open thread – March 10-11, 2017

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

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

{ 1,769 comments… read them below }

  1. SOMA*

    Sometimes it is hard to be hopeful about job searching when I’ve been looking for nearly a year now with no offers. These last few weeks have been particularly difficult. But I’m really hoping that karma/the universe/higher power had a plan for me to build up all this practice with cover letters and interviews because an opening that would be perfect for me opened up at a dream workplace, and I actually have a contact with the place that might help me get my foot in the door at least.

    So this weekend I’ll be writing the best cover letter I can possibly manage and hope that my patience and work these long months prove worthwhile. Wish me luck!

      1. New Window*

        I feel this so much. Sending. Good thoughts/wishes/hope that it starts getting better. As long as we don’t give up, right?

      1. JobSeeker017*

        Elizabeth West, could I get a bit of that fairy dust, too? I have an important interview Thursday and have been asked to submit a three-page essay as part of the screening process for another position.

        My fingers are very tightly crossed for not only myself but for others in similar situations.

        Good luck, everyone!

    1. Mirilla*

      Good luck! I know how you feel. My year long job search just ended today with a great job offer. Keep going. It will happen!

  2. The Mighty Thor*

    As a regular reader, I know Alison’s belief that gifts in the workplace should flow down and never up. I believe the scenario I recently experienced and describe below is an exception, and I’d like to get people’s opinions.

    Our department manager (managing around 10 people, including myself) announced this week that she was resigning. Another member in the department suggested we take her out to a farewell lunch, and cover her lunch as well as our own. It came out to about $20 for everyone to this, including the tip.

    I had no problem with this, and saw nothing wrong with it. However, this is my first real professional job and I lack the perspective that experience grants. What do Alison and my fellow AAM readers think?

    1. Not so Nervous Accountant*

      I think that was OK, it’s not a regular or something egregious like sending her on an exotic trip. Resignation is an event htat only happens once, not like a birthday or holidays, so I think that was OK.

      1. Pineapple Incident*


        The important part- if you can opt out by saying “my budget comes first,” and there’s truly no frown-y faces about it, then I think it’s okay. If anything happens other than “okay, see you in an hour when we get back!” then it’s less than cool.

    2. Snowglobe*

      I see no problem with gifting “upward” for things like retirement, wedding gift, new baby, etc. where you would normally provide a gift for a coworker (i.e., if your office doesn’t buy baby gifts for everyone, you shouldn’t do that for a boss). This situation falls into that category. I draw the line at things like Christmas, birthday, boss’s day, where there could be an expectation that you need to buy gifts on a regular basis.

    3. SophieChotek*

      I tend to agree since this was a farewell lunch and unlikely to happen again. as long as it was optional.
      I suppose the only issue would be…if there was now an expectation that everyone who is leaving gets taken out to a meal (or the later attendant issue of “everyone in my department got a farewell lunch when they resigned but me”), but it sounds like it wasn’t very expensive…and I know from reading this blog that many offices celebrate/mark many occasions (baby showers, birthdays, etc.) so as long as there is no pressure, perhaps in this vein.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      It was probably fine, but it is situational. For example, when we had a farewell lunch for our division (a little over a dozen people), I talked with two of the other senior people to make sure that just the three of us would be covering the retiree’s lunch, because as one of the senior people in the division I knew the hourly people might be ordering just a salad or avoiding the $3 soda, as I have done earlier in my career. Maybe not, but I didn’t want to ask, and I didn’t want them to have to worry about it, so we took care of it ourselves.

      As others have said, if it’s truly optional (because a higher salary doesn’t always mean fewer money problems) and there isn’t a big economic disparity among those attending, splitting it evenly might make more sense.

    5. LKW*

      That sounds like a reasonable lunch as long as there was no pressure to attend. For some $20 is a budget stretch. If you were in a group that had a lot of turnover and this was a constant activity – it could become an issue.

    6. Lemon Zinger*

      I really dislike farewell lunches where everyone pays for the leaving employee’s food. If it really was okay to opt out, then I suppose it was all right. But many of us cannot afford to pay for our own food AND someone else’s. We look like grouches when we decline events like that, and that affects the way other perceive us. It’s not fun.

    7. Anon 2*

      I think it’s fine.

      I know that my department has bought flowers and a birthday cake when it was my boss’s birthday. We all know that she doesn’t have any other family, and if we don’t make a bit of a fuss of her the day will pass completely unnoticed. And it does depend on the year, when her last living relative died, we made a bigger fuss. People chip in if they want to, but they definitely don’t need to. And we don’t do “gifts”.

    8. zora*

      I think it really depends on the situation and the workplace. If everyone in the department is really okay with it, and feels like $20 is reasonable for them, I think it’s fine, as long as it’s really clear that it is optional, and that no one would be penalized for opting out of contributing, either directly or indirectly.

      However, even with a small group of people, it could be problematic. For example, I really like my current boss, and she manages about 10 of us. If she was retiring, I would not be okay with contributing money to a farewell lunch, she makes wwaaayyyyy more money than me, and while $20 wouldn’t destroy my budget right now, I would feel really resentful about putting even that much money towards a lunch for her. But, in the culture of my office, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t even come up. Based on how these things have gone, the company would provide a budget to celebrate her retirement, and even if our department wanted to do something extra, I think her #2 would offer to pay to take us all out on her dime, because she also makes way more than the rest of us. No one would expect me to come up with even $5. So, it depends on the structure and culture of the workplace.

    9. crankypants*

      I’m not much on gifting up except when it is someone retiring/moving on & it is truly an opt-in kinda thing.
      This past year at the office, department heads have decided when should gift the big boss (who makes 4x as much as we lowly peons do {I do payroll…I know how much we are all paid}) for her bday, Christmas & something else. I have each time reminded them about not gifting up, get the response that oh no, it’s fine, we all want to do this .. and now they all think I’m a cheapskate and don’t like anyone. I did not participate in the holiday gift exchange (I dont’ do holiday gifts personally) but did contribute to the baby shower.
      Tired of being seen as a curmudgeon but how does one get others to understand?

    10. Another Lawyer*

      I think it’s fine if it’s no pressure and occasional. One of our most senior attorneys just had a baby and we sent a gift. Someone more senior than her asked if anyone wanted to and a few of us said yes and he took care of the order and told those of us who said yes that we were free to contribute anything up to $10 if we wanted.

    11. TootsNYC*

      I’m OK w/ gifts flowing up for major life events, and this has these extra advantages:

      • It’s really more hospitality than gift, and it’s focused on her company, not an object w/ monetary value
      • The cost is even for everyone; nobody’s giving a more expensive or less expensive gift
      • It was a suggestion for everyone, and it wasn’t terribly expensive. (It could still have been a hardship for someone, of course.)

  3. Writing Cover Letters*

    Should I reach out to an old coworker who didn’t like me to let her know I applied for a job at her new company?

    OldCompany was merged into NewCompany sometime last year and my job changed. I am now looking for a new job more in line with what I used to do. I just applied for a position at a company that looks pretty interesting and my experience aligns very nicely with what they seek. However, I pass the building frequently on my way to work, and I saw Coworker go into that building the other day. I searched her name on LinkedIn and saw that, indeed, she is now working there (with a promotion! Nice job, Coworker.)

    I always liked Coworker well enough, but I do not think she liked me very much. She always seemed a touch frosty. That is fine by me, it bothers me not whether someone likes me at work, but I now wonder whether I should drop her a line on LinkedIn to let her know that I applied for a job within her company. If HR realizes we worked together, I am sure they would reach out to her. Should I let her know ahead of time as a courtesy? There is always the chance she would encourage HR to not consider my application, but I have no idea if she dislikes me THAT much.

    1. New Window*

      Eh, I wouldn’t do it. It’s kind of like asking for a letter of recommendation, right? You only want to ask the people you’re sure would give you good recommendations. Otherwise, their lukewarm, lackluster, or straight-out negative comments can and will hurt your chances of being accepted to whatever you’re applying for.

      So I see this former coworker the same. If you aren’t 100% sure that she would put in a good word for you, it’s probably not worth the risk.

      Good luck on the job application though!

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      You’re probably way overthinking this and the coworker wasn’t thinking about you at all. Don’t let her know anything – she wasn’t a former manager who would serve as a reference, and she’s not likely in charge of the hiring decision, so reaching out to her would be pointless.

  4. Maple*

    I was here a couple weeks ago, worried about what to do if I was offered a job I really wanted but couldn’t (due to a surprise-ish move for my husband’s work) stay in for more than ~4 months. Here’s an update:

    I got the offer, and I declined it. I even told the hiring manager why. She was very grateful for my honesty and said as much, even saying “it would have been so easy for you to pretend nothing was going on”. I know I did the right thing, and honestly felt a lot of relief when I got off the phone with her.

    Now, how do I stop obsessing over how great (great, great, great, huge step up, and I GOT the offer!) a move it would have been for me? Minus the “other” move… Also, what is with temp agencies wanting your full 9-digit SSN just to sign up?? There are like two in my area that don’t require it…guess I’m going with those two.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      When you sign up with a temp agency, you are on their payroll so they need your SSN to process that/take out taxes/etc. You can probably leave it off the up front application, but when you actually go in and register, they’re going to need a W4 and I9.

      1. Maple*

        That I completely understand. What’s striking me as weird is that many of my local agencies want it even just to register – as in name, email address, SSN, upload resume – and the system won’t accept no answer or an obviously fake (all 5s, all 0s, all consecutive) number. I just don’t see why they need it before I even fill out ANY application.

        1. Jesmlet*

          Maybe it’s to verify that you’re legally authorized to work in the U.S?

          We have one at the end of our application but it’s part of a larger background check.

        2. Marisol*

          My guess is that’s how they track applicants–they open a file on you as soon as you begin the process so they want to label the file properly. But really, if you’re curious you should just ask them.

        3. Larz*

          I’m running into this as well, AND their system gets stuck in a loop where I enter my name and last four of SSN and click ‘continue’–and it comes back to the same page, asking me to enter the last four of my SSN. It’s happening in Chrome and Firefox, too. I’m fairly tech-savvy (I think), and I’d hate for my first contact with them to be reaching out to say, hey, I can’t navigate the first page of your profile creation page! :(

      2. Feeling Anonymous Today*

        When you sign up with a temp agency, they see it as you are being hired by an employer, not registering to work with them. They will need your SSN for payroll purpose and you’ll do the I9 often before you speak with someone. A good agency will let you know if they can’t place you but many will just inactivate your file after so long without a placement.

    2. Audiophile*

      I haven’t recently encountered any staffing agencies that required SSN, just the major employers. It’s generally the last piece I fill out and only if it’s absolutely required.

    3. SophieChotek*

      I am glad you feel relieved and feel like you did the right thing…but I can imagine your frustration at how you had a great offer so close into your grasp but had to decline for other reasons. Here’s hoping good karma will come your way for your move and a new job of equal par!

    4. dr_silverware*

      Glad you parted on such good terms! And maybe, re: the obsession, talk with your husband about making your career a higher priority next time this kind of decision has to be made. Explicitly trading off on that kind of this can be pretty nice!

    5. Future Analyst*

      Glad to hear you turned it down, but man, I totally understand the frustration/obsession. Hang in there!

    6. Gadget Hackwrench*

      At least for me, I’ve found “will furnish on hire” works fairly well on that line.

      1. Maple*

        Tried something similar – it’s an online registration (and only registration, no other information asked besides name, email, and SSN) and won’t accept anything but numerals. Obviously fake inputs get the red asterisk as well. This is at least five agencies in my city! They must all use the same stupid system.

        1. Gadget Hackwrench*

          AUGH. Reasons Paper Forms still have an advantage in today’s society. (and this from the IT ‘guy.’)

  5. Fortitude Jones*

    No question this week, just wanted to say how much I love profit-sharing bonuses! We got ours today, and I was able to pay off one of my student loans and another bill with money left for savings! Woot!

    Now I’m curious to see what kind of raise I get at the end of the month during my performance review.

    1. costume teapot*

      CONGRATS on paying off your loan!!! I paid one off with a retention bonus earlier this year. It is so worth it.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Thanks! I’ve made the decision that this year, all of my education and profit-sharing bonuses going forward are being applied to loans and savings – that’s it. No more trips and no more clothes. I need to get out from under this debt with a quickness so I can move to NYC.

        1. the gold digger*

          Yes! I paid off my student loans about 15 years early. I had only $13,000, but it was nine percent interest and I was not even making $50K a year.

          I paid off my house early, too. (Better bonuses :) I miss those days.) It is such a great feeling not to be in debt.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            My loan debt is absurd given what the degree was in and my current career path. That’s what I get for going to a fancy out-of-state private school I suppose.

            1. blackcat*

              I am still pissed at the college counselor at the school I worked at who regularly encouraged kids to go to fancier schools because “It will be worth it in the end.”

              As a 20-something teacher, with plenty of friends who were up to their eyeballs in student loan debt, I kept trying to tell kids NOOOOOOOOOO. 5k of expected loans per year? Fine. 10k/year? Eh, be careful. 25k/year?!?!?! Nonononono!!!!

              A soon to be graduate former student of mine recently sent me a “I should have listened to you. Ms. College counselor was full of shit when she said I’d find a job making 80k right out of undergrad with a liberal arts degree.” He has a totally reasonable job lined up already, which is great. But he’ll only making $45k, which his university career center said was reasonable for the field. Will it be worth it in the long run? Maybe, but his 20s are gonna suck.

          2. Gaia*

            I feel you, Fortitude Jones. I’m sitting on roughly $84,000 in student loans and I make $60,000 a year. I’ll never pay this crap off.


            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Isn’t that such a depressing thought? There are times where I just look at my other loan balances, then look at my tax returns, and then weep – actually ugly cry. Teenagers should not be allowed to make these kinds of financial decisions. A lot of us don’t know what the hell we’re doing.

              1. Anxa*

                Yeah. I thought that you were supposed to take out the equivalent to a year’s salary.

                There’s the rub, though. You have to actually land that job. And if it takes you 2, 5, 10 years to do that, then…

                Mine were also very modest, but they are still growing, even at a low interest. One year of the same expenses I have now with one entry level job in my field, and it’s all over. But when you’re a teen you don’t necessarily understand how hard it is to get that kind of a job.

                1. Fortitude Jones*

                  There’s the rub, though. You have to actually land that job. And if it takes you 2, 5, 10 years to do that, then…

                  This is what killed me – I graduated in ’09 and didn’t get a real career until 2014. I was able to pay off one other school loan with the meager salary from one of my little temp jobs, but still – if I had gotten into the company I’m currently working for now back in ’09, I would be halfway (or maybe even two-thirds of the way) finished paying these loans off.

                2. Anxa*


                  That’s what’s killing me, too. I thought it was kind of reasonable to expect something like a $23K job out of school within a year, and making 30K after a few years. I knew my field didn’t pay much, but I didn’t think it would be so hard to get a foot in the door.

                  I have watched high school students get recruited for STEM programs making $10/hour doing lab chores, etc. I of course don’t qualify but I practically drool at the prospect of having that kind of opportunity, but when I look for that kind of work it’s either all unpaid or wants more experience (I have <2 years) or I just don't hear back.

                  I also graduated around then (Dec '08)

              2. Elizabeth H.*

                Idk, sometimes I feel like the only person in the world who is not bothered by student loan debt. I think of it like a mortgage, it doesn’t make me feel weighed down or guilty like consumer or credit card debt and I usually struggle to understand why people are so bothered by it – I guess I can imagine it if you regret your education itself. I definitely wouldn’t have changed anything, paying off student loans seems like a normal part of life for me.

                1. Elizabeth H.*

                  That said, the interest rate does absolutely suck and is frustrating. If I had some situation where I had a lump sum payment or roll it into something with a lower interest rate (like if I got married and we could pay this off in favor of a down payment on a house or something, assuming the mortgage rate was still more advantageous) I definitely would.

          3. Adlib*

            I’m always curious how people who paid off their house early did it. My parents did it ages ago and were able to pay cash for their current place. My SIL almost had hers paid off before they moved to TX. My husband & I are in a place where we can start thinking about doing that, but I’m not sure the best way to go about it. Suggestions? (If anyone sees this, that is, since it’s Monday.)

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Thanks! So far, I’ve paid off two – sadly, I have three more to go *sigh*. I could punch myself in the face for how much I took out for a simple bachelors.

        1. Jean*

          I managed to make it through the bachelor’s with any student loans but my master’s degree and another unfinished master’s mean that I probably will never pay my loans off. I’m super mad at myself for taking all those loans out. (I probably will be able to have them forgiven after 10 years through an income-based repayment plan b/c I work for nonprofits or governments, so at least I won’t be paying them back with my social security check.)

          1. Snarky Librarian*

            Be very very certain you are in the correct repayment plan for the Public Student Loan Forgiveness program! I thought I had set up everything properly and took my loan service provider’s word for it that I was in the right repayment plan. Spoiler alert: 8 years into the program I learned that I wasn’t in the specific repayment plan that qualifies for forgiveness and none of the payments I had made counted. So after many years of government service, instead of having the balance of my loans paid off for me in two years, I now get to continue to make payments for many years to come! Learn from my mistakes :)

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              OMG, that’s awful. You should have filed something with your state’s attorney general’s office. Every time Sallie Mae screwed up my account, I’d file something, they’d investigate, and then I’d get my account fixed (the money paid applied correctly) and a credit towards my payment for the inconvenience. These people play too much.

            2. Anxa*

              If it makes you feel better, I’ve got several year of public service but it’s all part-time. Yeah, it means that I don’t have to work as hard, but it also means 8 years of a never ending job searching and never feeling like a real adult (yet having the responsibilities of one).

              I haven’t cracked the FPL since graduation and work for PSLF employers but never have been able to count that work.

            3. Jean*

              That is a really good point. I’m pretty sure I am, but I will follow up with them just in case. I can actually start sending in some of my paperwork that shows my employment and I need to get started on that.

    2. Badmin*

      Congrats!!! At the risk of sounding stupid, what are some industries where that is the norm?

      I have worked mostly in academia and non profit and while I am happy when my friends get awesome bonuses, I think of what I could do/accomplish with that dough! May be something to look for in my next position.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Thank you! I know finance sees this a lot (banks and investment firms), and I’m in insurance/risk management. I’m not sure about other industries and non-profits though.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          You know, I was talking with an investment advisor about paying yourself first in order to learn to live on less and budget better, and he said that his huge investment firm pays a decent salary but then gives generous, regular quarterly bonuses, and he thought that maybe it was to promote better budgeting habits in their employees. It’s a great way to force some extra financial discipline, which for some people might be the difference between being an average saver and spender, and being a diligent saver and smart spender.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Man, I wish we got quarterly bonuses. One of my former coworker’s husbands was applying to an investment position within the financial institution he works in where they give all employees in the department $4k quarterly bonuses. I almost fell out of my seat when she told me that.

      2. Ana Eats Everything*

        This is common in real estate investment, too. :) I work in commercial property management, but my firm also does investment, and everyone in the company (less than 200 people) gets a little bonus when we have a good quarter. Congratulations, FJ!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Thanks! My current division’s niche is in commercial property (more on the residential side, but we also have commercial buildings as well), so should I decide to move out of my current field, I know where I’m going :)

      3. emma*

        My husband gets bonuses in engineering. Admin non-engineers at his firm also get bonuses, but they’re smaller.

      4. Jadelyn*

        Same – I love working at a nonprofit, but man it would be nice to have the occasional bonus available.

      5. Association Person*

        I work in associations, and the last two associations I’ve worked for has had a bonus program, even though both were classified as non-profits.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Thank you, it really does – I’m nowhere near done paying for school, but I feel like I’m making actual progress now. And my company seems to be trying to set me up for success in that regard, so hopefully between this day job and my writing, I can pay all of my loans off within the next five years. That’s the goal anyway.

    3. Bad Candidate*

      Nice. We got our bonus today too. No where near being able to pay off student loans though. :)

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        To be fair, the loan balance was low and some of my income tax money went towards the payoff as well :)

        I never thought I’d be so glad to have so much money taken out of my checks each pay period, lol. My refund was nice.

    4. Bigglesworth*

      Congratulations!!! We’re working on my husband’s student debt and we’ve paid off a little over $10,000 in 2 years on extremely low salaries, but completing those milestones gives a lot of satisfaction.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        That’s amazing if you guys are doing it on low salaries – I was only able to pay off a small one on my temp salary. That $10,000 you paid was what I paid in interest over all of my loans. A mess.

    5. Chaordic One*

      Good for you!

      Back at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. the day before the profit-sharing bonuses were distributed was fraught with fear. It was the day that several people would usually be let go so the company didn’t have to pay them a bonus.

  6. No Funds, No Job*

    I’ll soon be heading into the work force of the USA. My work is fairly flexible that I could pick enter into a variety of different work environments. However, in our current political climate, I keep hearing of funding be cut to various things that make me nervous about applying to those places. Like I know several people studying to be teachers who fear for finding jobs. So are there fields I should be avoiding because they might be in danger? Education, museums, environmental sciences, scientific research, non-profits, etc: what fields should new employees not be jumping into?

    (This is not to start a political debate; it is public knowledge that certain areas are getting funding cut. I just genuinely want to know what’s in danger so that I don’t sign onto a ship that is doomed in the next four years.)

    1. Creag an Tuire*

      It isn’t so much “fields” you should avoid, but perhaps be leery of specific employers which receive a lot of funding through the Feds this year. (And that might be good advice in the first year of any new POTUS, not just this one, as you can expect any one new to bring their own priorities to the budget.)

      1. Claudia M.*

        This. So accurate.

        Coming from 10+ years of State govt. work here. This is so factual, and it bleeds to every level of local govt.

        Also, the comment was very well and neutrally written. Thank you for that, Creag. :)

      2. NPDBJ*


        I worked at a state agency a couple of years ago, and the newly-elected Democratic governor came in and whacked a bunch of non-permanent positions on Jan. 22. A bunch of people I knew had jobs on Friday and not on the following Tuesday.

        1. NPDBJ*

          My point isn’t to blame Democrats, just to point out that Democrats can and do that kind of thing as well.

    2. jm*

      Actually, in my experience with K-12 education, we can’t find enough quality teachers — especially special education, math and science. The district I work in is actually working really hard to find ways to attract teachers (the easiest way would be to pay more, but the starting salary is in the high $30s and probably won’t change much, but we have had success with offering $10K bonuses to attract teachers to hard-to-staff schools or positions).

      1. Creag an Tuire*

        It’s also worth pointing out that even if the Federal Department of Education and all of its funding dissolves tomorrow, that will only impact certain school districts receiving federal support; most districts are funded primarily by local property taxes. So YMMV very much depending on where you live.

        (Although OP also said s/he’s “flexible” so I’m assuming s/he’s not a teacher or otherwise specifically credentialed. OP, if I’m misreading you and you’re asking for advice on what field to study, I’d say not to worry so much about headlines and, with a very few exceptions, to just do what you’ll enjoy and be good at, because 2-3 years are an eternity in both politics and economics.)

        1. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

          Good points! K-12 will not likely be affected for some time by any policy changes. Higher education, however, is always the first thing to be cut when revenue is low, which it currently is in many states because of the increases in tax credits.

      2. zora*

        Look at your district specifically (or the areas you want to live in the future) before you decide on K-12, though. Some areas are desperate for teachers and figuring out how to bring them in, but other areas have a surplus of teachers because everyone wants to live there. Be careful about that.

        1. Audiophile*

          Yes, a few years ago, in my area, there were a ton of subs who couldn’t find FT employment.

          I think the area has improved since then, thankfully. Look at your local school district and schools and see what jobs are available.

        2. dawbs*

          Yes, I work in education and I’ve found that there are districts desperate for teachers…and they tend to be districts that are hard to get people to move into/live in.
          An opening at a ‘good’ school can have literally hundreds of qualified applicants.

      3. Anxa*

        I wish I hadn’t screwed up my college GPA so much. I don’t qualify for teaching programs, but I’m a part-time teacher of sorts and teach/tutor science to community college students. I have no formal education education, but I’ve worked in after school programs and student services and I do like to think it takes some sort of skill to do what I do, and that a lot of it would transfer. My students beg me to apply to be their instructors. K12 sounds like so much more work, but the pay would be soo, soo much better.

        If teaching programs weren’t so hard-line about turning away applicants who struggled with health issues in college I think that would open things up.

        That said, I do know two underemployed math educators desperate to get into K12 with master’s in math and that have had no success breaking out of the tutoring trap.

    3. Grits McGee*

      This is really going to be depend on region, desired income level, subject specialties, etc. Most of the fields and institutions that you mentioned have diverse funding streams (state and local gov grants, private foundations, corporate backers/donors, grassroots support, etc). If you are worried, the most practical approach would be looking at the revenue streams of individual companies- organizations that rely on federal contracts and grants may be more vulnerable, though, again, that’s really dependent on the field and specific projects.

    4. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

      If you’re interested in going the non-profit route, I would be looking to see where their funding is coming from. If it’s coming from the Fed, thats something to consider as their are lots of talks of cutting social service funding. I’m currently in housing and we’re all anxiously watching what’s happening at HUD right now as the trickle down effect could pretty serious.

    5. The Not Mad But Sometimes Irritable Scientist*

      It’s really a lot more granular than that. Like, I’m not worried about my job, which is in the regulatory compliance side of environmental science, but some of my friends in academia are worried about grants. It’s going to depend on the particular job and field, not on entire fields or categories.

      1. Formica Dinette*

        Agreed. And we simply don’t know what some of the impact will be. For example, if the American Health Care Act passes, funding for community health centers will increase. However, fewer people will eligible for health insurance (whether through Medicaid or other avenues). At this point, I’m not sure anyone knows the net effect that will have on jobs at community health centers.

  7. Not so Nervous Accountant*

    I had a lot to say and a lot to ask but right now the most important thing is that

    right now I just want to cry (ok not really Im just tired)

    and sleep

    oh glorious sleep

    I’d say happy Friday but we’re working both days. Only thing getting me through is that we’re ALL in this together and it’ll end in a short bit (39 days to be exact). Just have to remind myself and repeat that “this is normal.”

    the more and more I get through this week and this season, the more I’m determined to push for cash bonuses for all of us.

    Seriously….any advice on how to approach that? Last week I got the sense that I wasn’t being unreasonable in asking for this and I honestly don’t think I am, but now I need to know how to approach it.

    1. Rat in the Sugar*

      I don’t have experience with asking for a bonus, but as a fellow accountant, I just want to say hang in there!! Make sure you’re taking care of yourself at home as much as you can and see if you can get a vacation after the season’s over!

      1. Not so Nervous Accountant*

        Are you a tax accountant too?? I’d love to just vent with other TA about tax season stuff!

        It truly is hard to do self care while working long hours.

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          No, not right now, sorry. :( Right now I’m working as a staff accountant at a company with six of us the in department including the boss, so all tax work goes to my coworker. Now that year end is over things are mercifully calm for me right now.

          I did start my first job working in a tax office, though, so I can definitely commiserate. Their receptionist had a health scare and quit suddenly, so their office manager gave me a frantic call in February (I knew her personally and she knew that I had just graduated). It was an absolute unorganized flustercluck of working nights and weekends, and on April 15th I had to drive downtown speeding the whole way to the one post office that was open at 9pm so I could get everything posted by the deadline. I knew they wanted me to come back to the office but they hadn’t specifically asked and my phone was dead, so I just drove home crying in my car. I literally woke up with nightmares that I had accidentally left an extension request on the scanner and not mailed it. I know how you feel, friend. Hang in there and try to calm yourself in the evening so your sleep is of good quality. Meditation tapes used to help me somewhat, though they didn’t stop the bad dreams. :(

          1. AMT27*

            I had regular nightmares through tax season, and they were always the same – I would be adding tons of receipts on my adding machine, and could never get the total to match…. I would just see streams of numbers in my dreams. All. Night. Long.
            I would wake up exhausted, feeling like I had never even left work.

