friends keep asking me to write their resumes, can I ask to resign instead of being fired, and more

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

1. Friends keep asking me to write their resumes

How do I handle friends who keep asking me to write their resumes? I’ve worked as a writer and designer for 10 years so friends, relatives, even friends of friends often ask for help. I have a folder on my laptop with more than a dozen resumes and cover letters that I have created for other people, and I’ve had two more requests this week alone. I don’t proclaim to be, well, you when it comes to writing job applications but they keep asking. One friend who asked me to rewrite his cover letter this week for a job in a new industry expects me to read the job description and find out what they were looking for, and research which supporting materials he needed to provide. This is not just a few tweaks in Photoshop – he wants me to invest hours in something that he hasn’t spent more than five minutes on. Plus he told me he isn’t likely to get the job anyway, and I’d have to agree. What level of assistance should I provide, and where should I draw the line?

My advice is to only do it for people who (a) you like, (b) already have a reasonable balance of give and take in their relationship with you, (c) aren’t expecting you to do work that they should be doing themselves, and (d) have demonstrated that they’ve already put real effort into working on it on their own — and even when all those conditions are met, you should still only do it if (e) you want to and (f) you have the time, energy, and interest.

For everyone else, it’s okay to say, “I’m sorry, my schedule won’t allow it right now.”

Also, a note about (d) — It might make sense to first refer them to a few articles like this, this, or even this and say, “See how far you can get using the advice here, and then I’d be glad to look it over afterwards and see if I can give you additional help.” Some people will never follow up after that (because they want you to do all the work) or will send you something that makes it clear they didn’t do what you asked. You can jettison those people’s requests for help without guilt, since there’s no reason that you should put in more effort than they’re willing to put in themselves.

2. Can I ask to resign instead of being fired?

Things have been very tense at work, and I’m fearful I might get fired. I was fired from a job I was at for eight years and I don’t ever want to go through that again. It has been about that long since that incident. I’ve received good reviews at all of my jobs, but I have constant performance anxiety till this day.

If I am brought into my boss’s office to be fired, can I tell them I would like to quit instead? If so, how would I go about saying it? I understand I will miss out on benefits but the embarrassment and ego crush of being fired for a second time is not something I can deal with again.

You can, but be aware that if you do, you may miss out on eligibility for unemployment benefits and severance pay. And I’d make sure that you’re really clear on whether a last-minute swap like that will really achieve what you’re trying to achieve. In a lot of ways, it’s just semantics at that point: you’ll still be at the point where they were about to fire you (so it may still be ego-damaging), they’re likely to tell future reference-checkers that you’re not eligible for rehire, and so forth.

But if you want to try it, you could say, “Would you be willing to allow me to resign instead?”

3. Managing a returning employee who’s a nightmare

This is my first year as the head of department at a private high school. I manage three full-time staff and 22 contract staff. In the second half of the year, a staff member, Cersei, will be returning after six months on leave.

For the last 10 years, Cersei’s husband has run the department and she has run him. She had free rein and first pick of classes and would use him to fight her battles. The environment was toxic and everyone was miserable. Eventually, after much staff turnover, the school decided to manage him and he chose to leave (and she took six months off).

In the last five months, staff cohesion and satisfaction has never been higher. I am a first-time manager but six years of daily AAM reading has made a lasting impression, and my staff are thriving, motivated and happy.

Cersei will be returning in July and we are all dreading it. How do I fairly and impartially manage someone I actively dislike (and who bullied me previously), while at the same time gathering evidence to performance manage her should it become necessary (her track record suggests that it will)? Cersei still has her own support networks within the school and it will be difficult to remove her without politics.

The most important thing you can do is to get aligned with your boss now about how you intend to manage Cersei, and to ensure your boss has your back in how you plan to handle it. That way you’ll be able to assert your authority with Cersei with the confidence of knowing that your boss will back you up if Cersei complains.

So for example, you might say to your boss, “In the past, there were problems with Cersei doing A, B, and C. My plan when she returns is to lay out clear expectations for her performance, focusing on those areas in particular. Then if those problems start cropping up again, my plan is to address it early on and let her know what needs to change. If it continues, at that point I’d move on to a formal performance improvement plan, which would mean D and E. I want to make sure that you’re in the loop about my thinking, and that this approach sounds right to you.” (And then keep your boss in the loop as this plays out — you don’t want the next conversation about it to be “I’m ready to fire Cersei.”)

As for fairly managing her … go into it willing to believe she may have turned over a new leaf. Maybe she has, or maybe she hasn’t, but you’ll know for sure soon enough. But going in thinking of this as an opportunity for a reset will help. More on how to do that here and here.

4. My manager’s lateness means I get stuck staying late

I’m a bartender and I normally work afternoon shifts. In the food service industry, you rarely get to leave right at the time of shift change; there’s a lot of cleaning and restocking and money counting to do. The bar manager is also a bartender as well (meaning she doesn’t sit in an office or come check in every now and then; she’s on the floor slinging drinks like the rest of us). My issue is that my boss is always about 20-30 minutes late and often times she is my relief for my shift. That means I can’t start my side work until she gets there and I don’t end up actually leaving for another 45 minutes to an hour.

It’s extremely frustrating especially considering she sent out a mass text saying she was going to be more strict on employee punctuality a few weeks ago, yet nothing has changed for her.

All in all, I like her a lot but I can’t help but feel majorly disrespected when she’s that late all the time. How should I handle this? Talk to her directly? Go over her head? Suck it up?

Is she a generally reasonable person? If so, yes, talk to her. You could say something like this: “Lately when you’re scheduled to relieve me, you’ve been about 20-30 minutes later than when I’m supposed to leave. Adding in side work, I haven’t been able to leave for close to an hour after I’m scheduled to. I know you’re really busy, but is there any way to schedule me and/or you more accurately so that I’m not staying late so often?”

5. Asking to use sick leave as vacation time

I am a middle manager at a medium-sized company that’s part of a large conglomerate. My boss is generally happy with my performance and wants to keep me around.

We get 10 days of vacation time and 10 days of sick leave per year. We file for time off in a web-based system, then our manager approves it. The company is generally flexible about time off—there’s an expectation that you’ll take the time when you need to, you’ll get your work done, you’ll ensure that other people are filling in for you as needed.

I’m not sick very often, but I have young children and sometimes end up taking a vacation day to stay home with them when they’re sick, when school is closed, etc. At the end of the year, I end up with sick time left over, but my vacation time is gone, and I’d like to take another day or two around Christmas.

Is it a normal request to ask HR or my manager, “Hey, I’m out of vacation days but I still have some sick time remaining—could I take a couple days between Christmas and New Year’s?” (FYI, that’s generally a slow week for us, but a lot of people take time off then so it’s not like I’m sitting on my hands if I do work that week.)

There’s nothing wrong with asking, but be prepared for a no. A lot of companies treat sick time and vacation time very differently and don’t intend for you to use up all your sick time unless you truly need it for health reasons. On the other hands, some managers will be flexible in the situation you described, and it’s okay to ask.

{ 226 comments… read them below }

  1. FishAreNotPets*

    Good Luck to OP 4.
    After years of working in that industry two things have become apparent: Restaurant/bars want you to come early and stay late without complaint, it doesn’t matter if you work at Denny’s or the Shiangri-la.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah… I’m not optimistic about #4, but maybe the bar manager is one of the extremely rare people in the restaurant industry who is not super abusive and unreasonable.

        1. A. Non*

          It is a broad brush, but even having worked sidelong to the industry, I think it’s a combination of pressure exerted by unrealistic customers and unrealistic goals that twists (not quite the right word) even good managers into leaning toward this.

          I am good friends with a very good man who used to be a restaurant manager, and there were times when I had to say to him, dude, this is not an acceptable way to treat people, no matter what.

          1. buffty*

            I was a foodservice manager for years, and now I do support for those managers on the vendor side. I’m certainly not saying that there aren’t issues with many foodservice managers, but it has not been my experience that it is “extremely rare” not to be “super abusive”. I and my colleagues were extremely professional, as are most of the managers who are now my clients. As I’ve seen from being a long-time reader of this site, which I found professionally helpful as a foodservice manager who wanted to hone my management skills despite not being in an office setting, there are abusive and unreasonable managers in all work settings.

        2. Me*

          It’s a broad brush but it’s accurate. Most hospitality managers are terrible. Obviously not all, but it’s a big problem in the industry.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I know it sounds broad, but it’s actually backed up by data. There’s a lot of granular, empirical research on persistent abuse in the restaurant industry (and the food-chain, more broadly) that suggests that restaurant/food-chain managers are uniquely abusive when compared to other industries. That doesn’t mean there are no restaurants with good/reasonable managers—but as a statistical matter, those managers are in a very small minority, which is why I described it as “rare.”

