not sure whether I’ve done things or just started to. My plan this weekend is to stock up on some good-food groceries and start hitting the gym more regularly. Anybody have any other tips? Essential things are getting done, but only the bare minimum, and I want to do better.

    1. seriouslywtf*

      This usually happens to me when my sleep has not been very good. I do progressive muscle relaxation + melatonin before bed and it helps my sleep be much more restful. Hope that helps!

    2. Manders*

      I use Habitica for this. It turns your to do list into a cute little game. After playing for a while, I didn’t have to check my list before doing every little daily task because I’d successfully created new habits.

      Seconding the advice to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. And if you can, talk to a doctor about vitamin deficiencies, since there are quite a few that can cause this kind of brain fog.

    3. Caroline*

      Do you take any medications? I ask because I went through this a couple of years ago and it turned out that I’d started having a bad reaction to a medication I’d been taking, even though I’d been taking it for a while already. When I checked into it, it was a documented side effect.

    4. Jessesgirl72*

      Vitamin D supplements! With the shorter days, and a busy schedule that probably doesn’t allow you to get much sunshine even in summer, I bet you could use some extra Vitamin D. It makes a huge difference to my mood- even when I try to deny it does.

    5. Girasol*

      If you’re trying to retool your life both concentration-wise and health-wise at once, try a peek at Marks Daily Apple blog. He advocates a paleo-type diet but only as part of a realistic whole-life approach to fitness, health, and attitude. He strikes a good balance between motivating encouragement and reminders of when to cut oneself some slack. You might find some useful ideas there.

    6. anonderella*

      I find I’m more focused when I have a clear plan for my future goals (short/long-term) that I’m on top of. But then again, I tend to make a plan and go over it in EXCRUCIATING detail.. and then again… and then again….. and.. again….
      ……………..and again. Being my sounding board is a genuine skill.
      Seriously though, I like to be able to recite it, feel comfortable about it, and then put the whole thing aside for a congratulatory drink/after-thinking activity until Action #1. Making a plan is just as important (I mean generally, not in every instance) as implementing it; I find when I have one, I can relax more of the reflexes that are trying to kick in to keep me ‘on the path’.

      So, if you’re the kind of person who can endure this process, I really advocate just fitting out a plan for whatever you’re trying to get done (mine is currently figuring out what I’d like to go back to school for, if it’s actually going to be helpful to my career goals, etc; which means a lot of figuring with other components, like the SO’s career goals), and charting it out in a way that makes sense to you (again, mine is on graph paper with *every* week charted and visible up to my current, perceived, endgoal date. Somehow this really helps me; I think it’s (well, firstly I am a crazily visual-thinking person) bc I am able to place appropriate pressure on myself to finish a goal, as I can look to the chart to see what I have going on project-wise, vacation-wise (do I need a sick day to reconvene with the Executive Office of Me? or can I wait until my next scheduled PTO day?), and if, if I am feeling off/badly, I can decide how much downtime and self-care I have room for in my schedule, both at work and at home (keep in mind, my chart goes through the end of next May, it’s not just a month or two, though that may be sufficient for your own goals).
      Anyway, the point of the chart is to ensure I’m fitting in the right amounts of productivity **and** relaxation. I have manic/depressive disorder, and I am in a client-facing role 100% of the time at my job (front desk), and that kind of constant vigilance can be very draining; having a chart like this (that I can see & refer to – very important to me personally) is really what I need sometimes to think long-range, and pull myself out of momentary thinking. I don’t keep it inside work, for fear of someone misinterpreting my career goals, but I’ve pulled it out in the car and it gives me some serenity. On days that it doesn’t, I know I’m overthinking/feeling off, and I remind myself to count on what I’ve charted/count on myself who was in a place to think forwardly and calmly – and that helps immensely.

      Also, I find this approach works because it helps me realize when I’m overthinking things – if I’m putting too much detail on the chart, I can step back and reevaluate what those items mean to me, how reflexive I am with them (do they deserve these written reminders?), and conversely whether something needs more attention. I say this because if you do try this exercise, and find yourself getting bogged down in detail, it’s still telling you something about how you think – thus to me, it’s still working : )

  17. Allison*

    Welp, after over two and a half years contracting with my current company, I was finally told that this is it, my contract is up at the end of the year and it’s not getting renewed. My boss had it on her radar to get me converted, but the higher ups had other ideas. So now I have two months.

    I’m not totally freaking out yet! Last time this happened it only took me about a month to find a new job, so I won’t let myself go into full panic mode until at least early December :) I’ve reached out to my network, and I’ve applied to some promising jobs already, both in the field I work in now and the field I’d like to work in, if I could make it happen.

    And I’m actually a little relieved, and excited about this push to work somewhere else. Some of my coworkers have been driving me crazy, and I haven’t had a day of paid vacation in over 3 years. I would LOVE a chance to work as a full-time employee with full benefits for a change.

    My one question is this: my boss was a little vague about why I wasn’t getting renewed. Her explanation was it was budget-related, the department head decided they didn’t need me and the money they were spending on my contract could be better spent on resources for the team. I’m planning to just tell employers my contract is up at the end of the year, but if they ask why it’s not getting renewed, what’s the best thing to tell them?

    1. seriouslywtf*

      I mean, if she said it was budget-related it’s not at all wrong to relay that to employers (though I doubt they will ask, contracts are not renewed for all sorts of reasons and it’s hardly ever because the employee was bad).

      1. Allison*

        A part of me does want to check in with my manager to make sure this isn’t my fault. I mean, what’s done is done and I would think they would talk to me if I was doing something wrong or my performance wasn’t up to par, but if there’s something I need to work on, I want to know about it! It amazes me how often people expect me to read their minds and “just know” when there’s a problem.

        1. Emi*

          It sounds to me like you’re overthinking this, unless it’s way out of character for her to be “a little vague.” You could ask her if she has any feedback for you, but if you don’t have evidence to the contrary, it probably is just the budget.

      2. Jessesgirl72*

        And the reason a contract isn’t renewed is almost always budget related!

        The rules about contractors have changed in the US as well, and the IRS is coming down on companies that keep the same position filled by the same contractor for multiple years. My company did away entirely with contractors for awhile because of that, and thought they could get away without converting the ones who had worked there for a decade or more.

        Guess how well that worked out for them?

        1. Allison*

          I honestly think it’s scummy they kept me as a contractor for this long. They payroll me through a 3rd party so I’m technically employed with someone, and I can get healthcare through them, so it’s all technically legal, but it seems wrong that I’m here longer than most of my coworkers, but I don’t get a single day of paid vacation and they get to take as much as they want, plus other perks only offered to company employees. Not cool. Honestly, if they were renewing my contract but telling me there was no plan to convert me in 2017 I’d probably still get on an active job hunt.

    2. she was a fast machine*

      Maybe something boilerplate about how they were deciding to take the position/department in a different direction? Or, from what it sounds like, simply that your position doesn’t exist anymore so you could say something like they were phasing out your position?

    3. Karanda Baywood*

      I don’t think anyone would ask why your contract wasn’t renewed; but if they do, just say you weren’t privy to the decision or say something vague about budgets.

    4. Golden Lioness*

      You are overthinking this. I have a couple of contractor jobs on my resume and when I tell interviewers I left because the contract was up I was never asked why it wasn’t renewed. That’s the advantage of contract work for employers, it’s temporary, for as long as they need you and they can end the contract at any time. Everybody knows this and they will not question it. If they did, that would be a red flag about the interviewer/employer for me.

    5. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      This happened to me this year, although it came down apparently to they wanted to hire “people like themselves” and since I didn’t have the same background and I was hired in by someone else,out I went (along with other people in a complete team purge). I was fully expecting to be converted, so it was somewhat of a shock. But whatever, I’ve moved on since.

      I essentially spun my experience in a positive way – that the contract had initially been for X months, had been renewed twice due to success in certain projects, and while it would have been great to stay, ultimately the department was being taken in a different direction from when I started and it was no longer a fit for both sides. All of this is true, but it helps spin it in a positive manner, rather than making it look like you couldn’t cut it enough to be made a full offer (yeah, I know how that feels). You can also follow on from there to talk about your successes and hopefully telegraph to the interviewer that yes, the old company was a bunch of morons for not hiring you :)

    6. Happy in My Job, But I Could Move Up*

      I would NEVER ask someone why their contract wasn’t renewed. Because that’s the entire point of a contract–that it will end. That there’s only enough work, or enough money, for a set time.

      If someone said to me, “I was working for Zenon and my contract ended,” I’d say, “Oh.”

      If someone does say, “Why wasn’t it renewed?” you just say, “They didn’t have the budget” or “the job ended.”

    7. Mander*

      Your field is probably different but in mine almost everything is tied to specific projects, and field staff usually only have contracts for the length of that project. Sometimes new work comes up and you get extended, but you can’t count on it. I wouldn’t think it at all strange if someone told me they left a job because their contract ended and it wouldn’t even occur to me to ask why it wasn’t renewed.

  18. Fawn*

    I’m struggling with desktop (as in computer screen) organization. I’m one of those people who saves everything to their desktop and just scans over it when I’m looking for something, but it’s not working anymore – too many projects, too many years. I’d love to have a filing system that makes sense, but it’s so counter to the way I operate that I don’t know where to start! Any tips from the highly organized among you?

    1. PanicAttack*

      I use Google Drive – I have it downloaded to my desktop so I can easily save things to the folders and subfolders I’ve created. Then, I can also access it from my phone and whatever computer I’m on. It’s super easy to just save attachments from emails as well, print emails as PDFs and save them there.

      1. Fawn*

        Ohhh, something I should have mentioned – anything Cloud is a no go for my job. We deal with sensitive information.

    2. J*

      My last couple of gigs have been the kind of jobs where every year looks roughly the same. The same kinds of projects come up at roughly the same time of year, year after year after year. My top level for digital filing is usually year, then by project, and then by element of the project.

      So, I’d have a FY2017 file with folders for Project A and Project B. Each project folder would have a folder for drafts, proofs, final versions, data, vendor contracts, etc. Then folders below that, if necessary.

      I do work out of a folder on my desktop with files that I’m currently working on. It makes them easy to find in a pinch without having to dig through a folder tree. At the end of the week, I go through my inbox and the active files folder to file everything appropriately.

      1. De Minimis*

        I’ve had mixed success with having folders on my desktop—one for my HR related work, one for items related to student workers, one for stuff related to the annual audit.

        I also have one labelled “Old projects” where I try to put things that I no longer need, but I can’t keep up with it.
        The desktop is still cluttered but I’m good on the things where I’ve created subfolders [though they are now getting too hard to manage–may need to create a subfolder for “last year’s HR…”]

        1. J*

          I can’t handle desktop clutter so I have one folder for anything in progress, and the rest of my structure is on our shared drive (which is backed up and properly secured).

        2. TootsNYC*

          I’m a big fan of creating a place to put “Stuff I don’t think I need but don’t want to throw away.” Physically in my house; in my home office filing system; and on my computer.

          I have a desktop file labeled *temp (so that it shows up at the top of the list when I’m choosing where to store stuff). I put things in there that I don’t think I’ll need for more than a day. I can find them easily when I want to open them, but they’re all corralled, and I can delete old ones after a while.
          I also grab desktop files from other places and shove them there when I -think- I’m done with them.

          If it turns out I’m wrong, I can find them, but meanwhile they’re out of sight.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I like to save everything in a folder based on the project and then have subfolders for each year of the project. If you like saving things on your desktop, why not save the project folder to your desktop so you only have to scan for that name, then open it for each related year?

    4. NarrowDoorways*

      I divide everything by year and then project type.

      So 2104, 2015, 2016, 2017; weekly, monthly, company A, company B, etc.

    5. Hermione*

      I used to work a similar way – I often feel too busy in the moment to figure out a filing system, so I saved everything to the desktop, which slowed loading and make me feel wildly disorganized.

      A few years ago I switched to a new system for my home computer, I auto-save to a file I dubbed “quick save”, which is on the desktop (actually, is on dropbox with a shortcut on the desktop but you said that wasn’t an option) but keeps the files visually off the desktop.

      Then once a month or so (my rule of thumb is if I have to spend more than 2 minutes looking for a file I need, it’s time to clean up) I make folders based on projects and name them whatever makes the most sense for me to immediately know what that project is. Typically that looks like “Johnson Project May 2015 – Teapots with Teabag Attachments” – because I can then search my files by any of these keywords: Johnson, May 2015, Teabag, Attachment and come away with what I’m looking for.

      1. TootsNYC*

        A network server might serve the same role your Dropbox does, and might be within the firewall.

    6. SMM*

      I put folders for each project in Documents so I don’t have a messy Desktop.

      For current projects, I put the year/numerical date at the beginning of the folder name so they are listed at the top. Once I don’t need to look at them anymore, I rename the folder so that it will be farther down and not get in my way so much.

    7. Garland Not Andrews*

      I like to save to my desktop as well, but clutter makes me crazy. I have several Topic or project folders where I keep the documents I need. I might initially put them on the desktop, but then I just drag them into the correct folder.
      I also have specific places or areas for different types of folders. Right side lower is for project folders. Right side upper is stuff I can’t get rid of but rarely access. Left side is for shortcuts to specific folders in the shared drive. A few across the top are specific reference files I use often. There is space on the left side for new or temporary files to go and I know where to look for them.
      It keeps things easily accessible, but tidy.

    8. Newton Geizler*

      I save everything to my desktop too! The system I worked out is that files relating to anything I’m actively working on sit on the desktop. I provide a few different services, so I have a folder for each of those. Once a project is done, I make a subfolder for it in the appropriate Service Folder with the project name/date and file everything away. If you’re working on a few different things at once this might not work for you.
      I also keep templates that I use frequently on a separate section of my screen so I can always find them. In the past, I’ve also changed my desktop background to make different sections for different things. It’s… not pretty, but it makes it easy to visually sort things out.

      1. TootsNYC*

        So you chose a desktop image that had sections on it? like, if it’s a lake by a mountain, you put Project A on the mountain and Project B in the lake?

        It would be sort of fun to create your own desktop background w/ rectangles and labels!

        1. KR*

          We’ve done that for our editing PC that multiple people work on (section for each person, programs, ect) . It’s easy to whip up in Photoshop (or gimp or paint or whatever) and working with a group of young video editors people liked to add a lot of little hidden images or jokes or visual tricks.

    9. Hillary*

      I put everything in folders. I have one folder for vendors, with a subfolder for each individual company. Another folder for projects with a subfolder for each. There’s one gigantic folder called document retention for all the stuff I have to keep on file but should never need to look at again, and so on. At the end of the month I move daily files out of the main folder and into the year subfolder. Being able to change the views on folders is also a real plus. I’m obsessive about filenames, so I like the detail view in windows explorer. I usually sort by file name, but sometimes by date.

      Basically, it’s about how you think and where you’d go to look for things. If you remember things by projects, go that route. If it’s by date or who it involved, file it under those (I have folders called Jane and Bob, for instance). If you already have a way to organize your email you could copy that.

      1. Nicole*

        I agree that you want to organize in a manner that aligns with how you think so it’s easy to find your files later. To add to that, I suggest using the quick launch toolbar so all your frequently used files or folders are a click away without cluttering your desktop. Instructions on that are in the link if you click my name.

    10. TootsNYC*

      My vote is to have only a very few big folders. Divide your work up into big categories.

      Like, Staffing, Projects, Budget, Personal, Other.

      Maybe not more than 5 to start out. Maybe all your projects go in one big folder, and later you can see if it would make sense to either subdivide inside Projects, or have multiple Projects.

      (and maybe Staffing has resumes, vacation requests, procedure sheets, etc.–see the variety there?)

      This would use your current system (dump it in there and scan for it later) to a large degree.

    11. TootsNYC*

      Another possibility that would capitalize on your current system is to have folders for stuff you DON’T use. for the UNimportant stuff

      (a parallel might be my utensils drawer. I don’t have the whole thing divided, I just have two little “bins” for the small stuff like paring knives and measuring spoons, and one for the measuring cups, to keep them from sliding over and getting in the way of the spatulas, whisks, graters, tongs, pizza cutter, ice cream scoop, etc., all of which are jumbled together in the main section.

      So, the stuff that you DO put in a folder is the stuff you know you won’t want, or that’s seldom used (and so you don’t want to scan for it).
      Or, it’s a very few things, but ones you use all the time.

      ANOTHER OPTION: use time. (you wrote: too many years)
      So you have a folder on your drive for each year, and you scoop desktop files into it and out of the way. Then when you do go back that far, you’re only seeing one year’s worth at a time.

  19. Marian, the unemployed librarian*

    I have my MS degree in Library Science and want to work in a public library, preferably Reference Services, but I don’t have enough Reference desk experience. (I was only in shelver positions.) I’ve tried for tech services jobs because I do have experience in cataloging and copy cataloged in previous positions, but I’m not techie enough or they are seeking someone with more experience, etc. UGH! I’m not sure what I can do. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    1. Anoners*

      Are there any insurance / law / medical type offices where you live? I find most of those kinds of businesses need reference librarians, and it might be a way to get some experience in that specific field. Public library jobs are so hard to get (yes people luck into them, but it’s rare), and MS schools are pumping out graduates in a big way, so there’s lots of competition… Basically I would suggest looking for other types of workplaces that might hire a MS, get some experience and then try to get into the public library. Also many libraries hire from their existing staff, who have this MS, so if you do work at one already you might have a way in. Good luck!

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Are there any insurance / law / medical type offices where you live?

        These are good suggestions, but just want to point out that some law libraries require you to not only have a MLS, but also a J.D. Corporate librarianship in general, though, is very underserved in my area.

    2. Public Library Tech Services Admin*

      Have you ever worked the circulation desk? I think you’d have better luck applying to a circ job that doesn’t require a degree, and then getting an internal hire to reference librarian.
      Tech Services is even tougher to get into, because the market is flooded with MLIS graduates who don’t want to actually work with the public.

