is it unprofessional to write notes on your hands, should you take severance or a PIP, and more

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

1. Is it unprofessional to write notes on my hands?

I work in a fast-paced environment that’s semi-open to the public, and am frequently running around the office and public area juggling urgent tasks and sudden requests. To keep track of things-I-must-not-forget-but-can’t-do-right-this-very-second, I write on my hands. A lot (palms only). I was meeting my mom after work earlier this week after an incredibly busy day, and had one palm covered in notes (nothing really legible – mostly strings of numbers or a word or two to job my memory. Some were faded out.) She mentioned that I might not want to do that at work, since it seems very “teenager-y” (I’m in my early 20s and looking to move up in the company in the next few years).

What do you think? Unprofessional, stop at once? Eh, not the greatest, but outweighed by other professionalism and the fact that it makes a big difference in not dropping tasks or forgetting things? Personal quirk, no big deal?

Not super professional, no. Not an outrage or anything like that, but I agree with your mom that it’s likely to come across a little teenager-y. A good litmus test: Can you image a high-level exec doing this to keep track of things?

It’s not a big deal to do it occasionally, but if it’s a standard part of your M.O. (and it sounds like it is), I’d come up with a different system. Can you carry a small notepad? Post-its? Even just a folded sheet of paper? Any of those will serve you better.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. I have to take a pre-employment test a second time to ensure I’m not cheating

I am in the process of job hunting for the first time in a while, and I’m wondering if conventions have changed while I have been off the market. A company to which I’ve applied has had me complete three successive online tests: two personality and one cognitive. Now that I have “passed” all three of these tests, they want me to retake the cognitive exam while video-chatting with them in order to ensure that I am not cheating. The tests do not take that long, only about 15 minutes each, but they are very similar to the tests I had to take when I was in high school trying to get a job as a grocery store bag-boy (which sort of makes me feel condescended to).

Perhaps I am being too sensitive, but I feel like my past job experience and academic transcripts speak for themselves. I don’t understand why I have to keep proving to them that I can figure out 35% of 70! Also, the personality test (again similar to one I had to take to get a job in high school) felt very biased. I suffer from anxiety and PTSD and I felt like if I was honest on the test, that I would show up as a bad candidate. There were questions about self-doubt, mood changes, getting stressed, etc. The tests are done by a third party company but the fact that they included grammatical and spelling errors was still alarming. Should I be wary of this company making me go through all these assessments before an interview is even offered or am I being unreasonable?

A company that makes you take two (two!) separate personality tests is a company to be really wary of. A company that asks you to take a test a second time so they can watch you to ensure that you’re not cheating is a company to run far away from.

This isn’t a new convention. It’s just a crappy company.

3. Should my husband take severance package or the PIP?

My husband and I work for the same company. His boss was a team mate who was promoted by default 13 months ago. He is also dating their previous boss, and I believe her dislike for my husband has been inherited by his current boss. They just don’t get along. He is blatantly treated differently than anyone else on his team. In August, my husband was put on a 30-day action plan because my he got defensive at his boss over some customer order (they work in sales). His boss put his finger in my husband’s face while yelling and it just escalated from there. No physical altercations but there was an outburst. It’s been three months since then. My husband even asked his boss and VP to make sure the plan was met and he was in good standing just last week.

Today he is called upstairs to the VP’s office and presented with a 90-day PIP. The previous incident is listed and three other objectives, mostly when it comes to communicating with customers and such. All of these objectives I believe could be met, but I truly feel this boss will find a way to say that my husband isn’t trying hard enough and he will get fired before the 90 days is up.

He constantly questions and babysits everything my husband does. He punishes my husband because he’s the only team mate with small children and in the past has said, “It’s not my fault you have a kid,” when it comes to questions about our attendance policy in regards to school functions and such. He allows everyone else to watch movies on their computers when it’s slow and to stand around and talk for hours without any consequence. If my husband is gone too long to the bathroom, he’s questioned on where he’s been. He never unforced the same rules in anyone else the same as he does my husband. Even other team mates have noticed but will say nothing.

So while meeting today about the PIP he was also offered a seven-week severance package in lue of signing the PIP. He can also file for unemployment. I think he should take the severance but ask for more. He’s been with the company for six years. He’s also exceeded his sales goal for the year so he would forfeit receiving his bonus. I say he requests the full 14 weeks they offer during layoffs. I truly believe if he signs the PIP, his boss will find a way to get rid of him and I’m afraid he’ll get nothing. If he takes the severance, he’ll at least walk away with money in hand plus his vacation days paid out and doesn’t have to see his boss’ face for one more day, much less 90! What do you think he should do? What’s the best way to request more time and a bigger severance?

Yeah, it doesn’t seem likely that this is going to end well, even if your husband passes the PIP. Working for a boss who doesn’t like you is basically a ticking time bomb for your career; it’s best to get out. Since they’re offering him an opportunity to do that with severance attached to it, it’s probably smart to take it.

There’s no harm in trying to negotiate a higher severance payment. He could frame it this way: “It’s clear to me that Bob and I don’t mesh well together. Because I think it’s a personality conflict, not anything about my work quality, and because I’ve had an excellent history here for six years, I’d like to ask for the 14 weeks of severance you’d give if this were a layoff.”

They may not agree, but it’s worth asking; they’re unlikely to pull the entire severance offer just because he tries to negotiate more.

4. Interviewing a returning employee for the same job he left

A coworker left our company on good terms a for a higher level position at a different organization. After only a few weeks at the new company, he put in his notice and left due to bad management. We are now beginning our interview process to fill his previous position and he has applied to return. What types of interview questions would you recommend we ask? What’s the best way to handle the conflict of interest since the interview team all know him and are friends with him?

You don’t need to do a traditional interview where you probe into his skills and experience, because you already know all about his work and what it’s like to work with him.

What you really need to know is why he left and why he’s interested in coming back now, because you want to be confident that if you bring him back, he’s not going to be looking to leave in another six months. So you want to get a good understanding of what drew him away in the first place and why he’s enthusiastic about coming back now, and you want to talk with him enough to be sure that you’re not just an easy landing while he’s trying to get away from a bad situation. So, just talk to him like a colleague (which he still basically is), and be candid about what you want to know and why.

It sounds like he left for a promotion. How long do you realistically think he’ll be happy coming back to his old, lower-level position? How long does he see himself staying in the role? Were there other things that drove him to look, and have those things since been resolved or are they likely to push him to leave again? Is his work strong enough that you’d be willing to bring him back even if you thought he might leave again in a year? (For some jobs and situations, that can make sense. For others, it might not.)

Frankly, if he was a high performer and you’re convinced he’ll stay a reasonable amount of time (and not just return while he continues to look for something else), you should consider just hiring him back rather than going through a full interview process with other people.  (But don’t do that if he was just okay; in that case, you should assess him against other candidates.)

5. Client is pushing for an in-person meeting, but I’m remote

I work remotely for a company that sells software nationwide. I work with new clients to get them up and running with our product. We start with a 15-minute kick-off phone call, and all of our conversations are by phone and email, which works really well.

Yesterday I had a client whose office is in the same state as our headquarters. He sent me a message asking if we could meet in person, then called his sales rep trying to reach me but didn’t leave a message. It feels pushy to me, our process works fine without meeting directly, and besides his office is three hours from our office and four hours from my home office.

Is there a polite way to say that we don’t meet with clients face-to-face? Also, I’m new at the job so should I loop my manager in on this?

“I actually don’t work from our headquarters — I’m in Arizona instead. But I’d be glad to schedule a phone call any time. We find we can get you up and running really easily through phone and email.”

The client may just be asking because he assumes it’s a normal and/or easy request to grant and doesn’t realize that your company doesn’t typically do that, and doesn’t realize that you’re not based there. And he might be someone who’s more comfortable meeting in person. But usually just explaining that you’re based somewhere else will take care of it.

That said, if you get the sense this person really wants an in-person meeting, you should check with your boss about whether there’s someone who’s not remote who should meet with him.

{ 382 comments… read them below }

  1. Rey*

    OP #1, I find a pocket-sized notebook that has a place to attach a miniature pen or pencil works really well for me.

    1. MillersSpring*

      Mark me as another vote for not writing on your hand. I agree that it’s immature and unprofessional. Don’t try to rationalize it with it “making a difference in [you] not dropping tasks.”

      Alison’s advice of a single piece of paper is great. Starting each day with a fresh sheet folded in your pocket is easy.

      1. MadGrad*

        It may be coded as “teenager-y”, but it’s a little unkind to call something so innocuous “immature”. A small habit does not make them any less of a functional adult.
        (Alison, feel free to swat me away if I’m nitpicking. I just get similar comments a lot about being a night owl and it tends to sting my 20s self.)

        1. Night Owl Too*

          Lots of innocuous things come across as immature. That’s what “teenager-y” IS when you’re older than a teenager. It’s not about whether they are a functional adult, it’s about how they appear to others.

          1. MillersSpring*

            Right. Writing notes on your hands is an immature habit, something to grow out of as you go from high school to college and professional environments.

            The person may be handling adulthood well in myriad other ways, and “immature” is a comment on the habit, certainly not a blanket statement that people who do it are childish in general.

            This reminds me of previous posts about baby talk. You may be adept at navigating adulthood, but certain habits will be seen as immature and unprofessional.

        2. GreatLakesGal*

          OP #1: If you are a nurse, urgently jotting down vitals, writing on your hand is sometimes A Thing That Happens. But it shouldn’t happen on the regular, even in a medical setting.

          If you are getting feedback that it’s perceived as unprofessional or unprepared, then it’s not in line with your expressed desire to advance.

          I think the other issue is pockets, myself. If your day-to-day job involves a lot of walking around, then carrying a phone or a tiny notepad means you need pockets. If you’re a woman, it’s hard to find inexpensive professional clothing with pockets.

          Unless you are a nurse. Yay scrubs! Lots of pockets.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            A million years ago, we had a warehouse staffing disaster right smack in the middle of busy season and I was the only person who could step in. I spent a month wearing jeans, sneakers and the best thing in the universe: a waist belt with pockets! So many pockets. Everything right there.

            OMG. This should be a thing.

            But, it’s not. :-(

            1. Blue_eyes*

              I know some teachers who like to wear aprons at work. The kind with lots of front pockets. That way they always have everything right at hand and don’t have to cross the classroom to grab a pen, or stapler, or white board marker.

          2. Jessesgirl72*

            I almost never have pants without pockets. I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, either, AND I’m not a size 6.

            But even when I don’t have pockets, my phone case is a wallet case with a wrist strap. I can carry my phone with me without having to hold it, without needing to carry a full size purse. Some come with built in pens. Back in the old days, I had a very small cross-body purse that would fit a pen and small notebook, but didn’t get in the way.

            1. Vicki*

              +100 for the pants with pockets. I shop in the men’s department. Not only is the default two hip pockets and too in the back, but I understand the sizing!

            1. Sherry*

              I used to have a job where I carried a clipboard. That aspect of the job was awesome. So handy, and it makes you look professional.

          3. SassyFrassy*

            Yes!! I personally think that grey’s anatomy scrub pants in black could also double as dress pants if you wear the right shoes and shirts. Ultra comfortable dress pants with cargo pockets for women. What a time to be alive.

          4. zora*

            I saw a nurse do this the last time I was in the hospital, actually, except she put a latex glove on one hand and wrote on the glove. Made me smile, but also it seemed pretty smart to me! You have the info on the glove, but then you can still take it off and throw it away after you capture the info, and no permanent writing on your hand! ;o)

        3. LauraJay33*

          I would see it as immature, too. And as long as it continued, I would make it a point not to have this employee in any of my meetings where any clients or senior team were participating because they would definitely see it as immature and unprofessional in my industry/company culture. That would get in the way of future promotions big time.

          1. Whats In A Name*

            But the thing is management has not said anything yet, just the OP/s mom. Before putting the axe to their career would you not mention it first to your employee?

        4. Lance*

          The thing with that is, it’s just the habit that’s immature, not the person themselves. And the habit is kind of immature; it would be far more efficient to have a little notepad to carry (no risk of washing it off, no risk of, say, any ink or anything getting on someone else’s hand after a handshake, and you can keep it for a lot longer, just in case).

        5. Artemesia*

          This is about impression management in the workplace. Writing all over one’s hand will make the OP look immature as it is the kind of thing that kids do — and it is pretty ugly as well. As a manager would you go out of the way to introduce your report who has writing all over her hands to the CEO? Or would you select her to make a presentation to a local professional group? It is an unsightly childish habit regardless of the other qualities the person doing it might have.

          1. Can't think of cool name*

            +1 and the OP isn’t going to gain or improve her reputation within the company. If this doesn’t stop quickly she will be the OP writing in a couple of years from now asking how she can improve her image at work because she wants to progress but everyone only knows her as the girl that writes all over her hands, not for the value and contributions of her work

        6. Jean*

          Our new front-desk admin has written notes on her hand before even when I’m sitting there offering her a post-it. To me it does look unprofessional.

    2. BPT*

      This is the first thing I teach my interns – always, no matter what, carry a notepad and pen with you. If a director calls you into their office, it’s probably to give you instructions, not to just chat. So you’ll need to write something down. Even as you’re walking down the hall, someone might pull you in. It’s not going to look good if you’re just listening and not taking notes, especially if you’re new.

      1. Artemesia*

        Good idea and it is perfectly possible (not easy but possible) to find professional clothing for women with pockets — I always made that a criterion when selecting clothes. And if not, there are very small cross body bags that hold just a cell phone and a notebook and are easy to wear all the time — Surely the OP carries a cell phone when out and about.

        1. Chinook*

          I am dedicated customer of a website I was referred to by readers here – eshakti dot com. They have dresses with pockets big enough to carry my wallet and phone in that don’t ruin the design of the dress. I haven’t tried their pants, but they have pockets too and I suspect they are just as functional.

            1. Sarah in Boston*

              Give them a go. You’ll love them. Even full price is quite reasonable but they have a lot of sales. I’ve never owned (and worn) so many dresses in my life! Because POCKETS! (Now if I could just get Svaha who does STEM dresses to collaborate with eShakti so I could have custom fitted science dresses…)

        2. Anon for this*

          I am a fat woman who only wears skirts. It is nearly impossible to find clothing with pockets. My cell phone stays buried at the bottom of my work bag, and any notebooks suffer the same fate. Cross-body bags cut into my neck and wind up buried at the bottom of the work bag. My hand is the only thing that has to be on my person at all time. I supposed writing on it may look unprofessional, but missing deadlines is more so.

          1. slick ric flair*

            Yes, but why would you choose to look unprofessional? Just carry a notepad with you, it’s not hard.

          2. Jane*

            Would it be possible it get a smaller bag/removable divider that sits inside your main bag or tote that you can take to meetings? Or to carry a neat stack of notebook + phone + pen in yours hands? I also carry way to much with me to work to lug around all day, but I have system for quickly pulling out the essentials for running around to meetings. There are so many bag and pocket options that things falling to the bottom of the bag should not need to be an ongoing problem.

            Lifehacker has a DIY version here:

          3. T*

            In Aus at least, City Chic does does good fat lady clothes that have generous pockets.

            They’re not cheap, but a nice skirt with pockets is just golden.

          4. midori*

            Those sound like excuses, to be honest. If you have an invested reason to change then you’re going to change. Or you don’t want to change and you keep on writing on your hand. Everyone here is saying that it’s not professional behavior, that should give you some food for thought. To make the idea more palatable to yourself, why not splurge for a nice notebook cover that you really like? Etsy has many inexpensive portfolios/journals/covers to choose from.

        3. BPT*

          Right but also, it’s not necessary to have pockets to do this. Like anytime I walk out of my office (unless I’m leaving the building) it’s second nature to just pick up my pad (that’s too big to fit in pockets). I understand that some places of work need hands free or whatever, but in most offices, you can carry a pad in your hands.

          1. Sadsack*

            Yeah, I and countless others at work carry notebooks (I prefer a stenopad) around the office. When I get where I am going, I set it down.

