open thread – December 30-31, 2016

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

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

{ 994 comments… read them below }

  1. Possibly Former Educator*

    I am considering a career change and I thought I might approach the hive mind of the AAM comments section for some thoughts/advice. I am currently a preschool teacher/daycare director with a Master’s degree in education. I love teaching young children and developing curriculum, but lately I’ve started to feel like there is no career path, especially not one that will result in a comfortable income. As a single mom, that has become more important to me in the last few years. I was wondering if anyone has any thoughts about what other things I might be able to do with my degree /experience/skillset, maybe any BTDT educators or people in other fields that have applicable skills. I love being public facing, I like creating new systems for making things easier for myself and other teachers, I like recruitment, but my experience is fairly limited in those areas. I’d prefer not to go back to school, although online classes are a possibility. Any suggestions or things I should look into?

    1. always in email jail*

      Possibly being a health educator? There’s a certification to be a health educator and I know having formal education training is a large portion of the pre-reqs to take it. Possibly “training coordinator” for an organization if you can play up your studies in adult education methodology?

    2. Lemon*

      How would you feel about moving into a childcare-adjacent field or position? I’m thinking of things like Childcare Resource and Referral agencies, or if the state you live in has a Quality Rating and Improvement System that you could get involved in. Many states and localities have systems in place that support early childhood development, so if you’re interested in staying in that field but not as a provider, that might be an option.

    3. Heidi*

      Depending on what city you are located in, being a nanny can be surprisingly lucrative if that’s of interest to you.

    4. Pup Seal*

      I think these jobs require a social worker/behavior health degree, but where I live there are several child welfare/juvenile justice organizations. They need coordinators, directors, and people to come up with programs for the children, so it looks like there is more of a career path than working in daycare.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        Early intervention services might be a good choice, although I have no idea what salaries are like in that field. (I’m certain it depends on the area and employer.)

    5. AndersonDarling*

      Non-profits usually have a public education division. Many of these organizations need people to do talks, provide educational sessions, or manage booths at events to get the word out about their cause. If there are any causes you feel strongly about, check out their websites because they need someone like you.

      1. Kim*

        Have you considered transitioning into public education? Generally, the field has a better pay scale than the private sector (particularly early childhood), and there is often significant compensation for things like curriculum writing.

        1. Rob Lowe can't read*

          This might be geography dependent, but I definitely agree. Pre-K teachers employed by my district make MUCH more than teachers employed by social service agencies, corporate chains, or private schools. Even in surrounding districts that don’t pay as well as mine does, I know salaries for district Pre-K teachers are better than for non-district teachers.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I was going to second this one, and also ask if you’d considered serving as a coordinator/teacher-trainer within the district. My mom was a public school classroom teacher for ages and then went “in-house” at the district as a teacher trainer, which offered better compensation, was public facing, involved curriculum development and teacher training/tools/strategies, but also allowed her to remain a member of the union (thus her pension stayed intact).

          Another possibility is serving as a teacher-coach for university students pursuing an education masters or teaching credential. In my area, nearly all the local universities that offer those programs also enlist teacher coaches, who are paid a modest stipend (depending on the university—the local private university pays better than the local publics) in exchange for serving as a coach/trainer for the year. They also hire an in-house person whose job is to coordinate and locate those coaches, and that person is paid much better as a university employee.

          Universities also often have research centers/programs that require directors/coordinators, and oftentimes a person has to hold a masters to even be eligible to apply. Compensation seems to vary widely based on the robustness of the program/center and its funding.

    6. MoinMoin*

      Not (generally) working with children, but a corporate trainer or training manager might be of interest to you.

    7. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Have you looked into teaching or administration of a charter, Montessori, or private school? There are also some great early childhood education centers around that could use someone with your skill set and experience.

    8. Jessie the First (or second)*

      For higher income potential, look into corporate training. There are educational consulting companies (that help with curriculum design). State governments’ education departments will have lots of positions where former teachers would be welcome – for positions in curriculum development, program management, professional development trainings, etc.

    9. Turanga Leela*

      I knew some people who worked for for-profit education companies doing trainings and consulting for school districts, and they made a fair amount of money and seemed to like the work. Some of these positions require travel, which might or might not be doable depending on your kids’ ages and your childcare situation.

      Other options that pay better than preschool (which is notoriously underpaid): Administration at K-12 schools. Some of them might have curriculum specialist positions, which could be a good fit, especially for early elementary curriculum. Even if there aren’t curriculum positions, you have an education background and director experience, and you could be hired as a principal, assistant principal, or assistant superintendent. It’s a lot of work, but you get the same holidays as your kids do, and the compensation is MUCH better than either K-12 teaching or early childhood education.

      I don’t know where you live or would be willing to move, but there are a lot of schools and districts around the country that have trouble recruiting talented administrators and might be very interested in you.

    10. IvyGirl*

      Think about higher ed – working in administration for a college or university that has masters and doctoral programs. They are always looking for folks that have their masters degree to be program administrators. Most schools will offer full time work, benefits, and tuition benefits for yourself and your dependents/spouses.

      Or – like others have said – administration of primary/secondary education – or the local intermediate unit? Or for the state/local department of education/school board/administration?

    11. Kj*

      What about working for the government in a department related to child health and welfare? Most have jobs that require a BA, not a MA, and pay well compared to early ed. Some of those jobs really are terrible though, so be careful and talk to ground level employees before committing. But some are good. If your state has developmental disabilities department, they usually have caseworkers who work with kids 0-3, yo might like that and it will pay better.

      I’d also wonder if you could take a few leadership classes online and parley those+your skills into administration of a preschool or other early learning setting.

    12. Student*

      Have you thought about being the boss instead of the worker bee? Become a grade school principal. Become a school district superintendent, or similar. Run for the local elected school board. Become the owner of a day care, or manage an after-school education business.

      You’ll be doing something technically different, but you’ll be providing leadership on how to work with kids and their families and making a difference in a lot more lives.

    13. Anxa*

      What about teaching?

      The pay varies a lot state by state, but a kindergarten teacher in my home state makes about 58K after 10 years where I live, while a daycare worker would make about 34K after 10 years.

    14. MaybeTomorrow*

      Teachers pay teachers is a website you might want to look into since you enjoy developing curriculum.

      It might bring in some extra income.

    15. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t know if your local government offers/runs a First Five program, but the administrator for that program in my area is fairly well compensated (certainly not as well as the private sector) with a competitive benefits package for a public employee. For well-funded and large programs, oftentimes the county/city will also hire Deputy Directors who focus on a particular area of program delivery (e.g., teaching and training; budget; public relations and outreach).

    16. Artemesia*

      HR training uses many of the same skills. The trick is getting that first job and crossing from public to private as a school teacher. People I know who have done it in training have started by doing contract type work, maybe for the state or sometimes for private organizations and once they had some experience with adult learning/HR training then seeking jobs in this area.

    17. Banana*

      It might not be something you like, but I recently got an online gradualte certificate in Instructionsl Design that was inexpensive and very applicable. The field is huge and varied and you might find something within K-12 (but probably not Early Ed). I’m in higher ed and I enjoy it very much.
      It’s a growing field and pretty lucrative. Might be worth looking into.

  2. Annony Glad The Year Is Done*


    It’s amazing what the span of a few months can do. Six months ago, I was getting by on my job. Not loving it for sure but tolerating it, doing what needed to be done with little stress, job searching but not frantically. But now, six months later, I have reached rock bottom. Hating nearly every aspect of my job: my selfish coworkers, my lazy boss, my boring work, my terrible clients, it has all become unbearable.

    A few things have changed over the months at my office to throw out any rose colored glasses I had for the place and see how things really were truly awful about my workplace. Now, every day this past month has been a struggle to force myself in the door every morning. I’m well too old for this but one day I hit a point where I stepped away, went into the stairwell, and sobbed on the phone to my mother, asking her to remind me all the reasons to not to quit on the spot because I was feeling so beaten down and miserable, I didn’t want to stay another minute longer. She did talk me down and I have stayed, but only with the end of every week of the last two months resulting in tears and lots of drinks with my friends.

    I really don’t know how much longer I can last here, to the point I’m contemplating leaving without another job lined up. I know that’s a huge no-no but I’m so worn out by this place that I’m even losing what little energy I have for job searching in the evenings and on the weekends. My parents know how terrible it’s been and even offered to let me come home if I do quit with nothing else waiting for me.

    Any guidance for someone who has reached the edge of their patience with their job? Between myself and my two roommates, they happily skip out the door to their jobs every morning (not without their own problems of course but they still have love their jobs all the same), and I drag my feet to get to my awful job. The thought of even one more month here makes me want to cry.

    1. Jesmlet*

      This was me 9 months ago. A previous coworker and my dad had to talk me into not quitting on the spot. I was worn out from all the ridiculously frustrating bureaucracy of working for a government funded non-profit, emotionally exhausted from the clients we dealt with, and angry at my manager for just being overall horrible at helping (not to mention the pathetic pay).

      I was also kind of terrified of looking for a new job but I just couldn’t take it anymore. I started applying on a Tuesday and the next day before our meeting I quit – gave 6 weeks notice as a cushion. My mental health was more important and I fortunately had people in my life who could help me out if it took too long. I got lucky and found something fairly soon and I was only out of work for 1 week while they completed the processing of my background checks, etc.

      Moral of the story is I think my much lightened mood after quitting along with a deadline for when I’d be out of work helped me get the job that I’m absolutely thrilled to be in today. It was worth it for me and I was in a financial situation where I could’ve made it work had I not gotten so lucky.

    2. animaniactoo*

      What are you doing for self-care in your off time?

      And yes, if the job is actually that much of an issue, leaving without having something else lined up can be better for your *life*. Not the same as your career, but it’s also possible to damage your career by being so down and used to toxic that you make bad choices to escape it/accept dysfunction as normal and end up worse off than if you walked away from your worst issue (the job) despite the other issues that created. But first… let’s get back to the self-care thing. What are you doing to take care of you?

      How much can you detach from the selfish co-workers, lazy boss, and terrible clients and view it as strange, but something you handle vs anything you’re invested in?

      1. Pup Seal*

        Oh goodness, I’m in the same boat as you!

        I try to remind myself that my co-workers’ behavior is not my fault, and sometimes I tell myself my co-workers’ behavior is not be acceptable at most workplaces and at most places they would’ve been fired by now. I also try to make sure I’m proud of my own work, even though I hate my job so much.

        At home, I have a few hobbies that help me relax. I sew, so whenever I finish making something, I feel really accomplished, and that makes me feel so much better. I also write stories, and that helps relax me and get my mind off my job. From that, I suggest you find a hobby (or if you already have a hobby, do more with it) that will take your mind off work and make you feel productive.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I am a big fan of the self-care answer. I had a job that I now realize was almost killing me. I got into eating healthy and other related routines. This gave me back my presence of mind to cope with some of the garbage flying at me. But more mental clarity made me realize what I was putting myself through. In the end, I gave notice and quit with only a vague plan to go back to school. (I did months later go back to school.)

        Don’t let yourself stall out in limbo, we let our own selves down when we stall like that. Make a plan, set deadlines and get yourself to a better place. The problem has two aspects, one aspect is what other people around us are doing and the other aspect is our own inertia. We can only change our own inertia.
        If you want to, pretend that your employer is shutting their doors by X date. And you have to do something by X date. Tell yourself motivational things like this to keep yourself moving.

      3. IvyGirl*

        I too quit my job without something else lined up. I was so liberating to hand in that letter and walk out the door two weeks later.

        For self care? I took a month off – of job searching, of beating myself up. I focused on cleaning my house from top to bottom – cleaning out closets, getting to things that had been piling up and being ignored for months.

        It was wonderful. Then, once the month was up – headlong into the job search and secured one within three weeks. You need to take care of you.

    3. NW Mossy*

      Years ago, I hit this point with a toxic job – it was a small firm, and the rot started at the top. I ended up starting a short course of therapy because I needed to chat with someone who didn’t have a personal stake in the outcome, and it helped a lot. It got me to a point of having enough faith in myself to start looking for other work, which I’d been avoiding because I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue in the industry and didn’t think I’d have enough experience even if I did try to move laterally to another company. That search ended up being a huge boost, because I ended up with multiple interviews and 2 offers. The job that I took convinced me that under the right sort of boss, the industry was a good fit and I’m still in it over a decade later.

      Toxic jobs can become a vicious cycle where they make you miserable, which in turn makes it seem too hard and daunting to find something else. At least for me, the key to breaking it was investing in some self-care to recalibrate my perspective and give me that little bit of gas I needed to start moving forward.

    4. Not Today Satan*

      A couple years ago, I left a job without another lined up. It was toxic to the point that it was impacting my health (both mental and physical) and I had gotten sloppy with job applications and interviews (I literally forgot to go to an interview). I doubted I would be able to stay there and successfully find another job.

      I had several months of living expenses, and after quitting started volunteering in the field I wanted to switch to. It took me 5 months to find a job, but I’m still here and overall like it.

      I’m not telling you to quit your job, but life is complicated and so the common wisdom doesn’t always apply. Good luck. I understand how hard it is.

    5. Mike C.*

      I was there at one point. The thing that kept me going was having something to work towards, which took the form of two different activities. Looking for work and unionizing the workplace. I’m not saying you have to do those specific things, but when I would reach a low during the day, the reminder that I had those other irons in the fire that were making progress was an incredible pick me up.

      Can you find something in your life that could function in a similar way?

    6. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      Oh god I know your pain. Seriously you just hit a wall mentally where you And usually by that point it seems like no amount of selfcare or hobbies in your downtime can help you face the Wall of BS that is ultimately suffocating you.

      I had two like this and one I did quit (for a major move) and the other I was pushed… but given 8 months notice of no contract renewal, during which time everything intensified about 10 fold. I did some sporadic job searching, but nothing really came through and I was lucky to actually not be hired by one of the places I had interviewed at. Just the act of job searching was too much so I put it off, put it off, put it off.

      Some coping skills I (and my other coworkers at most recent hellish job) have used:
      1) Limit the amount of bitching you do. Once I moved on my friend who was still stuck was msging me all the gossip, even though I knew it wasn’t good for him. He got his mind straight and said “right, this isn’t helping at all, what steps CAN i do to make this more tolerable?” I supported him in that and don’t prompt for the down and dirty or even talk about the place unless its something really mindblowing. And then its limited to a few minutes. Bitching feels amazing, but it takes over precious mental energy – make a resolution to limit the bitching and ask your friends to check you on it!

      2) Limit the alcohol – I gained a ton of weight (we all did) because we were all using alcohol to cope. Neither the weight or the alcohol is good for the self esteem!

      3) If you can, get some exercise, even a little walk is ok, and that is your “safe time”. That is YOUR time to feel good, think positive, and not think about your situation. Get some air, look at the scenery, plan a trip in your mind, listen to music, whatever.

      4) As above – is there anything you CAN do to make it more tolerable in the meantime? Work from home? Let a few things slip? Pushing back more?

      5) Give yourself permission and a timeline to leave… even if you don’t have a job lined up. This can depend on how employable you are or your industry/field/location/hiring cycles. Now may be a good time after the holidays, set a leave date for the end of March and give notice when appropriate. That may be enough for you to refocus your mental energy on what sucks into hey im getting out of here soon!

      6) If you haven’t let your network know you are looking, definitely let them know and see what happens.

      Proactive steps forward one step at a time add up – it takes a lot of mental willpower to get out of a bad situation, but try to block it out, limit the damage, and avoid temptations to stick in a Rut of Complaint.

      Good luck – there really ARE better environments out there!

    7. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      A couple of months ago I gave notice at my highly toxic job without having something else lined up. It was absolutely terrifying, but I’m convinced that it was the best decision for myself overall.

      I realize that it will not work for everyone, and its not something to do lightly. After giving it a lot of thought I realized that I would never have the time (or mental energy) to conduct a proper job search while engulfed in my current toxic job. I put in six week notice, threw myself headlong into a job search (giving notice allowed me to switch my focus to wrapping up instead of allowing my dept. to just keep dumping more and more work onto me) and started a new job with only a few days gap.

      Again, it is not a decision to make lightly. Just saying though, quitting with nothing lined up does not automatically mean career suicide.

    8. Seal*

      This was me 15 years ago. I was stuck in a toxic work environment for years and couldn’t seem to find my way out. When I first took the job, it was to have a steady income to support my performing arts activities. Initially, this allowed me to overlook that worst aspects of my job, but when I finally burned out on performing, I realized I was stuck in a terrible situation with few options. Worse, because I was underemployed I was actually quite good at my job without having to put much effort into it; this made me a target for bullies. I was bored, beaten down, and miserable. My attendance started to suffer, to which my bullying coworkers responded with glee.

      What ultimately got my out my miserable rut and eventually out of that job ironically enough was something out of my control: our library building was slated for renovation, which meant everyone and everything had to be moved out and into temporary facilities. The drastic change of venue forced forced everyone out of their confort zones, forced some long-festering issues, and opened many peoples’ eyes to what had actually been going on in that building. More importantly, it very clearly demonstrated who was actually good at their job and who wasn’t – the extra attention the move process generated had the bullies scrambling to cover their backsides, while I quickly became known as the go-to person for questions and problem-solving. Once the dust settled, I realized that I deserved better and started formulating an exit strategy. I set an end date for a few months down the road and started getting my finances in order. I also started tying things up at work, although I didn’t tell anyone why I was doing so. As it turned out, during this time my incompetent boss got a new job and I got sucked into working on a major project he left hanging. This delayed my exit for another 6 months. Actually, there was talk that I would get promoted into my old boss’s job due to my work on this project, something I allowed myself to get excited about. However, despite having bailed his boss out on this project and been publically praised for doing so, the minute it was completed she promoted someone else and informed me by voicemail. I was later told that this had been in the works for several months and intentionally kept from me because my ex-boss’s boss needed me to finish this project. Because I already had an exit strategy in place, I was able to resign on the spot without another job lined up. I didn’t have to say a word; the timing was such that everyone, even my detractors, knew why I was leaving and told me privately that I did the right thing. The best part was that within a year I got better job at the same institution in a different department; every time I ran into the woman who refused to promote me she literally ran away! Mind you, this was a department head who had something like 30 people reporting to her. There was no reason whatsoever for someone in her position (several levels above me) who refused to promote someone she felt rightly or wrongly was not the right person for the job to act this way; the fact that she did so repeatedly was telling (and very funny!).

      My advice for anyone in a miserable job situation is to focus your energies on a exit strategy, even if you’re not planning to leave immediately. Start cleaning out your desk and tying up projects and updating documentation. Start thinking about what you would need to do to leave your job without another one lined up. Start thinking about what you would actually do if you left without having another job lined up. Would you immediately start job hunting? Go back to school? Take a few weeks or months off? I did the latter and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself – it allowed me to hit the reset button on my career and life in general. Start thinking about a timeline – could you stick our your miserable job for another couple of months if you knew you could leave after that? In my case, I wound up sticking around for 6 months longer than I had planned, but the payoff was spectacular; I was in a position to resign on the spot because I already had an exit strategy in place. And who knows? While you’re putting your exit strategy in place, another opportunity may come your way. When it does, this way you’ll be ready to snap it up.

      1. Izzy*

        You said something very interesting in your first paragraph, about being underemployed and good at your job without much effort, and that made you a target for bullies. I am beginning to feel bullied in my part time job of three months. I chose it because I wanted to be underemployed; I needed a little more income but wanted to focus my energy on other activities that I retired to do. I had not thought of those two things, excelling without effort and being bullied, going together. I still don’t understand the connection but this is a helpful clue. I’m a cashier – I have experience and it’s not hard to do. Lately I’ve noticed a lot of little behaviors from my coworkers that take all the fun and satisfaction out of it, like frequently second guessing me, telling me things I already know, reaching in front of me to key things in on my register (that I know how to do myself), minor sabotage like bagging slow (or not bagging for me at all), directing fully loaded carts to the express lane when I’m manning it, stuff like that. Very subtle, and I may be being paranoid. It’s not stuff I would go to my boss about because I don’t want to be whiny or a tattle tale. The top manager already likes me and that may be why some of the other employees don’t. It doesn’t matter why, but my supposedly easy money side job is sucking so much energy that I spend two hours recovering for every one I work, and I dread going in. Even a short four or five hour shift exhausts me for the whole day. I have occasionally felt the need to cry when I look at my schedule or it’s time to go to work. I need to work on an exit strategy, and reconsider underemployment. Even though challenging and interesting part time jobs in my field bring their own brand of stress.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The connection between bullying and underemployment: This is a really important thing to know and understand.
          Generally speaking, people can see when we are in a job that is below what we can do. People who are not nice people, read that as weakness. If we were stronger people we would have better jobs, so it must be that we are weak and cannot advocate for ourselves to get better jobs. Since these not nice people THRIVE on their ability to make others miserable, it is important to them to pick out people who appear to have low defenses or a low ability to advocate for themselves.

          I had a dear, dear boss, who got kicked in the chops this way. When the story landed, he was offered his choice of being demoted or being fired. He opted for the demotion. It was a mess of a story. Finally, I cornered him one day and said, “These things happen when we don’t aim high enough. Aim higher.” He was shocked, no one had ever said anything like that to him before. so we had a chat. He is doing great now, he has been promoted up beyond where he was when he got the big demotion.
          He was working along on a level that was less than his capacity and it was obvious to everyone that he could do more. Not only was he a smart man but he had terrific people skills. He excelled in more than one way. Some people assumed he was naive and they took advantage. Others out and out bullied him.

          Izzy, I’d like to use your setting as an example because you have given a list of specific behaviors that are “good” for a practical discussion.
          Frequently second guessing you and telling you things you already know: You can say that you already know X or Y, but thanks anyway. (no sarcasm, benefit of the doubt) If they tell you the same thing again, remind them that “We talked about X last week, remember? And I told you I know X.”

          Reaching in front of you to key things into your register: Tell them NO. Tell them that is YOUR drawer and you will be the one who keys things in because you are responsible for the drawer. If they still do it, tell them that reaching in front of a person is rude. You have asked them to stop, now you are telling them to stop. If you need help with something your preference is that they use words to describe what to do.

          Bagging slow: Not much you can do with that one, ignore it.

          Not bagging. If you are mobbed with people ask your shift leader to send help. Or ask someone nearby who seems to just be standing there. Take charge of the situation yourself when necessary.

          Full carts in express lanes. As a customer I have been told to bring my full cart to an express lane. I don’t think you are going to win on this one, so I’d let it go.

          General suggestions:
          Make sure you are hydrated, rested and make sure you eat well. We have to refuel/ recharge and this becomes more critical when we are in jobs that wear us down.

          The rule of three. When you see a behavior three times you have a pattern. When you have a pattern it is time to speak up and say something. ” Jane, you told me about X last week and the week before also. I understand X so you do not need to tell me each week. I am good here.” OR “Bob, you keep reaching in front of me to key stuff into my register after I have asked you not to. I learn by doing it myself, you need to stop reaching in front of me.”

          Because of your long recuperation time and your need to cry it might be time to look for a new gig. Since it is a side job there really are not too many worries about how it will look on your resume and so on. Retailers see a lot of job changing on resumes so it’s not a big deal. Some retail jobs are worse than others. My suggestion is to look for a chain company with smaller stores. I don’t know what it is about grocery stores but they tend to be a harsh, cold work environment. The best retail environment I ever saw was a nursery. Indeed, a friend got a part time job at a nursery and she loves it. I believe in looking at the product the retailer sells and trying to figure out what types of customers they draw. Happier customers seem to mean happier coworkers.

          1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

            Just wow. Underemployment and bullying, that is why my last job was so toxic. I was over-qualified for it but I took it because the pay and hours were good and it allowed me to work on my personal projects. I lasted 3 years but hit the wall when I was written up for not being friendly enough. They couldn’t fault the quality of my work so that was all they had. Anyway, I left without another job lined up but I expected that. Two months later, I found a much better one in the same field with even better hours and higher pay. The manager is professional and actually asked for my advice on how to do my job better!
            But the idea of underemployment and bullying explains so much now when I look back at the Toxic Job. A co-worker said that the manager hated me because I had a degree and she didn’t. Oh and according to my friend who got left behind there, it’s still very toxic. So bad, that it’s gotten a reputation in our industry as a workplace to avoid.

    9. fond_of_jam*

      I felt this way about my job for most of the fall. It’s not a toxic environment per se, but it’s a brand new job, in a brand new city, that’s harder than anything I’ve ever done before. I dreaded going in every day. I couldn’t sleep, because I knew that once I fell asleep I’d have to wake up and go to work. I have also wanted to quit on the spot and never look back, and have had lots of tearful, scary conversations with my husband about getting by on one income, putting off kids/house/the future, etc.
      What’s really turned this year around for me is therapy, through my employer’s EAP. My therapist focuses on stress relief, mindfulness, and practical ways to deal with difficult situations. If something like that is available to you, I highly recommend giving it a try. If not, books and workbooks can help you do it on your own. “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn is a classic of the genre, or you can search “mindfulness workbook” for lots of options to try.
      Therapy and mindfulness won’t make your workplace better, of course. I’m still understaffed and underfunded, and I’m still working long, tiring hours just to keep up (I’m an early childhood special education teacher in a massive urban public school district). What it can do is help you react to difficult situations in positive, healthy ways, and gain clarity around what you can and can’t do to improve your own situation. If nothing else, you might gain more energy for your job search.
      Best of luck to you. I’ve been there and it’s so, so hard.

    10. Rebecca*

      I second animaniactoo’s comment about self care.

      I was at my limit, too, and it took a long time to job search and finally find another job so I could escape. I also dreaded going out the door in the morning. So, I concentrated on other things, like what I could do after work, like bike riding, walking, hiking, doing things with friends, things like that. I rationalized that it was sort of like going to the dentist: something unpleasant that I had to do, but I could endure it because I knew the “visit” would come to an end and I could leave at the end of the work day. I took all the breaks I was allotted, limited overtime as much as possible, and just mentally checked out of the whole thing. I still did my job to the best of my ability, but concentrated on escaping every single day.

      I wish you so much luck in finding a new job! Please keep us updated.

    11. Barney Barnaby*

      If you leave without another job lined up, give more than the standard two weeks’ notice, and wait until a logical end point (e.g., a big project is done). That way, you have an easier time convincing people that it really was one of *those* situations, but you were responsible about it: you wrapped everything up, didn’t leave loose ends, and gave enough run time to the company so they could get a replacement and ensure that the handover is smooth.

      You don’t have to love or even like your job, but you need to not be crying and drinking on a regular basis over it.

    12. Yetanotherjennifer*

      It might be easier to bear if you have a plan and a timeline. First figure out your ‘take this job and shove it’ finances. How long can you last financially? Then what would you do first, second and third? See if you can implement those things now while you’re still working. Set some goals and deadlines for getting out and set some criteria for what your next job will have and be like.

      Is there anything good about that place? Anything at all? Make a list, including the small things just so you aren’t always focused on the negative. And try and have something soothing or calming at your desk. I used to have pictures of porches on my cube wall and when I felt stressed I’d pick a porch and imagine myself there. Start taking fresh air breaks where you get outside during the work day. If it works you could also get away for lunch. I used to drive 20 minutes to my favorite lunch spot, eat a quick lunch and then drive back. It felt good to get physically far away as a break. Hang in there!

    13. Chriama*

      Do you have a safety net if you quit without anything lined up? Do you have savings and/or friends/family you could move in with for a little while? I think you should consider it as a serious possibility. Do it in a graceful way (like give 1 month’s notice), but I bet if you know there’s a hard end date then you’ll be able to deal with the crap better and maybe even use the time to job search.

      If you really don’t have a safety net then I would try to take some time off in the near future. Like at least a solid week, or a month-long unpaid leave of absence. Just get some time away from work to breath, do some self-care (clean the house, go to the doctor, cook and freeze some meals) and prep your job search (resume & cover letter review, update LinkedIn, start reaching out to old contacts, etc).

  3. Rogue One*

    Anyone else hitting a point with job searching where they just don’t know what more they can do?

    I’ve been searching for nearly a year now with several interviews but no offers and I just don’t know what else to do. I think I do well written resumes and cover letters, I have good interviews, I can count on my references, I’m applying to jobs that I know I’m qualified for (not like a ton of reach jobs), and yet I have no offers coming in. I look at everything I have for my applications and don’t know what I can improve to better my chances.

    What do you do when you hit this point? I’m feeling so lost right now and like I’ll never get out of Current Terrible Job.

    1. an anon is an anon*

      I’m at that point, too. Interviewing for over a year, several last round interviews, and then I never hear back. Clearly I’m doing the right things to get all the way to the last round in-person interviews, but I’m starting to feel like something’s wrong with me when I never get a call back to tell me if I got the job or not.

      I’m starting to get to the point where I’m giving up because a year of this has given a huge blow to my self-confidence.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        This is a rough time of year to be job searching because everyone is winding down for year end. You’ll probably see a bunch of opportunities in February.
        When I was unemployed, it got sad, real sad. But I imagined that the universe was preparing the job for me and it just wasn’t ready. The job I ended up getting was available because the previous employee was fired. I had to wait for those events to occur before the job was available.
        It doesn’t make things better, but it’s something to think about.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is how I’m trying to approach it. The last year has been a tire fire and when I asked the universe for certain things, it started removing stuff instead. I’m thinking it’s because I can’t get the new things until the old things are finished. Which they pretty much are at this point. I still have moments where I freak out, like “OMG I lost a great job and will never find another one; I’ll never get out of here, etc.” But I think about it and 1) the job wasn’t so great anymore, and 2) I thought at one point “I could stay,” when I really need to leave.

          Now if only I had a WAY to leave, ha ha. That’s the part I’m still confused about. But maybe that is coming sooner than I think (and not a disastrous way, which was part of what I put out there and am trying to visualize–good things not bad things).

          I read an article about acting as if you already have the things you want and how that can increase your confidence. I’m trying to practice that as well.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Maybe go for some that are a bit of a reach? Slightly different titles or adjacent roles if possible? If you had particularly good rapport with any of the recruiters perhaps you can ask for some candid feedback on your interview? Are you using linked in?

        1. catsAreCool*

          Going for more jobs that are a stretch would be my advice, too. Maybe the companies think you’re overqualified, even if you don’t.

          Good luck!

    2. Jesmlet*

      Clearly sounds like the skills and experience are there so the unknown really is the interview. There are a lot of things that can go unnoticed when we’re nervous and potentially desperate (that’s me all the time, maybe not you). Practice with people you trust but aren’t too comfortable with, film yourself and see if you have any weird nervous ticks (mine was picking at my cuticles), and keep trying to stay positive!

    3. SophieChotek*

      I am sorry you are in this place. You are not alone — I feel like I’ve been here for several years too.

    4. JuniperGreen*

      You may have already done this, but have you met with your references (take them out for coffee or give them a phone call at a time convenient to them) and asked for their feedback, and also let them know that your job search is your primary focus right now?

      I ask because there are people in my network for whom I act as a reference, but I don’t always know that they’re actively searching. When I do know, I keep my eye out for opportunities for them and am a more effective extension of their network.

    5. Jules*

      Can you reach out to previous co-worker or leaders you worked for and ask to keep an ear on the ground for you? I had a bestie who are not in the same role as I am but because I knew he was looking, I kept an eye out. As soon as I know a suitable position is available, I reach out to him and went on a limb to recommend him for the job. It was a perfect fit. His boss thanked me every time we met. When looking at him impersonally/on paper, she didn’t think he was a strong candidate, but I vouched for him and she bypassed the recruiter recommendation and had him in for an interview.

    6. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Wish I had some advice for you, but can only offer sympathy. I hope you find something soon.

      Actually, I just thought of something. Have you had anyone look over your resume and cover letter/s for feedback? There could be something you’re missing – maybe a word or phrase that could be adjusted.

      If you’re comfortable doing so, maybe ask friends if they have any ideas or recommendations?

      With a cool username like yours, you’re bound to find something soon. Good luck.

    7. Master Bean Counter*

      Apply for the reach jobs! You’d be surprised how many will actually be interested in you. (And how much you might actually be underestimating yourself.)

    8. thunderbird*

      Oh how I know this feeling. I job hunted for almost 20 months before landing something, and I was unemployed for about a year of that time. This is really annoying advice, I know because I hated hearing it, but just keep trying and eventually it will happen. You will be able to look back on Current Terrible Job, but it will take time and it is something you only have limited control over. Network where you can, take breaks, but keep trying.

      After unemployment I thought I landed a decent job, turned out to be not so good, and so I started the process all over again (which was hard because I was somewhat traumatized from the previous job hunt), and eventually landed a pretty good job. Patience and perseverance are the best skills to get you through this.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I hope you have Alison’s job hunting book and interview guide. If you do, it might be time to reread them and go over everything with fresh eyes. Pretend you have never job hunted before and look at her advice with the level of attention that a newbie might use.

      Do you have anyone around you, who actually knows you, that you can trust? This could make a difference also. They might review your resume/cover letter and blurt out “You never mention X. You do X SO WELL and you never even mention it!” Or they might notice that the jobs you apply for have similar characteristics and a slight movement toward other settings would work for you. Or they could just tell you, “Our area is really crappy right now for jobs, hang tough.” Any of this could be valuable information. Make sure you let trusted friends know that you are looking. I have gotten three jobs just through friends, granted they were part time but the work was unlike anything else I have done. It will set me up well for the future.

    10. Mike C.*

      When I hit this point a few years back, I broke down and had someone write my resume for me. I suddenly doubled the number of interviews I had been offered in the preceding year and found a job shortly after.

      Also, see if you can do some mock interviews to understand if you’re doing something weird that you don’t realize.

      1. kdkc84*

        Hi Mike, I think I’m at the point of needing to rewrite my resume too! Did you use a service and do you have a recommendation?

    11. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Yeah, I’m in this boat too – I’ve been trying to find permanent legal work with my state for four years now. I regularly get first or second round interviews, but no bites yet. The advice I always get is (1) keep trying, and (2) hit up your network. I’ve had more luck sticking to the first than the second, myself, but so it goes. Fingers crossed for us all in the new year!

    12. shep*

      Man, I have been there before. I was working on and finishing up my master’s degree, and I was getting so little interest that I started applying to chain coffee houses and fast-food places because I just wanted OUT. Like a few others have said, I have very little advice aside from keep doing what you’re doing. Cast your net wide; go for the “reach” positions; go for the mundane positions; go for anything that seems like it would be a good fit, at least for a year or two.

      Hang in there. Something good will happen.

    13. Only one in the office today*

      Same here. Sometimes I expect, in my case, it is my age (57). I do the things on my resume I am supposed to do to hide it (leave off old jobs, no graduation date, etc.) but I can’t hide it when I get to the interview. I really want to work at my side gig full-time (I started a non profit last year.) and need to buckle down on applying for funding. That is the only thing that keeps me going at this point.

      1. Dzhymm, BfD*

        I might suggest not attempting to use Grecian Formula on one’s resume. As one who has been on both sides of the interview table, if I see a resume with a degree listed and no date I know *exactly* what’s going on.

        1. Oryx*

          It’s not all nefarious. I’m 35, I don’t have my grad year on there. I have a specialized masters and all of my post-grad employment is on there with years but not the actual year I graduated.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But it’s so normal to leave graduation dates off once someone is ~10 years out of school. Probably 75% of the resumes I see from people over 35 don’t include graduation years (nor do they need to).

          1. Dzhymm, BfD*

            Interesting. In my field (software development) and experience, I’ve only ever seen graduation dates omitted for more, er, “seasoned” candidates. Mind you, I don’t hold it against them and I tend to appreciate the experience that older candidates bring to the table, but it’s something I noticed…

    14. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Take a month or two off the search and use that time do reset yourself mentally. Read an interesting book, go to a class of some kind, spa day or movie binge and just refresh yourself.
      After that you can take a fresh look and maybe you will pick up on something that will make you a better candidate even if it is just feeling a bit better because you had some you time.
      I noticed that I always did better on an interview when I wasn’t rushing or trying to sneak it in so I usually tried to schedule them for mid-morning and took the whole day off or scheduled them after lunch and took a half day. Never had to split my attention with the clock that way.

    15. Girasol*

      You still have to keep up the job search but it’s not full time now, right? It should leave some time for you to give yourself a part time job as your own morale officer. Do whatever you can within your budget to keep your attitude up and to get out and be with people. Not necessarily “network” type people who you know mostly because they might help you get a job, but people who do the sorts of things you like, who volunteer for the sorts of things you volunteer for. It’ll keep your motivation up and your interview smile genuine. And you might get lucky and stumble over a coincidental connection that helps you out, the sort that you don’t find unless you’re not looking for it.

    16. Windchime*

      I found that I had to consider commuting to Big City that’s 30 miles away from my home. I had resisted for a long time, because 30 miles can easily mean 2 hours driving or bus in the morning rush hour. Once I relented, I found something fairly quickly and decided that I would ride the train instead of the bus (or, god forbid, driving). I worried that it would be a horrible ordeal–I have to get up at 4:45 AM, it’s dark and cold on the way to the train, etc. But it hasn’t been bad at all. So if there is any kind of a mental barrier to searching in a certain geographic area or certain type of business, keep an open mind and you might be surprised. Not sure if this is the case with you but I thought I would throw it out there.

    17. PhillyPretzel*

      I’m right in the same spot at you. I started applying to jobs in January and have yet to land anything, despite interviewing for 9 jobs this year and moving into final-round interviews for 4-5 of those (jobs are not at all abundant in my field, so this is quite a lot).