            1. Not so Nervous Accountant*

              I don’t have nightmares, but I have tax season dreams all the time whether they are related to clients or tax forms (sometimes I’ll see a brand new form in my dream) or just randomly sitting at my desk and talking to coworkers.

    2. AMT27*

      I did three tax seasons in a small CPA firm, and never ever want to do it again… the first year was tremendous fun. The second year was ok. By the third I was fighting tears on the way to work every day. It’s a long, hard slog through tax season, but it will end!!!! I wish you luck on surviving through it – and really hope you can push for those bonuses!

    3. Marisol*

      I am not sure I can be of help, since where I work, raises and bonuses are negotiated every year at the performance review as a matter of course, so broaching the subject out of the blue isn’t something I have experience in. HOWEVER, I will give it a shot.

      First, I’d make an exhaustive list of all the reasons my team deserves a raise, focusing on measurable, concrete facts. I’d study that list and hone it down to talking points. I’d know my argument inside and out. Then I’d say something like, “Boss, it occurred to me that this year the team took on a 40 percent increase in our work load, ten new accounts, and trimmed overhead by twenty five percent, [or whatever your talking points are] and given that, I think we deserve a bonus of five thousand dollars each. What do you think?” I supposed you’d want to anticipate pushback–why might the boss say no, and what are your counterarguments, as part of your preparation. So when you get the first no, you can counter.

      I might be missing something but to my mind it’s really just that simple. Basically, this is a calm, factual discussion, one that is ultimately based on market realities, with the employer weighing the cost of the bonus against the cost of replacing disenchanted employees who quit because they are undercompensated. Both parties know that ultimately, that’s what’s driving the negotiation–what will it talk to prevent good employees from walking? Not that you’re going to threaten anything, but it’s good to keep in mind what’s at stake for both parties. If you feel that not getting a bonus won’t have much impact on whether or not your team decides to stay or leave, then you know you don’t have much leverage.

      So I’d just have some frank, polite straight talk on the subject.

    4. Merci Dee*

      Used to work tax seasons when I first graduated from college, but I (mercifully) decided to focus on audit work. First, because it didn’t require crazy tax season hours. Second, because I had an unexpected knack for it in college, and I’m nosy enough that I love digging through people’s records and trying to find their secrets. :)

      Traveling for audit jobs was great while it lasted and I really loved it. But, now that I’m a single parent, I’m glad I have a more stable office position where I can still use my audit skills.

      What do I work with now? Taxes . . . . (but sales/use taxes, so it’s a totally different environment). And fixed assets. Because sales/use taxes and fixed assets naturally go together, right?

      1. nonegiven*

        idk, My niece is assurance staff for one of the big 4 and is super stressed with long hours sometimes. That doesn’t even count defending the audit in front of the SEC.

    5. Pixel*

      Canadian accountant here – hang in there!
      Self-care, pace yourself, and don’t forget to step outside once or twice a day just to look at that shiny thing in the sky and the green things that seem to pop all around! What helps me a lot is planning my post-tax-season mini getaway and the summer jaunt to a major US city I’ve been aching to visit for a while.

      Chin up, cheer up. It will be over before you know it.

    1. Pineapple Incident*


      There are some truly awful ideas in there about how to get people to respond to your application.

    2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      You can contact the employer up to three times in two weeks! “Can I have the job now?” “How about now?” I’m sure employers just love that!

      1. Collie*

        That was especially striking to me. I sat here with my mouth agape for a good ten seconds.

      2. Huddled over tea*

        As an internal recruiter, if I got three follow-up messages in two weeks for every candidate awaiting a reply, I’d have literally a thousand emails a week.

        Sometimes I want to tell candidates I just filter CVs and guide hiring managers through the process, I don’t actually have any control over the timeline so please, for the love of god, don’t chase me about your application.

    3. AMT*

      Following up beyond a thank-you note is madness. What employer decides to offer someone a job, but doesn’t contact them? “Oh, thanks for calling! We wanted to hire you, so we decided the best way to make an offer was to ghost you.”

    4. Collie*

      I appreciate that, at the end of the article, we were treated to this line:

      Waites ultimately wasn’t offered the job. However, the hiring manager did send him a thoughtful email outlining exactly why they thought he wasn’t the best fit.

      No, really? /s

      I suspect the hiring manager just felt especially bad for this person and provided feedback based on that alone. Maybe not, but…

    5. Chaordic One*

      I suppose this will happen until such time as companies find that they’ve wasted a lot of their own time because the people they’ve interviewed have gone on to take jobs elsewhere while they were dinking around for whatever reason.

  8. hermit crab*

    Ugh, it’s annual performance review season and there is so much internal politicking.

    To make matters worse, this year we have to give ourselves numerical scores on our self-evaluations. (Previously, we just wrote narrative/bullet-point self-evals; it’s an annoying task but I’m OK with it because we all do project-based work for multiple project managers, and the self-eval is meant to help your staff manager understand what you achieved this year.) This year the narrative parts of the self-eval are being emphasized less in favor of the numerical ratings. HR says that the self-ratings are just “discussion points” for you and your staff manager, but yeah right. The electronic review system shows your self-ratings and your manager’s ratings of you right next to each other when the reviews go to upper management, who then decide on raises/promotions.

    Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about gender equity in my industry and how to present myself in a less stereotypically female way as I try to get myself a raise. It is SO hard. Where I work (which is way better than many companies in a lot of ways!) we already have a gender wage gap issue and a lack-of-women-in-senior-leadership issue and I feel like this self-scoring thing is NOT a step in the right direction.

    1. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Writing annual performance reviews (as an employee and a manager) is really draining. For the self-scoring, don’t sell yourself short (women often do) and have examples to back it up, specifically not just what you did but the impact of what you did (saved $$, improved customer response time, etc.) Good luck!

    2. krysb*

      I just did my peer review and my self-review yesterday. For the peer review, I feel like I need to take notes throughout to the year so I can give examples of good/bad behavior. For my self-review, I felt gross rating myself high, but I know my work is of a high caliber, so there was definitely an internal struggle between reality and humility.

    3. Larz*

      Ugh. I run into some uncertainty about self evals too, but for weirder reasons. My boss is kind of childish in that she is desperate for my approval (??), even going so far as to report to me what she did and say “Tell me I did good!” (For some context, she’s full-time and has been in the biz for 30+ years, I’m part-time, 10 years experience, been at this job for 3 years, so I find it just inexplicable that she’s coming to ME for praise.) Where it gets complicated is that, should I ever mull over some area where I could improve, she will step all over herself to agree with me, like, “Oh yeah, you’re really terrible at [thing I considered getting additional training in]!” So my self-evals have to be basically “I am good at everything, no problems here” or else I risk her deciding I’m permanently weak in some area.

      The worst part is, the evals don’t even have any impact on our jobs. Literally no one gets raises or bonuses. Everyone gets paid the same regardless of qualifications or quality of work, and if the company decides we get a raise, we all get it. The evals are essentially worthless.

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      My company is doing away with written reviews altogether (we also had to score ourselves numerically) and are moving to bi-monthly check-ins to discuss performance. I’m grateful I know longer have to try to write glowing things about myself and grade my own work (I’m much harder on myself than my managers ever are), but I’m skeptical that our raises will be in line with our performance without the rating system in place. They had a pilot program for this last year with a handful of divisions, and HR claims they were able to make it work successfully, but we’ll see.

      1. Bibliovore*

        Writing my self appraisal today. The thing is…
        Admin is seriously reluctant to award anything except meets expectations.
        Supervisor has noted that even if you are exceeding expectations in some areas of your position that one would need to “exceed expectations” in over 80% of their job description with bullet pointed evidentiary support to even be considered.
        My job description is three pages. My supervisor insists that the self eval not exceed two pages.
        According to the supervisor, the high bar for “exceeds expectations” is due to that we have high expectations for our work and therefore no one should think of “meets expectations” as a C. Every year I argue my rating and receive a higher one. I sense my supervisor’s exasperation.

        Yet I do.
        On one hand the merit raise differential will be about .5 of salary. The usual for meets is 2. or 2.5.
        On the other hand, I am already highly compensated in comparison with my peers. (our salaries are public, I am third highest paid in my rank)
        On the other hand when I achieve tenure (most likely in June) I will receive a significant raise.
        On the other hand, I am only 10 years from retirement and know that every increase, increases the next percentage.

        I am ambivalent. Do I stay true to form fighting for every dime? And it is a pool so that every dime I get means someone else will be denied. (In past positions,I have agreed not to accept an increase so as to save another position or give an increase for parity. I am not in the position to do so today)

        Will I ever not tie my self worth etc to a performance rating? (In my previous position at another institution my rating was always the equivalent of she is a “rockstar”, there is no rating high enough)

        If you were me would you spend the time on the performance eval?
        Would you fight for every dime?
        Would you let it go this year?

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          I am not in the position to do so today.

          This is key – you’re not in the position not to advocate for yourself this time around. Don’t feel guilty; go get that money! I never really spent a lot of time on my performance evaluations (this company is the first one where I’ve had to do them, and the first year, my manager ended up rewriting mine to make me sound a million times better than I actually am), and if you think you can get away with a copy and paste job like what many of my colleagues do, you might want to try that if it ultimately makes no difference anyway.

    5. Ann O.*

      This is everything that’s wrong with performance reviews. They are the worst, and they definitely disadvantage people with humbler personalities.

      Also, there are never rubrics. When I reported for the same job to the (wonderful amazing) manager who hired me, I underranked myself compared to where she put me. When I used her criteria while reporting to my current manager (who I do not work as well with), I overranked myself. This was not simply because I don’t work as well with my current manager because my end review was apparently quite high, although I didn’t fully understand that either.

      I am perhaps naive or overly demanding, but I feel a good manager should be generally aware of what/how their reports are doing and self-evaluations should only be needed if a report is pursuing a raise or arguing for a higher evaluation.

      1. hermit crab*

        I think narrative self-evals, e.g., a page or two of “year in review” bullet points, can be fine. (In my case, my staff manager is actually located 500+ miles away and we only work together on a few small things, so there’s bound to be stuff she doesn’t know about my performance even with regular check-ins.) But the number thing kinda pisses me off. It’s just so unnecessary and everyone is stressing out about it.

  9. I'm working with someone who despises me*

    I’m hoping the AAM commentariat can help with this one. I’m in a huge mess. (I apologize for the length.)

    I’ve been with my current company for eight months, and up until recently everything was great. But right around Christmas, one of my colleagues (Cersei) stopped speaking to me except when she absolutely had to, and eventually (a few weeks ago) stopped talking to me altogether. Cersei and I are equal in the org chart and report to the same person (Wakeen, the owner of the company), but have completely different duties.

    I honestly have no idea why she stopped speaking to me, because she never told me there was a problem. She got chillier and chillier and according to Wakeen, it’s because there’s a “personality conflict” and she feels threatened by me. But Cersei has never told me directly what her problem is, even when I’ve explicitly asked for feedback, which I’ve done on at least two occasions.

    Since she flat-out refused to talk when I asked most recently, I had no choice but to go to Wakeen and ask him for advice. His “solution” was for me to just completely avoid her (go through him for anything work related and completely ignore her the rest of the time).

    This does not sit well with me. Obviously, Alison’s advice to Wakeen would be to tell my coworker that she needs to get along with me and be reasonably courteous. Unfortunately, since he’s not willing to do that, my options are pretty limited. The job is otherwise great, but I can’t thrive in an environment like this.

    So I’ve started looking for a new job but that’s not so easy around here (took me about six months to find this one). My questions for the wise readers:

    1) How do I explain why I’m looking to leave after only eight months? I’m trying to figure out how to explain that it’s a cultural mismatch, which ultimately it is, but I feel like eight months is a long time to stay somewhere only to figure that out now. But I don’t want to go into the drama.

    2) How do I deal with Cersei until I can find a new job???? Not only is this killing my morale to the point where my productivity is suffering, it’s so nasty to have someone around who openly hates me so much that my self esteem is taking a hit too. Even though this is pretty obviously Cersei’s issue, it feels intensely personal and it’s hard not to take it as such.

    I’m a faithful reader of AAM and everything in me wants to address this with her directly, but I’ve been explicitly told not to do that and of course I don’t want to get fired before I have something else lined up.

    Any advice?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Is her silent treatment making it more difficult to do your job, or is it just annoying you? If it’s impacting your job in any way, you need to bring that to Wakeen.

      Otherwise, deal with her by being excessively polite and friendly. It’ll drive her crazy and give you strange satisfaction.

      1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        Our work doesn’t overlap a ton but it overlaps enough to make this hugely inconvenient, yes. I personally find Wakeen’s solution that I just ignore her and go through him for work related stuff to be very unworkable. But that’s his call to make.

        Trust me, I’ve given the “kill her with kindness” thing a solid try. Doesn’t work. She wouldn’t make eye contact with me or acknowledge me in any way, even if I was only saying good morning. Now that I’m being explicitly told to outright ignore her, the silence between us is beyond chilly. It’s hostile and extremely distracting. You could cut the tension with a knife and it’s starting to make me physically ill.

        1. Natalie*

          If it helps, don’t think of “killing her with kindness” as a way to somehow change her mind. You’re not going to, so let that go as much as you possibly can. Be extra cheerful and friendly at work for your benefit, not hers.

          1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

            Wakeen has asked me not to talk to her at all. Not even to say hello.

            Just to underscore how much he means that – we have two bathrooms in our office. One is in the hallway (the guy’s bathroom) and the other is in Cersei’s office. Wakeen told me to start using the guy’s bathroom so as to give Cersei as much space as possible.

            1. Emi.*

              What? Wakeen is way, way off his nut. You realize that, right? It’s not just a cultural mismatch, because “totally unreasonable and refuses to manage” is a character flaw, not a culture.

              1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

                Yup, that’s becoming increasingly obvious and that’s why I’m looking to leave rather than stay and try to make this work :-)

                I understand why “try to make it work” sounds reasonable from the outside but it’s really gone beyond that now. I have to look out for my own well being here because it’s very clear that Wakeen isn’t interested in managing.

                (He’s a really nice guy and I like working for him very much. Prior to this, I’d have called him the best manager I’ve ever had. He is very open to new ideas and feedback. But he doesn’t like conflict. And avoiding conflict is, unfortunately, pretty much a management dealbreaker for me.)

                1. Pixel*

                  Ouch. I feel for you so, so much. I have gone through something somewhat similar, although not at the same level of nastiness. Just frostiness, sniggering, cliquishness, exclusion (in general and one particular scathing incident of all the female staff at the office organising a going-away party to a co-worker, to which I was not invited). Still, it wasn’t close to the silent treatment you are getting. This is horrible, Wakeen the Non-Confrontational sounds like a terrible manager, and I hope you’ll find your way out of there sooner rather than later.

            2. LKW*

              That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard in a while. I think it’s time to have a come to jeebus talk with Wakeen. If he, the owner, thinks this is acceptable behavior, then what else is he avoiding?

              I think you need to leave and tell Wakeen your decision wasn’t because Cersei is an immature ass (because she is) but rather that his leadership was lacking to resolve the issue above board.

              1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

                That’s exactly what I intend to tell him. But I need a new job first. I’m not in a position where I can afford to be unemployed right now.

            3. Parenthetically*

              That is completely ridiculous. You should not have to use the men’s room to avoid a prickly, touchy, rude person voluntarily — much less at the instruction of a supervisor!! Who is above Wakeen? This is a HUGE, HUGE failure of management on Wakeen’s part. “Getting along with colleagues” and “being polite and cordial” and “not giving colleagues the silent treatment” are like 101-level requirements for every job. The fact that he’s refusing to coach her on this stuff, while actively shifting the burden of dealing with her to you is completely beyond the pale.

              1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

                No one. Wakeen owns the company. That’s why this has turned into a “leave over it” issue for me.

              2. Jadelyn*

                We actually let someone go once because she refused to interact cordially with a coworker she disliked. There was literally copies of emails and write-ups in her file that were about her manager saying “I need for you to just say “good morning” and “good night” when you pass each other in the halls coming and going,” and this employee refusing to do even that. So she got fired. Which is what should be happening with Cersei.

                1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

                  Uh yeah. Honestly, if I managed Cersei and she was pulling this on someone else, she’d likely have been let go by now. After reading most of AAM archives, I actually feel quite confident that I would know what to do and be willing to do it. Especially since I now know how it feels to endure it firsthand.

                2. LQ*

                  (I’ll admit that if someone wanted to fire me over not saying hello and good night and hi in the halls to someone I’d be furiously mad. I interact with hundreds of people a day. I’d spend more time saying Hi Bye Hi Bye Hi Bye to people than doing my job. I do what I can to be pleasant and I’ve managed to trick people into thinking I’m not the least personable person around. But there are people I really like that I don’t stop and say Hi Bye to every time in the hall because that would take my whole day! Not everyone should have to Hi Bye every time they pass someone. Also I have an image of me wandering up and down the halls saying good morning to everyone and Hi to everyone and then getting to my desk doing 2 things and starting the good by rounds.

                  I totally think that not being cordial is a fireable offense, especially when that means won’t do work stuff, and I assume that the HiBye was a tiny tiny piece of it. Cersei is definitely in the she’s refusing to do her job part of cordiality, which is where it really matters as work.)

                3. Jadelyn*

                  @LQ – oh it was definitely a lot more than just the refusing to greet her thing. The greeting part was just the “you won’t even agree to conduct yourself with the bare minimum of polite interaction with this person” icing on the “we’re going to have to fire you if you can’t grow up and resolve your work disagreements like a functioning adult” cake.

                  More specifically, the greeting issue was that this employee would happily greet everyone else she saw, then pointedly ignore the hated coworker even if the coworker said “hi” to her first. Like, if she passed a half dozen people all coming in together and her nemesis was in that group, she would say “Hi Mallory! Hi Lana! Hi Pam! Hi Krieger! Hi Cheryl!” and then pointedly not say hi to the one coworker. That sort of passive-aggressive rudeness thing.

              3. Observer*

                “Getting along with colleagues” and “being polite and cordial” and “not giving colleagues the silent treatment” are like 101-level requirements for every job.

                This is the kind of thing meant by “Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten.”

                This is is SO crazy that I wonder if there is not something else going on that Wakeen doesn’t want to share. Maybe a misguided “accommodation”?

            4. EddieSherbert*

              Wait, What?! Please tell me these are unisex bathrooms.. He’s not telling you to use the other gender’s bathroom, right?! What if someone else is in there and the other bathroom is empty? Can you use the other one or do you have to wait?

              That’s SUPER weird.

              1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

                Oh yeah, they’re unisex. I should have mentioned that. We actually work in a house, not a traditional office. But still. The guy’s bathroom tends to be kinda gross and I feel like I’m being punished for Cersei’s inability to control her emotions, whereas she gets rewarded for same by having her own private bathroom. Might be petty but that’s how it feels.

                We’re in the process of getting a new bathroom, so at least this piece won’t last much longer.

            5. Jadelyn*

              I really, really, really hope we’re talking about single-occupancy restrooms here. I mean, either way it’s beyond absurd, but this is creeping me right out and the only thing making it slightly less heinous of an abdication of his responsibilities is the possibility that it’s a single-occupancy room that you wouldn’t actually have to be *sharing with* men at the same time.

              1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

                Yeah, it’s single occupancy (we work in a house). Still, the guy’s bathroom tends to be a little gross. Nothing I couldn’t handle if there were a legitimate reason, but it pisses me off to avoid the nicer restroom because of THIS.

            6. Natalie*

              Whoa, what?

              Okay, since you’re not super concerned about salvaging this job long term, what if you push back with Wakeen and just refuse to go along with his dumb ideas?
              “I’m afraid it’s completely untenable for me to use the men’s restroom and never speak directly to the finance department. Let me know when you’ve come up with a workable plan.” and then just keep speaking in her presence. (the nerve!)

              I mean, at this point Wakeen seems pretty spineless so it’s not likely he’d fire you. And you could collect unemployment in that case at least.

              1. Parenthetically*

                Yeah, this is pretty gutsy but I think since she’s planning to leave anyway, maybe this is the way to go. Plus refusing to walk on eggshells around a prickly, irritable, rude person is kind of a fun game.

            7. Katie the Fed*

              Wakeen couldn’t manage his way out of a paper bag. What a ridiculous way to handle this. Good luck getting out.

            8. Marisol*

              Tell him no. You’re a woman and you’re going to use the woman’s bathroom. He’s the boss but that doesn’t mean you can’t push back on unreasonable policy.

          2. Emi.*

            Yes! You’re not acting cheerful because it will make *her* cheerful; you’re acting cheerful is better for *you*.

            1. dawbs*

              yes, Brilliant. cheerfully oblivious.

              I totally should not admit this, but, I was a CSR at a AWFUL company that was in the midst of bankruptcy once upon a time.
              A lot of our customers hated us–and a lot of them had very good reason to hate us–they were paying for a service we kept screwing up.
              I was always polite and professional. BUt when people were awful/rude/swearing and screaming at me, I took a small amount of fierce glee in being infuriatingly cheerfully oblivious with them.
              Saccharine sweet and over the top cheerful.
              It INCENSED them. And I was quite OK w/ that.

              It can be a game. “Hi nancy” *no answer* *put tally mark on white board*
              “Bye Nancy” *no answer* *2nd tallmark on white board*

              (Once upon a time, when I was a small child, someone wise in my life realized I was shaping up to be a vindictive kid, and, instead of telling me to turn the other cheek because it was what I ought to do, they made me learn Proverbs 25:21-22 ” If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.”

              The image of coals of fire was way more enjoyable as a kid than turning the other cheek.
              Maybe harness the subtle rage of the inner 7th grader :))

          3. The Cosmic Avenger*

            It’s also a good way to demonstrate to bystanders that this is totally her issue. It keeps the focus on her as being unreasonable and the source of the issue.

            1. Bangs Not Fringe*

              I totally agree. I would think that from another coworker’s or client’s perspective ignoring her back only reflects poorly on you. They wont have the insight you’re doing as directed.

              Continuing to be positive and professional seems like the best bet to protect your own image.

      2. SophieChotek*

        Plus it sounds like Waken knows about it and his solution (which sounds like he is conflict-avoidant) is to go through him. If you can continue to be polite, etc., and since this really is all on Cersei, perhaps as this continues he’ll realize he needs to manage and get Cersei to work this out/stop impacting your job (and his time.) In an ideal world, you shouldn’t have to consider leaving a job you hitherto liked, simply because for mysterious reasons Cersei has taken a dislike to you.

      3. Natalie*

        That’s what I was going to suggest – I would talk to Cersei the way I talk to my dog, where I fill in his part of the conversation in an exaggerated tone of voice. Probably don’t ask her if she’s the best puppy in the world, though.

        1. On Fire*

          LOL. I can just see it:
          “Who’s a good Cersei? Who’s a good Cersei?

          Not you, @!#$%^&*()_+”

      4. MuseumChick*

        Yes this. When it effect the work, your boss and say something like, “I’m working on project X but, as we’ve talked about, Cersei is refusing to speak to me, this is holding up the project. How would you like me to handle this?”

        Once it because a big enough of a pain for him, he might do something.

    2. Anonymouse 1*

      I am by no means an expert, but if you like the work and the manager knows what is going on and this is the only issue that you are having in this workplace, I don’t know that you should leave it. Just because one co-worker has decided that they want to employ childish tactics, doesn’t mean you need to leave the position.

      1. k*

        I think the bigger problem is that the manager knows…and is doing nothing about it. A big part of a manager’s job is to, well, MANAGE people. If he can’t do that it would make me skeptical of the workplace and how a larger issue in the future might be handled. I’d be tempted to jump ship as well.

        1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

          Exactly. I see this situation as Alison’s classic “your manager sucks and isn’t going to change.” Wakeen is a nice guy and I like him, but he runs the company and if this is how he manages conflict, then I don’t belong here. I need to be somewhere that requires people to behave with a basic level of respect and civility, even if they don’t like someone. Apparently that’s not a given!

          I would never, ever treat a co-worker I disliked the way Cersei treats me. Never. It wouldn’t even occur to me. I feel really blindsided by this. I fully understand that it’s her issue, I’m not interested in changing her – but I’m also not interested in teaching her (or Wakeen) that it’s okay to treat me this way.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I’d be vaguely tempted to try to make it so she can’t ignore me. Literally stand over her desk or hover right behind her, saying her name. “Cersei, I need XYZ. *pause* Cersei, did you hear me? I need XYZ? *pause* Cersei, when can you get XYZ to me? *pause* Cersei? *pause* Cersei? *pause* Cersei? *pause* Cersei!” and just keep on like that. Really test her commitment to this whole “I’m a sulking 12-year-old who can’t resolve my problems like an adult” performance.

                1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

                  Personally, I was picturing the “Lois? Lois? Lois? LOIS?! MOM! MOMMY! MAMA” moment from Family Guy :-)

                2. Parenthetically*

                  Hahaha, I do the “Lois? Lois? Mom? Mom?” thing with my students when they say “Mrs. Parenthetically! Mrs. Parenthetically!” over and over.

          2. Jean*

            I have been treated by a co-worker this way. Fortunately she did not need to interact with me but she never said a single word to me and looked right past me in the halls after I asked if we could keep down the non-business chatter on the group chat. I didn’t even call her out by name – I just made a general comment!

            1. I had this happen*

              I had 2 receptionists do it to me (they worked on alternate days – the place was open 7 days a week). It was an awkward situation because I was not technically their supervisor but the supervisor was off site. And they were both watching bootleg movies on the company computer over the Internet all day. And sharing the website with other locations. I told them that watching bootleg movies at work was not acceptable & they needed to stop. They continued so I told them I would report it to supervisor if they were watching bootleg movies again. They continued watching the movies (without headphones or even attempting to minimize the screen to try & hide it from me – even when they had customers in the waiting room). So, I reported it to supervisor.

              As a result of me reporting them for watching bootleg movies (after warning them to stop), they both stopped talking to me unless it was absolutely necessary for their job in December & one started talking to me again in March or April, after the company transferred her to another (local) location – based on the company’s choice, not hers. The other ended up getting replaced at the end of July when the company we were working for had their contract end & the rest of us continued doing the same jobs for the company who had hired the contractor originally since they brought us in-house but made everyone go through interviews. I was so happy to find out she was not offered a position. (And they made me the official supervisor of receptionists at my location so it was much easier going forward.)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Since the manager is the owner and the only other person working there AND the situation is making her ill, it’s time to move on.

      3. TootsNYC*

        “Just because one co-worker has decided”

        This is a small company–small enough that they can use a house for their office.

        And they’re in the same room, I’m thinking. This is a huge part of our OP’s day.

    3. costume teapot*

      For #2, I really really encourage you to look at this as, “Sounds like a personal problem.” It’s all Cersei, and none of you. Sometimes, I have managed to find pretty extreme joy in treating someone who is cold shouldering you with just the nicest, sweetest, honey suckle treatment ever…so everyone else around you sees that you’re being nothing but reasonable, and she has a problem.