          I try really hard not to use sweeping statements unless they’re supported by evidence, although I’m certainly not perfect and often make mistakes. I truly don’t mean to offend folks working in food service—I did for years and would do it again if I needed to. But this is a time when I stand by the breadth of my statement.

      1. Construction Safety*

        Both my children worked a little while in the food service industry & my observation to them was that it had to be the most widespread,dysfunctional management system, evah.

      2. Muriel Heslop*

        As a teacher who works part-time in the restaurant industry, I can only say that from my experience that the restaurant managers I have had were quite superiors to the management (principals/APs) I have had in public schools as far as people skills, and I haven’t worked with any abusive managers at all (Parents and customers? Significantly more abusive people, but you always encounter the rude ones in either field.)

    2. OP 4*

      (I’m the letter writer)

      Lord I know. I’m going back to school starting this summer to get out of this hellish industry.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        But you are getting paid for this extra time, yes? And time spent on side work? Time and a half for any time over 40 hours in a week?

        Years spent working in food service and later as an employment law attorney have me guessing that the answers to this could go either way. There were a lot of things that I liked about waitressing and bartending but abuse is so pervasive.

        1. No, please*

          If it’s like a lot of places OP may only be getting $3/hr. Most bars and restaurants use tips as a way to get around minimum wage requirements. I could be wrong, just going by personal experience. So then the time spent on side work is not time spent making tips.

        2. Mary Dempster*

          LOL time and a half for over 40 hours a week. They will cut you just to avoid paying that, and 50% over is still only like 3.50.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Stealing overtime wages is really common in the restaurant industry—studies from around 2014 indicated that upwards of 70% of restaurant workers reported not being paid overtime, and studies indicate that the average restaurant worker loses about $2K/year from wage theft. Additionally, the base-rate in most states* is extremely low ($2.13), and employers frequently misapply the tip-credit (which is what allows them to pay only $2.13). Hours put in when there are no customers are still paid at the base-rate—even though doing so violates the FLSA—which means your overtime rate is about $3.20/hour.

          * States with different wage schemes include Alaska, California, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

      2. The Supreme Troll*

        Best of luck to you in furthering your education; I hope all goes well and you wind up in a much better place career-wise.

        I’ve never worked in the fast-food industry, been a server, or a bartender. But I always felt that in those businesses, managers don’t really value their employees as people with needs and responsibilities outside of the place that they’re working at. I know that I’m generalizing, but I think there is some truth to this. “Can’t work this schedule?…oh well, we’ll find someone else who can.”

        1. Agnes Stonewick*

          Having worked in food service and retail concurrently, trying to make multiple work schedules jive with each other, the “Can’t work this schedule?…oh well, we’ll find someone else who can.” is pretty standard. Part of why I don’t return to this work is the plain and simple fact that I require fixed schedules to function as someone playing at being normal.

    3. Temperance*

      I will say that I was treated far better at the 4-star place where I worked than the Denny’s where I worked, but yeah, you’re absolutely right. I’ll never forget the angry, hate-filled voicemails I received when I was SLEEPING after working until 2 AM at Denny’s on Thanksgiving, because I didn’t answer their messages to come in at 4AM on Black Friday and they needed help.

      It’s part of what motivated me to get out of the service industry, TBH. Those messages changed my life, lol.

    4. Mary Dempster*

      The wording AAM gave won’t work though. It’s not a normal work environment. Explaining that you can’t start side work until they get here (rarely true) and that you end up not leaving until “an hour after I’m supposed to” is naive and patronizing. They know this, and the beginning of another shift is NOT the end of your shift.

      I honestly see two options:

      A (if you like her and she’s reasonable) – “Yo, you OK? You’ve been late the last couple of weeks.” and see what happens. or

      B (if you don’t like her and she’s not reasonable) you go straight to your GM and say that she’s always late, and let them manage it from there. The GM is above the bar manager, period. And I have never ever worked in a restaurant where lateness is tolerated, even 15 minutes.

      If lateness is tolerated by your GM, find another bartending job.

      Source: 10+ years in restaurant industry as server, bartender, host, or manager.

  2. Eric*

    #5, you may have more luck asking for permission to take sick leave when staying home with a sick kid. Or at least that would be more likely to be approved where I work.

    1. Z7*

      Yes, I was surprised that #5 took vacation time to be home with a sick kid. That is clearly sick day territory in my workplace.

      1. Jaydee*

        I was thinking the same thing. My employer allows sick leave to be used for the employee’s own illness or medical appointments or for illness or medical appointments for kids, spouse/partner, parent, etc. So basically caregiver type stuff. My husband works for a school, and I think they have separate designations for sick leave for self versus for family members. I’m not sure if they are actually separate pots of leave or if they all come out of the same pot but management just tracks how many are used for which purpose.

        1. Lemon Zinger*

          Yep! OP needs to read her employee handbook. I would be very surprised if she couldn’t use sick time to care for others.

        2. Jadelyn*

          My company does the same – sick time is for your illness and appointments, and your family’s illness and appointments. I’ve used sick time to take my mom or my boyfriend to appointments in the past and it’s totally fine. OP5 should check with their manager about using sick time for that rather than vacation days.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That was my first reaction, as well. I have a feeling OP#5’s company has a policy about what constitutes sick leave, but it would be really helpful if they allow it to count for caretaking (family leave that doesn’t rise to FMLA levels) or to at least consider revisiting their policy if they have a more restrictive definition. If my employee were missing vacation time because it was all used on caretaking, I would want to recalibrate their leave so they could actually unplug.

      1. uh*

        People using sick leave for sick kids leads to the company getting rid of it, IME. Not to say I agree with the company – just that some employers are VERY VERY picky about this.

        1. uh*

          I always seem to get my comments in wrong places. Sorry to make you look like you agreed with me Julia when I just too stupid to get in the spot I meant.

        2. NJ Anon*

          Fortunately, we are allowed to use sick time to take care of sick family members.

        3. Xay*

          Every company/organization I have worked for has allowed the use of sick leave for caring for immediate family members, including routine doctor’s appointments.

          1. Koko*

            Yep, my employer even explicitly allows in the handbook for us to use sick time for vet appointments.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              That is really cool of your employer! I’ve never seen that myself, but I’ve always understood sick leave to explicitly or implicitly include taking care of sick dependents.

          2. Steve*

            It might not be the current policy, but the OP might be able to get the policy changed to explicitly include that. Or if it’s not explicitly forbidden, she might get her manager’s approval. It’s worth asking for sure.

            It seems far more likely to me to be approved / get the policy changed when it’s framed like that. It seems unlikely to me that they will let OP use sick time as vacation time. If they wanted to do that they wouldn’t have separate banks.

            That said, a lot of smaller employers have PTO instead of separate banks. It’s not inconceivable that they could be persuaded to give, say, 15 or 17 days of PTO instead of 20 total sick + vacation days.

          3. Anna*

            We’re fortunate in that our sick leave is also coded as personal time, so I could be sick at home, taking care of my husband, at the doctor, or even just taking a day for me.

        4. Newby*

          I don’t see how asking to use it to care for a sick kid would make them get rid of sick time. They can just say no if that is not how they want sick time used.

          1. Steve*

            Abusing a sick policy (in the eyes of upper management) can get it changed. I’ve seen it happen. That said, asking for a clarification, for permission, or for a policy change is definitely *not* abusing a policy.

            1. Jadelyn*

              If we were talking about abusing the policy, sure, but asking if it’s possible to use sick time for caregiver duties for a sick family member – which, as many people have attested, is extremely common policy for employers to allow – isn’t by any stretch an abuse of policy.

    3. Julia*

      I came here to say this. At my former job, this was actually a normal way to take sick leave.

      1. Lena*

        That was my thought too. At my job sick leave is allowed for children/partners/other dependants

        1. Justme*

          Same. It has a different code on leave sheets but it’s the same pool of sick leave hours.

        2. Kitty*

          My previous manager asked why I always had a week of vacation left unused at the end of the year. When I told him that I saved the days in case the kids were sick, but they were getting older and more healthy so the days were left unused. He said it was unacceptable – I should use sick days for sick family/self and vacation days for relaxing and general mental health. I would have walked through fire for that manager – he inspired loyalty through a multitude of good manager practices.

          1. AMT*

            At a previous job, I got very lucky and had a boss who encouraged a culture of taking “mental health days” if we had the time and our work wouldn’t suffer. Not that I ever had to say explicitly that I was taking a mental health day — whether or not I was sick, I could just say, “I’m taking a sick day,” and he wouldn’t ask any questions or require documentation. Which, IMO, is how it should be.

    4. GermanGirl*

      Yes, that was my first thought as well – describe your problem and then ask if you can use sick leave instead of vacation time for staying home with a sick kid.

    5. Jess*

      I came here to say the same thing – at my organisation sick leave can be used both for when you are sick, and also when you are helping with a family member who is unwell.