      Based on what you’ve written and the fact that you’re a reader here, I’d imagine that you’re doing all the right things, and that it’s just a matter of keeping at it. In the meantime, I’ve found the following things help me cope:

      -Remembering that you’re in good company. I have lots of friends who are job searching right now and it isn’t easy for any of them either. Being rejected a lot is a normal part of this process, and knowing other excellent people who also aren’t getting jobs quickly helps to normalize what we’re going through.

      -Taking periodic breaks from the job search and treating oneself well in general. There simply aren’t enough jobs in my field to make the job search a full-time task, I’ve tried to embrace the periods where I’ve applied for everything that makes sense and just have to sit back awhile and distract myself with other things. Keeping up with hobbies, treating myself in small ways, and getting together with friends also all help to keep spirits up, even when all the applications and interviews are demoralizing.

      -If there’s some strategy for job hunting that you haven’t tried yet, now might be the time to try it. One thing that I haven’t done yet is do a mock interview — I prepare and practice by myself, but haven’t reached out to others for feedback. Mainly that’s because one of my biggest challenges is combatting my anxiety and appearing confident and I worry that having someone point out every flaw in the way I present myself would make me super self-conscious and actually be counterproductive. But I’m thinking of setting up a session with my alumni career services and being really forthcoming about the type of feedback I’m interested in, just in case they have suggestions that might make a substantial difference. If there’s something similar that you haven’t tried yet, maybe now’s the time to give it a chance.

      Anyway, I really think it is mainly a matter of patience and persistence. Best of luck — I hope that 2017 brings new opportunities for you!

    18. Woman of a Certain Age*

      This certainly describes me and the way I feel. I’ve gotten a lot of interviews, but nothing that resulted in a permanent job. There have been a few openings that I found out about where I didn’t get applications turned in in time and I feel bad about that. Although most people tell me that I look younger than my years, I feel like my age is working against me.

      Another part of my problem is that in my family I’m the only child who still lives in the area and who can take care of my elderly parents. With my help they still live in their own home, but they couldn’t manage it if it weren’t for me. I’m extremely reluctant to move, although I’m certain that my chances of getting a job would be a lot better somewhere else.

  4. Shabu Shabu*

    I am having some serious Year-End-Itis. I guess I could have taken some time off, but I didn’t really feel the need to and now I’m sitting here, waiting for this fcking day to be over.

    The emails my team and I have received in the last two weeks have been chaotic and luckily only one was terrible. I do not say this lightly, but this email exchange made me question whether the client beat his wife, burned his children with cigarettes, and kicked his cat when he got home. It was THAT bad. F that guy.

    Anyway, I am so unmotivated and tired. I need to hit refresh.

    How do you get back into the work groove without taking a vacation? I have Monday off, but meh…my family wants to clean.

    1. always in email jail*

      No advice but same thing (minus the child burning concerns). Very unmotivated today, hesitant to start a new project right before a 3 day weekend, probably should’ve taken leave because I’m not contributing much today :(

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Is there any way you can report this idiot?

      Sorry about the cleaning, but cleaning does help with mental resets. There is something about taking control over our home environment that can strengthen or inspire us to do something about our work environment. I hope this works this way for you.

      Can you set yourself up to have some time off in January?

      1. Shabu Shabu*

        Yes! We reported it to our Grand Boss after the second email and that’s when it got really ugly! I’m not sure what the final outcome was, but the GB is pretty intense himself. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty.

        I know it didn’t sound like it, but I’m down for cleaning :) I agree, a deep clean always refreshes my mind and spirit. As much as I’d like to spend Monday in PJs all day watching tv for 8 hours straight…a cleaning is what I be needing.

        I’m taking some time of in Feb, yay! I think December has been tough because everyone on my small team took time off except me. Once they’re all back in Jan, worklife will be much easier.

    3. CMT*

      OMG, same. I wish I had taken this week off just to have a staycation. And there’s nothing that needs to be done at work this week, so it’s extra slow and extra boring and awful.

      1. Meeeeeeeee*

        I also wish I had taken today off for a staycation. My husband did (he only worked Wednesday this week) so I’ve been going to work and he’s been sitting at home playing guitar and petting the dog. I want that too!

  5. Not cold*

    How should I respond to coworkers who tell me I should wear warmer clothing? I grew up in the northeast USA and have always had a high tolerance for cold, and now I’ve moved south, so I have a much higher tolerance for cold than most people here. I also happen to like the feel of the cold, which I find invigorating to a certain extent. When my coworkers see me walking to/from the parking lot or between buildings, they frequently tell me to wear a coat (or a warmer coat if I am wearing a light coat), hat, gloves, or all of the above. The thing is, I know when I’m cold and I will put on warmer clothing if I need to, and I find it really annoying to have to constantly reassure people that I’m not cold. I will accept it from my mother, but frankly, I would like my coworkers to mind their own business about my clothing. I don’t want to be rude, because I have a professional relationship with these people, but I would really like them to STFU!

    The other wrinkle here is that my company is really big on safety, and I think some people may look at it as a safety issue, kind of like telling me to wear my safety glasses when I’m working with chemicals. But I have been dressing myself for over 30 years and haven’t gotten hypothermia yet, so I don’t think they have any reason to worry.

    1. WellRed*

      Tell them you have “thicker blood” then southerners (with a smile, of course). Signed, Mainer smiling contentedly out at the two feet of snow we got overnight.

    2. Nan*

      I’m outside of Chicago, and I’m perfectly comfy outside when it’s 20 or above with no coat, but wilt like a precious little flower if it’s much over 70 and sunny. When people ask me where my coat is, I just say “at home, in the closet, where it belongs” and move on.

      Kinda snarky? Yeah. But I’m old enough to dress myself, thanks.

    3. Robin B*

      Met someone like that just last night– a contractor arrived in short sleeves to work outside our house in really cold weather + wind. He said he was even tested as a kid–he just has a higher body temp and that’s normal for him. He didn’t have any magic way to get people to stop asking him about it…. and he did mention not to try and talk to him on a 95 degree, humid Baltimore day…..

    4. Drew*

      “Thanks, I’m fine. I like the chill.” Reframe it as something positive you’re choosing to do rather than something you’re enduring. You could add, “If I get too cold, I’ve got a jacket, but right now I’m fine as is.”

    5. MommaCat*

      “Dude, I’m from X, this isn’t cold!” or something along those lines is how I’d answer. My sympathies, though; I’m quite pregnant, and I keep getting the whole “are you sure you should be carrying that?” Which gets quite annoying. Please, trust me to know my body! I usually just reply “Oh, this weighs less than my toddler!” and try to remember that they’re speaking from a place of caring.

    6. bunniferous*

      Yeah, my Colorado husband is like that (we live in my home state of NC.)

      The flip side is summer. I enjoy the hot weather. Him, not so much.

    7. Liane*

      I’d ignore them, or if they get too annoying, tell them, “Thanks, I am fine, bless your heart.” Says this Southerner. Specifically native-Floridian-transplanted-to-Arkansas. (I have become more cold tolerant after 8+ years.)

    8. AngtheSA*

      My husband is from the south and walked me and my daughter out this morning in 32 degree weather in a t shirt and jeans… I am all bundled up in a peacoat, sweater, tights under my jeans and boots. Since it is a southerner thing, I would just probably say something along the line of that you are comfortable and if they continue, just stare at them and then walk away. No need for any further dialogue with people that keep pestering you. Or just pull an AAM and ask them why it bothers them so much.

      1. Lady Bug*

        Sounds just like my husband and I. I’m bundled from head to toe with only my eyes visible and he’s wearing shorts and flip flops.

        Some people just run warm. Just say “thanks for your concern, I’m quite comfortable.” If they can’t let it go it’s their issue.

      2. Collarbone High*

        I often find myself on the sidewalk next to people who appear to be dressed for a completely different season than I am (I’m like you, I’m always cold and am bundled up if it’s below 60 degrees) and I like to imagine people looking out their office windows at us and thinking, I wonder what the weather is like; these people are no help at all.

    9. Seal*

      Same here! I spent most of my life in the upper Midwest and have lived in the Deep South for the past 10 years. In fact, I just got back from visiting family in my home state where I got to have a white Christmas – heaven. What helps me keep my Southern-born coworkers at bay is to laughingly scoff at the weather when it gets “cold”. As in “you call this cold?! I’m from the upper Midwest – we call this chilly!” The only time I’ll cop to it being cold is the few days in winter where the temperature is in the teens when I go to work and then it’s “I’m from the upper Midwest and I know cold – this is COLD!” I will admit that my blood’s gotten a bit thinner since I moved South, but I still refuse to call temperatures in the 30s “frigid”. My coworkers play along with me – in fact, when the temperature drops, many of them will say “of course, Seal doesn’t think it’s cold – she’s from the upper Midwest!” When it comes to cold weather, a little humor goes a long way.

      1. Grumpy*

        Try this: “Wow. What are you going to do when it REALLY gets cold out? Ha ha ha… ”
        FWI, I HATE the cold but am surrounded by people like you, and you have my respect and admiration.
        Unfortunately, as for your company’s safety culture, it sucks but maybe carrying a jacket would be an idea to manage perceptions. You may never wear it but it shows that you respect the safety message and corporate culture.

    10. Jessesgirl72*

      I grew up in the snow belt of Ohio and then moved to California. It’s SO tedious to tell people that no, I don’t need to wear a full winter coat when it’s 60 degrees, thanks!

      No advice, really, since you can’t really tell coworkers to STFU, but I feel you. (But you can be firm. And tell friends various degrees of STFU)

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        I just got back from visiting CA after relocating to the Midwest a couple of decades ago. Everyone kept going on about the “frigid” mid-thirties weather. Bless their hearts!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Haha, I ran into that when I lived out there but with thunderstorms. I’m from the middle bit of the US where we have tornadic thunderstorms–we’re talking torrential downpours, continuous lightning, and of course occasionally the whirlwinds of doom that kill somebody every year.

          We had a very small storm one afternoon with a little thunder and lightning. The kind folks here wouldn’t even put the barbecue up for. People were freaking out as if the end times had come. I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “OMG you guys; this is NOTHING.”

    11. blackcat*

      I second other people’s ideas to just try to make jokes out of it. “New Englander’s don’t believe in coats until there’s ice on the inside of our windows.” “I’m part Yeti.” etc

      I got similar comments when I started working in the south. I grew up in a semi-arid climate, so there would be winter mornings where it would be 28 when I showed up at school but 65 in the afternoon, and I’d be wearing sandals all day. People at my workplace would say things like “But you’re from California! How can you not be cold?!” That was tricky, but I still aimed for joking responses. Now that I live in the northeast, my southern family thinks its perfectly normal when I am out and about in the mid 30s without a coat when I visit for holidays.

      On the other hand, when I was working in the south, I was also that teacher telling students to wear a coat on the few occasions it got quite cold. It was 17 at the start of the school day on the coldest day of my teaching career. One student walked into class almost blue, wearing only a hoodie (my classroom door was outside, which is a thing they do in the south). Turns out, he simply didn’t *have* a warm coat. He also had no idea that “dress in layers” means more than a t-shirt and a hoodie. This was not for economic reasons–his family was quite wealthy–but simple cluelessness as to how to adapt to cold temperatures. But while I’d scold a kid for not dressing for the weather, I’d never do that to a coworker.

      tl;dr, people are weird about the cold in the south. They overdress when it’s in the 40s or 50s, and underdress on the few occasions when one actually needs warm clothes.

    12. orchidsandtea*

      Replying sort of gives it legitimacy, like they get to judge whether or not you should be wearing xyz and you have to justify it to them. I like a baffled look and “Thank you, I’ll take that under consideration”.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      “Thanks, mom.”

      Really, I found that by calling people “mom” they quickly realize they are over the line.

      One thing though. You CAN effectively shut this down. But you might accidentally shut down the other caring that goes along with it. My recommendation is do not sledge hammer this point unless you find you need to. Use gentler answers at first and see if people respond. Then the one or two who do not respond you can get a firmer comeback. I forget what people kept telling me – but it was annoying. I did manage to shut it down. I must have been harsh because they stopped telling me other things, also, like I left the headlights on, etc. You don’t want to clobber them so hard that they decide not to let you know things that would actually be helpful to you.

      1. shep*

        “Thanks, mom” is probably my favorite. I try to deliver it with a laugh (because I usually think whatever well-meaning person is telling me is pretty funny and sounds EXACTLY LIKE MY MOM) or a smile so it doesn’t come off as TOO feisty, but I think a little feistiness can go a long way with most folks.

        Barring that, if I don’t feel like I can joke with the person, I’m usually pretty relaxed about this kind of thing and respond as though I’ve thought of their concerns myself and sloughed them off LONG ago. “Nah, I’m fine.” “Nah, I’ve done this for years.” “Nah, I’m so used to this weather that any warmer and I’m boiling.”

        Funnily enough, though, I’m from the south and anything lower than 65 degrees has me POSITIVELY SHIVERING. But I realize my regional quirks and I don’t fault others for their own–like wearing shorts and a t-shirt in 40 degrees, as some of my New Englander and Canadian friends are wont to do.

    14. Stellaaaaa*

      I’d probably say, “Please stop telling me what to wear. I don’t tell you to take off your coat.”

    15. Marissa L*

      Just a formal “I’m fine” not said briskly but not too friendly either. If they persist say it again.

    16. Kittelach's mama*

      No advice, really, but I get the “you went outside with wet hair this morning? You’re going to die of pneumonia!” all the time in winter. Actually, I’ve gone outside in freezing temperatures with wet hair ever since I started taking showers in the morning instead of the evening as a kid, and I’ve been fine. So I feel you!

      1. Bagworm*

        But doesn’t your hair freeze. I say “I run hot” to the comments about not wearing a coat and reassure folks that I always wear one for my grandmother (she’s the only one I accord this deference) but when I go out with my hair wet it always seems to freeze and that seems to make it more fragile and it breaks more easily.

        1. Kittelach's mama*

          It does freeze, but then it thaws when I go inside. Maybe I’m just lucky with my hair, but the freezing/thawing doesn’t seem to have an affect on it breaking.

    17. Liane*

      This also reminds me of a story my dad told about a client of his painting/carpentry business in Florida during a **very extreme severe** cold snap. Mr. Maine had hired Dad to build a house. For the past few days, every time he visited the site, Mr. Maine had been annoying Dad & his crew with digs about how “It isn’t really cold,” “You’re overdressed,” etc.

      Come the morning (1/19/1977) it SNOWED *lots of places* in Florida. I am talking stay on the ground snow, though only a couple inches maximum, and temperatures in the 20s. Dad and crew nevertheless go to work because things weren’t that bad, even in an area that doesn’t deal with snow much. Mr. Maine shows up and starts telling Dad, “Why are you guys here? It’s too cold to work. I am going to my place and staying in.” They worked all day.

    18. Pearl*

      As a Southerner who moved North, I agree that something along the lines of, “I’m from (place), this is warm to me!” would be fine. I definitely use the, “You think this is hot? It’s not even triple digits!” reverse in the summer.

    19. James*

      I too moved from the North to the South–Ohio to Alabama–and typically dress lighter than natural-born Southerners. I’ve only had a few people comment on it, and I’ve found that making a joke about it works to shut down that line of discussion without being rude. “Yeah, I have a heavier coat–but I can only wear it when the temperature is 0 or bellow” or “This isn’t cold–I only call it cold when frost forms in my beard” work pretty well (especially since they’re true!).

      As for the safety issue, if they approach it from that angle discuss acclimation and objective metrics for measuring cold. There are aps for smart phones for heat stress, and I imagine similar exist for cold stress. Asking them about it puts the burden on them at any rate. This is one of those fuzzy H&S areas, where individuals differ WILDLY, due to several dozen different factors (down to “Did you have a big breakfast this morning?”), and therefore cannot be accurately determined from the outside.

    20. Sabine the Very Mean*

      “I don’t wear coats” has always worked for me for some reason. I worked in the ski industry for years and we just couldn’t be bothered to put on coats just to go out and talk to a liftie or help a guest with her bindings. That was at 10,000 feet. Now I work in a city at just above 5,000 feet and when people say its cold and to put on a coat, I usually say, “haha, ‘cold’, that’s funny”. Snarky? Absolutely!

      Now can we move onto my blind brother who gets asked all the time, in very snotty tones, why he’s wearing sunglasses inside? “Because I’m blind and I’ve found that the sight of my deformed eyeballs really upsets people. Almost as much as wearing sunglasses inside upsets people.”

      Oh and can I just say that Sabine is my cat and she is mean. That’s for the person who created a screen name to shame me the other day.

      1. James*

        I can sympathize with your brother, in so far as I’ve had to wear sunglasses inside and deal with such discourteous morons. I get migraines, and often during attacks will wear sunglasses inside because I’d rather be unfashionable than deal with the consequences of too much light. And by “too much” I mean that with my eyes closed a standard office is still too bright. Starlight can be too much for the really bad ones. I have little patience to begin with during an attack, and being mocked for wearing sunglasses in an environment that’s physically torturing me sort of sets me off. And it’s never a polite “Hey, that’s odd, why are you doing it?” It’s always in tones of “How dare you do something outside the norm?!”

        For my part, as a rule of thumb I assume that when someone is wearing a weird item of clothing they have a valid reason. Sometimes it’s medical; sometimes it’s to show respect for someone or something; sometimes it’s something else entirely. Occasionally it’s because they forgot or didn’t notice, which is pretty minor most of the time. Unless it’s somehow disruptive (a KKK hood or something) I just roll with it. Assume positive intent!

        1. Sabine the Very Mean*

          Assuming positive intent literally changed my life. I swear it is what has transformed my health for the better.

      2. Lissa*

        I just spent way too long looking for the post with someone who created a screen name to shame you! Clearly I’ve been on vacation way too long (also never found the post, ha).

    21. tink*

      I usually just tell people I’m a polar bear and that helps cut down on well-meaning-but-annoying commentary on my layering habits.

    22. kc89*

      Happens to me too constantly, it’s super annoying. A grown adult knows if they are cold or not.

      I usually just smile and say “oh I don’t get cold really haha” and most people don’t really press it.

    23. HRish Dude*

      I get “Where’s your jacket?” all the time because lord forbid I walk the 200 feet from the parking lot into the building in 40 degree weather.

    24. TheLazyB*

      Haha I live in north east England and the stereotype is that the locals go out in their underwear year round, no coats even if it’s snowing.

      My son was born here and he is 5. He quite often tells me he doesn’t need a coat. I can’t think how that mechanism of place of birth could affect coat-needing so early in life but apparently it does!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I believe it was the US Army. There was a story that the army ran into trouble when they took some recruits from Alaska to Texas for training. (I am not sure on the specifics, but you get the general idea.) The recruits could not hack the sudden intense heat and the army had to rethink what they were doing. We get used to our location and adapt.

        Going one step further there is a whole school of thought out there that believes that foods grown in a locale fortify the people for the climate of that location. You were probably eating some local foods when you carried your son, and then fed him local foods as a baby. So yep, it’s in him.

        I will say, I remember running outside with no coat as a kid and I would NOT admit to the adults I was cold. I remember thinking, “Old people complain about the weather, young people have not been around long enough to get annoyed by the weather yet.”
        I am now one of those old people! ha!

        1. TheLazyB*

          Oooooh I like that theory!

          I do my best to let him decide whether or not to have a coat on, so usually he will tell me if he really is cold (or at least will say yes if I ask if he wants his coat) but sometimes I get very embarrassed at all the people clearly thinking ‘that poor child must be freezing :)

          1. Teclatrans*

            My daughter runs really hot, and it made me so mad when one of her preschool teachers would tell her she wasn’t allowed to remove her long-sleeve layer or jacket. The kid is running around, it is in the low 60s, and she says she is hot. Sheesh. I am a fan of asking/reminding, but trust that even a child knows what they feel.

    25. Chaordic One*

      I remember how schizoid it was when I lived in southern California. When the weather got down around 50 or so, you’d see people in tank tops and shorts as usual, while others where wearing long winter coats, hats and gloves.

    26. Clever Name*

      Unless you are insisting on running a space heater in your shared office *ahem coworker who refuses to just put on a damn sweater* I think you can just breezily say that you’re used to the cold.

    27. Zip Silver*

      60f in the Miami metro tonight and I’m freezing my butt off.

      I’d just tell them that you’ve got a higher cold tolerance, and they’ve got a higher heat tolerance.

  6. louise in hr*

    A friend is looking to get out of church administration after 13 years. She was specifically approached by someone in the corporate world who is looking for an office manager and with whom she has worked on some projects. He told her “I don’t normally hire women because they tend to be petty, gossip, and backbite. But I’ve worked with you and know you’re easy to work with.”

    I think that is one of the world’s biggest red flags ever for so many reasons, but she genuinely didn’t think it was a big deal. Can you help me articulate all the shades of skeevy and illegal in that?

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      This reminds me of the guys who claim all their exes are “crazy.” Bruh, the common factor in all those women is YOU.

      This work environment concerns me for a few reasons: 1) He has already outright stated his bias against women. 2) Are what he consider “pettiness” and “gossip” actual work issues the he labels rather than actually deals with? 3) It may be a work culture that breeds this immature behavior, and I’d be inclined to stay away.

      1. Collarbone High*

        Right, like how sometimes “drama” actually means “she makes her boundaries and preferences clear and I don’t like that in a woman.”

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        “This reminds me of the guys who claim all their exes are ‘crazy.’ Bruh, the common factor in all those women is YOU.”

        Could’ve saved myself three and a half wasted years in my early 20s if I had known this then…

    2. Drew*

      Speaking as a guy, we can be petty, backbiting gossips too, so his premise is fundamentally flawed.

      But yeah, that’s gross and sexist and doesn’t speak highly of his regard for women in general, even if he’s managed to overcome that low opinion in your friend’s case. I think she’d be setting herself up to work for a guy who will be badmouthing female staff and clients BECAUSE they’re female, and I’m not sure she would be happy in that kind of environment. I know I wouldn’t.

          1. Only one in the office today*

            lol-my neighbor (a guy) is the worst! He has the reputation of being the neighborhood gossip.

            1. Rebecca*

              That made me smile, as the man down the street from me knows everything about everyone, all the time…and tells it!

        1. KarenD*

          One of my former bosses said, “When you do it, it’s gossip. When I do it, it’s intel.”

          That was a good boss.

      1. Lissa*

        Oh man, I actually really don’t understand the stereotype of women as the dramatic ones. In my life, 90% of the drama monarchs are drama kings, not queens! Just this year there’ve been a couple major friend blowups that have affected the social landscape — all involving dudes! I don’t understand this idea that all men are drama-free straight shooters, because I have not found that to be true at all (not saying men are worse overall, just that this stereotype hasn’t actually ever been in true in my life.)

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      There will come a day when she does something ‘wrong’ in his eyes and she’ll become one of the women he despises, and her job will become unbearable. Whenever someone says that you’re not like the other people in your group, it’s only a matter of time before you are.

      I really hope you can change your friend’s mind. If you can’t, know it’s not a failure on your part. Some people don’t realise that ‘you’re not like the other ones’ is not a compliment and there’s nothing you can say to change their minds. But I really hope you can get through to her, and that she finds a great job.

      1. Lily*

        “Whenever someone says that you’re not like the other people in your group, it’s only a matter of time before you are.”

        This is SO true!

        1. Liane*

          Lady Ariel, that should be right up there with Maya Angelou’s “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time.”
          (Or when they TELL you)

          But unfortunately, louise in hr, I have to agree with others here that you are unlikely to convince your friend that “Woman, it’s great you don’t do these Awful Women Things” = Star Trek Red Alert sound effect.

      2. Collarbone High*

        Yes! It took me way too long to realize what a manipulative trap that is. “You’re not like the others” is the ultimate neg, because now you can never, ever be honest, or have an off day, or be less than perfectly groomed, or whatever it is that sets you apart from the others. Because then you’ll be just like them, and you’ve been warned that is the worst possible thing.

    4. Jesmlet*

      If he’s already prejudiced against women, he’ll take any little thing she does and blow it up into a big issue, backed by his preconceived notions about women. And does she really want to work for someone who thinks that’s an okay thing to say out loud, let alone think in your head?

    5. Someone*

      How would she respond if he said that about someone who was AfricanAmerican/gay/her church denomination? If none of those raise a red flag for her, she may have to learn the hard way.

    6. Observer*

      You’ve gotten some good responses, but I doubt she’ll listen. The one thing I think you can say to her that seems to be more clear cut is that what he said is flat out illegal. Does she want to take a chance that she’s going to be asked to do something illegal? Does she want to work for someone who does illegal things *AT WORK* and doesn’t even bother to hide them?

      It’s on thing if the illegal thing he were doing was one that was a clear moral necessity (think underground railroad). But, it’s kind of hard to make an argument that refusing to hire women is a moral imperative.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Let her know that what he said is discrimination and it is illegal. IF he feels comfortable saying this to her now, watch out for what happens after she has worked with him for a while.

      Explain to her the concept of red flags. Some times people let go of a lot of information about themselves in one or two sentences. This guy has told her court cases full of information about himself.

      Tell her what he said COULD be stroking her ego and making her feel special. Which is the intent of the remark, he is already manipulating her. It’s human nature to want to chose a path of least resistance. Hey, she wants to make the jump to the for profit sector, here is an easy way to make that jump. Just because it’s easy is not the same as saying we should do it.

      You can also say that the way he was talking about women he was being petty, gossiping and backbiting himself right there in that sentence. If he is the boss and has an employee engaging in those behaviors he should be able to explain to an employee that those behaviors need to stop or there will be further repercussions. That is part of being a leader. This guy can’t lead a tank of fish, never mind people.

    8. CMT*

      Oh geez, what a tool that guy is. But I don’t think you’re necessarily going to change her mind and you should probably just let your friend make her own decisions. She’s got the same information you do.

    9. Tomato Frog*

      Well, I don’t normally work for men because they’re prone to baseless generalizations and viewing the effects of their confirmation bias as universal truth, but I think your friend will be fine working for this guy, ’cause he– oh, wait.

      Based on my own inability to convince my friends that “You aren’t like other American women” is not a gratifying compliment, I am obviously not one to give advice for this situation. But I sympathize.

    10. Student*

      He is complimenting her as being a “special” woman who is better than all the “other” women, so that when he treats her like crap later, she’s effectively isolated from the “other” women who could reaffirm his behavior is outlandish. He is framing it as a compliment, but it’s really a way to divide and conquer.

      He probably treats all his employees the same way, trying to divide them from each other, treating them as less-than, encouraging in-fighting. Maybe if you can point out that the “compliment” is actually not what it seems on the surface, she might think twice about what he’ll be like to work for. Look at it like a movie – once the skeevy guy flatters and isolates a woman in a movie, what happens to her? It’ll be less dramatic in real life, but still unpleasant.

    11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Is it possible that she agreesIs it possible that she agrees with this stereotype, and thus doesn’t think it’s a big deal? Honestly, if she can’t see why this is a red flag, I worry that you won’t be able to reach her…

    12. Ze Writer*

      I’m side-eyeing this guy hard enough to risk dislocating an eyeball, but if your friend worked in church administration she may be used to hearing stuff like this, in the guise of ‘traditional family values’ and other religious virtues and morals, so the skeevy sexism angle may not work so well with her.

      You might be better off asking her what she hates about her current church job, and then relating that back to the ‘bad manager = difficult workplace’ vibes you’re getting off of this guy. Again, if she’s used to a toxic workplace, her standards may be so low as to be barely visible to the naked eye, so you may need to work to reassure her that ‘normal workplace routines’ are not, in fact, some kind of myth of paradise, and help her talk up her own standards.

      In my experience, with potentially difficult conversations with friends, honey works better than vinegar. Try to avoid any comments that tear her down or imply anything like ‘How can you not see this is terrible?!’ and instead go for comments that build her up, like ‘You can totally manage private sector interviews, you’ve always handled [similar thing] so easily, you’ll be great’ and ‘With your exprience of [thing] and [thing], employers will fall over themselves to hire you’, etc.

      (FWIW, I’m imagining this guy in an opera cape and top hat, twirling his moustache and swirling his cape dramatically, with you as the hero rescuing your friend from the railroad tracks!)

  7. the.kat*

    Does anyone else feel like they have the perfect job in the wrong place? I have a job that I adore. My coworkers are supportive, there’s paths toward growth, I love my job responsibilities and am working for a non-profit that I believe in. There’s just one problem. I hate the town we’re in and I can’t work remotely. If this job were in an area that I liked, I could see myself settling down, buying a house and working here for years to come. As it is, I’m having a hard time with the next five years.

    Does anyone else have a situation like this? What did you do?

    1. JuniperGreen*

      What do you hate about the town? Is any of it related to culture/social life?

      I ask because if this job has a good future, your network in the town will grow, your relationships there will be strengthened and enriched, and you might find yourself sold (or at least not actively hating)on the place.

      1. the.kat*

        I’ve been here for three years and haven’t made a single friend. It’s hardwired country with a lot of old families and I can’t find anything to join or belong to.

        1. the.kat*

          Sorry, that sounded whiny. I’m from a suburb of a big city and took the environment for granted for a long time. Moving out here, where you’re accepted or rejected based upon how long you’ve been here and who you know makes it very difficult.

          1. katamia*

            Oof. That sounds like my situation in college (see comment below). I’m also from a suburb of a big city where there are lots of transplants, and while we’re not as “friendly” as some other parts of the country are, it’s pretty easy to become “one of us.” (Which is actually one of my must-haves for places I’d consider moving–they don’t have to have as many transplants as my area has, but there has to be some possibility for integration, and there was none where I went to college.)

            1. the.kat*

              Yep, you’re speaking to the heart of the issue there. I’m used to a place where the culture and hobbies are pretty open and easy to join. My coworkers have been great, but they’re also significantly older than I am and have very different interests. How do you measure a prospective city on “one of us” integration?

              1. katamia*

                Personally, I really just look at whether the area has a reputation as being good for transplants like DC (where I grew up and where I live now), LA, NYC, etc. But I’m self-employed right now and can literally work anywhere there’s Internet, so right now I’m free to be choosy and not even consider cities in places where for other reasons I don’t think I’d want to live rather than trying to find the least bad option. A lot of people probably don’t have the freedom I have.

          2. Kat A*

            It’s not whiny at all. I lived someplace like that, and it really doesn’t change. Everyone I knew who came from outside of town left for the same reason you cite. I held on too long and feel like I’ve lost those years because once I left, I was so much happier since I was within an hour of friends and family and felt accepted by the community. Even though I work longer hours in a higher cost-of-living area with lots of traffic, that sense of feeling like you belong means so much.

            I will say, though, that moving out of Small Town at first wasn’t happy. I had to pay more for a crappy house than I paid for my nice small town house, and I had to re-adjust to the high traffic volume. But the first time some old friends who live 45 min away called me up to go out and said, “don’t worry about the drive, we’ll come to you,” I was elated. I also snagged a seat on the board of a local charity — something that would never have happened in Small Town where only someone from the town’s oldest families were chosen. Even people who had lived there for 20 years but were not from there were left out of social networks.

            I would never move back to Small Town or anyplace like it now.

            1. Another Emily*

              The.kat, are there any people in the same situation you could make friends with? If all people who haven’t lived there for 20+ years are ostracized, then those who are ostracized can form their own group.
              Alternatively, could you get a lateral transfer with this company? (Same job different location.)

    2. Jules*

      I bought the home and sank in roots anyway :) In the scale of 0 – 10, I’d rate where I am a 5. I found a home in a good neighborhood which could sell easy if I think I am done with this area. I figured that as long as I stay for 5 years, it’s better value than renting. When we are all ready to go somewhere better, I’d sell and move on.

    3. NotMe*

      How long have you given it? I’ve lived all over – from really big cities (NY and LA) to small towns. I’ve learned that you really can’t know if you will be ok with a new community for at least a year. When I moved to LA I hated it for the first 18 months. And then I loved it and was heartbroken when I moved to the mid-sized southern city I live in today. I really didn’t like it at all for the first year but it has grown on me. I’ve now lived here the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere (except my hometown) and I like it. I don’t love it, but it is fine. I guess my point is you really don’t learn to appreciate the positives of a community until you have been there a while.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        Ohh yeah. I am a Midwesterner living in Boston and I haaaaated this place for the first year and didn’t really love it the second. I’ve now been here four years and I only hate it upon returning from a trip back home or after it snows on a weekday. (Which I know is dumb, because it snows in Michigan, too, but I hate the snow here infinitely more. I accept that this is illogical.) We might well end up here permanently, which is a tolerable idea now, but would have made me hysterical two years ago.

    4. Elemeno P.*

      Every place that I haven’t enjoyed living in was because I felt isolated, sometimes physically (too spread out with no car and bad public transit) but usually socially, and often a combination of both. What helped me was making friends through volunteering, Meetup events, etc. Once I felt like I had more people to see and things to do, the places I lived in seemed a lot better!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Sometimes, there’s nothing, though. I tried that here and it took ages to find a group that liked the same things I like. And we still only meet once every two weeks or so. It’s not enough to make up for the lack of everything else.

    5. JHS*

      Yes! I moved back to my hometown (which I vowed I would NEVER do) and bought a house because my husband’s job is here. When he was job hunting it was between here (small town) and Los Angeles. I was pulling hard for Los Angeles, even though we’d be without any family nearby, but ultimately we landed here. I was devastated and literally cried. That being said, we have really settled in and it’s going well. I don’t know that we’ll be here forever, but we love our house and it’s actually not as bad as I thought being in a smaller town. I think it’s worth sacrificing for the amazing things you have in your job! Plus, you can always go on cool vacations to neat places. Very difficult to find the type of job that you have now in a different place!

    6. katamia*

      Slightly different situation, but I went to college in a town I hated. Even though I had great friends and was studying something I was interested in, I was MISERABLE. It didn’t get better. Even after three years, despite the area’s constant touting of itself as a very friendly place to be, I still felt like an outsider, and it was obvious that I could live there for 20 years and still feel like an outsider. I graduated early (thanks, AP credits from high school!) just to get away. There are lots of places I’m willing to live in the US and in other countries, but at this point I wouldn’t apply to a job in a place that didn’t have at least some of the things I know I need to be happy. If, looking down the road, you can come up with concrete reasons that you probably won’t ever be happy there (too hot/cold to the point of disrupting your health, population over/under what you need to be happy, etc.), then I’d consider looking for similar roles elsewhere.

    7. Trixie*

      I don’t know if I enjoy my job that much, but I would contemplate staying with it longer if I liked the community more. It’s perfect if you’re married with kids but not much going on otherwise and why I’m looking to move in 2017.

    8. Kj*

      How close are you to a city? Or another town that might suit you better? Can you look for pockets of others who feel like the town is not for them? Could you start a social group for a hobby or interest that might attract people you want to be friends with?

      If that fails, can you identify where you’d want to move? How much would it cost? Do you know others in that area? Do you have job contacts you could mine? I’d caution you from idealizing an area too much- I moved to my current city, which is a young, popular place to live- I thought I was going to LOVE it- and hard-core hated it for the first two years. Now I love it, but I had to stick it out and deal with the fact that moving didn’t change me or my habits.

    9. Nye*

      I’ve moved a fair amount, and agree with NotMe that it takes time to warm up to an area – at least 2 years. That said, I’m currently living in the DC area, and I’m pretty meh on it. Lots of positives, but it’s insanely expensive and I don’t care for the political culture. I have lots of friends here, and love my (fixed-term) position, but the negatives are never going to change.

      When job-hunting recently, I only looked in areas my partner and I thought we could both a) get jobs, and b) be happy. This did include DC, but I’m kind of relieved to be moving. I think even if I had gotten a gig here, I wouldn’t be thrilled about settling down for good. But it’s worth keeping in mind that when you live in a place, you tend to see the negatives really clearly and discount the positives. It might be worth thinking of the things you would miss if you left, and see if it still seems untenable. (And, if you’ve been there less than a few years, keep in mind that things could change, and that if you move to a new area, you’ll still have to take a year or two to build up a social network unless you already have several friends there.)

      I’m moving soon to a beautiful New England vacation destination and am thrilled about it. But I guarantee once I’m there I’ll miss the museums, events, and fancy cocktail bars of the DC area. I think my point is that it’s reasonable to want to live in a place that makes you happy, just make sure you’re being fair to your current city when comparing it to other places.

    10. Rachael*

      No advice, just sympathy. I have a similar situation. We live where we do because my husband was a student, then found a great job. I’ve got a good job, like my company and what we do, but feel incredibly isolated in our small, rural city. It sometimes feels big because it’s the only real hospital/shopping for about a hundred miles in any direction, but I’ve found the community to be incredibly insular and closed to outsiders. I follow all the advice on making friends as an adult, but it doesn’t seem to work. I’ve been turned away from volunteer organizations, etc. I spend a lot of time nurturing my relationships with people who live far away, which helps because I know I still have friends, but I’d really like to find some friends locally. I’d really love a girls night. :)

    11. Elizabeth West*

      Oh God yes. I felt that way about Exjob before it changed. I really liked it, I liked going to work, and I liked doing the work. I liked that I had downtime. I liked that I didn’t have to answer the phone (except when I subbed for the front desk). But I absolutely hate this city with the white-hot heat of a thousand suns.

      I don’t think people are still asking “Where do you see yourself in the next five years” in job interviews; nobody asked me that last time. But if they do, I’m not quite sure what to say. I’m about at the point where I don’t give a crap, though, and I’ll have to watch that I don’t say, “Well Mr. Bigwig, my goals are more personal than professional and they involve relocating to a much more stimulating area than this backwater of a town!”

