open thread – March 24-25, 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 :)

{ 1,659 comments… read them below }

  1. No Name For This*

    I need to vent…An intern started here on March 1st and he is here until June 30. I feel terrible for saying this because he is nice and he does his best to work hard, but he is annoying and it’s starting to grate on me. He’s unaware (or seems unaware) of basic things and life skills. For example, our office is located in a skyscraper in a downtown area. There is more than one hospital nearby and sometimes medical helicopters come and land on the rooftops of the hospitals. We can hear them when they get close to our building. He asked what the noise was and when someone told him it was a helicopter he at first freaked out that it had been hijacked or was in trouble because it was flying so low. This was understandable, but when my boss explained they were medical helicopters the intern was wowed because he said he didn’t know that helicopters went to hospitals or that they could land on rooftops. He talked about it non stop for 2 days, bought it up in a meeting and even mentioned it in work emails he sent. He grew up in the same city our office is in and has lived his whole life in a condo that is higher than our office. The condo faces a different hospital but he said he didn’t ever pay attention to the hospital roof.

    This is just one example. He got so excited when he found out that electric staplers exist that he squealed, took video of one being used and emailed almost the entire office. He’s also woefully unaware of current events (not to get political but he didn’t know about the travel bans, the existence of Obamacare). Because of this he constantly interrupts conversations because he doesn’t understand what people are talking about. He didn’t understand why the phones on our desks have more than one line or that printers can be wireless. He calls wireless printers and driverless cars magic and spent a week trying to figure them out. He thought that knights and dragons ‘still’ exist in England today. He was awestruck when he found out people have curly hair naturally. He also goes off on tangents and says things that make no sense (a conversation about products shipments turned into him talking about snakes being able to swim and then snakes being descended from aliens)

    My boss is aware but upper management says he is here to stay for the full duration because he shows up on time, does his work and isn’t hostile or angry to people. I agree that he is not hostile, but he doesn’t take the hint when he goes off on tangents and people try to cut him off or that he is generally annoying to people. These are just some examples. I could write a novel. In half an hour I have to go to a 3 hour meeting that he will also be at :/

    1. Leatherwings*

      Oh god. I would be so irritated. At least you’ll always have the story of the intern who didn’t know about helicopters or electronic staplers?

      How do people like this manage to navigate everyday life?

        1. Nicole J.*

          I looked at the one in my office for six years, thinking it was some sort of executive game, before someone told me it was actually an electric stapler.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, a year from now this will make a great story. Other people will try “our intern is always texting her boyfriend” and “our intern takes long coffee breaks” and you can throw down “our intern knew that snakes are descended from aliens, but not that health care policy was a thing people were talking about, and electric staplers are worth videoing and sending to the entire office in which the electric stapler exists.” And you will win.

        Try to get into an anthropology headset, where you view him as a fascinating specimen and take mental notes for your dissertation.

        1. Lucky*

          I would like to know his thoughts on dinosaurs and unicorns. I once met a young man who thought dinosaurs were mythical but unicorns were real but extinct. Argued heavily in favor of his beliefs.

          1. Orca*

            I had an extremely old bible that had unicorns in it! More recent translations change it to antelopes if I recall correctly but maybe that’s where that came from!

            1. Evan Þ*

              Long story short, the King James translators back in the 1600’s didn’t have the least idea what animal the Hebrew word re’em was talking about, so they translated it “unicorn.” Modern scholars’ best guess is a wild ox, so that’s what gets in modern translations.

          2. Kate*

            where is my jaw? Oh, down there on the floor… what the… how can you even… how did he… I have no words!

          3. Mirax*

            Late to this thread, but I once got in a full-blown argument with my best friend because he said narwhals exist. I had only ever seen a toy narwhal packaged in a gift set with a plastic unicorn and dragon; my logic was, well, unicorns don’t exist, dragons don’t exist, obviously the reason a narwhal is being sold with these two mythical creatures is because it is a mythical creature as well.

            1. Anon for Always*

              I only read the first sentence of your post about the narwhal. I’m thinking “seriously, narwhals DO exist!” Then I read the read of your post…it always helps to read the post in entirety. Glad I didn’t respond first then read :)

    2. Alice*

      Wow! From the outside it sounds like a sitcom. It’s probably not as much fun when you can’t turn the TV off….

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      Would he take specific directions on office norms that wouldn’t focus on the content? Such as: don’t send non-work related mails, don’t take non-work-related video in the office, scale back the chatting, respect people’s time?

      1. Lance*

        As an intern, who may be early in his career, these would be doing him a serious kindness. To his credit, though, it sounds like he is a good worker, so if you take away the mild irritation factor, I’m sure things will be just fine.

      2. Partly Cloudy*

        This is a good suggestion. Is it possible that he’s violating the company’s email usage policy by sending such nonsense? That could be a starting point.

    4. SophieChotek*

      He thought that knights and dragons ‘still’ exist in England today.
      You mean they don’t? I’m crushed.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Saint George slayed them all.

        Which, if you’re going to believe the legend, at least know the legend! (addressing the intern, and not your joke, to be clear)

      2. KarenD*

        Well, actually, England is pretty much overrun with knights. Every time they think they’ve got the pesky things under control, the Queen goes and makes a few more. She even knighted Rudy Guiliani, for heaven’s sake!

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Sir Elton John doesn’t wear armor, though, so Ryan would be really disappointed in these modern Knights.

          1. JanetM*

            According to an answer at Quora: “When a foreign national receives an honorary knighthood of an order of chivalry, he is not entitled to the prefix Sir, but he may place the appropriate letters after his name.” (Elizabeth Wyse, Jo Aitchison, Zöe Gullen, Eleanor Mathieson, ed. (2006). “Forms of Address”. Debrett’s Correct Form (2006 ed.). Richmond, Surrey: Debrett’s Limited. pp. 98, 100. ISBN 978-1-870520-88-1.

            I get the impression from Wikipedia that most non-British who are honored with knighthoods receive the Order of the British Empire, “rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the Civil Service.”

            and “The five classes of appointment to the Order are, in descending order of precedence:
            1. Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
            2. Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)
            3. Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
            4. Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
            5. Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)”



            1. many bells down*

              Well I now have a new life goal: annoy Queen Elizabeth until she knights me. I mean, I’m a descendant of William the Conqueror AND Lady Godiva, we’re practically cousins!

      3. Creag an Tuire*


        The last known English dragon, Baroness Margaret Hilda Thatcher, unfortunately passed away in 2013.

    5. LizB*

      How old is this intern? This is really bizarre behavior. Whoever is in charge of him needs to sit him down and have a talk about soft skills – at the very least about not emailing the entire office when he learns something new. He’s an intern, he’s going to be learning new things pretty frequently! I think it would also be acceptable to ask him not to interrupt conversations, and to take a hint if someone changes the subject. The rest of it, though… I’m not sure how you address “your level of maturity and grasp of reality is vastly different from the rest of the office” in a professional way. You may just have to deal with it.

      1. Amber T*

        Yep – intern manager needs to sit him down to discuss his behavior.

        It’s also not out of the question for you to shut down the behavior either. “That’s not what we’re discussing right now” when he goes “oooh dragons!” or “We need to stay focused on X” when he points out another helicopter. I’m not sure what you can do about the emails other than just delete them and ignore them as best you can, but for situations where he’s present and being a bother.

        Some people are socially unaware. I fully admit to having my own electric stapler moments (it was with a desk scanner) and my coworkers begrudgingly smiled and probably rolled their eyes every time I went “look how cool!” Looking back now as a slightly more professional person I’m embarrassed, but I just thought it was really cool, so didn’t everyone? I wish someone had said “it’s normal, let’s focus on X.”

        As for the three hour meeting – he’s an intern, so he probably doesn’t have *much* to contribute (I’m assuming). If he starts talking about something unrelated, there’s no reason for you (or anyone) not to say “can we go back to X, please?” Obviously you shouldn’t do that with someone above you, but the kid’s gotta learn the hierarchy.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, I’ve done this–as someone who didn’t get to play with the shiny new tech because it was reserved for managers, I spent a lot of time at Exjob in the beginning just going, “Oh wow,” and learning how to work projectors, etc. (I knew they existed; I’d just never used them).

          1. Other Duties As Assigned*

            It goes the other way with technology, too. At OldJob, I kept one of the company’s last IBM Selectric typewriters next to my desk, since my department worked with a lot of odd-shaped labels and hard copy forms. I had an intern working at the next desk when I had to type an address on an envelope. When I muttered “ack…gotta change the font,” the intern thought I was joking. I showed him my collection of typing elements and he was fascinated with the procedure to swap them out. I used it as a teachable moment, explaining that the introduction of this model provided workplaces with a tremendous boost in efficiency in the pre-computer days, that there are typing elements that allow the typist to use the Dvorak vs. the qwerty keyboard, why the inefficient qwerty layout was developed, etc.

            The best part came when I showed him how the correction key worked. When it actually lifted a letter off the envelope, he thought it was very cool (it IS sort of magical when you first see it). Still, he didn’t e-mail the entire company about it.

        2. jamlady*

          Has to happen. Uncomfortable conversations are a part of it. Like 3 months ago when I had to pull the brand new tech aside and let him know that using phrases at work like “get your boink on” are not appropriate, and even more so not appropriate when addressing your female manager and her male coworker like somehow we’re having an affair – I can’t be responsible for the actions of male coworker if you imply he should be having an affair with his married coworker.

          I swear I thought male coworkers eyes had actually come outside of his head like a Roger Rabbit cartoon.

      2. Tex*

        To increase general maturity, as the person in charge of interns I would make reading the newspaper a requirement. I hope this is a high school intern and not a college kid.

      3. zora*

        This is actually making me kind of sad. He clearly has been vveerryyyyyy sheltered and the more I think about that, the more sad it seems. Would it maybe help you feel less annoyed if you kind of feel bad for him and his being so out of touch?

        1. Chris*

          To be honest my first thought was that this sounds like someone who is on the autism spectrum somewhere. They may always be slightly odd, socially. Be kind in your approach.

          1. Buu*

            I was thinking similar, if so I feel a bit bad for him that he’s going straight into an internship without anyone ever providing him with specialist training. Does the intern have a mentor or boss at the company? If someone lays some clear rules on what to do he may find it easier to cope.

          2. Lab Monkey*

            Maybe, but there’s no good evidence to support that except he’s a little odd, and plenty of us on the spectrum manage to work with fellow adults appropriately – and even read work advice columns. Occam’s razor says he’s just poorly informed, not diagnostically neurodivergent.

      4. Artemesia*

        This. Plus probably a good idea to suggest he read a news magazine like Time at least weekly so that he is more aware of policies that may affect the office or may come up in conversation. Or he could just look at CNN on line each day. Sort of minimal ways to know what is going on in the world.

        I would think he was trolling you all but I have a friend who is an art professor and has students who have no spatial skills. They have a sort of video game view of the world. One had to be told that when opening a padlock, you had to remove it from the hasp and manually open the door — it wouldn’t just swing open itself like in a video game when you punched in the right numbers. She put in the numbers, it didn’t ‘open’ and she had to email the prof for further instructions and was amazed when the instructions worked.

      1. Mimi*

        Some of us walk around with our hair shaped like poofy triangles because we like the look, apparently.

        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          Ha! If I could get mine to de-triangle without spending an hour straightening it, I don’t think I’d ever ask for anything else ever again. My hair looks like the lady in the Dilbert comic more often than not.

            1. Red*

              Lol, I cant have anything but a chin length bob or I start looking stupid! Oh, curly hair, how you confuse me…

            2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

              I learned that one the hard way. It’s longer now and less triangle-y, but I think I just prefer how straight hair looks on me. I just don’t have the patience to do it.

            3. Meeeeeeeee*

              I need careful cutting of layers to avoid the triangle look. But with those layers and some anti frizz stuff I actually LOVE my curls!

              1. Elizabeth West*

                My mum has curly hair and I got the texture and frizz but not the curl. *sigh* Oh well, it does wave a bit, when I don’t look like the humidity rabbit meme.

                1. Patty the boxy potato*

                  I love that you call your mother “mum.” My children call me that too! They started when British family came to visit. My dad, who’s from PA, also called his mother “mum.”

              1. Audiophile*

                Can someone explain the DevaCut to me, please? I know someone who worked for them and I briefly flirted with the idea of asking her questions, but was too shy to do it. I seriously don’t get it.

                1. Nic*

                  I did a bit of internet searching, but have no personal experience, so ymmv.

                  It appears to be a cut from someone trained specifically to a very high level in how to deal with varieties of curly hair. Basically, a specialist. :D

              2. Renee*

                Essentially each curl is cut separately based on its pattern. Like any other cut, a lot depends on the stylist and your personal hair texture and weight. Mine was decent enough when first done, but looked pretty ragged and asymmetrical within just a few weeks. I’ve found that layers and my hair absolutely do not get along because just trimming a small amount makes my curls spring up a disproportionate amount — a quarter inch trim turns into an inch between layers. The DevaCut is like a lot of individual layers. It’s worth trying if you have curly hair because for some people, it can be fantastic, but for my hair it wasn’t great. My hair looks best one length (my stylist cuts dry to ensure that the ends are mostly even despite any difference in the curl pattern).

            4. Merci Dee*

              i used to have my hair longer, down past my shoulders, in college. I thought it was one of the few ways that I could keep my cork-screw curls under control — by weighing them down some. Then I cut it above shoulder-length when I got pregnant with my daughter, and it’s been getting shorter and shorter ever since. Now, I’ve finally got it at a length that I absolutely love — about six inches, it the curls were pulled out straight. But, of course, they never are, so it just shrinks into a little cap of curls.

              Best things I ever found for my hair were Infusium 23 leave-in conditioner and a good stiff hair gel. I spray the conditioner on and then comb it through. Then I work a dime-sized dollop of gel throughout my hair, and comb again to make sure the leave-in and the gel really mix and coat my hair. Run fingers through to break up the curls, and let it air-dry and go (the mix of conditioner plus gel keeps my hair from getting “crispy” when the gel dries, so it still looks nice and natural). The great thing about using the gel is that, if I get frustrated during the day and run my hands through my hair, I don’t have to worry about being stuck with crazy frizz until I get home. I just dash to the bathroom, wet my hands, run them over my hair, and it re-activates the gel to tame everything down again. And that re-wet trick works as many times as I need it to throughout the day. No more finger-in-a-light-socket look for me!

            5. many bells down*

              I’ve followed my stylist through two moves. It takes me 30 minutes to drive to her now, but it’s a small price to pay to never have poofy triangle hair again!

          1. Red Reader*

            No doubt. Mine defies gravity entirely if it’s less than mid-back-length, so I keep it under control by keeping it in a bun. Constantly. I think the last time I let it down was Wednesday. :P I let it down, finger-combed it, and wrapped it back up and stabbed it with a wooden pin.

            1. Renee*

              I need to learn the magic of the bun. I’ve had short hair for most of my life and now that it’s curly (as a result of pregnancy 14 years ago), I also need to wear it long to have it manageable. Now it’s to my top back, and it takes forever to dry, so I’m self-conscious about wearing it to work wet. I am now queen of the clip, but my hair is becoming mightier than the clip. I work for a manufacturer, so I’d like to have it all pulled up out of the way, but I swear making a bun is like some kind of arcane science to me. It needs to go at least more three more inches in dry length to be suitably tamed so I need to figure it out, because the wet mop is just not going to cut it at work, even if we are pretty casual here. Is there some source of knowledge on how to do these things?

              1. anonstronaut*

                Youtube. There are so many hair related youtube videos that you can watch over and over, showing exactly what steps they are taking.

          2. Kate 2*

            Have you read the book “Curly Girl”? As a curly haired person who didn’t know anyone else with naturally curly hair it really helped me.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          My hair leaves my head and and takes the shortest route straight down no matter what I do to it, so I’m always sort of fascinated by the concept of hair having ‘body’ and not just lying there with limp aggression.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Oh man, you too? The only “body” mine ever has is static electricity!

            1. Jersey's mom*

              Ah, my aggressively limp hair will occasionally be quite belligerent in the morning. Regardless of the amount or type of hair products I use, it will be stick straight. On the morning I wake late, and don’t have time to wash my hair, invariably it will find the strength and will to defy gravity and stick straight out at odd angles to my head.

            2. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

              I essentially wash, dry, and style my hair and then apply paste through the roots in an attempt for it to do SOMETHING during the day – have body, anything! *sigh* what I wouldn’t give to have just a teeny bit of curl and not essentially glue my hair every day.

            3. Hrovitnir*

              Heh. I only have the tiniest wave (just short of straight), but my hair is next-level thick. Which, yeah, is a good thing I suppose but it means any short (for a woman – works for short with shaved sides) haircut looks ridiculous, I need twice as much of any kind of hair treatment/dye, and products advertising body make me go “pls no. O_O”

          2. calonkat*

            This is the best description I’ve ever seen for this hair type. I used to try to get my hair to curl a bit (the “Farrah Fawcett Flip” was my goal many years ago), and even after professional perms, it would be straight in 20 minutes! My hair is now in a bun (spin pins are awesome), and even that the hair continually escapes from, just to hang limply down. I usually end up looking like a washwoman at the end of a hard workday :P

            1. JustaTech*

              Spin pins are the best things ever! (I have tons of long wavy hair, and it’s great to know they work for other hair types too!)

        3. Anon today...and tomorrow*

          I’m a red head so I spend most of my time resembling Bozo the Clown. Sigh!

      2. justsomeone*

        My best friend’s brother in law thought she hand-curled her ringlets every day. When he found out that her hair was naturally that curly he said, “Oh, I like you a lot better now that I know you’re not that vain.”

        1. many bells down*

          People would always ask me if mine was a perm. “Oh, it’s naturally curly?!” Man, if I’d paid to have this done this on purpose I would hope it would look a LOT better.

      3. Panda Bandit*

        Many, many years ago, I was dating a guy who was absolutely bewildered about how my hair was sometimes curly and sometimes straight.

        1. Fawn*

          Ha! Sometime in the 70’s my grandmother went to a journalism conference in Eastern Europe (Hungary I think?), and was detained for questioning at the passport control because in her passport photo she had curls and in person she didn’t. Eventually she managed to convince them she was the same person (perhaps a bit of bribery was involved…)

    6. Pearl*

      I once worked with someone who believed there were 3 suns and constantly talked about how the earth’s rotation was slowing down, thus affecting the length of a second, which meant that time was slowing down. Her proof of this was that our extremely old analog clock was slow and we had to reset it every month or it would slowly fall several minutes behind the actual time. (See, because scientists can’t hack analog clocks to ‘fool’ them about the earth’s rotation slowing down.)

      I started smiling and nodding a lot. I would keep working and just say nothing. When she didn’t get a response, she would stop talking. That doesn’t help with emails though :( Good luck.

      1. Amber T*


        (I used to play bar trivia with a guy who thought we had two moons. When he found out that yes, indeed, we saw the same moon that people in China see… Mind. Blown.)

        1. Pearl*

          There’s apparently an optical illusion sometimes that makes it seem like there are 3 suns. It has something to do with light reflecting off of ice crystals in the air in the winter. Obviously, though, scientists are liars and are hiding the fact that there are 3 suns for us. For fun and profit? I was never clear on why anyone would put energy into that conspiracy.

          (Did he also think the Earth was flat and the Eastern hemisphere was on the opposite side?)

          1. Amber T*

            Oh. Well that makes complete and utter sense.

            Once we convinced him about our one moon, we tried to steer from scientific topics. The funny thing was this kid was a whiz at recalling random facts – I don’t know if he had a photographic memory or something and “learned” we had two moons, so it stuck, but we all thought he was pretty smart. So there was a bit of confusion in explaining it to him.

          2. JeanB*

            I actually have a picture I took one day when it was getting ready to storm that shows three suns (big one in the middle and smaller ones on each side). Best picture I ever took and I just casually snapped it with my iPhone.

              1. copy run start*

                Never seen this before. Puts Stephen King’s “The Sun Dog” into better context….

        2. Meeeeeeeee*

          My boss insisted last week that astronomy is not a real science and doesn’t really use math, and that he is offended when the astronomy department shares a building with the physics department because astronomy doesn’t deserve to be there.
          We checked if he was talking about astrology. Nope. He meant astronomy.
          We asked what he thought it was. “Saying, this planet is here, this planet is there.” We asked how he thought they know where those planets are. “They just look at them!”
          It also took him three tries to correctly identify the moon as ‘a moon’ (his first two tries were ‘a star’ and ‘a planet’ – he did correct himself quickly but still…)

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I read a book once about what would happen if the moon were closer to us, if it were further away, if it were bigger, smaller, if we had two, etc. It was very scientific and I don’t remember much, but basically, life would be difficult.

        4. Artemesia*

          When my children were very young they thought there were two moons — the round one and the slivery one. That seemed like good observation to me, like before they studied science, and sun position, and rotation and stuff.

        1. LizB*

          There’s an awesome science fiction book (The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu) that involves a planet with three suns! Based on the book’s description, though, it would very noticeable and not at all pleasant if there were three suns. You wouldn’t need subtle scientists sneakily changing the digital clocks.

      2. David McWilliams*

        But wait — wouldn’t the analog clock end up ahead, if the Earth’s rotation was getting slower and lengthening the days?

    7. Volunteer Coordinator in NOVA*

      Could his supervisor use this as a way to teach him about some professional norms like things that are OK/not OK to email about in the work environment and what/when appropriate work conversation happens? It could be a really benefit to him as he may not realize these things could be a problem for him in the future.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        And that you can’t interrupt work meetings to talk about things that aren’t work related?

    8. DevAssist*

      He sounds like a time traveler. LOL

      Maybe imagine that he fell through a magic rabbit hole into our world, as a way to amuse yourself and lessen the irritation? I totally agree he sounds irritating and I’d be running out of patience quickly.

      1. introvert*

        ahahaha this comment is my favorite. he DOES sound like a time traveler! or a recently dethawed caveman.

        1. JeanB*

          I’m thinking Blast from the Past. I can totally see Brendan Fraser’s character getting this excited over staplers.

      2. Enya*

        Yeah, I was thinking he sounds like a caveman who got caught up in a time travel experiment and was dumped into 2017. Boy, he is rather clueless!

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I was wondering if he grew up in Amish country or something until I re-read the original comment that said he grew up in the city.

        … full disclosure, I *was* rather excited to discover that electric corkscrews were a thing that existed.

      4. Delightful Daisy*

        Sort of sounds like the character from the movie, “Enchanted”, which I love but I can understand why it’s be annoying in real life. I think you’d be doing him a kindness, OP, if you did clue him in on professional norms.

    9. Bureaucrat with a Side of Coffee*

      This sounds like a more extreme version of my adult roommate. If you feel comfortable, offer some professional mentoring over coffee. Be upfront. “Sometimes you seem to get excited about things that are pretty normal to our office – the helicopter, the electric stapler, etc. I know these things are pretty cool when you first learn about them, but sharing them with an office of people that is already fully aware of them undermines your professional image because it goes against office norms. Try to find a friend external to the organization to share your excitement with so we can focus on work topics at work.”

      1. Clever Name*

        While this is great language, I think the level of this needs to be brought down a few levels for this intern to understand. Maybe he’s just really, really sheltered, but he almost sounds like he may have an intellectual disability?? Or just has a low IQ? I’m honestly baffled.

    10. Gabriela*

      This just made my day. I can’t stop giggling about this. This would drive me so crazy to the point that I might snap and say something super snarky to him. But reading about it second-hand makes me want to take you out for a drink just to hear more.

      1. Purest Green*

        Yes! This is beyond amusing to me second-hand, but I feel like in person I would enjoy this for about a week.

    11. Nan*

      Maybe he comes from a really sheltered, non scientific family, and this is his first foray into the real world. I understand how it could be very annoying, though. Perhaps someone can sit him down, and tell him that although is work is generally good (if that’s true), his office behavior is a bit outside of the norm. Explain that it’s fine to ask questions, but most of what goes on in your office, and the equipment used, is normal, so there is no need to send emails about it.

      Isn’t part of being an intern learning about how “real” jobs work? So try delivering it from a helpful stand point. It will probably be an odd convo, but someone has to help this guy.

      1. Ms. Meow*

        This. I went to college with a girl who grew up in a strict, religious household and didn’t have regular access to tv or the internet. This was the early 2000’s when cell phones were really coming into play, and she was convinced that every girl in our dorm who had a cell phone was either a celebrity or the child of an incredibly wealthy business man. Her naivete was irritating, sure, but it was also interesting to help her learn about things that were boring/mundane/normal in my everyday life.

        I agree that you should sit him down and politely explain that he needs to chill. But seriously, give the kid a break. I wish I could that excited about something as simple as an electronic stapler.

    12. Name (Required)*

      There are things about this that make me think he may be on the autism spectrum. I obviously cant diagnose on the internet and thats not what im trying to do but may there is explanation for the behavior.

      1. RVA Cat*

        I also wondering this. Or, if this is new behavior for him, he’s at the age where symptoms of schizophrenia first appear.

      2. Doodle*

        I’m sure you mean well, but not diagnosing people is actually one of the rules here. It can be stigmatizing and doesn’t actually change the advance for the OP. Thanks! :)

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          Not disagreeing with you or trying to perpetuate rule-breaking, but isn’t someone on the autism spectrum LESS likely to react to stuff with such glee and wonder? Because they internalize it all/don’t point things out because they assume everyone sees them? Okay, stepping down from amateur diagnosing now.

          1. MommaTRex*

            Not necessarily. They don’t necessarily “internalize” it all. Some people on the spectrum lack a filter for what they say aloud.

        2. Nervous Accountant*

          I don’t mean this to derail or be off topic, but I’m actually starting to follow this real in my real life. We have a coworker who has a bit of communication issue (ok that’s an understatement). Communication is a HUGE part of our company and every job here involves that–if you can’t communicate, then this isn’t the place for you. Someone actually did bring up and wondered if cw has some sort of condition, and I said it doesn’t matter, we can’t diagnose that.

          1. MommaTRex*

            I do at least like to keep in mind that some things are more difficult for some people to learn things than others, and/or that they don’t do certain things on purpose – just to keep a sympathetic bent.

      3. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        I once worked with a young woman who was very sheltered. She got her first job at age 18 and I honestly think it was her first time having more than a few minutes exposure to people outside of her immediate family. She was in awe of everything and had really poor social skills. We found out that she and her sibling had been home schooled* and did everything with their parents. Her dad even walked her to and from work…and held her hand like she was a child who might get lost. She used to interrupt meetings, would overshare, argue with our customers about politics, and the last straw for my manager was when she came into work the day after John F Kennedy Jr died in the plane crash and started celebrating it – passing out little trinkets to everyone as if it was a parade. It was a long time ago (obviously, with my JFKJr memory) but I still wonder how she’s fared all these years later.

        *please note: I am not trying to start a home schooling debate. I have no issue with it. She was, of course, an extreme version and since then I’ve encountered lots of home schooled people and not one of them was like this woman was.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Honestly, my first thought was home schooled as well. Not because home schooled = ignorant about technology, but because it’s hard to be that sheltered unless you’re fairly sequestered from society. This would be a home school aberration, but it does seem like it’s the simplest solution.

        2. Nervous Accountant*

          wait…WHAT? What was her reason for actually celebrating JFKjr’s death ???????

          I was extremely sheltered too but…>I don’t know, I never did any of this stuff described here. :-/

          1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

            Her family was very conservative and we lived in Massachusetts (the place we worked was in Faneuil Hall) and politics there are very liberal and for a long time they were very Kennedy. She took a ridiculous amount of glee from his death and didn’t seem to realize that it wasn’t okay. She was honestly shocked and a bit angry that more of us didn’t feel like she did. To this day I’m not completely sure if she was let go or if she quit over this.

            1. Artemesia*

              Wow JFK JR. was not a politician and people had no reason to have this kind of reaction. I can understand being happy if a politician you detested died – not that ‘celebrating’ in a workplace would ever be appropriate — but the child of a politician? That is beyond inappropriate and creepy.

        3. AMT*

          I was homeschooled in a rural area and fairly isolated. You’re spot-on about this. I have never caught up on the pop culture of the ’90s and early 2000s. My word choices occasionally baffle people. I still have weird fears about people visiting and seeing the state of my (perfectly clean) house, because my parents were also hoarders/clutterers. My ability to make eye contact took years to recover. No one understands why visiting my parents (whom I love!) brings back unpleasant memories. There are tons of tiny things about my life that people with normal childhoods take for granted. And I’m one of the people who got out and became successful and happy.

          1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

            I’m sorry. :( I once worked with another person who wasn’t allowed to watch TV or movies as a child and so he missed just about every pop culture reference in conversation. He hated that! He was a supervisor and super smart but I remember this huge multi-department meeting where we did this Price is Right themed game and he didn’t understand why we all thought it was great or how we all knew the rules to the games. We don’t realize how pervasive those pop culture references are in our lives until we don’t get them.

            1. Nic*

              I am much like the person you used to work with, except it wasn’t that I wasn’t allowed to (in most cases) I was just far too nerdy. I watched documentaries and could tell you all about hissing cockroaches or something, but I still have yet to see Star Wars, and I’m 34.

              While I’m generally content with my lack of pop culture indoctrination, people are startled and in some cases drastically upset by my total oblivion to references sometimes. I find it funny more often than I find it annoying.

        4. Panda Bandit*

          Well, the homeschooling was not the problem. Her extreme helicopter parents are the problem.

        5. Medical Student*

          Absolutely not trying to start a debate or pile-on, but as a former homeschooler (Pre-K – 12th), I would just like to vouch that all of “us” are not sheltered, socially unaware individuals. My parents were incredibly intentional about my and my sister’s educations and took careful pains to expose us to politics, arts, science, etc. Both my sister and I graduated from liberal arts universities with honors. She is now working overseas, and I will be graduating from medical school in May. Done correctly homeschooling is a incredible opportunity to foster an environment of active learning and curiosity. Unfortunately, the examples of homeschooling that are most people tend to think of are those kids/young adults who have been sequestered away and who struggle in the “real world.” Again, not trying to start a debate. Just wanted to offer an opinion from the “other side.” :)

          1. Gadfly*

            Just the general humanity DIY ratios seem to be 10% max do it well, maybe 20% more do okay, 40% do it wrong in some obvious/measurable way and 30% light things on fire.

            More seriously, I wish there were better records kept regarding this, but a lot of states actually have rules against it. And the problems will stick out more. It is hard to tell what percentage benefit from it and which are hurt from it because the data just isn’t there. I grew up in UT, and so a big example there were polygamous kids being homeschooled and then at about 12 put to work as part of it. A lot of them end up illiterate and so very dependent on their church for work or forced to agree to marrying who they are told for not just themselves but for the sake of the whole family. And UT doesn’t monitor homeschooling at all to see if anything is being taught.

            I think, if there were some basic regulations (like the kids have to show some progress in basic skills) there would be a lot less of a belief it is all bad. But the large homeschooling groups always fight any sort of testing requirements or check-ins.

            1. Hey Nonnie*

              I’d be curious to learn how this homeschooling business WORKS, when it does work. By the time I hit middle school, my parents were no longer able to help me with my math homework. I was in a variety of AP classes in high school. My parents didn’t have the level of knowledge in all of those subjects to be able to teach me at anywhere near the level of teachers who were trained and specialized in their particular topics. If I had had to rely on my parents’ knowledge alone, I would have been bored out of my mind and very ill-prepared for life beyond high school. I’m just not seeing how people without any teaching degrees or expertise in any of the multiple topics that make up a pre-university education — much less all of them — can impart enough knowledge for their kids to even survive college.

              This, entirely aside from the social isolation (and often, homeschooling used as a means to AVOID teaching basic things like science and sex ed), is what makes me deeply skeptical of the whole thing. There’s a reason that teachers specialize in a field of study after elementary-school level. So how on earth does a homeschooler give a kid a comprehensive education when you don’t know most of what you’d need to teach?

              1. Gadfly*

                From what I’ve seen, now it usually is combined with online schooling and tutors to make it work.

          2. Someone*

            Well, you have to admit that homeschooling makes it much easier to completely shelter children from the outside world.
            It does not cause sheltering, as such, but it makes it possible to push the sheltering and limiting of contact to extreme levels.

    13. Jessesgirl72*

      Are people interrupting his tangents? Who is responsible for supervising/directing him? That person, or anyone senior enough, needs to firmly stop the tangents as soon as they start, and coach him that work things need to be the primary focus of work discussions. And yes, tell him not to email everyone about things that aren’t work related- and probably not to CC the entire office about anything that isn’t directly told to do so, because it’s part of a task he’s been given. (Since the stapler, he might consider to be work related)

    14. Crazy Squirrel Lover*

      I am so sorry that you are dealing with this. I used to have a co-worker that believed they were kidnapped by aliens and that the same aliens were spying on them. This co-worker also had a theory that the government was slowly replacing people with robots.

      Good luck with that 3 hour meeting!