    6. Thlayli*

      That was my thought too – take sick time when kids are sick and take vacation time for vacation.

      You may also be able to ask for unpaid leave like FMLA in America or parental leave in EU.

    7. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’ve always used sick leave for anything medical, whether it’s for myself or a member of my immediate family (child, parent, spouse). Besides, if it’s something contagious, I could spread it at the office even if I don’t develop symptoms myself, but I also used sick leave for my child’s checkups.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          I didn’t know that! I’ve always just used the flex time/WFH policies to take care of sick family members, because if _I’m_ not sick, I can still be pretty productive while making the occasional quick dashes to the corner store for more ginger ale or crackers or whatnot. But of course, so far, “family” is my spouse. I suspect it’s a bit more time intensive to care for a sick kid, so good to know for the future.

          1. fposte*

            You’re nicer than I am. I ain’t burning my sick time for an otherwise healthy grownup.

            1. Jadelyn*

              The only time I take sick time to care for an adult is if they need a driver for an appointment, because I’d rather burn a few hours of sick leave than have someone unsafe trying to drive themselves – and knowing both my mother and my boyfriend, they would try.

              However, I’m not staying home simply to keep him company and bring him stuff tbh. I’m with you on that.

      1. DecorativeCacti*

        I don’t know if it’s required in Washington, but there ARE rules in place about who is considered eligible for dependent sick leave. It allowed me to be able to use my sick leave to help care for my grandma.

    8. Amy*

      This is what I was thinking. Where I am at least, it’s very normal for sick time to be used for time where you’re sick, time where you have a medical appointment, or time where you’re caregiving for e.g. a sick child. I would be really surprised to see my coworkers using vacation time for those things, unless their sick time was totally gone.

    9. Quinalla*

      Chiming in as well, check your sick leave policy as many include taking care of immediate family who are sick. If it doesn’t include it, I still think you may have a better chance of asking to be able to use it that way.

    10. Jubilance*

      Right. At the companies I’ve worked for, sick leave could be taken to care for a sick child as well, which the parents greatly appreciated. Has the OP clarified that’s not the policy at their company?

    11. saby*

      My workplace is a firm “no” on this (you have to be the one who’s sick in order for it to be a sick day) but they also don’t ask for doctor’s notes unless you’re going to be out for more than a week so people do it all the time, when they email to say they’re taking a sick day they just don’t specify who is sick.

    12. Tiffin*

      In my company, we can use sick leave for sick kids, doctor’s appointments (ours or family; I used one to take my mother to the doctor), etc. It couldn’t hurt to check the policy.

    13. MCMonkeyBean*

      That’s what I was thinking. It still may not fly but it seems like a better plan to ask to use sick leave for sick kids and then have more vacation left at Christmas than to ask to take sick leave on Christmas.

    14. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I can’t imagine that a sick leave policy that allows for 10 days isn’t meant to include days for family. 10 days is pretty generous IME.

    15. Solo*

      +1. The State of Oregon explicitly (recently) allows the use of accrued sick leave to care for a family member who is ill, in need of preventive care or a medical diagnosis — including taking care of a sick kid (or their well child exams etc). It’s worth taking 5-10 minutes to research laws in your jurisdiction and then checking in with your manager and/or HR about it if your company doesn’t already explicitly include it in their sick leave policies.

    16. Marion L*

      I believe that approach would also be more appropriate. Could even be covered in the rules the company has for the use of sick time. We can use up to half of our sick leave for caring for sick family members and I don’t think that is rare at all

    17. JoAnna*

      At my last job, I always took sick time (it was called flex time) when my kids were sick. Once I had run out of flex time, I was permitted to use vacation time.

      At one point I was also allowed to work from home when my kids were sick (assuming it was one of my older kids, because they could just hang out on the couch watching movies and I would only need to check in on them occasionally). That flexibility was a godsend for me.

    18. Noah*

      Yes! That’s actually been the policy everywhere I’ve worked: you can use sick time if you’re caring for/watching sick family members.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, my friends do this with cover letters, and I use Alison’s criteria for determining whether I’ll give it a review. Most people will accept an “So sorry, can’t look at this—super swamped this week!” with good grace.

    Sending you a job listing and making zero effort on a resume, but sending it to you for revision, anyway, is kind of crappy behavior for a friend (separately from the laziness of it, which I would find grating). I’m also kind of baffled that your friend would ask you to invest a bunch of time into a job he thinks he won’t get and isn’t willing to spend time on.

    I think it’s fair to limit help to (1) people who help themselves, and (2) who you are close to (i.e., not acquaintance-friends or even social-friends, but friend-friends).

    1. The Bread burglar*

      I occassionally look over CVs because I hire for my team so people ask if I can tell them about mistakes or issues.

      I dont rewrite them or write cover letters. I think a glance over and saying hey here are some typos and overall feedback is nice if your time allows it. But more than that they should do themselves. Plus depending on the role they are likely looking at the cover letter as an example of the candidates writing. It doesnt help anyone if you did it for them.

      1. straws*

        Yes, this. I make extensive use of the commenting feature, but I rarely touch the actual text of a document that I’m helping out with.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I would correct text if something was unquestionably incorrect (i.e. wrong form of “there”, repeat words, easily corrected comma splice, etc) but would only give suggestions on anything stylistic or substantive.

      2. Ama*

        Yes. Don’t rewrite — send back a list of suggestions “I think this bullet point could be split into two” “You should consider starting with this example in your cover letter and then explaining how that shows your management skills.” People who expect you to do all the work for them will stop asking once it becomes clear you won’t give them the “help” they expect, and for the people who continue to ask you to help, it will reduce your workload considerably.

      3. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I do this as well. I’ll give feedback & advice, but they’ve got to give me a fully-formed document to start with.

    2. anyomouse*

      In addition to the previous advice I have also been knows to say sure but i charge $ to do that. resume writing services can $200-350 so I think i am a bargain at $75 a resume and $25 a cover letter

      1. Lily Rowan*

        That was going to be my suggestion — for people who aren’t close friends, set it us as a side gig and at least make some money when you decide to do it! (You can still tell anyone at any time that you are too busy.)

      2. AndersonDarling*

        Exactly what I was thinking. The OP is a professional writer, so it makes sense to charge for the service. “I normal charge $300 for resume writing, but I will charge only $100 since you are a friend.”
        And charging a fee helps them understand that your services are a skill and you plan to devote serious time and effort to help them. …if it was easy, they could do it themselves!

      3. Jessesgirl72*


        I know there was a lot of negative feedback yesterday about charging friends, but these people are taking advantage of the OP. She needs to establish set fees,- hourly, so the guy who wants her to spend hours on it will pay accordingly- and watch the requests dry up.

      4. Muriel Heslop*

        I was going to suggest charging, also. My last resume revision was done by a friend of a friend. It was worth every cent.

    3. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I used to do a lot of cover letter no resume editing for friends, but I can’t imagine actually writing the first draft or being asked to do research beyond reading the job posting (which I always had them send me). It’s one thing to fix grammar and point out structural or substantive issues, it’s another to actually draft the thing.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I think expecting you to actually write their applications is way over the line.

      For those who are not close friends Id stick to ‘Sorry, that’s really something you need to do for yourself’.

      For closer friends then “No, but if I have time, I am willing to take a quick look at it when you’ve done the application, before you send it off, and tell you if there is anything that jumps out at me (good or bad) ” which makes it clear that you are not going to do their work for them, but also that you are supportive.

      You can of course vary the wording to reflect what you are willing to do, but I’d be very clear that they need to do the application themself first, and anything you do is by way of proofreading / comment / feedback only, and only if you have time

    5. Anon For This*

      And to be honest, completely rewriting and revising someone else’s application materials isn’t helpful to that person or the employer who might interview them. Employers want to know the capabilities of the person applying for the job, not the capabilities of the person revising the applicants materials.

    6. Artemesia*

      The best advice of all here, was not to put more work into this than the people asking. They do the research, analyze the job description, identify their strengths etc before I’d even look at it.

      I used to supervise doctoral students and my rule was I would not discuss someone’s dissertation unless they submitted a one page paper telling what their question was, how they planned to go about studying it and why anyone should care about the answer? If you can’t think that clearly then you aren’t at the starting blocks of this process. There are people who expect advisors to hand them their topic. Who needs people like that in research?

      Start saying no to all but those close to you and require that they come up with a solid draft before you offer your advice.

    7. Marcy Marketer*

      Yeah no kidding! When I am pushed for more help than is reasonable on college entrance essays from family, I explain that if I write the essay for the student and they get accepted on it, the school would be accepting me and not the student. Plus, if the student isn’t willing to put in the work for the entrance exam, he or she probably wouldn’t do well at the school, where I’d imagine they’d have to do a lot of work themselves. I say that my job is to help the student write the best essay they can, and that will ensure they get into the best fit college for them.