    12. Mon Mon*

      Yup. Left good and enjoyable job outside of city with great total pay to move to another geography. I had bought a house, made friends, was close (but not too close) to family. And I realized I just didn’t like where I was. That was around year 4 of 7. Moved to Florida and am loving it. Good, enjoyable job. Great friends. I get to be outside year round. Palm trees. Bought house. Took a small hit in total compensation, a worthy price to pay to live somewhere I love, do things I enjoy and still be around good people! Good luck!

  8. straws*

    My boss is really keen on employees being “go-getters” and taking initiative. I have an employee who is a really great worker. She does what I ask, when I ask, and she’s thorough about everything. She’s a little slower than previous employees (we only have 1 person in this role at a given time), but her quality is significantly higher. My boss is constantly harping on me about how she isn’t looking further than her work or trying to take on higher level responsibility. She doesn’t want that, she just wants to do her job and be good at it. She’s disabled, and this job allows her the ideal environment and workload for what she can handle without special arrangements or assistance, at least right now. I don’t need more people vying for promotions, I’d actually like another employee just like her as our workload grows. The last few people have been these go-getter types and actually caused harm acting on incorrect decisions. I’ve explained all of these things (he’s aware of her disability, so no problem bringing that up), and he sometimes gets it and drops it, but it always comes up again and it’s obvious that he’s holding it against her. I don’t know if it’s possible to convince him that her work is awesome and this is a good thing, but if anyone has some wording suggestions, please share?

    1. Sadsack*

      Maybe next time he brings it up say, “You seemed to understand the last two me we discussed this. Has something changed?” Maybe he’ll say nothing has changed and that he just doesn’t get why she wouldn’t want to move up. I think I’d just be silent on it at that point. You have already explained and it’s not like he forgot that.

    2. always in email jail*

      I would honestly lightly say “Maybe I’m just selfish, but I’m glad she’s not looking to move on! She turns in high-quality work consistently and on schedule, I hope she stays forever!” or something, a casual way to highlight that she’s an asset to the company and beyond that he shouldn’t really care. What do I care if someone is “capable of more” and isn’t seeking a promotion? Just feel lucky they’re willing to stay! (that’s to your boss, not you)

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      “I’m very pleased to keep talented employees in roles for which they are well-suited and successful.”

    4. animaniactoo*

      “Bob, she’s doing great work, and exactly what I NEED her to be doing. Can we please stop treating that like it’s a problem? Being able to rely on the quality of her work is a huge benefit as far as I’m concerned, which means that her satisfaction with staying where she is not only isn’t a problem – it makes her a fantastic employee for the role she’s in.”

    5. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      “Do you really want to spend time and money training someone, only to have them leave?”

      I’d love to have a boss like you. Do my job, get paid, no fuss or pressure? Sounds great to me.

    6. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      “I’ve talked to Sue about this, and she’s happy doing what she’s doing. At the moment she has no ambition to move up the ladder, but if that changes I’ll be sure to let you know.”

    7. NW Mossy*

      I like having these sorts of people too, and years ago I heard a description that I really liked – maybe this will help you:

      “Part of having a high-functioning team is good balance, and Lucinda really brings that. Her stability and deep knowledge helps us bring new people up to speed faster and gives us continuity when people leave the team, and that’s invaluable. I can always count on her to produce at a certain level day in and day out, and that consistency an integral part of how my team achieves good results. Her ambition is to excel in her work, and that’s something I want to support – her commitment to quality is a great example for others and we all do better for seeing it every day.”

    8. Not So NewReader*

      He’s not listening to you.
      Unfortunately, that means you HAVE to listen to him. What I would do is ask questions.

      “Okay, Bob, we have talked about this a few times. I keep thinking it’s resolved, yet here we are again. What’s up? What really weighs on your mind here?”

      You can also ask him “What happens if she stays in place for the next 20 years? Why would that be a problem?”

      Ask questions. He is not going to hear you until he sorts out his own thinking. For whatever reason he is stuck. Use questions to get him UNstuck.

      1. straws*

        This is a really great point. The wording suggestions are all wonderful (I love this site and its readers!), and this is how I need to get to the point where I can use it. Your advice has all kinds of gears spinning in my brain now! Thank you!

    9. Mike C.*

      I absolutely hate the obsession with “go-getters”. It can sometimes work in an area where employees are given autonomy to be creative and figure out solution but most of the time it just means, “read my mind and figure out what I want without me having to got to the effort of communicating”.

      1. Karo*

        We had someone hiring only “go-getters,” with the goal of getting them promoted into another department – which she had literally no say in. So she hired all these people as Teapot Dryers, promised them they’d all be Teapot Spoutmakers within a year, and then got confused as to why they were upset and left when they realized there was no chance of it happening.

        So sometimes it means delusional boss, not read my mind!

    10. NicoleK*

      It’s disappointing that reliable, solid workers are often overlooked. Rockstars leave in 12-24 months, sometimes you want the reliable employee who will be in their role for 2-5 years.

    11. Ze Writer*

      Does he respond to visual information? If so, draw him a diagram of your company hierarchy (or of capitalist society as a whole) and point out that in a hierarchy, you need more people at the bottom than at the top, and there literally isn’t enough room for everyone to make it to the top, no matter how ‘hard-working’ and ‘go-getting’ they are. Or you can do the same thing with the hard numbers, if he prefers that: ‘team = four employees, and one supervisor; 3 teams = one middle manager…’ and so on.

      Confrontation is always risky, but depending on his personality, switching perspective around might make him listen? Maybe you could try something like, “I’m worried about your ability to manage stable teams long-term, Bob. Is that an area you feel you need more training and support in?”

      Because when you get right down to it, over-focus on ‘go-getters’ that affects team stability, and the morale of workers who are happy where they are, is a form of managerial incompetence.

  9. EA*

    Happy Holidays Everyone!

    So I work in a suite with 2 bosses and 6 coworkers. One of the coworkers is essentially committing timecard fraud. I know this is a holiday week, but she has come in at 10 and left at 1 on Tues-Thurs. Today she didn’t come in at all. She does this whenever both bosses are out (and they are both out now). She never puts the time off on her timecard. I am responsible for making sure everyone submits their timecard online and following up with the boss to make sure she approves them (Before I was here there were issues with people not submitting, and boss forgetting to approve). I have access to the system to make sure the mechanics of this happen. My job isn’t to monitor for accuracy, just to make sure things get submitted. Everyone is exempt.

    Our boss is generally flexible with time off. If you have a doctor’s appt or leave an hour early on occasion, you don’t need to take PTO. I left 3 hours early for a funeral once and she told me not to worry about taking PTO. I am sure this attitude adds to my coworker thinking it is okay. I am not sure what is normal, and my previous jobs were more butt-in-seat, and this is much more flexible, but I still think she is way over the line. My other coworkers think she is wrong, but it isn’t really my place to say anything, and that this will catch up to her eventually. What does everyone think?

    1. AshK434*

      Eh. Mind your own business. This doesn’t really affect you or your ability to do your job. I did something similar to your coworker and left earlier every day this week because it’s the holidays, no one’s here, and I’m getting all of my work done.

      I don’t fully understand how being exempt works but I always thought that if an exempt employee worked at all on a business day, then they wouldn’t have to use any PTO.

    2. Natalie*

      Your co-workers are correct – if anything untoward is happening here (which is not a given), it’s not directly affecting your ability to do your job and you shouldn’t say anything to your boss. Eyes on your own paper.

    3. animaniactoo*

      I don’t think you’d be out of line to mention “I noticed that Grainne’s hours this week have been significantly different than her submitted time card. I don’t know if she has arrangements with you around that, but wanted to make sure you’re aware of it.”

      Alternatively, you could ask them “This hasn’t come up before, but what would you like me to do if I notice a major discrepancy between the hours someone has worked and the time card they submitted?”

      I would probably go the second route, because you’re being clear that you’re not being a penny-ante troublemaker and you’re not pre-emptively ratting the person out. When it’s egregious, somebody continuing to get away with it because nobody else notices it can become a major morale problem for the office and start to normalize all kinds of other unacceptable behavior, so there’s a difference in “not my business” for “Shows up an hour late every day” and “Shows up 3 hours late every day”.

      1. EA*

        I have to think further about what to do, but this is great wording. I think it is a moral issue- she is very brazen about it (will come in and be like, X isn’t here, I get to leave early).

      2. Girasol*

        If you ask the boss and he says “Good idea! Keep tabs on when your coworkers are in and let me know if it isn’t in keeping with time cards,” then you will be able to tell him about the employee in question. But then your boss’s expectations will stick you in the ongoing role of office snitch. People don’t usually think well of whoever is tattling even if they’re assigned to do it. Aren’t you better off leaving things as they are and letting karma eventually catch up with the slacker?

        1. animaniactoo*

          In my experience, that generally doesn’t happen when what’s being reported is the egregious stuff, not the day to day petty stuff. Office snitch issues are “reported every infraction” or “reports on a one-time thing” not “reports major ongoing discrepancies”. YMMV.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s not tattling if someone is committing fraud. And honestly, I don’t think this puts EA in a dangerous position; if her boss later asks her to keep tabs, she can always push back and offer a reasoned response for why her job should not include being the timecard narc.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree—I really like this language. There are two possibilities here. The first is that your boss is aware and has told her it’s ok to do this during holiday hours (or somesuch), in which case it falls in the “not your business” bucket. The second is that she’s committing time card fraud, which is essentially theft (but worse, b/c it involves lying) and is a huge, fireable offense that I would argue requires reporting.

        Because it’s possible she’s in situation #1 (i.e., boss is aware), I think animaniac’s language covers both bases without creating unwarranted drama for your coworker. Does your workplace have a whistleblower or ombuds policy?

    4. Doug Judy*

      Is she saying she’s there all day or is she just not requesting PTO? If it’s the latter, I don’t feel it’s fraud. I wouldn’t say anything to your boss. You don’t know what arrangement she may have made with them.

    5. calonkat*

      Is there any chance she is working at home? I know some of our people are working from home this week, and as long as they get their work done and are available via email/phone to answer immediate questions during the work day, and the work at home has been pre-approved (state government), it’s fine for them to not be in the office, yet claim a full 8 hour day.

      I like animaniactoo’s second wording. It gives you a way to communicate your concerns (which, as the keeper of the time sheets, you have a legitimate interest) and gain the knowledge of whether this is something the bosses want to be informed of.

    6. LuvThePets*

      I have had flextime arrangements with several bosses at several jobs- some formal and some more informal, for years. Generally, I had to report for timekeeping purposes, the number of hours worked per day, which did not add up to the number of hours I was in the office. Generally speaking, I am also more productive at home. At one job (5 years), my boss(es) saw emails at all hours of the day and night, were very aware of my productivity, and were very aware that I was getting things done. But if someone was watching my in-office time, there would have been a problem. Now, I don’t have work-from-home or flextime, but I do have a child with a chronic medical condition, and I have to leave regularly to take her to the doctor, which is approved by my boss. I have permission to do this one thing and make up the hours at the office or at home. Sometimes it is hard to be as productive since I only have a little bit of work from home time. But again, if someone was watching my coming and going, it might not add up. All that said, I’ve never had to account for the times I work, just the number of hours. At the end of the day, though, I am getting my work done.

    7. Susan*

      How about something like, “When I was checking the timecards, I noticed that Jane forgot to enter her PTO this week. Do you want me to correct it or send it back to her to fix?” That way, you’re not coming right out and accusing her of timecard fraud (and you won’t look like a jerk if it turns out Jane had some kind of arrangement with the boss to work from home or use comp time from earlier in the year, etc.), but still alerting the boss of the issue.

      I know a lot of people think it’s none of your business to monitor your coworkers’ hours, but this isn’t a matter of taking a long lunch one day or being 20 minutes late. If I understand correctly, she is working 0 to 3 hours per day and pretending that she is working 8 hours per day. That’s a pretty significant discrepancy, and I think it is tantamount to stealing money, because she is effectively stealing PTO, which has monetary value. If you witnessed her stealing money, I think most people would agree that you should tell the boss, so I think you should say something about this.

      1. CMT*

        Yeah, but OP here isn’t in a position to know that Jane really did forget to enter her PTO. Maybe she has some kind of other arrangement going on and the time card she’s submitting is correct for that situation. I think it would be weird for OP to say something to the boss that assumes she knows what is correct and what isn’t.

  10. Katie the Fed*

    Here I am with nothing to do on a Friday with an open thread, and I have no burning questions! How about this: does anyone have any work-related new years resolutions?

    I’d like to try to keep my inbox tidier.

    1. Lnsbird*

      I just want to be more on top of things- I don’t miss deadlines or anything but some small things slip through the cracks or are not done aso quickly as I would like because I’ve forgotten or put it off due to larger things. My job is so busy and crazy that even with that I’m considered very on top of things, but it bugs me because I can do better and I feel like I’m somehow being dishonest when others say I’m on top of things.

      Mostly I just need to find a to-do system that works better for me. But I’m at a loss.

      1. always in email jail*

        For me, everything goes on the outlook calendar. If someone from another department asks “Can you let me know how many of X we did? I need to know by Friday”, and I know it’ll be just counting some papers etc. but I’m not doing it right then, I stick it on the calendar for a day I know I’ll have a minute. It seems silly to some people to put small things on the calendar, but I never forget them!

        Sometimes I’ll block out an hour of “to-dos” on my calendar and update the notes for the “event” as I add things to it (“follow up with so-and-so re: teapot planning; Email documents to so and so to print before Tuesday’s meeting”, etc.). Also, small things with a long-rage due date are important for me to add. Those are what tends to sneak up on me. I’ll add it to my calendar a week before it’s due to remind myself to schedule time before the very last minute to take care of it.

        1. Jurney*

          This is what I’ve done for years — way more helpful than any task management system I’ve ever tried. Outlook is already part of my day to day work, so incorporating the to do lists there is the most efficient way to do it.

        2. calonkat*

          I need to get better about using the tasks bar in outlook, but man, I love the reminders popping up!
          And if a meeting is on my outlook calendar, I show up to it!

          1. always in email jail*

            I tried the whole “flagging” emails thing. It never worked for me. For some reason the task list is a lot easier to ignore than my calendar.

            The calendar is also a good place to remind myself of certain time limits I may otherwise forget. I’ll block “meeting prep” off before a meeting to remind me to review the minutes from the last one, find all my notes from the last one, etc. and actually show up prepared. It makes a huge difference.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        In my personal life, I use my bullet journal religiously; at work, it’s a steno pad. I use the left side for daily tasks, and the right for long-term stuff/reminders/etc. And in the last ten minutes of the day, I keep a work journal: each day, I write down what I did, what I learned, and what I’ve got to work on the next day. That way, when I come in the next day, I can use yesterday’s work journal to populate my to-do list.

    2. KarenD*

      I should probably try to find my inbox. It’s under here somewhere….

      Our location has some big corporate goals to meet and as of now, nobody has really looked to my division as part of the effort to meet those goals. So my boss and I agreed yesterday that we’re going to come up with a few ways to pitch in on our own. And then make sure we do them.

    3. Drew*

      I’m going to try to get over my resentment as being stuck in an open office and start adjusting my work strategies instead — if I really need not to be disturbed, grab the laptop and go camp a conference room for an hour or two rather than trusting that my headphones will be enough of a deterrent, that sort of thing.

      And I want to start focusing on the advantages of the open office: I’m constantly in the loop about projects at the office, even the ones I’m not actively involved with, and as a result I’m starting to see ways we can improve processes in general that I had thought were problems unique to my team.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That’s an excellent resolution! My first job involved a fairly open workspace where all junior staff were lumped together, and while I found it frustrating at times, I did appreciate the opportunities it provided to get to know my colleagues and their specialties better. One thing that did help was that I made a sign for my desk that said “Not being anti-social, just need to meet a deadline” for when I was wearing my headphones and stuff. My phone lit up when it rang, which meant I could still answer on the first ring. But by that point, I had enough of a reputation for good work product that no one minded.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      When I started my new job, I started a new system for keeping track of things– daily to-do lists. As in, at the end of each day, I take a slip (I have a bunch of buckslips leftover from an old job) and write down what needs to get done the next day. Then I cross it off. Sounds so simple, but it’s been so helpful. Resolution is to keep it up, because I tend to give up on such things by about, oh, week 4.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        I do this with weekly to do lists. I keep them all in a small spiral notebook, one page per week. If I get asked to do something but it isn’t needed til next week I can turn the page and write it on next week’s page rather than count on myself to remember it that Monday. Also if I don’t get to something in the week I originally wrote it on, I spend a few mins before I leave on Friday copying those things to the next week’s page.
        Also crossing off a real to-do list is so much more satisfying than electronic versions, so that helps!

        1. Marillenbaum*

          This is precisely why I love my Bullet Journal! I use the same system with my research assistantship; it has its own notebook where I can write down my projects and things each week.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        Me too! I actually have one in progress right now (it’ll be done in March), and I’m thinking of very slowly easing back into grad school to “level up” a certification I already have. Like, taking one class this summer to see how it goes.

    5. Natalie*

      Ah, good question. I’m pretty satisfied with my organization level, but I do have an obnoxious tendency to put some tasks off an inappropriate length of time. Like, these are non-urgent tasks I should do this week, but I put it off for two more weeks or something. So I’ll work on that.

      I’d also like to find a professional organization to join, possibly one with a mentorship program. Since I entered my field through the back door, so to speak, I didn’t get the typical connections one gets in their first few years, and this past year of job drama has been a reminder that those connections are useful.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Gretchen Rubin (who wrote The Happiness Project) has a great suggestion for this: Power Hour. Once a week, you schedule one hour to work on those niggling, non-urgent tasks that otherwise wouldn’t get done. Often, things we could do at any time end up getting done at no time because aren’t deliberate about taking care of them. A standing appointment can be a great way to change that.

    6. NW Mossy*

      My overall resolution is Be a Better Boss, but there’s lots of specifics under that. I want to give more frequent and timely feedback, coach my team more, and delegate more stuff to them to help them grow. I’ve realized over the last year that managing is a skill like any other, and I need to make a conscious effort to develop it if I want to take my team from very good to spectacular.

    7. Unseamly*

      I’m starting my own business so my goal is to set up and maintain my accounting! :-) And have a successful business, of course!
      (Used to be Saro, trying a new name for 2017)

    8. katamia*

      Find higher-paying clients. I spent some time last week making a list of possible places to try, and then next week when I have more time I’m going to start contacting them and see if I can find someone who’ll pay me more for the same work I’m already doing. :)

    9. fposte*

      I’m converting to new workflow tools! I’ve created an Excel doc to identify the big annual stuff by month so it stays on my radar, and I’m negotiating with Trello–it’s not quite what I need but it reframes stuff helpfully, so I’ll see if I can make it work for me. I’m also working on a manual, but that’s going to be sloooow going.

    10. Maxwell Edison*

      I’m going to try to stop low-balling my services (implementing a rate increase on 1/1). I’m also going to try to be better about work-life balance (not easy when I’m working from home and am a single parent 1 or 2 weeks out of any given month thanks to the spouse’s business travel).

    11. Jurney*

      Focus and assertiveness. I’ve let myself do basically the bare minimum of the job (but well, which has hoodwinked everyone) without really thinking proactively about how to improve or take things to the next level. I’m on a new team now, and that kind of thinking is the norm, so I’m way behind. I get too easily distracted with social media and stupid stuff, so I’ve started removing my access to that so I can really spend time to learn.

      The other one I’m not sure I have in me to actually succeed it, but I need to be more assertive. I’m always scared of everyone disliking what I say, so I either say nothing, or placate and just agree with the herd mentality. Because I don’t think for myself anymore (see #1), I’ve made it so that I just go with the crowd.

      Both things make me feel like a dumb underperformer, and I’m tired of it.

      Crossing my fingers for a better work 2017!

      1. Government Worker*

        This is basically mine, too, but in a different context. I’m the top performer out of my three-person team without trying very hard, and it’s easy to slide into just doing the minimum and spending a lot of time goofing off. There are some really interesting projects I could develop and skills I could teach myself with a bit of focus in all that downtime, so I’m hoping to find some motivation and focus in the new year.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        I feel you. I fell into this a lot at my old job. One thing that helped me was scheduling time to be proactive. Usually on a day that was slower, or I had wrapped up one project, I would give myself an hour to think about an aspect of my job: what works? Are there things I could be doing better, or that I don’t understand and should? This is where those four free articles a month on the Harvard Business Review came in handy–I feel like I learned so much from those, even if the industries didn’t directly apply to my field.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      For too many reasons to list here, I have let my side projects at work slide. Oh boy, did I ever let them slide. There are many angles to this story. At any rate, I have started knocking back the barriers to the side projects and I have done some of the side projects annnd I am going to keep going until I get them done. It’s almost like what happens when we find renewed energy, except lack of energy was not one of the problems. I do feel like I am already moving mountains.

    13. Ange*

      Try to get on better with annoying coworker. She’s ok to talk to, just difficult to work with. Fortunately I am not the only one who has issues with her, pretty much everyone in my department does.
      So I need to find a way to deal with her.

    14. Lore*

      I have a mercurial department head who smells insubordination whenever he’s in a bad mood. I need to stop wasting time in analyzing every communication to try to avoid his wrath and just deal calmly with it when it occurs.

    15. Gala apple*

      I want to stop complaining with my coworkers so much. We actually have a great job and awesome company, but get into the habit of complaining over almost every little thing.

    16. CG*

      I’m new to my current job and directions/leadership have been inconsistent during my first few months, so my new year’s resolution is just to take a lot more initiative to start things on my own (and maybe kick the year off by planning a set of things that I should be working on when I run into some downtime or uncertainty).

    17. Margali*

      I’m going to teach myself more about Excel. Right now I know just enough to be dangerous. I’ve found some websites with info and lessons, and my boss has given the ok for me to retreat to a conference room once a week for an hour to work on it.

    18. ZVA*

      I’m in sales, and my work resolution is to reach out to all the great prospective clients I’ve identified this year but not contacted yet b/c I find them intimidating! I think I’ve been setting my sights too low (because the stakes are lower that way) & I’d like to take more risks and hold myself to a higher standard in 2017.

    19. LawCat*

      I used to, but stopped at some point doing weekly self reviews. My plan is to reinstitute this as it really helped keep me focused.

    20. Marillenbaum*

      I’d like to improve my grading organization. I’m a TA for two classes in spring semester, and the professor I work for is going full-tilt to get his book to the publisher, so I’ll be carrying a lot of that myself. I want everything to be seamless so I can make an argument for slightly less micromanaging (and being sure to ask my coordinator to work with a different prof next year; I might be able to swing it by arguing for learning different skills).

    21. Anxa*

      I think I”m going to try to start my own business.

      In the past, I was always so leery of this, as I had literally no wiggle room for failure. That kept me in a bad place, as I was stuck trying to get a job which might never happen, as I really don’t have an entrepreneurial spirit. Or rather, I always thought it would be best to get some experience first.

      I literally have nothing left to lose and don’t care about preserving my credit or avoiding bankruptcy or debt. I turned 30 this year and am no further than I was in college, really, so it’s time to just go out and try!

    22. Elizabeth West*

      To find a job that will pay the bills, give me something to put by, and won’t make me rip out all my hair. And to not screw it up, forever and ever amen.


    23. Sparkly Librarian*

      I make those resolutions at the close of our fiscal year — so we’re halfway through now! Mine is a big “10%+” sign on my office wall. It’s because of a monthly metric that I want to improve to 10% (we’re at about 8% in a good month, and have been as low as 5% in the past year) to show that my department (which is me, at this location) is doing a good job providing services to our target group. I get to pull December’s stats next week and see how we did in a month with school closures and holidays.

    24. Nye*

      I’m starting a new position in a few months, so have SO MANY goals for hopefully making it a success.

      However, on a day-to-day, good habits level, I’m going to try to document computational procedures better (or, ahem, at all), and be more rigorous about commenting my scripts. This is all for my personal use (I code as a tool, it’s not what I’m paid for), but it’s intensely frustrating to be doing something that I know I’ve done before, but can’t remember how I did it. I’ve just started writing up text files while I work, and am hoping to continue this in the new year to build up a personal library of computational reference info. Here’s hoping!

    25. anon attorney*

      I’m going to stop swearing in the office. Its not like every second word is a curse word, nor do I ever do it in the earshot of clients, but it still happens too often and is unprofessional. My best work buddy and fellow curser quit recently, and I feel that it’s just time to rein it in.

      Second one is to spend some time each month analysing my performance metrics and trying to understand where time is going and what value I’m adding in nonbillable time. This ought to help me make a start on the promotion/raise conversation I’m going to have later this year.

  11. Brogrammer*

    PSA to all managers/team leads/etc who are talking to an employee about their performance: quit speculating about why their performance is lagging. Especially if your speculation boils down to the employee being lazy or not caring. Just stop. It’s insulting and it accomplishes nothing. Be clear about your expectations of performance and the job requirements without passing judgment on your employee’s character. You have no idea what they’re dealing with, and if you end up telling an employee struggling with a special needs child, a mysterious health crisis, a crumbling marriage, or other life crisis, “I don’t understand why you’re not performing up to spec, you’re more than capable, I just think you’re lazy,” then you’re setting them up to fail.

    1. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      This happened to a co-worker in another location. Her closest co-worker in my office shared with me that her marriage was crumbling, there were health issues involved, and her life was pretty much a mess. I’m not sure if she shared all this with the management, but they just assumed she didn’t give a crap about her job. She loved her job, but they ended up letting her go without asking her why her performance had lagged over the months. I felt so bad for her.

    2. legalchef*

      I don’t know that I fully agree with this – I recently had to have a Conversation with one of my supervisees, and in thinking about how to address the issues, I did need to think about what could be the root cause of them. I do agree that phrasing it as “I just think you’re lazy” isn’t at all helpful, but to some extent, it is also up to the employee to let their manager know if there is something specific going on in their life that is impacting their work. I am going to give someone much more leeway if I know they are going through something than if they just aren’t performing well for a mysterious unknown reason.

      1. not so super-visor*

        I’m going to agree with legalchef on this one. I agree that they shouldn’t necessarily frame it as someone being lazy/not caring from the get-go, but communication is a two-way street. No one doles out psychic powers to you when you become a manager/supervisor. If there are repeated performance issues and a supervisor/manager continues to address it with an employee but the employee isn’t comunicating their issues with supv/mgr, then it may come off as the employee not caring/being lazy.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I don’t think it’s cool or constructive to speculate on personal/character-driven reasons an employee’s performance is not up to par. I think it’s fair to be honest to let them know these issues can give the appearance of laziness, but to speculating as to why an employee isn’t meeting their job requirements just doesn’t seem all that constructive.

          Story time: I had this awful boss who used to do exactly this to me. Anytime I made a simple mistake he would reprimand me with the most personal/character-driven insults, ie: “I need you to stop being lazy, do x instead” or my favorite, “I know you’re easily confused, do y”. I finally lost it one day and told him point blank “I am not lazy. I saw that, and I consciously chose x and not y. If I should have chosen y, then ok, I understand. I made the wrong decision. I apologize and will change it right now. It was an error in judgement not laziness.” Didn’t make any difference because this was a guy who could be presented with a mountain of factual, credible evidence and somehow it would sail right through his brain. It was just so frustrating and demeaning to work for someone who apparently thought I was a lazy idiot.

      2. Observer*

        You still shouldn’t be speculating. You SHOULD give your employee a chance to bring anything legitimate to you, and try to accommodate any issues that an employee brings up. And, it certainly makes sense to cut someone who is struggling with issues out of their control some slack. But, none of that requires speculation.

        1. legalchef*

          Sure, but if you are having ongoing conversations with an employee about performance issues and they don’t tell you something is going on, then you have no way to know that they need some slack.

          1. Brogrammer*

            Even if you’re not willing to cut them slack based on their situation, it doesn’t help to jump to conclusions based on incomplete information. Just tell them what your expectations are and what the consequences will be if they aren’t met.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Sadly, if people don’t tell you what is going on there is not much you can do. You have to move forward with what is best for the department/company. The best you can do is be aware that something else might be going on.

            We can only help people to the degree they allow us to help them. The same goes in our personal lives. We go to see our parents or aging aunt and we see they are having difficulties, if they don’t say or won’t admit to a problem there is not much we are going to be able to do.

          3. Observer*

            I get it. If they don’t tell you, and you’ve given them the opening to tell you, then that’s on them. You are still better off not speculating.

          4. Marillenbaum*

            This is something I make sure to tell my students (I’m a TA for a couple of undergraduate courses): if something has come up that’s impacting your ability to come to class and do the work, I need you to tell me, because I can’t help if I don’t know. You don’t get a medal for Slogging Through the Most Crap to Get to Class, and dropping off the radar is not the answer. Fortunately, when one of my students had some family flare-ups this semester, they made sure to tell me, so we could loop in the Dean of Students/other profs. The crisis has passed and now they’re doing great, but things would have been so much worse if they simply hadn’t told me and stopped turning in work.

          5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            But why wouldn’t you start by asking them what’s up? Sometimes it’s a manager’s job to explain that they’re puzzled by the drop off in performance, ask the employee kindly and non-judgmentally if anything is going on that’s contributing to that underperformance, and then give the employee space to explain if the employee wants to.

            Beginning a conversation with speculation only makes an employee shut down and also makes them less likely to share the real reasons (assuming there are “real reasons”) that they’re struggling then and in the future.

        2. Brogrammer*

          Exactly. If you care about the reason and are willing to cut some slack for some reasons but not others (such as a personal situation that is difficult but temporary), then ask your employee what’s going on and give them a chance to explain. Don’t jump to conclusions based on incomplete information.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d avoid speculating and instead just ask: “What’s your sense of what’s causing this?”

        Speculating is rarely as useful as just asking. It also can bring out unconscious biases; people tend to give the benefit of the doubt to people like themselves (“I know she’s dealing with stresses in her personal life”) and assume the worst of people who are different from them (“lazy”).

        1. legalchef*

          But what about when you ask them, and they don’t have an answer? What do you do then? For instance, I’ve told someone that something needs to happen on every case multiple times, and eventually asked them why it wasn’t getting done, and how can we make sure it gets done, and she had no answer for me. At a certain point, you can’t help but to speculate (at least in your mind – I fully agree it is never helpful to just say “I think you are lazy.”).

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            If you’ve tried to get her input on what’s going on and she won’t give you any, and you’re not getting what you need from her, at that point you need to move to thinking about consequences, regardless of what the reasons might be.

            I mean, I think it’s natural for everyone to do some speculating in our heads at that point, but it shouldn’t impact how you proceed in most cases. (There are some exceptions to this, of course. If you speculate that the reason someone can’t meet deadlines is because they’re distracted by the noisy area they sit in, you can of course try moving them to a quieter space. It’s stuff like “lazy” that isn’t useful — in that case, what matters if that you’re not getting what you need.)

            1. legalchef*

              Yeah – she is here on a 1-year fellowship that ends in August that we would have the option to renew for another year, and my boss and I have already discussed how unless there is significant change we are unlikely to renew her. I am also working on an email that reiterates conversations we have had and clearly sets out my expectations for her work.

              But, at the same time, she tends to be very “weird” and scattered to the point where it sometimes seems like she can’t focus. In my head I am wondering if she has some sort of ADHD or another learning disability, but since she isn’t telling me anything, I have to proceed as if there aren’t any special circumstances and she just isn’t doing a good job.

              1. Bibliovore*

                What has been very helpful to me in exactly this circumstance is after being very clear on repeated occasions about expectations and the supervisee not meeting them. Plan of action in place. Verbal and written noting of not following the plan nor acceptable deliverables us…
                These are positions of value…my time and mentorship is of value… There are hordes of capable, desperate, and qualified individuals who are out there dying to work with me.
                It has been a year, cut this person loose and give someone else a chance.

      4. Dynamic Beige*

        it is also up to the employee to let their manager know if there is something specific going on in their life that is impacting their work.

        I think that that would be the correct course of action if your manager was a reasonable person who understood that people are human and didn’t have “interesting” views on things like whether or not allergies/certain health conditions are real. However, there are some workplaces where confessing you are going through a difficult time without what is considered a “good” reason will put you on the “Can’t Cut It” list.

    3. NW Mossy*

      I think you’re right that it doesn’t help to speculate, particularly when that speculation takes the form of a character slam against the person. Instead, it’s more helpful to say “Hey, the bar for this role is X and you’re not there. I’m committed to helping you get back on track, which is part of why I’m giving you performance feedback. Are there other things you’d like to see from me to help support you?”

      1. not so super-visor*

        hmmmm… I see what you’re saying. I think that in the scenario that I’m playing in my head that I’ve already had this conversation with direct report a few time, but we’re not seeing improvement, direct report has no reasoning for why issues keep happening or no suggestions on how they’re going to improve the situation. In the scene in my head, I am getting the eye roll, the side eye, or an icy, angry glare back to my repeated attempts at communication with direct report. I still don’t think that I would attack their character verbally, but in my head/internal monologue, I would probably write them off as lazy or not caring and move on to consequence mode. In order for me to cut direct report some slack, like Brogrammer is suggesting, for whatever life issues the person is dealing with, there’s got to be some sort of communication. Even if it’s “I’m dealing with some tough stuff right now that I don’t want to talk about. I realize that it’s impacting my performance. I’m really going to try to improve by doing X and Y.” It’s when I get nothing in response to repeated attempts at coaching that I give up on a direct report.
        Again, still not ok to verbally attack someone’s character…

        1. NW Mossy*

          In that scenario, I think it’s perfectly valid to say “Hey, Fergus, we’ve touched on this issue several times and I’m not seeing progress. That in itself worries me, because part of being successful is taking feedback seriously and committing to change behaviors that don’t work.”

          Also, you can call out the withholding behavior as its own issue. You can also say “When you roll your eyes/glare at me/fail to respond when I give you feedback, that’s disrespectful and doesn’t help solve the issue. Can you change that?”

        2. Brogrammer*

          I’m actually not saying you need to cut them slack, I’m only saying to drop the speculation because it’s unhelpful at best and seriously damaging at worst. I did say in my original comment, “Be clear about your expectations of performance and the job requirements without passing judgment on your employee’s character,” not “Cut them some slack, it may not be their fault.” Ultimately if the employee is unable to meet the expectations for the job, they shouldn’t be in that job even if the reason they can’t meet expectations is out of their control.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I mean, that sounds like you have a bigger problem than speculation, though. If your direct report can’t speak with you about subpar performance without rolling her eyes, glaring, or icing you out, then that’s a completely different problem regarding professionalism, and you should treat it that way before moving to a conversation on the subpar work product.

    4. annalisa karenina*

      I really hate that. My boss at my last job would say it seemed like I “wasn’t in love” with one area of my job (I was basically doing two jobs in one), when I was just really overwhelmed and lacked the support and resources.

      Also, since when is being besotted with your work a requirement??

      1. Chaordic One*

        I totally relate. In my previous job, the company increased the marketing budget and hired additional marketing people resulting in an extremely successful marketing campaign and increased sales (and resulting in more work the supporting departments). At the same time we had a new, much more labor intensive computer system imposed upon us that really destroyed efficiency. All with no increase in the number of people doing the work.

        Instead of dealing with these problems when employees complained (or even recognizing them as problems) management started laying off people for not being able to meet their “clear,” but unrealistic expectations. They had to run through several different people in some of the positions before they recognized that the problem wasn’t the employee, but the job.

    5. James*

      I can see a counter-argument to this: If a manager knows their employees reasonably well, they’ll be able to come up with likely reasons for problems that arise. Managers don’t have to operate as if they know nothing about employees, and in fact doing so is detrimental to their team, the team members, and their own success. Plus, if you can come up with a few reasonable causes you can formulate a few plans of attack to help the employee before you start the conversation–for example, you can come into the conversation knowing that there are folks willing to mentor the person, training options available, etc., and offer these (if/where thy fit) to help the employee.

      I’d also argue that if there’s something that will affect the employee’s performance it’s their obligation to inform their employer. I understand that sometimes things happen suddenly, and sometimes you don’t know something is wrong until you see a few indicators (addiction can work like this, as can some diseases), but something like a health crisis, a special needs child, or the like is something that you can go to your boss and say “Hey, I know I’m not up to par; this isn’t an excuse, but here’s what’s going on, can we figure out a way to work through this?”

      I definitely agree that lazy and apathetic shouldn’t be the automatic judgment of the manager, but understanding the cause for poor performance is pretty important.

  12. Email Help Please*

    I did a really horrible thing. I graduated from college about six months ago, and stumbled into an unpaid “internship” through an informational interview in October. The business is entirely owned and operated by one person, and it’s a side business. She sent me some things to do around Thanksgiving, but in a very open-ended kind of way (“you could do this, or this, and let me know if you’re interested in doing this, and here’s a resource or two, and maybe I’ll ask you to do this too”, etc).

    Anyway, between the holidays and traveling and everything, I never answered her email. And with every day after that, it got harder and harder to figure out what to say to excuse my delay. So now it’s almost January and I feel like a terrible, horrible person! Is there any way I can salvage this? How do I even begin to apologize when I don’t really have a good explanation? I would really appreciate advice!

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      If I’m reading this correctly, it doesn’t sound like a very formal arrangement. If that’s the case, I would reply with something along these lines, “My sincerest apologies for not responding to this request sooner; with the holidays and travel, my inbox has gotten away from me. Now that I’m catching up, I’m wondering if you still need help with these projects, and if so, a timeline for when you’d like me to return this to you?”