      I mean, this takes a certain amount of schaudenfrede to enjoy and pull off…but do at least keep in mind that she may not be taking it up with you because she realizes it’s all HER and none of YOUR fault.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      How much do your roles intersect? If you’re the Teapot Production Manager and she is the Teapot Sales Manager, I imagine it would be difficult for you to completely avoid each other for business purposes. But if you’re the Teapot Production Manager and she is the Coffee Bean Manager and you can conceivably do your work without needing to communicate with her, then it’s probably best to take Wakeen’s advice and ignore her and take any necessary business matters through him.

      1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        She’s in charge of finance/ accounting and I’m in charge of project management. So while there isn’t a ton of intersection, there’s enough to make this extremely difficult. If I need a simple project report that she could pull in 30 seconds, it takes three hours because I have to go through Wakeen.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Just remember this isn’t your problem. You are doing everything you can to keep things running smoothly, it’s Cersei who is causing the three-hour hold ups. If you boss ever asks why a project is taking so long, or something isn’t done just be honest, “I asked Cersei for that report but haven’t heard anything back yet.”

          1. LQ*

            This is really important. Remember that those three hours are Wakeen deciding that that’s how he wants to spend your time. (I desperately hope you’re hourly but I guess I’d be a little surprised at this point.) Do what you can to …kind of make it difficult for Wakeen. Every time something comes up ask. Don’t find work arounds and short cuts. Push these things to him. He asked you to, so do. Yes, it would take her 30 seconds, but push that to Wakeen. Push those things to him over and over and over. (And pleasantly.)

            1. tigerStripes*

              Yeah. Take him at his word – deal with him instead of her. He may get to the point where he tells her she has to behave like an adult if this gets too annoying.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Is it just talking to you face to face that she refuses? Could you email her those requests or use an instant message service?

          1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

            I’ve gotten better results with email so yes, I try to stick with that.

            My most recent MO has been to email both Wakeen and Cersei when I need something, as if I were asking both of them. It seems to work okay. And that’s manageable for now.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Tell him you want her work on a shared spaces so that it does not take you three hours to find out a very simple answer.
          Also tell him that the men’s room has to be kept cleaner now that you are using it. Let him know that you have never been told to use the men’s room before.

          Find ways to take back your power.

    5. NaoNao*

      Wow, that’s hard.
      For 1)
      Focus on the “mismatch” lightly–say something like “we had some things shift around culturally and it became a mismatch for me. And I’m excited to move on to…[something to do with new company]”. They may not ask, if you have a solid history of long term jobs. Everyone has one or two jobs on their resume that are short lived.
      2) Remind yourself that work is not social. If she wants to be super cold, fine. From now on it’s a crime scene and “just the facts.” Of course it hurts when you’re a decent person and someone doesn’t like you for no good reason. But you can’t change that. You can only change yourself.
      Starting today, drill into work and focus on work when you’re there. On lunch, if you can, leave the building, and get some fresh air and sunshine. Focus on development at work if it’s slow (classes, articles, organizing stuff)
      I’ve had coworkers I *detested* and it was just because we didn’t mesh. I just kept it professional but brisk.

      Also, as a possible reality check, unless she’s openly doing stuff (calling you names, not answering emails, walking away from you while you’re asking her work stuff, playing cruel pranks on you, sabotaging your work, and so on) is her dislike of you really affecting your work? If it is, document and bring to Wakeen. “I emailed Cerisi with a critical work question last week and she hasn’t answered. When I approached her in the hall, she walked away from me. How would you like me to handle this?” If not…I’d say just ignore it as much as you can.

      1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        I have no need or desire to socialize with my colleagues. It’s not about that at all. It’s just that it’s eating at me constantly trying to work next to someone who so intently hates me and I don’t even know why.

        Like I said, in a bigger company where our roles didn’t overlap, this wouldn’t be an issue. In our teeny company where there are only five of us, everyone’s energy levels matter a lot. I’ve never encountered anything like this before, and she wasn’t like this when I started. Colleagues I didn’t particularly like, sure, but never ones who acted like a petulant five year old giving the silent treatment.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I know first hand how another person’s contempt for me can wear me right down. I understand, in my own way, what you are saying here.

          Try to picture yourself as wearing a mirror. Her hate comes beaming at you and the mirror reflects it right back to her, leaving little to no impact on you.

          OTH, you could find ways to inject more positive things in your life/day. This could be by finding funny stories to read, or watching your down time for opportunities to make positive things happen in your week. It’s a good life habit anyway, because crap just automatically happens to us and the good stuff seems to take planning and forethought.

          I hope you find something quickly.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I like the idea of some positive self-care, mentally and emotionally.

            I also wonder if you could find a cognitive behavioral therapist (CBT) and see if there are some mental exercises they could teach you that would help you buffer yourself, emotionally and mentally. I found that to be really helpful!

    6. Lady By The Lake*

      It sounds like Wakeen is fully aware that the problem is Cersei. I don’t know why you would have to leave over this. I was in a similar situation a number of years ago and the problem was that my Wakeen and Cersei were friends. Now THAT was an untenable situation!

      1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        Very similar here. Wakeen refuses to use his authority to make Cersei behave like a decent person to me. She’s been with him for 5 years and I’m the newcomer. It’s pretty obvious that his priority is keeping her happy, not having a functional business.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          In that case, I don’t think leaving is such a bad idea. If Wakeen refuses to manage this situation now, he’s not going to change in the future.

          The only thing I know to recommend until you can leave is do what you can and let the rest go. It doesn’t really matter why Cersei is choosing to act in this ridiculous fashion; you know it’s not you. She’s behaving like an ass.

    7. I'm working with someone who despises me*

      Additional context: this is a SMALL office, just us and Wakeen and two other managers. If it were a 200 person company, that would be different. But it’s such a small environment (her office and mine share a wall) that any conflict is VERY noticeable and has a huge impact on everyone.

      I also think there’s a gender component to this. We work in a very male dominated field; Cersei and I are the only women in management roles and prior to me she was the only one.

      I’m not completely sure but nothing else seems to make sense. I was actually hired in a support type role but promoted to her level after three months. I think she resents me for encroaching on her “territory” even though, as I said, we have really different roles. Not different enough to easily avoid interaction, though.

      1. brightstar*

        I would use this as a reason for seeking work so quickly. That there is little room for promotion and the small business isn’t a fit for you.

    8. Sabrina the Teenage Witch*

      I’m currently dealing with this situation except that the Cersei here is my superior, but I don’t report to her. My boss has been aware of the situation from the beginning and her suggestion was that I be overly nice/sweet to Cersei to make her attitude extremely obvious to those around the office. I avoid conflict/confrontation like the plague, so it has been a stressful 9 months.

      1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        I’m sorry you’re dealing with that! I really, really don’t understand why a manager would ask someone to tolerate that kind of behavior rather than telling the person with the problem to, you know, act like a freaking adult!

        1. Sabrina the Teenage Witch*

          My manager is great, but our HR department is not. My coworker is also disparaging us all over the place and while it’s hard to do sometimes, I refuse to stoop to her level.

        2. another anon for this*

          In my experience, small business owners are often afraid of their accounting/finance heads. For a variety of reasons. The business owner may have no knowledge of the details of this function, or the small business owner is doing something shady that this person knows about, or whatever. But I have seen small business owners give huge amounts of deference to finance/accounting heads. I am dealing with that now and am considering looking for another job because I am so stressed over what’s happening. I really feel for you and wondered if I had written this post.

    9. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      My advice would be to follow Wakeen’s direction and run. Everything. Through. Him.

      Absolutely. Everything.

      My expectation is that dealing with this for a few weeks will make him step up and manage.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Yep, this. And emphasize how much of a drag on your productivity this is.

        9am: Wakeen, I need yesterday’s TPS numbers from Jane.
        9:30am: Wakeen, have you had a chance to get the TPS numbers from Jane? I really need it them by 10 in order to finish this report.
        9:59am: Wakeen, my numbers? Yes, I know you’re busy. I’m trying to be busy, too. If Jane would talk to me directly instead of pretending I don’t exist, I wouldn’t have to bother you.

    10. I'm working with someone who despises me*

      Honestly, I’ve made up my mind to leave. There would have to be a complete and total turnaround from Wakeen to keep me here at this point. This place has become poisoned for me which truly sucks because I love the work and I was really excited about this opportunity.

      So given that I’m leaving, how do I present this in interviews when I’m asked why I’m leaving after only eight months without delving into all this drama?

      1. Jadelyn*

        You could go with “the job turned out not to be what it was presented as”, which is true – it was presented as a good opportunity at a sane company and has suddenly turned into middle-school drama with a manager that refuses to do anything about it.

        1. On Fire*

          I think this is your best bet. I left a job after 3 days, IIRC, because they lied about the contract. It became a “not what it was presented as” on the rare occasions it came up.

          If anyone presses for details, you might be able to say that you discovered the job did not have potential for growth, but I would be careful in phrasing that so that it doesn’t sound like “They wouldn’t give me the corner office on my first day.”

      2. zora*

        Focus on what is different about the place you are applying, in a positive way, rather than dwelling too much on what’s wrong with your current job. It could be different for each place you apply, so don’t worry about it too much now. But definitely think about it, write it out and practice it before each interview.

        So, something like, “My current company is very small, and I am looking for somewhere with more challenging opportunities and room for growth. That’s why I am excited about XYZ about NewCompany.”

        1. Natalie*

          While this is really good advice generally, I think the OP is concerned about the fact that she has only been at her current place for 8 months. She likely does need to specifically address why she’s looking to move on after such a short time.

          1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

            Yeah, I need this on my resume. Otherwise I’ll have a huge gap, plus I’ve accomplished work here in actually proud of and I deserve to have it on my resume. I was hoping to stay for at least three years. But I’ll be lucky if I last this full first one.

      3. JustaTech*

        If an interviewer asks why you’re leaving how about some thing like “After I started there was a major shift in the company culture. I’m very excited about [position] because I’ve read so much about the consistency of culture here at [company].”
        Completely factual (something did change, Cersi) and lets you segue back to how awesome the new place is. I guess if they press you could say that you tried your best to adapt to the new culture but it was so different from when you started you weren’t able to make it fit (although this might sound like you’re inflexible, so maybe not).

    11. Spelliste*

      You don’t also happen to share a birthday with Cersei, do you? If so, you might be my very dear friend, who’s in this very situation. If not, someone else wonderful shares your pain detail for detail, and regardless, I’m sending maximum good wishes your way.

      What a frustrating, exhausting thing to have to deal with. :(

      1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        Thanks. Frustrating and exhausting are the right words for sure. Not to mention demoralizing and a major kick in the teeth knowing I have to leave an otherwise great job.

        Nope, we don’t share a birthday. I hope your friend’s situation improves soon.

    12. DoYouSmellThat*

      I might be the voice of dissent here, but I don’t think Cersei owes you an explanation for not liking you. Since you don’t have any direct overlap in duties, and it doesn’t sound like you NEED to speak to get your jobs done, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Wakeen leaving it at that. Cersei may be following the old adage of “if you don’t have something nice to say.” I don’t enjoy being disliked either, but I would be REALLY uncomfortable if a coworker I didn’t like was repeatedly asking me why, going to our boss about it, etc.

      I think you’ve done your due diligence in trying to resolve any simple misunderstandings that could’ve been the root cause, OP. I don’t think there’s much else you can do. I wouldn’t look for a new job over it, myself, so long as she isn’t doing anything outwardly hostile toward you.

      1. Natalie*

        Do you really think the Silent Treatment is acceptable, especially in a small office? I don’t think anyone is suggesting they need to be besties, but that’s a far cry different from completely ignoring everything a colleague says because you don’t like them. It’s unnecessary and childish.

        1. DoYouSmellThat*

          I do think there are scenarios where extremely limited contact with a coworker might be the best response, yes.

          1. Natalie*

            That’s not what I asked. I asked about not speaking to a colleague at all, which the OP clearly stated was the case.

            1. DoYouSmellThat*

              Well, OP stated that Cersei went from speaking with her only when she absolutely had to, to not at all. So clearly something has escalated here, but we don’t know what. While it’s certainly possible that Cersei’s just an absolute whackjob and there’s no reasonable 2nd side to the story, I can’t help but wonder what she’d tell us if she could. (That’s not to accuse OP of anything, but in my working life I’ve encountered situations where things have blown up and both parties are slightly baffled or think they haven’t done anything to contribute.)

              Personally, I wonder if OP repeatedly asking Cersei what her issue is (no matter how politely or how well-intended) may be the kind of thing that escalated things for Cersei? Who knows.

              But to answer your question: Yes, I think there are situations where it’s acceptable to not speak to a coworker at all when there’s a difficult relationship, provided it’s not interfering with actual work.

              With that said, OP has given lots of additional context in comments beyond the original post I responded to.

              Have a nice weekend! :)

              1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

                I didn’t ask her repeatedly. My most recent attempt went like this:

                *goes into Cersei’s office with a work related doc*

                Me: Here’s the teapot report. Hey, do you have a few minutes to talk?

                Cersei: *not looking at me* Nope. Today is not a good day. Way too busy.

                Me: No worries, I don’t want to interrupt. But if you have a few minutes in the next couple of days, I’d like to chat.

                Cersei: K.

                And that was the last time we spoke directly.

                Before things went south, we had some productive conversations where I assured her that I was very open to feedback and if she wanted me to do something differently, to please let me know. Those conversations were quite amicable. I considered them to be good building blocks for getting problems out in the open.

                I honestly have no idea what happened, and trust me I’ve done some major soul searching to try and figure out if I’m contributing to this in some way. I wish I could think of something specific I did. I honestly can’t think of anything. Certainly nothing that would justify this level of vitriol.

                1. Your Weird Uncle*

                  I had a manager that reminds me of your Cersei. She turned on me before long…..her thing was to take a subordinate (we worked on small teams, maybe 10 people total, in the tourist industry so we were teenagers and she was about 8 years older than we were) and isolate him or her. She would spend so much time and energy making snide comments about us (sometimes within earshot), undermining us with our teammates, messing with our schedules, and just generally making life miserable for one person at a time until that person inevitably quit and she just…moved on to the next. No rhyme or reason to it, it just became her fun project. (The business owner was just as useless as your Wakeen, and I can’t imagine it didn’t cost him a *lot* of good employees.)

                  I saw her ten years later in a bar in the same tourist town. She convinced her husband to ‘accidentally’ stumble into me and spill my beer over. It was *definitely* intentional. And for, what I could see, no reason at all.

                  Some people are just d****. :)

                2. Not So NewReader*

                  @YWU, that woman had a problem which went way out beyond her relationship with you. That’s all I will say to that.
                  I am glad you were able to move on to a better employer.

                3. DoYouSmellThat*

                  I’m not sure how else to explain to you that the details from your original question and the details in your subsequent comments are VASTLY different. Every response from you has more and more gory detail that paints you as an innocent victim and Cersei as some monster. It just doesn’t come off as plausible to me. The way that you’re replying to my replies to other people suggests to me that you need an unreasonable amount of validation.

                  Honestly, if this comment thread were going on in my real life, I’d be about ready to put you on full ignore right about now too!

                4. I'm working with someone who despises me*

                  I’m not really sure how to respond to that, but okay. Everything I’ve written is the truth. No one can include every last detail in an OP. In my experience, it’s pretty common for an OP to give a basic situation and then for details to come out in the comments. I’ve tried to be honest here about how the whole thing has unfolded because I’m trying to figure out a way forward. Lots of comments have been really helpful with that, as I’ve said. It really helped to get feedback on my situation. Which is why I posted.

                5. ancolie*


                  You’re being pretty jerkish, here. Alison says to take LWs at their word, and Open Thread discussion starters are the OT LW-equivalent.

                  Also, absolutely none of what she’s described sounds unbelievable to me.

      2. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        You think it’s acceptable to behave with open, icy hostility toward a coworker who never did anything to you just because of a personality conflict or whatever this is?

        Gotta say I disagree. I’m not the boss who interrupted someone’s wedding or the coworker who spread norovirus and is still expecting civility from my colleagues. I didn’t do a thing to deserve this (which Wakeen has confirmed).

        I don’t want to be her bestie. I don’t even want to talk to her more than necessary. But, sometimes it IS necessary and even if it wasn’t, it’s simply common courtesy to return a greeting when you get one.

        If I asked her a question in a meeting, she’d turn to someone else and answer them as if they had asked the question. That’s not normal behavior, at least not to me.

        1. DoYouSmellThat*

          Your original post/question doesn’t really speak to “open, icy hostility” though. And I definitely included “as long as she is not doing anything outwardly hostile to you” in my response. I gathered from your original post that Cersei went from speaking to you only when she had to, to not at all and isn’t interested in explaining why when you ask her. That alone is not hostile, in my opinion. It sounds like you’ve provided a lot of additional context since then though, so if you feel you need to leave an otherwise good job over it, best of luck! You do what you gotta do!

          1. Jadelyn*

            Wait, seriously? You don’t think a someone completely refusing to speak to or acknowledge their coworker is hostile? Nobody’s expecting Cersei to be besties with OP, but completely ignoring and giving someone the cold shoulder is absolutely, completely hostile in a professional environment.

      3. Pineapple Incident*

        ….I just don’t buy this angle. I don’t care how much someone’s existence bothers you, it’s simply not professional to refuse to deal with them in any capacity at work. You can hardcore eyeroll privately, or tell your friends at work how BEC you are about this coworker, or post here about it if you end up being in Cersei’s shoes. The OP shouldn’t be having to take hours longer just to do simple tasks and funnel everything through Wakeen, and use a separate bathroom?!?!? during the day.

        This company is bananas, as is the way this is being dealt with. There’s not a good rationalization anywhere for it.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah…refusing to speak to somebody even about work related issues is not acceptable. *Only* speaking to somebody about work-related issues and not responding to them otherwise is really borderline, IMO, but once it goes into making somebody *change how they do their job*, just no. I don’t even care why Cersei doesn’t like OP — as adults we sometimes need to interact with people we don’t like.

      4. Whats In A Name*

        I have to disagree with you here. Ignoring a direct question, or turning your back on one, in a meeting is not professional and is indeed unprofessional. I did get a read from OP that she needs to be Ms. Popularity, but I did read she has a job that overlies often enough with co-worker than a minimum of contact is required.

        I also wouldn’t consider having to go to my boss and wait 3 hours for a report to do my job or being forced to use the men’s bathroom (as female) “otherwise great” characteristics in a job. I also think the owners lack of being able to manage also doesn’t make this an otherwise great job.

        1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

          Very interesting! I’m curious as to where that reading came from, because I am totally okay with not being liked by everyone at work. I do try to be nice and I tend to take a genuine interest in people around me, but not everyone I work with is going to love me and I’m more than okay with that, as long as they’re still willing to work with me.

          I get the feeling one of the other managers here isn’t a huge fan of me on a personal level and I’m 100% fine with that because he’s professional and polite and communicates with me on work related matters with no issues.

          In fact, I kind of prefer it that way. I’ve learned my lesson about getting overly chummy with colleagues so I actively try to guard against that kind of thing now. Kind, polite, professional at all times – show appropriate level of interest in personal lives – yes. Be best buddies, no. I’m simply not looking for those kinds of bonds at work.

          I don’t think being upset about someone treating me this way equates to needing to be liked by everyone.

          1. Whats In A Name*

            I meant to say I did NOT get a read from OP that she needs to be Ms. Popularity. Sorry! That was an important qualifier.

            1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

              Hahaha! Okay, good. I was intensely curious as to what I said that made you think that!

      5. Rex*

        No, you are way off here. It’s completely reasonable to expect colleagues to be on speaking terms with one another. This would be true even if their work didn’t overlap, but it sounds like there are plenty of times when the OP does need information from her. And OP has made it clear how unpleasant this has become.

      6. another anon for this*

        I think Cersei needs to work with and talk to the letter writer. The silent treatment when it comes to work-related conversation is not acceptable. Otherwise, Cersei does not need to be friends and does not need to explain that. And I don’t think the LW wants that. But to have to run simple requests through the owner when the LW could much more efficiently go directly to Cersie is ridiculous.

    13. LoFlo*

      I have beena Cersei. If she is doing the finance work, right after Christmas is probably her busiest time getting year end closed and reported. Also you mentioned that it should only take 5 minutes for her to produce a report. I sort of see this as a mismatch of expectations. You may think it takes 5 minutes, but do you know all the steps that Cersei has to go through, and what other thing she has to stop and refocus on to get you this report? She may not have the time flexibility that you have, and she doesn’t know how to communicate that to you. After dealing with co-workers who expect my immediate attention no matter what, and not respecting my time, yeah I tend to keep my head down and get chummy.

      1. Jean*

        “She may not have the time flexibility that you have, and she doesn’t know how to communicate that to you”

        Well, I can think of an easy way for Cersei to communicate that to her: Cersei can use her words.

        1. Natalie*

          Wait, are you suggesting that beaming mind-rays at her co-worker isn’t helping? Whoda thunk that!?

      2. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        I do not demand her immediate attention ever. Prior to her going completely silent on me, I never asked her anything if it wasn’t acutely critical, I used email if I possibly could, and I emphasized that I understood how busy she was and if something wasn’t important, I didn’t ask.

        Anyway, I haven’t directly asked her for anything in weeks now. So no, that’s not the issue. And if it was, the onus was on her to TELL ME THAT so I could actually change something, or at least brainstorm solutions with her.

      3. another anon for this*

        I think you missed the point. The letter writer’s concern is that she has to go through the owner and cannot speak directly with Cersei when something is needed. Maybe the report does take a lot longer than 5 minutes. But the LW should be able to request it directly from Cersei, who can have a conversation with the LW regarding timing and needs. Routing through the boss adds a potential bottleneck and introduces the possibility of communication errors.

    14. I'm working with someone who despises me*

      By the way, I’ve been working really hard on me and my behavior all through this little drama, because I recognize that’s the only piece I can control. I’ve begun training to be a volunteer for a wonderful local organization that does work I’m very passionate about so I have a non-work outlet where I feel productive and useful, I’ve been pleasant and polite to Cersei no matter what (until I was told to stop talking to her outright). I’ve tried to follow Alison’s advice by asking Cersei directly what’s up, and then asking Wakeen for “advice” when that didn’t work.

      I’m trying my best to be the bigger person here, not let it affect my work, sit here and stir my own pot and all that. I’m trying really hard not to let this impact me more than necessary.

      But it’s very difficult. Frankly I think Wakeen’s requests of me are ridiculous and disrespectful. I feel like I need to look out for myself here, which ultimately means leaving if he won’t help me fix this. As I said, it’s a tiny company and Cersei’s office shares a wall with mine. When we’re both here, it feels like I’m working next to a Dementor. Her hatred for me is so palpable, it’s kind of hard to overstate how difficult it is not to let it get to me. I swear I’m trying.

      1. Natalie*

        I completely get it – I had a co-worker like this once and it literally drove me to drink. (Not a recommended strategy.) I had to regularly remind myself out loud that I was not the crazy person for expecting a colleague to answer a direct question.

        Upthread you mentioned that you can’t afford to quit without another job lined up. I’m not sure if you meant “afford” to mean finances, but if so do everything you can to sock away as much money as you possibly can.

        1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

          Working on that for sure! I do have emergency funds but I also bought a house recently so I need to be really careful. Frankly, I’ve been scared that Wakeen is going to let ME go over this because it’s easier than dealing with this. He’s assured me that won’t happen, but I’m still scared it will.

      2. Anne (with an "e")*

        I think Cersei has created an abusive, hostile working environment. The silent treatment is not acceptable. It is passive aggressive bullying at its worst. It can cause physical pain and PTSD for the victim.

        This woman is actually abusing and torturing the OP. I think it is despicable that Wakeen refuses to make Cersei stop immediately.

        Advice for the OP:
        1. I would definitely get the heck out of Dodge ASAP, as you have planned.
        2. I would seek out a good therapist to help get you through this extremely stressful situation.
        3. While at work, I would try to use earbuds if possible. Listen to shows, music, books, etc. to help transport you mentally from the abusive environment in which you have found yourself. Especially do this while you wait around for reports or numbers or whatever you have requested from Cersei via Wakeen.
        4. When asked in future interviews why you have decided to leave this torture chamber, I would simply say that it has not been a good cultural fit. That you are looking for different, new, interesting opportunities. I would not stress over this. Leave it at that and talk up what is so appealing about potential new job. The job turned out to be vastly different fron what you signed up for.
        5. Constantly remind yourself that this situation is absolutely NOT your fault. If you have done some minor thing to trigger Cersei, her reaction has been cruel and uncalled for.
        6. Please update us when you find an awesome new job with sane people.

        1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

          Thank you for the support and good wishes. I actually have a therapist (not because of this) and she’s been instrumental in helping me adjust my outlook. That and great comments like these!

          I can honestly say I feel so much better this week and I’m looking forward to focusing on my work without letting her get to me :-)

    15. Marisol*

      This doesn’t sound like as much of a problem to me as you are presenting it to be. What this sounds like to me is, the coworker is being unfriendly, and that creates an environment that is emotionally unpleasant. However, you mention that Cersei does talk to you when absolutely necessary. So presumably, her freeze out does not prevent you from actually getting work done. So if you know what you need to do at your job, and you are empowered to do those tasks, then you’re actually in an ok situation. It’s not great, but it’s workable. As they say on reality tv shows, you’re here to make money, not friends.

      Wakeen gave you his take on it–she is intimidated by you. I’d take his word for it, and realize that if she’s intimidated by you, you’re probably doing a great job. That’s good news! Assuming Wakeen likes you and likes the job you do, and barring any nasty political interference from Cersei (her bad-mouthing you to Wakeen, for example) you can assume your job is secure. And job security is nothing to sneeze at these days. Keep strengthening your bond with Wakeen. (You might ask him what you are doing that makes Cersei intimidated, and whether or not Wakeen likes what you do in that regard.) Your relationship with your boss is what’s important; your relationship with your peers is much less so as a general rule, and in this particular case, is totally irrelevant as Cersei has chosen her.

      You asked Cersei what was up–that was a mature, kind thing to do. She wouldn’t respond in a mature way, so you can drop it, giving up entirely on trying to make a relationship work with her, knowing you did the right thing. In fact, you *need* to drop it–don’t ever ask her to discuss the situation again. If you do, you are feeding into her power trip.

      If she is in fact intimidated by you, then she most likely doesn’t feel like she’s a powerful performer at her job–she feels like the only power she has is the power to make you feel bad. So don’t empower her more! Don’t reward her efforts. Be pleasant and professional, and don’t go chasing after her approval or any sort of relationship beyond the bare bones minimum social interaction you need to execute your job duties. If you chase her, that teaches her that her method works.

      It’s possible that once Cersei sees her coldness is not a way to manipulate you, she will warm up. If you take away the reward, the behavior will stop. (Be prepared for an extinction burst–a temporary worsening of behavior–just before she returns to normal.)

      Give Cersei a way to save face–if she starts being pleasant to you, accept her pleasantries gracefully, and allow the relationship to course-correct. Don’t show resentment or try to punish her–that will perpetuate an unhealthy cycle. It may not happen, but if it does, accept the change without fuss. Act like there was never a problem.