  4. gladfe*

    OP1: I’ve been there! The only thing I’d add os that it’s OK to change your mind even if you’ve already agreed. You can say something like, “Sorry, I thought I’d have time, but this week is looking busier than I thought, so I won’t be able to help after all.” A lot of people will try to tell you that it’s OK if you don’t get to it until later. You can respond, “Sorry, I’m in triage mode right now, so I’m not going to be able to help at all.” I’ve never had anybody try to push harder than that.
    You could also let your close friends know you’re going to be turning down a lot more of these requests, which might help preempt some of the friends of friends.

    1. steve*

      Disagree. If you say you’re going to do something, you’ve given your word and other people are counting on you to come through. To pull out based on changing your mind will be a hit to your credibility.

      What OP1 should be doing is charging for her time and work. Not sure why that wouldn’t be the first instinct.

      1. Emac*

        That seems a little harsh. Hopefully friends understand when things change or something comes up.

        1. Steve*

          But nothing changed and now nothing came up. This person just wants to get out of something they committed to. That’s a bad way to live your life and it leads to taking on more commitments that won’t be honored because you’ve already given yourself the okay to get out of it at any point for no real reason.

          1. Meredith*

            Not necessarily. They agreed to help with cv/cover letter, and now they’re being asked to help with a bunch more stuff beyond that. At that point they should start discussing payment, or say “Sorry, I don’t have the time to help beyond assisting with the CV/letter.” And after helping with this person’s stuff, start being a lot pickier about helping, and/or start charging a consulting fee.

          2. Emac*

            1. Gladfe said “‘Sorry, I thought I’d have time, but this week is looking busier than I thought, so I won’t be able to help after all.'”, which is something changing or things coming up. It’s very possible to agree to do a favor for someone that you’d be doing on your own time and then realize that you just don’t have the time. Maybe you can try to argue that everyone should be 100% on top of their schedules, but that’s just unrealistic.

            2. I think this is the part of the letter that gladfe is referring to: “One friend who asked me to rewrite his cover letter this week for a job in a new industry expects me to read the job description and find out what they were looking for, and research which supporting materials he needed to provide. This is not just a few tweaks in Photoshop – he wants me to invest hours in something that he hasn’t spent more than five minutes on. Plus he told me he isn’t likely to get the job anyway, and I’d have to agree. What level of assistance should I provide, and where should I draw the line?”
            From that it a) doesn’t sound like she had said yes yet, anyway (or maybe that her friend just assumed that she would do it?) or b) even if she had said yes already, it sounds like she was surprised by the level of detail the person expected. In the case of a, there’s no problem in just declining. In the case of b, that’s another thing that’s changed or come up – having completely different ideas of how much work a favor will involve.

            3. I don’t see how you can get “This person just wants to get out of something they committed to.” from anything in the OP’s letter. And then from backing out of doing a favor that turns out to be way more labor intensive than anticipated to a life full of broken commitments. Again I say, friends should be understanding, and realize that their friends make mistakes. And in my eyes, if a person has a habit of taking on too many commitments, a good friend will gently point that out and help them learn to say no.

          3. fposte*

            I really don’t see the moral hazard you are there–I think it’s fine if people say “Oh, yeah, I’ll totally be at that party!” and then don’t go.

            This is a favor, and it’s not picking somebody up at the airport, where what’s supposed to happen won’t happen without the favor. This is “Sorry, I can’t phone-chat with you after all.”

            1. Agnes*

              Obviously you’ve never given a party, bought a bunch of food, and had no one show. I have. If you’re not going to show up, just say so.

              1. fposte*

                Good point–I was actually thinking that you say that to a fellow attendee, not to the host. If you’ve RSVPd, you need to show up.

            2. Steve*

              Once you agree to do a favor, it’s no longer a favor.

              And thanks for epitomizing th attitude I can’t stand with your party invitation blow off analogy. Others have already explained the problem with being so selfish and careless with your words. That action repeated is what makes people flakes.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It’s still a favor! It doesn’t cease to be a favor just because you agreed to it. I think you might mean that now you’re more obligated to do it. But really, if something comes up and that favor is now far more difficult than you realized it would be (you get sick, or you’re slammed with a huge new project at work, or the person receiving the favor is being a jerk), of course you can nicely explain that your circumstances changed and you’re so sorry but you can’t do it after all.

              2. fposte*

                Well, I did explain I didn’t mean that you say that to the hosts. Please feel free to substitute “bar” for “party.”

                Life isn’t carved in stone. You don’t have to be best friends forever with and bridesmaid for somebody you knew at ten even if you promised it, you don’t have to stay married even if you took vows that said you would, and you can break CDs before the maturity date if you’re prepared to pay the penalty.

                And if having somebody work on your resume was crucial to its success, you need not a favor but a paid service.

              3. Jadelyn*

                You must be a blast at parties. How dare people be human and mis-gauge their availability/resources, right? How dare people change their minds on things or prioritize their own needs once in awhile?

                Agreeing to do someone a favor is not an irrevocable ironclad legal agreement, unless you’ve actually signed an ironclad legal agreement as part of doing said favor. It’s still a favor. And people are still allowed to change their minds on things. Is it inconvenient for the person they had agreed to do a favor for? Sure. If it’s a pattern where this happens a lot, then the favor-doer should probably take a look at why and what’s going on, and yeah, I think at a certain point you’d be justified in calling someone flaky. But you’re jumping straight from “one time, I agreed to something, then decided I couldn’t do it after all” to THIS IS WHAT MAKES PEOPLE FLAKES, and that’s bizarrely harsh and uncalled-for.

          4. Synonymous*

            I think a worse way to live your life is asking someone else to write all your application materials for you. If the OP wants to say “something came up” rather that “do it yourself, you lazy piece of …,” well that’s up to the OP.

      2. Antilles*

        That’s way too harsh, given that (a) this isn’t anything OP’s doing as her job so credibility isn’t necessarily a relevant concept anyways, (b) OP is doing this for free, and (c) OP doesn’t seem to have particularly even tried to get these opportunities, just that friends/family assumed “writer = can fix my resume”.
        This is especially true for the ones who are asking for way too much. The one example OP posted is particularly absurd: OP is researching a brand new industry, reviewing the job description, researching all supporting materials (and presumably help prepare them), rewriting the cover letter and then likely writing the resume down the line. Whoa! At that point, OP might as well be applying for the job HERSELF because she’s doing like 90% of the work required to apply.
        That’s far, far too big of an ask. It’s completely reasonable to push back and say “when you said ‘help with my resume’, I thought you meant just checking spelling; there’s no way I’m doing all of that”.

      3. Trillian*

        Arguably, if OP could do the job and the others could not, but people are capable of writing their own resumes and cover letters.

      4. Koko*

        It is fine to change your mind from time to time. Nobody *needs* OP to do them this favor so she’s not leaving anyone in the lurch by rethinking her decision about helping. Sure, you don’t want to make a habit of constantly saying you’ll do things and then dodging emails/calls and eventually saying, “Never mind.” But there is nothing wrong with agreeing to something at first and then thinking it over and realizing it’s going to be a lot more work than you are up for, and changing your mind. These things happen.

      5. SarahTheEntwife*

        If the LW wants people to stop asking her to do work for free, being seen as less reliable seems like a plus here (though obviously it would be ideal to just get people to stop without having to intentionally flake out on them).

      6. LBK*

        I think it’s only breaking your word if you never give a word to the contrary; just silently never following through on something is a definite hit to your credibility, but I think saying “Sorry, I thought I would be able to do this but I can’t now” isn’t a problem unless you’re doing it repeatedly. People are allowed to change their minds about things, especially things they’re doing as free favors.

      7. Undine*

        In this case, I think it works to her advantage to be known as someone who can’t be relied on to write a cover letter and resume from scratch at short notice. Being reliable is hurting here. Even for a job, once you’ve really looked at it, you can say, I’ve looked at this and it is way beyond the scope of what we originally agreed.

    2. Nottingham*

      Yeah, and if they’re asking for more than, say, 10 or 15 minutes, or asking you to do the research for the job (!!!), I’d probably say, “I can do that, but I’m not a charity. If you want me to do several hours of work for you when I could be doing paid work for £££/hr, my friend-rate is ££/hr, cash up front.”

    3. Leverage those Optics*

      If LW1 feels bad about backing out, she cold set a hard limit on how much work she will do. “I am pressed for time, so I need you to do X, Y, and Z before I look at your stuff. Also, I can only spend about an hour/30 min/15min on it.” And then put the word out to friends and family that you can’t take on this work anymore.

    4. Amy*

      Personally, I don’t like to drop something after I’ve agreed to do it. It’s not about whether my friend would understand–of course they would–but I feel like it puts them in a tough spot. They were counting on getting help from me, and now they won’t AND it may be too late to find someone else to help instead.