    3. SystemsLady*

      I have a tiny Moleskine that fits right in my purse (probably could fit in some pockets) and use it all the time, for ideas both personal and work-related. The durable cover keeps it and the notes inside from getting beat up, plus it can hold a pen!

    4. Ama*

      Yup. There are some great modular notebook systems out there (Staples has a pretty inexpensive one that I use, but there are others) where you can add post its, a pencil pouch, or even just paper set up the way you like it. Mine’s not pocket sized, but it’s small enough that it’s easy to carry around.

      I’d also add for the OP that it’s perfectly acceptable if someone is trying to give you a detailed list of instructions/tasks to ask them to hold on a second while you grab your notebook, even if they are your boss. That’s something that took me a little while to learn when I first started out. (I wasn’t writing on my hand, I was just trying to remember things until I could get to my notebook and it didn’t always go well.)

      1. Liz*

        That second paragraph is a really good point. I used to have a boss who liked to have “quick chats” with me that usually ended up including long, complex lists of instructions. A quick “Oh, let me grab a notebook so I have all the details correct” always did the trick.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, this is a good point. It’s completely acceptable to say “one second, let me grab some paper.”

          1. Aurion*

            And usually the act of grabbing paper/notebook will cause the speaker to slow down and repeat themselves, because they then realize that they were firing off too many instructions at once. So the OP doesn’t have to stress about getting all the notes down right that microsecond.

          1. Liz*

            Except that he wasn’t doing it when I was at my desk. He was usually stopping me on my way back from the kitchen or as I was returning to my desk from another co-worker’s office. If he asked me to meet him in his office, then obviously I would take a notepad with me.

    5. SomeoneLikeAnon*

      I consider writing on the hand to be unprofessional as well. I don’t think I consider it immature, but I do think it’s a bit dirty. I wouldn’t want to shake hands with a person who has ink all over them; in my mind writing on the hands means you don’t wash your hands, say after the bathroom, because you are worried about losing your “notes.”

      Learn to carry a small notebook or day planner. It makes you appear more organized since you are ready to plan things in advance. Also, writing on paper doesn’t “wash off” like it would on your hands – makes you appear like you are committing to things better.

    6. YetAnotherAlison*

      I sometimes stick post it notes to the back of my badge if I really can’t carry a notepad with me too.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Actually, you could put a piece of paper on the back of your badge every day, and just write on it as you go. Then remove at the end of the day!

        I’ve had days I wanted a tiny write-on/wipe-off easel to hang on a lanyard around my neck. The piece of paper on the back of my badge or phone would be a good substitute!

        Use a big post-it (maybe a super-sticky one) and trim off any that hangs over.
        Or get a roll of double-sided tape for your desk, in a spare tape dispenser, to stick it down with (or to stick the flapping edge of the post-it down).

      2. SimontheGreyWarden*

        I used to do this when I worked retail. It was the only thing that I was guaranteed not to lose, set down, have to stick in my locker, etc.

    7. Hermione*

      I recently bought a moleskine to cut down on my post-it-note addiction in the office, and it’s been SO GREAT to have all of my work notes in one place, and the notebook is cute and unobtrusive and looks professional.

    8. seejay*

      there’s also applications for smart phones that you can use for jotting down notes that sync to dropbox or the cloud so you can edit them on your computer later, in case you need to have everything central or accessible at other locations. Or just keep them in your smart device.

      I have short term memory issues, so I use a combination of paper note pads, note applications on my devices, and text documents that sync across my computers to keep notes on a regular basis and it works perfectly. In a pinch I might write on my hand or my arm, but that might happen once or twice a year because I found myself without my phone or a note pad, which is *really* rare.

      1. Jane*

        Do you have any specific app recommendations? I do this with Wonderlist (a to-do list app) but would love to upgrade to something more notes-focused. Thanks.

        1. seejay*

          I’m a bit quirky with my apps and habits, so this is really specific to my habits, but you could try these and adjust as necessary.

          Currently, I have a DropBox account with various text files that I use to maintain notes (todo, grocery lists, shopping lists, etc) because they’re easier to type into on text editors on the computer. They’re sync’d up through DropBox on my work and home computers, but also to my personal laptop (so that’s three computers). I have the DropBox application on my iPhone that I use to sync up any non text files between my phone and the DropBox account (pictures, PDF, Excel files) but for text editing, I use an application called WriteRoom (if you google, it’s by HogBaySoftware). This can sync up to your DropBox account and lets you edit the text files and syncs them back up right away. This way when I’m out shopping, I can edit my grocery/shopping list right away and it’ll update on my home computer, or when I’m at home I can add stuff to the list on my PC and it’s on my phone right away. If something runs through my head really quick, I type it down into my todo.txt file and I’ll see it on my text editor next time I’m sitting at my PC.

          So WriteRoom is the main one I would recommend, combined with a DropBox account to sync it across devices/computers! (at the very basic at least)

  2. Mike*

    #1) I have a phone with a stylis and it is great for taking quick notes.

    #5) While nowhere near the timeframe as the OP I did return to an organization after a couple of years away. We ended up talking about why I left, what I’ve done since, the position (since I actually came back at a higher position), how the team changed, etc. It wasn’t an interview per-se but instead a discussion. I’ve been back two years now and am going strong.

    1. Lance*

      The phone idea may not be bad, though I would lean further toward a small notebook if you’re writing notes while interacting with people (meetings, etc.); doing something on the phone risks looking like you’re not fully paying attention to the matter at hand.

      1. Vjnx*

        If I have to take notes on my phone while speaking to someone, I announce it.

        “How do you spell his last name? I’ll take a look at this when I’m at my desk.”

        “Let me just jot this down.”

    2. SanguineAspect*

      Curious about your experience with returning, Mike. I left a position about 3 years ago with a company that I liked, but where due to growing pains at the company, I wasn’t seeing the raises I would expect to see given my performance. I was offered an exciting opportunity at a consulting firm and I left hoping to learn new things (in addition to making more money). I’ve done both and have found that consulting life isn’t what I want for myself long-term. I’ve maintained good relationships with my former coworkers, who all try to convince me to come back whenever I see them.

      Honestly, after I’ve put in a little more time in consulting land, I would definitely consider returning. Are there are any pros/cons to your decision that you’d tell someone in my shoes?

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        My husband left his first post-university job because his reporting manager didn’t really like him, and after 5 years, he was still at his college hire salary, and his manager outright refused to give him either a higher salary or title. He’d spent a lot of his time “loaned out” to another team and manager who thought he was stellar and that his reporting manager was a jerk- he even went to bat with the other manager, trying to get my husband a raise. So 18 months after my husband got another job (with a 20% increase!), the good manager got promoted to grandmanager, and the bad manager gave notice when he didn’t get that promotion. I don’t think he’d been gone a week when the new grandmanager and the colleague who was promoted into his old manager spot called my husband to ask if he’d consider returning. HR made them go through an “interview process” where they mostly just talked about what had changed since he’d been gone, like Mike described. They didn’t ask why he’d left, because they knew why, and agreed with him.

        He worked there another 5 years. The pros were that he worked for and with people who respected him and his work, and who also didn’t take him for granted. The new managers made sure he got every raise and bonus that he was eligible for, because they knew he liked them and worked hard, but had proven that he was willing to walk away when the loyalty grew one-sided. By the time he left because the company started restricting how much a current hire could be paid, and canceling bonuses last minute, etc, and then the company got sold, he was the 3rd in his group to leave that year, and even his bosses were talking about leaving.

    3. Vjnx*

      I was going to ask this – could you take notes on your phone? Easier to fit in a pocket and you may have it with you anyways

    4. Siberian*

      After a few occasions of missing meetings because I didn’t bring my phone (with my Outlook calendar) with me as I walked around our building at work, I never leave my office without it. A side benefit is that if someone tells me something I need to do or remember then I email myself a quick message. I do the same in meetings. I write notes about the meetings on the agenda then scan and file it immediately afterwards and recycle the paper, but I email myself any action items so they don’t get missed, and I don’t have a lot of sheets of paper on my desk waiting to be gone through for things I need to do anymore. Also I let people know what I’m doing so they know why my using my phone during meetings.

      1. Grayson*

        I am so right there with you! Every single thing I have to do I put down on a color coded calendar that’s accessible on Google’s Calendar app, and through my phone. If it’s not in the calendar I absolutely will forget it.

  3. Sami*

    OP#1: You need a Pocket Mod. (I’ll post the link as a reply.). But basically it’s a regular sheet of paper folded into a small notebook. Then get a miniature pen with a clip and you’re all set. Good luck!

      1. LBK*

        Heh, clearly the site is a little old – does anyone even still manufacture PDAs, or were they wiped out by the advent of smartphones?

    1. Mookie*

      According to the hiring manager who interviewed me, I landed one of my first somewhat office-y, non-retail jobs as a yoot partially because I’d been the only candidate who brought a notebook out during part of the first in-person screening — tail-end when we were doing some rapidfire query-and-response deal — in order to jot down some notes about certain daily, unorthodox tasks that had been tacked onto the position but hadn’t otherwise been covered yet. Actually quite useful and time-saving during the first week because I’d studied the thing madly before starting so knew what to expect and could just get on with it (with some limited oversight and guidance).

      So, in general, notes: a good thing, especially during training or busy seasons, that when done in moderation and the appropriate medium makes you look conscientious while producing better work with more ease and confidence. And much less disruptive than using your phone or, argh, going old-school with the handheld voice recorder.

      Also, I was once awarded some money and a nice plaque as an undergraduate at a departmental honors ceremony while wearing jeans covered in quotes from George Saunders. (They’d forgotten to formally invite me and had to drag me out of a seminar to attend). What a disrespectful ass I must have looked. Then again, it was kind of disrespectful to attend a seminar as a sentient graffiti zombie but I clearly knew no better.

            1. ESP*

              Agreed; I think he/she was quoting the movie. But the quote is slightly off – he does say “A-What?”. But, after he clarifies and Vinny repeats the word, he says, “What is a yoot?”

              Yes, I’ve seen this movie waaaaay too many times. :-)

              1. TootsNYC*

                I’ve only recently realized that the judge may have thought he was saying “yudes” or “judes”–slang for Jews. And was giving him the benefit of the doubt by asking to clarify.

                Because the best part of that film is how the Southerners are actually NOT caricatures or evil, biased jerks.

                I’ll have to go look again.

                1. ESP*

                  Really? I think the scene existed purely to have fun with Vinnie’s accent. And, the judge knew exactly what Vinnie said, but he was criticizing his pronunciation. Remember, they doubted his ability to be a decent lawyer.

  4. Ann Furthermore*

    OP3: Your husband should take the money and run. It sounds like his boss has it in for him, and there is nothing he can do to change his mind. I’ve been in that situation, and it’s the worst. You always feel like you have a target on your back. It’s horribly stressful. If he takes the severance, he’ll get least 7 weeks plus his accrued vacation, so around 2 months of pay, maybe more if he’s able to successfully negotiate a better deal. That’s much better than 90 days of misery on a PIP that will probably end badly.

    I worked with someone who was put on a PIP, and the stress of it was so awful that she ended up in the hospital. She had some other health issues, which didn’t help, but she ended up becoming so ill that she was in the hospital for over a month. Eff that. No job is worth that.

    1. Ayla K*

      Agreed, from someone who has also been there, #3 sounds like a nightmare situation. If a manager doesn’t like you, no PIP is going to change their mind – it’s more than likely just a formalized way of pushing him out. I knew that’s what mine was, since my horrible manager had done it to other people. I didn’t get a severance option, but I did choose to just leave rather than go through the PIP.

      An environment like that can mess with your psyche in huge ways, and I know that I would not have physically survived another 90 days with that manager. I’m still getting used to what’s “normal” in a workplace, almost a year after leaving. He should definitely take the severance and get out of there.

      1. Not My Usual Name*

        Sounds familiar. By the end it got to epic levels of nitpicking, to the point that my boss was antagonising me, and could then validly say I had an attitude problem.

        It was one of those environments where you need to be out of it in order to look for a new position.

        1. A Person*

          Ah, yes the classic ‘You’re being defensive and hostile’. It still makes me bristle more than a year on that I was came down on by a tonne of bricks for one moment of (somewhat justified) frustration and anger despite always otherwise toeing the line and more than pulling my weight when other employees were getting away with consistently taking miles when given inches (and multiple inches at that).

          Unfortunately when management decides they don’t like you, you aren’t going to win. I’d say negotiate severance if possible and run. It was strange how much more visible the problems were on the outside when I had the energy to look at them rather than constantly jogging to stay on top of my then mammoth workload.

          1. Annonymouse*

            yeah … Even if your husband does the PIP and passes then what?
            His boss is not going to magically start loving his work or respecting him.

            He will just pick and pick and pick until either he has enough for another PIP or your husband explodes and gets fired. Both ending up with nothing.

            Take the severance. And if possible try to get HR/the company to agree to what they’ll say as a reference for you.

            Don’t leave that to chance or his soon to be old boss will just keep bringing him down.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Yeah, the only way I see this situation working out for OP’s husband is if someone higher-up than his boss steps in and reorganizes the group so her husband ends up under a new manager.

            2. Beezus*

              Yep, my best friend dealt with that. Plus, he wasn’t well-liked by his colleagues either, and when they knew the boss didn’t like him, it was open season to shift blame to him for anything that could have even remotely been his fault. They stopped bothering to communicate thoroughly or hand things off cleanly, because they knew that if something flopped, he’d be the scapegoat. It was a really crappy situation and hard to watch.

          2. Jen M.*

            My situation has caused me to go into business for myself, I was so traumatized. I’m making about 1/4 of what I used to, but I’m healthier and much happier now.

            I wouldn’t wish that situation on ANYONE. :(

        2. Allison*

          Yes, this happened in my first job, it was so awful I dreaded going to work. Glad I’m not the only one who went through that. I mean, it sucks that it happens to anyone, but at least I know I’m not crazy.

          Even years after the fact, sometimes I hear the boss’s voice in my head telling me, with a big smile on his face, that I’m not cut out for this line of work, I’ll never succeed, and I’m a horrible person.

          1. Anion*

            You’re a wonderful person, and can do whatever you set your mind to and find much success at it.

            (There. Now you have another “voice” with which to drown out your lousy old boss’s.) :-)

        3. DArcy*

          While the rest of the boss’ described actions do definitely sound like unfair nitpicking, not giving special consideration for having small children is not.

          1. Natalie*

            “He punishes my husband because he’s the only team mate with small children and in the past has said, “It’s not my fault you have a kid,” when it comes to questions about our attendance policy in regards to school functions and such.”

            Nothing in those two sentences indicates the LW’s husband was asking for special consideration.

            1. OP#3-The wife*

              Our child is actually in pre-school, and it was a situation where his teacher asked us at drop off if we could take a few minutes to talk because at pick-up she was already gone. We got to work about 30 minutes late, but in our attendance policy parent-teacher conferences are covered. So in this situation, even though it was on the spot, it was covered because we have no other time to talk to his teacher in person.

              Our policy covers school registration, parent-teacher conferences, awards ceremonies and the first day of school for 3 hours up to 4 times per year. In August we changed pre-schools which required us to register him during work hours, and we missed a few extra minutes on his first day at the new school. His manager scoffs every time something comes up with our son and my husband mentions that it’s excused. Therefore my husband always gets it confirmed with HR to cover his own butt. His manger doesn’t like that either. But considering he nickels and dimes every minute he’s not in the office, my husband feels he always has to cover his own behind especially when it can be backed by policy.

              1. nonymous*

                that’s a really family-friendly leave policy. As someone who doesn’t have kiddos I’d be a little irritated/jealous – it’d sure be nice to have that flexibility for pet emergencies :-) But it’s the job of the supervisor/manager to enforce company policy (and certainly to encourage changes, if warranted).

                And it sounds like there are two people in your hubby’s chain of command that are deliberately choosing to ignore a policy. Company cultures are weird. Sometime the official policy (e.g. “unlimited” PTO) is not the real policy and what is in practice varies by team. You say that he has no problems meeting sales goals. Can your husband explore the option of switching teams?