    2. Sadsack*

      Not sure that this really reflects that you are a terrible, horrible person, that seems like an exaggeration. You did slack off. Maybe just tell her you realize that you never got around to doing these things and sincerely apologize for letting them go undone. Ask her how she’d like you to handle it at this point. Then apologize again. Don’t tell her you feel like a terrible person though. That will seem like you are overdoing it to get her to be less upset or disappointed with you. Just own up to it and ask how to handle it, promising to be more diligent in the future.

    3. RedSocks*

      Just apologize! Email her today and tell her that you don’t have an excuse, but you’re still interested in working for her. If you put it off longer, it will just get worse.

    4. aeldest*

      How urgent were the things she sent you to do? Is it something you could do and send now, and they’d still be useful to her? That might be a good in, if so–“hey, I’ve been busy with traveling and the holidays and haven’t had as much time to work on [x project] as I’d have liked, but I’m happy with how it turned out–see attached!” (but worded more professionally, probably)

      However, you should probably ask yourself–do you really want to keep working for her? Is this for sure a one-time thing, and from now on you’ll be able to be responsible about it? If there’s a possibility you might let her projects fall through the cracks again, it might be best to just write this one off with a polite email apologizing for having not gotten back to her, but your schedule hasn’t allowed you to work on this internship at all and unfortunately you don’t think you can commit the time and attention the position needs/deserves.

    5. KTM*

      I think just biting the bullet and emailing back with an honest response will make the situation much better. Just a simple acknowledgement that you dropped the ball and things got busy with the holidays and then either express interest in picking up the work again or just provide a simple apology/explanation if you’re not interested in continuing. (I’m guessing if it’s a side business, she might have also been busy/distracted around the holidays!) In the future, it’s best just to provide SOME response even if it’s that you’re not able to get to things right now. Also, I’m not sure if you agreed to any particular number of hours, etc? Might be worth working out details for more structure going forward.

      1. RVA Cat*

        What’s most important for you to remember is that is an unpaid internship. Maybe you did let her down, but it’s not like you took money from her without doing the work.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Just tell her you got too caught up in holiday/family stuff. Apologize. Keep it short and simple. If you use less words you would be less likely to sound rambly and uncaring.

      Then to yourself, remind you that this is an UNpaid internship. She expected WHAT to happen? Normal people realize that unpaid work is probably going to be put on hold until the holidays are over.

      Email her today before the day is over. Come back and let us know you did it. It will probably be okay.

  13. aeldest*

    I’m going back to school starting in mid-January, and today is my last day of work! I’m not going to miss the fairly dysfunctional upper management, but I am really going to miss my day-to-day coworkers and immediate supervisors. They decorated my desk and brought me flowers, and one person brought treats, and a bunch of them gave me gift cards, and they printed out a bunch of those funny/offensive ecards that say things like “On my first day of college my mom’s only advice was ‘don’t date any of your teachers!’ Yeah right mom, everyone knows teachers are poor” and “I don’t think of it as losing a coworker, I think of it as an opportunity to upgrade my office supplies”. I am seriously gonna miss these people.

    This was my first office job; how often do you actually stay in touch with old coworkers?

    Also, anyone have any advice for returning to school after a couple years off? I’m excited, but also super nervous.

    Also also, I have two weeks off before school starts. What should I do with all that free time? I’m considering spending a weekend somewhere warm (I’m in frozen MN) but spending money right as I lose my income stream is probably not the responsible thing to do…

    1. Drew*

      I’m in touch with some old coworkers, but many of them are on the “Jane just posted something on Facebook” level. That isn’t meant to discourage you, only to say that once you’re not in that shared environment, some of the reasons you cleaved together in the first place won’t apply, and that’s good and natural. Someone doesn’t have to be a lifelong friend to be a good friend in the moment.

      Plus, you’re going back to school, and that’s a chance to make new friends!

      I think you’re actually really well positioned to go back to school; you’re used to a disciplined schedule and staying on deadline and you should have a pretty good idea of how long various tasks take you and the ways you work best.

      For the next couple of weeks, I think just relax, watch some Stranger Things, and maybe test the commute to see how long it will take you and where the best parking spots are, if you’re driving. Learn your way around campus if you don’t already know. That sort of thing. Give yourself some room to be excited about this new adventure, too. Congratulations!

    2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      If you’re in the Cities, there is so much to do that’s cheaper than traveling. Have you been to the Science Museum, the Bell Museum of Natural History or the Mill City Museum lately? How about the Walker or the MIA (which is free)? Catch up on your pleasure reading, you won’t have time for that when you’re in school full time! Go ice skating at the Depot. Check out Minnehaha Falls when they’re frozen solid. Do the tour of Old Fort Snelling.

    3. katamia*

      I have one coworker from my first office job who I’m Facebook friends with, and we occasionally comment on each other’s posts and such. That’s it. I haven’t really had many coworkers I wanted to stay in touch with, although yours sound better than mine generally have been.

      The biggest thing I can recommend is to figure out what you can in advance–make sure your school email works, drive around the campus and find where you want to park if you’re planning to drive there, take the bus/train there and walk around if that’s how you’re planning to get there, etc.

    4. Moops*

      I’d also recommend setting up your home for studying, etc. Stock up on cleaning supplies, get caught up on laundry, etc. Set up a designated study area where you can leave books and papers out. Maybe reorganize your home too. I didn’t before I went back to school and regretted it. Don’t spend your entire vacation on this though. Be sure to rest and recharge.

    5. Your Weird Uncle*

      Congratulations on starting your new program, and I hope it goes well for you! As someone who has returned to full-time university twice (once to get a certificate ten years after graduating, and then a few years after that to get a master’s degree) I can tell you that the most important thing for me was to take the grade from my first exam/paper/etc. as a benchmark to let me know where I should put my focus going forward, for each class.

      I found that my undergrad degree was pretty easy for me (I took a bunch of easy classes, went to a university that was less academically-strong, and just generally found it easier to balance work/life when I was younger) so I was in a lot of shock when, after returning to my certificate program at a much more academically-challenging university, I almost failed one of my first tests. It was a wake-up call for me and I realized how much harder I needed to work to get up to where I wanted to be. So, you’ll learn pretty quickly what works well, what doesn’t, where you need to adjust/focus, etc., and you’ll get there. Good luck!

    6. Kj*

      So, on returning to school, if your grad program is writing-heavy, you need to brush up on your writing skills. Seriously, this was the number one problem for folks returning to school in my program. Academic writing is its own weird beast and you need to become fluent in the conventions again quickly if your program is writing heavy. I went straight through school, but I was on group projects with a number of folks and I could identify the “returned to school after a break” people by their writing struggles 9 out of 10 times. If your school uses APA, brush up on APA. If MLA, the same. You need to know that stuff so you can hit the ground running.

    7. Lady Bug*

      Congratulations! I thought you were my coworker in the same exact situation today, but we aren’t in MN.

      I have a few former coworkers that I am close friends with and others just FB friends with. Keep in touch via FB, text, social media, let them know how you are doing. I’m sure everyone is excited to see you do well!

      I’ve also gone back to school. My advice: do nothing! Relax, sleep late, watch bad TV. You are going to miss doing all of that.

    8. Marillenbaum*

      I feel you! I just left my first post-college job to get my master’s degree this May, and it was so weird! I’m thinking I’ll send a card in January (start of the busy season), to keep in touch–in that field, the six months I’ve been gone is long enough for my replacement to settle into her role, and should be welcome without being weird. I mostly keep up with individual coworkers on social media (we were all the same age, pretty much), but this way I can contact other people–former boss, etc. And give yourself a chance to rest! I had to combine my ten days of freedom with packing up all my possessions and moving out of state, and I really wish I’d had time to just decompress from working. Even if you don’t leave MN (I understand not wanting to spend more money), be sure to do something for yourself. And congrats on going back to school! It was a great choice for me and I hope you’ll love it!

  14. Anonanners*

    Legal question – I am considering contracting for a company that blatantly reproduces copyrighted material for profit. As an independent contractor who is not doing the reproducing or distributing the material, but who will be referencing the material with clients, what legal consequences could I face?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I know this isn’t what you’re asking — but as someone whose copyrighted work is stolen all the time and who spends a lot of time fighting it and still will never be able to get it all, please don’t do this. It’s like considering a job with a house burglary ring or something.

      1. Anonanners*

        I’m not as worried about the morality of this because, while copyrighted, the material is no longer distributed, ever. The soulless corporation that produces the material instead does a subpar job of producing any similar material that can be used by people who are forced to participate in the industry (like seriously, it is legally mandated that >80% of people participate in many states). It would be kind of like “stealing” old drivers license test questions to prep for your permit exam

        1. Anna*

          This isn’t any kind of justification. Just because they don’t produce it (and as KarenD said, they literally have the right to do with it what they wish because they own that right), it doesn’t change the fact that it is owned by someone and theft is theft. I know far too many creators whose work is stolen and reproduced by companies like the one you’re talking about working for. There will always be someone small screwed over by people who think like you do, whether you realize it or not.

        2. Student*

          Life lesson – thieves ALWAYS have a great justification ready for why it was okay for them to steal the particular thing they are taking. Always.

          The lady stealing a candy bar always has a story about how she can’t afford a treat for her cancer-stricken kid, who adores this particular candy bar. The guy stealing gasoline always has some urgent need to go visit his dying father before he passes, but he won’t get paid until next week and can’t afford the gas right now. Many of the stories are even true! There’s a reason that mobs and gangs survive and thrive – they have good stories to justify what they’re doing to people just like you, people who don’t think of themselves as criminal but are asked to do just this one grey thing on the edge for good pay.

          Second life lesson – thieves always have a plan to leave somebody else holding the bag if they’re caught. With the scant details here, I can’t tell if that’s you for certain. But usually they either (1) put the outsider directly in the patsy position from the get-go, with little way to contact anyone if stuff goes bad, or (2) get you to do one little grey thing, then a different little grey thing, until you’re just as complicit as they are in the end.

    2. KarenD*

      Well for a start there’s losing your eternal soul …

      But seriously. Do not go to work for thieves. If they will steal from content creators they will steal from you too, and yes, if you’re part of the process of monetizing the stolen content then it’s possible you could face legal repercussions.

      1. Anonanners*

        Can you elaborate? What sorts of legal repurcussions? The material is covered by ‘Federal copyright laws’

        1. KarenD*

          You’d want to get a lawyer for specific legal advice (not even sure what country you are in) but generally speaking (from advice given to me as someone who works in an industry that deals with various permutations of copyrighted material) we’ve been told that we can be on the hook personally for infringement that we participated in and/or profited from,and that damages could be based on the loss to the copyright holder, the profit made from using copyrighted material or some combination thereof.

          I also don’t buy the “they deserve to be stolen from” argument you made in your reply above. Copyright absolutely includes the right to lock up content that the corporation owns and not make it available for public use. Actually, your description makes it sound as if the aggrieved party would have a very high incentive to go after your company; they’ve found a better way to monetize this kind of content, presumably by breaking it up and stripping it down, and your potential employer’s theft is a direct threat to that. If they let it proceed unchallenged, they’d risk undermining what sounds like a huge chunk of business for them.

        2. Student*

          Money. Potentially huge lawsuits from the owners of the material. If not the current owners of the material, then hopefully you are familiar with the idea of “patent trolls” – if not, look it up – same principal can apply to buying up copyrights to go after the lawsuit revenue stream. You could be okay for a couple years, then some new company buys the old copyrights and swamps you with lawsuits. Usually, it doesn’t matter what the specific merits of the suit are – they operate by massively out-lawyering the other side into settlements. They will go after individuals just as much as companies if they think there’s any minor merit to the case and money to be extracted.

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      Aside from what KarenD said about contacting an actual lawyer…

      How would you be referencing this material to clients? To use your example, is it like a textbook that they have copied word for word but repackaged in a fancier cover design? So instead of purchasing EvilCorp’s book for $99, they could purchase this knock-off for $49?

      Are you sure that the work is no longer under copyright? If it’s really old, it might now be under public domain.

      Would you be legally responsible if you did take the job at this company? Probably not. It was not your idea to reprint unauthorised copies of another company’s intellectual property, you didn’t start, register, pay taxes for this company. You would probably be considered to be an employee following orders, unless part of your job included advertising, marketing or strategy to sell more copies or keep these activities hidden. But IANAL and don’t play one on TV.

      Because here’s the thing: as AAM says, how would you feel if something you had created — whether it’s writing, a song, a painting, a photo or drawing — was being sold/used and other people were profiting from it? It doesn’t matter how noble the purpose, if you were a struggling songwriter and you found out that $BigNamePopStar recorded a version of your song without permission or consent (even for a charity) and you weren’t getting paid any royalties or credit from that, you would be really angry and quite rightly so. Lawsuits would be filed. Just because you think a corporation is Evil™ doesn’t put you any more in the right to steal from them like this company/organisation/individual offering you a job is.

      You might find this article interesting because many of these songs were about similarity or samples, rather than the whole thing.

      As a freelancer in a niche industry, I have had to carry liability insurance for over 10 years now. Where this idea sprang from, I have no idea but it was a US client who first required proof of insurance, so maybe something happened down there? But now I have one up here who also requires it. Supposedly, if something happens to a speaker on stage that embarrasses or injures them, they may decide to sue everyone who was present — whether or not that person was directly responsible. Haven’t heard of an actual incident where that happened, but it’s not like that would be front page news.

      So my suggestion to you is: contact EvilCorp. Ask to speak to their marketing manager/design department/whatever your specialty is. If they are still producing these materials in uh… uninspiring ways… there is someone who is responsible for that. See if they are hiring or find out if they would be interested in hearing a proposal from you about revamping these materials. If these materials are only in print form, they may not be aware that other companies are reprinting them without permission — or maybe they do have permission, you never know. If you can make a case that a refresh would mean increased sales, you might create a job for yourself.

    4. Sunflower*

      While other’s have commented on other aspects of this, what about this company’s reputation in your industry? I know that we all need to pay the bills but will working there be giant red mark on your resume?

    5. Not So NewReader*

      OP, younger me could be you right now. I went to work for a company. I was told on my third day on the job that there was corruption stemming for the top management layer.
      I paid no attention. Biggg Mistake.

      When you work for corrupt people you get caught in their lies, you have to lie or you have no paycheck. Well, I would not lie, so I ended up have stomach aches, headaches, major worry/fear eventually panic attacks etc.

      I foolishly thought, yeah Big Wig is doing X but that won’t impact me. No. It impacts everyone in the company. One deception begets 10 more deceptions and pretty soon you got a very large web. Other businesses in town laughed at us, lawyers in the community made fun of the company. It took me a while to see all this and realize the scope of the problem. Once I understood the scope, I was in pretty deep because I had made financial commitments based on having this paycheck.

      Think, OP. Think about how you want your life to play out. Players that don’t play a clean game bring others down with them when they go. And they go down eventually.

    6. catsAreCool*

      Also, if they are doing the wrong thing with copyrighted material, how many other similar things will they do? Will they decide to not bother paying you?

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Honestly, none of the commenters who are lawyers can answer your question regarding your specific legal liability (or at least, if they’re U.S.-based, they shouldn’t). But if your overall question is, “Can an independent contractor who is not the primary infringer, but who uses the materials provided by the primary infringer, and who receives a commercial/monetary benefit from that use, be liable for copyright infringement?” then the answer is yes, you can.

      So in addition to all the moral reasons not to infringe on someone’s intellectual property (even if you think they’re the evil empire or hate U.S. copyright laws), don’t do it. Even if someone brought a not-very-strong lawsuit against you, unless you are extremely personally wealthy it would be extremely expensive to defend.

      Listen to KarenD—if you really want an answer, ask an intellectual property (IP) lawyer who specializes in copyright law for written materials (i.e., not someone who specializes in music or artwork or architecture, etc.).

  15. KTM*

    I saw an article this week about a woman who committed suicide in Japan because of overwork – which apparently actually has a term in Japaneses, ‘karoshi’, because it is a semi-common problem? In the article I read (will post link below) there’s actually two kinds of karoshi recognized by the Japanese government: death from cardiovascular illness linked to overwork, and suicide following work-related mental stress. I know the US has a bad rep for over-working employees and in general not taking vacation but I didn’t realize this was pervasive in Japan (again, only according to what I read). Just curious if anyone had additional insight! I found it oddly/darkly interesting.

    1. SophieChotek*

      I read this article too. (I’ve read that Japan is much more culturally accepting of suicide than many other Western countries; there are many different words for different kinds of suicide.)
      Yes, I agree — U.S. has a reputation for all work, but I think Japan’s culture (from articles like this) has similar issues.
      No insight to offer though.

    2. Anna*

      Japan’s reputation for employees’ commitment to the company was something that the US looked to with approval in the 80s and 90s, if that’s any indication. There were plenty of jokes about it floating around in the 80s and some crazy things reported (how true they were I don’t know) like sleeping tubes and so on.

    3. Wandering not lost*

      Google “salaryman” for more insight into the work culture. I’m not sure if this is still true, but I’d read once that a worker’s commitment to a company trumped actual performance. Promotions were based on number of years served rather than achievements.

    4. Henrietta Gondorf*

      I work in Japan for the DoD and have a lot of Japanese colleagues who are locally hired. We are far more in line with American business norms which is something my colleagues really value: they want to go home on time, take their earned vacation, and be able to unplug. They’ve often left better paying/higher prestige roles because of the work-life balance.

      My boss was chatting with a peer of his recently (who works for the Japanese government) and asked him how much leave he got annually. He didn’t know because he never takes any vacation. In 21 years, he said he’d taken 17 days off, excluding public holidays.

      It’s very much a “work to time not to standard” kind of culture where being physically in the office and at after work drinking-fests is the highest priority. 40% of Japanese adults sleep less than 6 hours a night as a result.

      Falling asleep at work isn’t even necessarily a bad thing (although norms around this vary) because it shows you’re a hard worker. I’ve been here 18 months and that still drives me bananas. If I don’t have someone’s attention, why meet at all?

    5. copy run start*

      In addition to karoshi, there’s a high rate of suicide among students as the pressure to do well in school to get a good job is pretty extreme. Suicide is more culturally accepted in Japan (dates back to samurai culture).

      Anecdotally, a friend of mine lived in Tokyo for a while and someone committed suicide by walking onto the tracks of the bullet train. She told me the deceased person’s family apologizing for the inconvenience to the train company and passengers.

      1. Wandering not lost*

        In an effort to reduce this method of suicide (jumping in front of trains), families can be required to pay for the damage and costs associated with the rail stoppage. My guess is that the apology would’ve been in lieu of, or in addition to that.

      2. NoTurnover*

        Hmm, this sounds pretty…I hesitate to use the word “normal,” but at least “not unexpected”…to me. I live in Chicago and it’s not uncommon for someone to commit suicide by walking in front of a Metra train (ground level) or El train (subway). These occurrences often cause huge delays in public transportation for thousands of people, are traumatic to the conductor involved (who may see the person ahead of them but can’t stop the train in time), etc. So while it would hardly be necessary or the first thing on your mind after a relative commits suicide, I could see a family wanting to find some way to apologize.

  16. Master Bean Counter*

    I’m being recruited for a position that is not that different from what I’m doing now. The money would be better and the Fiscal year works better with my social calendar. –I know that’s such an accountant thing to say.
    I met with the manager yesterday and I like him better then my current manager. The place also seems to have a better work life balance as the office was empty when we finished with the interview at 6:30. I was still getting emails from my office at that point…
    But in the morning after I’m lukewarm about it. I know that I’d definitely want to meet with more of the office and see it during working hours before I’d even consider the move.
    This is not how I expected to feel. If this happens it would be my first career move that wasn’t because I was relocating or in a hurry to get off the crazy train. What a difference experience.
    I have a follow up call scheduled with the recruiter today.
    So I guess the question is, how much do the little things matter? I’d like to say more than I let them in the past. Thoughts?

    1. CG*

      If you left a job every time a slightly better job came along, your work history would be terrible. That said, it sounds like you’re interested enough to be thinking about it, so it’s at least worth seeing the process through and making a decision if you get an offer. You don’t have to accept if you get an offer. If there are things that you think would make you more likely to consider this that are not possible at your current place (even bigger salary bump, more vacation time, telework options, etc), you might have room to negotiate those.

      Little things do matter, and if you are content where you are (or this job isn’t close enough to where you’d like to take your career to merit a move), then sit tight, because you will find something else. Plus, you can always turn them down politely with a “not the right time” and ask to stay in touch with the recruiters.

      Caveat: if you’re specifically worried about feeling lukewarm about a job, well… that could be about anything from job fit to the mood you’re in to what you ate for breakfast. (I didn’t feel the same passionate excitement when I started my current job or met my current significant other as I did when I started my first job or went on a date with my first sweetheart, partially because I had more realistic expectations and a better idea about what I was getting into, but I still think what I have is the best and am glad for where I am.)

      TL;DR: your job dominates your waking hours, so your feelings matter. Only you know if this job is a job you want, but it’s worth sticking through the process – you can always turn down an offer.

    2. Colette*

      It’s ok to change to a comparable job – not every move needs to be a promotion. And it’s fine to value the little things.

      One thing to consider is how long you’ve been in your current job. If it’s been a few years, go ahead and move. If it’s been a couple of months, stay put.

    3. Rob Lowe can't read*

      “Fiscal year works better with my social calendar”: I am soooo telling my accountant husband that this is a requirement for his next job. :)

    4. SarahKay*

      “Fiscal year works better with my social calendar. –I know that’s such an accountant thing to say” really made me smile. Speaking as an accountant at heart, although currently moved to the dark side (aka primary job is planning and analysis), working for a company who has Year End on 31st Dec, you have all my sympathies. I don’t especially mind working longer hours over Christmas and New Year (previous jobs were retail and in a restaurant, so it’s an improvement on them!) but half the business goes on holiday while the other half frantically tries to close the year. Arrgghh. Sadly it’s a global business so there is pretty much no chance this will change.
      As far as the new position goes, how long have you been in your current role? If more than two years, then meet with more of the office, and see how you feel. Your lukewarm may heat up, and a better work life balance sounds like a good thing.

    5. Chaordic One*

      At least the money would be better, the fiscal year works better, the manager sounds better and the potential for work/life balance sounds better. I would certainly talk to the recruiter and see if you could find out more about this possible position including a walk-through during working hours. That’s not really an unreasonable thing to do under the circumstances.

      (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been recruited for positions that did not offer any increase in pay, or any good reason to even consider accepting them, which is very frustrating.)

  17. so anon for this*

    So I’ve just caused a three day production outage on one of our key systems. Guess how popular that’s made me with the dbas, network and app support teams.

    My protests of “but I only changed one line of code” weren’t well received, I can’t think why!

    Here’s hoping next week is better.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Hope next week and next year is better for you too.
      (Of course I’m impressed you can even change any line of code, computer ignoramus that I am.)

    2. Junior Dev*

      It happens. I hope your workplace has systems in place to prevent this sort of thing–testing procedures, development/staging servers–but if not, it’s really on them to catch this sort of thing. Either way, I hope you don’t get too much flak for it.

      1. So anon for this*

        Yeah some testing and change control would have helped, but thats in me.

        I’ll cop a load of flak for it, but worse things have happened.

    3. Epsilon Delta*

      Oh man, I am so sorry that you’re going through this. I wrote an infinite loop earlier this week, if that makes you feel any better. Fortunately I caught it before it reached prod.

      1. So anon for this*


        Good job with your testing. I’m still trying to work out how I missed the error, on the plus side I won’t have to explain myself to the CTO for a couple of weeks yet.

    4. Maverick*

      I got chewed out recently for dropping the ball on something. My explanation that I was working all by myself why everyone else enjoyed the holiday party and did the best I could on my own was not well received at all.

      Neither was a different mistake I made where the issue was that the rules changed when I was on vacation, no one told me about the rule change, and therefore I did something the old way. My supervisors seemed mystified that I didn’t magically know about the new stuff.

      So I totally feel you on getting my excuses waved to the side. Sorry you’re going through it too.

    5. IT_Guy*

      I have done those kinds of issues, and my very tolerant boss said to me after one really awful one: “Don’t make the same mistake twice.” It unfortunately happens, but if it’s a recurring problem, check out SDLC as a good way to prevent it.

  18. Hoban Washburne*

    We do internal customer service and so we have a little bowl of candy in our lobby area. Usually the manager of our department supplies the candy but I got a few bags to help out (I mean, I eat some of it, too and it’ll get me a few nuggets of capital, I suppose, as the most junior person in the office). He’s out of the office this week so I left it on his desk with a note that said, “For the candy bowl. :)”

    I happened to walk by the candy bowl just now and saw the candy I bought in there which means the only other person who works up there went into his office, opened the bag, then opened the bags of candy, and added it. I don’t see the bag in his office anywhere so there’s nothing saying I brought it in. I’m sending him a “hey, I brought in some candy” email since I didn’t put my name on the original one, but — ugh. Grand scheme, this is small stuff, but it’s typical of the person who’s up there by his office and just one more straw.

    1. Sadsack*

      Does bringing in candy really buy you “capital”? I’d just let it go. I wouldn’t bother sending him an email while he is out telling him you brought in candy. That seems strange and a bit like sucking up. You could send the whole group a message that you brought in whatever candy it is, come help yourselves. Honestly, I would have just put the candy in the bowl, not left it on his desk with a note. Or waited until he is in the office to see the candy in the bowl. But maybe your office puts some special importance on this type of thing.

      1. Hoban Washburne*

        They do. My office is really weird and this person consistently takes credit for things I do while throwing me under the bus for everything else. Like I said, it’s not a big deal grand scheme, it’s just one more thing that’s grating on me. This place is so toxic. :(

    2. KarenD*

      I don’t really see that anyone did anything wrong … the tag said “for the candy bowl,” there was presumably room for more candy in the bowl.

      But if you’re looking to trade candy for capital (as opposed to just being the candy mensch, which seems like sufficient motivation since you eat the candy too) just wait until your boss is there before you bring more in.

      I would not email him. I can’t imagine a way to do that without coming off as weird.

    3. AshK434*

      I’m a bit confused because this seems so trivial and petty. Why does the office manager need to know you brought in candy? Does candy *really* buy you capital? If I were the manager, I would think it were strange that someone sent me an email just to let me know they contributed to the communal candy bowl (reeks of brown nosing I guess). This doesn’t seem worthy of any of your headspace and I guess I don’t understand why you just didn’t empty the candy into the bowl yourself. I hope I’m not being too rude (this is just my natural communication style).

      As for the person who took the candy off of boss’ desk and added it to the bowl – that seemed like the normal, logical thing to do actually and it seems like you have underlying tension with this person.

      1. AshK434*

        Ah! Your reply to Sadsack gives context I didn’t have before! I was assuming you worked in a nontoxic work environment. My bad!

        1. Hoban Washburne*

          It’s really awful. There’s a lot of context that isn’t here, but a person who used to work here is saying he thinks I should let Manager know that I brought it in. I’m torn now. It partially is about sucking up because that’s the only way to survive here (and I’ve been working to get out for two years, so…). I don’t like it, but I thought I’d try playing their game for once.

          1. AshK434*

            I’m so sorry you work in a place like that. It sounds like you have to play the game so go ahead and send your manager the email.

          2. Karanda Baywood*

            I think you’re better off using that energy on something more positive. What possible political capital can come out of this? An “Oh, thanks”?

            1. Hoban Washburne*

              You’d be surprised. Believe it or not, the claiming credit for inconsequential stuff is really common around here. Folks in my department regularly send emails to the whole group of about “I brought in such-and-such.”

              1. Sadsack*

                Understood, but does that mean you should join in such nonsense? Try to hang in there, but keep your dignity!

              2. WellRed*

                Way late to the conversations, but if you want credit for candy, bring in more. Trying to claim credit after makes me think of George on Seinfeld trying to claim credit for a salad.

    4. Hoban Washburne*

      Also, I do want to add that it isn’t lost on me how utterly absurd this is. Trust me, I don’t like it.

      1. always in email jail*

        Bring in another bag and don’t leave it until you know the boss is there. Then say something like “I noticed the last bag I brought is already almost gone! Everyone must be stress eating over the holidays!” or something. Then you’ve subtly mentioned that you already brought one in (which you seem to feel is necessary).

        1. Chantal Witherbottom*

          This was going to be my exact suggestion. Bring in more and drop it off while mentioning the other bag you brought some way. Yes it’s petty, but sometimes you have to play that game. My old co-worker was not doing any work and then blaming me when things got behind (because I was doing both of our jobs and couldn’t always perform at 200%) and I never spoke up for myself. She eventually got found out after I left but you definitely have to have your own back in situations like this.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Or if anyone makes a comment about the candy, you can note that you brought it to share b/c it’s your favorite, or you thought it was a fan-fave in the office, etc., etc. Normally I would say let it go, but if you’re in a place where everything is so toxic that you feel undermined by coworker depriving you of credit, then a sly acknowledgement (instead of a flat out “I brought candy!” email) might be a lighter touch with the same “capital” payout.

    5. Dynamic Beige*

      You could just wait until the person who you want to know this is there, take a piece, eat it and make a comment about how it’s your favourite/it was on sale so that’s why you brought it in.

      Also, if these people are that petty… I hope you’re looking for a new job. Because really?

    6. Chantal Witherbottom*

      Other people might not understand where you are coming from with this one, but I TOTALLY do. Before I left to pursue self-employment, at my last job I had a peer like this. We were equal in title and responsibility but we worked in two different parts of the building, so I was more visible. Because she was tucked away in a back office she spent the majority of her day doing homework for her online classes and leaving me to do most of the work. She would pretend she was carrying her weight and she took on one highly visibly project that gave her a lot of favor with our managers, but she literally did that so she could bs on everything else. I did everything, all the day to day stuff and I didn’t know back then how to speak up for myself or talk about frustrations with our management. I thought going to management back then was tattling and I thought she and I were “friends”

      But the more I had to carry both of our weight the more I began to resent her. Whenever I would come up with ideas or make changes that helped things run better, she presented us as a team and that it was both of our ideas and I figured out after I left that she often actually took credit. She was behind my back all the time brown-nosing and such and doing just enough to keep manager in love with her so she could do other things.

      She spent most of her day doing homework/taking her classes and using the printer to print off invoices and things for her little side business. She was always surfing the net for things for her little side thing and for homework but she “looked” busy.

      After I left, the person who replaced me for a while thought that was just the way the balance of the responsibilities was because she trained her that way. Luckily that person knew how to speak up for themselves which I didn’t know how to do then, and then the charade finally got found out and old-coworker ended up on a PIP. I felt vindicated even though I had no part in making this happen. (Old coworker is married to best friend of my best friends husband, so I found these things out lol)

      I learned from that experience and from reading this site how to be an advocate for myself with coworkers and, if necessary, with upper management or HR. Luckily my own business is doing well and I am the boss now, but I’ve taken important lessons from that experience. In the next year or so I will be hiring my own staff and I think these experiences taught me how to be a much better manager when that time comes.

    7. Hoban Washburne*

      Just a quick update to this — I’m glad I ended up writing the email. It was light and friendly and joke-y. He asked me about it and apparently thought I meant some candy that had been left on his desk by Coworker (which was probably a holiday gift for him — she gave me and the other coworker something similar, though apparently gave him more…like I said, this place is insane — I’m not eating candy right now, so it doesn’t /matter/ to me except that it just seems so petty, which is why I have to be petty). Anyway, I ended up explaining to him that, no, I’d brought in individually wrapped candy, after he expressed concern about putting loose candy in the bowl. SOS

      Someone asked if I was applying elsewhere — oh, yes, since two months after I started here two years ago.

      Thanks, y’all.

  19. Junior Dev*

    So after several toxic and short lived work experiences earlier this year I have a job that seems like a very good fit. It’s the kind of work I want to be doing at a company that I respect, an that seems to have a healthy culture.

    My issue is, the earlier crappy jobs have left me with a constant fear of getting fired for something I didn’t know I was doing wrong. How do I deal with this–both in terms of reacting and in making sure I am doing as good a job as I can?

    It’s a software development job and a lot of their processes are not as well documented as at past workplaces but I’m sure people will be able to help me understand stuff as needed.

    1. AngtheSA*

      I am with you on this. I got fired from a job earlier this year, my first firing, and it threw me for a loop. I ended up landing a great job doing what I wanted and everything is going great but I still get a nagging feeling they are going to fire me when I mess up. I ended up ask my manager for some feedback on how I was doing after 60 days and again just a couple of week ago. This included things I needed to improve on. That helps ease my mind. He didn’t have any complaint and my improvement were minor so that helped easy my stress.

      What also helped as when those feeling popped up, I would take a small break (5 minutes) calm myself and try to look at the situation as a whole, Is it effecting the project as a whole or if I fixed it now would anyone really notice.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      If you were fired for doing something wrong and no one told you, that is bad management. It wasn’t your fault. You can chuck that job in the crazy pile and move on. There are many jobs for you, and chances are that you’ll end up somewhere better, where, you know, people communicate. It may take some time to shake it off, but a few months at a functional workplace will exorcise the fear ghosts.

      1. Junior Dev*

        I was laid off from the last job. The other ones ended due to a short term contract but they were stressful for other reasons. Still, I’ve found it really hard to shake the suspicion i wouldn’t have been picked for the layoff if I’d been better at playing office politics, and hadn’t been so overwhelmed by anxiety at the toxicness of the place.

        It’s not so much a rational fear as a run of bad luck.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          The only thing I know of that helps these fears is to make yourself an excellent employee at this job. I think part of what it does is fill up that brain space that holds the worry about being fired. The brain has to dump off the worry in order to make space for the new info about the new job.

          Seriously, though. When we have a worry/fear the best way to combat it is to take steps to address it. In your example of fear of being fired you can work daily to beef up something you doing, work sharper, study/learn more, etc. Now you mentioned not having political capital. So why not read some books about how to navigate work places? You got a great start because you read AAM, keep going. As you invest more in yourself your worry should recede.

          Some times we can use worry to point out our short comings, once we know those short comings we can beef them up. There is stuff I will never, ever be good at but I can learn a little more so I will be adequate. Happily, some stuff that I have tried to develop in myself has worked out well and I found I had another natural ability. Not all these stories end badly.

    3. Venus Supreme*

      I’m in the same boat as you. I was at ToxicJob for 7 months and immediately went to CurrentJob (pretty healthy), and I’ve been here for about 8 months. I still get phantom pains of anxiety like “Oh crap, I’m going to get fired!” every time Boss asks to speak with me. I was really candid in the beginning that I had a bad boss who’d threaten to fire me at every turn and Boss has been understanding about this all. I’m no 100% over it, but I can definitely say that through time plus talking about it, it’s getting better.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is going to sound silly, but when those “oh crap” statements hit, we can stop ourselves and say, “That is not happening anymore. That is over.” It really is a train the brain thing, because the brain can wander off on tangents that have nothing to do with our current setting. It sounds basic or simplistic to make these statements of the obvious to ourselves but sometimes we need to do that to over come the traumatic memories we carry. Basically, we are calming ourselves, just as a good friend or SO would do if we were talking to them about the situation.

    4. Anxa*

      Honestly, this site has helped a lot!

      I learned that in some jobs, management will go so far as to put people on what is called a performance improvement plan. I still don’t quite understand them, but it just drives home to me that in some organizations, there really is a push to improve employee performance and to talk to them about it. It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve received any really construction criticism, but at least in my last job I didn’t feel like I’d be fired out of nowhere. I must have seemed a little nutty in the first few months, though.

    5. Chantal Witherbottom*

      I think advice here for questions like these is to see if you can have one on one’s with manager or ask them how they think you’re doing so far. It doesn’t have to be a BIG dramatic thing, just ask… “I was just wanting to check in now that I’ve been here for 6 weeks and see how I’m doing or if there’s anything I can improve on?” or something like that.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Exactly this—Alison has a lot of good advice on how to elicit feedback from your manager (assuming your manager is competent). The thing to be careful with is frequency. Do you have scheduled one-on-ones with your manager? Because that would be an easy time to bring it up. But if you don’t, and if you think it’s acceptable/normal for your workplace, consider setting up a monthly check-in with your manager.

  20. Anon for this*

    Hey everyone!

    I have a question concerning graduate school. I’m currently applying to to dual degree program across the US (JD/Master of International Studies). I have two free rides offered to me so far (Michigan State and Oklahoma City University ), but neither school is well-known for what I want to study or located where I want to live. I have another scholarship for the University of Denver for $33,000 (law tuition is $49,000). I’m originally from CO and would love to move back. I’ve also been accepted into American Uni. and waitlisted a Uni. of Colorado. I’m waiting to hear back from a few other schools (Vanderbilt, William & Mary, and Washington & Lee), but was wondering if anyone had any advice or knew anything about these schools that would help make my decision easier.

    1. RedSocks*

      I personally don’t think American is worth the money unless you’ve received a scholarship. Additionally, you can go to school for free and push really hard to get internships/summer associate positions in places you do want to work – you just need to be at the top of your class to make yourself stand-out.

    2. SophieChotek*

      Speaking as someone with huge amounts of student debt, I’d go for free rides.

      Work hard at internships, do everything to gain experience — in the end, that seems more important than “name” value of school–the real world experience is more interesting to employers than theoretical — but maybe it’s different in your program/jobs you would get after.

      Congrats to being accepted to so many schools, etc! that is awesome.

      1. Anon for this*

        Student debt can be crippling. I’ve seen how it changes priorities and sometimes there is no benefit (ex. a degree in something that doesn’t have a job market or dropping out of school only to have all of this debt). I’ve been in the workforce for the last four years in order to:
        1. take a break from school
        2. make sure graduate school is the next step I want to take
        3. help my spouse pay off his debt

        We’re still working on the third one, but we’re in a much better place than where we were.