      Regarding the bathroom, I suggested below that you refuse to use the men’s bathroom, but really, I have no problem with either pushing back, or acquiescing to, this request. You could do what Wakeen asks, knowing that you will likely be getting points in his eyes for cooperating–it is hard to manage people, and who knows what contribution Cersei brings to the company that makes her too valuable to let go, so I have some sympathy for a boss who avoids confronting the situation–if you go along to get along, you may ultimately be serving the needs of the company and that could be a significant contribution in itself. Remember that the clash of egos originated with Cersei–using the other bathroom may be a way for you to rise above it and not get your own ego invested in this nonsense. It’s just a bathroom after all. It’s not about your salary or your title or job duties.

      In the Art of War, Sun Tzu, the ancient war strategist, describes a general who gives away a prized horse to a neighboring king who asks for it. The kings advisors were shocked because the horse seemed to symbolize the power and richness of the kingdom, and giving it away seemed like an act of weakness. But Sun Tzu saw it differently, and proceeded to give that other king all kinds of goodies–a concubine, some other treasures I can’t remember, every time the other king asked for them, seeing these gifts as emotional payments that had no bearing on the strength of the kingdom. Then one day, the other king asked for some land. And just like that–BAM!–Sun Tzu had his armies wage war against that king, saying that land was the foundation of the state. Sun Tzu wasn’t willing to fight an ego war, but he sure would fight, decisively, for anything that really mattered. My point is, a bathroom isn’t necessarily the battle you want to fight.

      On the other hand, you can refuse to use the men’s bathroom, knowing that you will be sending the message to Cersei that you won’t be bullied. This too can be a useful stance, and I have no opinion which choice is better.

      If you like this job, I mean if you like your daily tasks, responsibilities, etc., then I would not give up on it just yet. Cersei may get better, or, if you are in a position to supplant her, you might do that, as you continue to deliver value to your company, until she quits. It’s not fun to have a coworker act coldly towards you, but work is work, not a social club. As long as you have other things in your life that bring you happiness–friends, family–I’d drop any expectation that you have a coworker who is also a friend and just grit my teeth and do the work and stick with it. These kinds of experiences can be wonderful learning experiences that strengthen your mettle. Learning to be ok with a coworker who is a real shithead is actually an incredibly valuable skill.

      1. Natalie*

        I think you have misread. The OP has said that Cersei does NOT speak to her at all, and that OP has to run all requests to Cersei through her boss: “one of my colleagues (Cersei) stopped speaking to me except when she absolutely had to, and eventually (a few weeks ago) stopped talking to me altogether.”

        That said, I think this is great advice overall to make it possible to stay at that workplace.

        1. Marisol*

          ha ha ha why do I let myself ramble when I am sleep deprived and fighting off a virus? I guess because my judgement goes out the window when I’m in such a state. I did miss the “stopped speaking to me altogether” part and focused on the “speaking only when necessary” part. Thanks for pointing that out.

          Still, it doesn’t change my reco. If I were in the OP’s shoes and able to get my work done without Cersei, I’d stick it out. The OP doesn’t say she can’t do her work (unless I misread again!), only that she feels tense in her environment.

          It seems to me that *something* has to give–eventually either the manager will step up, or Cersei will back down, and I’d hate for the OP to give up before that point, when she is absolutely blameless in this situation.

          1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

            Very good point. I have to say, it was really nice to get this out of my own head and get feedback from people outside the situation. So thank you all for that. I feel better.

            Maybe it’s the weather (first warmish day in ages) but I’m feeling more hopeful and even finding this situation slightly funny today. I hope I can find something new soon (or hey, maybe it’ll get fixed – you never know) and someday this will be a funny cocktail party story.

    16. NoMoreMrFixit*

      My advice is based on being in that situation and the hatred extending to deliberately sabotaging or taking credit for my work, giving me false information and various other openly hostile acts. Very ugly. I changed careers because of all the garbage. The coworker form purgatory is still there getting away with their games and the boss enables them.

      Keep your work secure. Backed up in a couple of places if possible. Avoid this person. Do not attempt to interact – pretend they don’t exist. Keep open communications with everyone else you have to work with so you have the right info and they do too. Network like mad and get out of there asap. Make lots of “me” time and indulge in the activities that make you happy. As well as the people who do the same for you. Don’t waste time trying to fix this mess. The boss isn’t interested and your coworker sees you as the whole problem.

      Prayers and well wishes for you to escape that madhouse soonest and get on with your life. It’s horrible to be in that situation. Godspeed.

      1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        Thank you for this. I will do it all. I didn’t even think of backing up my stuff. Excellent idea.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Because I have “that” side of my personality, I would be sure she saw me talking with others, laughing and going about my day in a successful manner.

        One thing I have done and it worked well once I got into the swing of it, is to just go around the person as if they are not there. Carry an attitude that your day is going along just fine without her.

        My family uses the silent treatment on each other. I’ll tell you a secret about the silent treatment, people learn to live with out the person who is doing the silent treatment. My life went on even though X decided to stop speaking to me. And X was left out of the loop because her top priority was not to talk to me. So she missed stuff. And as the years went on the effect was cultivate. She missed entire chunks of my life story.

        Maybe you can find ways to be highly productive and the side effect is that she has to break her silence to ask YOU questions because you have morphed into a human power house. It’s very difficult to avoid movers and shakers. What I like about this plan is that it gives you something to think about instead of Ms. Beams of Hatred, it helps to build your resume and it makes you look good to everyone around you.

        FWIW, I firmly believe that routinely not speaking to others when spoken to IS a fire-able offense. I believe that almost all jobs demand an employee communicate necessary information to others. If an employee cannot do that, then they cannot do a very core part of the job and therefore cannot do the job. Just FWIW.

        Hang tough. You sound like a nice person and a good employee. Hold on to this thought and realize that eventually your cohort’s own stupid moves will unravel her.

        1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

          Thank you for writing this. I really, really liked it.

          Marisol – if you’re still reading, I also reread your comment and there’s great stuff in there. I’m going to keep it all in mind over the coming weeks.

          Thank you again, everyone. This really did help my mindset and give me some ideas. I’ll keep you posted!

          1. Marisol*

            So glad I was helpful! As I mentioned, I’m kinda sick, sleep deprived, and I’ve had a splitting headache all day, but still felt compelled to share my thoughts–nice to know I did some good.

            1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

              Lots of sickness in my household lately! Gotta be the season. I hope you feel better soon.

              When I get to work Monday, I’m going to copy some of the best quotes from this thread into a doc I can look at when Cersei is driving me crazy.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                You’re getting this really well. Yep, that is exactly what to do. And you will find some of your own affirmations that you can tell yourself, too.

                I have been in the work force for 30 plus years. FWIW, you will probably never encounter this particular type of situation again. (We can find comfort in knowing that Current Bad Thing is temporary.) While no work place is hassle free, you will find that you did learn things from this predicament here and Other Tough Things will not seem so tough to you. You will have an “inner knowing” that you can work through it. (Let stuff teach you, let stuff make you stronger because you are now wiser.)

                Let us know how it goes for you. You have a great attitude in spite of what you are dealing with.

    17. Huddled over tea*

      I don’t think that one instance of a 8 month stint would put people off too badly. It’s more if you have a string of short jobs that it starts to look strange, but if your previous jobs are 2, 3, more years, you should be fine.

      Also, you mention in other comments that you’re a project manager, which is one industry where it’s actually quite common to have short stints and to move on when your project has been… well, managed.

      1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        True. But unfortunately my last two positions were fairly short term (1.5 years and 6 months). Both were contract positions, and as you correctly state, they’re explainable in my line of work. But it still makes me worry. I wanted to be at this one for a long time.

        1. Wheezy Weasel*

          You’re not being given the tools to complete your projects. Your coworker’s time and assistance is as much of a tool (jokes aside) as your tracking software, budget authority, etc. You can’t successfully manage a project when you’ve got one hand tied behind your back. If you look at your own employment through a project ‘lens’ you’ve identified a major risk for success and the comments are helping you develop your Avoid, Transfer, Mitigate or Accept strategies.

    18. Been There, Done That*

      I can’t tell you how much I sympathize because I’ve gone thru that situation too. I had to accept that that’s the way it was, and you’re 100% right, it affects your morale, your productivity and potentially your health. Follow Wakeen’s direction. It sounds as if he may be aware of a larger problem (maybe there’s a track record of this with other coworkers, for example). Document as necessary.

      I’m afraid I don’t have much sparkling wisdom to offer, but as for the 8 months, you might say you wanted to give it time and a real chance to work out before you decided the best option was to move on.

      I like your word “commentariat.”

    19. Mephyle*

      At this moment, there are already 127 replies, so, having not read all the responses, I apologize if this point has already been addressed:
      I’m trying to figure out how to explain that it’s a cultural mismatch, which ultimately it is, but I feel like eight months is a long time to stay somewhere only to figure that out now.
      The truth is that there was an abrupt change in the culture very recently, at which point it became a mismatch. You made efforts to adjust to the new culture but in the end it was untenable.

    20. Tabby Baltimore*

      Welp, there’s already 129 replies, so I don’t expect the OP to ever see this, but I wanted to agree with the poster upthread who pointed out that the fact that the OP, who got a promotion to manager, but in a small company with no further professional growth potential, was the best way to frame the reason for her job search. Looking for “larger pastures” with more corporate structure, or that allow for more opportunities for specialization, or that provide more opportunities to work on a greater variety of projects, is a perfectly understandable motivation for getting a new job. Using this as your reason would relieve you from having to mention the “culture fit” issue altogether, and keep any potential interviews focused on your work accomplishments. I hope you find something soon!

      1. I'm working with someone who despises me*

        I’m still reading, I assure you! I hope to write out more responses later. Thank you for this.

    21. I'm working with someone who despises me*

      I really want to thank everyone who’s taken the time to respond. I didn’t want to email Alison with this question because I read AAM at work constantly and I didn’t want it spotted. I think it’s pretty safe buried in an open thread and the feedback has been SUPER helpful. It’s been great to get this out of my head, get answers to the interview question I dread, and hear recommendations for some coping skills in the meantime.

      I’m still reading each and every response. Please feel free to keep it coming if you have more thoughts. And I promise to update!

    22. WerkingIt*

      I have recently been in the same situation. Started off with someone being immature, then a jerk, then just downhill from there. The whole office was toxic. The environment that I was in was so bad that it was causing debilitating anxiety — migraines, insomnia, vertigo, stomach upset… I was a bundle of nerves; at times even looking down to find my hands were shaking. Combine that with the fact that the hiring manager basically lied to me about the position in order to get me to accept the job… I thought they were hiring to manage one program, but basically I was an admin even after explicitly saying during the interviews and negotiations that I had no desire to do admin work since I just don’t have the temperament or personality for it.

      My plan was to work there until I found something else. It ended up being so bad that I just quit after about 6 months. Miraculously, all of my physical symptoms completely disappeared within hours. I was free!

      I am currently looking and have continued to address the issue in the same way I would advise you to address it: the truth. “It’s wasn’t a good fit culturally.” (I also say that I was hired to manage a program but the role turned out to be basically answering phones and filing. Which is typically met “oh a-ha of course considering you have so much experience on your resume…” Again, totally true.) Leaving a job that isn’t a good fit doesn’t make you a flake and any reasonable employer will understand that you as an individual want a good fit as much as they do.

  10. IsThisThingOn*

    Should I reach out to an old coworker who didn’t like me to let her know I applied for a job at her new company?

    OldCompany was merged into NewCompany sometime last year and my job changed. I am now looking for a new job more in line with what I used to do. I just applied for a position at a company that looks pretty interesting and my experience aligns very nicely with what they seek. However, I pass the building frequently on my way to work, and I saw Coworker go into that building the other day. I searched her name on LinkedIn and saw that, indeed, she is now working there (with a promotion! Nice job, Coworker.)

    I always liked Coworker well enough, but I do not think she liked me very much. She always seemed a touch frosty. That is fine by me, it bothers me not whether someone likes me at work, but I now wonder whether I should drop her a line on LinkedIn to let her know that I applied for a job within her company. If HR realizes we worked together, I am sure they would reach out to her. Should I let her know ahead of time as a courtesy? There is always the chance she would encourage HR to not consider my application, but I have no idea if she dislikes me THAT much.

    1. Sadsack*

      I don’t think I would contact her. I would if you had a good relationship, but you don’t. No matter what she tells you, you don’t know what she’ll really tell them. So, I don’t really see any benefit in contacting her.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I agree with Sadsack – don’t reach out. LOTS of places I have worked, she would not necessarily be brought in to the discussion. (You would think they should, but they may not make the connection.)

      If she’s cool to you but thinks you’re competent, she’s not an asset or a problem, and you’ll be fine if they approach her but there’s no reason for you to proactively involve her. If she actually doesn’t like you or would speak poorly of you, your best chance is if she doesn’t get involved – in which case you really don’t want to proactively involve her.

      It’s hopefully the former, but either way, you don’t lose anything by leaving her out of it.

      I do wonder if her position there is likely to interact with the position you’re applying for – that would be the one thing that might concern me, but it sounds like you wouldn’t have as much concern about dealing directly with someone being frosty as I would.

    3. Cruciatus*

      Nah. Don’t let her know. A coworker who didn’t like me (we were civil, but she was never interested in anything about me at all and would barely talk with me unless I started the conversation) moved to a new job and, lo and behold, I also went to the same place 6 months later! And, in fact, I was in the same role as her but in a different department (which I didn’t know until I started because our job descriptions are very vague). But this means we have to be in contact on occasion. Granted my coworker likely knew I was coming because our mutual friends at old job would have told her, but sometimes that is life. This is why you try not to burn bridges! You never know who will pop up again. We contact each other as needed, do our work, and that’s about it. Letting her know is just adding unnecessary drama. She doesn’t need to be prepared for you. If you do get the job, just be polite as always. She may not be up for small talk about old place/old coworkers (as my person isn’t) but eventually she will get used to you being there.

  11. Christy*

    How do you strengthen your persistence muscle? I’m a pretty good worker, but I know I could be better, and I want to be better. I want to advance and succeed in higher level and management positions. So what are some things I can do now to get better at consistently working hard. I’m always consistently working, and I sometimes work hard, but I want to consistently work hard.

    1. Hilorious*

      Identify people that you know professionally who have work habits you admire, and ask to pick their brain about work habits and how they handle their workload! I’ve done this several times in my career and picked up lots of tricks that have made me a better worker.

    2. ANewbie*

      It sounds silly, but take on more things so that you’re busier. I find I’m best about consistently doing great work when I have lots going on, and I tend to have a hard time motivating myself when all I have to do is a couple of boring tasks.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yup! I learned this from a roommate in college: if you want to be sure to get all your work done on time, have a lot of work to do so you never lose momentum (too much).
        I’ve invented several projects that are consistently a little bit of work so I’ve always got something to do that also has a “done!” piece. Like, Every week I’ll update my inventory (even if it hasn’t changed) to have something I’ve “finished”.

    3. Agnodike*

      Why do you want to consistently work hard? Is it because you want to get more accomplished in a day? Is it because you want to build up skill so your efficiency doesn’t suffer too much at times when your workload is very heavy? Is it because you like the idea of being “a hard worker?” The first step to accomplishing a goal is to be specific about what you’re trying to achieve.

      Once you know what you specifically want, you can start breaking it down into the steps you’ll need to achieve it. So, for example, if you want to get more accomplished, you can start tracking where you spend your time in a day and reallocating your energy accordingly. If you want to build up stamina, you can focus on trying to add small, manageable increments of work, or increase the intensity of your work by adding more tasks, in between your breaks.

      You mention wanting to advance and succeed in higher-level positions. What have you noticed about the people who are in those positions now? What habits do they have that you might adopt? You could also talk to your manager and ask whether they have any feedback on your current work style and productivity, to see if they have any suggestions for you.

    4. Jenny*

      I think practicing discipline helps in general, so maybe start with something small and when you’re confident in your change add something else. Could be about how well you focus on tasks, or about completing something daily, or something else. I also found meditation helped me.

    5. Marisol*

      I’m not convinced that working hard will lead to promotions–you know that saying, “work harder, not smarter.” But assuming that a higher volume of work *IS* the best strategy, I have been using Habiticus, an online game where you track your productivity and get points for completing tasks, and I find it helps me grind stuff out. I have adhd, and mainly struggle with busywork-type stuff, so that’s the perspective I’m coming from.

    6. MoinMoin*

      This may be odd to say, but exercise may help you. I’ve been hiking a lot more lately and I’m finally starting to really get comfortable with the discomfort of tackling a long or strenuous hike, and I feel like that perspective is translating into other parts of my life as well. I used to have a bad habit of stopping and planning to come back to a problem as soon as anything isn’t able to be immediately resolved, or just doing a project to the best of my abilities without stretching myself. Now I treat it a lot like a hike- come up with a general plan and keep putting one foot in front of the other and slowly negotiate through the little issues, instead of standing at the bottom, looking at the giant mountain and thinking, Nope, too huge, I’ll stick to my urban loop that I know I can complete. My sister is hiking the PCT this year and I’m just so jealous of the mental fortitude that she has to tackle that, as well as what she’ll cultivate in order to complete it.
      In the same vein, any way you can practice discipline and keep momentum of small or consistent successes will help, whether that’s at work or with a hobby. Good luck! I hope my comment wasn’t too stupid or off topic from what you were asking.

      1. Nye*

        Interesting take! I hiked the PCT a few years ago and while it was a great experience, I feel like it’s a different kind of persistence than work. It wasn’t always easy or fun, but it just seemed so much simpler than day-to-day work. (I had just finished a PhD, so not having to worry about anything except walking and eating was SO relaxing, in a way.)

        I wish it had transformed me into a super-productive person! Still working on that one.

        That said, your advice reminded me of how nice it was when I was hiking regularly (though not long-distance) while working. I do think it helps clear your head. Will have to figure out a local equivalent now that I live in a flat corner of the world. Thanks for the push!

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Start out by identifying areas where you think your persistence is weak.

      For me I felt my weak spot was dealing with problems on the job. Part of that stemmed from not knowing what to do if X broke, or what to do if we ran out of Y. So my solution was to go instance by instance and learn what to do. Here’s the kicker, at any moment there were at least 10 problems running concurrently. (Yeah, this place was amazing. But that is a side story.) So I had to learn to quickly figure out which of the 10 issues were priorities. Then I had to learn how to fix the problem itself. It took me years to drill down through that hot mess.

      Look around to see if you find patterns of times where you failed to press onward. See if you can break it down into actionable steps.

      Also, you probably aren’t going to like that I said this because it appears to be unhelpful: Try to figure out if your idea of working hard consistently is realistic? Do you see others doing what you think you should be doing? No, you cannot roll two ton rocks up hill all day long, day after day. Just, no.
      Your real solution might be to ask the boss for some growth assignments. See, not all hard workers get ahead. And that is because they failed to check to see if their hard efforts are something the company values. Find out what is of value to your boss, make darn sure you are doing those things.

  12. Tangled up in Hugh*

    I am a fairly new supervisor in a public library and I’m curious to hear perspectives from the librarians who post here — or really, from anyone who delivers telephone customer service — on how to handle a difficult customer service issue we’ve been facing.

    We have a homebound patron, Mr. Hugh, who calls our library’s telephone reference line repeatedly, asking very detailed questions about the history of teapot development in various foreign nations. These questions are beyond the scope of our collection, our online databases, or anything that can be Googled. Even if they weren’t, they are extremely advanced research questions that can’t be answered easily via a telephone call, particularly considering the librarian who answers the phone is also managing a busy reference desk with plenty of patrons visiting in-person. When we politely tell Mr. Hugh this, he becomes extremely agitated and, if it’s a female librarian who answers the phone, becomes verbally abusive. He then calls over and over and over until he either gets an answer, is permitted to argue endlessly with a supervisor about our inability to answer his questions, or finally gets tired of calling. This continues for days at a time, before he goes away for a few weeks, then resurfaces with a new, impossible-to-answer question.

    We’ve tried “banning” Mr. Hugh for one month, then for two months, then for three months. He refuses to honor the bans. When we say he’s prohibited from calling us and hang up, he continues to call. Our library’s director, lawyer, and public safety head all refuse to issue any more bans to Mr. Hugh, and have told us to try to answer his questions until he reaches the point where he’s truly abusive.

    As a supervisor, given that Mr. Hugh is verbally abusive, I want to direct my staff to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m ending the call now” as soon as we hear his voice, and then hanging up with no arguments — which seems to work best, as he’ll eventually get the message and give up — but the library director has sternly warned us that we must take his calls and try to, within reason, answer his questions.

    We suspect that Mr. Hugh is very elderly, possibly with dementia, and can’t help what he’s doing. Unfortunately, the constant, argumentative calls are disturbing our patrons (since it comes over the public reference desk) and is frazzling our staff. We have no support from administration on pursuing a permanent ban, police action, and IT can’t or won’t block his telephone number. HR is not an option at my library; they don’t respond to issues like these, or really to anything at all. I’m at my wit’s end and don’t know what card to play next, or if there even are any cards left to play and we just have to take a breath and deal with it. Help!

    1. Collie*

      Does public safety include the police here? If this patron was visiting the library in person and causing these problems, you’d get the police involved, no? I’m sorry the powers that be don’t have your back. This seems pretty unreasonable to continue dealing with.

    2. jax*

      One librarian I worked with would say something like “I would love to help you, but this conversation is no longer productive. Have a good day.” and then hang out/disconnect when patrons would get abusive.

      What would happen if an in patron person behaved this way? Would your director allow someone to stand at the desk and verbally abuse her employees? Have you framed it that way to her? That there needs to be consistently patron behavioral guidelines regardless of in person or on the phone?

    3. SophieChotek*

      Have you library director and lawyer handle his calls. Then maybe they’ll change their tune.
      Sorry no…I know that’s not constructive…

      1. A. Non*

        But it is not actually a bad idea. The director may not actually have worked a reference floor for a very long time, and may not have any idea how bad it is.

      2. Calacademic*

        I don’t work in a library, but my director has explicitly told us that callers like this should be directed to him. (We don’t tend to get repeat callers though and aren’t as public facing as a library…)

    4. Myrin*

      Does the library director actually hear these calls or does she just know of them because you (or others) have told her? Because if the latter, is it possible to just tell your staff to hang up regardless (and, if the director happens to ask about them, pretend that Mr. Hugh has stopped calling which I suppose might well happen if he doesn’t get any satisfaction from it anymore)?

    5. Emi.*

      I’m so sorry! What if you say, “We can’t answer that question, I’m afraid, but here’s the number for [academic library that could]”? You’d kind of be punting to the poor librarians there, but they might be able to keep him sufficiently supplied with info that he wouldn’t get so angry at them.

    6. Happy Lurker*

      If you have caller ID, use it and send him to voice mail. If you don’t have either, maybe it’s not too hard to get both activated? Certainly, less work than dealing with the man on the phone.
      I have a job applicant who called to berate me as to why we cannot hire them….straight voice mail he goes. His last voice mail was 2 mins long and he then called again the next day.

    7. i2c2*

      I’m a former public librarian and definitely recognize this type of situation. Does your reference desk have a policy about what to do with reference questions that are more in-depth than can be handled in the expected length of a reference desk transaction? Is there an option to take his question and call him back with a list of resources or directions for further research?

      1. fposte*

        This is what I’m thinking. Even non-abusive questions can be beyond the scope of reference, especially phone reference.

    8. LisaLee*

      Here are four things we use at my library, depending on the severity of the issue:

      1. Don’t pick up or block his number. I know you said IT won’t do this, but try calling your provider and asking for it to be blocked. The phone company has an interest in not letting you be harrassed over the phone, and hopefully they will help you. You might even be able to route the reference desk phone to a Google Voice number that will let you block him or send him to voicemail

      2. Find a local thick-skinned graduate student and next time Mr. Hugh calls, tell him you are now charging $X/hr (preferably 20-30) for in-depth research. It will be the graduate student’s job to perform the research and respond to Mr. Hugh. He is no longer allowed to discuss his queries with you, only with his designated researcher. The researcher will work very set hours a day, say 1-3pm, and Mr. Hugh is only allowed to call during those times. The researcher will only perform research as long as Mr. Hugh funds it.

      3. If it gets really bad, just start hanging up as soon as you hear his voice.

      4. If it gets really, really bad, just call the police anyway and file a report.

      1. Thomas*

        I’m uncomfortable with hiring a graduate student to do something like this. It’s not fair deem an interaction unacceptable for the staff to deal with, but acceptable for graduate student to do regardless of their pay or thick skin. Why should the graduate student incur that kind of abuse?

        1. LisaLee*

          We’ve only done this once (there were some extenuating circumstances that meant we could not just hang up), but in that case we flat out told the research assistant before they signed on that the person had dementia, was often abusive, and we needed a phone babysitter as much as a research assistant. The difference to me is that the student was hired specifically for the task of dealing with this difficult person and was fully informed going in. I don’t think its unfair to hire someone in a situation like this as long as they know the deal–there are many occupations where dealing with abusive people is part of the job already, like nursing

    9. AnotherLibrarian*

      The library I work at had the exact same issue. We had a patron, elderly male, probably with dementia who would call the library asking the same question over and over again.

      Eventually, we said that as a private institution, we would be charging him for his research, as we would any patron inquiry of that detail. We then did the research (we all have it memorized by now) sent him the material and an invoice.

      The invoice was never paid, but we also haven’t heard from him sense. Fingers crossed writing this will not summon a phone call.

      I would recommend simply stating that you can not answer the question with your resources and recommend that he contacts a private researcher. You can’t recommend one, as that is not permitted by policy, but refer him to an organization that might be able too. I have used this language with other problem patrons.

      Then, if he gets abusive, this is the language we used at our library, “Sir, I will not permit you to speak to me or my staff in that tone/language/way. So, I am ending this call.”

      And then hang up.

      Since your director is not sympathetic to your case, I would second the suggestions here about forwarding the call to them. Our problem patron would regularly ask to speak to a “person in charge” when we failed to answer some of his more insane inquiries.

    10. MuseumChick*

      Museums get this also, if I would try directing him to another resource. So, right down his very detailed question, wait and hour, call him back and say something like, “I’ve looked into your research request and unfortunaty our library doesn’t have the information your looking for. However, there is a teapot development museum that may have more information. Additionally, the *Much Larger Library* has a section on teapot development in Western Europe. I can give you their contact information if you like.”

      If that doesn’t work a good script is, “Mr. Huge, as I’ve stated our library doesn’t have the resources to another your question.” *He yells etc” “Mr. Hugh, again, we cannot answer you question. If you have no additional question I am going to terminate this call.” Then do that. If he calls back, “Mr. Hugh if you have not other questions I will have to terminate this call.” Repeat as needed.

      Teach your staff this and practice so they feel confident.

      1. MuseumChick*

        One other thing, keep a log of the class, their length, what he says etc. The more evidence you have to how much time this is taking up and the verbal abuse you and the staff are dealing with the better.

    11. Nanc*

      Full disclosure: I’m a 40+ year library volunteer and not a librarian. Our library has a great program where you can “Book a Reference Librarian” for an appointment–I want to say an hour but it might be 30 minutes. Could you do something like that? When he calls, book an appointment and ask him details about what he wants to research and do what you can to pull together some info without making it onerous. If you can proactively tell him you don’t have the books, but you can get it for him via intra-library loan for [your $cost here] or say that you know local university library has info and give him that number or offer him materials that are in the ball-park of the topic and remind him you don’t have the materials. Is there an industry magazine for his obscure topic (do you have any interns who could research it?). Many of them still send dead-tree versions free. You don’t necessarily need to subscribe for the library but you could let him know about it and how to subscribe. You could also try sending the info via letter (if he has a card and you have his current contact). Sometimes seeing it in dead tree form helps visual learners absorb the info.