                1. SimontheGreyWarden*

                  Right…but not offering it for pets doesn’t mean anything is unfair…so this comment sounds a little churlish.

            2. Artemesia*

              Sounds like he was using the need to attend school functions as an excuse to not work late, or to get off from time to time. It is reasonable for people to be excused to go to school functions but in some places it adds up to burdens on people without that excuse.

              1. Natalie*

                Perhaps, but that’s supposition that’s not in the letter. It’s just as plausible that, since the manager doesn’t like this employee, they snark about things for no reason.

                1. OP#3-The wife*

                  These are actually the only 3 instances in nearly 3 years in this position. But his boss thinks anything to do with kids should count again personal time, especially since he doesn’t have kids, so it wouldn’t affect him.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      I worked with someone who was put on a PIP, and the stress of it was so awful that she ended up in the hospital.

      This happened to a former coworker of mine as well. Our former manager was nitpicking him to death and constantly verbally eviserating him on the regular, and one day he just had a breakdown. He ended up going on extended leave, checked into the hospital, and had to start taking anti-anxiety meds. Luckily for him, her manager stepped in when he realized she was trying to push former coworker out (the latter had been in that department for seven years and had been under another manager for most of those years without incident) the way she’d done three other people before him, and he got to come back to work on his PIP (which ended up lasting a year and a half) and former manager was told she would not be able to fire this guy – any terminations would need to go through grandboss and great grandboss.

      Former coworker is still there and off his PIP a year later, and former manager is on a different team in another role.

      1. Graciosa*

        This is great to hear – a lot of people fantasize about someone stepping in to do something about the bad manager in these situations and it doesn’t happen nearly enough. I am sorry he ended up in the hospital over it, though – too high a price to pay to work for a jerk.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Yeah, I think that’s what finally made her boss and his boss pay attention to what she was doing to people. Former coworker is now back under his former manager and is on track for a promotion to a supervisory role, and former manager had 80% of her workload taken from her. So though it’s sometimes slow going, sometimes people do get their comeuppance.

          1. Jane D'oh!*

            So former manager now only has to do 20% of her former workload, but she still has a job? That sounds like a reward, not a comeuppance.

            1. nonymous*

              A lot of people get promoted to the point of incompetence. It’s like if Jane is a Superior Teapot Maker the assumption is that she will be a Superior Manager of Teapot Makers, even though no one knows what (if any) management skills Jane has. imo, it is reasonable to say “oops, what we really need is for Jane to be the SME of Teapot Making” although that should happen before someone is hospitalized/loses job.

            2. Fortitude Jones*

              Trust me, it wasn’t a reward. This woman thrives on taking on moremoremore!, and she liked to brag about how busy she was and how everything would fall apart if she wasn’t there, so when that stuff was taken from her and given back to the original manager, I guarantee she was embarrassed. Plus, she’s now handling files again like a regular adjuster instead of like a manager – no other manager in that division does that. Hell, I don’t think any manager in any division in my company does that. She’s a joke now.

      2. paul*

        Though that still sounds like a crappy situation for him if he was stuck with someone who hated his guts for however long it took them to reassign her. I honestly don’t know if I’d do well in that situation

    3. Central Perk Regular*

      I agree with everything Ann Furthermore said above. Years ago, I was in a similar situation to your husband and basically – you. just. can’t. win. I was put on a PIP for about 60 days and it was horrible. My stress level was through the roof, my general health deteriorated, and I felt like I was a mice being dangled in front of a very hungry cat. I ended up being let go, with no severance given, but honestly, it was a blessing to be let go from such a dysfunctional workplace and abusive boss. Luckily, I had been job searching for months and got a job offer on my last day at Old Job. I had a three week vacation between my end and start dates and it did WONDERS for my mental and physical health.

      If you and your husband are financially able, I would highly recommend taking AAM’s advice and negotiating the severance package, taking it, and moving on to something better. More often than not, you DO end up moving on to something way better. Sending good thoughts your way!

    4. SystemsLady*

      This happened to one of my favorite clients to work with.

      Now her boss is trying to do the same thing to us, her favorite contractor (while being less able to fire us), both because of a huge conflict of interest. One so bad and obvious to somebody looking at his resume, you’d think it would be more of a large glowing neon sign on his back to his superiors.


    5. Natalie*

      Concur. This has happened to two of my good friends. One of them had such a bad experience with her fake PIP that she quit without notice when she got a new job, and literally no one in her office was surprised or thought it was unreasonable.

      If the boss already treats this employee unfairly and holds them to different or unwritten expectations. There’s no reason to believe the PIP process will be the moment they magically start following all the rules. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.

    6. Happy Cynic*

      Strongly agree with “take the money and run”. A finger in someone’s face while yelling… some relationships bounce back from that, but only I think when there was lots of mutual trust to begin with.

      My prediction is, the minute your husband leaves that job, he will start breathing a little bit easier.

    7. Drewby*

      I’m going to agree with this suggestion, your husband should cut his losses, take the money and get out. I was on a PIP at my previous company a few years ago. While it was an agonizing period for me to be in, it wasn’t as bad as it was before it was presented to me. I was in the job for about 9 months, I wasn’t cutting it and I knew it. I figured that I would put in 110% of my effort and hoped that things would just “click” and then I would be okay since that was my usual MO with prior jobs. I was going into work every day with a knot in my stomach just anticipating what was going to be nitpicked, I’m surprised I didn’t start smoking again.

      The day the PIP was presented to me, I felt like a little bit of weight has been lifted off of me because (a) it confirmed my suspicion about how I was truly doing in my role, and (b) it proved that there was an end in sight. I know that PIPs are very, very difficult to overcome and even if I somehow miraculously was able to do so, I kept asking myself if I would still want to continue working there. Having quickly answered “no”, I signed off on it with the intention of doing what I had to do to work through the 30-day period and immediately began job hunter.

      The day I was let go, I was told that they were impressed by the strides I made, but it wasn’t enough to warrant continued employment and it would be my last day. I was so relieved because I did not want to spend another minute in that building. While I didn’t get severance, I was paid for the rest of the paid period plus two weeks of accrued vacation and that was that. I ended up securing another role 6 weeks later (next door to the company I was let go from) and have been much happier since then.

      While we don’t know the OP’s and her husband’s financial circumstances are, you sometimes have to put your mental health in the forefront and do what’s best. No job is worth that much stress in order to prove a point. OP’s husband is lucky to have the chance to get out with some money in pocket.

    8. starsaphire*

      I’ve been in a similar situation too. And frankly, I suspect the reason OP’s husband is being offered the severance is because someone higher up *knows* it’s just a personality conflict with a crappy jerk of a boss, and they know that OP’s husband is not in the wrong.

      Vote #743 for “take the money and run.”

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        You’re probably right. A PIP situation is usually the first step in firing someone, and rarely does someone get fired and then get severance. Whoever approved this probably has the best interests of the OP’s husband in mind.

  5. CC*

    OP1: Notepads are good, obviously, but if you’re in the same boat that I am in, which is the “sometimes gets distracted and doesn’t check the notepad and misses something” boat, here is my trick: I set alarms in my phone with a brief message for what it’s about. Works well for me!

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Me too – I have loads of reminders in my phone.

      If I’m somewhere without my phone, I’ll remind myself to remind myself by doing something unusual with my physical person, such as putting my watch on the other wrist. (Just a piece of paper in my pocket can get ignored too easily.)

    2. Hermione*

      I’m fan of the “end of the day” round-up – use the last 10 minutes of the day to go through your notes from that day and round up any deadlines, meetings, etc., and combine to-do’s on a new list (either in e-mail or physically for tomorrow’s to-do list). Schedule any meetings/deadlines into your phone/Outlook calendar/physical calendar. If you make a physical list, leave it on your keyboard so that you have to look at it before you log in the next day.

      1. anonderella*

        I also do this; end of every day, I file every email that doesn’t need more attention from me, and at the beginning of the next day I have a list of what still needs attention in my inbox (I actually do this several times a day, but would do it less if I had a steady workload).
        At the end of every week, I do the same for my work desk; all food/snacks comes home with me (except the ever-present ketchup packets), all notes are filed in cabinets except stuff that still needs my attention Mon, and those are organized so I see them coming in first thing. This also helps to keep notes and paystubs and the like with me so I’m never caught off-guard by having to suddenly “clear out my desk and never return.”
        sorry, typing in a hurry!

  6. Gaia*

    OP #2 I had a job once that, during the hiring process, required a series of progressively more difficult cognitive assessments and personality assessments. I think there may have been 4 or 5. I tend to test very well and (not to pat myself on the back) am rather intelligent. I took the tests online and got a call from the recruiter who made a snide comment about me being “quite clever.” They later asked me to come in and take the tests onsite to ensure I wasn’t looking up answers. When I finished them onsite he told me he was surprised I’d done so well. (!)

    If I hadn’t been so desperate for a job I wouldn’t have taken them again and I wouldn’t have accepted the offer. The company was horrible to work for and these were all red flags.

    1. Dan*

      I’ll probably have to bring HS and college transcripts if someone thinks I’m too good at the math tests. I’m an engineer, and finished all of my university calculus requirements before I graduated high school. So yeah… I’m good at math.

      I applied for a job with a railroad that required an MS in a technical field. They made me take the standard pre employment test they give EVERYBODY, which includes 8th grade math. I found it hilarious, and wondered what kind of analytic value that had for the white collar tech positions they sometimes hire for. If you have an MS in a technical field and can’t do 8th grade math, there’s a real problem.

      1. Tau*

        I’ve had to take maths tests for jobs, and I have a PhD in the subject. It always made me want to go “really? really?!

        1. Tau*

          However (forgot to add), at least I was never accused of cheating on them! If I wasn’t desperate for a job, I’d be out of the door at that point.

        2. Dan*

          I once was given an onsite skills test that required you to use Excel to parse a lot of badly formatted data before actually analyzing it. I got stuck on the string parsing functions because I never use excel for that. I pretty much told the interviewer that I have access to better and free tools to do that, and that’s how I’d work.

          I get that they might need some normalized way to compare applicants, but still… in tech these days, you will lose talent if you tell them how to do their jobs and there’s no real reason for those decisions. (I.e., if I can’t work with the free tools that I’m familiar with, you have no real reason for banning them, why would I want to work for you? Besides, you’re cutting into your prdouctivity if *I* am not as productive as I can be.)

          1. Jane*

            Hmm, not sure I agree. If Excel is part of a job, being able to program directly within Excel is an important skill (and one that applicants lie about all. the. time.). YMMV but I would want someone to be able to demonstrate Excel coding even if there are more streamlined ways to manage data, because in my experience those things break. It stinks that Excel is so diverse and big that the thing they ask you to do in a test may be a formula you’re not used to using, but I totally get wanting to see an applicant actually apply Excel formulas before moving forward. People say they are proficient in Excel when all they can do is format a table or sum.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I’ll probably have to bring HS and college transcripts if someone thinks I’m too good at the math tests. I’m an engineer, and finished all of my university calculus requirements before I graduated high school. So yeah… I’m good at math.

        So then, Dan, then I guess I’m not the only one who did 30% of 70 in my head to see how quickly I could do it? :D

        We had new windows installed this weekend (yay!), and they offered a 3% discount for paying cash. I told the guy what the discount was about the same time he got the result on his phone. (It’s not hard to find 1%, and then multiply it by 3. The part that took the longest was subtracting that from the total.)

      3. Milton Waddams*

        >If you have an MS in a technical field and can’t do 8th grade math, there’s a real problem.

        This is a real problem. In the process of capitalizing on the student loan gold rush, a lot of institutions have debased the value of their diplomas. Not so much that they lose their accreditation, but enough that these sorts of tests are becoming more common. An MS isn’t always an MS. This is also why generally you will see a clause that says experience can substitute for education for a position, but far more rarely the reverse, with education substituting for experience.

    2. Mookie*

      I don’t even understand how one could “cheat” a personality test (are the video proctors human lie-detectors?) because cheating such a thing just requires lying about yourself, which most people do irrespective (and in some cases because) of a live audience.

      A lot of these vague, “cognitive” tests just seem ridiculous and counterproductive. Consulting written or interweb authorities — to find solutions and verify guesses — is what actual collaborative, real-life work involves. Humans are not encyclopedias and it is not a sign of poor character, moral weakness, or a lack of intelligence to acknowledge and then address ignorance by searching out new information and applying it accordingly. Doing so makes someone look capable, not sneaky or dishonest.

      1. Colette*

        People cheat personality tests all the time by choosing the answer they think is the “right” one instead of choosing accurately. But in this case, it sounds like they think someone else took the test.

        1. Mookie*

          Right, but how would a witness prevent someone from lying?

          it sounds like they think someone else took the test.

          I didn’t pick up on that, but it makes sense.

        2. Elsajeni*

          Or like they think the OP was looking up answers somewhere — especially if they have him share his screen during the video-chat, they’d be able to see that he wasn’t using Google’s calculate function or looking up an answer key for the proprietary personality test (they’re out there!) or anything like that. Not that it’s reasonable, but it is plausible that they could catch a cheater this way.

      2. KHB*

        In a lot of jobs, though, there’s a level of basic knowledge and skills that you need to be able to have at your fingertips, because the day-to-day work requires using that knowledge to solve higher-level problems, and it’s those problems where you’ll be collaborating and consulting authorities to find solutions and verify guesses. Not having the basic knowledge isn’t a sign of poor character or lack of intelligence, but it might be a sign that you’re not the best candidate for that job.

      3. katamia*

        There are answer keys floating around out there for the Unicru/Kronos personality tests that are used by a lot of retailers (and maybe others too, but I’ve only encountered them in retail). Those tests are so poorly written and open to misinterpretation (and some retailers blackball you if you don’t pass the first time) that a lot of people look up the answers employers are looking for rather than trying to figure out whether a certain question is asking X or not-X.

        It sounds like OP only has to retake the cognitive test, though, so maybe they’re just really invested in hiring employees who can do certain types of math in their heads or something.

    3. Mister Doctor*

      You’re making me worry: I just passed one of these mathematics and logic tests for an interview, and I’ve been asked to repeat my performance during a video interview. I didn’t think much of it because it’s for a graduate position, but after reading Allison’s answer and your comment I’m thinking this company might not be that great.

  7. Rahera*

    OP 1, I don’t always have notepaper on me, but I almost always have my phone, so I tend to write myself a text in the moment and then transcribe the information when I get to my desk.

    I occasionally write a to-do as a calendar event on my iPad as well.

    1. DEJ*

      I’m also in the I use my phone club. I do best with emails that I look at and go through constantly, and I usually say to someone ‘let me send myself a message on that now so I’ll remember to do it as soon as I get back to my office.’

      1. Lori*

        I was going to say the phone was the best way as well as you can also look at it from your other electronic devices. However, it does depend on the culture of the workplace. If you has a really “old-fashioned” boss, that may be construed as teenager-y as well (I’m thinking of the stereotypical teenager that is always seen texting on their phone instead of getting any work done). In that case a small notebook would be the best and would be better than the hand as notes do not go away until you tear out the sheet and throw it away. The notes on your hand go away when you wash your hands.

  8. Chelle*

    #2 – My company does tests like these…but they use the video-proctor option for everyone, the first time. It felt a little over the top to me, but not a big deal–however, making you do it a second time with the video-proctor because they’re suspicious of how well you did? Definitely rubs me the wrong way.

    1. Jeanne*

      Plus they are asking for all this and there’s no reason to believe you’ll even get an interview. This is a lot of time and effort just to get the standard rejection postcard. Tell them if interviews go well and you’re interested in the job you’ll redo the testing. They’ll probably drop you but you’re better off I think.

    2. MillersSpring*

      I agree with AaM’s reply: Run.

      However, I do think the OP is too focused on feeling that the tests remind him of ones taken in high school. This kind of testing may not be commonplace, but it’s certainly done by a lot of respectable companies and definitely for positions of responsibility.