      1. Batshua*

        I had an ex-coworker tell me that our deaf coworker was spying on her with her hearing aids and reporting it all to the boss.

        I … did not know what to say to that.

    15. Havarti*

      Wow, I’ve encountered folks who have a puppy-like level of enthusiasm and wonder but this guy has raised the bar! Isn’t the point of interning so you can learn how to function in a workplace? Who does he report to? Someone really needs to talk to him or they will do a disservice to both intern and the workplace.

    16. La Revancha del Tango*

      LOL wow this guy is clueless. I would spin it positively in the sense that you’ll have a great story to tell.

    17. Scarlott*

      Haha, this is great stuff. Enjoy him while he’s there. Maybe have a sit down about not interrupting people or sending e-mails that don’t need to be sent to the whole office about staplers and helicopters. TBH I was really far behind on current events when I was in school.

    18. Lo*

      I am still relatively early in my career. I desperately wish that someone had clued me in DIRECTLY about office norms and culture. I pick things up quickly, but the embarrassing memories of stupid things I did in early internships and jobs will haunt me.

      Please Please Please tell him. Ask him to get coffee, or grab lunch, or even have a check in meeting…. and TELL HIM. Unless he’s a trash person, he’ll appreciate it.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Yeah, I kind of feel bad for the guy. He’s going to have a rough go of things as he gets out into the professional world. Especially since he’s an intern and presumably there to learn, I think it would be appropriate (and a great kindness) to pull him aside and tell him some of this stuff is just Not Done. And stop letting him derail conversations (easier said than done, I know!)

        Not that this is necessarily No Name For This’ job. His supervisor should be doing it, but since it seems like he is dragging everyone else into these derails and flights of fancy with new office discoveries, I think it’s fair game for anyone to do it once they hit BEC stage.

    19. PB*

      Oh dear. This is almost charming, but I certainly wouldn’t think so if I were the person dealing with him. I’m sorry.

    20. Former Retail Manager*

      There are some great suggestions here for polite, professional wording when his supervisor speaks to him, but quite frankly, if he’s this far in left field, I’d be blunt and borderline harsh. His behavior thus far makes me wonder if he would really pick up on/understand what people are saying. I’d come armed with a long list of these specific examples and not only tell him that he shouldn’t have done them/shouldn’t have overreacted, but tell him what would be an appropriate reaction (where applicable) to these situations. For example, I don’t think it’s a big deal to say “oh wow, an electric stapler. That’s cool. Never seen one.” But his videoing it and emailing the entire office was inappropriate. This sounds like a person that needs to be told exactly what to do and not do. I would also tell him that if he continues this sort of behavior at his next real job (not internship) he likely won’t be employed for long. I know OP is annoyed, but she is also in a unique position to be able to really help someone who it sounds like needs an abundance of help.

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        I had a 30-year-old former co-worker who would do things like this, and it was not cute. I think on some level he knew what he was doing, because if he could act as weird as possible and wear you down with it, eventually you may not notice that he wasn’t actually doing any work. It did not end well for him- we got a new manager with a much more direct management style, and when he tried it on her he got his ass handed to him and was terminated shortly thereafter. You’d be doing this kid a huge favor to be blunt and to the point about why acting like this is not professional or acceptable.

    21. Important Moi*

      I am not saying it’s right, but is it possible that this intern has connections? It’s unfair but you may be stuck with him. Limit your interactions as best you can and good luck.

    22. nbbuyer*

      Preface: I did not read all of the comments below, so this may have already come up.

      I am not pretending to be a doctor, but I would just like to suggest that while that does sound immensely, over-the-top weird and annoying, my oldest son has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and common social interactions tend to be a rather alien concept to people on the spectrum.

    23. Office Plant*

      Give him the benefit of the doubt. More than that. Be kind to him. This stuff is unusual enough that it’s probably not the result of choices he made. It sounds like he either thinks very differently than most people or his family kept him very sheltered. He’s probably facing a lot of challenges in life because of this, or may later on. Don’t add to that. Either keep your distance or try to be helpful. When you feel irritated, remember that he’s just a fellow human being whose experiences are different from your own.

    24. no more interns*

      If this helps you feel better, you are not alone. We have an intern that is similar and we are stuck with him because the owner of my company is a friend of his father’s and nepotism is alive and well in 2017. In our case the intern has some developmental challenges which accounts for some of his behavior but it’s time consuming to work with him when he doesn’t have the background or knowledge to add value in our very technical field.

    25. Bonky*

      We had an awful, awful intern, in a part of the company that I am not closely involved with. Again, she tried hard, but she had no understanding of office norms or professionalism, could barely string a sentence together and kept doing APPALLING things like giving quotes to the press without the communications department knowing about it; sending mass emails to clients which were unreadable for all the typos and full of downright stupid factual mistakes; and telling – not asking – executives in the company to do things for her. A lot of this was down to the fact that the woman managing her…wasn’t managing her.

      Her contract ran out at the end of last month, but I remember that around Christmas I was ready not just to burn a bunch of political capital and demand she get fired, but also very close to resorting to murder. When I found out her contract only had a couple of months left to run, I kept my powder dry and just did what I could to shield the people who work for me from the damage she was doing, while bearing in mind that this would reflect horribly on the non-manager. The two and a bit months went remarkably quickly, and I am glad I did not resort to murder. But it was a close thing. You have my sympathy.

      (Generally, in situations like this which have a fixed end-point, I ask myself: “Will it still matter in a year?” If it won’t, it’s probably best to put up with whatever it is and keep your political capital intact.)

      1. Drew*

        You have intriguing ideas about picking your battles and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

        This is something I’ve been working on for myself and am starting to do some “managing up” for my bosses who are not modeling appropriate levels of workplace venting. I have deployed “Do we actually have any power to CHANGE the situation, or should we accept that the situation is what it is and figure out how to move forward from here?” more times in the past three months than I want to think about.

        I don’t know if it’s helping them any, but it’s gotten me through some tough times and I’m feeling more positive about work and keeping my eye on goals instead of missed milestones means that I’m a lot more productive than I used to be. Ironically, this all came about because a big project I was looking forward to starting this year got indefinitely postponed in January – “eyes on the prize” was the only way I kept myself from total despair.

    26. AcademiaNut*

      It sounds like he doesn’t just need hints, but a concentrated effort on the part of his both and others to explain basic norms and then shut him down when he breaks them.

      So telling him that he is not to send company wide emails about *anything*, for any reason, or non-work related emails to *anyone* would be a good start. And telling him that he needs to stay on topic at meetings and other work discussions. Then, when he goes off on a tangent, whoever is running the meeting can say “Fergus, snakes are not relevant to the discussion. We need you to get back on topic.” Then if he keeps on with the snakes and aliens, he’s kicked out of the meeting if necessary, so he isn’t getting in the way of other people doing their work.

      I’d disagree with the upper management that he can’t be fired because he does his basic tasks and isn’t hostile. It sounds like he’s taking up a considerable amount of other employees’ time and mental energy with his tangents and enthusiasms, to the point that people dread interacting with him. It makes for a great story, but I can see how having to deal with this repeatedly would have you climbing the walls. It’s also better that he be pulled up sharp on a short term internship, rather than being fired from his first real job.

    27. JKP*

      As you describe your intern’s giddy enthusiasm for each of his new discoveries (An electronic stapler! What will you humans think of next!), and his bizarre tangents about snakes and aliens and knights and dragons, I have this clear picture of the 10th Doctor as your intern. Of course, if that were true, those irrelevant conversational tangents would be distracting you while he implemented his plan to stop the alien invasion.

    28. Lemon*

      Yikes. While it’s certainly not the most egregious part of your comment, the thing about not knowing about naturally curly hair really got me. That is advanced sheltered.

      1. many bells down*

        Yeah, at first I thought it was just a bit funny, because people ask me if mine’s natural a lot but … I’m white. So then I wondered, has this guy never seen a black person? Does he think they spend hours curling it like that?

    29. AnonAcademic*

      I had an intern who was almost as bad as this. Her daily uniform was an oversized tshirt or sweatshirt with a large cartoon character on it (mickey mouse, sailor moon, etc.) and oversized grey sweat pants, which on her looked more like pajamas than clothes. Her hair was usually unwashed and gave off an odor. She sniffled loudly every few minutes all day. She would giggle in response to just about everything – simple requests, corrections, etc. One time a product rep gave out toys with their logo that made a sound when you squeezed them and she sat at her desk squeezing it over and over until asked to stop.

      The thing is, while she was tremendously annoying and also not very responsive to corrective feedback, I eventually strongly suspected that she was dealing with mental health issues that explained most of the odd behavior (poor hygiene, lack of motivation, inappropriate affect). What I wish I’d done differently is be more direct about rules and consequences earlier, including her potential dismissal, but also ask if everything was ok and if she was open to it, referred her to some resources. I don’t know if she would have been ready to accept help, but when I consider that she might have been barely holding herself together to get to work, OR socially immature to the point that she could not follow work norms, she was someone who clearly needed help of some kind beyond what a work environment could provide.

    30. New Window*

      Lots of people have given good, constructive advice, so I won’t try to add to that.

      I have but one request: PLEASE keep us updated with stories. These are gold.

    31. Not So NewReader*

      Can you check in with his school to see if he can get further assistance in acclimating to the work place in general?

      Is anyone mentoring him, or is everyone just talking about how weird he is? I have seen this where people talk about the problem and assume someone else it talking to the individual. Meanwhile, the individual has no clue and no one is talking with them.

      Hopefully, more than one person is mentoring him. Hopefully, you can get him some remedial level help in acclimating. I know companies are not there to fix everything that is going on, however if his school has the heads up maybe something can be done there.

      The hinting needs to stop because in his world those hints are meaningless. Direct explanations are what is needed here. (FWIW, I don’t do well with hints, I much prefer clear explanations, if possible use examples. My excuse is that I am aging and I do not want to wait 20 years to get what someone is saying.)

      If I were working with him I would try to target three behaviors a week. “Bob, this week’s goal is to get control over A, B and C.” Then break it down with explanations. I would pick the behaviors that seem to be the most noticed or the most over done.

      One of the themes I see here is that he finds out something new and repeats himself over and over to everyone. Here I would encourage him to say it once and then that is the end of it. NO going around and telling others, no emailing, no pictures, etc. Say it once and then move on.

      Naturally curly hair. I have to chuckle. Working has caused me to learn so many little side things that I never would have learned any other way. Things that perhaps others take for granted, but there are still quite a few people like me who had never heard of it before.
      We have to be quiet sponges.
      This means we quietly soak up all this new learning without burdening people with our running commentary. This is a life-long skill and worthwhile learning. I would tell him that in the work place he will encounter many, many things that he did not know before. Soak up the education quietly. Explain to him that as the years roll by concepts like naturally curly hair will become more the norm to him. Meanwhile, he needs to limit his comments on these subjects that are new-to-him.

      So target three things a week. He will either catch on and blow everyone away with his willingness to adapt OR he will become overwhelmed and quit. This is how these stories play out. I have one story of a person who just became so overloaded that she called the boss at midnight (closing time) to come down and help. When the boss arrived, he found an incredible mess. She was in tears, she just could not acclimate to the job. Some people don’t make it but some do. In my experience the ones I think will make it, don’t and the ones I think won’t make it, do. It’s really hard to guess the outcome.

      1. Nic*

        I really like the idea of only working with a few behaviors at a time. My family did this when a close friend from another country visited and asked for help with the language. Instead of a barrage of correcting EVERYTHING that was said wrong, we’d pick one thing (subject/noun agreement, for example). We’d do our best to catch every example where subject/noun did not agree, but let everything else slide. The next day we’d work on something else.

        We also asked her for feedback on what she’d like to work on, which could work in this guy’s situation if you gave several examples of quirks of his to pick from. He may find some easier than others.

    32. Imaginary Number*

      He sounds annoying but at the same time I also desperately want to meet this person.

    33. Imaginary Number*

      I was thinking about this and wondering if the whole extreme-nativity thing is a bit affected. I know when I was in middle school I had it in my head (whenever I would go somewhere where I didn’t know anyone like camp) that I needed to make myself “interesting” like a loveable TV character with particular quirks. I would create little personas for myself (which obviously never worked out and usually just made it even harder to make friends.) Granted, this was like … 7th grade, not an intern in college, but is it possible that’s what this guy is doing? He thinks that in order to make an impact as an intern he has to play a particular role?

    34. 100mph Penguin*

      Okay. One thing stood out at me that has nothing to do with Mr. Dragon there:

      You have a three-hour meeting.

      Three. Hours. That you will not get back. Think about that.

      Nevermind that management is ignoring a big behaviour problem, it *has* a big behaviour problem. It can’t plan worth a tinker’s damn. (Now, if this is training, that’s different, but that’s not what you said…)

      Venting is good. Finding a better situation is better. I learnt that one the hard way.

    35. Chaordic One*

      Back at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd., because we were an international corporation we often had employees and interns from the third world countries where we had some of our factories. They experienced quite the culture shock when they came to the U.S. The people were all quite intelligent, but needed a lot more hand-holding and explaining of things (like social customs) than your typical employee. We worked very hard to be patient with them. It would certainly be odd to have someone who grew up in the same town as your company and hadn’t experienced these things before.

      OTOH, there was also the culture shock from employees and interns from other first world countries. (You have to pay for your own health insurance? You don’t have paid childcare or paid maternity leave? You have to pay for your college education?)

    36. Freya UK*

      Honestly, he sounds like a breath of fresh air to me – I’m sick of working with jaded, cynical people who consider themselves ‘informed’…

      On a practical level, as others have said, it would be a kindness to teach him things like not emailing the whole office when he discovers something new, but please, please don’t do it in such a way that it crushes his passion and joy – he has an open heart and open mind and those are qualities increasingly lacking in supposedly ‘civilised’ society.

      Send him to me, I’ll take him on a visit to Old/ToxicJob and he can meet a real dragon!

      1. Nic*

        I’m with you on the breath of fresh air. I’ve always had a thing about loving to experience things with others who are experiencing them for the first time….the wonder and joy is incredible, and helps with jadedness.

        That being said it’s got to be frustrating to work with! I hope like you said the LW can find a kind way to let him know the norms without breaking that heart.

    37. Sally O'Malley*

      Do you think it’s possible this guy’s pranking your office? Maybe even writing a blog or Reddit or something regaling his followers with his antics and the reactions they garner? Or possibly purposely trying to seem weird or even challenged so not much work is expected from him? Just trying to grasp this. I can’t imagine anyone not knowing about medical helicopters and curly hair no matter how sheltered, especially since he grew up in a skyscraper in a large city. I live in the po-dunkiest of po-dunk towns, and Medflight flies over my house at least once a week.

  2. anon for this*

    I need some advice on whether my complaints as outlined below are legit enough to tell my manager or if it sounds like I’m at a BEC, tattling stage. (Sorry, it’s so long)

    I’m a Teapot Producer. My coworker, Ryan, is a Senior Teapot Producer. TPs work with production while STPs work with the sales team, but don’t produce. Ryan has no managerial sway over me. He sends me projects from the sales team and I send him the finished result to deliver back to the sales team. Management gave STPs the “senior” title because they thought working with sales was “harder” than making the actual products.

    Ryan really, really, REALLY wants to be a manager. He talks a big game about how he should have been made the Teapot Team Lead over our manager, Nick, who is, despite his faults, a good manager at the end of the day.

    Ryan has been talked to every one of the four years he’s worked here for being micro-managy and annoying TPs to the point that some of them don’t want to work with him. He doesn’t want to let go of his projects to TPs and acts like he has all the knowledge and is the manager of the TP he assigns projects to. Things like calling them “my TP” or “I’ll address this with my TP” or when both of us are on an email chain, he’ll reply all and say, “Anon, can you do this for Jess?” even though I’m on the email chain as well and am capable of reading and responding without his input.

    Basically, he treats TPs like they’re his employees. He’s the only STP who does this, and it’s mostly to TPs who are women. He’s not as overbearing and micro-managing with the male TPs. I thought this was getting better, but it turns out he’s focused his micro-managing less on the projects people have with him and more on everything else in the work life.

    We’ve had layoffs and been re-orged lately and he’s been frantic that his “key accounts” will be taken away (he doesn’t have any of our key accounts – other STPs do) and has repeatedly said that if they realign so TPs and STPs do the same job, it’ll be a demotion for him to have to start doing projects instead of overseeing projects (which again, he doesn’t oversee, he just hands them off and manages expectations with the field based on status updates he’s told by TPs).

    He’s been going around saying that our department VP and Director have told him how we’re realigning, that TPs would never get promoted, why certain people were laid off, and a bunch of other stuff about how they think it’s unprofessional that people work from home or take vacation during our busier months. The thing is, our VP and Director have said they don’t know how we’re being reorged yet, and the issue about WFH or vacations is HIS issue.

    He likes to say that people abuse it by WFH more than one day even though those days are always approved by a manager, and he’ll chat them throughout the day to “check” that they’re actually online and working. And he says that it’s unprofessional to take vacation during our busy period and the managers should know better than to approve it. He has NO say in any of this. It’s just him spouting off his speculations or personal thoughts as fact.

    He’s never said any of this to me directly, but I’ve heard him say it on phone calls to the sales team or to other people on my team. Is it out of line for me to tell my manager that Ryan is saying our VP and Director have singled him out to tell him a bunch of things? Logically, I know they would never tell him before they’d tell their own direct subordinates or the managers. Ryan just like to pretend like he has all the info so it makes him look good for a potential management position.

    I guess I don’t know if this will come off as me being a tattler or looking petty because I feel like he’s undermining management. And I don’t really think it’s okay for a coworker to keep track of everyone’s WFH status or time off when those days are approved by managers. Some of my coworkers, both TPs and STPs, say they feel bad telling a manager or think it’s ganging up to focus only on him when talking to management, or say “but he just cares so much” or “he’s good at his job” as an excuse. Which leaves me feeling at a loss about what to do.

    1. NW Mossy*

      You definitely have a good opening to talk with Nick (whom I assume manages both you and Ryan) and say “I’ve heard Ryan saying a number of things about what’s happening with our reorganization that are inconsistent with what the VP and Director have been saying. I’m having a hard time figuring out what’s true, or even what’s reasonable for us to know about it right now. Can you help me sort this out?”

      The WFH/vacation stuff is ridiculous, but ignorable. Ryan spouting off what are almost certainly ill-founded rumors about high-level organizational decisions is a bigger deal because of its impact on morale and the overall messaging in a time of big changes, so definitely something Nick should be aware of.

      1. anon for this*

        Thanks, that’s probably how I’ll phrase it. It’s not the first time Ryan has done something like this, though last time he said Nick said something about layoffs that was not in any way true.

        I think the speaking for other people was bothering me, but the WFH/vacation stuff pushed me over the edge.

    2. Beth*

      If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of telling your manager Ryan is doing all this, then phrase it as a question. “Hey Manager, I’ve been hearing a lot from Ryan about ___, ____, and ___. He seems pretty confident in his information, but it doesn’t match what I’m hearing from you. Can you clarify which is more accurate?” That gets it on your manager’s radar without being tattle-tale-y, and also maybe gets you information.

    3. Jessesgirl72*

      I think you should say something.

      When companies reorganize, they often use that opportunity to shed themselves of people like Ryan.

    4. LucyUK*

      As the person who managed the internal comms side of a big restructure last year where our culture changed to some extent and we had a lot of layoffs, I would want someone to be getting on top of this big time. It’s stressful for everyone, especially when the details aren’t nailed down yet, but having individuals spewing out a firehose of bad/wrong/inconsistent information because they’re personally nervous (or have personally way over-estimated their own importance and are stating their opinions as fact, which sounds like more of the issue here) can be a huge distraction from the consistency of the actual message and plan.

      If this were me right now I would be seeing Ryan as a big project risk and asking someone who he should definitely be listening to to get on top of it – asking him to stop spreading rumours and misinformation at a sensitive time, proactively communicating to other employees (to the extent that you can when working with uncertainty) that the things he said do not reflect the attitudes/policy of the people actually making the decisions, basically doing a round of damage control on the mess that he is trying to make with his big mouth.

      I’m lucky in that my organisation values slick-but-human comms, so I always got listened to in the room when stuff like this came up – if you know anyone with enough clout and good sense to either fix this themselves or talk to someone who can fix it, please do. For the benefit of the people who are being told stuff that’s just plain wrong by this guy during a period of uncertainty. (I’d also add that just because you’ve got a decent read on this guy and don’t really trust him doesn’t mean that everyone else feels the same – he might have undue influence with some people and they might believe what he’s saying is true.)

      1. anon for this*

        The thing I’m worried about is that he doesn’t respect Nick, partially because Nick used to be a STP before he was promoted to Team lead and partially because Ryan thinks he could do a better job as a manager than Nick. So all the times Nick has talked to him before have just been ignored by Ryan. I think the only person he’d listen to criticism from at this point is our VP, but I don’t think it’s my place to tell Nick to tell our VP to talk to Ryan.

        He’s spread rumors before and been talked to without any official punishment other than a slap on the hand. It’s really rumors from saying the Director judges anyone who WFH (when our director works from home half the week and said we were allowed to as well) to saying all this stuff about the reorg.

        I guess I’m less concerned with him getting in trouble (though a formal HR warning or something serious would maybe make him stop acting like this), and more worried about some of the people in my department who are prone to panicking if they heard these rumors he’s spouting.

        1. designbot*

          Then that’s the way I’d couch this, that you’re concerned about the impact of these rumors on team moral/confidence. I would ask that you all get updated together on what’s going to happen so that nobody has privileged information over the rest of the team (*coughryancough*). That way everybody’s on the same page, and if you hear any of his nonsense going forward you can be like “Yes, Nick already told us about how things will be handled, so I think we’re all clear on it. Thanks.”

        2. Not So NewReader*

          One person I know of was talking negatively about the boss and finally said that they could do a better job than the boss. That person was fired on the spot when the boss heard that.

    5. CoffeeLover*

      What he’s doing is a big deal when it comes to org changes. I bet management would love to know who’s been spreading rumours and misinformation. It makes their job of maintaining moral and managing the change A LOT harder. Your manager would definitely want to know who’s making his job harder. It’s very useful information to have and it can be difficult to pinpoint who the trouble-maker is from up top.

      Others have provided good scripts for addressing this. Honestly, depending on your relationship with your manager and his involvement in the org changes (i.e., he’s playing an active role in the changes which is probably the case), I would straight up say: “I just wanted to give you a heads up that Ryan has been creating and spreading a lot of rumours about the changes happening such as X, Y and Z. I know you want to manage the kind of information that’s flying around about this, so I just wanted to let you know.” Your manager would take it from there. (If I was in his position I’d be pretty pissed off a senior person thought this was appropriate behaviour.)

      The other issues you have with Ryan seem to be ongoing and should probably be addressed in a separate conversation after the org has cooled down… assuming Ryan is still there ;).

      1. anon for this*

        Thanks, everyone has been providing good scripts! While I know my manager would take it seriously, I’m a bit cynical about anyone else doing anything. There’s been several sexual harassment claims over the years towards other coworkers and management has pretty much brushed those aside, so if they took almost four years to lay off (not fire) someone who had multiple sexual harassment allegations against him, I doubt they’re going to do anything about Ryan spreading rumors and pretending to be a manager.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Sad to say, but sometimes people are more motivated when it is happening to them personally. This is something that is being done to management directly.

    6. BuildMeUp*

      For what it’s worth, Ryan is not actually good at his job. Not if he’s wasting this much time micromanaging and making himself feel like a big shot. And I doubt this is all coming from a place of caring, either.

      Do you have a good/close enough relationship with your department VP that this could come up in casual conversation with them? If you do, it sounds like bringing it up directly to them has the best chance of something actually being done. Otherwise, definitely talk to Nick.

  3. Fibro fighter*

    I’ve really been struggling with my job lately. I have fibromyalgia and have been going through a bad flare for over a month now. But even before this current flare I was having a tough time. I’m exhausted, having difficulty focusing, deeply depressed, and in constant pain. My work quality and speed has been declining for a while and I’m having a hard time meeting deadlines.

    I work from home which affords me some additional flexibility. On days when I normally wouldn’t be able to drive to an office, I can still work from the comfort of my home. But I still have times I’m too sick to work. I had to call in sick 5 times this month.

    After the first two absences I decided to tell my manager about the fibromyalgia because, even though she hasn’t said anything, I think it’s noticeable that my work is slipping. I also had a lot of absences this year and I wanted her to understand I wasn’t just calling in for a sniffle. She didn’t have much reaction other than to just say she hopes I feel better. I have not told her about the issues people with fibromyalgia face so I’m not sure how much she really understands. I have told her about some of the treatments I’m doing in the hope it’ll help her understand that I’m trying to combat this.

    I have my yearly review coming up and I’m really worried about it. I know I’m going to be asked to evaluate myself and I’ll be getting feedback from coworkers. I’m worried they’re going to say I’ve dropped the ball in a number of places…which I have.

    How should I handle this? Should I just be honest and own that I haven’t been a stellar employee or is that shooting myself in the foot? Should I mention that the health issue has impacted me and that I’m dealing with it? Or should I focus on the positives (of which there aren’t many) and risk looking oblivious to my own performance issues?

    I’m also wondering if I should send my manager some articles about fibromyalgia but I’m not sure if that is just too much.

    1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      If you’ve been at your job for over a year and your company is large enough, I would talk with your doctor about getting intermittant FMLA. This will protect your job through numerous absences. That might put your mind at rest about missing work, at least. As for the rest, be honest. I have rheumatoid arthritis and deal with many of the same symptoms. I sympathize!

      1. Fibro fighter*

        I didn’t even know that was an option. I will definitely talk to my doctor about that. I think it would help me feel better about it.

        1. LavaLamp*

          Talk to your HR first and get the packet of paperwork and take it with you when you see your doctor. A lot of times they don’t fax things to the right places or forget about them so it’s easier to do that in your appointment.

          I’ve got chronic pain and fatigue so I myself use intermittent fmla and it’s a godsend. I’m sending you gentle hugs cuz I know how shitty diseases like ours are. You’re strong, and you’ll make it.

          I also found an excellent app to track symptoms and fatigue and all that fun stuff the other day if you want to take a loot at it. Its a good way to see trends like ‘oh it’s snowing. Now wonder I feel like I got attacked by an F350’
          It’s called MyPainDiary2. It’s 5$ but I’m sure there are free options on the AppStore.

          1. Jerry Vandesic*

            In addition to FMLA, the OP might want to invoke ADA and ask for an accommodation. Based on your wording above, your telling your manager about your condition and her response does not change your work circumstances. At this point, your employer does not need to adjust how you work or any expectations that they have for you. If you want that to change, you need to EXPLICITLY ask for an accommodation based on the Americans with Disability Act. Once you use those words (“accommodation,” “ADA”), the HR department will need to formally respond to your request. If you want to go down this path, make sure you do your research beforehand, and know what accommodations you are asking for. Good luck.

            1. Fibro fighter*

              I have already said something to her about the only accommodation I was asking for was to be able to attend my doctors appointments. But I guess I might need to rephrase that. I am not sure what accommodations I could even ask for so I’ll have to look into that.

              1. misspiggy*

                Some accommodations I’ve asked for and got in a similar situation have been working shorter hours some days and longer hours others; attending meetings by phone instead of in person, often at short notice; travelling to and from work later than normal hours to avoid the rush hour; and taking time off at short/no notice without it being sick or annual leave, as long as I make the time up and it doesn’t disrupt my workload.

                1. Fibro fighter*

                  Ok. Those sound reasonable. Many of them I already do since I work at home. I don’t need to go to an office and all my meetings are over the phone. But I think it would be really helpful to be able to work shorter hours some days and longer on other days. I think they would agree to that because my hours are already somewhat flexible.

                  I also like the idea of being able to make up my hours. I would be willing to do that and would actually prefer it. But my manager has some weird hangups about things like that. I tend to have to take sick time if I take off but I haven’t specifically asked if I can avoid that by making up for it. Plus in some cases, I don’t need a whole day off. Sometimes I feel sick just in the morning and other times I wake up strong and struggle towards the end of the day. If I could not take a whole sick day I would be less likely to call in sick for the whole day.

              2. Amy*

                I think usually you need to talk to HR about accommodations, not your manager. I wouldn’t assume that anything you’ve discussed with her is formally set up as an accommodation, unless the actual process at your specific organization says to do it that way.

                I would suggest talking to your doctor or other people with fibro about what possible accommodations could be.

              3. GOG11*

                The Job Accommodation Network has a page on fibromyalgia, including limitations and possible accommodations. I’d highly recommend checking it out.

                1. Cheshire Cat*

                  Thank you for this! I had never heard of it, so decided to look it up. And found that migraines (which I have) are listed, & one of the suggested accommodations is a glare-free filter for computer monitors — which I’m going to ask for next week. And there are a couple of others that would mean that I could use less sick time (telework and comp time). So thanks again for mentioning the site!

              4. Jerry Vandesic*

                Just make sure you phrase it correctly. It’s not an accommodation for fibromyalgia, it’s an accommodation for your disability which is covered by the Americans with Disability Act. I have seen HR people and managers play word games about this, and lawyers have told me that the words can be critical in determining your edibility for the accommodation.

                Also, put it all in writing. The request for the accommodation needs to be put down on paper, and acknowledged by your employer.

          2. Fibro fighter*

            Good idea to contact HR first. I will do that. I’m sure they can help guide me. Luckily I work for a really great company and they are very much health first. So I think they will easy to work with.

            Also, I use MyPainDiary! It’s great. I think I have the original, not #2, so I’m going to go look for the upgrade. But it has been very helpful keeping track of my pain. Although, sometimes the pain is so overwhelming I don’t know where to stop or start.

            Thanks for the gentle hugs. Right back at you!

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I’d guess that you’re creating added stress deciding if you should say something to your boss and worrying if your co-workers are noticing a drop in productivity. I’d talk to your boss just so you can get it out there and reduce your stress levels. The worrying about work could be making the pain worse and then you get stuck in a cycle of more stress = more pain. Hopefully, everyone will understand and you’ll be feeling better soon.

      1. Fibro fighter*

        You are so right. I am stressing about it and it’s causing so much anxiety but I guess that can contribute to pain too. I always feel better when I talk about things which is why I’ve been contemplating just being upfront about it and why I ultimately explained the reasons for my absences. To be honest, I always have trouble determining the line between appropriate amounts of information and TMI. Any thought about how I could word it?

        1. AndersonDarling*

          I have a good relationship with my manager, but not on a personal level. In my case, I’d say “I don’t know if you have noticed my work slipping, but I have fibromyalgia and I’ve been having a flare up. Normally I can keep everything balanced and in check, but I’ve been having a hard time recently. I just wanted you to know what is going on. I should be back to my regular self soon.” Then wait to hear the response. 9 times out of 10 the response will be sympathy and support.
          BTW- I’m a LMT and I’ve been hearing of fibro patients using those cellulite busting tools to loosen fascia and help with the fibromyalgia pain. I don’t know if it they really work, but I thought I would mention it!

          1. Fibro fighter*

            I’ve had a similar conversation with her already. I didn’t mention my work. But I mentioned that I had fiber and was going through a flare, which was why I had been absent and that I was working on it. I’m hesitant to say that I’ll be back to my regular self soon because I’m not sure when that will be. Bec response was brief. Just that it sounds difficult and hoped id feel better soon. This time I want to specifically raise the idea of formulating a plan for when I am not feeling well.

            I’m not sure what the cellulite busting tools that loosen fascia are. Can you give me more info?

            1. AndersonDarling*

              If you search for “cellulite massager” on Amazon, a few options will pop up, and then there is the fasciablaster. They loosen fascia so the fibers aren’t pinching the nerves and causing pain. But they will hurt like-all-get-out the first few times you use them.
              It sounds like you are a good employee, so I bet your boss will be ready to accommodate your ups and downs. Once you open the dialog and say what you need, it should be smooth sailing. Good luck!

    3. Nan*

      My other half has fibro. I second what the others are saying. Talk to your doc about FMLA, and if your boss is the reasonable type, talk to her, too. I know (secondhand) that fibro sucks, but maybe there are a few environmental things that can be done at work, too. It won’t make it better, but it may help? Turn up the heat in your spot, headphones if it causes tinitis (which I apparently can’t spell), changing your hours if you tend to feel better/worse at certain parts of the day, or a vacation week just to de-stress. Not to even go anywhere, just not go to work.

      1. Fibro fighter*

        I work from home so I luckily have a ton of flexibility in that regard. I have an adjustable desk so I can stand and stretch when I need to and lower it down quite a bit when I want to slump in my office chair. I can also work from bed or the sofa for the most part, but I often need 3 monitors for my job so it somewhat depends on what my current responsibilities are. And I can adjust the heat or play music if I want. I even have a sound machine.

        I would LOVE to adjust my hours but have no idea how to approach it. I want to work 7-3:30 instead of 8:30-5:00. I fade by the end of the day and have a hard time getting anything done the last two hours. Then I’d also be able to go to the gym for a water aerobics class that really helps me but I can’t do because work conflicts. I’m just not sure how to ask. Should I start with a doctor recommendation?

