I want to stop cleaning our office, my interview was unfairly cancelled, and more

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

1. I started cleaning our office as a side job, but now I want to stop

I’ve worked at my company for over 10 years as an administrative assistant. It’s a small, informal, family-run firm. About eight years ago, the cleaning person was let go. I was offered the opportunity to earn extra money for cleaning the office on weekends. At the time, because of the recession, our office of 25 people was downsized to about 8 full-time and 3 part-time staff. Everyone was doing a side hustle to supplement their incomes back then. Having fewer people made cleaning the office somewhat easy.

As the economy picked up, though, the staff size slowly increased to almost the original size, which as made cleaning more time consuming. Also, an unintended side effect of being part of the cleaning crew (my family and I often cleaned together to make it go faster) is that I’ve come to be seen as the de facto office maid by management during regular work hours. Taking out the trash, running the vacuum, and wiping down tables are regular things for me to do during the week, even though the cleaning job is on the weekends outside of working hours.

Long story short, my husband recently took a job with a significant pay increase. He’ll be working longer hours and will travel around the city and suburbs. He’s said that we’ll have to step away from the cleaning as it no longer fits our family schedule. I’m totally fine with that as it means we get our weekends back without trying to fit cleaning into the short time period. My question is how do I professionally resign from the side job without causing problems in my regular admin job which I was hired to do? Also, I never wanted to be seen as the office maid all week long. How can I politely get that point across in a respectful and professional manner?

Ooof. This has the potential to be tricky if it’s sort of melded into your regular job. Hopefully your boss still sees as you the admin who happened to pick up cleaning side work on the weekend … as opposed to the admin whose job expanded to include cleaning.

But since it sounds like it was supposed to be the former, talk with whoever manages the cleaning (or your boss, if there’s no other obvious person), and say something like this: “As you probably recall, I took on the cleaning gig for some extra money on top of my normal job back during the recession when the staff was smaller and we got rid of the cleaning person. I want to let you know I’m no longer going to be able to do it and so am officially stepping down from that side job. I can do it for two more weekends if you’d like me to, but after that will need to stop, so we should go back to hiring a cleaning service if no one else wants to take it on.”

The more informal cleaning during regular work hours might be trickier, but you could use this as an opening to raise that with your boss too, by saying something like: “I wanted to mention that since I’ve started doing the cleaning as a side job, I’ve noticed people have asked me to do cleaning tasks during the week that they never asked me to do before — things like vacuuming and wiping down counters. I’m hoping you’ll support me in trying to create new boundaries around that stuff now that I’m officially taking myself out of the cleaning job.”

A complicating factor here is that in some offices, admins are asked to do tasks like that. But if you weren’t asked to do it before picking up the side gig, hopefully you’ll be able to argue for going back to that earlier model.

2. My interview got cancelled because another team in the same company is interested in me

I recently applied for two jobs I found on an online job board. They were pretty similar positions with teams at a real estate company. Both jobs were with the same company, but at different office locations, and neither job post gave the name of the team. I have a lot of experience in a pretty specific real estate role, and I got interviews with both teams right away. My interview with team #1 went really well, and they scheduled a follow up interview. This morning, I got an email from team #2, canceling my first interview with them. They said they knew I met with team #1, team #1 is really great, and they’d be in touch to interview me if it didn’t work out with team #1.

After doing some Facebook research, I found that the leaders of team #1 and #2 are friends, and actually work out of the same location (even though the locations online were different — in 2 different states, in fact!) Based on this and the email from team #2, I can only assume that team #1 asked team #2 to back off because they’d like to hire me. It’s also possible team #2 felt awkward enough about the situation to cancel my interview.

I’m frustrated because I was looking forward to meeting with both teams and having some options. I actually think that team #2 is a better fit for me, based on my phone interview. I feel like I should have been allowed to make the decision of which team is the best fit for myself, but now I’m limited. Did I do something wrong by pursuing interviews with both teams? Is this scenario in itself a red flag?

I’m not sure what to do, because I don’t want to feel pigeon-holed into a job with team #1, but I also don’t want to burn any bridges. The real estate community is a small one, and I want to protect my reputation. What should I do?

You didn’t do anything wrong; this is a thing that can happen when you apply for two jobs in the same organization. It’s also not a red flag; it’s perfectly legitimate for them to decide to let one department pursue you and have the other back off.

It sounds like you’re thinking it might be some abuse of the friendship between the two managers, but that’s really not necessarily the case; this kind of thing happens all the time for totally legit reasons. For example, you’re an excellent fit for #1 and only a so-so fit for #2, so they decide it makes sense to put you on a track for #1. Or #2 is flooded with great candidates, while #1 has fewer. Or, #1’s manager tells #2’s manager that she’s really hoping to hire you and so #2 backs off, not out of friendship but out of professional courtesy.

There isn’t really much you can do about it, because it’s their call. At most, you could say something to #2 like, “As interested as I am in team #1, I’m really intrigued by the position with you as well, so I’d still love to talk if you think it might be the right fit.” But you should assume that that will get back to #1 as well, so you’d want to proceed with some caution there.

3. Listing staff members’ degrees on our staff listing

I’m in charge of updating a staff list on our organization’s website and have a question about the degrees listed after staff members’ names. We work in research so most (but not all) of our staff have at least some sort of advanced degree, if not several. The site currently lists staff and their degrees at the master’s and above level. Should I also list undergraduate credentials (B.A., B.S.) for the handful of staff who don’t have advanced degrees? One staff member asked about getting her B.A. added after her name. I’m not opposed to listing it, but I’d always thought the convention was master’s and up. If I do add undergrad degrees, would I need to add them to all staff names? That would create a long listing for some who already have several advanced degrees.

I did some web searching on the topic but I couldn’t find anything definitive. In fact, one site I found said on resumes you should only put credentials after your name at the top if you had a doctorate-level degree. I was surprised by that. What do you think?

In the vast majority of fields, it’s weird to list your degree after your name. There are some fields where it’s done as a matter of custom, but rarely with bachelor’s degrees.

Assuming that the custom in your field is to list advanced degrees but not bachelor’s degrees (which is what it sounds like based on how your website has done it so far), it would be reasonable to explain to your coworker that your organization’s practice is to only list advanced degrees. (But it also sounds like it would be worth verifying that with someone higher-up first, to make sure that you’re not giving her inaccurate information.)

4. I don’t want to use a camera for teleconferences

My company recently adopted an enterprise-wide technology for teleconferences that also allows for video. Our new boss is insisting that each of us get a camera to take part in departmental meetings. While I have no issue using a camera per se or with my coworkers seeing me on the screen, I do have an issue with seeing myself on the screen. My features are very uneven and the flattened look of video tends to exaggerate it. In real life or on conference calls, I’m usually very confident, but I find it distracting and unsettling when I have to see myself on screen while I’m talking, as the image on the screen is very unflattering. (I don’t even do FaceTime in my personal life because of this.)

I understand why my boss wants this, but I’m concerned that this will be too distracting and will affect my performance and presentation during these calls. I don’t want to appear not to be team player, or overly insecure/vain, but I’d really do not want to use video cameras. I have had a conversation with my boss about this when he first offered to send a camera and told him that I’m just not comfortable with it. I offered instead to upload a head shot, so people don’t feel like they’re talking to a faceless image. Now, I’m being requested to comply. Can my boss do this? And if so, are there settings I can use that would allow me to see my coworkers, but block me from seeing my own camera?

Yes, he can do that. (See this discussion of a similar issue.)

You’ve told him you’re uncomfortable and offered an alternative, he’s shot it down, and he’s directly telling you to comply. Unless you have a phobia-level problem with doing it like the person in the letter I just linked to, it sounds like you need to do it.

But if the problem is really just seeing yourself on screen while you talk, there are ways around that! The software itself may have an option to close or minimize the window with your image in it. If it doesn’t, you could even just put a sticky note over that part of the screen to block yourself from seeing it.

5. Complaining about HR

If you have complaints against HR themselves, who can you contact to submit a complaint? Is there a national body that governs the actions of HR?

No, there isn’t. If you have complaints about HR that you want to escalate, you’d do it in the same way you would with a complaint about any other department: by talking to the head of HR, and if that person is the problem, by talking to that person’s boss.

{ 263 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, it might help to remind the powers that be about how this arrangement began. Specifically, note that this came up during the recession when the office was smaller and that this was a side gig (I mean, don’t call it a “side gig,” but make it clear that it was a distinct and separate responsibility you took on as a way to earn additional money). But more importantly, emphasize that the office has recovered and gone back to its pre-recession staffing levels and that at that time it made sense to hire a dedicated custodial/cleaning/janitorial staff, which is beyond your capacity. Sometimes jogging people’s memories can help reset their expectations, especially since it sounds like this has gone on long enough to become the “new normal” in your office.

    With respect to day cleaning, be clear that daily maintenance was also handled by custodial staff or whoever did it pre-recession and that it was never part of your core responsibilities/job description as an admin. It may be harder to avoid day cleaning, but if you can explain how it impedes your core job functions, that might remind your bosses that your time is better spent fulfilling your admin duties (sans cleaning) than cleaning duties.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Also, once you’ve resigned the side gig, consider telling everyone of that, and then when they ask you to do housekeeping, remind them, “I’m not the cleaning lady anymore; since the new service isn’t here during the day, you’ll have to do it yourself.”

      Basically, assume that these workday chores were simply an extension of the weekend cleaning gig–something you did during the week to make the weekend tasks easier.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, I was thinking something similar – if someone asks the OP to take out the trash or wipe down counters, she can just give a friendly “The cleaning staff should take care of that when they come around tonight!”

        It does get a little trickier if it’s a bigger mess that needs to be cleaned up immediately, like lunch detritus in a conference room that needs to be used after…not sure how to navigate that since that’s reasonable within an admin’s role. Given how long the OP’s been doing this, I’m really not sure she’s going to be able to completely get those elements of her work taken off her plate. Maybe she can just mentally reframe it as a normal part of an admin job that she was lucky enough to get out of doing previously.

        1. Parenthetically*

          that’s reasonable within an admin’s role

          Yeah, that’s going to be the tricky part of these negotiations, IMO. Cleaning up after lunches and things has certainly been part of all of my admin-related jobs!

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          She also indicates that it’s only being done on the weekends. Part of the change may be in convincing her boss that once a week isn’t enough, as well as retraining people to pick up after themselves.

          1. LBK*

            Oh, good catch – I was thinking of my own office where the cleaning staff comes through nightly. Yeah, I think the boss is going to need to send out an email. I don’t know that I’d explain it the way it’s actually happening, only because I’d be concerned about how it would reflect on the OP.

            I think I’d say something like “We’ve hired a dedicated cleaner, so Jane will no longer be handling custodial tasks. This means we’re expecting everyone to chip in to keep the office neat during the week until the cleaner comes on the weekends, eg throwing out catering dishes after lunch and wiping up spills in the kitchen. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation and we’re excited to be freeing up Jane’s time so she can get back to providing critical support and assistance for our business.”

            Basically, something that makes it seem like an organizational decision from the higher-ups that they expect to be respected, rather than the OP quitting the cleaning job, which I think could come off as thinking she’s too above doing cleaning work or something like that.

        3. Not the maid*

          Yes, I should have mentioned that Im ok with cleaning up after a lunch meeting. Im not ok with people leaving their dishes in the sink with the expectation that someone (the office maid) will take cake of it. Which is what has happens. But cleaning a conference room or after a lunch meeting ( they dont happen too often) Thats reasonable to me

          1. LBK*

            FWIW, we have a cleaning staff that comes in every night and they don’t take care of dishes in the sink either. As long as no one’s specifically asking you to go wash the dishes, I think you’re in the clear to just leave them. At most I’d put up a note saying “dishes left in the sink will be thrown out at EOD” and then chuck them – not your responsibility to be a housekeeper. This is a battle waged in many offices even when there isn’t an admin or someone else to pin the task on, so I don’t think you should feel obligated to wash dishes regardless of your role.

