open thread – March 17-18, 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 :)

{ 1,833 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’m putting this up here in the hope a lot of people will see it.

    I’ve been removing a greater number of off-topic posts lately (from regular posts, not the open thread). For example, this morning’s thread about Cards Against Humanity in a post that had nothing to do with that.

    The site rule against off-topic posts exists because most threads grow long and unwieldy as it is. Some people don’t bother to read comments when they see a high number of comments already there, and having 50 comments about something unrelated to the post doesn’t help that.

    I want to ask everyone to review the (recently updated!) site rules and to be more vigilant about following them. If you see an off-topic post, please don’t add to it — that makes more work for me when I need to go in and individually delete dozens of responses, and it reinforces something I’m trying to cut down on.

    I may make this its own post at some point, but figured I’d start with it here.

    1. Morning Glory*

      I’m not sure if the html part of the guidelines is new or if I’m just unobservant, but thank you for including those instructions!

    2. fposte*

      I vote for its own post as well, and perhaps a little more emphasis on one point.

      We’ve been kind of a tangent-rich commentariat for a while (I’m definitely foremost among that brigade) and I think “off-topic” to me doesn’t immediately signal the kind of change I think you’re going for. Saying “The Day of the Digression Is Dead!” is probably too extreme, but something to indicate that even subthreads are expected to be responding to the OP’s initial question might be helpful to structure what “on topic” really means for those of us who have to break a rambling habit.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ah, that’s a very good point. “Off-topic” may sound like “don’t post your own work question on a thread about a different topic,” whereas what I’m trying to stamp out are lengthy threads about things that aren’t related to the original post but which may have come up organically in the discussion. (And complicating things, I think it’s fine to have a couple of comments that do that; it’s when it becomes a lengthy thread itself that I get concerned.)

        I’d be interested in feedback about that. If it’s something that a lot of people value about the site, I don’t want to be heavy-handed about it.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s how I’ve interpreted “off-topic” here, so it took me a minute to realize you meant it more literally.

          And I’m torn, because I value that hugely; I think that’s where the community sense comes from. But it’s also where some of the really counterproductive rabbit holes come from. So I’d be interested if people have an idea about how to balance things more effectively.

          1. Clever Name*

            I think related tangents are fine, like “this reminds me of a similar work situation I was in, and here is how I handled it”. Those are often helpful. But the CAH subthread was just way beyond a tangent.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              Similarly, I recall one I was involved in recently where someone responded to a post with a comment that mentioned a scene in The Expanse one of the questions brought to mind, and was followed by a handful of comments along the lines of “I love The Expanse!” or “No book spoilers!” (mine). I think that there was nothing wrong with the first comment because it was a tangent related to the POST, but the responses only related to the TANGENT, and it seems like that’s where the problem lies.

          2. Natalie*

            My gut feeling is that this area is always going to require an active moderation hand – the boundaries aren’t easily defined, it’s in the eye of the beholder to some extent, and when they cause those rabbit holes that you pointed out, people are just sucked in to the arguing/discussing. But, I do think regulars will pick up on the approximate boundaries by example as they observe them enforced.

            A few years ago when “First!” was a weird trend, somewhere I visited used to delete them with extreme prejudice. I think they must have had someone monitoring posts when they first went up, because they were super fast. After a month or two people just stopped, since they weren’t getting anything out of it.

            On a technical level, I would consider adding upvotes assuming the site builder can do that. I know not everyone loves them, but I would love a way to cut off the endless +1s and lols. You can do upvotes without downvotes if desired – disqus doesn’t make downvotes visible at all. (I’m not sure how you would prevent brigading since we don’t have log-ins, but I’m not a coder.)

            1. Antilles*

              On a technical level, I would consider adding upvotes assuming the site builder can do that. I know not everyone loves them, but I would love a way to cut off the endless +1s and lols.
              If the concern is “intimidatingly large total number of posts”, this is probably almost as big of an issue as thread derails. Unless the thread totally blew up after I posted mid-morning, I saw like 5 posts discussing the throwaway comment about CaH…but in comparison, scroll through a typical day’s thread and you’ll see like 20 different comments which are basically just people agreeing with a particularly good point but not really adding much (either via “+1”, “lol”, or something like “yeah, that”).
              It’s probably good to reinforce the topicality to avoid derails, but it’s also probably good to cut down on these sorts of low-content posts too.

                1. Natalie*

                  It is a good point. You could try auto-modding things like +1, etc, but that presumably means more random questions about why someone’s comment was deleted, etc.

                  It strikes me that anything you chose is going to either be time consuming (cautioning posters, manually deleting things, etc) or not terribly refined (auto-modding, upvotes, etc). Frustratingly, that might just be the way of things, and you have to pick. :/

                2. fposte*

                  I downvote upvotes. Sure, sometimes they work to give visibility to something that might otherwise get buried, but otherwise they’re a quixotic amplifier, and they self-perpetuate like a virus once they get going since quick readers just read the upvoted stuff. The way they shape responses on Reddit is too often bizarre.

                3. animaniactoo*

                  I’m posting this to see if a) my brand new gravatar is showing up since I found how to do it by reviewing the rules!

                  And to say that in general, I think it would be more useful to only be able to downvote.

                  My experience with upvoting is that people who are popular tend to get a lot of votes even when they’re posting inanity and newer posters, or posters who walk the ledge more but still have valuable things to say tend to not get as many upvotes and then are discouraged by it.

                  However, the downvoting would help in terms of “okay, this is the bridge too far” kind of comment, particularly if you could see them right away for moderation purposes and be able to check them out more quickly.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @fposte, would you still feel that way if upvotes didn’t impact where a comment appeared (like if it didn’t make a comment appear higher or lower on the page)?

                5. Tomato Frog*

                  I’m anti-upvote. There’s a saying on Reddit that you think Redditors know what they’re talking about until you read the top-voted comments on something that’s in your area of expertise. I had that experience myself — seeing the top comment, with 100+ up-votes, calling the OP a liar based on an assumption I knew to be factually untrue. There’s definitely a positive feedback loop that happens where upvotes lend a comment credibility and visibility and therefore it gets more upvotes.

                6. Observer*

                  I think that that’s not too likely, though. How hard would it be to shut that down if it does happen? Obviously, if it happened with any sort of frequency, the feature would have to go, but if you could stop it easily, and it only happened a couple of times a year, would that be too burdensome? That’s not a snarky question – I have no real sense of how much of an issue even seemingly trivial things are.

                7. fposte*

                  @AAM–I think that would help to some extent. I’m not sure if that completely solves it or not–it still feels like being graded on a conversation in a way that I dislike, and it’s hard to avoid checking scores.

                  My other question would be how big a problem it’s solving. This could be because I tend to read early in a post’s lifespan, but I don’t see a lot of “+1” or “Me too” stuff on its own–it’s usually just a lead-in to a comment. Are there a lot of repetitive posts that will be usefully redirected this way, or will it just provide another layer over the existing comment stream?

                8. Natalie*

                  @ Tomato Frog, is that really different than what happens now, though – dozens of comments suggesting (for example) that someone is going to get sued, and one lawyer pointing out it’s unlikely getting lost in the sea?

                9. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  I am generally neutral on the upvote suggestion so long as it’s doesn’t effect post order, but I agree with @fpost that I’ve never really seen a lot of completely comment-free +1 or yes! posts. Certainly they happen, but I can’t recall seeing strings of them as often or extensive as the exploding rabbit-holes.

                10. Jaguar*

                  This isn’t evidence or scientifically based, just my own observations using comments / forum systems in communities that have regular contributors:

                  Upvotes (and especially upvote / downvote) tends to homogenize a community and people start tailoring how they say things and what they say to avoid downvotes or to “like hunt.” So, the obvious benefit, which I think you’re looking for here, is that the community will have a new tool to start self-policing. But the downside is that whatever the popular ideas of a site are, dissenting ideas tend to get pushed out. To choose an emotionally-neutral example, one that gets brought up here a lot, for instance, is that people should stay in a job for a couple years to avoid “job hopping,” so comments that support that assumption will tend to get extra weight with a bunch of upvotes and someone who might want to disagree with that idea now have a stronger incentive not to.

                  Another thing that tends to happen with communities of regular contributors is competing for likes/upvotes, which (I think) has a pretty profound influence on what people choose to post. So, before you began discouraging it, if a bizarre letter was answered, the first person to post “Is it WTF Wednesday again?” would likely get a bunch of upvotes, which is a strong encouragement for it to keep happening. People figure out what gets the most community approval and post that instead of what they might otherwise be inclined to post.

                  But, troll posts, unkind posts, or posts that violate the rules, I think, would very effectively get policed by the community here.

                11. Tomato Frog*

                  @Natalie, possibly? I wrote the comment before I saw Alison’s suggestion that comments wouldn’t be ordered by upvote, so I was picturing the Reddit system implemented here. However, even without putting the most upvoted at the top, I’m not sure if introducing upvotes would actually replace the pile-on, or just add one more element to the pile-on. Any internet sociologists/commenting behavior specialists around?

                  But even without ordering comments by upvote, I have been known to skim and only actually read the most-upvoted/liked comments. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

                12. Natalie*

                  @ Tomato Frog, interesting – I’ve never paid much attention to upvotes accept as a quick way to contribute “yes, agreed!” so I wouldn’t personally skim looking for them.

                  One way or another, I agree that having it order by anything other than chronological is no good. It’s annoying and confusing.

                13. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  This is all really useful — thank you, everyone. I’m finding the arguments against upvoting pretty compelling, especially Jaguar’s point about homogenizing things. I’m leaning toward just leaving things as they are in that regard.

                14. Ultraviolet*

                  In my opinion, posts that say only +1 and LOL and similar just don’t even register as a problem. My impression is that they’re fairly uncommon, so they don’t add too much to the post count, and I think that when you’re skimming the comment section, your eye goes right over them and they don’t feel burdensome. I think that time put into implementing this would have an extremely low return on investment.

                15. Gene*

                  Not what you’re after (well, not directly), but implementing an upvote system would likely increase your page view stats without much of an impact on unique viewers. That’s because once someone started seeing their post get upvoted, they will keep coming back to see how many it gets. And more pageviews = more $ for Alison.

                  And, as someone else said, the competitive among us would start tailoring our comments to get more votes.

                16. nom*

                  If you’re looking for an example of a robust and (imho) useful commenting structure that takes the upvote mechanic to the next level, may I suggest something like the system used on the Ravelry forums?

                  Caveat: I am not a tech person, and so have no idea how complicated this would be to implement on AAM. But I will say that having more options for marking posts actually seems to produce higher quality feedback than just up/down voting. (Categories are: educational, interesting, funny, agree, disagree, love; they’re implemented as small buttons that run along the bottom of each post.) It definitely fixes the long string of +1s and also trims down the “omg so funny” comment variety. Also, up/down votes do not affect comment position (unlike Reddit), but it’s super easy to skim for comments that have gotten lots of feedback.

                17. Ruffingit*

                  I agree with fposte on this one. Just not a fan of upvotes, they tend to turn into a popularity contest no matter how hard you try not to let that happen. I would like to be able to edit posts though. I know that is something we’ve been asking for a long time and would love if you would consider that Alison.

              1. INFJ*

                I don’t necessarily think that simply agreeing with a comment doesn’t add value. This is particularly true in cases in which the OP is unsure about the level of “normalcy” of their experience. If they read the comments and see dozens of people saying, “OMG this is not normal!”, then that carries more weight.

                This is something that can be achieved with upvoting, if that possibility gets explored. I’m trying to think of good reasons for not implementing an upvoting/like option. I’ll come back if I think of something good. Maybe do a trial run?

            2. Fabulous*

              I don’t know about upvotes (is that a reddit thing?) but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to “like” a comment instead of just using a mindless reply. I don’t reply to a lot of things because I don’t have anything new to add, but to be able to add emphasis to a particularly good comment by liking or “upvoting” would be great!!

              1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                I think that calling them “upvotes” instead of “likes” is related to sites like Reddit where posts are or can be sorted by popularity, or conversely, can disappear with enough “downvotes.” It does seem to have become basically interchangeable with like, though.

              2. Agnodike*

                See, one of the things I really like about the comments here is that I think the format encourages thoughtful contribution instead of just tons of agreement. I see a lot of comments that say “Yes! I agree! And also, here’s an expansion on the point or an opinion from a slightly different angle that adds to the conversation.” I think that’s really valuable, and I wonder if we might have fewer people adding those thoughtful expansions if it were easier to just click “like” or upvote.

          3. Engineering Manager*

            Would it be possible to have some sort of color coding or flag for off topicness to keep the occasional short approved type, either by moderator or user? That way, if you see this, you know it is off topic and should not produce a ton of additional comments.

        2. Formica Dinette*

          What I’m trying to stamp out are lengthy threads about things that aren’t related to the original post but which may have come up organically in the discussion. (And complicating things, I think it’s fine to have a couple of comments that do that; it’s when it becomes a lengthy thread itself that I get concerned.)

          My feedback? I like what you wrote above. Scrolling past a few off-topic comments here and there is no big deal to me, but when there get to be so many that I feel like I’m digging through them to find the on-topic comments, I lose interest and end up feeling less connected to the AAM community.

        3. Lynly*

          I’ve only been reading for a handful of months, and I think you need a very strong, tough-to-be-misconstrued message about digressions. Today’s “tonsils” post got to the point of ridiculous with the number of commenters chiming in about their own or a family member’s tonsil experience. It’s too much and goes way beyond addressing your (Alison’s) advice or the original question. It’s bogging down the site imo. I vote for some heavy handiness, especially when making a reset to encourage new and improved commenting habits.

          1. tigerlily*

            See and to me that thread didn’t feel off topic. Repetitive, yes, but not off topic. All of it provided support and ammunition for the OP to push back against her boss’ thinking of how easy a tonsillectomy would be.

            1. Emilia Bedelia*

              It’s not off topic, but repetitive is its own type of annoying.
              Maybe this is uncaring of me, but I don’t want to hear 10 people’s stories about how they had their tonsils out and it was really painful. I really think we get into diminishing returns with how many people reply with the same exact thoughts. How many times does the OP need to hear “I agree, and here’s another personal anecdote that doesn’t add anything to the conversation other than agreement”? 3? 5? 10? 20? When does the point get made?

              1. Dot Warner*

                I agree. Yes, the boss was way out of line and yes, the surgery isn’t nearly as simple as they were suggesting, but that doesn’t mean we need to hear from everybody who had their tonsils out and had a bad time of it. Sorry folks, I like you all and everything, but I’m not sure how so many of the same story is helpful to the OP.

            2. Dizzy Steinway*

              I don’t think it did provide ammunition though. Even if it was an easy, simple operation it still wouldn’t be appropriate for someone’s boss to insist on it!

              1. Observer*

                Sure. But it provided two things. One is the reinforcement that, yes, your boss was wildly wildly out of line. When something this outrageous happens, it can be easy to question whether you are the one who is nuts or the other person. All of these stories said “Hey, OP, it’s NOT you – it is most definitely your crazy boss.”

                Secondly, if the OP feels pressured into this conversation (remember, she’s worried about HR’s response here), this is the kind of ammunition that let’s the OP say, with a tone of amazement “Do you realize that you are pressuring me to have SURGERY – that could keep me out of work for WEEKS! just because of one day off a year?!”

          2. Observer*

            While it was repetitive, which can be its own problem, it was actually very much on topic. The idea being that the boss is a loon for even suggesting it. Why? Because the surgery can go very badly. And, with several people saying “Is this really such a bad suggestion, I don’t anyone who had a hard time with this” that was going to be underscored.

        4. Emilia Bedelia*

          Frankly, I REALLY HATE when people make unrelated comments or go on wildly irrelevant tangents and I am 100% on board with heavier handed moderation of off topic comments. The CAH thread this morning was a perfect example.
          In my own perfect commenting world, however, no one would comment on other people’s usernames or correct minor typos or complain about autocorrect either, so perhaps I’m more stringent about off topic commenting than the general population. But it is definitely annoying to scroll through off topic tangents, especially on traditionally hot button issues that we’ve rehashed in many comment threads before (pranks! leggings! what can I microwave at work!)

          1. Lynly*

            Yes. And, honestly, all the tangent back and forth can start to make the site feel a little clique-ish at times. It’s not good.

            1. Taylor Swift*

              Things have felt a little clique-ish to me lately. I don’t know if I’ve just not been in the same mood I used to be when reading this blog, or if things really have changed. Or maybe both!

          2. Newby*

            Most of the autocorrect complaining is because people want to be clear that autocorrect changed the meaning of the statement that they made, potentially making it offensive (like Jewish instead of newish). One comment to correct it is not really a tangent.

          3. Marisol*

            I can’t relate to this sentiment. If I find that I’m losing interest in something on this blog, I simply skim farther down the page until I find something piques my interest again. And occasionally, an entire post is just not my cup of tea, so I close the tab and return the the site another day. In real life, I frequently observe people talking about things I think are boring, so I don’t join the conversation. I don’t read every article of every magazine I buy. Some things I opt into, some things I opt out of; there are numerous choice points like this throughout the day. To my mind, this is just how life works, and really no big deal.

            I can see how threads that are wildly off-topic pose a problem because they undermine the goal of the site. But occasional jokes, auto-correct stuff, etc., to my mind, add character.

            I definitely don’t see what’s so annoying about the act of scrolling, and I’m a really high strung person who is easily annoyed. But scrolling takes seconds, or fractions of seconds. Just not feelin’ ya on this.

            1. Emilia Bedelia*

              I don’t expect people to totally agree with me- that’s why I wanted to specify that this is my own personal opinion, not how the site should actually be run, because it would be no fun for anyone. I would never comment on someone’s post to tell them that they shouldn’t have made a comment just because I didn’t like reading it. But I will reserve the right to, in my head, think that it was unnecessary.

              It really isn’t a big deal to scroll and ultimately I will continue reading as I always do,because, as you say, that’s how life works, but Alison asked for feedback, so I thought I’d stick up for myself and any other sticks-in-the-mud who are mildly annoyed by off topic commentary.

                1. OhBehave*

                  I have come to realize that some thoughts I may have are not necessarily new. Someone else has invariably come up with the same solution or idea. If a post or item has a ton of comments, I opt not to add my comment because I figure it’s already been mentioned. Now I question that logic if the OP is looking for an agreement amongst the commentariat.

                  I do tend to read the majority of comments if it’s not a huge number. I will add my $.02 to the discussion only if my slant hasn’t been mentioned.

                  I have noticed that many of us will gently, or not too gently admonish someone who is passing judgment, opining a diagnosis, or slamming an OP. We also need to be better about stopping the tangents in comments. I think we all want our voices to be heard and to be relevant to others. Thus the chiming in about our personal experiences with xyz.

            2. INFJ*

              I agree with you!

              Another point to consider: Novel readers (ie, new readers; not people who like literature). This might be the first time they’re seeing a 100+ comment thread about whether or not leggings are professional workwear and find the different perspectives really insightful and valuable. Meanwhile, regular readers are rolling their eyes because we’ve read this 30 times before.

              But that’s part of the deal when you are a DAILY reader of the same blog. Sometimes things will be rehashed. If I don’t feel like reading 20 people’s different food smelliness preferences, I’ll just scroll past it. But on some days, I might be up for reading that and thinking, “huh. I never would have guessed that someone finds the smell of peanut butter repulsive!”

              1. Marisol*

                hah! 20 different people’s food smelliness preferences. Yeah, I think some days it’s about *me* and how engaged *I feel* rather than the content itself. Some days, I’m just not in the mood to discuss food smelliness preferences, but other days–bring it!

            3. Book Person*

              Yes, I’m actually more in this camp myself. I comment rarely, but have been reading the site for just over two years now, and the threads with the huge comment strings (digressions and all) are the reason I became an active reader. I tend to skim posts that have relatively few comments (relatively is “100 or fewer” at this point!) or wait for them to gain more comments before reading, and I look through the threads to find those comments that start long comment strings. The digressions and factoids and story-sharing is interesting and what I find sets the site apart. I understand the desire to moderate/rein it in—and it’s your site to direct as you please!—but I’ll honestly miss that aspect if it goes.

            4. Ann O.*

              Now that I have eye strain issues, scrolling can be physically painful for me. I don’t know how common this is, but based on my reading, eye strain is increasingly common due to the amount of us that have computer-based day jobs.

            5. Dizzy Steinway*

              Great post. Off-topic stuff is only really a problem because it means people stopped helping the letter writer.

          4. Squeeble*

            In my experience, there are two ways things go off on tangents, and one of them I enjoy and one I don’t:

            The first is when there’s a very relevant comment where someone describes an experience they’ve had. Other commenters, also having experienced the thing, chime in about how they’ve dealt with it. Things go off topic pretty quickly, but it’s generally because everyone is sharing a common thought and enjoying the chance to talk about it. Jokes ensue.

            The second is when there’s a throwaway line in a comment that isn’t relevant to the overall point, but someone pounces on it. Then an argument ensues about whether the commenter is right to focus on that, and whether their reaction to it is appropriate or not, and it spirals out from there. (The CAH example is like this, although I’m not picking on that one–it happens here all the time.)

            1. Marisol*

              Very insightful. The first one feels purposeful/constructive, the second one, pointless/destructive.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes! This is really true. If I could come up with easy shorthand to describe each of these (like we have with the existing “not everyone can have sandwiches” rule) or to describe the difference between them, that could be a good way to navigate it in the site rules.

              1. LizB*

                Maybe “Consider the letter: what are the three biggest themes? If the conversation would be interesting reading for someone looking for information on one of those themes, it’s okay. If the conversation doesn’t connect to any of those themes, it’s too off-topic.”

                So for the tonsils letter, riffing on the theme of tonsillectomies, doctors’ notes, and bosses who control your sick time might be okay; a big thread about how to argue with your doctor until they do a procedure they don’t recommend would not. Maybe that’s still too broad, but I think for me that’s where I would draw the line.

              2. Ultraviolet*

                MegaMoose suggested in a comment at 4:22pm somewhere above this one that a recent derail happened when someone compared the OP’s situation to a TV show, and then a bunch of people added comments that were about the show but not in any way related to OP’s situation. I think you could come up with an example based on that. Something along the lines of:

                Comment 1: OP’s boss seems to have learned all their management techniques from Darth Vader.
                Comment 2: I’m so excited for the next Star Wars movie!

                That’s not the best example, but maybe it gets my point across?

                Another way to possibly say it is, “If the comment you want to make doesn’t include any mention of the OP’s situation, please save it for the open thread.”

                (I am really thankful for the sandwiches rule, by the way! The type of comment it curbs is super off-putting to me.)

              3. Marisol*

                On Mark Sisson’s blog, and Tim Ferriss’ blog, both health blogs, they have a header at the beginning of each comment section reminding commenters to be polite, but they do it in a cute way. (Not sure how to describe it succinctly but worth googling.) Maybe just a reminder that basically says “be nice” would help. The difference between the two kinds of posts Squeeble mentions might simply come down to the intention/attitude of the poster.

              4. Not So NewReader*

                Digressions? Then the digressions have digressions….

                Sometimes a commenter will chime in with a tangent question. We tend to try to help that person, too.

                In a way, having one of the safer places on the net to talk with strangers probably increases the likelihood of these side conversations happening.

                Can we say something like “That looks like a good subtopic for an open thread.”?
                It stops the discussion at the moment but invites the person back to talk again on a different day.

            3. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

              I know I tend to be brusk, and I’ve found that sometimes when I comment, others seem to jump on me for something they think I implied. It makes me not want to participate. I can’t think of an example, but I remember a few times here where commenters have pointed something out that others said wasn’t relevant, and the OP came back with an update and said that was their issue and thanks for the insight, so I worry a downvote system would limit those alternative voices. Maybe flags that tag a comment as helpful or in need of moderation would work.

              1. Electric Hedgehog*

                There’s a couple of commenters who have this same issue, I believe. I brought up last week how right leaning politicalish posts tend to draw ire. There was mixed levels of agreement there, and I really do respect that this is a left leaning blog and it may continue to not really foster full political diversity. But what you say here rings true to me. A throwaway statement or generalization is pounced upon and torn apart with vigor, and the original commenter has to post like fifteen times to clarify and regularity a point. It gets tiresome and begins to feel like a personal attack.

                To compound this, I suspect certain regular commenters may have minor personal feuds against each other, which isn’t super respectful or friendly.

                1. fposte*

                  Oh, that’s making me rethink something; I will sometimes respond more briskly to a regular commenter not because we’re feuding but because there’s enough history of goodwill between us that I don’t think I’m likely to be taken as curt or terse, or because I know they’re fine with direct (Joey was a great example of that), but to people on the outside that’s not necessarily going to be clear. I will reconsider that approach.

        5. Kyrielle*

          I sometimes enjoy the digressions, but I also see where they can be a real problem for people trying to follow the thread. (Actually, I can see both those things – lengthy digressions not of interest to me get annoying if they’re embedded in a sub-thread I want to see more of and can’t just collapse away.)

          If the ‘asking people to cut it down’ bit doesn’t work….

          What if you gave the digressions somewhere to go? Post a “Digressions capture” post at the start of each week, and link it in that week’s post. Then when someone wants to discuss Cards Against Humanity after it comes up organically, they can make a post of “Taking ‘Cards Against Humanity’ to the Digressions Post’ and go add a comment there starting the CAH sub-thread?

          I don’t know if that would work. I mean, it’s extra hassle for you, and extra hassle for commenters, and the digressions post would get a ridiculously large number of comments, so people without browser search would have issues finding it. And ideally the person would link to it, but then their comment would go into moderation and you could end up with several people all separately taking the same thing to the digressions thread…..

          I’m basically just musing here and trying to think of a way to let the digression continue, but *out of the way*.

          1. hbc*

            That’s what I was thinking too. I have no idea how to make it work smoothly, but being able to click somewhere and continue the conversation would be very nice. Maybe something like an open thread that’s meant to contain the digressions for the week, so it doesn’t get too big.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think just directing people to the existing open threads could potentially work. I probably wouldn’t want to set up a whole separate thing for it though, since the open threads are already a bit of a digression from the site mission.

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              As I mentioned below I think that the open threads probably reinforce/encourage off topicness across the site as a whole. I would wager that if you made them biweekly instead like one week general work, one week off topic, or just had weekly general work open threads and *once a month* off topic open threads, it would cut down a lot on digressions/discussions in comments on all regular posts, because it wouldn’t reinforce “this site is a nice place to chat with other commenters”

              I hope this doesn’t sound cold and Machiavellian, it’s just my 2 cents on what likely influences people’s behavior.

                1. Elizabeth H.*

                  Yeah I remember. I still hypothesize that in the long run it would act like a deterrent. The point isn’t to make the open thread better, it’s to make the regular post comments better.

            2. Development Professional*

              One of the other blogs I read with an active commentariat has a *daily* open thread. I realize that might be too much if you already feel that the open threads are a digression. But if you had even one more work-related open thread, on Tuesdays or something, it could help act as a release valve. The open threads don’t end up being very active more than 48 hours after they go up (or at least that’s my perception) and if you’re itching for some off-topic feedback on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you could go back to Friday’s (or Saturday’s) open thread, but probably few people will see it. Or you just hold it until Friday again, by which point sometimes the moment has passed.

              1. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

                Hmm, are chat rooms still a thing? I feel like an ongoing chat might actually work better as an open thread replacement, if such a thing is even manageable.

                1. Antilles*

                  Yes, chat rooms are still a thing. The common one now is Discord, which works more or less like a chat room that you join and basically anybody can post. The posts are stored on a server somewhere so you can open it up whenever and quickly skim up on what you missed. AFAICT, it’s fairly commonly used in more ‘techy’ communities and is particularly common in gaming.
                  That said, it’s probably not a great choice for AAM, since (1) it requires either a special browser add-on or installing a piece of free software (not desirable given that the post numbers clearly indicate that most of the talking happens during ‘typical work hours’, presumably on work computers) and (2) even if you start with a tight-knit good community, it’s way too easy to get off the rails and become a huge timesink for the admin/mod.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’ve always avoided doing anything like a chat room or message boards because that kind of forum isn’t really the mission of the site; the open threads are sort of a fun add-on but not the core thing I want the site to do.

            3. Not So NewReader*

              I remember when open threads were once (?) a month and then sometimes we would have a general open thread. Both got very popular so you started doing them once a week. I thought it was to help cut down on the side chatter during the week.

              This is the problem when a group of people for the most part like each other. Chatter ensues. I see this at church. My pastor has a hard time getting started some Sundays because there is so. much. chatter going on.

              Am chuckling. Maybe we should “accuse” each other of “visiting”.

            4. Fish Microwaver*

              I find the friday work related open thread very helpful and aligned to this site’s mission. The Sunday one not so much but I get that it is enjoyable to discuss non work stuff. So I think off topic is well catered to.

        6. Myrin*

          I’m pretty sure I’ve said before that I’m 100% in favour of a general “no off-topic” rule, but I’ll just reiterate it again since you’re specifically asking for feedback! :) (And let me also say in all honesty and without wishing to belittle Captain Akward in any way that the fact that the comments on her site seem to be especially prone to getting into the minutiae of every little off-topic topic (ha!) was a huge factor in my stopping to read every day and now just occasionally coming by and skimming the content. I found it very exhausting and actively off-putting.)

          Also, I’ve been mulling over what makes me think of any given tangent as “off-topic” and what not and I think I’ve kind of come to a conclusion?
          My inner rule, so to speak, seems to be along the lines of “Does this sub-topic pertain to what the letter is about?”.

          The CAH discussion from earlier today? – The question wasn’t about playing CAH at work.
          On the other hand, several smaller discussions around email etiquette when talking to non-native speakers? – The OP specifically asked what to write in such an email so a certain back-and-forth on that topic might give her some good ideas wrt what she’s been wondering about.

          Poor Henry from a couple of weeks ago who wanted to know how to show support for his direct report who’s been accused of racial discrimination? – The question very specifically wasn’t about whether his report was indeed racist or not.
          On the other hand, someone’s own experience of how they’ve been falsely accused of something and how much it meant to them that their supervisor had their back? – Directly relevant to the question.

          Last week’s question by an OP who was in charge of her company’s staff photos and then had one person angry and sulking about the normal lighting changes OP made to her photo? – Was about how to deal with the coworker’s behaviour and not about whether the changes OP made were in fact out of bounds or not; definitely wasn’t an invitation to have people accuse her of racism, sexism, or greatly exaggerating her competence and experience.

          I mean, I realise this doesn’t always work. Sometimes OPs are completely focussed on one thing when the entire problem of their situation is something completely different (see the famous intern who campaigned for a different dress code; her letter was about the fairness-or-not of her having been fired but the actual problem was her own behaviour). But in such cases, I like to take my cues from Alison. With the abovementioned photo-OP, for example, Alison allowed for the possibility that OP did indeed go to for with her photoshopping in her original answer; in such cases, I don’t actually see any need to specifically bring it up again and again.

          I don’t know if that makes sense and in the end, it’s probably not as clear-cut as this might make it out to be, but I’ve found that this “rule” has served me well personally.

          1. anonynony*

            Related to the photography question, I wouldn’t have called those threads off-topic. Nobody was running in to go “you’re a racist!” they were saying, consider where she’s coming from and whether it’s possible you went too far. Here’s a reason why this may be particularly sensitive for some people that you should be aware of.

            1. Myrin*

              Like I said, I think it was off-topic insofar as it wasn’t what the original question was about (it was about dealing with the coworker’s behaviour, not “Did I err in making these changes?”). The OP already showed sensitivity to the issue as she listed what she did and didn’t do and Alison herself said in her answer to make sure that there really wasn’t any bias going on during the photoshopping. In such a situation, I don’t think it’s helpful to have a gazillion comments which point out again and again the very same thing OP was already conscious of and Alison had already mentioned. Alison started moderating the comments on this thread because it got so bad, I think I’m justified in saying it went off-topic.

              (Not to mention, these comments can come across as incredibly condescending.
              OP in letter: “I made sure to be conscious of any X bias.”
              Commenters: “Are you aware the X bias exists? Hopefully you weren’t acting out of X bias!”
              OP in comments: “Like I said, I made sure to be cognisant of that.”
              Commenters: “But have you REALLY thought about X bias??”)

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            I’ll say upfront that I did not read either the “direct report accused of racial discrimination” or the “photo editing” comment threads, but based on your descriptions they would feel in-bounds to me. In both situations, the appropriate response (from the LW) would, for me, depend on the reality of the situation, so whether Henry’s report actually behaved in a racist way, and whether the photo editor did overstep or not, meaningfully impact what I hope the LW decides to do.

            What ends up feeling unhelpful is when we go down a rabbit hole of “what if” conversations, coming up with increasingly unlikely scenarios that would change our or Alison’s responses.