        1. Nan*

          Maybe start w the doc explanation. I also don’t see why an hour schedule swing wouldn’t fall under an ADA reasonable. accommodation, but I am totally not an expert in that area.

        2. Teach*

          Shifting your hours would technically allow you to access a treatment (exercise is recommended for fibro, especially in warm water!) that should decrease your time out sick, without taking away overall work hours. That sounds like a win-win.

    4. AnitaJ*

      I’m sorry that you’re dealing with this, and I think you’re a champ.

      My spouse also has chronic pain, and it affects his ability to work as well. He has had frank conversations with his bosses/managers to lay out the issue and to ask them honestly if it was affecting the quality of his work, his relationships with his coworkers, or his general standing as an employee. That conversation took away a lot of his anxiety, and he can now turn that freed-up emotional energy to managing his illness.

      I wouldn’t send your manager articles about fibromyalgia–that might read as condescending (I’m not saying you are! But the manager might think “I could have Googled it myself, why is she sending me these?”).

      I would have this conversation now, before your review. This is important enough that it should all be out in the open as soon as possible, so you can focus on managing your fibro and your day to day life. While I wouldn’t put all of your symptoms out there for her, I think giving her the message that it isn’t just ‘oh, I’m feeling achy, guess I won’t work’ will be helpful. I wouldn’t use the words “haven’t been a stellar employee”, but instead admit that you’ve been struggling and that you would like to come up with a plan that will produce quality work while still managing your health.

      Good luck. I know you can do it!

      1. Fibro fighter*

        Thanks so much. For some reason I was thinking of waiting til the review but you’re right that doing it now would be better. I have a weekly one on one with her so I could do this next Tuesday. I like the idea approaching it as coming up with a plan that would help me produce better work. I think she would appreciate that and I would feel better.

        I just need to to have a plan in mind and I’m not entirely sure what it should be yet. That’s the tough part.

    5. Amy*

      I also think that looking at FMLA or ADA accommodation will be more productive than trying to educate your manager about fibro. There are protections out there for people facing this kind of chronic medical issue, and you should make use of them! Your immediate manager generally shouldn’t be the one making decisions about whether your medical needs are reasonable.

      As for your review: I think you should focus on the work you’ve done while at work while analyzing your own performance. If you say anything about your absences, I’d frame it as “I’ve struggled lately with how to handle time-sensitive tasks when I’ve been out sick. Going forward, one of the goals I’d like to set for myself is developing a better process for either adjusting expected timelines or handing off urgent tasks in that situation.” Don’t frame your being sick as the problem–the problem is that you’re dropping balls, not that you have fibro.

    6. CheeryO*

      I feel for you! I have been struggling with a yet-to-be-diagnosed rheumatoid issue, and I have some stretches where I feel absolutely useless at work, and the resulting shame/depression/anxiety is definitely not helpful.

      I’m lucky in that I don’t have many hard deadlines, and I can make up for it by working my butt off when I do feel good. I don’t feel like I need to address it with my boss yet, but if/when I do, I plan to be as upfront and matter-of-fact as possible without getting too detailed with the specific symptoms. I don’t think I would email articles; I think most people understand that fibro causes chronic pain that’s way beyond little aches and pains, and if not, a quick Google search would be pretty enlightening. If there’s anything you’re doing to manage your symptoms (and you’re pretty confident that you’re going in a positive direction), I’d mention that in a general sense, but otherwise I think it’s fine to just say that you’re aware that it’s impacting your work and that you’re doing your best to work through it.

      1. Fibro fighter*

        The yet-to-be-diagnosed stage is the absolute worst. I was only formally diagnosed a few weeks ago. But I’ve pretty much know I had this for a very long time. As a result, I’ve been suffering and managing it with virtually no help from my doctors and I was hesitant to mention it to my manager without an official diagnosis.

        So my work has been declining for a long time and this particular flare, being bad, is what motivated me to take up getting a diagnosis again. I’m glad I did because I’ve finally found a doctor that can help me. So maybe that helps me figure out how to talk to my manager about it. I can explain to her that I’ve been handling it on my own but now I have a doctor to help me manage so I’m more confident in finding solutions that work.

    7. Mel*

      I have fibromyalgia too and just wanted to chime in with gentle virtual hugs! I’ve had to miss work a lot lately thanks to crazy weather changes flaring me up (and my first ever sinus infection). They’ve been pretty flexible about it, but I’m in a temporary job and it likely would be an issue if I were permanent. I also have felt my quality of work slip, but my normal level is very efficient so it hasn’t been too much of a problem either. But I still feel guilty about it too.
      I’d like to second all the FMLA advice. I’m going to be asking my doctor about one when I see her next month, as I’m starting a new permanent role next month. I’ve been upfront about my fibromyalgia the entire time in my current temporary role, and plan to do the same in my new role (as it explains why I don’t have a PhD when I actually should have been awarded one). I’m nervous too, because my new role will be challenging and I’m hoping to avoid fibro fog.

      1. Fibro fighter*

        Virtual hugs to you too!

        I think the fiber fog is a killer for me. I’m constantly forgetting what I was going to say, going blank on peoples names, stumbling over my words. I think I sound like an unprepared idiot sometimes! My job is highly technical so I struggle with some of the details.

        I hope things go well in your new role!

  4. Mouse*

    I’m an intern and I’m hoping for some reassurance! My boss is nice, but sometimes says things that freak me out a bit and I’m afraid I’m making a bad impression. For example, she asked me if I was signing up for some event. She had told me before that I’ll be helping her at the event, so I didn’t register for it (it’s a marathon thing). She told me to register so I’d get a t-shirt. She then made a comment like “don’t you read your email?” in that tone of “this is a joke but also not really” when I asked her what I needed to do to register. I told her that I do, but I hadn’t held the details in my brain since I thought it wasn’t applicable. Or as another example, I was talking to a neighbor (yay open offices) and the neighbor asked if I had a library card (conversationally- I didn’t need it for the job or anything). I don’t, because I’m a little weird about reading books other people have sneezed (or who knows what else) on. When I said I didn’t have a card, my boss said “you’re fired!” from a few cubicles away. I get that it was a joke, but I’m just worried that it means I’m making a bad impression! To make things worse, she’s nominally my boss, but I work entirely with other people, so she never sees the actual quality of my work. Should I be worried?

    1. Claudia M.*

      This actually sounds like she’s trying to find a way to connect to her employee, and is just really, REALLY awkward about it.

      Take it from a fellow awkward person. Connecting with employees is harder than it should be for some of us. I actually took classes to try and get better! They were incredibly helpful.

      But the fact that she’s inviting you to help her with the event seems promising. Unless there have been more serious comments/issues, I don’t think the above is anything to genuinely worry about.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      It’s great that you’re thinking about how you appear and wanting to modify it. It doesn’t sound like you’ve made any impressions so bad you can’t have a go at correcting them.
      For the library card thing, do you perhaps work for a library?

    3. Chelsea*

      It sounds to me like she just has a wry sense of humor. I wouldn’t worry about it too much! For your own piece of mind, you could always ask to check in with her about how you’re doing in your position, if there’s anything she’d like you to be doing differently, etc. Could give some useful information or just some reassurance.

    4. Temperance*

      You’re probably fine, but I would recommend getting a library card. Most libraries have ebooks now, so you don’t have to worry about other people’s disgusting germs and bedbugs anymore. ;)

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        I was going to say this. Library cards and access are useful even if you’re never going to step foot in a library or pick up a physical book.

      2. Snarky Librarian*

        Yes to this! My library offers e-books, streaming video and music, and digital magazines. You can access all of it from home but you need a valid library card number.

    5. Nan*

      I think you guys just have differing senses of humor. I’ve been known to say “read your email” and all I meant was “read your email.”

      Library books used to weird me out, but yay for free books!

      As a runner, I don’t like that she told you to register for the marathon, or was she telling you to register as a volunteer? Race registration is expensive, and marathons have caps. If you’re registering to run with no intention of running, you’re snaking someone else’s spot, which is no bueno.

    6. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I think you’re fine, but I will add that if you had received an email with the instructions that it would have been better to go back to the email instead of asking. It’s not a huge deal, but since you already had the info it’s better to look it up than to ask your boss for it.

      But I wouldn’t think anything about the comment about the library card. I do recommend getting one for the ebooks!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. When you get conflicting instructions, it’s fine to ask. In this case I would just go with the most recent instruction, thinking she probably changed her mind for whatever reason.

        I’m not liking the library card joke. It’s not good for bosses to joke about being fired. That is really bad form. However, you can go get a library card and she will NEVER know you’re not using it. You can show her the card and just say, “I did not know if you were joking or not so I got a card, see?” Maybe that will send a message to her to be more careful.

    7. CheeryO*

      I wouldn’t be worried, but it would be pretty easy to smooth those two specific examples over if you wanted to. If you haven’t already done it, after you register for the event, you can send her a quick email (or stop by her desk) and let her know, and just throw in a quick thank you for reminding you about the first email with the registration details.

      As far as the library card thing, that definitely seems like a throwaway joke, but if you do ever decide to get a library card (Overdrive is amazing, just saying), you could tell her with a smile or a little joke (“Can I have my job back now?”). NOT saying that you need to do any of these things since it’s really nothing to worry about, but it would be easy to do if you wanted to.

      1. motherofdragons*

        It definitely sounds like the “You’re fired” was a joke, although your boss probably didn’t think it all the way through that it might terrify you!

    8. designbot*

      I’d see these as half joking/half serious. For the first, she’s taking a joking tone because she doesn’t want to reprimand you, but, you know, read your email instead of bothering her to verbally give you instructions on something you have sitting in your email box already. On the second, again her tone is joking because this isn’t a formal requirement but she probably genuinely has questions about your ability to keep current without using the library so if you said “I just have a thing about germs so I buy a lot of books,” or similar in the moment that’d probably clear it right up.

    1. ThatGirl*

      While I think she could have waited until the interview to ask, honestly, that’s so tacky. And seems very startup-y to me: how dare you ask about pay! Don’t you want the honor of working for us!

      1. FDCA In Canada*

        The articles I’ve read about it are unclear–some have said she had had one interview and was prepping for her second, but others are saying it was a preliminary phone screen interview, so I’m not sure. I do think it’s telling that their statement included “We do share a compensation package prior to hiring”–well, no duh, is there any company that expects you to turn up and work without ever having discussed pay and benefits? (Knowing AAM, the answer, depressingly, is probably yes.)

        1. Becca*

          My sister-in-law is applying for jobs, and the owner of one place said, “Okay, so you start on Tuesday!” — without giving her any information about salary, benefits, anything! The owner didn’t even know if her employees had health insurance through work!!

        2. Unfortunately Yes*

          Yeah…the answer is yes.

          They also refused to tell me what classes I’d be teaching. It was a small school so specific courses could change year to year, but it would always be some kind of middle and high school math. Except this position was starting mid year to replace a teacher who left. They knew what classes had no teacher but wouldn’t tell me if it they were geometry, calculus, algebra, etc. Also wouldn’t tell me the grade level.

          So they literally interviewed me on Wednesday, wanted me to start on Monday and wouldn’t tell me what the job was or what it paid…

      2. Io*

        I saw this story on Twitter and someone just kept insisting that you interview for a job for the opportunity and not for the pay. I didn’t realize we could eat opportunity.

        1. ThatGirl*

          There’s a Twitter account (and possibly a tumblr?) dedicated to posting ads looking for creative types (photogs, designers, writers, etc) doing things “for the exposure” as opposed to pay. It’s hilari-sad.

        2. Lance*

          I saw it on Twitter as well, retweeted with a comment from our very own Ask A Manager, Alison Green herself.

        3. Artemesia*

          Isn’t it interesting that CEOs and other C @#$@s are only going to work well if compensated with ginormous multi million dollar salaries and bonuses, but that the minions should just work for the pure fun of it?

          It is all about dominance and submission.

      1. Lauren*

        If you have highly wanted skills, you can ask for anything. I had friends in IT do this, but they are in the 150k range, because of how valuable they are – so employers say yes to a lot of stuff that won’t fly for a normal 50k job.

      2. Freya UK*

        Here in the UK a month’s holiday is your basic entitlement (28 days)… your employer can give you more, but not less, so… you all need to get on that.

    2. Io*

      I got into a Twitter argument with someone over this one. She said she wouldn’t necessarily cancel the interview, but that it would be a red flag. I asked why she wanted to waste her time interviewing someone if the pay would ultimately cause that person to not accept the job. She said it was about the “passion” and that they’d pay more for the right candidate.

      Really? You’re gonna pay someone 50% more than you have budgeted if they’re the right candidate and demand that pay?

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Especially as the work involved making takeout menus. I like takeout now and again, but it’s not a subject I can imagine generating such passion that you wouldn’t even care about salary. (Didn’t click the link, but the version I saw was after one interview and preparing for second, asked about compensation.)

      2. Delta Delta*

        I had an inverse situation not long ago (and I have no idea if this sort of thing happens often). I had a pre-interview to find out if they should go forward with scheduling an interview because of pay. They were concerned they’d pay too low, and didn’t want to waste their or my time with an interview if pay would get in the way.

      3. Jessesgirl72*

        Artistic types of that sort often don’t have budgets.

        It sure was a red flag, though. That woman sure dodged a bullet!

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I am SO SICK of seeing listings that want me to have passion for the job. Nobody can sustain stars-in-their-eyes passion for eight hours a day, five days a week.

      5. Honeybee*

        Some of the most talented, passionate people are also people who know their worth and aren’t going to work for beans; they also know that their skills are in demand and if one company wants to play games, they can take their talents elsewhere.

    3. Merida May*

      Thank you for posting this! I was going to ask about that today myself. I was specifically wondering what people thought about naming and shaming via twitter versus sites like glassdoor.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think Twitter gets a lot more exposure than Glassdoor so I can understand why she opted for that route.

        It makes me wonder if hiring managers are going to hold this against her though. I mean, I wouldn’t, because I think her question was perfectly reasonable and their reaction was over the top, but I imagine there are people out there who agree with the company that she overstepped by asking.

        1. k*

          While some may hold it against her, I’d argue that those are people she doesn’t want to work for.

          On the twitter vs. glassdoor point: I think this is one of those things that’s so “WTF?” to some people (and apparently the poster) that it warrants the more public twitter approach. I view Glassdoor as a place to get the real nitty-gritty view of what working somewhere is like. Like you post of glassdoor if you want to tell people that there’s little room for advancement, you post on twitter if you want to tell people that the CEO likes to kick puppies.

    4. Augusta Sugarbean*

      I think this is my favorite tweet about it: “People aren’t looking for work because they have a vision of @SkipTheDishes creating world peace, they need to live.”

    5. Fabulous*

      While I totally disagree with the company’s response, I think the girl could have asked the question in a better way. The way she worded it did make it sound a bit harsher than intended. If she had said something like (*channels Alison*), “Before our meeting on Thursday, I want to be sure that our pay expectations are in line. Could you give me an idea of what you will be offering for an hourly rate?” it may have gone over better. I’d personally skip mentioning benefits altogether until later on.

      1. Audiophile*

        I can see waiting to find out benefits until an in person interview. Although anytime a job hasn’t offered benefits, I’ve always seen it listed right up front, either in the job posting or I was told in the first phone interview. This wasn’t a US job though, right? So thinks may be different there.

    6. Freya UK*

      Well I’m glad for her that she dodged an employment bullet – just like I did this week! Unfortunately only after they wasted my time with two interviews. Ugh.

  5. AlexandrinaVictoria*

    How do I deal with an office bully that our supervisor LURVS? I’ve brought up their sneaky, bullying ways and am told “Oh, you know how they are.” This person has tried to get me fired multiple times and I’m in a constant state of panic. I don’t think I can do this much longer.

    1. Letters*

      At this stage? CYA — start documenting EVERYTHING. The things the bully does, times and dates and wording. Document when you’ve spoken to the supervisor and what was said — and if you’re still brushed off, take it over the supervisor’s head.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      Document absolutely everything. Send emails confirming the details of anything you spoke of in person so you have a paper trail of in-person convos too. If the bully pushes back on you doing this, just say “oh I’m doing it to make sure we’re on the same page, and so we have the info written down in case we need to refresh our memory. :)”

      Based on your last sentence you’re probably already doing this, but I’ll say it anyway, start to seriously look for another job.

    3. Teflon*

      Is there anyone who can play Teflon? i.e. Is there someone so good at their job the boss also LOVES or at least NEEDS them enough to respect/shelter them? We have a problem child and someone who acts as an unofficial pushback agent on him to make it more bearable for the rest of us.

      1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

        I am that person, but the boss seems to love the bully more. I think they are insecure because I do my job very very well. Any pushback from me results in retaliation. But that’s a very good suggestion and I’ll think about it!

    4. Natalie*


      If your co-worker was just a bit of a dick, I’d say it might be worth figuring out a way to tolerate them or push back. But if they’ve tried to get you fired multiple times, it’s escalated to a level that I wouldn’t want to attempt to fix. Your boss has made it fairly clear through their inaction that they are not going to do anything about the situation. I personally wouldn’t count on that changing at all in the future, no matter what kind of documentation you produce or how you frame it to them. So your best bet is to get the eff out of dodge.

    5. Former Admin Sue*

      Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do. Please get out as soon as you can I stayed too long and it started to affect how I felt about myself!

    6. Gadfly*

      CYA/Document everything and get ready to go above the supervisor if you find anything appropriately actionable. And/or prepare to leave. Possibly let supervisor know this has gotten to be so intolerable you are looking to leave (depends on your read of the supervisor–are the just the sort who don’t care until it could hurt them? Sounds like your leaving could hurt them more than reigning in bully will hurt them.)

    7. Bea W*

      You get out. BTDT. If management refuses to deal with it, you have little left to resort to. If your manager is incapable or unwilling to deal with problems like this, don’t expect much else other than a toxic workplace situation.

    8. ..Kat..*

      1. Start looking for another job. This toxic coworker plus a crap manager are untenable.
      2. Document everything, and make sure you have a copy of this at home (in case you are suddenly escorted out the door). This way, if you are fired, you can make a case for receiving unemployment.

      I am sorry you are being treated like this and your manager is a waste of oxygen. No one deserves this. Treat yourself well. Having to deal with this is very stressful and can do a number on your self esteem.

    9. Nana*

      Seconding everyone on the thread. Leave and move on. Or else be on the lookout for one of the bully’s attempts to fire you to succeed. Don’t waste your time and take your talents somewhere else.

  6. Anon Ymous HR professional*

    The company I work for has open positions for warehouse and shop floor workers. There are 4 requirements for the jobs:

    1) Must be able to pass a pre-employment drug screen as well as random drug / alcohol tests while employed (the jobs involve the use of heavy machinery and any type of impairment, legal or not is a health and safety issue)

    2l Must not have a criminal record for any violent, sex or theft related crimes

    3) Must be physically capable of / able to perform the required work

    4) Must be legally authorized to work in the United States

    The jobs were posted over 2 weeks ago. Our process is to call anyone who qualifies in for an interview. So far over 40 people have applied. Some of them were rejected before they were called for an interview and some were called in for interviews and rejected after they interviewed. Not a single one of them was able to meet all 4 requirements. I’m at my wits end and my boss and the hiring managers are getting anxious and keep asking me what’s going on with the job postings.

    1. FDCA In Canada*

      Oh, I run into this issue frequently–we post for outside employers who occasionally will get frustrated at the lack of applicants. For outside employers we usually have to do a bit of gentle expectation resetting–around here the general labour positions ebb and flow with the seasons, it’s unusual to find people who can meet the expectations who aren’t currently employed, etc. It doesn’t seem like the requirements you have are particularly unusual for that type of position, so is there a way you can blast the ad out to different boards? We’ve had more luck in our area with physical job boards in offices and community boards for gen labour positions, rather than online-only.

    2. Pup Seal*

      Do you know which requirement most candidates are lacking? I feel all requirements are quite basic, so I’m surprised nobody has met all 4 requirements. Though I think number 3 is kinda vague. Maybe whoever is posting the job might want to include what physical capabilities a person must have. I’ve seen job postings that have “must be able to lift 50 lbs” or “must be able to stand on feet for 8 hours”. That might help get more qualified candidates to apply.

      1. Anon Ymous HR professional*

        We’ve had trouble with all four of the qualifications equally. The requirements for things like lifting and standing are other stuff is listed, I didn’t include the whole list in my post above because it was a lot to type out.

        1. Agile Phalanges*

          Same issue here (I also posted below). Our job ads list the type of work they’ll be doing, the lifting requirements, etc., but we had a guy last 4 hours before coming into the office and quitting (at least he did us that courtesy) because the job was too strenuous for his heart condition. !!! You’d think he’d have remembered the heart condition when reading the job description and decided this wasn’t the job for him before going through the process of filling out the application and taking the drug test, but no.

    3. CU*

      Are they listing pay in the job listings? If yes, it’s not high enough to attract qualified candidates. If they’re not listing it, put it in and see if you get a higher caliber of candidate.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Exactly. My hubby has been looking for any job, including warehouse work, but he assumes that it pays min wage if no wage is listed.

      2. Anon Ymous HR professional*

        The pay is listed. It’s above minimum wage and includes benefits after the probationary period.

        1. CU*

          There’s a lot of ground between minimum wage and living wage. If the salary isn’t a lot closer to the living wage end of the gap, you’re not going to attract good candidates. You said below its market wage for the area. Maybe all the qualified people are making market wage at other places and you need to pay more to attract them away.

          1. Anon Ymous HR professional*

            It’s market rate for our area and includes a competitive benefits package. It’s not below market rate, not even close.

            1. CU*

              When I said below I meant down thread. As in you said down thread you were offering market wage.

              If there are no people willing to work for the amount you are offering , it could be that everyone who is willing to do that job for that amount of money is already doing that job for that amount of money somewhere else. You will either have to offer them more or wait for the other employers to downsize or go out of business.

              Fast food restaurants in my area have this problem. National chains had a starting wage of $9/hr. Local chain started at $10. National chains couldn’t hire decent employees, so they raised their starting wages to $10. Still couldn’t hire anyone, even though that was market wage, because everyone willing to work a fast food job for $10/hr was already working at local chain. Local chain also consistently has the best food and service because the employees know they’ll be well compensated.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                How the hell does anyone live on $10. I cut my expenses to the bone and I still need at least $12 and I’m not even in a high COL area. Of course, if I had another income in my household, it would be easier, and/or if I didn’t have fooking student loans.

                1. ThatGirl*

                  I survived on $10 hr… in 2003… in a very low COL area… with no student loans or car payments.

              2. PollyQ*

                Yes, when unemployment drops as low as it has, eventually you’ll have to pay more for qualified employees.

        2. Pescadero*

          Then it really does come to a pure supply/demand, basic microeconomics problem.

          Supply of workers is too low at the price you’re willing to pay… and the way to increase supply is to increase pay.

          1. Chris*

            15-20% is the rule of thumb for how much more you have to offer a good prospect who is not unemployed and not disgruntled, to make them consider leaving. Sounds like you might need to think about paying 15% above market if there is no free talent. Or widening your net. Offering recruiting bonuses to existing team members. You know… stuff management doesn’t like to hear.

    4. Cassandra*

      I might take a very hard look at the no-criminal-record requirement. I understand why it might have been enacted, but I suspect it might be screening out people who would do just fine for you.

      1. Kinsley M.*

        I agree. Is the requirement just a blanket ban on all criminal records that contain those offenses or is there a reasonable time limit? My company, for example, has a ban on felonies within the last seven years. We’re not going to not hire someone because he/she stole something twenty years ago and has been a model citizen since. I think if you have a blanket ban on criminal records, you really need to rethink your approach, and I’d be very wary of a potential ‘disparate impact’ litigation.

      2. Anon Ymous HR professional*

        It’s not no criminal record period. We can’t have anyone convicted of sex crimes because there are two playgrounds and a daycare center near the location. The management doesn’t want anyone with prior thefts because we have had a number of issues with theft in the past and many of the products in the warehouse have a high dollar value. If someone has non violent, non theft or sex crime convictions (ex. possession of drugs or breach of probation) they would qualify.

        1. Kinsley M.*

          But is there a time limit on the convictions? I understand having a blanket ban on sex crimes with the closeness to children’s areas, but not theft or violence. I really and truly worry for how ‘legal’ that is (IANAL). Just being worried about the possibility of theft from someone who was convicted a decade or so ago is not going to be a good defense in court especially if this is affecting a large number of minority applicants.

          1. Anon Ymous HR professional*

            It’s going back 5 years for theft, blanket bans on violent and security crimes. Anything else, even if felonies or recent would not exclude an applicant and they would qualify. We have felons for things like drug possession employed here and others who have jobs here as part of their probation.

            1. Former Retail Manager*

              Does the violent crime include domestic violence? That might be another part of the problem. An applicant that was convicted of domestic violence 10+ years ago, likely isn’t the same person today, assuming no additional convictions. And domestic violence situations can range drastically from I pushed someone/slapped them/scratched them to I put them in the hospital for several days. Generally speaking, at least in my area, the types of jobs you’re hiring for don’t pay very well (above min. wage but not a real living wage), the work is hard, and it isn’t climate controlled. The only people you are going to find who are willing to bust ass at a job like that for any length of time are people who need a second chance. Perhaps revisit the criminal record requirement, do some quality interviews, and really look at the person as a whole.

              1. AJennifer*

                I’d sooner hire a guy who was convicted of pounding another guy outside a bar 10 years ago than hire a guy who’d been convicted of DV 10 years ago, all other things being equal. It’s a rare case that a DA and victim carry a DV case through to conviction. If they did, I’d give it a lot more weight than a bar fight.

                Sure, second chances and all, but don’t downplay DV as any less of a violent crime than other assaults. If anything it’s more violent – it’s perpetuated against an intimate partner and is likely accompanied by a lot of behavioral tendencies that are also not conducive to a functional workplace – self-control and anger management issues, manipulating and controlling behavior, etc.

                1. Hrovitnir*

                  Yes. I wouldn’t necessarily expect domestic abusers to bring that to work, but frankly the chances of someone maintaining their violence over time is much higher for domestic abusers than people who got in a lot of fights when they were young (or hell, punching someone out for, say, sexual harassment one time – that’s still a potential assault charge).

        2. Gwen Soul*

          This will sound weird but if you have a goodwill near you they may have workers. They help disadvantaged individuals, so disabled but others also like vets, those on medicaid, and recent ex-offenders.

        3. Natalie*

          Maybe a long shot, but are there any orgs that work with parolees to get them jobs? They need jobs, they’re already being drug tested for parole (I assume) and you can still screen out the criminal categories that don’t work for you.

        4. Red Reader*

          It might actually be worth reaching out to programs that focus on finding employment for ex-cons then? My housemate works as an admin for a Volunteers of America program that helps newly released ex-prisoners find jobs, housing etc, and their clients all have ongoing requirements to stay in the program and stay qualified for the assistance they get, so a program like that might be an option for you.

    5. Dawn*

      Have you thought about going through a staffing agency to fill these positions? That might be easier and save you time in the long run because the staffing agency would be doing all the pre-screening for you.

      1. Anon Ymous HR professional*

        We tried that but none of the people they sent could pass the drug test when they were asked. If it was an office job we could let it slide but for heavy machinery we can’t.

        1. paul*

          Are you requiring previous experience with machinery or are you willing to train new people?

          Particularly if your pay isn’t really competitive and it’s serious machinery (i.e not just knowing how to use a pallet jack) it may help to just be willing to train. Now if you’re trying to hire say, a crane operator or something that requires extensive training that may not be an option.

            1. lurking and such today*

              Have you thought about reaching out to the public school system – specifically guidance counselors at high schools? There are plenty of youth who meet all 4 requirements, are 18, and do not plan to start college in the fall and will be graduating in May. I knew plenty of people who would have applied and hoped they got the type of job you posted about after graduation because college wasn’t an option at the time. Also, have you reached out to any agencies that work with adults with non-physical disabilities? I have noticed a few stores in my area have full time adults on the spectrum and at one particular store the guy does stock and I have seen him lifting and pushing heavy stuff. Just some avenues to explore if possible. Good luck!

              1. blondie*

                Agree 100% on reaching out to high schools. Many of the students in career and technical education programs are bright, can use hand tools, and have good mechanical skills. Plus, they are accustomed to showing up at school on time each day, so they can easily transition into showing up at work on time each day. In our school district, we already drug test students who drive to school or participate in sports or extracurricular activities, so most students do not use drugs or alcohol.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          The agency wasn’t testing them prior to sending them? That seems like a communication failure. I work in staffing and if a client gives us a list of requirements like this, we make sure to only send people who qualify.

        3. Mononymous*

          Are you in a state that has legalized recreational cannabis? If so, I can see how that would cause a huge problem, since cannabis stays in the system for so long.

          1. Anon Ymous HR professional*

            In our state it’s not legal at all. Not even for medicinal use (I don’t agree with the way drug laws are written or enforced and am for legal marijuana but the law as it stands is that it is totally illegal here)

    6. TotesMaGoats*

      So, I wonder a couple of things.

      1 Is your posting truly clear on the requirements for the role AND that they are requirements not preferred abilities?
      2. Where are you posting? That could be a factor. Your local workforce board might be able to help.
      3. For the people who get an interview and then declined, are they declined because they truly can’t do all 4 things or some other issue that came across in the interview?

      1. Anon Ymous HR professional*

        The posting is clear. We have posted online, through local job boards and through staffing agencies. Not a single person who has applied has been able to meet all 4 of the requirements. I don’t know if there have been other issues because no one met the requirements.

        1. A Plain-Dealing Villain*

          Can you offer a bonus to current workers who refer a friend who qualifies? Is there a local veterans organization you can recruit from? Are there any local job centers you can ask to send people your way? I don’t know how geographically restricted your applicant pool is, but it sounds like you need to find an applicant pipeline that can feed you a stream of qualified candidates.

    7. paul*

      What’s the pay like, compared to similar jobs in your area?

      On 3, what are the physical qualifications?

      1. Anon Ymous HR professional*

        The pay is above minimum wage, is market value for our area and includes benefits after the probationary period.

        The physical requirements are things like being able to stand and walk unassisted, being able to lift a certain amount of weight and other standard things for warehouse and shop work.

        1. Pescadero*

          ” market value for our area”

          Do other companies hiring similar employees in the area have the same issues? If so – it may that the entire areas “market value” is too low.

    8. Bad Candidate*

      Is the location on or near a bus line? My FIL could do this type of work, but he doesn’t drive, so he’s limited to public transportation. If you are, you might want to put that in the ad if it isn’t already.

    9. Sualah*

      I used to work for a trucking company, and they posted jobs online, but honestly, for driver and dock workers (so very similar requirements to yours), the best luck was “old school” stuff–want ads, those JobDig newsletters at grocery stores, pinning “Help Wanted” notices on pinboards, accepting applications from people who walked in. Granted, these were (generally) men in their 40s and 50s…most of them didn’t have an email (or used their wife’s email) and didn’t seem to use the internet for job search stuff.

      1. Beansidhe*

        I would suggest you now sent in a “worker” anonymously to see exactly what’s going on on different shifts. Many times despite pay being reasonable and benefits offered there is a massive disconnect between what the front offices assume is going on and what is actually going on. There are more than a few manufacturing plants in my area who no one will work for due to actual conditions on the floor versus what recruiters have told applicants and even what “daylight” management swears they espouse. While companies claim ignorance, it’s widely known about in the “available” workforce.

        To be specific it’s not the physical work,or pay. It’s the direct supervisors who while putting out the production numbers let bullying by longer term employees happen, play shift favorites, tolerate all manner of gas lighting because workers are a dime a dozen. Places are now finding out that the newer workforce has choices. Until Management actively wants to manage some of these bad apples out you sadly are going continue to see the issues with no applicants.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I agree with looking internally–I’m not saying there is something wrong with the company, but I have a hard time believing NOBODY qualifies. I live in a city in Trumplandia with several manufacturers and worked for one and we had no trouble finding qualified people who weren’t high all the time. You should be getting HUNDREDS of applicants and quite a few good ones.

          I’d also put something in the paper, if you can.

          1. Gadfly*

            And if you have the little local weekly free papers, place an ad in those. A lot of people who would be interested, in my experience, for this sort of job also are checking Craigslist and similar sites.

          2. Relosa*


            If you have dozens of applicants and ZERO viable candidates…there’s one common denominator.

    10. Agile Phalanges*

      We have this issue. Basically the same requirements and similar type of job. My boss (tiny company) unfortunately doesn’t even seem to find interviewing or reference checks important. So we hire a TON of people, pay $50 to drug test them, only to have the walk off the job after a day (or sometimes less). Ridiculous. It’s gotten a bit better since we’ve started requiring the RESULTS of the drug test, and not just the testing itself, be done before they begin work, but it’s still ridiculous.

      My best guess is that there are two issues.