      It sounds like you’ve pegged it that he might be in early stages of dementia or he may just be lonely and want someone smart to talk to. I know it’s more work, but if you can come up with a group plan and reach out to him with some basic info it might cut down on the number/length of phone calls. It’s still extra work on your part, but maybe it won’t be so stressful.

      Good luck and let us know what happens.

    12. librariandragon*

      We had a similar patron at a library I used to work at. He actually called us because his local public library refused to assist him any further, as he became incredibly abusive over the phone. In the end, we had all of his calls handled by one person, and when he did call he was immediately put on hold or transferred to that person’s direct line so that she would be the only one interacting with him. Luckily, she was a very practical and no-nonsense sort who was able to handle him without too much stress. He eventually stopped calling.

      What I think you need is not just to have one single person managing Mr. Hugh’s requests, but to clarify with your higher-ups exactly how much in-depth research you are allowed/supposed to be doing on behalf of patrons. I know it varies from library to library, but I can’t imagine they want you to drop everything at a public reference desk shift and abandon other tasks to do research for one patron.

      You need to phrase it as something that is impacting patron services, and negotiate a level at which you can say to a patron (beyond just Mr. Hugh) that you really can’t go more in depth at this time, and then provide them information for outside researchers who do that kind of thing for a fee. It’s not about not working with Mr. Hugh anymore, its about managing your staff resources effectively, and there should ALWAYS be a level at which you can and should be allowed to disengage.

    13. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      I think you should ask the Director to model the next series of calls from Mr Hugh. When Mr Hugh calls, ask him to hold, then get the director on the line. Every. Single. Time. The Director needs to answer his questions with the current pressing interruption and not push it off on other staff. Director needs to take that call. Then see how quickly the Director starts to shut Mr Hugh down.

    14. Snarky Librarian*

      Oh I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this! That is a nightmarish situation to be in. If he calls the desk while the librarian is helping another patron can she put him on hold until she’s available to speak to him? At my library the patrons physically in front of you took precedence over callers. I’ve put one or two verbally abusive regulars on hold long enough for them to eventually go away while I helped the people patiently waiting in front of me. Or if your phone system allows, silence his calls and send them straight to voice mail. Referring him to an academic library (over and over again if you have to) is also a good idea. Sorry academic librarians!

      I second MuseumChick’s recommendation of keeping a log. In clear, unemotional language state the time and duration of his calls and record the exact verbal abuse he’s dumping on staff. Adding notes about the specific patrons at the desk who were disturbed or inconvenienced by his calls is helpful too, and then bring that log to your director. The director may not (or will not) do anything about it, but you will still have a written record to back you up.

    15. Tangled Up in Hugh*

      Thank you, everyone, for your responses. To answer some of the excellent points made here:

      1. He can’t be identified by caller ID; it comes up as “unknown caller,” as do many of our patrons.
      2. Our library director is relatively new and indeed has no idea how bad it is to deal with Mr. Hugh. I want to note that she is actually an exceptional director in virtually all other respects, but is weirdly obstinate on this one particular issue. The fact that the administration now all refuse to get involved, when they’ve gotten involved before, make me wonder if Mr. Hugh has threatened a lawsuit somehow.
      3. Any time we transfer Mr. Hugh to a higher leven person, it actually just makes matters worse. We’re enabling him.
      4. Offering to call him back is something we’ve tried, just so we could get his name and number to start a paper trail. He sees right through us and hangs up instantly whenever we ask–then instantly calls back and either asks the same question or demands to speak to a manager.
      4. Re: passing the buck to a more scholarly library, there’s no academic library or museum anywhere in the world that can answer the questions he dreams up. :-)

      1. Tangled Up in Hugh*

        Ha. This issue has me so frazzled that I did two number 4s!

        I also want to add, we have tried just putting him through to voicemail. And keeping him on hold endlessly. Neither worked…

      2. MuseumChick*

        Keep asking for his name and phone number!

        You/Staff: “Ok sir, I will look into that for you. What is a good phone number to reach you?
        *he hangs up and calls back*
        Him: *long detailed question*
        You/Staff: “Ok sir, I will look into that for you. What is a good phone number to reach you?
        *he hangs up and calls back*
        Him: “I want to speak with a manager!”
        You/Staff: “They are out of the office at the moment. What is a good phone number to reach you, I’ll have them call you back when they get in.”

        And it really doesn’t matter they there is another institution that can answer his questions. It’s about giving him something else to do.

        Don’t feel afraid to train your staff to hung up if he becomes verbally abusive. Write them out a script to read even.

        1. Evergreen*

          Me too!! Especially the next part: ‘I want to speak to a manager!’ ‘Ok, our director works 9-5 Monday to Friday, here’s her direct number’.

      3. Mona Lisa Saperstein*

        Re: #2 and #3 – I agree with some of the other commenters that getting your director to understand the extent of the problem could be really helpful. To the director, I might frame it as “Would you mind if we transfer you the next few Mr. Hugh calls so that you can model how you’d like us to respond to him?” And to Mr. Hugh, to avoid the problem of enabling him/making him feel validated by moving his calls up the chain, I wouldn’t wait for him to get angry and demand a supervisor, and then explicitly say “I’m transferring you over to Cersei, our director” – I would wait for him to ask his question, and then say “I’m transferring you over to Cersei, she can help you.” And leave it at that.

        Even if he’s threatened a lawsuit somehow, I can’t imagine a reasonable attorney taking on that case, and I can’t imagine what grounds on which he could possibly sue. This is sort of a weird hill for your director to die on and if she’s forced to consistently deal with Mr. Hugh, I feel like she might relent.

      4. Panda Bandit*

        If it turns out he did threaten a lawsuit, what would it even be about? At some point a lawyer or judge will see his questions and realize that they’re beyond what a regular library can answer.

        1. Marisol*

          Yeah, if I were in that position I’d have an attitude of, “ok, go ahead and sue–see you in court.”

    16. Marisol*

      Is there any way to record the calls? Would a transcription of the recording help to build a case for why he needs to be banned?

      1. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

        Depending on her state it may not be legal to record without his consent, and he will likely just refuse.

        1. Marisol*

          If she’s in a state where two party consent isn’t required, it’s a non-issue, and if she is in a state where both parties must consent, it might be possible to make help contingent on being recorded.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Almost every other place I call has the message, “This call may be monitored for quality assurance control.”

        Even if you can’t program that into your phone system, can you say, “Mr. Hugh just so you are aware, our phone call maybe monitor for quality assurance reasons.” OR more clearly said, “Mr. Hugh, just so you are aware, our library has started a new system of monitoring calls for the purpose of customer training. This call may or may not be recorded I have no way of knowing. I must tell you that before we start the conversation.”

    17. Marisol*

      So normally I’m a hard ass about this kind of stuff, and favor cutting off people who are jerks, but if you want to go the kind, compassionate route, do you have any way you can hook this guy up with social services? Do you have a home address for him where you could send a social worker? I have no idea what the ethics or legalities are for this kind of thing, but if he’s demented and needs help, surely there is a way to hook that up.

      Or, since you’re already wasting time speaking to him, can you try to identify what he really needs, since it seems to be attention more than information? Would it be out of line to ask some leading questions that might give you some ideas as to how to help him? Something innocuous, like “how is your day going?” or possibly, “may I ask what your interest is in teapots?” something that might serve to redirect the conversation without violating any boundaries. Obviously you’re not going to ask “have you been diagnosed with mental illness?” but perhaps you could get him to volunteer something that would lead to you being able to offer help. He might still pester you, but might stop being abusive.

      Normally I discourage people from taking on too much emotional labor, but in this case, you’re already spending a lot of time an energy on this, so it might be the path of least resistance and also be a very kind thing to do for an old person who needs help.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I was thinking along the same lines because clearly your higher ups are not going to help you.
        My thought was do you have a local church that is popular, where the pastor is well-liked?
        Maybe you could call up the church, tell them the situation and ask if they can do a welfare check. Some churches are amazing in what they are willing to do.

        1. Kj*

          Police do welfare checks as well. Usually for safety, but if folks think this is dementia, they should be able to have the police check and make sure he has access to services and support. Maybe alert his caregivers to his “hobby” of calling the library. You just call 911 with a name and address and ask for a welfare check. I have done it before.

    18. ModernHypatia*

      Coming to this late, sorry! A couple of other things that have helped with similar patrons
      – I gather his questions are about all different kinds of topics, right? If they’re roughly the same, then you can do the “Here’s the information we have, this is the limit of what we can do.” with a handout sheet, etc.

      – I worked somewhere where we had a different variant of this kind of problem patron (asked the same tech questions every time he was in for weeks, was creepy at our student workers, was very difficult when there was any change in his preferred routine, computer, etc. We were an academic library, so any repairs/renovation/etc. had to happen over breaks, and he’d be up in arms about it for weeks.)

      He was fine with me (and I was fine dealing with him, so long as I could walk away when he hit reasonable limits) so I dealt with him when I was around, and if I wasn’t everyone else said “Oh, so sorry, she’s the best person to help with your question.” (which was actually also true job-title wise). Eventually he gave up, at least for a few months.

      – Definitely push back on any requirement that staff stay on the line once he gets verbally abusive. That’s not fair to your staff. Trying to answer his question is one thing, but if he doesn’t desist from abuse after maybe one “If you continue speaking to me like that, I will have to end the call.” (and definitely point out that it’s affecting service to other patrons: as a library user and give a few examples.) Whether the solution is to transfer him to a manager, or hanging up or what, when he gets abusive, there needs to be something frontline staff can do when the conversation gets completely non-productive.

      – There’s some good training material out there about dealing with difficult patrons – it’s been a while since I looked for specific things, but this makes a great staff training day exercise or something for managers to discuss as a group, or whatever.

      – If you have at least some identifying info (like a full name and maybe town?) it might be worth calling the county elder services or mental health services (or your equivalent) and saying “We know you can’t tell us anything, but we have this ongoing thing, and we wondered if maybe he should be getting services or care he isn’t.” Sometimes that can help get needed care, or help make sure there’s a caregiver with him who can redirect him from making tons of calls, or whatever makes sense. (Because chances are, you’re not the only people he’s doing this pattern to.)

    19. Drago cucina*

      Ugh, sorry the director isn’t backing you up on not taking his calls. As a public library director I tell my staff that they don’t have to tolerate abuse like this. I concur with referring the calls to your director. Part of her job is dealing with these issues.

      I would also sit down with the director and express concern that the direction to take his calls is putting the library at risk. In more than one case libraries have lost lawsuits brought by employees because the director and board didn’t act to prevent harassment. The repeated, abusive calls could be construed as harassment.

    20. ScarletInTheLibrary*

      We have a reference desk email and try to direct patrons with more complex questions to use the email. Or to mail them to the library. That way it’s in writing.

  13. OwnedByTheCat*

    Ok, moms of AAM:

    Just found out I’m pregnant last weekend, due in November. We’re super excited but I’m already stressing out about work.

    1. I AM SO TIRED. I haven’t had terrible morning sickness yet (crossing my fingers) but I feel like I’ve been hit by the sleepy train and can barely function. I have a MAJOR event in three weeks. How did you make it through your first trimester without a) falling asleep under your desk and b) people figuring out it out?

    2. I’m already stressed about going back to work vs. quitting my job. I know it’s not worth stressing out about now, but I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering if I can go part-time,etc and what my boss will say. I work at a school and my whole team is women and all but one of them are mothers, so I think i’ll have a lot of support. And yet I stress.

    1. jm*

      First, congratulations!
      I found taking naps on my lunch break helped a lot. I would work and eat at my desk, then go to my car, turn the A/C on, and sleep for an hour.
      It’s funny how some people figure out quickly that you’re pregnant (my boss guessed early on but didn’t say anything), and others won’t know until super late. I am pretty tall and, ahem, big-boned/heavyset, so there were literally people at my office who didn’t know I was pregnant, and I was 7 months along…my body hid it well.

      1. Cinnamon Owl*

        I’m 5’3″, and was pregnant at the same time as my 6′ coworker. She looked a lot more graceful.

    2. Dee-Nice*

      *swoops into seat across the table from you*

      Hello. This was me last year. The Sleepy Train is real and deep. I sit in an open area and live in a major metropolitan area (so, no car) and my only option sometimes was to sit in a bathroom stall and close my eyes for five minutes. Yes, I did this. I also HATE having a secret, so I told everyone in my office after about 10 weeks and that helped because people were very understanding. I know it’s not feasible/comfortable for everyone, but may be worth considering?

      Ideally, yeah, you wouldn’t stress about the back-to-work decision quite yet, just because not stressing would be nicer for you but– it IS a stressful decision and it’s not irrational for you to be worried about it. You won’t really know how you feel until the baby is here. I LOVE my baby. I HATED being home all day. The first day I got back to work was like the first vacation I’d had in months. YMMV. You are 100% entitled to whatever leave your employer provides, so take it, guilt-free, and see how you feel.

      And– Congratulations! Whatever advice anyone gives you, just know that nothing can really prepare you for it, but you WILL figure it out.

    3. straws*

      Don’t worry too much about symptoms you haven’t had yet (morning sickness). You may never had them! I never had morning sickness, and only a little nausea related to heartburn in the 3rd trimester (I’m terribly prone to heartburn to begin with). I was definitely tired throughout my whole pregnancy. I honestly can’t remember doing anything big about it. I just powered through and made comments about sleeping poorly. I drank a lot of water and tried to eat really well, because that typically made me feel better when I wasn’t pregnant. So whatever food choices tend to make you feel more energized and healthy, go with those more frequently!

      Try not to stress about going back to work yet. You’ll have PLENTY of time to stress about it later. Do think it over and think about various situations you might end up in, but don’t worry too much about which one you’ll end up in. You want to be prepared, but not drive yourself crazy.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I only had queasiness, smell-sensitivity, and a very touchy gag reflex, and I felt so guilty about it with so many of my friends vomiting multiple times a day for the first 24 weeks!

        1. straws*

          I’m right there with you. I had SUCH an easy pregnancy, and I knew almost a dozen other women pregnant around the same time (something was in the water??). I felt so guilty that they had all of the stereotypical terrible pregnancy issues, and I had almost none of them!

          1. OwnedByTheCat*

            I’m SO grateful so far to not have morning sickness. 5 weeks in so I’m thinking I might get off without it. But I am freezing all the time, smell bad smells from ten miles away, and my boobs are about to explode. The being cold is the worst so far. My husband came home yesterday and I had the heat on at 80 degrees and was still wearing socks and a sweater.

            1. Parenthetically*

              I had to laugh at “my boobs are about to explode”! Sympathies! I felt like my boobs hurt ALL THE TIME, but especially in the cold — like they’d be aching with cold when the rest of my body was just cool. Pregnancy! The weirdest!

            2. Busytrap*

              I genuinely hope to heck you do get away without it because it is the WORST. I’m 9 weeks pregnant with my first, and the morning sickness hit about two weeks ago, so you’re not out of the woods yet. I have officially silent-vomited into every trashcan in the office. And on the side of the road. And in the bathroom at restaurants. It is real, and it is awful. But I got my hot little hands on some drugs earlier this week, and they have been amazeballs. I feel human again! So if you do get it – check in with your doc to see if you can get some meds. Because I literally could not work while I had the sickness. :)

    4. Andy*

      Congratulations! Babies are the BEST!
      everyone’s situation is going to play out differently, and for me even each baby/leave played out different from the last. The only thing you can really do is try to stay on top of your reactions (I get overly reactive while pregs), get as much rest as possible, and if someone mentions that you haven’t been yourself just agree and chalk it up to a fleeting relationship with a mild stomach bug…if you don’t feel like disclosing of course!
      You’re not being unreasonable by thinking about what December and January will bring you, btw. It’s good to get a start on chewing through the decisions you’ll have to make. Maybe you could talk to a work friend who’s recently been on maternity leave?
      and again, congratulations, and take heart and strength that in this wild world there are others near you who have done it and are doing it with at least a modicum of success!

    5. Cinnamon Owl*


      Exhaustion usually gets measurably better at the end of the first trimester, especially with a first pregnancy. (I think mostly because you don’t have tiny fast irrational people also sapping your energy from without.) But that looks like it’s more than 3 weeks out for you. All I can recommend is to cut out anything extra that you can, especially from the evenings. Go to bed. Don’t watch netflix, don’t straighten up, don’t check email one more time, just fall into bed and sleep. And is there anywhere at work you can lie down for 10 minutes? This is the opposite of not looking like you’re pregnant–our couch was in the room set aside for pumping milk–but just getting horizontal for 10 minutes can really help.

      Just be cautious of cat naps at work, which when pregnant tend to be less a brief invigorating doze and more an inescapable coma that you foggily crawl out of two hours later.

      1. OwnedByTheCat*

        Thank you – I went to bed at 8pm last night. That seemed late for me! I think I will have to embrace a 7pm bedtime for the next few weeks :)

    6. Murphy*

      Congrats! I’m pretty isolated at work, so really nobody noticed. (I did have morning sickness in that I felt nauseous, but I was not actually throwing up.) My friends did though, but they let me tell them the news when I was ready. I think you can be honest about not feeling well if you feel like your productivity is suffering without revealing what’s happening. Take a sick day if you really need it, can afford to with your workload. Rest whenever you can.

    7. Sled dog mama*

      1. I didn’t, people guessed before I told them but had the sense to keep their mouths shut. I was also lucky in that since I was explicitly not paid for my lunch break I felt ok closing my door and taking a 20 minute nap. I also took a 20 minute nap every day when I got home.

      2. Try not to stress about it, you’ll make the best decision for you and your family. That won’t make the decision any easier but it will be your decision nobody else’s, practice the line “I haven’t decided yet” or whatever you feel is appropriate to tell colleagues and have it ready the day you announce. It’s nobody’s business but people ask.

    8. Parenthetically*

      Oh bless your heart!!

      1) NOBODY TOLD ME ABOUT THE TIREDNESS. It was honestly like nothing I have ever experienced before — the only thing remotely comparable is the jet-lag I’ve had after very long international journeys. I made sure to take my prenatal religiously, plus supplemental B12 and zinc; have SOMETHING caffeinated mid-morning or at noon (my poison was glass-bottle Coke because I couldn’t stomach coffee or tea); and stay extremely hydrated. I’m aiming for 3 liters of water a day, and it’s hard for me, but I have way more energy when I do. Plus, just sleep whenever you can. My midwife jokes that every time you get hit with a nap attack, you’re building a spleen or some blood vessels or something. Rest as much as possible. There is no shame in an 8 pm bedtime.

      2) My stress/anxiety in those early weeks was absolutely bananas, so if that’s you, please feel free to give yourself space to make that decision when you’re a little less wound up. My anxiety levels have dropped a lot since about week 15, FWIW.


      1. paperfiend*

        I described the sleepiness as “the sleep fairy whacks me over the head with her magic wand”. My poor husband – for the first half of my pregnancy, I’d get home from work, eat the dinner he had prepared, and then sleep on the sofa until time to get in the actual bed and sleep some more.

        1. OwnedByTheCat*

          This is apt. And my husband is like “well you’re tired and stressed out all the time” and here I am wondering if I can literally roll from the couch to the bed.

        2. Bend & Snap*

          Oh man! I would come home, get into bed fully dressed, eat dinner in bed, rally for a shower and jammies and then back to bed. I easily slept 13 hours a day on weekdays in early pregnancy and pretty much around the clock on weekends.

          It gets better!

      2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        The tiredness is real. I remember with my first that I’d nap during lunch, come home, eat dinner, and go to bed. It was insane.

        My second wasn’t nearly as bad. I remember commenting that either the pregnancy was just easier on me or I was just used to functioning while completely exhausted.

    9. Sandy Gnome*

      Everyone and every pregnancy is unique, so know that this is just what I found worked for me. I was super tired during my first trimester. I coped by doing only what was necessary both at work and at home. I had the type of job where the work was never done (but I wasn’t dealing with extreme deadlines), so when 4:00 came, I would leave. The work would still be there the next day. I slept in my car on breaks occasionally. I did my best to get to bed earlier as well. If you’re able, it might help to take a personal day here and there to stay home and rest. Just having a day where I felt no pressure to accomplish anything was really beneficial.
      While I thought I was hiding my fatigue, I did have a couple coworkers who were suspicious, and even some who had the boldness to ask. I told them to keep it to themselves until I was ready to share with others.
      As others have commented, it’s hard to know how you will feel about working or not until you’ve actually had your baby. I was glad to get back to work after maternity leave, but what I hadn’t been prepared for was being contacted by another company while I was out on leave about working for them. The increase in pay and the cut in commute (almost 2 hours less driving) made it an easy decision for me. So while I did return to work, it was only to work out my notice period before leaving to start a new job.

    10. Hlyssande*

      My BFF ended up having to take a leave of absence early in her second pregnancy to simply SLEEP because she wasn’t getting it with her normal work schedule (and a 3 year old). Without it she was having constant, horrible morning sickness and losing weight at an alarming rate.

      When she first arranged the leave, her hubby thought it meant they could not pay for daycare for the 3 year old for that time… ahahaha no. The three year old was partly responsible for the lack of sleep (they were living in the basement due to an upstairs redo in prep for new baby at the time, so friendo couldn’t retreat behind a closed door once kid was up).

      Every pregnancy is different Take whatever leave your work allows (and if you have extra vacation, take that too if you want!), and take care of yourself! And congrats!

    11. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      Yay! So happy for you. Babies are wonderful.

      I was one of those poor unfortunate souls with hyperemesis gravidarum, so I’ve had lots of experience trying to control nausea, but as bad as it was, the exhaustion was the hardest to deal with. I could fall asleep (and admittedly DID) if my mind was not engaged fully. My boss was very supportive of me taking 10-15 min cat naps in my car on my break or at lunch. One thing that did help with exhaustion and nausea is taking a B complex vitamin. It’s water soluble so if you take “too much”, it just gets peed out.

      1. Neruda*

        Fellow HG survivor here! Congrats on making it through. It’s not something anyone who hasn’t been through it will understand. Other people: You had morning sickness? Hahahaha let’s talk sickness my friend, you ain’t seen nothing! Worst part for me was that napping made it worse in the second half of my pregnancy. I stopped the constant vomiting by 20 weeks but if I napped, I threw up. Awful!

        To the OP, this thread had some great advice. Try to let anything slide that you can (housework, socialising etc). You need the rest! And remember, this too shall pass!

    12. Tuckerman*

      So, not a parent. But I did go to grad school while working full time, so I found myself beyond exhausted regularly. If you have vacation days, can you schedule 2 or 3 half (or even better, full) days off over the next month or so? A half day off in the middle of the week where you can just sleep might help your energy level. When I was in school, it also helped to be able to look forward to a few “free” hours.
      And Congrats!!!

    13. Thlayli*

      25% of women never get morning sickness at all and over 90% of women are over the morning sickness by 12 weeks. If you haven’t had it by 6 weeks there’s a good Chance you won’t get it at all.

      The tiredness in the first trimester is mainly caused by you making the placenta. The baby is so tiny it takes barely any of your energy till the third trimester (which is why second trimester is the good one after placenta is grown but before baby gets really big). But in the first trimester you make the whole placenta and it doesn’t grow much after that.

      The placenta contains 4 whole pints of your blood! Yes that’s right you make an extra 4 pints in 8 weeks – half your entire blood volume. it’s the equivalent of donating blood every 2 weeks.

      Eat lots of red meat or other iron-containing foods and take pregnancy vitamins. The vitamins contain iron but it’s in a form that’s hard to digest so eating lots of red meat is the best thing to do. Ideally three times a week. And drink lots of water. If you are already exercising then continue within reason (so long as it’s not a contact sport) and eat as healthily as you can – and sleep as much as you can in the evenings. All these things helped me a lot.

      Good luck I hope it all works out for you.

    14. New Name, Who's This*


      Does your job allow you to work from home at all? Not having to worry about someone seeing you actually nod off for a moment is very helpful. My morning sickness has been kind of rough but I’ve been able to telecommute when I need to. (If anyone has guessed that my stomach issues are actually a pregnancy, they haven’t said or hinted at it.)

      I suspect the vitamin B6 also helps with tiredness.

    15. New Bee*

      Congratulations! I had my baby last November and also have a birthday that month; it’s a great one. :-)

      It’s normal to stress about going back to work, and you really can’t know how you’ll feel until it’s imminent. When you feel comfortable, definitely talk to your coworkers about what they did, pumping arrangements (if you’re breastfeeding), childcare, etc. You don’t mention what you do at the school (former teacher here), but my friends who are still in the classroom say their schools have been way more flexible than they might have expected. Wishing you a healthy pregnancy and baby!

  14. Fishcakes*

    I’m in a frustrating situation at work that I don’t know how to resolve.

    I have to get information and documents from my co-workers. They’re all pleasant people, but the majority of them are not quite up to the task, cogntively. I ask simple questions (e.g, “Can you please see if you can find x file? It is mentioned in this document but I cannot find it on your department’s network drive.”) and most of the time my request is not understood and I either get an incorrect answer/file, or I get dragged into a 30-40 minute conversation as a confused co-worker tries to sort out what I want. Giving them more information seems to make it worse. I’ve tried asking things verbally and in writing.

    This is a real problem right now because I’ve just discovered that for the past 20 years critical information has not been recorded and saved properly, and a lot of it is missing. This information absolutely has to be located, organized, and stored coherently, or we are in violation of several provincial laws. My boss is furious and wants me to make my co-workers, who are responsible for most of the errors and missing information, fix it. However, they literally can’t sort this mess out themselves. They can’t even comprehend what the problem is, let alone organize and carry out a strategy to resolve it. My boss is very fond of these people, as they’ve all worked here forever, and won’t listen to me when I try to explain the situation to her.

    Any suggestions? Stories of similar situations?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’ve found that people do this to cover their behinds when they know they messed up and they don’t want to admit it. I’d guess that your co-workers knew that keeping these documents was part of their jobs and they didn’t keep them, or else they didn’t even document the information they were supposed to. Acting like you don’t understand the question, or diverting the question into a long, unrelated story are methods of distraction.
      It sounds like you recognized that they dropped the ball. You could try deferring the blame right up front, “I know this wasn’t your responsibility at the time, but can you help me…” Maybe they won’t feel challenged and be more willing to help?
      It’s a tough spot to be in. Good luck!

      1. Fishcakes*

        This was an issue before the major mess-up was revealed, but I wasn’t under pressure then to wave a magic wand and make these people do work they’re incapable of. We’re in the process of moving over to a new filing system and the employees in charge of that job are ALSO rather incapable, so the files aren’t categorized correctly or are scanned all together (seriously, imagine 1000 letters (and random documents that don’t belong there) scanned together as one massive PDF named “letters”), and the employees who are supposed to use the new file system can’t grasp its basic rules and also can’t find anything in it because nincompoops set it up. So it’s just a sh*t-show of epic proportions over here.

        1. Coalea*

          Ugh! I have no constructive advice to offer (in fact, I’m dealing with a similar situation, although on a smaller scale), but you have my sympathies!

        2. OfficeBtch*

          I also have no advice, but plenty of empathy! At my old job, someone at the other branch location’s interpretation of “going paperless” was “box up 25 years of paperwork and ship it to someone else to deal with.” (Yep, that someone was me!)

        3. Not So NewReader*

          People need to be trained on the filing system. If they do not understand it then they need further training.
          People also need to be allowed time to fix the 20 years of bad files. This is not something that can be solved instantly. I am kind of ticked at your boss for not understanding the scope and the severity of the problem.