            I realize that I’m trying to draw a fine line. I think it’s more a matter of degree than of difference.

            1. Myrin*

              I agree, but I also think that this is where the “take OPs at their word” rule comes in. Henry said he was sure that his report didn’t behave in a racist manner. The photo OP said that she did not change anyone’s skin tone. So for the commentariat to hammer in “But are you sure? Are you really, really sure?” seems incredibly inappropriate, not to mention obnoxious, to me.

              1. Myrin*

                Oh, and to add to that, my point – which might have gone lost in my rambling – was that these are the rules by which I decide what I personally feel is off-topic and as such don’t engage in; I didn’t mean to propose that anyone else – let alone Alison and her site! – follow such thinking as well.

              2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                Like I said, I didn’t read it. But while I strongly believe in the “take OPs at their word” rule/guidance, I do think that it’s worth a little probing.

                So, for me, saying (or implying) to the photo editing OP “I don’t believe people would react this way if you didn’t do something egregious like lighten someone’s skin tone; you must have done something wrong” is unproductive. But saying: “It sounds like you may have touched on some sensitivities of the colleague who reacted badly. I know I’d be pretty upset if someone lightened my teeth in a picture without my permission. I don’t buy into the notion that teeth — which are naturally sortof cream colored and get more yellow as we age — have to be Hollywood white to be “beautiful” or “professional” would be a helpful comment.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  The issue was how it was being said — it was accusatory, even after the OP clarified. And the comments to Henry in the other post were really over the line (lots of whitesplaining racism to a person of color, etc.).

                2. fposte*

                  I agree with what you’re saying–to some extent. That was exactly how I felt on that post, and I thought it was reasonable for that point to get made (as well as the point that some of us have no clue of what’s standard treatment for a photo so it’s easy for us to get the wrong end of the stick).

                  But I don’t want the OP to hear “this could have been a mistake” ninety times in ninety different responses and subthreads, either. So I’m thinking about a personal rule for me of only asking a more “probing” question (that’s not quite the right word but I can’t think of a more specific one) if I’ve read the whole comments section first and made sure it’s not already there. Because a lot of what we’re dealing with right now is the effect of volume, and what’s reasonable once becomes unreasonable when it’s repeated umpteen times.

                3. OhBehave*

                  I did notice in the photo post one commenter in particular who persisted with the racist theme. Some commented their disagreement and then a few comments later, again this person regurgitated the same argument.

                4. Kate*

                  Except the OP in that post already wrote that she didn’t turn cream teeth white, the bad lighting made cream teeth turn highlighter yellow, and she “whitened” them to cream again. And although I know you did read that post, the people who made comments like the one you suggested did, so they were really ignoring the OP and hammering on her.

              3. Hannah*

                I think that “don’t be rude to the OP or anyone else” should of course be a rule, but exploring that there could theoretically be another side to the story should not be disallowed. With the photo editing post, the OP may have been sure that her edits were appropriate, but you really wouldn’t want to take the OP’s situation and draw a rule from it that it’s OK for someone (an amateur who is not a professional photographer and was not hired for photo editing) to edit someone’s photo, unsolicited, and post it publicly, after the person already approved it as is. Maybe the OP genuinely improved the photos, but generally, others should not follow her example because amateur photoshopping is usually BAD, and could even be offensive. If we only answer the specific letter but can’t broaden it to talk about general rules, then literally what is the point of the blog. I didn’t comment on that post, but it seemed to me like the commenters rebelled a bit because the response did not address this point in a satisfying way, and commenters who tried to make this point were argued with.

                1. Natalie*

                  Broadening every single discussion to “rules” sounds both exhausting and impossible to me. Something I actually really cherish from this blog is understanding that there often aren’t hard and fast rules that must be followed.

                  Especially when someone has clearly stated that whatever they’re writing about is part of their job. If a doctor rights in about some kind of work issue involving surgery (whatever that possibly could be), that doesn’t need to be followed by 200 posts about how it’s really not normally okay to cut a person’s abdomen open.

                2. Taylor Swift*

                  There were a lot of comments about whether or not the OP in that situation was qualified enough to know the difference, even though she said in her letter that she was. And quite a few comments about whether or not she lied about what kind of edits she was making. But for me, the main problem with those kinds of derails is that 50% of the comments end up rehashing essentially the same points.

                3. Ultraviolet*

                  I think it just comes down to what Alison said in a comment on that post:

                  “It’s totally fine to point out how this can intersect with race and raise the question, but it’s not okay to tell the OP [it] definitely has racial overtones, when we have nothing indicating that so far.”

                  Pointing out things that might possibly be at play is one thing, but trying to root out “another side to the story” puts the OP in a weird defensive position relative to the commenters. People on that post accused OP of having “let slip” certain facts they shared in the comments, and claimed that we can’t take OP’s word that the photos turned out fine because OP hadn’t provided a sufficiently comprehensive work history for us to gauge their ability. This is sort of meta, but that behavior was so far beyond the pale that I don’t think anyone was at all justified in being upset that it was shut down without very much discussion about whether less aggressive, more open-ended points would have been okay.

                4. Ann O.*

                  To me, it boils down to the fact that all we know about the situation is what the OP reports, so doubting is often functionally accusing the OP of either lying or not being perceptive about their situation. There are some clear cases where the OPs provide facts that undercut their interpretation of events, but usually Alison addresses that in her answer and the question directly relates (like the abusive partners who write in wanting validation that their behavior is okay). I think some asking for additional information can be pretty reasonable, but we shouldn’t give conclusions before we ask for the additional information. We should always be aware that we weren’t there, and we don’t know the full context.

        7. Mouse*

          Could it be possible to collapse subthread levels like we can collapse the main level? That way, if you want to read you can, but if you’re not interested you can skip it.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            That’s the thing I think is missing that would make AAM comments much easier to deal with. I wouldn’t mind off topic comments if I could just hit the minimize button to not read any below. Only being able to do that with the first comment in a thread doesn’t work for me. An expand/collapse option for every comment with a reply (like reddit) would make a huge difference.

              1. Zombeyonce*

                Awesome! Maybe they could also look into to the possibility of being able to be notified of comments replying to a comment you post, rather than all new comments (also like reddit). I have check the box to be notified of follow up comments but realized I was notified of every new comment on the page, so was getting a ton of emails and had to go to the page and do a Ctrl+F to find my comment to see if there was a reply. Trying to dig through 300 emails for relevant comments is just too much and makes me avoid returning to a thread.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  We did once try a plugin that was supposed to do that, but it didn’t work as it was supposed to. But she’s going to look at whether there are other ways to do it because, who knows, maybe there’s something new by now that would work.

              2. Jaguar*

                I was thinking along the same lines – my (bad) solution to any problem is to program a solution – but with you (or another moderator) stamping certain posts and their replies as “click to expand,” which doesn’t remove the posts but hides them away.

              3. Natalie*

                If you haven’t already asked them about this, is there anything they could do to make the process of deleting comments easier? For the long chains, in particular, if there was some fix that would let you delete a comment and all of it’s children, it seems like that would be useful.

              4. Dorothy Mantooth*

                This was my thought as well. I got into the habit of Collapsing all threaded comments before diving in so could I decide which threads I wanted to see responses to. If there was another layer of collapse that would be helpful. Sometimes when I expand the sub-comments, I then have to scroll forever to get to the next one – but if it could be collapsed back up or something I can move right along as soon as I’m done with that thread.

              5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Okay, talked with her. She played around with that in the past, and her concern was that adding all those additional calculations for the page to do would slow down the page loading time, especially on posts with a lot of comments. She’s going to take another look at it though to see if there’s a way around that.

            1. Zombeyonce*

              Also allowing editing of comments for some period of time would be fantastic. I’ve seen sites where you can edit for up to 10 minutes after posting and it’s great for times like now when I forgot to include a specific point, or when I’m commenting on my phone and my toddler hits a button before I’m done typing.
              But mainly, additional minimize options would make it so Alison wouldn’t have to be as vigilant about deleting comments since it would be easy to minimize a whole swath of them with one click while still following the rest of the thread.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t think I can set up an editing button without switching to a totally new commenting system (which I don’t want to do for a whole bunch of reasons), but an interesting thing about this — a lot of bloggers turn that option off even when their system does allow it, because someone will say something controversial, people will react to it, and then the person will go back and edit their original comment so as to make it seem they never said it — and that that can happen even with a relatively short editing period. And that is a mess.

                1. Elizabeth H.*

                  I 100% agree on not switching to a different commenting system. I honestly think this is perfect.

            2. The Other Dawn*

              Yes! I’m always thinking this would be great to have. Many times I just want to collapse part of the thread, either because it’s off topic or a tangent. Also, it’s so easy to lose track of who’s replying to which comment when it gets really long.

          2. Emi.*

            I was just coming here to suggest this! You can do that on Disqus, but I love that you don’t require a login. Is this feasible to implement?

          3. Myrin*

            On the topic of collapsing threads, is it just me or do threads not stay collapsed once you’ve left the site? (It could totally be me – I have some weird browser screw-ups from time to time.) There are some topics that I simply can’t read about because they make me anxious and upset. But if I leave the site and come back and the thread in question is un-collapsed again I’ll inevitably end up reading about it again because I don’t remember where it was exactly. Is there a way to make such a permanent collapse happen?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              You can set threads to collapse or expand site-wide (by checking/unchecking “set collapse all as default site-wide” at the top), but you can’t make it remember your preferences for just a single page. (To do that, we’d have to load you up with cookies.)

            2. Dizzy Steinway*

              You can select ‘collapse all’ as default – it’s at the top of the comments.

        8. Sunflower*

          I agree with this. It’s difficult because I do feel that sometimes these posts go off into separate topics that actually are quite useful but they take away from the letter and make it harder for people to chime in. It can be especially frustrating when they go off topic into something that has already been heavily discussed in past letters or encompass the overall general views of this site.

          One thing that drives me totally insane- when posts venture off into a 100 comment thread of ‘where do I buy/get this’. Work attire posts almost always venture into some form of ‘where do I buy work clothes’ and I find that incredibly distracting esp since almost every Friday there is a post about it on the open thread(which is totally fine!). I’ve found sometimes posts about office parties/showers can start ‘etiquette wars’ which at this point we’ve pretty much agreed can be regional and hearing 100 different people from all over the world chime in is not helpful.

          I feel like you have been doing a pretty good job moderating these and it’s hard to say what crosses the line. There are things that are annoying(like when people post one word comments on ridiculous letters like ‘No’ or ‘OMG’ and then I need to sift through 100 of them to find useful information) but I wouldn’t call that breaking the site rules. I do like when you chime in and say ‘we should save this for another post’ or ‘please discuss on Friday thread’

        9. emma2*

          Something I find myself doing a lot is writing my opinion/insight about certain aspects of the question rather than directly answering the question itself. Or just sharing my own anecdote of a similar situation. (For example, “something I noticed about business meetings…blahblahblah” rather than actually answering a question about business meetings.) Is this okay?

          It’s just that a lot of the time I don’t find myself qualified to actually give advice, or Allison/other commenters have already provided stellar advice and I don’t have anything to add. I like to think my insights (along with other commenters’) will just add to a deeper understanding of the situation the OP might be in and help them formulate a solution. I also like discussing things, in general.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            What you’re describing is okay by me!

            What happened today that I removed was that someone relayed an anecdote that was relevant to the letter and which mentioned Cards Against Humanity, and someone else took issue with CAH at work events, and a CAH-related derail ensured. There was another one about how common it is to have wisdom teeth removed, which developed from the letter’s mention of tonsils being removed. If that kind of thing was very occasional, or just a comment or two, I wouldn’t care at all — it’s when it’s lengthy and frequent that I worry about the overall impact.

        10. Elizabeth H.*

          I agree. . . . I actually interpreted off-topic exactly this way, about stuff not related to the original post even if it came up semi-naturally. I think I know what you mean about it being fine to have a couple of comments that do that but not anything beyond that. I like the sense of community here but I think people can engage in personal conversations about random topics in the open threads and I don’t really like it in the regular posts. This isn’t a message board/commenting forum. I have belonged to a bunch of those in my day and I definitely do not want this to be one. My 2 cents is that the rise of more comments per post, and more off topic posts, has increased organically over time in correlation with the weekend open threads. When people chat with each other in those threads, it becomes more of a message board/commenting forum vibe and then there is the desire to chat with people in any comment thread. This is natural but it can get cliquey also so I think it’s very good to restrict the regular posts to discussions specifically relevant to the letters.

          1. fposte*

            I think this is a reasonable thought. It’s okay for something to have been part of the yeast that grew the blog comments but need to be in its own breadbox now :-).

        11. Lana Kane*

          I totally get your meaning and I agree 100%. This is a thing on so many boards I have read over the years, and I personally find it annoying to scroll past a bunch of comments that have completely veered off the topic at hand.

          The occasional, short digression is fine, for me. It’s lengthy derails that make me want to just close the thread.

        12. Augusta Sugarbean*

          Alison, what would you think about trying to break up these open threads into general topics? I tend to skip them when they start getting more than 300 or so comments. I’m on the West Coast and by the time I am up and reading your site, open threads are already huge. I skim them occasionally and try to contribute but haven’t often posted questions or comments because they don’t seem to be seen by many readers

          Would you be open to having separate open threads like Work-Related: Job Hunting, Work-Related: Personnel Problems, etc.? Maybe rotating the sub-topics on a weekly basis? Thank you!

          1. Sled dog mama*

            I know we’re trying to limit the +1 comments but all I have to add is that I like this idea

        13. Jozzie*

          I don’t know if this is useful (or feasible), but some sites (like youtube) make you click if you want to read the replies to a comment and otherwise you can just read the “main” comments. Maybe this could keep hidden the long subthreads but preserve them for people who do want them?

    3. Clever Name*

      Thank you for this! One of the reasons I don’t find Corporette all that appealing, even though I love fashion and reading about it and thinking about it, is because the comment section is hundreds of comments like: “Great dress. Now let me tell you about a work rant I have to get off my chest right this instant even though it has nothing to do with finding clothing for the office”

      1. YesYesYes*

        Funny, because that’s exactly WHY I read Corporette. There’s no other place for actual working women focused discussion of minutiae. It’s not about the fashion at all to me.

    4. Mimmy*

      Thanks Alison! I didn’t see this morning’s tangent, but I’ve noticed that the threads have become super-long in the past couple of months.

    5. Jaguar*

      Could you summarize what changed? It’s easy enough to follow those rules, I think, but knowing what changed could give context to how you’ve been moderating posts.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No new rules there — just reworded for (hopefully) clarity. But I did add the thing about giving people the benefit of the doubt (which I think would solve many problems).

        1. New Bee*

          Might it be helpful to have a rule about repetition? As a West Coast reader, one thing I notice is some people tend to repeat their point up and down the thread. For example, on multi-question posts someone who responds about #1 then writes essentially the same response in every thread talking about that question.

          It’s super-noticeable as someone who reads most threads when they’re 90% done, and it often contributes to the perception that lots of people hold an opinion (esp. an unpopular one) when it’s really just a few. I remember TWOP had a “make your point and move on” rule that toned down some of that…aggression, for lack of a better word.

    6. emma2*

      These guidelines should be applied to real-life conversations as well!

      I am definitely guilty of some of these transgressions (especially going off topic.)

    7. Emi.*

      There’s nothing in the site rules about not talking about politics. I presume you haven’t dropped the rule, but is there a reason you don’t list it here?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I keep thinking about how to add it, but I can’t figure out how to say it in a way that won’t be interpreted to be more broad than I intend it. So I’ve been dealing with it case by case, which is admittedly not ideal … but also workable so far because it doesn’t come up that much. (On the other hand, it’s terrible modeling of being explicit about expectations.)

        1. Emi.*

          I definitely noticed when I first started commenting here that no one ever talked politics, so I didn’t, because I didn’t want to be That Person. I mean, I was also sick of politics, but my point is that even if you’re not being explicit, you do have some decently strong social norms set up.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            That’s one of the reasons I started coming back and reading this site multiple times a day! It’s nice having a place that is free of the constant barrage.

        2. BuildMeUp*

          I personally like that you reiterate the “no politics” rule on every post where it might come up in the comments. I think it’s good to make sure anyone who might be reading the post without being familiar with the site sees it.

        3. ZNerd*

          What about something like… “Please steer clear of expressing personal views on controversial topics — e.g., politics, religion, gun control/rights, etc. — those subjects can quickly turn into unproductive arguments. Instead focus on…”

          Also, re the new and helpful “benefit of the doubt… don’t jump to a negative interpretation” note, perhaps it could include something like, “Assume that the LW is relaying accurate knowledge of the situation. It is okay to say ‘have you considered X’, but please don’t insist they don’t know the facts about their own question and workplace.”

          1. Lurkaroni*

            Long time lurker, first time commenting. The previous threads that were locked had some armchair experts, which both undermine/ignore the OP’s situation and some professional opinions(eg, lawyer, designer). I think reminding everyone to not be an armchair expert might help in such cases. Goes hand in hand with respect OP’s version of events.

    8. Lee*

      I think disallowing users to delete their comments or edit them in anyway is what leads to needing constant moderation. Whether the comment is just some random biased story, or some grammar nut rambling about accidentally pluralizing ONE word or what have you, the array of unnecessary comments gets old.
      Luckily, your advice is usually pretty spot-on, so the comment section is generally not necessary to get the work-related info one is looking for.

      1. Lee*

        I also think some of the users here can get cliquey and the “plus 100000000” to every comment that reinforces their own biased worldview is eye-rolling to say the least.

        1. Emi.*

          Can you elaborate on what you mean by “cliquey”? I’m curious what that means in a situation like this where the mechanisms for snubbing that I associate with cliqueness aren’t available (eg not parties to not-invite people to).

          1. HR Caligula*

            I’ll give an example of “cliquey” This is also a reason I don’t post nearly as much.
            I couldn’t find the original post to refresh my memory but it had something do with a Mother/Daughter working at the same job, mother in a managerial role. The actions the mother took were very unprofessional and a grand example of poor management. AAM and many posters called that behavior out. A few responses were of the “document, document, document” and “contact a lawyer” type.

            Even though I agreed I felt there was no need to (again) call out the poor management practice, it was well covered. I did clarify that there was no violation of employment law. A regular commentor and AAM both called me out how wrong the behavior was (like I supported it) and begrudgingly acknowledged my input was true.

              1. HR Caligula*

                That’s it. We all agreed it wasn’t good practice. That point had been clearly and repeatedly made and didn’t want to add to the pile. I did feel I could add a relevant point to that discussion.

                It read to me that since I didn’t vehemently enough respond how wrong it was (“cliquish?) I needed to be further schooled.

                That said, no grudges, I still follow daily.

                1. Ultraviolet*

                  I do sometimes find myself tempted to add a bunch of disclaimers to my comments to the effect that I understand A, and I’m not suggesting B, and I agree that C is the most important thing here….It makes me feel like I’m reciting a password or pledge or performing the correct salute to indicate that I belong and know how to express my opinion in the accepted way.

                  I wish I could think of an example—I know that would really help.

                2. Elizabeth H.*

                  @Ultraviolet I know exactly what you mean, I find myself doing that a lot too. Sometimes I have to go back and take qualifiers out so I am actually saying what I mean and not being wishy washy.

        2. Sunflower*

          I don’t think there’s anything wrong with one +100 comment but there’s no need to have a ton of them.

          Also I don’t really understand what you mean by ‘reinforces their own biased worldview’ or ‘biased story’. I think it’s pretty understood that when someone posts a story, it’s reflective of their personal experience. If anything, I see way more of ‘this is just my experience’ as opposed to’ this happened to me so it must be true of everyone’ happening on this site. I see it much much more on other blogs that I don’t comment on for that reason.

    9. Cath in Canada*

      Super late to this, but:

      how about embedding a simple poll on posts where there’s going to be a somewhat predictable amount of derailing / repetitive comments? e.g. when you provide more than one suggested script, or if there’s a straightforward way to address the original question, e.g. “OP’s boss was way out of line – yes / no / a bit”, or “that outfit sounds OK to me – yes / no”, or “this happened to me / this happened to someone I know / I’ve never heard of this”. Might cut down on some of the “me too” comments if people have another way to express that sentiment?

    10. Sylvia*

      Thank you. I’ll read over the rules again. I think I replied to the CAH thread saying that it was off-topic; in the future, I’ll just scroll past that sort of thing.

    11. Jessesgirl72*

      Way back in the dark ages of the Internet, we used to refer to the derailing on Usenet as “Mad Galloping Topic Drift”

      I think a change to the site rules using similar language could help people understand it’s not just totally off topic questions that you’re trying to discourage, but also the drift. I wish the open threads themselves didn’t get so unwieldy- sometimes I’d like to address a drift, but there’s no good way to signal that I’d be taking it to the weekend thread to the person I’d like to discuss something with. That’s not something I think you should (or could) really address, BTW- just an observation.

      And I don’t know if it needs to be a “rule” per se, but maybe something that mentions that you’d encourage people to walk away if a debate is getting heated and they feel like they are in danger of breaking the basic “be kind” rule. I know that I get worked up sometimes, and when that happens, in order to follow that, I force myself to leave that post/thread and let “someone be wrong on the internet”

      1. E, F and G*

        So far this has been one of my favourite comments on this topic.

        For the Mad Galloping Topic Drifters, can we just point them to the open thread from the previous week? There are normally enough regulars around to help with some of that. (And I want to continue imagining a group of internet horses galloping across the fenced in pages of previously wild internet pastures.)

        My problem is found in those grey area comments where things are still on the verge of okay but are being pushed in both directions. There was a comment chain recently where two sides were debating a point. Neither side was wrong and they were pretty much on topic but it was just starting to border on argumentative. Is there a polite way of saying slow down, yellow light?

      2. DoDah*

        This is interesting. I’m more of a reader than a poster. I’ve got a list in my head of people who I think are deliberately argumentative, so I scroll past their posts. I’ve seen Alison address it, but it goes on nonetheless.

        1. E, F and G*

          But that is one of the reasons why I find this comment chain intriguing. I can scroll past any post that says +1 because it indicates to that it is a simple post, I will recognize that the original poster has people in agreement but otherwise just appreciate being able to zoom past a few texts. And I find it an interesting quirk of this site.

          And I agree that some people are blatantly adversarial, but there are some people who may not have the same sense for wording, grammar, style and usage as others. And I find it can come across as people arguing over the same thing or not being able to quite reach a consensus because they haven’t found the right word combination.

    12. A. Schuyler*

      I really appreciate that you’re doing this. I read another blog which has almost entirely off-topic comments, and it means that I almost never visit the site (having read the article in RSS) because I know the comments won’t add any value. It’s so great that the comments here add a new perspective and additional support.

    13. Dizzy Steinway*

      Alison, one thing that strikes me is there’s no way to report off-topic posts like you can on, say, Reddit, or Facebook, which might make it easier to spot them or have them flagged for moderation (though I guess you wouldn’t want to do it by email as you’d wake up to zillions).

      I think the open threads are amazing and help foster a sense of community spirit – and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that commenters hear a) have those opportunities to bond and b) are nicer and less hate-y than on some sites (cough cough).

      Anyway, I moderate a website as part of my job. You are unlikely to stop these problems from occurring altogether which I’m sure you know. I wonder if you’d consider calling them house rules rather than commenting guidelines? It’s a small thing but it can help to give people a sense of co-ownership (ours were co-produced with users so if people criticise the rules we can say: this is what users told us they wanted).

      I also wonder if it would help to have an easy to find mission statement. For people new to the blog, it might not be obvious what it actually is and isn’t for. Like, it’s for helping letter writers with their issues. Unlike some sites, the blog posts aren’t just a jumping off point to generate traffic to impress advertisers – you want it to stay on-topic.

      Lastly, people might not like this but something I’ve seen on Reddit (which you could also do with HTML I’m sure) is some subreddits have text in the box you type in to comment, like: Have you read the community guidelines? Or: Before you post, ask yourself if… Could you do something like that?

      1. LurkerDeLurks*

        Dizzy’s suggestions for a mission statement and renaming the guidelines as house rules are quite sound, imo. If *those* even prove insufficient, I think if there were some possibility of appointing a few regular commenters as light-touch community moderators, that might help usher folks toward seeing and following the norms here. I don’t think these comm-mods would need to have all that much responsibility, but here is why I think this approach could be successful:

        1. Regular and semi-regular readers and commenters alike have a (relatively) better grasp of the norms of commenting (e.g. don’t pile on).

        2. New commenters don’t often know the norms or follow them as well. (Sometimes regulars need reminding as well.)

        3. AAM can’t always moderate the posts to point out norm violations (her authority as blog owner with blue banner also goes a long way with effectively shutting down issues). In the past, she’s mentioned that she likes/dislikes some features of comments (in supplement, or as reminders, to her own codified guidelines).

        4. This results in several commenters, who are well aware of point 3 above, replying to the norm violator by saying “AAM has asked that we do not…” These in themselves become à la minute pile-ons in spite of the very norm in question, often it seems because so many folks are reading and available to comment readily.

        5. So, absent AAM’s appearance in threads to say when to move on or the like, designating a few people with this quite small but important role might be of use — again only if Dizzy’s suggestions prove insufficient.

        (I lurk a LOT and enjoy lengthy threads. I generally scroll past comment threads that aren’t of interest. But I do get tired of the numerous comments pointing out norm violators.)

    14. Anonymous in Texas*

      Could you tell Corporette about this rule? I’ve stopped looking at that site because 90% of comments aren’t related to the post!

  2. Nervous Accountant*

    Happy Friday all! :)

    I’m just curious and want to throw this out there–how did your office handle Stella?

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I work in midtown Manhattan. We got an email midday Monday alerting us to work remotely on Tuesday, but prior to the official notification my manager told us those of us living outside of Manhattan to plan to work remotely regardless. (We only have two team members who work in Manhattan, and I suspect my manager would have okayed them to work remotely in the end, as well.)

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        I’m in Baltimore and work at a university downtown. We had a closure and delay the next day. We got more ice than anything else. I think they made a good call. However, some of my colleagues had to come in as we were in the middle of an accreditation site visit. The show must go on.

        1. Andy*

          UMD College Park here…no delay on Wednesday which was sucky since the ice was atrocious, but I think Baltimore (for those not familiar it’s SUPER close but tends to have different weather) got a lot more icey stuff.
          Good luck with your accreditation!

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Oh, we got so much ice (Hunt Valley here). it was wretched. Hilariously, my back-roads commute was smooth as silk Wednesday morning, but the wind all day blew the road full of snow again and it turned into washboarded ice (didn’t even know ice could do that….).

          2. Paige Turner*

            Hey, neighbor! I work near UMd and we had a three-hour delay at the office, but I worked from home all day. So much better than when I worked for Starbucks and had to drag myself in during Snowmageddeon while everyone else in the neighborhood had a snow day and was clamoring to get in (still traumatized by that storm!).

          3. MissMaple*

            So many fellow Marylanders, I had no idea :) I’m in Greenbelt and our site was closed, but we were all expected to telework our normal hours.

            1. Emi.*

              I’m in Greenbelt and we closed too! If you were already scheduled to telework you still had to, but otherwise you just got excused leave.

          4. LPBB*

            I work down the street from UMD College Park, but I live just north of Baltimore (White Marsh-ish area) and can attest that we got a ton of icy stuff. I ended up working from home on Wednesday because our driveway was so treacherously icy that I couldn’t safely clean the ice off of my car.

        2. EP*

          Frederick, MD here – we were closed Tuesday and delayed Wednesday and yesterday which makes today even more difficult to sit through than a regular Friday.
          (We follow the school offices- if they are delayed we’re delayed – if they’re closed we’re closed etc.)

        3. Anon for saying where I work/live*

          UMBC here. Campus was closed on Tuesday. No delay Wednesday morning. My drive in Wednesday morning from Howard County was totally fine. But I can flex my schedule to some extent depending on the day, so I intentionally rolled in around 9:30. It may have been worse earlier?

    2. Rebecca*

      Central PA here: my office closed for the day, and I’m non-exempt, but was given the choice of taking the day without pay, using a vacation day, or using 1/2 vacation day and then making up 4 hours. Since we knew on Monday we’d be closed, some of my coworkers stayed an extra hour and then have worked an extra hour on Wed, Thu, and Fri.

      1. HisGirlFriday*

        Also Central PA. Our governor announced on Monday that people who didn’t HAVE TO travel for work (i.e., anyone who’s not first responders, emergency personnel, or essential personnel) should stay home. My boss informed us that even if the governor officially closed the roads, thereby making travel on them if you’re not essential illegal, we should wait to hear from her Tuesday morning if we were closed.

        We all rolled our eyes and informed her none of us were coming in; either the office would be closed or we’d all burn PTO to be off.

        She finally closed the office at 6.10 a.m. on Tuesday.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          My husband’s former employer used to get around the travel bans by giving him a letter saying he “works in the medical profession.” He worked in a warehouse, but it was in the pharmacy industry, so they got away with it. My poor husband would have to get up at 3:00 a.m. to clean off the car and leave enough time to get to work safely. We lived in Northeastern PA then, so we got hit with a lot of storms.

        2. Oscar Madisoy*

          ” My boss informed us that even if the governor officially closed the roads, thereby making travel on them if you’re not essential illegal, we should wait to hear from her Tuesday morning if we were closed.”

          So, if the boss had gone the other way and said employees were required to report, and you got in trouble for illegal travel, would he have done everything he could to square things out with the law and make you whole?

      2. Buffy*

        Central PA here too! The university I work for (big guesses as to which) did a very rare shut-down! I found myself very excited for the snow day, then I realized it was nostalgia from my childhood when I didn’t have to shovel and keep up on work e-mails. :)

    3. Merida May*

      Happy Friday! I work for a state agency but our Governor announced that all non-essential employees were able to take the day without charging against accruals, so I had plenty of time to figure out where I was going to put all the snow that kept pouring into my driveway.

    4. CDM*

      Our office closed, so we got a paid day off. I was shocked. First time since I’ve been here – four years.

      We have had two other significant snowfall/ice days where management directed everyone to work from home, (and I had to take a sick day because the ice took out our power and internet) but normally they open the office and expect the peons to be there, no matter what. The mangers work from home when the roads are bad, but the rest of us are frowned on for doing that, even though we all have the ability to do so with minimal disruptions.

      1. Anna*

        “Your safety is less of a concern than the safety of the people we pay more.”

        How aggravating. Hopefully the paid day off is a sign of changing times.

    5. Emilia Bedelia*

      I’m in NJ- the building was closed on Tuesday, with special hours/leniency for shift workers on Monday and Wednesday. Most of the office staff worked from home on Tuesday, some Wednesday also.

    6. Pearl*

      I’m in Boston. My office only has 3 people, so we just decided together that none of us wanted to risk getting stuck here. We told people we were working from home. The next day it turned out to not be that bad, so we came in.

    7. Kiki*

      I work at a school in MA. The kids and teachers were already gone for spring break, but the office staff is still here. On Monday afternoon we were told not to come in Tuesday, so I got a paid day off (I’m non-exempt but they treat snow days here like other school holidays).

      1. Bend & Snap*

        I didn’t realize there were MA schools that had spring break. I thought it was all Feb and April vacation.

        1. Turkletina*

          I went to a private school in MA that had a March spring break. I think only the public schools schedule their vacations around already-existing holidays.

      2. Nallomy*

        I also work at an MA school (public). We had two days off – Tuesday and Wednesday – because the city felt that an extra day was needed to get everything cleaned up (sidewalks, bus stops, etc.) before we could reopen. Most of the adjacent, more suburban communities went back on Wednesday, though. My husband has an office job in the city, and his office closed on Tuesday. He’s salaried/exempt, and they didn’t require him to use PTO.

    8. Reine de la neige*

      I’m in Montreal – we got somewhere around 15-18 inches of snow.
      A little more than half the office made it in, the rest worked from home or used PTO.
      Such a pain!!

    9. Nervous Accountant*

      Midtown Manhattan too…Day before the storm, we got an email saying that since MTA is partially shut down we can work from home. We had a major deadline on Wednesday so they were really pushing us to come in if it was safe.

      The next day, a few of us were having issues getting access to get the remote login. I didn’t get access until 1 PM, but I was still working (able to access other things through Chrome). My boss sent us a very strongly worded email midday saying that we should do our best to come in since the forecast was down to 4-6″ instead of the 2 feet. About 10 (out of 70 or so) showed up bc they lived nearby and/or their subway lines were running. The rest of us did our best to work from home.

      The next day I found out a lot of ppl got a lot of shit for not coming in despite waiting for 1-2+ HOURS for reliable transit. Absolutely ridiculous.