    3. Anon1206*

      I would think that in OP’s case, it probably IS the SOP to video proctor everyone the second time. My company also required us to do this: once the recruiter reviewed and liked our resume, we took the cognitive test alone; if we passed, we had a brief phone interview; if the phone interview went well, we were required to take another version of the cognitive test on video and to do a writing assignment. Only after making it through that were applicants invited to an onsite interview. I think that it’s perfectly reasonable for companies to want to verify that candidates aren’t cheating on a test that they use to measure critical thinking abilities and to determine fit. Having the test be taken as the first step of the process ensured that my company was only moving forward candidates whose critical thinking skills and fit had been established (by the measurable that they were using), while proctoring everyone the second time saved HR time, as they only had to do so people who were already moving forward in the interview process, almost as a formality. My team meshes incredibly well together and is the smartest, most driven and passionate, and best team with which I’ve worked, and I do think that the test was a valuable part of our hiring process.

  9. New to Miltown*

    Been a manager for over 20 years and have always written notes on my hand in a quick second. I’ve worked with other managers and bosses that have done the same thing, not a big deal and no ones ever said anything otherwise.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s one thing to do it occasionally when you’re in a pinch, but the OP says she does it regularly; it sounds like her main method of keeping track of things. That’s different.

    2. TootsNYC*

      “no ones ever said anything otherwise.”

      That’s not a safe or accurate indicator of what they think, though.

  10. NoNegotiation*

    A bit off-topic, but I was recently laid off from a job I’d had for 8 years, and I received three weeks pay as severance. I didn’t question it until just now, reading the answer to #3. So then I did what I should have done the day I lost my job, which was to find out what’s normal for a severance package–my cursory Google hunt says 1-2 weeks’ pay per year of service and now I feel like a putz. I didn’t negotiate my salary when I started that job and swore I would never make that mistake again, but apparently I’ve made a new-but-related mistake of not negotiating on the way out. I really thought I was lucky to be getting severance at all.

    Is 1-2 weeks salary per year of employment normal? It’s too late for me, but surely this info could help someone else.

    (Apologies for being off-topic. It’s *sorta* related to #3?)

    1. Dan*

      Keep in mind that you have a lot less leverage on the way out the door. Usually, they’re giving you severenace in exchange for promising not to sue them. If you’ve got something that they’re legitimately afraid you could sue over, you have a lot more leverage. If you don’t, you’re stuck.

      Also realize that severance isn’t a guarantee, many companies will give you the boot with nothing.

      Oh, it is worth checking the employee handbook — if the company has a set policy they have to follow it. My current one does.

      1. NoNegotiation*

        It was a pretty sizable group of us getting the boot that day, for the size of the company, so there’s a fair chance the severance offer was take-it-or-leave-it. But I do wish I’d known to at least ask about it. There’s a pretty huge difference between the three weeks I did get and the eight to 16 weeks that might have been available if my company followed that standard formula.

        Live and learn!

    2. Jerry Vandesic*

      I’ve also had an employer that paid severance based on salary, e.g., 2 weeks of severance for every $10K in salary. It seemed unusual, but people impacted were usually happy with the way it worked out.

  11. Dan*


    You mention you’re new at the job. One thing that will make your life easier is to accept that clients have a lot of pull, and will ask (and have approved) deviations from SOP. You can fight it, and think they’re pushy, but you won’t win. If your client wants an in person meeting, and either pays for it or has a big enough contract, he’s going to get one.

    I do prefer in person meetings for group discussion. One on one? Collaboration software is pretty good, and actually more effective than two people sitting at the same computer.

  12. Observer*

    #1 If you have a smart phone, this is the ideal time to make sure you either have it on a belt clip or pocket at all times. Then you can always take quick notes. Although a stylus might make things easier, most smart phones have good enough keyboards for it not to be a big deal. (Either the stock keyboard or one that you download. Lots are free, and even the ones you have to pay for are not expensive.)

    If you don’t have a smart phone, texts to yourself also work. Also, some “feature” phones have the capacity to take notes as well. It would be very uncommon for anyone to see the presence of a phone as unprofessional.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      Yes, my smart phone has a “memo” application which is ideal for brief notes to self.

  13. Stellaaaaa*

    OP3: Your husband is being managed by someone who doesn’t like him and who is in a relationship with your husband’s prior boss who also dislikes your husband. Is this former boss still with the company? Did she promote her partner so that he’s now managing someone they both dislike? (I’m trying to figure out how the guy’s promotion was a default thing.) There’s no way to get out from under this kind of thing in a company that allows those kinds of relationship dynamics to operate unchecked.

    1. MK*

      I read “default” as him being the most senior person on the team (either second to the boss in the hierarchy, or the one longest with the company) and they promoted him instead of going through a hiring process.

    2. OP#3-The wife*

      His former boss left the company, and his current boss was the most senior person on the team therefore he ran the team once she was gone. They did interview other people for the manager position, but chose to give it to him because he had already been acting in that capacity. There was also a VP change at the time, so it seemed to be the easy way out.

  14. Mel*

    I have a lil pocket on the back of my phone, and I put bits of paper back there when I have a bunch of tasks (I work at a school, and my desk/computer are in 1 building, but anything im not doing at my compter im doing at building #2.). it helps.

  15. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Re: Writing on hands

    I find it impractical for several reasons.

    1. Your hands look dirty, which is not ideal in an office setting.
    2. You have to be careful if you’re wearing light colours.
    3. If you rely on those notes to remind you of important tasks, what happens if you go to the loo and wash something off that you haven’t done yet?

    Carrying a piece of paper, small notepad or using your smart phone, if you have one, is much more reliable.

    1. Artemesia*

      Easy — you don’t wash your hands, which adds another level to the slovenliness of this ‘look’.

    2. Sarita*

      My high school self wishes washing your hands made the ink disappear; you have to really scrub at it to the point where it hurts to get it off in a single go. (My mother absolutely hated that I wrote on my hands, and if it weren’t for her I might still be doing it occasionally. So I’m experienced with scrubbing to get the ink off before she could see it.)

  16. Em too*

    #2. Um. Our large, centralised graduate hiring process has an on-line test which is basically a screening tool. And anyone who passes gets to do another test in person, and this is the one that actually counts. Because we don’t know you, and you might cheat, and making people travel to do the initial test would be a waste of time for everyone who doesn’t pass, which is probably most applicants.

    No personality tests here mind.

        1. Mookie*

          Reading a resumé, verifying employment, experience, and certifications, and screening over the phone? If it’s a position requiring highly technical or esoteric information and skills, I don’t think that’s sounds particularly cost-effective a method at all.

          1. Em too*

            These are new grad type posts, so we want ability not experience, and we really want to be open to non-traditional routes (and to reduce bias). And all of those take considerably more time at our end than an on-line test.

            1. Mookie*

              Ah, I see. Out of curiosity, is the initial on-line test part of the application and/or a request asked of all applicants during the first phase of screening?

              1. Em too*

                Yep. I don’t run it myself so not sure of the details but there’s a standard process which consists of the on-line test and an application form in some order. The next stage is in-person test and interviews.

                1. Mookie*

                  That does sound like it could reduce some bias and open up the applicant pool to include competent people who might otherwise be excluded on the basis of background and education.

            2. J*

              Just putting the test online seems like it would limit the reach you have for non-traditional applicants given the digital divide.

              1. Natalie*

                Eh, there’s two kinds of digital divide – has intermittent or irregular internet access, and has no internet access. Assuming their application process works like most application processes (that is, fully online) they’re already screening for people with at least sufficient internet access to take a short test.

                1. J*

                  Which suggests that their current process doesn’t reach as far into non-traditional applicants as they might otherwise wish. So, we come back to the process not doing what they want it to do.

                2. Natalie*

                  @ J, only if you assume the goal is to make the broadest application pool that’s humanly possible, but that isn’t necessarily true or even particularly wise. They are likely trying to hit somewhere in the middle, where they are reaching a lot of non traditional candidates but most of the candidates still meet some basic level of qualification.

                3. Em too*

                  Natalie – yes, exactly, and we do want some IT skills too. I guess in an ideal world we’d stretch the net even more and train if necessary, but it’s not where we are.

            3. CoffeeLover*

              I think the problem with these tests is that they really don’t add any useful information to the process. If someone performs poorly on such a test but does really well in the interview, you would probably still hire them. That tells me the test was kind of a waste of time in the first place. The only things these tests do is set an arbitrary bar to easily eliminate people and make the decision-making process easier (so you only need to seriously evaluate 50 candidates instead of 200).

              There is a bigger flaw to these kind of generic tests though. People that are actively interviewing/preparing for interviews will have seen these kinds of questions before. At that point you’re only testing whether someone has encountered these questions previously. My husband recently had such a test. He scored 100% in 15min (when the test was supposed to last 45min) because he had seen the type of questions before at other employers (it was a mixture of pattern recognition and problem solving). Does that make him a better candidate than someone who was seeing these questions for the first time?

              1. CoffeeLover*

                I wanted to add, the best way to EASILY test for ability at a new grad level is GPA. Using GPA has it’s own flaws of course, but it’s better than cognitive tests. It also won’t make your candidates role their eyes as I know I do when I get asked to do a cognitive test. Anyone that has good experience, but a low GPA can explain why that’s the case in the interview allowing you to be “open to non-traditional routes”.

                Note: I think both cognitive test and GPAs don’t reflect real ability, but GPA is the lesser of two evils.

                1. Mike C.*

                  No, this is a terrible idea. Grades across different institutions and different but similar programs simply aren’t the same.

                  You’re just replacing one bad measure with another.

                2. Sas*

                  I agree with CoffeeLover. Cognitive tests offer almost nothing, can be a waste of time, take away from HR (people) doing a good job, and make those people that created the tests richer (The commercials all the time on currently about paying for a site to do all of the HR work instead of having to hire individuals to do that work.) Uhh

                  Grades aren’t the best thing to use, obviously, but the assessments are often times used in a completely inappropriate and unnecessary way (OP. #2’s situation.) In addition, companies that are going to pay a person minimum wage and expect hours worth of testing. Blah-humbug

              2. CoffeeLover*

                I wish there was an edit button -.-

                I wanted to add something else. I assumed you were talking about generic cognitive tests rather than technical skills questions. If it’s the latter, then I agree those are very useful. I believed OP was referring to more generic “test your IQ” type tests, which I’ve been given by employers before in my non-technically focused career.

            4. Helena*

              Reducing bias is awesome, but pre-employment ability testing can be really tricky with the EEOC. If I may ask, how did your company work around that?

              1. Em too*

                Easy – I’m not in the US!

                Have to say, sounds odd to be against ability testing. Presume they have their reasons.

      1. Maya Elena*

        Sounds like an easy and unbiased way to screen for a minimal level of literacy, numeracy, and actual interest in pursuing the job.

    1. Allison*

      As long as it’s a skills test and not a personality test, that makes sense. I work in tech recruiting and coding tests for junior software engineers isn’t the worst thing, as long as they’re handled well.

    2. Sas*

      I kind of fall into the line of having someone do the testing one time, if at all, and hire them or meet on other standards or practices. I don’t know, Bigger fish, or eye-roll. But can we seriously get over supporting some —- creating more improved and better practices for hiring, when they themselves wouldn’t have been able to pass the test and become employed if test was a requirement.

    3. Turtle Candle*

      I guess for me, how annoying this would be would depend on whether it’s a similar test, or the exact same test. We do something similar with programmer applicants–after an initial application and phone screen (to make sure they’re someone we’d be interested in at all) they get a couple of brief code problems via email, which they can do at their leisure. If the code (or pseudocode) they produce there is decent, we bring them in–and during the in-person interviews, they will do a couple of additional code problems, often slightly more challenging and covering different ground (but OTOH we’re kinder about minor slip-ups because they have less time to test and perfect). Neither test is terribly long, and they cover different things, so I don’t think as an applicant it would bother me. (And once in a while we do get someone whose email sample code is brilliant and who phone interviews well but who flails around on the code in person, which does make us wonder whether they did in fact produce the first code sample themselves. But the main point is not in fact to catch out ‘cheaters’ but to cover different ground.)

      But if it was the exact same questions? It’d feel way way more like it was a waste of time, and slightly insulting.

      1. Em too*

        I don’t think it’s the same questions – sounds not a million miles away from yours, Turtle Candle, though a different field.

  17. MK*

    #1, I use a hardcover calander book. I know some might find it cumbersome to carry around, but the optics for professionalism are great and it has the added benefit that I have all the tasks I have to do/did do for that day in one place; I can make sure I didn’t forget anything, and it’s also useful if, say, next week I want to know if I did get something or when I did it.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      Yup; I’m still a paper planner girl myself. In 2014 I tried to go electronic and I was a hot mess. Like you, I use it reference a day for notes, tasks, meetings, etc.

    2. CMT*

      The system that I stumbled into as an intern was to use a small notebook and have one page a week for the weekly to-do list (might work better as one page per day for some people). It’s really great at performance evaluation time, because I can go back through and remember what I’ve done.

  18. Ruth (UK)*

    I write on my hands but on the back, and less than it sounds like op1 does (the main thing I write is a time reference if i take a painkiller, and I usually only take them for menstrual cramps. To make sure I don’t accidentally take too many). Sometimes I might write ‘buy milk’ or something though. I’m closer to 30 than 20 in age, and I probs have a few words on my hands a couple days a week. I do however agree its not very professional. My office is very casual though and I’m not in a position where I’d ever be likely to move up within my own company. I also only deal with the public etc on the phone. I think i would do I less in a different setting so I guess it really depends on where you are and how important it is in the context. For me it doesn’t matter if I keep writing on my hands, but maybe op1 should find another system…

  19. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

    I think Sharpie>hand note writers are charming. To me it reads “quirky & passionate” and if it’s coupled with high performance, you do you, whatever it takes.

    Consider that I’m as pro Sharpie>hand as you’ll find, short of being one myself, and think that I just used the words “charming, quirky, passionate”. Is that the image you want to project? Other people who don’t know your work might read “messy & a little disorganized”. Is that okay?

    If all of that is okay, then keep doing what you’re doing. I’ve never given a rat’s butt what anybody else’s opinion of my own quirky organizational and note taking systems are and I’ve gotten pretty far. I know what works for me.

    If that’s not okay with you long term, start playing with other things but don’t make trying to fit into other people’s organizational systems a priority. One suggestion – keep the Sharpie (I always use Sharpie for things I need to do, I swear writing in Sharpie is what imprints it on my brain) and find the right notepad you want to write on/carry with you. I”m Sharpie + legal pad and I write REALLY HUGE, so one sheet of paper might be just a couple a points/to-dos. It’s doesn’t look organized at all and people laugh at me with they see it (there’s drawings too! sometimes I draw the thing I have to do in a big childish scrawl), but screw’em all and eat my dust.


    1. Cath in Canada*

      I took my laptop into work one day recently, which I don’t usually do, but I needed it for a function that evening. I was paranoid I’d forget to take it back out of my locked desk drawer at the end of the day, so I wrote a (very, very short) reminder on the back of my hand.

      I realised a couple of hours later that it looked like I’d marked my left hand with an L so I could tell the difference between left and right. I was wondering why I’d got such weird looks in the coffee shop on my break…

  20. Fish Microwaver*

    Im concerned that OP1 still has semi legible writing on her hands at the end of the day. Don’t you wash your hands?

    1. Ange*

      I sometimes write on my hands too and just normal handwashing doesn’t get it off. It fades it but to get it off I have to really scrub or wash my hands many times. And I am in a profession where I wash my hands multiple times an hour.

    2. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I was thinking this too. And even if the pen doesn’t wash out other people will assume it should and then you’ve got ‘writes on hand ‘ and ‘doesn’t wash hands after toilet’ as an image.

      1. Anion*

        Ugh, yes. I’m a bit of a nailbiter (I bite my cuticles, actually) so I wash my hands dozens of times a day*, and the thought of someone still having legible writing on their hands after a trip to the bathroom grosses me out. I’d definitely give that a bit of side-eye, and wouldn’t be happy accepting anything she’d been touching or holding.