        And thank you! I’m super excited that I have more options than I thought!

      2. Cookie*

        For law school, the name is everything. Many firms will only recruit from certain schools, so if you attend a third tier school you won’t get the opportunity to be a summer associate and prove yourself.

    3. fluxinsight*

      Since you’re interested in getting a master’s in international studies along with the JD, I recommend that you give a lot of weight to the location of the school as well as how much you have to pay. I would personally accept going to American University or a similar school because it’s located in Washington DC and there’s many internship and job opportunities there. If you go to school in Colorado, you should consider whether there are job opportunities that match your interests.

      Just for reference, I’m a health attorney who works for the federal government in Washington DC.

      1. legalchef*

        Yup, I definitely agree with this. Since it sounds like you want to go into a niche field, you should definitely consider the job market in that location.

        If you weren’t going into a niche field, I would say to go to U of D, since ultimately you want to live there and therefore it would be good to have contacts there. Unless you are going to a “name” law school (super top-tier) where there would be contacts all around the country, it’s often better to go somewhere in a geographical location where you would want to be long-term.

        1. Anon for this*

          Although I have a niche field I’d like to go into (international law), I also know that going back to school may open my eyes to other areas of law that I would like to practice.

          Denver is really where I’m leaning (one of the faculty members there was the director of my study abroad program). One reason is that I’ve seen where they are able to place their MAIS students for externships/internships. There’s also the chance that I can negotiate for a higher scholarship, which would be fantastic.

      2. CMT*

        Yeah, I agree, particularly about the internship opportunities. Plus there’s so much else going on in D.C. that will be relevant to what you’re studying and what kind of career you want that you’re not going to get in Oklahoma City or East Lansing. But also, student loans suck and not having them would be amazing.

        1. Anon for this*

          The student loan issue definitely weighs heavy on me. Although I was fortunate enough not to have any from my undergraduate program, my husband was not so lucky. Four years after graduation and it still feels like we’ve hardly made a dent. My goal has been to get into the best school for free or nearly free if at all possible, but I’m finding out that the name of the school I attend will actually matter.

      3. Anon for this*

        Out of curiosity, where did you go to school for your JDs? I would love to move to the DC area someday, but I’m a bit constrained by where my husband can transfer his apprenticeship. He can move to several different states and will be a journeyman by the time I’m done with school. Would doing a semester in DC or an externship there help make those connections needed?

    4. Tribe Pride!*

      I did undergrad at William and Mary and it was the best choice I ever could’ve made. I don’t know the law school well, but my friends said the international relations major is really strong, so I think the masters would be too. Williamsburg is a cute town, but isn’t super hopping. Also, us undergrads are a relatively tame bunch, so you don’t have to worry too much about shananigans.

      1. Go Tribe!*

        William & Mary also has a Washington D.C. office that sponsors various programs and works to maintain connections between D.C. and the campus. It is also relatively close to D.C.– about a 3-hour drive. This means they are good at getting guest speakers and providing opportunities for students in D.C.– shadowing, internships, events, career connections. W&M has a very strong reputation for teaching. In my undergrad years I only had one professor who gave off the “ugh, I can’t believe I have to teach” vibe, and that was in Physics. I remember from discussions with faculty that the Government and International Relations departments put a lot of time and thought into keeping up with real-world trends/patterns and updating curriculum to prepare students for future success. My understanding is that the law school has a similar focus, going beyond legal theory to ensure that students get some hands-on experience in practicing law so that they don’t end up being attorneys who know the case law but have no idea how to file a brief. One of those efforts is a legal clinic that helps veterans navigate things like securing VA benefits or ensuring that employers follow laws for reservists who need to take military leave or deploy.

      2. Hark upon the Gale!*

        Ditto to all this. Williamsburg is relatively inexpensive as a place to live (at least, compared to American). Plus, Marshall-Wythe is #33 in the country for law schools, which is the highest rank of any of those schools except Vanderbilt.

        The government department and areas associated with IR are really strong. And the College as a whole has strong connections to DC, which will help you get jobs.

      3. Anna*

        One of my friends from HS went to W&M for international relations. She had a great experience there and has great memories of it.

      4. Anon for this*

        I’m glad to read all of the positive comments on William & Mary! Part of my problem has been that I haven’t found anyone to talk to who went to these different schools. Out of curiosity, what made you decide to attend William & Mary? They weren’t even on my radar until they reached out to me, so I’m curious what drew other people to attend there.

    5. CG*

      Not a lawyer, but did go to undergrad at one of the schools you mentioned and suspect that I work in roughly the field you want to go into based on those degrees. I loved it at the undergrad level (it’s really big on international programs and study/work abroad, and I really liked the decent-sized metro area where the school was and how much green space it had – but it’s not in a city like a giant east coast city, and it was a tough place to hunt for international affairs jobs on the coasts from before I had any work experience in the field, which is frankly true of most of the cities you are looking at).

      It really, really, really depends on what you want to do. If you want to be a firm lawyer who focuses on international law, I think you might want to talk to someone who does that about whether being top 10 at any of those schools would get you anywhere. If you want to do policy, experiences and connections will matter more than where you went unless you went to the Kennedy School or similar, and I think either a) having a full ride or b) going somewhere where you have a lot of internship options while you go to school (because of where you’re located geographically) will set you up best for the part that I assume matters most to you: graduating and going into international affairs related jobs. As someone still paying off their loans, I think a) is more important than b), but that’s my bias, and I know lots of people who feel the opposite way. Actually, finding some folks who do jobs that you want to do and asking them about their path/these programs may be a good idea no matter what – it usually gives good info.

      A general note on grad programs: I work in this field and am not sure about any job that would specifically REQUIRE this degree combo (experiences matter a lot in intl affairs compared with specific grad degrees). I’ll concede that we like our grad degrees here in [major east coast city], but JD + Master’s is a big commitment, and even if it’s paid for, you’re still giving up years of salary earning to be in school. If you’re not getting the funding you want in the cities you want to be in, maybe consider working a few years in the general area that you want to end up in first. That will help guide your decisionmaking. (I’m sure you’ve already considered this and heard the chorus of “don’t get a JD/masters/whatever unless you actually need it!” already, but it bears repeating.”)

        1. CG*

          Yeah, I didn’t word that in the most helpful way… I meant not that the JD or master’s was extraneous and would add a ton of time but rather that they (some JD/MA programs but mostly IS/IR grad programs) can be kind of broad, and some people who have an interest in jobs in those areas would probably be better served by either working for a bit (/getting international work experience) and then getting a JD OR getting work experience and then getting a more specific master’s (like public policy, enviro science, economics, regional studies, etc) based on where they want their career to go. Many of the folks I know who worked for a few years in their international affairs fields and then went to grad school had a much better idea of which schools and programs made sense for them than I did when I went to grad school right out of undergrad – because things like what that school specializes in and what its network can get you tend to matter more than which city it’s in (except the DC-internships/jobs thing noted by a couple of us above).

          It’s quite possible the original poster already has the experience to know that this degree combo is the next step to advance their career path. However, I know a lot of people who did similar programs because they thought it would help them break into international affairs jobs, and it turned out kind of like …so I figure it’s a worthwhile caveat.

      1. Rob Lowe can't read*

        Go Green! (?) If my assumption here is correct, I wholeheartedly agree with your first paragraph. I had a great undergrad experience there, but no alums I know got their desirable D.C.-area IR jobs without putting in a lot of time (and usually getting a graduate degree) on the East Coast – which I realize is the norm for new grads, but I think it also indicates that the OP may not want to pursue grad school on the banks of the Red Cedar.

    6. Anonymous for this*

      What do you want to study? I did the dual degree program at AU. I’d do the law program again but not the MA.

    7. Poetic &a Noble Land Mermaid*

      Take the free ride! Getting jobs after grad school has almost nothing to do with where you went and everything to do with what you did while you were there. And after one job, where you went to school officially means zero, but student debt lasts for (it seems) forever!

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I would say this isn’t true in several fields. The school I attended for my MA has a massive alumni network that was crucial in helping me land my first career job. (I’m in media.) Some of my friends who did the MA/JD at that school had trouble finding law jobs because the law school wasn’t well regarded. If they had focused on the media part, they probably would have done better.

          1. Poetic & Noble Land Mermaid*

            Any school that has a law school is large enough to have a large alumni network. Name and network are not worth going in to debt for. Especially when you are talking about the legal and international relations fields which are fairly job poor right now. The freedom from having to make future decisions based on crushing amounts of debt is worth quite a lot these days.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That is simply not true. There are literally dozens of law schools that operate on a high admission high flunk out model where they take your money for the first year and then kick out half of the class. Very few strong alumni networks.

        2. Poetic & Noble Land Mermaid*

          Nope, it just matters if you were in the top of your class at a decent school and did good work for the law review/in an externship/clerking. Nobody cares that you went to Harvard law if you didn’t do anything while you were there.

        3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Only if the school is Top 50, which I don’t believe any of these are. (It’s been a while since I’ve looked at this.)

          Question to the OP: Do you actually want to practice law when you finish school? That is, do you want to work in a job that will, as a bona fide occupational qualification of the position, require you to be a member of the Bar? If the answer is “No,” I would recommend an MBA or MPA with a concentration in international relations. Your time in school will be half (2 years vs. 4 years), the ability to work while in school is much more so (if you want to – and it does help with finding a job), and your earning potential will be similar, unless you want to go into BigLaw. And if you want to go into BigLaw, the MA in Int’l Relations is superfluous.

          If, you want to practice law and do something like, say, immigrant rights law, then take the free ride and bust your tail while in school – those jobs do NOT pay very well. (I personally would go with Michigan State as it is more of a brand name and has a better academic reputation overall, but ultimately you’ll be spending 4 years there, not me!)

          *Signed, one of the many “Smart Kids” who people tried to talk into law school when I was in undergrad. I resisted and got an MPA from a ranked school and paid in-state tuition and had a career-launching job 2 months before I graduated, and watched my law school peers flounder and face underemployment with triple the loans and fewer job prospects.

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            Correction – it appears the three you are waiting on are all Top 50. They *might* be worth considering regardless of funding, taking into account my comment above. But all the more important to bust your tail while there, because those loans come due QUICK.

            Looks like Michigan State and American are close enough in rankings that the free ride + lower cost of living would far outweigh any “benefits” being at American would get you. Denver actually has a better ranking than American – being in a city you could see yourself long term might be worth it for the extra tuition money, both from a quality of life perspective AND ease of finding work due to proximity.

            You’ve probably already seen this, but in case not:

            1. Anon for this*

              I actually do want to practice law. I chose my undergraduate major in order to enhance the research & writing skills I would need to be a successful attorney and law student. I took a break from school (4 years at this point) to explore other options, see what the law job market was like, and life has just kinda happened along the way. However, I haven’t lost my desire to go to law school and become an attorney.

              And I’ve looked at that ranking system so many times it’s not even funny! :) If this tells you my nerdiness level at all, I have a spreadsheet with the information from all of the different schools I’ve applied to, scholarships offered, median LSAT scores, etc. And it’s color coded… Yeah, I’m a little strange.

    8. persimmon*

      What type of job are you hoping to have? From what I’ve seen, most international legal non-profit jobs go to people at the top 14 schools and/or with serious pre-law international work experience (very competitive!). And big firm jobs, which can involve international work, are mostly located in the biggest cities and also mostly go to T14 students. The vast majority of legal jobs available relate to U.S. law, and the MA may not be much benefit. Worth considering all this, because I’ve seen many people come to law school interested in one kind of work, only to find out that work doesn’t really exist or isn’t realistic coming out of that school.

      Another point either way would be to retake the LSAT–the test is very learnable, if time-consuming, and it really is amazing what a difference a few points makes in terms of admissions and scholarship money. Often it is very much worth delaying applications for a year to get a much better outcome.

    9. help me im bored*

      Free ride free ride! I’m also applying for JD programs and only setting my sights on schools where I have the greatest chance for 75%+ tuition coverage. I have no interest in big law, so brand names aren’t as important.

      Keep in mind you can leverage your entrance and scholarship offers in your talks with other schools. For example, call up Colorado and tell them about your other scholarship offers, that you’d go with them if not for the money. See if they present another offer. It’s a buyer’s market for law schools and your tuition is up for negotiation!

      Also, I’ve heard the American is only worth your time if you’re interested in working in politics. FYI.

    10. RR*

      Joint MPA/International Studies MA working in DC area in international development: TAKE THE FREE RIDE!!! I went to a good program, but not as well known as AU. I graduated debt free, which made a HUGE difference to my financial well-being. It was initially a little bit (but only a little bit) harder to find my first job. I moved to DC with no job. I was able to find a decent entry-level position fairly quickly, working alongside people who had gone to American, and other DC area schools. We all got the same (lousy) salary. No one cared much where we had received our Master’s degrees. Thank goodness I did not need to make student loan payments. On the other hand, if you know you want to practice law in CO, and live there, then CO may well be a better choice. But for international development related careers, I would suggest that the free ride. Most jobs will not really care where you went to school.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        OP – Read this comment and go get an MPA instead. ;)

        I didn’t have a free ride, but I had in-state tuition & intentions of staying in that city post-graduation. My student loan payment is a pittance compared to many peers. :) (A free ride would have been great, but I was geographically limited and I did lousy on my GREs, sooooo ….)

      2. Anon for this*

        Good to know. Thanks for the insight! I’m hoping to negotiate a larger scholarship with Denver in order to lower my student debt (or not have any at all). I’d like to eventually end up in DC, but have no problem working in Colorado for a while first if Denver or Uni of Colorado is the place I decide to go to.

    11. Spartan*

      Michigan state is well known for having one of the best study abroad programs in the country (Law students can also participate in school study abroad programs in London, Japan, Canada, Croatia, and Poland), which I would think would be very beneficial if you are targeting the dual degree. They also have a Washington, D.C., semester program, in which students take courses and complete externships at federal agencies, courts, and departments. I have been to CU, and if you like the feeling of being immersed in the city (similar to Ann Arbor) then you will not like MSU as well. However, I find the community within the school and surrounding neighborhood is great. You have a decent sized city of Lansing and it’s burbs really close, and larger things in Detroit 1.5 hours away.

    12. Gaara*

      If you want to work in Colorado, you absolutely should go to Denver with the large scholarship. MAYBE Colorado if that comes through. But law degrees generally aren’t that portable unless you’re at like Harvard, and you need to be where you want to work because networking and being present is how you will get ahead. And do not, do not, DO NOT overestimate your job/earning prospects — so don’t take on more debt than you have to, and be very wary of paying full price.

      Signed, a lawyer who went to a top 20 school, had been highly paid for my market (Minneapolis), still has $126k in debt 7.5 years after graduation, and feels trapped in their current job in a toxic environment because the debt isn’t going anywhere and finding new jobs as a lawyer is just really hard.

      1. Anon for this*

        Wow! Thanks for the heads up/warning. I definitely do not want to end up with that much debt! Although I’m an overachiever with a decent work history and top marks from my undergraduate, I am setting the bar low for my earning potential starting out so I don’t take out too much debt.

        I hope you get out of your toxic situation soon!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Keep in mind that the average law school debt these days is coming up on $150K—honestly, $126K seems not that high (I know, shocking). I wrote more on this, below, but if you anticipate being a low-income earner but will be working for a 501(c)(3) or any governmental entity, take a hard look at loan repayment assistance programs (LRAP) and federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness. They’re basically back-end financial aid.

          U.S. News & World Report has information on indebtedness and debt burdens for 2015 law grads, which may help you as you plan/evaluate:

    13. Marillenbaum*

      Current MA student at AU here (SIS). Before I went to grad school, I also worked in undergraduate admissions, so picking a school and program is something with which I have a lot of experience.
      When I was applying for grad programs, I thought long and hard about the city I wanted to be in–for me, it was DC or bust. I looked for top 10 programs in IR, and ultimately applied to AU and Hopkins-SAIS. I chose AU because of cost–Hopkins is absurdly expensive, and at AU they offered an assistantship which was going to make the whole thing a lot more doable. My mentor explained it to me thusly: “Once you start working, people aren’t going to care where you went to school; they’re going to care about the quality of your work in the field.”
      I’d highly recommend giving serious consideration to the schools that offered you money–that means they want you, so don’t be afraid to call them, ask to speak to professors you’d be studying under, that sort of thing. I’d also recommend checking with their grad career offices and see about how they do with in-field internship placements, alumni networks, mentoring, job placement, etc.

    14. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      If you want to return to Colorado long term, then go to UDenver or U of Colorado. They both have strong in-state networks, they’re respected in the Colorado legal community, and they both have legit international programs (particularly for international human rights/diplomacy). Many of the schools on your list are solid, but Michigan State and Oklahoma City U are generally known to produce grads who want to stay in-state, and the alumni networks/name-brand are stronger there. Similarly, AU plays broadly on the East Coast, W&L and W&M in VA/NC/DC/WV, and Vandy plays strongest in the south (but has a national reputation). But keep all your applications open for as long as possible so that you can leverage the scholarship offers for better (non-loan) FinAid.

      There are a lot of programs where it’s hard to gain access to career advancement opportunities unless you’re near the top of your class, on law review, etc. I would pick a program that gives you options regardless of whether you’re at the tip top of your class, and that has a decent bar passage rate for first-time test takers and decent job placement stats. I’d figure out if there’s an alumni network for your desired field. I’d also check if there are faculty who teach in the areas you care about who are in residence (i.e., not on sabbatical or visiting elsewhere). And if the law school will pay for you to come out and visit on Admit Day, then take them up on it and go visit—it’s really hard to get a feel for the law campus culture from afar.

      Finally, while debt is certainly a consideration, it should not be the only one. Definitely don’t evaluate the debt by using the standards you used for evaluating undergrad debt—it’s not really analogous. If you’re at all interested in a career in public interest/service, definitely look into your school’s LRAP program and into the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (caveat: the latter may be changed/restricted under the new administration, and you have to make a 10-year commitment to receive the benefit). At the right program, a JD is a down payment on your career, but at a program that’s not a great fit, the debt is a stress-inducing albatross that crowds out other money-requiring goals/dreams (e.g., it tends to delay homeownership, it can impact your decisions around when to have kids or when to retire, it can impact your career choice/path, etc.).

      Congratulations, and good luck!

  21. Allison*

    Today is the last day of my contract. I’ve been with this company for 2 and a half years, and leaving it bittersweet. It was a good job with good bosses.

    Now I’m going into 2017 jobless. I was optimistic I could nail something down before now, I’d been given 2 months notice which is more than enough! But I’m eligible for unemployment, and I have a couple good irons in the fire. One I interviewed with 3 weeks ago (holiday season/end of quarter craziness at that office seems to have delayed the decision making process, which is to be expected), and I’m interviewing somewhere else hopefully next week, it hasn’t been confirmed yet though. So hopefully one of those jobs will pan out and I won’t be on unemployment for too long!

    Don’t worry, I know to keep applying to other jobs, just in case!

    I am nervous about the temporary loss of income, but I’m looking forward to a bit of rest (hopefully just a bit) and then starting fresh in a new job.

      1. Allison*

        It took me a long time to get there though. I’ve been a bundle of nerves this month, anxiously waiting for a decision on a job I interviewed for 3 weeks ago. Only a few days ago did I accept that whatever happens with that job most likely isn’t happening this week, and the only thing I can do right now is chill out.

  22. Bend & Snap*

    Post acquisition workplace continues to deteriorate. Just when I think it can’t suck any more, it does. Recently I found out a dear and capable colleague was forced into an extensive interview process for her then-current job, didn’t get it and was moved as an individual contributor to a team she used to lead.

    I’ve finally made the right inroads into a Fortune 50 company, am interviewing for two separate roles, and the internal recruiter is trying to “get me over the finish line.”

    I’ve had 6 million phone interviews, including with VPs and team members, but nothing in person yet. Waiting is so hard!

    Hoping I’ll hear something next week re: next steps and I can GTFO of my current job before I become bitter.

    Any words of wisdom on the job hunt and staying focused/engaged at my current gig?

    1. Graciosa*

      On staying engaged, it can help to think of this as a temp job which is going to end soon but from which you want a good reference. You know you’re leaving (even if not exactly when) so you can let the craziness roll off you a bit – you’re leaving and it won’t affect you. Just keep smiling and getting your work done and building your references.

      On the job hunt, give yourself breaks. You can’t make this stuff happen when you want it to happen – even if you work every free minute and try really hard – so there’s no point in killing yourself trying. Figure out a schedule or a plan (X applications per Time, or job search work only MWF) so that you keep moving forward but still have some time off to do something just for yourself.

      Take care of yourself, and good luck.

  23. Cube Farmer*

    Grieving at work. Should it be a private matter?

    I had a vacation planned just before Christmas where I would be meeting my boyfriend in New York City (he was heading up a few days ahead of me) in order to meet his extended family on both sides. I was splitting the time over the weekend so was only going to be out of the office for three days. The day he left to head to the city, he died. I was caught off guard and completely devastated to put it mildly. I called my boss and texted one of my direct reports to let them know I would not be in the office for at least a week as I would be doing a lot of traveling to attend to his funeral in NY. I got back the normal shocked and, “If you need anything…” messages. The only contact my office had with me when I was out was when I called to make sure my digital timesheet was being submitted by the office manager. She told me she would use all my PTO to cover the time as I was not eligible for bereavement leave because he was “only your boyfriend”. (A little bitter side note: if my mother, whom I have not heard from in years, dies I get three days off.)

    When I returned a week later, I was in terrible shape and should not have been at work but I have a teens to raise by myself. I kept getting asked by colleagues how my Manhattan vacation was; I would then break down into a sobbing mess. Turned out, no one told anyone in the office what I was going through. I finally sent out an email to all of the employees to explain what had happened and why I was such a mess. Many people were supportive and a lot of people just chose not to make eye contact with me for a week, including my boss. I know everyone is different but I want to work somewhere where compassion is the rule. Maybe I am the odd-man-out to believe that death and grieving is not a secret like a personal health problem.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      That’s awful. I’m so sorry. You’re right, people should be compassionate and understanding. Hope you have some good people around you at this time.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m so, so sorry, both for your loss and for its aftermath. First, I think it’s crappy they didn’t extend bereavement leave to you, but I have very strong feelings about the restrictions on some of those policies. Second, it is SO strange to me that no one shared the information. I agree with you– this isn’t, “Cube Farmer had a massive cyst removed from her foot,” this is, “Cube Farmer just lost someone close to her,” which is a heads-up to tread lightly and a kindness.

      Many, many people do not know how to deal with death. It doesn’t excuse them, but a lot of people don’t realize that often, all they have to do is say, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” full stop. Try not to focus on the people who are avoiding you– it’s likely not malicious– and remember that you do seem to be surrounded by some kindness and support.

    3. orchidsandtea*

      I am so sorry for your loss. May his memory be eternal.

      When we had a miscarriage, I called my now-former boss to tell him and to let him know I’d be out for about a week. There was no one else to tell, but I felt like he gave me extra grace for a couple months, and I desperately needed it.

      If it happened again at my new job (God forbid, God forbid) I’d tell my manager and disappear on unpaid leave as long as we could afford to / they would let me. I certainly would appreciate flowers, restaurant giftcards aka modern casseroles, and a heartfelt non-preachy sympathy card. I probably would appreciate a “Here’s what happened; she doesn’t want to talk about it” office-wide email, but that’s just because I cannot handle comments like your office manager’s. She was way out of line, and I am so sorry. He was a person, an irreplaceable person, and he mattered to you. It is not for her to judge which relationships count.

      Please be very kind to yourself as you grieve. Wishing you every good thing.

    4. Future Analyst*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. :(

      Unfortunately, I think this is a situation in which your company tried to do the right thing, but mucked it up a bit. We’ve heard stories here about companies that spread news that the individual would rather keep secret, and most of the time, the individual would have preferred to spread the news themselves, or not at all. I could see how your manager may have been trying to respect your privacy, though in hindsight it would have made sense to at least tell people that you “suffered a loss” or something similarly vague, so that you didn’t have to walk into an office full of people asking about your fun vacation.

      The PTO bit is utter crap– there’s no excuse for that. Relationships are far from binary these days (there’s a huge gulf of options between “married” and “single”), and it would be great if companies would deal with these types of things on a case-by-case basis, rather than a blanket policy.

      Again, so sorry for your loss. That sounds incredibly difficult.

      1. Karo*

        Ditto this – I had a co-worker leave unexpectedly to handle a death in the family but I wasn’t sure what to say to who. If someone asked I’d tell them there was a death so she had gone home for a bit, but if they didn’t ask I didn’t want to offer it and have them think I was…trying to steal the spotlight, I guess? I don’t know. I’m weird.

        Regardless – Cube, I am so, so sorry for your loss. Words are sort of useless right now, but you have my condolences.

    5. Typoallergenic*

      I am so sorry you are going through this. “Only your boyfriend.” My blood boils for you. Our romantic partners are usually among the most significant relationships we have, no matter the legal status. Please accept my internet hugs.

      Everyone does grieve differently and it’s hard to know whether people would want the office to know about it or not. For me personally, I am not sure I would necessarily want everyone to know–so my version of compassion in the situation might involve some privacy. I would want my close co-workers to know though I think. I am grateful I don’t know first-hand what it’s like. I’m so sorry.

    6. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      Oh my goodness, how so very horrible. I am so sorry. Well, they’ve obviously showed their lack of compassion. They must be taking the attitude of “we have a business to run, that is that.” So, lean on the people closest to you, get some grief counseling, and book a massage if you’re able. A friend that went through a pretty bad grieving period said that massages helped her so much. My heart goes out to you.

    7. WellRed*

      I cannot BELIEVE no one at your office thought to spread the word. When my dad died earlier this year, I told my boss and said “I’m leaving it up to you to tell everyone what’s going on.” And I didn’t take enough time off.

    8. JuniperGreen*

      Oh, I’m so sorry to hear this, Cube Farmer. Grief is complicated and, unfortunately, it can paralyze people who aren’t comfortable with it even if it doesn’t directly effect them. So try not to take your coworkers’ reactions personally, and instead take whatever time you are able to be away from the office, even for a little bit. If there is an HR dept, maybe you can appeal to them for bereavement leave so your PTO isn’t impacted. Also, I know you say you have a teen to raise – remember that taking care of yourself also serves them, as well as you.

    9. Drew*

      I am so sorry for your loss; that sounds devastating and I’m glad they let you take a week for the services and other necessities, even if they were weird about it.

      I don’t think you should feel bad at all about telling your colleagues. As you said, they had a right to know why you were upset. I also don’t think you need to be worried about your bosses, though; sometimes, bosses keep things private because they aren’t sure how much the person would want to have shared, rather than out of some odd desire to keep people in the dark. And, as you said, a lot of people are uncomfortable around death, and you may be working with more of them than you realized.

    10. Friday*

      I’m so very sorry for your loss. Is working from home an option for you? Sometimes it’s easier to focus on work if you don’t also have to focus on not crying. That was the case for me when my dad died.

      I wish your boss had discreetly told your colleagues, and also wish that your company had decided to bend the rules on bereavement leave. The company I work for wasn’t just amazing to me when my dad died… my boss also managed to get me bereavement leave when my mother-in-law’s fiancee died the year prior.

      I wish you all the best in this sad time.

    11. The One with the Brother*

      I’m so sorry. Dealing with death is hard enough, but it’s in some ways worse when it’s unexpected. My brother died in a car crash in July — I got the phone call while I was at work, so everyone I worked with knew. I don’t use them as therapists, but I do talk on occasion about how things are going in that and how my parents are doing. If I expect things to be already-stressful at work and I know I’m having a rough run of grief days (which happens for me — I’ll be fine for a few days and then have a few days of it being really tough), I’ll give people a heads up if it’s appropriate and I think it might affect a conversation/my work/whatever. So, it hasn’t been much private for me at all and I’ve found that to be helpful. I don’t have a lot of social outlets where I currently live and my coworkers don’t seem to mind, so *shrug*

      I did find a good support group for siblings recently, though, so maybe that’ll change.

    12. not so super-visor*

      I’m so sorry for your loss and how this was handled by your workkplace. This is terrible, and you have every right to be upset with how your work handled it.
      I went through something similar with my HR when my 2 year-old niece died a few years ago. I was told “she’s only your niece” and “she wasn’t a close enough relative” for bereavement time by the director of HR. I spent two days in a hospital with my sister prior to her death, and I was devastated. I didn’t have any PTO time left after. I had to go back the next day. I cried all day. My boss at the time was sympathetic but said that there was nothing that he could do– his hands were tied. The only saving grace was that the funeral was on a weekend, otherwise they wouldn’t have given me time for that either. I probably would have quit. My blood still boils about it.

    13. Claudia M.*

      You are amazingly strong for being even this functional following something so devastating.

      Earlier this year, I experienced multiple losses of my own. I am a very private person and wanted work to only know the basics, aside from a few close coworkers.

      What I did learn was this: everyone, including your coworkers, deals with grief differently.

      MANY of my coworkers did not even know how to handle me, what to say, how to act. Their own discomfort with loss was affecting their behavior towards me.

      The saddest part was the people who refused to even acknowledge or discuss it, especially since talking about the person I lost was actually enjoyable for me – it was remembering them. I didn’t want to forget it or ignore it.

      Regardless, for some people grief is incredibly private. For others, sharing actually helps them recover and heal. Be very open with people about which one you are, but be forgiving. Some people can’t handle grief, and it may not have anything personally to do with you.

      For me, the grief never really goes away, but it does become more comfortable to carry. When that happens is different for everyone, and I find I still trip and fall backwards on some days and lose all the progress I’ve made.

      Please, take care of yourself. You’re already doing the incredible just by functioning after such a loss. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself.

    14. Viktoria*

      I am so sorry for your loss. How horrible. I agree with you that death and grieving does not need to be secret. I think it is determined by whatever makes the bereaved person most comfortable. A friend of the family and office-mate is currently grieving and he has been wanting to talk about his sister a lot. Although it is uncomfortable, because it’s so hard to know what to say to someone, the right thing to do is to be compassionate and kind. I am sorry that some of your coworkers did not extend that compassion to you.

    15. Venus Supreme*

      This is absolutely awful. I am so sorry for your loss.

      I am angry on your behalf that your company is sticking with archaic bereavement rules simply because you are not blood- or legally-connected to your loved one.

      A good friend of mine shockingly passed away this year (she just turned 23, we were all blindsided) and my office was supportive. I was considered immediate family when my boyfriend’s mother suddenly passed away — my boyfriend and I are not engaged but have been together for quite a while. I’m so sorry that you don’t feel supported and your office, on a technical level, is not valuing your relationship. This is out of the norm (at least in my world), and super weird this information about your loss wasn’t passed around.

      Please take care of yourself in the coming days/weeks/year.

    16. Cube Farmer*

      Thank you all very much for the kind words and encouragement. The first two weeks were some of the worst of my life. I took the time this week to sit down and evaluate my grief and why I was so profoundly debilitated by it. I read a lot of my Buddhist’s text and can finally say I am turning a corner. I can actually think of him and smile now, not just scream and cry. I know this is far from the end of my grief and I will still go through a myriad of emotions; but I am at peace that he is at peace and I was so very fortunate to have those precious, beautiful years with him. I hope everyone has a wonderful new year.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The stuff that blindsides us is so hard. If you can find a book or two about grief and the grieving process that might feel supportive also.

        One of the difficult things about grief is that we do not get to pick who is supportive and who is not supportive. People tend to be self-selecting. What we can do is keep a presence of mind to watch for the people who DO chose to talk with us. And usually, it’s the people we least expect, the mail man, the neighbor down the block, the woman at the coffee shop, a cousin that doesn’t communicate often. Oddly, these people seem to be the ones that can offer the best “helps” in the moment. I don’t know maybe it’s because we listen closer to people who we don’t know so well? Not sure. Or maybe sympathy pushes shy people to speak up. That could be true, too.
        When you do find someone who offers help, tell them yes. Let them help, even if you can do it yourself, let them help you for that moment. It’s amazing how good it can feel to see someone helping us. It can strengthen us, also.

        I am so sorry for your loss.

    17. Agile Phalanges*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. What a horrific time you’ve had lately.

      I’ll chime in with the others that the handling of the news at the office does suck for you, but they likely thought they were protecting your privacy by not telling others what had happened. It doesn’t make YOU feel any better, of course, but it likely explains their thought process. Maybe you could explain to one person, privately, when you can (whether that’s soonish or a year from now) how this affected you and ask them to pass it along to the appropriate folks so they can consider how this affects the bereaved. Maybe a policy of asking them at the time they call with the terrible news how (or if) they’d like it passed along to others would be good.

      And I just want to also add that the handling of this by individual co-workers is just that–so individual. Some people have never experienced any loss, let alone something so sudden, so they probably just don’t know what to say, so they don’t say anything. This doesn’t make it RIGHT, but again, just kind of explains why. It also doesn’t make it any less hurtful to you, of course. But how every individual handles hearing/knowing someone else is going through a terrible time is different, and how every individual going through a terrible time wants others to handle it is individual as well.

      When I was in high school, my best friend lost her mom to cancer. It obviously wasn’t sudden, but I heard the news through the grapevine when she missed a day or two of school. Then when she returned, I just didn’t know how to bring it up, didn’t know whether it would be painful for her if I brought it up if she didn’t (duh, of course I know better now, but I’d never dealt with any of it before), and so I just figured I’d offer my condolences when she brought it up. But she never did. We just proceeded with high school life like normal, day after day. Finally a week or two later, she made some off-handed comment about how much she appreciated that I just treated her like normal and didn’t make a fuss over her. So I got lucky that my fear and ignorance caused behavior that turned out to be exactly what my friend wanted from me at that time. But of course it could have gone the other way just as easily. Which is to say that as the person grieving, you’re going to encounter people who give you exactly what you need from them at exactly the right time, and lots of people who don’t do the “right” thing, but it’s not necessarily because they don’t feel sympathy for you. I know you don’t have a lot of spoons to give people the benefit of the doubt, but just try to be gentle with both them, and with your own reactions to them. Chances are really good they’re not acting any certain way “at” you.

      Again, so sorry for your loss.

    18. NicoleK*

      I’m very sorry for your loss. A loss is difficult for most people to process. Especially when it’s a coworker. People don’t always know how to respond to grieving coworkers. Additionally, employers often don’t know how to handle when an employee suffers a loss. Some employees want support from their colleagues and other want nothing from their colleagues.

      On the bereavement policy, it may seem unfair but there’s a policy in place because someone abused it and ruined it for everyone else.

    19. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Cube, I am so sorry on so many levels. First, for the loss, its abruptness, and the brutal unfairness of it. I’m sorry the office manager did not have the decency to explain the policy with compassion, and I am sorry you had to deal with a sea of flummoxed coworkers in awkward-turtle mode. I imagine they are horrified at having asked about your vacation and are probably too embarrassed to know how to apologize or what to say. I agree with Future Analyst that your boss was probably trying to respect your privacy, but instead it came off as callous, which put you in an awful position. It’s not wrong to email your workplace to let them know about the death, particularly since folks had been asking you triggering questions about your holiday. I’m sending you warm thoughts and support; you are very brave.

  24. Anonny*

    I am five months into a new job. My charge is to build a website for one department in a large, multi-national organization. I am trying to do my job properly and feel caught in an awkward position between two departments at odds with one another — my department and Marketing.

    The Marketing Department has issued strict guidelines for design projects for the entire organization. The department I work for DOES NOT want to follow these guidelines. My department Director’s perspective is that our project is substantively different from the usual company project and therefore, should be exempted from the guidelines.

    I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to get both sides to talk to one another the past few months. I’ve emailed the Marketing VP and Directors asking them to talk to my Department director.

    Informally, my Director told me he flat out doesn’t care what the VP thinks. He says the Marketing Department has no way of enforcing these branding rules and I should proceed with the project with the assumption that we are doing a website that is different from the company guidelines. My supervisor has given me a lecture about not treating Marketing as “gatekeepers” who have any legitimate say on how our website is going to look.

    My main worry is that we come up with designs for the website with the help of a design firm, and when it comes time to have Marketing review it (a Brand Review process is a requirement prior to launch), Marketing can reject the design and ask for major revisions. That would mean thousands of dollars and many hours worth of work down the drain.

    Recently, out of the blue after weeks of stonewalling, my department Director sent an email (a long but polite and civil one) to the Marketing VP (copying me) explaining the ratonale on why our website should be exempted from the guidelines. The Marketing VP has had several weeks to respond since then but hasn’t responded. I’ve sent a couple of follow up emails and also a voicemail to the VP and still no response.

    Am I right to feel anxious? My guess is the Marketing VP just got fed up with our department and is now not cooperating. My perspective is the VP is justified if he is fed up — I would be too if I were in his position. I think my department is completely in the wrong here.

    But I realize my job is to execute what my Department director wants. What would you recommend as next steps towards resolving the question of how our website is supposed to look?

    1. Future Analyst*

      Oof. That’s a really crappy position to be in. Ultimately, I think you have to stick with what your managers want, since they will be the ones reviewing you at the end of the year. I know how much it sucks that there’s a potential for rework and wasted time, but I don’t know that you can keep both sides happy at the same time. Sorry, friend!

      1. JuniperGreen*

        Agreed. Your role is not to be a mediator, but to complete the site. And your direct managers are the ones calling the shots here (for better or for worse). It is never fun to get a brief that is highly disputed and contentious – it makes your job 1000x harder.