            1. copy run start*

              We have a dishwasher that cleaning staff run on a regular basis… But even putting dishes IN it is apparently beyond some folks.

              You can’t win….

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ugh that’s so frustrating. I think it may be worth your boss sending a note about kitchen cleanup, or even posting “guidelines” for kitchen use (I know people sometimes find those notes passive-aggressive, and I think adults should know better, but they do seem to be effective). As LBK noted, even in offices with cleaning/custodial staff, we never expected them to do dishes, and your boss should let everyone know that that’s not *how things work* in the office.

    2. MuseumChick*

      Princess Consuela Banana Hammock and TootsNYC both make really good points. It’s likely that management has completely forgotten how this arrangement started and will need reminding. Even after you step back from this it will probably take some time for everyone in the office to adjust to the fact that you are no longer the person to go to for daily custodial/cleaning duties.

      1. LBK*

        I mean, it’s been 8 years, not 8 days. I don’t think they’ve necessarily forgotten, but there’s certainly overlap between admin work and custodial duties anyway, so I don’t think it’s all that egregious for the lines to have become blurred after so long.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          And it would be reasonable for the OP’s manager to decide that she needs to keep doing the daily maintenance cleaning as a part of her admin job. That would be frustrating, but not out of line with typical admin responsibilities in a small office.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            The real problem may be that the OP is conflating the issues. She thinks she’s being given the cleaning tasks because she’s the weekend cleaner.

            Because she is working with largely a different group of people than she was before the recession, it’s just as likely she’s being expected to take on the cleaning tasks because she’s the Admin, and those tasks are pretty often a part of that job. That wasn’t the expectation with the old group, but it’s now a new group.

        2. Cleopatra Jones*

          And many of the people in the office are brand new, so they’ve only known her as the ‘cleaning lady’. I think those are going to be the ones that are going to be harder to retrain.

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            I’m not there to know, but it really could be less that the OP specifically is the “cleaning lady” but because in their other jobs, the Admins in general were the ones responsible for the cleaning tasks.

            1. Toto in KS*

              At no job I’ve been at has the admin been responsible for cleaning up after messes left from people eating their lunch though. A conference room, yeah.. but the lunch room? Hellz no!

              1. Naruto*

                Then, to the extent there is a mess (i.e., when people don’t pick up after themselves), who cleans up the lunch room?

                1. LBK*

                  Usually whoever the cleanest coworker is that gets too annoyed at the sight of the mess to let it sit there.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Yeah, I was going to say the same thing as LBK—when there’s no designated person or responsibilities, usually the people most bothered by the dirtiness end up shouldering the burden of clean-up. First, dishes, kitchen clean-up, etc., are reasonably within the realm non-admin kitchen-users’ responsibilities. There are some places where the admin takes care of common area clean-up (microwave, counters) and coffee/tea, but dealing with people’s dirty dishes is pretty ridiculous.

    3. Not the maid*

      Thank You! I like the idea of jogging memories. Yes, the size of the office is one of the main factors. Thanks for noticing that. I can use that.

      1. mf*

        You can also emphasize the size of the office/staff when you talk to you boss about the during-the-week cleaning tasks: “Boss, the company’s staff has grown substantially in the last couple of years. I don’t mind pitching in for small and necessary tasks like cleaning up the trash after a lunch meeting, but I no longer have time to do all the dishes that are left in the kitchen sink. It’s not feasible for me to clean up after 25 people [or however many people work in your office] on a daily basis.”

    4. mskyle*

      I think it’s also important to consider how the deal was originally made and how the pay is arranged – did the OP get a raise for taking on the additional duties, or is this a separate 1099 (or under the table) job? (Either way it seems like there is some potential for legal/IRS-related weirdness, especially if the OP’s family is doing some of the work – it might be in everyone’s best interest, including the employer’s, for someone other than the OP to be doing the weekend cleaning.)

      1. LBK*

        I also wondered about that – if the company truly viewed it as two separate positions, or if they considered it an expansion of the role and just her gave an accompanying raise.

      2. Garrett*

        I was thinking that too. If it is all part of one paycheck, decoupling it may be harder to do.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I’m of the opinion that it’s usually a good thing when multiple offices for the same employer coordinate hiring. I know it might feel like you have fewer options, but it’s generally better for the left hand to know what the right hand is doing. Based on my experience, I would look at team #1 and team #2’s coordination as a best practice, not a red flag. And if you do have strong preferences about which office, there are tactful ways to flag that for both teams. But as of now, it sounds like you don’t have a preference between the two, you just want to keep your options open (which is totally fair!).

    Team #2 also did something important—they didn’t take you out of consideration. Instead, they hit pause and will return to your application if team #1 isn’t a good fit. That indicates to me that they’re trying to maximize your opportunities while avoiding an internal battle over which team “gets to keep” you.

    1. Geoffrey B*

      Yep, my org has multiple recruitment streams. If somebody applies for multiple streams we’ll usually interview them once, but factor that into our recommendations.

      Not everybody gets their first preference, even if they’re qualified for that position, because we also have to factor in our own needs. I can see that being frustrating to the candidate – but in practice, a lot of the people who come in on a second-preference placement manage to transfer to their first preference.

    2. Dizzy Steinway*

      Yes, this. They’ve shown courtesy to each other which is a green flag in my view.

      I think it would only be unfair if they cancelled interview 2 because they were annoyed that you also applied to position 1, ie if the message was something along the lines of: “We’ve now seen you also applied for position 1. Nice of you to mention it. Your covering letter said you wanted to work for us. Evidently you say that to everyone. You told us we were special! How could you!”

      What they’ve actually sent sounds really decent, however. It’s understandable that you’re just now getting an idea that #2 may be the better fit for you, and couldn’t have known that sooner – so it must be a bit frustrating that they’ve decided to have you focus on #1 for now. I wonder if it’s possible to ask a bit about why the position is vacant now and see if you can get a feel for whether filling this role is more of a priority for them?

    3. Kelly White*

      I had something like this happen to me, and it worked out great!

      I had applied for a general “teapot maker” position. Went in for the interview. They realized I had “teapot Handle” experience, and although there wasn’t a handle position officially open, there was about to be.

      I ended up going in and shadowing a person in each department, and then we figured out where the best place for me was. It was great- I ended up in the right dept and everyone was happy!

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      My mom recently got a new job in a similar way. She interview for a position with team #1 and was a final candidate, but they ultimately went with the other person. However, the hiring manager liked her and knew that team #2 had an opening, so she passed along my mom’s resume and she got that job! I feel like this kind of thing happens on a fairly regular basis with organized companies.

      1. Drama Llama's Mama*

        This is how I got started at my current company as well. I interviewed for position #1, which went to someone with a little more technical experience as the team was a little more technical oriented. About 3 weeks later, I got a call from the recruiter saying that hiring manager #1 had really liked me and passed my resume along to hiring manager #2 and would I be interested in an interview? Position #2 turned out to be for a team that was a little more subject-matter focused, and a much better fit for my experience. I was offered Position #2 and am still working for the company (now in position #4).

    5. Revolver Rani*

      I agree completely. At my company we have candidates apply to multiple roles all the time, and the usual practice is for hiring managers to coordinate (with help from the internal recruiters) if more than one hiring manager is interested. Generally, one hiring manager gets to take the lead, and will get “first bite at the apple,” so to speak, and how it is decided depends upon many factors – the relative size and quality of the applicant pool for the positions, which team has had the position open longer or more badly needs the hire ASAP, which position the candidate appears to be a better fit for, which position the candidate appears to prefer, and so on. If the candidate comes on site to interview for one position, the other hiring manager will likely get an interview slot as well, for efficiency.

      Efficiency is the key here. It’s simply not efficient to have two teams pursuing parallel tracks on the same candidate, duplicating interviews, going through all the work of checking references and extending offers independently, when at most only one team is going to get the hire. In the applicant’s ideal world, you’d want to rack up as many offers as possible and be able to choose freely among them. But from the hiring organization’s perspective, it’s an investment of effort to get a candidate all the way to the offer stage, and it just doesn’t make sense to invest that effort twice and pit two teams in direct competition in the way the OP is imagining.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I commented this below, but it fits here, as well: The thing to keep in mind with #2 is that real estate is a bit different; 99% of the time agents are independent contractors, and the sales team support people are employed by the team, not by the company whose name is on the building. So really, it’s like OP applied to similar jobs with Baskin Robbins and Ben & Jerry’s and they just happened to share a building.

        1. Sora Goldenhammer*

          OP#2 here – thank you for pointing out this distinction! That was my main cause for concern – it isn’t truly the same company with two open positions, it’s two independent companies under one larger brokerage.

          I decided to reach out to team #2 and basically said that I was really impressed with their team and disappointed that we wouldn’t be doing the interview, and maybe grabbing a cup of coffee could be beneficial either way – if I work for team #1, it would be great to get to know the other folks around the office. If I don’t work for team #1, then we’ve stayed in touch and can pick up the interview process. Team #2 agreed, and I had a great follow up interview with team #1.

          Appreciate the assurances that this was normal and not something to be turned off by! I haven’t been in the job market for a while, so I was caught off guard.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thank you for flagging this! I didn’t realize how differently real estate groups are structured. This would definitely have changed my response (although I still don’t think it’s a red flag, I now have a more holistic understanding of why this was frustrating to OP). Apologies!

      2. TootsNYC*

        I also think the OP is probably a pretty strong candidate for Team #1. It’s not a shoo-in, but I can’t see them doing this if the #1 manager sort of knew he wasn’t going to hire her.

    6. Elfie*

      In my very first job out of uni, I applied for Job A, but got interviewed for (and got) Job B – which hadn’t even been advertised when I applied. Recently, when looking for CurrentJob, I applied to a big company for 2 similar positions (within the same team, but different sub-teams). Both sub-team managers decided I would be a better fit for Job A rather than Job B, so I only interviewed for Job A. Ultimately I didn’t get that job, and it did feel a bit unfair that I was never subsequently interviewed for Job B, but it doesn’t seem like that’s your situation, as they’ve said they’ll talk to you if things don’t work out with Job A. And to be fair, it wouldn’t have been ideal for me, as now I’ve got CurrentJob, and at the risk of sounding completely cheesy and sad, I absolutely LOVE it. It’s the best job I’ve ever had, and I feel SO lucky to be doing it. So it all worked out great for me, and I have faith that it’ll be the same for you.

    7. Anonymoose*

      I would agree. It sounds like #2 was in good faith and actually prevented her from being bumped from #2 entirely. And it shows that they’re respectful and not an idiot.

      OP, don’t forget that they have been doing this job for quite some time and (I mean this in the most respectful way, promise) they probably have a better idea of where your skillset fits in between both jobs. However. That doesn’t mean you should get disheartened as this little clue they’ve provided means you now have ample time and the opportunity to build a case of why you’re the best for #2 should that opportunity come up post-#1 interview. Take advantage of it! :)

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, is there a reason people are listing their advanced degrees? And is this listing an internal staff listing? I’ve certainly seen websites where staffs’ profiles include their educational credentialing, and I’ve seen internal lists where people’s roles/titles are included, but I have never seen an internal list that includes educational information (except maybe in R&D?). I’m guess I’m just curious about your company’s approach. I imagine there are industries where this is more common; I just don’t know what those industries are.