        (*Because my fingers are often near my mouth, I’m very conscious when I touch things like my shoes/shoelaces or stuff that’s fallen on the floor or money or door handles in public places, and of course the toilet lid and handle or anything else in the bathroom [I even do all bathroom duties with my right hand and only use my left to work the taps, which are also washed regularly]…anything that might be germy, basically. In fairness, I also do all the cooking and food prep at home, so the hand-washing-after-touching-anything is a habit I got into because I touch my family’s food. I’m not Howard Hughes, is what I’m saying, lol, but I am still conscious of what I’m touching, and what other people have touched. So again…I might be more germ-conscious than the average person, and I freely admit that, but I would be kind of repulsed to see someone with writing on their hands enter and leave the bathroom with the writing still there, and in that at least I imagine I’m not alone.)

        1. caryatis*

          Ink doesn’t completely wash off even if you wash your hands often–especially if she’s using a permanent marker. Try it.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I understand on a general level why people feel like that but it 100% goes against my lived experience. I get smudges of all kinds of pens and copier ink on my hands quite often and at least a shadow of it can last through days of hand washing. It’s because I have dry skin with weird wrinkles and also calluses and the colour just kind of makes itself at home in all the nooks and crannies of my hands.

            1. SystemsLady*

              Same here, and the dry skin makes it really uncomfortable to do the level of scrubbing some people (nurses etc.) do.

              Unless I have mud or something on my hands, I wash enough that my hands feel clean and let the water flowing and soap holding in the shower work with something like ink.

          2. Anion*

            Did she say she was using a permanent marker?

            Do most people use permanent markers for everything at work, so that’s the utensil that would be at hand?

            Because if the OP did say she uses permanent marker/Sharpie, that’s different. But when I’ve written things on myself in ballpoint–something I did often as a teen, thanks–it’s always faded pretty significantly with a single hand-washing.

        2. Oryx*

          Depends on what writing utensil is being used. Going to a bar before 21 meant getting that big black X on the top of my hand, that’s still going to be there the next day unless I did some serious dedicated scrubbing the night before. But just washing my hands in the bathroom wasn’t going to be enough to get rid of it.

      2. TootsNYC*

        other people will assume it should

        I am so very surprised by the number of people here who think that ink should wash off with a single (or even a couple of) handwashings!

        If I saw someone who had written on their hands, I would -never- assume that meant they didn’t wash their hands in the bathroom.

        And actually, some of it will probably be the tiniest bit faded, which would be -proof- that they had indeed washed their hands.

        1. Anion*

          Well, I guess you’re just a much better person than I am, huh.

          Maybe that’s why the ink remains on your hands after washing them, whereas it doesn’t tend to on mine; it just likes you more. Couldn’t possibly be that my experiences are valid, too, and that my assumptions are based on them.

          1. BookishMiss*

            This seems oddly hostile, as I don’t see TootsNYC invalidating your experience at all, just starting their surprise and offering their own perspective.
            FWIW, I write my breaks on my hands at my retail job because otherwise I would forget/lose them, and it takes a lot of work for me to get regular bic ink to scrub off.

    3. Newton Geizler*

      I have a really hard time getting sharpie and ink off my skin, and I wash my hands obsessively as part of my job. I think it’s just my skin type. Any time I get stamped at a concert or a bar you can still see a smudge almost a week later.

      1. CMT*

        I have a stamp from a bar from last Friday that’s still visible on my hand. I promise I have washed my hands many, many times since then.

    4. LBK*

      As someone who spent many a Monday morning in college trying to scrub Xs off his hands before class, I can assure you Sharpie does not wash off of skin that easily.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I think you have never actually written on your skin.

      -maybe- a gel ink will wash completely off. But even that ultra-waterbased ink will be more likely to be absorbed by the skin cells deeply enough that it will fade but not vanish.

      1. Lissa*

        Yeah, I’ve never written on my hands and this is brand new information for me! Which is good for me to know, but I do think it’s also good for the OP#1 to know that for many people who don’t do this they aren’t aware.

        Though personally I’d never consciously think “has legible writing = doesn’t wash hands after bathroom” … it just wouldn’t really occur to me unless pointed out, or I’d think “well maybe they just wrote it down”.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Interesting! I used to write on my hands in ballpoint pen, and in my experience it came off pretty readily–in fact, I couldn’t write on my palms because I am sweaty enough that it would start to run pretty quickly even between washings. Backs of hands did work better, though.

        1. Anion*

          Yes, in my experience ballpoint pen comes off skin very easily, too!

          If the OP is using Sharpie or something, that’s a different story, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t say that’s the case, and most people use regular ballpoints at work, or those soft-tip pens where the ink smudges like crazy on your hands.

  21. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*


    Definitely tell your boss! This is a thing that also happens with us (we sell nationwide B to B) and we’re prepared to handle the conversation/coach the employee in what to say/make arrangements for a face to face meeting if possible or warranted.

    The customer is not being unreasonable or pushy. There are customers who want to deal face to face and there’s nothing wrong with them. If the customer needs face-to-face, and your company isn’t able to meet face to face, then all ya’ll aren’t a good match. You aren’t going to be the right choice for every customer and vice versa.

    But boss, please, and professionally, without complaining about the customer while you are doing it.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      I agree with Wakeen on this one. I’ve been through several roll-outs similar to what OP #5 is describing. A face-to-face has always been part of it, even when most training is done remotely. Traveling 4 hours each way for a business trip, especially if it closes a sale, is pretty common.

      Cost may come into play too. Asking for a face-to-face for a $500 piece of software is pushy. Asking for a face-to-face for a $10k+ software package is due diligence.

      1. MsCHX*

        I was also surprised at the push-back on this one when it’s 4 hours. It’s 4 hours. Drive down to see the client. Fly if both cities are reasonably sized with major airports (e.g. Atlanta and Charlotte are about 4 hours apart by car but obviously you can fly between them rather easily).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It totally depends on what the business is and how it operates. There are some businesses that just don’t do in-person, and that’s reasonable for them.

        2. LBK*

          It sounds like you’re reading this as someone whose work requires a lot of travel. 8 hours round trip is a pretty big imposition on a role that doesn’t normally travel, whether it’s driving or by plane (not to mention if the OP lives in an accessible city she may not even have a car).

            1. Whats In A Name*

              I used to do this kind of thing all the time for work and still do for personal a few times a year when I visit my mom for a 3-day weekend (she is 11 hours away) but think for most people it can be cumbersome, especially if they aren’t used to it.

          1. Whats In A Name*

            Or if she lives a 2 hour car ride from an airport…and if they want to meet at 9:00 a.m. or at 3:00 p.m. you are now getting into an overnight, etc.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              Because OP #5 is new in this role, it might be beneficial to have this conversation with the manager about what is reasonable to accommodate clients before there’s either a high priority request or a precedent set.

              What’s reasonable to some people is unreasonable to others. And what’s expected in some companies is discouraged in others.

      2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        You know what (and here’s how I’ve kept my sanity in sales for 30 years), the $500 person isn’t being pushy either. The $500 person feels they have a need that we’re not able to meet. We get this frequently, small, high needs customers who we aren’t in position to serve at the level of intensity they either need or believe they need. It’s not personal on either end. When we identify a mismatch, we explain what the customer can expect we can do and try to make referrals for them elsewhere if what we can do doesn’t meet their needs.

        Do we mutter under our breath “good luck to you on that one, lady”, okay sometimes. :p But the general principle is, respect their needs, meet them if you can, refer elsewhere if you can’t.

        1. CMT*

          Yeah, but Wakeen Teapots, Ltd. is like, the most reasonable place ever to be employed or to do business with.

      3. LBK*

        Common for the industry at large, maybe, but it sounds like that’s not how this company operates. If they want a vendor that will do face-to-face meetings, choose someone else.

    2. Kira (OP #5)*

      Thanks Wakeen, and everyone commenting along. I think I felt it was pushy because the client’s request to meet in person was in response to being asked to pick a time for the kick-off call. While I know it’s only a 10 minute call, they don’t know that. In short, I know how our phone/email process is going to run and they haven’t been told that yet. I let that color how I read his request, thanks for the perspective.

      A few comments suggest that I should make the trip to close the deal or to help them set up the product. The client is done with the sales process before they get sent to me, so it’s not a matter of closing the deal. We’ve never done an on-site implementation (that I’m aware of) and I’m pretty sure the travel costs alone would put the project in the red.

      I brought it up with my teammates and they said if I really wanted to I could arrange to meet with him at our main office next time I’m in town. I ended up talking with the client that day, and it turns out he’s also out of remote and was just trying to be helpful because he didn’t know what to expect from our process.

      1. catsAreCool*

        Good for you for talking with him about it. Sounds like he didn’t know what a big ask this was.

      2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*


        Yeah one of the reasons that a customer can come off as pushy is that they have been tasked with a responsibility and don’t really know what they are doing. The right thing for them to do is ask a lot of questions of the vendor but, sometimes they get it in their head that their responsibility is to drive the process, kinda blind. You’ll start to get a feel for the “help I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m going to act all big pants but help I don’t know what I’m doing” people and they can usually be calmed down, saved, and pointed to a good process.

  22. Aeth*

    To OP #1, if I’m caught without paper and need to scribble a note, I tend to push my sleeve up, write on my arm where my sleeve would ordinarily cover it, and draw a tiny arrow on my inside wrist to remind me there are notes farther up. The arrow is too small to be generally noticed, but will remind you that there’s a note there.

  23. Going Anon For This*

    #3 – take the money and run. I’m going to play devil’s advocate and look at this situation from a different side, but my advice is still take the severance. I just went through this, as the manager in the story. Your letter is very similar. I had an employee who had been exceptional. But when he fell off, he fell off at a very steep angle. He refused to listen to the constructive feedback that was given to him, because his previous performance was so high. He then decided that it was a personal vendetta against him, which couldn’t be further from the truth. He started focusing on perceived differences (why did this person get this day off, why did this person take a longer lunch break), and went further down the trail of victimhood. After a PIP and multiple incidents of refusing to accept accountability for his actions, we offered the severance, which he wisely took. There was no other way for it to end well for him by the time it got to that point.

    I’m sharing this because I see a lot of the similar scenarios in your letter, and maybe it is something that is a learning opportunity. Past performance is not a guarantee that present and future performance will be adequate. Also, PIPs/severance aren’t usually an indication that management has a personal issue with you. In a well run, functional organization (which I’m not sure this is), these decisions are not made in a vacuum. A boss and a former boss cannot run someone out on a rail without checks and balances. Severance is offered when a situation is no longer seen as salvageable. The company is offering money to stop working there. Not a decision that most managers are able to make alone. HR, Finance, Legal often have a say in all these things. It is *very* possible that this is not a personal vendetta against your husband, but rather, there are legitimate concerns about his performance.

    That being said, this organization seems dysfunctional. Personal relationships at a management level is very disturbing. I mentioned checks and balances above, but I could see an organization that allows this behavior to let PIPs and severance decisions be made unilaterally. I’m not sure what your role is in this organization, but if this culture is pervasive, it probably isn’t any healthier for you than it was for your husband.

    Good luck, hope he is able to find a better fit soon.

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      Yeah, I mean I’ve done this a couple times as a manager (not the bad parts in the story about the manager, but the overall structure of the offer.) I am silently sending signals “p-l-e-a-s-e, please, please take this money so I don’t have to fire you. I do not want to fire you. Please take this money. Please.”

      1. RVA Cat*

        Also, considering OP3 works for the same company, it’s best for all concerned for him to move on. While it’s not fair, it’s possible his issues may be affecting her reputation.

        Plus it’s a matter of not having both your incomes dependent on the same employer. Here in Richmond there were a lot of couples who both worked for Circuit City…you can imagine how that turned out.

      2. Teclatrans*

        My husband took the money (boss liked him, but terms of PIP were too vague — probably so manager could say he did fine, but in effect it said “do [entire job description, with zero particulars]” and hubby thought he *had* been doing it while boss thought he had been shirking; not a formula for success, as either hubby didn’t understand a key component or their expectsfions were unrealistic), and his boss was stunned and dismayed and tried to talk him out of it.

      3. Linguist Curmudgeon*

        I know someone who was basically offered disability retirement, refused it, and was subsequently put on a PIP and fired. Bad situation all around.

    2. TheBeetsMotel*

      The thought crossed my mind that OP might be getting a filtered view of the situation via Husband presenting things in a “poor-me” light, but then I realized my advice would be the same either way – severance. That way, regardless of who’s “really” right, their finances are protected.

    3. OP#3-The wife*

      Thank you for your comment. I’m not going to sit here and say my husband is shooting for employee of the year. He does his job well, he’s exceeded his sales goal already this year, he tries hard to get along with his team mates, but him and his boss just don’t get along. I’d say his performance has been solid since he took this position.

      As far as the difference in the way he’s treated, it’s not as minor as tracking breaks and days off. It’s when two team mates sales get shipped to the wrong customer, my husband gets told you have to fix this, this is all your fault, you must complete all this paper work to get it corrected. The other team mate is told, no big deal, hey (my husband) this went to your customer incorrectly, file the paper work and get it fixed. It’s my husband reading the news for 5 minutes and his team mate watching live MLB games on the computer all day, yet my husband is the one called out. It’s my husband getting a 30 day action plan for an outburst and another team mate yelling at the boss to his face and slamming the boss’ door on the way out without consequences. It’s my husband’s personal time calculated to 15 minute intervals and other team mates who should be out of time, still taking time off.

      I know that this wasn’t just brought upon my his manger alone, but his VP is so passive, I know his manager is stirring the ship. I’m pretty sure the neither VP nor HR know about his personal relationship with his former boss, and probably do not care since she’s no longer an employee, but in my eyes I see it as a conflict of interest. There is some true dysfunction in our organization. A new CEO was just named last week because our’s passed away. So change might be on the horizon. But it’s a big organization, and change is going to take a while.

  24. Mirax*

    I’m fascinated by the responses to OP#1. I’m a grad student and everyone in my department, professors included, scribbles notes on their hands–usually call numbers for books. Actually I think it’s become incorporated into the academic culture of Performative Busyness where we have ridiculous pissing contests about who’s getting less sleep and who’s most stressed as a form of virtue signaling. The more call numbers on your hand the harder you’re working!

    1. Myrin*

      I, in turn, am fascinated by this – I’m a doctoral student as well and I’ve never (and I mean that literally; not once in the past six years) seen anyone here have notes written on their hands. It would absolutely be viewed as immature and messy (both in the literal [“dirt” on your hands] and the mental sense [unorganised]). That being said, I’m not in the US and I have since the last time this topic came up here felt like we’re stricter here with regards to such issues.

      1. Itac*

        Same, I was a grad student up until 3 mos. ago and I’ve never seen anyone write on their hands. Mostly because everyone had easy access to notebooks or a whiteboard. I’m in a science field where hardwashing is very important so maybe that’s why.

      2. Nye*

        I did my doctorate in the US and have never seen this, and also think it would stand out as a sign of immaturity and unprofessionalism in my program. I wonder if it’s field-dependant; Mirax mentions book call numbers which makes me think of a humanities program. I’m in science, and especially on the lab side, it would seem really gross to have dirty hands since we’re all actively taking precautions to keep our work as clean as possible.

        1. Myrin*

          I’m in humanities, so at least for me the field is definitely not the reason for this. The more I think about this, the more I come down on the side of my own attitude being at least influenced by my culture – I’m familiar with a wide array of professions and jobs from academia to trades and retail and in none of those people would jot down notes on their hands (barring some sort of emergency, of course). It’s very firmly seen as something only young teenagers do and even there it was kind of rare at least when I was that age.

        2. Newton Geizler*

          Occasionally our lab manager will write a note on his hand that he needs to order something, but he’s the only one here who does that. On the other hand (literally?), I write on the back of my gloves sometimes, but only for things I’ll need in the next few minutes (lot numbers, sample IDs, etc). For the most part everyone here uses post-it notes.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            I always wrote on my lab gloves too – usually the start time of each incubation, or something like that.