      I’d rather set boundaries up front and either say “No, sorry, I won’t have time to do that” or “I’ll see if I have time, but no guarantees” than tell them I’m going to help and then drop it last minute. That way, if they need a more certain promise, they know to find someone else.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        But if you agreed to do something that would take 15 minutes, and your friend is evolving that into a 5 hour masterpiece, I think it’s reasonable to bow out.

        (As an example, I know of a group of university students: one didn’t drive; a summer housemate said she could give him rides to class if he needed it. Great! A week later he mentioned that he would be taking a class at another university an hour away Tuesday and Thursday, here was the schedule. She bowed out. Felt bad about it, but she hadn’t been volunteering for that level of chauffeur service.)

  5. Emmie*

    2: What outcome are you looking for? If you don’t want a fire on your record again, I’d be inclined to negotiate a neutral future reference with no mention of the reason or eligibility to rehire.
    It sounds like this prior termination has you on edge. It’s possible that this is leftover trauma from that long ago event. I still have that a bit too. But, take a close look at your performance and ask for feedback if you’re so inclined. I wish you well!

    1. Sherm*

      That’s what I was thinking, too. It would be a pity if you were to see yourself out in a situation where things aren’t as dire as you are sensing. Why not ask your manager where things stand first?

      1. Lance*

        Yeah, definitely talk to the manager if you can; not about whether or not you’re at risk of being fired, I’d say, but just where your performance stands (positive or negative) and if there are improvements you can make. It sounds, LW, like you’re more so stressing yourself out than anything else; if you can get a good rapport with your boss, and be confident that they’ll tell you areas that might need improvement and give you a good chance to improve on them (should they ever come up), I’m sure it’ll alleviate a lot of that stress.

    2. NotTheSecretary*

      After I was fired from an extremely abusive situation at a job that I was not well suited to, I had significant trauma related to work and self-esteem. It took me a long time to work through it and recognize that my new boss was not my enemy and that I wasn’t sitting on the edge of failure at all times anymore. I had a sobbing breakdown the first few times my new boss addressed issues relating to me being new at the job and not yet knowing all the ins and outs. It was rough.

      OP- I’d recommend talking to a therapist or counselor if it is still effecting you so strongly all these years later. I’m not suggesting you are wrong for feeling your feelings but perhaps you could work through some of that panic and help separate job performance issues from your fear of being fired.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I struggled with something similar after a string of toxic temp jobs. I’ve been here 3 years, my confidence has really grown a lot, but my manager still makes a point to add “it’s nothing bad!” if she needs to ask “can we talk later today?” or something like that, because she remembers how twitchy I used to get about even the subtlest hint that I might have made a mistake.

      2. tiny temping teapot*

        I had a manager and coworker so toxic I was diagnosed with depression because of it. The manner of my lay off made things even worse and I couldn’t find another position in my small field, so ended up moving in with my parent in another state. Then I temped for a year and got a new and different kind of traumatizing boss. FUN TIMES.

        A therapist or counselor can make such a difference in helping you with a more realistic view.

    3. Garrett*

      Yeah, I definitely get a vibe that that the past may be clouding the present. From the letter, things are tense but I don’t get firing is imminent. I suggest you have a check-in with the boss and see how things are generally. Maybe they are bad and the end of the job is near, but maybe the past firing is making you more stressed than needed. After the meeting, you may be able to assess better but don’t be proactive in quitting. Sorry you are going through this.

  6. Katelyn M*

    OP1- I am the designated “resume/cover letter writer” in my social group. All of my friends know that I am more than willing to help, but #1- work revolves around *MY* schedule. I’ll get to it when I get to it. #2- This is transactional. I get to set my rate however I please (e.g. you’re taking me out for sushi/tacos/whatever) #3- I can’t edit something that doesn’t exist. First draft is on you. If you want something written from scratch, I will charge you my regular freelance rate.

    1. Jimulacrum*

      “First draft is on you.”

      This is hugely important. Even if the first draft is crap—like most people’s writing—starting from that draft means that (a) the person is invested in the project already, and (b) it’s not nearly as much work as having me do it all from scratch. It also means that I can retain unique phrases and other quirks that make the document “belong” to the person rather than being all my writing style.

      1. Koko*

        Yes! I helped a good friend with her cover letters during her last job search and it was actually great practice for the freelance writing I do. I write for so many different clients that I have to be skilled at picking up their voice and being able to speak with it, often just from reading a few samples before being given a topic. Editing something that’s already written and keeping it in the same voice is a slightly easier activity that makes good practice for the harder one of writing from scratch in another voice.

  7. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I really felt for you when I read this. I helped a few friends with applications and some of them kept asking me to look over them – and I actually started to feel really stressed and worried that it would be my fault if they didn’t get an interview. (A friend thanked me for helping after she got a job she really wanted and it kind of backfired as I started worrying.)

    One thing I found helpful (for managing both my stress levels and their expectations) was to put a time on it e.g. I’m really busy right now but I can spend x minutes looking over it. Then stick to that! Also, I never ever make edits for people. I will read a resume or cover letter or whatever and I will make comments and suggestions but I will not write a word for them – having that boundary has helped too.

    You can also just say no!

    1. OP1*

      “I actually started to feel really stressed and worried that it would be my fault if they didn’t get an interview…”

      This is where I’m at now, which is absurd since, as I said, he doesn’t think he has a shot at the job so it’s obviously not on me.

      Thanks for the advice, Alison and everyone.

      I told this friend that if he emailed me the text for his cover letter I would proofread and drop it into Photoshop. He did, I did and sent it back, and haven’t heard a word much less two (‘thank you’).

      In future, I will definitely refer people here first… and hope they don’t find this post.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Ah, I’m sorry you’re feeling that way (and that your friend hasn’t bothered thanking you). Saying I’ll spend a limited amount of time looking over it helped as I just don’t have time to do lots of research – I’ll comment on wording and I’ll glance at the job spec but I don’t have time to really sit down and do the legwork. And then that means I don’t feel responsible if they don’t get an interview as I haven’t taken responsibility if you see what I mean?

        Think of it this way, also: if you do too much of the work, the hiring manager can’t assess their candidacy accurately so you’re actually doing them more of a favour by not helping too much.

      2. Jen RO*

        Your friend sucks. I enjoy editing so I sometimes volunteer to help, but I would be pissed if a person didn’t even bother to say thank you!

          1. Red Reader*

            Maybe, but it was in the original letter too. *shrug*

            I just had an instructor who insisted on creating documents in PowerPoint, so I’m sensitive to weird document creation decisions right now :)

        1. Owl*

          Right, just make them a fancy header to match their resume and let them do the rest in Word.

          I had my graphic designer brother do my resume in . . . Illustrator? In Design? I honestly have no idea. (Oh, maybe it was whatever the publishing/layout one is, I forget. I’m an engineer.) It looked fantastic and I was SO grateful but then any time I wanted to tweak it I had to bug him about it, and sometimes it took a few days to get back to me. Which I don’t blame him about! But it was an untenable situation. I stripped the pdf to Word and just messed with it myself. I had the original layout and it might have looked *slightly* less polished, but probably not noticeable to anyone not in the design industry.

          1. Amadeo*

            Indesign, probably. That’s what I use to design/do my resume. Illustrator doesn’t lend itself well to page layouts.

      3. Antilles*

        In future, I will definitely refer people here first… and hope they don’t find this post.
        I wouldn’t worry too much about that. If there’s anything I’ve noted in a year or so of being here, it’s that many work-related situations which seem like they should be unique actually occur with sad regularity of “every few months”.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          “Management has taken away the Friday bagels, and people are threatening to quit.”

  8. MommyMD*

    Start charging, resume writer. Your skill is valuable. Time is literally money.

    Send emails to the requesters naming your price and turnaround time. Get the payment prior to sending your work. Squarecash has a nice money transfer app anyone can use. Just keep it short and professional and offer no apologies for charging

    And if you just don’t want to do it, use the I’m too busy excuse.

    1. Elder Dog*

      When people complain because you used to do it for free just because you were friends, tell them other people used to say thank you and some even took you out to lunch because you were doing them a favor as a friend.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      That can make sense, but sometimes people want something to stay not-work and thus optional. Wannabe customers can introduce a weird “you can’t say no because business is business and I’ve figured out what’s fair for you to charge and to for me do in return” aspect that suggests these people believe “no means no” doesn’t apply as soon as money is involved.

  9. MommyMD*

    Home with a sick child may be able to be paid out of your sick account. It is where I work. Look into CESLA or similar laws regarding your state.

    1. Leverage those Optics*

      It is kind of ridiculous that it isn’t allowed everywhere. If a kid or elder is sick, odds are one working adult is going to have to take time off

  10. uh*

    Someone in HR told me that the average number of sick days used per year was 4 so I find 10 quite high and it would not have gone over well to ask that back when we had sick leave. Obviously a lot of people here have had different experiences. Just giving you some context OP in case you hear “no” that is likely not personal.