      1. Audiophile*

        That’s horrible.

        They shut down all elevated track service on Tuesday right? And Metro North stopped running trains at noon. Nothing was really moving until around 6pm and that was with significant delays.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          Yep! All above ground subway was out, and I’m in an area with only above ground subway. To get to the below-ground subway, my husband would have to drive for about an hour (usually 20 minutes, but with this weather, easily would have been 1 hour) to that station. Not happening.

          The metro North w as supposed to be running in the AM, but I waited 20 minutes for a train that was late. My manager called and told me to just go home and work from home. Thankfully our boss didn’t say anything to me.

          1. Audiophile*

            The closest Metro North station to me is up a large, long hill. I knew I likely wouldn’t get up it and certainly wouldn’t do well trying to go down it. There weren’t a lot of AM trains running Tuesday and ridership was apparently very low, so they stopped early.

            Wednesday, Metro North was super delayed. I looked at my local station and White Plains and it was not looking great. I emailed my boss and explained I wouldn’t be in. We had a conference call, which I was on, so I technically worked from home.

      2. Observer*

        Your boss was being an idiot. The mayor did keep the state of emergency in place for a reason. The wind was atrocious.

        We were closed. There was some talk about possibly opening in the afternoon, but even with the reduction in snow forecast, the state of emergency and lack of surface public transportation (no underground subways near us.) kept us closed.

        Thank goodness, my boss is VERY safety conscious.

    10. The Cosmic Avenger*

      DC area: my employer (Federal contractor) has an inclement weather policy that parallels the OPM (Fed) policy, but when the government is closed we are expected to work from home or take leave, as we can’t bill the government for a “snow day”.

      I was going to work from home that day before I heard about the storm, so I just stuck to my planned schedule.

    11. Jesmlet*

      Westchester NY here, we closed all our offices in NJ, CT and NY and everyone worked from home that day. The following day if people still couldn’t make it into offices, salaried people took an unpaid day off and hourly could work from home.

    12. Audiophile*

      I work in Chelsea and midday, not long after Mayor de Blasio closed schools, our office closed.

      I was glad to know that early since I definitely would not have made it in on Tuesday.

    13. Lark*

      I work in the Capital District (NY). Office wasn’t allowed to officially close, so everyone got charged vacation days if they didn’t come in or left early Tuesday. 15 people actually showed up out of 80+ staff. I was one of them and left around noon, it took 2 hours to make a 15 minute drive to a hotel. I live in the hills and had 36″ of snow to clean up when I finally got home. The following day anyone who didn’t come in or came in late was docked for it, but I think only 5 or 6 people called in.

      1. New Girl*

        Wow! Also in the Capital District. My office closed on Tuesday. I couldn’t imagine driving in that snow!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          A bit more than one hour north of you guys. My boss told me to stay home. And she said only come in on Wednesday if I am absolutely sure it’s safe. By mid-morning on Wednesday it was fine. But Tuesday was kind of unreal.

    14. PB*

      I’m in central PA. We got a message on Monday evening that we’d close for the day, which is rare. My boss has been here 16 years, and says she can count on one hand the number of times we’ve closed for the whole day. We reopened on Wednesday. The roads were pretty rough still, so I worked from home until the plows came through.

    15. Liane*

      Not me, but a NY friend. He let us know Monday that his employer had decided to close Tuesday. The company has *never* closed for weather before, in 20 years in business. In fact, several years ago, the Governor ordered everyone to stay off the roads, but the higher-ups (in the local office) demanded all employees come in, and wrote people up if they didn’t. Naturally, the higher-ups giving the commands stayed home themselves. Those write-ups were countermanded by C-suite later on.
      Friend took Wednesday as a personal day because he strained his back a bit keeping up on shoveling.

    16. Allison*

      Before every storm, or potential storm, they send out e-mails encouraging people to take their laptops home and decide for themselves if they need to work from home the day of the storm. Stella was no exception.

      Now, sometimes my city anticipates a huge storm and it turns out to be practically nothing. Stella was only a blizzard during the work day. Morning commute was fine, evening commute was just wet and windy, but safe. Nevertheless, almost everyone on my team was out that day.

      When we’re supposed to get a storm, I still wake up at my usual time to look outside and check the weather report. If it’s bad out, or still expected to be bad, I’m staying home. If not, I’ll go in. I got up at 6:15, saw that the snow was about to start, went back to bed, got up at 8 to find the snow was coming later, happening during the day, and only getting 8 inches. I thought “great, now you tell me” but it was already 8 so I stayed home, feeling a little silly doing so, but when everyone dialed into the meeting that day I felt better. No one got a hard time for erring on the side of caution.

    17. Menacia*

      My company closed, I’ve noticed this trend more and more as they are really putting their money where there mouth is with regard to employee safety. Of course there are those who have to be on call due to the nature of the work we do (water utility), but it’s a rotating staff and they get a stipend as well as the necessary equipment to stay safe and warm even if they have to brave the elements should there be a water emergency.

    18. Nichole*

      Maryland here – we were open.

      There weren’t that many people here, but I personally don’t have PTO to burn and it’s really hard to do my job from home. (Especially since my partner’s work was closed, so they were home not working.) It wasn’t awful driving but it wasn’t fabulous either.

    19. The Other Dawn*

      Our company closed all offices (we’re a bank) since they’re all in the same country, which got slammed this time around. What’s awesome is that they called it the day before and didn’t wait until the morning of the storm. So, we all got to sleep in! (Of course, I was still on STD because of the surgery so it didn’t affect me, but I was happy for everyone nonetheless.)

    20. Xarcady*

      New Hampshire here. The company closed the office for Tuesday. Everyone who could was supposed to take their laptop home and forward their office phone to their home phone or cell phone, and work from home on Tuesday.

      So a whole bunch of people were able to work from home. For the few who have jobs that simply can’t be done from home, they had to take PTO, which made several people very unhappy.

      I was able to work at home until 2 pm, when the power went out. I live in the same city as the office and power must have gone out there, as well, because no one could connect to the network for hours. (Fortunately for me, power at home came back in 15 minutes.)

      Wednesday, the office was open as usual, but many people were either late arriving because of delayed school openings, or didn’t come in at all because of school closings. Or in some cases, didn’t come in and worked from home because they hadn’t been able to move all the snow off their driveways. We may not have received the 18-20″ that were predicted, but what did fall, at least a good solid foot of snow, was followed by freezing rain, and the snow was very heavy and difficult to move.

    21. Just curious*

      I read the subject line and thought Stella must be the new Fergus, or perhaps a new type of problem employee. I guess my new method of avoiding news coverage is working…

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Heh, same. (Although I’m not sure it’s something to be proud of, exactly.) This is my version of the Bay Area Bubble: weather. Today was the first week this year it was hot enough to turn on the ceiling fans.

    22. Jessesgirl72*

      We got a foot of snow Sun night-Monday that wasn’t even Stella related. No one covered it because it wasn’t the NE or Pacific Coast. ;) Milwaukee hit a new all time record of most snowfall in a day. It was snowing something like 2+” an hour when my husband was trying to clear the driveway on Monday morning , so he decided to work from home. About half his department did the same. Schools let out 1-2 hours early. That was it.

  3. Manager or Leader?*

    Or both? What do folks here think the difference is between the two? Or is there a difference? Since I asked, I’ll start this party! IMO, management, a science, is about organizing things (i.e., money, time) efficiently, while leadership, an art, is about motivating people to excel, to perform at their highest levels.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is a good piece from the great Bob Sutton on this, arguing that true leaders also have to be good managers:
      (Money quote: ““A leader needs to understand what it takes to do things right, and to make sure they actually get done.”)

      Also, this piece, which argues, “both leadership and management are crucial, and it doesn’t help those responsible for the work of others to romanticize one and devalue the other”:

      1. Christy*

        Related to this, Alison, what are your favorite books on management/leadership?

        Commentariat, do you have favorites as well?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I used to really like Marshall Goldman’s “First Break All the Rules,” but it’s been years since I’ve read it. I remember it being really eye-opening for me though — especially the way he talks about looking at low performers as simply being “miscast” (as opposed to lazy or willfully obstinate or so forth).

          1. Marisol*

            I looked that one up on Amazon and the author is listed as Marcus Buckingham. Is that the same book?

        2. the gold digger*

          I really liked the book From Good to Great. The author identifies practices and behaviors that separate decent companies from really good ones.

          The main points I remember are
          1. Great CEOs don’t make it about themselves
          2. To have good employees, you have to hire good people. From the book:
          “I used to be in the Marines, and the Marines get a lot of credit for building people’s values. But that’s not the way it really works. The Marine Corps recruits people who share the corps’ values, then provides them
          with the training required to accomplish the organization’s mission.”

          1. Ann O.*

            So the corps’ values involve creeping on fellow co-workers and sharing illicitly obtained nude photos of them? (sorry, that’s unfair to the book, but the use of Marines as an example really does make me question how much authors really understand about what’s underneath the surface of these case study/example organizations)

        3. finman*

          It may sound off topic, but Pat Summitt’s book “Reach for the Summitt” is a good read on leadership, as well as Sacred Hoops by Phil Jackson. Not your typical corporate leadership books, but their thoughts, methodologies etc can be applied to the business world as well.

      2. Aurion*

        Yeah, a good manager is a good leader because they have the authority/organizational capability to reward and motivate. You might occasionally get a good leader without being a good manager (in the “I’m in the trenches with you/shielding you from the top” sort of way), but I find it’s far more likely for an individual to be good at both. It’s hard to motivate people to excel if you don’t have the clout/organization/executive ability to reward them for it.

        (I may be slightly embittered by my Facebook feed, which is full of MLMs–sorry, ENTREPRENEURS and LEADERS NOT MANAGERS who are SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESSES instead of lining a rich CEO’s pocket, or something.)

        (I’ll stop the caps lock abuse now.)

      3. Lablizard*

        Honestly, I think true leaders need to hire good managers, not be them. Vision and the day to day are rarely found in the same person

    2. Anyone can be a leader*

      The company I was hired into post-grad changed the titles away from management development programs to leadership development programs (except the Operations group who didn’t want to be labeled OLDP) because the idea was grooming individuals to be a leader at all levels whether or not they had a team underneath them or not. Which is one place I believe the money article is misplaced. You can be a leader for people at your same level in entry level jobs without having a person underneath you. Leadership is about being able to understand, articulate and motivate people to attain goals and objectives whether or not the people you are trying to lead work for you or someone else (great project managers are leaders without ever having a staff underneath them).

    3. Whats In A Name*

      I don’t think a leader needs to be in a management/supervisory role at all. To me a leader is someone who makes people want to do their best work or be their best self, all the time.

      A manger can do those things in addition to managing processes, but to me a good manager has 2 skills:
      1) the ability to manage workplace dynamics, personalities and actual things – like making sure there is a process for keeping the supply closet
      2) the ability to lead as defined above.

  4. At Wits End*

    I want to thank everyone who saw and responded to my post last week (linked in my name). For TL;DR, I posted on my way home from work, pulling my car over because of a panic attack/mess of tears brought on by my toxic workplace forcing a workload of three to four employees onto me, and then getting mad when I can’t keep up with all the work, was making it not safe for me to drive.

    This week continued much the same way. My supervisor lay the blame of particular issue entirely at my feet, even though it was his responsibility. When I tried to push back, he said that he knew it wasn’t my fault but he didn’t want to deal with the fallout so he was making it my responsibility now. What can you do when your higher ups tell you right to your face that they don’t care about you and are using you as a scapegoat? Additionally more work was dropped on me by another supervisor, who already gave me a new project last week that she knows I haven’t finished yet, and just said ‘There’s no one else to do it’ which is definitely not true, I’m just the only one who is held accountable for their workload and is expected to get things done.

    So I’m definitely done with this place. I thought I could wait until another job offered me a spot but I spent every day this last week just trying to hold it together at work only to be so exhausted and depressed that I’m a sobbing mess when I get home. I only got one application out all week because I couldn’t focus after the work day. I do have to wait for an upcoming medical procedure that I need insurance that’s coming up in a couple of weeks but the day I get back from the procedure, my resignation letter will be in my boss’s hand.

    It’s not ideal to leave without a new job to go to but I have to do it. I need to take some time to improve my physical and mental health that has taken a real beating recently, and I can’t do it while still at my Toxic Job. A friend equated it to trying to be a functioning person while still in an abusive relationship and they’re not wrong. I am lucky enough that I do have a safety net; I have savings enough to last me about a year, and I have friends and family who have offered help. I’m fully prepared to temp, do part time work, or return to retail to make ends meet. I didn’t want it to come to this but I need to do it. I need to take the decision in my own own hands and walk away from this toxic workplace.

    I’ve had many people in my life express real worry for me recently, and advise that sometimes you need to take a step back to progress forward once again. So this will be my backwards step in order to move on. Thank you everyone for the comments last week; you guys really helped me to see a little clearer.

    1. lionelrichiesclayhead*

      I wish you lots of luck! I left my last job with nothing lined up because of the same reasons and it worked out really well for me. I don’t think it’s a step backwards at all and in the end you will hopefully end up many steps ahead of where you are now. Let us know how it goes!

    2. rubyrose*

      I am so sorry this is happening to you. I am also glad you have a safety net, both financial and friends.

      Until you are out of there – just keep as detached as you can.

    3. SophieChotek*

      I’m sorry that you have to wait long enough for the medical procedure but I hope you can hang in there until then and have friends and family who can provide you support in other ways, even if they cannot help you at work.

      I believe once you step away from Toxic Job your health will improve in so many ways, and that’ll be great too (I hope) for you after your medical procedure, whether it is “minor and normal” or “big”, for you to have good recovery time.

      Best of luck!

    4. Circles*

      Here’s to hoping your health will improve and you get a great new job as soon as you get better!

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Good luck.

      You may want to consider signing up with a temp agency while you’re job searching. It might help keep you from going through your entire savings.

    6. Anon Accountant*

      Once you leave it will improve greatly. Until then good wishes and thoughts sent your way.

    7. ggf*

      So sorry you’re going through this.

      While you’re waiting for your medical procedure, you might want to look into constructive dismissal requirements for unemployment for your state, and start gathering whatever evidence you can to back up such a claim.

    8. Kristine*

      I’m rooting for you! In the past I had to do the same thing for the same reason and I regret nothing. Ultimately I landed in a better place and my overall quality of life improved dramatically. Good luck during your last few weeks and keep looking forward to the morning when you wake up and realize you never have to go back.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I just posted in the Advice to Young Persons thread about the importance of not sticking with a job as you become more and more bitter, because the feeling of helplessness and bitterness doesn’t help with finding a new one. (To be clear, bitterness can be a perfectly justified emotion. And a sign that you should run, RUN from whatever the circumstances are.)

      Quitting a toxic place without a new job lined up isn’t ideal, but it can be far better than sinking lower and lower as you become convinced that you can’t leave, and radiate that stubborn conviction at any cracked windows of escape.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Also, try to block out their unrealistic expectations and only do what you can do reasonably and well. Better to have the most important project finished than everything incomplete. It’s not on you to fix their broken business, because if you working yourself into a breakdown is the only thing keeping them afloat, they deserve to go under.

        1. KarenD*

          This oh this.

          At Wit’s End, you know when your physical body will be leaving the building. But take your emotional self out of there right now! Build a wall between you and the toxic expectations, do what you can in the time you have left (forty hours a week and no more) and redirect that emotional and mental energy that would have been burned up in the anguish they’re causing you. ((hugs)) It can be so much better!

          1. A. Non*

            The best thing I did while I was working at OldJob was that when I got home, I [i]immediately[/i] changed out of my uniform, washed my hands, and said to myself, the work day is over, it’s gone, the end. It’s kind of new-agey sounding and odd, but it helps to put that ending on the work day. If you can block work numbers once you leave the building, do that, too.

    10. AMG*

      Sending you love and calming vibes! You will get through this and it will be only a memory soon. Each day that passes is one day closer to never having to go back there again.

    11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I am so so sorry this is happening to you. It’s not right, it’s not fair, and it’s not ok. I’m sending you supportive ~vibes~. Something that happened when I left toxic job was knowing I was going to quit. I’m hoping you can focus on that and that it will be the light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

      The other thing that helped me was pretending I was walking through work with an invisible forcefield around me. Whenever my bosses or coworkers did something awful (which of course was several times a day), I started imagining them like monkeys throwing poop around, and if they threw that poop at me, it would hit the forcefield and just slide off/away. Or I would imagine them as children throwing tantrums, and I would then kind of take a step back and watch it with amusement instead of pain.

      Those tactics didn’t make me want to stay longer, but they made it a little easier to cope in the moment and until my notice period ended. Coping helped me shift my energy from depressed/despondent/hopeless to feeling like I had a little more control. And having a little more control made me feel capable of job hunting, etc., which might be helpful since you know you have to be there a while longer. That said, it took me over 3 months after quitting to begin to feel like I could get to emotional equilibrium again, so I understand that you might not be in a place where these tactics are helpful. Regardless, I’m wishing you all the best at what sounds like a truly awful time/place.

      1. KarenD*

        This too. I just kept picturing a Teflon shield around me that all the abusive behavior just slid off. It got to the point where I was actually secretly (sometimes not so secretly) laughing at how cartoonishly villianish old boss and grandboss were.

        And I was definitely giddy for a few months after Great New Boss appeared on the scene. I kept fighting back this urge to hug him or say random things like “Do you know how awesome you are?”

      2. zora*

        Yes!! The invisible shield!

        And I used a lot of “one step at a time” to get through the bad times, too. So, when I had a pile of way too much stuff to do, I would literally focus on getting through the next 5 minutes. Or just picking one thing, doing that. Then one more thing. And very strictly structuring my day with breaks every 2 hours, and then walking out the door at 5pm.

        That rigid 5 minutes at a time along with visualizing the forcefield around me helped me make it through the days until I could get out of there. Best of luck, I hope you end up somewhere better soon!

    12. VivaL*

      I’m so sorry you are dealing with this. No job is worth your mental health.

      I’m sure you’ve thought of all this, but I wanted to ask – will you need any follow up care at all (that would require insurance)? If so, would it be possible to take some time off after (disability or something?) even if you dont technically need it, you can use the time to job search (they shouldnt contact you if on disability/fmla). Would your doctor write a note to that effect?

    13. Is it Friday Yet?*

      I just wanted to offer you some words of encouragement. I once found myself in the same situation that you are in and decided to leave my toxic work environment that day. I did not even give two weeks notice. Taking control of my own health and happiness was one of the best decisions that I ever made. It will be scary, and at times it can feel like you’re free falling, but it can only get better.

    14. burnt toast*

      OMG I feel like this is me!
      Document stuff (extra hours worked, abuse, etc) so you can apply for unemployment because you quit for good cause;
      (In general, having good cause for resigning means there are unsolvable problems with the work, which leave an employee with no other options beyond quitting. Additionally, it needs to be documented that the employer was made aware of the situation, and made no effort to rectify it. Some examples of good cause are:
      unsafe work conditions
      lack of payment
      change in job duties
      Some types of family emergencies are also considered good cause. See more good cause reasons for quitting a job that will typically result in unemployment benefits being granted.)

      Right now I am so burnt out that I can’t manage to get applications out either.
      Can’t afford to quit as I was unemployed for a year and that ate through all my savings; this job pays barely enough for the basics so I haven’t been able to do any savings and am racking up the bills…

      I feel for you and yeah, been there, done that, got a t-shirt…
      It sounds like stepping away is your best choice.

      Good luck

    15. Office Plant*

      I also left a toxic job with nothing lined up. Financially, it took a toll. But my health and state of mind greatly improved. The financial impact was, to a large extent, due to decisions I made after leaving – holding out for a job I’d be happier with. I get that not everyone is in a position to take that kind of risk, but for me, it was a good decision.

    16. AnonEMoose*

      I think that one of the most toxic and damaging things about situations like this is the continuing feeling that there must be something you can do to change/improve the situation. If you could just explain it better, or if they’d just really listen…maybe things would get better.

      If nothing else, you now have confirmation that this is not the case – it’s not you, it’s them. You tried pushing back, and were told that they already know…and IT DOESN’T MATTER TO THEM. So it’s not that they don’t realize what they’re doing to you; they know, they just don’t care. I’m emphasizing that not to make you feel bad, and I truly hope it doesn’t.

      But, sometimes, knowing that it has nothing to do with you as a person, that it’s all choices they are making, can be freeing. If there’s nothing you can do that will improve the situation, then you know that you need to care for yourself. I’m so, so glad for you that you’ve made the decision to get out, because that sounds like the only real solution.

      If you can really convince yourself of that, that it’s NOT YOU, and truly believe it, it might help you through these last few weeks. Having suffered through some truly awful temp jobs, it’s a lot easier if you know “I only have to deal with this for X more weeks/days/hours.”

      I hope your medical procedure goes well, and that you find a measure of peace, knowing that there is an end date for this.

      It might be a good idea to do some temping, if you can, while you’re looking. Only because it will expose you to different, hopefully more functional, work norms, and remind you that what you have been through is not normal and not acceptable. Plus, temping can be great for your network. I have my current job because I started at the company as a temp; they liked me, I liked them, and over a decade later, the rest is history. I hope you find a much better, healthier job for you, very soon!

    17. Elizabeth West*

      Hang in there. I think knowing there is an end in sight will help a lot. Do the best you can during this time and let the rest roll away–it’s not you, it’s them. They suck. This is not a failure on your part but on theirs. Because they failed at not sucking.

      Good vibes!! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    18. Agile Phalanges*

      So sorry you’re dealing with this, and glad you have a plan to get out, even without a job lined up.

      Do check with someone who can help you determine your benefits, though–either HR if you can ask discreetly enough, or call your insurance company directly. Often, once the premium is paid, you’re covered through the end of that month. So depending when your procedure is, you may be able to quit now. Or if you (or family) can cover the COBRA premium (you don’t have to pay it month after month, just the month(s) you’re going to need the coverage), then you can quit right now.

      Good luck!

    19. Rookie Manager*

      I just wanted to encourage you that you’require doing the right thing. Three months ago I was in a job that made me cry almost daily because my boss was so awful. My partner and I had talked about me quitting but one day it got particularly bad and I resigned.

      I was out of work for a couple of months, about half the time recovering my physical and mental health, and the other half job hunting. Now I’m in a new job where I am valued, don’t cry, have a better title and an almost 50% pay rise.

      I never could have got this new job while still in the old one as, like you say, the effort of hanging on stopped me applying to enough vacancies.

      Good luck and look after yourself.

    20. OhBehave*

      So glad you are getting out of that toxic place.

      I remember being in school and making links before a break. We would cut a link off and that meant we were that much closer to vacation. Do this! Or something else tangible to count down the days. It will give you a mental burst to see how close you are coming to freedom. It may just help you get through the days. It’s silly, I know, but fun. You just might notice a lightness to your step if you do something like this.

      Wishing you all the best. I look forward to hearing an update on how they responded.

    21. Not So NewReader*

      Knowing that the end is in sight will hopefully offer a tiny, tiny bit of relief for you right now.

      I have used the shield (bullet proof) idea myself and found it very useful.

      In quiet moment maybe you can conjure up images of Bad Boss scrambling for his next scapegoat and the look on his face when scapegoat number 2 quits on him also.

      You know, it’s one thing when others treat us badly but the larger deal is rescuing our own selves from a bad spot. I hope you find comfort in the realization that YOU are taking care of YOU.

      I hope your surgery goes outstandingly well. And I hope when you are ready you find a new and great job quickly.

    22. Belle di Vedremo*

      Thanks for checking back in, and for letting us know that you’re prioritizing you.

      I’d start taking things home, bit by bit. Leave the visible things that are easy to grab on the way out (eg, coffee mug, postcards/calendar type things from a bulletin board) but take the rest home. Make a list of contacts you’d like to to keep and their relevant information, so you have time to do that without being in a last minute rush. To me, doing these things made the coming resignation real. And it means that if they react to your resignation by telling you to leave that you’ll be ready.

      And, your boss’ desire to make everything your responsibility doesn’t make it so.

      COBRA is generally expensive, but it might be cheaper than paying for additional medical procedures on your own. I was glad to pay just 10% of what a procedure would’ve cost without it.

      Sometimes when people tell us that we might need to take a step backwards in order to move forward again, what they really mean is that we’ve gone so far into the weeds that we’ve gone astray and gotten tangled up, and that stepping “backwards” actually returns us to the forward path.

      Take care of yourself, and please keep us posted.

    23. Freya UK*

      Late to the party but, good luck to you. I left my last job (which had turned from BestJob to ToxicJob after a management change…) and decided to take some time out – best decision ever.

      I am now in another job that just really isn’t for me, but I may have a new job by the end of this week, and even if I don’t I am 99% sure I will hand my notice in anyway- I’ve already learned the hard way that health is always more important, and firmly believe that if you trust your gut, what you need will find its way to you.

  5. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    I have intermittent FML and am an exempt employee. My company does not pay for time off, forces us to use all of our PTO up, then we have to go unpaid. This is the first company I’ve worked for that doesn’t pay exempt employees for intermittent FML. What are other peoples’ experience?

    1. Temperance*

      My company does disability/FMLA by seniority. So I was eligible for a few months at full pay and about 6 more at half-pay when I went out last year. Someone just starting would only be eligible for a week. I think this covers mat leave as well.

    2. Anonymous Poster*

      Disclaimer: I haven’t used FML, intermittent or otherwise.

      This has been the policy at the places I’ve worked. The person was required to first burn through all PTO that was accumulated, and then after that could use FML which was unpaid. I don’t know about intermittent FML specifically though, but the blanket policy was PTO must be used before FML could be used, and all FML, regardless of the circumstances, was unpaid.

      Hope that helps and good luck.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Well…PTO is separate from FMLA. It’s not so much that PTO must be used *before* FMLA time, as that the actual FMLA law allows companies to require employees to use PTO *during* their FMLA leave, until the employee runs out of PTO. So if you took three weeks of leave, but you had one week of PTO available, all three weeks were still FMLA leave and subject to those protections; it’s just that the first week was *also* PTO.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          That depends. My husband very specifically has to use his PTO first, and then goes on FMLA. It’s not concurrent and it’s spelled out very specifically on the HR website, with links to the relevant laws on the state and federal websites. He is getting ready to apply, so we got had reason to check recently.

    3. Murphy*

      That’s how ours works too. Unpaid unless you use your own leave. We have to use all of our sick leave before we go unpaid, but we don’t have to use all of our vacation leave. (We do have to use all of our vacation leave before applying for shared leave, which makes sense.)

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      My experience is the opposite. All companies I’ve been at require employees to use all their PTO then go unpaid for FML. Most companies have offered a fully or partially paid short-term disability plan as well.

    5. Circles*

      I currently work for a company that does the same as yours. I am not exempt but my title/duties give me access to this type of info for record keeping purposes. We had a worker who was exempt and was using intermittent FMLA. After she used all her PTO, they told her that getting paid would depend on how many hours per week she was out/off. I am not an HR person and I know the basics about FMLA, so I don’t know if the way they handled it was legal or not, but she did not push back on it. They basically said that although they had sympathy for her situation they would not pay her to be off.

    6. fposte*

      In my experience it’s more common for employers to require FMLA to be taken concurrently with PTO, whether intermittent or not, and employees get coverage through STD or go unpaid for FMLA days taken that exceed PTO.

      1. Joa*

        This has been my experience as well. FMLA really has nothing to do with pay; it simply gives the right to be away from your job for personal and family-related medical reasons and suffer no negative consequences as a result. Whether or not you receive pay for that time has nothing to do with the law and everything to do with your employer.

        I’ve worked in local government settings and my experience has been that if you have PTO available, that was your way of getting paid during FMLA leave. If you did not have banked PTO, you would be unpaid.

      2. Taylor Swift*

        This has been the case at the places I’ve worked. FMLA isn’t there to provide paid leave; it’s there to protect your job.

    7. finman*

      When I first read this comment I thought they were having intermittent “f$@# my life” syndrome with issues at work.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Ha, that’s what I thought, too. I thought, “I’m right there with you, sister! Intermittent f$@# my life.”

    8. Gracie*

      My workplace used to require you to use your pto and then it was unpaid but recently we got to make the choice and signed a paper on whether we wanted pto to be used or save it and just be unpaid

    9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      75% of my workplaces have required exhausting PTO/sick leave before taking FMLA leave, or they required that you take PTO and FMLA leave concurrently. 25% have offered paid leave for a certain amount of time based on seniority, but those organizations also required that you first exhaust your PTO.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        Yes, at most places I have worked its been similar for intermittent or continuous FML.

        The most generous I had at an employers was you only had to exhaust 5 days of leave regardless of seniority and then could choose to use PTO/ go unpaid or accept partial paid if you were there less than 5 years. FML was unpaid year 1, 25% of salary in year 2, 50% of salary in year 3, 75% in year 4-5. After 5 years you got 100% paid but only after you used your first 5 days of PTO leave.

    10. Formica Dinette*

      Best FMLA policy I’ve encountered in my career: We accrued a separate leave bank for this. Over the course of a year, we accrued the equivalent of three months’ workdays. In order to use the FML bank, we first had to use five days of PTO. However, for repeated FML related to a single issue, we only had to use those five days of PTO the first time.

      FML has been unpaid every place else I’ve worked. I am also exempt.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        Yes – forgot to mention that above. If for same instance you only had to use the 5 days one time…so even if FML was recurring for years you only had the 5-day stipulation once.

    11. nhbillups*

      I’m sorry if I’ve misunderstood something, but if the employees taking the FMLA leave are exempt, then they can’t be “unpaid” for intermittent leave, unless those employees are missing whole weeks of work at a time, right? Because if they’re missing a day or two or three a week, or even just working half days or something, they’re still working that week, and I thought exempt employees had to be paid the same every week in which they did *any* work. Am I wrong?

      1. fposte*

        It’s one of the few exceptions–“an employer is not required to pay an exempt employee the full salary for weeks in which he or she takes unpaid leave under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The employer may pay a proportionate part of the full salary for time actually worked.”

    12. Jessesgirl72*

      My husband has to use all his PTO and then takes it unpaid- which is what the law spells out companies can do.

      I actually used it once for myself, and I didn’t have to use my PTO first, but didn’t get paid.

  6. Tilly W*

    Tl, dr: toxic team lead promoted to my manager, need coping skills

    Our team lead, Sansa, was promoted to my direct manager this week and I’m feeling really anxious about it. Sansa tends to play favorites, is currently only speaking to half our dept., and following each meeting she grabs my colleague (also one of her new direct reports) to gossip and talk bad about others in the meeting, sometimes in a conference room and sometime just in the corner of our department. For context, our industry is fairly boring and nothing in our meetings is worthy of gossip. She openly badmouths (and I mean in the middle of our cubicles) everyone but especially an older woman who will be reporting to her now, which really concerns me. I’m pretty neutral on her radar and hope to stay that way but from my observation, the slightest offense gets you the indefinite silent treatment. It’s like our department has become a super catty, high school environment because of one person.

    While I do my best to keep my head down and work to avoid getting involved more than necessary, my usually positive nature is turning a little sour. Sansa has made comments in the past about forcing people out so I will do my best for the sake of my job to play the game but ugh, I’m too old for this stuff – and I’m younger than Sansa by 15 years.I even made a countdown yesterday until the end of Dec., when I can start looking for a different job- how many working days I had to actually be in the office sans holidays and pto (187!). I don’t have a great job history (commodities and layoffs) and have only been here 8 months.

    Do I allude to any of these concerns/dysfunction in my one-on-one next week with my now former boss/grandboss? She’s the type of director that they put people under because she has been with the company for so long but could care less about your development etc, just as long as you don’t burden her, very socially unaware (hence being clueless that Sansa has alienated half our team in the eight months I’ve been here). I’m viewed as a good worker, no drama, so I think she would view this as genuine feedback but I also don’t want a bullseye on my back. Any fellow AAMs that have gone through a similar situation have any coping mechanisms? (I’m planning on regularly getting to the gym at lunch and downloading some good, mellow podcasts.)

    1. Circles*

      I have no advice to offer but I wonder how effective a manager she can be if she is not currently speaking to half her team?? How does she communicate with them??

    2. Office Plant*

      I feel for you. I haven’t been in the exact same situation, but I have dealt with similarly difficult people at work.

      If it were me, I would consider leaving. Yes, your resume will suffer, but that’s only one part of the bigger picture. You also have to look out for your health and sanity.

      Not to undermine your choice to stay, which I’m sure you had good reasons to make, but for the sake of considering all the options . . . Are there other things you could do to support yourself? To improve your resume? Like freelancing, volunteering, projects outside of work, taking a leadership role in a professional organization, starting a professionally related blog, etc? Sometimes those kinds of things can compensate for having a weaknesses in your resume. And you might make friends in your field to whom you can confide a bit.