          Yes, this one hits me directly. I have 30 years of files that I need to clean up ON TOP of my regular work. My solution is that if I have to dig out a particular old file, I clean THAT single file and I put it in its new home. At this rate it will take me about 200 years to fix what is wrong.

          I am not allowed to have extra time to do this. My boss cannot hire and train another person to help bail us out, she’s not allowed. Personally, I do not have enough training/knowledge to know that I am doing an accurate job, this means that I work even slower.

          To me, this is a management failure. Ask your boss what he would like you to do to make these people cooperate with your requests. Tell him what you have tried so far and ask him what is next.

    2. Sadsack*

      When you say she won’t listen, what exactly do you mean? Have you asked her to tell you how you are to go about working with them when x, y, and z haven’t worked?

      1. SophieChotek*

        Yes…can you document? Every time?’

        I asked Jane for this file, missing in X report, on this date..and Jane said..X (she didn’t have it, it took her 40 minutes to find it with me by her side, she sent back file Z, when I clearly asked for file Y)…

        Your boss is probably equally embarrassed that all this has gone missing under her watch..but in some ways…it sounds like this is on her for not catching it…avoiding the issue won’t help…

      2. Fishcakes*

        She says, “keep trying!” I mean, I haven’t straight up said that I think many of my co-workers have cognitive limitations, but I have given examples of when they haven’t understood a simple request. I also have explained that I believe they aren’t capable of fixing the major problem themselves, or of even providing support to me as I fix it.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Send an email with detailed instructions on what you need, give a firm deadline, and CC your boss.

        2. LCL*

          Someone, and it might well be you, is going to have to give each of these persons some one on training on how to save and store computer files. It sounds like they don’t computer very well, yet the information you need is supposed to be in the company network. A basic tutorial on how and where to save files will reduce the problem going forward. They are probably saving the files locally and don’t realize there are different drive spaces and different uses for them.

          Even if they have been using computers since the mid nineties, practices have evolved. And people who have been using computers since way back when, if they aren’t IT or software people, will default to saving things on their local computer drive. Everyone used to do it that way, sounds like some of them still are.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This situation is just begging for a procedural document written in very easy-to-read language, with clear steps for what they should do every single time.

            1. Trillian*

              And possibly also some judicious resetting of software defaults so documents wind up in an accessible location.

          2. Fishcakes*

            They have been given numerous computer training courses and document retention courses, most of them delivered one on one by the (frustrated) IT manager. They have procedural manuals. This isn’t just a computer issue. This is an issue of not understanding simple concepts and instructions.

            1. zora*

              If the IT manager is frustrated, they are probably not doing a good job of training. I would try again, and make sure they are really absorbing what they need to know.

          3. zora*

            This is what I was going to say: Training.

            I would tell your boss: I need to organize a mandatory training for everyone on how this works, and exactly how to find and save the files that we need. It has been too long since they learned how to do this, and everyone needs an update urgently. When can I schedule that training?

            Write out all the details and logistics of how to organize this training, either all together in a group, or spending 2 hours sitting with each person and going through it. It seems like a lot of work, but it will be WAY more efficient than having a long back and forth each time someone doesn’t do it right.

            Then also, create a document. A clear flow chart, with screen shots, of exactly what needs to happen every time, have them laminated and posted next to each person’s computer.

            This becomes a problem when people have been at their job for a really long time as technology has changed around them.

            1. Troutwaxer*

              And use Word’s feature which allows you to set the language to a particular grade level. With these folks, probably a low grade level.

              Also, I’m guessing that the IT person has similar frustrations. Do you think they might help you raid the hard drives of your coworkers and see what information they have stashed there?

              1. Chaordic One*

                Could you tell us a bit more about this feature? I’m not familiar with it. What’s it called? How do you access it? (I don’t normally use Word, but there’s probably something similar in other word-processing applications if I knew what to look for.)

          4. TootsNYC*

            Since you’re stuck working with them to solve this, maybe you pick discreet tasks and train each person on only ONE of them. If you genuinely thing these people have cognitive problems, this might be your best bet.

            Basically, see if you can think of tactics you would use if your company deliberately made it a practice to hire the cognitively impaired, and see if you can organize this task to work within their limitations.

            If you need some help, is there someone around you who teaches adults with Down Syndrome, or something similar? Even if these folks don’t have that level of cognitive impairment, stealing some techniques from that field might be helpful.

            So one person gets instructions for how to scan a single document to a single PDF. And a careful procedural sheet.

            And you spend two weeks not worrying about progress on the project, but just one training exercises with these people on their one job.
            So they don’t have to process too many things, and so you can just drill them, over and over, to do only one step.

        3. Zooey*

          Just curious, are they cognitively challenged in other ways or just acting like it when they have to respond to your requests?

          1. Fishcakes*

            In other ways. It’s not an attempt to get out of doing work. They actually work very hard, just not effectively or correctly.

            1. Coalea*

              Yeah, I’m a little confused by what you mean when you say, “not quite up to the task, cogntively.” Like, are we talking actual cognitive impairments/deficits (eg, learning disabilities, dementia), or just people who aren’t too bright?

              If it’s the latter, and if they “work very hard, just not effectively or correctly,” why are they still in their positions?

            2. LCL*

              There is a piece missing here. You haven’t told us because you are new there and don’t know what the missing piece is yet. If your job doesn’t go out of the way to hire people with cognitive issues, it doesn’t seem likely that the majority of your coworkers are incapable of learning how to save files.

              I think it would be good for you to meet individually with a few of the workers who have been there a long time and ask them about the history of the group, and why things are done this way.

    3. it happens*

      This sounds like you’re trying to manage a pretty huge project. Maybe you could collect a number of the requests you have and then have an in-person meeting with your boss, the people who aren’t quite getting it (and their boss if not the same as yours…) Perhaps this eye-to-eye meeting explaining the end-state goal, their part in it (using the specific requests) would be useful. And if they really can’t get it, your boss is present to witness…

    4. Jill of All Trades*

      This sounds like your boss has her head in the sand.

      I would just start keeping a list of the files and what action you took for each, e.g. “Spent 20 minutes explaining to [x] what was needed, but received incorrect file.” This can show that you are at least trying to make progress. Save the emails you send as well.

      I know it’s a pain to do documentation on top of the work you already have, but every time I have an issue, people don’t usually respond unless I show them concrete examples of where the struggle is.

      Maybe you could also take a look at how you’re explaining what the files are. If it’s a situation where there’s company-specific language that doesn’t match with the industry norm, that could be part of why you’re running into the issue. For example, my company uses the term “alert” to mean “work order.” Not sure if this is applicable in your case, but it could be something for you to ask your boss alongside the evidence provided via the documentation mentioned above.

      1. Fishcakes*

        If I was a smarter person I’d stick my head in the sand, too. I’m new and it shouldn’t matter to me if this has a large and negative impact on the company. Really it’s my boss’s job to manage this. But it just sticks in my craw that things are SO WRONG.

        I’m going to have to document everything even if it’s a headache. I’ve started doing that on other projects to cover my behind.

        You make a good point re differing terms, however I’m using common company terms (memo, policy, letter, document).

    5. LKW*

      I work in document management – the best argument I’ve ever presented was this study done almost 20 years ago by what was then PWC / CL about the cost of not managing documents correctly. I don’t remember the specifics but in short it basically found that the cost to find a missing document was roughly 5x the cost to file it correctly the first time and the cost to replace a missing document was roughly 10x the cost to file it correctly the first time. Again – those specifics are not necessarily correct but you get the point.

      Turn this from a regulatory issue to a cost issue. Help your supervisor and other leadership see the cost result of this situation. That seems to make people pay attention better than regulatory risk.

      1. Fishcakes*

        That’s a good point, however my boss doesn’t need to be told how valuable this is. She could be fired (and knows it) if this information is not located.

        1. zora*

          Yeah, it’s sounding like it’s the lack of consequences that is the problem here. Have these people been made to understand that everyone’s jobs are in jeopardy if this isn’t fixed? Because there will be actual legal consequences.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          snark/ Then she needs to go look for it./snark

          I guess I would start saying things like “There is more than one problem running here.”

          Is there a way you can let her see what an example search actually entails?

    6. zora*

      Hm, well since you are pretty sure it’s not a technological issue.

      Your boss is furious, so realizes this problem is serious, but is the boss communicating that to these coworkers? Can you point that out? “I need you to make it clear that you are furious and that this is incredibly serious and puts our company in serious legal trouble. Can we have an all hands meeting where you explain that this is a major priority and you need everyone to work with me to fix this?”

      1. Fishcakes*

        Oh we had an urgent meeting and she gave everyone a big lecture. No one really participated but me, and the others sort of just nodded vacantly and afterwards were like, “well that must have been someone else, because I don’t make mistakes.” They don’t really understand what’s going on, even though it was clearly explained several times. Boss is satisfied that they’re all on board now and hasn’t been in the office since.

        1. zora*

          Gah. This sounds awful, I’m sorry. I think what was discussed above of just documenting every single time something is screwed up and going back to the boss with a list is your only option now.
          Basically the only thing that is going to change things is if each and every one of these people is told they will be fired if they don’t get it together, but it sounds like the boss has been lenient with everyone for far too long and if she continues being “fond” of them they will never get it and she will be screwed.

          You were just the one who came along right when the sh*t hit the fan, and that sucks. I think just try to stay calm and decide you are going to spend your days reiterating procedure over and over and then you will walk out the door when the day is over and just do what you can for now. It doesn’t feel good to those of us who want things DONE CORRECTLY, but do lots of self-care and just take it one day at a time for right now. Eventually this will come to a head one way or the other, and that’s above your paygrade. But UGH, good luck!!

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I would give her examples of the types of responses you are getting to your inquiries.

          I would also mention to her that they had that disconnected, vacant look in their eyes when she was talking to them.

          Also I would tell them myself that the boss is getting angry that we are not providing her with the information she needs.

          In short, refuse to be the buffer between these people and your boss. Let your boss know and let the people know things are not well.

    7. Alli525*

      I’ve read through the comments below, and I’m left wondering if the documents are generated from a certain process that can be systemized somehow. Like, let’s say a work order comes in and the RFP is never saved down. Is there a way to change the process so that (for example) in order to move to the next step of the job, you have to submit an uploaded copy of the RFP to your intranet? I’m imagining a web form with *Required Field next to an upload box … We obviously don’t know what your work situation is, but maybe if you changed the way the work flow plays out – yeah it would be an adjustment for these pleasant-but-cognitively-challenged employees, but you’re already asking them to adjust and it isn’t working, so making the adjustment mandatory (“This form says I can’t move forward until I submit this doc” is a pretty easy concept to understand) might help.

      This was a problem at my last job (admins would never save down itineraries or other important travel docs, so when they left and we needed to take a historic look back at what a repeat client needed for the next trip… nada) and I didn’t have the standing to enforce anything, so it frustrated the hell out of me too. And that wasn’t even a compliance issue, just a customer service/ease of use issue!!

  15. Anon for this*

    I’m a regular around here – I just didn’t want to post under my username.

    Here is the background with my career. I graduated in a super shitty economy, and took an admin job because it was all I could find. After a little over 2 years, I learned admins at my work place were always going to stay admins. I started looking for a job that would provide growth, I found one quickly and left. It ended up being insane and toxic (constant screaming, etc). I then started to read AAM and tried to screen the next job better. I specifically said I wanted to grow into Project Management, and they said they can provide this. At my 3 month check in they also reaffirmed that they see this growing in a project management direction.

    I have been here a year and a half, and am pretty sure this ‘growth’ was another lie. I have consistently asked, only to be given very small tasks. The goal-posts keep moving on me, first I wasn’t ready, then I needed to take X class, then I needed to talk more to my coworkers and ask if I can assist them, then I was finally given what my boss called a ‘project’ but really it took about 20 minutes. I get tasks from coworkers and help them out when I can. A coworker recently left, and another coworker asked if I could take over X. My boss (and I heard this all secondhand) told her she doesn’t think it looks good if an admin is involved in a project. It is pretty clear that I won’t be getting what I want here.

    What exactly should I do now. I don’t like being an admin and need to find another career. I have good reviews, and I think I am pretty good at my job. Should I just try and apply for non-admin jobs based on the small amount of extra work I have? Should I apply for more admin jobs and go back on that merry-go-round (after the last two jobs, I just, don’t trust I won’t be lied to). Do I try and have one more last ditch – I expected to do XYZ, why hasn’t this happened conversation with my boss? Do I try and wait it out and transfer internally (a possibility but jobs I want don’t come around so often).

    1. NaoNao*

      I think that you need to move on from this job, but also you need formal training in project management. I would get an office manager or “higher” admin job and start taking certification classes for PMP. I don’t know this for sure, but I feel like anecdotally, it’s pretty rare that admins move into other positions *in the same office or job*. Admin work is seen by many (wrongly, but still) as the lowest, least skilled job in the office totem pole. You will likely have to start fresh.
      I don’t think it’s helpful to think of it as being “lied to”–many offices and jobs have every intention of growing their people and retaining them and promoting them. But then the economy shifts, a new CEO comes in, the person in the job turns out to be unsuitable for the promotion they want, etc etc.
      One thing you could do is ask the boss directly “What steps do I need to take to start project management? What skills, classes, or accomplishments do I need to have to move into that role? How can we start finding ways to make that happen?”

      1. N.J.*

        Just a bit of further clarification if the OP considers taking classes for the PMP. You can’t get this professional certification without 36 months worth of project management work experience in an eight year period, a bachelor’s degree and 4500 hours of documented project work. The typical classes are to provide the 35 contact hours in project management training also required to sit for the test. Without a bachelor’s degree, the work experience requirement goes up to 5 years and the project hours requirement goes up to 7500 hours. This isn’t to discourage anyone from pursuing the PMP certification, but I’m currently pursuing it and would recommend keeping it in mind as an end goal, but not the main goal, when breaking into project management work. Especially with the cost associated with many of the prep classes and the cost associated with the test itself and joining the PMI (professional project management body that offers the PMP certification).

        1. Wheezy Weasel*

          The Project Management Institute also has a mid-level certification called the CAPM, which doesn’t require the same level of experience. You can pass the exam with 23 hours of classroom exposure (a weeklong CAPM prep course). From what I’ve read, it’s a great way to signal your intent to move into solid PM work even if you’re not getting it right now.

          I’m in a similar situation: I’ve done PM work in the past but not currently eligible for the PMP (too much time has passed) and the CAPM plus a master’s degree with a PM focus are my plans to jump back into the field.

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        I don’t know this for sure, but I feel like anecdotally, it’s pretty rare that admins move into other positions *in the same office or job*.

        Yeah, I don’t know either, but from my experience, I’ve only moved up from admin or admin-like roles within the same company twice.

    2. Your Weird Uncle*

      Like you, I found myself reluctantly in the admin world and wanted to get out of it as fast as possible. One of the problems with admin is that pigeonholing is a very real thing, and once employers find someone who excels at admin they will resist moving you up! It is very frustrating.

      One thing that I did, which I don’t know if it will work for you, was to find an admin job with a supportive boss who would let me focus on different areas that I was interested in. In the four years at that job, I spent time working on various projects and finally found out a very real need in my department (sorting out the finances – we had an accounting team, but my department really needed someone to take a granular approach to our funds) and, although I didn’t move up there, I was able to promote myself into a financial position for my next job. It took a while, and a lot of dipping in and out of work roles I wasn’t so keen on, but I finally feel like I’m in the right place, professionally.

      Good luck with your career! These things sometimes take a while, but you’ll get there.

      1. Anon for this*

        Thanks. I appreciate the stories of people who have been through this. I think the root of me being so upset is that I thought I found a supportive boss who would let me expand and then for one reason or the other it ended up not working out. I’ll keep trying, and try to stay positive that it will eventually work out.

        1. N.J.*

          Maybe you could try next for a project assistant or project coordinator role? That’s how I got into project management out of grad school. Much of the work I did as a project coordinator was administrative in nature, but the job position can often include compnonrntd of project management and position you in the right organization to move up through the OM ranks.

          1. Anon for this*

            That is what I meant when I said apply to non-admin jobs based on what I have been given. My field has program/project coordinator positions. They seem to want some combination of admin/project experience; but it isn’t totally out of my depth.

    3. Spoonie*

      Your first paragraph almost sounds like I could have written it.

      You can try a combination of all of the things you mentioned here. Talk with your boss and mention that you expected to be doing XYZ since you took this job on that contingent and that hasn’t happened. See if an internal transfer is a possibility. Also start looking at jobs externally. You have the possibility to be choosy, so make a list of the things you want/need in a job and try to stick to it. Build your resume so that it highlights the skills in Project Management from your extra tasks. If you’ve taken classes or gotten a certification, put that on there. Write a cover letter so that it specifies all of those fabulous PM things you’ve done, not just that you’re a great admin — unless you want to remain an admin (nothing wrong with that, just get the sense that you want to something different). I know Allison has resources in the archives and about writing resumes, etc. Use that.

    4. LKW*

      Another option to consider – and it’s the path I took – was to find an Admin Job that has education benefits and take get a business admin or IT focused degree. It will keep you in a job you’re not terribly fond of for a bit but as long as the company and coworkers are ok, you can make it work. Plus if the admin work isn’t too stressful, it will give you time for your classes and homework.

      In my case I got a degree from a major university through their continuing ed program only paying 20%, while my company paid the other 80%. All of the classes were at night and almost all of my classmates had full time jobs so they understood the time constraints for group work. When I graduated, I stayed on at my job for a bit longer but eventually left and ended up in a semi-entry level role at a consulting firm. I was a few years behind my peers but it gave me real work experience they didn’t have.

    5. Spelliste*

      It sounds like looking outside would be best. Have you looked into Project Coordinator roles? They’re often entry level, and typically need competence and flexibility, but not much experience. Some can have admin aspects, for better or worse, but that may smooth the way for you. Also, you might consider looking into large orgs and/or places that have strong tech components (e.g. my company, a large financial firm with a necessarily huge operations and technology department). They’re likely to have PM development tracks and training opportunities.

      I went from an office admin to project coordinator (different companies), which was the first step in building a real career from what had been dead end, underpaid jobs. I’m now a program manager. Best of luck to you!

      1. Anon Anon*

        I recommend this as well. In my department we regularly hire people as coordinators and promote them to project manager positions. We never promote administrative assistants, primarily because the skills needed for each role tend to attract different kinds of applicants.

    6. Studio*

      I would do a couple of things.

      1 reach out to boss about specific project you overheard and ask to have a part in it.

      2 Start job hunting internal or external.

      future non pm jobs to consider that can more easily gateway to pm analysr, ts.

      Consider looking at a non profit hospital. They are dying to get costs down so it’s really easy to get several hats there.

    7. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      A few more things to consider:
      1. Ask your boss if you can find a project management type mentor.
      2. Ask if you can shadow in on some project meetings to see how all the roles of a project team function together and observe the project manager.
      3. You can take online classes to get project management certificates, which may help you, resume-wise.
      4. The PMP is nice, but is losing a bit of value in the world of project management. Plus, you pay into it and then have to pay (or get your company to pay) to keep up with the PDU requirements. I am a “recovering project manager” who never got certified, but still got jobs based on experience. This is why I suggest 1-3 above.
      5. See if there are any project management related Meetup groups in your area. Great way to learn AND network. Even business analyst meetups might be of value to look into.
      6. Look into the world of Agile. Do you for sure want to be a Project Manager, or would you consider becoming a Scrum Master? Totally different roles, but there are a lot of companies in certain industries leaning toward or moving to agile to deliver value via projects. If so, check out becoming a CSM and finding Agile Meetups.

      1. Anon for this*

        What do you think about the project management certificates? I get 5K a year in tuition reimbursement, and the class I took was intro to project management. I could continue on to work on the certificate (I think it is 5 classes or something). The risk is my company reimburses after you get your grade, so if I got a new job, I would be out that amount of money.

        1. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

          I think it depends on where one is in their career. If you’re just starting out, or trying to make a significant career change, I think they can help get some footing. If you continue the classes, ask your manager if you can start putting your education to work by managing a small project, and then grow and learn from there! I’m personally a “learn by doing” person and get so much out of observing real life situations. I fell into project management many moons ago (wasn’t a business analyst first), and then fell into agile transformation, and then fell into agile coach (mind you, I never took formal certification classes for any of this, although I did take some company offered internal project management classes early on in my career). Good luck!

    8. Marisol*

      You mentioned taking classes–is the company paying for the classes? If not, could you get them to do that, or tosupport you in some way in your efforts to get training? Even if they are disingenuous about it and don’t really intend to promote you, more training might help you in your overall career path.

    9. Yetanotherjennifer*

      I’ve been in your position as well. My first job out of college was at a mom and pop company where I wore many hats and could choose my title and foolishly chose Administrative Assistant because back then the title was fairly new and everyone said it was a stepping stone title. I moved from that job to a genuine admin position in a tech company and was ready to advance after a year, but I found it difficult for all the same reasons. Eventually, through buyouts and reorgs and a manager that “got it” I was promoted to a project coordinator position; still entry level but no secretarial duties. Then I got laid-off and got web development and design training through a job retraining program and met a recruiter with a start-up dream and was able to get hands-on experience through him but it was very part-time so I kept looking. My next job was as a full-time web developer in ecommerce. I also got a job offer as a tech writer with the promise of being able to someday do web development but by that time I had waited long enough to do what I actually wanted to do, so I passed.

      Only you know if a talk with your boss would be productive, and you have to consider what happens if she says no. Keep your eye out for internal positions, and meanwhile start looking for an outside job that gives you project management experience if not the actual title. Or really, any title other than admin will help. Reframe your resume to focus on what non-admin work you are doing and have it just whisper the more secretarial duties. And I would think your cover letter is going to play a key role in framing your experience and goals. Can you get some hands-on experience through volunteer work? Any basic classes you can take? Not necessarily towards certification, just to give you the skills to get started. You’ve already got an admin job, so unless there’s more than the job that’s making you miserable, I’d hesitate to move into another one that ends up being the same dead-end.

  16. K.*

    I am so annoyed by a project right now – what should be a quick, easy thing to wrap up is taking longer than it should because of the program we’re using. Argh! Anyone else having any minor nit-picky annoyances that are driving them crazy?

    1. Grits McGee*

      The woman who sits next to me has been having sinus issues, but somehow her coughs and sneezes all sound like belching. It’s grossing me out, but of course the poor woman can’t help it so I can’t be annoyed, which is even more annoying.

      1. K.*

        The woman whose office is across the hall from mine is great, but she sneezes SO LOUDLY. Usually a couple of times a day (I think she’s allergic to dust) and it’s loud enough to startle you.

        1. Marisol*

          I have a guy here who does that. I’ve been dragging my feet about asking him to tone it down. It’s so loud, it’s like he’s yelling, and I think it’s partly deliberate to sound macho. I love him, but his sneezes literally make me angry.

          1. Loud Sneezer*

            I am a small female with a big sneeze. No, it is not deliberate. When I am around horses, I try to stifle it, but it hurts! Otherwise, I let it go. And, apparently, it is not without risks, as in, you can cause an ear infection or even rupture something. I apologize on behalf of all loud sneezers, but really that’s the way it is.

        2. blackcat*

          I am one of these people. My sneezes can wake the dead. In certain settings, I do my best to hold them in, but I have caused injury to myself in the past by doing so (mostly pulled muscles, nose bleeds, and ringing ears, but one *bruised rib.* My lungs hit my ribs so hard that I managed to bruise both a lung and a rib. I did not know such a thing was biologically possible until it happened to me.).

          It is a no-win. I am highly apologetic when I have to let a big one out. It is less frequent now than when I was young (in high school, I was That Girl With The Sneeze), so it’s maybe once a week. There is genuinely nothing I can do :(

    2. Rhys*

      I recently moved to a desk near the kitchen and almost every morning it smells like maple syrup at my desk. It’s not a problem really because it’s a pleasant smell, but it makes me want pancakes so bad.

      1. JustaTech*

        About 2 days a week my floor will randomly smell like toast around 2pm. No one has made toast, the lunch room doesn’t smell like toast, but the offices and labs will smell like toast.

        It’s been going on for years.

    3. Parenthetically*

      I teach a class of sixth graders, and their (totally developmentally-appropriate) constant need for reminders about behavior, supplies, organization, time management… is inexorably driving me batty.

    4. zora*

      I feel like I have a million nit-picky annoyances right now, but one is my coworker right behind me vocalizes every stressful moment or physical issue she has, so I feel like I’m always on edge because at any moment she’ll be freaking out about something, or have an outburst about her menstrual cramps. I’m an emotional sponge, so I absorb all of her stress and it makes me stressed. I am working hard at not letting it affect me, but it doesn’t always work. Gah, Inhale…… Exhale………

      1. Marisol*

        I hate vocalizers like that. I’ve got a tweaky nervous system from having ADHD (I notice everything, especially sounds) and sometimes I use earplugs. It’s so soothing to tune that stuff out.

        1. zora*

          She’s so close to me, I can’t really block the sound entirely. I do try to listen to soothing music most of the day, which can help me keep her stress out of my brain, but her speaking voice is really loud and she wants to talk about Ev. Er. Y. Thing.

    5. crankypants*

      lol! Yes!
      I have 300 pages to print out and the printer is going on strike.
      I can print 9 pages at a time, go over to the printer, retrieve them, check they all printed okay, print another batch of 9,
      Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for 1 page that will be printed on the back of eachof these pages.
      This is a project that was supposed to be out in the mail last Fri; I’ve been doing 10 hour days for the last two weeks getting this out…

      1. Parenthetically*

        Oh ye gods, this just brought back a wave of panic-stress-anxiety from when I was an overworked front-desk AA with no admin skills and all the responsibility for EVERY PRINT JOB AT THE COMPANY.

    6. Kat_Ma_Ras*

      Yes! Wrapping up a project, all I needed was to print to PDF. But program A can’t communicate appropriately with program B to accomplish the most basic task. Finally save it and page numbers are off, and a there’s a page somewhere in the middle with a single text line. Save it again, but the embedded links don’t work…. COME ON TECHNOLOGY — it’s 2017.

    7. Director of Things*

      We have a body odor guy. Not just, oh he’s nearby, and I wish he used deodorant. But a full-on, he left our section of the building before I walked in, and I started coughing/gagging from the smell when I entered a minute later. I have never encountered this level of BO before!
      Thankfully, he’s a temp, and his work is done here soon.

  17. KevinDennisNoPatricia*


    Long time lurker first time poster. A month ago an unpleasant, outright disrepectful and unprofessional co-worker has been promoted and is now my boss. We haven’t been told beforehand (despite having asked questions, since we sensed there was a team re-organisation happening) and my new boss hasn’t talked to us since. So he’s a jerk (as he’s always been) and now doesn’t talk to us AT ALL, despite sitting exactly one desk away from me. There hasn’t been an introductory meeting or something. That feels surrealistic.

    I expressed my surprise and fears to my former boss (now N2) and to HR, to no avail. They said they would keep an eye to my new boss behaviour but keep the organisation as it is. I feel like I’m in a vacuum + I’m not sure what to do. Am I a bad employee for being discouraged by such management? What can I do? Help!

    1. Rhys*

      I had a similar situation at a former job. Somebody was promoted from another section of the company to be head of my department despite having no knowledge of or expertise in our department’s work. He was also a hugely unprofessional person who played favorites with employees (awkwardly, I was one of his favorites so he treated me really well, but I was always wary of him). Eventually multiple managers in my department quit and cited this person in their exit interviews and he finally got fired when it was clear that he was in over his head and nobody wanted to work with him, but it took over a year.