    1. Caro in the UK*

      When I worked in engineering, we had advanced degrees listed both internally and externally. Mainly as a way to highlight people’s specialisms. For example, someone might be a senior engineer in the aerospace engineering department, but that doesn’t give you a huge amount of info about their particular area of expertise. Adding their masters and/or PhD details would provide much more context (whereas bachelors degrees are too general to be of much use in that regard).

      1. Lora*

        Yeah, this. Although in real life I find that someone with a lot of experience, who got their degree 10+ years ago, probably has a lot more relevant experience that has nothing to do with their graduate work. One company I worked for had us list things for which we were subject matter experts, and that was much more helpful.

      2. moss*

        I work in pharma, we are similar. We don’t list bachelor’s degrees and with my lowly master’s I barely qualify as fancy! :)

    2. Faith*

      Our department has an org chart that indicates which ones of us are CPA’s or attorneys. Not sure if there’s a practical purpose to it.

    3. WS*

      I work in environmental consulting and we have our educational information on both our website and as an internal list, because we have to include our qualifications as an attachment to each report we send out so everyone who works on reports needs access to that information. (I guess technically we don’t *need* it on our website but my company includes it there anyway.)

    4. Karyn*

      My old job was at a patent/trademark firm, and their internal listing included degrees and majors, mainly so that if a legal secretary or associate attorney had a question specific to a particular field, we knew which partner we could ask. For instance, one of my bosses has his Ph.D. in biology, so if there was a biochem question, we knew we could ask him. Another had an M.A. in electrical engineering, etc. So in that context, I could see it being helpful.

      That said, whenever I see a lawyer put “J.D.” after his name in an email, I want to throttle my computer screen. And I say that as a J.D.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        The only times I have seen J.D. listed as a degree was when the individuals were unable to pass the bar.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq*

          Hahaha, well, tbf, I know a lot more policy people than I do actual lawyers, so I know a ton of people who have JDs and have never even tried to take the bar, because they’re not practicing, so it’s not a 100% correlation!

        2. Jaydee*

          It could also be used when the person is in a job that doesn’t require a J.D. or license to practice but where knowing that the person has their J.D. is informative in some way (academia, administration of a hospital, school district, corporation, etc.).

        3. peasandcarrots*

          I don’t know where that belief originated, but I hate it, because it isn’t true. I was an attorney at a university where the Office of General Counsel decreed from on high that any attorneys who didn’t work in the OGC weren’t allowed to use “Esq” or otherwise indicate their degree in any way. This made my work very difficult, because people were always trying to lawyer-splain to me, when in fact I had of course passed the bar myself and was typically talking to non-lawyers who talked down to me. The compromise was that we were allowed to put “J.D.” after our names to head off some of those problems. The only people who weren’t subject to the ruling were law professors, because tenured law faculty don’t listen to jack that OGC has to say!

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’ve only seen it when someone is not a practicing lawyer (e.g., a law professor, a policy wonk, a lobbyist, a high-level compliance officer or administrator) but has graduated from law school. Usually the mention makes sense because it signals additional expertise that’s related to their field, but doesn’t necessarily define their day-to-day work. So I don’t think it’s restricted to people who don’t pass the bar, but I would agree that it’s usually only used by people who are not lawyering.

    5. Jessesgirl72*

      She says they work in research- Academics, even ones now paid by a corporation rather than a school, list their degrees.

        1. Lablizard*

          Thankfully. I did not thrive in the academic environment and after my postdoc I ran as fast as I could to non-academic research

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes, but it was unclear to me what “in research” might mean in this specific context. I’ve seen research groups that don’t list their degrees internally (but they do externally), which is partially why I wanted to learn/hear more. I’ve very much appreciated people sharing their contexts and experiences.

    6. Kj*

      I work in a field where all post-BA degrees are listed, along with any and all licenses. Our degrees/licenses dictate what we can legally do in the office; while we have employees with just BAs or no degrees, they have to stick to certain tasks and often employees with advanced degrees have to sign off their work. It is critically important to know what degree other people have so you know what work they can do. Also, legally we must disclose our education to all of our clients. We do so in written form as well as electronically. This is the norm for medical fields in my area, as degree and licensure status dictate A LOT about what you can and can’t do.

    7. OP#3*

      Hi! We are connected to a teaching hospital and go into schools to train teachers and staff, so we are one of the (apparently few) fields where displaying our academic expertise is part of selling/explaining our services. The staff degrees listed on our external website pretty directly reflect the services we provide. My whole career has been in this industry so I didn’t consider how unusual this might be in other fields. I’ll definitely take off the master’s from my resume header, now that I know it’s not standard practice.


      1. Minerva McGonagall*

        I don’t know about healthcare, but it’s pretty standard to list masters in business and education, at least on formal things like a resume. For example, a resume header of Jane Doe, MBA or Janice Doe, M.Ed, is super normal. Putting that as your email signature, not so much.

        1. hermit crab*

          I’m in science/health-related consulting and it’s totally normal here too. When we prepare resume packages for proposals, we often list anything above a bachelors after people’s names, as long as it’s relevant. When I got my MPH, I wasn’t going to list it on my business card, but my manager (who has a PhD) recommended I do, so it’s there too. It’s not in my email signature, but that’s mostly just personal preference.

        2. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

          In insurance, it is really common to have an alphabet soup of education and professional certifications behind your name. I wouldn’t blink at anyone who listed anything above a bachelors in an email signature or on a business card. Because conference speakers often have an education summary read for introductions, I also wouldn’t find it odd to have a bachelors mentioned in a short “about me” section on a website for anyone doing business consulting.

      2. Maiasaura*

        I’m in public health and research and it’s expected for people to include their degrees in their resume header, because it can convey a good deal of information very readily. It’s especially helpful for people with more specialized degrees, e.g., Master of Science in Public Health, Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, or a Doctor of Public Health versus a PhD in Public Health.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s what I thought, as well (or at least it’s what I’ve seen from my friends in public health). It seems like it’s important signaling about certifications/scope of practice, and in industries where those credentials are essential for the job, it makes sense to include them in a resume header.

      3. Purest Green*

        I work in healthcare in a training department with several former clinicians – RNs, physical therapists, etc. – and they all list their degrees and certifications and such in emails (we don’t have a website though). It’s important in this circumstance because they have to have these credentials to teach other staff, and it seems common practice in healthcare broadly. In the two other fields outside of healthcare, it was not at all common to list degrees anywhere.

      4. Stephanie (HR Manager)*

        I work in the healthcare field, and degree level is important. For example, an ADN, BSN, and MSN can all be licensed as an RN, but an BSN or MSN would be required for certain specialty positions (like a Director of Nursing,) an ADN wouldn’t be qualified to teach certain things, etc. It’s similar with Physical Therapists, who can be licensed at different levels of degrees, but you want to brag about your DPTs.

        The only bachelors level I would include would be for those licensure levels that can be licensed both at an Associates level and a Bachelors level, like a nurse or a radiology tech, because then you are seeing an advanced degree for that particular field. But this also depends on context. For example, in academia, a BSN can only teach a CNA course; they can’t teach at the ADN level, so advertising a BSN may not help if you are advertising to teach at an ADN or BSN level.

        Really, I recommend talk to someone higher up to really get a grasp of the context; it would look naive to list a bachelors level degree in some cases, and you don’t want your website to appear out of touch.

    8. Sierra*

      I’ve worked in social science research at a university, and it was very common to list our degrees (MSW, PhD, etc) as it gives information about your qualifications. I have seen on our staff list people list their BA/BS degrees, which I assumed partly was to make it clear they don’t have an advanced degree. Also they often listed their major or school which I think can give some information about their education. In many research jobs I’ve seen it required to have at least an MSW or MPH so I have never thought it unusual to list those at all.

    9. Treecat*

      I’m an academic librarian, and we tend to list our MLIS (or MLS, MSIM, MSLS… okay there are way too many types of library degrees) plus any other relevant specialty certificates or accredations we might have. (One of our medical librarians is also an RN, for example, and I have an MS in a relevant subject, so sometimes my full title is listed as “Treecat, MS, MLIS”.) I go back and forth on whether or not it’s useful–on the one hand, an MLIS or equivalent degree is required for the job, so listing it seems redundant. On the other hand, it’s academia, so including that kind of stuff is typical for the field. On a third and hypothetical hand, for me, including my MS can sometimes up my clout with faculty, so it can be politically useful, too.

      But maybe more to OP #3’s point, we’d never list our bachelor’s degrees. I’ve been explicitly told that’s just Not Done.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, what’s the scope and topic of your complaint? There’s certainly no national regulatory body for HR departments, but I’m curious about why you would want to take it to a regulatory body instead of escalating internally. Specifically, does your complaint include information that would typically be protected under whistleblower statutes/policies?

    1. MK*

      It could simply be about the awkwardness of reporting someone to the person they sit next to all day. Or if HR is one person and reports to the head of the company, of having to go to a very senior manager, who you might not know well.

    2. Elfie*

      My husband has tried to complain about his HR department before (they’re awful, they seem to hire specifically for vindictiveness), and because he was trying to raise a grievance against an HR officer, it never went anywhere. They seemed to come together to protect their own.

      I just want to say that my husband’s company employs a lot of people in our local area, so I have independent corroboration of how bad they really are from many people! I also want to say that I don’t think this is applicable to HR across the board – we both have relatives who work in HR, and I’ve also worked closely with many professional and personable HR departments. It’s just his company!! I’ve posted before about how terrible they are, especially to him, and HR is no exception.

    3. LBK*

      I think this is just part of the somewhat common misconception that HR is a legally regulated profession or somehow serves as an extension of the law. As with the letter about the HR person recommending a bar and using “LOL” in an email from a few days ago, sometimes people have a skewed idea of how HR operates, ie some sort of governing authority bound by strict legal procedure.

      I can’t come up with the right term or phrase to quite pinpoint what I’m trying to describe but hopefully you’ve seen it in action before and can understand what I’m getting at. Basically, in the same way that people often wildly overestimate what’s legal for their boss to do (like firing them without cause), people overestimate the formality of HR’s authority and their position within the company.

  5. New to Miltown*

    OP#5, about 5 years ago my HR told me that I wasn’t a good manager and will always have trouble with my department. Based on me not wanting to find something for my group to improve upon. She was adamant and I looked at her, laughed a bit, told her, “Yeah, I think you’re right. I’m not a good manager.”, stood up and walked out. I calmly went to my boss and explained what just happened and she said you don’t ever need to meet with her again. So I would suggest going to your boss and getting the issue out in the open.

  6. AnotherAnon*

    OP#3, I’ve been in the research field also, and I don’t see it as common practice to list bachelor’s and associate’s degrees following a person’s name. I’m not implying that bachelor’s degrees aren’t accomplishments (they are!) – but in general I see this practice as useful for listing more advanced degrees (Master’s, PhD, professional doctorates such as MD, DO, DDS, JD, etc.).

    1. MillersSpring*

      In many fields, you might see someone add their degree after their name on LinkedIn, e.g. Jane Warbleworth, MBA, but they don’t list it that way on their resume, business card or email signature.

    2. jamlady*

      In my industry, an advanced degree signifies major differences in what you’re legally allowed to do without someone else signing off on your work. My card, linkedin profile, email signature, internal extension, etc. all read JamLady, MA (plus another relevant acronym) – in fields where it’s customary to add advanced degrees to your name, it’s understood that if it’s not there, then you don’t have it, and that usually means something. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a different qualification.

      1. NutellaNutterson*

        Yes! I went to a conference that is geared toward both professionals and the public, and forgot to ask for my credentials on my badge, so got some odd looks in more technical presentations. Ultimately it was actually incredibly freeing, and I felt a bit like I was in stealth mode.