      But I’d be careful about talking about the situation outside of work. I wouldn’t bring it up with future prospective employers except maybe in very general terms. It isn’t fair or right, but talking about those kinds of things tends to come across as gossipping, back stabbing, or inability to handle challenging social situations. You want to be the person who takes the high road and stays above all of that. And the person who can stay positive in any kind of environment.

      Sounds like you have some good strategies in place already. 187 days, and it’s only for 40 hours each week (or however long it is). Keep going and it will be over before you know it.

    3. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      I think avoiding the bulls-eye would be good, but is there an HR you can talk to? Because if you make a report to your former boss and your new boss runs you out, that’s retaliation. And Sansa has already stated she plans to run people out. That seems like the exact type of thing HRs were created for.

    4. Marisol*

      How would you get a bull’s eye on your back? I would assume the only way for that to happen is if grandboss tattles on you. Do you trust grandboss? She’s apathetic, but that doesn’t mean she’s a snitch, or that she is completely clueless about the implications of attributing the feedback to you. Since part of the feedback is that the new manager is a gossip, it makes sense in that context to specifically tell grandboss that you need your comments to be anonymous. I’m sure you’re not the only one who’s noticed this, so anonymity should be feasible.

      Hope that paragraph makes sense–I don’t have it in me to edit today.

      I think the answer to whether or not you should tell your grandboss depends on what your relationship with her is like. Often people have a sense about whether or not it is safe to confide in someone. What does your “spidey sense” say about her?

      1. Tilly W*

        Apathetic is a great description of grandboss. I think she’s just thrilled she has less people to be directly responsible for in her org chart. She may not have been the best boss but I knew her hands-off style before taking the job and it didn’t seem too bad compared to a micromanaging boss. I can’t get a feel on how much I would trust her with this info. It’s also hard because while the entire team is aware of Sansa’s actions (except grandboss), none of her “offenses” are concrete or in writing. Gossiping in a conference room could be defended as a “discussion,” leaving people out of meetings will be “protecting their bandwidth,” etc. And while Sansa is only speaking to five of the 12 people on our team, she really knows how to work the upper management and a lot of higher ups who work in a different state. Without anything in writing, it just seems like a petty complaints but I am truly worried about my older coworker getting bullied because she has made terrible comments about her to me and purposely piles work on her. I am on the fence about talking to grandboss, I think in her mind she thinks Sansa is great and inclusive because Sansa really plays her card right. We have a huge HR department but we are such a big company, I could see talking to them backfiring according to other people’s experiences. To A Non. below, oddly the Ethics hotline is also driven by our department and we sadly have access to the log (which is a whole other topic of inappropriate).

        1. INFJ*

          If grandboss is thrilled to not have as many people under her, that means she doesn’t want to deal with your boss. Even though you and I know that your boss’s behavior is having a huge impact on the team (not to mention your sanity!), I don’t envision grandboss seeing this as a big enough deal to want to do something about it.

          I’ve worked in places that had gossipy/negative managers before, and upper management does NOT care as long as there are still results in terms of productivity.

          As for coping mechanisms:
          Keep doing a good job and don’t tell anybody how you feel about your boss. Continue to stay out of the drama as much as possible. Don’t give the boss a reason/any ammunition to use against you.

          If the older coworker who gets badmouthed does get mistreated by your boss, you can encourage that person to be the one to go to HR/grandboss. They might be more receptive to doing something about your boss if there’s a tangible event that occurred.

          I know it can be exhausting to “play the game” but sometimes it’s necessary for survival.

          1. Marisol*

            This is an interesting take. If grandboss does nothing though, then it seems to me there is no risk in telling her either, do you think that’s a fair assessment? The OP is afraid of backlash.

        2. Marisol*

          It sounds to me like you have more to lose by not speaking up than by speaking up. This seems like the beginning of a problem that could get out of hand if not stopped. And I don’t think your complaints are petty; gossip cannot be defended as a meeting–I mean, you could try to defend it that way, but it would simply be a lie, not a legitimate defense–and if you have actually heard Sansa say terrible things about your coworker, that is something concrete which should be addressed, as opposed to some sneaking suspicion for which you had no proof. Sometimes ambiguous things should remain unaddressed, but what you are witnessing does not sound ambiguous to me. It may not be in writing, or documented, but if you have actually witnessed specific bad behavior, then I’d call that concrete, and actionable.

          And I’m not sure what the backfire would do to you, since what you are saying would be the truth. Worst case scenario, Sansa calls you out, and you say, “yes, indeed, I reported those behaviors, because your actions were inappropriate and that’s what the situation called for.” Not that it would be ideal, but you’d at least have truth on your side. You’re not pulling any shady manoeuvres; in theory there would be no cause for discipline. I guess you’d get on Sansa’s bad side but if she’s that awful, that happen eventually anyway.

          Bottom line, I lean towards telling your old boss. It sounds like you have no specific reason not to trust her, whereas you do have good reason to distrust Sansa, so the greater risk lies with keeping yourself allied with her.

          But this would also be a great question for Allison.

    5. A. Non*

      I suppose it’s my Machiavellian nature showing here, but I’d check your company for an anonymous reporting line and then report that you’ve heard she’s planning on running people out. Also, document yourself, CYA, and know that you’re right, you are too old for this, but some people never get over the “high” of being queen bee.

    6. Tilly W*

      I should also mention, only four of us got moved under Sansa. So while she isn’t talking to most of the team, it’s only directly affecting four of us: her favorite mean girl gossip partner, fresh out of college coordinator who is hopefully sheltered from the politics – hopefully, neutral me and older, bullied department veteran.

      1. Marisol*

        Have you mentioned any of this to older veteran? She may have some insight. Perhaps she doesn’t give a flying fig about Sansa.

  7. T3k*

    What would you do if one of the instructions for a job application is to appear in person to drop it off? For background, it’s a fashion company but the job position itself is more like logistics and not a modeling position. Other than the fashion part though, the job really does sound great and like something I can do as I love data and organizing, and it sounds like I wouldn’t need to work with customers except as backup. There is also a way to apply if one is remote, but I’m only 20 mins. away.
    Of course, my main concern is that they’re either going to judge me based on my looks or how I dress (I dress in graphic tees and jeans on a regular basis), not counting the fact that where they’re located, parking is a pain and it costs money, which is tight on my end right now. Part of me wants to be blunt and go “I’d show up in person, but I don’t want to waste my time/money/gas just to have you throw out my resume as soon as I leave when I can do that at home for free” but of course that won’t fly. One suggestion given to me was to pretend I was away and couldn’t deliver it in person at the time. It was also pointed out to me that maybe they’re doing this to see how desperate the person really wants the job, but I feel that’s stupid in itself because someone with a full time job in the next city would have a difficult time dropping by if that was the case. So, should I pretend I didn’t see these instructions at the bottom of the application, address it with a lie, go anyways, or just not even bother applying? Of course, if it came down to a requirement that I’d have to ditch my jeans I wouldn’t take it because I hate skirts and dressing up, so I only own 2 pairs of dress pants (I’ve been lucky so far that the few jobs I’ve had were casual).

    1. Epsilon Delta*

      If I really wanted the job, I would suck it up an do it. Otherwise, I would skip applying. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to email it and possibly include a note about why you can’t drop it off in person, but it doesn’t seem worth it to me since the drop-off-in-person part is clearly important to them for some reason.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      If it’s in fashion and they want you to drop it off in person, then I would recommend dressing up and taking it in. I’m guessing that appearance is going to be an important part of that job and if you don’t want to dress up every day, it may not be a good culture fit for you.

      1. T3k*

        True, I guess I was trying to ignore the possible clash in job culture because I do need a job and it sounded great, but if the culture isn’t a good fit to begin with, there’d be no sense in applying.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          I think if the job sounds great to you in terms of what you would do day to day you should go ahead and apply. If dropping it off in person is a serious enough deterrent then it’s probably a sign you aren’t so into the job. But the thing is, if they like your resume and interview you you will have to go there at least once again anyway. I too think the most likely idea they want to see you in person is cultural fit – or it’s possible they want to do informal mini interviews with everyone who comes in, like in some retail places – but you have no way of knowing whether or not you would be a good fit until you actually go there. I definitely wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that bc you wear jeans and don’t like dressing up they wouldn’t want you to work there.

        2. louyu*

          Do you know for sure that you would need to dress up more nicely, or is that speculation? If the latter, why not just drop off the application wearing your everyday clothes? If it’s a deal breaker for them, it’d be a deal breaker for you too. But if it turns out they’re perfectly happy to see you in jeans and a tee, then maybe the culture would be a good fit after all.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m with the detective.

        “It sounds like I wouldn’t need to work with customers except as backup.”
        There you have it–they are probably screening by a quick soft skills and appearance evaluation, “Would we be comfortable if New Employee needed to step in and deal with customers.” If you’re unwilling to give up jeans and T-shirts, this job is unlikely to fit.

        “Should I pretend I didn’t see these instructions?”
        Never. If you think they are ridiculous and don’t want to follow them, then it’s a sign that you are not right for the job. (Whether that is because the employer is utterly bonkers, or because you don’t get/like a normal requirement.)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It’s a good way to find out if the person is in the area. It also might clue them as to whether a person is already working or not. It could be a “can you follow basic instructions?” type of thing.

    3. SophieChotek*

      Yeah I admit that seems surprising they would want it dropped off…(I agree the time/parking etc. is a pain.)
      Of course my question is, if you are concerned they might judge you on appearances and because you only live 20 minutes away, would they expect you do work in person at the office since you are close-by? (Because while I think the bar for dress is probably higher when one is applying that once is hired and established) if they are that quick to judge just to drop off an application, they might expect a different dress code etc, even if you never work with customers. (Plus I’ve heard fashion industry is way different in terms of dress expectations/name brands, etc. — which might be true even if you’re doing computer/data stuff? I don’t know.) Anyway, I guess maybe it depends on how much you want the job — will you be sorry you didn’t at least try and take the time and spend the money if you don’t?

      1. T3k*

        I guess not. I’m about as fashion avoidant as one can get, so while the job sounded great, the place’s perceived culture does not.

    4. nicolefromqueens*

      If you do apply, follow their instructions.

      One thing you can do is create a dummy email with a totally different (realistic-looking) name where you can ask them this question, without worrying.

    5. Collie*

      Personally, I wouldn’t apply. But this is the kind of thing that would really bother me for a variety of reasons. If I was feeling extra gutsy, I might say, “I’m happy to drop off my resume in person if you can guarantee I’ll also interview at the same time,” with the understanding that it was a legitimate interview. (Except I’m never that gutsy and I’m pretty sure this would not actually work well.)

    6. College Career Counselor*

      Dropping it off in person is likely not to be done with the hiring manager, although I see your concerns about being judged for your attire and appreciate the cost factor involved with an in-person application (esp. in the 21st century).

      So, I would suggest you use the remote application procedure and indicate that you were not able to deliver the application in person (that’s why they presumably have a remote application process). This could have been because you were half-way around the world, because you couldn’t get the time off from your current job, because you have other commitments outside of work that precluded the commute, whatever.

      However, the part of your letter that really sticks out to me are you concerns about having to alter your appearance just to *apply*. If so, is this a place you ultimately would feel comfortable working?

      1. T3k*

        Guess not if they want me to dress up just to work. I’m very self-conscious and uncomfortable if I have to dress up, which ends up taking my focus off my job.

    7. WellRed*

      Do you want the job? It’s an unusual requirement, sure, but hardly a reason to get all miffed.

    8. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Yeah, I would suspect it’s because they want to eyeball you to ensure you’d fit with the aesthetic of their workplace. Which is lookist, for sure, but it’s the reality in a lot of the fashion and fashion-adjacent industries. And, to some degree, it does make sense; all workplaces want some sense of mission passion in their employees, even the ones that aren’t public-facing, and if you’re not into fashion at all, you probably don’t have that passion. It’s entirely possible you’d do exceptionally well in the job because you’re passionate about the work, but in fashion, there are always waaaaaay more applicants than positions, so I’d guess they can easily find people who are both qualified and into fashion. Sorry, it doesn’t sound to me that this place would be a good culture fit for you :(

      1. T3k*

        Yeah, I guess I was trying to find another reason to like the idea of the job, but only the job duties itself are appealing, not the culture.

    9. Anonygoose*

      My advice….
      Watch the Devil Wears Prada and figure out if that type of culture is worth it to you. This post reminds me of that movie so much, and the reality is that even if the job is great experience, jobs in fashion are not for everyone.
      *Also, the Devil Wears Prada is a fantastic movie so I recommend it either way!

      1. Taylor Swift*

        That seems like a real stretch based on the one thing we know about this employer, which is that they want applications dropped off in person.

        1. Anonygoose*

          That’s true! It is a fashion place though.
          On the other hand, it might be a good opportunity to check out the culture for yourself… If you go there and observe a bit, it should be very obvious whether or not the culture/dress code is for you or not!

    10. Office Plant*

      I wouldn’t be so cynical about it. There are definitely some YUCKY explanations for it, but it’s also possible that they want to make a face to face connection and chat briefly with all applicants. They might be trying to narrow the pool and make the application process more personal. If I was a hiring manager, I could see wanting to meet everyone instead of just going through a pile of resumes. It’s not really a fair requirement because it gives some people an unfair advantage over others. Your story is a good example. But the intentions behind it might be well meaning.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        Also, even if it is just so they can see how applicants look and dress, I don’t necessarily think that’s inherently yucky. It’s entirely possible that you’re free to look however you want and wear whatever brands you want so long as it’s clear you care about fashion, style, and aesthetics. Or it might not be. Either way, I would consider it akin to someone applying at PETA wearing a leather jacket; it’s not so unreasonable based on the mission of the workplace to reject someone for that, even though it has little direct connection to the work the applicant might be doing.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It doesn’t have to be “Are you beautiful?” It can be “Do you look pulled together?”

          Like how everyone in the art department can wear scarves, and the scarves look really good. They totally pull the outfit together and the look is perfectly balanced. Because they… do like an art thing, and it works.

        2. Office Plant*

          Yeah. I agree. But if it veered into judging applicants by age, body type, how much their clothes cost, whether they look typical for their gender, etc etc, that would be yucky. I know that already happens with LinkedIn and Googling people, but in person, I think there would be more room for it.

    11. Panda Bandit*

      If you want this job I’d say dress up and go drop it off. Since parking is terrible, can you ask a friend to drive with you and circle the block while you take your application in?

    12. Whats In A Name*

      I would just say getting dressed and taking it down there to drop it off now will also give you a quick glimpse into culture. If you decide it’s not a fit I’d see it as time well spent, instead of time wasted. This way you are dropping a resume, not wrapping up many hours prepping for, driving to, having and returning from a full blown interview.

    13. CM*

      I would just go, and I’d see the odd requirement as a plus because it would weed out 90% of people who might apply but couldn’t be bothered to go there in person.

    14. Wanna-Alp*

      I’m guessing they get a lot of applications, being a fashion company, and this is one way to thin the crowd, by weeding out people who can’t follow instructions. But they are possibly going to take a quick look at you, too, so that’s why they chose this particular way of filtering?

    15. Devil wears nada*

      I’ve worked in fashion companies and trust me, they’re not all places where people dress “fashion-y” all the time. they probably just want to cut down on the applications they have to go through.

      If you want to look a little more polished, just throw a blazer over the t shirt and jeans.

    16. MillersSpring*

      Your only data point for thinking that they want to see how you look/dress is that it’s a fashion company.

      They might be wanting all candidates to fill out a paper application or to see the office. Maybe it’s grittier or more shoestring than most candidates imagine, and they want applicants to see the real situation. Or maybe the apply-in-person request is just boilerplate for the majority of their job postings that ARE fashion driven. Who knows?

      I would use the remote option to apply because you live 20 minutes away. Or if it is convenient to go in person, dress as you would for an interview.

  8. Nervous Accountant*

    A lot happened this week and I don’t even know where to begin. It’s a lot.

    This happened on the day of the snow storm and we were working from home. A client left a negative review on our social media which our upper mgmt watch like a hawk. Got a scolding from my boss that it was unacceptable, to call her and tug at her heart strings to remove it. After lots of attempts to reach her, I had to ask her to change it.

    And….feel free to tell me if I’m being unreasonable because I am self aware and try to self correct. but….I….cried. I’ve never cried when talking to a client, but I cried bc I felt humiliated and disgusting to have to beg for forgiveness and then crying obv made it worse.

    I’ve been working 60+ hours a week, managing 300+ clients AND taking care of fires and trying to help out my mgr how I can and manage my team….I was in the ER last week with a family member so I had that on my mind…despite knowing and seeing all of that, my boss is quiet, but THIS and she’s on me like a hawk. And I don’t know why but it esp hurts that she never acknowledged or even asked me when I told her about being in the ER.

    The next day when we were back in the office, I actually vented and nearly cried to my manager and I did cry at my desk for a few minutes. He understood why I was frustrated…I even got a glowing email from my boss after the whole episode, but….for some reason it just doesn’t feel good anymore.

    1. a big fish in a very small pond*

      I’m not sure what to say, but in reading this it does feel like you’re being way too hard on yourself and expecting superhuman capabilities in coping and managing the realities of life. I hope things get better quickly for you!

      1. Parenthetically*

        Totally agreed. This sounds like a lot of exhaustion. Nervous Accountant, you deserve kindness, from yourself first and foremost. I hope you get some respite. Best of luck.

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        Thanks guys. I think I’m just tired and feeling shitty for lack of sleep. Honestly, I was feeling pretty good bc I thought my performance was great this tax season so far….I made it almost 2 months into the tax season without crying and I think that’s pretty great compared to the last 4 seasons.

        I also think I’m just super frustrated with my boss (not my manager, we’re good but our boss) bc I feel like she’s being unreasonable (expecting us to come in to work on the day of hte blizzard, not acknowledging when and why I had to come in to work late due to an emergency). Just having that whole phone call, spending my whole day on someone, to beg a client to remove a review felt gross to me. (although I fully expect that I’m being unreasonable about this last piece, and missing another point to this).

        1. Parenthetically*

          Your boss can be unreasonable AND you can feel gross about the call AND you can be frustrated about crying AND it can all be totally understandable and normal and human. Give yourself a break! Exhausting, frustrating, emotional seasons are a good time to take a minute to reflect on how fleeting and transitory everything is in life. You’ll get through this!

        2. Lana Kane*

          For what it’s worth, I think it’s not good that they wanted you to ask her to remove it. I would find it humiliating. Call the client and ask how you could rectify the situation? Sure – and if you had a productive conversation, that client might have even just retracted it, or added an update praising the company’s customer service skills. No one expects a company to be perfect, but they do expect a good reception to complaints.

          I’m sorry you went through that, and I hope you get some sleep soon. That definitely doesn’t help.

    2. LizB*

      That is a whole lot, in work and outside of it! I totally understand why you ended up crying. Don’t be too hard on yourself – yeah, it’s not ideal, but you’re human. Stuff happens. I hope things get better for you soon!

    3. Dzhymm, BfD*

      Was it an unfair negative review, or did it voice a legitimate complaint? Was the tone of the response supposed to be “We’re sorry you had a bad experience, how can we do better?” or “That review tarnished our image and we demand you take it down now or face a defamation suit?” In other words, is the tone of the interaction about benefiting the customer or the company. If the former, it would be better to have the response come from the boss herself (customers feel better if their concerns appear to be addressed higher up on the food chain). If the latter, maybe you should look for a new job…

    4. Marisol*

      From a purely practical, and possibly even machiavellian (sp?) standpoint, I think if your boss told you to “tug at the client’s heartstrings,” and you succeeded in actually CRYING to the client, well, I’d say you nailed it. Good on ya.

    5. michelleeh*

      Sending good vibes your way – I have had an awful week, for many similar reasons (though different circumstances), and wish you the best. Thank you to everyone, as always, for being so supportive on this site. It isn’t just the OP who needs your advice.

    6. louyu*

      I think your read on the situation’s probably right, since your boss is being unreasonable across the board, but I hope it’s OK to throw out one alternate possibility in case it helps ease your worry at all: Is it possible your boss thinks not mentioning the ER visit is the supportive thing to do? A couple years ago I sent my boss a 4 AM e-mail message that said, nearly verbatim, “I just got out of the ER, and I won’t be able to come to work today. I expect to be at work tomorrow.” He replied, “OK, get well soon,” and never said another word about it. I was really, really grateful for that response, since I didn’t want to talk about it at work. I’d been prepared to evade follow-up questions if necessary, but it was a huge relief that I didn’t have to. I can imagine being insensitive in a similar situation by assuming that everybody else had the same preferences as me.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        It would, but I’ve worked with her for a while and noticed she’s very warm and interested in people and asks about them personally….if she likes them.

    7. Panda Bandit*

      I’d feel gross too, asking a client to do that. I don’t think negative reviews should be removed. Sometimes customers get annoyed when asked and change it so it’s even worse! If it really must be done, the responsibility should go to a boss or dedicated public relations/social media person.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      I’m almost crying and this didn’t even happen to me.

      You’re pretty normal.
      Your boss, not so much.

      The expectation that you should control what is said on social media is so totally unrealistic I have no words.

      People are going to write negative things. That’s what they do. Your boss asked you to manage something that is NOT yours to manage.
      Of course you feel icky. People have the right to speak. If Boss doesn’t want people commenting then he needs to get off of social media.

      So now what is the plan? Every time there is a negative comment you have to call that person and talk them down off the ceiling?

      I am hopping ticked for you. Your boss seems to totally fail to grasp how social media works.

      I would consider going back in on this one. Maybe ask what will happen if there are any further negative comments. Will you have to fix those also? Ask if this is the best use of your time. Ask if other people will have to talk to their clients if their clients say something negative.

      Am shaking my head, for you to have to control what others are saying on the internet is off the wall.

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

    First of all, I have to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who commented last week. I can’t tell you how helpful (most of) the advice was. I read every response multiple times, and actually I have almost a page of quotes from that thread up on my computer where I can see it every day.

    I’d say y’all were responsible for about a third of what it took to get me to where I am now. Cersei is still acting like a jerk but it’s no longer affecting me. On the contrary, I’m finding her antics more and more hilarious as I continue to internalize the fact that this is really all about her. Depending on the day, I also have a fair amount of compassion for her. She must be a deeply miserable person, whereas I am really happy with my life right now and I’m no longer allowing her to get in the way of that!

    Granted, I’m still looking for another job and I’m still going to try to get out of here sooner rather than later. This is still a pretty nasty situation that doesn’t work for me long term, I’m still disappointed in Wakeen for refusing to deal with it more directly.

    But thanks entirely to my updated attitude / mindset, I can deal with this awhile longer. And that’s no small thing.

    I think I had it in my head that I had to fight for things to be fairer, that I wasn’t showing myself any respect by “allowing” her to treat me this way. But I’m starting to realize that not allowing a toxic person to have control over how you see yourself is just as powerful in some ways as fighting back. Maybe more so.

    In addition to the great quotes you guys provided, I also have this written on that page: “That which yields is not always weak.” I’m more or less yielding to the Cersei situation by accepting that I can’t change her, playing by Wakeen’s stupid rules, and ultimately rewarding her with my departure. But I’ve never felt stronger.

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

      And a bonus story about Cersei’s latest drama (I truly found this amusing, which goes to show how much has changed since last week).

      As I mentioned, we work in a house rather than a traditional office. So we all bring our own food and drink. Cersei used to bring in ice for the office, which only she and I ever used. (I offered to alternate bringing it in back when we were still on good terms, more than once, but she never took me up on that.) I haven’t been using any for months, but I took a small handful a week or two ago.

      So I came in yesterday and opened the freezer and… there was a bag of ice, wrapped with a rubber band and post it more with Cersei’s name. She has never done that before and like I said, no one else uses ice. She pretty clearly labeled it for my benefit so I would no longer be tempted to share her ice.

      ICE, people.

      Yeah, I got a good giggle out of that one.

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Can you leave a bag of water on her desk with a note: “Returning your ice?”

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

          HAHAHA I LOVE IT. So tempting. That would be hilarious. Absolutely the right move if this we’re a sitcom.

        2. Jadelyn*

          This is why I keep coming here day after day. Best comments section anywhere on the internet.

        3. MuseumChick*

          I would be so tempted to do that on the very last day, literally right before walking out the door, “Oh! Cersi, I almost forgot *set bag-O-water on her desk* I’m returning the ice I borrowed from you.” *Walk Out*

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

            Mental note is being taken because I might really need to do that.

            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

              You absolutely need to do that, period, full stop. Just a big Ziploc bag full of water. “Here’s all the ice I borrowed from you.”

              1. Purple Hair Chick*

                I worked with a lady who complained to managment that I would fill my water bottle before going home. She said because I wasnt consuming water on company property I was stealing. LOL! I offered to “pay” for each fill up before I went home but management said it was OK and that I just had to be more descrete about it in front of her. Of course I did the opposite and made a big deal about getting water before going home. People can worry about the strangest things.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Amazing, how funny it can be when you can take the step back and just kind of watch the petty contortions that kind of person will go through in order to work themselves up into righteous indignation.

        I used to work with a benefits administrator – she had been my supervisor, then thank gods we reorganized the dept and I no longer had to work under her – who had SERIOUS control issues. You couldn’t even get close enough to actually step on her toes, because if she so much as sensed that you were in the same zip code as her toes, she would throw a fit.

        And I reached that laughing-at-her-absurdity point when one day we had a termination (letting someone go for performance issues) that was kind of a last-second thing, and she happened to be out of the office. We tried calling her to see if she could hop on her laptop at home and do the final benefits paperwork we needed, but she wasn’t answering her phone or emails. Well, I’m the HR assistant, I know where all the paperwork is on the shared drive and how to fill everything out because I end up being the de facto backup for most of the team as needed. So, since it was a same-day term and we couldn’t wait, I completed the final benefits notice (that lets the person know what date their coverage ends, etc.) so that we could give it to the person along with their other final paperwork.

        When she responded later that afternoon, hours after we’d already finished everything and the former employee was long since gone from the building, it was with a supremely snippy email to me, cc’ing both our managers and two VPs, saying “Going forward, I prefer to fill out all benefits paperwork myself.” She had attached her version of the benefits form that I’d done that morning.

        If you put them side by side – which we did – you know what the only difference was? She had included the former employee’s middle initial in the “name” field. Which was something she had never ever done on any prior term paperwork (I checked several previous term files and none of them had that), meaning she literally seized on the only thing she could find to change about it in order to throw her little fit.

        And normally I’d have been furious at being spoken to like that, especially with management and senior management as witness, but this was so ridiculous and so obviously her putting her control issues on display for everyone to observe that all I could do was laugh. She finally got fired last year, but we still joke about that incident from time to time.

        1. Stephanie (HR Manager)*

          Did you put her middle initial in her benefits paperwork?

          (couldn’t help it!)

          1. Jadelyn*

            Oh you bet your [body part] I did. I took great, borderline inappropriate personal satisfaction in adding that single letter when I wrote up her notice. :)

      3. OhBehave*

        A little PA, but you should bring in a small baggie of ice and label it with your name ;)

    2. Dizzy Steinway*

      I remember your posts from last week. Hang in there – I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this, and glad the comments helped.

    3. MuseumChick*

      I’m so glad that you are able to find humor in this situation. Your right, Cersei is probably unhappy in her down life. I hope you find a new job soon. And I hope you are very blunt with Wakeen in you exit interview.

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

        I’m looking forward to that :-)

        (For the record, Wakeen is a good guy and I really like working for him, apart from this. But I do plan to be very honest about the fact that his choice here was the main factor in my looking elsewhere. I absolutely planned to be here for the long haul until this happened.)

        1. KG, Ph.D.*

          The world is unfortunately fully of good guys (and good people in general) who aren’t willing to stick their necks out and do the right thing. That’s really frustrating, and I’m sorry you’re in this situation. I hope that he listens to your feedback and makes different decisions in the future.

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

            Me too. Hopefully losing me will be so devastating that he is forced to reconsider his path of least resistance choices :-P

            At the end of the day, it’s his company and his call to make. I wish him nothing but well, and I hope he succeeds with all of his plans. But I do think this “protect the poison apple” approach will cost him in the long run. Cost him more than just me, I mean.

    4. AMG*

      Alison posted something once years ago that I actually wrote down and saved in my desk drawer. It was something along the lines of treating people like her (Cersei) as an odd specimen that you are studying. Don’t get to close as she is bite-y but observe with humor and fascination. You are on the right track!

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

        Haha! I have an Alison quote on my list too (actually it was the first one I wrote down which gave me the idea to add other advice to it):

        “The thing is, though, you don’t have any control over her; you only have control over how you respond to her. I know it’s unpleasant to deal with someone like this, but it’s about her not you. Because someone professional and not-a-jerk wouldn’t treat you that way, no matter what you were doing to provoke it. Therefore, it’s not about you.”

        I read that one a LOT in the early days of the Cersei Drama Parade. Super helpful.

      2. Jadelyn*

        YES – it was here that I first happened upon the idea of treating a toxic situation with detachment by pretending you’re an anthropologist studying the whackadoodles around you.

        Bonus points if you narrate your observations under your breath in your best “nature channel documentary” voice.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think I had it in my head that I had to fight for things to be fairer, that I wasn’t showing myself any respect by “allowing” her to treat me this way. But I’m starting to realize that not allowing a toxic person to have control over how you see yourself is just as powerful in some ways as fighting back. Maybe more so.

      Yes! And not only that, many abusers get their kicks, maintain control, and keep the attention focused on them by manipulating people into rigged arguments where the abuser sets the premise. The terms “grey rock” or “black hole” are used to shrug things off and either not answer or make noncommittal noises or one-word answers in a flat voice. This deprives them of the joy they get from prodding you and trying to make you squirm.

      So in the end, defending yourself can further THEIR ends and make things worse. Usually the best option is to remove yourself from the abusive situation, and if you can’t do that immediately, do whatever you need to do to cope while you plan your escape.

      Good luck! We’re rooting for you!

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

        Thank you, that’s very kind and very true!

        Ironically, I’m training to be a volunteer for a local organization that supports victims of domestic violence at the moment. So this rings especially true. And I have to say that learning more about all of these topics is a) putting things into perspective but also b) helping me to realize that I can ALWAYS advocate for myself in a healthy way; I don’t need anyone’s permission to deal with a toxic person or situation in whatever way feels most appropriate to me and keeps me the most stable (as long as that method doesn’t harm anyone else, of course).

        I’m beyond glad I signed up for that training when I did. It is changing my whole life, no exaggeration. And it’s part of why I’m so happy right now, and why I’m able to not let Cersei get to me anymore.

    6. Bess*

      I haven’t had this with a coworker, but with my last roommate. She literally began giving me the silent treatment to the point she didn’t tell me maintenance had arrived for a request I’d submitted–I was out on the patio, 5 feet away from her, and she didn’t come get me, or tell me…lol. I found out when the ticket was resolved. I think maaaaaaaaybe she wanted me to get fed up and move out, even though I had arranged most of the apartment logistics.

      It really, really sucked away my energy, and I completely understand how much of a mental drain this is on you at work. I spent a lot of energy trying to understand her illogical behavior. When a person is this huge a part of your life, it’s nearly impossible to disconnect. Sounds like a small enough team that it’s similar to living with them…so, yeah. This is a “my stuff, her stuff” mantra situation for sure. Can you play dumb at all to get through it, accepting that it won’t truly change her?

      Hope you can resolve this–and this really is something your manager should not just be sitting back and taking. This is just professionally unacceptable. BUT if they won’t step up, I might do yourself a favor and think about other jobs…which is maybe a little bit Cersei “winning,” but it’s also pragmatically a solution to a problem that might otherwise not have a solution. Over the years I’ve really had to work to accept that sometimes a workplace is simply not going to do “the right thing,” and then you have to make a choice.

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

          No problem! I’m definitely looking actively for another job. I agree that in one sense it’ll feel to Cersei like she “won” but hopefully it’ll spark a long term shift in Wakeen’s thinking and she won’t be given license to behave so childishly in the future. None of that is within my control, so I’m not going to stress about it. Leaving here is about looking after myself and my own well being; it’s not about “winning” in the sense of a victory over Cersei.

          You know, in one way Wakeen did me a favor. It’s not the way I would have wanted it, but by forcing me to deal with this on my own and not backing me up, he gave me an opportunity to develop some tools for handling a toxic person that I can use in other situations going forward. His decision to avoid this conflict ended up facilitating a lot of growth for me!

          1. Anatole*

            I love the positive spin you are putting on this definitely not positive situation. Good on you!