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      That makes me really curious to try and look back and see how many days of sick leave I’ve used over the years. I just used four and a half days for a nasty, pernicious viral infection but it’s only one of three chunks of extended sick leave (more than two days in a row) I’ve taken in the last nine years. So four days seems both high and low, somehow.

  11. Jimulacrum*

    OP #1: I sometimes find myself in a similar situation, with a background in writing and editing, and modest but not-shabby document layout skills. I also have a folder full of résumés and cover letters that I’ve either written from scratch (SO MUCH WORK) or revised from existing documents (usually not so bad). In particular, I’ve been my mom’s résumé manager for years, though I don’t mind when it comes to her. And sometimes I’ll offer to do it for someone close to me that I think could use a professional boost.

    For others who ask, though, I decided a while ago to charge a fee. Doesn’t have to be the hundreds of dollars a professional résumé business would charge, but it’s gotta be SOMETHING. Otherwise, as you’re seeing, people will see the $0 price tag and start to feel like all that work is, well, nothing to you. Of course, you and I know better. It’s a ton of work.

    It’s also fairer to me (or you) this way. I legitimately put hours into working on people’s documents. It’s part of my professional skill set. I could be doing actual, paying work with that time instead of providing a very valuable service to people for “free.” It’s not free, though. I’m paying for it with my time, and with all the time and energy I’ve put into learning how to do it. It’s actually quite expensive on my end, and even if I charge a modest fee—up or down of $50—I’m still essentially giving the person a big gift compared to what that service would cost anywhere else.

  12. Sharon*

    Re: #2:
    If you’re trying to avoid the really unpleasant emotions (getting yelled at or similar) that go along with being fired, just know that you may not be able to avoid that even if you quit. I once resigned from a job and the manager was so angry that she screamed at me in her office for 15 minutes before letting me fill out the termination paperwork. I just sat there stone-faced while she blew my hair back (and everyone in the office could hear her even with her door closed), but once she let me leave to go do the paperwork I couldn’t hold back the tears. I was glad to go, but she really made me feel like she fired me.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      And on the flip side, the time that I was fired it was an entirely professional experience. (I was ready to go anyway, and they gave me a generous severance package, so that certainly helped!) But it’s very much a YMMV situation – firing doesn’t always come with yelling, just as resignations don’t always come with pleasant-but-disappointed acceptance.

      Sorry for your experience, Sharon, that sounds really awful.

  13. AlwhoisthatAl*

    If you are being fired, don’t worry about it. Look on it as a fresh start. The job obviously was not working out, impossible to have been just your fault. Don’t be the victim here, look forward to going and make sure they do fire you so you get the severance pay. And if they try the old yelling or criticism at the firing just yawn and ask if they have finished yet as you have better things to do. They cannot bully you anymore you do not work for them. And drive out of the car park with joy in your heart at the chance to do something else you will love and enjoy.

  14. Kate*

    OP5, can you use sick time when your children is sick? I’m not sure how it works elsewhere, but in my country, you can use sick time to look after ill family members. Of course, this doesn’t help when it’s vacation time or school is closed, but it might free up some vacation time for you and I think it’s more probable you get the sick time off when your child is sick than when you want to have a couple of days off. Talk to your manager or HR, see if they can be reasonable and flexible about it.

    BTW, I’m always horrified whenever I’m reminded how few vacation days people in North America get per year. So yeah, go for it, doesn’t hurt to try!

  15. MicroManagered*

    OP #5: Echoing others–check with HR or your company handbook if you have one. Most sick time policies state the time can be used for illness/injury to yourself or immediate family members.

  16. Trillian*


    I hope you do have the backing of your higher ups, because I am not as sanguine as AAM that Cersei will have changed. It sounds as though she has earned your dislike, and if you — or others — let her behaviour go out of overcompensation or fear of confrontation, you will lose more people. Even the ones who worked with her before and have become habituated to her toxicity have now become de-habituated, and it will seem twice as bad. Or you will get conflicts breaking out as others try to force her out.

    1. OP3*

      Oh I will definitely not let anything go! I am fully prepared to manage her and will be holding her to a high bar. My immediate boss has my back but the Principal is a bit of a softie and may hamstring us from managing her properly if things escalate like I’m expecting them to.

      1. Just J.*

        Then go talk to the Principal. (Perhaps bring your immediate boss with you?) Tell your Principal exactly what you sent to AAM and what you told your immediate boss. That while Cersei has been gone, you have had great morale and have seen great team building. That your staff fears her return and as department head, it is your responsibility to manage the morale and productiveness of your team and you will not tolerate someone trying to recreate a toxic environment.

        1. OP3*

          The Principal is already aware of all of that, but he has a long history with Cersei (he went to school with her husband). Through my immediate boss, I tried to get him to talk to her at the end of last year (before I was her boss) to outline the issues that she would need to shape up on when she returned, and he wouldn’t do it.

          1. Just J.*

            Blah. That truly stinks. At least though, your Principal is aware that you will be actively managing Cersei. That is a good thing in and off itself. He is in the loop.

          2. OhBehave*

            Please update this in July after she’s returned. I’m sure many others would love to know what happened. Perhaps her time off has mellowed her ;)

      2. k*

        If the principal is hesitant to manager her, you may be able to frame it in a softer way for him. Instead of “Cersei is causing trouble just like always and we need to fix it” take an approach that is more “Cersei is used to being managed by her husband and is having a hard time with the transition, let’s help her adjust to working for someone she isn’t so close to.” You still take the same management actions either way, just make it sound more gentle so Principal feels okay with it.

        1. AMPG*

          This is a great idea. The “we’re all on the same team” approach has worked well for me in the past, too.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think Cersei will have changed! But there’s no reason not to start out making room for the possibility that she’ll behave appropriately. Assuming she hasn’t, the OP can then deal with the behavior.

  17. Argh!*

    #2 – first, check to see if your perceptions jive with reality. If not, you need therapy, not a new job!

    If they really are unhappy with your work, have a heart-to-heart with your boss or boss’s boss and ask what choices you have. Ask if you can be transferred to a position you’re more suited for. And if they really are fed up with you, you can ask to be let go without cause, in which case you’d be eligible for unemployment benefits.

    But first… be sure you’re not exaggerating the situation!

    1. K.*

      Yes – I read that letter like “How does she know she’s being fired?” It doesn’t sound like there’s a concrete reason to fear firing. To be clear: I’m not trying to dismiss the OP’s fear; there’s just not enough information in the letter to tell me if her fear of firing is warranted. It actually reads like the fear ISN’T warranted, given that she says her reviews have been positive.

      I do think addressing the anxiety would be helpful for the OP. Lots of people are fired and this happened 8 years ago. Waiting for the other shoe to drop is no way to live.

    2. Also fired.*

      #2, I was also let go 8 years ago, and it really did a number on my self -confidence. Ever since, i”ve had an irrational fear of being fired. What worked for me was 1. getting counseling, 2. working as hard as I can, and 3. willfully shifting my focus from being fired to a work related task that I stick to (learing a new skill, finishing the report, etc.). Good luck.

      1. Anon For This*

        I was let go from a job about 12 years ago. And even though I’ve been with my current employer since then and I’ve been promoted many times, I still have some paranoia that things will change and I will be out on my ear. Luckily my boss knows that I’m a bit paranoid and tells me when I’m being that way!

    3. Amy*

      This was my thought too! #2, it could be that your bad past experience is priming the pump, so to speak, for you to be extra nervous about getting fired. I think your first step should be to check in with your manager about how they view your performance and whether there are areas where they think you need to improve. That hopefully will help you either confirm your suspicion (so you can get job hunting and possibly resign before they take action) or knock down some of the anxiety about your job security.

  18. Alis*

    #1- I am also a professional writer. I have a simple rule for so-called complimentary resume requests: are you my immigrant mother who can’t write in English? No? Pay up. If I said I was busy, they’d wait until I was on vacation.

  19. MuseumChick*

    OP #3 I agree with Alison. Get you hire ups in the loop. I would also set expectations with Cersei, “Since you’ve been gone for six months let me get you up to speed on a few things.” And then list out how things like first pick of classes are working now and whatever else anyone who was returning after being gone for so long would need to know. I suspect she will push back so be prepared to remain firm.

    1. OP3*

      She’s already pushing back – she sent an email this week from afar trying to renegotiate her classes for next term because she didn’t get what she wants.
      I’m hoping the positive atmosphere in the office and the lack of backup from her husband will produce a different person, but I’m not particularly hopeful. I’m worried about the rest of my team – they are super nervous about her return and will be walking on eggshells.

      1. Just J.*

        As her manager, you can simply tell her “No, these are the classes you have been assigned.” Do not offer any other explanation as she will try to leverage that.