      One, it’s just a factor of the type of work and the type of people who look for that type of work. They’ll work our job until something better (by whatever factors they use) comes along. For some, they work here for a month or two until agriculture jobs open back up. For others, they prefer fast food or retail. But yeah, some folks just don’t see jobs as long-term commitments, but as solutions to their temporary problem of being out of work.

      Two, in our case at least, is the pay. At my company, the job used to pay a few dollars over minimum wage, and I think in those days, the quality of employee was a little better, and the length of their tenure definitely was. But over the years, minimum wage has risen more than our starting wage (our state is higher than the federal). My son is 15 and just got his first job, and earns only $1.25/hr less by vacuuming cars at a car wash than our newest employee earns working around heavy equipment in a dangerous job all day. I’m not sure whether my son has a roof over his head at the vacuum station, but our employees are pretty much out in the elements. It’s crazy to expect them to do that for only $1.25 more than minimum wage, but my boss won’t hear of raising our starting wage. Ugh. So we attract the quality of applicant we deserve, basically.

    11. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Based on this whole thread, it sounds like it’s just “one of those jobs” that is hard to recruit for. (And maybe it wouldn’t be in a different area of the country, but for whatever reason, it is where you are.) Not quite the same, but similar: I was listening to a local organic farmer on the local NPR affiliate recently talking about how they advertised farmworker jobs pay a living/market wage and got NO APPLICANTS, hence why they had to apply to get (legal) migrant workers. It is an interesting phenomena – there really are a lot of jobs out there for people in general, it’s just that for a laundry list of personal reasons, those are not jobs they are willing to take.

    12. Ms Ida*

      I would suggest looking at the job description wording and the physical requirements. Think about if these are positions that a woman would generally be cable of physically performing. Most of the warehouse jobs I see have a 50 pound lifting requirement but the actual work itself rarely requires that heavy of lifting. Women that would be otherwise qualified can be detered even by the assumtion that they will not meet the physical requirements or will assume that women will not be hired.
      If it makes sense for the actual positiosn I would really consider how the job describtion could indicate you are open to women, what physical requirements can be flexible, and maybe specifically say prior expierence is not a requirement.
      The other suggestiosn about reaching out to groups that work with vets, ex-cons, students are good and you might also find out if there is a group that works in increase woman in trade jobs. In my area we have tradeswomen dot net and I would expect they would have a pool of women with an interest in this kind of work.

    13. AJennifer*

      I’ve read through this thread and haven’t really been able to discern how your ads are written. If you are focusing on these negative, disqualifying things, which you are putting forth as qualifications, you might be turning off people who are actually qualified. Your ad should describe the job, the important role it plays in the organization, stress your willingness to train, include your organization’s commitment to diversity in the workplace, and sell the good pay, benefits, stability, etc…..all before bringing up these disqualifying issues. And when you do bring them up, say something like “Qualified applicants will be able to: be capable of with or without reasonable accommodation; be legally authorized to work in the US; pass a pre-employment drug screen and random tests; pass a criminal background check that relates to job and workplace specific requirements (feel free to call for more info).”

      The reality is the job market has improved dramatically over the past couple of years – in my area unemployment is under 5% and we’re experiencing trouble hiring in my workplace for part-time positions. Where we had success at $10-$13 an hour a year or two ago, we’re struggling to hire at $12-$15 now. We’ve also found that in this market we’re much better doing our hiring alone than using a staffing agency. Not that they can’t get us people, but the people they get us are not of the quality we hire on our own – we still interview their candidates on the ‘job’ but feel they don’t do well on screening for the longer-term fit for part-time positions, or on reference checking as it relates to reliability and work ethic.

      Hope this helps.

  7. Shabu Shabu*

    How does one prepare for a supervisory position interview if you’ve never been a supervisor?

    More background: John, Sally, and I are on the same team. They recently created two new positions, one which would supervise our team. Expanding our team from 3 to 5 is a shock, but that’s another story…Sally and I love John. He is the best co-worker and is always there to answer our questions and help us, etc. Right now he is informally known as our lead. When they posted the new positions we knew one was for an existing contractor and the new sup position was for John.

    Sally knows everyone and everything and she tells me that the panel (our managers plus two other managers) were “not impressed” with two things when John interviewed. One, they didn’t think he interviewed strongly (John was supposed to be interviewed in person but they ended up doing a phone interview with him. Phone interview suck). Two, the weren’t happy with his answers to the managerial questions. If John doesn’t get this new role we’ll all be sad.

    Anyway, it got me thinking, John has never supervised anyone and this position is meant for a new supervisor. What kind of questions did management ask him that resulted them not being “impressed”? They didn’t like his hypothetical answers? How else does one prep?

    1. Letters*

      In general, you want to show that you’ve got the skill to lead — so even if you haven’t had a title in the past, in what ways have you led? If I were John I would have talked about how everyone considers me the informal lead, because of the way that I took on extra work to help organize X and Y projects and because of the way that I moderated the debate with Z project, and based on how I handled the personality dispute between A and B team members.

      One of the things I’ve realized recently in my own career is that it isn’t just knowledge they look for with a management role — you can be top of your class with expert knowledge for your field, but leadership is a completely different skill that requires something that’s really outside of book learning/memorization. Do you have the patience and unflappability to deal with disputes between employees? Have you shown that you step forward to deal with unpleasant situations by offering others solutions for going forward? And most importantly, can you articulate that in a way that I can understand?

      I feel like I’m mangling this explanation a bit — but basically, there are two parts to it. One, John could be amazing at his current role but not show the specific initiative for managerial roles they’re looking for. Two, he could have everything they need, but not be good at articulating that, and since communicating is also a big part of managing, they could have decided that he wasn’t the best fit.

      Of course, all of this assumes that they are reasonable, intelligent people making the best decision possible.

    2. Poster Child*

      It’s hard to speculate without knowing more but one possibility is he just didn’t show confidence. I have seen a team member who would be great for a supervisor or manager role get poor feedback in the interview probably because she was nervous. I finally did a mock interview with her before the next time she interviewed, and all her answers would trail off and sound like she was questioning herself. Once I pointed that out and told her she had the right answers but should be more confident she aced the next interview and got the role (hopefully because she took my advice).

  8. Pup Seal*

    I have an interview on Monday. Woooo!

    Earlier this week, the hiring manager called and gave me an unexpected phone interview. I’m amazed I didn’t stutter being interviewed on the spot. Still passed to the next stage!

    The next part I don’t know how to feel: the day after she had set up my in-person interview, she called me again and told me they were confident they were going to hire another candidate for the position, but she said they had another similar position opened (which I saw online and almost applied for that one) and wanted to interview me for that job. I told her I was interested, so interview is still on.

    Is it a good sign that they still want to interview me even though it’s for a different position? I would like this job to work out. Even though it’s not the job I originally applied for it still looks like a great opportunity, and this company is located where my boyfriend lives, so I’ll be able to move closer to him.

    1. SophieChotek*

      I think it’s a good sign they want to interview for a different position. To me it seems like they are definitely interested and want to see if you would fit for this other position.

    2. Letters*

      It’s a great sign! It could have been out of her control/knowledge that the role went to something else, but as soon as she found out she called you the NEXT DAY because you were such a strong candidate that she didn’t want to let you go. That’s fantastic!

    3. Chelsea*

      Yes I’d definitely take that as a good sign! they obviously like you and think you’d be a good fit on their team. Good luck with the interview!

    4. Pup Seal*

      Thanks! This makes me feel better. I was a bit worried there.

      The interview is an hour away where I live, and she knows I have to drive down. I guess if she wasn’t considering me at all she wouldn’t waste my time driving all the way over.

    5. Undine*

      Yes, it’s a good sign. It sounds like they already got the candidate who can walk on water & multiply loaves and fishes, but they still have room for a well-qualified mortal.

      1. Hilorious*

        It might also come down to timing (other candidate already interviewed, can start immediately) or some other thing– there are so many factors when it comes to hiring.

        Definitely agree that it’s a good sign!

  9. Cambridge Comma*

    Someone on the floor of our building wrote all over the fridge in permanent marker that won’t come off.
    Strange crude little doodles, although nothing actually offensive, surrounded by LOL, YOLO, OMG, ROFL.
    Because of the textspeak, the (paid, long term) interns are (perhaps unfairly) seen as the most likely culprits. Nobody has owned up but someone has added an unrepentant statement that they didn’t know it was permanent marker – also in permanent marker.
    Opinions are divided as to how bad this is. It doesn’t damage how the fridge works, of course, but it’s an eyesore. What do you think?

    1. ThatGirl*

      Try rubbing alcohol or acetone? Although that may damage the fridge finish.

      I think it’s pretty obnoxious and juvenile, but it’s unfair to pin it on the interns without proof.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Of course — if there won’t be any consequences, I guess nobody will try to pin it on anybody.

      2. LabHeather*

        The alcohol is more likely to be kind on the finish, and should dissolve most permanent markers on the market. Acetone has it’s uses too, but is harsher and best for things alcohol won’t take care of (I successfully removed superglue from my new work trousers with them, yay!).

        I agree that it is very childish, but at least you can remove the eyesore.

      3. Mike C.*

        Yeah, isopropyl/rubbing alcohol will take care of this trivially. Permanent marker isn’t actually all that permanent.

      4. Lily Evans*

        Goo gone can work miracles with removing things! I’ve been able to get sharpie off of countertops with it at past jobs.

    2. Arielle*

      I’m no help on the interpersonal issue, but as for the practical issue of the fridge, you may be able to get it off with something like hand sanitizer (aka alcohol) or nail polish remover.

        1. Red Reader*

          That’s what I was going to say — if you scribble over all the perm marker with a wide chisel-tip dry erase marker, leave it for a couple of minutes, and then wipe it up, a lot of it will come right off, and the rest should come up with some of the other suggested options – or even just a bleach cleaning spray, like formula 409, if the fridge is white.

          1. Sara*

            Ditto this! I used to work at a children’s museum with a whiteboard wall and every now and then a permanent marker would make its way into the marker cups. Just write over it with a dry-erase marker and it’s like magic.

        2. Agile Phalanges*

          I saved the sanity of a poor adjunct professor who didn’t realize he was writing on the white board with permanent marker with this trick. He was so grateful!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Seconding nail polish remover.

        For the desire to make the perpetrator repent, maybe treating it as insane leprechauns? Hit a mildly exasperated, mostly disbelieving note that doesn’t leave room for “You really got me.”

    3. Leatherwings*

      I think that’s pretty bad. If a client or funder or other outside person saw that, it wouldn’t look professional at all. It’s like the adult equivalent of carving crap into your desk – it’s intentionally damaging company property.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Oh good point, nobody’s thought at all what it looks like to visitors. And you’re right, the illustration style is exactly school desk style.

    4. Lisa B*

      Is it a surface that dry erase marker would work? If so, I have toddlers so we have this situation ALL THE TIME. But it’s fixable- Write over it in dry erase marker and when you wipe it off, the dry erase and the permanent marker will both come off. If you’re not sure the fridge is dry-erase friendly, test in a small spot first.

      1. Natalie*

        A magic eraser is super fine grit sandpaper, so it’s not a good choice for a plastic or metal finish like the fridge.

          1. Ultraviolet*

            The abrasive surface is pretty much the defining feature of magic erasers. I can’t swear that there’s no version of them that contains bleach as well, but a Google search didn’t turn it up quickly. But they’re usually advertised as containing no cleaning solutions like bleach.

    5. Spoonie*

      You may be able to remove the permanent it by rewriting over it in dry erase marker and then rubbing it off. It theoretically wouldn’t damage the finish, but…not totally sure on that either. Also, those Mr. Clean magic erasers — just don’t rub too hard or it definitely will remove the finish.

      And would there be anyone in the office who would want to blame sometime silly and asinine on the interns for some really juvenile reason? My mother is aware of what those terms are, so saying that it’s textspeak doesn’t really mean much.

    6. Murphy*

      Dry erase markers will help get permanent markers off of a dry erase board, and alcohol usually cleans up the rest. But I have no idea how well this will work on a fridge.

      Otherwise, can you paint it? I don’t know…

    7. Frustrated Optimist*

      This works on plastic – not sure how it would work on metal…But scribble over the permanent marker with a dry erase marker. Then you can wipe it off, and the permanent marker comes off along with the dry erase marker. (Maybe try on a small area first?)

    8. Hermione*

      Wait, they went back and wrote “I didn’t know it was permanent marker” ALSO IN PERMANENT MARKER? This person is a jerk.

        1. k*

          I’d almost be tempted to use some sort of nanny cam to see if the culprit came back to add more. It’s just such an odd thing to do, it would drive me crazy not knowing who it was.

    9. Rusty Shackelford*

      I love that the culprit wrote they didn’t know it was permanent marker… in permanent marker.

      If none of the above solutions work to clean it, you could always repaint it or get one of those giant refrigerator clings/stickers to cover it.

    10. Bonky*

      Isopropyl alcohol will get it off, likely without any damage at all to your fridge. We’ve always got some kicking around in the office lab, but I also have a big bottle at home for stains and other kid-induced accidents (and for repotting shattered eyeshadows – it’s a multipurpose magic solvent!) – you can get a big bottle very cheaply on Amazon.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Peppermint soap and a green plastic scrubbie WILL take it off. Peppermint soap is great with removing marker. I use it all the time. I write on whatever (storage containers, etc) with black marker and if I need to change it I just get out the peppermint soap.

      You may not even need the scrubbie.

      The two brands that I know of are Dr. Bronners and Dr. Woods. You can find them at some grocery stores, oddly in the health care aisle with liquid bath soaps. Or you can find them at an organic food store. You won’t need a ton. Dr. Bronners has a little bottle about 3 ounces or so. That will be more than enough. You spill out an amount about the size of a dime on to your towel/scrubbie, scrub for a bit, spill out some more of the same amount and scrub for a bit. It takes a minute to start working, then it just cuts that marker loose.

    12. LoFlo*

      If none of the cleaning tips help, you could cover the door with Contact paper. White, or a design of your choice.

    13. ..Kat..*

      What an ass.

      If the above suggestions don’t work, a blow torch will take the writing off easily…

    14. Artemesia*

      There are products specifically for this. Awkward — I would probably have a meeting with the interns and indicate that this would be a firing offense in any office so they might want to note that for the future. Yeah you never know though. There was a rather famous kerfuffle a few years ago when a company had problems with people defacing hallways and caught a rather high up person doing it — no one they would ever have suspected.

  10. JobSeeker017*

    Interview turned political

    On Monday, I participated in a 90-minute interview for a communications position for a small suburban city adjacent to a Midwestern metropolis.

    The interview consisted of the hiring manager, a retired police officer turned communications/IT director, asking me my thoughts on politics at the national, state and local levels as well as using the term “alternative facts” unironically. Of the 12 questions he asked, only about four pertained directly to communications style and strategy.

    I must confess to being caught entirely off-guard by the blatantly political nature of the interview as I was expecting a list of standard questions about strengths, weaknesses, experiences, conflict strategies, etc. Additionally, I am uncomfortable that my interview bragged that the city chose to elect only republicans for the past 20 years makes me uncomfortable in general.

    What are your thoughts, AAM community?

    1. Alice*

      I think you got a lot of useful information about that hiring manager and the culture of the office.

        1. JobSeeker017*


          I certainly left the lengthy interview with an idea that I, a straight left-leaning woman, would not be comfortable in this culture.

          Between the talk of high taxes, an undercurrent of anti-immigrant sentiment, and direct complaints about constituent concerns (roundabouts and children near the roadways), I believe that I am better off waiting for a position that is in stronger alignment with my personal and political beliefs.

          The downside is that the position pays very well and would come with a generous benefits package.

          Sigh. Sometimes the job just isn’t a good fit.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Agreed. I mean, I can see how a communications position with a city would involve speaking about local politics (or state/national and how they relate to the community). It sounds like they are looking for a candidate who will be comfortable talking about those things and agrees with them politically. If you don’t, then it’s probably not a good fit.

        1. JobSeeker017*

          Detective Amy Santiago:

          The interview veered off the standard path when the former police chief turned IT/Communications director mentioned the desire to see another fiscally conservative republican assume the mayoral position when the current mayor’s term ended in 2019. He continued this line of discussion by mentioning how a change in leadership could affect his employment with the city.

          I considered this excessive and inappropriate for a first-round interview for a mid-level communications position vacancy in spring 2017.

          Perhaps it’s for the best that I realize the position isn’t a good fit for me now.

          Thanks for sharing your feedback.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        +1 They told you right off that working with alternative facts will be a regular part of this job. Run.

    2. Clumsy Clara*

      I think that if your political views don’t align, or if you prefer to keep politics out of work (or both), it’s safe to say you won’t be happy at that job.

    3. MoinMoin*

      That would be a super uncomfortable interview for me, but ultimately I’d be glad to have that information upfront.

    4. Kinsley M.*

      Given that it was a city position, I’m not all that surprised. My husband works for a local municipality as well. Especially given that it was communications, they need to make sure you are going to fit in with the culture of the city, which is apparently very conservative. They don’t want their official communications sounding that the person writing them is in complete disagreement.

      Now, that they didn’t actually ask any normal, technical questions about the position is bonkers. But political and culture information regarding the community is 100% relevant information that a candidate needs to know.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Good thought here. And it is true that some places do screen for how like-minded a candidate is for [reasons].

    5. Juli G.*

      The unironic use of alternative facts alone is a deal breaker if you are interested in working for an ethical employer.

      1. Juli G.*

        And to be clear, I don’t mean to paint a specific political view as unethical. I just mean that that phrase raises an ethical red flag for me.

    6. Clever Name*

      My main thought is “don’t work there”. I used to work for a very large city, and the politics as a city employee were kind of nuts. I was caught up in a political power-play aimed at my boss (I got an undeserved letter of reprimand on my last day- I was moving on because I got another job). I’m white, and my white coworkers seemed surprised when I didn’t agree with them that there was rampant “reverse racism” in our department. (The director and one assistant director were black, so I guess in the south that equals racism against white people)

      1. JobSeeker017*

        Clever Name:

        Yes, I agree with your takeaway and am sympathetic to your previous plight.

        When the conversation took a weird turn toward being anti-immigrant, I forcibly contorted my face into a strained but polite smile instead of an outright cringe. The metropolitan area has an incredibly high number of Somali immigrants, which troubles many middle class white people, who account for 84 percent of the population in this particular suburb.

    7. Dzhymm, BfD*

      It’s too bad these things tend to catch us off guard. It would be nice to be with-it enough to recognize in real time that the interview is toast and to have some fun with it: “‘Alternative facts’? Oh, you mean ‘lies’, right?”. Too many times they get away with this stuff because they know they’re in a dominant position and can take it for all it’s worth…

      1. JobSeeker017*

        Dzhymm, BfD:

        Thank you for posting this comment!

        On the drive home, I mentally kicked myself for failing to seize the opportunity and call the interviewer out on his use of “alternative facts” during our discussion. I should have thrown caution to the wind and asked him point blank, “lies, right?”.

        Again, I appreciate the posting!

    8. jamlady*

      It’s not them being republicans I’d care about (I’m around people all over the spectrum all the live long day) – it’s that they clearly have a culture where it’s appropriate to talk heavily about politics, and no matter where your beliefs lie, that just sounds like a huge pain to me. I don’t want to hear about that at work.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am with you, jamlady.

        I want to be focused on the work. I am at saturation level with news.

        Just an aside, I have worked for several small municipalities. No one talks about politics. They just talk about the nuts and bolts of how to run the municipality- fix this road, streetlight is out over there, need new sidewalks, whoops, computer broke. There is a bizillion other things to talk about.

        1. Drew*

          Thirded on the news saturation. The guy with the desk directly opposite mine is a news/politics junkie and I am beyond sick of discussing this with friends and family; I don’t need it at work as well. (No, my job doesn’t have anything to do with politics directly, so it’s not work-related, either.)

    9. Elizabeth West*

      Wow. Once they started in, I wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes before getting up and saying, “Thanks for agreeing to meet with me today, but I don’t think I would be a good fit for this position.” Way to show you what the culture would be like. So I guess that’s a good thing?

      Listen to your gut.

    10. Anony Oz*

      Reposting as I was late to the party last week:

      Seeking perspectives and advice:

      I’m leaving a job after less than a year where I know the manager is incompetent, unprofessional and manipulative. I’ve seen it play out first hand with other staff that have now left and also been a victim of it myself in many smaller ways. (Think: smear campaigns, Excluding high-performing reports from team initiatives because she felt threatened, blatant lies to her boss about her whereabouts, pretending her kid is sick to get paid time off, but posting Instagram pics of them doing very ‘non-sick-kid’ things, and very unethical conduct in her use of work time for personal gain, ousting employees that have been performing well out of their roles because they don’t benefit her agenda, as well as poor management of our team members in general.)
      Her boss has an inkling about this behaviour but his kind nature tends to avoid conflict. And when confronted, she often twists the conversation to appear like a struggling victim who should be supported and made exception for, rather than having to change. A typical conversation will start with a report or manager saying to her, ‘I’ve noticed xyz is happening and it’s making me feel the negative feelings of abc (or having negative consequences to my work).’ But her typical response will be, ‘Well abcdefghijklmnop has been happening to me – feel sorry for poor me poor me poor me.’ For the whole conversation, without ever addressing the concern raised. Pushback on this by saying ‘Ok, sorry to hear that but you still need to address xyz’, results in either more babble to change the topic and in some cases, retaliation – being avoided and excluded altogether because she know you’re trying to get to the truth. She does this to her boss too, not just to reports and You basically go on her blacklist if you can’t be manipulated into sympathising with her ‘plight’, which is usually a bunch of small nothings inflated out of proportion to make it seem like the rest of the organisation is incompetent and plotting against her.

      Interestingly, on the day I resigned she told me she found out her superiors are investigating her for bullying type misconduct. This came about after a manager at her level resigned and sent a telling email to selected colleagues about the treatment she’d received for months (attempts at mediation had failed).

      I have a feeling the investigation is being conducted by HR just to cover their own backs. (But maybe they want her gone, who knows). Either way, news she is being investigated has majorly erked her gherkin. She told me in no uncertain terms her game plan was to work from home the following week and get a new job as soon as possible. (She’s been saying she hates the place and is getting a new job since I started).

      The problem I now have is that on the Monday after I resigned with 2weeks notice, manager emailed our department saying she received very upsetting news on the Friday and wouldn’t be in (no explanation or timeframes given), and in the same email followed this up with a sentence that I was also resigning. She did this before I’d even arrived at work or had the chance to tell my closest colleagues I’d resigned late Friday, which was hurtful. On top of that, everyone in the office now thinks I have something to do with her ‘upsetting news’ when in reality she’s brought this investigation on herself with her own behaviour! (A colleague tipped me off that this was the gossip going around because of her email). I feel completely manipulated again – we work in communications and she knew exactly what effect that would have on our office.

      My main concern is pretty much just to leave on good terms with all parties. As much as I don’t agree with her conduct, what goes around comes around and I feel she’s already ruined her career enough without me needing to do anything.

      But I have three questions which I feel I need answers to to better deal with these kind of situations in the future – a) Is there any excuse for this behaviour as a top level manager that I am missing?
      b) if not, is she just a weak manager or does this actually sound like someone with sociopathic tendencies? Can those type of people learn to change or are they screwed up in the head?
      c) how to handle a situation where your gut is extremely confident someone is lying, but you cant call them a liar outright for professional reasons – should you make them think you believe them (for the sake of keeping the peace) or is it better to call them on their behaviour in the hope they learn from their mistakes that people aren’t actually idiots?

      What would people here conclude?

      1. Chaordic One*

        Well, the part about the manager sending the emailing is upsetting, but not really surprising after all of the other things she has done. Yeah, she probably has sociopathic tendencie. I’d let it go and keep my mouth shut.

        When you can’t call them a liar, you could call them on their behavior, but they’ll inevitably have an excuse or rationalization. They are unlikely to learn from their mistakes, so it probably isn’t worth the effort. You could play dumb and pretend you didn’t notice, or that you were unaware of how rude and dishonest they are.

        Be happy that you found another job and are able to take care of yourself by moving on. You’ve done the right thing for you.

    11. ..Kat..*

      If I were in this situation, I would ask “we are talking about a lot of political topics that people tend to feel strongly about. I have found that talking politics in the last few years can be very polarizing and put many people off. Does the person taking this job need to have strong, conservative political views and need to talk about these views a lot?” Even if the answer is “no,” you still know that you will be talked at a lot by someone with strong, conservative political views.

  11. ThatGirl*

    So I got laid off (RIF) a few weeks ago.

    I have two gripes for the week… the first is that my old company swore they would handle my personal belongings with care, and they did NOT … stuff was missing and everything got tossed into a big box with no care, including three small, fragile clay figurines that HAD BOXES in my overhead bin, and were instead left to break (they’re not valuable, per se, but they are one of a kind and were gifts from my husband).

    The second is ATS systems that are terrible. There was one I got all the way through, finally, and then it made me take a 100-question personality test just to submit the application. Ugh.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Oh, and! One of my former co-workers got rehired for a different position, which I’m very happy for him…. he told me he has to take a(nother) drug screen. Is that weird and untrusting or is it just me?

      1. SophieChotek*

        It might just be a legal/HR requirement. He got laid off, he got rehired, so he’s a new hire and has to go through the entire hiring process again. That’s how I would read it. Maybe I’m wrong.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        ShophieChotek is probably right, though I find it a little ridiculous since he hasn’t been separated for a significant amount of time (if at all?). However, I tend to find drug screenings in general to be overly invasive unless there’s a pressing BFOQ that requires it (i.e., Anon Ymous HR professional’s situation above).

        1. ThatGirl*

          I mean, we’re talking three weeks — I could see it if someone resigned and came back several months later, but this is not that.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Thanks. I have a lot of applications out there, I am crossing my fingers for some interview calls.

        Re: the drug screen, I’m sure it’s an HR requirement, it just seems silly to me. But so do drug screens in general in a professional, white-collar environment.

    2. KarenD*

      I just can’t get over the casual cruelty of tossing obviously fragile items in a box to break, knowing that the owner of those items has already been dealt a pretty major blow.

      I hope you find a great new job that treats you with more kindness and respect!

      1. ThatGirl*

        Thank you. It was (is) a big, corporate environment but even so… ugh. If I’d known they would be so careless I would have demanded someone go get them from my desk before I left.

    3. Chaordic One*

      Take your former employer to small claims court.


      I had a former coworker who sued our employer for exactly this same thing when she was let go. She got a check for a couple of hundred dollars and kind of a half-way snotty apology letter from one of her several supervisors.

  12. Lily in NYC*

    We interviewed someone last week for an executive assistant role, and when she was asked about a weakness, she said that she never has to use Powerpoint in her current role – so that if this position was powerpoint-heavy, she said she would need to train herself to get back up to speed.
    I’m curious what you all think about getting a “tangible” answer like powerpoint instead of something more abstract, like time management. It doesn’t bother me (mainly because it’s an admin role and she has a great resume and did very well in our testing) but my boss thought it was kind of a cop out.

    1. Bree*

      Aren’t all answers to this question kind of a cop-out, though? She told you a legitimate area where she would need to improve, which is more than a lot of people would do. In an interview scenario where you’re trying to impress people, I think most people dodge this question through vagueness or through listing a weakness that might also be perceived as a strength (like perfectionism.)

      I think this is a silly thing for your boss to be concerned about. What’s wrong with specificity and “tangible” answers, anyway?

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I personally don’t think it’s worth asking at all. My boss is a total hard-ass and is very difficult to impress. And my team members all come from high-level management consulting, which is known for scary interviews with difficult case studies. They just don’t understand how to interview admins.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        There was the guy who based his soft skills on a fictional character who was murdering his way to the presidency. Though I think he saw that as a plus, not a weakness.

    2. Dawn*

      Well, did you ask “What is one of your weaknesses” or did you ask “what is your biggest professional weakness”? Because if you asked the former, then the interviewee is technically correct- maybe not the strongest answer, but I wouldn’t call it a cop-out. If you asked the latter, then yeah that’s definitely a cop-out answer.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I wasn’t there so I don’t know the verbatim wording. I was just in the debrief meeting.

    3. Robin B*

      I think that’s a better answer than something like “Well I’m a perfectionist so I work overtime too much and I care too much.”

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I once said I was “anally prompt” in an interview and the entire interview panel burst into laughter. But I got the job!

    4. EA*

      I think it is far better than the real cop out answers like being a perfectionist.

      She seemed to handle it well – she said she would train herself. I think that is what admins need to do – you need to learn new technology quickly.

      Also I know this is off topic- but what testing do you do for admins? I am now helping hire and wanted to suggest some.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I’m not sure – HR does the testing except for our case studies (which we don’t give to admins). I think it’s just a proofreading/grammar test. I’m not sure if there’s a Microsoft Office test but I’m positive we don’t test typing speed. And I don’t think the testing is mandatory; it’s up to the hiring manager for each position. But I know there are lots of free testing options you can find online – maybe you can find one that looks good and then tailor it to your own needs.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I hate the Microsoft tests that don’t let you choose how to access functions–like if you have to go through the drop-down menus but it doesn’t tell you that, so you get dinged for using a command or a shortcut or right clicking.

          I also hate typing tests. Almost everyone can use a keyboard these days and I get nervous and make far more mistakes than I would normally.

          1. many bells down*

            The problem I have with typing tests is that I know immediately when I’ve made a mistake and hit backspace. But you get dinged for that, even if it doesn’t slow down your typing speed at all.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        My office uses ProveIt. They have tests for all different types of software and skills.

      3. FishcakesHurrah*

        I use the perfectionist answer because for me it’s true. I take too long to complete some tasks because I fuss over trivial details that no one but me cares about or notices.

        1. Dizzy Steinway*

          Even if it’s true, people will be highly likely to judge this unfavourably – I’d honestly advise you to pick something else.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          It doesn’t matter if it’s true – you really shouldn’t use it because every interviewer hates that answer.

        3. Duckie*

          Could you rework the answer? Instead of perfectionism maybe say you’re sometimes too detail oriented and follow up with ways you keep the bigger picture in mind? It would sound less cliche.

    5. Turanga Leela*

      I always feel like answers to that question are a cop-out! It’s hard to come up with something that is a real weakness that you’re working on, but not so serious that it would cause real issues with the job. I wouldn’t hold it against her, but that’s mostly because I can’t think of many times when I’ve heard useful answers to that question.

      1. Whoever*

        “I always feel like answers to that question are a cop-out! It’s hard to come up with something that is a real weakness that you’re working on, but not so serious that it would cause real issues with the job.”

        Yeah. Like I’m totally gonna tell an employer that I tend to stress out easily, to the point of it triggering depressive episodes of sleeplessness and a desire to kill myself.

    6. Claudia M.*

      The “what is your weakness” question is silly, in my opinion.

      If you’re 5/5 on everything, but 4/5 on time management, that is now your weakness, despite it still being better than most.

      There are many positions that never review performance with employees. Those employees may genuinely not know what they struggle with if the manager does not communicate.

      Final thought was that, in an admin role, she was leaning towards thinking about the new area and what the new area might require, and what she might be lacking to make that happen. That is an expected and desired trait in state government interviews typically (your whole interview should be geared to what your bring to the new position), but I can see that being different in private sector.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Yeah, I agree. I don’t ask it when I interview candidates but my boss does. We are a quasi-governmental office but we have a very corporate environment. It feels more “private sector” here than when I really did work in the private sector!

      2. Troutwaxer*

        My weakness is that I have no comprehension of how that question can be asked in any serious interview! I mean, like nobody expects that question and you imagine that you’re going to get an honest answer!

    7. AndersonDarling*

      Actually, I think that is a great example of a weakness. The candidate has been thinking of her qualifications vs the position and she was very honest about a shortcoming. That’s 10x better than the old standby “I’m too much of a perfectionist” or “I’m too friendly and supportive of my co-workers.”

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Honestly, I liked it too and was thinking of using something similar myself until my boss was annoyed by it. That’s why I’m asking!

    8. Betty*

      That is the worst interview question ever.

      I wish employers would ask real questions that matter.

      1. Bonky*

        It is a dreadful, dreadful question – right up there with “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?”

        I always use behavioural questions in interview; the closest I’ll ever come to this will be something like “Tell me about a situation you found difficult to navigate at work, and how you handled it.” You’ll learn so much more about a candidate’s approach, personality and strengths than you might with some of the old chestnuts.