            I used to work with someone who took tons of notes on their gloves, and then wouldn’t transcribe them immediately, so there was always a pile of used lab gloves on his bench waiting for the notes to be transferred into his notebook! (We didn’t work with anything dangerous, so this didn’t affect anyone else).

        3. Mirax*

          I’m in a lit program, and my professors tend to put on a show of being low-tech (they have iPhones but act like they don’t know how to use an HDMI cable, even though I’ve seen them do it themselves when they think no one else is around). Now that I think about it it’s a little weird, actually.

    2. fposte*

      Another in a graduate school who doesn’t see this. I wonder if somebody alpha-ish started doing it at yours, Mirax, and it just became a thing?

      1. Mirax*

        Very possibly! We’re a small literature set and our department has been described as “cliquey.” The whole performative busyness thing also really adds to it–there’s this weird culture of one-upmanship about how hard we’re working.

    3. YetAnotherAlison*

      I studied a science subject in school and would never do it for the simple reason that the acetone you use to clean glassware would take it right off. I stopped wearing nail polish for the same reason.

    4. Mallows*

      Thank you for bringing the phrase “performative busyness” into my life. It will be put to use immediately.

  25. OP #1 - hand writer*

    Thanks so much for answering my question, Alison! I’ll be away from my computer most the day (can’t check AAM at work), but wanted to drop in and answer a few questions people have raised regarding frequency and what kind of notes they are:
    1. I write on my hands when I’m away from my desk, and it’s often just a brief note or word so I remember to write a post-it note when I get back to my desk. In terms of frequency, I’m thinking maybe 1-2 words over the course of a typical day, which get washed off as soon as I’ve done the task or transferred it to a note on my desk. The day I saw my mom afterwards had been insanely busy, and I probably had 6-7 things written on one hand, which is rare.

    2. Often, my notes relate to brief tasks that Must Not Be Forgotten – nothing remotely life-threatening, think “lock X door next time you walk by” (I’d write “lock X”) – or a number I need to fit into a calculation. Paper would work well for the latter, since I don’t actually need it in front of my face, I just need to have access to it.

    3. I’ve lucked across one of the work environment where using my phone might be unprofessional! At the very least, I don’t want to be writing notes and looking like I’m texting in our public space (it looks pretty bad to our customers/patrons, so I don’t generally do anything more than slide my phone out of my pocket to check for texts). I LOVE the alarm on the phone idea (one of my frequent notes is one word reminding me to pick up a report at 11:00 each day), but sadly, ringing phones in our public space is a no-go.

    4. To Wakeen’s Teapots, Ltd., above – I can definitely live with the “charming, quirky, passionate” title (pretty sure my boss already thinks this, which makes me pretty darn happy, to be honest :)), and don’t think it will hurt me at all. I’m from organized, and my biggest concern is that I’ve done the notes on paper in my pocket thing – and forgot a lot of things (nothing vital, thankfully, but more than a few times I’ve come home at the end of the day and be “Dammit! I totally forgot I had to do Thing.”

    5. My boss and very involved boss’s boss have never commented on the hand-writing, but a few coworkers (two) have given me a hard time about ink poisoning (definitely came across as friendly ribbing and we have that kind of relationship in general). My org, and one manager in particular, are generally very on top of tellilng people when they need to change anything about our public-facing persona/are unprofessional in any way, and honestly, I don’t think they’ve even seen me do it.

    So, I’m still stuck on the must-remember-these-tasks ones, but for numbers or FYIs I’m just waiting to get back to my desk and enter, I can transfer those to a small notebook or paper in my pocket so I will at least have fewer notes on my hands. Hope that helps! I really appreciate everyone’s input, and will be combing through all the comments here as soon as I’m back home tonight. Thanks so much!!

    1. OP #1 - hand writer*

      Blarg, I formatted it weird. The “Hope that helps!” was meant in reference to my comment clarifying commenters’ questions.

    2. Joseph*

      Based on what you said above and your additional info here, I’d definitely go for the “small notebook” idea. You might have a workplace that doesn’t like people using phones, but I’ve yet to hear of a workplace that doesn’t like actual writing. In fact, most people would actually think it’s fairly smart of you to quickly jot down a note so you don’t transpose two numbers or whatever.
      As for forgetting it, a notebook is much harder to forget than a small piece of paper or post-it. Just designate a specific area of your desk where you set the notebook down open to today’s page whenever you sit down (the base of your monitor is perfect in my experience), then you just make a habit to grab it whenever you stand up. It takes a focused effort for a couple days to get it locked in as a habit, but then it becomes second nature.

      1. Anion*

        Yes, this! When I was a supervisor at a call center, I bought myself a legal pad and made a habit of carrying it around everywhere at work, whether I was walking the floor or hanging out in the breakroom or going to a meeting with other mgrs. or whatever. I’d list whatever tasks I had to do for the day, of course, but I could also make notes on employee questions or comments, or to check on this or that, or to check order #22315 for spelling, or if Employees X and Y seemed to be sniping at each other, or Employee W left her purse on her desk or had his feet on a chair (both things they weren’t supposed to do; I’d note that it happened and I said something, so if another supervisor mentioned it I could look back and say “I talked to W about that on 5/22,” or whatever–we had a formal write-up process, but we usually gave employees several verbal reminders before we started it). All of that would then go into my end-of-shift report sent to the other supervisors (which was my idea), and the others started doing the same thing, so we were a much more cohesive team. And if questions arose, anyone could just check our notebooks for the original extemporaneous notes.

        Not only did having it all there help my memory, it felt really good to be able to scratch tasks off.

        I know the OP says she writes this stuff down when she gets back to her desk, but IMO it’s good to have it all available even away from one’s desk, because it’s easy to forget info that’s back at the desk when away. Plus, it makes employees/team members feel “heard” when they see you write these things down officially, rather than just scribbling on your hand–they feel like their question or task becomes official, if you know what I mean, and it makes them more confident that it will be addressed.

        JMO, of course.

    3. J*

      I feel like the “far from organized” and “quirky and passionate” things only play for so long in your career. And someday, you’ll be too old to pull it off.

      However, I’m someone who did not take the time to correct bad habits early in my career, and find that some of them limit my growth two decades into this whole thing. I could (and, frankly, should fix them), but instead I’ve opted for selecting workplaces/environments where I “get away” with the more “quirky” parts of my personality. I can tell you that this leads to long periods of unemployment when I’m between jobs.

      But I’m a sample size of one. So, do what works for you!

      1. SystemsLady*

        If OP got a tiny notebook they carried around and used as fervently as I did, they’d probably still have the “quirky and passionate” label without the negative implications. It’s certainly contributing to that image for me.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        I hate to say it, but I had the same thought. At a past workplace, a couple of coworkers had small stuffed animals on their desks (think 2-3 Beanie Baby-sized toys). One of them was in their early 20s, the other in their 50s. And it was… pretty clear that people thought it was ‘cute’ of the former and ‘mildly pathetic’ of the latter. (They were the same gender, since that does matter in this context.) I’m pretty sure that it was simply that people thought that the one in their 50s should have ‘grown out of it.’ It sucks, it’s unfair… but it can be true.

        (I now work in a development department where geeky toys–a Star Wars action figure or an Eevee plush–are completely normal for everyone, so this obviously depends on workplace. But it can be an issue. And the thing is, nobody was telling the 50something coworker at the former job “hey, your stuffed animals are making you look silly or immature,” but it did–again, unfairly, since the 20something was not perceived that way for the same thing, but genuinely–affect how people saw her. I say this as a mid-30s woman with a huge stuffed animal collection, so.)

    4. MK*

      OP, if you tried the “papers in your pocket” way and found you forgot things, I would argue you need to find another system yesterday. It’s not a good idea to train yourself to only be able to remember things if they are immediately visible; and it may be fine for this particular workplace, but you will have difficulty adapting in a more formal one. Also, your managers might not think it worthwhile to mention this because it’s not a problem itself, but it could still be affecting their view of you as someone “young”. Writing on your had is not an issue if you occasionally can’t get your hands on a notebook or paper, but if you need to jot down things regularly (and twice a day is regular) the professional thing to do is to find a more organized system.

      1. Parenthetically*

        +1. A friend of mine is a professional organizer. I once lamented that, even though I had implemented a professional system, I could never seem to keep my desk organized. He looked at me with puzzlement and said, “Well, it doesn’t matter if the system works for other people, it only matters if it works for you. If you don’t want to use it, it doesn’t work.” It seems so incredibly obvious now, but at the time it was a revelation. Oh, I’m not a failure because someone else’s system didn’t work for me? Whoa.

      2. Anon in NOVA*

        YES to “it’s not a good idea to train yourself to only be able to remember things if they are immediately visible”
        Outside of having a legitimate medical reason for not being able to remember, this will be viewed as mental laziness by many employers. Part of having a job is remembering to do the things you’re supposed to do. Everyone around you has little things come up they have to remember to do later, and they aren’t writing on their hands.

        I say all of this as someone who has struggled with it as well. I block off multiple periods a day on my calendar to look at my “to-do” list I’ve jotted down in my meeting notes etc. Then a calendar reminder pops up on my computer and phone to remind me to check the list.

        1. Anon for this*

          That’s all true. Speaking of “everyone around you,” glance at their desks when you have a chance. See what’s working for people in roles like yours.

      3. Anon for this*


        Also, if you know what works for your learning or organization style, you need to find a version of it that you can continue using long-term. Be honest with yourself about what a sustainable organization system looks like for you.

        I have ADHD. Organization doesn’t come naturally. I get that it can be difficult and tedious to learn. But it is so, so worth the compliments and performance reviews. :)

      4. Turtle Candle*

        I’ve been thinking about this, and I think you’re right–especially since people are often even more reticent to speak up about something like writing-on-hands, where it’s definitely not ‘against the rules’ or ‘wrong’ but can have a major impact on how professional you appear nonetheless. It’s not easy to give critical feedback ever, but at least when it’s something like, “Hey, policy is that you need to wear your badge every day” or “Please be sure you convert your documents to PDF before sending them to Marketing,” it’s quick and impersonal and based on a relatively objective standard.

        But this is more along the lines of telling someone, “It’s really nice that you like to bring in homemade muffins for your coworkers every week, but you’re a woman and it’s a really bad idea for your upward mobility to get the reputation as Group Mom, so I’d recommend backing way off on that,” or “yes, technically flip-flops aren’t against the dress code, but if you ever want to be the person picked to do an important presentation and get more visibility, you’d be better off with shoes.” They are absolutely things that can severely impact the impressions people make of you, but since they aren’t rules-rules, and since they’re personal, a lot of people will just not say anything. Probably they should, but it’s safe to assume that even if they should, they won’t–just look at how many, many of Alison’s letters are addressing the issue of “my coworker does X that drives me bananas, how can I get them to stop without saying anything?”–it’s a pretty good indicator that most people are just plain not going to say anything unless they have to. (And also, even if your manager isn’t bothered by something, other people who are not your manager but whose impressions/opinion may be important may be thinking it but not feel it’s their place to step in.)

        And then there’s the fact that it can bias people without their realizing it–and if they don’t realize it consciously, of course they’re not going to say anything, because they’re not aware there’s anything to say. I was thinking about this, and at my workplace, in my department, someone who wrote on their hands 1-2 times a day (and more on busy days)… nobody would say anything, because it would be seen as potentially somewhat charming and at worst a harmless quirk. But I would also bet you good hard currency that if the department head needed to pick someone from dev to do a presentation of new features to senior management, they’d pick someone without ink-stained palms. I don’t think they’d even consciously recognize that it was a factor…. but it would be a factor. And those kinds of presentations and the visibility they bring are hugely important to moving into certain kinds of higher roles. It’s not even so much that you’d be being punished for having writing on your hands (nobody is ever going to get demoted or put on a PIP for that kind of thing, here), as that someone else would benefit from a more ‘polished’ personal presentation, you know?

        So yeah. I’d say, get a notebook and a pen (you can get some very small, professional-looking notebooks that are smaller than a smartphone, if you look around), and put some reminders on your calendar to check in with your notebook at regular intervals if you think you’ll forget things if they aren’t right in front of you. (I have a ‘check to-dos’ reminder ping me at 10am, noon, 2pm, and 4pm, and then I do a final notes review right before I clock out for the day–it helps a lot with making sure things don’t slip my mind.) Writing-on-your-hand isn’t a terrible habit to have, but it’s something that I think you would be wise to gradually train yourself out of.

        1. slick ric flair*

          This is a great post and there are lots of mostly-harmless habits that everyone could use this approach for, to be more professional and better viewed in the workplace.

        2. Lissa*

          Great post. I think sometimes where we (me, too) get caught up is in the “but this shouldn’t be a big deal” or “people shouldn’t think less of me because of this.” But it’s good information to know what the general impression something makes *is* (not should be) so you can make informed choices. I think that way someone can decide “yeah, I realize this doesn’t make me look super professional but I’m going to make this choice anyway” in some cases, but with other things, choose the path of least resistance.

    5. Observer*

      From what you say, a notebook probably makes more sense than a phone. But, if it helps, you can set your phone alarms to sound very different than a ringing phone.

      In any case, the writing on your hand thing really should go. I think it’s true that while it’s not the worst thing, or even something that your bosses would explicitly want you to stop, it’s almost certainly coloring their perception of you. “quirky and passionate” is fine. “far from organized” is a definite negative.

      1. Observer*

        A second thought – if you do decide to look at a phone, perhaps a stylus would help perceptions, since it looks so much more like note taking.

    6. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      I predicted polarization on Friday, didn’t I? I’m so old and wise.

      Charming, quirky & passionate can get you far in the right circumstances, as long as you are also getting the job done and performing well. Nothing you’ve said makes me think you need to abandon your emergency organizational reminder system right now, at all. You developed something that works for you, it’s not hurting anything, and the only person in your RL who has commented on it is your mother.

      What all of these responses show you is that it’s not going to be sustainable throughout your career so at some point you need to move onto something else. Preferably also with Sharpies. Gold Sharpies. No wait, Silver Sharpies. No wait, Gold Sharpies. Definitely Gold Sharpies.

    7. YetAnotherAlison*

      I mentioned this above, but for very quick notes when I don’t have a notebook (like an office address or coffee order for a friend) I write it on a post it and stick the post it to the back of my ID badge. I think that might work for you as an intermediary step.

    8. Artemesia*

      Never assume that because ‘no one said anything’ that they are good with it or don’t notice it. No one likes confrontation. I hear people justify cash bars at weddings where ‘no one complained’ (like WHO complains to the hosts of a wedding regardless of what you think about their taste or manners? I hear people justify being chronically late at work with ‘no one said anything’ (bad management but it doesn’t mean it isn’t noticed) People who write on their hands may not get invited to lunch with the top client, or to present to the CEO or whatever and never hear a word about it. If colleagues are ‘joking’ about it — well that is about the level of negative feedback most people are willing to give to colleagues.

    9. k*

      I’m a recovered hand-writer. I need to write things down because otherwise I will forget them the second I think about something else. For the most part, there isn’t a magic solution. You just have to train yourself to use a different system. If you have a small notebook for FYI notes, then have a separate notebook, or piece of paper in your pocket, for tasks like “lock the door”. Think of that piece of paper as your new hand. Instead of looking down at your hand, take out the paper or notepad and look at it. It will take some time, but soon enough that will just be your new habit.

    10. Danae*

      I used to write on my hands a lot; in the age of phone reminders, I don’t have to so much any more, but I still do on occasion. I figured out I would always use the notes for things that I would forget because whatever context I was in wouldn’t trigger them, and having the writing on my hand would help keep it top-of-mind so I wasn’t relying on context to help me remember. What I do, instead of writing actual words on my hands now, is writing a small symbol (three dots, an empty square, a asterisk, etc) in my hand “spot” to trigger the “oh I need to check my notebook/phone/whatever” context. It’s much less noticeable than an actual word, and could be reduced to, say, a single dot with a certain color of pen.

      (I use my superpower of being extremely visual to make up for my kryptonite of having a brain that can’t process or retain verbal information very well, especially when I’m anxious.)