        Life is not fair. You do not always get what you want.

        1. MuseumChick*

          I agree with Just J. Stand firm. I have a suspicion she may try to bully others into switching classes with her.

      2. Robin Sparkles*

        If she is already pushing back, then that further reiterates the need to set expectations. She is expecting to come into the same climate – having you be firm and providing clear guidelines will only help you and her. I don’t think it will be easy when she returns but I think it is a great sign that you are willing to manage her effectively for the sake of your staff. I would also provide your team with the same expectations and guidelines so that they have the confidence to know that they don’t need to walk on eggshells because this time, Cersei isn’t running the show.

      3. DecorativeCacti*

        Maybe have a meeting with the team before she returns then and reiterate how proud of the progress you are and that you’ll be doing your best to maintain that progress.

        1. DecorativeCacti*

          I see this is mentioned down thread where I hadn’t gotten yet. Never mind!

    2. Just J.*

      I would also get your staff in the loop too. Bullying and strong-arming by an employee cannot be tolerated. Speak to your staff quietly and individually. This can’t turn into a witch hunt, but let your staff know that you have their backs on this. Mine through AAM’s archives for all of the great advice and scripts that you can give to your staff on how to push back on an difficult coworker and on curbing workplace drama. This is about re-training Cersei on what will and will not be tolerated once she returns and seeing if she will curb her behavior and stop the drama. Empower your staff to assist in this!

      1. OP3*

        Great point! I spoke to my staff this week and reminded them that things are different now, and promised that issues WOULD be dealt with when they bring them to me. I also reminded them that they need to address the issue with Cersei in the moment, regardless of whether they think there’s any point or not, and then I can take over or step in if it’s not resolved.
        They are all dealing with a bit of PTSD from working with her for so long in an environment where she could do no wrong and they were never heard, so I’m just worried for them that they will fall back into old habits and roll over for her/avoid conflict to keep the peace.

        1. Just J.*

          So, this is then where you tell yourself that keeping the peace is not the goal. Creating a great work environment is. A lot of this may fall to you to keep reminding your staff of this. Remember, you do not have to keep Cersei happy. None of your staff has to keep Cersei happy. (Is Cersei keeping any of them happy? No!)

          Dear OP3: we had a two very jerky employees here that enjoyed creating a lot of drama and staff discord. So I feel your pain. When the C-suite said that we all had the right to nip this behavior in the bud immediately, wow, did it empower us! It certainly helped. But it didn’t fix everything. Upper management still had continually monitor and correct these two staffers. However, this constant monitoring and correction created an environment that was so non-conducive to their drama that the “power” and “attention” they got by creating drama was gone. They were no longer enabled by collective inaction to be bad. The audience for their antics no longer exited. Amazingly, neither of these two people could live without drama and decided to move on to other firms where they could continue to create drama. We all have breathed a collective sigh of relief and morale has been vastly improved since they left.

          Be strong in this! Our office is HUGELY better as a result!

          1. OP3*

            Oh that gives me so much hope! And I love your framing – “the goal is a productive workplace, not keeping the peace.” I think that’s a great distinction to make and I’m definitely going to frame it that way to my staff!
            Yes I’m hoping she will choose to move on next year. She didn’t get any team-teaching (which she wanted) because no one on our team is prepared to work with her that closely, and I will be making it clear that that won’t change in 2018 unless her behaviour does.

          2. Ama*

            Yes, seconding all of these replies. Nothing has ever improved my ability to deal with a difficult coworker like my manager saying “if she starts trying [whatever manipulative behavior] on you, tell her permission for that now runs through me, and then come tell me.”

            Just beware that when this strategy is implemented, one of the behaviors I’ve seen my Cerseis go to is just outright lying to people that *you* gave her permission to ask them for help. It’s easy enough to nip in the bud as long as you all check back in with each other. I had a coworker who used to try this with certain expenses by telling either me or our budget manager that the other person had told her it was fine — we just started calling each other the moment she left our desk “Cersei just left and I told her she can’t charge her lunch with her grandmother as a business expense but I bet she’s going to come ask you next.”

            1. Perse's Mom*

              Yeah, communication is key. Make sure your staff knows that anything from Cersei that starts with “oh, but OP said [insert bullshit request]…” should be answered with, “That’s odd. OP said all requests like that would come from her directly, let me just call her and verify that.” (or if requested in writing, forwarded to you so that you A) have a record and B) can smack that crap down immediately)

            2. Quickstepping Matilda*

              This reminds me a lot of the way my husband and I let each other know what we just told one of our children they can’t do, to circumvent the “Mom said it was OK” strategy. Sorry that your coworkers are still acting like eight-year-olds.

          3. Jessesgirl72*

            ” keeping the peace is not the goal. Creating a great work environment is.”

            Can we just have that put on a plaque and handed out to every manager everywhere?

            Too often, they concentrate on anything that will keep the peace when 1) nothing may keep the peace because unreasonable people are unreasonable and 2) even if the peace it outwardly kept, it’s still a toxic work environment if you don’t solve the real issues, whatever those are!

      2. Emac*

        Finding scripts on here for your staff to use is a great idea. And if it’s not going too far, maybe even practicing some role plays or suggesting that your staff practice on their own?

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I wish you the best OP#3 but somehow I don’t think Cersei’s return is going to go well or smoothly even if you do take all the mentioned steps. Plus, I have the sense this this person holds a grudge as her husband left?
      Feels like she is waiting to start trouble.
      I really hope your boss has your back on all this.

  20. Observer*

    #5 In some jurisdictions, caring for an immediate family member needs be eligible for sick leave. And many companies also have that policy, even when it’s not required by law. Check on that first – can you take the time you spend with a sick kid as sick leave?

  21. Argh!*

    #5 Can’t this be covered under FMLA law? You might have to take time off without pay but at least you could care for your kids.

    1. Temperance*

      I don’t think that FMLA is designed for things like norovirus or a sinus infection, or the million other minor illnesses out there. It’s for extended leave.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        The leave doesn’t have to be extended, but the medical reason has to be “serious”

        1. Temperance*

          You are totally right! I had a coworker on intermittent FMLA to care for her very ill sister.

    2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      For FMLA, it must be at least 3 consecutive days or a chronic condition that would require multiple appointments/sick time. It cannot be used for regular, run-of-the-mill illnesses. I was able to use it once when my child had H1N1 (swine flu) and required care for a week. However, the only reason I needed to was because I worked for a particularly unreasonable manager that would have held it against me in my performance review (attendance was listed on the review for that position).

  22. copy run start*

    Both my current and former employer let us take sick leave for sick children/immediate family members. I would actually ask about doing that the next time you have a sick child. Seems more likely to me than letting you burn sick time as vacation. (What if I’ve run out of vacation time too and still have sick leave? Would that allow me more time off?)

  23. Mona Lisa*

    OP#1, start telling people that, since your skills as a resume writer/editor are so in demand, you’ve decided to start freelancing and that it will cost $X per hour, resume, etc. Requests should taper off pretty quickly, and you’ll only be left with one or two people who seriously want your work.

    This is of course assuming you wouldn’t mind doing some of this on the side. If you’d prefer to stop it all together, a simple “My schedule is pretty full right now, and I wouldn’t have the time to do this justice” repeated several times should get the message across.

  24. AndersonDarling*

    I just wanted to chime in the pain in the you-know-what it can be when working on others resumes. I’ve done it a few times and 70% of the outcomes are positive, but 30% of the people will complain that I didn’t make their jobs sound important/smart/executive enough. Ugh. Taking notes in a meeting doesn’t make you a project manager. I can make you sound like a great, talented receptionist, but I can’t make a resume to get you a job as a divisional manager. I’m writing a resume, I’m not a magician.

  25. Mischa*

    OP1, are you me?

    After 30 years raising kids, my mom started working again. She got a job in 2013 in an industry she doesn’t particularly like, and has had issues breaking out of said industry. Every time a new posting for a job comes up, she makes me write her cover letter and resume. It’s so time consuming, plus I do not do her job so I don’t even know what I’m talking about. It also felt icky and somewhat dishonest. Recently, I started referring her to AAM, and she was so unwilling to read the resume articles or absorb any of the advice. Absolutely frustrating. We’re making progress, but I’ve had to put my foot down.

    1. Another Lawyer*

      I had a boyfriend like this. Miserable in his job, and it was legal as well, but completely different from mine. He would ask me to write cover letters and then submit them without reading them. He’d read them later and yell at me because they didn’t talk about what he could bring to the new job/company enough but DUDE I DIDN’T KNOW AND I SENT IT TO YOU FOR REVIEW. We broke up before he found a new job.

      1. Synonymous*

        I know he was your boyfriend, but I would have super tempted to literally write, “represented Teapots Inc. in Teapots vs. Kettles, 2014.”

    2. Lily Rowan*

      I can tell from your comment that it will be difficult, but you absolutely can decline to do this for your mother!

