open thread – July 7-8, 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 :)

{ 1,511 comments… read them below }

  1. D.W.*

    One of my colleagues, and good work friend, has been allowing her sister to visit her at the office. There is nothing wrong with family members / SO’s visiting at the office. I became concerned when the sister stayed and hung around after lunch hours. Her sister would hangout at her desk speaking loudly in an open floorplan office, and hangout in the conference room with us and other staff, while we are working, watching T.V. and playing games on her phone, without headphones. My colleague in turn would entertain her and “join in” on the fun so to speak. This happened two Fridays in a row. The second time, I excused myself from the conference room because I was uncomfortable and I didn’t want to be associated with what was happening.

    My colleague has a strained relationship with her manager, complains about how she is treated in the office, and is planning on leaving the company. Her sister lives in another state and has returned home, so this doesn’t happen often, and won’t for a while, but is it worth mentioning to her? I know that her sister has visited in the past (before I began working here). I don’t want my colleague to feel as if I’m attacking her, but I don’t want her to engage in behavior that shows a lack of professionalism and that could give her manager or other staff reason to criticize her or her work.

    1. Tracy*

      Since her sister has returned home and your colleague is planning on leaving the company anyway, I wouldn’t say anything. It seems like the problem will take care of itself.

    2. The Rat-Catcher*

      I had a whole response written because I had missed the part where Colleague was a good friend, advising against saying anything. Now I’m reconsidering since your concern stems from friendship and wanting your colleague to make a good impression, but still leaning toward not saying anything. I think you could have addressed it in the moment, and you can even address it in the future if Sister comes to visit, but as it stands now, what’s done is done. It sounds like Colleague might not be employed there when Sister comes to visit next, so it may be a moot point.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree, let it go.
        If your manager has issues with your friend, this will not solve those issues.

    3. anan*

      I’d say something if it happened again – “Hey Jane, it’s hard to work while you and your sister are socializing. Maybe your sister can wait for you at (cafe or park nearby).” I’d only escalate to a manager if she is rude or aggressive in response – even if her sister doesn’t leave, but they take the hint and quiet down, I’d probably let it go. You could also raise with your manager that it might benefit everyone if there were clear guidelines on when and where people who are neither employees nor clients can be entertained.

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        Or if your colleague says something to you about office things- something that gives you an opening for appropriate work feedback that maybe she’ll be open to hearing from a work friend (since this wouldn’t go over well in her next office either).

    4. Toph*

      Even though she’s out the door, I’d still probably say something, possibly moreso because it does sound like she’s a bit out the door. But I’d say it directly to her. If it’s disrupting your (and presumably other coworkers’) work, it’s appropriate to either ask her that her sister chill somewhere else, or at minimum wear headphones and speak more quietly. I wouldn’t bother bringing it to a manager or anything, but if you’re friends I wouldn’t think she’d bristle too much. If she’s planning on leaving soon she may be in DGAF-mode about the job and sort of forgetting that the rest of you do still need to work there, and since whatever her reasons for leaving the company she does still seem to have at least one friend (you) she probably cares enough not to make your life more difficult. On the other hand, if you get the impression she’s not just got overboard senioritis and may genuinely not realize how unprofessional this is, it’s probably worth cluing her in on that too, lest she continue the pattern at her new office after she leaves.

      1. Alli525*

        This is the right response. Even if she plans on leaving, it can take a while to find a new job, and OP’s work shouldn’t suffer because her friendworker is bringing a disruptive guest to work.

    5. Sevenrider*

      I have a question regarding participating in a fitness challenge at work. My workplace joined one of the global challenge groups for counting steps per day. When the first email went out, I declined to join a team. Then a few weeks later I was sent an email asking if I would consider joining a team. I declined again. Then I was approached by the person managing the activity and was asked again. I finally joined a team because I felt pressured. I do not want this to happen again since now I feel that others will think if they keep asking me I will finally cave and do whatever activity they are planning. Should I speak to my manager or go directly to HR. My office has recently begun doing these team building type activities and for personal reasons, I do not always want to participate.

      1. MillersSpring*

        Go to the person organizing the activity who you previously caved to, and say, “After thinking about it, I’ve decided not to participate in the fitness challenge.” If they balk or pressure you, just reply, “Sorry but it’s what I’ve decided.”

        THEN if they get huffy or others pressure you, go to your manager. If she is unsympathetic, go to HR.

        1. Emily S.*

          I think this is good advice. If you try this, and the person pressures you, I’d also say — just stick to your guns.

          And just as MillersSpring said, if you get flack after that, then talk with your manager.
          And after that, you can seek out HR if there’s still an issue.

      2. Product mgmt*

        I’ve done these things and just…not done it. I (and many others) just never wore the trackers or uploaded our steps,even though we were assigned to a team. Some people were into it and many weren’t.

        1. Em*

          I was just going to suggest this — don’t count your steps, don’t add them to the team total.