      1. Marian, the unemployed librarian*

        I did as a temp job one summer. It was a bit of a challenge because I have BRF (“Bitchy Resting Face”) and the manager kept screaming at me to “smile”. Turnover was really really high in that place- as in they were posting jobs weekly on all the library boards, so maybe it was just a bad place.

    3. Fellow MLIS holder*

      Can you volunteer at a smaller library to get some experience with reference? I work in an information services field that is not library-related, but a lot of my classmates found that they absolutely had to have internship or volunteer experience in order to be hired.

      Definitely seconding the advice to work in a special library recommended above. You might even try competitive intelligence work or prospect research (in a nonprofit fundraising setting), both of which would get you a lot of experience conducting reference interviews that you can point to as a related skill.

      Sometimes you just have to suck it up and take paraprofessional positions for a bit. The professional MLIS market is a lot rougher than the ALA would make it out to be.

      1. Marian, the unemployed librarian*

        Could you share what you do? Or the type of work you do? (I’m nosy and the “information services field but not library-related” bit has me intrigued.)

    4. fposte*

      Would you be available to sub? That’s one of the best ways to get a foot in the door at an individual library, but obviously it’s tough to do if you have something full-time on.

      1. Feel your pain*

        I second subbing in a library. That’s how I got my start. Join organizations and attend conferences. Many times there are scholarships available. Attend workshops – usually inexpensive. Join list-servs so that you see open positions and also follow library trends.

        Good luck to you!

    5. Jax*

      Also try looking at jobs smaller library systems. Do you have friends/classmates with positions in public libraries? Maybe network with them and see if they’ll put in a good word for you, too, at least for an interview.

    6. harahel*

      Be willing to sub, for sure. Sadly, there are more degrees then there our jobs in our field. Also, I would highly recommend becoming conversant in Overdrive and other ebook softwares. A lot of libraries need someone who understands those systems enough to explain them to patrons!

    7. GiggleFits*

      My first reference job was part-time at a community college just before I started library school. It was a great starting point. Community college libraries (at least where I live) often have positions open for part-time circulation and reference staff because people get full time positions and leave fairly regularly. Plus, CC libraries often serve a pretty diverse population that’s fairly similar to a public library’s patron base (minus the kids and younger teens). Obviously part-time isn’t ideal, but if you were willing to work the evening/weekend shifts you could pair it pretty easily with another part-time or a full time position. At least it’s a foot in the door.

    8. Library School Dropout*

      It always helps if you have any experience with a second language.

      There seem to be a fair number of jobs in out-of-the way small rural towns. Of course, you’d have to move and a small town might not be where you’d want to live, but if you could do it for a year or two you’d get some experience that way.

      For some reason I see a fair amount of turnover in positions for “children’s librarians” and “young adult librarians.” Such a position might be a way to get your foot in the door.

      Finally, although it doesn’t sound great, it seems like they are always advertising for librarians to work in prisons. (Alison interviewed a prison librarian a while back.)

    9. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      Do you have an interest in genealogy? Genealogical societies may be looking for instructors/speakers. For many, it easy to get pidgeon-holed (special libraries, public libraries, organizational libraries);however, genealogy reference librarians seem to be the exception to this rule.

    10. DragoCucina*

      Are you able/willing to move? The market is tough in some areas, but there are places looking. I too have RBF. You have to push through it no matter the position. Even in tech services there are internal “customers”. It’s the fake it til you make it model.

      1. Marian, the unemployed librarian*

        I just hate being told to smile. I’m fine, this is just how my face is and unless I get plastic surgery, I can’t change it! Sorry for the rant. I have applied to jobs out of state, but they seem wary and it either ends with the phone call or they just send the rejection letter.

  20. work attire*

    Possibly an unpopular opinion, but I am SO glad statement jewelry is not a huge trend anymore because I am going to lose it if one more person or blog tells me I should wear a statement necklace at work.

    Obviously, no problem if you do likes statement jewelry but I really wish people would chill with giving women the same fashion advice as if we all have the same style, taste levels, body types, income, or work environments. I don’t wear jewelry and I hate that so much work attire advice to women centers around accessorizing when not every woman likes accessorizing! Accessorizing is okay! Not accessorizing is okay!

    This rant is brought to you by the coworker who constantly says I look too “New York Street” and should invest in some statement jewelry to look more feminine/approachable (this comes regardless of whether I’m wearing a dress or jeans). Mind you, my coworker calls her style “workplace Kentucky Derby”, and both of our work attires are fine in my workplace so I don’t know what her deal is with trying to change my style. It’s so irritating and I’m at my wit’s end.

    I’ll keep my leather jackets as my statement piece, thank you very much.

    1. Kristine*

      I don’t like statement jewelry, either. I own one small, simple necklace and two pairs of stud earrings. That’s it. I look out of place compared to my other female coworkers, but I don’t mind. I prefer to accessorize with bold lipstick.

    2. Camellia*

      I like “Yup, I’m street, so you better look both ways before you cross me!” Said with a firm look.

      Or maybe, “I’m returning your nose, dear; I found it in my business!” Said with a bright smile.

      Or perhaps, “I find a kind heart is the best accessory.” With a raised eyebrow for her unkindness.

    3. JLK in the ATX*

      I had a boss who hated my black pants/print top/heels attire. She said I was boring and that she found ‘changing me’ to be a challenge that she wanted to assume. Her style suited her (she’s a Chico’s shopper), but I wasn’t to be made over. I wore more black (although that’s not my style) to irritate her and said that I enjoyed my attire and can’t afford other types of clothes. She gave up.

      I’ve noticed on these threads, we’re afraid to tell people how we feel (in a professional, non-confrontational) manner. How about telling her, “My style makes me feel very confident, professional, and feminine. I’m sure your style does that for you. I like me. I won’t change.” I have a feeling she’ll say, “I was just making a suggestion..geez.” but at least you set your boundary.

      1. work attire*

        Oh, I don’t have a problem telling her I like my style. I’m just tired of hearing about it. I usually go for, “Jewelry isn’t my thing. I like my current style and don’t plan to change it.”

        I think she’s just the type of person who thinks all woman need to wear jewelry and that femininity is about bright colors and flashy jewelry. Which I don’t have a problem with, but bright colors and big jewelry is totally not me.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s time to change what you are saying, you have to connect the dots for her because she can’t.

          “We have talked about this before and what did we conclude?”


          “Yes, you have made your point. Please stop mentioning it.”


          “We have talked about this previously. Let’s talk about other things.”

          You could try to derail her with asking her why she keeps bringing this up. To me she sounds like she is bored. I worked with a person who routinely asked me what was for dinner. I really hate that question, so my urge to strangle this person went way up. I really believe the question came from a place of boredom.

    4. Kai*

      “Workplace Kentucky Derby” is a hilarious description and I can imagine perfectly what that looks like. Love it.

      1. Paige Turner*

        “Workplace KY Derby” is totally hilarious but “New York street” just sounds offensive. I’ll stick with my all-black-and-maybe-a-scarf work clothes, myself.

      2. Janice in Accounting*

        To combat wardrobe boredom I like to designate theme weeks (in my head only): wear stripes every day for a week, or wear a different black skirt every day. I think I may branch out: “Workplace Kentucky Derby” week where I wear a different patterned dress and kicky heels each day; “New York street” week with lots of slouchy black looks; maybe “NASCAR” week with denim everyday, or “Seattle street” week and wear various raincoats.

    5. Central Perk Regular*

      As someone who has gone to the Kentucky Derby several times, you probably wouldn’t want to dress this way in your every day job. Now, I like huge, over-the-top hats, frilly dresses, and sky-high heels but I would never wear it to my (corporate) job, but that’s just me. :) I’ve also seen women wear halter tops and short shorts to my very conservative office, so I guess everyone’s definition of “smart casual” is different.

      I have a nice leather jacket that I bought at Free People several years ago and I happily wear it to work. :) I don’t personally wear a ton of jewelry anymore and when I do, it’s more subtle, delicate pieces.

    6. Emilia Bedelia*

      I feel like this is veering into “not everyone can eat sandwiches” territory… clothing is such a personal choice that I really don’t think anyone should take any advice as anything more than a suggestion (especially when things like shorts suits and sheer blouses are presented as serious suggestions of what to wear….what??). I hate white blouses, khaki is my worst neutral, and pencil skirts are super unflattering on me, which basically means that I’ve never followed any traditional workplace clothing advice. If you’re happy with what you wear, then don’t worry about it- these suggestions are for people who want ideas on changing their style, which sounds like is not a concern for you.

      Frankly, I think statement necklaces/jewelry/accessories are one of the few types of clothing that is applicable to many tastes, body types, income levels, etc. They’re almost 1 size fits all, available at many price points, can be suitable for a wide range of climates, and anyone can find something in their style. I think it’s better for blogs/etc to highlight small accessory changes which are more accessible for more people, rather than bigger investment pieces.

      With regards to your coworker, I’d ask her point blank “Do you think the way I dress is inappropriate for work? Then can I ask you to please stop commenting on what I’m wearing? I like the way I look, and I’m not really interested in changing my style.”

      1. Aurion*

        Well, the thing about the “not everyone can eat sandwiches” is that the OP is asking for advice first (“what is a cheap and easy way to pack lunch”). In work attire’s situation, their coworker is preemptively trying to convince them to change the style, and it’s the preemptive part that makes this obnoxious.

        1. Anna*

          Yeah. This isn’t someone asking what is appropriate professional attire or is it okay to wear this statement piece in a professional setting; it’s someone who dresses professionally and is comfortable with their style asking to be let the eff alone.

          I like statement jewelry and I always wear earrings. That’s my thing. Also, am not wearing a necklace today, because I don’t like them every day. BUT that’s how I dress, not how my really good friend dresses (she does not wear earrings and she likes simple necklaces). Clothing is a personal choice and unless it’s inappropriate and you are in charge of that person, it’s best to bug off.

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          I definitely agree that the co-worker is out of line!
          I’m specifically responding to the general comments about how people in general should stop recommending that women should accessorize at work. Blogs and such are MEANT for people who are “asking for advice”- I get that the co-worker is annoying because it’s unsolicited, but I disagree with the idea that because some people don’t like wearing necklaces, no one should ever recommend, in any situation, that someone else wear one at work, which is kind of what the original post was implying in my reading.

          1. work attire*

            My issue isn’t with the recommendation, it’s with the blogs who state that you SHOULD or NEED to wear a necklace to look professional. It’s one thing to suggest that I wear jewelry for a casual look and another entirely to tell me I have to wear it or else I don’t look professional. Quite a few veer towards the latter.

    7. MsMaryMary*

      I don’t manage people anymore, so my coworkers’ work attire is officially Not My Concern. Therefore I follow my mother’s advice: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

      1. Jersey's Mom*

        oh god, do I need more coffee.

        I read that as “if you can’t wear something nice……”

        1. aeldest*

          I am totally stealing this for when my friends complain they don’t know what to wear!

          “well, like my mom always said, if you don’t have anything nice to wear, don’t wear anything at all!”

    8. KatieKate*

      I would be so complemented if someone said my style was New York Street! (She said, wearing a statement necklace AND leather jacket.)

    9. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      Ha! I love the “workplace Kentucky Derby” description because admittedly that’s my style :)

      But agh, I would never, ever tell a coworker to change their style.

    10. Manders*

      My cutest statement jewellery is all from SFF conventions. Unfortunately, I don’t work in the kind of office where necklaces with dragons or BB-8 on them would fit in.

        1. Amadeo*

          Yes. I have a lightsaber necklace I got from Kay and I think it may have helped me land my current job. Lots of people think it’s a flute at first glance (it’s subtle, and gold, with diamonds as the blade), but my now-supervisor and now-coworker caught onto it immediately at my interview.

    11. Woman of a Certain Age*

      I had conflicting role models growing up. My father’s mother was older and had been young during the 1910s and 1920s. She was something of a “flapper” and bobbed her hair and liked and wore bright colors, large gaudy jewelry. She sort of looked like someone from “Downton Abbey.” But really her taste in jewelry and clothing was sort of questionable. OTOH, my mother’s mother was younger and came of age during the Great Depression. She was poorer and was something of a Lutheran church lady and rarely wore jewelry at all.

      I kind of tend to take after the Lutheran church lady side of the family and don’t really like jewelry that much. I prefer to wear nice tailored clothing and I think that my clothes look classy by themselves. If I do wear jewelry, more often than not, it is just a strand of (faux) pearls and maybe a matching pearl bracelet.

      For some reason, many of my coworkers are into Navajo-style turquoise jewelry. It sort of seems like “cultural appropriation” to me, and even if not, I just can’t seem to get into it. (I think some of the jewelry comes from “Chico’s.”)

    12. TootsNYC*

      “should invest in some statement jewelry to look more feminine/approachable”

      Actually, I think statement jewelry looks more assertive and aggressively fashionable, which are not what I think of as stereotypically feminine/approachable.

      (love there, “I’m returning your nose; I found it in my business”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I can’t see loud colors and statement jewelry being “more” feminine, either.
        And equating feminine looks with being approachable hurts my brain.
        To each her own, I guess.

        If I were to push for a show down over this one, I would ask, “You keep saying that. Are you trying to tell me that others feel I am not approachable, that I am off-putting somehow?”

        [She stammers out something.]

        Then I would say, “Well this topic of clothes and jewelry keeps coming up. I have explained that I will not be changing my appearance which basically answers that question. Since the topic keeps coming up I have to wonder if there is an underlying concern that has not been addressed, because I have answered this particular concern as presented.”

    13. Lady Bug*

      I just hate the term “statement necklace”. Its jewelry. Its not making a statement. Rant over.

    14. AdAgencyChick*

      I adore statement necklaces but I would never dream of trying to impose them on someone else!

    15. Mander*

      That would make me crazy. As long as what I’m wearing is appropriate it’s not anyone’s business to tell me what to wear.

  21. J*

    I could use a little help crowdsourcing questions for an interview on Monday.

    I felt pretty confident in the first interview, but I realized after the fact that I didn’t ask good questions about the culture of the workplace. I tried to convey more what I’ve enjoyed about workplaces in the past in the hopes of prompting “oh, here’s how we’re similar” types of commentary from the interviewees. I was satisfied with what I was hearing, though, of course, everyone is on their best behavior in an interview.

    Does anyone have recommendations for questions that feel out what kind of management culture a place has?

    We moved over the summer, and I left behind an organization and team I loved and have been fortunate to have found a job with another team I like, but the commute is just too far. I’m fortunate to have the luxury of not needing to get out of my present situation, so I want to make sure to find a good fit if I make this leap.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      How are metrics measured? What’s the growth opportunity like at the company? Does your team/department/company offer learning opportunities and if so, can you give me some examples?

      If it’s not mentioned in the interview, I’ll ask if this position is new or filling someone who left and why that’s the case. From there I’ll ask about the turnover, whether they promote from within or hire from the outside, and if there’s growth expected for the team or department.

      How would you describe your culture? What aspects of the culture are your favorite and what aspects do you think could be improved? How’s your work/life balance? What do you enjoy most about this job/company and what do you least like about it?

      Do you have a busy period? If so, does it require extra hours/overtime and how do you cope with that?

      1. J*

        I actually threw out an off-the-cuff question about metrics in the first interview. I felt weird about asking it after the fact, like maybe that wasn’t okay for an interview, but the answer was very helpful.

        1. Anna*

          It’s always fun when you off-handedly ask a question and they’re impressed. I did a phone screening with a start-up once and because my friend works for one and I knew the issues they dealt with, I asked about funding. The guy was super impressed and I was invited to interview in person.

    2. Pari*

      Why do employees like working here?
      Besides qualifications what you you look for when hiring new employees?
      Why is this position vacant?
      If I’m hired what might the first 60 days look like from your perspective?

    3. Gung Ho Iguana*

      I’m wondering about this myself. One of my issues with my current workplace is that my boss doesn’t set priorities but still dings you for not getting all your work done. I’m thinking of saying that I work best in a structured environment with clear expectations, and asking if that’s their working environment.

    4. NaoNao*

      I’ve had some success with:
      “What types of people tend to do well here and what types of people tend to struggle?”
      “What type, if any, of employee engagement incentives or activities do you have?”
      “Can you tell me a little bit about the “perfect match” for this team? What type of personality, in general, tends to fit best with this team/office/job?”
      “Can you share a little bit about your yearly evaluation process, if any? What types of things do you evaluate on?” (This may give you an idea of their business and cultural goals or mission/vision statement type stuff)

    5. FatBigot*

      You could try “Can you tell me about the history of this position?”. What they say or do not say could give lots of info about the company.

    6. Jules the First*

      My personal magic question is ‘If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your process, what would it be?’ No one has ever thought about that deliberately, but it’s the kind of thing they can answer fairly quickly and it give you great insight into what they think works and doesn’t work around the office (also, sometimes, about the annoying things!)

      The other question I ask is ‘what are the bear traps someone in this role will trip over?’ It gets a laugh and then some really revealing answers because people are primed with the amusement and then off-stride when they give you an answer.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Those are really good. I asked something similar (“If you could change one thing about the process here, what would you change?”) at my last two interviews, at fast-growing startups. The answers were all pretty telling, about how things change all the time, you have to be flexible, we’re all really busy, etc.

        Today, my interview was at a much more traditional place. So I asked, “I noticed you have a lot of people working here who have been here for a very long time. Why do you think they stay?” The answer didn’t surprise me, per se, but I enjoyed hearing the answer.

  22. hit the wall*

    I have a slacker coworker who has flown under the radar and has gotten away with slacking off for YEARS. She finally has a manager who wants to do something about it, which is good, but it is so frustrating that she has gotten away with doing the bare minimum for so long. She has never been promoted or recognized and gets minimal raises every year. She wouldn’t last three months at any other organization, which is probably why she hasn’t looked for another job. She doesn’t care and knows no one else would tolerate this. People where I work hate doing the work that would go into putting someone on a PIP, so a ton of people here just get away with doing barely anything without consequence. It has been very frustrating for me to watch.