    7. Marisol*

      Atta girl! Way to step into your power and not be a victim, even in adverse circumstances! So glad you’re in a healthy mindset about the whole crazy mess.

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

        Thank you!

        “Find ways to take back your power” definitely made it onto my quote list. Along with the stuff about not getting drawn into ego battles and saving my fight for stuff that truly matters.

        Oh, and the mirror visualization. I can’t remember if that was yours but I loved it.

        1. Marisol*

          Don’t think the mirror visualization was mine, but the ego battles stuff was. I’ve had my share of ego battles! That was the day I had a semi-migrainous headache and remember feeling self conscious that I was rambling on about Sun Tzu, of all people, so the lesson for *me* on that day was to trust that I had some wisdom to share, and to share it even though I might look like a rambly wierdo.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      And you aren’t going around the office singing, “Ice, ice, baby”? You are showing very good self-restraint.

      On the serious side: (Alert: Bad misquote) An Eastern saying asks “which is stronger the willow tree or the oak tree?” The answer is the willow tree because it the face of a hurricane it bends. Sure it loses a few limbs here and there, but when the storm is over it rights itself. The oak tree on the other hand, breaks from straining so hard to remain upright against the winds.

      Now you know the secret. Let her have her ice. While she is clinging to her ice you have the world opening right up in front of you.

      Congrats on pulling some thoughts together on this one and congrats on living those ideas in real life.

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

        Thank you, NSNR. I plan to be a total willow tree here. Plus, I plan to RETURN HER ICE when I leave.

  10. ThatGirl*

    Hey everyone.

    So two weeks ago, the day before we were scheduled to leave for a 10-day vacation, I was abruptly laid off along with about half my department. They gutted us and outsourced our positions. It was a complete shock to me. Thankfully there was a severance package included, although one of the conditions for taking it is that I cannot work for that company again, ever. That seemed bizarre and unnecessarily restrictive to me, but I’ve never been laid off before, so what do I know? Is that actually normal?

    Ugh, I am looking hard and I’ve sent out several great applications this week, I just hope I get some phone calls soon.

    I also think I need to spruce up my interview wardrobe. I need a nice jacket or something, hopefully I can find a good deal.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I mean to say, too, that I feel a little more positive about this than I otherwise would because of Ask a Manager – I feel much more prepared for sending out resumes, interviewing, etc. :) So thanks Alison!

    2. Parenthetically*

      I have no advice, about the condition, but this happened to several of my friends a couple weeks ago too! All laid off with no notice. It was so rough. Sympathies.

      ThredUp is a good place to look for business wardrobe stuff, and I’ve found plenty of great deals at Nordstrom Rack and similar “outlet” type stores. I always have good luck at Macy’s clearance too!

      Best of luck.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Thank you, we have several “clearance” type places around here as well as decent thrift stores, so I have some time and places to look.

      2. Whats In A Name*

        I second Macy’s and Banana Republic has been pretty aweseome for me too..I took the price tag off a blazer from there the other day and I paid $11.99 for it on their clearance wall….it’s even lined.

    3. T3k*

      That’s… that’s not normal, to say as a condition for severance is that you can’t ever work for them again, especially as you all were laid off, not fired. Now I’m curious if that’s a weird policy of theirs and for what reason.

      1. burnt toast*

        it’s not uncommon…. I had that as a condition of my lay off even if it made no sense at all. To further add to the confusion, I continued to work for them as a consultant for a year after the lay-off.

        When the company did their first round of lay-offs 5 years ago, everyone had that in their notices but then when the company did their re-org & started hiring again, at least 1/2 of the laid off folk came back.

        Of course, I have no desire to go back to work for them as I lost all respect for the bosses….

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That restriction is really strange. I have never heard about that for a layoff. In fact, a friend of mine just got laid off from a huge corporation, and their policy is to put you on an LOA first so you can try to find something else within the company.

      I’m sorry this happened. Good luck finding something new and excellent!

      1. ThatGirl*

        Well, there was one caveat to that: there were (are) 10 open positions within the larger marketing department that we could apply for. If we did that and did not get one, we were then free to take the severance package (and never work there again).

        But I looked over those jobs, and for many of them I didn’t have the required skills, it would have meant a paycut, or I didn’t want to work with the manager involved. I also didn’t want to compete with former co-workers who might have been in more desperate need. I figured this was my chance to find something closer to home.

        Even so, it seemed like a really odd clause and I was curious if it was even remotely standard.

        1. Chriama*

          I would hesitate to accept that condition. If you take the severance, do they mark you as ‘ineligible for rehire’? You are agreeing to never work for them again so that sounds like ineligible for rehire to me. If so, that’s not a great reference for future employers. I’d start by asking HR about the clause and getting an explanation that the ‘never work for us again’ statement has nothing to do with your job performance *and* confirm what they’ll say to reference checkers (all in writing). If they give you the runaround for too long I would talk to an attorney to see what your options are, if any.

          1. ThatGirl*

            I don’t think it will sound too weird to say “it was a condition of severance that I can’t work for them directly again, but I have multiple managers who will confirm my excellent work”… at least I would hope not. Still, it probably is worth asking about what they would say to future employers who might be confirming my employment.

    5. introvert*

      I was laid off a few years ago and the condition for accepting severance was that if we took another position within the company within 6 months of payout, we had to pay back the severance. After 6 months, we were free to apply for whatever we wanted without penalty.

      1. Anna*

        Same. It’s a weird condition that they wouldn’t want you working for them. Maybe they are strangely worried about you badmouthing them or hurting moral if you were rehired in the future?

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        What if you accepted a position, say, four months after? Would you have had to repay the full severance or a prorated amount, given that you’d have been sans salary for four months? Just curious.

    6. Snow*

      It is normal in the UK if you are made redundant to not be able to go back to that company within a certain period of time (or at least not without repaying the redundancy money) but not ever – that seems really harsh.

    7. Office Plant*

      Call me crazy, but that clause sounds unethical. They’re paying people to sign something that limits their future job prospects, and not for a reason related to qualifications or performance. I don’t know if any laws apply here, but just as an ordinary person, I think it’s wrong.

    8. Anatole*

      When I was laid off from a nonprofit many years ago one of the conditions was that I could never apply for a job there again. I could work there again but they had to reach out to me. And you want to be certain of the terms of the severance. In my case I believe there was a clause about not discussing the terms of the severance with other people. And I also could not use my former supervisor as a reference. There was nothing wrong with my work performance this was just a matter of my department was outsourced. My supervisor would’ve been happy to be a reference but she was not allowed to be a reference for me. All this to say just be certain that you’re fully aware of what the requirements are of the severance package.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I definitely need to re-read everything one more time – the HR rep did go over the basics of it with me – but right then and there I asked my grandboss if he’d be a reference and he readily agreed and nobody looked at me sideways, so I’m relatively sure that’s fine.

        It is strange how different companies handle these things, for sure.

    9. zora*

      I guess from reading the other comments that there are many different ways to deal with a layoff like this.

      When the Tech Bubble collapsed, I was working in HR for a tech company that had mass layoffs, and they actually included a hire back clause, where anyone who was part of that layoff would get priority consideration if they were hiring again in the future. So, the condition you mentioned surprised me. Weird.

    10. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      Ugh, that sucks. I’ve never heard of that clause for a layoff. I didn’t have anything like that when I’ve been laid off in the past. I agree with Chriama – definitely find out what they will tell reference checkers. (Unless you were at the company from an earlier letter this week that threatened legal action if the OP and fellow members of their former department contacted them again!)

      That said, I always had it in my head that I shouldn’t apply for a job at a company where I’d previously been let go (or even another company that’s part of the same parent company.) I guess I feel like that door is now closed to me, the ship has sailed, and I need to go elsewhere. Is this rational thinking or am I too much in my head on this? (To clarify, this is not directed at ThatGirl or anyone else at all. Just me. : ) )

    11. Piano girl*

      I was laid off a week ago, and our department head (who disagrees with the layoff) was very clear that I was eligible for re-hire, and added that when potential employers are asked about former employees, that there isn’t much that they can say, other than whether or not they are eligible for re-hire. Could it possibly be a way for your employer to get out of paying a severance package???

      1. ThatGirl*

        I doubt it, though I couldn’t tell you what their actual reasoning is — I live and work in the Chicago metro area, there are tons of companies around here and no real shortage of similar jobs in a decent economy. I can’t see why anyone would forgo the severance just for a theoretical chance to work there again (not counting people who immediately applied for an open position).

    12. NaoNao*

      My only guess could be that the company is following some kind of strictly worded regulation that prevents laying off as full time and hiring back all the same people as temp or consultants, or some kind of clause that prevents basically using layoffs to re-org or something?
      It’s rare that companies enact rules in the employees’ favor, so I’m not at all sure that’s it, but wouldn’t it be nice if that were the case?

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yeah, this is what I figured. But the “never” part seems unnecessarily restrictive.

  11. Cranberry*

    You know how we always talk about how people shouldn’t be indispensable, and say “If you won the lottery and left tomorrow, the company would have to go on without you”? My company did not do a good job of this, and one of our absolutely crucial SMEs with impossible to replace institutional knowledge, who has consequently been overworked for years, is leaving. We’re all happy on her behalf, but this is going to make my job much harder.

    Moral of the story is, don’t let one person handle the work of an entire department for an entire division! :)

    1. Parenthetically*

      I’m working right now at trying to get my 9 years of experience in this job down on paper for just this reason. I’m going to part-time this fall (having a baby in August) and will likely move on after next school year, and I’m the only one who has taught most of these classes in that time. I want to be able to hand my boss a thumb drive and a stack of papers and have it be as smooth a transition as possible. Horror stories about that one employee who has all the institutional knowledge and then quits in a rage or dies suddenly or retires and moves to Boca, never to be heard from again, are really lighting a fire under me about it lately.

    2. SophieChotek*

      Yes I agree — there needs to be training procedures in place, so someone else can pick it up. Was this critical person just ready to leave or overworked and not getting support and finally had it or just retiring? I’m sorry it is going to make your job harder, though. =(

      1. Cranberry*

        The difficulty is that it’s not just training- it’s the depth of knowledge that this person has about everything. Our area is very dependent on experience. So I’m sure we’ll be able to limp along on procedural things… but the next audit will be a disaster. And of course, this area is understaffed already, so there are limited people to train.
        She’s been here forever, so I think it was a time to leave spurred by being overworked. Her and my departments have been increasingly mismanaged/disrespected in past years as well and after seeing this person’s treatment on many projects for just doing her job, I don’t blame her.

        1. Cookie D'Oh*

          Yep, same thing happened in my group at the end of last year. The person that left had a depth of knowledge about some very complex areas of our systems. There was a couple of weeks of transition time, but you can’t transfer 15 years worth of knowledge over in that amount of time.

          We’ve definitely had issues with certain teapot orders not processing correctly since he left. Luckily, he was gracious enough to answer a few pressing questions via email for us. It’s been tough.

    3. Future Analyst*

      I’ve been wondering about something like this! We have a similar situation going on at work, partially (I suspect) because our company has know grown exponentially in the last 3-4 years, and still acts like it’s a company of 600. I’ve raised this once with my manager (in particular, I’ve volunteered to get cross-trained in whatever capacity necessary), but is it ever appropriate to raise that at a higher level (e.g. to my manager’s manager)? I’m concerned that we have several people in our IT dept that are quite literally the only people in the world who know how their individual systems work (we’ve built several things in-house), and when one of them went on vacation in February, it was a disaster, with automations being turned on when they shouldn’t, and emails going to clients when they shouldn’t. Since something like your situation could so easily happen here, do I have any responsibility/standing to raise it as a concern?

      Sorry to hear it’ll make your job harder!!

      1. winter*

        I cannot tell you, but I can relate. It’s pretty much the same with our IT. The only difference: The leadership knows and is working around the admin as a missing stair because they’ve been unsuccessful adding more team members for years. (The admin is … difficult.) I don’t know what they think they’ll be doing if the admin leaves suddenly.

    4. Gracie*

      Lol tell that to my management team. I’m literally the only one who knows what I do and I’m leaving in 4 weeks. Still waiting for them to tell me who I’m training as my replacement

    5. Hiding From You*

      ooooh!!! This is almost me! I’ve been telling my department leadership for years that there’s too much on me – that I’m the single point of failure for too many things. I’ve begged for back up. I’ve tried to cross train and arm everyone so that there’s coverage when I’m unavailable. No dice.
      Now I’m through the interview process for a really good opportunity elsewhere and likely to receive an offer soon. And then I’m out. I feel bad for some of my colleagues who’ll have a hard time without my skill set, but I’m almost gleeful about how hard it’s going to be for the department to manage everything I’ve handled. It’s a problem of their own making.

      1. Cranberry*

        Frankly, “it’s a problem of their own making” is what we’re all saying too! For years everyone has been saying “Wow, everything would collapse if this person left”. And now it is.
        Unfortunately, all the problems will be created for other departments (me), and may not necessarily make it up to the powers that be, unless there is a huge catastrophe (which is actually a very real risk!).
        Our SME has been wonderful about tying up loose ends and making sure that her team at least knows what’s going on though, so at least we have that.

      2. SophieChotek*

        +1 to a problem of their own making – especially when you’ve tried to give them solutions.
        Hope your interviews go well and you can move on.

        1. Hiding From You*

          Just got the offer :)
          Cranberry, I feel for you. I hope that the power that be do see the issue and protect against it going forward. Best of luck to you working through it!!!
          I plan to do everything I can to set the team up to manage things. It’s the right thing to do, but as others have said, transferring so much institutional and technical knowledge is a huge challenge.

      3. Ann O.*

        I’m glad to read I’m not the only one who actively works to not be indispensable. In a lot of ways, I’ve been trying very hard to render my job unnecessary. I train; I document; I guide people one on one. But I’m still considered indispensable (although honestly, I think at this point that I’m not–I think people are just so used to having me as a resource that they undersell their own competency).

    6. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      Funnily enough, at OldJob I had a coworker win multi-millions in the Lottery. He also had institutional knowledge… but since it takes time to get the money and sort out taxes, etc., bosses immediately jumped on transitioning others.

    7. Office Plant*

      Two words. Knowledge management. Have people document what they do, and any information they use to do their jobs. That way it doesn’t disappear when they do. (And, ideally, others can benefit from it and contribute to it while they’re there, although that’s not always feasible.)

      1. Hiding from you*

        That’s great in theory, but it only works if the culture rewards self sufficiency. I’ve published reference materials out the wazoo, conducted countless training sessions. I still manage daily “emergencies” because people refuse to learn or look things up.

        1. tigerStripes*

          If I have a document that explains how to do something, if someone asks me, I send them the document and tell them where to check in the doc or send the doc and copy-paste the relevant part.

      2. Anon for This*

        Well, yes. This should be obvious but it isn’t. Furthermore, over time systems and procedures change. At OldJob we had an overworked employee who developed a bad attitude and who ended up being fired. During the time she was there she really didn’t have time to document everything she did, and after she was let go it was a mess for several months. It was one of those situations where they ended up having to hire two people to replace her, as well as having some of her work reassigned to other department members.

      3. Lablizard*

        That only works when it is simple processes that can be documented. If you rely on someone’s education and experience to do things like R&D, they can’t really documented how someone develops new process X or alters virus Y in a novel way.

        OldJob had a tendency to hire one person in each specialty and overload them with demands to invent the NEW!BIG! PATENTABLE!!!!!THING! Finally 4 of us had enough and told the upper management that they needed to hire 2-3 of us in each area or we were going to leave. They didn’t, we did (as did 3 others), and last I heard they sold off their patents and dissolved the company.

    8. A. Non*

      Hahahaha, this was me at OldJob. I actually did put some stuff together, buuuut OldGrandBoss was pretty nasty about me putting my notice in, so I took it with me after letting certain people know that I had documentation if they needed it or got shoved into my position. :)

      I hear that she finagled herself a raise not long after I left, and since then, OldJob has been losing people like rats from a sinking ship. It’s good times.

      1. Cranberry*

        She doesn’t even have another job lined up! So I think that says a lot.

        I’m pretty sure she feels like she won the Powerball though, in terms of getting out!

  12. Brianna*

    If you have an experienced worker as an intern (e.g. because they’ve had a career change), what are your expectations and would they differ to those you’d have for something fresh out of the education system?

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      So I think I’d be careful not to assume they’ll be aware of field-specific work norms – they may not be new to the workplace, but they won’t necessarily anticipate the ways in which things will differ.

      I actually think it might be a good idea to sit down with them and talk in detail about what they are expecting and look at how you can or can’t meet that.

      1. MuseumChick*

        This. Norms vary from industry to industry so being aware that they may not be aware of the norms you the industry they are going into is a good frame of mind.

    2. Lil Lamb*

      I’ve had about six different internships so I recognize that the more experience I received the higher the level of responsibility I was given (with of course there still be a learning curve that you would give any new employee).

      I would say the first difference is you can focus more on teaching norms for your industry/particular company than focusing on general working norms and that the work would be on a slightly higher level than an intern straight out of college.

    3. NotoriousMCG*

      As someone who just did an internship to try and make connections in a new city and gain experience in a specific type of role, my largest point of frustration was that I was never given higher-level work. They recognized that I was capable, they frequently showed their amazement at how quickly and well I did (very basic) tasks, but my supervisor wasn’t very experienced at being a supervisor so she would just send me home instead of giving me more, better tasks. Frequently I would prep something for next steps and even when I would explicitly ask if I could do the next steps as well, she’d say ‘Oh, it’s better if I do it!’ With no accompanying offer to let me observe, walk me through her reasoning, showing the end result of the prep work I’d done.

      All in all, if you’re not prepared to give this person more advanced work than what you would give a typical intern, it’s best to simply not hire them. The advice above about not assuming they know industry-specific norms is also very true and good to keep in mind, but also you should prepare for them to pick it up a lot quicker than other interns would.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I think they would probably have tougher questions, they’d want more challenges and I would watch to see how fast they caught on so I could match them better.

      I am not sure these are expectations. I guess it is something I would consider as a real possibilities and I would try to prepare for these things.

  13. FDCA In Canada*

    As part of my job I collect resumes and pass them onto the hiring manager in question. So I’ll print all documents, and I’ll print the emails as well if there’s anything related in there (like a cover paragraph), and while usually things are fairly low-quality, I think I received the nadir this week.

    Subject line “Heyyyy” and the total contents of the email “Heyyy i seen the application here is my resume Luv to hear back from ya thxxx :) :) :)”

    The attached resume was also not spectacular.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I want to reply with one of those elaborate pictures made out of punctuation marks.

        /\ /\
        o o

    1. Jadelyn*

      Please tell me it came from a ridiculous email address too – like “TRUCKNUTZ69@[provider].com” or something?

      Because I got a resume from an email address like that once. The resume was pretty standard, but that email address in all caps at the top was pretty double-take-inducing!

      1. FDCA In Canada*

        Most of the email addresses I get are reasonably normal, if not super professional–I mean, “Habsfan67” isn’t super professional, but it’s not like, crude, or anything–but one of the weirdest things I have noticed is the proliferation of odd display names. If your email address is normal but the display name isn’t “Jane Doe” but rather “The Mystical Mermaid,” or “Super Shark,” it’s going to raise a lot of eyebrows.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Oh man, yes. I think my favorite was someone whose email address was totally normal, but the display name was “Your New Rockstar!” or something like that. He clearly thought a great deal of himself. He did not, in fact, even get an interview.

      2. Whats In A Name*

        OMG I used to teach a freshman seminar class and I would spend an entire 50 minute class each semester on why “bootyliciousgurl69@ or “sweetdick69@…” were not a professional email address. Sometimes they never got it and years later I’d get a request for a letter of rec from bootyliciousgurl69.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Lol! Like. People. If you wouldn’t want your boss calling you by that name in the hallways at work, it’s not appropriate for an email address you’re applying to jobs with.

    2. Jadelyn*

      Also, forgot to add – at least they attached a resume at all! I get applicants sometimes who just say “I’m interested in X position please call me at 123-4567” like. How nice for you! If you’d attached your resume like we asked, maybe we’d be willing to call you! But since you didn’t bother, we’re not going to bother, either.

      1. Audiophile*

        That’s like people who respond to dating profiles or personal ads with “u sound interesting, txt me at 212-555-6583.”

    3. Letters*

      My favorite along that vein was someone who used hot pink comic sans .. and a sparkle animated gif of their signature. Not so much printable but still hilarious horrifying.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I wish I still had a screenshot of the worst resume I ever got. It was all in Comic Sans, littered with clipart – weird stuff like cartoon characters and corporate logos, why??? nobody knows! – and with different combinations of highlighting and text colors (yellow on blue, pink on green, red on yellow, etc.) that changed at random throughout the document. Like not even predictably at every sentence or paragraph. Seemingly just whenever inspiration had struck.

        The applicant wasn’t grossly unqualified, but suffice to say they didn’t move forward. Someone who sent a less eye-hemorrhage-inducing resume did.

        1. Spice for this*

          This “eye-hemorrhage-inducing resume” caused me lots of laughter and tears! Thank you.

        2. Letters*

          That’s amazing! Back in retail, I had someone that filled one out in red crayon — at the time that was my worst, but I think yours wins!

      2. Dizzy Steinway*

        Someone went to the Elle Woods school of resumes – without perfumed paper, screen sparkle is the next worst thing. Except it’s worse.

    4. Margali*

      Reminds me of the email I received the other day. I sent out our form (basic, but polite) decline letter to an applicant. Received this email back: “Whatever.”

      And yes, that email got attached to her name in our application tracking system, so it will come up again if she ever applies another time.

    5. Band geek*

      When my son first started applying for jobs, an online application asked for a cover letter. He put “Hire me. I need a job.” and submitted it. (He was 16)
      I gently explained what was meant by a cover letter. (This was before I’d discovered AAM). He’s much better now.

    6. Chaordic One*

      This was one of my old job duties. As part of their applications they were asked to attach a resume and to include a spreadsheet. Nearly all of the applicants were college graduates, but I was amazed at the sheer variety of different word processing programs and formats that were sent to me. Sometimes I had to get I.T. to help me open them so I could print them out for the people who would actually do the hiring. Occasionally I would reformat something by eliminating blocks of blank space, just so it would fit on a single page, but I never touched text.

      The spreadsheets were supposed to record experience, and list dates and specific training. The applicants frequently never considered that they would be printed out at some time and they were often unwieldy. If I printed them out, a single page might take 8 or 10 pages of paper. I kind of gave up on printing the large ones out and would just forward the attachment to the hiring manager.

      Now, when I apply for jobs, everything I send by email (applications, resumes, cover letters and references), I send as PDFs.

  14. Law Lub*

    I started a law firm job in late December and just got assigned to be a support staffer in a particular department in February.

    I’m young (25) and have already had three full time jobs since graduating college. The third is my current job. I left my first job as a department assistant because I wanted to have experience with more substantial work in the legal industry before law school. I was let go from my second job, where I worked for 3 months in an extremely stressful and overwhelming environment.

    I applied to this third job, which was advertised as one that would allow me to build on my administrative skills, but would also allow me to contribute more substantial, hands-on work.

    I know I’m only 4 months into this job, and only nearly 2 months into working with my specific department, but from what I see, it will be very hard for me to get work beyond administrative tasks. In the meantime, I’ve seen an opening for a paralegal job in my company in a similar department, and paralegals at this law firm get very good experience and are typically in the same situation I am in (looking to move on to law school later on).

    I keep following up with my manager about how to get more substantial work, as it is part of my official job description, but she has so far come up with nothing and insists I should just wait on it.

    Should I wait? Do I apply for the paralegal job (it’s been posted for a while so I’m not even sure how active it is)? How can I get more work? I have more experience than most paralegals at the firm, yet I am stuck doing secretarial tasks in my position.

    Please help me. My days are filled with staring at an inactive Outlook inbox and going above and beyond simple tasks I am given (at most) every other day. Tasks have so far up to 30 minutes to complete and my peers usually take hours. I offer to help out, but people are possessive of their work and seem not to like new people (most staff assistants have been here for 15+ years).

    Thank you, and thank you for all of your great posts. Any advice would be appreciated. I already feel hopeless the second I walk into the building.

    1. Temperance*

      I do not recommend applying for the paralegal posting. It would be one thing if you came in as a paralegal, but it doesn’t look great for you to try and step up in that way so quickly.

      Secretarial work can be really boring and dreadful, especially at a law firm. You’re also going to be seen as an interloper just because of your young age and relative inexperience. Do your job, and do it well, and then maybe see what else you can take on.

      1. Future Analyst*

        Agreed, plus in some (many?) companies, you have to be in your current position for at least 6 months before they’ll even consider you for a transfer. Hang in there! I’ve been there (secretarial at law firm, itching to do actual work), and my best advice is to do a hell of a job in your current position, and then use that to justify a move up when the time comes.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Also, don’t you need a paralegal certification or the like to even be eligible to apply?

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yup. Evil Law Firm where I used to work would train paralegals on the job – no certificate or degree required.

    2. Naruto*

      I think you’re too new to apply for the paralegal job. It’s not likely to reflect well on you given this timeline, and because it’s internal, that could affect your standing at the firm.

    3. Law Lub*

      Thanks for the replies everyone. I see how applying would basically give me some bad blood in the firm. Is there anything I can do so that I can show my interest in doing billable/research based work? The nature of my position is that it is suppose to be bth adminand paralegal-esque. I am allowed to input billable time. However, I and one other person were the first two external hires for this relatively new, hybrid position and people are used to viewing it as “secretarial”. The new hire and I are both young, interested in law school, and eager to get our feet wet with billables. The requirement for our education was also more on par with paralegals.

      1. Jadelyn*

        The phrase “Is there anything I can help you with/Can I help you with that?” is going to be your best friend. That’s how I took a part-time data entry and filing job and turned it into something that, while still called HR Assistant, is much closer in actual work to an HRIS Analyst or HR Administrator.

        Caveat, of course, that it depends on the people you ask that question of being willing to actually respond with delegating tasks. And that part, you can’t control. I got lucky with coworkers whose response was “Sure, let me show you how I do XYZ.” The more specific you can be, the better – “Would you like me to do [specific task] for [specific case]?” will probably get you better results than “Is there anything I can do to help with your current cases?” If you wanted to preface it with something that indicates you already know what needs doing, like “The [specific case] reminds me of [some other similar thing I’ve done], would you like me to do [related task] for that?”

        But in the end, it comes down to people being willing to hand you work, and that’s unfortunately out of your control.

        1. Naruto*

          Also, pay attention. If something looks like paralegal work that you think you could handle, suggest that task, specifically. It’s a lot harder to come up with something in response to “is there anything I can do?” than in response to “can I do this specific task to help out?”

        2. nhbillups*

          I would also ask manager if there’s anyone you could “shadow”, or watch, or tag along with during your down time. That way she doesn’t have to come up with things to fill your time, really, and you still get to learn. I’ve done a LOT of that in my current workplace.

      2. Lablizard*

        You could ask if after, say, your first 6 months or year or whenever you have been there long enough to invest in, if the firm would pay for you to get a paralegal certification. Then, when you are done, you are well placed to move into the area you want to.

    4. Law Lub*

      Also not sure if relevant, but I do plan on going to law school soon (like when I’m 26), and I think most paralegal jobs here make you commit to 2 years. What attracted me to this current position is that I don’t have that 2 year requirement while allowing me get my hands on more substantial work

      1. Chriama*

        Rather than applying for the job, maybe bring up the posting with your manager and ask if you could take on some of the tasks of that position? If there isn’t enough work for you to do in your current role then maybe you can split your time between the 2 roles?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I would not do this in a law firm. It’s not going to go over well and will look like you think you’re too good to do administrative work. And to be really honest, finding a meticulous and proactive admin is very hard—so doing well in that role for at least a year will be helpful.

          1. Temperance*

            Oh yes, this. 10000x over.

            It will look like you took the admin job to get your foot in the door, and now that you’re in, you want out of the admin job.

  15. LQ*

    I need some thoughts. I’m going to a conference for work next week and first, travel tips or packing tips. It’s the first one where I’m going with other people from work that’s a travel to conference.

    Second is the …interpersonal part of this. There are 2 groups and me going (each group is 2 or 3 people…but they are distinct groups) I will, at some point in the next few months, be moving into a job where I’m going to be the bridge between these two groups. I need to impress both of them. One half really only cares if you are smart and doing stuff quickly to help them. The other half only cares if you are their friend and are nice to them. Unsurprisingly these two groups do NOT get along. The Friendly group thinks the Smarts group is mean and the Smarts group thinks the Friendly group is stupid. They are fairly friendly, and I’m an outsider. This will be very new to the Friendly group (which I’m nominally a part of because of my job) and mostly old hat information to the Smarts group (which I’m much more like in personality and somewhat skills). (They aren’t throwing, yelling, or sniping at each other, just working far far below what they should be able to be working at because of this conflict.)

    Any words of wisdom?

    1. Dawn*

      Roll your clothes (you can fit more in your suitcase that way), put anything that might spill into a ziploc bag (nothing worse than getting there and realizing your clothes are all covered in face wash), wear comfy shoes for traveling!

      As for the two groups, my honest recommendation is to read “How To Win Friends and Influence People” and then use those techniques on the people in both groups. That book helped me so much (and it was recommended here on AAM!) to realize the best way to get to know people and really connect with them.

      1. LQ*

        Great tips thank you. And I’ll add the book to my list, but I don’t think I’ll get to it by next week. Though I imagine it will be really helpful going forward.

    2. a big fish in a very small pond*

      I’d take the opportunity to seek group members from each group that seem more moderate and outliers (if there are any in either group) and start there to start building an friendly coalition of reasonable people for long-term support.

      My first impression reading your post is that the Smarts vs the Friendlies feels too black and white and it is likely that there are members of both groups who feel as though they personally are both smart and friendly and probably enjoy the in-group dynamics, but would really rather be seen and respected as being both.

      1. LQ*

        That sounds like a good strategy. I think part of this is getting myself over some of these things. (One of the people in the Friendlies group…I do not feel confident in her skills, I know her manager doesn’t, I know the person who will be my boss doesn’t, I know none of the Smarts do…and that’s kind of a hard hurdle to climb, so I’m working on that, but it’s hard.)

    3. fposte*

      Ask them questions and then listen more than talk. Being listened to is something that pleases people in both those categories–the Friendlies think it means you like them and the Smarts think it means you’re paying attention to the information.

      1. LQ*

        This is perfect advice. I can absolutely do this. (And my voice has been gone for a while, so it will be better for me anyway, and I can lean on that if people ask why I’m not talking much.) This is great, thank you!

    4. Tuckerman*

      Ah. It sounds like the friendlys are relationship oriented and the smarts are task oriented. I’m task oriented. I value efficiency and accuracy. My colleague is relationship oriented. She values inclusiveness and team building. It’s not that I don’t value those things, it’s just that they’re secondary in my interactions. Just like she values efficiency and accuracy, but secondary to the relationship. She was pretty wary of me at first. So I would chat with her about camping, traveling, other things we have in common, before asking the work-related question. She’s now a good friend.

      1. LQ*

        This is absolutely it from what I can tell. I’m much more task oriented myself, but I think I’m expected to try to bring balance to the group as a whole. It helps to think of it like this. Task vs relationship. Thank you.

    5. MsMaryMary*

      Bring outfits you can layer. It is a truth universally acknowledged that the meeting rooms at conferences are always freezing cold. Bring a sweater or jacket with you even if you don’t think you’ll need it.

      1. Shrinkydinks*

        I prefer to bring a shopping bag or something similar to put my dirty clothes in so I can just dump them in the laundry when I get home. And I can’t say enough about bringing a battery charger. If you use your phone a lot, not all airports will have a number of outlets for you to use.

        1. LQ*

          Oh this is handy. And yes, battery charger. I’ve got 3, 2 “big” ones and a little one that’s always in my purse, but I do need to make sure they are all fully charged up. A dead battery is useless.

    6. Letters*

      Put drier sheets in your shoes if you pack any in your suitcase. :) This will keep the whole suitcase smelling fresh, and rubbing dryer sheets on clothing can sometimes get wrinkles out. If you do have wrinkles, hang the garments on the outside of the shower curtain when you shower — that can often loosen the wrinkles.

      Pack extra empty ziplock bags. I always need them for something or other.

      When trying to get in good with any group like this, make sure you don’t turn down any offer to spend time with either, and be upfront about the fact that you’re going to need to get along with everybody! Do NOT, even if there’s a great temptation to do so, bad mouth either group when you’re with the other. Things like, “Oh, I don’t like to talk badly of anyone!” will reflect better on you than engaging in badmouthing — which would leave them wondering what you’re saying to the other group when you’re with them.