    11. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*


      I really think this depends on your work environment. I think there’s an instinctive reaction to seeing writing on people’s hands that goes, “interesting. Why not paper?” There’s also your dress/appearance requirements at work.

      Part of my current job had sections where I spent the majority of the day reacting to items so I had a rolling list. As it got longer I moved urgent things to my hand to write down later. I had my boss comment (she didn’t really care, but I don’t usually do it. She found it odd for me and wanted to make sure I wasn’t overworked). I tried a few other things–a sheet of paper (easy to misplace and I ended up rewriting things for the next day sometimes), a little notebook (I lost that–not so good for the notes inside!) to a steno pad. It’s 6X9 inches and easy for me to spot as well as carry around. I can also keep a rolling date section with little trouble. It’s also pretty durable, so it doesn’t tear up or fray quickly.

      I found when I was in the lab a lot (I don’t take papers in the lab) that pocket-sized post-it pads were easy to tote around and easier to transfer later–I could just take a photo of the post-it.

      I’d probably try a few portable options to see what works for you. I think writing on my hand works in certain situations and I’ll still do it in a pinch. I just think that if you find a paper method it may be more efficient for you.

    12. Anonymous for this*

      From some of your terminology, you are likely in my field. I’d say that you are probably not dinging warning bells for your current position, as long as you want to work it forever. Once I realized that I needed to act the part of the job I wanted rather than the one I had, I started progressing much more quickly in my career. I had been modeling my behavior after my colleagues, but I really wanted to move past that position. If you are in the field I think, quirky and passionate do work, but only to a point if you’re wanting to move up (and in this field, some people don’t want to, which is totally fine). Sorry for the vagueness and anonymity, don’t want to “out” you if you don’t want it. :)

      1. Anonymous for this*

        Oh, and further, I agree that a smartphone is a bad idea if you’re in a public area because it will look to customers like you are texting on the job. A small notepad should do the job. When I was in a public facing position, I carried a steno book from desk to desk to take notes and be able to carry projects from one place to another for quiet moments when I had time to work on them.

    13. Fafaflunkie*

      If pulling out your phone is something unprofessional, as you say, why not try a voice command (“Ok Google, remind me to do xxx.”) If that doesn’t work, then carrying a notepad to let you jot those notes down will be the next best solution–no one can complain of that being unprofessional.

  26. Czhorat*

    Assuming OP1 owns a smartphone, it’s super-easy to write notes on any of a dozen free or freemium applications. Some of them come with time or even location reminders; When I was commuting, I sometimes set reminders for things I’ll need to do for the kids and pointed them at home and office-y things to the office.

    I’d look at someone a bit oddly if they had notes scribbled on their hands. It’s notthe worst, but it’s also not behaviour which makes me think the person belongs in a higher-level position.

    For OP5, have you considered a Skype/SkypeForBusiness/WebEx/Hangouts or other videoteleconference package of your choice? It isn’t in-person, but it gets a bit more of the face-to-face feel than just a phone call. You should see if your firm has a policy on that, or even a license or account with some such service.

    1. Liane*

      OP1: Believe it or not there are a lot of jobs where you cannot use a cell phone. You may not even be able to have it on your person. For security reasons, one of my husband’s jobs was like this.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, but that’s uncommon enough that the suggestion of a phone is a reasonable one. Of course, if the OP is in such a situation, the obvious solution is, as others have pointed out, some sort of notebook / clipboard or pad of post its.

        1. Myrin*

          OP says above that she is indeed in such a situation (or at least in one where using her phone “might be unprofessional”).

      2. PK*

        Yea, my director would not look kindly on pulling out a cell phone at any point during work except breaks.

        1. Artemesia*

          Then you carry a notebook. This is a silly quibble. Most people have phones — if one can’t have them then carry a notebook, a piece of paper, a notecard in the back pocket etc et.

        2. Observer*

          Artemesia is right, as many people have noted. Also, most bosses assume you are taking out your phone for non-work purposes. So, in many cases, if you tell people what you are doing it helps A LOT. I can’t say for sure that it would work in the OP’s case, but that’s not really the point. The point is that you either use the thing that you have on you (which is often a cell phone, these days) or you start having something to physically write on with you all the time.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            While it sounds like a small notebook (and they can be gotten really quite small, smaller than a standard smartphone) would be a better solution in this case, I have found that telling people what I’m doing with my phone/tablet makes a huge difference. I’ve found that if I start a meeting where I need to take notes by saying a quick, “Hey, just letting everyone know that I’ll be taking notes on my tablet,” I get many fewer ‘wtf are you texting and ignoring us?’ looks. Or if someone asks me a question and I need to check my schedule on my phone, a super fast, “Just a sec, let me pull up my calendar” flags to them that I am still paying attention and not sliding into just-got-a-text-message mode.

            1. Czhorat*

              Yes, I do this. And it pays off. A few people looked at me funny (even in a tech field!) at first, but I soon got a reputation for always having thorough meeting notes available to share almost immediately. I was also able to hand over literally years of project notes when I moved on the a new employer.

              It woeks for me. If it doesn’t fit you, find another way. I will say that, in my experience, “I’ll put this on my phone” is increasingly accepted.

      3. LBK*

        And not everyone can eat sandwiches. Barring any indication from the OP that they can’t use their phone at work, there’s no reason to shoot down this suggestion.

    2. zora*

      using the phone is a great system for some places. My trick is to just send a text to myself. It’s an app that’s always quick to get to, and all of my texts to myself stay in the same string so it’s easy to find things. For example, when I was staying in a huge hotel in Vegas for work, I texted my hotel room number to myself, because I knew I would lose the little card they gave me with the keycard, and those hotels are freaking ridiculous mazes.

      However, I also had a crazy boss who would FREAK OUT if she saw us looking at our phones in a moment *she* thought was inappropriate. Even tho she used her phone for absolutely everything and was constantly on it all day at every moment. So, in that situation, I had to be sure to use a notebook, because if she saw me look at my phone in the “wrong” moment, I was in for 30 minutes of lecturing.

  27. Parenthetically*

    My students are not allowed to write on their hands. It just looks messy. Again, not the worst thing in the world, but there is definitely a simple solution (neat little Moleskine?) that won’t make you look like Miss Geist from Clueless.

    1. k*

      Ha, good reference! My mind first went to Phoebe from Friends.

      If anyone has doubts that it looks unprofessional, just look at anytime a TV or movie character is seen note taking on hands. It’s usually the kooky, flighty but lovable one, not the respected professional. That should tell you something about how society generally views it.

  28. Geekster*

    #2, if you can afford to do so, I’d remove this company from consideration.

    My only experience taking a cognitive test was not positive. They gushed over how I was the only applicant to ever score 100% while also completing it in the shortest amount of time.

    Turns out, this was my shortest ever job. I don’t list it on my resume. I was there about six weeks, and that included my notice. One sample point isn’t real data, but I would be cautious about anybody thinking this is a good way to hire. I’d be downright dubious if they told me everybody else they hired did worse than myself.

  29. Mishi*

    LW #1 – it is a matter of teaching yourself a new system. Get a notebook and put all of your reminders in it. Then write on your hand to “check notebook”. Once you get in the habit of checking your notebook as the last thing you do before you leave each day, you won’t need the hand reminder anymore and you won’t forget things. I have a *terrible* memory, especially for little things the staff asks me to do throughout the day. They are fairly well trained to either hand me a sticky note with the reminder already written on it, or one that I can write the note myself. I may or may not on occasion put the sticky note on my badge, because I WILL forget that conversation by the time I get back to my office. Putting the note in my pocket is a guarantee the task will not be accomplished….pockets are like instant forgetting systems.

    TLDR: Get a notebook and make a concerted effort to teach yourself your new system.

  30. Gaara*

    #4 – I would be super wary of bringing this guy back. Here’s what you know: (1) he left for a promotion; (2) he left his new job after on,y a few weeks; and (3) he left because management was bad. This says to me that he did *not* leave because he realized he liked his old work better. Indeed, I’d say that he didn’t have enough time there to learn he didn’t like the new higher level work, period, even if he were telling you that (which he’s not).

    So why would he give up on wanting a promotion? He wouldn’t! But does he want a paycheck? Of course! If he comes back, he’s going to have one foot out the door — even if he agrees to stay for at least a year, or something. Even if he actually does, do you think he’ll continue to perform well when he no longer wants to be there?

    I just don’t see how he could tell you anything that makes it a good idea to bring him back under these circumstances.

    1. Recruit-o-rama*

      We have brought people back with different levels of success. I disagree that your list is all they know about him. He worked there so they know a lot about him.

      OP, I would focus on where he sees himself in his career in the near and long term. I would want to know what he liked/disliked about the role he vacated with your company and with the one he just left. I would want to know what he thinks will be different this time around. I would express the concern that he might leave again shortly and see what he has to say. Be real with yourself and try and listen to the flags and clues. Ultimately, you may have to rely on your gut AND ask yourself if you’re going to be ok if your gut is wrong and he leaves again in short order.

      It doesn’t always work out, but sometimes, it does.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      Sadly, I’m inclined to believe this as well. He would probably still be at the new job if it hadn’t been for their messed up management situation. Still, if he was an otherwise exceptional performer, I would probably bring him back if we had it in the budget to eventually replace him again (because he most likely will leave again).

    3. MsCHX*

      I have one employee that left for 7 months and came back and has been here 17 years since returning.
      Another that left for 6 weeks and came back and has been here 13 years since returning.

      I have to agree with AAM on this. You need to know WHY he left, specifically, in order to determine if he will be happy back in his role. And perhaps there IS opportunity for additional responsibilities, promotion, etc if the discussion is had.

      1. Gaara*

        I think we do know why he left: to get a promotion (in the best-case scenario). That’s a good point, though, that there may be opportunities for advancement at his former employer!

  31. Anion*

    Maybe I’m off base here, but shouldn’t OP3’s husband, when he’s negotiating his severance, make sure he also negotiates his reference?

    Extra weeks of severance are good, but they’re not going to be as big a help as the OP hopes if he can’t find another job because his old manager is telling everyone he quit rather than do yet another PIP about his “bad attitude.”

    Again, maybe I’m wrong here, but isn’t that a major thing he should be talking to them about?

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Agree with this – he needs to negotiate both. Bad manager is going to bad mouth every chance he gets once OP’s husband is gone. I’ve seen this happen too many times to count.

    2. MsCHX*

      As an HR professional, I’m always perplexed when people are referencing references (har, har) and what a manger will say. You don’t list an awful manager as a reference.

      Professional references: Short list of a few people (which will vary with the length of your career to-date). Don’t list Jerk Manager as a professional reference!

      Background check: Some company or HR dept will verify his employment to the tune of he worked here from 1/1/13-2/1/16 as Sr. Teapot Designer.

      1. MsCHX*

        Also, being in HR I can say that I have NEVER given a reason for termination to anyone performing a background/reference check.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        You don’t have to list jerk manager as a reference and a savvy reference checker/hiring manager can still reach out to said person for a reference – Alison talks about that a lot here.

          1. Gaara*

            Is that a thing that’s up for negotiation? What that reference will say? How should you approach that conversation/request as the departing employee?

    3. RVA Cat*

      Sounds like he should negotiate this as a layoff. Since they’re offering severance, that makes the most sense. The end of the year is a frequent time for layoffs, esp. for someone in sales. I would think most hiring managers would just assume he didn’t make his quota.

    4. nonymous*

      I agree – OP3’s husband needs the company to state in writing that they will not disclose that he was targeted for a PIP, quit, or any negative feedback. Given that they’re not blocking unemployment, it’s likely they will be fine with limiting references to confirming employment, salary and eligibility for rehire (this should be a “yes”).

      Also on the severance portion, I would compare whatever they’re offering with the value that OP3 is forfeiting in bonuses. Ideally, the severance should cover that + money for the job search period.

  32. Temperance*

    LW1: I carry a steno pad everywhere. The tiny notebook thing never worked for me, personally, but in a steno book, I write tasks/reminders in the front and notes in back.

    1. the gold digger*

      A guy who was in the Marines and I agreed that you can go just about anywhere without question if you are carrying a clipboard or a notebook. It makes you look so official.

  33. Allison*

    #1 If someone wrote something on their hand, I would a) worry that that note won’t stay put, and thus the thing will ultimately be forgotten, and b) wonder why someone who clearly needs to write things down doesn’t have a pen and paper, or gadget with a stylus, for that purpose.

    #3 As others have said, it’s very unlikely your husband’s PIP will work in his favor. He has an opportunity for severance, he should take it and start looking immediately.

    1. Non-Prophet*

      I would have the same reaction re: seeing someone write on their hand. It would signal to me that the individual was a little disorganized, unprepared, or scattered, particularly if it happens every day. It feels a bit haphazard to me. Depending on job requirements, these characteristics might not be deal breakers if the individual is otherwise a high performer. But if OP#1 is in a role where organization matters at all, then I think a small notebook is the way to go.

  34. Nate*

    #1 It is rare that we would ever bring someone back. This person left because he was unhappy about something (not enough pay, needing a change, wanting a higher position that is not available, etc), and now that has been compounded by a bad experience somewhere else. He has changed in the time he was gone, and the people he worked with have changed too. Their relationships to each other have changed. Re-entry can be awkward and could cause resentments. And there is high likelihood he won’t stay… the commitment is not there.

  35. SJ*

    I write notes on the back of my hand pretty frequently, but never anything work-related. Usually it just says RENT or MILK or CALL VET or something. (My old boss made fun of me a lot.)

  36. Grey*

    #2 Cheating? So what if you use a calculator to figure out 35% of 70? Wouldn’t most people? What do they think you’re going to do, Google “how do I calculate percentages”?

    You passed the test. No one should care how you came up with the answers. What’s important is that you knew how or where to find them.

    1. Allison*

      They would, but it’s entirely possible they wanted someone who could do that in their head, like in the good ol’ days.

      Calculate 10% of 70 (7), then multiple by 3 (21), then add half of 7 to get 24.5. Done.

      1. Christy*

        Haha, my mental calculation was totally different here. I squared 7 and then divided by 2 (and then made sure it made sense).

        But yeah, there’s a difference between, say, knowing how to do a pivot table intuitively vs being able to do it with google.

      2. Elsajeni*

        And even if you don’t need someone who can do the calculation in their head, you might prefer someone who punched “0.35 x 70” into a calculator over someone who Googled “35% of 70?” — one shows a conceptual understanding of what percentages mean, one just shows that you know Google can solve math problems for you. But yes, in most jobs, the method you use to get the answer really shouldn’t matter… and if it does matter, having you take a test in uncontrolled conditions and then accusing you of cheating after the fact is a really stupid way of testing for it.

    2. Collarbone High*

      Came here to say this. Unless there’s a real need for employees to do calculations in their heads (like, they have ancient cash registers and employees have to make change without help), I would expect both applicants and employees to use calculators on the job. I’d much rather have someone use a calculator than insist they can do the math and make a mistake.

      1. the gold digger*

        employees have to make change

        All I want is someone who knows how to count change back properly. You don’t hand me the $3.82 in change from a $20 bill and say “Three dollars and 18 cents.” You count the pennies, nickels, dimes, and one dollar bills as “Sixteen eighty three, eighty four, eighty five, ninety, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty.”

        (Moving fingers madly to make sure she got the math right.)

        (Which I probably didn’t.)

        (But the principle remains the same.)

        1. Aurion*

          Back when I worked, we had coin machines linked to the cash register. The cashiers just had to count out the bills, and anything smaller than $5 would be in coins dispensed by the machine. It was wonderful. I bet it reduced a lot of errors at the end of the day when they counted the till too.

        2. J*

          You don’t hand me the $3.82 in change from a $20 bill and say “Three dollars and 18 cents.”
          Ha! I do this kind of thing all the time. You’ve got the correct change. I know you have the correct change. And, for some reason, I say the wrong number. This is a particular issue with me with math (saying the wrong number while knowing the correct one), but I do it in other contexts as well.