      2. Chocolate Teapot*

        I don’t work in research, but I know of some people who put M.A. (Oxon) or M.A. (Cantab) on their business cards or email signatures, but generally people don’t do so for other universities.

        In addition, I have encountered senior people with honours, so their email signature might be Fergus Cumberbatch OBE.

        1. ABL*

          Not a fan of people using their Oxbridge MA as an advanced degree – you’re automatically awarded it 7 years after you first arrive at uni (provided you have an undergaduate degree) so all you’re really saying with it is “I went to Oxbridge” not “I have specific expertise”. I only list mine in an email signature to clients to impress them, if I had an actual advanced degree I wouldn’t use it anywhere.

          1. Clewgarnet*

            100% agreed. I don’t even have it on my CV because it feels so fake, and it’s the same with my friends.

            1. Your Weird Uncle*

              Yeah, same here – I have only ever added it to my signature to annoy a certain pretentious coworker. When it had the desired effect, it was swiftly removed.

              1. Havarti*

                Ugh, I dislike when employees put their job title and degree on all their internal emails. I can’t tell if it’s because they don’t know they can set up different signatures or because they think they’re impressing their co-workers. My boss is a VP with a PhD and she just slaps her first name on all her emails but she’s a delightfully unpretentious person.

                1. Your Weird Uncle*

                  The coworker in question had a ten-line email signature that repeated on all emails, including replies in the same thread. It included a long-winded Victorian quote and his full name (Mr. Rutabaga Percival von Huggybear III), title, address, phone, email, etc.

                  Although, honestly in my department we have a group of folks, myself included, who were new hires/new roles and a few other folks who moved around in the department, so we do have our titles in our signatures to help the faculty members know where they should direct their queries. It doesn’t cut down on all the misdirected emails, but I think it does help.

                2. Dankar*

                  I reported to someone (briefly, thank God) who signed his emails “Dr. So-&So, PhD.”

                  His PhD was in Philosophy. We were both volunteers at that org.

                3. SJ*

                  I’m guilty of including my email signature in all of my emails, including replies in the same thread — but mine is only 6 short lines in 10-point font, so it’s not that unwieldy. I don’t know, I like having that information readily available in all emails. I feel like I spend a lot of time scrolling back through email threads to find someone’s signature if I need their mailing address or phone number or something.

                4. Havarti*

                  You Weird Uncle, in thinking more about it, yes, I agree that more elaborate signatures have a place as you’ve pointed out. But those that include the degree and job title are generally the ones who, like Mr. Rutabaga Percival von Huggybear, third of his name, go overboard with including the street address, the dreaded inspirational quotes, the cutesy .~* sparkles *~., a fax number, etc. so they do become unwieldy things bigger than the email text itself. And they always use them on every email. Those who strive for a happy medium are few and far between, I fear.

                5. Clewgarnet*

                  Having your job title in your signature seems common sense to me. I work in a company of 2.000 or so people. If somebody emails me out of the blue, it’s useful to know where they sit in the company. (And, to be honest, a director is going to get a much faster response from me than a random first-line support engineer who shouldn’t be contacting me anyway.)

                  Degree, I agree, doesn’t belong in email signatures.

                6. Drama Llama's Mama*

                  I have two signatures, a standard company signature that goes on emails that I compose and send that is seven lines and includes name, relevant degrees/credentials, title, department, phone, email, etc. The second is a short “reply” signature that is one line and contains my name, department, and phone number. I like that it still provides some info (in case someone gets looped into an email chain later), but cuts way down on the faff in the thread.

            2. Bonky*

              Same here. I don’t think anyone I am still in touch with from university uses theirs; and there are quite a lot of us!

          2. Mookie*

            Unless you read for an undergraduate degree elsewhere and subsequently completed a one- or two-year terminal Masters programme at either university (without earning any additional advanced degrees thereafter).

            But, as everyone here says, it’s just a sneaky way of highlighting where you went to university when the level of degree is unimpressive.

            1. Dizzy Steinway*

              You wouldn’t get an MA if you did a separate terminal masters – that would be an MPhil, to avoid any confusion between the two.

              1. Mookie*

                Ah, yes, this is true. I didn’t notice that that was the distinction being made above. Thank you.

          3. Viola Dace*

            Hmmm. My spouse uses First name Last name, MA DPhil (Oxon). He is a tenured professor. Is the MA still just pretentious? I will be sure to tell him, lol.

            1. Honeybee*

              It does come off as a little pretentious :) Most people will assume that someone with a doctoral degree earned a master’s (terminal or non-terminal) along the way, and the MA doesn’t really matter as much. The convention is just to list the highest degree except in certain cases.

              1. Anna*

                Yes. The only place I list both my BAs and my MA is on job applications. One of those BAs led to the MA, so in any other circumstance, there’s no reason to list it.

                And really…I don’t list my degrees anywhere. It’s the difference between being technically able to and is it really appropriate?

            2. Clewgarnet*

              Depends. Is it a fake Oxbridge MA (as mentioned above, you get given it automatically and it doesn’t involve any additional study) or a proper MA? The Oxon on the DPhil seems redundant. It’s a DPhil, not a PhD, so it’s going be either Oxon or Cantab.

            3. Bonky*

              A bit, I think. If it’s a DPhil, everybody will know it’s an Oxford qualification anyway. And really, it shouldn’t matter: I say this as someone who works very closely with the university in Cambridge. Really, if your professional accomplishments are as strong as your husband’s seem to be, the “LOOK AT ME I WENT TO OXFORD!” just seems a bit insecure! (No offence intended; I’m sure he’s delightful!)

            4. Dizzy Steinway*

              Wow. Sorry but yes, he should take it off. He should probably remove (Oxon) because you can only get a DPhil from Oxford…

        2. Dizzy Steinway*

          Oof. As ABL points out, an Oxford MA is widely known not to be an actual MA. Also, a lot of people don’t know that Cantab means Cambridge. I don’t think that’s something to put in an email signature.

          I think the overall point here is: what’s the purpose of mentioning qualifications? Because it’s industry relevant, or because you don’t want people to think you don’t have them? I’m guessing the person who questioned in the OP may be worried it looks like she doesn’t have a degree?

          1. Alucius*

            for what it’s worth, my doctoral supervisor’s email signature ended with Cantab and I had no idea what it meant, even though I exchanged emails with him for 6 years, and was well aware that he went to Cambridge.

      3. Dizzy Steinway*

        For some people in my field, the training provider where they got their professional qualifications also provides their accreditation. For example, if people train at the London Teapot Centre then the centre also administers their accreditation with the National Teapot Regulation Council.

        More generally, knowing where someone trained is quite important as different training courses are often distinctly different. Also, to get employment in this field, you need an accredited qualification. Most people get that from a higher degree, but there are maybe three or four accredited undergraduate courses. So that can provide context. I still don’t think you’d list them in an internal directory though.

      4. Lora*

        In my field there are two times you’ll see people add their degree to their signature/business card:

        1. When it’s a professional licensure that indicates they have been blessed to approve certain critical documents (PE)
        2. When the person is either new to the business world or kinda insecure and feels like they have something to prove.

        The heads of departments with a million years of experience often don’t even have the company name, their title, their contact info anywhere in their signatures. You’re supposed to know who they are and they prefer you didn’t call them to bug them with stuff. Unless their name is something really generic like Jim or Bob, they sometimes don’t even mention their last name. I’ve known some who went by initials only.

              1. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

                There are engineers in all kinds of technical professions, but only PEs are legally allowed to stamp documents.

              2. Lora*

                There are certain documents which must be provided to governments and various regulatory authorities to prove that you are doing everything up to code and not building the skyscraper out of popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue, sort of thing. Those drawings and calculations must be stamped by a PE. I don’t have a PE because I wouldn’t really use it; however, civil engineers and water treatment folks need it every week. If I need something like seismic calculations done for a system that will be going to California, I hire a contract firm with a PE on staff to do them.

                It’s not that I can’t do it, it’s that I need to do those calculations about once a decade. Most PE things are more mechanical engineering, and I do a lot of chemistry that a PE doesn’t do. So it’s not worth it for me to do the PE cert.

    3. Sam*

      Yes, this is what I’ve seen. Personally, I very much dislike when people emphasize degrees that don’t actually impact their qualification for their position (it feels elitist and gross, to me), but in research environments, advanced degrees are directly related to the work that they do and often suggest the kind of responsibilities that person might have.

      I think it’s worth asking why the staff person has asked for this when it does go against general convention. Do those without masters/doctoral degrees feel they’re treated as inferiors and are hoping this will help them garner some respect? It may well be that this person simply wants recognition for the work they put into their degree, but it’s also possible that there’s a larger issue motivating this. (I admit to having a chip on my shoulder about this, as someone who works in academia without a PhD.)

      1. AndersonDarling*

        We had to make a policy about listing degrees on business cards because it started becoming an internal status symbol. People wanted new cards with their BS or MS degrees, or they wanted to list everything (2 associates, a bachelors and their masters degree). It was getting out of hand so we restricted credentials to MDs, Nurses, and any certifications that directly related to their role.

        1. Lora*

          Oh jeez, if we are claiming status, I want to put on my business card that I can plug in USBs on the first try and fold fitted sheets.

          1. Elfie*

            At the risk of completely derailing (sorry Alison!), how on earth do you manage to fold fitted sheets? Please share your wisdom!!

            1. Lora*

              You have to pick out the corners so the elastic is in the middle, and tuck over flat the edges where the elastic wants to roll out. I kind of pick out the corners, two in each hand, and hold them out straight and give the edges a good shake to make them roll in correctly. Still holding the corners, use your chin to create a fold in the middle and bring your hands together. Now put all four corners in one hand and grab the edge you just folded by your chin using the other hand. Pull out flat and give it another little shake. Lay it down on the bed (or over the clothesline as the case may be) and make sure the edges are still rolled properly; this may take some adjusting. Then fold into squares/rectangles as usual.

              It sounds more complicated than it is in practice.

            2. Elizabeth H.*

              Hold up the upper left-hand corner of the sheet with your left hand inside it. Take the upper-right corner in your right hand, and then put that corner into the upper-left corner inside-out, so that they are stacked and exactly matched up with the seams lined up. Then put your left hand into the new two-corner stack and take the lower-right corner in your right hand. Repeat, putting it inside with the seams exactly lined up. Then repeat with the lower-left (final) corner. Being careful to keep the four-corner stack exactly lined up, seize it by the edge of the seam so that the sheet forms a rectangle with the elasticed parts hanging inward. (There will be more layers of sheet in this quadrant of the rectangle, because the elasticed parts hang inward. That’s ok.) Then use that rectangle shape to fold it once or twice more. Done.

      2. Newby*

        I always thought the only reason that people with PhD put it after their name was because otherwise everyone assumes someone called “Dr.” had an MD.

        1. AnotherAnon*

          As someone who’s been a PhD for a few years now and will also be an MD come May, I only list PhD in my title when I’m attending/presenting at a professional conference in my research field. Having just gone through the medical residency application process as an MD/PhD student, I obviously also listed my PhD in my application as it’s relevant to the field I’m going into; while most correspondence from programs I interviewed with came addressed to Ms. AnotherAnon, occasionally some did call me Dr. AnotherAnon (to which I always responded with my first name). In the MD/DO community, the physicians I know range from super-informal (their patients don’t even call them Dr. Lastname – maybe they go by Dr. Lastinitial or even Firstname to their patients) to super-formal (they go by Dr. Lastname to their neighbors and people outside of work).