      Granted, this doesn’t mean you can’t listen or sympathize — “I can imagine that would be frustrating!” and suchlike could get you a long way, and they could have grains of truth in their warnings. You just don’t want to contribute yourself.

    7. Antilles*

      A few business travel tips:
      1.) Bring at least one extra day’s of clothes. Yes, your conference has a set timeline and yes your flight is already scheduled and plenty of other reasons. But do it anyways as a precaution in case there’s a snowstorm or you spill something on your shirt or you split a seam on your pants or etc.
      2.) If you aren’t sure of the dress code, try to find out by asking colleagues or by trying to look up photos online of last year’s conference. If you still can’t figure it out, it’s worth noting that if you find your clothes don’t quite match the level of ‘dressiness’, it’s usually easier to make formal clothes more ‘casual’ (by unbuttoning a top button or rolling up sleeves or something) than it is to make casual clothes ‘dressier’.
      3.) Make sure to allow adequate time after the conference to get to the airport. Remember that this needs to include time to go back to your room to get your suitcase, check out at the same time all other attendees are also checking out, and get a cab/train/etc to the airport at the same time all other attendees are also looking for the same thing. So you probably don’t want to schedule your flight for right after the conference ends; in fact, it’s often good to give yourself several hours just in case the last speaker drones on or there are delays.
      4.) If it’s a city/place you’ve never been to and want to visit, don’t hesitate to ask if you can extend your stay at your own cost (make sure to add that last part). Most companies are pretty flexible with this as long as you use up your own vacation to do so (if need be) and it doesn’t notably affect their out-of-pocket costs. Might be a little late to do this for a trip next week, but something to consider for the future.
      5.) Know your company’s policy on meals, reimbursement, etc. Companies often have a slightly different policy for conferences than they would for regular travel, under the assumption that you’ll be entertaining/meeting clients. This is particularly relevant if you plan on drinking, because it’s fairly common for companies to treat bills involving alcohol different than normal.

    8. Argh!*

      Let me guess — Sales vs. engineering? It’s a classic dichotomy. Since they are in silos they can’t relate to each other. If you can find a way to form teams or working groups or even just discussions where each will benefit from the input of the other to make a greater good, that will help them get out of their provincialism. If both personality types weren’t essential to the success of the organization, there would only be one type there!

    9. Margali*

      Rats, I think my comment went to review because of the link in it. Anyway, try searching this site for the post with an “interview with an incredibly diplomatic person.” There was great advice in there for smoothing the work process between task-oriented and relationship-oriented people.

    10. Havarti*

      Packing tips! I’ve lived out of one suitcase for a few of two-week-long trainings while my coworkers were all lugging 2 or 3 suitcases. I’m a woman so some of this may not apply to you if you’re a guy.

      – Limit your shoes. No, seriously. Shoes take up a lot of space. I pack 1 pair of comfy work shoes that will match all my outfits (black since most of my pants are black or gray). If it’s warm enough, I travel with these comfy Teva active sandals that I can walk miles in and are easy to remove at the airport. Otherwise, I wear sneakers. Pack a pair of flip-flops for lounging around your hotel room. They’re fairly flat so they won’t take up much room and you can get fancy looking ones with rhinestones if you want to wear them outside. One co-worker though brought like 7 pairs!

      – Clothes for both work and evening. I managed to make everything fit in one suitcase because I didn’t pack two outfits for each day. All the work tops I brought with me looked just as good with capris or shorts as they did with slacks. So I just wore the same shirt for the whole day. I pre-planned all my outfits and only added a couple of extra tops in case I spilled something on me. I also packed lots of polyester to limit wrinkles and immediately hung all my clothes up when I got to my hotel room (though I had to ask the hotel for extra hangers). This also meant I didn’t have to do laundry until I was home. Include a sweater that will match whatever you wear to stay warm. Match jewelry to your outfits and pack sets in separate baggies so you don’t have to dig through a pile in the morning.

      – Play Tetris with the suitcase. You may find new ways of making things fit. My suitcase has a long narrow mesh pocket on one side that I discovered is perfect for storing my underwear. I rolled up the bras and panties and tucked them in alternating so all I had to do was open the pocket a bit to grab the next clean set. Small trash bags or grocery bags are perfect for holding dirty clothes. All the toiletries go in a small separate bag that I then keep in the bathroom. All my chargers/earbuds go in a little drawstring bag.

      – Simplify. I carry on the plane a messenger bag that fits a flat purse I use only for traveling. I also have a smaller travel wallet where I only pack the essentials and leave all the store reward cards etc. at home. I also pack snacks like beef jerky and sweets to eat while on the flight and if I get hungry late at night in my hotel room. And don’t forget some gum or mints.

      – Tip the cleaning staff. You should tip your room cleaning staff a few bucks on a daily basis rather than a lump sum at the end of your stay as the staff may change. I didn’t learn that until later but I try to be generous.

      – Water! I find I have trouble staying hydrated on trips. The bottled water they put in fancy hotel rooms are horribly expensive. In a fit of thirst, I broke into one and regretted it. On the last two trips, I went to the trouble of finding a nearby store and getting a pack of bottled water. Yes, it was a pain to haul but it meant I had plenty of water in my room and could even share with my coworkers.

      I could probably write more but I’ll stop there.

      1. misspiggy*

        You are a packing genius. I thought I was pretty good but I have learned much from you!

      2. vpc*

        Water bottle: I put mine, empty, in my carry on to go through airport security, and then fill it from the water fountain in the terminal. I carry it throughout the conference and refill from icewater jugs or taps. Saves on plastic bottles, and mixing up my plastic bottle with the eleventy-billion that look exactly the same is no longer a problem!

        Also on the subject of beverages: almost all hotel rooms, no matter the price point, will have a coffee pot in the room. If you like a particular type of coffee or tea, bring it with you! The one challenge here is if you like regular brewed coffee and the hotel’s pot is a single-cup (keurig or similar). You can use the single-cuppers to just brew hot water for tea but I don’t think you could do your own coffee with them unless you also brought a french press.

    11. A. Non*

      1) A millionty plus the rolling things to pack them. If you’re staying at a hotel, call ahead and see if they have laundry facilities on hand and how much they cost, and/or if they have an iron. You may not need it but it’s great to know about just in case.
      2) Third/Fourth/whatever numbering at the dryer sheets, ziploc bags, plastic bags for dirty clothes. These are invaluable, for real.
      3) Mix-n-match. Make sure everything you bring matches everything else, so if you absolutely have to you can get dressed in the dark and you’ll look smart.
      3b) Make sure your PJs or loungewear is PG, just in case of midnight fire alarms. No one wants to see someone with it all hanging out in the middle of the night, even in case of an emergency.
      4) Seconding the listening. Also, make sure to remember everyone’s name (if you can) and/or something about them. If someone in the Smarts LOVES Dr. Who, know that. We all like someone who likes what we like, at least at first, and that can get you through the initial ‘getting to know this person’ period.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Make sure all your clothes coordinate. For example I pack a navy 3 piece suit and tops which have blue in them. I also have a pair of folding ballet/pilates slippers which I wear in my hotel room and if I am going down to the lobby bar or breakfast.

    12. rubyrose*

      Think about what you absolutely must have if your bag gets lost and finding replacements would be time consuming and/or difficult. Makeup, for example. Put just a little in a small container (check out the travel section at the Container Store) and put that in your quart sized baggie to take through airport security.

  16. Audiophile*

    First week in my new job! It was a shortened week with the blizzard, the office was closed on Tuesday and I ended up missing Wednesday.

    Today’s commute was not great, I tried to take an earlier train, but that train promptly broke down after we all boarded. Thankfully, there was another train to GCT about 10 minutes later.

    Loving the new job so far, it’s much more structured. Everyone is very nice!

    Happy St. Patty’s Day!

  17. anon for this*

    My boss told my coworkers about my learning disability without my permission. Is this illegal in the US?

  18. Andrea Heymont*

    I’m 41, and have been working in retail for 23 years, but I want to make a career change. I have been working on getting my Bachelor’s degree in English, off and on, for several years, and am now in my second-to-last semester. The original plan was to go on to get a Master’s in Library Science, but the job description for a librarian has changed so much these days that I am not sure that that it is the right option for me anymore. Any suggestions for what I can use my Bachelor’s for, in moving forward to a new career?

    1. MuseumChick*

      Have you done any internships/volunteer work in a library to see if you would like it? I would start there, lots of volunteer work to get a sense of what you would enjoy doing and make contacts with people who can help you figure that out.

      A couple of careers that come to mind: Librarian, Archivist, Legal Librarian, Editor, and Social Media Manager are all areas where a English degree would be useful.

      1. Andrea Heymont*

        Thanks. I actually do have an internship to do as part of my degree. I’ll look into that.

        1. Law Lub*

          The Library Science Degree has been changing a lot over the last few years, so a lot of people in your field are in the same boat (including younger, fresh out of college grads), so don’t feel to lost. I would look at interning, as has been already advised, but also look at the possibility of working at your university’s library part-time. I did that in college (just for cash) and was given the opportunity to work in all of the lib departments.

          1. Andrea Heymont*

            That sounds good. My first thought was to talk to them, so thank you for the reinforcement.

    2. AliceW*

      With a BA in English you can work almost anywhere. I work in finance and there are dozens of co-workers, including some in the C-suite, I know who have liberal arts degrees that work in finance. You can try temping at various places and see if any place interests you. That’s how I fell into my profession. And I never went back for any additional degrees. Don’t limit yourself and think a BA in English means you need to be a writer, librarian, teacher etc. I write as a hobby but make a good salary working for an investment firm.

    3. Another Academic Librarian*

      Would you be willing to share what originally attracted you to library work?

      1. Dreaming of summer*

        I’m curious, too. I’ve been an academic librarian 20 years and it hasn’t changed that much.

    4. ChemMoose*

      I have a friend who got her degree in English and works now in Insurance and loves it. I think the position is like assistant underwriter? She said being open to various positions and knowing what the position actually entitles is super important. (Other interviewees hadn’t even looked up the position name in Wiki, and thought the position was more glamorous than it was…) But being on this website probably already has you ready for applying.

      Good luck!

  19. KiteFlier*

    How would you convey an unfinished degree on a resume? There is plenty of relevant work experience, but they did not complete their degree and they’re not so far into their career that people won’t question leaving it off. The major is irrelevant to current work experience and future career path.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Is it a degree that is still being worked towards, or is completion of the degree something that’s been abandoned? If the former I would write “In Progress” in lieu of a graduation date. If it’s the latter, I would be inclined to just leave it off.

    2. Tim W*

      I finished a BA (theater) before going back for a separate BS (comp sci). The second degree refused to accept transfer of any of my GenEd credits from my first degree. After an internship turned into a job offer, I finished all of my major coursework but dropped the degree program before finishing the mandatory electives. I use:

      “College Name (dates) / Completed all major coursework for BS Comp Sci. No degree awarded.” Most people are smart enough to figure it out. If they ask in an interview, I explain as above. Has never been an issue for me so far.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      This is a good question. I started something relevant to what I want to do, but I couldn’t finish it due to financial constraints and I’m not going back. I guess it would be better just to leave it off, but I have school projects that show I kind of know what I’m doing. So should I even bother?

    4. CrazyEngineerGirl*

      I left a PhD program 4 years in because my life was a mess and frankly I hated it. Currently my resume says something like:

      School Name, 20XX-20XX
      Degree Not Attained
      Completed X semesters

      I’ve changed and moved around the ‘Degree Not Attained’ note several times because it seems like no matter what some people read that and think I have or am still working on my PhD. I would LOVE to take it off but it would leave a pretty big 4-5 year gap after my master’s degree. Sigh.

      1. Adjunct Gal*

        I have had ‘no degree’ on mine, and the years. I do like your wording better, but I agree that’s it still feels problematic.

  20. Dawn*


    I just wanted to thank Alison and everyone here, especially all you regular commenters who I read every week, for all of the encouraging thoughts and the advice and the “you can do it” attitude! I’ve been lurking a lot recently but I’m still reading every single post and comment.

    I am so happy about this interview- the two phone screens went really well, and I *know* I would rock this job if I got it and I have a very strong background for it. But honestly, even if I don’t get it… someone likes me! Someone sees my value! Unlike my current employer who has given me zero feedback for the past two years except “By the way, you didn’t notice this one tiny thing this one time, that’s BAD and you should FEEL BAD and DON’T DO IT AGAIN.”

    So, as I’ve said to people before, *THINGS WILL GET BETTER*!!!!

    1. Frustrated Optimist*

      Without getting too specific, I can relate to several points in this post. So I want to say congratulations on getting the interview, and also, please comment back next week and let us know how it went. =)

  21. Dee-Nice*

    A few years back, in another job, I was disciplined for something unfairly, IMO. Nothing I can do about it now, but I’ve often thought back on it and wondered if there was anything I could have done differently. Would be curious to hear the thoughts of commenters here.
    I was in a staff-wide meeting and the president of my company was giving a talk. One of my teammates, seated at the table a few chairs away from me (we were facing front, so I couldn’t really see her because of the people between us), had her scarf around her neck and coming up over part of her face. It was always FREEZING in our building, so this wasn’t an unusual thing for her to do. Some people across the table thought it looked like she was asleep from the way she was sitting and her scarf, so they started whisper-giggling and taking phone photos. It was appallingly rude and unprofessional.
    The room was full (chairs and standing room—all packed), so there was nowhere for me to move. I couldn’t walk out of the meeting because the president was talking. I tried to ignore the people around me and stared straight ahead to make it clear that I was paying attention to the presentation. However, several people, seeing that part of my team was involved in the disruption, reported my whole team and the people on the other side of the table for inappropriate behavior. I made it clear to our supervisor, separately, that I was not involved in what happened, and my teammates confirmed that. Although no one accused me specifically of anything, the supervisors of the two teams decided that since they weren’t there to see what happened, everyone from both teams had to show up to a meeting and get sternly talked to for what turned out to be 90 minutes. At no point did anyone say, “Dee-Nice was not involved in this, why is she here?” which I wasn’t *really*expecting, but I felt like everyone involved knew that I shouldn’t be there and I was resentful nonetheless. I mostly remained silent during the meeting.
    We weren’t written up, but I was (quietly) cranky about the whole thing for a long time, and still am whenever I remember it. (Yeah, I hold grudges, and that’s a separate issue.) Could I have done something differently either in the moment or after? Or is this just something to file away to the Things That Are Screwed Up folder?

      1. Dee-Nice*

        I understand that impulse, but I was afraid of saying something at the time because the room was otherwise so quiet it may have been even more disruptive for me to say something. Also, there were more senior-level people there who clearly noticed what was going on and weren’t saying anything, so I would have felt weird for that reason as well.

    1. LCL*

      The company wasted the time of two groups for 90 minutes to lecture them? That’s a warped sense of priorities right there. Whoever made that decision was pissed, and wasn’t thinking clearly enough to bother with figuring out who did what. So yeah, it wasn’t about you, it was about a psycho manager. Is the company still in business?

      1. Dee-Nice*

        Yeah, they’re still in business. I actually think everyone higher up was acting with best intentions and the meeting was intended to spare us from more punitive measures. BUT it was confusing at the time and because it it does sort of mentally loop back up on me occasionally, I wondered if I might have a blind spot about what I could have done differently.

    2. Antie*

      I, too, have had odd experiences nag at me for years, and I have been surprised later in life that the experience was useful in another context. If you end up in management, for example, there will be times your intentions will be misconstrued and people on your staff will be annoyed and there is nothing you can do about it because the situation requires discretion. Also, there are lessons here about when do you dob in your teammates and when do you just suck it up and take the punishment alongside them. It’s a judgment you have to make, and thinking about this experience will help you make a more informed judgment if something similar happens again.

      Also, sometimes there is no right thing to do. Try not to beat yourself up for a situation you could not control.

      1. Dee-Nice*

        Thanks. Yeah, I’m sure there was stuff going on that I wasn’t aware of, but it felt strange to just be kind of swept along by the whole thing regardless of my lack of involvement. Obviously I chose to go with it more or less, but sometimes people here are really good at pointing out things others have missed, so I thought I’d see what they had to say.

    3. Loud Sneezer*

      It was not about you. If they started trying to leave people out, that would mean a whole witch hunt about who was talking and who wasn’t, with different opinions, people tattling, people lying, whatever. If they pull in two whole groups, then it’s just a generic thing, they’ve covered the issue, they’ve made sure the people who needed to be there were there and they convey that they are serious about this. Even worse than wasting your time? Not addressing it at all.

      There may also have been other, private conversations for the ringleaders, in which case they were making sure anyone else knew that this was not okay. Because just being exposed and sitting there might give some people the idea that “Talky McTalkerson did that in the last meeting and it was fine,” and they might do it the next time.

      It’s generally just easier to apply everything to everyone in a job. You don’t say “Dee-Nice is always good about time, so she doesn’t have to punch a clock,” or “Dee-Nice is honest so she doesn’t have to carry a badge.” This was “We want to make sure anyone who was in a position where they might have participated knows this wasn’t okay.”

      1. Dee-Nice*

        Clock punching and badge carrying are perhaps not quite apt as comparisons because those are neutral requirements, not things you’re generally asked to do as a punishment. In this case, the two teams (about 7-8 people total from a meeting of maybe 45 people?) were called into a separate meeting to discuss this specific instance of bad behavior, so there was a degree of targeting as well, and not a general, widespread reminder. BUT, I also see your point that trying to weed out who did what could have gotten witch-hunty and the managers had to make decisions about how far to go with that. I guess I can chalk this up to bad luck/being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps it wasn’t quite fair to me, but maybe it was as fair as it could have been in those circumstances. I’m starting to think it upset me so much in part because I had a kind of proximity embarrassment about the whole thing– it mortified me to be affiliated with the incident in any way, but probably no one else was thinking about it like that. It wasn’t about me, as you say. Thanks for these thoughts.

    4. nhbillups*

      I would have given the look of “WHAT is going on over there?” to the rude people disrupting the meeting. And let me just say that I am one of five kids, my mother is a lifelong teacher, and I have children myself…I am rather good at that look, so they would have very clearly gotten the message!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah something like this would frost me, too.

      There’s a few things here.

      I tend to think, when there is no apparent way to stand up for myself effectively then I pretty much have to suck it up. I really don’t see what you could have done differently.

      Situations like this remind me of past situations. I can remember in grammar school being yelled at by nuns almost daily. On a good day, I could comfort myself by saying, “I did not do that, so therefore they are not yelling at me.” On a not so good day, I’d think, “When I get older I am not going to put up with being unfairly accused and lumped in with others.”

      Going in a different direction, sometimes when I find myself with 5 pounds of annoyance over a 13 ounce situation, I ask myself why. The answer usually has something to do with the big picture and how many other things are wrong in the big picture. The current annoyance is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

      After having some different jobs under my belt, I would now say that these bosses had no idea how to manage people. Ninety minutes of group lecturing? Really? Maybe it’s wrong of me, but stuff like this has shaped me into THAT person who will interrupt the speaker and say, “I’m sorry we can’t hear you over here.” I am totally sick of the crap some bosses pull simply because THEY CAN. If I think something is going to bite me later, I try to speak up now.

  22. Emmi*

    Not sure if this is a weird question, but something I’ve wondered: those ‘work from home for $somuchmoneyperweek’ ads, what do they usually end up being? I’ve never considered them since they seem like (and probably are) scams, but has anyone – even just out of curiosity – responded to one? Are they usually stuff like cold-calling sales or pyramid schemes?

    1. SophieChotek*

      I’ve heard sometimes they are stuffing envelopes, but the rate is based on how fast you can stuff envelopes and prepare mailings and since the bar is so high to get the amazing amount, no one could really earn it. That’s what I’ve heard…not done it though.

    2. Andy*

      they are approximately this:
      a person tells you to do a thing and you ill get paid x via wire transfer. This happens moer or less the way it should, establishing ‘honesty’
      you are asked to do another thing
      the third or fourth thing you are to do is write a check and deposit it into an account and you will be refunded via wire transfer plus your ‘pay’
      the check you deposit it cashed, you are not reimbursed, you are not paid, now they have your bank account routing info.
      The End.

      1. Lilian*

        That sounds like a straight-out scam, not just a job scam.

        I remember in my first year of uni calling about a job that was labeled as ‘funds transfers’. The guy I spoke to said it involved having someone transfer some money into your bank account, and you transferring it onto another bank account but keeping a percentage of it for yourself as a ‘fee’.

        Even as a first year I was like “…err, that’s money-laundering’. Not sure how they could’ve thought people wouldn’t question it.

        1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Sadly, an out of work acquaintance fell for a variation of this scam, the “secret shopper” one. She ended up owing her bank several thousands of dollars. They were very unsympathetic and basically told her not to be so gullible.

    3. NaoNao*

      Other options would be doing menial, repetitive labor online (research tests, filling out forms, things like that), collections from home (an option, really!), cold-calling sales, or a scam where someone is looking for a “personal assistant” (I did respond to one of these that seemed only very slightly shady and I still recall the anger I felt when I got the responding obviously scammy email, which was like “I’ll need you at short notice, must have clean driving record”–all that was to distract from the fact that he was “wiring” me money. I wrote back a scathing email but strangely, never heard back/s/).

    4. copy run start*

      My parents legitimately work from home selling infomercial-type stuff. It sounds like hell to me though.

      Most other stuff is a scam. When I graduated college I had trouble finding ANY work, so I responded to an admin assistant Craigslist ad. Lo and behold this person wanted me to print off and mail checks for them! And yes, he was a professor located in Nigeria. That was the last time I used Craigslist for job searching.

    5. Chaordic One*

      Years I ago I responded to an ad for a “Marketing Assistant” where you could earn big bucks. I think I was expecting it to be telemarketing or something like that. When I showed up, it was a huge cattle call style interview with about 50 people where everyone was herded into a large room and given a presentation. It turned out that they wanted people to sell fake “smells like” perfumes to other people in the parking lots of grocery stores and shopping centers. After we figured out what it was all about most of us left, but there were still about 10 people left.

      After that I have run into people trying to sell me perfume in parking lots. Sometimes the store security guards come around and make them leave. Kind of a horrible job, if I say so myself.

  23. Biff*

    I am really, really skeeved this morning. I am trying to keep busy while I’m technically unemployed by subbing at the local district. I’ve made it really clear I’m not prepared to take on special ed (I feel that with the current rules in place, it is NOT safe for the subs, I’m not trained to deal with it, and even if it was, I am fairly convinced I wouldn’t be able to control my startle reaction if I were bitten or hit. I’m not interested in being scared to the point of hurting a kid.) I have explained my concerns multiple times to the district, and they still call me about taking on special ed classes. I feel like I’m dealing with two things — they are in a bind, so they are calling anyone, but two…. they think that if they keep asking, eventually I’ll give in. That seems really disrespectful and kind of creepy to me.

    I’m concerned if I make it clear that I won’t take special ed, that they may not give me anything else either. Any suggestions?

    1. SophieChotek*

      I could be wrong, but a friend of mine did this and she said for special ed, they were still had trained paras in the room to deal with the special needs/special ed students. The sub was there more to fulfill the requirement of a licsenced teacher. And I did get the impression a significant amount of her sub calls were special ed. That might be true in your district– have you asked or been told you would be alone without further assistance?

      But I hear you, I would not feel qualified or prepared to work with special ed. (Actually I don’t think I’m prepared to work with non-special ed students either…)

      1. Parenthetically*

        It’s true that there should always be a para/TA (or several, depending on the classroom) in the room. Still! My mother taught Life Skills/SLIC for years and it’s just incredibly intense. Teaching there is a calling for sure.

      2. Biff*

        I do think that my district has an unusually high need of special ed teachers. They seem to use them in a multitude of settings. Some are one on one, some are small groups, and others are in large groups. It just depends. However, I have not found that I always get correct information about how much help I will get or how much I’m alone in the classroom. Yesterday I got left alone for a while with 15 special needs children. Most of which were very grabby.

      3. Rovannen*

        We are desperate for a certified teacher to cover the class, yet totally understand that SpEd can be a scary place, with many students that do not adjust well to new people. At our school, we have trained Para’s in the room and with the one-on-one students. Definitely ask if you will be left alone there or with Para support. Some of our subs have found their home there, normally retired teachers or those that did student teaching in that environment, but I wouldn’t ask anyone that hasn’t had experience, training or flat out doesn’t feel comfortable. Most students have the knack of sensing a person’s confidence or lack thereof.

          1. Rovannen*

            My apologies, I made an assumption. We have notations by sub staff who have asked to not be placed in SpEd positions, and it doesn’t stop us calling them for other positions.

      4. YaH*

        But, at least in my district, the sub is frequently there *as* the para’s replacement. At least we have a sub-finder system where subs can put in preferred locations, and preferred positions and the system auto-calls based on that.

        OP, don’t worry about turning down SpEd calls- just focus on building up a solid reputation in a couple of schools so that you become a preferred substitute for GenEd classes. Just say “no thank you”.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Most districts are so desperate for subs they’ll take anyone with a pulse! I can’t imagine them blacklisting a qualified sub because they have parameters for what classrooms they’ll be in. My mom subbed while we were in school, taught full-time for a couple decades, and now is retired and back to subbing, and from what she’s told me, there are some subs that will only work MWF or only long-term jobs or short-term jobs, or only in certain buildings or even only for a select list of teachers. Are you in touch with any other subs in the district who you could ask about their particular standards? Could you maybe call whoever contacts the sub list and ask how they generally work around the restrictions and parameters that subs have set?

      But honestly, unless they have too many subs (which I literally cannot imagine), I cannot see them blacklisting a perfectly qualified person just because you aren’t trained for special ed and don’t feel comfortable subbing in that department. I would feel comfortable saying, “I am not trained/qualified in special ed, so could you please take me off the call list when that’s what’s needed so you can get to someone on the list who’ll say yes? I wouldn’t want you to waste your time when I’m only going to turn it down,” but certainly do just keep saying no regardless.

    3. SpEd Teacher*

      Are you sure you’re thinking of the right kind of Special Ed? Are they specifying that these are intellectual disability/autism/etc. classes? I ask because I’m a Special Education teacher, and my students all have learning disabilities. They are all (save one or two that have high functioning autism) neurotypical kids who need more support in order to access the curriculum. Not everyone realizes that these kids fall under the Special Ed umbrella, so I had to bring it up.

      A previous poster was also correct that, for the high-needs classes, there’s almost always a trained paraprofessional who’s still in the room, though it’s understandable if you’re still uncomfortable.

      1. Biff*

        I asked, because I try to be the best sport possible, if this was LD, or if it was autism/Down Syndrome/Severe Issues. They couldn’t tell me. I didn’t understand that. I have done LD before, and that’s fine!

        1. Aardvark*

          Could you do some research using the schools’ websites on which teachers teach self-contained classes and which do push-in or support classes? Then when you get the call you’d be prepared to say whether or not you can accept the placement.
          …Not that you should have to, but it might help.

          1. Teach*

            You can also scout around during a planning period on a subbing day. Find a friendly AP or guidance counselor and ask if they can walk you around the Sped dept so you can get a sense of whether accepting those jobs would be helpful. I subbed BD, LD, and as a 1:1 for a kiddo with CP and they were great days! I wouldn’t have accepted them blindly, though.

    4. Kimberlee, Esq*

      My first instinct is that there’s a large pool of potential subs and they just don’t track preferences that specifically? Obvs you would know better than I. But in my current job, I keep track of things like various food allergies and preferences among 80 people, which is not that many people, and it’s still impossible to remember them without keeping a tracker. Maybe they just don’t bother to keep track and assume that people will just say no to jobs they don’t want.

    5. Nallomy*

      I’d guess that it’s probably out of sheer desperation for subs rather than an attempt to bully you into giving in. Back when I was a per diem sub, I had one job that was just awful – like, multiple visits from the principal and school counselor awful. I was sure I would never be asked back, which was a problem because I (a) needed the money, and (b) was looking for a full time teaching job. I got home and went for a run to blow off steam, and when I returned, I had a voicemail. “Hi Nallomy, this is [secretary] from [school with terrible class], we need a sub for our computer lab teacher tomorrow and the next day, please let us know if you’re available!”

      I’m guessing your district doesn’t use a computerized system to book subs? I know in my district we have to put in “class details” when we put in for a sub, i.e. is it general education, ESL/bilingual, SPED, etc., so at least that much would be available. Honestly, a good (or even decent, really) sub is really valuable, so you might try leaving your contact information in your note to the teacher (for classes you’d want to take again) so he/she could reach out to you in the future. The cluster of teachers I work with has an informal list of our preferred subs that we share around, and if I’m going to be absent I always reach out to those people before I even post my absence on the sub website.

    6. YaH*

      But, at least in my district, the sub is frequently there *as* the para’s replacement. At least we have a sub-finder system where subs can put in preferred locations, and preferred positions and the system auto-calls based on that.

      OP, don’t worry about turning down SpEd calls- just focus on building up a solid reputation in a couple of schools so that you become a preferred substitute for GenEd classes. Just say “no thank you”.

  24. strawberries and raspberries*

    How do I sensitively advise my team to pay more attention to careless writing (“a email,” “formally” when they meant “formerly,” etc.)? My staff are all really intelligent and competent people, and I don’t want it to come across like I’m implying they’re not.

    1. Leatherwings*

      are these internal messages within your team? If so, I’d think about whether it’s really pervasive enough or a big enough deal to even correct. Sometimes that happens because people fire off emails quickly to their coworkers in order to get back to what they’re doing, which isn’t something that’s a big deal most places.

      Otherwise, just be straightforward with them in a check-in “I’ve noticed you often have spelling or grammar mistakes in your emails, for example X and Y. I’d like your emails to be as correct as possible, do you have ideas for what you can do to improve on those mistakes going forward”

    2. Dizzy Steinway*

      Are they internal or external emails? Either way, it sounds like something to address separately in one-to-ones, not as a group.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          For all intensive purposes, perfect grammar is not necessary unless you’re communicating directly to clients. If you’re getting hung up on the occasional typo, then everything else in the organization must be running perfectly.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq*

            I hope the “intensive” part was intentional. :)

            And even if you’re directly interacting with clients, I don’t think perfection is necessary in emails. I think that a lot of grammar and usage rules fall into the category of pointless rules to enforce that have the bonus of often leading to classist and racist divisions and exclusions.

    3. Parenthetically*

      You do it casually, if you need to. “Hey y’all, there have been some typos sneaking through lately and I want to make sure our writing is polished before it goes out. Will you please take an extra minute and give things a quick edit before sending it to the printer/emailing it out/whatever? Not a big deal, it happens to everyone, just want to encourage a little extra vigilance. Thanks!”

    4. Biff*

      I can’t say for certain, but it sounds like maybe their auto-complete is a little overzealous, and the rest are just forgivable typos, BUT, combined together, they look sloppy. Bad deal.

      Maybe do something like this: “We need to up the polish on our emails — we’ve gotten too casual and I’m concerned that we may seem unprofessional or sloppy to other organizations. What I’d like is for everyone to make a point of rereading emails before sending them for the next week or two.”

      Escalate only if needed.

    5. Office Plant*

      Well, if the goal is to avoid hurting their feelings, you could give them a plausible excuse. “Hey folks, in the age of autocorrect and rapid typing on smart phones while multitasking, errors in grammar and word choice are becoming more common. I’ve seen a few of these from our team in the past week. I’m sure you all know better and are just trying to stay on top of your work load and get those emails out as quickly as possible. But before hitting send, please take a moment to review what you’ve written and make sure there aren’t any mistakes. Thanks!”

  25. all aboard the anon train*

    I’m curious if anyone else in Boston has today off work in honor of Evacuation Day?

    I know Massachusetts made state offices stay open awhile back, but my company has still honored the holiday all these years later. We still get Bunker Hill Day and Patriot’s Day off as well (though the latter is probably because my office is on Boylston St on the marathon route and it’s a nightmare trying to enter or leave the office).

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Basically they said “Did anything ever happen on St Patrick’s Day? The British withdrew that one time? Okay, Evacuation Day it is. To the green beer!”

    1. PollyQ*

      My years working in Boston were just with one company, and we never got Evacuation Day as a holiday. My perception was that it was pretty much just a government holiday, but I’m not sure why I thought that.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I definitely don’t work in government! I know some of my friends who went to school in the city got the day off, too.

        I don’t think it’s common, but I know some places do give it off.

    2. Creag an Tuire*

      Interestingly, city workers in Chicago don’t get today off (though the city does make a big deal out of St. Patrick’s Day), but did get last Monday off for Pulaski Day.