    1. Menacia*

      What I have seen with new managers coming into our organization is panic from the people who have been coasting for years. This, in turn, has caused more calls to IT from people who are looking for help how to do their job! Um, you have been doing the job for 20 years and you don’t know how to do it? It’s frustrating as hell because I’m the one who is usually helping them because they can’t help (or refuse) to help themselves. I’ve started pushing back BIG time because I’m not a SME and I won’t take on that role without major changes happening to my current position. People even call me to send them instructions I have already sent them (how about doing a search in your email?!).

      1. Rubyrose*

        I know this is a pain, but when I constantly get emails from the same person asking me to send what I’ve already sent, this is what I do. I find the email I originally sent them and note the date and time of that email. In response to their new request, I tell them they can find the information in the email I sent them on this date/time. I only have to do that two times; they get the message and somehow they are then able to find all that previous stuff I sent.

  23. AnotherAnony*

    The past two jobs that I’ve had the big boss who hired me liked me, but my direct supervisor that I reported to and spent the most time with did not like me so much- in the interview in front of the boss they were of course professional, but once on the job they changed. I don’t know if they wanted another candidate for the position or it was just something about me that they didn’t like, but they were mean since day one. They didn’t want to train me, include me in anything, etc. They were also really catty and liked to make fun of me within earshot and joke about me to other co-workers. I have a sense of humor, but it consisted of excluding me and bordered on bullying, plus it was like a giant popularity contest and the actual work didn’t matter. Is there a way to avoid this? Is there any way to tell from the interview? Or do you only know once you’re there?

    1. Anna*

      Man, that sucks and I’m sorry you had to deal with that even a little bit. I’m not sure there’s a way to know it completely when you interview. After all, they’re (usually) on their best behavior just as much as you are, but know that MOST places are not like that and you’ll probably not land in another job where people are so shitty just based on randomness alone.

    2. Golden Lioness*

      Sorry, I have no suggestions but just to say my sympathies.
      Unfortunately some people do not show their true colors right away. There’s always going to be an element of uncertainty. You cannot control their behavior, but you can control yours! Always be the best you can be!

    3. Girasol*

      Do you think you come across in an interview as being especially competent? People who get bully treatment tend to be those who are good enough at what they do that the bully fears he will look bad by comparison. You might have some luck with praising a bully in front of the boss but some are so insecure that even that won’t help. I can’t imagine how you’d know in an interview that this is going to be a problem, since few interview panelists would blurt out (especially in front of their own bosses) “I think you’re a little too good to fit in here.”

      1. AnotherAnony*

        My degree is in the same field that the big bosses had theirs, but my supervisors either didn’t have a degree or had a different degree/degree in another field. I didn’t brag about it or talk about it, but some of my coworkers maybe thought I wanted to be in the big boss’ position. I’m pretty quiet and reserved, so maybe they thought I was a snob or something. I don’t know. I guess the jobs just weren’t the best fit, but the fact that it happened twice has me really bothered, like is it me? Am I doing something terribly wrong? I admired the people I worked with- degree or no degree, but I just don’t know how to vocalize it.

        1. Jules the First*

          There was a great article on Inc today about ‘what happened when I complimented everyone I met one day’ which really resonated – it’s a great way to practice building rapport with people….everyone likes it when they get compliments, and it can make you a bit more approachable if you’re reserved.

          1. AnotherAnony*

            I would do that though. I mean I wasn’t mute or anything. They just seemed to hate me from the start. There were other quiet people there, but somehow I was their target. I was also the only female so maybe that was the problem as well?

            1. Jules the First*

              Being the only woman certainly doesn’t help…is it at all possible that you’ve ended up in work environments where this kind of ‘blokey’ hazing is par for the course and happens to everyone (and you just happened to be the last one in and so the only one it happened to)? If that’s the case, you’re best served by channeling your inner frat-boy and snarking back (which I know is hard because we’re so conditioned not to be rude). The other possibility, if you’re the only woman, is that they simply had no idea how to relate to you (and I’m not saying this was right, but awkwardness can turn in to clique-ness and bullying quite easily).

              In terms of sniffing it out at interview, I’d ask things like ‘what kinds of people succeed in this role?’ and, actually, ‘what is it like to be a woman in this organisation?’ (though the latter works better if you can get a face to face with a woman who actually works there). It can be tough being the first woman in the business, so seek out some professional associations in your field and see if you can connect with some other women in the field who can commiserate and swap coping techniques.

              1. AnotherAnony*

                I understand where you’re coming from, but they were the type to dish it, but they couldn’t take it or they wanted others to get in trouble. I gave a sassy reply once and almost landed in hot water. But the guys could do whatever they want. My one older female coworker would try to get me to talk smack about people just so she could tell on me because she either wanted me to get in trouble or get fired.

        2. Girasol*

          Ouch. I’ve met a number of people without a college degree who seem to wildly overestimate the intelligence gap between themselves and degree holders, and act as though “uneducated” is tattooed on their foreheads where everyone sees it regardless of what they do or say. If you share a background with the big bosses, I can see how a manager who isn’t quite secure and mature might deal badly with it, no fault of yours.

    4. Woman of a Certain Age*

      I’ve noticed a pattern in my employment history that the people who hired me liked me and everything is fine for a time, but then a year or two later, they leave the organization and the new supervisor doesn’t really like me and wants to bring in their own hand-picked replacement for me. (And yes, I think my age is part of the reason.) Sometimes I feel invisible and sometimes I feel like they dismiss me. I don’t know what to do about it.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I think the answer is in your first sentence.
      The big boss hired you.
      The problem is not you, it’s the big boss. The supervisors probably hated the big boss and decided a good way to get even was to hate you.
      Big bosses usually do not catch on to this.

      Spend more time talking with the supervisor on the interview if you can. Supervisors should have inputs into who gets hired, it helps prevent a lot of these types of problems. Ask how much consideration is given to the supervisor’s inputs regarding who to hire. Ask about turn over, ask why the previous person left.
      On day ONE make the supervisor’s concerns your top priority. Yes, it can seem a little brown-nosy. But people who butter up other people cannot sustain this, make sure you always take care of your supervisor’s concerns ASAP. Think of it this way, you are her inlaw, she did not pick you and yet she has to live with you. Through actions let her know that you are there to help her. The pay off is later, in the long run. This happens when the supervisor lets her guard down and you go on to have a normal supervisor/employee relationship. It takes time to build this.

      1. AnotherAnony*

        I understand your point and not to argue, but the other coworkers then side with the supervisor. So it was the supervisor + coworkers versus me. (Strength in numbers?) One-on-one we might be fine, but when their friends are around, they put me down and act like they want nothing to do with me.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Ugh. Sounds like you had two toxic jobs back-to-back. This happens in toxic places where alliances change by the moment. I am sorry this happened to you.
          One thing I decided to do for me, was to make a quicker assessment of the place and get out sooner, as opposed to letting things drag on and on. Making that promise to myself seemed to help a little.

          1. AnotherAnony*

            I was out of the second place very quickly. It was right after the first place and I was like ready to hightail it out of there. Never. Again.

      2. Lo Flo*

        I had a phone interview one time with my potential manager and his director for a specialized accounting function. The director did all the talking in the interview. That was a huge red flag to me about the dynamic of their relationship, and/or his capabilities as a manager. The manager came across as not being knowledgeable about the department function since he didn’t describe the position. And the organization was large enough that a director shouldn’t have been involved in the phone screen phase of interviewing.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I really hate the idea of being hired by one person and supervised by another.

      I think it’s really important for the immediate boss to “buy in” to the staff member!

      I don’t know quite what you do, except to go back to the person who -did- hire you and ask for advice on how to handle it. But I agree with Not So NewReader, that the supervisor hates the Big Boss, so this approach would bakefire.

      And to avoid it: refuse to take a job where you’re hired by one person and supervised by another.

  24. Space Cowgirl*

    How do I get reengaged at current job after losing out on another role?
    So I was contacted by another organization that I have worked with in the past to apply for a position with them, and went through the (very long) interview process, and was offered the job! Ultimately they rescinded the offer (!!!!!!), which works out because their organizational culture seems A HOT MESS. My question is how do I get re-engaged in my current job? One of the reasons I was open to other opportunities is because I am labeled as a “high performer” in my current role, and keep getting assigned tasks beyond my capabilities with no support. Since I thought I would be taking this new role, I mentally checked out of my current role, and now have to clean up some things that have fallen through the cracks. Any suggestions on how to get re-engaged and repair my relationship with my boss?

    1. Golden Lioness*

      Take a deep breath, maybe a couple of days off to relax and do something fun and remember how great it is to be a top performer… and how it will allow you some more awesome leads and opportunities int he future!

      1. Space Cowgirl*

        Thanks Golden Lioness,
        I actually have scheduled a few days off, and hopefully, that helps. My anxiety is in overdrive though, I feel like I haven’t set any boundaries on what is realistic for me to accomplish, have taken on too much without any help, and am feeling very close to having panic attacks again. I need to learn to downshift if i want to be able to stay at this job for a while, and I don’t know how to do that :(

        1. Golden Lioness*

          I hear you! Just take it one day at the time. Someone gave me the advice of taking a day of two and go do stuff, and I helped me at least to put things in perspective. I was still anxious (can’t help it. I am a worrier!) , but it did take the edge off and I could slowly feel more in control.

          Just one step at the time! and best of luck!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Rethink your situation.
      When I started my job, my boss gave me the start of my resource list, as in “who ya gonna call?”
      If you already have a resource list, make sure it is up to date. If you have websites you refer to, make sure they are on your list. I have mine in an Excel spreadsheet. I can up date it easily and print out the newest version on a regular basis.
      Where I work we like to save things that we have made, just in case we need a similar document later on. Maybe this would help in your setting, if you have to create documents or widgets or whatever, save the prototype so you do not have to reinvent the wheel if you need another wheel later. Bonus points for setting up a good system for saving the prototypes. My are here and there and waaay over there…..
      Ask for additional training if possible. If not then maybe consider taking a relevant course or two out of your own pocket. Sometimes dire situations can be helped just by investing in ourselves.
      I am not sure what happened with your boss that you feel the need to repair it. My suggestion is go in and have a heart to heart. Line up what you want the boss to know before you go in there.
      “I have items A through M on my plate.” Maybe the boss does not realize you have that much.
      “My background is A and B, I have no background in C.” It’s amazing how many bosses have no idea what their employee’s background is, the boss has never looked at the resume for [reasons].
      Figure out other things that are critical to your success at this job and discuss these points with the boss.
      Last, look for Friendlies. These are people who you interact with through your job who are exceptional helpful. Make a note of who they are and what areas they possess knowledge about. It is amazing how many Friendly people are out there that will give random pointers which can be so very helpful. Make a deliberate effort to collect up these pointers as often as possible. I always say, “I am a sponge, I soak up the best of the best ideas around me.”
      I am pointing this out because when we have 9 million things coming at us it is tough to notice who is actually helpful. In some cases there can be a person who is hoping you will come back with another question. Watch for these people.

      1. Space Cowgirl*

        Thanks Not So NewReader,
        I have a meeting with my boss this afternoon, this is very helpful. I am scared of having the heart to heart and being vulnerable about my limitations, but is necessary at this point!

  25. TotesMaGoats*

    OMG. I applied to a doctoral program (or started the process at least) this morning. I think I’m a little sick to my stomach. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do that. Maybe this will help with the job search to have that on my resume even if I’m only doing one class at a time.

    1. ButFirstCoffee*

      Yay for moving forward! I am sure it is a long progress, but taking the first step if how you get started. :)

    2. Bigglesworth*

      Yay! Congratulations! I hope you get into the program you want. What field is your (future) doctorate going to be in?

  26. Folklorist*

    This is your semi-weekly ANTI-PROCRASTINATION POST!!! Go and do something productive and come back and tell us about it! Bonus points if you’ve been putting it off for a month or more!

    1. msmorlowe*

      Unfortunately, I’m seeing this with only one minute left on the clock (and my job is such that I *have* to get up and leave when my job ends…also, that it’s fine for me to be on this site while working!).

      I feel I should bookmark it for tomorrow!

  27. Not Karen*

    My company is in the works of designing a new building for us and is taking employee suggestions. What would you incorporate into your office building if you had the chance to build it from scratch?

        1. BRR*

          My offices has the cubicles on the outside and the offices/conference rooms on the inside. It’s awesome for light especially in the winter when I leave before the sun rises and gets home after it sets.

        2. Girasol*

          Hehe! Our boss sat us all down to explain that the organization had been completely retooled. Some of us had major job changes, others reported to new managers. At last he asked, “Questions or concerns?” The first question was, as usual, “So do we get to move to a part of the building with windows?”

    1. squids*

      Build it to last. Right now we have sensitive equipment installed under old plumbing and an old HVAC unit, both of which have leaked in the past year. There’s a lot of other things not well thought out, so that as the building ages, small system failures cause a lot of trouble. Climate systems, electrical, plumbing, windows, and what the rooms are actually used for should be well thought out in harmony, not in conflict.

    2. Pwyll*

      Soundproofing and muffling. Natural light. A variety of break-out space (conference rooms, small huddle rooms, etc.)

      1. Saturnalia*

        Yes yes, soundproofing and muffling are a MUST. My open-ish office lacks both. It’s been difficult.

    3. LizB*

      Lots of power outlets that are easy to get to from any place in the room
      Good insulation/heating/cooling
      Flexible spaces – my current building has a big room that can be divided in two by pulling out a section of wall, and it’s really handy
      Pumping spaces for new moms

      1. Finman*

        My cube has a USB port in it that I can use to charge my phone, it’s a nice functionality. I also really like single person phone rooms that allow you to make a business (or personal) phone call without taking over an entire conference room.

    4. Xarcady*

      Natural light.
      Kitchens/break rooms with doors that close to block the noise.
      Bathrooms that are not located five feet from someone’s desk.
      As much noise suppression/blocking technology as possible, if there’s even a hint of open planness in the office.

    5. MsMaryMary*

      Good acoustics/soundproofing.
      A decent balance between bland neutral decor and some color or personality
      Outside: sidewalks/walking paths from all parking lots and all the way around the building.

        1. zora.dee*

          No she said “resting” room, as in a quiet room for a short rest or nap. Not a bathroom with a toilet.

    6. Garland Not Andrews*

      If you are in an area where it is cool and safe for biking to work, request a shower or locker room for cleaning up after riding to work!

      1. rage is my caffeine*

        THIS THIS THIS. Except I wouldn’t limit it to just if you have people commuting on bikes. I would LOVE a locker room at my office so I wouldn’t have to pay for a membership to the gym across the street to get my lunchtime runs in.

    7. Anna*

      Something that keeps bugs out. I realize that you will not have to deal with this because your office will not be set in a 75 year old converted milking shed, but it is first and foremost on my mind right now.

      Actual offices. I was at a meeting earlier this week where some of the people there were having a new building built and they had to fight for offices rather than cubicles.

      1. Not Karen*

        I am currently dealing with the bug problem at my apartment, so I sympathize.

        Actual offices are my #1 priority. I can’t even fathom why anyone would prefer cubes.

    8. not so super-visor*

      I would absolutely make sure that they didn’t set it up with the dreaded open-office layout!

      1. Manders*

        I knew I was fed up with open offices when I got pissed off at a car ad that opens with a man at his stifling job… in a really lovely, clean, quiet glass-walled office with tons of natural light.

        I’d take even a tiny office over an open office at this point.

    9. Rebecca*

      A real kitchen area, with a double sided sink, nice counter top area, a big fridge, several microwaves, and a nice area to sit and eat lunch, away from the offices. It’s really depressing to have to go to the bathroom to get water for coffee, wash out cups or dishes in the bathroom sink, etc. especially when there is just one sink. If someone needs to wash their hands, there you are with all your stuff, trying to balance things, not put them down on the sink, etc.

      1. the.kat*

        +1 to the double sided sink. I’d also push for a garbage disposal. A lot of people expect one and I hate having to reach into the gumminess to unclog a sink.

      2. Jules the First*

        +1 on somewhere nice to sit and eat lunch. The thing I miss most about my last job is the huge tables in the kitchen where everyone used to hang out (at lunchtime and for coffee breaks)….I was soooooo productive on the days I decided to work from the cafe.

    10. JustaTech*

      Enough bathrooms! It’s super awkward/annoying having to wait while your coworkers do their business.

    11. Chaordic One*

      Individual offices where you can get some privacy to actually do your work. Windows that open. Places in your office to hang your coat. For cubicle workers, places in the cubicle where you can hang your coat. (Not some awful coat room at the far end of the building that no one is going to use.)

      Centrally-located rest rooms and break rooms. (Not something on another floor that takes 5 or 10 minutes to get to. A private room for breast-feeding. Locker rooms with showers for the people who commute to work on bicycles or who might leave the building for lunch and go running.

    12. So Very Anonymous*

      Actual offices with walls and doors instead of cubicles. Windows. The ability to sit at one’s computer without having one’s back to the door (well, “door” since I’m in a cubicle). A kitchen and bathroom in the large suite I work in, with a large refrigerator and maybe (gasp!) TWO microwaves.

      I know, that last one is totally unreasonable. But one can dream…

    13. Overeducated*

      +1 to full kitchen (or at least sink, microwave, fridge, coffee maker, cupboards) and shower/lockers. We spend a lot of time at work, it makes a big difference to be able to get exercise on the way and warm up a meal.

    14. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      Good access to staircases. Our stairs are in odd nooks, some of which can only be accessed by certain staff. You really have to make the effort to take the stairs instead of the elevators. When our elevator was out of service for repairs, it was awkward when someone got stuck in the limited access stairwell or set off the fire alarm because they didn’t realize that one had to badge to get into or out of that stairwell.