        (On a related note: it’s worth diamonds if your organisation sends people doing recruitment for training on this stuff. A good awareness of best practice and being really thought in to how to do it well means better hires, and is incredibly valuable in the long run.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I keep wishing someone would ask me the what-tree-would-you-be question. If they do, I’m gonna say “A mallorn tree.” If they know what that is, then we’re halfway to a great working relationship, haha. #nerds

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I just want to say “The Larch” so bad. (I know there have to be some Monty Python fans here)

            1. Bonky*

              So it seems you, Elizabeth and I would have an absolutely KICK-ASS working relationship. :)

    9. Elizabeth H.*

      Interesting question. I don’t think it’s a cop out because it is a legitimate weakness, and also sort of ballsy to say something you legitimately would need to work on rather than something that can be spun like a humble brag or different people having different natural abilities. But it sort of depends on whether the position is something you would reasonably expect to use PowerPoint at least occasionally. I have had to use PowerPoint for work maybe twice in my entire life so I would feel like it was a copout if I said it. So I think it depends on how useful for the job it actually would be.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Great – I liked it too but was second-guessing myself after my boss’ reaction. But it seems like she’s the one with the minority opinion, not me.

    10. Nanc*

      The What is/are your biggest strength/weakness question can be so subjective. I’ve had better luck rephrasing them and asking If I were to ask your most current manager, what would they say is your biggest strength in your position? What would they say you need to improve on in this position?

      I then follow up and ask them why they agree/ disagree.

      I’m pretty sure I got this idea somewhere on AAM but it’s made a big difference in the interview process.

    11. EA2*

      Kudos to the candidate for giving an ‘out of the box’ answer, that’s one of the best I’ve heard to date! The other commenters are 100% correct. Admins must learn new technologies and adapt quickly to keep up with whomever they’re supporting.

      I’m an EA who works in marketing and sometimes I use Adobe programs more often then PowerPoint. Last year, there was a time where I was highly engrossed in designing documents and photoshopping images, that when it came time to create a new PowerPoint presentation, I had to play around a bit to adjust to the functionality again.

      What kind of response was your boss looking to hear? If he thinks the answer was a ‘cop out’ then what does he consider an acceptable response?

    12. Not So NewReader*

      I would say to the boss that I did not think the question was that useful so to me the answer is neutral. Then I would redirect by asking the boss what she thought a good answer looked like. Sometimes people don’t even know what it is that they are looking for. I’d suggest that she had picked something she was not good at and told the boss how she would get better at it. There’s not much more you can ask for here.

    13. Loz*

      The onus is on you to ask a question that you care about the answer to. If you’re just fishing around like this then don’t push it if someone isn’t tuned into whatever you are thinking to this (quite frankly crap) question. Think about what you were hoping to learn and why you didn’t end up learning anything.

  13. Bethlam*

    Does your company have a record retention policy? Our parent company, Huge Conglomerate, has a very specific, detailed retention policy for all records: personnel, accounting, audit, health and safety, shipping & receiving, benefits, compliance, etc., etc. Depending on the record, the retention policy might be 1 year, 3 years, 10 years, A+years (active + a number of years), or indefinite. We even have a retention policy category for retention records!

    Do you have a policy where you work? Is it similar? If you don’t, what do you do with your records? Save everything? How? In boxes or digitally? Do you purge every so often? In some sort of order or indiscriminately when you need more room in storage? As it’s A Big Thing at my company, and I’ll be moving on in a few months when our facility is closed, I just wondered how other businesses handled this.

    1. Zip Silver*

      Yeah, we have different lengths for different things. 3 years is standard for most stuff, but things related to taxes get held on to for longer.

      It all gets put into bankers boxes and shoved into a storage room.

    2. SophieChotek*

      I know my business saves everything. I am not at all involved in the saving/storing process and I do know due to change over in personnel things have gotten overlooked and slipped through, etc., but I heard the business had to rent a facility just to store all our paperwork, permits, tax records, etc., etc. I know my former VP wanted the Director of Operations to purge and see if we could save money but saving just what we need at main office and not go back till the beginning of time, but my impression is the Director of Operations would rather keep everything “to be safe” plus he’s the only one who has been with the company the entire time at would know what could be purged or not and he works like 80 hour week as it is. So yeah, I guess our policy is keep everything…you never know…we might get audited or need it someday…

    3. Wumba*

      I work in manufacturing and we are required to keep some records for a certain number of years as well. My company is rather small, but we supply a large, well known auto manufacturer and they have certain requirements that we have to follow: shipping documents have to be kept so long, quality records, production reports, etc. Our range is generally 3 years to 5 years to 10 years.

    4. Cassandra*

      So, the point of records management is to make sure the records (print and digital) your workplace is legally responsible for — that is, could get into legal trouble without — are there as long as they are needed and no longer.

      This is not an area to slap together half-heartedly. I strongly suggest contracting with a freelance records manager (they exist!) to help you build records schedules and procedures. No court will be impressed with “well, we just couldn’t find it!”

    5. lionelrichiesclayhead*

      Yes we have very specific policies based on the type of information in the documents, similar to what you outlined for your company. All of the files are digital and the purge process is automated.

      At my old (finance) company we had paper files that were stored off-site once they weren’t needed in the office anymore. They were theoretically stored for 7 years and purged after that. No idea about digital files. No one was really “in charge” of this process so when an auditor would show up, we would get ding-ed and would purge based on their findings. Not the best process and I’m sure random papers were stored indefinitely until someone noticed. Lord only knows what was in the off-site facility or in a random file cabinet in the office.

    6. Triangle Pose*

      Yes and I can’t think of a company that doesn’t have one. I also can’t think of any reason that you shouldn’t have one…

    7. Sibley*

      My company does, in fact we may work for the same company!

      In my experience as an auditor however, I think this level is uncommon.

    8. Sabrina the Teenage Witch*

      Yes, I work in higher ed and we have a retention policy. We generally scan everything and then shred the hard copies, so our retention policy is mostly for the electronic records.

    9. Leena Wants Cake*

      While I’ve never been part of an organization that carried it out very well, sound records management policies and practices are a vital function for any organization that intends to have a long-term existence. Unfortunately, most places don’t realize how important this function is until they urgently need data or documents from previous years–at which point it may be too late to reconstruct. Another issue–particularly in larger organizations–is that the folks in change of records management are not often aware of the kinds of documents produced by different facets of the org or their relative value. Similarly, folks working in the offices don’t often understand why deliberately saving (or destroying) the documents they generate could possibly be important. And even orgs that were managing paper records effectively are still struggling with the need to manage digital ones. Effective records management protects the organization (by ensuring that it retains certain records as required by law), preserves organizational knowledge (since there is a record of significant past actions), and ensures that space (physical or digital) is not taken up by files that are no longer needed.

    10. Clever Name*

      We have an informal retention policy that boils down to “save stuff sent to clients and field notes/lab data forever, but don’t save any drafts ever.” I’m involved in trying to craft one, and it’s been surprisingly difficult.

    11. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      I’m a government employee and we do have extensive retention requirements. We have a file plan for electronic storage and follow it for physical storage as well, meaning we box up items based on their location within the electronic storage plan. Here’s the important part: ALL locations have the exact same file plan. Our auditors/inspectors can go into any office and be able to find the documentation they need because the file plan is clear for where it is.

      That is what your aim should be. Talk to other locations or get guidance from higher levels on what best practices are, then follow those directives.

    12. Damn it, Hardison!*

      As someone who writes and enforces records retention policies for a living, I may be more than a little biased. It sounds like your company is doing the right thing. It’s best to purge in the course of regular business but realistically events like closures and moves often drive destruction (when else is anyone going to clean out that mystery closet in the basement?). With the closure of a facility it’s important that the records get kept/destroyed per retention policy and not just thrown out because no one is going to need them for ongoing business (assuming it’s not part of the entire company closing). Depending on the nature of the records they may need to be retained for legal or regulatory purposes after the facility has been closed.

      1. Bethlam*

        That’s actually what I’ve been and will be working on – AND with the retention policy in my hand – the retention policy is taken Very Seriously by my parent company, and thus with all of the offspring companies. We’ve been here 67 years and, as personnel records fall in the “indefinite” category, I will be learning how to batch and send a lot of documents to Papervision for digital storage, and many boxes of other documents will be sent to our corporate offices with destruction dates on the boxes per the retention policy.

    13. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I also work in higher ed. While we have an official retention policy what usually ends up happening is that everything is shoved into a moldy basement storage room until there is no more room, then some poor lowest level administrative assistant who usually hasn’t been with the university for long is tasked with cleaning out and organizing the room — using their best judgement about what’s important. Paper files that are 20 years old are shredded, and electronic copies which have been so carefully “archived” to floppy disks and ZIP disks, are stored in an old bankers box which has been shoved over the years next to the HVAC and electrical utilities, and are now completely unreadable by todays technology… and repeat.

      We also have a university archivist who has the task of identifying and preserving items that might be of “historical” value. But none of the administrative assistants ever think to involve them when they purge documents. So we have the dinner program and a napkin from the third annual big fundraising dinner for the College of Teapots within Dinnerware University, but no one has any idea where to find the documents that pertain to the founding of the college, the original faculty and administration, funding, etc.

      1. JeanB*

        Yeah, I was that lowly admin. I was lucky enough to be able to grab a couple of maintenance workers who pulled out the boxes from the storage in the basement and cleaned them off enough that I was able to actually touch them. We did have a retention policy (university) but I think the department just kept everything.

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          You have my sympathies. I hate keeping paper files because they are such a waste of time creating and a waste of space storing. For the last 10 years, I’ve just never needed to refer back to anything older than 2 years and probably couldn’t find it if I did.

    14. Kate*

      I work in finance and since we’re a “regulated financial entity”, we have legal requirements for record keeping. The interesting thing I learned, was that in most legal/regulatory cases, it wasn’t good enough to say “we don’t have the woosit-report of 2011 anymore because we have a 5 year record retention period per our policy”, if you didn’t have proof of destruction, you were still liable to produce it (and fine-able if you couldn’t). Which could drive some record retention policies in corporate America.

      For the destruction, most places I’ve worked have been big enough that they use a service like Iron Mountain, which provides off-site storage and eventual automated destruction of your record boxes, with a handy system that provides reports on what you have in storage, who put it there, what’s in the boxes, and when they were destroyed.

    15. kab*

      I work for a company that deals with record digitization and databasing, so I’m having to restrain myself from sales-pitching at you.

      1. Bethlam*

        LOL. I don’t get to choose – I have to use the record digitization and databasing vendor that our corporate office uses.

    16. Meredith*

      Many businesses have a records managers who create records retention policies that comply with the law, and maintain records schedules. Often they will also provide training about records management to various departments. There’s a whole certification process for records managers that many of them go through.

    17. Agile Phalanges*

      I “got to” help create/implement one at my last company. We consulted with our CPAs, HR organizations, etc., to come up with the guidelines. Some things were basically to be kept forever, others for 7 years, some for 3, etc. We were kind of at the cusp of being paperless when we first started, so we had a LOT of paper files we were able to purge. We’d been renting three storage units, cut it down to two pretty quickly, down to one after a couple more years of purging, and then they shut the office down and I was laid off, and I think they had very few paper records they had to ship to the new headquarters.

      The paper records, we set up an appointment each year with the shredding truck, and a couple employees went out a day or two before to flag all the boxes that could be destroyed. You CAN chuck them into the truck box and all, but it’s more economical to pay by the large trash-can-type bin, so we dumped them into there, then saved the boxes either for further paper files, or fore employees to take home for storage/moving (standard file boxes are GREAT for moving relatively heavy items, legal for not-so-heavy things).

      For electronic files, we were less good about going through them on a regular basis (paying rent on a storage unit gave us more more incentive than freeing up a couple gigabytes on a giant server did), but we DID get around to doing it every so often. IT kept us up to date on archiving e-mails (they would burn them to DVD discs for us so we could still access stuff older than the cutoff of a year or three, though, which came in handy more than once), and we would ask them to do the same for our electronic files every so often (made easier by us dragging and dropping stuff into its own “archive” folder, then they would just burn that folder to DVD and eventually delete it from the server.

    18. joe*

      EVERY company should have proper retention rules in compliance with HIPPA, Sarbanes-Oxley, DoD, and compliant with State local and Federal regulation, ADDITIONALLY what in legal situations must be retained for liability purposes.

    19. Chaordic One*

      At Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. we saved all hard copies of personnel records and all product and sales records. Other things were saved for a year or two, except for warranties and contracts. We were in the middle of moving to a supposedly completely online system where we would scan copies of the paper records and save them as PDFs in the new less-efficient computer system.

      They were going to start shredding paper records of what had been scanned, but I’m not sure what timeline they wanted to use for that. It would not have been until well after everything was backed up online, probably a couple of months or so after the sale.

  14. Zip Silver*

    We had layoffs a few weeks ago. Yesterday I officially got my promotion offer… Relocation, in a more desirable are (to me), was offered slightly above market and negotiated for an extra 3k.

    Gonna go celebrate tonight!

    1. JobSeeker017*

      Zip Silver, congratulations on the promotion offer!

      Enjoy your well-deserved celebration!

  15. Hellanon*

    I just wanted to pop in to say thank you to Alison & the AAM commentariat – I have been reading the site devotedly and in depth for probably 3 years now, and it has been like a master class in management. I took on a huge stretch position about 18 months ago – went from technical writer/faculty to head of a department, with direct reports and collaborative relationships across the institution – and I really do credit all of you for making it possible for me to a) understand what I need to do and b) do it well. So consider yourselves thanked and given a round of applause!

  16. Kinsley M.*

    I have been helping my husband look for jobs. He has been in his current position for about 4 years, and it was his first role after graduating (beyond his internship). I’ve been noticing that many jobs are asking for a high number of references – like 6 or more. The wording is always phrased as “at least 6 professional references.” When did 3 stop being the norm? He could probably send 5, but two would be from his internships in graduate school which seem rather useless now. Am I crazy or is this many references actually an expected thing now?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The only thing I can think of is that they want contact information for more people than they actually need to talk to because reference calls can be a crapshoot. Six is a lot.

    2. BenAdminGeek*

      I’ve not seen that before. That’s crazy overkill. It’s not like he’s applying to be CFO.

      1. Kinsley M.*

        Yea, definitely not. His current position is entry-level in title, mid-level in duties. He just wants to move to mid-level in both duties and titles (and pay!). While he loves his current organization, they’re just not big enough to have the need (or finances) for the mid-level position. They simply have the senior level and him. I just can’t even fathom giving six references for a mid-level position. I’m not sure how they expect anyone to have that many references coming from the entry-level position anyways. Do they expect six people from your first role to have left and be available without tipping your current position off? I work in HR and I’m just stumped. I’d never ask or expect more than 3. If I wanted more, I’d call past employers myself.

        1. Lo Squared*

          It’s been pretty standard for me to have to provide 5 at each of my 3 jobs following grad school. I work in healthcare as an allied health professional (not a nurse, like NP/PA level, but not). Granted, those have all been at hospitals, but I literally could not move past that part without providing 5. I believe they sent out an online questionnaire to my references.

    3. Lemon Zinger*

      That’s ridiculous! I’ve never heard of a company or graduate program asking for more than three.

    4. AshK434*

      Yea, I noticed that too. From my experience, companies that use SkillSurvey to solicit references require at least five references now and I believe at least three have to be former managers. It’s a pain.

  17. gwal*

    I recently posted about deciding how to finish my career development program–stay in temporary analysis position or return to technical position where I was originally hired. Turns out the Big Boss won’t allow for the kind of maneuvering required to stay in the analysis position, so I’m back in the technical job. It’s rather disappointing but that’s life.

  18. Dawn*

    Anxiously awaiting what I hope will be / think will probably be an offer after a FANTASTIC interview on Wednesday with an AMAZING company!!! Gosh, this waiting is so haaaaaard, tho my hiring liaison said that it might be early next week- “we might be able to get everything together by Friday but definitely no later than early next week!”

    Arrrghhhh cannot come a moment too soon because I am at Office Space “burn the building down” levels of hating my current job.

    I would not have made it this far without Alison and all the great AAM commenters!!! So thank you all and a HUGE THANK YOU to Alison for helping me with my resume after I purchased a resume review!!!

  19. Audiophile*

    Week 2 in new job is wrapping up. There’s talk of me receiving a work laptop and phone. I think I’ll forgot the phone, since there’s really no need for me to have one. A work laptop would definitely be useful.

    Last night was the organization’s anniversary gala, it did not go as well as one would hope. One of the award recipients canceled in the morning and so there was some tense moments. I helped wherever I could but largely felt unneeded.

    I’m starting to let myself relax a bit and enjoy this job after so much crap at previous jobs. But my guard is definitely still up.

    1. SophieChotek*

      Glad your 2nd week seems to be going well.
      (And what did they do about award recipients? Announce with ‘So and so could no join us tonight but the award for best teapot goes to…” or did they award it to someone else?)

      1. Audiophile*

        The recipient sent a family member to accept the award and make a short speech. While it seemed to be well received by the audience, it was definitely tense for the staff. I’d feel pretty comfortable saying this person was a big draw for ticket buyers, there were no ticket levels, just one set price and that price was pretty expensive. Overall, it went as well as it could have.

    2. new job*

      you and me both. my husband and a few close friends have said it’s almost like i have PTSD and need to adjust to a new balance. there are no fire alarms here. there is no snark. everyone is friendly.

      1. Audiophile*

        It’s tough.

        I’m being praised for picking things up quickly, like software and processes, but it still feels like a mistake is just around the corner and I’ll be out of a job. I don’t think I will feel fully settled until I hit six months or a year.

        That’s quite a ways away, but I had two, technically three (third job was a contract role) short stint jobs. There’s a lot of pressure for this one to be the one that sticks.

  20. MariaC*

    I got a new job! Next week will be my last week as a secretary and I’m moving into a position as a financial coordinator. I’m super nervous and I’m feeling a bit intimidated. I have already started to do a little bit of training for my new role (it’s an internal move) and I’m realizing how under prepared I feel. I’m also in school full time for my graduate degree so that’s added on to the pressure and stress I’m feeling. I know this thinking isn’t rational because they hired me afterall, but it’s how I feel. Not sure what else to say about it but I just felt like venting about it a little.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      The hardest part for me on internal transfers is that you feel like you have to be 100% proficient day 1. But you don’t, really. Push past that imposter syndrome- they picked you because they want you in the role, and in 6 months it’ll all be old hat to you. You already know the culture, which is a huge win.

        1. Dina*

          If it helps, I had an internal transfer/promotion into a department I had been lending a hand to for a year and half, assisting them with similar (but easier) work than the position I now have (I absorbed the duties I was previously already doing as well and did come into this position with some knowledge). I completely understand how you feel, but you’re fine and you’ll get there! Don’t be too hard on yourself, ask for feedback, especially if you’re comfortable with your supervisor (I ask “how am I doing” when the time feels right), and just know that there’s a learning curve. You’re gonna be great! Good luck!

    2. JenM*

      Congratulations. I’d like to move on from my role as a Medical Secretary but don’t know where to start so well done you for making the move!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      You can feel under prepared but you will be okay. Let your nervousness help to keep you sharp. Go one day at a time. Each morning tell yourself, “I will do my absolute best today.” Just keep repeating this sentence each morning.

  21. Dankar*

    My university has recently opened a position that’s perfect for my best friend (who received her degree and did her assistantship in the field that department is hiring for). I’m new to my role, having only been in the position for about 3 months now. I’ve brought her here to check out the area and have encouraged my friend to apply to jobs in my location and she’ll be turning in an app to the aforementioned position this week.

    My questions are these:

    1) How appropriate is it to me to send a heads up to the department that’s hiring for the position, given that I’m so new? I know one of the people who works in the same role socially and I suspect it’s her coworker who is vacating the position.

    2) Who would be the best person to talk to about my connection to one of the applicants? Would it be the hiring member? HR?

    This is my first post-graduate job, so I don’t want to misstep, but I’m more than confident in my friend’s work ethic and her ability to excel in the role. Gah!

    1. Alex*

      I work in a public university (don’t know if yours is private), and discussing a candidate with HR is not acceptable. There are very strict rules in place to prevent nepotism. If you aren’t the hiring manager and especially if it’s not even in the department you work in, stay out of it. That’s my advice, but I would be interested to see if others would say differently.

      1. Dankar*

        We’re private, so it’s a bit more flexible. It’s also an administrative position, so perhaps a bit less nepotistically-inclined.

        This is why I’m asking, though–I don’t really want to step in it, being so new to this whole thing.

      2. TIG*

        Also work at a public college. Our applications specifically ask if the applicant knows any current employees and if so what is the relationship. This is mostly to prevent nepotism. I agree with Alex that you shouldn’t say anything unless somebody in HR asks you about your friend, otherwise it will look weird, especially since you are new. If somebody in the hiring dept. or HR says: “Dankar, how do you know Candidate and what is your opinion on their ability to do X?” would be the only time it would be ok to say something in this situation. Otherwise you’ve already helped your friend enough by encouraging her to apply and showing her around the area. I hope it goes well for both of you!

    2. Clumsy Clara*

      I work for a private university – generally there isn’t much harm in doing this kind of reach out, and in fact an unsolicited recommendation from my old boss is what got me an interview for my current job. However, as a brand new employee unless you are very high up you’re less likely to have any real impact on this process. My old boss is faculty and had a connection to the hiring manager so that’s what did it for me.

      In this case if you are social with someone in the department that’s hiring, I think your best bet would be to mention to them that you saw the position was open and you know someone who you think would be well-suited. Again, depending on your own seniority and theirs nothing may come of it but at my university there wouldn’t be any harm in doing this.

      My university runs on networking and connections, so it’s really interesting to hear how different public universities are.

    3. Sabrina the Teenage Witch*

      I work at a private university and I wouldn’t send a heads up to anyone in the department unless you’re good friends with them. Otherwise, you risk the chance of making it seem like you’re pressuring those people to give your friend a chance.

    4. Lemon Zinger*

      I work at a public university.

      Do not contact HR about your friend! While you can certainly be a reference for her, it’s best to let the process happen naturally. Maybe give the hiring manager a heads-up, but that’s really all you should do, especially since you’re so new in your role.

    5. Cassie*

      I work at a public university. It’s usually the hiring manager (in the specific department) that handles hiring – central HR doesn’t. If you know the person in the department, it wouldn’t (shouldn’t) hurt to say “hey, I have a friend who is interested in the position. I think she would be great because of XYZ. She’ll be submitting her app but I just wanted to let you know”. Your contact might not be in a position to make a hiring decision, but maybe it would help your friend’s application get a couple more seconds glance than all the rest.

      I wouldn’t reach out to the hiring manager if you don’t already have some kind of connection with him or her.

      This is all assuming we are talking about normal (non-dysfunctional) people here who wouldn’t overreact to a little networking. You’re not asking for special treatment or anything, just giving a heads up.

  22. Bullwinkle*

    Is it worth it to receive a mileage reimbursement for using your personal car for work travel? I do a fair amount of driving to various project sites for work. I’ve generally had the mindset that I prefer to use the company vehicles and not put a bunch of miles on my own car, but now I’m wondering if that is reasonable. My company has several pickup trucks, but they’re not always available, and I don’t always need the hauling/towing capacity. We can also use rental cars, but that requires planning ahead and sometimes things come up suddenly, where it would be simpler to use my own car. Do you feel that the standard $0.54 reimbursement is an adequate trade off for the wear and tear on the car? My car is ~8 years old with pretty mediocre gas mileage, if that matters.

    1. Always Anon*

      The other component to consider is insurance. At my organization, using a company or rental vehicle means that the company’s insurance is in place for any accidents. If I use my personal vehicle, then my personal insurance would need to cover any accidents.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I agree, if you have the option I would. (I don’t drive a lot for work, but I don’t personally think the $0.54 is enough reimbursement, even if they also cover gas separately.) – also as above, if there is a policy for insurance if you are driving for work but in your personal car could make difference in how I would feel about scenario

      2. Asheley*

        I have a adder on my policy to cover business travel as I drive to job sites in my personal vehicle. It cost around $10. It might be worth considering adding while still prioritizing company vehicle options.

      3. PollyQ*

        On the subject of insurance, you might want to check how your policy handles work use of the car. It’s possible that the rate you’re paying is for personal use only.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think the reimbursement rate is supposed to make up for the overall cost of using your personal vehicle, and it usually does. If you have a 10-year old Prius, your actual mileage cost might be less than someone with a brand new jacked-up pickup truck or SUV, but it’s not a big spread.

      To me, it would make more of a difference which vehicle was more convenient to me. For example, a commuter would obviously pick the company vehicle. Other than that, it would fall to suitability and comfort. Are you moving equipment? If so, which vehicle is easier to load and unload that equipment? Which is more comfortable to drive for you, personally? Those questions matter more than any cost equation, because I think the cost is negligible when you’re reimbursed at that rate.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      My car is older than yours and probably has worse gas mileage, but I still always choose to drive it rather than use a company car. I just don’t like the hassle associated with the company car (pick up, drop off, have to gas it up before you drop it off, none of the radio presets are on stations I like, feel compelled to drive below the speed limit, etc.) and I’m more comfortable driving a car I’m familiar with.

    4. Clever Name*

      How hard is it to submit reimbursement for mileage? I drive a 12 year old car, and often use it for work. It’s not a ton of effort to submit a reimbursement, so I normally do it if it’s more than 10 miles. I normally don’t submit a reimbursement when I buy ice (to keep samples cold) because that’s like 2 dollars, and it never seems worth the time it takes.

      1. Bullwinkle*

        Ha, yeah I feel you on the ice! I usually buy gas at the same time just so I can lump it all together on an expense report. Expense reimbursements luckily are easy and seem to be mostly on the honor system for mileage, though they might want more of a logging system if I was doing it a lot (which would be annoying, we have to do them for the work trucks).

    5. Not So NewReader*

      My husband used his own car for decades.
      My opinion is that it is not worth it.

      In his case the vehicle was so loaded with stuff that we could never use it. We’d take it on vacations because it was bigger than my car. It was probably three hours unloading it and that was with two of us working on it.
      So peach. We had this vehicle that was of little use to us and we had to house it, park it somewhere on our small lot. Then there was the maintenance and the repairs and yep, the insurance. Whatever work my husband did on it, he did on his own time because it was “his” vehicle. It was not undercover so it was one more vehicle to move while plowing.

      He was popping 500-700 miles per week on the odometer. We bought a new vehicle every few years.
      No. Not worth it.

    6. Jerry Vandesic*

      Not that it makes much of a difference, but the new reimbursement rate is $0.535 per mile in 2017.

  23. regina phalange*

    Hope this is appropriate for today (I think it is) – I have pretty significant (still) PTSD from getting fired from a job nearly four years ago. This week, I had a dream that I was still at my current job but had somehow been hired back by old job & COO who fired me. In my dream, I remember thinking, I need to post about this on AAM (hilarious AAM has now made it into my dreams). So I guess I have two questions: 1) anyone else have PTSD from an OldJob even though they are in a much better place now and 2) has anyone ever been given a second chance by the job they were let go from?

    1. Murphy*

      I wouldn’t say that I have PTSD, but I was fired almost 5 years ago, and it wrecked me (and my life) for a long time. Literally had a dream involving it LAST NIGHT.

    2. strawberries and raspberries*

      I was just promoted and moved to a new site, and the other night I had a dream that I thought an event we were having here the following day was happening at my old site, so I showed up there and realized my mistake, but not before all my old clients were like MS. STRAWBERRIES AND RASPBERRIES YOU’RE BACK I NEED YOUR HELP! I was so relieved to wake up.

    3. Bess*

      I still have legit PTSD from working just under an obvious, out of control (nonviolent) drug addict, where higher ups were well aware and actively ignoring it. Things like drug calls being made from work phones, seizures and vomit in cubicle, and total lack of work accountability. Tapped into a lot of issues around family addiction from when I was growing up and coworkers and I assumed similar roles to those messed up family dynamics. I’m getting stressed and sweaty just typing about it. That was the first job to teach me that you really can’t fix a dysfunctional place and sometimes you simply have to quit for your own sanity.

      More mildly, I still have some residual stress I’m releasing from my last job, which was an environment of truly impossible/neverending demand, lack of boundaries, constant interruption/no closed doors/sacred work time, staffing 16-hour events when sick, and zero expectation of work-life balance. I was a little weepy in the weeks I started my (fantastic) new job, as that pent up stress finally started to clear out.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I regularly have dreams where my brain resets to some point in the past and I completely forget that, say, my children exist. These almost always involve real estate and the need to move out of an apartment and I will discover, say, that there is a whole second apartment stuffed with furniture behind this door that I ALSO must now clear out, while I kick myself for failing to notice over the course of the lease that we had all this extra space.

      I bought my house 17 years ago. My children are taller than myself.

      1. PollyQ*

        I had that dream just the other night, only I was moving out of my college dorm room.

        I graduated in 1988.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      It took me a year to really recover from OldJob’s PTSD. But I went into a supportive organization that is filled with confident individuals. If I went to a so-so company where there was drama, I’m sure it would have taken longer to recover.

    6. AKJ*

      I still deal with anxiety from losing two jobs (one right after the other) in 2015 and one in 2012. I’ve been at my current job, which is wonderful, for over a year now, but the anxiety is still there.
      I don’t know if I’d call it PTSD exactly – but is there a word for something a few steps below PTSD? Post-Really-Sucky-Experience-Anxiety?

    7. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      I’m in a very good place in my career right now and feel like I’ve hit the jackpot with my current role – I’m being paid a bit above market rate, my bosses are all reasonable and there’s a solid HR department, my company gives really awesome perks and I like the work that I’m doing. Yet…

      I have nightmare every couple of months or so… From my time working as a server at a corporate chain restaurant 10 YEARS AGO. Never the exact same nightmare, but all follow a similar theme/pattern of being in the weeds and not being able to find the supplies I need.

      I also have some PTSD/very bad habits picked up from my first two “real” jobs – one a chaotic start-up that “laid me off” when I pointed out that they I was being incorrectly classified as an independent contractor and a second job with a tiny family-owned office that fired me on the spot when they found out that I was looking elsewhere (I graduated into the recession so it was a tough start). I’m working through these, but AAM has been a HUGE help in recalibrating my understanding of workplace norms.

    8. Lala*

      I still have nightmares from when I was a teacher, and I stopped teaching almost 5 years ago. Not fun.

      And while I wasn’t let go–my district wanted to move me from one school to another at the other end of the county, which would’ve increased my commute time by an hour (so I found another job in another district that was closer and better resourced)–the principal from my original school tried to get me to come back when they were finally given permission to keep my position at the school.

    9. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Yes, on both questions.

      1) I’ve been out of college for 20 years, but I still have dreams about my college jobs — on-campus food service & night custodial — where I am my current age (40s) but for some reason back at the college job. My in-dream frustration is so overwhelming that I’m back to a low paid, low status job that I wake up shaking. I wasn’t fired from those jobs and generally they were okay places to work, but life at that point in my life was extremely stressful trying to be a full-time student, part-time worker, figure out what I want to do with my life, learn to be independent, and have any sort of fun personal life. I have come to realize that whenever I feel overwhelmed, under-valued, and unstable in my current circumstances, my dreams replay the first time of my life I felt that way — college.

      2) I was fired and rehired within a month. The owner was a very emotional and reactionary person and he would let people go for the most innocuous reasons (like a typo) or if workload didn’t meet his unrealistic expectations (he once did a direct mail piece to try to increase business expecting [not kidding] an 80% response rate!!!! No direct mail campaign gets that…ever). While I was initially happy that I had my job back, for the next 3 years I was paranoid that it could happen again at any time. I’m never doing that again. Oddly, I don’t dream about that place at all.

    10. Lemon Zinger*

      Yes to your first question. I still get nervous when my boss texts/calls/emails/sets up a meeting specifically WITH ME and with no prior warning. Still working on getting over it! I’ve been here over a year, my boss is lovely, and there’s absolutely no reason for me to be afraid.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Yes to both your questions. IRL, I did not go back to old toxic job when the boss contacted me, though.

      I think it’s pretty normal to revisit old stuff, especially when we are in a better place. It’s safe to look at it again because we have moved on.

      It can also be a warning that we are currently in a bad place and ignoring the signs. Take a look at your current setting. Is there any warning flags that you have been ignoring? If all seems okay, then your mind is just probably reviewing old stuff because you are safe now.

      You can talk about the dream with other (well chosen) people. Sometimes if I talk about a dream during waking hours, I can shake it off entirely. You can also use affirmations, such as “This is not happening any more, this is over” to help calm your mind/emotions.

    12. JanetM*

      Many years ago, my division was subjected to a large and, in my opinion, exceedingly badly handled (but I’m not an HR person, so I could be wrong) layoff. I sincerely believe that many of those who survived developed what AKJ describes as “Post-Really-Sucky-Experience-Anxiety.” Some 15 years later, it was exacerbated, for many people, by our then CIO, who was, um, let’s say, “not an optimal fit for the job, and there was much rejoicing when he left.”

      For what it’s worth, although I had a considerable sense of survivor’s guilt at the time, I don’t seem to have developed the ongoing anxiety.

      I do still have school nightmares, usually that it’s finals week and I’ve just discovered a class on my schedule that I never attended and I can’t find my locker and I don’t have a number two pencil and …. I graduated in 1984.