  2. ZSD*

    This week, Washington (state) passed a paid family and medical leave insurance program! Starting in 2020, Washington workers will be able to take 12 (or 16, in some cases) weeks of partially paid leave when they welcome a new child, address a serious health issue for themselves or a loved one, provide elder care or other caregiving, or have military-related circumstances.

    Washington joins California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York (effective 2018), and DC (2020) in having paid family and medical leave programs.

    Link to follow in another comment.

    1. The Rat-Catcher*

      Missouri now has a paid parental leave policy for state workers! I’m hoping we get that passed for the whole state, but our legislature hasn’t made it as much of a priority as our governor has. (I’m pretty opposed to some things Governor does, but this was cool.)

      So glad you have this in WA! It’s long overdue in the US.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Oh yes, Missouri. Governor Goblin also just signed a pre-emptive law that forbids cities from raising their minimum wage over the state limit (currently $7.70 an hour). St. Louis was all set to raise theirs to $11 but now they cannot, and many companies will undoubtedly drop their wage to save a few bucks.

        One more nail in the coffin marked “Elizabeth wants to get the living f*ck out of this backward bunghole.” >:(

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          This is simply spiteful, especially because any thinking person would realize that the cost of living is different in different parts of the state. I’m sure it’s more expensive to live in St. Louis or Kansas City than it is to live in Lebanon or Sedalia, for example (two places I picked at random off a map). Why shouldn’t St. Louis be able to raise theirs to $11/hour in recognition that it’s more expensive to survive there?

          And $7.75…for cripes’ sake minimum wage is so outdated. Even assuming you worked 40 hours a week and didn’t take off any days or weeks, that’s only 133% of the federal poverty line for a single individual, which makes you eligible for a lot of social services. And if you have just one kid you’re well under the poverty line.

    2. Anna*

      It’s a good month for the PNW! Oregon just passed a law requiring advance scheduling in retail and food service areas so employees can plan their lives and not have to worry about last minute changes to their schedules.

      1. KR*

        That’s awesome, especially that it’s going to increase to 2 weeks. I spent a long time not being able to plan more than a week in advance and it really hinders the employee from making appointments and having a life outside of their job.

        1. Paquita*

          My DH is in retail and the scheduling stinks. Schedule comes out on Wednesday for the next week. And sometimes they change it after the fact and expect people to log in to the website and check for messages. That won’t open so you can read the entire thing. ‘Your schedule was changed’ is not real helpful.

    3. AVP*

      Raise your hand if you’re legitimately waiting for the NY law to kick in before you procreate. ( ~me~)

    4. Althea*

      Awesome! I work in NY and I’ve been so happy that I’ll get to benefit from the new rules there next year! Hubs and I just found out we’re pregnant again, and I can say that here because it’s anonymous :D Nobody else knows yet.

    5. Optimistic Prime*

      Dude, I live in WA and I had no idea that we passed this. Hooray for us! This is one of the reasons I love WA.

    6. Anxa*

      I know the NJ law only applies to a specific subset of workers. You have to be able to find a ft job with a large company that’s long term before you can indulge in the fmla benefits.

      1. ZSD*

        That’s FMLA, not paid leave. Even if you work for a small employer and have only been there a short time, you’re entitled to the state paid family leave support. Check out the chart I linked to above!
        Oh, and NJ’s leave duration is probably going to double, from six weeks to 12!
        (You’re right that workers at smaller businesses won’t have job protection, meaning that they can get paid on their leave, but their employers can legally fire them for taking it. It’s a problem.)

  3. Fat Baby*

    Piggybacking off the culture thread…What is a professional way to say that certain company events are not my thing? I’m a little older and the company does a lot of events that are catered to the younger workforce. Some are just too physical, too immature, too silly for a professional, mature lady. My boss is older too but desperate to be younger and he thinks these events are a great for morale. And for some people they are but I DREAD them!

    So when my boss asks, “Are you in for roller blading laser tag beer pong today?” How do I politely decline without actually calling the events immature? They start early afternoon, not at the end of the work day when I can just go home. I want to open his eyes to the fact that the events are all catered to only one group of our employees. Most of the other older employees participate begrudgingly but have told me they feel obligated.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      I would just keep it simple. “Thanks for the invite, but it’s not really my thing. Hope you guys have fun!”

      1. Bostonian*

        Perfect. It’s a polite decline, yet subtly lets boss know that not everybody is into these events. Also, I would add, if there ARE social events that you would do with your coworkers, suggest more of those?

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Hm, I think I would go with something like, “Beer pong isn’t my thing, but I’d love to participate in something tamer next time!”

      To me, the word “tame” is a little less condescending than “immature,” but gets the same general message across.

    3. Newby*

      Are you able to tell your manager “I’d really rather not. X isn’t really something I enjoy.” Where I work saying that is completely acceptable, but I realize that is not true everywhere. If it is after work you can go with “Not today. I have other plans.”