        Does your Director know that Marketing will likely stall the project during the review phase? Next time you meet, prepare an overview of that review process and lay out your concerns. The Director’s response might be “So what?”, but it will be helpful to CYA.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      No advise, but I can sympathies. We went through a re-branding and it is a nightmare. Everyone is skirting around the changes because they are too burdensome. Our powerpoint slides are so large that they have to be saved on external drives, but hey, they have a nice crisp logo.

    3. Gene*

      There’s a common phrase in the military (and other places), “That’s above my pay grade.”

      This is above your pay grade. You’ve made the people who’s job it is do make the decision aware of the problem. Now you just need to let it go and do what your Director wants done, with full knowledge that it may (probably is going to) be tossed on the heap. Just make sure you’re writing clean, well documented and commented code to make it easier for you and future site managers to make changes.

      Yeah, the many hour of work down the drain sucks. But the many dollars wasted won’t be on your head.

    4. H.C.*

      As someone on the marketing side who just did a site redesign last year, you have my sympathies (even internally within marketing , the review/feedback/redesign process is no fun.)

      Generally, I agree with the others that you should follow your superiors’ directive to proceed since they are your direct supervisors and marketing has already been given ample opportunity to weigh in already BUT if possible, plan for & build in resources to allow for those final design adjustments come mandatory brand review time. Also, if you have access to the current branding guide – study it well & provide it to your design firm vendor so they can build something that adheres closely to the current brand (reducing the chances of needing rework when marketing weighs in.)

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I call this working stupid (as opposed to working smart). I hate it when this happens, it makes me think about looking for a new job. I have a hard time dealing with waste, including time waste.
      I agree that you have to do what the boss says. You have emails or other proof of what Boss is saying, right?
      Try not to let it eat you and give it your best. Always do your best, because that will be something you can hang on to. “I knew that my boss was instructing me wrong, but I did what he said and I did it to the best of my ability.”

      I have worked that way, do something two or three times because of nonsense like this. One of the ways I chugged through it was by viewing it as a visitor, “Oh what new thing can I learn here?” Or “What details or relationships between Things can I observe that I have not noticed before?” I knew full well that whatever I taught myself would be helpful at my next job.

      It’s okay to feel anxious. But you have had your boss repeat the instructions so you are well covered.
      I’m sorry, this sucks.

    6. Zip Silver*

      Similar things happen in my company. I’m in operations, and our VPs are constantly in a pissing match with marketing. Like another commenter mentioned, it’s above your pay grade, just do what your boss wants you to do.

    7. Soupspoon McGee*

      Stop getting in the middle of this. This power struggle started long before you, and you can’t fix it.

      Let your director deal with marketing. It’s not your problem if your director’s decision ends up costing the company more time and money, but it IS your problem if your director thinks you’re insubordinate.

      1. Anonny*

        Thanks for the feedback. Ordinarily I won’t be getting in the middle of this but my department and supervisors have never undertaken a web build before. I am just trying to guide them through the process the best way that I can — and that includes complying with whatever policies their headquarters have placed on all projects. I am not trying to be insubordinate. I am just wanting to do my job the right way.

        1. Soupspoon McGee*

          Oh crap–my comment sounded harsh, but I didn’t mean it like that! I’m sorry! I know you’re trying to do the right thing, and you’re not trying to be insubordinate–it’s just that your manager sounds like an unreasonable person who will perceive you that way because he wants to do things his way and doesn’t think the rules apply to him. I was in your shoes, got in the middle trying to do things right, and got attacked from all sides. I think you’ve done all you reasonably can do, and now it’s time to let the managers fight it out.

  25. Journal Entries*

    A fellow manager brought her 1 year old into work today and now wants to borrow one of my employees to help her with her work. I’m extremely busy and I feel like if she didn’t have her child with her she would have a lot more time. I’m feeling really frustrated but like I can’t say no.

    1. Future Analyst*

      My sympathies. Don’t know if that’s the case here, but I would never bring my kids in with me unless I really didn’t have any other options, so it’s possible that this is as annoying/frustrating for her as it is for you. Hope the day goes by in a flash!

    2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      You most certainly can say no. It sounds a lot like, “I’m sorry, but we’re too busy to spare anyone.”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It’s fine to say no.
      Where I worked sometimes my peer would go get my boss after I said no. Sometimes the boss would override my no and sometimes my boss would tell my peer to pick up the pace herself. This was very normal stuff. If two peers disagree it’s up to the boss to figure out how best to allot the work.

  26. Windchime*

    I’m still loving my new job. The people are all really nice and it’s low-stress thus far. I do have one coworker who has asked me for a couple of weird favors, considering that we barely know each other. When I was heading to training at a location that is in the midwest (I am in the PNW), she asked me to take an extra suitcase full of bulky items with me to give to a friend who lived in the town I was training in. She would pay for the baggage fees. I declined, saying that I was having back pain (true) and didn’t think I could manage an extra suitcase. This week, she asked me if I had a particular type of online account and when I said yes, she asked me if she could use it because she is “too cheap” to buy one herself. I said no. It just seems weird that someone I have only known for a couple of months would ask for these types of favors. She is otherwise a really nice, fun person.

    1. Future Analyst*

      That sounds weird. Keep saying “no” to things! She sounds like she doesn’t quite understand boundaries.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I’ve worked with people who treat you like a BFF rather than a colleague. It’s very…strange. Seconding the advice to keep saying no.

    3. SophieChotek*

      Ugh, I agree. Say “no” – she sounds like the type who will take a mile if you give an inch, to use the old adage.

    4. Seal*

      I actually have an employee like this! She does her job well enough, but her boundary issues are legendary. At one point she told me that her grandfather had briefly been a minister many years ago (think early 20th century) at a church in the city my mother grew up in. She had a street name and as it turned out the church was near the nursing home my very elderly grandmother was in. When I told my staff that I would be out of the office to visit family for a week, she asked if I would stop by the church when I visited my grandmother, go inside and ask the current minister about her grandfather. She also wanted me to take pictures. No and no. This is something I might do for a close friend, certainly not for an employee and especially not when I’m on vacation.

      1. calonkat*

        Is your employee aware that the internet probably goes to that town? That the church may have a “web site” and the staff may be contactable by this newfangled thing called “email”? Geez, like she can’t just communicate directly with the church at no cost by herself!

        1. Karo*

          To be fair, I was trying to get records of my husband’s baptism earlier this year. The church had neither website nor email address, and the mailbox of the phone number was full so I couldn’t call and leave a voicemail. I eventually gave up.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I heard some advice once (might have been here), about being cautious around somebody who wants to be your best friend right off the bat at a new job. Generally, they’re the person nobody else wants to be friends with!

      Keep up the no. She sounds like someone who if you give her an inch will take a mile. Using your online account? No no nonooooooooo.

        1. Another Emily*

          Yeah. At minimum you’ll get delayed because when airport security ask, “Did you pack these bags yourself?” You have to say, “Not that one.”
          Some people just don’t know what they’re asking.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That’s so bizarre. I agree that it’s best to keep saying “no” and to reinforce the boundaries. Coworker seems to either lack any sense of appropriate work interactions or is a semi-crazy loon who will sink her claws in, keep asking for favors, and never let go. Don’t let her barnacle you!

    7. catsAreCool*

      She asked you to transport a mystery suitcase, and then wants to log in as you. Keep saying no. Maybe she’s just clueless about boundaries, or maybe she’s trying to use you to do something illegal.

    8. Chantal Witherbottom*

      Everyone always wants to use my Prime account. I’m selfish with passwords. I’ll order something for you though, if you give me the money. But I don’t give it out, or let anyone use it to watch movies/read books. Same for Hulu and Netflix. no. (except for my nieces and nephews)

  27. Future Analyst*

    Happy update! Last week I said my manager and grandboss were going to bat for me (and another colleague) to see if we could work from home, since we were abruptly told that we needed to move to another office (which would have put significant strain on both of us, both in time and finances). I found out this week that we’ll get to work from home! I will really, really miss being in the office, and I’m sad to pack up, but I am very grateful that they made this work for us. :)

    1. Chantal Witherbottom*

      This is great news! Great company that wants to retain their employees and do what they can to make it work. Maybe you could work from the office a couple days a month if you cared to, to still get to have interpersonal relationships with your coworkers.

  28. SophieChotek*

    I know this has been addressed in open threads before/maybe even a variation on a question AAM has answered, but I am sorry, I did some searches, but could not find the exactly posts I am looking for.
    So repeat question.

    I am filling out an application (for a non-profit museum/archive I would be interested in working for).

    For job history , it says “list all previous employment. use additional sheets if necessary.”
    (No past 10 years.) So, if I truly listed all previous employment, including all those random 3-6 months job in college…well, I would certainly need additional sheets, not to mention I am not even sure of contacts or managers anymore. Would you list it all going back 20-25 years or stop somewhere?

    Also it wants salary for every single job — leaving aside i have no idea what I made when I was 14 and worked at my church ($6 an hour would be my guess) — as we’ve all discussed, we hate putting salary down. Do you leave it off? Say it’s private?

    Thanks for any suggestions on how to navigate this application and similar ones (which I have had to deal with also.)

    1. Master Bean Counter*

      I just put in enough jobs to fill in the last 10 years. If they really want more than that, they’ll ask. But more often than not, they don’t.

    2. orchidsandtea*

      I can’t even remember half of this stuff. I used to have up to 7 part-time jobs at once, to make ends meet. I have no idea of the dates or hourly wage or anything.

    3. Partly Cloudy*

      In spite of the instructions, I would still stick to listing relevant employment history and skip the 3-6 month college jobs and the church job from when you were 14. I’m taking the instructions to mean “don’t stop just because you ran out of room” vs. “we want to know every detail of your life as if we’re doing a top secret clearance level background check.”

      And for the salaries, I’d go with leaving them off for now and see what kind of response you get.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Thanks for your feedback. (They actually left enough space for 6 jobs as it is. Since I’ve worked at many jobs 3 years or more I probably would not need additional sheets then.) I wish they had just said past 10 years or something.

        Part of me perversely wants to actually list every dang job (yes, that four month stint at Target that I hate) I’ve had going back to 1990 just because “it said so”…but it sounds like such a hassle to look all that info up…though I have most of it (minus salaries).

      2. MegaMoose, Esq*

        It might come out the same for SophieChotek, but I would *not* recommend leaving off any job within the time period you decide is appropriate to provide. Resumes are for edited job history, applications asking for “all employment” are not. Although as I posted below, it probably would be fine to pick some sort of cut-off point such that high school or college jobs aren’t included.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree with Partly Cloudy—unless the application intends to use this information for a background check and says something to that effect, I would only list relevant employment from the last 10 years OR since your college degree was issued, whichever is shorter (unless there’s relevant work experience from college that you want to include). I think it’s ok to omit salary, but perhaps include a note saying you’re willing to discuss salary (Alison probably has better language for that note) so that they know that you saw their request but are deliberately not answering it.

        If they intend to use your job app to run a background check, they normally tell you (or at least, that’s been my experience). You can also offer to supplement upon request.

    4. not so super-visor*

      I might leave off a church job that you had when you were 14 or anything else that you didn’t have to file on a W-2 form on, but it depends a bit on the job. My current employer runs a pretty extensive background check after the offer is made (employment pending on the background check clearing). If you leave something off and it pops up on your background check, they pull the offer. I’ve had it happen to more than 1 promising applicant, and HR wouldn’t budge on their ruling.

    5. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Admittedly it is common in my profession to be fairly comprehensive when it comes to employment history, but I would list everything after finishing the relevant degree for your field, or ten years, whichever is earlier in time. I’ve completed a number of these kind of applications needing multiple pages and I haven’t even been out of high school for 20-25 years. And if you don’t remember dates or names, just indicate that using “unknown” or listing just months for starting dates.

    6. tink*

      I would only do “all previous employment” for something requiring an extensive background check. Otherwise I only go back 10 years at most. And sometimes I have to guess for the salary.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Jeez. The only time I’ve ever had to provide everything was for a police internship (I didn’t get it, darn it). And I filled out a government app this week (U.S. district court system) and even that only asked for the last ten years.

      Just do that.

  29. Elizabeth*

    Open question – a few weeks ago, I submitted my resume on a company website for a role that I am very well qualified for. (I do the same job now, different industry) Within 3 days, I received an email from what appeared to be the hiring manager for the department. (NOT HR) He asked what my availability was that week to discuss my background further. I responded right away with my availability. Crickets. No response from him for a couple days. So I emailed again, making sure he got my original email and also letting him know I had another open time to chat if he was free. No response at all. The following week, I called and left a message, letting him know I was still interested. Nothing. WHAT GIVES?!? The company’s automated system keeps emailing me telling me to apply for that same role I DID apply for. I logged in to their network today to check the status and it says “Under Review.” Yet, I still haven’t heard a peep from this guy. Is it safe to assume this is dead in the water?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      They could have spontaneously decided to take the week off for the holidays. I’d give it some time.

    2. AshK434*

      This happened to me too. But the employer checked my references, emailed me to say that everything looked great and that they wanted to set up a call to discuss next steps/get info from me to move forward. I replied to their email with my availability and then they just ghosted. I sent one follow up email and never heard back. It was really weird.

    3. Allison*

      Happened to me too, it was very odd. I also had someone ghost me after speaking with me on the phone, and who sounded super enthusiastic about what I had to offer the company, but suddenly went dark in the middle of the process. Rude. I get that it’s awkward for a company to start the scheduling process and then change their minds, but you gotta find a way to tell the candidate, even if it means taking responsibility for making a mistake.

      If for some reason your e-mails aren’t getting through (unlikely, but still), it’s on them to figure it out, there’s not much you can do at this point. I’d accept that you’re not getting a job there, and then try to get over how rude they’re being.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, I’d move on. Poo on them.

        Though I got a call the day after I applied from a client of Exjob and they said they had to check and see if it was okay for me to work there. I said fine, and then crickets. I never followed up, and I figured they weren’t going to call me back but they did and I have an interview next week. So you never know.

  30. Mina*

    I recently moved home and need a job. I applied to a print shop production assistant position through a temp agency. I didn’t realize this is a male dominated field; the hiring manager told the temp agency he “was willing to consider a woman, and one over 30.” I’m 45. Why in the world would the temp agency man tell ME that? The word “diversify” was also used. The shop does a lot of government work so I guess he wants to look good to them.

    So, it feels strange. I have some creative experience but no directly applicable skills. I just totally didn’t expect to ever hear anything like that said to me personally.

    1. not so super-visor*

      Ugh, temp agency reps… sorry, I’ve dealt with a lot of them. Even if the company contact gave that little nugget of info to the temp agency, the rep should have enough judgement to not phrase it like that. He may have wanted to give you a heads up about the type of environment that you were walking into, but he definitely should have phrased it better. Instead of making it about gender stereotypes and age, he should have tried to figure out what the guy meant and translated it: this is a highly physical job that requires a strong work ethic and the ability to work independently and with little supervision. That could apply to any gender or age. Instead he put the company contact’s bias right out in the open.

    2. Dynamic Beige*

      Yes, printing has been traditionally a male dominated field. It can be a dirty, smelly business operating the presses which may be part of the reason why. There can also be night work involved (for example, newspapers are printed at night) and there has been a strong union presence. There could be issues with the inks/chemicals in the processes and women wishing to become pregnant — I don’t know for sure. Reams of paper are pretty heavy, but I would think there would be equipment to handle that. I doubt anyone could lift a ream of poster size paper by themselves. If you would be just doing computer work in the office, you wouldn’t need to be on the shop floor that often, though. I had a friend who used to work at a service bureau and would run lino for printing… I don’t think that’s done any more. Point is, she never had to go to see a press run. If you’re a print designer, it’s highly recommended you go to the print shop and sign off on the press run. Once again, that’s not something you do every day, all day long.

      Or maybe it’s just old fashioned sexism of the “she’ll just get married, pregnant and be unreliable/leave”/”I don’t want some young woman flirting with my guys and causing problems” variety. If it’s a temp job and you’ll get it, you’ll be able to find out and judge for yourself. No law that says you can’t keep looking!

    3. Anon for this*

      I work in printing and yeah, super male-dominated field. Almost everyone who works on our shop floor (press & bindery equipment operators, for example) is male; all of our sales reps but one (me) are male too… However, our accounting dept. & customer service depts are mostly women. There’s no reason it needs to be this way; I think it’s just good old-fashioned sexism & the fact that most people in this industry are older & have been in it since things were even more misogynistic than they are now… It’s a declining industry, and there just aren’t a lot of young people being attracted to it, so it’s hard to see how the culture will change.

      It’s a shame, because I do like my job & the industry—but I wish there were more people my age, more women, etc. involved in it. New blood might be the shot in the arm it needs…

      I don’t really have any good advice for you, unfortunately… It sucks that the temp agency tell you that. They could have found some tactful way to give you a heads-up about the male-dominated nature of the workplace without repeating sexist comments word-for-word… But maybe the hiring manager’s comments indicate that this isn’t somewhere you’d want to work? I would keep an eye out for red flags if you do decide to move forward with this company.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Well, aside from the fact that hiring manager said something wildly illegal (assuming he said what temp agency says he said), it’s possible that they need to demonstrate an effort to hire women as a condition of their government contracts. Generally, company’s receive extra points in bidding if they can demonstrate “diversity,” and of course, they’re all required to comply with equal opportunity policies if they receive a gov’t contract.

      On one hand, temp agency might be trying to give you a head’s up about what kind of work culture you’re walking into, in which case they’re doing you a favor. Of course, they could also just be incompetent. Do you think you’ll take the gig, if offered?

      1. Mina*

        I might, but I’d definitely keep my eyes open. If it’s a case of working in a physically nasty environment, lots of manual work and chemicals, etc., I definitely don’t want it.

  31. Greta*

    Hi everyone. I wrote in a few months ago about my high school bully getting hired at the same fast food restaurant where I work. I wanted to say thanks for all the comments people posted, it made me feel like I wasn’t crazy.

    I talked with one of the nice managers at the restaurant (there are about 10 of them ranging in rank) and told her about the situation. She said she’d talk to the other managers and try to work something out. Unfortunately, due to our school schedules, the only day we were scheduled for different shifts was Saturday. We ended up working the same shift on Friday nights and overlapped on Sundays.

    For the first couple weeks, my bully (I’ll call him Joe) didn’t try anything because he was being closely supervised. When the nicer managers were working, they seemed to go out of their way to keep him away from me, but some of the not nice managers didn’t bother. After a few weeks, he wasn’t supervised so much anymore, and that’s when he started in on me.

    At first, it was just him saying things to me in my ear that other people couldn’t hear. Some people in the comments were asking about what he said to me, and it was usually stuff like, “You stink particularly bad today” or “Did your mom cut your hair herself again?” (My mom cut my hair once in middle school and it looked awful and he hasn’t let go of it since). Then he got bolder and there was one really bad day when he stood next to me while I was waiting on a family, and would just slowly repeat everything the family said to me, all the while telling me I was doing “so great!” Then he looked up at the family and said, “She’s a little slow. She’s doing work study from her special school!” And this of course got me very flustered and embarassed and I messed up the order and that family probably did think I was mentally disabled.

    This kind of stuff went on until just two weeks ago. I’d told a couple of other employees about my situation who I thought might have my back in case something big happened. On a Friday night when it was slow, it was just me and Joe working the drive through. I was getting fries for an order when he pushed me, and I slipped on a patch of grease on the floor and fell and hit my chin on some equipment. I ended up having to go to the emergency room to get seven stitches in my chin. The next day, the nice manager who I had originally talked to called my house and said that one of the cooks (one of the guys I’d told about Joe) went to the manager on duty the night before and said he saw Joe purposefully put grease on the floor when I wasn’t looking and that he saw Joe push me. It turns out we do have cameras in the drive through prep area, so the manager looked at the camera and saw the whole thing. Joe was immediately fired. After hearing this, my father called Joe’s parents and told them that we wouldn’t be pressing charges, but if Joe ever so much as looked at me again, we would get the police involved. Joe wasn’t in school the last three days before break, so I can’t report as to how he will be when school starts again, but I’m really glad that I don’t have to work with him anymore! And I’m glad that my parents finally understand that Joe isn’t doing this stuff because he likes me!

    1. jamlady*


      Well at least he’s gone. This is all super ridiculous!

      And oh I hope your last sentence was a joke and that your parents didn’t actually think that at some point haha

      1. Sadsack*

        I recall the original post when OP explained this. I am so glad that you have him out if your work place. I don’t understand why your parents didn’t press charges. Can’t you do that yourself? Maybe not being a minor, I don’t know the law. I just know that this situation sucks and I hope it gets better for you. I think you need to do way more to stick up for yourself though. What he pulled at the table you were waiting on should have been addressed with a manager immediately.

    2. JuniperGreen*

      Oh my god! I’m glad you’re ok, but YIKES I can’t believe it had to escalate to the point of your physical injury to get any action on this! I hope your parents also inform the school because the administrators should absolutely know about this act of violence he has committed against one of their students.

      Greta – I hope you continue to advocate for yourself and stand up to bullies like Joe. You don’t deserve that kind of treatment and I’m glad you pulled in a network of supporters and allies to help you out.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I agree that the school needs to be informed.

        It sounds like Joe’s behavior was recorded – will your workplace give you a copy of it, in case you need to report him for anything else? I hope that he’ll leave you alone after this, but just in case, it would be smart to have proof of what happened.

    3. NW Mossy*

      Thanks for updating us – sounds like things are getting better! I hope you’ve recovered from your injury, and may Joe be pestered by small flying insects forevermore, because he’s terrible.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I am sorry it had to come to injury before your parents realized this guy is not showing “love” — and for all your managers to believe you. But i am glad some things seems to have improved.

    4. MWKate*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you! I’m glad your work looked into this right away – though I think he certainly deserved legal repercussions because what he did was violent and cruel.

      Also – can we please stop telling people that are being harassed/bullied/etc that it is because someone likes them? It just causes people to try and excuse that kind of behavior when it is inexcusable.

    5. Anon for this.*

      You should press charges- I’ve worked in fast food and know the dangers, you could have seriously burnt yourself on a fryer/grill and suffered permanent injuries. And the other stuff is beyond bullying. He deserves some time in jail for trying to purposefully destroy your life.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          Yes, your father might be OK with not pressing charges but you could if you wanted to. It happened to you, so you get to decide.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          This. x infinity +1 Keep in it your parents’ safety deposit box or something because managers and coworkers leave. If there ever comes a time when you need this footage, you may not be able to get a copy. If too much time has passed, they may not even have it any more, but they may have kept it in this case since TheArsehole was fired (in case he decided to say it was a wrongful dismissal, that’s pretty damning evidence that it was not). A lot of places reuse tapes or delete digital files after a certain amount of time has passed.

          Your parents might also want to consult a lawyer because now you have proof of what he’s done. Proof that you could show to a school official, since he started this stuff at school. He doesn’t not strike me as the kind of person who would be willing to admit he’s done wrong here and will promise to never do it again. I would bet that he blames you for the whole thing and will look for ways to retaliate — this time checking to make sure there are no cameras. I doubt your school has cameras in all the halls and classrooms. That footage shows that you’re not making things up or being overly sensitive or whatever else some adult might decide to come up with to brush it all away.

          Frankly, I think he should be brought up on charges. And he should be paying for a plastic surgeon to repair the scar. You are so lucky it wasn’t worse. He is so lucky it wasn’t worse, he doesn’t know how lucky he is. If you were my kid, he’d be in court on assault and I would be sending a copy of that video to anyone who said it wasn’t that bad or I was just making it up (after checking with a lawyer, because no point in leaving an opening to be sued for defamation)

          1. catsAreCool*

            I agree. I think charges should be pressed. I think Joe needs to be kept far, far away from you and if at all possible, away from other potential victims.

          2. Tabby Baltimore*

            Greta, take what Dynamic Beige has written to heart, and try to get a copy of the video footage sent to you by the company’s nice manager you work with. Even if she says it appears she can no longer access the footage, please ask her to pursue this up her chain-of-command (*her* boss or a regional manager, the franchise owner, the franchise owner’s corporate contacts, executive vice president, whatever it takes). You *need* this video to show to your high school security officer, so that s/he can take the necessary steps to either find more money (from somewhere) for more cameras, and/or work with your guidance counselor to ensure your school schedule contains as few opportunities as possible for you and Joe to intersect during the day (including any overlapping lunch periods). Also, your parents should alert your school’s principal and every single one of your teachers in writing about him, what he did to you at work (*all* of it, including his habit of whispering to you when he’s physically near you), and what steps they expect your teachers to take to ensure your safety while entering/remaining in/leaving their classrooms. Thank you so much for updating us. I am so glad you are advocating for yourself.

    6. Beautiful Loser*

      Wow! Absolutely crazy. I am glad to see someone had witnessed the bullying and it was caught on camera. Also glad to see your parents now believe you though it is very disturbing that you had to actually get physically injured before anyone would take action.

      I highly suggest your parents and possibly your boss make the school aware of this incident.

    7. Observer*

      I’m so glad that your parents are finally on your side!

      Please ask your employer to save (and preferably give you) a copy of the footage, so you have it if you ever need to get the police involved. And, do let the school know what happened.

    8. Nerfmobile*

      I’m so sorry that happened to you, But good for you for being proactive about telling people about the situation. And yay for the cook and managers who took action! Glad your parents finally saw the light, too.

    9. Only one in the office today*

      I honestly think you should involve the police. He may try something else and it would be good to have this background.

      1. Sadsack*

        Seriously, this. Tell the school and also see if you can press charges yourself, even if you’re parents won’t. Contact the police and see what you can do. Your parents are just not doing enough.

        1. catsAreCool*

          I agree. Maybe your parents think because he’s still in school, they don’t want to mess up his life, but if he isn’t stopped, he’s likely to do this type of thing again, either to you or others. Don’t they care about your life? Anyway, Joe’s probably under 18, which usually means that the record will get sealed eventually – if that’s true, it might be better for him in the long run if he gets into serious trouble now.

    10. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Press charges. What he did was assault and done deliberately. And unless he gets stopped now he will do this to somebody else down the road. Call the cops on this piece of garbage asap. Unless the consequences are hard enough he will keep it up.

      Good luck

    11. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      If you’re comfortable with it, press charges. This guy is evil.

      I’m glad he’s out of your workplace. And if ANYONE says someone is hurting you because they like you, ask them why they want you to be with someone who beats you rather than someone who treats you right.

      What a nightmare. Glad you’re away from him. He’s disgusting and vile.

      And definitely inform your school as well. They need to be aware in case he tries anything at school (although I hope he won’t).

      1. catsAreCool*

        I might have said this before, but anyway, a little kid might be obnoxious to someone that he/she likes, but someone old enough to have a job should have been taught better than that a LOOOONG time ago. Also, this type of behavior isn’t acceptable in little kids, either (more understandable, but it would still require some kind of timeout).

    12. animaniactoo*

      I am so glad that you worked to make other people aware and did your best to get support for yourself, and that it paid off.

      One thing that I would like to point out to use for your parents in case this kind of thing EVER comes up again. It wouldn’t have mattered if Joe was doing that stuff because he liked you. If he liked you he was going about showing you in way the wrong way, and what he was doing in the meantime was behavior that you should have not have to put up with. Because it was not okay no matter WHY he was doing it. If he was doing it because he liked you, hey, that’s his problem, NOT yours.

      I second (3rd? 4th? 15th?) the calls to get a copy of the tape, and to alert the school to the incident. I strongly doing that this is over, and I think you need to be proactive about continuing to protect yourself.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes, to all of this and all that was written before! Greta, I am so happy that you were able to create a support network and that they came to bat for you (and I’m glad your parents finally realize this guy is a sociopath, not someone expressing a “crush.” I am still livid that they think it’s ok to normalize violence as a “courting” style.)

        It also may be worth sharing the footage with your school and/or getting a protective order (or at least having one ready to go). It sounds like he’s rapidly escalating, and I’m worried that getting fired and being threatened with criminal charges won’t be enough to dissuade him from his assholery.

    13. H.C.*

      So sorry for what you had to go through before everyone came to their senses about Joe. Agreed with others on getting a copy of the tape in case you choose to file charges (either for this incident or any that can potentially occur in the future – which I so hope won’t be the case).

    14. CG*

      Oh my word. I am so sorry (but glad some of the adults in your life are finally acting like it a little bit). You are awesome! I’m glad you have some allies at work, too – that cook deserves a high five.

    15. Student*

      You don’t deserve to be treated like this. You can stand up for yourself, and you can demand managers do something about behavior like this. I know many people can’t find the words to say something in the moment they’re being embarrassed – but for your own sake, try to overcome that difficulty. It’s perfectly okay and very normal to be tongue-tied by this kind of thing, but if you can overcome that normal response it is very beneficial to you.

      When you stand up to a bully, it doesn’t have to be eloquent or perfect. You don’t have to come up with a retort that’s ideal or polite or perfect or witty. The idea is just that you need to let the bully know you’re not going to just silently tolerate his abuse, and you need to clue by-standards in to what is happening so you might get some help. You can blurt out any old thing that lets people know you are angry and hurt and confused, including just an angry grunt or saying the bully’s name loudly. You can storm off silently. You can cry! You can run to the manager, or leave the building, or call the cops.

    16. tink*

      What a rotten little toad. I’m sorry it took you getting injured (!!!!) for something to be done about this guy, and think you should consider at least getting a restraining order against this jerk since he’s already shown he doesn’t have any qualms about assaulting you.

      Also cringe at the idea of people being nasty like that because they like you. Even if it’s true, that’s grossly unhealthy behavior.

    17. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Thanks so much for updating us. I have been thinking about you since you first posted.

      I’m in the PRESS CHARGES! camp, too, but I can also understand not wanting to do so, especially without your parent’s support. I would try to get a copy of that tape from your employer, though – it may be useful in case you need to pursue a restraining order at some point. This man is dangerous, and I am really glad your coworker had your back and reported what he saw.

      I would also say someone at your school should be notified of what happened.

    18. Mimmy*

      I missed the original post, but WOW. Sorry it took a physical injury for something to be done about Joe. I hope you are healing well! Everyone else gave good advice, so I just wanted to wish you the best in your newly Joe-less job!

    19. LisaLee*

      WTF. I literally gasped at this.

      I’m not going to tell you whether or not to press charges, but I do want to emphasize how NOT NORMAL all of this is. It is not normal for your managers to keep Joe on your shifts (or honestly, hired at all!) after you told them about his history of verbal and physical abuse towards you. It is not normal that it took physical injury for anything to be done about him. It is not normal that your school and parents have refused to intervene up to this point. And honestly, Joe’s level of abuse towards you goes so far beyond “normal” high school bullying that I would be concerned that there is literally something psychologically wrong with him. Don’t let this become normalized for you because of the length of time you’ve been dealing with it. No job should allow this treatment of it’s employees.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Respectfully disagreeing with this being beyond normal bullying. This is what bullying looks like. I saw this stuff in grammar school, injuries and all.

        OP, in my ideal dreamland world you’d start up a committee at school to talk about bullying. This committee would be a mix of students/teachers/parents and counselors. I am not saying this to make you feel pressured, I am saying it in the context of the ultimate justice for Joe and his kind.

        Meanwhile, please go to the police. He has been doing this for seven years, if I correctly recall what you said. Press charges, get an order of protection. In my state if he violates that order he has a felony charge. This kid has serious issues, for him to be fixated on you for seven years is proof of that.

        1. LisaLee*

          This could be just a different environments thing (or perhaps genders–all of my bullies in school were girls), but I do think there’s an “expected” level of bullying that most people experience in school (teasing, cruel rumors, etc) and then there’s literal criminal offenses. I don’t think most people experience physical harm in school, which is why I said it isn’t normal, but I do realize it happens.

          (Seven years, though! WTF!)

    20. catsAreCool*

      I wish your parents had been OK with pressing charges. 7 stitches plus the whole thing recorded – it’s gotta be hard to get a better case than that.

      Was there no manager around when he was telling people you were from a special school? I’d think that management would want to put a stop to that, if only because he could have been doing useful work instead of impeding your work.

    21. Chaordic One*


      I am so sorry that he did this to you. I can’t believe that he’d be that blatant. I am so glad that the cook told your manager and that the manager did the right thing in getting rid of Joe.

    22. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious*

      Joe is awful. As in low-down, dirty, $&%#@ dog awful. So glad he’s outta that workplace and hopefully outta your life for ever and ever! But even if you don’t plan to press charges, I would get a copy of the tape ASAP just to keep your options open for the future. Sometimes businesses re-use tapes after a certain number of days. You don’t want to ask later and find out that the tape no longer exists.

      I second the advice to keep the tape somewhere safe, like at a friend’s house or in a bank safe deposit box NOT accessible to your parents. The friend’s house idea is only if the bank won’t give you a no-parents-have-access safe deposit box until you’re age 18 or 21. (This may vary depending on state or federal law. I’m not a lawyer.) If you keep the tape at a friend’s house, choose very carefully. You don’t want your parents to call up your friend’s parents to say something lame such as “Greta has these funny ideas, ha ha, so can we have the tape so we can destroy it?” I’m not trying to cause trouble between you and your parents but they took too long to “finally understand that Joe isn’t doing this stuff because he likes me.” Grrr. People with unrealistic world-views just make me grouchy.

      1. catsAreCool*

        And if there’s a way you can make several copy of the tape and hide them various places, that would be a smart thing to do.

    23. a non y mous*

      I know I’m way late, but I’m also going to say that you really need to file a police report. The police may ask you if you want to pursue it, and you can say no, but there needs to be an official record of this.

      When I was in college, an unstable former roommate vandalized some of my property. I wasn’t going to do anything since there wasn’t any permanent damage, but my uncle, who was a cop, really encouraged me to report it. His reasoning was that based on her past behavior, it was possible that she might do something again (to me or someone else), and having an official record of her behavior would help me out her other future victims.

      In your case, this guy has intentionally physically harmed you. There is something seriously wrong with someone who would do something like that. There needs to be an official record in case he harms you or someone else again. I’m personally not concerned about his welfare, but if your parents are, they might consider that having the police talk to him might scare him and prevent him from escalating his behavior. Please ask your parents to reconsider filling a report with the police.

      1. a non y mous*

        Also, I’m not sure, but you can probably file a police report yourself even if you’re a minor, but I understand if you don’t want to do that without the support of your parents.

      2. Teclatrans*

        Yeah, the pushing might have been garden-variety assholery, but the deliberate placing of grease?! This was intent to harm, big-time. I would love it if that call to his parents is enough, but I find it hard to believe he won’t escalate. Report this separate from whether you want to press charges. Report this so that the next incident gets a better response.

  32. orchidsandtea*

    What are some of your proudest moments when it comes to making processes more efficient around the office? Things you updated, automated, cut steps out of, or found clever workarounds for.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Creating and maintaining packaging and product templates for everything. Working to make them flexible and easy to use as plug and play. Over our old method of picking up a previous project and using it as a base, having to re-update legal info over and over again, getting too far away from the tech die-lines and having to rework stuff, etc.

      Also, following up with a licensor on something they mentioned which allowed us to alter our approval process and save significant time and money on the back end.

    2. let the bon-bons roll*

      My department does training workshops. When I got there, the workshops (about 500 a year) were all put into a master, PAPER calendar. Any of the 4 trainers could schedule workshops, so when someone would call in wanting to schedule a session, I’d have to put the person on hold, and go find the calendar. This often meant rummaging through my colleagues’ desks, in different offices, looking for the dang thing. Meanwhile, we all had individual Outlook calendars. It took me 6 months, but I finally got the okay to move the master calendar to a shared Outlook calendar.

      This was a seismic shift in the efficiency of scheduling workshops.

    3. Hark upon the Gale!*

      I’m building an Excel macro right now to automate my boss’s weekly report. It makes me feel like an evil genius.

    4. So anon for this*

      I wrote an awsome sql script that saved 5 hours manual work each day.

      Designed and custom built our new employee work flow process so it was automated and only needed one mouse click from their manager

      Wrote a custom application for our receptionist to direct calls from our suppliers better.

      Wrote a bit of vbscript with a gui to automate emails and store the detils for compliance reporting later

      Wrote another bit of vb script to provide audit details for journal postings in the nominal ledger

    5. Tomato Frog*

      I’m most proud of the times I’ve seen and met a need for documentation, despite it not being something our management puts much emphasis on (they would say they do, but the reality say otherwise). Recently, I created and shared a simple document outlining the procedures for dealing with certain materials. Everyone has been confused by these procedures for at least the last 3 years. Making the document took all of 15 minutes and will make everyone’s life easier forever and ever. Best effort-to-gratitude ratio for anything I’ve ever done here.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      When I started at OldExjob the supply closet was a MESS. Reorganized the entire thing. Also, in an old lab job, I reorganized 32 filing cabinets of old environmental reports. Everything that was too old to be saved went bye-bye; everything else was easily accessible. That last really helped when the business closed and the owner re-hired me to help them shut down (I didn’t have a job at the time and he paid me in cash under the table). Made it ten times easier to pack stuff up or chuck it. Plus, it was fun. I had a boom box down there and everything. :)

    7. Chaordic One*

      When our office brought in a new computer system to replace several different ones used by different departments it was an enormous step backwards in terms of efficiency and definitely not ready for prime time. Making matters worse was that there was very little training provided to the employees at the branch offices. (Branch managers were trained in how to use the software and then supposed to train all of the people in the branches, but of course they didn’t actually do it.) I was inundated with calls from the branch offices about missing information. I had actually entered the information, but the people couldn’t find it in the new system.