    15. DragoCucina*

      I told our architect for the new library that the forbidden phrase was, “This is the trend.” When the firm’s interior designer used it for color suggestions he backed away from the table. Then she tried to sell us on black carpet with acid green swirls.

      Waist/desk high outlets. Sometimes architects will say, “I think it’s against code.” 99% it’s not, they just don’t like the looks. No stringing cords around or climbing under desks. We have them in the study cubicles and everyone loves them. I wanted them in the offices, but without telling me the plans were changed.

      Practical faucets. Not pretty high arched ones that splash all over.

    16. Lab Monkey*

      At least a few gender neutral, single stall bathrooms. I would quit my job tomorrow to be able to pee in peace.

    17. Observer*

      I agree with most of these. I want to reiterate higher outlets. Also, enough network jacks, also at desk or higher height.

  28. Calcifer*

    It pains me to say this but my intern is annoying and I don’t like him.

    I’m struggling to effectively manage him because he’s considered “awkward” by management because he was homeschooled and incredibly sheltered. He doesn’t follow directions and has difficulty focusing and completing projects. He interrupts me no less than 15 times a day with questions that he could answer himself if he would use problem solving skills. We’re in a field where these skills are essential and honestly if he was in his professional job he would he fired.

    Some of the things he does:
    * Walks into my office and just stand there with a blank look on his face. If I say “What do you need?” he says he can’t remember and walks out.
    * If he fudges a word in the middle of talking he’ll say “hummna hummna humnna blah blah blah” and stick out his tongue and make weird faces. Then he’ll forget what he’s saying and stand there trying to remember.
    * Asks me to look up phone extensions when he knows how to look them up himself.
    * Whistles and sings ENDLESSLY. I’ve talked with him and he said he doesn’t realize he does it. He’ll do it when customers are on the phone.
    * If I’m having a conversation with a co-worker or customer he will stand and listen until I tell him he needs to leave. Sometimes he will interject with a story about himself or his brothers and turn the conversation to himself. This annoys me the most.

    I’ve stopped acknowledging him when he bursts in and lurks silently behind me because I’ve asked him to send me an IM instead of interrupting. It hasn’t corrected the problem and he’s honestly more work for me when he is here. Yesterday he kept a customer on the phone for an hour and a half and didn’t resolve her issue but never told anyone. I found out when that customer escalated to her boss and boss called me fuming. When I checked our ticketing system to see his notes there was nothing there; I asked intern why he didn’t enter a ticket he said other intern was working on another unrelated problem for customer so he figured he didn’t have to put one in. The protocol is a ticket for every issue and he knows this. I went back and discovered he hasn’t documented hundreds of issues.

    I’m at my wits end with this kid. How do I manage someone like this? He’s the son of upper management’s best friend so the entire situation has been difficult.

    1. JLK in the ATX*

      I find your statement unfair and unfounded, “I’m struggling to effectively manage him because he’s considered “awkward” by management because he was homeschooled and incredibly sheltered. ” You don’t know that’s the actual cause. You’ve also established a bias against this type of candidate/employee for future hires.

      He’s not a kid, he’s an adult at least 18 yrs and older? Although you’re frustrated with him, that’s no reason to degrade him by ageism (yes it goes in reverse, too)

      Document his deficiencies, follow-up with him specificially on those as needed (every day if that’s what it takes) and pursue moving him out of the workplace if his work and professionalism continues to interupt yours and others productivity. It’s not ok to have to work with someone, especially an intern who you’re trying to mold into a professional, who is not helpful.

      1. Calcifer*

        To clarify: Management says he is awkward and hard to manage because he is homeschooled and sheltered. As stated at the end of the post Intern is the son of one of the manager’s best friends.

        1. JLK in the ATX*

          They’re wrong to preface him with that type of label, assuming you’d be able to work with or work out the awkwardness which is not your job. You’ve bought into their bias assuming you can’t manage him because he’s awkward. What if you’re not the right person to manage him? Your skill set is for a diffenent type of intern/staff member and not this guy.

          The hard part will be telling ‘upper management’ that he’s not a suitable intern. Provide them documentation on working with him, correcting deficiencies and the corrections not taking effect. Note how his work is degrading customer service, technical productivity, your productivity, and could cost the company money.

          You’re not an intern-sitter.

        1. JLK in the ATX*

          You said you don’t know what do to with this kid. He’s not a kid in the workplace, he’s an intern and his age (as referenced to by ‘kid’) is irrelevant.

          Per your response below, “I am a young woman in a traditionally older male field so we are close in age.” Then maybe you know what it’s like to be his age and in a workplace. Empathy goes a long way, too.

          1. Calcifers*

            I appreciate your constructive comments but in an effort to stay on topic I will not engage in pedantry.

            Have a great day.

        2. J*

          Ah! Okay. He’s 16.

          I wouldn’t attribute his behavior to being awkward since it could be easily chalked up to not being familiar with workplace norms.

          So, have the conversation with him. Explain that you need him to be more pro-active with problem solving. Point out the specific instance of him asking for information that he already has as an example of where he could do better. (Be careful with this because you don’t want him to go too far where he starts making decisions he’s not actually ready/informed to make in the name of being proactive.)

          Let him know that there are times when you’re not going to be available to answer questions and work out a way for him to recognize that. Perhaps a closed door means you’re busy.

          Workplace norms are something we pick up over time, and some of us are slower learners than others. But you can do this!

          Yes, that’s more work for you, and maybe that’s a conversation to have with *your* manager. Teaching him workplace norms is a time-consuming task and maybe there’s someone else who can be a resource for him when you’re not available.

        3. MsMaryMary*

          He’s 16? That’s really young for a long term professional internship. I know of high school students who do a brief (< a month) internship or shadow a professional at the end of a semester, but it doesn't sound like your situation.

          Knowing that he's 16, a lot of these things sound like a lack or maturity or experience. Not that it makes it any easier for you. I'd shift from managing him like an intern to managing him like a teenager at his first job. You are going to end up doing a lot of micromanaging and setting professional norms.

          I'd also talk to management about treating him more like a high school student. Is he currently working a 40 hour a week schedule? That's a lot for a teenager, if you could get him down to mornings or afternoons it might be better for both of you. It's a lot of unstructured time, too, maybe you'd have better luck trying to break his day into distinct parts. And I would ask how they want to manage performance issues with him. Blowing off a customer and repeated ignoring well documented procedures would get the average 16 year old fired from their first job.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Knowing that he’s 16, a lot of these things sound like a lack or maturity or experience. Not that it makes it any easier for you. I’d shift from managing him like an intern to managing him like a teenager at his first job. You are going to end up doing a lot of micromanaging and setting professional norms.

            This bears repeating. I get he’s annoying, but he’s also just starting out and learning professional norms. You’re going to have to get over your annoyance and break his tasks down into manageable chunks (if possible) and keep following-up to make sure it gets done.

        4. Anna*

          It’s possible that he’s just transferred learned behavior from home to work. If his parents were his teachers for school, there may be a learned behavior of not having to problem solve. “When I tell my teacher (Mom or Dad) that I don’t remember how to do X, they just do it.” As others have suggested, it might be time to have a talk about what flies in a work setting versus what flies at home or in a school setting. Even if he weren’t homeschooled, there would probably need to be a conversation about how Things Are Different.

          (I say this knowing a LOT of people who were homeschooled and parenting style is teaching style so kids don’t get the benefit of learning how to deal with different people in different situations so much.)

      2. Hermione*

        You’re being really confrontational about this. Calcifer states that management categorizes him as awkward because he was homeschooled and incredibly sheltered, but doesn’t say that they think that’s why he’s awkward – though they do go on to give multiple examples of awkward and frustrating behavior. While management’s categorization may be unfair and unfounded, Calcifer has examples of this intern’s awkward behavior, and they’re neither unfair nor unfounded. Nowhere in their note do they say that they wouldn’t consider hiring another homeschooled employee, just that this one is awkward and management thinks it’s because of the lack of socialization that comes with having been homeschooled.

        While I agree that ageism can be in reverse, Calcifer says that he’s young (in a comment they say he’s 16, which is a “kid”) and isn’t degrading him by ageism. His behavior is weird and frustrating regardless of his age.

    2. Pwyll*

      I think you need to have a sitdown with him about the issues to discuss them. In the meeting, focus on professionalism as it relates to the funny faces and babbling and interruptions. Explain these are performance issues that could get him fired in a permanent job, and that they’re serious things he needs to work on. Then, you’ll need to spot check the issues immediately as they occur. For example, when he comes into your office you need to immediately look up and say, “I’ve told you not to simply walk into my office unless it’s extremely urgent. What’s going on?” If he begins to babble, or it’s not an emergency, you say, “This is not extremely urgent. Please do as we’ve discussed and send me an IM about this.” If he asks you to look up a phone extension, you say “We’ve discussed that you need to look up these items on your own before asking anyone else. What’s going on?” I think you clearly state to him too, “Not putting tickets into the system is a fireable offense. If you were a fulltime employee you could be fired for not doing so. I’m not saying this to make you feel bad, but you’re here on a learning experience and I want to make it clear that not putting in support tickets is unacceptable. Do you understand?”

      This is why people are so, so wrong when they consider interns to be “low cost extra labor” (not saying that’s you). They’re often MORE work.

      1. Calcifers*

        Thanks so much for this. The mentality of other employees at or above my level is that they are low-cost labor and “just get through it – they’ll be gone in a year.” I’ll work on being more assertive with him. A part of me thinks he also struggles to take me seriously because I am a young woman in a traditionally older male field so we are close in age.

        1. Pwyll*

          I’ve struggled as the intern manager at a company where I appeared to be close in age to the interns (looking 10 years younger than you actually are is a blessing and a curse). While I didn’t have the added gender issues that my successor had (she is also a young woman), I completely understand the struggle. What’s important is laying down the authority level based on your actions and words. And, if necessary, pulling in your boss to help (having a private meeting with your own boss to get his backup, and then if necessary having a 3-person meeting). I could do that as a man, but my successor was very careful about this: she pulled in her (male) boss and a female senior executive when she had to have this type of corrective conversation, and was able to use the group to say, “I’ve asked you to do this. You have not done this. Why?” and just the presence of an SVP female in the room, with both bosses backing her up, drove home that she really WAS the intern’s boss.

          But really, there’s a reason some industries call their interns “puppies”. At the lowest end of entry-level, you really have to be explicit with course-correction as it happens, and have reflection meetings to tie it all up together for them if they’re not yet able to do so. If you can find the time to do that (it’s hard), it can really change the direction of the internship.

      2. afiendishthingy*

        I think this is all great advice. Calcifer, I also hope you realize that it is totally totally fine to not like the intern. Sometimes we don’t like people. Sometimes they don’t like us. I point this out because it sounds like you might feel a little guilty about your feelings, but you also are clearly trying to do your best to not let it affect your work with him. So do your best to correct his behavior and do your part of making his internship successful, but also recognize that there’s only so much you can do to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

        1. Jules the First*

          As I once, exasperatedly, told one of my senior staffers who called me to whine about being asked to share his (huge, enormous, more-than-enough-to-share) shiny project with someone he didn’t like: you don’t have to like him, you just have to work together.

          To a certain extent, that means you need to speak up and set boundaries for him and be really.obvious about calling him out when he crosses those. So instead of ignoring him when he comes into your office and hover, you pause your conversation, turn to him, and say “hey Javier, I’m surprised to see you here, because I haven’t seen an IM from you. As you can see, I’m in the middle of this, so please go back to your workstation and send me a note so I can prep an answer for you when I’m free.’

      3. MC*

        Agree with Pwyll – call it out in the moment: This is what I’ve stated. You are not following my directions. Are you having difficulty understanding these directions or are you just not able to follow them?

        Another, more difficult option (difficult because it takes more time) is to turn the question back: What have you done to resolve this problem so far? What steps have you taken to resolve this problem? For example, the phone extensions – “What have you done to find these extensions?” if the answer is “Nothing, I figured you would have them.” the appropriate response is “We’ve discussed this, you need to learn how to solve problems like this, especially where I have already provided you the instructions. Do not come to me with a problem like this until you have tried to solve it and can give me at least three examples of things you’ve tried.”

        I know this is infuriating but it sounds like this kid is dealing with a number of different challenges, youth, inexperience, possibly being so sheltered that his parents convinced him that he needs to go to an adult with a problem or that making mistakes is something to be hidden. Try to be a bit patient, but you may have to put some more time to help him talk through the problem and ask him “What are your next steps?” and let him talk through it.

        1. Pwyll*

          Yes, to your second paragraph! If he’s struggling with problem solving, as in he doesn’t know how to figure out how to find the answers he needs, this is a great way to walk through that thought process with him.

    3. Menacia*

      Can you create “cheat sheets” for him on how to look up phone numbers, scripts for customer calls (don’t keep them on the phone longer than x minutes, escalate if can’t resolve issue, etc.), reminders that every customer interaction requires a ticket, etc.? Laminate them and post them in his cubicle and ask him to refer to them first before coming to you. If he still comes to you with questions that are answered by the quick reference guide, bring him back to his desk and have him use them to find the answer. He’s very young, and it does sound like he has probably never been in a work environment before so he does have to be handled differently. His immaturity and perhaps lack of socialization skills are working against him, and you are frustrated, I would be as well. How long has he interned with you? You should also check in on him, that may help in his coming to you all the time.

    4. Colette*

      For the issue of coming to you before trying anything, you need to make it more of a hassle to ask you than to look himself. Don’t answer trivial questions immediately, redirect him to chat, ask what he’s tried, ask what he thinks the next steps should be. Point out patterns. Be direct about things that concern you. Since he’s an intern, I think you owe him more time, oversight, and chances than you’d give an employee, but that doesn’t mean an infinite number. If it comes to that, it’s better for him to get fired/fail his internship than for him to go on believing it’s going well.

      And on the flip side, praise him when it’s going well.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      It does not sound like he is ready for the work place yet.
      I don’t mean it as an insult. I tried driving when I was 15. I just could not get the idea of it, I was not ready yet. Yet I know people who drove at age 10 or 12.

      I would recommend pulling your boss in on this one. Let him know that Intern has failed to turn in 100s of tickets and you are concerned how this impacts the company.

      Really, I think there are too many things to correct here and it is beyond the scope of what you should be asked to handle. This is out beyond orienting someone to the work at hand.
      This is taking someone who is not ready for a job and trying to get them to fit in.

      So let’s say the conversation with your boss goes poorly and you are stuck with training this guy.
      I would target 3 to 4 things for a given time frame.
      Write them down and give it to him. “These are the things we are concentrating on for x time period, then I will pick 3-4 more things and we will work on those things.” If he does a particular thing that is not on the list let it go, just concentrate on what is on his current list. When you review the list with him, explain to him why the item is of concern.
      When the time frame is up, make a new list and review that with him. Then concentrate on those few things.
      If you can get others to buy into what you are doing. So whenever Josh is whistling/whatever, others will speak up also and say, “We don’t whistle in the workplace, Josh.” This might help to take some of the weight off of you.

    6. LCL*

      He’s not awkward because he’s home schooled. He’s home schooled because he’s awkward. The behaviors you describe would get him harassed and kicked out of school. Can he read? The only thing I can think of is to make checklists; have him help you put them together.

      1. Observer*

        I think you are correct on this. Some of what is being described here is just not typical for even a 16 year old.

    7. anon attorney*

      I think the issue here isn’t just that you’re being asked to socialise this young man, but that it sounds like he’s doing a customer facing job akin to what other, paid employees are doing. At his age that is a lot to ask of him and it’s also putting customer service at risk. Normally I’d expect an intern to be doing support work or nice to have projects, not delivering business critical services. Are there any such side projects you could identify and sell to senior management as a better learning option for the intern? it won’t address the issue of basic socialization, which I think you’re stuck with, but it would manage the risk of being blamed for performance problems caused by him.

    8. Observer*

      Lots of sympathy.

      Document your head off. Skip the things that personally annoy you, and stick to the things that are actionable. So, just humming and singing is one thing, but doing while clients are on the phone is a different matter, and one you should document. Not following procedures is something you should CERTAINLY document, including your attempts to correct the problem. The fact that at least one case got escalated is good for making your case – make sure to document that aspect of the problem. Also, things that show clear lack of even the most basic understanding of workplace norms. I mean, he’s asking his BOSS to do HIS work?! Seriously?!

      Also, shoot down the “well he’s homeschooled” nonsense. Plenty of kids are homeschooled and know better than to stick out their tongue and make faces when they need a word! That’s behavior lots of kids outgrow before they even start school! If you are not exaggerating about his behavior, this is not someone who is “awkward”. This is someone with a SERIOUS social skill deficit that is not going to be made up by any number of internships.

  29. ToxicWaste*

    For people who are/were in a toxic, dysfunctional work place, has therapy/talking to someone helped? I’m relieved to be out of a really bad situation, but the anger/resentment/PTSD-like symptoms are still lingering and I am having trouble moving past it all.

    1. PanicAttack*

      I am in this situation right now and I was only at the job for 4 months. (I have a post about it, but it has a link so hasn’t posted yet). Talk therapy helps me in that it validates me, but it hasn’t helped with the anger and resentment and nightmares. I hope that will go away in time and I’m sure that time will be longer the longer you were employed there. I think other people have quite a bit of success with CBT or similar types of therapy though!

    2. Kristine*

      Yep, it’s helped me. I was in a toxic workplace for 18 months and by the end it was impacting both my mental and physical health to a great degree. I was working with a professional while in that job who urged me to quit, and now he is helping me work through the anxiety that I still have so that it doesn’t impact my new (much better!) job. OldJob actually texted me last night asking me to do something for them so tonight’s session will be interesting…

      I wish you the best of luck in finding a good way to deal with the damage this toxic job inflicted on you.