    13. Life is Good*

      Fired? No. But, it might have been easier on me. I hung onto a job in a really crappy office for way too long. I occasionally get into a funk where I start to think about some of the sh*t that went on at my old dysfunctional company. While there, I started losing hair – lots of it – having heart palpitations and waking up at 1 or 2 in the morning and getting on the computer to get caught up on emails and the constant workload. I even had broken molars from clenching my teeth while sleeping. I had to have bite guards made because the dental bills for crowns were getting to be too much. I have found a much better (normal) office with a manager who deserves the title! My hair is growing back! And heart palpitations are non-existent. I sleep like a baby most nights. I try to be cognizant of my thoughts when they turn to the negativity I lived with for so many years and remind myself that I am out of that hellhole. That seems to help me reset my mind to think of the positive path I’m on now. I hope you can find peace in your own mind, regina phalange. Life’s too short to be miserable.

    14. Gadfly*

      My dreams like that are where mid-other-dream I realize I didn’t call out that day and should be at work (or school when I was younger) and I am way late and phones of course are not working and I have to go in and deal with the consequences.

      I don’t think I have PTSD from that (some other things, maybe), but I have been thoroughly trained in dysfunctional land and I am trying to work on that.

      I was briefly a cna at a community group home at 18 (I don’t even count it as a job anymore it was short and awful). They had me working up to 60hrs a week as a part time employee because they were always shorthanded. Well, one night I was called in to work a double shift because someone else called out. And in the middle of the night, one of the residents, non verbal, who was on new meds and responding badly to them, decided to go for a walk. Naked. And when I was trying to look for her and call a supervisor (my shift was alone), the other resident there at the time, also non-verbal, and who was upset about some personal things, decided she was going to walk down a busy street to Mcdonalds. And the supervisor wasn’t responding and I wasn’t supposed to call the cops, etc. I didn’t know what to do–leave, stay, get help from the technically seperate residence in the basement… By morning everyone was found and okay. And I got fired (it never was explained what I should have done.) And when they fired me I was told “If you reapply in three months, we’ll take you back, no problems.” I could have killed the hr person doing the firing for that. It was all, and they said as much, that they needed someone to be fired so it would show they took it seriously.

      So technically I guess I got a second chance, though I never used it.

    15. Jen*

      I wouldn’t call it PTSD, but I still feel my blood pressure rise and have definitely not gotten over being laid off 18 months ago. I had a 6 year stellar track record, several promotions. New leadership came in and replaced me (pregnant, female) with a buddy (male, white, 38). In order to get the (very very generous) severance, I had to transition my replacement.

      I’m in a much better place but still want to punch the guy that laid me off in the face. And I actively want to see him fail.

      Not bitter…

    16. many bells down*

      I occasionally have dreams that I’m back at my PA job. It wasn’t a terrible job, and I left on good terms, but for some reason I only seem to dream about that position. Usually the dream is that I’ve just forgotten that I still work there and I show up after … well it’s been 15 years, now, and try to get back into the swing of it.

    17. LoFlo*

      I am going into year three of leaving toxic job. I still reflect on what I could have done different, and if my work place was really that bad. After reading this web site, I think a lot of what went down was not acceptable, and I am glad I am gone. I am now self employed in a totally different field and city, and my business is doing well, and I am making friends.

    18. BeckyDaTechie*

      Yes. The position I was let go from in August (instead of leaving on my own once I found another position). I loved the work; the manager and I had very different working styles that led to resentment and mistrust.

      It was rough. I still have nightmares with her in them because I spent 18 months feeling like nothing was good enough and I had write ups sprung on me out of the blue, sometimes for very nebulous things that I couldn’t really understand well enough to take action on.

      They tell me it fades with time, and I’m freelancing right now, on top of substitute teaching, on top of opening my own business, so I’m excited to move forward, but the constant anxiety & nausea I felt always waiting for the other shoe to drop has *definitely* left its mark.

    19. theletter*

      About 8 years ago I was in a terrible job that was a very poor fit for me – sales with a lot of cold-calling (I’m very introverted). I was eventually let go (they called it a lay off to lesson the blow) but I still occasionally catch myself thinking about it, about the anxiety involved in that work, and how to try to manage it. When that company had openings again for that position I’d find myself imagining getting that new position – and I’m in a completely different industry and role now that pays better and fits my personality perfectly.

      In my job search after getting laid off, I came across a similar position but bombed the interview. My father told me afterwards not to worry about it – he said I had already held that position in my life and was ready to move onto the next step in my career.

  24. Not Karen*

    Our local freethought group is looking for speakers on scientific subjects. I work for a company that does scientific research. Would it appropriate to reach out to others at my company for anyone interested in speaking for the freethought group? It’s not paid but they will probably get a complementary dinner. I would make a non-invasive post on the internal forums.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      I think posting on an internal forum is OK. It’s different than emailing specific people or cornering them in the break room. If you get interest, great. If not, then I’d move on.

    2. Gadfly*

      Is there anyone above you you can clear it with/get their feel for it? Is similar stuff ever posted?

  25. Lost*

    I need some reassurance and advice.

    I sort of fell into a career (fundraising) after doing a development internship in college. Fast forward four years and I’ve worked at two different, respected non-profits and I’m now a manager of an annual fund department.

    This is all well and good. However, as of late I’ve been having a very early mid-life crisis. I didn’t study fundraising in college and now I can’t believe I’ve been out in the workforce for four years. It freaks me out that time is moving so quickly and makes me afraid that if I don’t do what I want now, I never will. Granted, I don’t know what else I would do if I weren’t doing this. I just don’t know if I really like my job. I dread leaving home in the morning, and the day feels a bit like a battle.

    Long story short, I’ve been really struggling at work this week. I’m having trouble remaining motivated and I am not sure if I really “love” my job.

    Is there such a thing as a job that you love/makes you happy on a regular basis to come in to work in the morning? Should I try and figure out what other fields I could work in…or is this just real life/work is just work.

    1. RussianTea14*

      I know a lot of people who sort of fell into jobs after college. I think it happens because we have bills we need to pay and we just dont know how many different paths are available to us at the time.

      I am kind of in the same boat at my current company. I think you really need to step back ann ask yourself, “Is this type of work what I really what to be doing?” For me, the answer is “no,” so Im currently looking for another role within my company. Sure, I could keep doing what Im doing and Im not miserable YET, but I think its better to be proactive versus reactive.

      1. Lost*

        Thanks for sharing your experience. And, you’re right. I was offered this job, and I couldn’t turn it down and not make money. Plus, I didn’t have another alternative plan in mind at the time.

        I think I need to take a deep dive and figure out what I want and what my skills might translate to. There’s not really a direct equivalent to my role outside of the non-profit sector…but, I think I have strong skills that I could try and sell in other roles (i.e. marketing, project management, etc.).

        Good luck with your own journey!

    2. paul*

      falling into jobs seems fairly normal

      For me, I’m OK with a job that I dont’ actively hate that pays the bills. Occasional feelings of fufillment are a plus, but that’s what I get from my kids/family/pets/hobbies more than my job

    3. Hellanon*

      My perspective on this question is that you have to find what it is about the work that’s personally motivating *to you* – it may not be the obvious aspect (good work in a good cause, for example) but some other aspect of it (setting up a hot research dept, or figuring out how to meet your goals by motivating your staff) that you find really engaging. That is going to be the thread that runs through your career, and if you really step back and spend some time analyzing it/putting words to it, will be your answer to the questions you’ll get asked when you change jobs or fields or whatever. Me, I like figuring out how to make things work, so when I was in sales, I liked figuring out *how* to make the sale, when I was teaching I liked figuring out *how* to get the students to learn, now I like figuring out *how* to use my words to accomplish institutional goals – see, there’s the thread. And once you look at it in those terms, you’ll have a better sense of where you want to do what you are most interested in, and can make changes accordingly… good luck! And don’t be afraid to upend it all and do something new. Just be smart about where that new thing will take you.

      1. Lost*

        Thanks, I think this is great advice! I haven’t thought about it in these terms. I’ll do some thought about what aspect of my job engages me the most. Off the top of my head I love the strategy element — analyzing what was done before and researching options to create a plan for the future.

        I have to admit that starting new sounds exciting. But, you’re right. I need to do some thought first and be intentional about it. I think newness is part of the equation too…I like new projects, new people, new challenges. It’s sometimes hard to stay engaged after 2 years somewhere…but, maybe thinking about my work the way you do would help!

      2. Gina*

        I echo Hellanon’s comments. I, too, started my career in fundraising, mostly by accident. And while I loved a lot of aspects of the job, I didn’t love the job itself. I left my first job to go into another fundraising job — because what else would I do? (that’s what my brain told me) It was after a couple years at that job that I had to have a little heart to heart with myself to find out what I actually wanted to do. And I thought through which parts of my jobs I liked, and what career path would take me more in that direction. From fundraising, I went into marketing & communication for a nonprofit hospital, and now am in education marketing & event planning. And I LOVE where I’ve ended up. The positive part of starting in the fundraising realm, in my experience, is that you wear so many hats that you have a really solid baseline of ideas of what you do and don’t like. So use that baseline to brainstorm where you’d like to end up. Good luck!!!

    4. Stella'sMom*

      I agree with RussianTea14’s comments, and the same thing happened to me. I ended up changing careers after 10 years in the software industry, and now, after 8.5 years working internationally in non-profits, I am considering going back to grad school to refine my focus. And… to return to my first love, which is environmental work and science communications.

      I would suggest if you can, take a break (a few days off) and think about/do some creative “dream boarding” (using magazines, cut out images, glue on a white large paper…use markers, stickers etc, things you love… to create a dream board) and thinking about things you do like about your work, where you could go if you stayed there, where you could go if you left, and things that you enjoy doing. Then also try to identify things that stress you out or you don’t like to do. It may help you with clarity and give you a line of communication to your manager for clarity too, at your next 1:1 meeting (assuming you have those?)

      1. Lost*

        Thanks — it’s encouraging to hear that you’ve changed paths and are continuing to refine your goals. I’ve steadily progressed in this career path, and I think part of me was afraid that by doing so I was shutting the door to changing directions.

        I love the idea of a dream board. It seems like several comments have suggested that I need to take some time to do some soul searching — that seems like a great way to accomplish that.

    5. Bess*

      I experienced “early” crisis at around the exact same time, as did a lot of my friends…we kind of felt lost, had fallen into jobs, hadn’t all pursued what we’d studied.

      I personally ended up finding niche work at a series of jobs that developed into a pretty particular skill set that isn’t all that common. I just found work I liked and had an affinity for. But I would say, until the job I currently hold, which I adore…almost 10 years later…each job I had during that journey truly had some serious downsides to deal with.

      It just takes a lot of time to get good, get experience, and figure out what makes you happy at work. What you are describing sounds very, very normal.

      1. Lost*

        Thank you!! It is honestly very comforting to know that this is normal, and that over time you can find work that speaks to you (despite where you “fall”).

        It’s easy to see my peers and judge myself based on their careers/happiness/success, etc. and feel like I missed the boat. Thanks for the reassurance!

    6. DCGirl*

      I think I’ve posted about this before, but I worked in fund raising for the first half of my career, and it was largely because I worked in the development office for my work-study job. I was able to move into marketing and then into proposal management in the private sector, but the bedrock of that move was stellar writing skills. One of the things I did was to create a newsletter using a template from (oh, this dates me) Word Perfect to show off several different styles of writing: fund raising letter, grant application, newsletter article…. It really helped open doors for me.

      1. Lost*

        DCGirl–Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s helpful, because when considering non-development roles I’ve struggled to think about how my skills translate. I work on the individual side, so I haven’t done much with grants. However, I plan out and develop content for mass fundraising appeals, emails, social media, etc. – so, I think I could make a case for a marketing position.

    7. New Window*

      It freaks me out that time is moving so quickly and makes me afraid that if I don’t do what I want now, I never will.

      I have been in the workforce for about 12 years. Some jobs I had because I wanted them and went for them. Some jobs I fell into. Sometimes the things I wanted to do ended up being not all that great. Sometimes the jobs I fell into were wonderful even though I didn’t expect to like them. Right now, I am in the process of moving towards a career path that I could not have possibly imagined for myself were it not for a job that I fell into.

      Some parts of our stories are told for us, and other parts we get to tell ourselves. It’s not always clear which part is which until you look back on it years later. I have given up on trying to firmly plan what exact course my life will take. I’ll set a rough outline and work for it and see what happens. Besides, what 25-year old me wanted is bound to be different than what 45-year old me will want, so I may as well build in buffer for that.

      I just don’t know if I really like my job. I dread leaving home in the morning, and the day feels a bit like a battle.

      If that goes on for more than a week, I’d say that dreading leaving home in the morning is a pretty good indication of how you feel about your job, even if your conscious brain would rather not acknowledge it.

    8. Lala*

      I fell into a job, did it for 4 years and was so bored, and got a master’s for what I decided I *wanted* my career to be(teaching), and after a few years of teaching, realized that while there were parts of teaching I adored even more than I thought I would, they weren’t enough to make up for all the parts of the job that I hated. Thankfully, I was able to find a job doing something similar to what I’d fallen into originally, and which I really love doing. It took getting away from it to make me appreciate how good a fit it was for me (plus the new job involves materials that are much more interesting). Overall I’m glad I went through the rigamarole of trying something completely different…even if I’m still paying student loans.

      YMMV, but if you’re feeling unhappy, it probably won’t hurt to try and find something different. My point, I guess, is even if the new, different thing you try doesn’t work out, it’s still worth trying if you feel dissatisfied where you are.

    9. Lemon Zinger*

      I love my job and feel good about coming in most days. It’s an incredibly rewarding field and I’m genuinely passionate about what I do. I know that not everyone in my office feels this way, especially those of us who are recent grads.

      You’re just having a weird week! I wouldn’t let it get to you so much that you totally question everything about your career. But it’s also natural to fall into something post-college, do it for a while, and then want to move on to greener pastures.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is… don’t stress. :) If you find something non-fundraising that sounds good, you should certainly think about going for it!

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t freak out. We are supposed to question ourselves and question where we are going in life. This is normal and healthy, no need to freak out. In an odd way, it’s a survival mechanism. Am I on the right track? Is this where I should go? These are good questions and normal questions. Always do these self-checks.

      Just because you are good at something does not mean you have to do it. Confusingly, just because you LOVE something that does not necessarily mean it is THE job for you.

      Stick with your natural abilities and think about different settings where those abilities would be used. Talk with people who know you well and who you trust, ask them what they think you are good at. This is fun, because they will tell you stuff you never thought of before. We tend to take our natural inclinations for granted.

      Last, do yourself a big favor. Let go of the idea of loving your job. Anything we do on a routine basis becomes WORK. Meaning it is an effort we put out each day. If you can find ways to use your job to enrich other people’s lives you have done well. If you can sleep good at night and you can keep the bills paid you are doing well. Likewise if you don’t mind going into work most days, again, you are doing pretty darn good.

      So. You are in a good spot because you are employed with a stable income. This means you can look around and see what your next gig might be. Don’t think on this too hard or too long. Give yourself a time frame, “I am going to think on this and research for x months, then I will make a decision.” Remember we are all making our best guess, so go ahead and make your best guess. A good guess makes us think, “Well I am pretty sure I can do this New Thing. I will need to work at it but I will get it.”

  26. RussianTea14*

    How do you know if you are ready to move on to the next level at your company?

    Im currently a Teapot Maker who wants to be a Senior Teapot Maker. In the last six months, I have been given several stretch projects and have succeeded. In the last couple of meetings with my boss, I mentioned I would like to be working towards a Senior role this year. She has said my work is to that level.

    However, I recently found out that I am the only person on our team who hasnt received the annual cost of living increase this year, despite glowing reviews and praise from the areas I work with. This is disheartening.

    An internal Senior position was recently posted and I was strongly encouraged to apply for it by my former Grandboss. I would report to Grand boss in this new role. I am planning to apply but I have to discuss it with my current boss because that is how our company handles internal job moves.

    1. NW Mossy*

      You’ll never be 100% certain, but it sounds like you have very favorable conditions in place to apply for it. If you’ve been touched on the shoulder by the hiring manager about it, that’s about as clear a signal as you’re going to get that they think you’re a strong candidate. Go for it!

      As a sidebar, the same thing just happened to me – former boss encouraged me to apply for a role in her area, and long story short, I start over there in 3 weeks.

    2. BenAdminGeek*

      You sound ready, you have an ally in the new role, this seems perfect. The stars align in your favor!

    3. Dizzy Steinway*

      Is there any chance the lack of COL is a mistake on their part? That doesn’t seem like something that people should miss out on.

    4. Not just true for small companies...*

      Have you asked for a raise? Definitely build your case! Don’t wait for it to just happen! And go for it! Good luck :-)

      1. Lisa*

        Is it possible that they didn’t give you the COL because they’re intending to give you the promotion?

        When you talk to your boss, lead into it with “Grandboss has asked me to apply to such and such position” They’ll have a harder time saying no if they know they’ll need to explain themselves to their own boss why they prevented the move.

  27. Bureaucrat with a Side of Coffee*

    I have recently become intern coordinator for my office. If all goes will, we will have 2-3 interns join us for their summer break. Our office is notoriously bad when it comes to proper onboarding. I am thinking back to my experiences as an intern and what made me feel welcome and prepared to do my job, but I’d like to hear what you have to say as well.

    So far, I have a document outlining their first week with all of the admin tasks they need to complete to get set up that I will go over with them and SOPs for the projects they will be working on. They will also get a file breaking down each task our team works on, who is responsible, and who serves as back up.

    I’m thinking about an brief “get to know you” survey to send to them ahead of time as well. I could use the responses to make sure what I am assigning is as in line with their goals for the internship as it can be given what the office needs to be completed by interns. I could also request a photo/brief bio to post in the office prior to their arrival so people will know who they are. Has anyone done this? What are good questions? What can I best do to support interns before, during, and after their time here based on your own internships experiences?

    Thanks in advance for any input you have!

    1. Letters*

      Oh wow, this sounds fantastic! The ONLY thing that I would include, and it’s pretty small, is that one of the things I would look to the survey to answer is what their interests in the internship are exactly. Using that information, schedule sit-downs with various team members just so they can talk to the individuals whose roles they are most interested in and learn the ins and outs of not just the position, but how they will be working together for this particular project they’ve been assigned.

      I would also go ahead and schedule any followups now, just to get them on the calendar and to set the expectation (both with your team and the intern) that there will BE followups.

    2. Cranberry*

      I like the idea of a little bio. Cheesy as they sound to full-time employees, I did enjoy the social events organized with the other interns – it’s a good way to break the ice.

      I really enjoyed shadowing people from other job functions during my internships – I learned so much from random one-off projects and meetings that I went to for people outside of my department. Not sure whether you would want to formalize that, but definitely encourage interns to try out/experience different areas and tasks, and try to facilitate that.

      Try to figure out what the unwritten office norms are, and…write them down! I was very grateful for people who told me “On Fridays, we go to this place for lunch”, “Jeans and tshirts are okay”,”Here’s the supply closet- make sure you grab a notebook, and keep it with you all the time”,”The dishes in the kitchen aren’t really communal- people bring their own to use”.

      If you have an office directory with pictures, share it! This was the easiest way for me to remember and learn who was who.

    3. Bex*

      It’s awesome that you are putting so much thought into this! I think the documents and files sound great. I would also pull a selection of reading materials about the company, specific interesting projects, etc since they will likely have some down time the first few days. And photos/bios are great. My company send them out the day the interns start, and it really helps break the ice and get the staff to interact with the interns.

      Instead of a survey, maybe consider a 15-20 minute phone call? You could essentially cover the same info, but you’d have the opportunity to ask additional clarifying questions and get better feedback. It also feels may more personal that a survey.

    4. Kowalski! Options!*

      I like the idea of the photo and brief bio. If you want them to get comfortable with the people they’re working with too (and your employees have time for it…), I had an internship yeeeeaaaars ago at a theatre that used to take a lot of interns in, but which had its operations split in three different locations. The Managing Director of the theatre company used to tell the interns on their first day that the theatre needed updated bios of all the staff, and would the intern mind going to all the staff members, do a mini-interview about their jobs, work experience, etc., and take the staff members’ photos with a disposable camera? (Shows you how long ago THAT was!!) It was a great chance to meet everyone in a laid-back manner and get the interns to see the various operations centers of the theatre.

    5. Mouse*

      My favorite thing about where I’m interning now is that there’s a map on the company’s wiki that shows where everyone’s desk is! It’s so nice to know I don’t have to cluelessly wander around or ask for directions two months into the internship because I have to go talk to someone new.

    6. zora*

      all the suggestions above sound great. One thing they do at my current workplace that i think is good, is formalize feedback for the interns after they finish projects. So, either over the phone or by email, the people who had an intern working on their project give the intern coordinator the topline positive and negative feedback on the intern’s work. Then the coordinators regularly meet with the interns, ask them how they are doing, and give them the feedback they’ve gotten. Sometimes the coordinators have to force people to take a minute to give feedback, bc everyone is so busy, but they can’t get better without feedback!

  28. Larina*

    Is it strange that I’m uncomfortable with my parents wanting to come by my office?

    My parents are coming into town, and my mother (who for clarification has been somewhat helicopter-mom-ish) wanted to stop by my office, take a look around, and possible meet some of my coworkers. The very idea of my mother meeting my boss is a nightmare for me, and I’ve just said I’m too busy to show her around. I feel like stopping by for a few minutes before going out to lunch would be one thing, but she wants a grand tour and to meet my coworkers. I think part of my hesitation is that I’m in my early twenties and was recently given a low level management position, and I don’t want to look childish or inexperienced to those both below and above me.

    I’m not out of the norm, am I?

    1. Dankar*

      I don’t think so. I brought my mother in to see my office (she was definitely not a helicopter mom, to be clear), but I waited until after hours to show her the building and campus.

      I love my coworkers, but didn’t think it would be appropriate for mom to do a meet-and-greet with my boss, whose office is right across from mine. I think what you’re feeling is very much the norm.

    2. ThatGirl*

      No, that seems a little odd to me… and I say that as someone whose parents wanted to see where I worked at my first job out of college. At the time I didn’t think much of it but I’d never take my mom by work now.

      Just say “mom, visitors are not really a thing at my office, I’d rather not”.

    3. Bureaucrat with a Side of Coffee*

      If she is already helicopter-mom-ish, I’d use this as an opportunity to set a boundary and stick to it. Don’t let her into this part of your life unless you’re enthusiastic to do so. Honestly, I’d find it odd if I met a coworker’s immediately family member outside of crossing their path as they both head out for a lunch together while they’re in town or at a company function open to family members.

      1. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*


        Those who haven’t experienced helicopter moms don’t quite understand how invasive it can get pretty quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she has snagged business cards while touring the office and the next time you make a casual statement about something at work, she would email someone. I’ve seen it happen!

        Setting boundaries will be very important. I’d tell her you have meetings up until lunch but can spare a few minutes to show her your space before heading out to eat, then use the meeting excuse to cut short any after-lunch tour.

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        So much this.

        When I started my current job, my parents came to town and wanted to see my workplace (I work at a university). I walked them around campus, after business hours, and didn’t go very close to my actual building so as to avoid running into anyone. Fortunately they never asked to see my office, but I wouldn’t have been able to show them anyway because it’s secure and only accessible to staff.

        It’s unprofessional to bring parents into work, especially if you’re young and working to establish a professional reputation. I’d be mortified if my parents ever met my boss or colleagues!

    4. Hellanon*

      Eh, just handle it like you were taking a three-year old around. Your coworkers will be polite and say nice things about you, anything she says that’s embarassing can be hand-waved away later, and if you plan it so that you have lunch reservations that you have to leave for, you’ll have an easy out if she starts trying to show them pictures. Everybody has cringeworthy relatives (or knows someone who does) and meanwhile, having your boss & coworkers see you being gracious and respectful to your mother is not at all a bad thing.

      1. Sadsack*

        Sorry, I disagree. This seems like a great time to say no and enforce boundaries with an overbearing parent. There’s just no reason for this except to satisfy Mom’s curiosity.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          Agreed, particularly if she’s the “call your boss” type. A helicopter parent should know as little about your work as humanly possible.

    5. Temperance*

      Nope, your mother is, though. You’re a young woman in management, and you don’t want to seem childish. Bringing your mom to work could be seen as childish.

    6. Bex*

      I don’t think your being unreasonable at all. I can’t actually think of a time when a coworker’s parents came to the office and got a tour. Every once in a while a spouse stops by, but that’s usually for a specific purpose like lunch or to show off a new baby.

      In your position, I would probably tell my mom that the office culture didn’t really encourage personal visitors, and that with the new management job I didn’t want to distract anyone during the workday.

    7. Emi.*

      No, you’re fine. I would also feel weird about this, and my parents are super not-helicopter-y. You’re totally justified in enacting a no-fly zone, and your concerns about looking childish are normal too.

      1. Asheley*

        My mom was the same way and it is super odd. If you want to do anything suggest having her pick you up for lunch. It keeps it less awkward. This will not work though if she will insist on meeting your boss because it is just awkward no matter how nice your boss is.

    8. Jaydee*

      There are two ways I can see it being appropriate for parents to visit the workplace of their adult child. One is outside of regular business hours. I took my parents on a tour of my office on a Saturday once when they came to town. There were maybe 2 or 3 people in the office that day, so it wasn’t disruptive at all but they got to see where I worked. The other is the quick (5-10 minute) tour before leaving for lunch – showing them your personal work space and introducing them to a couple of your co-workers. But this one only works if your parents are cool and are simply going to exchange polite pleasantries with the people they meet. If they are going to be weird and helicopter-y and overbearing, then an after-hours tour or a simple “sorry, Mom, parents visiting is just not a thing at my office” probably works better.

    9. YpsiAlton*

      I will back up the other responses–I don’t think that’s strange at all to be uncomfortable with her request.

      Do your co-workers ever take their parents around the office for a tour or a meet-‘n’-greet? I’m guessing no–it’s certainly not something that happened in any office I ever worked in. If I were you, I would feel pretty comfortable in telling her “no” on this.

    10. Partly Cloudy*

      I hear you!

      Where I work, people do give visiting relatives tours and introduce them around so culturally, it’s not weird. But for me it totally would be; I can be socially awkward and my mom is x10,000.

      My workplace is open to the public, to an extent, meaning we have a lobby and you can walk in off the street. Last time my mom was in town, she CAME IN AND SAT IN THE LOBBY for awhile (I don’t know how long) and then left. She told me that evening over dinner and said she knew I’d never invite her and not to worry, she didn’t tell anyone she was my mom. So I’m sure the reception staff just thought she was a crazy lady who sat in the lobby for no reason (obviously she didn’t have a business reason to be there). I kept an ear out for awhile to see if I’d hear anything about her but I never did.

    11. Sabrina the Teenage Witch*

      I brought my dad to work to meet my coworkers and boss because I live hours away from where I grew up and he’s never seen my work. I don’t think it was such a big deal and my dad is a giant child so I think everyone enjoyed meeting him and getting to mess with me a bit.

    12. Bonky*

      “Mom, I’d love to, but it’s really outside professional norms for our office; it’d be seen as really inappropriate for someone to invite their family into the building. Let’s go get coffee instead.”

    13. Hilorious*

      My mom always suggests this! I just tell her that because I work with government contracts, she won’t be allowed in for security reasons.

    14. DG*

      Oh wow. I feel like I’m the only one who had a horrified reaction to this. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS!

      It’s weird and it will come across weird. There is NO reason for your mother to meet your co-workers. None.

      I would be crazy judgmental if my co-workers did this. Please don’t.

    15. Sadsack*

      Holy cow, no, you are not out of the norm. No way I would have my parents to the office. No way, no how. There’s no reason for it. I agree with your concern that it will look strange to your coworkers and managers. In my 25 years of working, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone’s parents come into the workplace, except maybe in a store setting and the worker was a teenager. Keep up the story that you just don’t have time. I hope your parents are not the types to just show up anyway. Maybe it would be best to be honest and tell them that it just isn’t appropriate, in case they get any ideas to just show up.

    16. Doodle*

      No, you are SO not out of the norm.

      I’ll fess up here — I did this (helicopter-y parents, visit from mom, etc.) I even let my mom come to a work event (it was open to the public and she was volunteering). It was… weird. Without going into too much detail, I really regret letting her come. It was awkward AND it meant that she felt more empowered to subtly second-guess me in the future, “Oh, you’re having trouble with [co-worker]? But she was so nice when we talked about basket-weaving blah blah blah…”

      So, I understand why you feel weird about it. I so wish I’d listened to my weird feelings. Nothing disastrous happened, but when I think back on it (and how it must have looked to my colleagues), I blush. It definitely made me look younger and less professional than I would have liked.

    17. Elisabeth*

      It’s not intrinsically bad, but I think you’re smart to say “no” due to the combination of factors:

      – Your youth
      – Your position
      – The fact that your mom is a bit helicopter-y

    18. Key to the West*

      This would be really weird in my office (and those of my friends).

      Seeing where you work is maybe ok but meeting your colleagues and boss is definitely a massive no from me!

    19. Agile Phalanges*

      *I* wouldn’t feel weird about it, but then the workplaces I’ve had have been inviting of that sort of thing, the culture welcoming of it (other employees brought friends or relatives in), and my parents aren’t helicopter-y.

      They haven’t visited ALL my workplaces, but for example, my dad’s a private pilot and flew my son down after a visit during daylight hours that also happened to be working hours. The airport is right next to my work, so with my boss’ prior approval, I picked them up from the airport, took them to lunch nearby, then brought them back to work for a tour of how things work (manufacturing environment, so more interesting for visitors than your standard white-collar office). Took my dad back to the airport, and my teenage son hung out in the office the rest of the workday. All pre-approved, and not looked askance at.

      At my last company, my growing-up family members nearly all came to visit (at separate times), and while I didn’t really give them a tour, since it’s just an office, they got to meet the boss and my immediate co-workers. I know for me, I like meeting family or friends’ co-workers, or at least seeing where they work (when it’s possible, no biggie if it’s not) so I can picture it/them in my head when they talk about them. But then, I’m normal, and so are my family.

      Which is what this all comes down to. For people whose family earn the privilege and whose workplace rules/culture allow, it’s totally normal to have a quick visit. For situations where those factors don’t all align, it’s totally normally to not have family members visit. So it’s your call to make, based on your family and work culture, and it sounds like you’ve made that call, and therefore you’re totally normal. :-)

    20. zora*

      No, I agree that feels weird. My parents have visited me in my town many times, and when I’ve worked in an office I have NEVER brought them to my work to see it. The only times I did that were when I worked in retail (and they came and bought a lot of stuff) and when I worked in my student center in college. In most offices, I think having a friend or spouse drop by before going out to lunch is fine, but having parents come by would be weird.

      I tell my parents about work, and maybe point out the building if we are passing nearby, but I wouldn’t bring them into my office.

    21. Not So NewReader*

      I would be okay with my father stopping by my work place. He did many times. He knew to keep the visits very short and he knew if I was talking to someone that he had to wait. He was a very cool parent in this regard. My cohorts always commented on how they liked my dad.

      If I had a parent like yours (helicopter-y) there is no way on this green earth. I think it’s the recipe for problems: take my work place and add one parent then watch my life fall apart.
      Just no.

    22. It happens*

      You are correct, no helicopter mom visit; the internet gives you permission to say no.

      May be interesting to hear about a few places where it’s encouraged – as call centers became popular in India, the companies would invite parents to tour and visit the companies as part of the interview process to help parents feel comfortable with ‘allowing’ their daughters to work there. Also, companies like google and Facebook have had family days so parents can see where their children spend all their time.

    23. joe*

      tell your parrents no. Make up some excuses related to company policies that they have no way of checking, Claim security requirements or something along those lines

    24. Artemesia*

      I felt the same way and my mother was not as intrusive as it sounds like your mother is. I think it looks a little childish to be a young worker and showing parents around the office. It sounds like you are also guarding a piece of your soul here from having your parents in every nook and cranny of your being. “Mom, it really isn’t done at my office and I would look childish if I brought Mommy and Daddy to the office. I just got promoted and I don’t want to look bad and have it hurt my reputation.” Then don’t discuss it further.

      FWIW both of my adult children have shown me around their workplaces, but if they had not offered, I would certainly not have done it, and they are somewhat better established at this point than you are starting out.

      but it is perfectly okay to not want this line crossed and rely on norms of your workplace; no one else’s mommy and daddy have toured the office is a clue to you and a good thing to say to the folks when you don’t want this boundary crossed.

  29. Turanga Leela*

    Here’s a dilemma that I wanted to get people’s opinions about. You’re looking for a new job, but it’s the busy season at your current job (think of tax prep time or the lead-up to a big event). You can schedule time off for a doctor’s appointment or similar, but the expectation is that you will cancel it if a client issue comes up at the last minute. An employer contacts you to schedule an interview. Which is the better way to handle it?
    1) Schedule the interview for the least busy day possible, then call out sick that morning.
    2) Schedule the interview and tell your boss that you have an appointment coming up that you must go to, and it’s time-sensitive and you cannot reschedule, but you don’t want to talk about it beyond that.