    4. My name is Inigo Montoya*

      I have embraced being the office curmudgeon when it comes to group bonding activities! I’ve just replaced them with activities that I’m comfortable with – specifically something involving food or modifying the activity at hand. That way I still show I care about the group. :-)

      So my go to response is , “Sorry, I can’t ride unicorns with y’all after work today, but I’ll bring in donuts tomorrow morning so that I can hear all about it.” Or “I have the worst hand/eye coordination out there, so I won’t be spending $50 to join in your hackeysack team, but I’ll come by for the first 30-minutes to take pictures for the company newsletter before I go home to sit on my couch with my cat”.

      No one has every pushed back when I’ve modified the group activity, but I know I’m lucky with that.

        1. My name is Inigo Montoya*

          Exactly. No one is ever upset with the lady who brings in free carbs.

          1. Hedgehog*

            What happens when they suggest an office fencing tournament? But then they are probably too intimidated to do so anyway. ;)

            1. My name is Inigo Montoya*

              Volunteer to the be the referee? And cupcakes, possibly homemade.

    5. paperfiend*

      I think you could just say, “Roller blading laser tag beer pong really isn’t my thing, so I’m going to sit this one out. Oh, by the way, who is in the planning group for these events? I have some suggestions I’d like to throw in the mix for future team activities.”

      Then suggest things that you and your other not-so-young colleagues would enjoy. In my (tech related, varied-age-and-ability, mixed-gender) team, we’ve gone to sci-fi/action movies, gone curling (the ice game, not hair!), volunteered with Feed My Starving Children and Habitat for Humanity, gone for happy hour at locally owned restaurants, attended a colleague’s theater production (she still does theater from a previous career). Some were during the day (paid) and some were after hours. We usually get between half and two thirds of the team at any given event, and that’s fine, but over the course of several events we usually get everyone at least once. People self-select the events they’re interested in.

      1. CBH*

        +1 a million times. I don’t mind happy hour here and there, but like everyone I’m not into certain events. I love the idea of making suggestions to planning committee.

      2. Amber T*


        And honestly, roller blading laser tag beer pong sounds exhausting to me, as a youngin’. There might be some young folks who have no interest in participating but feel they have to because MandatoryFun! So someone else suggesting “let’s do X” might be a huge comfort for someone out there.

        1. Anxa*

          Yea I am not that old but this sounds dreadful. I was on one staff where I didn’t mind forced fun, but the chemistry was so strong activities didn’t matter.

    6. Snark (formerly Liet)*

      You don’t need to justify yourself or explain. “Thanks, but that’s not really my thing. Have fun!” “Thanks, but that sounds like an event I wouldn’t enjoy.” “Thanks, but I’m not really into laser roller pong-derby.”

      And honestly, I think any reasonable boss should be willing to hear, “Bossman, I know some people really enjoy work events centered on sports and drinking, but I know a lot of people would like it if we had a mix of those events and tamer, less physical ones. Sports activities are sometimes less appealing to me and the rest of the older folks in the office.” He might not love to hear it, but if he’s reasonable, that’s a reasonable thing to say.

    7. Here we go again*

      I think you are making this too much about age and “maturity” as opposed to your personal preference. The beer pong thing does seem unprofessional, but Laser tag and rollerblading seem like normal team bonding activities. I also know of people of all ages who hate all of these kinds of activities…

      I would just focus on how you don’t enjoy doing these things and shift your attitude form the age/maturity thing to recognizing different people have different preferences. You could also suggest an alternative. Bowling or something like a Dave and Busters are good options where you can opt out of participating, but still socialize.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep.There are probably younger people who do not want to go either. You’re best bet it to just say, “not my thing”. This way the boss does not get it in her head that it’s a younger person activity and therefore younger people SHOULD go.

      2. K.*

        Yeah, we played laser tag at my old job and the median age of that team was probably 40. The person who was most into it was the VP, who was in her mid-50s. I’m in my 30s and very active but I don’t think I’d be up for rollerblading (never done it, afraid I’d fall and hurt myself, would rather not do so in front of colleagues). The most successful team thing I’ve been a part of was bowling, because you could just sit around if you didn’t want to do it and it was funny if you weren’t good at it. The stakes were low.

      3. Snark (formerly Liet)*

        The age/maturity thing kind of comes off dismissive and insulting, too.

        1. Here we go again*

          I wanted to say something like this, but couldn’t think of a tactful way to do so, so thank you! :-)

        2. Kali*

          I’m glad someone said this.

          Liking activities you don’t enjoy doesnt make someone immature. There is no correlation between maturity and roller blades. Plenty of middle aged, mature, professionals have fun by staying active and maybe being a little bit silly. They’re not desperately trying to reclaim some lost youth.

          Your preferences are fine, whatever they are. You don’t need to justify them by insulting your coworkers. Just say no thank you or suggest something youd rather do for next time. The level of holier than thou judgment honestly sounds a bit teenaged to me.

    8. Triangle Pose*

      Don’t call events that a group of coworkers and your boss enjoy “immature” or “too silly.” Suggest other events that you think cater to the other group of employees that are not as physical. Make it about being inclusive, not denigrating younger employees or your boss. It’s possible your boss just likes the events, that they are good for morale and is not “desperate to be younger.”