    3. LizB*

      Yes! For me, the toxic workplace was bringing up memories of other traumas in my past, so addressing those first was crucial. But it’s also been really nice to have someone to help me reality check what’s normal and reasonable in a workplace and help me come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t the problem, the workplace was. Highly recommend trying it out, even if you ultimately discover it’s not for you.

    4. my two cents*

      HUGE fan of seeking some therapy if you can afford it.

      It really does help to vent a bit to a neutral third party, particularly if you’re feeling less than OK, and get some validation. They can help you come up with strategies for navigating through those feelings should they bubble back up while at the new workplace.

      When seeking a therapist, try to find someone who specializes in PTSD or abuse recovery. There are other rehabilitation-type techniques they can use to help diffuse or redirect internalized negative feelings, such as EMDR therapy.

    5. Emi*

      No experience here, but Carolyn Hax has a pretty good script for finding a therapist, in case you decide to go for it.

      1. Girasol*

        Good idea. I tried EAP once having heard friends say it was enormously helpful. The guy kept telling me, “It’s okay. God knows that you’re doing your best.” In our very religious part of the country that might have been just the right advice for someone, but I felt like a kid at a competition being recognized with a medal marked “Participant.” It wouldn’t have been hard to seek a different counselor and try again. In retrospect I wish I had.

    6. rage is my caffeine*

      Good friend of mine still struggles with some PTSD/rage issues several years after leaving the place we both worked, mostly because his wife still works there and thus he can’t escape hearing about the place entirely. He has said that therapy has been huge for him in starting to move past it. Please give it a try.

    7. TCO*

      Absolutely. In fact, I just started seeing a new therapist this week after a hiatus and even our first get-to-know-you meeting really helped me at work. My less-than-functional workplace is really the only significant source of stress in my life right now. It sounds like even some short-term work with a counselor (maybe through your EAP) could really help you get unstuck.

    8. Rebecca*

      Today is my last day at my job. I cannot tell you how relieved I am. I hope I don’t need this, but if I do, hoping for some good tips from the commenters.

    9. Golden Lioness*

      Yes, therapy definitely helps! It still takes time to get over the PTSD part of it. I still react based on past toxic job sometimes (mostly internally, expecting the worse, feeling like a beaten puppy) even though I have been in much better jobs since.

    10. MC*

      I have found going to the driving range, imagining the faces of the hated co-workers on the golf balls and then smacking the crap out of them worked incredibly well.

    11. Hrovitnir*

      I never saw a therapist about it but it sounds like a good idea. It certainly can’t harm, and if you’re getting PTSD/cPTSD symptoms there are specific techniques to address that that might be worth trying. Just talking to someone sympathetic without continuously bringing your friends and family down (*cough*) is probably worth it too.

      I actually still start ranting if I talk too much about my work, 4 years later. What fixed the feeling awful for me was getting the hell out and being somewhere that was completely different, as well as more supportive. I hope you are or can get to that place too.

      Much sympathies! People who haven’t had experience with toxic workplaces/families/friend groups sometimes really don’t understand how much it can fuck with your head.

      … just a little rant. I don’t know what was going on at your workplace, but what messed me up the most about mine was the mixture of being a job I loved with coworkers I loved, and being totally dysfunctional both in terms of business practices and awful bullying/unethical practices. It really was like a family – a toxic, emotionally abusive one full of gaslighting. And I still miss it in some ways. :/

    12. Lo Flo*

      Left toxic job two years ago, and I still can’t let go some of the bad memories. I am better now at setting boundries and speaking up when I am upset, rather than shutting down.

  30. squids*

    I’ve got a full-time, permanent employee for the first time in my career now! She’s been with the organization for longer than I have, and has been reporting to me for the past few months.

    I suspect she is used to far more micromanagement than I am inclined to give. She still regularly asks for permission to do things like shift her break times, attend optional staff development events, and that sort of thing. The situation has left me a bit uncomfortable — to me it’s dehumanizing to require permission for such basic details of someone’s work day. (We work in a field where a few things are time sensitive but most are not, and I’m not concerned about covering a desk or phone lines.)

    Do you think this will generally fade away/get better in time, as we get used to each other’s styles? It’s not something I want to have A Discussion about, but better that than leave it for years.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I think a simple, “Daphne, I trust you to manage your schedule effectively and professionally; you don’t need to run these requests by me.” the next time she asks for your permission to do something should suffice.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yup. When I came from a micromanaging environment to my first position at my current company, my new manager pretty much said that to me.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      Well, it doesn’t have to be A “can I see you in my office” Discussion, it can be you stopping by her office/space and mentioning “I just want you to know I appreciate you and your work, and I fully trust you to manage your time while you’re in the office, so please feel free to take your break/lunch or attend XYZ training sessions without checking in…I’m happy for you to take advantage of them!”

      1. LawCat*


        Don’t be surprised if you have to repeat this occasionally. I and a former colleague went from a team with a toxic, micromanager to a different team with a manager who trusted us to manage our time and was totally reasonable. We both struggled a bit in shifting our perspective to, “Oh, our boss really does see as professional adults who can be trusted to do our jobs and manage our time.”

        We struggled because when you have had a toxic manager, that manager may say things sometimes that make you think you are trusted to do your job (“LawCat, no one is watching your time. You are one of the most reliable members of the team.”), but then do things that undermine that statement (“Email to team from manager: I need to know when you get here, when you take lunches, and when you leave.”) So coming from a place like that made it hard for us believe our new, reasonable manager really means it when she says we don’t need to send check in with her if we’ll be taking a longer lunch or running a quick errand.

        1. tigerlily*

          Yes, this kind of thing can be a very hard habit to break. I used to work for a parole program in CT where our movements were very regimented. I ran the front desk and absolutely could not leave the desk unless someone else was there to cover. We had a shared log where everything had to documented (9am Tigerlily on duty. 905am Tigerlily checked phone messages. 915am Tigerlily opened center for clients). We had very strict confidentiality policies where if I saw one of our clients on the street, I could not act as if I recognized them or approach them in any way unless they approached me first. And then as soon as I was in the center the next day I had to document that interaction in the log (even if the client DIDN’T approach me I still had to document that I had seen them).

          Now I work at a preschool and we’re so much more relaxed, but I know these habits are hard wired into me. I usually take my lunch break at noon, but if none of the other administrative staff are in the office it doesn’t even occur to me that I could leave until their back and telling me I didn’t need to wait for them. It baffles me to see our teachers and the parents of our students interacting on Facebook. And still after a year I catch myself marking down the time I’ve completed a project so I can correctly log it. It’s hard to break those habits that just become second nature to you.

    3. Camellia*

      Well, not A Discussion, but I think you could meet with her and outline your expectations. She may be relieved that she will now be treated like an adult. Or she may have some trouble adjusting and need your gentle encouragement to move toward that goal. But either way, she won’t know it’s okay if you don’t tell her it’s okay.

    4. NarrowDoorways*

      Wait until someone stops to let you know their going to the restroom. No, better yet, wait until you work somewhere that upper management flips out because they can’t find someone because they went to the restroom, and then demand you be told any time someone in your department leaves their desk.

      Wow I hated that job, and that man in management….

    5. Idiot with an email account*

      Have you told her clearly that this stuff is okay to do without your permission?

      A lot of managers would expect to be asked so I think you need to spell it out, if you haven’t.

    6. BRR*

      I think this could be an easy fix. You just need to establish how you want to handle these things. It can be difficult to figure out what is ok.

      And good for you because having a manager control those things is dehumanizing (unless your job requires that level of control).

    7. MC*

      It will get better, but a good step is to clarify what you need her to do to keep you informed. For example, I’ve had employees ask permission to take a day or week off. I tell them “You do not need to ask me permission to take time off. You need to tell me when you are taking time, what potential issues could crop up due to your absence and what you’re doing to manage risks.”

    8. Chaordic One*

      It certainly is worth having a brief discussion about and the excellent wording suggested by “Not a Real Giraffe” or “Ibsen Takes Tea” would be an excellent way to go about it. It shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.

      I previously had a boss who was like you. After she was promoted to a new position, the new boss was a micro-manager. It was painful having to go back to asking permission to do every little thing (like leaving to get a cup of coffee or go to the restroom).

    9. Not So NewReader*

      Oh dear.
      Please lay out your expectations on the first day of work.
      How is she supposed to know what you want?

      There is no need for you to feel discomfort, you’re the boss and it’s your job to explain what you expect.

      See, there’s all kinds of bosses out there. If you leave her to figure out what you want she will default to worst case scenario boss to protect herself.

      And others are right, it is not A Discussion. No more so than telling her where the restroom or water fountain is A Discussion. She can’t mind read. It’s an act of kindness and your responsibility not to make her guess what kind of boss you are and what your expectations are.
      Please do this soon. And as suggested, you can do it when you walk past her desk or if she asks again or whatever comes up first. But please do it soon.

  31. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

    Pet peeves – workplace types

    The Self-Appointed Chief
    Learns of projects tangentially, sends out emails designating tasks for people he or she does not manage. Likes to be thought of as a ‘doer,’ behavior may be aimed at looking good to higher ups on email chains. Does not typically respond positively to actual requests for assistance.

    The Wordsmith
    All emails are a page long. Paragraphs, if used, are giant blocks of text. Emails contain words like ‘whilst’ and ‘thusly.’ Offers unsolicited grammatical/usage error feedback, frequently incorrect. Offers to write or edit documents for others because of superior writing skillset.

    The Chatterbox
    Drops by your desk just to chat, particularly if you have a pressing deadline. Cannot express a thought of three syllables in fewer than five hundred words. Lacks awareness of social cues. Engages in bathroom chatting even after parties have entered stalls. Frequently makes ill-informed declarative statements that hinder escape by prompting further conversation.

    The Non-Responder
    Two principal subtypes: the Black Hole and the Too Late. Black Hole may turn out later to have changed positions or left altogether, but will not leave a forwarding message. The Too Late will respond to the doodle poll once the meeting has been scheduled, and possibly after he or she has accepted the invitation. Other varieties of the non-responder include the member of a workgroup who will not respond to the initial meeting request or any follow ups, but will immediately respond that he or she can’t make it once the calendar invitation has been sent. See also: Profoundly Unhelpful Person.

    The Profoundly Unhelpful Person
    Responds exclusively in the negative, all emails fewer than five words long. Does not offer alternative meeting times or suggest more appropriate contact. Unwilling to direct query to correct person/department. This person tends to be a long-time employee with massive institutional knowledge.

    The Random Responder
    Initiates new conversations by responding to last email you sent, regardless of subject. Resulting email trail impossible to follow. May reply to a query weeks later in an unrelated email string. Also tends to be a long-time employee whose advice is indispensable.

    The Cryptic
    Responds to all ‘pick option one or two’ emails with ‘yes’ or ‘sounds good.’ Forwards emails to you without explanation. Copies you on email replies that don’t appear to have anything to do with you. Sends ‘tentative’ responses to previously agreed-upon meeting time invitations. Spells out action items only when they are already obvious. Frequently unclear whether person has read email he or she is responding to. Tends to be your boss.

    Feel free to add your own!

    1. Isben Takes Tea*

      The Reset Button
      Brings up a minor workflow or policy point as Needing Attention, up to and including a series of separate meetings to resolve. Six months later sends out alarmed emails asking why Minor Point has been changed, as “We don’t do it this way.”

    2. Brogrammer*

      Oh man, I’ve been guilty of being the Black Hole, but it’s always because I’m waiting on someone else for vital information and I’ve run out of ways to say so.

    3. vanBOOM*

      Ha! I’m a bit of the Wordsmith type, but only in length. I at least try to stop, and know better than to police others’ grammar/spelling (especially when my own skills are not great).

      I have…maybe a bit of a sad one to add? Curious to see whether anyone else has one of these at their org, or if it’s just a phenomenon at some of the orgs I’ve worked at.

      The Charity Worker
      This worker does their job–and all the undesirable elements of many other people’s jobs, including but not limited to managing lunch orders, setting up tables for events, doing research for others on topics they could have easily Googled themselves in less than 5 seconds, etc. They seem unusually “into” their job, to the point where they plan to keep working on those occasions where the org gives employees the afternoon off because they’re “not sure what else they’d do” anyway. They usually don’t get paid well, and the tasks/extra work they constantly take on aren’t the kinds of work that will ever help them get a raise or promotion.

      1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

        Uh huh. This person also volunteers to foster too many homeless pets and is consistently taken advantage of in the workplace.

        1. Kikiluv*

          Oh nooooo this is me. I haven’t gotten a raise/promotion in 5 years am always doing the little things– walking older coworkers through how to use online forms, cleaning up the coffee station when customers leave it a mess, etc. I do like it though! And yes I’m trying to convince my husband to get a foster dog.

    4. Lily Evans*

      The Rock Lord
      Has possibly been living under a rock for the last decade, as far as technology is concerned. Prints out emails and hand delivers them instead of forwarding them. Doesn’t know how to use Microsoft Word. Had never even heard of mail merge (and would open 20 draft emails to copy and paste things into instead. And genuinely thought it was super efficient).

      1. Janice in Accounting*

        You’ve met my former counterpart. She was recently laid off, and I found a bunch of hyperlinks for all our intranet shortcuts cut out from a word doc and put in her desk drawer.

        1. Nancie*

          That is amazing. I imagine it looked a bit like confetti, with lots of small strips of paper scattered about? And at the same time, I’m imagining a sort of CGI world where there are literal hyper-links scattered around the interior surface of the drawer that can be poked to do …something linky.

      2. Seattle Writer Gal*

        “Prints out emails and hand delivers them instead of forwarding them. Doesn’t know how to use Microsoft Word.”
        I honestly thought this was urban legend. Until I received one of these print outs with my name written on it from my new boss, the director of digital marketing. This happened in 2016, btw.

    5. rage is my caffeine*

      Had a boss who was the Chatterbox, except we called her the Black Hole, because once you were sucked into her office, or even within three feet of her, you could never get out. :)

    6. Janice in Accounting*

      Make Work/Cruise Director

      I have worked with this person at every job. She has absolutely no interest in performing the job she was hired to do, instead most of her time is spent gabbing with coworkers about nothing at all work-related in between taking breaks, calling/texting her family and friends, and providing continuous unsolicited updates about said texts (“[Daughter’s name] has been in the McDonald’s drive-through for 20 minutes”] while you’re trying to work.

      She frequently misses deadlines because when she DOES work, she spends time doing low-priority projects that she finds more interesting. She has eight emails to return, but instead she has decided to rename the files on the server, reorganize the break room and plan an office potluck or happy hour. If you don’t participate in the potluck or happy hour she takes personal offense.

      When it comes to her actual high-priority tasks, every day is like it’s her first week. What font do we use for this report? Where on the server do I save this?

    7. seriouslywtf*

      Here’s The Thing
      Sends you an email to tell you a thing. Also leaves you a voicemail in case you don’t check your email. Comes by your office juuuuuuust to make sure you know the thing. Repeats the thing three or four times before you are allowed to be released from the conversation. Instant messages you about the thing at 4:30 just in case you forgot.

    8. LawCat*

      These are great!! I admit to sometimes being a Black Hole, but that is usually when I have received something from a Self-Appointed Chief.

    9. Emilia Bedelia*

      The Unnecessary CC’er- CC’s anyone potentially involved with the email. Resulting email chains have up to 20 people who are irrelevant to the discussion.
      The “Can’t Hardly Wait”- Follows up emails after 1 day to ask for a response, generally asking for long, in depth answers to complex questions. When combined with Unnecessary CC’ers and “Non Responders”, results in days of completely unnecessary email for everyone involved.
      The Selective Reader: Leads you to wonder if they are, in fact, illiterate, because they never seem to read any part of the emails that they respond to asking for clarification.
      My personal (least) favorite:
      The Complainer: Fully grown adults with decades of professional experience who fall to pieces when they are mildly inconvenienced, and cannot be bothered to take 10 minutes to attempt to understand whatever problem they’ve encountered before having a fit about it. As of those gosh darned entitled Millenials who demands everything on a silver platter, I just wonder how they made it this far.

      1. some1*

        The Time Traveler: takes a week of PTO and comes back and responds to emails without reading them all or turning on conversations. Responds to the first of many emails in the thread from Monday at 8:30, “Some1, can you help Client A with this?” Me: “Yeah, Jeff, we got it done last Monday at 9:00, if you’d finish reading all of your emails.”

      2. Rebecca Too*

        I’ve worked with The Complainer at every single job I’ve had. Closely related is The Death Gripper; the person who complains about everything they “have” to do, yet won’t let go of anything, even (especially?) when help is offered. They both drive me crazy!

    10. LizB*

      The Life Coach
      Has a platitude for every situation, and responds to actual problems with motivational slogans instead of useful information. When the team is facing a crisis, takes up seemingly endless swaths of time spouting encouraging nonsense instead of letting people get their actual work done. Pushes for all sorts of team-building activities and outings that nobody is really interested in to “build morale.” Probably considers themselves a great leader.

    11. You're Killing Me Smalls*

      The Learned Helpless
      Offloads job duties on colleagues by claiming “oh, I’m so dumb, I could never learn how to do this! you do it so well, though!” on a continuous basis. Most frequently evident in older employees, who abdicated responsibility for updating their work skills circa 1983. Preys on vulnerable Millennials.

    12. Janice in Accounting*

      The Streamliner

      Cuts everyone else out of the email chain and replies only to one or two people, leaving everyone else out of the loop and causing confusion.

      1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

        These are awesome. Streamliners and Unnecessary CC:ers always seem to coexist in the same habitat.

    13. Jersey's Mom*

      The Judge
      When tasked with handling documents dealing with procedures, regulatory or legal issues, refuses to handle documents without a long drawn out monologue about said procedure, regulatory or legal issue. Generally begins with “I completely disagree with this and think the gov’t/legal system should be completely changed”, modulating to “I think we should not be required to submit this document”, then ending with “I don’t have time to work with documents that I think are wrong”.