    4. Honeybee*

      I also work in research and it’s the same here. In fact, a lot of our master’s degree holders don’t list theirs, either. But it’s definitely not custom for bachelor’s and associate’s degree holders to have theirs listed.

      I don’t list my PhD after much of my stuff, either. On my business cards and our company website, but not necessarily when traveling at conferences unless it makes sense in that context.

  7. Anancy*

    To question #3: in my personal experience, a lot of people consider a Bachelor’s Degree as an advanced degree. That certainly may not be the case where you are, but a lot of surveys, questionnaires, and job applications have considered a four year college degree as an advanced degree, in my experience. If this could possibly be the case, is there a way to reflect language that says “post baccalaureate” instead of advanced? That might change the definition for some people.

    1. Jamie*

      Really? That’s surprising. I’ve never heard of a bachelor’s being considered an advanced degree. Do they usually mean a person with a degree has an advanced education or do they mean a bachelor’s is advanced in reference to other degree types?

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I could see it if the applicant pool consists of people who have four year degrees along with people who have associate degrees, or community college programs.

        But in most situations I’ve seen “degree”, with no qualifications, referring specifically to a four year Bachelor degree, “advanced degree” or “postgraduate degree” referring to Masters, PhDs , and possibly things like medical and law degrees, and other qualifiers like “Associate Degree”, or “Diploma” referring to sub-Bachelor programs.

        1. SophieChotek*

          Yes that is how I usually see it too.
          And most of my friends all sign PhD, etc., etc. after their name in their emails, etc. but they’re all academics, so I think it just goes with the territory.

      2. Kj*

        I suspect is based on comparisons more than on anything else- if you are mostly around folks w/o degrees, a BA seems advanced. Or, if you are in a field where everyone has a BA and some have more, it seems basic.

        My field treats BAs like they are only step one- no one cares what yours is in, they only want you to have done it so you can get an MA or other advanced degree, because you are much less helpful at work if you lack the MA. However, I know in some fields they actually matter, but I suspect more in the way of “you have to have a BA to get this job” not something someone would care about in a daily way. My husband’s profession is like this- he needed his BA to get his foot in the door at his current job BUT no one has asked about since.

        I think listing BA after folks names is going to look…odd in most professional contexts. If it is an office-based job in my area, the presumption is that everyone has a BA. People would be surprised if you were in a professional job and didn’t have one. I’d favor not listing BAs unless the BAs really matter to what the professional is allowed to do on a daily basis.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          My field is kind of the opposite, but the result is the same as your husband’s. We’re engineers, and you have to have the degree to get the job (and to qualify to get your PE license), but since everyone has one, no one needs to list it on their information.

          Where it gets weird is that we have people who not engineers, such as our admin assistants or drafting/design staff. A lot of those folks have bachelor’s, and some have master’s or MBAs, but they are not necessarily degrees related to their job. Yet, people want to list them to prove they have education because engineers can be condescending, like we’re the only ones who are really educated around here.

          1. Elfie*

            Oh gosh, so much your last sentence!! My husband used to like to wind me up by saying that the ranking of Bachelors in degree of difficulty was BA –> BSc –> BEng (he’s an engineer, I’ve got a BSc). At least, I think he was winding me up. I’ve always secretly suspected that he wasn’t truly joking…

            1. hbc*

              Ha, there’s an a cappella group at MIT that has a song to the tune of Karma Chameleon called “MIT is easy if you study biology.” It’s supposed to be a joke, but it’s not completely a joke, you know? Of course, it was also hilarious to watch all of the disparaging computer engineers struggling to make sense of the one mandatory biology course. I won’t get started on the number of engineers who can’t write two error-free sentences in a row yet think anyone can get a BA.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I had the same reaction. I’ve only heard “advanced degree” to refer to postgraduate degrees, not bachelor’s degrees. But I’ve heard folks refer to a bachelor’s as their college or higher education degree (and then jokingly call postgraduate degrees “higher” higher ed).

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I was trying to think of a field where this would apply, and the only one that immediately came to mind was nursing. Since you can be an RN without a bachelor’s, I see a lot of nurses whose information says Jane Smith, BSN, RN.

      I still don’t think most people call it an advanced degree, though. It’s a “degree.” Your high school diploma is not a degree, so the only “advanced” degree is the one beyond your BS/BA. IME, “post bacc” implies coursework beyond your bachelor’s to fulfill some specific requirement. Like, you have a BA in English, but you did a post-bacc program to satisfy med school prereqs.

  8. Dizzy Steinway*

    #4 You have my sympathy. I hate seeing myself on-camera and I hate videoconferencing with a passion.

    It sounds like you’re all using individual cameras – are you remote working or all in the same place? If the latter, is it an option to sit in a meeting room with some other people rather than you all using individual cameras at your desks? Would that help at all? I’m guessing it’s not possible though as you mentioned sending you a camera, which makes it sound like you’re more widely dispersed?

    I’m really sorry your boss is insisting on this. I have personally found this to be something where you have to pick your battles a bit. My manager talked about putting something in my objectives that would involve being filmed, I asked if that was essential for me to do (using really careful wording I can’t quite recall now), she said oh are you not okay with that and actually took it out with no fuss or further debate (it really wasn’t essential though). However, I don’t think I’d be able to opt out of multi-location staff briefings that happen over iMeet.

    I would look at the settings and see if you can make the window smaller – it’s usually possible to do this. Make sure you write down the steps in case you need them again, e.g. if it automatically restores the window to full size after showing a presentation, so you can resize it again with minimal stress for yourself. If possible, work out keyboard shortcuts for every step so you can look away from the screen until it’s sorted, again to minimise stress for you. Have sticky notes available and use two on top of each other if one is too transparent.

    Also, maybe plan to do something nice for yourself immediately after these video conferences as you know they’re going to be an ordeal for you.

    1. Anon-Anon*

      OP here: I am working as an embedded employee, it’s just me. The software is BlueJeans, which unfortunately puts the meeting organizer in charge of the settings. Very often they select a setting in which the main image rotates to whoever is speaking at the time. So even if you say one word answers, “Bam” there you are as large as life. There’s an option to do it in conference room, but given the only conference room that supports the technology is the executive conference room, its often unavailable. I examined the settings and there doesn’t appear to be a way to block the view from my camera.

      When I have to do this, I feel very similar to how a feed on calls when there’s feedback and you hear yourself. This delayed auditory response (you speak and hear yourself while speaking, but it’s delayed). It’s very distracting and very often this technique is used to “Jam” speech. There was a article about this which speculated that may of been the cause of Mariah Carey’s botched NYE performance. While the camera issues is not the same principle, I feel the same way. I become hyper aware of my facial expressions, posture etc. As a result, my delivery is poor, which threatens my credibility.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I sympathize OP and hope you can find a solution. I completely sympathize as I hate seeing myself on camera too and the last picture you’ll find me in was in 2015 and before that maybe 2010.

        Aggravating especially with the delayed speaking. (Is it just yourself or is it everyone is delayed?) having the picture out of sync with the sound would drive me batty.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          I don’t think that delayed sound is necessarily a factor in this case, it was just an example of a similar phenomenon. But I agree with the OP, watching yourself talk is distracting.

      2. ZTwo*

        Do you have multiple monitors or could you get one? That way you could put the conference on the one easiest to ignore (in my case, the one slightly to the left) and attach the camera to the one you look at head on. Youd still have to ignore the other monitor when you spike, but it’s much easier in my experience.

      3. fposte*

        Can you turn off your display entirely and just leave the audio on? You’ll miss seeing the other participants, but that might not be that much of a loss.

        1. Hermione*

          I was going to suggest this as well. If you’re not in need of your monitor for other purposes during the call, what about simply shutting off your monitor or rotating it towards the wall, or even minimizing the app if that’s an option? Pretend you’re on a conference call not a web conference call.

        2. ggf*

          Or, if there’s some reason having the monitor off completely won’t work, maybe tape a piece of wax paper over it? That way you’ll still see vague outlines and light/shadow, but you hopefully won’t be distracted by subtle facial expressions.

          1. fposte*

            Or throw a sweater over it. But basically, the idea is taking the display out of the OP’s consideration entirely rather than trying for her just to avoid seeing herself.

            1. ggf*

              Right. But what I’m saying is that if there’s any reason* why she can’t get away with removing the display completely, something like wax paper might obscure things enough that her own face won’t bother her (as much), but she’ll still be able to see enough of the other people to get by.

              * Depending on her specifics, there could be others. But a possible reason that occurs to me is that she might need to be able to tell who’s talking, and she can’t tell just from voices. But having just enough of their face show to be able to see different hair colors or such might be enough.

      4. Dizzy Steinway*

        This sounds so stressful, I’m sorry. If all else fails is it possible for you to avoid looking at the screen? Or could you maximise a window from another program so they see you but you don’t see them?

      5. karaiz*

        I use BlueJeans as well and I’ve always been able to change the settings locally so that on my computer it displays how I want it to (sometimes I like to display all participants at once if the conversation is bouncing around a lot, sometimes I want it to highlight the speaker, etc.) I’m also able to control where/how I appear (to myself). You’re right that the organizer will definitely control how you appear on his/her side, but you might want to look into the settings more on your side– you really should be able to control it, I think.

        FWIW, I know that it can be hard for some people, but I think that video is a really important part of remote communication, and I think it’s in your best interest to be on camera if you can stand it. It is much harder for people to tune out what you are saying when they can see your face. For better or for worse, if you’re the one with the gray faceless icon in the corner rather than the real video, I think people simply pay less attention to what you have to say, in part because it’s just harder to follow voice-only communication than it is voice+visual.

        I have done a lot lot lot of voice-only telecons over the last fifteen years and recently switched to an organization that uses BlueJeans daily (I work remotely) and I thought I’d hate it– but the quality of communication is easily 3x as good, and I feel like my contributions are much more integrated into the team than when I was communicating with the same team (before coming on full-time) using voice only.

        1. Anon-Anon*

          Any sources online you could point me to regarding how to do that? To date, I’ve been struggling with settings.

          1. motherofdragons*

            I really feel for you, Anon-Anon! Many of my team members work remotely, and all of our meetings are done via video conference. Seeing myself is terribly distracting. We don’t use BlueJeans, but I had a little time this morning and wanted to help because I know the feeling. I found some good stuff on the BlueJeans support site: how to change the layout so it’s not showing the speaker (https://support.bluejeans.com/knowledge/layout-options), and something maybe helpful on changing self view (https://www.bluejeans.com/sites/default/files/Browser-Access-Guide-1-70-5.pdf). I wonder if you were to click on the text that says “Self View”, if that would turn it on and off, or maybe click the video of yourself? In the programs we use, I have to right-click my self view, and a little menu pops up that says “Turn off self view” or something similar. Good luck!

          2. karaiz*

            Hmm, if only I had a call today, I could experiment! But looking just now, I saw that the moderator does have the ability to “set layout for other participants” (slide 43 in the presentation here https://www.bluejeans.com/sites/default/files/pdf/GettingStartedGuide-2.3.4.pdf), maybe that’s stopping you from changing it yourself? I prefer the “constant presence” layout (which means it doesn’t bounce from speaker to speaker, and will put you in a constant place on the screen that you could potentially cover). If your moderator is checking the “Also set layout for other participants” box, maybe you could ask them to stop, claiming that you prefer to be able to change that layout yourself based on how the meeting is going. But if they aren’t forcing it, you should be able to change the layout under the “Controls” part (looks like three horizontal lines).

            Usually I show up in a box at the corner of the screen. I feel like if you drag and drop the corners of that box, you can make it smaller or bigger?

            Or, I think in some views maybe opening the chat window hides the box with your face?