      1. Optimistic Prime*

        Yes, and don’t suggest that other people are not mature or professional because they enjoy them. It is possible to be both mature and professional and enjoy laser tag or rollerblading.

    9. rubyrose*

      Are the other older employees under this same boss, or other bosses? And are you all required to work if you don’t want to roller blading laser tag beer pong?

      Maybe you all could band together and come up with your own alternative activity while the main event is occurring? Like go off in a corner and talk to each other? Maybe seeing that a few times will give management a clue.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Talk with each other? wow. That is a really weird idea. /snark

        I am not a fan of forced fun. I think people who know each other and can talk with each other make the best work groups.

    10. Free Meerkats (formerly Gene)*

      Roller blade laser tag beer pong sounds awesome! Though I’d change to quad skates, because my old ankles (and even my young ankles when I had them) and blades (roller or ice) don’t get along. It really sucked being the kid who couldn’t ice skate when in grade school in South Dakota.

    11. Rusty Shackelford*

      Personally, instead of calling the event immature, I’d blame my own shortcomings. “Oh no, with my knees I don’t dare try to rollerblade. Maybe when we come up with some more tame events I can join in.” I know some people here would have issues with that tactic, but I’d want to point out that the events they’ve planned aren’t a good idea for some of the staff.

    12. CBH*

      I always say it’s not my thing and usually use the excuse that I’ve already got plans.

      If they insist that you have to come come, I make the joke that I’m a great cheerleader. I will support the team, cheer for them, hold the bags, order the drinks… but rollerblading laser tag beer ping pong is not my thing.

      1. Willow Sunstar*

        I would use an excuse. My co-workers all know I do Toastmasters, and am doing it to the level where I was an area director last year. Hey, great time to visit club xyz that I have been invited to, but never got around to it.

    13. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I tend toward cheerful bluntness for things like this. “Oh, geez, no way. Beer pong just isn’t my thing. I’ll wait for the introvert-friendly ‘reading silently near each other’ event. Have fun though!”

      1. CC*

        Ahahaha. So a while back, survival job was recruiting for social committee members. On the poster they distributed, they listed a bunch of activities (including “reading quietly”) and declared all of them “rubbish” and that the social committee would do a much better job than that.

        Welp. That really encouraged me to be on the social committee… (eyeroll) And of the events they’ve put on, I’ll go get the free food sometimes (if it’s company sponsored food) but otherwise ignore all their events and signup sheets.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          I am a huge, gigantic, very big fan of reading quietly – it’s one of my favorite things in the world – but it’s not exactly a social activity :)

    14. Beancounter Eric*

      Bone spurs in one’s knees is a good generic out. “Sorry, press of deadlines” works well, if it is accurate.
      If they are absolutely going to demand you attend, offer to be the photographer – I take tons of pictures, dump them to a network folder and say “Here you go – have fun!!”

      Your boss sounds like a real prize to work for….best way to boost morale is pay people well, don’t impose senseless regulations and unreasonable expectations, and give them the tools to do the job.

    15. I'll see your pulled hamstring and raise you osteo arthritis*

      I usually respond to these types of events with “Thanks, but that’s not really my style.”

    16. Elizabeth West*

      That reminds me; I have roller blades I never use. I would actually probably do this.
      I think I will save them for (WHEN NOT IF) I move back to CA. :D

    17. Optimistic Prime*

      Are you comfortable with your boss and/or with the people who plan the events in the office? Because if so, I’d bring it up directly with either party (or both). I joined the morale team at my office in part for this and it’s something I bring up regularly – that we should mix events that are more chill with the more active/physical ones. (And it’s not even an age thing…honestly I prefer morale events where I can actually hold a conversation with my coworkers and get to know them. Laser tag and rollerblading doesn’t really lend itself to that.)

      Even if you don’t want to directly say “We should do less physical stuff” you can provide some suggestions to the folks that plan this, like “How about we do a baseball game/barbecue/whatever this time?” when it comes time to make another plan. In my experience the folks who plan this stuff are looking for ideas from the rest of the team.

  4. EA*

    Hi all-

    I just learned that there is a hiring freeze at my work until October. I’ve never experienced anything like this. What does it usually mean? I know there are some budget issues- so is this a precursor to layoffs? Is it smart to start looking for jobs?

    1. Intern Manager*

      Can only speak from personal experience. The last time we had a hiring freeze in July 2016 – and a big re-org in december. Right now we have another hiring freeze and I already heard that they’re looking to ‘slim down’ the organisation more. (We have too many interns working for us).

      So overall, you should consider your position, how many others there are what you can do, how much it contributes to the business and then keep an eye on what’s happening. Looking around can’t hurt – but you also have to be careful with gossip, which is generally out of control during times like this. Half of that stuff isn’t true.

      But you’re not crazy to be concerned.

    2. Rat in the Sugar*

      I think it may depend on your company and industry? My company works as a contractor, so we’ve put on a hiring freeze before when we’re waiting for new contracts to be awarded–we don’t want to hire someone and then find out we didn’t get the job and don’t have anything for them to bill their hours to. So for us, a hiring freeze means we’re not sure if we’re going to have the budget for more people, but doesn’t mean those of us who are here already are in jeopardy. I’m not sure how it works if you’re not a contractor, though.