    14. Lily Evans*

      I have another one:
      The Personal Caller
      Who is just always. on. the. phone. For hours at a time. I’ve worked with two of them now and it drives me batty.

    15. Jules the First*

      The Time Zone
      Pathologically incapable of arriving anywhere at a specified time or concluding a meeting within the appointed time but somehow always genially baffled that, although they’ve showed up for our 2pm meeting at 5.30pm, it isn’t still 2pm…because it’s 2pm somewhere….

    16. Not So NewReader*

      Aww, we need to pause for a moment to remember the Great Undoer.
      This is the person who goes through right behind you and tears things down right while you are setting them up. Yes, line up items 1-15 on table A, proceed to do the same on table B. Half way through table C, turn around and realize, table A has been cleared off and table B is half way cleared off.
      “What are you doing?”
      “I am undoing this.”
      “I just set it up.”
      “So what are you doing?”
      “I am undoing this.”


    17. Nicole*

      The Random Responder is the worst! If I send you two emails with wildly different topics, don’t put your response to both emails in your reply!

      My additions:

      The Attachment Dummy
      This person either forgets to attach a file or instead of replying to your inquiry with the requested file attached, sends you a whole new email with the attachment so now the thread is broken.

      The Subject Line Impaired
      Every subject line is “question” or something equally vague and unhelpful.

      1. rubyrose*

        Or the person who never, ever puts something on the subject line! I worked with one of these people once; he had a masters!

  32. Temperance*

    How do you deal with coworker resentment when you get a “perk” or flexibility that they don’t have?

    I’m in Philly and my train is impacted by the strike. I was very ill earlier this year, and as a result, I don’t have a ton of stamina. I can walk etc. just fine, and I don’t look sick or disabled, but I almost passed out waiting in line on Wednesday because my body can’t handle standing for that long.

    I can flex my schedule to leave early so I can catch a train pre-lines. I’ve gotten some snotty remarks from coworkers about it. What’s a good response? (I snarked to the SEPTA guy who told me, oh-so-helpfully, that they couldn’t give me any accommodations because other people might get annoyed that those people should also spend a week in the ICU.)

    1. LawCat*

      The most I’d do is just shrug and say, “I have worked my schedule out with my manager.” The end.

      1. Temperance*

        The people who work for SEPTA customer service are mostly rude and/or useless. There are some decent people, but they are few and far between. It took a lot for me to ask for accommodations, and to be told by some idiot that I need to carry my own chair to the back of the line and wait really set me off. When I pointed out that physically, it wouldn’t be possible for me to carry a chair around like that, I was told there was nothing that they could do.

        I ride the train, and we were royally screwed all summer. SEPTA never apologized to us or tried to make it right. Meanwhile, my commute time more than tripled, and the people in CS were … uninterested and uninformed, to say the least.

        1. Anna*

          These people are raging flaming assholes. Just…I can’t even fathom where they’re coming from.

    2. Sunflower*

      Can you tell your coworkers to ask for flexibility as well?

      As you saw I stated upthread, my company is doing a carpool program. While that might not be possible for you guys to reimburse parking, can the company do anything to help? HR provided us a list with everyone’s zip codes so we could set up carpools(parking split a few ways helps a lot). Also HR pretty much told all our managers that they should be as flexible as possible with employees schedules and expect delays or people needing to leave early or possibly have unplanned absences. However, we are all expected to work our full hours so coming in late or leaving early is to be made up in some way(short lunch, PTO, etc)

    3. zora*

      I don’t have great advice, but I sympathize! My bus has been super packed recently, and I found out I still can’t stand for the ride without getting dizzy, so I have to awkwardly ask for a seat all the time. It’s no fun having a wimpy body and having to deal with these things where people think you are getting special treatment.

      Good luck, I hope they can end the strike soon!

      1. Temperance*

        It’s so difficult! People can be awful about it, especially if you don’t *look* disabled or unhealthy.

        I’ll never forget the nasty old bag at my ENT’s office who started making snarky comments about me playing peek-a-boo with a little kid, because the kid didn’t want to look at her. “It must be so nice to be young and healthy and not scare away little kids”. I was barely able to walk at that point, and that little kid was a welcome distraction from the fact that I had almost died and was just released from the hospital 3 days prior. Seeing her witch face turn bright red in humiliation when I got up and struggled to cross the room made me feel great.

    4. Not my normal alias*

      “Must be nice!”

      “Yes, it IS nice that the boss is allowing me the accommodations I need while I recover from a very serious illness. Of course, it would be even nicer not to need those accommodations…”

    5. Lo Flo*

      I have a number of small over the body bags that I can stash things in, and they and keep my hands free.

  33. Emi*

    Dress code-ish question: What should I, as a pocketless woman, do with small items like my phone, keys, pens when I’m leaving my office to go to something in another building? It seems weird to bring my whole bag, but it also seems weird to bring in a seperate little purse, and it’s annoying to take them loose (especially with jangly keys). My current strategy is to wear my jacket for the pockets, but this is going to make less sense in May. Anyone have a solution, or is this just one of the annoying things about the pocketless state of women’s fashion?

    1. J*

      A wristlet. Yes, it’s a separate little purse, but you get used to it. Better than carrying your keys and phone and pen in your hand.

    2. Murphy*

      It’s just annoying. I usually just take things loose. But they make those clutch wallets that you can usually fit a phone in, or just a small clutch that you can attack to your wrist so you don’t have to carry it a ll separately.

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      My “work purse” has a very long shoulder strap that I can wear crossbody-style. Wearing it that way seems more casual somehow.

    4. Stephern*

      I have a wallet/phone case. When you close it, it looks like a wristlet, but your phone is attached inside, and there are places for cards, ID, etc. Occasionally I will attach my needed keys (only two or three) to the removable handle.

    5. lionelrichiesclayhead*

      Definitely an unassuming wristlet or a pencil type pouch. Or even a padfolio that has extra pockets/room for those things.

      1. Paige Turner*

        I have what my friend calls my “building inspector clipboard” which holds my phone, pens, lip balm, etc. Very handy and not dorky at all ;)

    6. Also pocketless*

      I hate the lack of pockets in women’s clothing. I get around it by putting my keys and any ID/money I need in my bra. I either slide my phone up my sleeve or carry it in my hand. I don’t even need to own a purse. I realize this may not work for everyone but it works for me no problem.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        I think there should be a special holiday where all the women go to the mall. And each women hits a store and picks out 10-12 outfits. Then, at the checkout counter, the women all say “Hold on a second,” and they look the outfits over, and say, “wait a minute, this has no pockets. You can put this entire outfit back. And look, this outfit has no pockets either. You can put this outfit back.” The ultimate goal is to not buy anything that day. This holiday should be celebrated at least once a year until the fashion industry gets the point.

        1. Starbuck*

          I know you’re joking, but this is just a terrible idea- very inefficient and unkind. Making a ton of extra work for low-level retail employees is extremely unlikely to change anything in the fashion industry but is guaranteed to be highly unpleasant for the workers, who of course have no control over whether or not a given item of clothing has pockets.

      1. zora*

        This is what I used in my last meeting heavy job. Always had my leather portfolio to carry my notebook, pens, badge, keys and other necessities to other buildings.

      2. Not my normal alias*

        This is what I do. It feels more “worky” than a wristlet. If you don’t need to carry a lot, a phone wallet with a wriststrap is nice too.

      3. nerfmobile*

        I used to have a leather portfolio that zipped up – I could fit my notebook, pens, id/money, office keys, phone, etc. in it. Or go full-on backpack. In my current office we are all in one building so I just stack my laptop, tablet, notebook, phone, and external mouse all in a pile to tote around when needed (and usually end up dropping phone or mouse somewhere along the way).

    7. Persephone Mulberry*

      Third-ing a smaller wristlet/clutch/crossbody that you can keep handy for throwing small things in when moving around during the work day.

      Much as I love summer, I also love fall just for the reintroduction of outerwear with nice roomy pockets because it means I don’t have to carry a purse for a few months.

    8. Rebecca*

      Oh, I loathe the fact that many women’s clothes have either no pockets, or worse, fake pockets. It’s so inconvenient! I go out of my way to make sure the pockets are both real and functional if at all possible. It’s like someone decided we just don’t need them, and that’s what our purses are for.

    9. MC*

      Wristlet or a stylish pencil case or repurposed makeup bag. I toss in a couple of pens, credit card, phone, lipstick, tampon, mouse if I’m going to be running around a bit from building to building.

    10. Mander*

      I Nth the pencil case/clutch idea. I often use one in my handbag to corral that kind of stuff anyway, so it is easy to just grab the pencil case.

      And the lack of pockets (or worse, super tiny pockets that everything falls out of) irks me to no end. I have several ideas in my head for adding pockets to existing clothing but so far I haven’t actually executed any of them.

  34. Anon From Home!*

    I asked my manager to be permitted to begin working remotely full time starting next month. We have set a precedence for this both with other managers (my peers) and staff. I got a…weird response.

    Instead of saying yes or no, he started talking about whether or not I’d like to look at a new position in the company. Honestly, it freaked me the heck out. I have another meeting today with him and I plan on trying to pin him down to find out whether this means “no, you will not be permitted to do your current job remotely” or whether this means “yes, but if there is another position that would work let’s also use this as a chance to look there.”

    The other positions mentioned were admin-type roles and I am 100% not interested in those and made that very clear. Not only would they be a major pay cut, the work just doesn’t appeal to me.

  35. NarrowDoorways*

    I have a semi-hypothetical question.

    So I have a co-worker, Bob, who is likely on the autistic/Asperger’s spectrum. He can do his job in IT, is very dedicated, and has been with the company at least 10 years. But his people skills are basically non-existent. In a lot of cases, if he says something wrong or behaviors awkwardly, we dismiss it or try to explain why it’s not appropriate, but there’s a clear lack of understand why what he did/said wasn’t appropriate. Some examples are interrupting a conversation two women are having about cupcakes to talk about his love of “orgasm cupcakes;” when someone made a face in my direction last week, he exclaimed, “Wow, he looks like he’s looking at a pile of garbage;” the worse was a conference call last month with the company that owns our company, in which he explained what he believed to be the failings of our CEO…in front of our CEO.

    His boss left a while back and that management position is open. I doubt he wants the job and isn’t technically qualified anyway, but in a hypothetical scenario, how would it be explained to someone that their lack of soft skills make them a bad fit for managerial duties? Just by saying that?

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m not an Asperger’s expert, but I have worked with students who have Asperger’s or are on the autism spectrum, and just because they don’t naturally pick up on social cues doesn’t mean they are incapable of modifying behavior or learning what affects others negatively. He doesn’t get a pass, as an adult, for not knowing what’s inappropriate for the workplace. Can you and your co-workers (and his manager) help him learn that stuff? Sure. Is he still ultimately responsible for behaving professionally? Absolutely.

      1. NarrowDoorways*

        Good insight, thank you! I don’t have a lot of experience in this area and none of my current coworkers do either. We try to steer him away from problem issues, but it doesn’t always work.

        We had a period of time where he kept showing up for work in horribly stained, fifthly clothes. He wore only those clothes for years. After being spoken to a few times, yes, he ultimately bought two new shirts and just rotates them every other day, but the issue is still there that he gets food and drink smeared all up and down his front and, with only two “new” shirts, they would wear out quite quickly even if he was washing them frequently.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      Sorry—didn’t see the actual question was about him being up for a managerial position. Yes, “soft” (people) skills are actually way more important in a managerial position than they are in a strictly technical one (though really he should have both).

    3. Brogrammer*

      It doesn’t actually matter if Bob is on the spectrum or not. If he lacks the skills required for the position, then he’s not qualified and shouldn’t get the position even if he wants it.

      Autistic people may have a harder time learning social skills than the rest of us, but they’re perfectly capable of learning those skills if they want to. If Bob is old enough to have a job, he’s old enough to have memorized that you don’t make sexual remarks in the workplace, even if he doesn’t intuitively understand why it’s inappropriate.

      1. NarrowDoorways*

        That makes sense. I suppose in my head I was trying to visualize if there would be legal issues for denying him the position if he decided to go a route of a protected category, which I assume this would be covered under. But it’s true, he is an adult perfectly capable of living on his own and performing complex work tasks.

    4. Dzhymm, BfD*

      I *am* on the Asperger’s spectrum, but people who know me are surprised to hear this. What this meant for me is that I have had to explicitly learn certain social and other “soft” skills that most people naturally pick up on (the way I like to put it is that this is the sort of thing most people get with their mother’s milk and I was a bottle baby). Things like eye contact — making eye contact and then periodically breaking it so that people know I’m connecting with them but I’m not staring at them. Conversational give-and-take: looking for the signs of someone zoning out and either changing the subject or backing off. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned is When To Shut Up. Just because something pops into my head does NOT mean I have to say it RIGHT THAT SECOND. I can file it away for another point in the conversation, and it may never get used at all, but at least I didn’t stick my foot in my mouth.

      The point is, social skills are *skills*; not everyone has them at the same level, but they can be learned.

      1. Jules the First*

        Hear hear. I’m undiagnosable thanks to a very patient therapist when I was a child who coached me intensively on ‘appropriate’ behaviour (which sounds like he was super harsh, but really what he did was make his office a safe space where I could ask all the stupid questions everyone else seemed to think were obvious and help me come up with rules of thumb). 25 years later, I still rely on his rules for managing social interactions and I only wish he were still around so that I could thank him for everything he did for me….

      2. Voldemort*

        That’s an excellent point. Though I am not on the Asperger’s spectrum, I used to be extremely awkward in my teens, and though there is still an occasional situation where I struggle, I’ve mostly learned. I used to be really socially anxious, but I just exposed myself to increasingly difficult situations until I actually became quite outgoing. A lot of it is just practice, even if you do Google afterwards whether your behaviour was appropriate.

        The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a book where the main character is autistic. One thing that stuck with me was how he carried around a chart of facial expressions and consulted it to gauge others’ emotions. Although that’s not the point the author was making, I always identified strongly with that – ie. if you’re not a natural at these sort of interactions, you may be able to “cheat” around it through notes and practice, just like people do with other skills they find challenging.

        I don’t mean to lighten anyone’s experience, social skills are hard, and I’m speaking from neurotypical privilege here. But don’t just chalk up everything to your co-worker’s spectrum!

      3. Simms*

        I have Asperger’s too and while yes it is frustrating when I slip up I am perfectly capable of 98% of what this guy isn’t doing. I would be mortified to know I was coming into work regularly with stained or dirty clothes, this guy seems not to care. I also try very hard not to say things that are weird or make people feel uncomfortable, also this guy seems not to care.

        To be frank, this guy may have a mental disorder but it is definitely NOT Asperger’s or a flavor of Autism (given the information provided). This is coming from having family that has Asperger’s, high functioning Autism and low functioning Autism as well as knowing people on the spectrum. It is starting to get a little bit frustrating how everyone seems to jump to those when someone is being objectionable at work when most the time they have none of the signs except saying inappropriate things.

        1. Mander*

          My husband has Asperger’s, and while he sometimes comes across as weird or standoffish he doesn’t have a complete lack of soft skills or personal hygiene issues like the guy in this example does. He would never wear dirty clothes or make inappropriate remarks like that. Understanding other people’s emotional responses doesn’t come naturally to him, he can get overwhelmed and have meltdowns if he doesn’t make appropriate plans to cope with things that stress him out, and he has a sometimes irritating tendency to ramble on about his favorite subjects.

          I suppose he is a mild case but it does get frustrating to hear so many people jump to the conclusion that someone acting outside of social norms must be autistic/have Asperger’s when really many of the behaviors they describe are not at all typical of someone on the spectrum.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I think that describing various tasks in a manager’s list of duties would help to explain why he is not qualified currently. I am thinking of giving employee’s their evaluations, etc. Granted he could change and the company could consider him in the future if there is an opening. Limiting the discussion to current time and talking about the skills needed for the job right now, would be helpful to explain why. Hopefully, a short list of a few things that hits the high points and not a detailed, soul-crushing list.

  36. 997*

    I will be leaving my job in a short while and I was wondering if anyone could advise me on who to approach for a letter of reference? I have a direct supervisor who is the obvious choice to approach. However he isn’t too enthusiastic about his (public service) job. The other option is our manager, who I have worked with often. She is very involved in her job, and has taken an interest in my progression, and is quite impressed with me. I feel like I would get a better reference from her. So my question is, is it inappropriate to get a reference from the manager as well as the supervisor?

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I don’t think the direct supervisor has to be enthusiastic about his job in order to provide an enthusiastic recommendation about YOU and your work. I would ask both; you’ll likely need more than one reference any way.

      Speaking of, unless this is for academia, it’s unlikely that you’ll need actual *letter* of reference — though you know your industry’s culture better than I, an internet stranger!

    2. Temperance*

      Letters of reference aren’t really a thing anymore. I would ask if you can use a person as a reference, but not get a letter.

      1. 997*

        The job I’m in currently required letters of reference from two previous employers, so I’m reluctant to leave somewhere without one, just in case.

  37. I am not my parents*

    I’ve just moved back to my hometown, and am working in an HR department with the recruiting team. My hometown is dominated by a couple big employers, and while I don’t work for any of them, my company caters to those employers. It’s not exactly small town, but my parents are very involved in the community and have both worked for these big employers. What I’m running into all of a sudden is candidates pointing out that they know my parents from XYZ, and it’s driving me bonkers. I was doing recruiting in a really big city before, so I only ever had connections to people through my alma mater, and no one ever brought it up. It really rubs me the wrong way when someone (who is trying to get a job) seems to be trying to make a connection to me. These are not people I know, they are just people who are a part of my parents’ (very large) network. I think it would feel different if these were people I had actually met at some point in my life, but I legitimately have no idea who these people are (and some of them even tell me that they had to look me up on facebook to confirm that they know my parents!).
    Is this as weird as it feels to me, or am I just being overly sensitive to it?