            Is there usually screen share going on at the same time? That makes things different too.

        2. Penny*

          I was beginning to wonder if everyone was going to hate on video conferencing. Hey, I get it, I’m self conscious on camera too and hate seeing pics of myself; but, I try to see it in this situation as no different than if I was in a face to face meeting with these people, which is only to be expected in a professional situation. Would I be trying to hide my face if I was sitting in the room with these people? Of course not. Honestly, everyone who is so upset is definitely thinking about themselves far more than anyone else is (they are probably all worried how they look!).

          I actually prefer video over a phone conference most of the time because body language and facial cues can be very helpful in determining how to respond or what needs further explanation. Additionally, if you’re working with people who have heavy accents, I find it’s so much easier to understand them when you can see their mouths. I also enjoy it because it really expands that feel of teamwork. If you’re only ever emailing and calling people, you really can lose some of that. This makes it more personal.

      6. Bonky*

        My sympathies – I hate it too! If you’re stuck with having to use the camera, one thing I find incredibly useful in making me present more like a human being is a very silly hack: cut a face out of a magazine, or print one out (I use Captain America because he’s dishy), and use blu-tac to fix it to the camera so the eyes – you don’t have to see the rest of the face – are just sticking out above the camera. Extra-easy if you’re using a laptop. Then address what you’re saying to the eyes peeping over the camera. Makes a huge difference to posture, directness and looking-vaguely-normal.

  9. Mookie*

    being part of the cleaning crew (my family and I often cleaned together to make it go faster)

    This makes me uncomfortable, even though it’s exceedingly common, particularly amongst full-time and freelance cleaners. It’s certainly a common lament among organized labor, that the only way a commercial cleaning contract can be fulfilled is by overworking, overscheduling, and underpaying one’s employees enough that they have to “hire” their own families to help them, off the books, or resort to independently subbing out certain jobs just to complete their regular assignments. Is the employer aware of this, OP? I don’t think this situation has been fair to you at all, and I’m also interested in whether they’re cutting you two checks, paying you cash for the weekend gig, or just increasing your wages.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      This stood out to me as well. OP, your situation is unfair and your labour is valuable. You should have been paid for every minute you worked. I hope your employer does the right thing this time.

      I would also suggest that you write down all the information and have it ready to present if they object. Having a list/spreadsheet of all the tasks you’ve been doing, how much you’ve been paid/underpaid, and how long this has been going on. If – and only if – you get a ‘but it’s not that much work’ kind of response, then you take your list out and show them People really don’t understand what’s involved in doing a good cleaning job.

      Mookie – I’ve worked as a cleaner and sadly, you’re right. Cleaners are expected to do a good job in very little time. Cleaners are also seen as less-than human and people are very unsympathetic to the challenges they face. I’ve known of more than one place that increased duties, but did not increase pay or time. The cleaners could complain but they’d lose their job. It makes no sense to me that people have such contempt for cleaners – you’d definitely notice if they weren’t around! No one wants to do the work themselves, and then they look down on those who do the cleaning.

      1. Freya UK*

        Yes, people who look down on people in ‘service’ positions (cleaners, waiters, checkout operators etc) make my blood boil. I will refrain from ranting about it, but I am always careful to look them in the eye, say please & thank you, not talk on my phone while someone is serving me etc; they are PEOPLE who are just trying to get by as best they can like all of us – if no one else treats them with basic respect that day, at least I have.

        1. discarvard*

          As a retail employee, I thank you for this! The talking on the phone thing especially. My retail gig at least allows for some interesting conversations- I do like to recommend the cool teapots we sell- but when people stay on the phone at the register I always have to smile through my silent frustration.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I figure you really have no idea about people, so you may as well treat everyone as equals.

          My husband is a service electrician, so he’s in people’s homes or businesses every day. He will occasionally get a jerk customer who treats him poorly, as uneducated, lower class “hired help.” Hmm, not the case. Our income is actually in the “upper class” based on the research Pew publishes, and we often have a nicer home than the person’s home that he’s working in.

        3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Thank you so much for this. You can be certain that these people appreciate your courtesy and respect. Simply looking someone in the eye and smiling makes such a huge difference. They might not be able to tell you directly, but it will mean a lot.

          Not everyone was awful to me when I was a cleaner. There were people who would tell me how grateful they were for my work and thank me for doing a good job. It meant so much to have people talk to me like a person who, as you said, was just trying to get by. When I see people cleaning the streets and railway stations, I always smile and thank them for their work.

          And now I’m going off-topic, so I’ll stop!

        4. New Girl*

          When I was a server customers would ask me when I was going to get a “real job” and were shocked when I told them that I did have an office job and that my serving job actually paid more, which is why I kept it.

          1. Anonygoose*

            I used to get bizarre reactions from customers/tourists when I worked as a tour guide a niche tourism industry in the UK. It was a spectacularly fun job, but I had moved there from Canada (temporarily, unfortunately – darn you, UK visa rules).

            Tourists would ask CONSTANTLY why I had moved there ‘just to be a tour guide’. Apparently, the fact that I loved the city I lived in and moved there just to live there wasn’t a good enough answer. They refused to believe that I was working (at a job that I loved!) to fund the life I wanted in a city I loved. I would have cleaned toilets if that had turned out to be the only way to live there.

            Work to live, not live to work, y’know?

        5. Aurion*

          Yeah, this. And it really doesn’t take much (probably because so many people treat people in service positions like crap…). Back in my cashiering days a couple came through my line with a ton of groceries and one tote bag and asked me to cram whatever I could into the tote and they’d get additional plastic bags for the rest. I managed to fit everything into the tote (neatly, with no crushed/bruised produce) and the guy grinned at me and said “that’s the best packing job I’ve ever seen!”

          That was ten years ago, and I still remember it.

      2. Mike C.*

        The looking down at people thing is absolutely real. I can’t tell you how many times some owner looked their nose down at me, then later found out that I was in college (or where I was attending) and then suddenly treated me completely different.

        F*ck those guys, every last one.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Seriously. I’m sorry you had to deal with such awful people.

          I had that, and the opposite – people who were friendly but completely changed when they discovered my career plans, because how dare I get ideas above my station. It was bizarre.

          And what people don’t realise is that one of the major reasons many countries don’t have widespread disease anymore is because of cleaners and improved sanitation services. If you think cleaners suck, then enjoy your plague, honestly.

        2. Anna*

          When I was in high school, the maintenance people went on strike (I went to HS overseas on a military base; the people who worked maintenance were locals and unionized). They hired high school students to pick up the slack while the strike was happening. I was one of those high school students. I seriously appreciate anyone who cleans bathrooms and classrooms and labs and locker rooms. It’s not easy work and even though those unionized maintenance people were making well above what I was making doing the same thing, they were totally earning their pay.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      If they’re paying separately for the weekend gig, that makes it a lot easier to end it. If it’s just been rolled into your regular paycheck, that gives it more of a “part of your job” vibe.

      I wouldn’t immediately assume the OP was being underpaid for cleaning because family members helped. If she was paid a flat fee, it wouldn’t matter if it took one person four hours or took two people two hours (assuming, of course, that the family members were amenable to the situation). If she was paid hourly, then of course that’s different.

  10. Czhorat*

    OP4 – you can turn off “self-view” on most conference applications, or move the “faces” to a side monitor where you don’t have to look at them. Be sure to do what you can to make the experience work as well as possible:

    Do what you can with lighting. If you’re backlit, it will make you look worse. Even a table lamp could help somewhat.

    If it’s the kind of camera that clips to the top of your monitor, make sure it’s on the monitor at which you look during a conference. Otherwise you’ll appear to be looking I’d to the side.

    Make sure that whatever is behind you looks professional, especially if you’re remote from a home office.

    Doing what you can to our your best face forward might help you feel less awkward about it.

    1. Yetanotherjennifer*

      Yes. Also experiment with different locations and heights for the camera to see which gives you the most flattering look. Maybe even bring in other things to attach the camera to. This may feel like an exercise for vanity but it’s really for your comfort. And be sure to take a practice run with a friend or family member so you aren’t trying to figure this out during a video meeting. Maybe one you don’t see often so you can focus on seeing them vs seeing you.

      I should really do this as well. I’m as uncomfortable with myself on video as you are. Not only would it be a good thing to know for work meetings; I suspect my kid would have more video conferences with grandparents if I was more open to it myself.

      1. Anon-Anon*

        OP here: I tried a few at your suggestion. At this point the only angle that’s suitable is above eye level (hides double chin, etc.) and at my good side. Any suggestions as to what to use to get it that height? I suppose I could raise my monitor.
        I’m trying to figure out what to hide my under eye puffiness, which will mostly be a lighting issue. Ugh. Too much work for a simple 30-60 minute meeting!

        1. JessaB*

          Vis under eye issues, if you’re not allergic to black teas, wet a teabag with warm or hot water to your comfort level. Place on eyes, the tannins will help with the puffiness. A nurse did that for me once years ago in sleep-away camp when I got bitten by a spider near my eye. I had never heard of it. but it did take the swelling down, so it should work for puffy. If you prefer cold to hot, I’m given to understand that cucumber slices are soothing. Also anecdotally, I know during allergy season if I keep rubbing my eyes that they get puffier, so maybe keep your fingers off and just put cool soothing things if they get itchy.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Cold tea bags to reduce puffiness — the hot might increase blood flow and cause redness, but you’re right that the teabag will work!

        2. Parenthetically*

          When I was long-distance with my now husband I always put my monitor up on a stack of books for a more flattering angle! But yes, definitely switch off the self-view so you aren’t distracted by how you look — and it’s distracting for everyone, believe me! We still skype with my husband’s overseas family fairly often and I have to minimize the self-view so I don’t spend the entire call with an inner monologue of, “Geez, cute chins there, Parenthetically. Suck it in, why don’t you. Ugh, my hair is so dirty, I should have washed it today! This camera makes me look so pale!”

          But also, how you look is how you look, and it matters far less than your competence. I don’t think anyone is going to walk away from a conference call/meeting thinking, “Jeez, that lady needs some undereye gel or something,” mostly because people don’t have time or headspace to scrutinize others. They’re all heading back to work, thinking about what they need to get done. It’s been really freeing to me to realize that, generally speaking, other people think of me as often as I think of them. I don’t go around judging my coworkers’ less-than-modelesque facial features and I assume they don’t judge mine either.

          1. Anon-Anon*

            I’m not worried about how others think I look. I can spar in the conference room all day long and not give fig about my face and hair. It’s just a distraction which causes me to not deliver my message in the same way that I would if I were face to face. It causes me to be much more guarded and delayed in my speech, which makes me less credible.

            1. Parenthetically*

              Absolutely. Just turning off self-view seems the easy solution, then, rather than focusing on how you can make yourself look better.

        3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Often the video quality that the person on the other end gets is lower than what you see of yourself – with lower resolution like that, things like puffy eyes, etc. just may not be visible even if someone was looking for them. (And you can also keep reminding yourself “they’re here to hear my report on the new widget, not to critique my appearance.” Though I know that’s the kind of thing that can be easier said than done.)

        4. Czhorat*

          You can always try a table-lamp or something as a makeshift “stand” for the webcam. Or, as suggested. either lower your chair or raise the monitor.

        5. Orange*

          I’m not going to offer you any tips, tricks, or words of advice (sorry!). But I do have a request: Whatever you ultimately do, please please please, don’t obscure your mouth from the viewer. (This includes camera angle which might result in dramatically changing the way your mouth appears to be forming words).