    3. Snark (formerly Liet)*

      I’d start a low-key, informal job search, yeah. Just to develop options, if nothing else.

      1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        Just curious – do you all think its ok to mention that as the reason that you’re looking (concerned about company financials, basically)? Or does that fall under the “don’t bad mouth your current/past employers” umbrella. Would the company you’re interviewing with worry that you might “blab” if they end up having finacial difficulties (or things that appear to be difficulties)?

        1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          Nooooo, don’t mention it. If it did get back to your current employers, it would be Bad. If you’re directly asked why you’re switching jobs, something pleasant like “I’m actually quite happy in my current postion, but [duties] in this one sound really excited, and I was interested in tossing my hat in the ring for the chance to grow professionally in that area.”

          1. EA*

            In my case this hiring freeze will make the news, when it is announced. I think if something is public then it is fine to use it as a reason for leaving.

            1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

              Oh yeah, if it’s all over Business Insider, rock on. It won’t even be a question, they’ll probably just assume you’re gettin’ while it’s good.

          2. Government Worker*

            The exception here would be a government agency, where the hiring freeze is public knowledge. Hiring freezes in government are often a way to control costs through the end of a fiscal year when the budget is tight and don’t lead to layoffs, but they can restrict opportunities for promotion or job changes within the agency. If the freeze looks like it may last a while, that’s a legitimate and understandable reason to be looking elsewhere.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I would not mention that you’re concerned about the company’s financials or future growth. I don’t think it falls under the “don’t badmouth your current employers rule”—for me, it falls under the “don’t tell others your decision is based on speculation” rule.

          I think you’ll be in a stronger position if you can come up with a substantive answer for why you’re looking for new opportunities that are more about the potential New Employer or your professional growth. Talking about what you’re excited about is usually more compelling than an answer that says, “I’m worried my employer is falling apart and am now applying out of fear.” The latter can be true, but I don’t think it will serve you well to mention it in interviews.

    4. NPOQueen*

      I’ve had hiring freezes at all of my jobs except the current one, the Recession hit the non-profit industry really hard. In some cases yes, it was a precursor to layoffs, but never in my department. Has there been an incentive program for early retirement? Sometimes that coupled with a freeze is enough to trim the workforce to sustainable levels. And I can’t speak for other companies, but the first to go at mine were always high level people, or people who had been at the company a long time. It’s unfair, but they generally had salaries that were higher than market value. It hurt to lose all that institutional knowledge though.

      I wouldn’t say you should immediately start looking, but think about how important your area is to the overall company (I was in fundraising, we almost never got cut because we brought in good money). Keep your eyes open, but look for other signs to see if you should make the job search a priority.

    5. The Rat-Catcher*

      Government agency perspective. We had a hiring freeze from Jan-Jun 2016 because we went over budget on hiring. We have a lot of turnover that somehow didn’t get taken into account in the budget. Open positions were also cut, but no layoffs occurred. Not laying off is actually a pretty big priority for my state – there’s a whole plan for how exactly layoffs will be determined if they do occur, but it hasn’t happened in a long time. You know your company better than I do – all I can say is that it doesn’t ALWAYS mean layoffs are imminent.

      1. Anna*

        Yeah, especially in government agencies attrition is the first line of defense in a hiring freeze.

      2. Another person*

        I have worked at state agencies where the “hiring freeze” went on for years and it meant no new positions could be created and you had to get agency head approval to hire for existing positions (replacing people who leave.) Which was just a long rubber stamp process for the most part.

        Periodically positions that were vacant too long were cut, but it very rarely resulted in anyone being laid off.

      3. Jillociraptor*

        Yes, we are using a hiring freeze (or a position control process where you have to get approved to hire) as a way to avoid layoffs if at all possible.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah; I have worked through three hiring freezes, now (2 federal freezes, one of which lasted 3 years, and one state hiring freeze). In those cases, no one was fired, but they did offer incentives for early retirement as a way to shrink staff. I guess the situation is a little different, though, because all of our problems flowed from Congress’s inability to pass a budget—not from a loss of revenue in the traditional sense.

        I’ve also worked at nonprofits that have had hiring freezes, but those freezes were adopted during the Recession to avoid laying people off. It made people’s workloads awful, but it also meant that no one lost their jobs. And of course, I’ve seen hiring freezes in the lead up to private companies merging (which often results in layoffs post-merger, but some departments emerge unscathed while others are consolidated).

      5. Dead Quote Olympics*

        Similar to above, in state agency and academia, hiring freezes are usually attempts to avoid laying off staff or a response to a particular budget cycle. I’ve been in hiring freezes in academia that lasted 2-3 years.

    6. Rincat*

      It can mean either “no NEW position creation or hiring” or “no hiring period – filling vacancies or new positions.”