      One thing you might try is feeling out your coworkers to see if they have similar concerns and then you can present things to this guy’s boss/HR. It might be more effective coming from multiple people.

      1. KevinDennisNoPatricia*

        The whole new team expressed their concerns, which is why it’s even more distressing…

        1. Rhys*

          Oh geez, that sucks. Is there any other possible escalation path? If not, maybe you and your coworkers can reach out to your new boss directly and ask for a group meeting just to… break the ice I guess?

          1. KevinDennisNoPatricia*

            My teammates don’t want to : they consider it’s our manager to make the first step. Huh, browsing the job offers section of Linkedin so hard!

    2. Marisol*

      I think anyone would feel discouraged by that. Since he’s a jerk, can you re-frame to be grateful that he’s not talking to you? I mean, do you really want to talk to someone who’s a jerk?

      1. KevinDennisNoPatricia*

        Yes I somehow was relieved at first to see he didn’t start to micro manage us, but I’m afraid he’ll sneak out of the blue and order me to do sth that’s totally opposite to our company’s process or whatever. He’s famous for doing this :/ I HAVE to find a way to keep working the way I do, but knowing he’s here, somewhere, stresses the heck out of me.

        1. Marisol*

          sounds like a fear of the unknown/waiting for the other shoe to drop kind of feeling. very sucky.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              To relieve fear of the unknown we have to build a plan.

              You could plan to transfer. You could plan to get a new job.
              You could plan to document everything you see.

              You will get a tiny bit of relief when you start to work on a plan. Even a half-baked plan will provide a little relief.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          if he tries to ask you to do something against process, ask him to put it in writing

  18. Librarian in waiting*

    I have an interview the library I used to work at in two Mondays! For a librarian position! Hooray!

    Background: I worked for the public library for 7 years, starting as a page and working while getting my MLS and working my way up to a paraprofessional position as a reference assistant. We have a great library system in my town and a university near by so competition for librarian positions is fierce. Plus, nobody wants to leave so there are rarely positions open.

    A couple years ago I interviewed for a newly created librarian position and rocked my interview. I ended up not getting the job, which was a bummer but okay, but I really didn’t appreciate the way they told me. I was told that I had the best interview, the best program proposals and everyone in the interview team thought I would do great in the position but they gave it to someone else. The manager couldn’t give me any feedback other than start volunteering in the community.

    I left the public library for the university library shortly after that. Library administration was implementing questionable policies and while I was trying hard to be positive and give the new policies a chance it wasn’t working out for me (mostly I wasn’t able to do the job I was hired to do and there was no room for gaining new experience or skills or advancement.) At the same time, a paraprofessional position at the nearby university library opened up and it was directly related to my second master’s degree. I ended up getting that position and left the public library.

    I am not sure how to treat my leaving the public library in my interview with them. I am going to focus on how I wanted to gain new experience and use my other degree, but that I realized I really am more suited for a public library than an academic one. All of that is true even if it isn’t the whole story.

    One other thing is that I am Facebook friends with someone on the interview committee. Do I “limit” them until after the interview? Or would it be best to just stop posting to Facebook for awhile?

    Any other advice for interviewing with a past employer?

    1. dear liza dear liza*

      I think your answer as to why you are leaving is perfect. Job seekers can sometimes get a little too invested in that question, especially if there’s drama, but as a seasoned search committee member, I can assure you that all we’re really looking for is why you want *this* job. Too much backstory often just raises flags.

      I’ve been FB friends with job applicants before, and when I’ve been an applicant (library land is small). In both cases, I just say nothing at all about the search or interview, and continue to post cute baby animal pictures and library cakes as usual.

      As for your previous interview, which you rocked- I’m not sure why you wrote that you “didn’t appreciate” the way they told you. It’s very, very common for hiring folks to not give feedback at all. I’m sure it was frustrating that they couldn’t say why they chose you, but you have to let that go. Final decisions often are made on weird, small things. In one search, a dean argued for a candidate because both of them had gone to the same big university and spent the whole meeting talking about the football team.

      Good luck!

      1. Librarian in waiting*

        Obviously there is a lot of history with this manager. I appreciate that he took the time to meet with me in person to tell me I didn’t get the job-he didn’t have to do that at all. I didn’t appreciate that he was trying to manage my feelings by telling me I’m the best. What is more helpful instead of trying to only lift me up is saying “the other candidate had way more experience” which is both true and gives me an idea of what I need to work on. He just doesn’t like to be the barer of bad news which is understandable but also his job.

        Thanks for your feedback about my answer! I think your right that I am spending more time on that question that is warranted!

    2. Hoorah*

      Few hiring managers will give you detailed feedback about the reason for your rejection. It’s standard. They are not invested in coaching job applicants. With so many interviews they do on a regular basis it’s not possible to give everyone feedback.

      This week I rejected an applicant because she seemed like an annoying whiner – she complained about every employer, including some petty grudges from years ago. If I were to explain to her honestly why she was decline I would say “We dislike your personality and think you are too annoying to work with.” What’s the point in saying that when it will only cause offence?

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      One thing to remember when interviewing with the former employer is that they may not remember what you did when you were there, so be sure to treat the job history as though the people in the room don’t know it.

      I also think it is especially important to talk about your accomplishments with people who “know” you, because they probably don’t know. The biggest mistake I see people make in internal feeling interviews is that they fail to really brag on their skill set, often because they think folks already know what they do/did. However, folks don’t know, so talk yourself up, just like you would at any interview.

      1. Librarian in waiting*

        Yes! This is good to remember. I’ve never met the person leading the interviews so hopefully that will push me to keep talking about what I did while I worked at the library and not assume anything. Thanks!

  19. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I think one of my coworkers is having some performance issues and it’s made for a few awkward moments in meetings this week. There was something said about how “I know Jane is frustrated by Teapot Sales Calls” by a senior colleague. Boss wasn’t here at the time and I know there have been closed door meetings between Boss and Jane. It made me feel uncomfortable, but I haven’t really said anything to anyone about it and I don’t know if I should. I really don’t want to know what’s going on with Jane and I don’t want to make it a bigger deal.

    1. Not so Nervous Accountant*

      Sounds like someone needs to talk to Gina and put her on a PIP?

      (sorry corny joke)

    2. Dr. KMnO4*

      I wouldn’t say anything to anyone since it sounds like one of those situations that is usually preceded by the phrase, “You didn’t hear this from me but…”. It sounds like the performance issue is for Jane and Boss to deal with. It’s unfortunate that the senior colleague made those comments but I don’t see where you telling someone that the comments were made is going to help the situation in any way. At most you could ask the senior colleague to not share things like that with you in the future, though in my experience those conversations usually don’t go over very well.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Why would you have to consider saying anything to any one?

      Worst case scenario, someone says, “Where is Jane?”
      Your response can be, “I don’t know.” or “I think she is meeting with the boss.”
      Period, done.

      People ending up in the boss’ office for performance issues is part of most work places. Hopefully the person will respond well to the boss’ instruction. Hopefully the boss will do a good job explaining what is needed. It’s part of worklife. If you don’t want to make it a bigger deal then forget it or ignore it.

  20. Applications and References*

    How do you all handle reference requests on job applications? I am casually applying for jobs (I’m looking for something that is going to be a really excellent fit) and it seems that most applications require me to list my references. The references I plan to use for this job search I have also used in the past, but I haven’t reached out to anyone yet because I expect this job search to take a while and I don’t want to bother them now for a check that may not come for months. Should I just list them and let them know now? Or hope the prospective employers do not contact them before an interview? Should I just put down their names and no contact info? Or should I say something like “References available at interview” (though I do feel that this may make my application stand out in a bad way…)

    1. T3k*

      What I typically do is call my references every so often (maybe once every 6 months) just to check to make sure they’re still ok being references for me.

    2. Audiophile*

      If it’s part of an online application system, I usually attach my reference sheet if it has been specifically requested. Or I list them in the reference section of the application. Otherwise, I don’t worry about it very much.

      My references have agreed to be references previously and were reliable. I think as long as you have their permission, you don’t need to contact them every time. If I get a heads up from an employer that they want to reach out to references, I’ll usually send out a quick email or text to my references telling them to expect a call. I’ll cycle through references and make changes as I need to. Recently, I removed someone because they didn’t respond when contacted multiple times by an employer.

    3. DixieRiver*

      I’ve encountered the same thing on forms. I’ve handled it by listing the names of my references, but no phone number, figuring I can always say I don’t have those handy. I think it’s important to have some control over when your references are contacted, and I think holding back on the contact info provides that.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      No one is going to call your references before you have an interview. It’s a huge waste of time.

      1. Anxa*


        This happens. Maybe they shouldn’t, but I have had references called before phone interviews (didn’t get an interview). I’ve also had interviews tentatively scheduled that depend on questionnaires being filled by references.

        I guess it’s not that typical, but I wouldn’t say no one.

    5. Lady By The Lake*

      Prior to beginning the job search you should reach out to your references, let them know that you are beginning to look for jobs (even if it is casual), let them know what you are looking for and ask if you can still use them as a reference. That serves two purposes — (1) it gives them a heads up, and (2) it is good networking. Take that opportunity to double check their contact information. I have always been a fan of “references available upon request,” but I am in a field and of a seniority where that is expected. I don’t know about other fields.

    6. BRR*

      I ask my references when I begin a job search if they’ll serve as a reference and what their preferred contact information is. Then if the employer gives me a heads up I email them to let them know a call is coming.

    7. 574Girl*

      I would say this depends on how many jobs you are applying too. For example, if it is truly once in a very long while (say once a year), then I do re-ask my refs if I can use them. However, if I am applying to several jobs, then I get permission and re-ask every six months or so. People’s circumstances change.

      Once I have the interview, I absolutely contact them and let me know I have an interview, what the job is and that I used them as a reference, which they already agreed too. Never blindside a reference if you can avoid it, though I’m sure you know that.

      You often have to include references on job applications, but it is super rare to have them called before an interview.

    8. Courageous cat*

      I will say I also have been finding this EXTREMELY annoying. I really don’t like giving out that kind of information before the company has even shown an iota of interest in me. Furthermore I truly do not see a need to ask for references at the application stage, other than to cause a lot of extra work for applicants who may not even get so much as a brief glance at their application.

  21. Giles*

    I fell into my field a bit by accident… in college, I majored in communications because I loved my classes/the subject matter, but I didn’t know what to do with it. I ended up in marketing, and have had two major marketing positions prior to my current job. I’ve been at this company for almost two years. Recently, I discovered the direction I want to take my life into, and it’s a completely different field – culinary arts. I found an evening program through a local community college that’s a half hour away from my workplace, and I’m excited to start classes in the fall.

    The catch is that classes start at 5, my office’s main hours are 8-5 (core is 9-4), and I would need to shift my schedule from 8-5 to 7-4 two days a week to make it work. My boss is open to discussing it, but is leaning toward rejecting my request to shift things by an hour… even though the shift wouldn’t go into effect until August. His reasoning is that he wants someone from the department available in both offices until 5 (my colleague in our headquarters is here from 8:30-5:30, but it’s not the same to him.) He told me he’d discuss it with me further during my quarterly eval (which should’ve been today), however.. he’s now out today. He emailed to say he would be available by phone, so I asked if we could chat about it so I would know his stance.

    His reply? “What’s the urgency? I thought this wouldn’t go into effect until the fall. I want to talk less about my support or the change and more about how you delivered the news.” He’s indicated he’s unhappy that I told him AFTER I enrolled, and not before. In the end, I told him the impact on my future plans leaves me to want to talk about it today – and he just came back and said we’d do it Monday. Argh.

    I need advice on how to approach this discussion, since my first instinct is anger. I feel he’s not very supportive of me, despite saying his goal is to support everyone on his team. Whenever I ask for PTO, for example, he’s always very begrudging about giving it. Now this. I know going into the meeting angry won’t be productive, but I also feel that he should know that he’s not coming off supportive, even if he inevitably approves something. Advice on navigating this?

    1. Andy*

      so…you signed up for classes already and now your schedule has to change? but you told your boss after the fact?
      I just want to clarify: you already signed up for the classes, right? the convo you want to have with Ms. Boss is after the fact?
      I think this might be separate than her granting pto only begrudgingly. that sucks, and pto is part of your benefits. But if you already signed up for classes and you’re approaching her after the fact like, “this is happening, btw” I can’t really blame her for being chuffed about it.
      You might want to adopt a conciliatory tone. I don’t know if you value your job, but if you do it might be prudent to acknowledge to her that you’ve put her in a spot by making arrangements before speaking with her about something that would alter your schedule every week.

      1. Biff*

        I disagree. She was going back to school regardless, and now she’s giving him a heads up that this is happening and she’d like to make the transition as gracefully as possible. As a boss, I’d be chuffed that I was getting this much notice for a hard-to-fill role.

      2. Giles*

        Yes, I told my boss after the fact. I understand him being a bit frustrated about that, but I was going into it with the perspective of “it’s one hour, two days a week, I’ll be in early to compensate, we get more requests at 7 AM than 4 PM, and you’ll have more coverage this way because someone from our team will be here from 7 to 5:30 PM.” I wrote all of this and other benefits out in an email after our meeting, to try to improve the situation.

        I also told him after the fact because school is important to me, I tried everything I could to minimize interruption in the department, and there’s a lot of precedent in it both at my company and within my department. Plus, personally, I’m also not a huge fan of the “ask for permission regarding my life decisions when I’m doing everything I can to compromise to begin with.”

        1. LawCat*

          You aren’t asking for permission regarding your life decisions. You are asking for permission to adjust your work schedule. Those are not the same thing.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            And not only that, you’re going back to school for something totally unrelated to your current job and you want your current manager to rearrange your work schedule to accommodate that. Yeah…I think you erred here a bit.

            1. Giles*

              … It’s by a single hour, which I’ll be doing in the morning instead. For two days a week. Sorry, but your tone is making it seem like I’m asking to leave at 2pm or to have three hours away in the middle of the day and it’s nothing that drastic.

        2. Blueismyfavorite*

          I think telling him after the fact was a real miscalculation. You say you didn’t talk to him beforehand because school is important to you. But your schooling for a completely unrelated field is not important to HIM. Staffing the job is. You’ve created a problem for him that now he has to fix. You’re probably going to need to apologize, tell him you realize you got ahead of yourself, and ask if there’s any way you can work around your school schedule but understand completely if it’s not possible right now.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I think apologize.

            And then say that you -do- need to know now if this schedule change is not something he can accommodate, so you can decide what to do. (Don’t tell him this, but your choices will obviously include withdrawing from school, picking different classes, or getting a different job. Hopefully he’ll be smart enough to realize that all of these are on the table.)

            Then maybe suggest that while you need to know well before fall, you understand that it seems non-urgent to him.

            But suggest that you use this very advance status to try it out.

            First start tracking (work backward if you can) when work arrives for you, and how often you are actually needed late. Then point out any trends (spot any potential drawbacks yourself; don’t let him be the one to point them out)–like if the person who always wants to reach you is the same most days, maybe working with that person proactively, or just coaching them through different expectations, will make it work.

            And then suggest that you try it for two weeks, now, when it’s not urgent FOR YOU, and when it still gives him time to change his mind if it ends up being really unworkable for him, yet you’ll still have time to react to that.

    2. LawCat*

      Honestly, I’m kind of with your boss on the “why the urgency” because it’s not urgent, and also with him being unhappy with you telling him after the fact on enrollment (that seems similar to booking a vacation and then asking for time off because you booked the vacation). It puts your boss in a frustrating spot. The answer might be no, the fall is not a good time to adjust schedules so let’s look at schedules in the spring. The answer might be no, we need someone here until 5:00. Being supportive doesn’t mean he has to accommodate your unilateral decision to enroll in classes that impact your work schedule if there is a business need for someone to be available until 5:00. These are things to keep in mind when you approach your boss.

      So on how to approach, be humble and open to listening to his perspective. “Boss, I’ve been thinking about it and I understand that I should have approached you much earlier about adjusting my schedule when I knew I would need that in order to take the class I enrolled in. I just got really excited about the class and that excitement clouded my perspective a bit. Going forward, I will definitely check with you sooner as I definitely am not trying to put you or the company in a tough spot. I’m hopeful we might still be able to work something out for fall. Can you help me understand the concerns with adjusting my schedule this fall?”

      And hear him out and see if you can address those concerns. There might be a solution he’s amenable to. There might not be. It should also help you understand how rigid your job is going to be with your work hours since it may preclude returning to school.

      Ultimately, if this job is going to interfere with your educational goals, this may not be the job for you. And that’s okay too. It happens all the time that employee and employer needs change. You might look for a job with more flexible hours or consider going to school full-time.

      1. Giles*

        Well, it’s urgent because it’s a direct impact on my life decisions. I mean, if he says no, then I need to take steps accordingly – and if he says yes, I know I can move forward with my classes. It’s partly also just a morale thing; it’s good to know what he wants to do about this so I won’t stew on it all weekend. I’ve already been waiting all week, you know? But ultimately it’s just about knowing what my future is going to look like.

        I understand him being frustrated. I’m frustrated because I feel like I’ve done everything I can to make both class and my position work together – including writing him a list of ten benefits behind doing both (business benefits, not personal, like him having more coverage since someone will be here from 7:00-5:30, basically, and how almost all our requests come in the morning instead of the afternoon.)

        I do recognize I’ll have more success if I approach this from a conciliatory tone, so I really thank you for the sample script. I’ll try to adopt it when I meet with him.

        I will add that the company, including HR, is behind my schedule change from a firm culture prospective – it’s just him that’s not okay with it. (Also – it’s a 2 year part time program, so my goal really is to keep my job and do both.)

        1. LawCat*

          I think you need to try and conceptually separate your life decisions from your work schedule.

          You are free to make all the life decisions you want that impact your work schedule. If a life decision is urgent, definitely make it. That doesn’t mean it is urgent for anyone else including your employer. Consequences of those decisions can impact your work including whether a job is going to work out. If your boss turns you down, whether now or if it had been earlier, you were always free to make your own decisions about what should happen next in your life. Your boss saying he can’t accommodate your work schedule is not your boss saying you can’t take the classes; your boss has no standing to tell you that. However, at that point, you have to decide what is more important.

          If the culture is one of more flexibility, that can be part of the conversation with your boss. “Boss, my understanding is that the firm culture offers flexibility. Maybe I don’t understand the scope of that flexibility. Could you give me some insight into that?”

          1. Giles*

            This is a good point, thank you!

            My company’s culture is very flexible within the 9-4 core hour framework, thus my coworker’s hours of 8:30-5:30. Others in the company take classes, get in a little later or earlier and leave later or earlier for childcare, etc.

        2. Taylor Swift*

          I totally get the urge to have everything in place right now because this is important stuff. It is important stuff. I know I would be anxious all weekend so I feel for you. But the reality is, that figuring it out next week or even the week after or the week after that will probably work out just fine.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I know this is hard but try, try to find ways to calm down.
              One thing you might consider is that the boss did not give you an immediate answer because he wants to think about it first. It could be that HE is using the weekend to calm down.
              You would be shooting yourself in the foot to go in Monday all upset IF he has managed to calm down and find a logical solution.

              Another calming technique you can use is pretend you are him and he is YOU. Now you have to find a way to help this employee (formerly known as YOU) to meet a major goal of his. So think as Boss You, and what solutions do you see? Often times bosses can soften if we offer them ideas for solving the problem.

        3. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

          I think you also need to understand your boss’ position. You are not taking classes to improve your work or your skills to benefit the company. You are taking classes to quit your current job and go to a new industry, and you expect your boss to change business to accommodate that. It’s a big request. You have basically given your boss notice that upon graduation from this night class, you are quitting, and by the way, you need to change your schedule to accommodate that. And while this class is important for you because it gives you the chance to enter the field you love, you currently have a job and your boss has to have the best interest of the company in mind as well.

          If you can view the situation from that angle, I think you will understand why your boss was disgruntled about how this was handled and see how LawCat’s script really helps minimize this.

          1. Giles*

            I don’t have the intention of just up and quitting after graduation – culinary doesn’t work like that. I need two years of experience to get anything, so more than likely, I’ll just set up a little online business and sell cakes and stuff to friends in my spare time for a very long time – years after. I have told him explicitly I am not quitting and won’t be quitting.

            The rest is true, though, and I do see how that could ruffle some feathers.

    3. Biff*

      Your boss is being an ass. You’ve basically told him that you ARE going back to school, and you’d like to keep your job while you do that. You’ve offered to work with him on this. And he’s acting like you should have gotten permission from him to run your own life.

      I think you need to make it clear to him that you are telling him about this now, as a FAVOR to him, as you’d really like to go to school and help his business at the same time. However, you can point out that if it’s going to be a major concern, you can start writing documentation and training material for your role so that he can have the easiest time possible filling the slot when you go.

      1. Giles*

        I’m on board with a lot of this, in terms of how I’m feeling, but I’m not super behind the idea of saying “well, I’ll help you train because I quit.” I mean, I’m starting to consider whether this is the right job for me, but the original plan was to do school and be here full time.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Your boss is being an ass. You’ve basically told him that you ARE going back to school, and you’d like to keep your job while you do that. You’ve offered to work with him on this. And he’s acting like you should have gotten permission from him to run your own life.

        Actually, no. What Giles actually told the boss was “I AM changing my schedule, because I’ve already done something that creates a conflict with it.”

        1. Giles*

          Somewhat. I do realize that was a poor call on my point.

          That said, at the time I told him I was not enrolled in fall classes, just the program itself. And in any case, if I have to withdraw from the program, I can. He’s aware of this.

    4. TCO*

      As someone with a strong sense of justice, it’s also hard for me to resist the “he should know that he’s not managing well” impulse. I feel you. But you really need to let go of that for right now. Stay focused on the goal–getting approval for your schedule change. Anything larger-picture about other PTO use, supportiveness, now dumb this all is, needs to wait for another time or be dropped completely. You may feel like addressing these bigger issues will help your boss see the light about your current request, but that doesn’t sound too likely given how you’ve described your boss here. So stay focused on your immediate goal, stay focused on how you can mitigate your boss’s concerns about impacts to the business, and let go of the rest for now. You might look into the “Crucial Conversations” approach. Good luck!

    5. Lemon*

      First, I think you need to understand that when a manager/supervisor says they want to support you, it generally means they want to support you in your role. That means things like making sure you have all the resources and information you need to do your job really well, helping you find professional development opportunities that support growth in your field, and providing specific feedback. Supporting you does not mean happily signing off on PTO or approving a schedule change so that you can take classes to move into a completely different career. So, hopefully that helps you re-frame his behavior away from “not supportive”.

      A potential approach could be to try to get a better understanding of why he is being so rigid on this. Not in a “BUT WHYYY?” type of way, but more like, “Can you help me understand why there needs to be someone in the office until 5 everyday?” And from there you can try to work through why that person needs to be you, and if there are any solutions that make both you and your supervisor happy (like someone else stepping in to cover until 5 for two days a week).

      Ultimately, though, if he is not going to budge on this and going to culinary classes is important to you, then you may have to think about finding a more flexible job.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Your boss probably feels a little “blind” in terms of how well this would work out for the business.

        And he probably doesn’t want to say “yes” now and have you pay for specific classes, etc., and then have to say “sorry, it doesn’t work out for the business” after that point.

        So don’t push him for a solid answer now–maybe suggest that you both try out the new schedule for a couple of weeks to see how it works. Then he still has time to say no without screwing you over (he probably really doesn’t want to screw you over by changing his mind after you’re committed with the schedule).

        And any documentation you can pull together (either in advance, or during the trial run) might help him realize that it’s not that big a deal for two calls to come in at 4:45, if one of them gets answered before 8:30 the next day, for example.

    6. PollyQ*

      I’m kind of on your boss’s side here. By signing up for the class before you got permission to change your work hours, you’ve put him in a tough position. I would back way off on your urgency to get his final ruling, and apologize for not asking him before you signed up.

    7. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m guessing you need to confirm that you’ll be able to work the altered schedule so you can enroll for classes. I would explain that to the boss.

      However, if you enrolled and expected this accommodation without asking if it would be okay and you’re acknowledging that it’s something completely different from your current job which means you will ultimately be leaving once you finish your schooling, you shouldn’t be terribly surprised that your boss isn’t being super supportive.

      1. Giles*

        I can drop the classes. I enrolled, but they’re in the fall, and it’s not set in stone. There’s a good six months where I can back out. I don’t want to, but I can.

        I told him explicitly that my intent is not to leave after school. I want to train in this field so I can do more in it, yes, but I can do that kind of stuff on the side – custom orders for cakes, for instance.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Of course, you can also get a different job if it turns out you need to–but you’d want to know that now too.

        You can always just let him think you aren’t taking the classes, look for a job that will accommodate, and quit either when you get the job or when classes start. (depending what you’re willing to risk)

  22. no name guy*

    I posted last week about being an everyday recreational weed user in a state where it is completely illegal, and having to choose between quitting, or failing a drug test and getting fired from my job.

    I took the advice from some people and told my boss I objected to the test on privacy grounds. She (who is extremely anti-weed) asked if I was quitting and I said yes. She called someone (a few minutes later security came) and told me if anyone ever contacted the company or anyone here about my employment here they would be told I refused to take a test for illegal drugs and quit before they could fire me. No references would be given. Security walked me to my desk to get my things and walked me out. My boss said she lost all respect for me.

    I talked to a lawyer because a friend told me I couldn’t get unemployment or would have a hard time if the company contested and the lawyer told me the company did not break any laws and I could try for unemployment but probably wouldn’t get it. He also said it was legal for them to tell anyone what my boss said and to not give me a reference from anyone in the company.

    My friend who works there also got sent. He doesn’t use drugs and ge passed. They took hair and urine. No blood like I thought, he said they told him they only do that if the person has no hair, they tried for blood or saliva in lieu of hair. He said a woman there (not from my work) was being kicked out when he was doing his paperwork because she got caught trying to bring in a urine sample into the testing area. He also told me an email went out that I quit instead of doing the test, along with a reminder of the zero tolerance policy for illegal drug use.

    Thanks to everyone for the support. I’m job hunting now and hoping to not be out of work long. This won’t make me stop using weed though, not everyone is like my boss and the company. Thanks.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Holy overreaction, Batman! Your boss sounds like she took it really personally — “lost all respect’ for you, really?

      Good luck on your job hunt, dude. Fingers crossed you get a boss who isn’t so hardline about this stuff.

    2. Allypopx*

      “Refused to take a test” is still better than “failed a drug test” all things being equal. I’m sorry your company was so stringent about this. You might think about asking to see employee handbooks before accepting your next offer, to see if they have similar drug testing policies or even just overly rigid policies otherwise. Good luck on your search!

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking about your post from last week. Sorry it all blew up. I know a lot of people who work at places with random drug testing and they are hoping they never get selected, or they are planning on cheating.
      At least it is all over now. I wish you the best in your job search, and I have to give you integrity points for quitting instead of cheating!

    4. MegaMoose, Esq*

      Oof, that’s rough. Good luck with your search and I hope you find something soon. I’m not surprised at what the attorney you talked to said about unemployment, although you can always apply for benefits anyhow and see what happens. If you do, though, know that in all or most states the unemployment agency can retroactively revoke benefits if they decide you weren’t eligible in the first place, and then you have to repay anything you’ve received.