      1. Mischa*

        Yeah, it’s my mom, but if she wants to grow professionally and get better jobs, she needs to take some ownership of her own career. If the situation were reversed — her writing my resume and cover letters for me — it’d be totally inappropriate.

  26. mcr-red*

    #5 – I have experience working where you weren’t allowed to use sick time to take care of sick kids, you had to use a vacation day. Some vacation. So, people with kids suddenly became “sick” anytime their kids were sick. Or if they couldn’t get a babysitter on a no-school day.

    1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

      I have a 7 month old. When he’s sick, I’m sick, so it ends up being the same thing.

  27. Amy*

    OP #1: You’re hitting the same dilemma that people who craft handle all the time. Yes, you might be good at writing resumes and cover letters (or knitting, crocheting, sewing, painting, etc.). No, that doesn’t mean it’s reasonable for people to expect you to do that thing for them for free, or for a ‘trade’ where you obviously get the short end of the stick.

    The way I’ve handled this with my sewing is by mapping out in my head how much the thing they’re asking for is actually worth. For example, hemming pants is an easy thing that doesn’t require much sewing skill and only takes a couple minutes if I have my machine already set up. Making someone a dress takes a lot more resources, time, and effort to fit and construct properly. If I were going to sew on a freelance basis and charge for it, hemming those pants might only be a couple bucks, but the custom-made dress would be quite expensive.

    Now, I don’t want to sew professionally, so I don’t actually charge anyone. But doing the pricing-it-out exercise helps me to recognize how big the request actually is, and evaluate whether it’s something I’m willing to do. I’d hem pants for a coworker or other relatively casual acquaintance without much fuss. I’d only make a fancy custom-fitted dress for a very close friend or family member, and even then it would be a ‘This is your entire birthday and Christmas present this year’ situation.

    I think you can do something similar with your job hunting assistance. Are they asking you to do a quick proofread of an already well-developed resume, which might take 15 minutes? Or are they asking you to manage their entire job hunt and application process, which can take tens or hundreds of hours spread over several months? Once you map out what the request is actually worth, it gets a lot easier to decide when to say “Nope, not happening.”

    1. Red Reader*

      Yessssss. No, I am not going to knit a shawl for this year’s silent auction. The one I knitted last year took me 100 hours of work and went for $60. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of me if you take my cash donation and ask me to help on a committee. “But the shawl was so pretty!” Yes it was, and I don’t have a hundred hours to spend on making another one at all, let alone at a return of sixty cents on the hour :-P

  28. WK*

    #2 – I have to reiterate with some of the comments above: consider therapy! Speaking with a professional who can give you an objective assessment of whether your anxiety is warranted or part of a larger issue can be such a huge relief in your day-to-day. You shouldn’t be going into work every day with the fear of being fired when, as you’ve said, you’ve received good performance reviews. It might be that your fears are indeed warranted, but it can give you real peace of mind to talk it through with someone trained in anxiety.

    Also, would you be comfortable speaking with your boss about your performance concerns? Instead of waiting to see if you’re going to be fired every day, ask if you can discuss generally how things are going. A lot of the time, we internalize even a small piece of criticism so much that we lose sight of the fact that whoever gave the criticism probably barely recalls giving it. Unless something is a recurring issue, everyone gets feedback from time to time, even the best employees.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      Yes to all of this. OP, please follow the advice WK suggested. You don’t want to, inadvertently, keep setting it up in your mind that you are not meant to achieve success. I know that you would certainly never do that intentionally, but to keep reliving in your mind what happened from 8 years ago could make you to repeat the same behaviors from that job and so can end up with the same consequences.

      Put that job out of your head. Focus & remember the excellent work that you have produced since then and the many compliments you have received from your supervisors, and that you are worth so much more than that job from 8 years past.

  29. livingthedreaminmydreams*

    I would also suggest double checking on , being able to use sick time, rather than vacation time, when your children are sick. A lot of companies will allow that.

  30. Kali*

    Not exactly the same situation as in letter 1, but, when people find out I can knit they like to make requests. They never appreciate them, because they literally have no concept of the time/effort/cost of materials, so I now have a blanket refusal policy. I still make things as gifts if I feel like it, but no requests!

    1. Ahmea*

      While I realize this isn’t quite what you meant by “blanket refusal policy”, I thought of one of my friends who crochets, and the time and work that goes in when she makes a lap afghan, and thought “probably not a bad idea to refuse to knit those.”

    2. NeverNicky*

      Fortunately, I am mostly around people who appreciate my craft. And with the exception of my niece, and my mum, and my boyfriend, people will get something from me because I want to do it, not because they ask. The three people I mentioned are allowed to make requests :D

      For those I’m less sure about, I will smilingly say something like “Oh, a pair of socks like that takes me 12 hours to knit, so at minimum wage that would be £86.40 – and the yarn is £9 if you want a decent wool mix… oh tell you what, as you’re a friend of a friend call it £90.” I do then temper that by inviting people to my knitting group and saying I’ll teach them to knit and will provide materials from my stash – it has worked with a couple of people.

      For people who want my writing or PR skills I have three levels. A cause I support, or a person needing CV help, and with people putting in effort – yes, I’ll do some pro-bono, or will work for coffee or pizza or a free ticket to the event. Something I can see some good in, or if you’re a friend – you’ll get offered a rate equivalent to my hourly salary at my day job (ie cheap – I work for a charity) Anyone else – 2.5 times my hourly salary, and minimum half day.

  31. AMPG*

    OP#5: Others have covered using sick time to care for kids, but if that’s not allowed, what’s your company’s work-from-home policy like? Once my kids were older than toddlers, I rarely needed to actively tend to them during a sick day, and so could easily log at least a half-day from home. The only thing I couldn’t do was be on a conference call because I could be interrupted. That could be a way to save a couple of days for yourself.

  32. Rachel Green*

    OP 5: You could also ask if you can use your sick leave for when you have to stay home with a sick kid. My employer allows us to use our medical leave for ourselves and for our immediate family members.

  33. AdAgencyChick*

    #1, this problem is endemic to anyone who performs a service that is useful to the general public. Doctors get asked to diagnose colds at parties, lawyers get asked for legal advice, and writers get asked, “Can you help me write my website/resume/cover letter/etc.?”

    Whoever’s asking you probably doesn’t realize how often you get asked. At least, I hope they don’t.

    I would just say, “I’ve had to start saying no to these requests. I just get too many of them. But here’s a website with some good advice!”

    If they get huffy, they’re not good friends.

  34. Beth Anne*

    I agree with other people #1 should just say no or charge a fee. Even if it’s just like $20 it’s something for your time. But I think some of those people are being super lazy. Just sending you a job posting is bad they at least should write something up and you review it.

  35. Serious Sam*

    #1, I think you underestimate the power and choices you have here:
    a. If you want to do a favor for a friend, then do a good job.
    b. If your relationship with the person is more ‘meh’, then spend the minimum time or no not respond at all, beyond referring to this website.
    c. If you do not like the person, then you can mess with their head. Introduce deliberate errors, & wiered or outrageous qualifications.
    d. If you hate them, then be subtle. For instance introduce a gap in the chronology, and use wording elsewhere that just hints they were in prison for a serious offense.

  36. BTW*

    #1) My Mom just asked me to help her with her resume and CL. I hate doing cover letters for myself so she’s going to get zero help from me there. I’m no expert. Not even close. My current one was done with the help of a career counsellor and while I wrote 90% of it myself, I have still got more interviews with that resume than I have with any other. She is a recent graduate and I really feel like she needs the help of these types of people to “sell” her considering she has very little experience. Something I’m not so great at. My biggest issue is that she’s probably done ZERO research herself and expects me to do it all for her. *sigh*

    As for advice to this OP, you are in NO way obligated. I’d either just frankly say no or start charging them for your services *especially* if your work is going to be so involved. (Reading job descriptions, market research etc.)

  37. Kara*


    I had this dilemma for several years before I finally came up with a system of telling friends and friends of friends that I would happily review their resumes/cover letters and advise on the needed changes for free – but if they needed one written from scratch or there were heavy changes required I would have to charge a fee. Alternatively, I send them links to several AAM posts about resumes/CL and let them take a stab at it before I review their draft. The last person I did this for got a job in two weeks (that he loves), and it only took me 45 mins of effort because I set those initial boundaries. Win-win.

  38. I'm the resume person too*

    #1 – It’s also good to include; You should be charging them. If you’re going to do it and it’s not worth your while, if being compensated is worth your while then you should surely be charging for your time/effort/and the work you provide! I hope you already are, but if not, don’t feel bad about setting some rates (sometimes that will help people to self-select out too!)

  39. Readwitch*

    #5 – You mentioned using Vacation days for sick kids, I think you’re allowed to use sick days for this instead?

Comments are closed.