        3. Simms*

          As a current retail employee, most cashiers don’t do that because it takes too much time. When you have a line of ten people all wanting to get out quickly, the last thing you want is to be slowly counting out someone’s change one piece at a time because you will be getting complaints from someone about how slow you were.

  37. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    OP #1: Get a 3 X 5 leather pocket notebook from Barnes and Noble or Target. They look neat, and are easy to carry. Plus, if they have a strap to hold them shut, you can wrap or tie a small pen to the notebook with it.

    Or, if you have a company smartphone or can use your own, get a sound recording or note dictating app. You could then dictate your list in speech to text, or play the reminders back later.

  38. Lady Blerd*

    OP4: Definitely probe your potential rehire as to why he left and is coming back. We’ve had the same situation with an employee as well who left and came back after a month because she wasn’t happy at her new work. I did ask her if she was staying for good and she said she would. And 18 months later, she left us because we could give her a promotion for another job that did give her a promotion. Just like last time, decided she doesn’t want that job so my boss was thinking of taking her back but I recommended against it. She is interviewing elsewhere that is one level below her current level but sure enough, she is already looking for other options elsewhere so she can go up a level. All this to say, be very careful when reconsidering this person.

  39. LQ*

    I find that I would forget things all the time, often because I have several stops to make on my lap round the building to talk to people. When I don’t have my phone with to take notes (which some people here (at my office) might say was unprofessional, they all have learned that I’m taking notes or sending myself an email (because I’ll pull out my phone and say “I’m just making a note so I remember when I get back to my desk”). I will sometimes ask the person who I need to do something for to send me an email reminding me (usually when I do this it serves multiple purposes), or they usually have post-its or something on their desk I can use. If you are with someone else borrowing a pen and post it to make a note is a really easy thing to do.

  40. OP#3-The wife*


    He met with HR Friday morning to ask for more time to decide and for more severance. He was given until 1:30 that afternoon to make the decision, but no more severance. We both left the office and sat down and worked through the pros and cons of staying or going. I wanted him to take the severance. But ultimately it was his decision. He took the PIP. He said he couldn’t leave me to carry the family until he found another job, because in our town you just never know how long that could be. I think he regrets it already, especially after everyone has commented to take the money and run. But I told him he has to be on his p’s and q’s, get every detail right and plaster a smile on his face for now.

    As miserable as he is, his goal is to get through December, which is only a few short weeks thanks to our planned vacation time at the end of the month. And to hold tight through January until he gets his bonus, which is purely sales driven. In the mean time we’re both doubling our efforts for finding new jobs for the new year!

    1. Happy Cynic*

      Thanks for the update, OP. One advantage to the likely-difficult next month is that *lots* of people plaster on smiles for the holiday season (for various reasons), so he’s not alone in that. Hopefully he can channel energy into the job search even now, so that as soon as he gets that bonus in the new year he can rocket outta there. Good luck!

    2. Teclatrans*

      I am in favor of take the money and run, but I admit my husband did that back in June and his unemployment benefirs are about to run out. I still think he made the right choice, but I also think I was overly optimistic about him landing a new job.

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      I suppose this gives him 90 days to start looking for jobs. I feel that you should probably start looking too, but ya know.

    4. Whats In A Name*

      Getting the bonus (depending on the amount) could be a big plus and then you can re-evaluate from there. Sounds like you talked about it and he did what he thought would be best for your family, not just him, which I think is pretty cool.

  41. Tammy*

    For OP #1, consider the Bullet Journal (smoosh those two words together and add “.com” and you’ll find the main site, but Google will turn up tons of info) in a small notebook. I find that this works well for my ADD-ish brain, and it’s a great way to capture the kind of random stuff I imagine you’re writing on your hands. I also carry a few 3×5 cards clipped together with a binder clip in my purse, so I have a place to capture random stuff if I happen to be away from my Bullet Journal notebook.

  42. ArtK*

    OP #1. I agree with Alison — as a one-off, it’s not too bad. As a regular practice it looks unprofessional — it makes it seem as if you aren’t very organized.

    As the other comments have shown, there are a multitude of ways to manage this. Back in the day, I used a Franklin-Covey planner with a page for every day where I could make notes. Carried the thing everywhere. My wife uses organizers from Levenger. She’s got one of the smaller ones (pocketbook size.) A piece of folded notepaper can do the job quite well; my only concern would be it getting lost in the clutter of my desk. One advantage of using an organizer is that you have an historical record; this can become *very* important.

  43. Thomas W*

    Hahaha #1. All depends on the office. On my last project, my boss, ranked 4th from the top in an organization of 3000, with a 7 figure salary, wrote everything on his hands and encouraged others to do the same. He also loved Hawaiian shirts at work. :-)

  44. Bossy Magoo*

    Re: #1, what a great excuse to buy a really nice moleskin notebook. I always want one but never have a good use for it. This would be perfect. You’ll look like a real pro with your snazzy notebook. Get a nice looking pen too…a fat, heavy one (I clearly have a thing for office supplies)

    1. Lontra Canadensis*

      Office supply junkies unite! Today I’m waiting for a delivery from OfficeWhatsit that includes pens (don’t like the ones the state buys), engineer’s paper/calculation pads, because I fell in love with them in college (at least I am an engineer, so at least my paper preference doesn’t attract much notice), and a very basic 2017 weekly calendar (did I mention cheap state gov’t?).

      1. Snazzy Hat*

        I own a collection of Uniball Signo 207s and Vision Elites, including a pack of the latter I have yet to open. I am very picky about my planners. That’s only the tip of the iceberg of my being an office supply nut.

  45. Undine*

    #2 – Our company (sadly) requires one of those tests for an interview and everyone hates it, Probably up to the CEO. We are owned by a venture capital firm that owns a number of companies and requires this across all companies . We all had to take the test when we were first gobbled up — they claim it is also used to see if you are C-level potential, but I’ve never heard of anyone who actually was singled out for that.
    Some things to know:

    They retest everyone who passes the test. I think these tests are all run by third-party companies, and the proctoring is part of their selling point. It definitely feels like (junior) high school, but it is process, not personal.

    We hate it as much as you do. We are in an area where hiring is competitive, and putting any bar in front of getting workers is a problem. They will not even let the hiring manager see a resume until the person has passed the test. We know we are losing good candidates, but we can’t do anything about it.

    Because of this, if you can stomach the test, it can sometimes turn out to your advantage. We are so happy to see a good candidate who has jumped through all the hoops, that we are really excited to hire. We won’t lower our standards, but we appreciate the good candidates more (probably not reflected in money, though).

    And finally, in this case at least, we are actually much nicer and more reasonable than the test suggests. As a group with a separate office, we have a lot of autonomy, everyone feels free to complain about the big company, and our local leaders do what they can to buffer us from process. This was a nice company before we got eaten, and we are still a really nice group to work with. (We just got a new office manager [for ordering supplies and stuff like that, more of an admin job], and he was saying how much he likes being around us. Same for the facilities manager who comes on site two or three times a week. So we’re appreciated by people near the bottom of the heap, which I think speaks well for us). So I don’t blame anyone who is put off by the test (I would be), but if other things look good, it might be worth a try.

    1. Milton Waddams*

      It’s really interesting how culture can shift perspectives — in many cultures a test is preferred. Your chances might be torpedoed by not having respectable companies on your resume or people of the correct social class in your references; a test may ask about unfamiliar things, but those can be studied. You can’t study your way into a different past, unless you manage to invent a time machine. :-)

  46. Menacia*

    OP #1 I don’t know if you carry a cell phone, but certainly there is an app for that if you do. You can jot down notes with a stylus. Though I’m thinking if you carry a pen around with you to write with, why not carry a small notepad as well?

  47. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    I haven’t refreshed for a bit, so sorry if this is a repeat, but I did want to let #2 know that those tests are crazy common in some fields. The having to retake one rubs me the wrong way, but I have had to take 2 (and sometimes 3!) for every job I’ve applied for. Not ones that they are calling me in to interview, but frequently these tests are part of the application process. It’s a pain, but with seemingly every employer doing it, there isn’t much choice.

  48. Whats In A Name*

    #4: Beward I haven’t read other comments yet but wanted to get my thoughts down.

    I am in 100% agreement with Alison on this – you should definitely talk to him about all the WHYs, and use the Rolling Why and throw out the standard interview packet. You already know how he does the job. It may have been a case of “grass is greener” or a jump at the chance for higher responsibilities but then realizing maybe that is not what he wanted, maybe he took it thinking a longer commute was worth the bump in pay but it’s really not…there are so many things un-work related that could have him wanting to come back.

    Of course it could go the other way, too, so you never know. But overall I love that you wrote in and are giving him a chance to come in and talk to you.

    I’d say if you get a read that he would stay for a year or so hire him back – the training time for a new employee wouldn’t factor in here and there’s no guarantee a new hire would stay for longer than a year (or even longer than 6 months).

  49. Anon for this*

    My very large utility company is super proud of their high marks in customer service. So much so, that if you apply for a job — any job — and you make it past the stage one review (i.e. application was not ashcanned), you take an on-line test that allegedly determines how customer-service friendly you are. If you don’t make a certain score, you don’t move forward in the hiring process. This has resulted in many very qualified people not getting hired, including a person who was specifically invited by the company to apply for a VP position. He flunked the test, and wasn’t hired. A copy of the test ended up in employee hands, and many of us would have flunked the test had it been in place when we were hired.
    (I can’t imagine how we will hire any new employees for our Compliance Department, since they specifically are not here to make customers happy, they’re here to make sure we’re in compliance with state and federal regulations).

  50. Jane D'oh!*

    #3, it is beyond shady that your SO has been managed by two people in a row who are romantically involved with each other and who both don’t like him. The first is certainly whispering in the second’s ear. I would have suggested that you make sure he brings up this conflict of interest while negotiating severance, but your update says that didn’t work. Best of luck to you both on getting out of there ASAP.

  51. One Handed Typist*

    OP#1 – I’m a big fan of my voice memos on my cell phone. You can use the personal assistant on your phone (Siri or the like) and direct them to make a note about X, Y, or Z. You can even tell them to remind you to do those things at a certain time or location. There have been many instances where I had Siri make a note to remind me when I leave work to stop by the store for these items. It’s so helpful!

  52. ilikeaskamanager*

    #3–a little OT, but this is why I don’t like policies that are so incredibly specific about granting certain types of leave. In my opinion, give everyone PTO and let them use it as they see fit. I don’t want to be the policy police about whether you “have a pattern of abuse” of your sick leave or whether the school meeting you are going to qualifies for leave under our “school meetings for your kids” policy. Make policies easy to administer and understand and let managers manage work.

    And while we are on the subject of policies about children–let’s advocate for paid family leave for anyone who needs to care for a family member, not just paid parental leave for new parents. That is far more equitable in the workplace and provides a benefit for anyone who is providing care for a qualifying family member for a qualifying (FMLA) reason. In our organization, we have far more people who are caring for a sick spouse or parents than are taking care of a new baby, because the average age of our workforce is 47.

  53. Kriss*

    OP1: small notepad. On one of my jobs, we had a project manager who insisted that everyone on the job site kept a small notepad on them to jot down things they might need to remember for later. there was grumbling & complaining from a few people over it but over all it proved to be a good idea & now my employer highly recommends the practice company wide. some of those guys who were the biggest complainers in the beginning about having to carry a notebook now freak out when they don’t have a notebook & will occasionally wonder why they fought it so hard in the beginning.

    it’s a good habit to get into & I think it will impress the folks who have been watching you write on your hand because right or wrong, someone will have seen you do it & assumed that this was a mark of immaturity or even worse, a failure to plan on your part.

  54. Jen M.*

    OP #3: He should take the severance and apply for UI. The exact same thing happened to me, except that in MY case, my ex-boss tried to use the PIP to get my UI denied. Problem was, that PIP was THREE YEARS OLD at the time. When I told that to the case worker at my state’s unemployment office, I got my UI.

    It’s a crummy, crummy situation, but I can tell you from my own experience that it will NOT GET BETTER. Not as long as that same man is your husband’s boss.

    I wish you both nothing but the best of luck. I hope your husband goes out and finds himself that most amazing boss in the world, or at least one who is good enough to erase all of the negative from this experience!

  55. MsBorgia*

    I just wanted to chime in on PIP vs severance… I was in this EXACT situation. I knew there were things I could do better, because I was pretty junior, but I was getting no help from my manager or team about how to improve, and it seemed like I was just set up to fail from day 1 (which my manager basically agreed with). Since the team culture was so toxic, I knew I was probably not going to pass the 4-week PIP no matter what I did, so I decided to take the 4 weeks’ pay and none of the stress. SO happy I did.

  56. Anonyby*

    Tammy mentioned Bullet Journaling upthread… Anyone actually use this for work? How do you make it work?

    My BFF is really into bullet journaling, and the personal journal I started in Nov has some elements incorporated, but isn’t a full bullet journal. I really need to work on how I’m handling things at work and thought it might be handy to get me organized. I’d still like examples of how others make it work for them!

  57. blatantlybianca*

    OP #1, I’d like to recommend two apps that work well for on-the-go notes:

    1) Evernote: I’ve set up notebooks for various work projects that I use during calls or in-person meetings to add relevant notes and action items. This is my main documentation for all meetings and I have a template to capture what actions items were agreed upon, who’ll own it, things discussed and what happens next. This is also my CYA system (I am the Hermione Granger of note-taking) and I’ll often send it out after meetings to make sure it’s noted who owns what, and how next steps will be covered.

    2) Wunderlist is my to-do list for each project, the high-level overview of the tactical things that need to be done. With this one, I also have lists set up for each project.

  58. OP #1 - hand writer*

    Wow, thanks so much everyone for your feedback! Like someone mentioned above, it definitely is a case of “But this _shouldn’t_ make anyone think less of me and it works!” but y’all are right that impressions matter too, and it’s helpful to get a better picture of how this may look to others so that I can weigh whether the advantages outweigh the possible negative impressions.

    Thus, I am looking into a few small notebooks – I want something credit card size (stupid mini pockets!), because I have a lot of other junk in my pockets too (stuff I need while I’m walking around – id badge, phone, keys, paper clips, pen, Sharpie – although with apologies to Wakeen’s Teapots, Ltd., it is just a black one :)). Since part of my issue is needing a visible reminder to do something at a certain time (noon, ten minutes from now, etc.) when I may not be near my desk, and any type of phone alarm is out, I’m going to play with the suggestion of someone above and use small symbols – a dot or two, a small shape – which will hopefully not be noticeable to someone else, but will help me remember. I also like the suggestion to move my watch to the other wrist as a temporary reminder, which seems like it would work great for temporary things, like when I need to remember to do something in ten minutes.

    I really appreciate all of your input and suggestions, and welcome any other ideas you have!

    1. dawbs*

      I used to have (and have had to ‘make’ since I can’t find them again *grumble*) a notebook that was small enough for keychain.
      I think *technically* it was a ‘flashcard deck’, but it was rather awesome. And I could pull pages out as needed–so when one of my workers pulled out a little purple card, people knew it was my note (which was a mixed bag)
      It wasn’t this–but this is similar enough that you just spurred me to buy them:

      If you’ve already got the sharpie, you’re set

  59. HND*

    OP#1. I really think you should stick with writing on your hand if it works for you. I am also an occasional hand writer and know many many others who are too, albeit to differing degrees. I’m guessing it does depend on what, and how much information needs capturing but if it’s on your hand you can’t lose it which would be far worse. If some people are not willing to give you a chance because that is your preferred method, that’s up to them and no reflection on your professionalism. I also think the fact that no one has mentioned it does say a lot about it’s acceptability in your field of work.

  60. Nicolejam*

    Comment to letter 1. My dad was a professional engineer and to this day still writes notes on his hands. Not all the time, but I’d say at least once a month. And he held a managerial position. Palm pilots and iPhones never replaced this habit for him.

    Comment to letter 2. I score and interpret personality tests. The tests can pick up on if you’re answering to “look good.” Also, other items that may seem nonsensical can pick up on underlying anxiety or other disordered thinking/behavior as well. But I agree. Taking that many tests is ridiculous. Especially depending on the field.

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