    1. J*

      Caveat: I am mildly misanthropic/selectively-social/kind-of-a-jerk

      They *are* trying to make a connection. It makes sense to smile and nod in acknowledgement–“My mother is really active in the community. I hear that all the time.”–and then move forward as if it has no impact on your decision-making. Because it doesn’t.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        LOVE this.
        It even allows you to vent a little, OP, when you say. “I hear this all the time.” You can softly make the point for them to move on from talking about your parents.

    2. Susan*

      I think you may be reading too much into it. It’s pretty normal for people to want to point out mutual acquaintances. I can see how it might seem a little weird for people to bring up your parents, specifically (as opposed to a former coworker, former classmate, etc.), and I can also see how it must be annoying to hear the same thing so often, but each person who says it probably just considers it an offhand remark, friendly chitchat. It probably never occurred to them that you hear it so often.

      1. Emi*

        I agree with this–tons of people point out mutual acquaintances and other connections in a totally inane, chitchatty way.

      2. Anna*

        Exactly this. My husband’s uncle worked for the same company for 40+ years. I now work for a company that interacts with that company regularly. When I meet someone from there I sometimes ask if they knew Husband’s Uncle and tell them what the connection is. It’s just a way to acknowledge they know your parents and is not a big deal. It’s like asking about the weather or how your weekend was. It’s social infill.

    3. Pari*

      Overly sensitive. in smaller communities this is inevitable. They’re just making small talk and trying to network. The positive side is you can ask your parents about them if you are going to consider them for a job.

    4. BRR*

      I can understand how it feels weird, but it’s very common to try and find a connection to another person. If they somehow brought it up in a way that felt like they were trying to use it as a competitive advantage then it wouldn’t be appropriate. I would try and think of it the same you would think of any other way someone might try and connect like if you’ve lived in the same city.

    5. Jules the First*

      It is both – it’s very weird to be recognised for your parents or relations (I look like my maternal grandmother, who was always very active in the community, and so people would randomly stop me on the street or in shops and say things like ‘oh, you must be one of Nita’s granddaughters’ and strike up a conversation; perhaps worse, my father was a public defender with a collection of unusual cars, so I used to get pulled over all.the.time as a teenage driver by traffic cops who just wanted to say hi….awkward!) but the good news is that this will fade as you get more used to being in your hometown. J’s wording is a great choice….I’ve also used the big-smile ‘I sure am!’ and change the subject abruptly. it will get better – I promise!

  38. Misclassified*

    So this is an odd situation.

    My job (very small office; two owners, two people including me in our associate roles, and support staff) has been misclassifying me as an independent contractor for a few years now. I ran up against my statute of limitations to file amended returns this past April to start getting FICA (employer-side) taxes back for the first year I was misclassified. I timely filed everything back in March, including my Form SS-8 Request for Determination. My bosses were contacted in early July regarding my Request and were rather angry about it. However, I was not fired at that time (I live in a strict at-will state which does not recognize the public policy exception, so they would have been legally within their rights to fire me). In September, the IRS issued their determination that I had been misclassified as an independent contractor and that I should properly be classified as an employee for tax purposes. I have begun to receive my refund checks from the IRS. I am still not fired.

    My bosses are still quite displeased. They assign me little to no work (which I personally think is them trying to set it up so that I’m fired “for cause” for not being productive). While in the past I was left alone plenty of times to close the office, I have noticed that in the past few months I am never the last one to leave, even if leaving rather late. Interpersonally, they are quite cool to me. I am currently job searching. However, I also believe that they may fire me soon, possibly before I find a new job. Let’s say that is the case and I am fired soon. In interviews, what would be the best way to answer a hypothetical “so why did you leave your old job” question? I’m usually honest, but I know the real answer may give interviewers pause since I am a whistleblower. I would also want to indicate, if either fired or still working, that my current job cannot be trusted if contacted for a reference.

    1. JLK in the ATX*

      First, as a VITA Tax Preparer, I work with these kinds of situations a lot because our low-income clients are often taken advantage of. Most of the time their claims are well after they’ve left that employer, and I’m sorry that you are being treated this way because you’re correcting a problem that they created (and illegally so). I’ve noticed an uptick in misclassified employees and I appreciate your courage (because it’s hard to convince someone to do this) in dealing with it.

      I don’t know what to say in the case of answering about your last job, when you’ve been fired. I’m sure it’s not going to be a great feeling, but I don’t think using ‘whistleblower’ should be part of your response. I’m sure someone else has a better response to this.

      1. Misclassified*

        Haha. No. I wouldn’t use the term whistleblower. I have thoughts in my head about how I would explain it, if I go the full honesty route, that wouldn’t use a loaded term like whistleblower.

    2. NarrowDoorways*

      Yeah, being misclassified sucks on many levels. I was a few years back, but because I wanted to stay with the company, I didn’t contest it. A few of my friends have also had this issue and basically everyone agrees: contest only if you’ll be moving on shortly.

      It’s not your fault, but it is what it is.

    3. Master Bean Counter*

      I’d put my money on the stance that they aren’t going to fire you. They are afraid. You brought a legitimate claim against them, that is costing them a lot of money now. They are afraid that if they fire you it could be seen as retaliation. What they will probably due is cut your work so you are bored and make your work life so miserable you’ll just quit. So just keep searching and you can say that you’re looking for something new at this point as there’s now room for advancement where you are now.

      1. Dzhymm, BfD*

        I Am Not A Lawyer, but doing things like cutting your work tasks or otherwise making things so unpleasant that you’ll quit is called “constructive dismissal” and it could legally be viewed as a form of retaliation.

        1. Master Bean Counter*

          Yes, but we are talking about people who didn’t know the difference between employee and contractor. I’m betting that they are trying to get the OP to quit.

    4. Natalie*

      Have you spoken to an employment attorney about this at all? Misclassification is a matter of FLSA compliance, so I believe you would be covered from retaliation under FLSA regardless of whether or not your state has whistleblower protection.

      1. Misclassified*

        This actually isn’t an FLSA issue. I generally meet the salary level (even after the December 1 increases), salary basis, and duty tests to be exempt. It’s purely about being misclassified for FICA (specifically employer-side) purposes. And unfortunately, unlike almost every other federal law which protects workers, the Internal Revenue Code does not have a provision which protects workers who file SS-8 Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Withholding request.

    5. Golden Lioness*

      I would say that the nature of the projects you work on has changed and it’s no longer challenging/ a good fit / what you prefer to do, etc. They have as they no longer assign you good work tasks, no need to get into the reasons why.

      1. Misclassified*

        Yeah, I have plenty of great (and honest) answers to give when interviewing while still employed. I am just unsure, should I be fired, how I would answer why I was fired. I theoretically could give a vague but technically true answer like “they were engaged in illegal business practices, and when I spoke up, they terminated me.”

        1. Golden Lioness*

          Still a variation of the same thing. The nature of the work assignments changed, and as it was clear that my skill set and experience no longer fit the job, we unfortunately have to part ways… or something like that.

        2. Natalie*

          I am almost leaning towards explaining the IC issue, but using the passive voice in such a way that it omits your role in exposing it – i.e., “the IRS determined I was misclassified as an independent contractor. [Business] did not want to employ me directly.” I know that probably officially feels like lying to many people, but in my opinion its omitting information that a) will hurt you and b) has no relevance to your candidacy.

          1. Misclassified*

            That is about 90% of what I was leaning towards if the issue came up and merely omits a step I (actively) took in the process (but which I was thinking I would phrase somewhat passively – “the IRS contacted me about unpaid employer-side FICA taxes and I answered some questions which resulted in them determining that I was misclassified”). I think your wording gets the reason across fairly well without even mentioning I had a role in the process.

    6. Bellatrix*

      If you’ve been there for a few years, the fact that you’re looking won’t be conspicuous in any way. You can always use the good versions of “I want a challenge” as discussed here in a recent post: ie. I’m looking for something new because my current employer’s demands aren’t utilising my skills and I’d like to develop them.

  39. Murphy*

    Not trying to start anything here, but I found out today that our maternity leave is even worse than I thought. I would have been hoarding leave time if I’d known. Boo :(

      1. Murphy*

        Oh we don’t either. I knew that. But I can’t just take unpaid leave and eat the cost, because apparently you then have to pay back the employer paid portion of our health insurance, on top of already taking unpaid leave.

        1. Emi*

          Can you cancel or suspend your health insurance and get a cheaper plan on the marketplace? Idk how things would compare in your job/state but it might be worth looking into.

        2. YouDontKnowMe*

          That didn’t occur to me! My insurance is though my husband who does get paid leave, ironically he has enough time off banked to take the next 5 months off and still be paid. I sit here with 31 hours.

        3. BeezLouise*

          I was going to say that mine is the same (though they let me pay back the health insurance when I returned, spread out over six months) but if they’re making you pay back the EMPLOYER PAID portion too? That feels extremely shitty. I’m sorry.

        4. Jessie*

          Wait, what? Are you in the US? Is the unpaid leave FMLA? Usually paying back the employer-paid portion can happen only if you take the unpaid leave and then don’t return to work.

          1. Jessie*

            Want to add – if you are covered by FMLA, clarify with your employer. And go check out the Dept of Labor website ( Because the FMLA law, if it applies to you, doesn’t generally allow companies to require employees to pay back the *employer* share of health premiums. Hopefully there is just a miscommunication/misunderstanding somewhere along the way.

            1. Murphy*

              Perhaps I misunderstood. It was confusing and somewhat overwhelming. I’ll clarify. Still, I had no idea I’d have to pay back any of it. If it’s just the portion that I pay, that’s much better, but still more than I want to be spending if I’m already not getting paid.

          2. Murphy*

            Yes and yes. Unless I misunderstood what our HR person said (which is possible) she said I’d have to pay back some or all of the employer paid health insurance if I take unpaid leave for at least half of the working days in a month.

            1. Jessie*

              Your HR person could also be…well… less than competent. So, if it helps, the way FMLA works is that you have to keep paying your portion of the health insurance and the employer has to keep paying its portion, and sometimes, if you do not return to work, you have to pay the employer back for their portion. But otherwise, you pay your share and they pay their share. And companies are allowed to have you pay your share in a variety of ways (you can pay it in advance, or send them a check at normal intervals during your leave, or when you get back you pay your share all then – you just have to arrange with them ahead of time).

              If the HR person insists that you have to pay the ENTIRE premium back, point them to this:


              That has a helpful explanation – the only repaying employers can require is repaying the *employee* share of premiums, if the employer decides to pay it during the leave (they then have you pay it when you get back) or repay it all if you don’t come back.

              1. Murphy*

                Thank you, this is very helpful!

                I have faith in her competency, and much less in my understanding. I’ve reached out to her clarify and I must have misunderstood. Happy to know it’s not quite that bad, though still a bit worse than I was originally thinking. (I have a slow day today so I’m trying to theoretically work out how this will work, even though I have time to figure it out.)

                1. Murphy*

                  OK, went higher and spoke to central HR and they said this is incorrect, employee portion only. *whew* And she also invited me to a class/training on maternity/paternity leave next month.

              1. Jessie*

                Oops, sorry for the double post. Ha. I was too impatient and thought the first one just got lost.

    1. vanBOOM*

      I’m sorry. :( I’m not a parent or even a “kid person”, but it’s ridiculous how today’s American workforce is working in yesterday’s workplace that refuses to acknowledge who American workers really are.

    2. YourUnFriendlyPhlebotomist*

      I’m in the same boat, due in April and strangely just hoping that’s the absolute first thing the new president does. forget everything else, just pay us while recovering and bonding with the humans we just spent 10 months growing. Also a small bonus for creating the next generation of tax payers would be nice. -JustSayin

      1. Murphy*

        I’m due in April too! My husband said the same thing about hoping the president fixes this. Maybe in time for my next child, but probably not this one, sadly.

    3. Rebecca*

      My current company’s leave time is short term disability, which we pay for with a payroll deduction. It pays $200/week, but if you carry the insurance plan, those payments are deducted. So, biweekly insurance (health, dental, and vision) costs about $220/2 week paycheck. After taxes, we would be lucky to get $75/week. Woo.

      1. Student*

        You can also get short-term disability outside of employers through various insurance companies. It can be a pretty decent deal if you’re planning to get pregnant, and you can drop it once you’re no longer planning for a pregnancy.

  40. Jane D'oh!*

    I am in a master’s program for IT, for which my job is kindly providing partial tuition assistance. Since Monday night I have been locked out of their learning management software program and have been unable to submit assignments, take an exam, or perform required discussion group participation. The help desk keeps saying their “password reset tool” is down and that they are working on it. Anyone at the university who had their password expire within this time window is SOL until it is fixed.

    I spent my lunch and break times for the past two days on my personal phone trying to get answers from the school, trying to reach my professor to frantically beg for off-line access to the materials I need, and so on. My manager has overheard some of this drama, and is now questioning the value of an IT degree from a place this incompetent.

    I’m not sure he’s wrong, and frankly I’m not sure what to do.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Maybe the institution is horrible, but I’ve seen pockets of dysfunction at every educational institution I’ve worked at or attended. I wouldn’t write off the entire university just because of this debacle.

      1. rage is my caffeine*

        This. A thousand times. If it’s the most common educational software package, this kind of crap is not uncommon with them. The techie side of a university has absolutely nothing to do with the value of its educational offerings, even if said educational offerings are IT in nature. After all, it’s not like your professors are the ones doing the tech support that can’t get it back up and running again.

    2. Manders*

      A friend of mine was having a huge problem with a computer system at her school. It’s an Ivy League university.

      My boyfriend discovered, while trying to turn in his thesis at a prestigious college, that the IT staff had forgotten to switch the system out of testing mode so nothing anyone sent in was going through.

      For some reason, universities often have astonishingly poor IT, even when they otherwise have a great reputation. I think it has something to do with decisions made by committee at levels way above the workers who actually understand what’s going on.

      1. Lia*

        At every higher ed institution I’ve worked for, IT is badly-paid compared to the private sector, so turnover tends to be quite high and the workload heavy. There’s little room for advancement and less for training, and often the decisions for software and the like are made by administrators who sit through presentations and get dazzled by promises and then the rank and file have to try to make things work.

    3. CMT*

      Are the people teaching you the ones in charge of running this university’s technical infrastructure? If not, I wouldn’t worry that this is related to the quality of your instruction.

  41. Moonpie*

    I accepted a new position in my company this week and I am So Excited! It won’t be announced for a few days so I can’t talk about it anywhere but here. It will suit me to a T. I had reached a level where there was no clear onward/upward path, so I’m moving laterally into a stream where there are great future prospects. Wooo!

  42. Bigglesworth*

    I have a random update about my weird workplace. Now that we’re less than a month away from the new salary regulations being put in effect, I have started to ask around to see what my company is planning. No word from on high has been given and several salaried staff and their managers have openly said they don’t know what’s going to happen. Come to find out, our cabinet is waiting to see what the November elections have in store before approving the new changes. They’re hoping that the new president will say that the regulations are too much of a burden on businesses and will nullify the change.

    I have not heard of anyone receiving a raise and from my understanding, almost the entire campus is going to hourly on 11/28 if nothing changes. One on one meetings with HR concerning the DOL regulations are discouraged and no one knows how much they’ll be paid, no training has been done for those going from salary to hourly, etc. I think at this point it’s time to grab a bowl of popcorn and see how this plays out.

    1. anonykins*

      Just commented with a very similar scenario (also in higher ed). Haven’t heard about this ‘waiting for a new president’ business. That’s…one way to go about things, I guess

      Frustrated because other schools have already had this figured out for months, and many ARE getting the raise. But the rumblings tell me we’re going hourly, which is upsetting to me because of the emphasis my school is supposed to put on ‘people first’

      1. Bigglesworth*

        I am so sorry to hear that you’re in the same boat! When the DOL first made public the changes, I talked with HR to see if there was an inkling about what was going to happen…nothing. Now we’re so close to the deadline and other places have already made the change happen. My peers have no clue what’s their new pay is going to be or anything. Grrr….

    2. Leatherwings*

      What the eff? They know that regardless of what happens on Tuesday, the rule is going into effect Dec 1 right? And that rule changes take a ton of time? That’s just astonishingly ignorant, I’m sorry.

      1. Bigglesworth*

        No need to apologize. I completely agree. I thought when I first came on board that I’d really like working here (it’s my alma mater). Was I surprised at what went on behind the scenes! I could go on and one with all of the…interesting…decisions this place has made. Here’s the scary part – this isn’t the worst one they’ve made. :/

    3. vanBOOM*

      Wow. Their rationale for waiting to inform people of what’s going on is ridiculous. Are you sure that’s accurate? As in, do you trust your source? I’d be so wary of working there if I heard that.

      1. Bigglesworth*

        I’m actually pretty positive of the source. Also, have you read the “Religious Policy” question from earlier this year? That’s my company – so I have no doubts that there are questionable decision-making going on in the higher up levels.

        1. vanBOOM*

          I did read that one! Yikes. Well, I hope the election outcomes runs counter to your administration’s interests.

      1. Golden Lioness*

        Exactly! and even if they did now, they’d have to prepare a proposal and go to congress to get the new law changed… common sense: none!

        1. Natalie*

          They actually would not need to go to Congress, as this overtime change isn’t a new law at all. The regulation setting an overtime threshold is old law (the Fair Labor Standards Act) and the Department of Labor gets to decide what that threshold is. In this case, Obama directed the Secretary of Labor to update the threshold and they did. No Congress required.

          1. Bigglesworth*

            I didn’t know that! I thought Congress was required to get involved. I love days when I learn something new. Thank you!

            1. Natalie*

              Totally understandable, since a lot of people have been describing it as that. (Strangely, IMO, since our current Congress can’t be arsed to do anything, much less pass worker friendly legislation. But that’s besides the point.)

    1. Mockingjay*

      Geez, Mike C. I’m going to have nightmares tonight!