      One thing that typically happens is that your workload increases – or doesn’t decrease – because you can’t get any additional personnel. So if that’s the case, just get clear with your manager on your work priorities and what you can realistically accomplish. It’s common to absorb other duties and have the scope of your job change somewhat. But also – nothing can happen at all! It can vary quite a bit.

      I don’t think it’s necessarily a precursor to layoffs. You don’t really need to start looking for a job unless you want to – it’s possible your workload might get really high, or you absorb some duties you aren’t interested in, etc.

    7. PB*

      A hiring freeze is definitely a sign of budget issues, but not necessarily a precursor to layoffs. I’ve been through a number of hiring freezes, but they’ve never led to layoffs. Others have had the opposite experience, of course, but I would tend to think that layoffs would be at least a few steps away. When there are budget problems, freezing hiring can make good sense. Hiring is time consuming and costs money. Not filling positions can mean lapsed salaries can be used for other purposes.

      On the other hand, in my experience with salary freezes, workloads generally go up, and lead to a higher level of stress in the office. And it’s not impossible that layoffs might happen down the road, but it’s also not a guarantee. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to start low-key job searching, but I wouldn’t worry too much at this point.

    8. Hannah*

      To share a positive case… My tech company had a hiring freeze for probably around a year. They were profitable, but a high profile project had run into unexpected challenges so they were quite open that they were just being conservative by putting this hiring freeze in place. I appreciated the transparency, and by all accounts they were telling the truth, because this was maybe 5 years ago and there were never layoffs. The company completely recovered and grew substantially after this incident.

    9. Becky*

      I’ve been through several hiring freezes. At my current company, they were precursors to layoffs related to contract delays. At a previous company, they were related to unforseen challenges related to existing contracts where budgets had to be shuffled to cover costs on our side and no layoffs occurred.

      If you know there are budgetary issues at your office separate to the hiring freeze, and you have the time and energy, updating your resume and quietly exploring opportunities may be a good idea. As Alison says, it can take time to find a job, and interviewing doesn’t mean you have to take a job.

    10. Trout 'Waver*

      The only one I’ve been through was a run-up to a merger. No layoffs on our side.

    11. Anon Anon*

      Where I work we had a hiring freeze in 2009 (due to the recession). We didn’t have layoffs. However, we also had plenty of money in the bank. A hiring freeze can be a case of an organization being financially responsible. A lot of it depends on the organization.

      Compare this to one of our competitor’s who never has hiring freeze’s, they only have two modes hiring like crazy or laying people off like crazy. So it all depends.

    12. Candy*

      I work for a unionized university so my experience might be a bit different but we had a hiring freeze here and it just meant that they encouraged staff who were eligible for retirement to take it by a certain date (and be paid severance up to a maximum of 14 weeks) and then they redistributed those duties instead of filling the vacated positions.

    13. Tardis*

      This is interesting, because I realize there was a hiring freeze at my work (a large university) and it never crossed my mind at the time whether there would be layoffs. In retrospect, the freeze lasted for over a year, and there have been a series of layoffs following that. The layoffs would be considered large in some contexts (>20 positions eliminated at a time) but it’s a very large university so it’s fairly small relative to overall staffing. Both the hiring freeze and the layoffs were due to budget issues and declining enrollment, so I’d think about the root cause in this case.

    14. Anxa*

      The agency I did my internship at had a hiring freeze. No one that was already in lost their job, but this was county government

      1. Anxa*

        But government is different because the freezes often aren’t directly finance related. They may hold on even tighter to their current employees, and a freeze can cost a lot of money. Lower turnover at the top means more high salaries accumulating higher pensions and fewer less expensive new employees

    15. Chaordic One*

      When I worked for a state agency a hiring freeze meant that no new positions could be created AND that any existing positions that came open would go unfilled until the freeze ended. There were exceptions made, but the procedures to get around the freeze were awkward and time-consuming and they didn’t happen very often.

      In some instances the freezes were followed by reductions in funding for various agencies and that, in turn, did result in people being laid off.

      What I remember most about the hiring freezes that in many agencies there laws mandating that people fill certain positions in spite of the hiring freezes. As a result the employees who were left and who were mostly hourly workers ended up being forced to work a lot of overtime. Some of them became very burnt out, while others appreciated the chance to work more earn overtime pay.

      The additional overtime expenses pretty much offset any money that was saved from imposing the hiring freeze.

  5. Intern Manager*

    I need a sanity check please. I manage a team of six (yes, six) interns, of which only 4 were present for the following.

    Last wednesday our company threw a big party with open bar and unlimited alcohol. We told our team repeatedly over the course of multiple days they could go and get as drunk as they wanted, as long as they showed up between 9 and 9.30 the next day.

    Intern 1 shows up at 8.59, intern 2 at 9.15, intern 3 calls in sick due to the party food at 8 (but is super reliable and hard-working otherwise, so we believed it) and intern 4…… well he didn’t show up until 1.30 PM. (He said he forgot to plug his phone and his alarm didn’t go off).