          When my team first went to conference calls for our daily status meetings I was so worried about how I was going to *hear* everyone. I requested (and ultimately had to insist) that everyone get and use a camera. Why? I have a hearing issues and rely heavily on lip reading to fill the gap when I don’t quite understand or catch what the speaker says. On video conference, this is particularly important for me. Some people don’t feel comfortable disclosing things like that to their entire team and may have asked your manager to make sure this happens.

          Also, if you learn that’s that case, for the love of Marlee Matlin, just speak normally and don’t over enunciate words. It doesn’t help. :)

    2. Spoonie*

      My company uses Lync/Skype for Business and you can open the “who’s talking” portion in a separate window and then bury it in the back behind everything. Same for when someone is screensharing — not that I’ve accidentally done that during a meeting.

      Definitely find a camera angle and lighting situation that works best for you, and realize that morning and afternoon light will change that (silly sun). Wear colors that flatter your skin tone. It’s silly, but make this A Thing for you to prepare for, because the better you feel you look, the more confidence you’ll project. I also hate photographs and video calls, so I fully understand where you’re coming from.

  11. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OP#3, the important things are to keep it consistent, and to follow your industry’s standards. If you include one person’s bachelor’s degree, you should include all undergraduate degrees for all staff. Of course, this raises the issue that if you have any staff with an associate degree or no degree, this policy would highlight that by default, even if that person has decades of industry experience. And while I’m not a big fan of “this is the way we’ve always done it”, you do need to take into account the expectations of the people who will be consuming your product, in this case your staff directory. If they are not expecting to see bachelor’s degrees, it will stick out like a sore thumb, and if for example graduate and postgraduate degrees are important in your industry, it will make it harder for them to evaluate your company’s collective expertise by skimming the directory.

    It probably boils down to why the other degrees are already included in the staff listing, and does including bachelor’s degrees further that purpose or confound it?

    1. blackcat*

      I don’t know if this “If you include one person’s bachelor’s degree, you should include all undergraduate degrees for all staff.” is necessarily true, if there are significant differences between different types of staff.

      When I taught at a private school, the online faculty directory listed all degrees (fields and institutions!) for all of the teachers. So I was
      BS, [Science field], [Fancy College].

      My department chair was
      BS, [science field], [fancy university]
      MS, [science field], [local public U]
      MAT, [local public U]

      I found it weirdly pretentious and obnoxious, but that’s how they did it. I think they did it in part, because they wanted to advertise that their faculty went to fancy institutions, with the implication being that we’d help their kids get there. But the downside was that it highlighted which teachers, like me, where BA/BS only and it also emphasized the couple of people who went to schools that aren’t well known.

      Non-teaching staff only had *relevant* degrees at MA or above. So our business officer was listed as
      MBA, [out of state public U]

      This delineation made sense to me, though I would have felt much better if they didn’t list institutions.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Oops, I meant “list the bachelor’s degree for all staff for whom the bachelor’s is the highest degree“! I’ve never heard of listing degrees other than your highest degree except when both specialties are crucial to the job (e.g., MA/MLS with the MA in Art History, in reference to a museum cataloguing job, maybe?).

        But in any case, it sounded like your employer had both a policy and a known rationale for it, which helps.

      2. Mike C.*

        That could easily be the case, but I would appreciate knowing that the person teaching math had a degree in math.

        1. blackcat*

          Oh, yeah, I didn’t have a problem with the degree, field part of it. It was the institution part that I wasn’t a fan. I got why they did it–particularly because parents would ask me about how to help their child go to the same fancy college that I did. But it felt gross, like my value as a teacher was dependent on my pedigree.

          But what I was arguing is that sometimes, there is a difference in staff roles that means it’s totally sensible to list a degree for one group of staff and not for others.

      3. AMS*

        OP #3, I also work in research (private sector). Our website has bios for senior staff rather than a full staff listing, but I’ve seen listings of degrees in material we send out to clients. We list all degrees for everybody. So e.g.:

        Arya Stark
        PhD, University of the Eyrie
        M. Phil, Kingsroad University
        BA, Winterfell College

        Sansa Stark
        M. Ed, Winterfell College
        BA, Winterfell College

        Brandon Stark
        BS, University of the Wall

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That seems less bizarre to me, though, because it’s part of marketing the credentials of your team. That said, I have not seen the equivalent for internal lists for non-academia employers, and I’ve only seen it in signature blocks when (a) the degree signals an essential credential/license that the person needs for their job; or (b) a person is enrolled as a student and has not yet graduated.

  12. moss*

    OP4, you hate your face more than anyone else does. I have a disfigurement so I know how horrible it feels to see oneself on screen. However, nobody faints at the sight of me and I’ve learned that confidence goes a long way. I agree with the advice to cover the screen area where your face is displayed and from there, just roll with it. I promise that nobody else thinks you should be ringing the bells at Notre Dame instead of working, they’re just happy to have someone competent (because you are!) doing good work (because you do!).

    1. MWKate*

      This is a good point – I am extremely self conscious and actively avoid having to look at any photos or videos of myself. It would be beyond distracting to have to look at my own face during a meeting.

      OP, I don’t think anything is just going to make you not mind seeing your face on the screen. Perhaps though, keeping in mind that the other people on the call are not thinking about the things you’re worried about could help. I often focus in on things like eye puffiness, face chubbiness, etc – but it’s not something that other people are even noticing. If it was your co-worker who had puffy eyes, would it be something you were concentrating on in the meeting?

      1. Anon-Anon*

        Again, don’t care what others think about my looks. I’m distracted, which impacts my performance on these calls. The affect of seeing my face on screen is similar the impact of delayed audio feedback. http://physicscentral.com/explore/action/speech-jam.cfm (I have a similar issue if I can hear my voice in delayed feedback on a conference call. I slow down, I stammer, etc. Given I’m a introvert, I may occasionally need to take time to structure my response in situations where I’m not well versed, which can make me appear tentative and insecure. (If I’m well-versed and on my game, it’s a different story.) But add that to the former, and it doesn’t make me look competent. THAT is what I’m worried about.

      2. JKP*

        I’ve noticed that a lot of people who are self-conscious about how they look avoid looking at themselves and I wonder if that actually makes the problem worse. Maybe something that would help is to spend a little time each day practicing looking in a mirror (or even looking at the camera view of yourself when not in a meeting with anyone else) and noticing one thing you like about the image. More exposure to your own image may make it seem more like “that’s just my normal face” rather than distracting or jarring whenever you do happen to see yourself on camera.

        1. JKP*

          Sorry, OP. Just read your reply above and I get that it’s the delayed effect, not confidence.

  13. Landshark*

    OP#4, have you tried playing around a bit with lighting in your workspace a bit (if it’s possible)? It won’t fix everything, but I’ve found that certain positions and levels of lighting force the camera to pick up my face better. I’m very pale, and when I’m lit from the very front or the very back, I wash out easily. It won’t fix everything, but it might put you at ease if there’s an arrangement that makes you look a bit more normal.

    There are also a few makeup tricks that can make the camera flatten or wash you out a bit less, but that’s a lot of work to put in just for an occasional video conference, so I’d only do that if you really wanted to try it.

    The rest is pretty much what Alison described, but I thought I’d give you a few tips from my own experiences getting washed out on Skype or video. I wish you the best!

    1. Anon-Anon*

      OP here. Thanks! I do have terrible florescent lighting in my office and a wall of windows, so the lighting situation is odd. I’m already pale, so it completely washes me out! I may look in to getting a desk lamp to see if that can warm things up.

      1. Emi.*

        A gooseneck lamp gives you extra flexibility, and I find I tend to look better with an incandescent bulb than with a fluorescent one.

        1. Calacademic*

          Look for LED bulbs! Each is like $15, but you get lots of color selection and they last forever. (Some even come with phone apps so you can change the hue.)

      2. JessaB*

        And if you wear makeup at all (I do not,) there’s always concealers. I mean people have been fixing lighting errors with Pan Cake makeup ever since Max Factor invented the stuff for screen actors. If you don’t wear makeup, or think that makeup is bad or anything nobody is obligated to make themselves up. Just mentioning because there’s other ways to fix lighting besides changing the lights

        I also just put in the new fancy LED lights and the colour is very white and bright, so that might help if you changed a bulb too. Heck they’re so bright that I only replaced two in a five bulb standing fixture because OMG BRIGHT. So if it’s lighting that can help, or even getting a small lamp and putting the light source elsewhere.

        1. Another Lawyer*

          I recommend MUFE’s Ultra HD concealer for puffy eyes and color correction – it’s been a lifesaver for me

      3. MommyMD*

        OP, you are way over-thinking it. You will be fine. Just do your video conference and move on with your day. Everyone else will. Good luck.

    2. Anon-Anon*

      We use BlueJeans. To date, I have not found an option to block me from seeing me. In fact, it appears that screen settings are selected by conference organizers, and very often conference organizers will select a setting in whoever is speaking becomes the largest image on the screen, then goes smaller when the next person speaks. THAT is unsettling. I’ve watched other colleagues who are clearly jarred by that feature. Does anyone on the board have experience with this application? If there are workarounds, I’d love to know.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I’m not familiar with this particular application, but maybe start with an email to the organizer, and frame it a bit more globally, e.g. “You know, it’s a bit jarring when the screen jumps from face to face. Is there a setting that just leaves it on a group view where everyone’s window is the same size?”

        1. Kimberlee, Esq*

          I mention this briefly below, but that would drive me nuts! I like to be able to see who is talking, it helps me get to know remote people better and keep track of who is talking. Not to mention that it’s a huge improvement for people with hearing issues, because it allows us to see the lip movements and facial expressions that help us parse what is being said. My hearing issues are really minor compared to some, but seeing peoples’ faces when they’re speaking helps a lot, and its nice to not have to sort of frantically scan a grid of people to try to figure out who is talking.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq*

        How long have you been using video conferencing? Is it still new around the office? We use Zoom, which i think automatically does the thing where whoever is talking is the main image, which makes sense, because it helps you keep better track of who is talking in bigger meetings! And I’ve never seen a coworker jarred by it, so maybe it’s just something you need to acclimate to over time?

      3. Czhorat*

        There is sometimes the option to “pin” someone’s video by clicking on it. This way they’ll stay big all the time and you’ll always be a tumbnail. It isn’t the most elegant solution, but it might make you feel better about the experience.

    3. Purple Jello*

      Here’s another thought: if the lighting is noticeably awful – too bright, or very shadowed, then everyone may discount how you look.

  14. Recruit-o-rama*


    This happens with great regularity at my company and in my industry. There are four recruiters who cover our 3 dozen plus facilities nationwide and we discuss our candidate pool frequently. Our facilities do similar but distinct work and is very niche so our candidate pool is very shallow across the country, but more so in some geographic areas than others and particularly in some of the specialized certificications required professional trades. If you researched us on Facebook you would find that we are all friendly but our candidate sharing and swapping have nothing to do with that.

    To note, we wouldn’t see it as weird or bad if a candidate expressed a stronger interest in one position over the other, as long as they remain as open minded to our reasonings as we remain to their reasons. I recommend you approach the opportunities in that way and hopefully you will both end up with a business relationship that makes the most sense for everyone. Good luck!!

  15. Mike*

    OP #5: This circles back to the biggest misconception about HR. They are not there to help or protect you, the worker.

    They are there to protect the company.

    1. Allypopx*

      It might, but that’s hard to know without details. In the vast majority of cases HR focuses on reaching an amicable agreement between employee concerns and business interests, because disgruntled employees both pose a liability and cause ripple effects though the organization. I’d be interested to know what the specific complaint here is.

    2. Anons-y*

      That may fundamentally be what HR is here to do, but a part of protecting the company is being an advocate for the employee. Unhappy employees are a liability, so a good HR department is going to work hard to find solutions that benefit and protect both employees and the company.