      {Chortle, falling off into a looong scream.}

      1. Mike C.*

        *interrupts current discussion*

        “Sorry I’m late, I’m here covering for my manager. Since this is my first time here, could you please bring me up to speed on this project?”


  43. matcha123*

    I’m stuck in a bit of a rut.
    My job and coworkers are nice, but there’s not opportunity for growth. I need to move on, but I don’t feel like I’m good enough for anything. I’m also incredibly afraid of getting fired, falling into a bad job or something worse.
    I don’t have any support system or savings, so I have to be very cautious about my next move.
    I feel like I’m a failure and I should just resign myself to low-paying, unfulfilling jobs for the rest of my life. My friends are all upper-middle class and have strong family and friend support networks that allowed them the freedom to chase after jobs all around the country and world.

    I’ve felt like this for over a decade, and I can’t see an easy way of getting the motivation to apply to new jobs. Do any of you have websites or advice for someone who has no network, no family to lean on and no money for chance jobs? I think I can do a good enough job, but I’m no superstar. Why would anyone hire me at a good wage when there are literally thousands of people who could potentially do the same job and get support from well-off family?

    1. Dawn*

      OK first, breathe and also internet hugs because it sounds like you’re pretty down on life and that’s hard!
      Second, go read Captain Awkward- I know there are multiple questions in the archives that echo the sentiments you’ve put in this post!
      Third, your problems are not insurmountable. Sure, your life might be on “hard mode” compared to people you know who have extensive social networks and who come from middle-class backgrounds. You’re like the Lone Warrior Matcha, seeking destiny while facing every adversity life has to throw at you.

      So, let’s unpack. First of all, through your post there’s a current of “I’m not good enough.” Why are you not good enough? Not good enough for *what*, exactly? A defeatist mindset is going to end your Ultimate Quest For A New Job before it even gets started, so I strongly encourage you to spend some time on that mindset. If not therapy, then there are definitely online resources for working on self-esteem and self-worth- again Captian Awkward has some good recommendations for those.

      Secondly- “afraid of getting fired or falling into a bad job.” Ok that’s anxiety talking (hello Anxiety my old friend). Again, there are some great online resources out there for working through anxiety, again, Captain Awkward has some good recommendations for them. However, in the here and now, let’s look at that anxiety square in the face. Getting fired- is there any chance of that right now at all? Are you performing adequately at work? Good feedback? Then OK you’re not gonna get fired out of the blue. Falling into a bad job- there’s a TON of things you can do to vet a job before you accept an offer letter that will keep you out of a bad job. Looking at Glassdoor reviews, asking pointed questions in the interview (future open threads can help you with that), looking and listening for red flags during interviews (AAM has some great posts in the archives that can help you with that), and ultimately when you get a job offer, come post here in an open thread and ask us what we think!

      Third- no support system or savings. Alrighty, savings: that’s something you CAN work on, that you can start on immediately. The absolute BEST money advice website I have ever found is Bari Tessler- she’s a money therapist and is absolutely incredible at helping people unpack all of their anxieties about money (coming from a poor background, I had a LOT of those.) Support system: I take it to mean you have no family or friends to rely on? That does make your life way more hard mode than other people, but that’s not insurmountable. Have you looked into community support services where you live? Not if you need them now, but just to ease your mind in case you ever had to use them? Food pantries, shelters, emergency living assistance, reduced cost healthcare, etc? Not that you would ever need them, but just so you know what they are in case you ever needed them?

      Fourth: YOU. ARE. NOT. A. FAILURE. A failure doesn’t come to Ask A Manager’s open thread and go “hey, I need help.” A failure doesn’t have the drive to change their situation. A failure doesn’t have a job that is nice and co-workers who are nice. Your life might not be what you thought it would be, it might not be where you want it to be, but you certainly have not “failed”!

      Fifth: resigning yourself. OK so, getting from where you are now to Matcha’s Ultimate Perfect Dream Job And Life is not going to happen in one leap. It’s not going to happen in two leaps, or three, or four. It’s not going to happen in five, or six, or seven leaps. It’s going to be a bunch of itty bitty baby steps all leading up to Matcha’s Ultimate Perfect Dream Job And Life. So, start out and look at what your Ultimate is, and work backward until you get to steps that you can actually accomplish. Let’s say your Ultimate Dream is to have a condo in Miami overlooking the ocean. Ok one step down from that would be a condo overlooking the ocean somewhere that is not Miami. A step backward from that would be owning a condo anywhere. A step backward from that would be renting a condo anywhere. A step backward from that would be renting an apartment anywhere but your current city. A step backward from that would be renting a bigger place in your current city. Boom, there’s a goal that’s more attainable. So then you start working towards that goal- that smaller, attainable soon goal of renting a bigger place in your current city. No, it’s not that one big leap, but it’s still progress! Same with getting a new job- OK, so your next job probably isn’t going to see you being CEO of your own successful company (or whatever your Ultimate Job Fantasy is). However, if you know that one day you’d like to be CEO of your own company, work backward from that to get to a small step that you CAN accomplish. CEO of your own company -> CEO of someone else’s company -> VP at someone else’s company -> Manager at someone else’s company -> Any position at someone else’s company. Ok so that first step towards being CEO is to go get a job at someone else’s company! And maybe look into what you like to do that could earn you a few dollars on the side that could one day grow into your very own company- that concept is called passive income and there’s a ton of advice on the internet about how to do it.

      Sixth: motivation. Motivation IS. A. MYTH. Motivation is fickle and fleeting and completely unreliable. Discipline, however, is real, sustainable, immediate, and teachable. F!@# motivation! If you sit around and wait for motivation to strike, you’ll never do anything. Instead, work on your discipline- start small, say 10 minutes a day. Ten minutes! You can do anything for ten minutes! Day one, set a timer, sit down, and list out allll your goals, no matter how pie-in-the-sky they might be. Tell your anxiety to shut up for ten minutes and write them all down. Day two, tell your anxiety to shut up, set the timer, and start breaking down those goals into smaller steps. Day three, set the timer, and start working on how to go about doing those small steps. You asked for websites to help with this- I am A HUUUUUUUUUGE FAN of (it’s not just about fitness) and I absolutely love his book “Level Up Your Life.” It challenges you to change your way of thinking and look at life like a video game, and yourself as the main protagonist in your story. Things that you want to do become Epic Quests, and the steps that you have to do to get to where you wanna be become Quests that you accomplish and earn points doing to “Level Up Your Life”. It sounds hokey, but I swear it works.

      Seventh: Why would anyone hire you. LET ME LET YOU IN ON A SECRET: 99.9% of employees are not rockstars. They are not super special snowflakes. They’re not incredible, or amazing, or even that great. They’re just people. They come to work, they’re pleasant, they do a good enough job, and then they go home. ANOTHER SECRET: Employers are *estatic* to hire people who will come to work, do a good job, and go hom. *ESTATIC*. Thrilled. Hiring managers are over the moon to hire people who are “fine”, “average”, dare I say “boring”. There is nothing wrong with “average”. Remember that if you’re average you’re doing better than literally half of the population!

      Eighth: “Dawn, why the hell are you writing all of this?” Because Matcha I could have written *THIS EXACT POST* four years ago. Exact. Almost down to the letter (except my family is still around). I’m telling you that it gets better. You can make it better. You have, within you, even if you don’t know it, the ability to make it better. Even if you don’t believe it right now. *hugggggs*

      1. Golden Lioness*

        Dawn, this was a great response. Very thoughtful and I agree!

        Matcha, You are not a failure, the fact that you do it all on your own means you’re strong. You matter! and we all have our strengths and weaknesses.


      2. matcha123*

        Wow! Thanks so much!
        I’ve never really stopped to think about anxiety as anything I could have (aside from a description of a feeling).
        Thank you. I’ll put those websites in to check out.
        With friends, I really feel like…they would try to help me, but there’s a larger part of me that says, “Do you really want to test that? Do you really want to put them in that position? What if you make things worse?” and I kind of back off and into my own thoughts. You’re right about breaking things into smaller pieces. I’ve done that, start making progress, and then outside things happen to throw me off for months. By the time I get back on it, I’m at the bottom again.
        Since I live overseas, the services that would be available to me are limited due to my visa status.
        Anyways, thanks :) I’ve got your sites open in tabs now!

    2. Dawn*

      I left a really long reply to this that I think is stuck in moderation, but in the meantime, HUGGGS and also go check out Captian Awkward and Level Up Your Life for specific sites that might help you.

    3. vanBOOM*

      I sympathize, because I also never had a financial (or even emotional) support system of any kind, and for a time was constantly fearful of ending up homeless (one wrong move, and boom–I could have not had enough money, and no one would be there to help me if I screwed up).

      I would start by doing *anything* you could to start building up some savings. That may mean engaging in extreme budgeting, taking a second job (or taking on temporary gigs), identifying ways to bring in passive income (no matter the size), getting a roommate (or two, or three), committing to paying off your debt for good, etc. The combination of all the actions you choose to take may solicit judgment from your (secretly broke) friends and it will not be fun to do. However, you need to constantly imagine what it will feel like to feel more financially secure, and that will carry you through. In terms of gathering ideas for all of this, I would devour as many financial books or blogs as you could. Some books that come to mind include The Total Money Makeover, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and Get a Financial Life. (There are websites for each of those, too.) Some blogs that come to mind include Six Figures Under, The Penny Hoarder, and Mr. Money Mustache. The hardest part about this process is getting started, but it does get better.

      In terms of seeking jobs for better pay and more fulfillment: Yes, there’s always going to be someone more qualified who could suck up those roles. But you know what? There are also lots of people in these roles that are merely “good enough” at what they do–and they’re likely not losing sleep over that fact, because they probably work with other people who are *also* merely “good enough” at their jobs. (I’m not trying to reinforce this narrative that performance doesn’t matter when it comes to job outcomes; just pointing out that this is more common than we think.) I would focus on finding a job where (1) you think you would be reasonably good at it–especially after getting up to speed, (2) it offers even the slightest opportunity to do work that could expand your skill set. I’d also re-frame your mindset to emphasize the extent to which you are a *solid* employee rather than a rock star.

      I don’t know if *any* of this is helpful, but again….I’ve been there, I empathize, and these things helped me. I’m much happier (and financially secure) now.

      1. matcha123*

        Thanks for those sites, I will check them out, too. I’ve heard of some of them.
        I have some passive income that comes in. I find it’s a lot easier to save when I already have some savings, but there have been a number of unexpected happenings over the past few years that knock me back down to zero.
        Thank you again!

    4. NaoNao*

      Well, first, employers very rarely ask or care about family support unless you’re an 18 year old Vogue intern or similar. They are paying you for your expertise and work experience, not based on your situation (which is why appeals based on personal finances aren’t supposed to be used during compensation and raise conversations). Employers pay someone a good salary for a couple good reasons:
      -To get and retain top performers or support staff
      -To enable a worldwide economy (as a super macro way of looking at it)
      -To adhere to marketplace supply and demand (the marketplace needs hundreds of thousands of software developers, for example. There’s *maybe* 100 or so out there who could work for 20K “for fun” and live off a trust fund)
      -To follow the law and avoid negative legal consequences

      Secondly, I think that perhaps (and I say this nicely) you may be overestimating how many people have the support of a well off family. I personally know maybe 3-4 people who could ask their parents or siblings for help or have a trust fund and I am upper middle class, went to private school, have a legitimately wealthy father, and went to four year college, etc. I know it seems like “everyone” around you has resources you don’t but as one example, my family in particular has a way of talking about money that makes it *seem* to outsiders that it’s easy-breezy. It is not. All of us struggle in one way or another, we just tend to be outwardly upbeat and unconcerned. So that could be part of it: the whole “Instagram Perfect” perception.

      One thing that helped me *tremendously* was looking at my first 10 or so years in the working world (including part time college jobs and retail jobs) as an “apprenticeship”. I was studying customer service soft skills deeply, and I wrote a resume that “told” that story. All my jobs, no matter what, taught me a different aspect of customer service soft skills.
      Is there a way you can “tell” a similar story with your resume, and use that to catapult into the type or job or field you want?

      Another thing you could do is build your own network. Meetup and similar sites often have very niche/targeted networking groups (I’m in a “Lesbians who Tech” group as an “ally”, for example!) So you might be able to gather support and resources from non-family, non-friends groups.

      A forum that is great (but a little picky on language, so beware) is “Friends of Captain Awkward”. The members there discuss *in depth* issues of class, income, inequality, imposter syndrome, job woes, and almost every very niche, detailed issue or problem you could imagine. They also exist just to support one another–there’s a “no advice, just support” thread.

      GOOD LUCK!! You can do it!!

      1. matcha123*

        Thank you. Are those groups better if you’re in a certain area?
        I’ve looked at meetup for my area, but there’s not much. I’m in a group for alumni from my university, but all of their meetings are hours away from me on weekday nights. I’ll try to look at this past decade as an apprenticeship. That is a pretty apt example!

    5. Sir Alanna Trebond*

      I was recently stuck in a bit of a rut too. I was dealing with all this anxiety, no motivation, &etc. All of Dawn’s advice is really good and has helped me turn my life around in the past month. Like, I literally think I could have written something very similar to your comment one month ago if I’d had the motivation to write it all down. Kati Morton has some good content on YouTube and free mental health workbooks available. NerdFitness really helped me. I’ve been working out a lot more and I think that’s helped me dealing with the anxiety.

      Something else that helped with the anxiety was recognizing a pattern. There would be some task that I needed to do, Task A. For whatever reason, thinking about Task A would make me extremely anxious. To avoid that anxiety/deal with it, I would try to avoid thinking about Task A by binge-watching shows on Netflix, reading AAM, messing about on the Internet, and generally doing anything and everything but Task A. Then, especially if Task A was time sensitive, I would get dinged for putting it off so long. Then I would feel guilty and the anxiety about Task A would get even worse, so that Task A just never got done and I had no good excuse for WHY and I was stuck in the Anxiety Loop of Doom. Now, when I first feel that anxiety about a task at the very beginning, I just explicitly acknowledge it. I think to myself, “OK, I am feeling some anxiety about completing this task. I recognize that anxiety. However, it is not a rational emotional response to doing this task. I am going to get started on the task right now even though I also feel anxious about it.” It was really tough to do this, especially at first when I had a huge backlog of stuff I’d been avoiding.

      Basically, before my hallelujah moment I was waiting for a time when I would feel motivated and my anxiety would go away. I realized this past month that if I kept waiting, I might just never get anything done. So, I started teaching myself discipline (yay NerdFitness) and I learned to work with the brain I have, not the brain I wish I had. YMMV, but this approach helped me a lot. Well, that and kickboxing.

      1. matcha123*

        Yes. That loop!
        On the one hand, I have an idea of what I should be doing. On the other hand, I sometimes can’t make myself do it. Or I throw myself into it, use up all of my energy, and spend a lot of time trying to recharge. It seems like there are a lot of recommendations for nerd fitness! I love exercise and reading about new techniques.
        Mmm…I have spent years waiting for the perfect combination of things to happen that would allow me to [insert emotion here]. I guess I have to keep reminding myself that there’s never any perfect time.

    6. Lo Flo*

      Great advice, please follow it. I know people in their 50’s and 60’s that still bouncing around, and they came from well off families.

  44. anonykins*

    Still don’t know whether my job is going hourly or getting a salary bump to comply with new exempt laws! They only have two more paychecks to get it figured out. Based on my asking around, though, I think it’s going hourly ;_;

    1. vanBOOM*

      Interesting. I’m not going to be personally affected by the law, but at my org people have been informed by now of whether they’re going to be doing time sheets and will be informed of any salary changes by December. Seems to be cutting it close, but….I suppose lots of orgs are scrambling.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I don’t have a dog in this fight, either – I’m under the threshold but already correctly categorized as salaried non-exempt – and while I’m really glad on behalf of the people who will see a positive change, I’m also really surprised that they pushed it into effect on as short of notice as they did. I mean, it seems like most stuff of this magnitude gets rolled out over years, not months.

        1. Natalie*

          The rule change process began in 2014 and the final rule was issued more than six months ago. Bluntly, businesses have had plenty of time to prepare for this.

    2. seriouslywtf*

      I work in gov’t and it seems like they haven’t even started talking about in HR/city management. No one has any idea what they will do. Most of us are way too underpaid (under 40k) to be considered for a bump, so we’re thinking they’ll probably just pay the overtime.

  45. Rebecca*

    Today is my last day at my current job. I have already handed over my work to my coworkers, and am spending my time surfing the internet and cleansing my email files of anything personal. I can’t wait to start my new position on Monday! I’m excited to start with a new team, new computer system, new challenges, and as a bonus, an increased paycheck and shorter commute. I will move back a bit on paid time off for a while, but gaining an extra hour of my life on every work day by not having to drive as far will more than make up for it.

    I am very thankful for this blog. I read, absorbed, and used so many of the tips here, and I really feel all the info I gleaned allowed me to land my new position. I just want to say “Thank you Alison!”.

    Many of my soon to be former coworkers and customers have reached out, and everyone has been so kind. I was able to make my exit on a high note, in good standing, and I feel really good about that.

    Onward and upward! Now, my biggest stress is what to wear on Monday, and who will inherit my black Swingline stapler that actually staples more than 2 sheets of paper without complaint :)

    1. KarenD*

      “Whoops! How did this stapler get into this box of take-home stuff?

      Oh well. I’ll be sure to drop it off by old workplace. Someday.”

      (Congrats and good luck!)

      1. Rebecca*

        :) I love that movie!! It might be the same model, but it’s black, and it works like a charm. I’m going to gift it to a coworker.

        1. Natalie*

          Probably is the same model – they were black in real life. The IRL red version was made after the movie.

          1. Golden Lioness*

            Yes, and they only manufactured the red ones for a limited time. I had one proudly displayed on my desk, right next to the TPS Cover Sheet (which I downloaded from an Office Space fan page and made for a great conversation piece!)

            1. Audiophile*