    My manager was ready to end his internship right there, but I managed to convince her otherwise. I had a stern talk with him that this was completely unacceptable in so many ways, and that while this normally would be an internship ending mistake, we would make an exception this once because he is a very high performer. (He was pretty scared.)

    Personally, I felt it was a serious mistake, but not internship ending worthy. I am 29/F, my manager is 40/F. The intern started 3 months ago and has 2 months to go. We are a huge tech company. Very casual dress, short management lines, etc.


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Honestly, the bigger mistake here is that your company is encouraging people to get drunk at work events. When that goes wrong, as it invariably will at some point, the solution isn’t to blame the interns.

      1. Intern Manager*

        You’d see it as encouraging? I see it more as them having some trust in our capability to behave like professional adults and (ya know) have the judgment to not get too drunk on a work event.

        We do have a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture. Friday evenings are… always interesting.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, I see this as encouraging: “We told our team repeatedly over the course of multiple days they could go and get as drunk as they wanted”

          … and that will be the perception by others when you have a drunk driver/sexual harassment incident/other natural consequence where this blows up.

          You’re the employer. Your goals are presumably around specific work outcomes that you want to achieve. There’s not really any reason why you need to be creating opportunities for people to get drunk.

          1. Intern Manager*

            Yes that’s a good point. I hadn’t really considered it from this perspective. We have a bit of a crazy work culture. Upper management is kind of insane, so everything below that bonds really closely by… you know… drinking a lot and socialising a lot and drinking even more…

            It’s funny how the company has affected my view on these things, as I didn’t even consider it a weird thing. I’ve been with them for little over a year. I will reflect more on what you said. Thanks for sharing your point of view.

            Oh, for what it’s worth, I’m in Europe in a city with a lot of other major HQ’s for big global players and the drinking and partying culture is about the same for all of these.

            1. Snargulfuss*

              Not only does a heavy drinking culture bring in the risks that Allison listed, but there’s also a good possibility that people who don’t drink (for various reasons) are missing out on networking and bonding opportunities. Obviously this is company culture and there’s nothing illegal about it, but you could be decreasing diversity by creating a culture that certain people are going to opt out of.

              1. Accountant*

                Yes, this! I left a job because they had this culture and I really didn’t fit in! They would frequently go to a bar after work on Fridays and I had zero interest in attending. I liked the work and performed well at it, but it just wasn’t the right culture.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Yes, and in some companies you can go and not drink, but in others, they expect it and hassle you if you don’t. (We’ve talked about this here before, I recall.)

            2. Telly*

              I think your boss way overreacted. Accidentally oversleeping and coming in late one day is not an instantly fire-able offense for an otherwise strong performer. You gave the interns blanket permission to get drunk and then are penalizing one of them for getting drunk (and thus being hungover). Seems like a weird way of bating the interns to mess up, and then punishing them for it.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yeah, I read it exactly as Alison did. I thought it was much more problematic that your company was telling people to get “as drunk as they wanted” as long as they showed up the next morning than the fact that an intern came in super late. Y’all kind of set the intern up to fail by saying “feel free to get drunk!” but then suggesting that the “limit” was coming to work on time.

              What your company said is very different from saying, “We’re all adults who trust you not to drink so heavily that you jeopardize your employment and attendance the next day.” And to be honest, if that’s the message you want to convey, you actually don’t have to say anything about the open bar event (although it may make sense to say something to interns, as they may not have as much exposure to professional norms regarding open bar events). Anyone with a shred of professional knowledge should know that you do not get sh*t-face drunk at a company event with an open bar. When I was in college and law school, the number one example of how to get fired from an internship was to fail to exercise professional discretion at a company-sponsored event with free alcohol.

              I also want to gently encourage you/your company to really reconsider the fact that people bond by drinking heavily (binge-drinking?) and then drinking more. Especially because this sounds like it happens at least weekly, and sometimes more often than that. Although you’re in Europe, what you’re describing is also super common in Silicon Valley among a certain subsector of start-ups. Relying on drinking is really exclusionary, particularly for anyone who: (1) is a recovering alcoholic; (2) is the relative of anyone with substance abuse problems; (3) is a member of a religion that prohibits alcohol consumption; (4) is wary about blurring the line between professional relationships and partying with coworkers; (5) does not enjoy hanging out with drunk people.

              Overemphasizing drinking events effectively discriminates against all of those categories of people (which is a non-exhaustive list). I’m confident that there are fantastic people that a company would want to have who fit into those four categories.

              In light of the messages your employer put out there, and its drinking/partying culture, I think your response to your intern was appropriate. I think firing that person would have been unreasonable in light of the context.

              1. Humble Schoolmarm*

                Thank you for 4 and 5! I am a light social drinker (1 drink is typical, two is nice, three is An Event) and I hate that that the drunker some people get, the less tolerance they have for anyone who isn’t completely sloshed. I’ve had more work parties fall to after school special levels of peer pressure. “C’mon Humble Schoolmarm, why aren’t you drinking! Loosen up! Everyone else is having fun! Get this girl another drink!” Arrrgh! Drives me insane! I can’t be the only person in the world who likes to be out late and dance but doesn’t like to get wasted!