      1. SaraV*

        I remember getting school off for Casimir Pulaski Day. (Polish immigrant that fought for the US in the Revolutionary War; Strong Polish population in Chicago)

        In Nebraska, they get Arbor Day off since that’s where the first U.S. Arbor Day was celebrated.

        1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          I also grew up in the Chicago area and remember having Casimir Pulaski Day off from school. Never worked anywhere that observed it, though.

    3. Elizabeth H.*

      I have never heard of Evacuation Day. I knew city of Boston (not MA at large – I never had school off) had school off for St. Patrick’s day but I always thought it was bc of that!

      I was shocked when I got to college and learned that we did not have Patriots’ Day off school. My freshman year, I actually skipped the Monday anyway to go back home for a long weekend bc my best friend was walking in the marathon.

    4. JB*

      Evacuation Day is a Boston-specific holiday, not a state holiday. That’s why people in Cambridge or other nearby towns wouldn’t get it off. And many Boston businesses don’t close for it, either. But it’s a real thing.

    5. Nallomy*

      No, and I’m so mad! This is the first year that it’s not a day off where I work, and now March has no days off (well, except for the snow days). We also don’t get Bunker Hill Day this year because it’s a Saturday, although we don’t really need a day off the week before school gets out, I guess. (Last year we were supposed to get it off, but they canceled it so we would have the last day of school on a Friday instead of a Monday, which made sense.)

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Aw, sorry! I always forget about it until March rolls around. To be honest, it’s nice to have Evacuation Day and Patriots’ Day off in March and April because otherwise it’s nothing from MLK Day to Memorial Day.

  26. Lil Lamb*

    I’m looking for some perspective to help me get my head on straight. I recently graduated from college about two years ago and have just started my career job about six months ago. I’m very happy, and I keep referring my friends to my company because they are great to work for. One of my friends in the class behind me applied for an entry level position, but didn’t get it. They really liked her though and asked her to apply for a different position. An associate’s position rather than assistant.

    The second position has totally different requirements than the first, and she has years of experience from doing that type of work while working part time in college. They really like her so it’s very likely that she will get the job. I’m happy for her, but I can’t help feeling envious. She’s skipping entry level and more than likely will be getting paid more too. Any advice/perspective will be helpful.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      Sometimes you can feel something and not need to do anything to move past it other than just wait it out. This sounds to me like one of those times.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      She has years of experience, you have 6 months of experience. I wouldn’t chalk it up to any more than that. Pay your dues. On the bright side, it looks like you work for a company that rewards experience, so that’s a positive.

      1. EddieSherbert*


        Definitely focus on that positive – as you gain experience, they’re likely to reward you or give you more opportunities to grow!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is true, they hired her on what matters, experience. She did not get the job because she wore the correct color shoes. The latter scenario would have me awake nights.

        You can console yourself that maybe in some way she will return the favor in a while.

    3. Lilian*

      I understand that feeling. I recently decided on pursuing a different career direction and to do so requires getting a master’s degree. I’ve already being in the workforce for a while so am one of the older students (30 compared to most who are mid-20s), and I feel envious of them because by the time they’re my age they’d be so much further in this career path than I am now (assuming they don’t decide to change career directions as well).

      1. Lil Lamb*

        I actually do have more than six months of experience. I worked internships all throughout college and I worked as a receptionist for about a year. My experiences were just related to my position whereas hers are related to another.

        I think part of the problem is that I’ve known her since high school when age differences actually mattered, and it’s hard to suddenly have to drop that sort of thinking when my personal and work life intersect.

        1. Lil Lamb*

          Sorry, that was meant for Trout ‘Waver.

          As someone who has been encouraging her mother to go back to school and change careers congrats Lilian. Keep moving forward.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          That has always intrigued me. When my friend is 9 and I am 13 that is a huge span and a big difference But when my friend is 92 and I am 96 there is almost no difference at all. Life is odd.

    4. Hellanon*

      Best advice is to let it go – she has, as you said, several more years of experience so she’s not “skipping” entry level but rather has already done it. Think of this, too: by letting envy get in the way, you are cutting yourself off from someone who could turn out to be an excellent colleague in the company – how much better will you feel about yourself if you extend your existing friendship to this new realm, and how much better will it be for your career?

    5. Office Plant*

      Take a deep breath. This is where you are now. A few years from now, you both may be somewhere else. Who knows where.

      Where is this coming from? It sounds like you feel this way because you want to advance in your career. Great! What can you do to acheive that? You could apply for a more challenging position at your company, ask to take on more challenging work, or start doing something professionally related outside of your main job. There are lots of possibilities. Maybe I’m wrong that this is where you’re coming from. But it’s something to consider.

      1. Lil Lamb*

        I do want to advance in my career so that is part of it. But probably the majority of my bitterness comes from the fact that my job requires a lot of hard work with low pay. I love my job and I love the people I work with, but seeing someone I know go from part time work to getting paid probably 10 K more than I make is hard for me to swallow.

        I’m trying my best to just be happy for her though because I was raised to only be look at my neighbor’s plate to make sure they have enough to eat. I also really just want to be the type of women who supports success rather than constantly competes for scraps.

        1. Office Plant*

          Could you get a second job? Or some small freelance projects? Something that would bring you se additional income as well as additional recognition for your accomplishments?

        2. Dizzy Steinway*

          You’re allowed to have feelings though. Having them doesn’t mean you’re not the kind of person you were raised to be. It’s what you do about them that counts. If you take care of yourself while feeling like this, use it to set career goals for yourself and are warm and friendly when you see your friend at work, then you’re good.

    6. MuseumChick*

      As you move forward in your career you will be on both ends of this. There will be times when you are envious of others and times when they are envious of you. I recently went through this. By BFF in the field got a great straight out of school (full time, salary, benefits etc.) I on the other hand could only find a part-time job, less than a year later I found a great full time position with a higher salary than my friend and great benefits, then when there was talk of the over-time rules changing her company gave her a great raise and kept it even after the rules didn’t take effect. My company did not. She’s now have a lot of problems with her boss, while I really like my boss.

      It ebbs and flows.

        1. MuseumChick*

          Glad to help. It’s kind of corny but that book “The Places You Will Go” by Dr. Seuss is suprisingly accurate for adult life. A couple of my favorite parts:

          “Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.”

          “You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
          Some windows are lighted. but mostly they’re darked.
          But mostly they’re darked.
          A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
          Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
          How much can you lose? How much can you win?”

          “You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”

          “And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance
          you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants
          There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
          that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.”

    7. nhbillups*

      Did you apply for this job as well? I know this isn’t done at a lot of places after 6 months, but I am a government employee in my state, and it’s totally normal here. There was literally one girl who took my previous job and was there less than a month before she was promoted to a completely different area.

      Or have you talked to your manager about what you career path looks like? Not in a “I’m just waiting to leave here” way, but more of a “I’m so interested in making this my career, and I’d be really grateful if you could give me some sort of broad guidelines/timeline that you’ve noticed is the norm for this field, so I can make sure I’m meeting my goals and benchmarks” way.

  27. Folklorist*

    It’s your germ-soaked ANTI-PROCRASTINATION POST!!!, the spring cold edition. Go forth and do something you’ve been putting off, then come back here and brag about it! We’ll all celebrate together (as soon I’m done with this nap and buy a new box of tissues).

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Thanks for this. I shot off an email that was truly no big deal and that I had been putting off for absolutely no reason at all.

    2. Hellanon*

      Good call! I sent off an email I needed to write, and probably before anyone is here to read it!

    3. Not Australian*

      I cleared all my awkward e-mails, wrangled some details for an event I’m planning, and made a good start on writing my annual report.

    4. Kimberlee, Esq*

      I just submitted a couple awards I’d been putting off, in part because it’s the last day to do so. I saw when i got to the site that they extended the deadline a week, but i STILL submitted today. Yeah, I’m pretty great.

    5. Beezus*

      I put everything off until Monday and took the afternoon off! Taking time off is something I neglect terribly.

    6. Dr. KMnO4*

      I finished a cover letter and a statement of research interests for the job I’m applying to!

  28. whichsister*

    I have my one year review today. And considering the toxic workplace, I am not expecting much if any of a raise. However, My review is over three months late. (it should have been done in December before Christmas at my one year anniversary.) If I do get any sort of increase, is it out of line to ask for it retro back to when my review should have happened?

    1. MsMaryMary*

      I’ve asked for (and recieved!) retroactive raises when my annual review has been delayed.

  29. Very Very Definitely Anonymous*

    Happy Friday, everyone!

    I posted a few months back, about my boss lying about me in reference checks. I found the original link here:

    I got a free consultation with a lawyer about it. Unfortunately, his opinion was that while I have a good case, the company is too big for it to be worth pursuing, because they can afford to pay lawyers to drag it out for years and I can’t. So I’m pretty upset about that.

    I got one of my friends to call my old boss too. My old boss told him that I was fired for sexually harassing a coworker. I emailed that to my old company’s HR person…and the email bounced. Turns out she left the company.

    Just to see what would happen, I texted a few co-workers from that job (not even “hey, is Joffrey saying stuff about me?” but just “Hi, how’s it been?”), and NOBODY replied. I’m sure it’s mostly because people are bad at getting back to you, but still.

    I’m feeling pretty hopeless now. I have a copy of my resignation paperwork from that job, which says I’m not fired and I can reapply in the future, but there’s a clause in it saying I can’t discuss the terms of it. Nobody I worked with at this company will get back to me, so I can’t provide an alternate person for hiring managers to talk to. What do I do? Do I look for a lawyer that will take the case on contingency/pro bono? Do I disclaim to any job I apply to that wants to check references, my boss at ACME has been lying about me in retribution for me making a HR complaint about him (sounds like a bad idea)? I’m really despairing about how this guy originally got HR to rally behind him and now he’s going on the warpath against my career, and I don’t have anything I can do about it.

    1. Anon a Bonbon*

      I’m a little surprised by the lawyer’s response. He should at least send a nasty letter telling them to cut it out and threaten to sue if it continues. At this point, you just need them to stop.
      I have contract with an old employer that says any reference calls should be sent to HR and HR will only verify my date of employment. I caught my boss committing fraud- he would not have nice things to say.

      1. Very Very Definitely Anonymous*

        Do you think I just might have gotten a crappy lawyer through the referral service? I’ve thought of that but I’ve been worried about having to shell out several hundred dollars for another consultation, and then find out I need to pay five figures for anything else.

        But OTOH, what he said did sound logical, and HR leapt to my boss’ defense immediately, so they may well drag it out in court to spite me. Their response was basically, “The official policy is that managers direct any requests for references to HR. Your boss absolutely would NOT break the policy. Don’t bring this up again, because it did NOT happen.”

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Not crappy, but overworked. Initial consults are usually pretty reasonable (your market may be different). As I pointed out below, you should be looking for a letter sent on your behalf to HR. Not to sue. HR is being dismissive towards you. They will respond differently to an attorney.

        2. Anon a Bonbon*

          Normally, you would pay $200 (an hour’s fee) to the attorney to send a letter.
          I would seek out another attorney. If you just need a letter, you can even have a regular attorney send it because you aren’t planning on perusing the case. If the company is still a jerk about it, your attorney can refer you to an employment attorney to make a legal case.

        3. Observer*

          No sane company would do that. Even a not so sane company would do that. It’s not in their interest to do that. Yes, they can afford to drag it out. But, it’s cheaper to make him stop it (and maybe give you a couple of dollars to make you go away.)

          I can’t imagine why a lawyer would suggest sending the company a registered letter – this is a pretty open and shut case which means that it could cost them some money, even if they manage to drag it out.

          1. Very Very Definitely Anonymous*

            My old company is afraid of losing this guy. He’s atrocious at managing people, but he’s apparently brilliant at his subfield of software engineering.

            When I was there, I remember two occasions where he wanted a raise or a promotion​, and he would loudly talk about how Microsoft or Goldman Sachs wanted to hire him, and a few weeks later, the department would get an email about how Joffrey just got a promotion for his outstanding contributions to the company.

            From what I saw from him when I was there, he wasn’t an astounding programmer, but the company’s HR acted like I told them they needed to fire the CEO or I would sue them, after I first contacted them about his lying. They said there was no chance he had actually said anything against me, and not to contact them again about this.

            1. Observer*

              They don’t want to lose him, but defending a law suit is more expensive than giving him a raise. So, a lawyer’s letter that lays this on the line WILL get their attention, because it’s going to go up the food chain.

              I doubt they will fire him – but I have no doubt that they will make him stop lying about you.

      2. WellRed*

        I agree that the lawyer should have at least sent a cease and desist letter. Just because they can fight it, doesn’t mean they will. Also, if he’s saying something so blatantly untrue (defamatory?) in “retaliation” which I believe is a word Alison often recommends using, his own lawyers (or HR, it can’t be that difficult to find the new person?) might tell him to knock it off.

        Was the lawyer an employment lawyer?

        1. Very Very Definitely Anonymous*

          The guy’s a “rockstar software engineer” at a prestigious company. I think HR’s response is half not wanting to lose him (when I was there he would start talking very loudly about all the interviews he does whenever he was unhappy), and half thinking they can get me to go away. It being a tech company is why I think he chose to make up a lie about me being a sexual harasser, our field is rightfully getting a lot of negative press about discrimination. Though I may be overthinking it because of my anxiety over the whole mess.

          I did send an email to HR manager’s boss because I remembered their name, I just didn’t get anything back, which could be for any number of reasons. I guess next step would be to look if the HR contact is listed in an online phone directory, or call up the main office number if it isn’t.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            You don’t have to win a case. All you have to do is make it easier for the company to tell him to knock it off than for them to stonewall you. It’s easy to stonewall you. It’s tougher to stonewall and attorney.

          2. WellRed*

            Ahh, this adds more context I didn’t have. Although lying about someone of sexual harrassment is still waaaay over the top. I still think if you can, you should try and fight this.

            1. Lil Lamb*

              Even if you have no plans to sue the company, wouldn’t you have a REALLY strong case to sue this individual for libel? This person is lying about you and preventing you from getting jobs. That has to be actionable. Any lawyers here who can chime in?

              1. Very Very Definitely Anonymous*

                From what I know about his lifestyle, his net worth is probably pretty low, even relative to mine and not the company’s.

                The way the lawyer I was referred to said it, it’s not even worth doing that because he could just never show up to court and I’d never be able to collect damages from the default judgment, because from everything he ever said while I worked there, he’s living far above his means. Meanwhile I would be paying five figures in lawyer’s fees.

    2. SophieChotek*

      Wow! I’m so sorry about that! I have no advice (especially because IANAL) but I hope someone here can help you or point you in the right direction.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      Talk to another lawyer. You shouldn’t necessarily be looking to sue. A strongly worded letter is often enough to restart a conversation about how the company refers to your employment. Also, lawyers with free consults in some areas can tend to be much more conservative about the cases they take because they get offered so many lousy cases. I’m not saying that attorneys who offer free consultations are disreputable or anything. Just that they can get overwhelmed with people with bad cases and unrealistic expectations.

      1. Very Very Definitely Anonymous*

        I’ll try that. I don’t expect to be able to humiliate him and the company and win a six or seven figure settlement. I just want him to stop trying to rage out and lie about me to anyone who’ll listen.

        I’ll specifically ask the next lawyer to write a C&D to the company to make my old boss stop lying about me.

        Even with that, there’s no chance it’ll stop him from trashing me when he thinks he’s able to get away with it, will it? Like, if I apply at a company and the hiring manager knows him and asks what he thinks of me, and he says that I’m a serial sexual harasser, I can’t do anything about it. That’s really depressing to me.

    4. Denise in FL*

      Have you tried calling the receptionist at the office and asking to speak to someone in HR or for their contact information? Maybe if you could get a hold of someone in the HR department, you can speak with them to resolve this and use the HR department only for references going forward.

  30. Tempest*

    Ongoing saga with terrible job continues. Having figured it out my colleague averages 3 hours a day unaccounted for in a front line service position, IE I have no choice but to pick up the slack when he’s not present. If his phone rings it’s not an option not to answer it. Manager’s advice is simply to stop covering for him and just leave notes for him to pick stuff up and thus let customers down. This also gets me grief from customers who rightly don’t understand why they must wait for slack/lazy colleague to ring them back and do what should have been done in the first place. Some people say they have asked numerous times for these things to be done and I’m being told just to leave a note to ask again. This is her prerogative but it’s not a way I’m comfortable treating customers so I know it’s time to leave. It’s her circus, we’re her monkeys and all I can do is decide it’s not for me and self select out. I understand that I am up against a brick wall where that is my only option now.

    Have made colleague’s failings clear to the manager on numerous occasions to be told that she can’t do anything about things she doesn’t see-she knows exactly how much colleague is missing at least part of the time but doesn’t want to admit it and frankly doesn’t want to manage it. It would involve hard conversations she’s not willing to have and that’s that. When he is at his desk he’s on his cell phone. Literally either not there or on cell phone. One of these half hour breaks falls into her dinner break without fail every day. It’s that blatant. I find myself snapping at other colleagues who ask where he is because I don’t know and I’m doing the work of two people already, which means the last thing I need is my nose rubbed in it to make it even more obvious.

    So I’ve been looking hard core for another job. I originally wanted to move to a different site of the same company but I’ve come to accept posters who told me to make a clean break were right. It’s time to leave this place and this org in the rearview mirror.

    I’ve had an interview and been more or less offered the job. I have an interview next week somewhere else which my potential new manager has encouraged me to attend and question to be sure if they offer me that job as well I’m picking the one I think I will do best in. Potential new manager didn’t want to rush me into a snap decision but clearly was mutually very interested in working with me. We really seemed to gel and talked for almost an hour and a half when I went in expecting a ten minute convo.

    Here’s the thing I could do with some help with. Presuming they offer me both jobs, which is better?
    Job one – Presume I work with gold teapots as an advisor. This would be stepping down to silver teapots brand wise, but the job is assistant manager of silver teapots. The pay is better than I’m on now and better than job two in that the basic salary is the same but job one has some target driven bonus pay job two does not involve. The person who would be my manager in job one is very interested in providing ongoing training and development to move me further and with more success into the management team. I’m given to understand a lot of upper management there are nearing retirement age and if I grow quickly, the company could find ways to move me along. I really clicked with this manager, and the manager’s feedback about me was equally positive to the recruitment agent. I can see myself developing a good working bond with this person and learning so much from them. The hours are as long as I work now and involve working weekends more or less for free, which is the same as I do now, so it’s actually not that big a deal to me.

    Job two – Would be like trading in a role in slightly cool gold teapots for even cooler, trendier gold teapots but both places as an advisor, it’s basically a sideways move. The branch is brand new and they haven’t to my knowledge hired the manager yet so I have no idea who I’d be working directly for. I therefor can’t get a feel for how interested they will be in my ongoing development. The brand is progressive and very cool, which would lead you to believe they likely will want to develop and promote from within but so much of that obviously depends on a good manager who wants to focus on it. There is obviously an element of selling teapot add ons in job one but there is no element of selling add ons in job two, it’s purely about looking after teapot owners as best as you possibly can and I do excel at looking after owners. The role has no weekends and the commute is about 10 minutes shorter than both my current one and job one. (My commute for current job and job one will be identical.) This company has the potential to grow at an exponential pace, so there are likely to be opportunities to move up come available, but not knowing if the new manager would be focused on taking all his or her upwardly mobile staff as far as they can is worrying. There is also the chance that due to how different this teapot company is, many people won’t hack it and in theory I could have a revolving door of managers above me if I get/take this job or due to my background in standard teapots I might not transition well. Because my customer service skills are so strong and so much what I’m best at, I think I would do well but when it’s a totally new situation, you can never be sure.

    So, I know only I can truly make this decision but looking for opinions. Do you take the job which pays better, isn’t as trendy so could possibly be safer from shifts in the market place (IE think job one is every day teapots that everyone needs and job two is quirky teapots that a lot of people think are too weird to use) and comes with a manager who seems really ready to take someone under her wing and grow them into an even better manager, and is a manager who you can already see yourself doing well under/growing attached to from a mentor point of view, and is the job which will potentially give you more understanding and skills with the kind of teapots most companies work with so might be the best for moving to new teapot companies in the future. Or do you take job two if it’s offered, not knowing if the potential to learn and grow will be as strong but knowing you will get an exciting new challenge of a different sort, have a shorter commute, your weekends back and no pressure around your accessory selling ability?

    I don’t want the fact I liked manager one to unduly influence me that way because I’m inherently a people pleaser and because we liked each other I don’t want to let them down. But I need to do the right thing for me at the end of the day, I’m just not sure what that is, so I’m hoping a bunch of work/management enthused impartial people can give me some clarity!

    Thanks to anyone with advice/opinions :)

    1. misspiggy*

      Sorry, I couldn’t make it through to work out what is really being asked here. Any chance you could add a TL;DR?

    2. Tempest*

      The last four paragraphs are the most important I suppose? If you don’t want to read it please feel free to skip to the next person. Thanks anyway!

    3. Effie*

      I wouldn’t discount the importance of an awesome manager; I’ve heard that more people quit because of bad managers than anything else and for me personally I get more job satisfaction when I have a quality manager in a less challenging job than in a more challenging job with a bad or absent manager. This is NOT to say that job 2 will have a bad manager. Will you get a chance to interview for job 2 at all?

      I’m leaning towards job 1 because security and (sounds like) guaranteed growth are more important to me right now than fresh new challenges and less pressure to sell, and that’s because I’ve spent the last few years with more of the latter and am looking for the former (and I actually love selling, and I totally understand that not everyone does).

      Also remember that you may experience work PTSD when you enter your new job, and think about which environment would be better for you to cope with.

      I think you can tell that I am biased towards job 1 and this is your decision so do what you won’t regret! Best of luck.

      1. Tempest*

        Yes, I have an interview for two next week. Awesome manager I already met said in our interview they’re going to want to snap you up but ask hard questions – query their attrition, operations ect and be sure what you want to do. The product job two is selling will either take off massively or fizzel out as a trend that didn’t go anywhere. I think it will take off, but that’s speculating. I need to go see job 2, but I lean toward job one too, purely for the awesome manager. He said he’s where he is now because someone saw something in him and took a risk on him and I get the feeling he’s wanting to pay it forward with someone like me. I want to be a manager and job one gives me that now with someone who wants to see me do it, do it well and grow to do it even better. I guess that’s worth something along with the hours you work and the pay you get for it. Thanks for your thoughts :)

        1. mousemom*

          Just based on how your comments on both jobs read, it sounds like the first one might be your better choice. You’re already hurting from the fact that your current boss is a waste of time; going to work for an awesome boss could go a very long way toward giving you back your own mojo, not to mention the opportunity for growth in a nurturing environment. You know your comfort zones the best; the one that will be the most immediately satisfying without adding undue stress might be the place to regroup and recover.’

          Good luck with whichever one you choose, and please keep us posted!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      FWIW, I tend to be conservative/cautious. We are just re-knitting after a bad economic period. This makes me even more conservative and more cautious. I would take job 1. Flash comes and goes, my bills and food habit are here to stay. I have to look at the long term.

      You have a bad setting. You have an opportunity for a job that you are sure will be a good setting. We do have an obligation to ourselves to put ourselves in a good place with good people.

      I am one who believes that if I have a good boss, everything else falls into place after that. You can work for this boss and still find tools for your people pleaser habits that you would like to get a handle on. You do not need to avoid this job in order to “cure” your people pleasing. Matter of fact, avoidance will not cure you because people pleasing is a separate story.

  31. AndersonDarling*

    How do you handle health insurance between jobs? Did you COBRA, health market, or just press your luck for a few months without insurance?
    I have a 3rd round interview next week, and I realized that my family would be without insurance for 2 months if I was offered and accepted the job. Before I only had to worry about myself, so I went without insurance in these transitions. Now I’m not sure I want to risk it.

    1. CDM*

      When we had this situation (many years ago) you had 60 days from leaving a job to elect COBRA. Googling shows that this is still true. I googled “cobra time frame” and the first link under the ads is the DOL FAQ – which includes alternatives to electing COBRA that could be less expensive. This would be a qualifying life event that would allow you access to the Marketplace, for example.

      But the thing with the 60 days for COBRA is that election is retroactive, and that each family member can elect independently. If anyone requires healthcare coverage, that person can elect COBRA after said care and it would be covered.

      I ended up just paying for the two months of COBRA, for us it was something like $600/month. With my son’s chronic health issues, relying on that COBRA retroactive dodge seemed unethical and the cost was relatively affordable for us at the time.

    2. Rebecca*

      I’m in that boat now, but thankfully it’s only for the month of March. So far, so good, and only 14 more days to go. I will pay for COBRA if I have to, but since the premium for that lone would suck up 3+ weeks of take home pay, plus a $3K deductible on top, it’s going to have to be a pretty urgent matter for me to part with that much money. I’m generally healthy so as long as I don’t fall and break something, I should be OK.

      From what I understand, you don’t have to invoke COBRA right away, but it is available should you need it. I know a lot of people just keep the paperwork handy, just in case, due to the high cost. So, if I developed a bacterial infection, and needed antibiotics, it would be cheaper to pay the full doctor’s office visit rate and get meds at the pharmacy, rather than pay the entire COBRA premium plus deductible for a simple thing. A broken bone or other issue? Pay for COBRA. Hope that helps!

    3. Parenthetically*

      We use a medical-cost-sharing nonprofit instead of traditional insurance and we love it. Don’t have to pay any fines/penalties, and it’s cheaper than standard insurance (~$275/mo for both of us). If you’ll have decent insurance at your next job, you could look into using it as a stopgap to ensure coverage during that time. Might be worth a look.

    4. Natalie*

      A nice little trick with COBRA is that you have 60 days to sign up and it’s retroactive to the date you left your job. So the last time I was between insurance I just kept my paperwork in case I got into a car accident or something during the gap period. Since your gap is 2 months this should work for you too.

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        Plus you have 45 days to pay the first payment. So, you have 105 days of grace period where you can retroactively have health insurance without incurring the costs. It works out well if your unemployment is temporary, or if you are looking to go find something in the health insurance marketplace.

    5. Danae*

      I’m wrestling with this myself! (I was laid off at the end of last month.) The cheapest marketplace health insurance I can get is over $300 a month for just me, and they count UI as income so I’m not eligible for much of a discount. (My UI will cover rent+necessities, but it will not stretch to cover rent+necessities+health insurance.) I got my COBRA letter the other day, but it didn’t say how much COBRA coverage would be for me! Apparently I have to opt in in order to find out how much I’d be paying per month.

      What I’m hoping happens is that I get the job I’ve been interviewing for, since I’d start in early April (and would have insurance in May) and I’d qualify for the short gap exemption. (If the individual mandate doesn’t go away, that is. Believe me, I am watching the news like a hawk.)

    6. AndersonDarling*

      Thanks to everyone for the info! I had no idea that I had 60 days to sign up for COBRA. We may have a dr apt during the gap, but we can pay that out of pocket. It’s a relief to know that I can sign up for cobra if anything major turns up.

      1. Minerva McGonagall*

        Yup, and it’s been explained to me by multiple HR folks that it is not unethical to plan to sign up only if needed retroactively. The whole reason the 60 day window exists is to avoid the overhead involved in signing folks up for insurance they probably won’t use over the few weeks they gap between jobs.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I did a similar thing when I was in between insurances. It was a little nerve-wracking, so what I did was just be extra careful. I avoided unnecessary risks such as climbing on ladders, etc. It went fine.

          I got my other insurance and did not need the Cobra. I had to let them know I would not be taking it. I think I went right up to day number 58 or 59 before I called them.

    7. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      In my state, twice, I was able to get short-term health care insurance through a major provider (not related to the marketplace at all). It was reasonable to pay monthly and there were levels of choice for coverage. It was month-to-month and I just cancelled when I got another job and their insurance started.

    8. H.C.*

      I wound up lucking out with medical insurance for a month (I thought I would’ve had continuous coverage, but realized NewJob’s medical insurance wouldn’t kick in until my 2nd month of working there.) But my coverage was only for me; with a family I’d be more inclined to COBRA or use the health market.

    9. Rookie Biz Chick*

      I pressed my luck after I was laid off, and unfortunately didn’t realize the timeline for signing up for coverage on the Exchange. By the time I could afford insurance later in the year, I wasn’t allowed to sign up and was past the 60 days others mentioned to enact retroactive COBRA. I’m so thankful I stayed healthy that year and didn’t need it, but the IRS penalty for not having coverage for 11 months was excruciating. Even if you are uninsured for a couple of months, there likely would be a penalty – though not sure if that will be enforced given Trump’s recent executive order and the future of ACA.

      1. Natalie*

        There is actually a gap exception in the ACA, where you don’t pay a penalty for short gaps in coverage – it’s either 2 or 3 months, I’ve seen conflicting things.

    10. The JMP*

      I got an affordable, bare-bones month-to-month policy through my university’s alumni association. You might consider checking to see if professional associations or other groups you’re a part of have those kinds of plans available.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      I simply can’t afford COBRA. It’s out of the question. The only thing I can do (and did) is to get on a low-income program at my doctor’s office, which charges $10 for anything they do in the office (and the onsite lab, if they want you to nip down there for a blood draw or pee cup). I don’t know if that counts, but it’s better than nothing.

    12. Chaordic One*

      You have to do your homework and find out what is cheapest for you and your family.

      After I was fired from Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. in the fall of 2015, I compared COBRA against coverage under “Affordable Care Act” (ACA) policies. Because I suddenly found myself unemployed, that was a qualifying reason to enroll in a policy under the ACA. At that point, I had ongoing medical expenses and I compared the costs of:

      1. paying for everything out-of-pocket
      2. ridiculously expensive COBRA
      3. starting over with an ACA policy where I would have to pay the insurance premium AND meet a new deductible before the insurance would kick in.

      I figured out that 2. ridiculously expensive COBRA was the best option for me for the last couple of months of 2015. Even though it was ridiculously expensive, I had already met my deductible and it was cheaper than starting a new ACA policy and having to meet their deductible and it was cheaper than paying for the whole thing out-of-pocket. Then in early December of 2016 I enrolled in the ACA in the open enrollment period and I became covered by an ACA policy in January of 2016.

      Since it is still fairly early in 2017, this might not be true for you, and you might be better off with an ACA policy. It’s a PITA having to figure this stuff out, though.

  32. The Moving Finger*

    Dear AAM folks:
    Should I report that I am being bullied by a fellow coworker if:
    (a) I already have a bad reputation in this office and don’t think that being a problem child yet again by reporting this is going to make that any better, but will sure make it worse.
    (b) my boss is awesome and likes me, but the higher-ups in my office (who are the ones who decide whether or not to write me up, see below) have admitted to having no idea what to do about bullying, and they have not backed me up in the recent past. There is no HR. We already have a manager bully they have not done anything about for years and will not fire. I do not trust them to help even if now they are “just realizing” that they have a bullying problem.
    (c) I have reason to believe that mine is already kinda trying to get me fired, but no specific evidence I can cite. So far what she’s tried hasn’t worked, though one of those attempts is why I know the higher-ups won’t back me up for shit. There was an anonymous false complaint that I got written up for with no evidence (my boss said he believed me, but apparently his supervisor did not, see “bad reputation”), and I get the impression from my boss that she’s always going on about how I complain all the time even though he doesn’t name names as to where the complaints are coming from. At this point I’m just not speaking 95% of the time and yet the complaints continue.
    (d) I literally spend all day every day sitting next to mine and there is no hope of getting another job or transfer or getting us put into separate offices. I have asked (not citing this as the reason why) and gotten a no. Job hunting is getting me nowhere. I think my options are put up with this or end up jobless and homeless.
    (e) all I can think of is that if I report mine, all they’re going to do is write her up and politely ask her to stop, and meanwhile she’s even madder and next to me all day, every day. If she already wants to get me fired, I feel like I can’t do anything to make it better but I sure as hell can make it worse by escalating and reporting. I don’t think my unit could even function if half of us were in open warfare with each other and cannot be separated short of someone (probably me) getting fired. Also she’s supposed to be my backup.

    I keep coming to the conclusion of “no, say nothing, do not let on” and so does everyone else I know IRL that I told this to, even though they are mad and upset that (e) is what would happen and keep saying “that’s not fair” and “that’s not right.” But what does the AAM crowd think?

    1. Biff*

      Oooh. That sounds like a bad situation all around. I do agree that reporting would probably cause her to escalate her abuse. I think you need to focus on getting a new job and report them to the BL or other governing body, as well as drop a bad review on Glassdoor.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I guess it would be really inappropriate to suggest you file a series of anonymous complaints about her…

      1. The Moving Finger*

        Hahahahahahaah, I wish! Unfortunately I can’t drop anonymous complaints about how she does her job because she’s good at it. Anything I said would be pretty specific as to what was going on.