      I was supposed to refer the people to the I.T. help desk, but the I.T. people were almost always away from their desk or busy with other things. They didn’t return phone calls or respond to emails in a timely manner. They lacked a sense of urgency. So after getting no response from I.T. the branch office people would come back to me hysterical because they had waited until the last minute and needed the information yesterday. I would inevitably end up talking the people in the branch offices through how to locate the information they needed, although I really didn’t have time for it.

      I finally typed up a brilliant 2-page set of instructions on how to find the information that the branch offices needed and emailed it to the branch offices. Things quieted down for about 3 months. Then someone forwarded an email I had sent to one of the branch offices that had the instructions I typed up attached. I.T. was not at all happy about my instructions floating around the company’s email. Their main complaints were that at some point in the future things might change and the instructions wouldn’t be accurate (although I did clearly state that in the instructions I typed). They also claimed that they wanted people to use the “Help” screens in the new system, although the information was not listed in the “Help” screens and most people had a hard time even finding the help screens.

      Anyway, I had to apologize to the I.T. department, promise not to email any more sets of instructions to people and promise not to talk them through how to use the system on the phone. I don’t work there anymore, but I’ve heard through the grapevine that the I.T. department still hasn’t gotten very much updating done to the system. I’ve also heard that copies of my computer instructions are still floating around and that the branch offices use them all the time and love them. I’m rather proud of that.

  33. Not a young lady*

    There is a new employee at the company I work for, and older gentleman (he retired from a public agency before coming to work for us) who has a habit of calling me and at least one other female coworker “young lady.” I’m in my mid-30s and the other woman is probably in her mid-40s. The first time he did it, I made a joke about “not being that young” in a way that, frankly, was very clear that I wasn’t OK being called “young lady.” He still does it. He has learned the names of the two male coworkers on my team, but still calls the two women “young lady,” despite the fact that we have name placards right outside our cubes. He’s not based in my office, but this has now happened a few times. I’m really, really not OK being called “young lady,” particularly because it comes off as a very dismissive gendered thing. Is there anything else I can say or do to nip this in the bud? I’ve considered replying with my name the next time he does it, but I can’t decide if that’s too confrontational.

    1. orchidsandtea*

      Totally reasonable to just not answer to young lady, as if he were calling out a name that clearly wasn’t yours. If he taps your shoulder and says it again, then a baffled “Who? I’m NAYL, Percival” might be in order.

      I’d consider saying, once, “Percival, I prefer to be called by my name. I notice that you call the men by their name, and it would be most courteous to also call your women coworkers by their names. I appreciate you doing this moving forward.”

      1. Drew*

        This is a much nicer response than what I was thinking, which was to call him “old man.” OTOH, he might think that was friendly banter or, worse, flirting.

        I agree that a clear, “Percival, please call me Morgause, not ‘young lady'” is the way to go.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      Either not reply until he learns you have a name or call him old man in return. I called a coworker old lady once because she keep referring to me as young lady. She stopped when the tables were turned.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I had a coworker who called me Miss Alison. You need to tell him point-blank that you don’t like it, it isn’t acceptable, and he needs to call you by your name. If that doesn’t do it, elevate it to his supervisor.

      The guy who called me Miss insisted that women like it and it’s more polite than just Firstname, but he was told that he needs to use people’s preferred names.

    4. Observer*

      Don’t answer him. When he gets in your face tell him “My name is Name. I don’t answer to generic phrases.”

      Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

      1. Hallway Feline*

        This works really well. Or, purposely call him the wrong name until he gets it. Don’t go “old man” because he might take it as flirting, as others have mentioned. If his name is Steve, for instance, call him Bob, Evan, Alan, Michael, etc. until he finally uses your name. Get creative with it!

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          You also might try a confused “Oh, I’m sorry, but I didn’t realise we weren’t properly introduced [hold out hand]. My name is NOTnotayounlady and I do believe your name is _____. Is that correct?” Because it is possible that he may not remember, especially if you don’t work with him very closely. He may be of a generation or background that just feels more comfortable with men and has a weird sense of propriety around women.

          Although the evil side of me would want to be all “sure, what up, Old Geezer?” or Old Fart or Over The Hill.

          1. Observer*

            He may be of a generation or background that just feels more comfortable with men and has a weird sense of propriety around women.

            No. People with that kind of sense of propriety don’t use titles like that. Miss Lastname, Miss Firstname, or even just Miss, possibly. “Young lady”, NO WAY.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              Yeah, “young lady” is what my mother called me as a teenager when I was being difficult. NOT okay for the workplace.

      1. Another Emily*

        This. Just tell him to cut it out. This is the place to start and may well resolve the entire issue.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree with the advice not to answer when he fails to call you by your name. It may sound passive-aggressive, but I think it’s better than repeatedly calling him the wrong name or referring to him as “old man” (especially since the latter is ageist and simply mimics his bad behavior).

      Have you told him very directly that you prefer to be called by your first name? (I mean literally saying, “I do not respond to ‘young lady’ and prefer to be called by my name, [First Name Here]”). Despite conveying dissatisfaction via joke, I’ve found people who are clueless in this way do not pick up social cues at all. If you’ve been explicit and direct, then I’m really torn over whether this complaint should be run up the chain. Because although it sounds minor, the fact that he has repeatedly ignored your direct request not to be called “young lady” is unacceptable. And it’s definitely gendered (since he clearly doesn’t do it to younger men), as well as patronizing/infantilizing/invalidating. Regardless, I’m sorry—his behavior is obnoxious.

  34. C Average*

    I currently have a job I really love: I work part-time in a fabric store, a great fit for me because I’ve always loved sewing and I’ve spent enough time in retail that it feels like home to me. This is the best retail job I’ve ever had. The schedule is the same from week to week, the pace is leisurely, the people are nice (both colleagues and customers), the products we sell are terrific, and we enjoy civilized things like the ability to stay home when we’re sick and to ask for and receive time off to go on vacation. I’ve been at this job for about six months, and I thank my lucky stars for it every day.

    But I know this isn’t forever. My husband would like me to find something with benefits, so that if he were to lose his job, we’d have ongoing coverage. We’d both like me to find something more lucrative so I could contribute more to our collective retirement savings. The writing is on the wall: my lovely hiatus from the scary corporate world is going to have to come to an end.

    I am mildly terrified by this. I’m terrified that I won’t be able to FIND a better job; I put in for some corporate jobs while I was job-hunting and didn’t even get a bite, which makes me wonder if I’m just a hopelessly mediocre candidate on paper. My manager in my previous job was a total train wreck and we had a not-great relationship, and I would never be comfortable using her as a reference, so I worry about references. I worry about how to explain the last few years (eight years of steady growth at Big Company, a year out of the workforce to deal with Intense Family Drama, and then some time slumming at the fabric store and doing some freelance writing and loving every minute of it) and how to spin it into employability. I worry about what I should even be looking for. I’ve learned some things about myself in the last few years–most significantly that I’m on the autism spectrum–that have made me question the career path I’ve taken and wonder if there’s a better one. Which then makes me wonder how I go about figuring out what I’m capable of doing that someone would actually pay me to do, and that I wouldn’t hate.

    I used to think I was destined to be a writer, and I’ve worked as a writer in a corporate environment. But I’m not sure I really like writing, and I think I’m only a little above average at it. I don’t really know what else I could or should do instead, though.

    So many questions. I wish I could just stay at the fabric store forever, but that’s not gonna happen.

    Sorry if this is a downer. I am feeling all end-of-the-year introspective. Not even sure I’m looking for advice, just sort of processing out loud.

    1. orchidsandtea*

      Oh, hmm, that’s hard. If there’s any way to talk to your boss and create a more lucrative role for yourself there, that might be a good option. Say 1/2 time as a retail worker and 1/2 time working in the business office as an admin or something. I just hate to see you lose the job that makes you happy. Those are rare.

    2. Colette*

      Is working more hours at the fabric store an option? What about offering workshops on how to sew? In other words, is there a way to make more money at the job you’re at?

      Have you considered networking with previous colleagues to see what paths they’d recommend for you?

    3. Hibiscus*

      This might be the time to call in supportive help in the form of a therapist and maybe medication, based on other things you’ve written about at times. But no, I do not think you are unemployable! You did fine, you got promotions, you had a lousy boss, went through some things and are regrouping. It happens to us all. People who say not are either lying or have the introspection of Narcissis and probably have never left the first job they secured after school.

      Also, I’ve got to say that as a early 40s woman, I find extended time out of the workforce due to unemployment and caregiving is easy to spin.

      As for career path and finding something that works for you, let me give you my advice that when I finally figured it out lead me out of career darkness: double down on being you. What are the skills and characteristics that make you a great C Average? What unique awesome do you bring to the table? Look for places that reinforce those values and aspects of your personality. The work is almost secondary. Also people who don’t like you? Who needs them! Goodbye.

      1. C Average*

        Thanks! This is a really helpful perspective. Sometimes it’s hard for me to back up and see the big picture; you’ve summed it up nicely.

        I found a terrific therapist who specializes in working with people who are on the spectrum, and he’s been a big help. He doesn’t have openings in his schedule very often, so it’s catch-as-catch-can to get a session with him, but every time I do meet with him, it’s well worth my while.

        I think this job has helped me realize just how exhausting I found the decision-making and politics of my old workplace. Everything had layers and layers of subtext, and it took a lot of effort to comprehend and navigate with any measure of grace. I really want to avoid situations like that; I feel like I need all of my capacity in those areas at home, and don’t have enough extra to give at the office, if that makes any sense. It’s been such a vast relief to work in a place where everything is straightforward, and I know what’s expected of me and can deliver consistently without second-guessing myself. I don’t know whether such a thing is possible in a corporate environment, but I kind of have my doubts.

        What do I bring to the table? As long as there’s clarity about what I’m supposed to be doing, I work very hard. I’m extremely conscientious: I follow the rules, I deliver what is asked, I’m never late, I don’t need to be coached about stuff that’s in the employee handbook. In other words, I’m a grownup. (I know that should be a given, but I’ve read this blog long enough to know it’s not!) I am not good at things that aren’t spelled out to me pretty clearly. I don’t have enough confidence in my own judgment to be a big initiative-taker, go-getter, self-starter. I don’t think that aspect of me is fixable.

        I’m really good at learning new systems and specific skills, so long as the goal is clear. When it became necessary at my old job, I taught myself basic html in one weekend. If there’s a book about it or a decent online tutorial, I can pick it up. I’m also really good at problem-solving. If you hand me a mess and say, “fix this,” I’m absolutely in my element.

        I know this is more about personality than about skills and affinities, but the more experience I gain, the more I realize that the right job, at least for me, is about personality fit than about specific skills.

        1. catsAreCool*

          Would something like accounting or engineering or computer programming work well for you? In at least some work places, being skilled at those things is much more important than politics. I’m sure there are other areas like that – those are just the ones I know of.

    4. Dynamic Beige*

      Does your husband know of your terror? It’s one thing to be scared yourself, it’s another to have someone else pushing you to do something when they don’t know how it affects you. Caring about how you feel is another thing entirely.

      But I’m not sure I really like writing, and I think I’m only a little above average at it.

      Is it the writing, or is it the subject? Writing about things you have no interest in cannot be much fun for anyone. And… are you sure you’re not that good? Is there anyone you know who could give you an objective opinion? As someone who does creative work, I am my harshest critic and could often use someone completely unrelated to me to give me the straight goods or at least tell me that I don’t completely suck. After a few rounds with a difficult client, I often wonder if I’m any good and what I could possibly do other than this thing I’ve done my whole professional career. I had a realisation a few years ago that I didn’t hate what I did, I just wasn’t particularly fond of the people I did it for. Shifting out of that rut has proven to be surprisingly difficult. :(

      Because maybe what you need is a small “c” corporate job. There are lots of places that need things decently written. Or a job that’s writing adjacent, like editing or proofreading. Or a different industry. If you’ve been writing press releases for drug companies, maybe you need to switch to writing blog posts for education? If you’re good at learning from online tutorials (I envy you there), maybe you need a job where you help create things like that? e-Learning is a big thing.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      The thing that is jumping at me here is maybe you need a job working with your hands. I did for years. The thought of sitting at a desk was a fate worse than death for me. And I now sit at a desk. I guess I had to work a few things out of my system?

      I think you should try to see if you can make the job you have build into something more. Why not ask what you can do to get some more responsibility? Start there and start now, don’t wait.

  35. AndersonDarling*

    My husband applied for a maintenance job and the company wants to do a skype interview. I’m thinking it is super weird. It would be a little more reasonable if it was for an office job…but expecting a mechanic to skype? And this is for the initial screening interview, there wasn’t a phone interview or anything. The company is here in the same city, so it’s not a distance situation.
    Would you be worried that the company is out of touch?

    1. Colette*

      Why do you think Skype is out of touch? Most jobs involve some level of computer knowledge, including maintenance jobs. (Handling online tickets, filling out time cards, and maintaining increasingly complex systems – some thermostats can be controlled online, for example).

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yeah, I don’t want to sounds like all mechanics are fuddy-duddies, but I work in an office and I’ve never skyped a conference.
        It’s a start up company, so this may be a way to screen out the less technological.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      A little weird, but not necessarily out of the ball park. Most mechanics I know have to be fairly computer savvy to work on the newer stuff.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I think it makes more sense since it *is* the initial screening interview. I’d look it as skype in lieu of phone, not skype in lieu of in-person. My husband is an electrician and former maintenance mechanic. He recently didn’t hire someone for an electrician job who couldn’t answer the most basic questions about electrical. This guy also went for a ridealong and couldn’t do anything hands-on, either, but it would have been very easy to see that he was clueless with just a phone interview. The potential hire works for an old friend at a fast food place currently, or he wouldn’t have gotten so much attention.

    4. katamia*

      I think Skype over phone is kinda weird if the company he applied for is local. The only Skype interview I’ve ever had was with a company in a different country, and using the phone would have been more difficult/awkward than Skyping.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        A part of it is that he could do a phone interview while on break at work. But a skype interview requires a computer and a quiet location, not something a maint mechanic has available at work. Luckily, he has a weekday off next week. But if he worked a workweek schedule, he would have to turn down the interview because he wouldn’t take a day off work just to do an initial screen.
        That’s what I’m thinking is weird. The idea that everyone can step aside and skype.
        He’ll just have to see how it goes…but it just feels strange.

        1. katamia*

          Oh, then I definitely agree with you. Although it actually might even be weirder to be an office worker (especially in an open office) and try to figure out how to Skype while on break at work.

          The more I think about it, the weirder it seems to me.

        2. Observer*

          No smartphone? If he has a smartphone, there is no reason he can’t do a skype call. Skype doesn’t need more quiet than any other call.

          To be honest, I’d be rather wary of a mechanic who can’t do a skype call.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah, mechanics tend to be curious folks and therefore into all types of stuff. So on one hand it can be expected.

            My friend works repairing systems in hospitals. He has to use a computer to plug into the hospital system to see what is up. (Being vague on purpose, sorry.) Maybe they want to figure out his computer skill level. It could be that your husband will be communicating with coworkers by Skype and that is why the interview is by Skype.

            The best he can do is just watch and make sure that other parts of this job interview make sense.

  36. Hermijn*

    Hi there,
    Any advice for a twenty-something (closer to 30 ;-) ) who is full of doubt about which way to go with her career?
    I feel like I made the wrong decision and got the wrong diploma (economics) some years ago and am now stuck in a job I hate (it is my third job in a row in the same field and position – I feel like I’m at the point where I can say it’s clearly not working for me). My contract ends in January (but will probably be extended) and I am torn between staying because it’s very close to home (and accepting that I’ll probably never like what I do), working parttime and studying for another degree (something like social work or teaching) but having low income for a couple of years or just look for yet another job (would be the 4th in 2 years time). I am at the point of being to afraid to make a decision and thus postponing everything… I also feel like the next few years will determine the rest of my career… Is that normal or is it just me panicking?

    1. Drew*

      I was dead certain I knew what I wanted to do when I got out of college. I was super, SUPER wrong about it. It took a couple more tries before I found something I enjoyed and was good at, and it has the barest relevance to what I actually got my degrees in. Your situation is totally normal and discovering that you don’t like a type of work once you get started doing it is, sadly, all too common.

      Good luck on your journey to a job you love.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I wish colleges spent more time giving students more information about what the jobs available for a degree would be like. It’s not really fair to ask someone in their late teens or early twenties to make a huge life decision with what is frequently not much info.

        1. Hermijn*

          Yes, exactly! Also, I wish they would be more honest about it… Since not everyone who studied for instance law works as an attorney, or not everyone with a degree in accounting works as an accountant. They could also be more honest about the chances of getting the job you want, since (at least where I work and live) there are always A LOT of candidates for 1 job. And if you don’t have the diploma they were looking for in the job ad, and others do… It’s slim pickings…

    2. SophieChotek*

      It is normal, I am afraid, for many people. I also feel like I made a wrong decision and got useless (and super expensive) grad degree.
      I wish you the best finding a new career trajectory and something you love — but I don’t know that the next few years will determine the rest of your career. Some people have 2nd, 3rd, and 4th careers.
      all my best as you continue to navigate your future, career(s), and what your passions truly are.

    3. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Totally normal.
      I had 4 different declared majors until I ultimately quit school and focused on advancing my current job until I found the bits and pieces of it that I liked. Then I went back to school for the appropriate degree and graduated at 27. I have been 10 years in that career and I am happy. Its not perfect by any means but I feel engaged and useful and can see where my contributions make a difference.
      See if you can find some parts of your jobs or your degree program that you really liked and see if you can find something that is geared towards those interests. It might not be an immediate thing so plan on it taking some time but just because you aren’t sure about your current path doesn’t necessarily mean you need to start over from square one. That could mean taking a job in a company you really like with the goal of getting to a certain position in that company or working in a field adjacent to an interest of yours.
      In the mean time work and save and keep your eyes open for opportunities.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      You’re normal, but it sounds like you need to do some career investigating. If you haven’t spent some significant time picking the brains of social workers and teachers doing what you think you might want to do, please do that before you make the change. You really need to see what you’re getting into from the people living it. The job might be very satisfying but the pay makes them leave the field.

      Also: figure out what is appealing about social work and teaching and figure out if there is a type of job that you could do with your degree and experience that satisfies that itch without requiring more school and licensing. You can completely change your career 5-10 years by taking baby steps in a particular direction. For example, find a research analyst job with a nonprofit that does boots-on-the-ground service with a population you care about. Once you are in an org you care about, over time could you move into a more front-line job working with people?

      1. Hermijn*

        Thanks for your ideas! I was thinking about observing a class or two with a teacher (if they let me) and have a cousin in social work who I have already asked about her job. The pay for teachers and social workers is actually not that bad in my country. They don’t have the highest wages throughout their career off course, but they actually have a higher starters’ pay than my current job… So that would’nt be an issue here. I guess it depends on where you live.

        I think what’s appealing is that I would work for ‘a greater cause’ or really helping people (I also help people in my current job but I don’t feel like it’s significant enough). I am trying to find a satisfying job with my current degree but I can’t get into jobs that require a social degree. I am in the running for a job at an institution that is responsible for the equality of women and men and handles cases of discrimination. I feel like that would also really be something for me but it is really far from where I live and it’s also a short term job. But maybe it would open some doors…

  37. jamlady*


    I have a couple of direct reports who just can’t seem to follow basic direction. We have them working on a very basic but time sensitive project and I’ve already spent too much time re-teaching them things and fixing their work. They need a lot of hand holding for a job that needs to be very independent. I don’t have issues from my other direct reports, all of whom were just as new to the project and even more new to this industry than the team I’m having issues with. One of them had a bad attitude when he started and I was able to stop that very quickly, but he does get very intense and pushes things that don’t matter and I have to spend time pushing back and telling him why. I’ve just never had to spend so much time managing a team before. The real issue is that this is a contract with 3 months left and they’ve already gone through the training. We don’t have time or money to replace them. And I am juggling multiple projects – this isn’t my only project and this team has started actually demanding I be available to sit down with them on the regular (trust me, it shouldn’t be needed).

    I’m handling it as well as I can. This is probably more of a vent. I’m not an easily swayed person so I pretty much tell them over and over that they need to follow the tutorials, remember their training, meet deadlines (!!!), and work independently. I can’t be there to hold your hand. The client is so far unaware of the issues (because I keep cleaning up the mess before it gets to them). My manager knows what’s happening and we’ve talked about letting them go, but we both agree there’s no time or money to hire new people. He’s being very supportive in all this and thinking about flying out to sit down with these guys in a couple of weeks. At this point, I think he’s just trying to follow company policy for placing them both on the Do Not Hire list after this is over.

    In other news, my other direct reports are amazing! Thank goodness.

    1. Drew*

      Is there any way you could do some peer training and have the amazing employees work with the weaker ones for a couple of days — not to do the job for them but to show them how the job should be done?

      That sounds really frustrating and I hope it gets better soon.

      1. jamlady*

        We tried that – the intense/bad attitude report spent the entire day pushing back and telling them “I know this already” and just being horribly condescending. One way we controlled his attitude problem was to keep him away from the other direct reports (he’s twice their age and likes to remind them of it). I made it clear that behavior wouldn’t be tolerated, but the other reports don’t feel comfortable around him and he won’t listen to them anyway, so really he doesn’t have the opportunity to be a jerk around them anymore. His teammate is young as well but very submissive – they actually get a long great (but are equally incompetent, unfortunately).

    2. fposte*

      Am I understanding correctly that they’re out of here in three months? If so, you’re definitely limited in how much you can coach them into changing, but you can make it less bothersome for you. Stop spending time pushing back and telling him why: “Fergus, this is part of the problem behavior we’ve discussed. It’s not an appropriate use of company time for every rationale to be explained to you, and we need to focus on the deadline now.” Then when it happens in future you can go shorthand: “No rationale-explaining, Fergus, remember? Anyway, get this to me by five, please.”

      If I’m wrong and the three months is about the project contract and not your reports, then I vehemently disagree with your manager about there being no time or money to hire new people. It will cost you a lot less time and money to hire new people than to put up with an infectious malcontent.

      1. jamlady*

        The 3 months is both the project (thought there are daily and weekly deadlines that they’re regularly dropping the ball on) and the reports – it’s a contract they were hired to complete and, once funding runs out in 3 months, they’re gone (though they are considered permanent hires and subject to company policy re: disciplinary action). It is a fixed price contract, so if we have to pay to train new people, it pulls a lot out of the budget. Plus, we work in a remote area, in a niche field, and we don’t offer per diem, as is the usual with these contracts (but the salary is very good).

        That being said, things went bananas after I posted this morning, and my manager and I had a loooong long talk. We’re pulling out all the stops to get some more resumes in and we’re placing these 2 on a 2-week PIP starting next week. I have a meeting scheduled with them in the morning. I’m very concerned about trying to replace them, but you’re right fposte – it’s just ridiculous! And I like your suggestion – I generally like giving people the why to help them understand their tasks, but this is more than that and it’s wasting everyone’s time. It’s really a part of a larger pattern, which is that this guy is arrogant yet incompetent and requires a ton of hand holding in every aspect of the job but then acts like he’s getting unfairly babied. I was supposed to be taking PTO today, but I’ve been dealing with this all day and I’m writing up their PIPs this afternoon. Ay yi yi!

  38. Typoallergenic*

    How much does government work stigmatize you when trying to move to the private sector?

    I’ve been with the federal government for 11 years in various communications roles. I went back to school 6 years ago to update my skills, and over the years have applied for dozens of entry-ish level jobs in the private sector that I seemed qualified for, but I get no calls at all. I checked my resume and cover letters (reviews came back positive) and I know the vast majority of applications go unanswered. But I feel like for at least a few of those positions I was really a great match, and I am surprised I’ve never even had an interview. Most of my fellow students landed jobs in the field within a few months of graduation.

    I wondered about whether or not my public sector history is hurting my chances after one of my coworkers landed an interview with an outside company–they asked her outright what she was going to do to ‘overcome the stigma of being a government employee’. Is this still a thing??

    1. Claudia M.*

      This is very different depending on the atmosphere of the working environment in the city, what your job was/is, etc.

      Here, our city is ~80% government (county, city, state, and federal). When the government has a holiday, the city is empty. Many private sector employers actually like hiring prior government – but it depends on the level of the person’s position and the reason for leaving.

      If you were a manager at the government position, and are applying for entry level private sector, you may get a few odd looks. This has happened for 3 separate people I know, including one family member.

      1. Government Worker*

        I also wonder if you’re overqualified. 11 years of work history is a lot to be applying for entry-level positions – if I were hiring for something entry-level I’d assume that you wouldn’t be interested once you found out more or that you’d be bored and move on quickly. But in my field a lot of people switch back and forth between government and private sector jobs over the course of a career and experience in one definitely counts for the other.

    2. Paige Turner*

      Are you possibly applying for jobs that are too entry-level? If you already have 11 years of work experience, you might want to aim a bit higher, even if you’re applying in a different field. Otherwise, it sounds like you might just be one of the many people who apply for jobs and never hear anything because there are so many qualified applicants (not saying this to be snarky, just commiserating!). As for your coworker, there’s pretty much always the chance that an interviewer might hold something against you, whether it’s being a government employee, or being short, or whatever. Have you kept in touch with any of the fellow students that you mentioned found jobs? Maybe they have suggestions on open positions, skills to emphasize on your resume, or the like.

    3. Rat in the Sugar*

      I think it can depend on the field. When we were hiring for a new accountant at my job, Boss was very much Not Impressed with people who had worked in government, and said that she did not believe that the standards there very high. She still interviewed people who had government work on their resume, though, and just specifically asked them about what they did and what standard they were held to since she was worried it didn’t meet her requirements for their experience.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Entry-level sounds like a mismatch for your experience level. If I received your application, I would think it were a mistake.

      I know this is industry/employer-specific, but I have not seen private-sector employers discriminate against hiring former federal employees (unless there’s a lobbying/time-out issue or the person comes from a department/agency that is infamous for its lack of professionalism). I have seen folks express hesitation that they’ll have to retrain that person in private sector norms, but generally if someone seems competent and interesting, that’s enough to merit a look.

  39. ThatLibraryChick*

    Just found out that my boyfriend’s work’s sick leave policy is that it can only be used in advance, ie you need to schedule it in prior. If you call in sick and miss a day, you cannot use your PTO to cover it, either you make it up or have to work extra hours during the week to make it 40 hours if possible. I feel this seems…odd? How can you schedule when you’re going to be sick? Appointments sure, surgeries sure. But I feel like this policy just encourages sick people to come into work.

    1. EP*

      Is this based on what his manager/boss is telling him or HR? Does he have separate vacation & sick leave? It sounds like my boyfriend’s PTO policy – they have one bank, and have to apply for it early, but the managers understand that even though its the same bank “some of it” is for sick leave too- which you can’t predict. If his manger is saying that (and he has HR) I’d check with them on it- it sounds like a misunderstanding of the actual policy.

    2. katamia*

      I’ve seen this policy a lot in my various workplaces, and it’s always seemed weird to me. How are you supposed to know when you’re going to get food poisoning or fall down the stairs and break your leg?

  40. Anonymish*

    TL/DR:This might sound picky – but – how do I get my co-workers to stop refering to me as “Aunt E” to the pets in the office?

    Longer Version: We have a dog friendly office, so we have one dog – an older black lab – who comes in most days. Four of us have the same title and all started with in a year, the dog belongs to one of the other three, I sit slightly away from the 3 of them (I can see the owner but not the other two). The other two use baby voices and refer to them selves as “Aunt” to the dog . I love the dog, she quiet, doesn’t bark unless there’s a reason to (e.g. someone is at the door and we aren’t answering or are away from our desks), she’s great, but I don’t always feel comfortable with my friends actual children calling me Aunt (few exceptions, mainly because its just not something my family ever really did), never mind a dog “calling” me this. It really wouldn’t be a big deal – the owner doesn’t do it and usually I just roll my eyes and walk away, but our Executive Director referred to me (and the others) as Aunt to the dog and that felt… weird. I don’t want to be the one that’s no fun, but she’s not my niece. Am I just a stick in the mud?

    1. Colette*

      I think it’s reasonable to not want to be called aunt, but at the same time, I don’t think the dog is really going to remember it, and your coworkers know your name. If your coworkers call you Aunt E, I think you can give them a puzzled look, but I think protesting too much will hurt more than help.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m with Colette here, I think protesting will come across as kind of odd, because I doubt they take this that seriously. I say this as someone whose co-worker once said, “I love it [my dog] calls me ‘Miss X’.” I was like, “HE doesn’t call you that– I do!” I think your best move is to play along in a way, like, “Oh, she doesn’t have to call me ‘Aunt’– we’re buds! Just Anonymish is all she needs.” Or, “Calling me ‘Aunt’ makes me feel super old!”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Take it with a grain of salt but I have had people who married into my family tell me that their child is not allowed to call me aunt…. because it’s weird. That stung for a moment because I always said aunt or uncle when I was growing up. And for me it was part of being connected to family. So it hit like a slap in the face, then I adjusted my thinking.

      People who use the word aunt/uncle are showing a form of connection or fondness. Some people want their dog to be loved and to be a loving animal in return, referring to others as aunt and uncle in their minds reinforces that loving environment for the dog. And adding one more thought, we live in the age where family is whatever the individual defines as their family.

      I am going to stop before I say, “yes, you are being a stick in the mud” and remind you that no one actually thinks the dog is your niece, I think you do know that. That is a pretty literal translation of what is going on here.

      My friend loves my dog. And he has a particular voice he uses to say things that the dog could be saying. When my friend is in dog-voice mode, he refers to me as “mom” as if the dog were calling me “mom”. That one felt weird to me but I have actually gotten used to it and I find it cute/endearing. Maybe you just need to get used to hearing it in context?

    4. Clever Name*

      Hey, at least you don’t share your name with one of the office dogs. :) One of my coworkers got a dog and when I asked her name, my coworker paused and said, “This is kind of awkward,….. her name is Clever Name”. I just laughed.

  41. Pup Seal*

    I just need to rant about this.

    I work at a small non-profit (5 employees), and my supervisor is very unproductive. I’m waiting for him to approve several things, but he says he can’t get to them until he finish this letter he’s going to send out. He’s been working on this letter for the past 3 weeks! I can’t tell if he’s just slow to do task or just lazy, though most of the time when I pass his office he’s always reading some news or celebrity articles. I’m just really frustrated that his lack of productivity is hurting mine.

    1. animaniactoo*

      “Bob, I understand that you need to finish working on that letter first, but it’s been several weeks now and I have a number of items that are becoming urgent. Would it be possible for you take a couple of hours to review these so that I can move on with them?”

  42. Sunshine Brite*

    Anyone have tips for breaking into private practice therapy or a similar? I’m a clinical social worker and interested in building a small practice. Anyone have tips for that?

    I’m also interested in resources to navigate the legal/contract needs that arise from this prospect as it would be evidence based health treatment.

    1. Kj*

      I’m doing this right now. I’m joining a group practice at first, since they will do all the billing stuff and refer clients. Most folks I know do office-shares at first so they don’t have to invest in space. Think about the population you want to work with- where are they looking for therapist? Most therapists I know use PsychologyToday to generate referrals and say it works really well.

      I don’t know what you mean by “legal/contract needs that arise from this prospect as it would be evidence based health treatment.” I’m assuming you need basic disclosure docs- I looked up disclosures from others in my state and modeled my statements after them, same with ROIs and the like. Using EBPs doesn’t require any specific paperwork in my state. I would recommend forming an LLC to protect yourself and, of course, get good liability insurance.

      If you are going to try and bill insurance, be aware it is not easy and most panels aren’t picking up new providers unless you have a specialty they really need (children, the elderly).

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        I was worried about the group shares a bit because the conflict of interest rules with my current job. I’m with a county and it basically says avoid duplicate clients so many of the practices I know off hand are larger and would have the potential for some dual relationships. I plan on going over this further with my supervisor during our next 1:1

    2. Mimmy*

      Are you a member of NASW? My state chapter has loads of resources for private practitioners and those looking to start a practice. See if your chapter has similar resources.

  43. Chi-Anon*

    Hi everyone

    Happy last Friday for 2016

    I have a question on how to handle something. I hired a temp thru an agency in October. She was supposed to be senior level and quite frankly, isnt at the level I expected or need. The agency reached out for some feedback so I spent a couple of minutes with them letting them know she isn’t what I need, doesn’t think outside the box – she only will do what she is told and no more. My dept is small and we have to think on the fly. I do not feel she is capable of that. That is the long and short of what I told the agency.

    The agency then told the employee that she needed to step up and take initiative. That is great and all except part of that was her sending me emails asking if I did certain things yet (I am the manager). She also wants to meet with me and wrote me a long email stating she wanted to take on certain projects as the lead. Unfortunately, I do not see her as a lead in anything and do not think she is qualified. I have a meeting with her Monday.

    She is fine with instrumenting email campaigns for certain projects (think more admin than technical) so I would like to use her for that. I am struggling with what to say to her in the meeting…


    1. AndersonDarling*

      Maybe it isn’t that she needs more imitative, maybe she just needs to know what her boundaries are. Coming in as a temp, she may have thought that she could only do what she was specifically assigned. She may have thought she would be stepping on toes or working outside of her assigned scope if she took a lead role.

      1. EA*

        I temped for a bit a few years back when I was between jobs. We were basically told to keep our heads down, don’t make waves.

        Most people did their jobs and nothing more. Partly due to lack of work ethic for some, but I also think we got a lot of messages like just do the task and don’t ask questions.

        1. Hallway Feline*

          Same here. I was told to do X and Y, but otherwise not cause any trouble. The manager I was working for did eventually begin asking if I’d like to do Z, W, and B, and cleared it with the temp agency, but yeah at first it is very much “do your task and stay out of the way.”

        2. Mirax*

          The temp agencies I’ve worked for in the past were very much like this. We were even instructed to avoid asking questions as much as possible, don’t talk to anyone not directly related to the task you’re doing, don’t volunteer for any extra tasks.

    2. Colette*

      You’re in charge, so what she wants to do is only relevant if it’s also what you want her to do. So what do you want her to do? Focus on that. For example, you want her to manage email campaigns. Her focus should be on preparing campaigns, identifying target audiences, etc. If she follows up with you about something unrelated, you may need to ask her why she’s doing something unrelated to the campaigns. If she’s following up on something related, then you need to get her what she needs or, if she’s following up too quickly, set her expectations about when she should expect a reply.

      But all of this assumes you want to keep her on. Do you? Could you get another temp who would be a better fit?

    3. katamia*

      “Take initiative” means different things to different people, and there’s a lot of really bad advice out there about how to take initiative. I think the best thing you can do (if you’re planning to keep her for a little while, at least) is have specific examples of what kind of initiative you’d like, maybe even a checklist or written list. Which sort of flies in the face of the idea of taking initiative, but you two don’t seem to have the same idea of what that looks like right now, so the first step should be trying to get on the same page.

    4. animaniactoo*

      Well it sounds like maybe you haven’t been very clear with her about what you need from her in this role.

      So for the Monday meeting, I would start with “You asked for X and Y, and I believe that was based on some discussion that I had with your agency. I think the message has gotten lost in translation, so I’d like to start over and talk to you about what I’m not seeing that I want to, and how we can try to work towards that.” and then be open to hearing her feedback. Ask her what she feels her strengths are, and see if you can come up with assignments that play towards that. Define to her what you see as taking more leadership and initiative and ask her if those are things she thinks she can do. If she says no, ask why not. Maybe she’s really not suited for the role and you just need to tell the agency that. But maybe she’s standing in her own way and you’d be willing to see if given some responsibility for certain things, she’d develop into it. On the other hand, if she says yes, then you’re at “Great, I look forward to seeing it” and either way, “Let’s check-in in 3 weeks and evaluate how it’s going.”

      1. Chi-Anon*

        Perfect advice everyone – esp animaniactoo!

        I was clear what was coming down the pipeline in the interview (yes, I interviewed her) and she said she understood.

        Think of my job as controlling fires – whereas what she is doing is using 2 other people to try to correct future mistakes. She may not be able to come to me very much but she does have access to 2 other team members who can guide her.

        Our meeting is on Tuesday (not Monday due to the holiday) and I will use this advice.

        Thanks again

        1. animaniactoo*

          Curiosity question: You say that you were clear about what was coming down the pipeline, but were you clear about how you expected the person in the role to be handling those things? I ask because once in awhile I think I’ve been clear because *I* know what I mean by saying something, but then I discover that I didn’t get all the words out of my head, and the other person didn’t get all of my intent.

  44. NASA*

    Evals for 2016 are due in a few months and I’ve been keeping a list of accomplishments and whatnot throughout the year.

    Our new Head Cheese is intense and for whatever reason she really likes me! :) I work hard and do the best I can and she recognize me, low-totem pole me, among our ~120 person division.

    At the holiday party she came up to me and said “I heard the most wonderful compliment about you from one of the supervisors. I cannot remember who said it or what they said, but I agreed and it was very good!”

    Crap! Is there anything I can even say about this to my supervisor?

    1. Colette*

      I’m confused about why you want to mention this to your supervisor. It’s not an accomplishment you might need to remember for an evaluation, it’s just a vague nice thing.

  45. Jurney*

    Any digital marketers out there? How does one get up to speed and stay up to speed in such a rapidly changing field?

    I started my career in marketing 10 years ago, and for about 5 years, felt like I had a decent handle on things, although I knew other businesses were doing a bit more and had bigger budgets than us, so of course their capacity was greater. Then I took a couple of other jobs that either weren’t marketing per se, or a super old school form of marketing (think direct mail for a dinosaur of an industry). I joined my current firm in the hopes of getting back up to speed with technology, but for the past 2.5 years, their dysfunction, turnover, and lack of digital marketing leadership has meant I haven’t learned a single thing.