    1. Nervous in CA*

      I have been in the same position! I think when they ask for details I add that it is a “specialist” doctors appointment and that they are hard to schedule for and there was an opening (if they ask for the “last minute” aspect of it) so you wanted to take it. I feel like in general my manager understand by that that I am seeing my OBGYN and I let him run with that assumption.

    2. Temperance*

      I would schedule the interview for the earliest time possible, so that way they can’t try and talk you out of going.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        That’s what I do. 9am interview so I can get up as early as I need to prepare. And I tell my boss that I have an appointment and I’ll be in as soon as I can.

    3. J. F.*

      I like option 2 better, because it’s the truth – you DO have a time-sensitive appointment you can’t reschedule. If the boss *assumes* it’s a medical appointment, that’s fine, but you didn’t lie. If your workplace is totally unaccommodating of people having outside lives and appointments, then yeah, I’d lie about being sick or whatever I needed to do.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Yeah, my hesitation about #2 is that I can’t say it without it sounding like I’m having either a biopsy or an abortion. Either way, it winds up feeling like a bigger lie than just saying that I’m sick.

        1. JustaTech*

          “It’s time sensitive but not serious, so don’t worry.” You could be having an eye exam or having a mole checked or seeing a bank about a mortgage, or seeing a lawyer about a will or an inheritance or your accountant.
          Remembering that there are other things it could be might make you more confident.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            I think this would be easier if I worked in a different office. My workplace culture is very open about these things, so the message “I can’t miss or reschedule this, but I don’t want to talk about it” would make my boss worried about me. If I then said it wasn’t serious, he would think that I wasn’t taking busy season seriously. (The expectation around here is very much that eye exams, wills, accountants, etc. can be pushed off until after crunch time.)

            But in another context or office, I would completely agree.

    4. Sabrina the Teenage Witch*

      I would go with the second option. I have a lot of health problems and it takes at least three months to get in to see a specialist, so even if the sky was falling there’s no way I’d cancel. You could mention something like that.

    5. PollyQ*

      3) Tell your interviewer that it’s your office’s busy time, and ask for an interview slightly outside normal business hours, e.g., 7:30am, 6pm.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        That would usually be the perfect solution, but during this busy period, work routinely starts early and ends late, and the days and times aren’t always predictable—it’s not unusual to find out at 3 that everyone is staying until 8. Weekends aren’t safe either.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      4) Schedule the interview for as close to first thing in the morning as possible. On the day of, call the boss, tell her you have a flat tire/dead battery/computer failure in your car and you will be late but you are not sure how late. You will try to get there as soon as possible.

    7. Ariel Before The Mermaid Was Cool*

      I had this very scenario come up in the past few weeks with the hiring process at my New job. It’s the peak audit season at OldJob, and it was very uncomfortable to need time off for interviews because it’s frowned upon to take time off during audit season. I just kept reminding myself that my career and my life won’t stop for audit season, and so I can’t worry about the perception of taking time off if it means that not taking time off would jeopardize potentially life-changing opportunities.

      1. Ariel Before The Mermaid Was Cool*

        I phrased the first interview as a private appointment, but ended up being transparent about the 2nd interview because I had another initial interview the same day, and 2 “private appointments” on the same day felt too shady, for me personally. I know if I were my boss and I was told someone had 2 appointments after having an appointment the previous week, I’d be like, yeah, what’s up, are you interviewing.

        I would recommend the car trouble idea, but the last time I did that karma got me and I ended up really actually having car trouble like a week later.

  30. Nervous in CA*

    I have a job interview this afternoon!! what is the best way to approach the subject of company culture and get an idea of the hours? My current job is quite dysfunctional, and I feel very lonely in my position because Management is located in another state so I spend a lot of time chasing them by phone or email for decisions. It is very disheartening and I was hoping to move to a job where work would be more “collaborative”.
    I also want to get a sense of how many hours I would be working (i.e. 40 a week or more like 70?)
    If that helps, the meeting is with board members and it is my 3rd interview for the position. Pay hasn’t really been discussed yet.

    1. NaoNao*

      I’d be relatively straightfoward:

      “Can you tell me a little about the level of everyday collaboration, such as in person team meetings, group messenger rooms/functions, or just casual chatting, that goes on here? Will my immediate team and supervisor be on-site?”

      “Can you give me an idea of the expected work hours here? What is a typical work week like in terms of scheduling?”

      Perhaps before the 3rd interview you can reach out to the hiring manager and say something like

      “I’m very interested in this post, but before we continue the conversation, I want to make sure we’re on the same page about compensation. I want to respect everyone’s time and efforts here before going any further.”

    2. AndersonDarling*

      As far as what hours people work…I’ve been very straightforward and ask my interviewers what hours they work and if they get to use all their vacation. There can be a tendency to fudge about the workload and how many hours hypothetical workers work in a day, but I think people are caught off guard if you ask how many hours they personally work.

    3. Dizzy Steinway*

      In the interview for my current job, I asked something along the lines of: how does the team communicate in general and how do you organise and communicate about specific projects?

      I learned a lot from the answer- it gave me a good feel for the general vibe as well.

  31. Leelee*

    I need some good vibes and general support, please.
    I’m currently four years into my first professional role. My amazing boss left 18 months ago and I was given all of her responsibilities. I have been running myself into the ground doing two full time jobs. My current boss, who is an owner of the company, is nice enough but tells me that she can’t afford to give me a pay rise or give me any support staff because the company doesn’t have enough money. I’m underpaid by about £10k for my original role, let alone the other responsibilities which is about double, and I’m owed quite a bit of money for training that I was supposed to be reimbursed for. This has been going on for the past year, so it’s not a sudden dip in finances. I’ve committed to start actively looking for another job, but I am dreading ever telling my boss I’m leaving. I’ve ended up with about 3 core functions of the business (like payroll) with no-one else having any idea how they work. I don’t think she knows I’m only contractually bound to a months’ notice and it took five months to do the handover between me and OldBoss. There will not be enough time for me to recruit, hire and train someone new to do my job in a month, but I don’t think I have a mental space to give any more than that.

    I’ve been wanting to leave for about a year, but we lurch from one fire to the next, and my boss begs me to never leave her. She cries to me sometimes and says she won’t be able to cope if I ever go. But I think “then pay me what I’m worth!” I’m finding it hard to tell if my fear of quitting is because it’ll be the first professional job I’ve left, or if it’s because I’ve been told so many times that she can’t cope if I do.

    Does anyone have any tips for how to get through the next few months, while I wrestle with guilt, frustration and anxiety?

    1. paul*

      Tell yourself it’s your bosses fault and she’s done it to herself. Tell yourself that as often as it takes. I may not be the best person to ask because I can’t fathom feeling guilty about this sort of thing, but that’s just my thought.

      Frustration may be lessened with a hard end date.

    2. SophieChotek*

      If you were already underpaid, it’s time to find a new job. Your boss is doing this to herself, by claiming she cannot afford to pay you more. (Obviously if OldBoss left, that freed up some money.) You need to think long-term for yourself.

      Hang in there and i hope you find a new job soon. (And prepare what you can to ease transition, but stick to your contract months’ notice, or it sounds like OldBoss will ask you to stay forever and will be calling after you leave anyway.)

      I can understand your potential guilt (for your future departure?) but you also need to do what is right for her, even if it is sounds that (like me) you might be bit of a people-pleaser (?)…

    3. Betty*

      If your boss truly valued you, she would pay you appropriately.

      Right now she is getting 2 jobs for the low, low price of 1. That tells me she doesn’t really care about you , only her needs.

      Find a new job, don’t feel bad about it & move on with your life.

    4. J. F.*

      If it would allay your guilt: document your job functions (if you have time!) and make a binder of each one. Then the next person will have the information they need to figure it out.

      Good luck finding another position!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        +1 on this, if you have time.

        This hits so many themes of the new-to-work thread, especially feeling like you can’t abandon your poor downtrodden job when the job doesn’t feel that way about you. Crying manager aside–if they wanted to keep you, then they could have given you your boss’s old salary and used your old salary to hire an assistant for you.

        Don’t get dragged under by the sunk costs fallacy, where the only way to get paid the money you’re owed for training is to stick around some more again.

    5. 2horseygirls*

      It sounds like you do not have a spare minute now, but for functions that only you know how to do, you need to create an operations manual ASAP that someone can pick up and figure out what to do fairly quickly from.

      Boss is a functional adult, and survived before you came along; she will rally and hire someone to replace you. Yes, it will suck; yes, she has come to depend on you, and has become fond of you. Yes, the morning after you leave, the sun will still rise, and the earth will continue to revolve.

      I am in a similar position (that I will post about separately below), and the advice above is a very new feeling for me. My last position was miserable for 18 months, ended badly, and basically killed any possibility of becoming emotionally attached to a company or position ever again, which is 180 degrees NOT ME AT ALL. So forgive me if the advice seems a bit . . . . abrupt or callous.

      1. Gadfly*

        And if the company was so dependent on you it does actually fail if you leave, it was in really bad shape even with you there.

    6. E*

      I’ve heard it said that bosses with employees in such key roles should plan for “hit by a bus” scenarios. If something happened where you suddenly weren’t able to be at the office or train someone, they’d struggle but your tasks such as payroll would get done somehow. This responsibility is not on you beyond the month of training/handover that you offer. 18 months of overworked and underpaid, this is all on the business that didn’t provide you the support you need.

      1.  LeeLee*

        Thank you all very much for your responses! It’s really helpful just to have a bit of a shoulder shake, because I’ve been dug down in a mess of crazy for so long that I’ve started to see it as normal, or at least think that some really screwed up things just can’t be avoided (which they can, by leaving).

        SophieChotek above rightly pegged me as a people-pleaser. I have become so much better at boundaries and delegating than I was when I was fresh out of university and just grateful for a job – but I know I still have a ways to go. I have created ‘how to’ guides for most of my functions as I’ve gone along, but I get waves of panic about all the little things that wind up in my orbit that I might not have done them for. So I’ll take a deep breath and remember I have done the best I can to help someone take over, and the other stuff will work itself out. I am a very good employee, but I am not magic – another capable adult will be perfectly able to pick up and do my job.

        Which is also what I might say to my boss when she starts to guilt trip. OldBoss was in the role for 15 years, and I managed to make it work when she left, so someone else will be able to take over from me.

        1. SophieChotek*

          Sounds like you have a great start with your “how to” guides. There’s no way (at least unlikely) that you can remember and predict every scenario — but the fact you’ve started, etc. means you are ahead of the game (even if you weren’t planning on leaving). I hope you find a new job soon and you can put in your notice. And don’t let your boss try to guilt you into staying longer or suddenly finding that money, etc. — you sound like a very good employee, very conscientious, and another company will be lucky to have you and your skill set.

      2. JanetM*

        I tell people that the reason my job is documented so thoroughly is that I am walking proof anyone can be hit by a truck. When I got back to work — I was out for about four weeks, and only able to work part-time for another two — I started making notes on everything I could think of.

    7. Not So NewReader*


      Boss still owes you tuition reimbursement. She’s not worried.
      Boss owes you a pay raise and back pay. She’s not worried.
      With your stress level you could end up in the hospital. She’s not worried.
      You need help with your work. She’s not worried.

      She begs you to not to leave but does nothing to inspire you to stay. How worried can she actually be? This sounds like all talk and no action.

      Live your life, do what you have to do to take care of you. Keep in mind that this is a very lopsided relationship. She takes, you give. You can have better than this and you deserve better than this.

    8. Artemesia*

      Just know that if it were in HER interest to fire you she would in a heartbeat. You owe no loyalty to a boss, particularly one who underpays you, beyond doing good work while you are there and giving appropriate notice when you leave. It is business. It isn’t personal and her attempts to guilt you into giving her loyalty and work for less than your counterparts make is manipulative. Look for a job on your own timeline and when you land one give her two weeks notice (or what the norm is in your country) and indicate you will use those two weeks to help her document your work to ease the transition for the new person she will hire. If she can’t hire someone as good as you to do the work for what she can pay? Well then she doesn’t have a viable business. Do what is in your interests, don’t give whiny guilt tripping a second thought.

  32. Mike C.*

    A small rant:

    If you invite me to several hours of meetings that I have no part in – nothing to present and nothing being presented has anything to do with what I’m working on – don’t be so “offended” that I’m on my phone reading the news. You decided for me that it was more important that I sit in a room silently with nothing to do for hours, so what did you actually expect?

    From now on, no agenda and no stated reason for being in the room, I’m not accepting or I’m just walking out. Quit wasting my time because you think I make a great security blanket. Let me know when you actually need something.

    /Just needed to get that off my chest.

    1. Kinsley M.*

      Ehh, I can see why they got offended. If you’re going to be in the meeting then it is rather rude to be on your phone. I think a better approach would have just been to say that you were busy and couldn’t attend/had to leave.

      1. Mike C.*

        Why is it rude to begin with?

        They clearly didn’t need me and they were discussing nothing that pertained to me and I was distracting no one. They literally just decided that it was worth it to them that I waste several hours of my day for no foreseeable reason, and I’m the rude one?

        I mean look, if I needed to be there, if I wasn’t actively participating, then sure. But it’s incredibly cruel to insist that the guy with ADD sit down and say or do nothing in a small room for hours on end for no purpose. It’s actively wasteful of time and company resources. When they don’t tell me why I’m needed (or go way off their agenda) then it’s really unclear if I can actually leave or not. So I start reading because I would go nuts otherwise.

        1. Mike C.*

          And I don’t mean to sound so mean here, it’s just that the ADD thing is actually very real and lots of folks don’t take it seriously. I take meds, I do what my doctors say I should do, but it’s like these managers needlessly stick me in situations that run up against my limits for no discernible business purpose.

          1. LizB*

            I totally understand that this situation would make you hit your limit (it would make me hit mine, and I don’t even have ADD) but being on your phone when someone is talking to you, even if what they’re talking about is not actually relevant to you, is generally considered rude. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have been frustrated and wanted to get away, but it would actually have been more polite to just get up and quietly leave, or get up and whisper “Excuse me for a moment” and then have that moment be the rest of the meeting.

            1. Marcela*

              Being in the same situation most meetings, if the topic is not relevant to my job and they do not need my input, they are not talking to me. At. All.

              I actually managed to skip most meetings because they are wasting money asking me to sit in meetings where I do not understand a word and I cannot contribute. My boss let me go, but my co-boss was not happy. I can see him trying to force me to go to all meetings, just because, and then getting annoyed if I use that time to read about my job problems. Of course, he can say that go to meetings it’s part of my job, but that does not mean I won’t get supremely annoyed to be forced to waste time when they are asking me to do an extra effort.

          2. Emi.*

            But you handled it badly. You could’ve said “It looks like you guys don’t need my input on this; since you have it sorted I’m going to go back to the spouts office,” or “I’m not sure why I was added to this meeting; do you need me for something specific, or can I go back to teacups?” or whatever makes sense for the particular meeting (and your rung on the ladder). Being on your phone is disrespectful to the person whom you’re apparently supposed to be paying attention to. If you’re doing it because you think they’re being disrespectful to you, that’s passive-aggressive (and probably misdirected, because you’re not only being rude to whoever’s talking, not just the person who decided to include you). Yes, they’re being annoying, but you should be direct, and ask for an ADD accommodation if you want.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              This, this. Our board meeting frequently have visitors, people who wish to address something or people who we need to talk with. The person running the meeting will take that topic first so the visitor can leave if they chose.
              We are frequently asked if anything else is needed. We answer honestly. Then the person can chose to leave or stay. We are very accepting of the fact that they need to leave.

              I really recommend speaking up. You can do this at the time you are invited (told) to go to the meeting. “My time is very limited. What is the topic/question you wish for me to address?”

              Tell them upfront, rather than dropping hints by staring at your phone the entire time. Don’t forget, probably they don’t want to be there either. Your desire to leave is not greater than their desire to leave, that is the way they see it.

              1. Mike C.*

                Those visitors are there for the express purpose of presenting something. I was simply told to be there because “I would be needed”. I wasn’t.

                Also, folks keep saying that I was being passive-aggressive or dropping hints by being on my phone. I’m not. I’m literally bored out of my mind and need something quiet to do to occupy my time. This is how I deal with having ADD.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I think it’s fine to ask what topics you will be expected to address. If they can’t name the topics, they probably don’t need you. It almost sounds like these folks don’t write and agenda.

                  Maybe you did not intend to be P/A but the gesture comes across that way. A lot of people would read that as “I don’t think you people are important enough that I should pay attention.” As gently as possible, I would like to say that others are also bored out of their minds, too. I don’t think you will win this one by saying you are bored. Your stronger bet is to encourage the folks to nail down the topics you will be needed for.

          3. Princess Carolyn*

            I have ADD and would share the same frustration. If I’m in a meeting, I better be engaging in the conversation, presenting something, or getting info that’s important enough for me to write down. I’m not really capable of just sitting quietly and listening with my hands in my lap.

            But it’s better to decline than to show and up and act like you don’t care about what someone has to say. That’s just how manners work.

            Do you know why you’re being invited to these meetings? If you ask, you may be able to get out of them in the future — or, they’ll start making them more inclusive/relevant to you, if that makes more sense.

            1. Mike C.*

              I spoke with my manager later and took care of the issue. Like I said in my first post, this is mostly a rant about folks not caring about other people’s time.

            1. Mike C.*

              It’s actually rather difficult to ask someone in the middle of their presentation whether or not it’s going to be useful to me, or to predict when others on the phone are going to go on massive tangents.

              1. Artemesia*

                It is rude to play on your phone or take out a novel and read during someone’s presentation during a meeting. Arrange things so you aren’t there if you don’t need to be or suck it up and participate as an active listener if you must be there.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Arrange things so you aren’t there if you don’t need to be or suck it up and participate as an active listener if you must be there.

                  Like I’ve said several times, it’s a little difficult to arrange things if I’m not given good information to begin with.

                  And telling me to suck it up? Are you kidding me? The material being addressed might as well have been in a foreign language it was so far removed from what I do. Why can’t the presenters “suck it up” when the decide that I need to be in the room, give me nothing to do, and then get mad when I have to deal with the resulting situation?

                  It’s like you folks don’t take the ADD thing seriously. Would you tell someone in a wheelchair to walk it off? Would you tell someone with depression to just feel better? Wouldn’t that be considered rude? It’s no different for me.

        2. Bonky*

          Passive aggression’s always rude – that’s why it was rude to begin with.

          The polite (and professional) thing to do would have been to speak up, say that it seems the meetings weren’t relevant to you and that there was urgent work you could usefully be doing back at your desk; but that you’d have been happy to attend for any later part of the meeting that they thought you should be in. That way, you get out of the meeting, nobody’s being made to think less of you because you’re being unprofessional and disrespectful, and everybody’s happy.

        3. H.C.*

          It’s rude of the meeting organizer/coordinator to have included you when you weren’t needed, but you are being rude to everyone in the room by looking at your phone throughout the meeting – not to mention sending an implicit message to others in the room that it’s OK to ignore the speaker and check their phones too.

          If you realized that the meeting is of no pertinence to you, just excuse yourself saying something urgent came up (which is somewhat true, given whatever normal work you had to put aside to attend).

          1. Mike C.*

            It’s more of a “there’s no way I’m going to know until the end, but those who organized the meeting should know immediately if they need someone in my specialization there.

            1. H.C.*


              In that case, I would ask if handouts are available beforehand (or at beginning of meeting) and scroll through quickly – and use the “something more urgent” or “I have to excuse myself” (per LizB) if it’s not relevant.

              Alternatively, I would’ve just hedged my bet midway through the meeting and have just left – asking the coordinator/organizer to send me any action/follow-up items if needed on my end afterwards. If the first half is completely irrelevant and there’s nothing on the agenda to suggest the second half will be any different, I really don’t see a need for me to stay.

    2. Us, Too*

      I don’t accept invites that don’t have an agenda/purpose. When I get them I ask what they need from me and that usually gets me removed from the invitation or the clarity I need. I highly recommend this approach – it’s made a huge difference in my level of “stupid” meetings.

      1. My AAM is True*

        When I’m invited to a meeting without an agenda, I reply that knowing the agenda allows me to prepare and thus give useful answers; otherwise there’ll be a modicum of speculation and a lot of “I don’t know, I’ll have to find out.”

    3. July*

      I always carry a notepad for these meetings (assuming you actually are required to go for some reason) and write out shopping lists, to do lists, and even the occasional letter to an old friend. Look up with a thoughtful expression periodically and you’ll look like you’re taking thoughtful notes.

      1. JustaTech*

        I had a weekly meting I couldn’t get out of that was rarely useful and more than once devolved into not-quite-shouting. I got there early, took a seat in the back corner and wrote several short stories in the back of my notebook (the front always had the title of the presentation and the name of the presenter, in case my boss ever wanted to look).
        Not the best use of my time, but necessary for office politics.

    4. PizzaDog*

      You’re right in that you shouldn’t accept the meeting invite next time. Being on your phone during a meeting, regardless of whether you’re interested / needed, is rude and distracting for others in the room.

    5. Lisa B*

      Can you just ask why you were included? Maybe someone higher up thought it would be good exposure for you, or wants you to get more involved in Area Z of the company. Or if they see you as a security blanket, they just want you hearing the conversation so you can speak up if you hear something concerning that nobody else thought of (which happens frequently in my line of work….) Surfing on your phone is a little disrespectful to others in the room.

      1. Mike C.*

        I was thinking that these meetings were more of the latter (which is normally fine), but that wasn’t even the case this time. It was three hour-hour long meetings before, during and after lunch. I did speak to my manager after the fact and it was taken care of. I have similar security blanket type meetings and that’s generally fine, but these topics weren’t even close.

        I just normally trust people to know if they need me or not rather than signing me up just for the heck of it, and this trust has generally worked out. Until now.

    6. Clever Name*

      I questioned the value of my presence in meetings where a group of people go round robin with project status updates and I don’t have anything to contribute or gain from such meetings. I have blessedly not been invited to more of those meetings. If you have the standing, you can just decline the meeting and if they push back, ask what the purpose of your presence there is. If it’s just to “keep you in the loop” ask that the forward you the minutes afterwards (I’m sure no one takes minutes in this meeting).

    7. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      Just adding that I don’t find it rude (unless I’m actually saying something that pertains to you and you didn’t notice b/c you were on the phone). Also, I do the same thing – because I will literally fall asleep. If you stick me in a tiny room and expect me to stare straight ahead and listen to things that don’t pertain to me my head will be noticeably bobbing. I don’t know if it’s an ADD thing (I’ve never been diagnosed, but I strongly suspect I have it – just somehow developed strong coping skills in school) or a touch of narcolepsy, but if I’m sitting still and bored out of my mind I WILL fall asleep. Which is worse

      I drink coffee before and I drink coffee during. I’ve tried snacking, strong mints (most helpful so far, but still doesn’t completely solve it), ice cold drinks, digging my nails into my wrists/hands and fidget jewelry. I bring a notebook and doodle, take notes or try to write out personal lists – but that can only sustain me so long. I only need so many groceries, etc.

      1. Bonky*

        If you’re regularly falling asleep in meetings, you might want to think about talking to a doctor; that’s very unusual, and it’ll (strongly and negatively) impact the way you’re perceived at work.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I’ve brought it up with my doctor – it does not appear to be medical. Its not all meetings, only when its something that has nothing to do with me, where I can’t really engage mentally with the material.

          I’m just saying that I don’t take this behavior personally or find it rude (unless, like I said, I’m specifically addressing the distractee or its very obvious that this pertains directly to the distractee). But I totally get that I’m in the minority there.

      2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        Also – I am legit good at multi-tasking, so I can read and at least pay moderate attention/follow along enough to catch when I’m needed. I totally acknowledge that I cannot fully take in everything while reading/surfing the web, but I absolutely can do the equivalent of auditorily skimming along while reading/surfing the web.

        I used to drive teachers crazy b/c they thought they could “catch me” when it looked like I was not paying attention by either asking to me abruptly to pick up where another student left off reading aloud or by asking me a random question about something they just said. Most of them usually backed off when they realized all I was doing was reading ahead or reading other materials quietly in the back, but still following along.

        1. Mike C.*

          Yeah, I’ve never come up short answering a question or otherwise jumping in when needed.

          I still remember multiple times in grade school where a teacher (or in one case the principal) stopping the lesson, then asking me a question about what was being taught – in an effort to shame me into “paying better attention” or whatever. Every time I would look up, give a really detailed answer and maybe ask a question or two of my own. It would never happen again with that particular individual.

      3. Mike C.*

        And see, what’s weird to me is that a whole bunch of managers were on their phones as well, so it’s not like I was the only one.

    8. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      On the flip side, when I send a meeting out and forget to put even a short, few bullets agenda, I don’t get offended when people either decline or ask why they were invited. I welcome open conversation and questions on that from the invitees, and then it prompts me to craft a bit more and resend the invite. I’m trying to be better at putting agendas. I’ve also had folks ask me if they can “go first” because they have a conflict and if that request is feasible, due to the nature of the meeting (i.e. status updates), I will accommodate if possible.

      I do sit in meetings where I have no idea why I am there other than it’s great exposure (meetings with company president, many c-level execs). I literally say NOTHING during the meetings, am so low on the totem pole that I’m not even ON the pole, and just try to follow along. But, if my managers want me there for exposure, then I’m going! But I do not check my phone or even my laptop for emails in these scenarios because at the very least, I need to appear to be actively listening in front of the big cheeses.

      I recently ran training for a tool we use and I set the training in 2 hour chunks, rather than half or all day. I made a “rules of the road” handout that said no phones or laptops during class. If they needed to step out to check their devices, they certainly could, I had no issue with that. I got a few grumbles, but by other sessions, people were not on their devices. I also do not like facilitating meetings, presenting or even participating in meetings when someone is engrossed with their phone. It is up to the attendee to decide to attend or not based on agenda, or asking about a missing agenda beforehand. Showing up without that knowledge and then being on their phone is passive-aggressive. I’d almost rather someone walk in, walk up to me, ask if they need to be there, and get their answer then so they can stay or leave. As an aside, I’m not shy to politely call them out if they are the person who looks up from their device to ask the speaker to repeat something during a meeting, regardless of whether they were needed or not. Unless it’s a critical work matter that can be taken care of on their device in short order, don’t be on your device. And apologize if you get caught off-guard in the meeting by being on your device.

      1. Mike C.*

        On the flip side, when I send a meeting out and forget to put even a short, few bullets agenda

        This makes you a saint.

    9. Trix*

      Several hours late, just saying my goodness do I feel you.

      I can usually get away with it in the 10-25+ people meetings, but I did att3md one about two weeks ago with four people, no agenda, no clear idea of why any of us (not just me!) were even there.

      Afterwards, my boss told me that the meeting organizer told him I was “mean.”

  33. margarets*

    Job search frustration.

    I have a master’s degree in a niche field and it involved A LOT of very applied, technical work. But I cannot get a look-in for jobs due to my lack of PAID experience. Even for jobs where the skill level would be BELOW what I did in my master’s, even for jobs where they aren’t checking WHAT the paid experience actually was (just looking at “X number of years in a job with a similar title). And the idea that I couldn’t learn the specifics of the job is incredibly galling since a master’s degree is ALL ABOUT LEARNING. Like, I think I have proven that I can learn at a high level, and very independently.

    Why is it so difficult to for employers to see this?

    1. Anxa*

      Oof, I don’t know.

      I’ve debating going to graduate school. I’m a B.S. in biology and I see master’s preferred on nearly every job ad in my current local. But I’m already lobsided with having a degree and not enough experience (and none paid), and graduate degree would only make it worse. On the one hand I want to keep moving forward, on the other hand I don’t want to dig myself deeper into this problem.

      I really wish I could just find an entry level job, get two years of experience, and then have a better idea on whether graduate school makes sense for me. It’s sad because you can pay (or at least school your way) into an internship or invest the time to volunteer, but you can never move into that paid experience position on your own and it takes someone else to give you a chance.

      1. margarets*

        It’s really tough. I worked for 15 years before getting the master’s and in my jobs I did LOADS of things for which I had no training or experience. I figured it out on my own. And many, many jobs are like that – the job call requires a degree or whatever, but the job itself really doesn’t. It’s an absurd state of affairs that millions of people are affected by this stupidity. Good luck out there :)

    2. Christy*

      In general, employers can have requirements like this because they’re able to find qualified applicants who meet the criteria. If they were unable to find good employees with their current requirements, then why should they change them?

      And from their perspective on this particular issue, why should they take a chance on someone without paid work experience, when they have enough applicants who have it? Those with experience won’t have to take the time to learn office norms in the same way recent students will.

      1. margarets*

        >If they were unable to find good employees with their current requirements, then why should they change them?

        But often they don’t. I & others in my network know of several organizations in our area that keep looking but never hiring. We apply for those jobs and compare notes.

        > Those with experience won’t have to take the time to learn office norms in the same way recent students will.

        Ah, but I worked for 15 years before doing the master’s. Many of my classmates also worked before, so this should not be an issue for us.

    3. CheeryO*

      I sympathize – I was the newbie with an M.S. and no relevant full-time experience a few years ago, and I had this exact thought process a hundred times. I don’t know your field obviously, but in mine (a niche STEM field), a couple years of relevant work experience trumps an M.S. every time. Unfortunately, academic skills and the ability to learn does not always directly correlate with ability to perform well – there are so many other hard and soft skills at play. So while it’s pretty likely that someone with an advanced degree is going to be a high performer, it’s not guaranteed. Ideally there would be more truly entry-level jobs out there, but if employers have the luxury of choice, they’re going to go with the tested, proven candidate every time. The good news is that the market seems to really be picking up (at least where I am), so the competition for “entry-level” positions should be getting less fierce.

      1. margarets*

        I should have clarified that I worked for 15 years before doing the master’s, so it’s not a case of a brand-spanking new grad struggling to find that first ‘real’ job. Although I think there are a whole bunch of idiotic assumptions at play there too. Experience doesn’t make one a “proven” candidate either. I’ve worked with too much dead weight to believe that anymore.

        1. CheeryO*

          Oh believe me, I agree. I hope something comes through for you soon. I did see your other comment about having 15 years of work experience, and I would definitely be annoyed too if I felt like that wasn’t being taken into consideration.

      2. JustaTech*

        Ugh, not what I wanted to hear, but good to know nonetheless. Some days I feel like this shiny new Master’s is not pulling it’s weight.

        1. CheeryO*

          Aw, it totally depends on the field, so don’t put too much stock into it! I have friends who have had tons of doors opened for them once they finished their Master’s, and I think mine might have given me a bit of a leg up in getting my current government job.

          1. margarets*

            This might sound dumb, but I feel my master’s carries more weight with people who also have advanced degrees. I find people who don’t have an advanced (or any) degree are very dismissive of it. There seems to be an attitude that people who excel at school can’t function in the “real world”, that universities just teach useless theory, and so on. So, great.

            1. Anxa*

              Oh, that’s such a great point. My SO had a very short job search after his PhD, but we did have some worries about the stigma. It’s true that education can make employers worry that you’ll bolt for a more challenging job or one that uses your degree more, and that you don’t have the experience for a job that really needs that phd yet.

              But there were a few people that couldn’t believe there was a lot of hard labor, on-the-ground problem solving, establishing partnerships, administering your projects, etc. We actually heard the phrase “the real world is not a classroom” by extended family. As if most of his time was spent reading and writing? Well there was a lot of that, but there was a lot of everything else.

  34. Maple*

    In the “misconceptions” thread I saw a brief post about asking stupid questions while training for a new job. I’ve done a loooooooooot of training in my work life, and wanted to share the one and only “stupid” question I’ve ever gotten.

    Several years ago I was managing a small specialty grocery store that had a smoothie bar. At the end of a day of training the new guy, I set him on to an “easy” project so I could get some actual closing done and get out of there: washing dishes. I had barely turned my back when he called me over and, holding up a sudsy plate with crumbs stuck to it, blessed me with this question:

    “How clean do I make these?”

    1. Eden*

      Did you say, “Clean enough that you could eat off of them”? I think sometimes junior folk have been coached that questions signal that they are engaged and learning, and ask this kind of question for reasons other than being truly unclear on how to wash a dish.

  35. Looking to freelance*

    Inspired by this weeks post on freelancing, I noticed many people in the comments saying they do some freelance work. I’m wondering how one goes about getting freelance jobs? I’m sure it varies a lot by discipline… I also know there are some sites out there that post jobs but it’s hard to know what’s legit. Any tips?

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I’m a graphic designer. I had a lot of success using an agency specifically geared toward creative jobs — graphic design, photography, illustration, etc. The company was called Aquent*. While “temp” work isn’t the greatest, I was able to work with a large and small businesses in different industries over a large geographic region. That helped me build up a network of contacts with both clients and other creative professionals that could refer me to other freelance jobs, and ultimately some permanent positions.

      Networking is really key. You have to be a sales person for yourself. Have a personal business card, a social media presence, a website/portfolio, etc., and be bold about telling people you are looking for freelance jobs.