      1. Allypopx*

        I think that might be field and region dependent. I’ve never come across it, and know many people who never have as well.

          1. Allypopx*

            Hm, specifically lower-level jobs? That’s interesting to me. In the northeast I really don’t hear about it often (and marijuana is legal in Massachusetts now so I don’t expect I’ll hear about it going forward). People I hire never ask me about it. I’ve never personally had to be tested. I have friends who live in the south who have had to do pre-employment drug testing, but not so much in the northeast or midwest.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  For industrial jobs, it’s often a safety risk because you are operating heavy machinery or doing very physical work and if your reaction times are slowed, it can cause injuries.

              1. Rat in the Sugar*

                I know a lot of retail places that do, but no restaurant I ever worked at tested anyone or they wouldn’t be able to hire any cooks.

                1. Andy*

                  samesies in law offices. sorry to any stone cold sober attorneys out there, but my experience has been ….opposite

                2. Fortitude Jones*

                  @Andy I worked at a law firm for nearly three years, and they absolutely drug tested us before we could start working there. They didn’t bother after you started though (I suspect a lot of people would have been fired).

            1. Parenthetically*

              I’m originally from Colorado and there are still a ton of jobs that require testing for pot. The fact that it’s legal to use doesn’t mean employers have to be ok with you using it. It’s apparently been an issue for certain employers in my hometown — they’ll post a job opening and get 40 applicants, zero of whom pass the drug test.

            2. General Ginger*

              I’m in the northeast and most everyone I know in a professional job has had to be drug-tested prior to employment at the very least, and a couple of folks’ jobs do random testing.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              Well, I’m in the Midwest, in southern Missouri. I doubt executives at Exjob had to pee in a cup, but I sure did. And I was a departmental admin. But yeah, this has been a thing at every job I’ve ever had. Food service, retail, even office jobs. Because I might get high and answer the phone weird? :P

          2. Not So NewReader*

            NE US, here. Not seeing a lot of drug testing here. I do see randoms for people once they are employed. I think that cost has something to do with it. A lot of employers here cannot afford the testing. Eh, they can’t even afford the employees….

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I don’t think I’ve ever had a professional job that didn’t require it. Even most of my high school/college jobs required them.

        2. cataloger*

          I’ve never come across it. My employer (a university) has a “drug free policy” but it’s all about not using (or making or selling) drugs while on campus, or on campus business. They only do pre-employment drug screening if you work in healthcare.

          1. K.*

            I’ve only come across it once and I’ve been working since I was 15. I was tested for a job as part of the hiring process in 2012. It wasn’t a low-level job but it was in the pharma industry. I worked there for three years and was only tested during hiring.

        3. NJ Anon*

          Yes, I habe been working for 30 years, have had many jobs and have NEVER had to take a drug test.

      2. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

        I know several companies in my major city and area that don’t require it. Headquarters, even. I do think it’s industry/region and possibly even state dependent. It’s why my friend works where she works. She also loves her job.

      3. Sunflower*

        I’ve only seen it required for lower level jobs although I’m sure some professional jobs include it.

        I’d go so far as to say in high stress jobs, the company know people are doing stuff but they don’t want to officially know. As long as you’re billing your hours and making clients happy, they really don’t care what you do.

      4. Insert Name Here*

        I’m in my mid-30s, have been working since age 15 (in both hourly and professional positions) and have never once been asked to take a drug test.

      5. Anna Pigeon*

        New England, worked in a variety of jobs over 25 years, for profit, not for profit, big, small – none did any drug testing unless required by federal law for safety reasons. I have never taken a drug test, and would seriously consider dying on that hill, particularly if it required me to pee while someone else watched. Big old Nope.

      6. Lablizard*

        This is probably field, job, and location specific. I have never worked anywhere that tested anyone and I have had jobs in 3 US states in almost 20 years

      1. Natalie*

        It sounds like this was a bit abnormal, though, where employees were sent for random drug tests during their employment. Except in a few industries, that’s not common in my experience.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That does depend on the job but everywhere here will test before hiring, at least for lower-level positions. Because us admins are just rampant addicts, ya know.

          1. Natalie*

            Right, but did they test you randomly during employment? That’s the part I think it unusual.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              That depends a lot on the industry/type of job. It sounds like in this situation, it was odd given the nature of work that No Name Guy was doing, but random drug tests are common in a number of positions.

            2. Liane*

              I have worked a number of places that tested when you got or accepted an offer (pending a clean test). They also had policies that they could test “for cause” or randomly. I never heard of anyone being sent for a random test; only if someone was involved in a workplace accident.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              No, you don’t get tested during employment. Although since I worked in manufacturing at OldExjob, if I had been out on the shop floor and been involved in an accident, they might have required a test. I can’t argue with that.

            4. Not So NewReader*

              Driving jobs. NPOs with government funding. Those types of things are where I am seeing the randoms. They are usually very clear that you can be tested at any time. Then years go by, a false sense of security creeps in and whammo, “Guess what you are doing today!!”

              1. NJ Anon*

                My husband drove for Big Brown for 20 years. Was never drug tested ever. I have worked for 2 nonprofits with federal and state funding, no drug testing ever. The jobs are out there.

    5. Rat in the Sugar*

      Aw, geez. Sorry this is happening to you, your boss sucks. All you can do is stick to the privacy line and tell people you object to the test itself, I think. This still would have happened to someone who was totally clean and an actual conscientious objector (if that term applies here).

      Good luck on your job search.

    6. Lillian Styx*

      Sorry to hear. This kind of drug testing is just abhorrent on all levels. I can’t fathom how it’s at all cost effective for companies to do this. Does it really save money and resources to weed out (pun!) the drug users in this way rather than dealing with actual employee behavior/performance as it becomes problematic???

      Y’all. I don’t even smoke weed but I will die on this hill.

      1. LisaLee*

        Agreed. Honestly, I would also have a privacy issue with this even though I (currently) don’t use weed. Often these tests require you to disclose prescriptions that might mess up the results and other things that are 100% none of anyone else’s business.

      2. Sunflower*

        This is my confusion. Is this really the best use of company time/funds? Is there a chance there’s actually just ONE person they want to drug test but they are uninformed and think it’s illegal to only test one person?

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I just shake my head. I have seen more people stoned on their own legal scripts than I have ever seen stoned on weed at work.

    7. zora*

      Ugh, that boss is a jerk, I’m sorry you dealt with this.

      But, you should be fine for future references, this will sound much better than “He failed a drug test.” You should address in any interview: “I objected to taking a drug test on privacy grounds, and that required me to resign the position.” then, if they do call this company as a reference, they will be hearing that you refused to take the test, but you will have already framed the story yourself. That way you’ll be in a good position with any employer that doesn’t do such invasive drug testing, which is where you would want to work anyway!

      I am sure you will find something much better and wish you luck!!

      1. blackcat*

        It’s also possible to add a bit to make it clear that this was not just a pee in a cup thing. Maybe something like “I objected to taking a drug test on privacy grounds, and that required me to resign the position. The test was more involved than most, and I was not comfortable with hair and/or blood collection.”

    8. General Ginger*

      I’m sorry your boss took this so personally, and I wish you much luck in your job search!

    9. Rebecca*

      But yet someone can go home, drink a 12 pack of beer every night, and that’s OK, but if someone smokes pot one time, they can get fired. I have never understood that logic.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Sometimes we play the best card in our hand and still come up empty.
      You did the best you could to salvage the situation.

      I hope you find a new job quickly.

  23. Rosie*

    I have a question about health insurance offered through your employer. I work at a small not-for-profit arts organization in NYC. Our health insurance is covered 100% by my employer. This means that nothing is allocated from my paycheck each pay period to cover the cost of my insurance. I just have a deductible and co-pays for when I visit my doctors.

    However, my organization does not offer to cover its employee’s dependents. There is no family plan put in place. I’m pregnant and to put my baby on my insurance, it will cost me upwards of $700 a month. To put my husband and baby on my insurance, it will cost me upwards of $1,800 a month. My husband is freelance, so has purchased his insurance through the marketplace. We’re hesitant to put our infant on his insurance because we just don’t know if it will be available to us in the near future. We also make too much income to qualify for Medicaid or any other health insurance programs for kids.

    Have any of you worked for or heard of organizations or companies that do not offer their employees a family plan? If so, what have you done in that situation? I have brought this up with my employer and they are looking into it (thankfully), but I’m not holding my breath. Paying for insurance for my family at such a high rate is unsustainable and I might have to look for a new job.

    Also – about 20 years ago – my organization DID have a family plan. There are two employees who were here at the time and were “grandfathered” in to that plan. Are they allowed to do that for those employees only and then not offer it to anyone else?

    1. Atlantic Toast Conference*

      In my experience, companies often allow you to add dependents to your company-sponsored health insurance, but it’s NOT common for companies to -subsidize- dependents’ health insurance. I’m not sure I’m reading your situation correctly, but it sounds like you’d be able to add family members to your plan, but you’d pay the full freight of their premiums. Is that correct? If so, that sounds about par for the course.

      Also, as an FYI, I’m fairly certain that if you put your baby on your husband’s plan, and your husband lost his coverage in the future, that would be a qualifying life event. You’d get a special enrollment period to add your husband/baby to your insurance (assuming that’s possible) if that happened.

      1. Lillian Styx*

        Chiming in to agree with the above. My org subsidizes employee insurance but not spouses or dependents.

        1. Rosie*

          Thanks for answering! So your companies don’t offer a family plan as part of your health insurance? We had that option at my last job. I didn’t have dependents at the time, so I don’t remember how much it was. But it wasn’t as expensive as this is!

          1. Lillian Styx*

            It’s on offer, but as I said the company doesn’t pay for it. So, right now with just me on the plan I pay about $25 out of each check while my company pays about $200. If I added my husband, the company would still pay $200 but my portion would go up by another $180 each check.

          2. Atlantic Toast Conference*

            Agree with TCO below – I’ve worked for companies that offered “family plans” in the sense of, adding one person to your insurance costs $X, and adding 2 or more costs $Y. But I’ve always, always been on the hook for the entire difference between my individual subsidy and the cost of adding more individuals.

      2. TCO*

        Agreed–this has been my experience at several jobs, including small nonprofits. My individual coverage was high-quality and nicely subsidized (though I always paid part of the monthly premium) but family coverage was really expensive. You might find better elsewhere, but it’s not a guarantee (especially since your individual coverage is free right now and might cost you elsewhere).

    2. CAA*

      This is becoming more common. The company subsidizes the employee’s insurance but not the dependents. My last company switched to this a couple of years ago. Previously they subsidized the employee at 75% and the family at 50%, but they changed to 50% and 0%. I kept my husband and daughter on our plan and just paid the extra money, but it was a big increase in costs.

      For the grandfathered employees — employers are not required to offer the same benefits to everyone as long as they are not discriminating against a protected class. It sounds like the basis of the discrimination in this case is longevity of service, so yes, that’s allowed. Also, it doesn’t sound like they’re really on a different health plan. They get the same coverage you get and the premiums are the same, the employer just pays a larger percentage of their premium.

    3. Natalie*

      Yes, it is quite common these days for companies to either not subsidize dependents or subsidize them at a lower rate than employees.

      I’m not an expert on ERISA, but I believe the grandfathered employees would be allowed. The primary concern with ERISA is that employees aren’t charged differently based on individual health factors, which obviously isn’t at play here.

      And yes, as mentioned, if your husband loses his insurance that is a qualifying event which will allow your husband and child to enroll in your insurance outside of open enrollment period. So if your husband’s coverage is cheaper, go with that.

    4. OwnedByTheCat*

      My employer – a medium-sized private school does this. My insurance is 100% covered but nothing else is. Right now my husband has his own coverage through his job. Also pregnant and no idea what we’ll do when baby comes!

    5. Ann Cognito*

      In my experience, most employers don’t pay anything towards dependent coverage at all.

      At one of two non-profits I worked at, they didn’t cover anything towards the cost of dependents, just 100% for the employee. The other covered 100% employee, plus a percentage of the cost for dependents. Specifically they gave a set dollar amount towards dependent costs, meaning the exact percentage covered depended on what specific plan the employee signed-up for, so the higher the premium, the lower the percentage covered, but it was about 55% of the cost for employees who chose the PPO (most expensive option).

      I don’t know specifically about the grandfathered employees. Plans can be different among employees based on a non-discriminatory classification, e.g. part-time or full-time employees, employees working in different geographic locations, and employees with different dates of hire or lengths of service, but that’s just generally and it’s impossible to say without knowing exactly how your plan is set-up.

    6. Isben Takes Tea*

      My experience is the opposite of the others–I’m shocked there are no family plans available. (But then my and my circle’s experiences have all been with larger companies.)

      But yes, they are allowed to grandfather some employees in, or even offer unequal benefits, as they are part of the “compensation package” (unless they are discriminating for/against a protected class, and “families” aren’t).

      1. Natalie*

        There are some regulations beyond just protected classes, namely health factors. Some of these are achieved through the tax code rather than a direct law against it.

        As a general rule, if a company is going to offer unequal benefits they should be categorizing people by bona fide difference in their job – full vs part time, exempt vs non-exempt, different work locations, etc.

      2. Sandy Gnome*

        My experience is similar to Isben Takes Tea. My employers (and those of friends/family/colleagues) have all contributed at least 50% of the monthly premium for family coverage.

        It may be helpful to know that if you have a section 125 health plan, involuntary loss of coverage (such as the marketplace dropping your husband and child) is considered a qualifying life event to add them to your coverage through work. It’s worth having a conversation with your employer to confirm how your plan is set up.

        1. blackcat*

          I am still shocked that my husband’s employer covers 90+% of the costs to add me. It was like $40/month. He hates lots of things about his job, but the good health insurance for practically no money is a big reason to stay.

    7. Tmarie*

      At my current place of employment it is about $450/month for a dependent and $550/month for a spouse. I’m not sure how much for family coverage. One thing to note is if you purchase your insurance through your workplace it generally tax-free. It reduces the amount you pay in Social Security and Federal taxes, whereas when you buy through the marketplace it doesn’t reduce your tax burden if you can’t itemize deductions.

      It’s expensive but I decided to put my bi-polar adult son on my insurance because it’s so much better than what I could get on the open marketplace. Also, not knowing if the individual insurance market is going to stay in existence was a huge factor in signing my son up for my work’s insurance.

      Maybe by the time he’s 26 I’ll have him on Medicaid. But with the option of workplace insurance, I have time to research that.

    8. committee member*

      I think this is pretty field and location specific. Here in my state (Michigan) and field (local government), I have had several jobs where employee, spouse, and children were all 80% paid for by the employer with me chipping the remaining 20%. If you want to do the math, currently I pay about $300 to cover myself, my spouse, and our 2 small children.

      I did interview for the same job(s) in Illinois and I was told that I would be paying 100% of the cost to insure my spouse and our children if I took those jobs. Although they at least offered the opportunity to do so, I took myself out of the running for those positions. I just simply can’t afford to do that if I can find a job that pays the same amount of money but covers the rest of my family. It’s a difference of $1,000 per month!

    9. Observer*

      1. There is no reason not to go through the marketplace. That will cover your husband for the next year.

      2. They can definitely refuse to put anyone new on any plan, as long as it’s across the board. And, it’s quite uncommon for employers to subsidize the family portion of the plan, in any case. The numbers you are hearing are quite common.

    10. teapot project manager*

      I have a couple oF comments:
      If you put your infant on your spouse’s plan and then you later get a different job, that should be an event that will then let you change your infant’s coverage to the one on new job.

      Great your employer is checking but I think they are subject to rules and can’t change the plan provisions midterm

      From the other side, my spouse owns a smal, business, less than 15 emplyees and he also pays 100% of employee premium but none of their dependents. For most of his employee demographic they don’t have depependents they want on our plan. If he was to pay a portion of depependents, he’d have to pay less for employee’s portion to afford it. Quite frankly they are slow in winter due to weather and this year is eorse than normal. Business hasn’t picked up yet like it usually does in March. We are close to the limit of the line of credit and he hasn’t taken money out of business since December. He needs his employees so trying to give them hours and paying them pto. He can’t afford to oay $1000 s more a month to pay for dependents without paying less for employees’ portion

      For comparison on you paying $700, I work for a large company, over 15.000 employees. To cover our family, between premiums and HSA contributions, I pay about 550/month plus have to pay additional costs when not enough to pay out of HSA. If I went with the PPO, I would pay over 600/month in premium plus copays

      Good luck. Hopefully you’ll figure something that will work for your family

      1. TootsNYC*

        I find it very unusual to find a company that pays 100% of the premium. That hasn’t happened at any of the companies I’ve worked for, ever.

        Oh, and I pay more per month to have my family members on our plan, even with some employer subsidy. I don’t know the amount to be honest.

    11. TootsNYC*

      I have worked for a company that structured its insurance to be really great for one person, but expensive for couples or families. Someone came to work with us for a big salary jump and then discovered that the increase she’d pay in insurance premiums for her husband more than wiped that out.

      She got the bump in title, and on paper she made more money, but her take home was less.

      She hadn’t asked about insurance premiums when she got the offer, and I bet her direct manager didn’t realize the difference (there were very few married people, or else lots of the married people had spouses with their own insurance).

  24. FN2187*

    I am struggling with a workplace etiquette issue.

    This fall, I am headed back to school this fall to pursue a JD. I am extremely excited about this and I am happy with the school I chose. Though I was an excellent student in undergrad, I struggled badly with the LSAT (and standardized testing, in general). My dream school was a T14. My school I chose is a T50; not Harvard, obviously, but it has an excellent reputation in my region and keeps jumping up in the rankings every year.

    That being said, I have a few coworkers who will ask, “Oh! Are you excited for law school?” When I respond, “Oh, yes!” They will then go on a tangent about how their son/nephew/friend’s daughter was accepted to [Good Regional University], but also Chicago, Michigan, Yale, etc., and [Good Regional University] is “such a lovely backup school,” but “Johnny/Sally will probably go to Chicago, so many more opportunities there.” It just makes me feel really, really sad. I know I could’ve done very well at those schools, but that it is not my path. And, I worked extremely hard to even get into my university, given that my LSAT scores were dreadful.

    How do I politely shut down this boorish behavior? These people are not usually cruel or mean, I should note.

    1. NaoNao*

      Maybe pre-empt them and hint “I’m in the best school for me right now. I would have loved to get into Dream School, but I’m just as excited to start at Okay School.”

    2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      I’d be straightforward: “I’m certain this wasn’t your intent, but the way you’re talking about the school I got into is a little insulting. Can we move on?”

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          And, just as a general note to humanity, when someone is telling you about a significant life change, that’s an opportunity to chat with them about the change and their aspirations. Don’t use it as an opportunity to talk up someone else, just be interested in what they’re telling you and be happy for them. Ask questions. In that moment, it’s about them, not you.

          I’ll never forget when I got accepted to grad school and my neighbor’s reaction was, “Oh, that’s nice. My son Johnny just started a Wharton MBA? Have you heard of Wharton? It’s a very well-thought of school blah blah blah blah blah…..” It’s like, can you take 30 seconds off from the narcissism and at least ask me what I’m studying there, at least?

          1. FN2187*

            This is exactly what has been bothering me! It’s like the ask just so they can go on about their nephew, friend’s kid, their own kid, etc. for ages.

            1. The Not Mad But Sometimes Irritable Scientist*

              That is, unfortunately, exactly what they’re doing. What I’d do is make your response specific to what you’re excited about, followed by a question.

              “So, are you excited for law school?”

              “Oh, yeah, [school] has some great programs for [specific area] and I’m really looking forward to digging into that. And [city] sounds like a really interesting place to live – have you ever been there?”

              Damn near impossible to hijack that.

              1. hermit crab*

                Oh man, this is fabulous advice. People who want to talk about themselves WILL talk about themselves. However, by asking a question you can steer them toward talking about a different aspect of their lives (hopefully one that is more neutral rather than condescending).

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I wouldn’t take it personally. People love talking about their kids getting higher degrees, but there is a big distinction between a student going to school and an adult going back to school. Be happy for their friends/children and understand that it’s not a competition, and remember that no one is comparing you to the Harvard students. Be proud about going back to school.

      1. FN2187*

        Definitely. I’m the same age as their kids (24), and I know my coworkers are not intentionally being rude. I will definitely work on letting those competitive thoughts go.

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Except they’re making it a competition and a comparison. I think FN2187 is entirely within her rights to feel a little snubbed that her life accomplishment is treated as a conversational springboard to bragging about one’s kid. Even implying that someone’s school is a “backup school” is rude and insulting.

    4. Delta Delta*

      That’s incredibly rude on their part to call your school of choice a “backup school.” I graduated from and teach at a law school that is overall tier 3 but is very very highly ranked in 2 particular specialities, so I heard this a lot. I think you can do a couple things. You can phrase your response along the lines of, “I can’t wait to get to State U, they have a ____ clinic (or program or journal or whatever) that really interests me!” That can shift the focus to the positives about your school (and I am sure there are many) and hopefully springs the person to ask more. If the person makes as boorish response, you can respond simply (as I did), “why would you say that? I’m really excited about my choice.”

      Here’s some advice you didn’t ask for. Really take advantage of your experiential opportunities while in school. Learn how to get your name out there (without being a jerk about it). Really position yourself so that when you graduate you’re ready to hit the work force in a good job as a good young lawyer. People like me want to hire good lawyers (like you will be). Law school doesn’t always do a great job of preparing students HOW to be lawyers. If you can do good clinics/internships/clerkships and get good references that’ll position you nicely for your future, regardless of where you go to school.

      1. FN2187*

        Thanks! I appreciate the advice. My school has tons of clinics and also has amazing connections to the big law firms in my city, and I plan on taking advantage of every opportunity possible.

      2. winter*

        I gotta remember your reply. I have a colleague who will insult any vacation choice I make because it’s too boring – even several times for the same vacation because he forgot he asked.

    5. Lady By The Lake*

      As an attorney who went to a Good Regional Law School, I get this — it can be really annoying. I was different in that my scores would have allowed me to go anywhere I wanted to go, but I opted for Good Regional Law School due to its flexible hours (partial night school) and practical training opportunities. When people would make boneheaded comments I would just point out why I had chosen to go where I went. You might think about things that make Good Regional University good rather than focusing on what might have been.
      PS In the end, I am a MUCH better lawyer than many of my colleagues who went to Harvard or Yale. They were taught the theory of law, I was taught the practice of law.

      1. JKP*

        “They were taught the theory of law, I was taught the practice of law.”

        This to the 100th degree. My boyfriend has been an attorney for 30+ years. He went to a regional law school at night while working at a small law firm during the day. He got hired by the best national firm in his niche after he graduated because he could already do the practical work. Now he has his own firm and he has the hardest time hiring other attorneys who can actually do good work. He’s fired plenty of lawyers who went to the high priced big name school, but were completely incompetent in doing the real world work.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Theory of the law vs practice of the law.

        Oh my this, this, this.

        My friend said law school (big name) did NOTHING to show her how to navigate the paperwork and procedures required. Matter of fact, they did not even clue her in to how staggering the paperwork and procedures can be. Additionally, there was NO training on how to manage a workplace, run an office NOR manage people.
        Did I mention this is a BIG name school? This school failed my friend on many levels.

        OP, do not despair. It takes time for the truth to bubble to the surface. It would be nice to have their assurances and their support, but what you really need is your own determination to make this work. Smile softly, say, “That’s nice.” and tell yourself that you are going to knock law school out of the park. You are going to do your absolute best, no matter what others think about your school.

    6. mamabear*

      Ugh, that behavior is just gross. OP, those comments say more about your coworkers than you. I know it’s hard, but I would either ignore it or have a quick, enthusiastic statement ready about why you’re excited to go to school X. And good on you for knowing what is best for YOUR life and not getting swept up in prestige.

    7. Hilorious*

      Dear OP,

      As someone who is terrified by the mere prospect of the LSAT, and who would certainly fail if she tried to take it… YOU ARE AMAZING! Congratulations and good for you for making your dreams come true :)

      1. FN2187*

        Thank you!! It’s been an incredibly difficult path getting to law school. Last year I took the LSAT and scored so poorly that I was rejected from every school that applied to, including the school I am going to this fall. I studied and practiced really hard for this year’s LSAT, and raised my score to a respectable number. After being accepted, my school offered me a half ride — after they rejected me last year! So I think that’s one reason I’m feeling so bummed when they bring it up — this hellacious roller coaster I’ve been on is totally discounted.

        1. The Not Mad But Sometimes Irritable Scientist*

          That’s one thing that nobody who’s taken the LSAT or a similar test, or gotten a postgraduate degree, seems to understand. It’s like, “no no, you don’t understand, this test made me cry. Weekly. For the last year. It’s ten times longer and a hundred times harder than anything you’ve ever taken.”

    8. Jenny*

      I like the ideas above about pointing out the reasons the school is good, and also frankly just pointing out how rude it is for them to say your school is a second choice – I am older and further from school in my career so I often find myself pointing out to people at my office that schools vary by department and by what fits the individual student. Where I live people have loyalty to their hometown school that doesn’t take into context where they fit in the national picture so they are often very rude about me choosing to “go away” to school even though it was a personal choice and I came home with my degrees to help the community. Which I suppose is not very helpful because I’m just saying people can be rotten and snobby on both sides of the issue, but you can control your reaction :) maybe try dismissing them in your head as being narrow minded? I’m able now in my career to dismiss unimportant opinions without feeling any feelings about it, but that’s maybe a while coming for you if you are at the start of the road. Wishing you all the best in your learning and work!

    9. SJ*

      I feel this. I went to a Solid Reputation But Not Amazing liberal arts school for undergrad because they gave me a full ride. People were definitely confused because I was an excellent student and could have gone to a “better” school with the transcript I had, and people weren’t shy in being all, “…um…wow…okay?” when I told them where I was going to college. (And I still get those reactions sometimes.) Yeah, it made me sad too. So I wasn’t going to Harvard — so what? My hard work still paid off. I got a full ride! I got to use the college fund money I never touched to pay for my Masters degree at a really good school! I have ZERO STUDENT LOANS! People need to stop dumping their expectations onto others and just be happy for them.

      1. hermit crab*

        Yes, totally. I went to Super Elite Undergrad and, several years later, Decent Grad School. I chose Decent Grad School because they gave me a scholarship, the classes fit with my work schedule, they have great local connections, the campus was 20 minutes from my office, it was the only program of its kind in my city, and did I mention the scholarship? I literally only applied to that one school, because it was the only one that made sense for me. But I had a lot of weirdly defensive conversations with, like, my parents’ friends and neighbors (who were paying their adult children’s tuition at fancy grad schools, but I digress).

        FN2187, don’t forget that you are making the right decision for yourself. And, congrats on the half ride! That’s so fantastic. You are going to do great!

    10. Bigglesworth*

      As someone who is also starting law school this fall (and am visiting two this weekend), I completely agree that it’s hard to get into and a half ride is incredible!!! Good job! You’ll be awesome!

    11. Busytrap*

      And be excited and very proud about your T-50!! Harvard (and the other T-14s) aren’t the only way to get an excellent job making bank. I went to a T-50 myself – with full loan debt, silly me! – and I’m kicking ass at the field I’m in. When applying for my current job, I landed it and learned later that they chose me over folks with similar law firm experience but a slightly better pedigree because I DIDN’T go to a T-14; they figured I’d be more down to earth and less full of myself and a better cultural fit (not that there’s anything wrong with folks that went to T-14s, of course!). So there’s that!!

    12. Anonymous for This*