    3. MommyMD*

      HR exists to protect the company’s interest, first and foremost. The individual is secondary. Many employees do not understand this.

    4. Kinsley M.*

      I’m confused by what you are referring to as the misconception. Regardless, as an HR professional, I really hate this phrasing. It has never made sense to me. In order to protect the company, I must protect the worker. They are one in the same.

      1. LBK*

        I understand why it rubs a lot of HR people the wrong way, but I think the idea is just a reminder that the guiding principle behind HR’s work is protecting the company – which, yes, usually aligns with protecting the worker, because as others have said, unhappy workers are a liability to the company. But HR isn’t a therapist or a mediator; the core motivation of their efforts isn’t focused on the satisfying the employee, that’s just a means to an end of keeping the company protected and productive. And again, 90% of the time that’s the same thing, but the other 10% of the time has a tendency to catch people off guard who think HR is like a union rep.

    5. Cookie*

      Lots of people repeat this phrase without understanding what it means. In order to protect the company, you have to deal with employee allegations (of harassment, discrimination, etc.) otherwise they’re going to sue. You would fail to fulfill your duty to the company if you fail to address this issue because now you’ve exposed the company to liability.

    6. HRish Dude*

      This gets thrown around a lot when things don’t go people’s way, but it doesn’t really make any sense because:
      – The company is made up of workers. Workers = the company.
      – Protecting and helping the workers = protecting and helping the company.
      – Happy workers = less turnover.
      – Less turnover = better for the bottom line = happier bosses.
      – It’s impossible to please everyone, so unless there are ethical/legal issues, you generally have to follow the Starfleet mantra of “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

  16. sb*

    OP4 — if it helps you to know this, a lot of people (myself included) find it much easier to understand a noisy teleconference if we can see the person speaking’s mouth move. It’s not that we care about someone looking good in any way, shape, or form, it’s that a crowded audio-only meeting can be difficult to participate in, and anything that brings more senses into the party will help. (I hate watching myself, but I have a camera for telecons when it’s optional at my workplace because if I turn mine on, other people are likely to as well and that helps me.)

    1. Parenthetically*

      Yes, agreed. I am the polar opposite of an auditory learner, to the point that I can’t focus on a conversation IN PERSON if there’s, say, a floral arrangement between me and my interlocutor. Seeing people’s faces, expressions, mouths, is crucial to my ability to participate in and focus on a conversation.

    2. Alton*

      I agree with this. Especially if a call has multiple people in it. It’s not always easy to tell who is saying what. It can also be helpful if anyone on the call doesn’t know the other participants well. I’ve had to take minutes in teleconference meetings, and it’s easier to make a note that a question came from Bob if I see that Bob is the one talking.

      1. Michaela T*

        It really is a kindness, I’d love to convince my team to use their cameras in Skype meetings.

    3. Jaydee*

      Seconded. I am a very visual person and find it much easier to understand people if I can see their mouths moving. I think the added visual input helps me to focus if there is background noise but also to distinguish similar sounds so that I don’t mishear what the person is saying.

  17. Collie*

    It sounds like not showing OP #4’s image isn’t an option, but perhaps you can toggle away from the screen just before you speak, OP? (Alt+Tab on a PC replaces the current window with the most recent window you had displaying.) I don’t know if you reaching for the keys each time you speak will be evident, but you may be able to pull this off with subtlety.

  18. Smiling*

    OP #1 I think Alison is right about admins expecting to do that kind of duty during the day. I work for a small business, we have thee admins, 2 female and 1 male. The rest of our 20 person office is all male. The admins have all had to pitch in in ordinary and extraordinary ways. This includes the basics such as washing dishes and cleaning up spills on the carpet, to more extreme things such cleaning up blood when people cut themselves to the point of needing to go to the hospital, mopping the floor when the water heater broke, unclogging toilets (clogged by someone else) and then cleaning up the mess.

    One of our admins has done exactly what you did by taking on cleaning duties outside of office hours. What we have done differently is to make sure that no one, beyond the boss and the admins, know that this is being done. That way there is no extra burden on the admin from people who may try to push off even more cleaning tasks on the admin.

    1. special snowflake*

      Cleaning up other people’s blood should *not* even fall under extraordinary tasks for an admin.
      Bloodborne diseases are not such that if you look at it you will get them (I’m thinking of you 1980’s) but they are still not something to mess around with. Professionals exist for a reason in incidents like that.

    2. mf*

      The difference is that your office has 3 admins who clean up after 20 people. The OP is 1 admin expected to clean up for about 25 people. That’s WAY too much work for her to be expected to do on a regular basis. (And admins should not be expected to clean up blood on a regular basis. That’s not safe or reasonable.)

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      There are two major distinctions: the first is that cleaning was not part of OP’s admin responsibilities. Now that may change, and there’s certainly a convention that admins handle cleaning, but that doesn’t mean that that’s what OP signed up. Additionally, the number of people for whom OP now has to clean has grown significantly. It’s not reasonable to double or triple your staffing without also increasing your cleaning resources.

      And as special noted, you absolutely should not clean blood or any other human waste unless you have appropriate training—there’s intense regulations about biohazardous waste because the risk to the cleaner or to the community from improper clean-up can pose significant public health risks. By way of example, I once arrived at school to find that someone took a massive dump in a main hallway. Custodial staff roped off the excrement, but they had to wait hours for HAZMAT to dispose of it—it was that serious.

  19. Persephone Mulberry*

    The thing to keep in mind with #2 is that real estate is a bit different; 99% of the time agents are independent contractors, and the sales team support people are employed by the team, not by the company whose name is on the building. So really, it’s like OP applied to similar jobs with Baskin Robbins and Ben & Jerry’s and they just happened to share a building.

  20. Employment Lawyer*

    5. Complaining about HR

    If you have complaints against HR themselves, who can you contact to submit a complaint? Is there a national body that governs the actions of HR?
    If it’s a normal complaint–by which I mean “unpleasant but perfectly legal”–then there’s not much you can do beyond what Allison suggests.

    If it’s a “special” complaint (illegal activity such as nonpayment, harassment, etc.) you should at least check the employee manual. There may be an alternate reporter for such situations. And/or you should contact an attorney.

    1. Anna*

      Ooo, thank you for that distinction and suggestion. The letter wasn’t at all clear which road this was heading down.

  21. MommyMD*

    I mean this in a genuine way. People are busy with their own overwhelming lives. They just want to get through their days. No one cares or remembers for a minute how you looked at the video conference. They really, really don’t. Just do it and move on with your day. Good luck.

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, I more or less agree. Unless you’re wearing rabbit ears or something, I can almost guarantee you’re going to be focusing more on your appearance than anyone else on the call.

      I’ve also found that the awkwardness and discomfort of being on a video call melts pretty quickly as the meeting progresses – you get distracted by what else is going on, and it’s also less weird when you’re also seeing the person. It’s kind of like a locker room; it’s not that weird to be naked because everyone’s naked. You’re all in the awkwardness together.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Isn’t that one of the allegations against the Thinx She-E-O? (answering videoconferences naked and in bed; “audibly” using the restroom on calls, etc.)

      1. MommyMD*

        Right, LBK. No one else is going to be focused on her appearance at all. She will just be Jane from Accounting. A second after the conference is over people move on and go about their day, onto the new thing. We tend to amplify negatives about our personal appearance that no one else even notices. At times it’s better to take a deep breath, get through something uncomfortable, and get to the other side and see it was all ok.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      The LW says she’s not worried about others seeing her- she is distracted by her seeing herself.

      I think we can trust the LW to know that no, it doesn’t wear off and she doesn’t get used to it.

      1. LBK*

        It doesn’t sound like she’s actually done it for work yet, though. Doing it during a meeting where you have a specific goal other than casual chat is different from doing it in your personal life (I don’t like personal video calls either, mostly because I loathe phone conversations in general, but I’ve found them less uncomfortable at work).

      2. MommyMD*

        The underlying issue is she is worried how others see her. Others will see her as looking perfectly fine. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between how we see ourselves and the image of us in a photo or video.

    3. Marcela*

      Most of the stuff that worries us can get this same “advice”. It is really not helpful to be told “just get over it”.

    4. Anon-Anon*

      This isn’t an uncommon problem and while I’m glad you can move on, others need workarounds. I once worked for an event where a very prominent entertainer specified in the contract that any video screens had to be placed in such a way that he wouldn’t couldn’t see the screens when he was performing. All people are different.

    5. Robin Sparkles*

      This is dismissive advice to what many people find a real concern. Just telling them to “move on” isn’t at all helpful. She isn’t even worried about her looks so much as how looking at herself while she is speaking distracts HER. On top of that, what she sees is what she perceives as unflattering and further distracts her. While you are likely correct that most people won’t focus on that or remember (and probably are worrying about their own look) – it’s still helpful for letter writer to get advice on how to mitigate this concern of hers.

      OP- Many people gave you great advice to set your angles or block yourself. I suggest trying these if the suggestion to change your settings don’t work for you. Good luck!

  22. Dankar*

    I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to OP#3 since the fields are likely very different, but there’s been a lively debate these past few years in college student affairs about whether to include your advanced degree in email signatures and on business cards. The pro- people argue that it gives you an air of authority when you might only be 4 years older than the students you’re advising; the con- people say that it’s a layer of artificial superiority and students won’t respond to that.

    I want very badly to list my MFA on both, but it’s not the culture here to do so. It’s not so much that I’m proud of the degree (though I am proud of myself for earning it) but more that I want to show people it’s possible to get a good job with a background in fine arts (creative writing) since it’s such a maligned program.

    All that being said, I think it would look odd to most to list the B.A. or B.S. as a credential, typically if you’re expected to have earned at least that level of education in your industry.

  23. Stephanie (HR Manager)*

    OP #5 – If the problem is with the whole HR, and you don’t have an HR Director you can complain to, realistically, you would need to go to the CEO. Even if HR technically reports to someone else (which they never should), you need the CEO. They are the ones who can realistically make changes in HR outside of HR themselves.

    That being said, whether you go straight to the CEO depends on your own position. Follow your chain of command, and start with your own manager, then their manager, and on up the line.

    I’m sorry you are having a problem with HR. That always makes me profoundly sad.

  24. HRish Dude*

    All HR reports to National HR. National HR reports to Global HR. Global HR reports to Interplanetary HR. Interplanetary HR reports to Intergalactic HR. Intergalactic HR reports to Finance.

    In all seriousness, unless they own the company, everyone has a boss.

  25. Naruto*

    OP2, I feel like this sucks for you because you turned out to be more interested in the second role that put you on pause while you move forward with the first role. I get it, and I wouldn’t be happy, either. But I don’t think there’s anything you can do to steer yourself toward the second role at this point. Anything you can do seems likely to backfire.

    I do, however, think you should use this as a learning experience: don’t apply for multiple jobs with the same company unless you would be happy with any of them. I know you can’t always know that before interviewing, but I don’t think the way they handled this situation is that odd. It’s different when you might get multiple offers from competing companies, but you can’t expect to be able to juggle multiple roles within the same company like that. So you might have to pick one that you like the most, in some instances, and only apply for that one.

  26. no one, who are you?*

    Late to the party, but I do want to point out in response to letter #3 that it’s totally acceptable to put BSW after your name if you have a bachelor’s degree in social work, although if you also have a master’s, you’d drop the BSW in favor of the MSW. I do know some MSWs who don’t list their degrees in a professional context, but it’s less common. I sign all my professional correspondence with my degree and it’s on my agency’s website. My feeling is, it’s important for my role in the agency, and it gives me a measure of authority that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

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