      *This was a decade ago. I know they are still around but I have no idea what it’s like to currently work for them. I liked working with an agent/headhunter because I could focus on doing the job I loved and less on marketing myself and vetting out clients. Plus, the agency paid me and so I never had to worry about collecting and book keeping, etc.

    2. Dizzy Steinway*

      Wow, I’m surprised there aren’t more responses. Just to let you know I’m writing one answer to both on the question below yours!

  36. Should I go Freelance?*

    Anyone have experience/advice about if or when to go freelance? My writing role is somewhat “supportive” (depending on the extent that the company allows the role to get involved or not). In fact, there’s a big freelancing community that some companies will utilize. Lately I’ve been frustrated with how I’m ‘treated’ at work, and sometimes think freelancing would make me happier. For example, if groups are inefficient and causes me to do something twice, well that’s a waste of time for me and I have re-prioritize my other projects–but in the end, the metric is still just the 1 project. However, as a freelancer, if I had to re-do something, it would be a very calm “no problem” because I’m just billing per hour. I also don’t get much acknowledgement, and as a freelancer, my mindset would be more of a calm”I’m a service provider who bills per hour.”

    How do you know when to jump into freelance versus staying a few more years to gain experience, because the more experience you get, the better freelancer you’ll be (with greater/wider opportunities)?

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      I was freelance twice – once for three years (I stopped that time because one of my clients ended up hiring me) and once for six years.

      How to get freelance work depends a LOT on the field. For example in some fields it’s normal to use a recruiter or agent (e.g. the post about graphic design on the question above) and in others this would be really weird. So talk to others in your field – successful ones, e.g. on Reddit communities or relevant forums – and find out what the norms are and what sites are legit. Do not get your info from people who aren’t actually successful yet as they may seriously misinform you.

      I got my work through a mix of having a website that people found, networking, cold emailing and other people recommending me. A really key thing to understand is that other freelancers are your colleagues, not just your competition, and are the people most likely to recommend you for work, hire you when they manage projects, etc.

      In answer to this comment about WHEN to go freelance, I’d like to start by correcting a misconception. You may not be billing by hour – for some types of projects you’d do it by word or agree a project fee. You might build revisions into the price. But I’d think carefully about those frustrations and how they’ll affect you – as a freelancer you’ll still need to re-priorities if that happens (until you get used to planning for it), and that’s harder to do when it’s not one job. You can’t go to your other clients and tell them something came up. If you are easily frustrated by this kind of thing, you may find it frustrating as a freelancer too. But then you get to say no to repeat projects with clients who make your heart sink. And agree prices that reflect this stuff.

      I think going freelance is something to ideally do with forward planning. The first time round I built up a bit of freelance work on the side first, with permission, and saved up a bit, then took the plunge when I felt like I couldn’t take my awful boss for one more day.

      The second time I was so miserable and I remember thinking I would email some of my old clients and if even one said they had work for me I would quit. I figured none of them would. They all did and I felt so relieved – so I quit for my sanity.

      The number one thing to be aware of is that freelancing isn’t just about doing paid work – you also have to think about the time you’ll be spending on other stuff like admin and networking, and the fact nobody will be paying for anything for you like pens, software, etc.

  37. Any Moose*

    What prie to work at home? I have a phone interview next week for a remote position. It is about 15k less than what I make now BUT, I now commute an hour each way to a high stress job at a 14 person nonprofit that is struggling in more ways than one. I can calculate the savings on things like mileage, work clothes, etc. Is there anything else I am missing?

    1. ThatGirl*

      Can you still comfortably pay your bills with that big a paycut? Are you suitably motivated to work at home? Do you enjoy in-person interaction a lot? Do you get stir-crazy being at home a lot? All things to consider.

    2. SophieChotek*

      I think the big thing to work at home is can you be self-motivated and keep up your needed output during “work hours.”

      Will you miss daily interaction with co-workers? Will you be able to pick up the phone to call someone if you need to? Do you need to bounce things off co-workers?

      Will you have distractions at home (kids, family, pets)? Can you work around them? (Will you have family members that think “Oh she works from home, it’ll be no problem for her to…run oover and do this, won’t mind if I pop by to say hi, can come house-sit for me, etc., etc.”)

      Can you maintain a positive relationship with boss/co-workers (vs. out of sight/out of mind)?

      In terms of saving money…being able to eat home (not having to pack lunches, worry about messy leftovers, being able to warm up fish in the microwave if you want to), having your own private/personal bathroom…

      1. Liane*

        “Will you have distractions at home (kids, family, pets)? Can you work around them?”
        If you do have kids, remember that most companies require WFH employees to have childcare.

    3. BenAdminGeek*

      Having done a similar switch, I now estimate the cost of the commute at about $5,000 in pain and suffering a year, and the high stress at about the same. That’s not including gas, wear & tear, etc. I didn’t realize how badly it had impacted my life until my daughter shared with her teacher how great my new job was because now she got to see me every day.

    4. Lady By The Lake*

      Will the company pay for a super-fast internet connection, computer, printer/scanner, phone, toner? Toner is outrageously expensive! Also, think about your work space. I thought mine was fine until I was sitting there full time. I needed to buy a bigger desk and a more ergonomic chair. If you will be on the phone a lot, a wireless headset is a must. Also think about your cell reception. Mine is not great, so I have a landline. I have to keep my heat and air conditioning at a comfortable level all day — no more turning those down/up during the work day.As for monetary savings, there aren’t a lot — you basically have them. Add dry cleaning if your work clothes need that.
      All that said, I LOVE working from home. I like that my commute is 10 ft, that I am at my own house and am comfortable. I love that I never have to hassle about being home for cable or other contractors. I love that I essentially set my own schedule. I like it that my cats are here for when I get stressed out. I love that my office windows look out over a lake and that I have been seeing bald eagles flying by all week.

    5. LaterKate*

      It sounds like you have a good handle on where the monetary savings would come in. But, that’s a pretty big pay cut, imo. My concern would be two-fold. 1. Is there any chance that this job could become un-remote at any point? If for some reason your employer decided to have you work on site (if apllicable), I doubt that that would come with a pay increase to get you back to your old salary. And also, if you move on from this new job at some point, there is a risk that this pay cut will effect your future earnings, since many companies still base your pay on what you were making before. Not exactly the question you asked, but there’s my $0.02.

  38. Anon4this*

    My question is about the gray area of admin type tasks, when you’re not an admin.

    Some background, I am a middle manager in my mid-thirties and female. My area of management is very specialized, think Teapot Intelligence & Data Science. Often times I am seconded to another department to work on special projects and find myself the youngest, least senior and only woman on these teams. Even though my actual job includes zero admin duties, I find myself being asked to do admin-type tasks in connection with these projects when there’s no administrative assistants available to help.

    For example, I am asked to take notes on phone calls with prospective customers, asked to set up meetings with vendors, and asked to aggregate everyone’s meeting notes for distribution to the team after the meeting.

    I have done all of these without complaint, because really, everyone else involved are Vice Presidents and C-level executives so it seems unrealistic to suggest one of them do these tasks instead or we take turns. But it does irk me that I have gotten to this level of my career and I’m still typing up people’s notes, except now I’m doing it for $100K per year. Of course, this is all on top of the actual work that relates to my area of expertise; which is the reason I am asked to work on these projects to begin with.

    Am I being unreasonable in thinking this is a waste for all involved, or is this more of an annoying fact of life and its best I just get over it?

    1. Always Anon*

      In cases where you are the most junior position and the rest of the group are VPs or C-level, then I think it makes sense for you to complete the admin work. But in a group of peers (based on title), you shouldn’t always be the one doing those tasks just because you’re younger or female.

      At one point, I was a director (middle-manager) with two peers, one male and one female. The one male, who was older than both of us females, always expected one of us females to do any admin tasks. We both pushed back and made him do some of the work – scheduling meetings, taking notes, etc.

    2. Temperance*

      That’s just not kosher. Are you the only person at your level, or the only one at your level who keeps getting these crappy tasks?

      I honestly don’t find this acceptable at all unless men at your level were also asked to type notes and compile notes.

      1. Anon4this*

        I’m the only one at my level and the only non-executive. So it may just be coincidental that I keep getting these tasks since I am the most junior on the project.

        It is literally all executive level men and me. Which I should think speaks to my accomplishment at my job, that I’m being brought in on these projects at this level, but it does feel diminished if I’m doing the research…and typing the notes.

        1. Emi.*

          I agree. Who’s directly above you, or most mentor-y? Can you go talk to him, and say specifically that you’re concerned about getting pegged in an admin role, so you’d like to stop getting these tasks? See if you can get him in your corner on this–can he push to get more admins? Can he volunteer to take notes and set up meetings? Can he say “Aw, come on, guys, why should Anon4this do all the admin things? Just because she’s a woman? If we need an admin we should get an admin.”

    3. amysee*

      Do you have a more junior staff member on your own team to whom you could assign these tasks?

    4. AndersonDarling*

      Compiling and distributing other’s notes is the line. Someone has to take notes, and someone within the group will need to set up meetings, but taking other’s notes and reworking them into a new doc? Nope! I’d push back if that comes up again. The VP definitely has a secretary or admin, or both, and they should be assigned the work by the VP. There shouldn’t be any issue bringing that up the next time it happens, “I’m in meetings all week. Is it possible that your secretary could handle this?”

      1. AnitaJ*

        I actually have a different take on this. As an EA, I’ve been asked to sit in on calls and take notes where frankly, I have no knowledge of the content. None at all. I have no clue what these people are talking about. They throw out acronyms and technical terms and I’m completely lost. Try as I might, my notes end up coming out looking like jibberish–making me look stupid and benefiting nobody.

        After a few times, I asked that an associate be looped in to take the notes (the most junior person above me). Not only will they accurately capture the meeting, but it might help give them a chance to engage on a project or with a client where before, they wouldn’t have been invited.

        This is all to say: I have no problem with note-taking when it’s routine. But when you’re deep into content and you’re pulling an EA into a project? Remember that the EA may not have the SME that you need to give you the product you want.

        1. copy run start*

          Yes! Even when I was an admin, I struggled to take relevant notes when tasked with meeting minutes for a community group that met semi-monthly. I was so anxious for the first two years because I:

          – didn’t know who these people were (I struggle with matching names to faces) other than they were mostly director-level
          – didn’t know their organizations or missions
          – didn’t know the relevant laws impacting the organizations
          – didn’t know the group backhistory that stretched over 10 years

          Only in year 3 did I finally feel I had my head above water and a clear grasp of what needed to be recorded and how it all fit together.

    5. Clever Name*

      Do you have any admin support at your disposal? I think you are entirely within your rights to delegate most or all of these tasks. Don’t ask permission to delegate. Just do it. They probably won’t even notice.

    6. Gracie*

      I’d speak to someone about including an admin during these meetings because when you have to focus on those duties you aren’t focusing on the job they are actually paying you to do. It’s hard to give input or think of solutions or explain something if you have to focus on the admin side. I’d let someone know you aren’t able to give your 100% because of this distraction and an easy solution would be to find an admin to do those things.

    7. Princess Carolyn*

      Is it absolutely necessary to aggregate and distribute these notes? To me, this feels like more of an “everyone’s responsible for their own notes” situation, given that nobody involved is an admin. Is it reasonable to just let those tasks go undone?

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        Agreed. Minutes are one thing but aggregating everyone’s notes from a meeting you all went to?

        Could you have a shared doc where you all input your own notes?

    8. FlyingFergus*

      I agree that it’s trickier when you’re the most junior person at the meeting, but presumably you were invited for your expertise, and not solely because they needed someone to handle logistics with vendors and to do administrative tasks. If that is the case, then it completely makes sense to push back politely and suggest they get an admin to handle those parts, and you can use some of the points in this article to make your case:

      (In case it doesn’t link – it’s an article from the NY Times by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on women bring asked to do the “office housework” – the two of them wrote a 4 article series on women in work that really resonated with me.)

  39. Allison*

    I’m just shy of a couple months into my new job, and we’re having a team offsite next week, so I’ll get to meet the remote members of the team! It’s exciting, but I’m also a little nervous. I’m 27, and I’m short, and my face reads young (although these acne scars are starting to age me a little), and if my past experience is any indicator of future experiences, I worry my older coworkers will see me as a child, or at least someone who doesn’t know much and needs someone to gently walk her through everything. I don’t want people talking down to me for two whole days. I’d really like to give a strong first impression that shows them I’m an intelligent, knowledgeable, competent young woman so they take me seriously as an actual adult colleague, does anyone have any tips on how I can do that?

    1. Temperance*

      I would recommend a.) wearing makeup, b.) keeping your hair “done” and not in a slopknot or otherwise messy, and c.) dressing very conservatively.

      I’m 33, and look younger, especially because I’m very blond and very short. When I wear my work clothes, I tend to dress fashionably but conservatively, and I’m treated like an adult most of the time, but when I’m in jeans and a sweatshirt/sneakers, people easily think I’m 10 or more years younger. I also do this thing where I roleplay someone who has her shit together, and think “what would Elle Woods do?” and do that, although less happily.

    2. NaoNao*

      Tips I’ve read:
      Firm handshake, direct eye contact
      If you have a soft, low voice, raise it and strengthen it
      Use your full name when you introduce yourself

      If you don’t wear makeup, perhaps a few light products (BB cream, a soft gloss, mascara) only for that day might be in order
      Conservative but not stuffy clothing that you’re comfortable in: perhaps a pencil skirt and fitted crew neck sweater, with slip on shoes (not ballet flats, as those read youthful and girlish) or a pair of dark gray trousers with a blue button down and lace up shoes like oxfords

      If it’s long, I’d pull it up/back and secure with simple, classic accessories
      If it’s short(er) I’d maybe get a blow out or a professional style the day before.

      I once read that the demarcation line between youthful and polished/adult is “edges”–so, haircut/style, nails, handbag, shoes, and accessories. As one gets a bit older, it’s a visual signal of authority and experience to have polished, quality “edges”. That’s not to say you can’t have fun with it, but it needs to be careful, purposeful, and high quality (like, say, one simple, very high quality bag vs. the quirky theme tote from Target that switches out every few weeks).

      Good luck!!

    3. Hiker 1546*

      When I was a first-year CPA there was another first-year woman who had the same question as you. She was short and had longish curly hair, wore flouncy skirts and accessories that read “college” and was smiling all the time. Then she complained that clients were not treating her seriously like they did other first-year staff. So in her second year, she followed advice to cut her hair to a more professional look, wear more professional-looking clothing and accessories and stop being the smiley person. For her it made an amazing difference with how clients treated her with the eventual result that one of her clients hired her away for a managerial position.

      1. Jennifer Walters*

        I’m a 25 year old attorney who often still gets carded at bars (and an R-Rated movie just 6 months ago!) I echo the dressing professionally (I wear a lot of solid colors, mostly blacks and blues, no pastels), using a firm handshake, and eye contact. I also have long hair that I keep pulled back.

        I also find that confidence is key. When I’m asked questions by colleagues/judges, I respond clearly with as little filler as possible, making sure I don’t use phrases like “This may be just me, but…” or “I could be wrong, but…” It helps shut down any attempts to walk me through things I already know. Further, if you act like you know you’re an intelligent, knowledgeable, competent young woman, they’ll get the drift (as long as you stray away from just showing off.)

        That said, I still get asked about my age. It’s annoying, but I remember an AAM answer from a while ago that suggested just owning up to how old you were. So, I tell them I’m 25 and move on immediately.

        Good luck!

    4. CheeryO*

      Fellow 27-year-old here who has a serious babyface and regularly needs to project authority around much older and more experienced people. I’d definitely give a +1 to the tips on makeup, hair, and clothes. It’s a little unfortunate that so much stock gets put into appearance, but that’s a big part of how humans make their first impressions, so it’s easiest to just play into it a little bit. I transitioned from long hair with thick bangs and a center part to a shoulder length cut with a side part, and that alone helped a ton. I still get the “Wow, you’re young!” comments, but I feel like I’m taken seriously and respected.

      Something else that helps is to have authoritative body posture. Stand up super straight with your shoulders back, and think about fully occupying the space your body takes up. I also like the “power poses” from the body language TED talk (definitely look it up if you haven’t seen it!). They sound a little crazy, but I swear they help! Confidence is key for being taken seriously.

  40. Beezus*

    I need a reality check – when is it unprofessional or weird to rearrange your hair at work?

    I have longer hair – it’s a couple of inches past my shoulders and pretty thick. I normally start my day with it down around my shoulders, but tend to scrape it up into a bun or a ponytail at some point during the day, and often later wind up pulling it back down. Sometimes, on a really tough day, I’ll alternate a couple of times – down, up, down, up, down. I need to clarify that I’m not doing a ton of primping for this…I’m not leaving my desk or using a mirror and I’m spending maybe 15 seconds on each change, just a yank and maybe a little fingercombing. My job is not client facing at all, so I am not doing this in front of customers.

    I have a very experienced coworker who I’ve been working with more frequently lately, and she’s started commenting on it. “Wait, wasn’t your hair down this morning?”, and “Uh oh, she’s putting her hair up again!” The way she’s commenting on it has started to get a very mild disapproving tone. I’ve always thought this was a completely fine and normal thing to do, and if it’s just a quirk of hers to mention it, I can ignore that, but she’s making me wonder if I need to change my habits. I’ve been trying to watch and take cures from other people, but I am the only other person in our immediate group with hair long enough to do this, so I’m seeking input.

      1. Sadsack*

        Agreed. I’d ignore her completely like you didn’t even hear her. She’ll either stop it or escalate to the point where she has to ask you why you change your hair at work. If she does the latter, I would just look at her confused and ask, “Why do you ask?” because what you are doing seems completely normal to me.

    1. Mike C.*

      This coworker is being weird and needs to shut up about what you do with your hair.

      Or you could set up a shared Excel spreadsheet and list dates/times you change your hair for her. Get her to countersign to ensure she’s seen the latest updates. It’ll be a solid bonding experience for the both of you, I’m sure.

      /No, I should never be a manger. Why do you ask?

      1. Cranberry*

        I would be very tempted to do something like this. “Oh, do you want me to route my hairstyles?Who do I need to put as an approver? I didn’t realize my personal appearance was in “collect comments” stage.”

        Beezus, this is a profoundly silly comment, don’t worry about your coworker! I do the same exact thing (putting hair up and down as necessary). Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

    2. Allison*

      Personally, I wouldn’t judge someone for doing it, just like I wouldn’t judge someone for reapplying lipstick or putting on some face powder at their desk. Like you said, you’re not client facing. How much privacy do you have at your desk?

      I could, however, see someone being weirded out by it if they’re worried you’re getting hair everywhere, or getting hair oil and product all over your hands, or making your hair dirty by touching it too much.

      But if someone keeps commenting, I might ask if it’s bothering her, or if it’s wrong to change my hair, hoping she’d either tell me it is, or she’d realize she doesn’t need to be making those comments. If she says it’s no problem, I might ask her to stop commenting on it then.

    3. whichsister*

      I do this too. I start with my hair down but when I get into a project it often goes up. I will even use gem clips to put my hair up sometimes. Obviously your co-worker needs a new hobby.

      1. Red Reader*

        Then there’s the days you come home and six pens fall out of your bun that you forgot you stuck in there. Or maybe that’s just me…

        1. PB*

          I’m glad I’m not alone on this! I’ve long shoved writing implements into my bun or ponytail. Apparently, other people find this weird.

      2. Catabodua*

        I have a coworker who has thick hair that goes just past her shoulders and she fusses with it a bit during the day.

        The fussing with it doesn’t bother me in and of iteself, but I am totally grossed out by how much hair she leaves around her desk by doing all the fussing.

        Perhaps make sure that you aren’t leaving a trail of hair? Particularly if it’s in a shared space.

        1. Allison*

          Mmm, important point. OP, make sure your hair isn’t prone to breakage, and if it is, OGX makes a good shampoo and conditioner combo to reduce breakage.

    4. Spoonie*

      I do the exact same thing. Other than an occasional doubletake from my department manager, no one has commented. This is on your coworker.

    5. Red Reader*

      She’s being obnoxious. As long as you’re not, like, leaving handfuls of shed hair or dandruff flakes all over the office from your fiddling with it, you’re fine. (My hair is hip-length and while I generally don’t go from down to up and back, it’s not unusual at all for me to de-bun and slightly reposition, to move my bun higher or lower on my head to adjust where the weight of that much hair rests. Thirty seconds, tops.)

      1. SM*

        Hello fellow long hair person! I don’t know how you can stand to have it in a bun all day. (Have any secrets? Or high tolerance from practice?) I usually stick with a braid. If I feel the need to change styles I’ll usually try to do it when there aren’t other people around or in the restroom, since it takes me longer than 30 seconds to braid. But anything less than 30 seconds seems fine to me, regardless of who is around. If I saw someone switching up their hair like that, I’d probably think, “Oh, her hair must be driving her nuts right now. I know what that’s like!”

        1. Red Reader*

          High tolerance, I think :) for me the secret is to make sure it’s a wide flat bun rather than one that sticks out? It feels, at least, like it spreads the weight out better. Also positioning it higher helps, the lower it is the more it feels like it’s dragging on my scalp.

          I do braids sometimes, especially in the winter when I might want to wear a hat, but my hair gets super frizzy under many weather conditions, such as: Wet. Dry. Warm. Cold. Humid. Not humid. :-P you take the point.

    6. AngtheSA*

      I do this. I usually start out with it down and then by midday it is up in a bun or low ponytail. No one has said anything to me about it. Your coworker’s comments are weird. I would just ignore her, why is she monitoring how your hair looks?

    7. strawberries and raspberries*

      I hate to sound ridiculous, but she’s probably jealous. I’m also in the Long Thick Hair Club, and the only people who make idiotic comments about my hair are people who don’t have any hair or hate their own hair.

    8. Beezus*

      Thanks for validating, guys. It seemed okay to me, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t being oblivious about a behavior that reasonable people might actually find off-putting. If it’s just her hangup, I’m easily able to ignore it.

    9. ddd*

      As long as you’re not doing your hair in the middle of conversations with coworkers or something, it’s completely normal! Ignore your coworker – or better yet when she asks give a puzzled look and say something like “why do you ask? “

    10. Rookie Manager*

      I do this all the time too. I don’t think its really an issue. I usually have a hair band on my wrist and will put my hair up without noticing- if that fails I later find a pencil in my hair.

      I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s her issue not yours.

      1. Hiker 1546*

        Wait – up, down, up, down?? If you do this more than once or twice in a day, maybe your co-worker is suggesting that this demonstrates a less than professional image. If you are an entry level person, then whatever floats your boat, but if you want to be seen as someone who wants a higher level position in your company, you might want to think about how other people are perceiving you. It would seem very odd for a manager to be playing with their hair like this.

        1. Sadsack*

          I think this is extreme. Unless the person is sitting in meetings putting her hair in and out of a ponytail the whole time, no one is probably cares about the changes. I took Rookie to mean that she does it frequently, like maybe once or twice a day, not literally all day long.

    11. NewBoss2016*

      Your coworker is being goofy. How does she have time to pay attention to your hairstyle changes? I have mid-back hair, and I can’t make it but a few hours without throwing it up in a pony tail. It either gets too hot, or is in the way if I am hunched down reviewing documents. I take it back down every few hours after it gets too heavy. The only time I don’t mess with it at all is if I start the day with a bun (I use those foam donuts). Nobody has ever said anything to me. Since this thread popped up, I glanced around the office and several long-haired coworkers are doing the same thing. I don’t think it is unprofessional at all. I would kind of understand if you had a messy dorm-bun and were meeting clients, but it sounds like that isn’t the case at all.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      I will be the odd one here. Yes, I notice people playing with their hair through out the day.
      Part of the reason could be because I am old. I was always told keep your hands AWAY from your hair.
      The other part of the reason I notice is because I start to wonder why the restlessness, why the constant discontent with the hair? Again, this is probably just me. I know I would catch myself thinking, fixing the hair again?
      I think that constant hair changes in some offices would not read very well.

      I’d love to hear what Alison has to say…Alison?

      1. Hrovitnir*

        Putting your hair up and down once or twice isn’t constant. Would you really perceive this as constant? I can appreciate this could be a generational thing, but I think it’s a bit extreme to see it as “playing with your hair” to retie it a couple of times a day.

        I personally don’t really care what people think (and hope to never be in a job where I need to care), but I generally do this because having my hair out irritates the crap out of me but I get headaches no matter how I tie it up so I usually let it out for a little bit.

    13. joe*

      As the long Haired Freaky person of my office ( LOONG hair and a significant beard) Put you hair up when you go in ONLY take it out in the bathroom or when out of the office or off the floor. IF you do take it out point out that whomever you are dealing with is in trouble now as you have taken out the scrunchy and are not affraid to use it.

  41. Camellia*

    I have several posts for OFFICE MERCENARY today. This one is in response to her question last Friday about gracefully turning down men who keep hitting on her and asking her out. OM, I’m giving you the tactics that have worked for me in many situations, with an emphasis on solutions for business situations. I know this is long but I hope some of this will be helpful to you in building strong boundaries.

    If he blatantly asks you out, or asks you to go somewhere or do something in a way that can be construed as asking you out but that he can backtrack on by scorning the suggestion that he was asking you out, here’s what has worked for me.

    Practice saying this out loud – “Aw, no thanks!” The “aw” should sound like when you see a cute kitten picture, but make sure it is a lower tone, not a high and/or squeaky tone, and only lasts for ONE eye blink. It’s “aw”, not “awwwwww”. Then say the “no thanks” in a semi-perky tone, with a DEFINITE EXCLAMATION POINT at the end. (Perky tones are perfect for exclamation points without sounding super aggressive; just consider the difference between “Hi.” and “Hi!”) “Aw, no thanks!” This is a complete sentence. DO NOT explain or justify anything. And then immediately, BEFORE HE HAS A CHANCE TO SAY ANYTHING, start talking about something else BUSINESS RELATED, even if that ‘something else’ is just to repeat something that was already said or reiterate a point that was already made – just say anything business related. If he comes back and says it again, or a variation thereof, REPEAT THIS EXACT SAME THING. “Aw, no thanks! How about that presentation huh?!? Wasn’t that fantastic?”

    If he does it a third time, and really if you have a REPEAT OFFENDER in spite of using any of these tactics, I say you should write them off and don’t seek out further contact because they are probably not going to help you professionally anyway. And if they did, are you willing to pay the cost to get that help, even if the cost is just being acutely uncomfortable?

    And the practice OUT LOUD is important. Hearing and feeling ourselves saying stuff, practicing so it comes out quickly and easily, really makes it stick. THEN practice in your imagination – visualize scenes you’ve already experienced that didn’t go well and rewrite them in your head to incorporate these tactics. The brain can’t tell the difference between what happens outside our body and what happens only in our mind. You can replay these rewritten scenes to where they will eventually become a part of your history, as though you had really done it at the time, and that will make you more able to do them in the real world. I call this ‘visualizing the desired outcome’.
    “Meet me/us for drinks for [business reason]”. First, for any ‘drinks’ situation, don’t try to change it to ‘coffee’ right away; it is too easy for them to refuse, or just flat out ignore the attempt, and then you have to give up on the coffee idea in order to continue the conversation. That puts you at an immediate disadvantage; he’s already made you give in to him/his idea and that makes him believe he can do that with other things. Like getting you to agree to go out with him.

    So when he says, “Meet me/us for drinks”, ask questions. Here’s one possible conversation: “Drinks? Who all’s going?” If he says just him, you don’t need to do it – that’s why we have phones. So what do you say? “Aw, no thanks. How about I call you to further discuss [topic]?” If he continues to try to get you to meet him, use this tactic as many times as you have patience for. If he is only willing to ‘help’ you if you get personal with him, write him off and move on. “No thanks!” Smile. Excuse yourself. Walk away.

    Then here’s the thing – there is a chance that your next contact with him will be strictly business because you’ve established a firm boundary. And if it isn’t, repeat the above and move on.

    If he says ‘drinks’ will be with more than just him, press him for information. Who? Where exactly? At what time? And so forth. What do you do with this info? You decide if you want to give it a try, to see if he is lying about it not being only him and also if it is with people with whom you would genuinely like to connect. Then you say, “Sure, I can be there!” The “be there” is an important word choice; it conveys that you will get there – by yourself. Avoid all efforts of him to pick you up and drive there with “Aw, no thanks! I’ll meet everyone there!” (You should have the tone down pat by this time.) If he presses you, or asks you WHY you want to drive yourself, or he is being so nice to offer to pick you up why don’t you take him up on it, etc. etc. etc., you repeat “No thanks! I’ll meet everyone there!” with NO EXPLANATION OR JUSTIFICATION, as many times as you have patience for. And be careful to say you’ll meet ‘everyone’ there, not you’ll meet ‘him’ there. If he keeps it up, then just leave the conversation with a final “No thanks!”

    If you do go, and the other people are there, then have a good time chatting about BUSINESS stuff. If you go and only he is there, and no one else shows up, and he offers to buy you a drink or do other stuff that makes it start looking like a date (Can you tell I fell for this once?), you are always free to JUST EXCUSE YOURSELF AND LEAVE! “Aw, those people couldn’t make it? Too bad, I really wanted to [business stuff]. Maybe next time; gotta run!” He will probably say things like, “But you just got here! Why do you have to run off? Hey, you already planned to spend the evening here, you might as well stay!” and so forth. IGNORE ALL OF THESE. Say, “Nah, I had hoped to [meet everyone or whatever was the purported purpose of this little get-together] and that’s not happening, so I’m just gonna take off.” And, since you drove yourself, you can get up and leave. You are not obligated to stay and interact with someone who lied to you to get you into a social situation! Do you really want or need the help of someone who lies and tries to manipulate you?

    Your next contact with THIS man will probably be awkward but he caused that, not you. Be polite, test the waters with some business conversation if you like, but again be prepared to just walk away if he shows any signs of not getting over you ‘dumping’ him. You don’t owe him anything!

    Note: If he refuses to give you the address for this fantastic meet-up, so that he would HAVE to take you, well, I hope I don’t have to tell you NOT to take him up on that. But I will tell you flat out to say, “Wait, you are REFUSING to give me the information for this BUSINESS opportunity in an effort to FORCE me to go WITH you??? No thanks, to both opportunities. Bye!”

    As for the man who texted, “Hi” and nothing else, this reminded me of how we use IM where I work. We always send a “Hi” or “Good morning”, and then wait for a response. This is our equivalent to a polite knock on the door, an ‘is this a good time to talk?’ If you don’t receive a response you don’t do anything else. If you do receive a response, then you proceed with whatever you need to say. Now, I don’t know if this man was using this approach or not. But I would probably text back with something business related like “Hi! How’s it going? Were you able to do [business related thing]/get an answer for [business related question]?” Then see how he answers. If he does the asking thing, the “Aw, no thanks! Were you able to do [business related thing]/get an answer for [business related question]?” response works just as well in writing! And feel free to ignore any future texts.
    I think if you try these tactics, then the conversations won’t have a chance to devolve into the ‘Why won’t you even give me a chance?” realm, but if they do, I have one final answer. “Aw, I just come here to talk business.” Smile. Excuse yourself. Walk away.

    So to sum up:

    “Aw, no thanks!” Immediately start talking about business.

    If they persist: “No thanks!” Smile. Excuse yourself. WALK AWAY (even if it’s just to the restroom).

    “Sure, I can be there!” Immediately start talking about business.

    “Aw, no thanks! I’ll meet everyone there!” Immediately start talking about business.

    “Aw, those people couldn’t make it? Too bad, I really wanted to talk about business with them/be introduced to them/[whatever applies]. Maybe next time! Gotta run!” ***

    “Nah, I had hoped to meet everyone and that’s not happening, so I’m just gonna take off.” ***

    ***And, since you drove yourself, you HAVE THE POWER to get up and leave.

    YOUR FINAL ANSWER: “I just come here to talk business.” Smile. Excuse yourself. Walk away.

    1. Emi.*

      What’s the “aw” for? If it’s “aw, I’m so flattered” that seems like too much softening. Is it more of a plausibly-deniable “aw, it’s pathetic-cute that you thought I might say yes” so he feels a little trodden-on and slinks away, or what?

      1. Camellia*

        It’s a teeny-tiny softener, just the barest sound, before the “no thanks”. And it should be a low tone. The goal is a fast, pleasant refusal followed by an immediate return to business. If it gets into the “I’m so flattered” range, that is WAY too much “aw”, which I think would be a much higher, almost squeal-y tone, and would not meet Office Mercenary’s needs – she doesn’t want to be flattered, she wants to be left alone. If he thinks she is flattered he will continue to pursue her. And I want it to sound pleasant, not condescending/pathetic-cute, to spare her from the ‘now you’re stuck up AND conceited!” response that she quoted.

        I thought about typing “ah” instead, but didn’t want to use a sound so close to ‘uh’, which can indicate either hesitation or condescension, depending on how it’s delivered.