    3. Channel Z*

      Why do you have a bad reputation. Is it a result of false rumours spread by bully? is she rally ing people around her? Those are difficult to combat.

      1. The Moving Finger*

        I have a bad reputation because for awhile I was assigned to do duties I was really not good at. And this office has become very nitpicky on top of that, so I always seem to have ticked someone off one way or another.

        I don’t know if she is spreading rumors or rallying people beyond our other teammates, I suspect she’s probably done something there since they don’t speak to me much any more.

  33. esra*

    My beloved manager is being forced out (it’s not good for women here at senior levels). I am so bummed. The leadership on our team is a big part of the reason I like it here so much. It really is true what they say about leaving managers and not jobs.

    I’m going to talk to our big boss after it happens and see if this is a precursor for getting rid of the whole team. It’s very frustrating because we’re performing well by internal and industry standards. So bummed.

      1. esra (also a Canadian)*

        Thanks Effie. That’s pretty much all there is to do, unfortunately. Once you get on the bad side of senior management, deserved or completely un-, it’s impossible to get back.

  34. peachie*

    Anyone else sad to transition from winter to spring/summer, work wardrobe-wise? I’m glad it’s warming up but I strongly prefer dressing for winter in the office. I’m gonna miss my turtleneck/warm tights/sweater dress collection!

    1. rageismycaffeine*

      The HVAC in my building is so loco that I pretty much dress exactly the same all year round. I am ALWAYS cold.

      1. peachie*

        This is my problem!! I would love to do that, but where I live is swamp hell in the summer, and I have to walk/public commute. I am not looking forward to those awful days where you come in all sweaty from the heat and are immediately frozen by the AC. :(

        1. Parenthetically*

          I lived in a SERIOUSLY over-air-conditioned city for awhile, and it’s a mess! Even the buses were like meat lockers. People wore scarves year-round, even though it was a subtropical climate, so they could rug up in their offices and on public transport.

        2. rageismycaffeine*

          Ooh, I feel your pain. I drive and only have to be outside for about a minute between car AC and work AC.

          Now when I go for a run at lunch, I have that sweat + AC = instant snowman effect, but that’s a different beast…

    2. SophieChotek*

      I agree. It’s so much easier to still look professional and be comfortable in the winter/fall…much more difficult in summer. (Perhaps I’m wrong, but I always feel like a majority of nice clothes for summer only look really good on super thin and tall people…not that isn’t true of most fashion, but especially light weight clothing and fabrics…). I like my jeans and slacks and sweaters…and vests and blazers…

    3. Dee-Nice*

      I love that it’s getting warmer, but yeah, I am sad about a return to dressing for warm weather. Often work-appropriate summer clothing in my price range is made from cheaper fabrics, which are not breathable… and I’m a sweat-er. I’m also busty, so have to watch out for anything too low-cut. I also hate my arms and legs, so I feel self-conscious all summer. AND I have plantar fasciitis that comes back every now and then, so wearing cute shoes 24/7 is not an option.

      Yeah, I’m a barrel of laughs today. But I will miss sweaters, black pants, and comfy boots.

      1. nhbillups*

        This is not at all related to work wear, but if you haven’t tried this for plantar fasciitis, you should! Freeze a water bottle, and then roll your foot along it, several times a day if possible. This was SO helpful for me!

    4. Anon a Bonbon*

      I miss boots in the summer. Boots make dressing so much easier. And I miss my fun knee high socks.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Who says you can’t wear boots in the summer? I do – you just have to pick the right boots.

    5. Rusty Shackelford*

      So much. I don’t like hot weather and I don’t have a lot of transitional clothes.

    6. Manders*

      I prefer spring/summer clothing, but I do find it harder to dress appropriately for the office when I’m also walking to work in the summer. The air conditioning is blasting when it’s 70 degrees out, but I’ll melt if I walk a mile and a half up a hill in thick tights in the summer.

      I end up bringing a ton of cardigans and blazers to work in the summer so I can layer.

    7. 20-something*

      I’m going to tag onto this, if that’s okay – does anyone have advice for work clothes which hide a ‘pot belly’? I gained some weight around the middle over the last year because of a back injury, and clothes shopping is a nightmare now. My limbs are still skinny, so I just end up looking pregnant and it’s getting me down when I try to shop. :( I got away with it in my previous job because I could wear whatever I wanted (even jeans!), but the one I’m starting soon is more corporate – I’d probably characterise it as ‘stylish business casual’ (PR, if that helps).

      1. Manders*

        I know the pain of shopping when you’re apple-shaped. A lot of fashion magazines say that you should look for blouses and dresses with an empire waist, but I’ve found that those often look like maternity clothes on me.

        I prefer items that are fitted at the waist and then flare out from there–think fit-and-flare dresses, peplums, and blazers with a slim rather than loose fit. High-waisted pants with some give in the waistband look better than low-cut pants that require me to prop my pooch up on the waistband.

        If you have to wear a pencil skirt, try to find one with two seams running along the front on either side of your stomach–for some reason, skirts with that cut make my midsection look way better.

        1. Manders*

          Google says those seams I was trying to describe on a pencil skirt are called “princess seams.” I’ve only heard that term applied to shirts before, but the concept is similar.

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          Multiple seams are definitely more flattering!

          A wide expanse of space looks bigger to the eye than several smaller chunks. Look up a vertically colorblocked dress (where the sides are a different color than the center section)- this style is visually very slimming.
          This is the same reason that turtlenecks/shirts with high necks emphasize the bustline so much- a lower neckline with more skin exposed breaks up the chest region and distracts the eye. Similarly, this is why the “all black from head to toe” is said to be slimming, and why horizontal stripes are said to be unflattering.

      2. A. Non*

        Find a comfy blazer or suit jacket that works for you and comes in multiple neutrals and buy three, so you can rotate them. Capsule wardrobe advice was AMAZING for when I had to dress stylish business casual. Neutrals with a pop of color never go out of style.

    8. mreasy*

      Noooooo. So much more laundry in the winter! Constantly washing my scarves to avoid breaking out…I can’t wait for this horrible season to end!!

    9. AcademiaNut*

      I’m with you. Summer is just so hot and humid that there is nothing I can wear that won’t leave me dripping with sweat (literally) when I get to work. And even in the office, the AC can’t be set below 25 C (77 F).

      Although I’m *not* happy it’s getting warmer in the first place. In summer I actually relish that icy blast of AC feeling you get walking into a heavily air conditioned room.

    10. JaneB*

      Totally me too. I’m at the age of hot flushes, and winter layers and cool rooms are so much easier to work in. All summer I’m just distracted by physical discomfort… (U.K., old building, no air con and sort of on-or-off centrally controlled heating)

  35. MSquared*

    Does anyone have any reliable, quality, and recommended places that can look over your resume and cover letter and give you solid advice?

    1. Minerva McGonagall*

      Ideally, someone who works in your industry and does a lot of hiring. Make it clear you aren’t asking them to edit, but rather give you an overall impression.

  36. Well That's Rude*

    My office mate yesterday asked me to bring something she’d brought to the back part of the office back up to the front (all of twenty steps or so). She does this on occasion and it’s annoying, but I do it because I’m more junior and I guess those ten seconds to do this are more valuable for her time than for mine. When I got back she said, “It’s so nice to have a little gopher.” I thought I misheard her so I asked her to repeat it, but no, I heard correctly, and she clarified that she meant it was nice for her to have someone to retrieve and replace things so she didn’t have to get up and do it herself. This is not a disability issue, she just doesn’t want to do it herself.

    The fact of doing it at all is annoying, but such is entry-level life, I suppose. The issue here for me is being called a “little gopher” and the actual verbal acknowledgment that I do this on a regular basis and it feels like I’m being devalued. I was again asked to bring something up to the front for her this morning.

    On top of that, the new presidential proposed budget threatens to kill my agency, which is stressful even if there’s a whole process and such that could mean nothing actually happens.

    I need a nap.

    1. Emi.*

      Ugh, that is so frustrating. Pauline Fossil does this in “Ballet Shoes,” and gets a severe comeuppance, so I recommend (re)reading that chapter and fantasizing about it happening to your office mate.

      On the other hand, if she’s just a senior coworker and not above you in the chain of command, what would happen if you said “Sorry, I can’t do that, I’m busy with these teapots”? Is it disrupting your work (even just by breaking your train of thought) that it would make sense to go to your manager and ask whether you should keep making this a priority?

      1. Well That's Rude*

        The chain of command is really blurry around here. I’m a contractor and she’s an organization employee, but we share an office and she hands me most of my assignments. Mostly when she’s giving me something to put up front, she says, “When you get a minute,” but the understanding is really right now. And frequently it isn’t really interrupting anything (in fact, I’m in drought season in terms of workflow 70% of the time). So, I think if I gave that response, she’d essentially just say, “When you get a minute,” and I’d be, in that scenario, actually expected to take it at face value.

        Maybe I’m misunderstanding the expectations for entry-level work and really am nothing more than the intern-grabbing-coffee stereotype (though we haven’t quite reached that level), but it really knocks on my self-esteem. This job has already severely knocked me down in terms of what I think I’m capable of (even though past jobs have shown me I was capable of far more than I originally believed) and I just know I’m going to have bad job PTSD when I’m finally able to get out.

        1. Government Mule*

          Perhaps you discuss with your contractor boss. If it’s not in your contract’s SOW, you should’t be doing it. And google “non-personal services contract.”

    2. LCL*

      Did you know that ‘gofer’ is slang for ‘go fer this and go fer that’? She wasn’t calling you a rodent.
      One way to stop these people who make weird demands is to say ‘I will get for you in 5 minutes. or 10 minutes. Or at 10:15’, whenever. So you’re not refusing but you’re jumping at her command either.

      1. Well That's Rude*

        I did not! (Yikes, I’m embarrassed.)

        Unfortunately, often what she has from the front needs to be immediately available for our clients, but I’ll think about how I can make that work. Thanks!

  37. TotesMaGoats*

    So, I’ve officially completed a month at NewJob. I honestly haven’t been happier in a REALLY long time. It’s crazy how when I look back, I can see even more clearly how dysfunctional OldJob was. And how damaging it was to me. I was more depressed than I let myself acknowledge.
    I also didn’t really realize how that depression was really impacting my family life. When your toddler says “Mommy is happy now”. Geez. Gut check.

    1. Can't Sit Still*

      I’m so glad for you! Toxic jobs are incredibly draining. Good for you for getting out.

  38. Ayla K*

    I posted this in the “how can I get my staff to stop making trivial complaints all day?” thread earlier this week as a response to LW #5 and am still curious:

    I know Alison has talked about leaving short stint jobs off your resume before, but how does that work when it’s a current job, as it is in this LW’s situation? Surely it will come up during the interview process that they are currently employed?

    1. AKJ*

      I’ve worked both part-time retail and other temp jobs while looking for work, and usually I don’t put them on the resume. If it comes up, I say something like “I’ve been working at a temp job – just something to keep the lights on!”
      The only time anyone has ever asked beyond that is to ask how much notice I’d have to give. This last time, the answer was “none,” because I’d set my availability at part-time retail job assuming I’d get an 8-5 job again. I ended up keeping the retail job for a few extra months to make up for lost income.

  39. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Last week, someone asked about workplace “PTSD”– specifically, the effects of toxic former workplaces on new jobs. The other day, I got a taste of just how bad my last place was and how much it truly affected my approach to my job. I contributed to a report that I found very challenging, knowing that my boss would review it and edit before sending to the client. My boss wrote to me and said that he had to make several more changes to this one than the last one, so I should take a close look at it. He also said that he chalked that up to the timing of the project, that we hadn’t had a chance to go through it together. I got this email in the evening and it set off all kinds of terrible things– anxiety, guilt, fear, etc. I wrote him back and said of course I would, thank you, I did find this one more difficult, etc. I felt so awful. I was sure he thought I was a terrible hire. I was sure his respect for me had declined significantly.

    The next day? I was getting ready to send him another report and I said, “I hope you’ll find this one better than the last one,” and he replied, “You’re doing a great job on these.” A GREAT JOB. As in, when he said he attributed the issues with the last one to a lack of time, that’s exactly what he meant. When he said he expected me to take 12-18 months to really master my role, he meant it (it’s been 3 months). And I’m doing fine, and no one is watching me, hoping I’ll screw up. And when he sends me criticism, his goal is to guide me toward doing things correctly, not to make me feel like an idiot.

    This is surprisingly hard to grasp, but I’m holding on to it.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      I’m also in recovery from this and still learning not to take everything as a sign my manager hates me.

      I’m glad you have a nice boss!

    2. SophieChotek*

      Congrats! That and wasn’t it you who had that nice note last week? You are doing a great job — Last ToxicJob just didn’t let you know that.

    3. zora*

      YES! I’m in the exact same situation right now, in regards to feedback and being developed by my manager. It’s CRAZY how many times I have that “Oh, Right!” moment and how good it feels! Yay, high fives for recovering from Toxic Jobs!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      For your part in the story, you had the ideal response: you were willing to look at and learn from the problem areas. You thanked him. (This always impresses me when people remember to do this. It shows that the person understands I want them to win here.)

      Technically speaking, you are being a great employee. You are a boss’ dream.

      A good chunk of life seems to be all about having the brass to keep going. Just keep going, keep using this approach here. It will serve you well. I am happy to see you are in a good spot.

  40. roseberriesmaybe*

    So I recently started at my first professional job (yay!) The issue is, my last job had a uniform, and I’m a bit stuck. It’s in an office, quite smart, but not High Office Wear. I like my personal clothes to be a bit quirky or unusual: a common outfit is shortish skirt+coloured tights+metallic/glittery boots. Which would not be appropriate. I don’t want to look girly, and I definitely don’t want to look sexy (like pencil skirts and heels aren’t the vibe of the place, and also I would feel uncomfortable wearing them) So I guess, what are your wardrobe essentials? How do you build a working wardrobe?

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      I wear a lot of quirky printed shirts (what I think you might call buttondowns?) and cute jewellery with sensible trousers. E.g. navy trousers and a shirt with squirrels printed on it.

    2. Dizzy Steinway*

      PS that might not go over okay in every workplace though.

      One thing that can really help is to search Pinterest. There’s loads of inspiration on there.

      1. Emi.*

        Be careful with Corporette, though. It’s mostly for high-earning lawyers, and the prices and formality reflect that. Also, because it’s all about clothes, it can make you can start thinking too much about clothes if you read it too often. (I used to read it regularly and had to stop when I started worrying that my shoelaces were unserious.)

        1. Claudia M.*

          I love the shoelaces comment.

          I have HAD that thought!

          I am glad to not be alone, thank you!

          I’ve also worried about:
          dog hair
          nail polish
          length of nails (mine are always really short – are they too short?!?)
          phone case
          purse design
          shoe design
          jewelry (I wear none – should I start to avoid being out of place? What pieces should I wear?!?)

          I swear I thought I was alone with these thoughts and simply paranoid.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I would pick up some affordable basics – black or beige trousers and relatively plain crewneck sweaters or tops/cardigans to rotate through until I got a better sense of the office clothing culture. I like Ann Taylor, Gap, and Banana Republic for my own work wardrobe, especially since they are always having 40% sales online, though everyone’s individual sense of what’s affordable or reasonable will vary.

    4. Emi.*

      My advice is to go with “quite smart” for your staples (jackets, pants, etc.) and “a bit quirky” for your accessories (scarves, earrings, etc.). You can overlap them, too, like a traditionally-cut shirt in a quirky print. If your basics (and your silhouette) are smart and standard, your quirky accessories are more likely to look business stylish rather than just odd.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      There’s all kinds of info out there about building capsule wardrobes, but I basically follow a few rules: neutral bases (I prefer black and gray), colorful tops/accents, fun accessories. I love scarves, for instance, so I will wear black jeans with a neutral top or a black dress and a very brightly-colored scarf. My general rule is to keep the quirk factor to accessories and out of base pieces (though I have several tops with cool patterns that, upon closer look, turn out to be something other than what they appear– I’m wearing one with zebras right now, but you wouldn’t know it was a zebra pattern unless you realllly looked).

      In your case, you might want to go a little longer with the skirts, but you also may not have to. However, what I would do is stick to either dark skirts and colorful tights, or colorful skirts and dark tights. Keep your boots/shoes neutral so you can wear them with several different outfits. Expand your collection of statement necklaces or bracelets or scarves, but keep wacky headpieces to a minimum. No really tall fascinators in the office. :)

    6. Female-type person*

      My rule (business casual workplace, as an attorney I choose to skew to the dressier end of that) is that ONE quirky or splashy or bold item is ok for work, if everything else is plain. So: textured tights with a plain black skirt and simple top. A bold necklace with black pants and a solid top. Leopard pumps with a plain skirt and simple top. I would advise zero skirts above the knee unless worn with same color tights, and zero mid-thigh skirts ever, save the glitter boots for weekends. With my “one thing” rule, you won’t feel like a drone, and you’ll gradually internalize your new rules. The other thing I do is I only buy black bottoms and black shoes (ok, you got me on the leopard pumps, but I love them a lot and they are a very late addition) and mostly, solid tops. If all your tops go with black, you can practically get dressed in the dark and be fine. Add some black cardigans and some jackets that, while also black, are a texture, and you are good to go. When you can branch out, add things like black and white print pants, or a skirt that isn’t solid black, but that functions like a solid black skirt, like a black and gray geometric.

    7. gwal*

      If you have some nice neutral, quality pants (2-3 pairs all in black or in a few neutral colors) and some sober cardigans (navy, burgundy, black, brown, dark purple), then you can wear a kooky top and/or unusual shoes and it will still look business casual. I’m not particularly quirky in my dress sense but I do follow this format and have been able to wear, for example, a metallic silver-spattered top under a blue cardigan with black pants and black shoes, with nary a curious look from my coworkers.

    8. Spoonie*

      Congrats on the job! I like to maximize my clothing by keeping a limited color palette. I’ve also finally convinced myself that no matter how cute the dress/skirt is, I will not wear it enough to warrant purchasing it, so I am 98% trousers/slacks with a rotating cast of button-downs, sweaters, blouses, etc. A couple different accessories, and I’m set. You might try ModCloth for some quirk. And I second the Corporette comment. And for the love of all things holy, don’t feel like you need fifty different completely separate looks — I made that mistake at first and I wish someone had smacked some sense into me.

      1. justsomeone*

        ModCloth just got by fyi. :(
        BUT If that doesn’t bug you, there’s a groupon on right now for $100 for $50.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Well, that explains why they’ve had a lot of cheap looking stuff on their site lately.

    9. justsomeone*

      I’m lazy. My office is on the Business side of Business casual, so I live in sheath dresses and cardigans/blazers. I have about 10 dresses and 5 cardigans and most of them can be mixed and matched. Each of my dresses can be worn with at least 2 of the cardigans/blazers and each cardigan/blazer can go with at least two of my dresses. I have some variety in how I can mix it up, but essentially I can just shove my hands in my closet and blindly grab at what’s in there and have a high likelihood of coming out with an outfit. I can then further mix it up with different shoes, tights, jewelry, makeup or hairstyles. I have two sets of flats and two sets of boots I regularly wear, and one set of black wedges and a pair of nude pumps. I’m generally set.

      Over the last four years, I’ve retired a few dresses and replaced them with something new and fresh. I do also keep a small collection of skirts and tops for when I really want to mix it up or need to dress fancier. (Executing a meeting the CEO is going to be at where I know I’ll be visible to the leadership team, for example.)

    10. Emilia Bedelia*

      A major cornerstone of my wardrobe is black and white prints- B+W goes with so many colors, and I think the combo of color + black and white always looks sharp and professional.
      I have about 5 different skirts/pants, 4-5 shirts, and a few different scarves that have some type of black and white print, along with a variety of solid colored cardigans,pants, tops, and scarves. My formula tends to be 1 print, 1 color, and 1 neutral.

      To be honest, I didn’t really intentionally build my wardrobe around black and white, but I realized at some point that it’s extremely easy to work with, and is still more interesting than an all neutral/all black wardrobe.

      I also have 2 plain black dresses that I wear almost every week on “lazy days”- it’s insane how easy a black dress + black boots + colorful necklace is. If you really want something foolproof, a black dress is the best way to go.

    11. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      I’d stock a few basic pieces – black or grey slacks – and a few simple blazers in various colors, the have fun with your shirt and accessories. Work-wear doesn’t have to be boring! My coworker is wearing white jeans today – and he just spilled coffee in an uncomfortable place.

    12. Moonpie*

      I’ve probably recommended this here before, but I really like for suggestions on taking a well-considered set of basics and mixing/matching them into many varied outfits. Accessories, prints, colors, etc. can add a little personal flair.

    13. Carolyn*

      I get so much mileage out of tights+skirt+cardigan/sweater. Feminine but not girly-girl, comfortable and easily adaptable for year round wear. I do have flats and dressy shoes, but I find that so often I wind up wearing my Doc Maarten Double T-strap Maryjanes (they are black leather) – kind of punches up the look, makes it a little quirkier, but not outrageous. There really isn’t much of a dress code around here (most people not in the higher levels of management tend to wear jeans) so those shoes are not a problem for me, YMMV. I also wear a lot of dresses – I always know my top and bottom match and I feel like I can get even more adventurous with the color since it’s a dress – I have this one purple dress (fit and flare with black accent stripes at the bottom) that I wear with a black cardi and it is an OUTRAGEOUS purple, but with the black sweater and accents, paired with black tights and shoes, it looks smart instead of overly funky.

    14. Woman of a Certain Age*

      I always remember showing up on the first day of a new job in what I thought was professional dress, a skirt suit with a white blouse under the jacket and low-heeled shoes. (I guess I was a bit dowdy.) Up walks one of my co-workers and he says, “Howdy, Ma’am. You the new school marm?”

      1. Cher Horowitz*

        Wow! That was so unbelievably nasty of your coworker! Sounds like you were dressed pretty business like from your description.
        What did your other coworkers wear?

  41. rageismycaffeine*

    One of my employees applied for another job within the university system where we work. It’s a long story, but I knew about it as soon as she put in the application, and was waiting patiently for her to come tell me. She did, the day before her interview, and then casually mentioned that she’d put me down as a reference. As in, a professional reference, not as in “yes, you can contact my current manager.” I told her she really shouldn’t do that without asking the reference first, and got a sort of generic “I knowww” in response.

    The thing is, I’m also a reference for another person (former colleague and good friend) who also applied for the same job. He actually asked me first! Is this a conflict of interest? Should I tell my current employee that I can’t serve as a reference for her because I’m a reference for another applicant? Is it normal to be a reference for multiple people applying for the same role?

    1. Amber Rose*

      It shouldn’t matter. A reference is just being asked to vouch for the work quality and ethic of the person. You can do that for more than one people. It’s up to the company which one to choose, not you, so it’s not like you should be expected to make a judgement call.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I believe Allison has addressed this specific problem, and it’s fine–you aren’t screening your acquaintances and then recommending only one person, just passing on what you know about various people’s strengths and weaknesses on the job. If honesty means you write “Alex is exceptional at A, B, and C” and “Chris fulfilled their job duties” that’s what it is.

      1. rageismycaffeine*

        I actually went looking through the archives but didn’t find anything – I’ll have to look again! Thanks for this.

  42. Amber Rose*

    I’m sort of panicking about this audit I have to do next week. And the contact I have hasn’t been making it better. Every time I email him, he sends me two emails back. The first one is antagonistic, and the second one is reassuring. Or like, what I would have said. For example, email 1 is: “do you realize you’ve picked all our new people to interview?” And then 30 seconds later “Well, it should be OK since you can explain it like X in your notes.” I feel sort of left out of a conversation that is just between me and him. 0_O

    I feel like I might be being made fun of a little, since this is my first external audit and the dude has been doing them for over a decade. I also look like I’m 15, and there’s nothing I can do about that. I need to bring a lot of materials with me, do you think it would look too ridiculous to put them all in a backpack?

    1. justsomeone*

      If you’re worried about coming across as young, a backpack will work against you. Do you have a large tote you can use instead? A professional looking tote or big purse will come across as more mature than a backpack.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I don’t. In my usual day to day activities, I don’t care that I look young, so I literally don’t even have anything like a professional wardrobe anymore. I’m less concerned with appearing young than I am with appearing… incompetent, I guess? Or foolish. Like, would you have second thoughts/make complaints if you were sent someone carrying an oversize backpack to do an audit? I don’t want to make trouble for my certifying agency by having these people question and argue with everything I say.

        On the other hand, I have to balance that with the material needs of this work. I need a LOT of equipment. Plus several giant binders worth of reference materials, and ideally my laptop.

        1. Minerva McGonagall*

          I’d say it depends on the backpack. Solid black canvas would be fine, or dark gray, brown or navy, but nothing brighter than that.

        1. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

          More like a rolling laptop bag. Squared and a bit boxy, but not exactly like luggage.

          1. Amber Rose*

            The only one of those I’ve got is sky blue with flowers on it. It was a gift.

            I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than a backpack.

  43. Ayla K*

    I also want to share a small victory: after spending last weekend thinking about how I should work on my resume (since I’m being underpaid and overworked at CurrentJob) I got calls from TWO recruiters on Tuesday. I didn’t even change or update anything yet! I guess I just put job-seeking vibes into the universe.

  44. Resume vs. CV*

    I’ve read this blog enough to gather that “resume” and “cv” are the same thing (I think). But how the heck did CV come into play??? And why is it used????
    I don’t plan on using either anytime soon, as I’m perfectly happy in my job, but it’s a little thing that bugs me because I don’t get it! HA!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not the same thing. CV is used in the UK and in academia in the U.S. In the U.S., a CV is a much, much longer document with more detail.

      That said, sometimes people don’t realize that and use them interchangeably.

    2. Murphy*

      CV is typically MUCH longer, and is really a list of pretty much everything professional you’ve ever done. Very common in academia. I’m not an academic, but I work in academia and it’s not unusual for them to be 30 pages or more. They include things like complete lists of publications, students mentored, talks given, etc.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Yep. I’ve heard well-establsihed and well-published professors literally can have CVS that run into 100(s) of page, if they count every book, article, book chapter, conference paper, invited lecturer, editing position, committee position, etc. they ever, ever, ever did…

        1. Can't Sit Still*

          The longest CV I’ve ever seen was over 500 pages. The summary alone was about 20 pages long. Granted, he’d started his career in 1956, and he’d been successful in his chosen field. It was practically an encyclopedia entry for the progress of knowledge in the field.

    3. Amber Rose*

      They’re not quite the same, although they tend to be used interchangeably. CV stands for curriculum vitae, and is usually longer than a resume. I think they’re mostly used by academic types, since they would include lists of publications and more detail than a typical resume.

    4. TotesMaGoats*

      CV and resume aren’t, technically, the same thing. CV or curriculum vitae comes from academia and is the “resume” that professors tend to you. At least in the US, anyone outside of academia using or referencing a CV would be weird. In other parts of the world, it might be different. However, much of the content is the same. CV’s do tend to include curriculum development, research and speaking stuff more than a traditional resume might. It also tends to be much longer as it can be more of a full record of what you’ve done while resumes often aren’t a record of ALL THE THINGS YOU”VE DONE.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      CV stands for curriculum vitae and it’s generally used in academic circles. A CV can include personal info and frequently includes a list of publication credits. It’s typically a lot more in depth and longer than a resume.

      A resume is a snapshot of your skills and experience.

    6. Worker anonymous*

      CVs are used mostly in academic settings and have set formats, usually with a place to list your publications, presentations, and various academic endeavors that matter to academia in terms of your professorial rank.

    7. KL*

      There’e not quite the same thing. IME in the US, you see CVs more with academic work, and they tend to be much, much longer. Most academics add publications, presentations, graduate students advised, and things like that.

  45. creatively confused*

    Does anyone here work in the art/cultural/creative industries?

    What is the appropriate amount of ‘expectation-setting’ for young people who want to get into such industries?

    I sometimes watch award shows where a winner would fill their speech about self-belief, perseverance, not giving in to nay-sayers etc., and those are beautiful moments and I understand why people become so inspired and touched by such things. But the reality still remains that the vast majority of people – no matter how much belief they have or how much effort they put in – just won’t make it to that level of success. And the non-success stories don’t get told because obviously they have no platform. Then you have movies like LaLaLand which further perpetuates this sort of view.

    Now if a young person says they dream of being an actor or singer, I certainly wouldn’t want to discourage that, but the cost of such a pursuit is really way out of proportion to the expected outcomes. I’ve heard some successful actors scoff that they ignored their parent’s pleas that they get a degree or vocational training (alongside pursuing their creative talent) but again, they are the minority.

    So if someone (who potentially needs your support) says ‘I want to take a year off to work on my novel’ or ‘to concentrate on auditions’ or something along those lines…what is the appropriate level of support to give? Especially considering you wouldn’t have (at the outset) any reliable gauge of exactly how ‘good’ they might be?

    1. SophieChotek*

      I have tried to get work in creative industries with not much success..=(

      I think if someone wants to take a year off to write the next great American novel or whatever…I think it depends on finances (can one afford to do this) and just communications on expectations. So you write the novel, but then it takes X time to market it. What if no one publishes it. Or it gets published but no one buys it. Is the person planning on going back to work after a year, even if they are not done with the novel, or it never got sold or whatever. In some ways taking time (off) to pursue a dream (writing a novel, trying to break into the film industry, etc.) is maybe not different than taking time off to recharge…I guess I am trying to say — does the person who might have to financially carry that burden want to support the other person? Have they agreed and have clear understanding of expectations? What happens if one year turns into two…or three…

      1. Effie*

        Yup, money’s a big thing. I’ve been a dance teacher for about 3 years and have always had a day job.

        I actually heard two parental lines in children’s movies recently that I cheered (of course, in the end, the movie still supported the protagonist “following their dreams”):
        “Kung Fu Panda”
        /after Mr. Ping tells Po he once had a crazy dream to run away to learn to make tofu instead of taking up the family tradition of selling noodles/
        Po: Why didn’t you?
        Mr. Ping: Because it’s a stupid dream!

        Stu: Judy, you every wonder how your mom and me got to be so darn happy? […] Well, we gave up on our dreams, and we settled.

        Happiness is not overrated to me!

        1. Lil Lamb*

          There’s this really good young adult book called “Up to this Pointe” about a young ballerina mourning her dream: she doesn’t have the right body/enough talent for ballet and hard work isn’t enough. It’s a brilliant book and really sells the message about managing dreams with expectations

          1. fposte*

            Oh, I *love* that book. I’m an Antarctica buff so I liked that part too, but it really was a good look at somebody who’s really good but doesn’t make the cut.

        2. Effie*

          I just realized the “Zootopia” quote I was thinking of was actually “It’s fine to have dreams! Just so long as you don’t believe in them too much.”

    2. anon just in case*

      There was a great article a few years ago that I wish I could find for you. It was by a writer who said that the most of the successful people in the arts had a support network to finance them and their “dream”. That they didn’t have to work so they could spend time writing or auditioning or making music because someone else was paying the bills, and that’s a privilege of social class that’s always absent in these success stories (the opposite examples that some people like to cling on are the success stories of people who make it without any financial support, but those are very rare). The article made a great point about how it contributes to the “arts are for the rich” mindset and how even though the arts are important, a good portion of success stories only happen because someone is from an upper middle class or upper class family who wouldn’t lose much if they decided to take a year off and not do anything anyway. It’s a mark of privilege that a lot of people don’t recognize.

      I think the arts are really important, but I worked with fiction authors for a very long time and a lot of the ones who wrote with no other job had partners or families with a lot of money. A very large majority of the authors I worked with had actual jobs and they wrote before work, after work, on the weekends, etc. They couldn’t afford to take time off to work on their novel (because unless you’re a major author like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, writing a novel doesn’t pay much at all). Even Stephen King worked while he wrote and I know there are other successful authors who have a main job in addition to writing.

      I used to see query letters or get stories from people who took a year off to write and that doesn’t really mean anything in the publishing world. It’s just a sign of financial privilege. My own parents refused to support me financially when I said I wanted to take time off to write and I tried it for awhile before realizing it was rough. Much rougher than working a 9-5 job and writing in the mornings or on the weekends. I appreciate their support in me achieving my dream, but as an adult, I now appreciate the advice they gave me about being realistic. Having worked in the publishing industry also opened my eyes to the fact that I could have taken years off to finish a novel, but that doesn’t mean it’ll get published or I’ll make money from it. I’d say a very large percentage of people never get published and of those who do, only a small percentage make money off their novels.

      And to be honest, you probably should know how good they’ll be before you offer support. If someone wants to take a year off to audition or play music or write, they should have been doing these things before so you have some gauge. Someone who decides to take a year off to write but has never written before is…..worrying.