    I’m now on a new digital team that joined the company in the past year, and in just a couple of months of meeting with them, have realized digital marketing is light years beyond my comprehension. I took a free certification course this week, and my company does literally nothing they recommend.

    My question for those of you in this space is — how best can I get up to speed, especially since we’re in a process of change in the company, and people are so resistant to it? I honestly want to leave this place; it’s been a bad fit from day one. But I don’t think any other employer who’s remotely in the space would hire me. Any tips on how to gain PRACTICAL experience? I’m unable to run social media (because that’s someone else’s job), play with budgets for AdWords (we’ve hired like four agencies to do this), am not technical enough for SEO — the list goes on and on. The course work is one thing, but I am really struggling to apply what I’m learning online to what’s happening at my work day to day.


    1. H.C.*

      How is your relationship with your manager? If it’s good, you can ask him/her that you are interested in gaining more digital marketing skills and if you can shadow your colleagues (like your social media specialist) or take on some lower priority projects (like polishing content on a few webpages for SEO).

      And even if you don’t have your manager’s buy-in, you can always directly approach your co-workers for a quick, informal meeting to talk about the work that they do because you are interested in learning more about it.

      Also – because digital marketing is such a rapidly evolving field – continue your outside training, whether through attending conferences and workshops, or extension courses through your local college/university. Even if you are not able to apply those skills in your current job, you may be able (or at least say you’re familiar with those skills/concepts) for jobs you are applying to. And if your current job has a training/professional development budget for this, more the reason to do so.

      1. Jurney*

        The tricky thing is I’m a remote worker for the new team. Anyone on my team with any knowledge is 3,000+ miles away. My learning curve is that much steeper since I’m not in the room with them. All the marketing people in my office are just as far behind as I am, if not worse, so I can’t really go to them.

        Relationship with manager is decent, although I feel like I’m not producing enough or thinking at a level high enough for the new team to feel good about taking me on. I’d like to get up to speed as fast as possible so they don’t regret their decision!

        1. H.C.*

          Yikes, in that case I would go with the conference/workshop/classes route, or even some online sessions w LinkedIn or Khan Academy.

        2. H.C.*

          On LinkedIn, you can also join digital marketing groups to network with others and get quick-response help too.

    2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      “Digital Marketing” is so so so vast, I don’t think it’s really a thing because it’s not *A* thing. You could mean technical or artistic production of digital marketing pieces, you could mean data analysis, you could mean strategy. You might mean ecommerce digital marketing, on page, with calls to action/conversions/tracking/retargeting, or you might mean lead generation. C to C or B to C? Very different digital marketing. SEO and SEM and social media, mobile vs desktop. And don’t start me on apps which, I actually know enough on everything above because I’ve been doing this for many years but, apps? Knowledge = zero. And that’s digital marketing also.

      I call myself a Digital Marketer sometimes ’cause it sounds cool, but I don’t believe Digital Marketing is really a thing. What I know is people who are experts in pockets of the overall, and then the experts in pockets work together to make the whole.

      Sooo……. what I suggest is finding pockets you can learn/have apptitude in/enjoy and can get practical experience in. Go deep in pockets while keeping an eye to current news in the overall. (And I will ALWAYS plug Google Analytics training and experience. There are 4 million 500 thousand people looking for a social media marketing job right now. People who are trained in and have an aptitude for excellent analysis are rare.)


  46. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

    I’d appreciate any advice the AAM community might have on my current dilemma. I’ve posted in the comments quite a bit lately about my dissatisfaction with the recent changes at my job becoming hourly exempt and losing much of the flexibility and perks that I used to get. Many of my co-workers feel the same, and as this year draws to a close there’s been a lot of chatter that leads me to believe that they either are or will be job searching in actively. I have also been applying to jobs without success, but it’s only been a month and of course it’s a terrible time of the year to be looking for a job.
    I’m looking for a new position that is a bump up in salary and job title – I was lowballed on the salary during the hiring process and my title does not even begin to represent the scope of by actual job duties. But there are lot of big changes at my company coming in 2017 due to my employer being acquired by a huge conglomerate, and with others potentially jumping ship I’m wondering if a better strategy would be to play the long game and stick around. There are many things that I still love about my job – my boss and grandboss are amazing and supportive, my main customer is great to work with, and it really is a perfect fit for my strange and diverse skill set. Also, I am recognized (not with $, unfortunately) as rockstar employee who has contributed immensely to the company in the last 18 months.
    I’m not sure if I’m deluding myself though that there’s potential for me to move up by staying here. Management says there will be, but it’s going to happen slowly and gradually, and I don’t want to feel like I’ve wasted valuable job searching time waiting for opportunity to present itself here.

    1. animaniactoo*

      Can you give yourself a time limit for re-evaluating whether you’ve seen enough change to stay or to get serious about the job hunt? How significant a difference do you think 6 months or a year will make if you were to jobhunt then (having seen not enough progress where you are), rather than now?

    2. not so super-visor*

      I would see if you could have a really open conversation with your boss about your career path and what it would take for advancement. If they’re really vague about it or just keep giving you special projects to keep you placated but no real advancement, then you know it’s time to leave the kiddie table and move on.

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        I’m definitely thinking of going this route. I have a great relationship with my manager, and she’s aware that our facility is going to lose some employees over this (a few have been astonishingly vocal about their intent to leave). We had talked previously about putting together some kind of career mapping document for me, but it got derailed when the acquisition happened. Now that we’re being fully folded in I should see if that’s something we can still do, or if maybe even our new operating company has a process.

        1. not so super-visor*

          I also work in the CS field, so believe me, I understand that carving out an actual career path can be hard. Just be prepared to still have to make the decision to leave even if the conversation goes well. I spent 7 years in my first job after college because they kept promising that something would come up or that they had me in mind for something in the works. They’d assign me to special projects or teams, and I’d get super excited and think that they were heading somewhere. They weren’t. It took me way too long to realize that the projects were the equivalent of giving a kid a coloring mat when you go out to eat– enough to keep me occupied and where I was at. I don’t think that I realized how bad it was until I actually left and moved on to something better. I’m not saying that your job or bosses are as bad as my first job, but I just wanted to share my experience.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      If I were in your shoes, I’d continue the job search. If something comes up that’s a better opportunity, you can take it, and if nothing does, then no harm done. I can think of two exceptions: 1.) curb the job search is keeping you from doing other important things you need to do and you don’t want to do it, 2.) if your ship-jumping coworkers have saturated the opportunities for these jobs in your area, then waiting until there aren’t so many applicants might benefit you.

      Slowly and gradually doesn’t excite me very much, and you don’t know if changes could ultimately be negative instead of positive. You could have 2 years in a new, better job before the dream promotion would come up at your current place. . .even then, they could always hire you back.

    4. help me im bored*

      I used to be a CS rep and job hunting after that position was awful. I feel like that title gets a bad rap because 1. People hate dealing with CS agents, and 2. It’s viewed as a skill-less job, so people don’t value it’s time on your resume. I took that position initially with promise to work my way through the company but was forced to relocate before my time came up. It honestly feels like it was all for naught. I regret leaving, so I would consider staying on for hope of moving up. That’s all from my own experiences, however.

      1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        Yes, my job functionality is really more of an Account Manager/Data Analyst. I regularly present to President/Vice President levels (and once the CEO) of billion dollar corporations. One of the reasons I’m thinking about sticking it out is that the acquisition may result in a title change that would make me a more attractive candidate at first glance.

        1. help me im bored*

          That’s completely fair. I wish I would have stuck around for a title change. It would have made me a much more appealing candidate.

  47. I Must Anon*

    Semi-regular commenter going anon for this one. My boss is leaving for greener pastures, and BigBoss asked me to take on her role in an acting capacity, which I agreed to do. The only issue is that we have completely separate roles and skills (think moving to VP of Teapot Publicity from Director of Tea-Enthusiast Relations), and I’m really worried I’m somehow going to destroy the universe. I’m pretty good about asking for help when I need it, but I can’t help feeling like there’s going to be some Big Thing I Should Know About but don’t, and then universe = destroyed.

    Would love to hear any and all advice you lovely commenters have!

    1. Just A Person*

      You are not going to destroy the universe. As a coworker once said to me when I freaked out about a job thing, “No matter what happens at this job, you will never accidentally launch nuclear warheads and start war with Russia. Anything less can usually be sorted out.”

      However, if you are worried, I’d find someone you respect and can talk to about it. Speak to BigBoss, if you have a good relationship, and find out what exactly you need to be doing. Are you just covering part of the job until they can hire someone? Are you supposed to take it over completely?

      I find that once I know expectations, it takes away a lot of my fear of starting World War 3.

    2. Graciosa*

      Figure out who the stakeholders / clients are and who the subject matter experts are (the latter are often the team members if there are any). Talk to them.

      That’s pretty much it.

      I have taken over teams where I knew next to nothing about the work of the department and had to start making decisions the first day (role-limited approvals, for example). It’s scary at first, but it was really good for me in the long run. The key was getting over the idea that I needed to know the work on day one in order to do a good job. I didn’t.

      I did have to be willing to admit my ignorance – a lot – and ask questions – also a lot. I had to listen – a lot – and make one scary (OMG I have NO idea what I’m doing!) decision after another to the best of my ability.

      Nothing terrible happened.

      Eventually I figured out what was going on and how to improve it. I became comfortable with the work.

      Then I moved to another team to manage different work I knew nothing about. It was easier the second time.

      BigBoss does not want you to fail. Your stakeholders do not want you to fail, and it’s likely that any employees on the team would also be supportive given the option. Just ask questions and figure it out.

      A few starter questions:

      What is the most important thing the VP of Teapot Publicity does for you?
      What is the key measure of success for the Teapot Publicity department?
      What are you most worried about at the moment?
      What can I do to help you out?
      Are there any critical deliverables I need to know about coming due?
      What are your top X priorities for the next [time period]?

      If the role has employees, they are probably nervous about the new boss (even if the role is a temporary one). Good employees care about their work, and can be more anxious about your screwing it up than you are (hard as it is to believe). Just saying, “You know a lot more than I do about this. What do I need to know to avoid screwing it up?” can be amazingly powerful. People want to be heard.

      This role is a fantastic opportunity for you if you embrace it. You get a free pass to learn a new area and interact with new people with *no* expectations that you’re coming in as an expert. This is a gift! If you take advantage of it, you will grow immeasurably.

      Enjoy it.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I have one more from an old boss of mine. “If you are faced with a choice between A and B and you have no idea, there is no one to ask and you must hurry up and decide, then chose the option that is the easiest to fix if it is the wrong choice.”

      I cannot tell you how many times I have used this. It has helped me think things through and get to an answer that I felt good about and eventually I found out it was a good answer.

      If you are an “acting” VP, you probably will not be held as sternly accountable as a full-fledged VP. If you have problems people will be more inclined to expect you to ask. You are in a great spot. Breathe, be sincere, do your best. It will be okay.

  48. Tris Prior*

    This has been the most boring week ever. Almost nothing to do, because almost everyone is on vacation. As an added bonus, everyone who IS here has some sort of death plague. I am literally counting down the hours until I can leave. At least my computer, my inbox, and my desk have never been so clean and organized!

    Most places that I’ve worked before had big end-of-year crunches so this is so weird to me. Part of me wishes I’d taken this week off, but then I don’t really like taking time off or traveling when it’s crappy outside, and I don’t travel at the holidays so it makes more sense to me to leave these days for folks who do, or who have kids who are out of school, etc.

    Thank god for the open thread so I can at least have something to read when I can’t stand any more filing of old emails…

    1. SophieChotek*

      Good luck filling the hours. Actually sounds kind of nice to me…
      I’m desperately writing year-end reports (that could reach 100 pages before I finish) and keep popping over her to distract myself or procrastinate to read something other than my own writing and dismal reports.

    2. help me im bored*

      I’m at inbox 2, all the drawers are organized, and everything around me is dusted and sterilized.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I used to love this time of year, because there was never anything to do and we always left by 4pm. Is that an option for you? I would organize and clean, take a longer than usual lunch, and sometimes we would all get together and watch a movie (we had a DVD player– one year a bunch of us gathered around a cubicle and watched March of the Penguins). I would read news articles and blog archives all day.

      Now I work at a company that shuts down this week, so I’m doing all of this stuff at home– plus cleaning and baking. But I feel your pain!

      1. Tris Prior*

        Oh yes, a long lunch and an early departure are definitely in my plans.

        I think it’s the utter silence that’s really weirding me out.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Not working but boy are the listings bare this week. I feel lucky to have gotten the three required contacts in. Also, they changed the reporting procedure so you have to enter the name of who you contacted, and it can’t be anyone you previously did. There are like three big employers here, so more than half the ads are from the same place! :P Pretty dense.

  49. katamia*

    I’m planning to upgrade my computer skills (programming, but I haven’t picked a language yet because I’m still researching what would be most useful for me), but most of what I’m finding online for resources is very step by step/regimented and doesn’t seem to have a lot of freer activities where you can really integrate many different things you’ve learned into one whole website/program/whatever. Does anyone have any recommended books or websites that do have exercises or lessons structured a little more like this? If I know I want to do X, I’m good at learning how to do A, B, and C that I need to be able to do in order to do X, but I’m not always great at going the other way around and learning A, B, and C without context.

    1. AshK434*

      Datacamp, Dataquest and Kaggle all incorporate projects into their tutorials. I believe those sites mainly teach R and Python though

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        Holy moly, i just checked out Data Camp – THANK YOU!!!

        Mr Sprechen (aka Talar pa English?) is in big data backend stuff – data ingestion and loves visualization too. Ive been pushing him to do more of this programming stuff for analysis on his free time because it is what he really enjoys, so this will be helpful. I have a side interest in it and am looking to be moved onto those projects at my Day Job and maybe make a career shift here more into that field in the next year or two.

  50. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    How do you “network” in a big company for a promotion/transfer without your boss finding out?

    I work in a small department (3 people) at a subsidiary office of a fortune 500 company. My boss really resents it when people move on from this department. She’s made some not-so-nice comments about the last two people who were in my position and were promoted out (both lovely to work with, according to all others). I’ve recently realized that my boss’s territorial nature means that she has given our department a reputation of being uncooperative, and it turns out there is some old weird politics stuff with some other departments and our corporate headquarters.

    I’ve only been in my position a little under a year, but the job is below my previous levels of responsibility (though at a much bigger company), and has evolved over the last year to be less and less what I was hired to do. I’m starting to get antsy as my specialized work keeps being centralized into our corporate headquarters, and I am given new work to do that is farther and farther from my area of expertise (and interest). I’m thinking more and more that I might want to go join the corporate department where my work is going, but I can’t figure out how to hint that I’d like to do that without my boss finding out. My manager came from the corporate office originally, and was exiled to our subsidiary against her wishes.

    I currently sit on a subcommittee with the corporate office and am the only person providing subject matter expertise over the work they’ve taken away from me. (Basically, they’ve taken away the responsibility to oversee the program I was managing and centralized it at corporate, but then asked me to continue to do the actual work since they don’t have anyone there with the expertise. They plan to then use the work I’m doing nationwide, not just in my subsidiary.) My boss sits on this subcommittee too, so she is in all the meetings I have with the corporate office.

    Right now, I’m just trying to do a great job and hope that the folks in the corporate office notice and will offer me something, but that seems like wishful thinking. Is there any way I can better network to show them that I want to come work with them without tipping off my resentful boss? I’m not trying to be sneaky, but I think if I mention anything to her she will directly try to stymie my chances. If it matters, my subsidiary is located in the same location as our corporate headquarters, though most of the people I’m actually working with from corporate are remote, so I can’t just ask them out to lunch to chat. Any ideas?

    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      How well known is your bosses behavior to hold people back because of her “issues”? This is going to have to be handled carefully for sure.

      The people who were promoted out – can you chat with them and find out how they got the promotion (was it hard work, did they have to toot their own horn, how did they not let her know, who promoted them, etc) and get their advice for your predicament?

      How much power does your boss hold? For example, can she stymie you by having a word with her best friend who is on the committee at a high level? That makes this really difficult, but it sounds like she was banished and now wants to take out that resentment on someone else. Not rational but it is what it is.

      In my experience any F500 has active grapevines, so being secretive could very well turn all this into a real mess because it will amplify whatever is driving her less rational behavior. Definitely find out what you can from the prior people who left and see if you can use it to your advantage. What about review time? Would she accept it if you were “seconded” to be the subject expert locally to the corporate office but still doing some of the other work under her? Is there an offer you can make that would assuage her fears but still get you what you want?

    2. Artemesia*

      I do think you can’t just hope someone notices and so there is no risk free path. Can you identify someone who is the right person to contact about your interests and talk to them about your career planning? You are an expert in Z and Z is centralized so naturally you want to move in that direction and moving centrally is critical to that. You can note that your boss is always reluctant to lose staff and so you want to be able to explore future options in Z without her being in the loop. I don’t see how you make this overture without being explicit about that. It is risky but I don’t see other options besides being wonderful where you are but taking initiative with the central team. I would have a story ready for the boss when it blows up in your face in case it does. ‘Well of course I am thinking long term about my career development and since Z is not something managed her anymore, I needed to talk with the central Z team.’ Lean on the ‘I am delighted to be here but my job seems to be migrating elsewhere’ frame. Good luck.

  51. FMLA in California*

    Question, because I value the feedback here:

    I am on FMLA, and I work for state government. I’ve gone into dock on my time a few times with FMLA, but we receive a number of vacation/sick hours a month. I receive 30ish hours a month with my length of service, so I’m not really worried about building the time back up – that will happen fairly quickly on it’s own.

    My immediate boss may be transferring, opening her spot. She has told upper management that I’d be the best fit when she leaves (our unit predominantly promotes from within for higher positions). My upper management has expressed concern over my time related to promotability and how it may affect their review of any application.

    I love where I work, and what I do. We’re about mid-range in management, and her position is the next logical promotion for mine.

    A few things:
    Yes, I am working on getting my time back together/out of dock. No vacations for me for awhile.
    My FMLA is intermittent and sporadic, but intense, and extends until March 2017.
    Prior to my FMLA issues I had received many complements from higher-ups and awards for my work here, and during my FMLA I’ve received yet another reward. (Rewards here include certificates/public appreciation, sometimes additional bonuses.)

    Are there any other steps I could take to remind them that this is not permanent? My upper manager seems to be judging my entire career on the last month where I’ve exhausted my time off, and I’m not sure what, if anything, I can do to remedy that.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Can your exiting boss help relieve upper managements concerns by talking with them directly?

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Well, they’re not supposed to use your FMLA as a factor when determining whether to promote you, so if that’s what upper manager is doing, s/he needs to cut it out right quick. They’re allowed to consider attendance issues insofar as lack of attendance adversely effects your ability to perform your job, but it sounds like all of your attendance issues are FMLA related.

      Do you have an HR department who you could ask for advice? The goal of speaking to them would be to figure out if they have a process for addressing FMLA-related-leave when evaluating attendance (or really, doing any evaluation) for the purposes of promotion, but the secondary goal is to let them know that this sounds like FMLA retaliation to you and that you’re concerned that you won’t be judged on the merits of your work/qualifications.

      I wouldn’t want to leave this sitting out there if upper manager is operating with incomplete information. If you check in with your manager, would she be willing to help you brainstorm how to address this with upper management? Or, even better, would she be willing to go to her manager with you for a two-on-one where you note that upper manager seems frustrated, and you were wondering if upper manager had any concerns, etc. Your manager can then play a mediating/translating role, if appropriate.

  52. help me im bored*

    Hi! I am a late-twenties perpetual entry-level worker due to prolonged education and forced relocations (although to more active job markets). I’m in a job where I do nothing but fill a seat and occasionally answer a phone. It’s pays surprisingly well, is in an awesome location, and the benefits are really great, but I am bored out of my G-D mind. Yes, I have asked (begged!) everyone for more things to do. No, I cannot create work or take initiative to help on with projects – these would have to be delegated due to the nature of the firm.

    I acknowledge I have to commit some years to build my resume, but I have what I think is a fairly legitimate concern that I won’t be able to put any real bullet points under the job. I don’t do anything, I’m not learning any new skills. I just sit and occasionally send a check, order someone food or transfer a phone call.

    I am in the process of applying to part time law school programs, so I spend a lot of my days studying for the LSAT and reading “DON’T GO TO LAW SCHOOL” articles. But if I choose not to go, I am concerned what my career trajectory could possibly be. I can’t imagine anyone having interest in hiring someone with some useless humanities degrees and two years of chair occupation. There is of course the option of biding my time and hoping to work my way through the ranks here on the legal secretary track, but turnover is so low it could be quite a long time before anything presents itself. Conversely, this would be an ideal job for a PT student because I can easily do homework while I’m here.

    Anyway, no concrete question here, just looking for some input from the best comments section on the internet.

    1. katamia*

      Are your bosses okay with you learning other skills while on the clock? Depending on what your interests are, you could try to learn new software or something. If you decide to go to school (law school or something else), you could also see if your bosses would be okay with you studying/doing homework while there–some workplaces do allow it.

      1. help me im bored*

        My bosses are really disinterested in giving me things to do and seem to be content with me just occupying my time in a way that keeps me out of their hair. I often have my LSAT book out and it goes without comment (other than some silly snark from our attorneys). I have dabbled in learning to code, but our systems here are so heavily guarded I cannot access a lot of websites. I already know excel, so I’m set there… I would love to be a more valuable asset to the firm and take initiative to learn pertinent skills, but I honestly don’t know what those could possibly be. I’m already pretty good at ordering food.

        1. animaniactoo*

          I had a lot of downtime this year, and linkedin was offering “a free week of learning” so I started looking into their online courses. I discovered that they’ve acquired and are offering that library as their own basically. I found some of the stuff there really useful, and I also discovered that my public library offers free access to, I just have to sign in through the library’s webpage. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in playing with? Would you have access at work?

    2. Shelly*

      Frankly, I think getting a living wage, decent benefits and being in a place you like, is a lot of perks for a job. There is no perfect job (nor one which is boredom free), but something worth considering is- Is it okay for you to do homework at your job? I’ve been at jobs that were slow and it wasn’t okay. I’ve alway so been a jobs where it was okay. After you sort that out with someone you respect, I think there’s nothing wrong with being a part-time student.

      However, you may want to consider what the point of getting another degree is. It sounds like you already have one, so I’d try to decide what sort of work you want to do and if Law School will help you get that sort of work. I’m not of a “Don’t Go to Law School” crowd, but I do believe firmly that you shouldn’t go to law school unless you actually want to be a lawyer. So, decide that first.

      Meanwhile, I would network the heck out of the place you’re at, make good connections with your coworkers and try to find things to keep stuff interesting. Boring jobs exist, but it could always be worse- which I realize is not the best thing to hear. Good luck!

      1. help me im bored*

        As I mentioned, I can do homework and am in this position for the long haul. I understand I’m lucky to be employed with good benefits. I also know that work is boring – I’ve never been without jobs, I just usually had things to do at them, even if they were dreadfully mind numbing. I am more concerned with career trajectory should I choose not to attend law school. I am trying to think long term and I don’t know what I could tell hiring managers that I do here. Since it’s nothing. I do nothing. I don’t know how to spin the nothing.

        Side note – I’m preparing for the LSAT as a means to survey my options (if I can get a full ride). I like law and want to be an attorney, but would only go under very specific circumstances because I understand the market and the realities of lawyering.

      2. Epsilon Delta*

        “I think getting a living wage, decent benefits and being in a place you like, is a lot of perks for a job” — I have been in that situation, with those “perks” but nothing constructive to do all day. I HATED every second of it. Was it better than being in that situation and not being able to pay my bills? Yes. But I felt so demoralized and useless, and upset that if they weren’t getting any work out of me (other than the 1 hour or so I was productive), why couldn’t they just let me go home and actually do something useful with my time.

        I heard a lot of people say the same thing to me – isn’t it great they pay you to do nothing. The number of people who said this to me make me wonder if it something weird about my personality, but being stuck at work for 8 hours with nothing to do, day in and day out with no end in sight, is torture. The feeling of uselessness pervaded my whole existence, even outside of work.

        1. katamia*

          Yep. I was paid to do nothing in my first post-college job. It was horrible. I wanted to be useful (and also resented having to be there when they didn’t really need me a lot of the time), but there just wasn’t enough work. I read (webcomics and online newspapers; I thought reading books would look bad, especially since most of my coworkers already thought I was stupid for having gone to college instead of getting right into the workforce after high school). I didn’t have any higher goals I could have studied for at the time, or else I would have done that, too.

        2. help me im bored*

          Yes! Thank you! How did you get out? What was the next move? How did you sell that time to you next employer?

        3. h.cowl*

          I so, SO deeply agree to this. I spent 3 years in two jobs that I liked, but used about 10% of my brain capacity. I’m undergoing a rigorous career change now and it’s AMAZING the difference it has made in my overall happiness. I thought I was doing all right before, but using 100% of my brain has made everything so much better. My training (I’m a pretty serious runner), my marriage, my free time — it all feels so much better when I am being challenged at work. Just sitting in a chair doing mindless busy work was not enough to keep me happy.

          1. help me im bored*

            Yes! Endurance athletes unite! I’m a cyclist. My workouts keep me going, but I would love a little challenge every once and a while at work. Honestly, studying for the LSAT has been fun simply because it’s working brain muscles that have gone dead since I started this job.

        4. Temperance*

          I come from solid blue-collar stock, and they all were happy to just have jobs and werne’t interested in careers or moving up.

        5. silence*

          being paid to do nothing is wonderful in theory and great for a day or two in a normal job but boring as hell as a regular occurrence.

    3. CMT*

      There are a lot of good reasons not to go to graduate school, but I was in a similar position to the one you’re in and I didn’t see a way out other than going back to school. I did, and I would absolutely not have the job I do now if I hadn’t got a master’s degree.

    4. Government Worker*

      The OP in this letter was in a similar boat. The particulars are a bit different, but there’s still a lot of useful advice in the comments.

      Keep in mind that a lot of hiring managers would prefer to hire someone who showed they could effectively occupy a chair than a new grad with no work experience. That first year or two of an office job teaches a lot of professional norms and demonstrates reliability.

    5. Temperance*

      Honestly, being a legal secretary can really suck, and is, IMO, a huge waste of a degree. Saying this as an attorney with secretarial experience. I actually became an attorney to escape pink collar hell.

      1. help me im bored*

        This is great feedback! I really appreciate hearing something I’ve been thinking and not saying out loud much. I could see myself doing the legal secretary route as I do part time law school, at least until I ditch this mess for internships in the areas I actually want to practice (I’m working in Big Law now but interested in plantiff-side employment litigation). But I have no interest in doing it forever.

        Also, you sound like a lawyer who doesn’t hate/regret becoming a lawyer. That’s awesome. I want to hear more about your career/practice area/ law school experience/ all the things a law school applicant is into hearing about.

        1. Still a lawyer*

          I’m a lawyer and don’t regret it, but I came out of law school debt free and work in house. I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t both understand and love law in the sense of being willing to eat rice and beans for years to pay off the debt for the privilege of joining the profession.

          If you are determined to do this, I will give you one study tip – read a lot of cases and learn to pick out what you need to know and highlight it on the first reading. Law school is almost entirely reading cases, and it is time consuming so you need to get very efficient very fast.

          I consistently used 5 different color highlights instead of taking traditional notes (“briefing” the case). They were used for:
          1. Facts (only very basic background and those facts that were key to the decision);
          2. Lower court decision;
          3. Legal issue or question;
          4. Majority decision and reasons; and
          5. Minority opinion and reasons.

          I got to the point where I could read through a case barely more than once (skim first, then highlight) and get these right. I used the same colors every time, and could glance briefly at exactly the right spot in my casebook to answer whatever question I was asked in class.

          If you decide to go, I would invest time in practicing this – or any other technique that will help you if this one doesn’t work for you – with some outdated casebooks that aren’t too marked up to use. Time pressure in law school is intense, and you need every advantage you can get.

          Good luck

        2. Temperance*

          If possible, I recommend doing paralegal work while in law school rather than secretarial work. This is doubly true if you are a woman. You don’t want to get stuck in the pink ghetto.

          I love what I do, but I’m in a really niche part of the industry – large firm pro bono. Basically, I manage the pro bono program. I originally wanted to do public interest law, but it doesn’t pay well for the headache (YMMV!).

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Seconding Temperance that paralegal work will probably be more fulfilling than legal secretary work, and I agree with Shelly and Government Worker that it is not worth going to law school unless you intend to practice or teach law (there are of course some exceptions and caveats, but generally it’s not possible to “find yourself” at law school). It’s honestly so much time and money that it’s a net negative, unless you want to be a lawyer. If you do want to become a lawyer, which sounds like it may be the case for you, you might also want to consider apprenticing, which allows you to become a lawyer without going to law school (although it can limit your career advancement in some areas of law, as well as limiting your mobility if you move to a state without reciprocity).

          I would not pursue law school because you’re worried no one will hire someone with a humanities degree + 2 years filling a chair. I have a social science degree, my friends have humanities degrees, and all of us were and are eminently employable, even in an absolutely crap economy. I went to law school for very specific reasons, and everyone I went to school with who regretted it was a humanities/social-sci major who wasn’t sure what they wanted to do when they graduated, so they thought law school was a good plan. I’m still a lawyer and love my job, but the folks who regretted it did a 3-5 year slog in BigLaw, paid off their debt, and are now doing everything from running pottery classes to joining the foreign service to teaching K-12.

  53. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Something that’s been on my mind for the past few weeks… Back in August, I left a job and company that was not a great fit for me. I recently started somewhere that works much better for my style, both in terms of culture and work product. My former co-workers and I became friends and we stayed in touch, and apparently, the old company remains toxic and might even be getting worse. While I was there, they unveiled really ambitious growth plans, like hiring over 20 people in 2016– and five people at the same level (including me) left the company in the space of six weeks. The woman who was hired right before I left and took over my projects is already struggling with the work and the workload (and I actually feel personally terrible about that, because in her interview process I promised her I would be there to guide her through her first projects… then I was gone). My former direct report, whom I love, is starting to have real problems with management.

    I say all this because while schadenfreude isn’t exactly kind or polite, I feel like Bernadine walking away from the big bonfire. Has anyone else moved on and wanted to go back to their old company, shake the bosses and say, “Pay attention or you’ll lose even more people”? And how have you dealt with former co-workers? Personally, I’m very sympathetic, but I’m conscious that there are lines I shouldn’t cross (i.e., get too negative about it while they still work there.)

    (I caveat all of this by saying I do not spend a whole lot of time thinking about my old place… except when I’m comparing it to the new. It’s not taking up too much brain space, I promise!)

    1. always in email jail*

      I’ve had that urge. My former work place created a deputy director position, and a number of us who used to report to the director were moved int he org chart to report to the new deputy director. I won’t get into all the reasons she was awful, but only one of her 6 direct reports is left a year later, and many of the people UNDER her direct reports have left. I went to a different district office of the same umbrella organization, and I still have a lot of respect for the director of my old office. I really wish I could reach out and be like “HOW DO YOU NOT SEE EVERYONE WORKING FOR DEPUTY DIRECTOR HAS LEFT! SAVE IT WHILE YOU CAN!” because there were a lot of great things about working there.

      Ultimately, it’s their job as the director to keep their ear to the ground and recognize that stuff. Either they’re not doing that part of their job, or they see and think the loss of staff is worth is. Either way, it’s not on those of us who get out to point it out to them, though I understand the urge. The few people left there do vent to me and I let them, but I make sure I don’t pile on. I figure it’s only fair to listen and sympathize, I’m sure I put my share of complaints out into the universe while I worked there :)

    2. legalchef*

      YES! All the time. They did some restructuring at my old job at the beginning of the year, including hiring a new director for my department, and by the time I left at the beginning of Sept, over half of the department had left, including the 2 others who were at my level leaving for steps down. I still talk to people there, and things have gone from bad to worse. Every time they complain to me, I do get some satisfaction that I left – but it’s more about that I am having my decision to leave, which wasn’t an easy one, justified.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        A friend of mine once caught her man in flagrante delicto with some woman and took a bat to all of his electronics. I was simultaneously impressed and horrified. “You Bernadine-d all his stuff!” There’s just no other way to describe such impulses. :)

    3. Chaordic One*

      Yes, let them vent and sympathize, but don’t pile on or add fuel to the fire. If some of your former co-workers are looking for new jobs, it would certainly be a kindness to be a professional reference for them.

    4. NicoleK*

      My last two workplaces were poorly managed. Nope, never felt like going back there and shaking the boss. My opinions weren’t valued when I was an employees, my opinions mean even less as an ex-employee.

    5. Artemesia*

      One of the biggest failures in US management (maybe elsewhere too, but I don’t know that) is the failure to manage poor managers. Businesses can lose most of their key players and still not notice that it is Fergus again driving away all the good people who work for him. The Ferguses of the world just keep destroying departments without consequence to themselves.

      I would not waste time worrying about it. The employees left behind can do what you did and leave. (I know how hard it is; I created a program that literally saved the company and watched new managers do everything in their power to mess it up. Now when I see old colleagues, I still want to know how the program is doing — and I am pleased that the most recent management changes have resulted in people noticing that this important thing was struggling and positive change in support have resulted.) But don’t spend time and head space worrying about old job when you could put them time into thinking about the future of new job and new company. Let them wallow in the mess they have made.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think part of this is that the people who promoted Fergus don’t want to admit they made a mistake, so they figure out a way to spin it as Fergus getting rid of the deadwood when Fergus is the dead wood.

  54. Doe-Eyed*

    So my boyfriend had the weirdest encounter at work this week.

    He works in a small medical clinic as the front desk person. The owner is the only MD there, and his wife is the practice manager. They’ve got one nurse who is (tbh) kind of terrible, and a slew of part-time nurses that fill in as needed.

    He goes in after the holiday and boots up the computer and goes to open up his gmail. The owner’s wife has left her gmail signed in and the entire inbox is responses to an ad to replace him. (He didn’t open them up to read them, the headers were all Re: Craigslist Ad – Receptionist Position and then he went and found the ad on Craigslist). So he panicked, and channeling my inner AAM comment section, I suggested he bring it up to the practice manager openly but nicely. “Hey, I wasn’t prying, I saw this, can we discuss it.” Note that prior to this he had had very rare patient complaints (typically from known ‘problem’ clients) and there had been no discussion about his job performance in any form.

    So the practice manager says yes, they were intending to fire him next week because the MD said he “didn’t feel like he cared all that much about the job”. The MD micromanages everything and undoes any changes that are made to the office, resists all efforts to bring in new vendors, etc. So boyfriend had just stopped trying to do any of that and stick to answering phones and doing checkins. Sigh. So boyfriend says honestly that his feelings are hurt by the way this is being done, especially in lieu of past employees who were not fired for: a.) sleeping with clients b.) stealing c.) embezzlement d.) not showing up for weeks at the time.

    Then the practice manager says they can give him another chance. He asks for concrete examples of what he can do to improve his performance (as the MD is notorious for having “feelings” about things that you can’t act on in any way). No examples can be provided. But he is told “maybe stop playing on the internet when there’s nothing to do”. OK, he agrees, let’s give this another shot.

    Then practice manager then says she’s going to give him a raise because he’s doing a good job.

    I’m at a loss for words. He’s looking at other positions.

    I went in to have lunch with him the other day and he was sitting perfectly still at the desk, doing nothing, while the problem nurse browsed Facebook and read each post aloud to the MD who was sitting there watching her.

    1. Deeply Anon*

      Constructive comment: This sounds it has the potential to become short-term aggravation as soon as your boyfriend finds another job. He should be extremely discreet during his search. (Have all communications go directly to his own email or cell phone, and reply from another location during a break or non-working hours).

      Unconstructive but sympathetic comment: WTF?! This is terrible workplace management! He’ll be well rid of these people.

    2. Kj*

      Wow. Just wow.

      Yeah, job-searching is the right move. Honestly, anything he can do to get out of there would be a good move, I think!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Is your boyfriend working for my uncle? Partly kidding.

        I totally agree that job searching is the best bet. In addition to sounding totally toxic, these folks sound crazy. The biggest downside of working in a doctor’s office is that if the doctor(s) is a nutjob or a horrible manager/boss, everything goes off the rails for everyone. I am so sorry your boyfriend was put in this insane and shady situation.

    3. Artemesia*

      Hope he can get a new job and give notice to these jerks asap. And he needs to keep this very much on the down low until he has a job in hand.

  55. Babyfaced and Confused*

    I’m a current student who has some questions on professional presentation. I’ll be graduating soon, and my mom’s concerned that I look too young to get hired anywhere (mainly, she’s worried about my straight bangs, my height, and my face). To appear professional in interviews, I’d intended to put my hair up and then, of course, dress in neat business formal attire. She thinks that it won’t be enough and that I have to wear high heels and do “something else” with my bangs (not sure what she means and she doesn’t really explain).

    Are these concerns valid (if career path matters, I’m looking into tech writing)? I’d like to get a second opinion, because she’s known me my whole life; I feel like I’ll always look like a “baby” to her. She also generally dislikes how I look, so I’m not sure how much of this is indeed a professional problem and how much is just her wanting to push me into changing the way she wants. What’s important in looking older/old enough? I’d kind of assumed that, because I’d be looking at entry-level jobs, looking young wouldn’t stand in my way so long as I were neat, professional, and could articulate my appropriateness for the job. Now I’m worried. Thanks for any input!

    1. Natalie*