                1. Ann O.*

                  You are not. I HATE being drunk. I love to dance. Tipsy can be fun in the right set of circumstances, but drunk just makes me feel sick and sloppy. Which is the opposite of fun.

            4. Jeff*

              Work hard, play hard cultures can be very productive. In the short term. With crazy management cultures and practices, corporate missions, objectives and goals can sometimes take a backseat to the crazy culture ethos. If booze is available at work, or during the work day, this sends a very poor message and creates an unhealthy atmosphere. Even suggesting at the after hours event to get as drunk as you want is inadvisable, professionally and personally.
              I have seen firsthand how cultures like this create alcoholics and burn good productive people out of a career.
              A far better message to send to the interns during a social event would be to enjoy yourself responsibly.

            5. Observer*

              Since you are in Europe, I imagine you have not been following the travails of Uber. I suggest you do. What you describe could have come straight out of their playbook. And, while drinking was not their only problem, the “work hard play hard” line you used comes tight out of the same mindset and almost inevitably runs into seriously problematic behavior.

              Think about this – you told a bunch of interns – people who are learning how to navigate the working world- to go get drunk and then you want to fire one otherwise well performing intern for the crime of forgetting to plug in his phone.

              And, yes, you did tell them to get drunk. At this age and experience level it would not be at all surprising if he misjudged his ability to handle alcohol far more severely. But ultimately, all he misjudged was his ability to properly perform all the little tasks that come with preparing for bed.

            6. Optimistic Prime*

              I work at a very large tech company as well…and this is weird. I’ve definitely been to lots of events with free alcohol, but there has NEVER been any encouragement to get “as drunk as we want” (and usually the alcohol is just beer, cider, and wine, no hard liquor.)

              1. tigerStripes*

                I work at a tech company in the US, and although sometimes there is limited free alcohol at parties, I’m fairly sure the bartenders have been told to cut people off before they’ve had too much. I think the main concern is to prevent drunk driving and probably also to prevent people from doing things that will make the next work day uncomfortable.

          2. Amber T*

            Yeah that’s really odd language to include. We have events that are open bar (at the expense of the company) so in theory we could get as drunk as we wanted… but there’s never been any communication saying “drink all you want and get drunk, as long as you’re able to work the next day!”

            Part of entering the adult/professional world from a college party age is realizing access to unlimited or large amounts of alcohol =/= let’s get completely wasted and go nuts. So I think you’re right to give the intern another chance, but also scale back on the “drink all you want!” phrasing.

        2. Not a Real Giraffe*

          But these are interns who are still learning the line between “too drunk at a work event” and “my manager told me to get as drunk as I want,” so asking them to inherently know what that line is, is maybe asking too much.

          The point of an internship is to learn things – both professional skills and soft skills. This was a teaching opportunity, and it looks like you used it as such. I’m sure the lesson will not be lost on the late intern.

          1. Queen of the File*

            Yes. My first work party as an intern happened to be my 21st birthday, and, most unfortunately, the first time I learned that I could actually get too drunk to function the next day. The whole world of drinking was quite new to me and I’m still extremely grateful for my boss’ forgiveness.

            1. Optimistic Prime*

              I was just chatting about this with my husband the other day; I don’t think I really learned and understood my full limits wrt alcohol until I was around 25. And even then, your body changes a lot in your early 20s, so intern and early work years are just around the time that you’re learning you can no longer function on 4 hours of sleep after 5 drinks.

          2. Not in US*

            In my first full time job – I was not an intern, I attended a work event with free, unlimited alcohol and I drank too much. I didn’t make it to breakfast the next day (It was a business meeting / awards thing with a business casual, come and go breakfast in the morning and I was expected to be there). I didn’t make it through check out from the hotel on time. A maid woke me up when she tried to come in and clean the room. I was SO embarrassed. Thankfully my bosses were great about it – but I had to sweat it out the rest of the weekend until I saw them on the Monday. I never did that again. It is easy when you’re young to misjudge – especially with a heavy drinking culture and my workplace was.

        3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          I’m reading it the way AAM does. I read it as challenging the interns to push as hard as they can alcohol-wise to prove they have the stuff to show up and work the next day.

          1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

            Or, at the very least, there’s a competitive angle to binge-drinking that could have resulted in the interns trying to drink each other under the table.

          2. ByteTheBullet*

            Exactly, and that kind of attitude irks me so much. You’re obligated to participate AND obligated to prove that you’re made of stern stuff and can work while hungover/intoxicated. No thanks.

        4. Friday Fries*

          “We told our team repeatedly over the course of multiple days they could go and get as drunk as they wanted” – that’s WAY past trusting them to be professional and into encouraging excessive drinking. That’s pretty poor judgement on your company’s part, frankly. If you tell people they can get drunk at work events you really shouldn’t be surprised when they do.

          It sounds like your company has a culture that encourages this, and it might be good to teach your interns more appropriate behavior instead.

        5. Emma*

          I mean, this line stood out to me: “We told our team repeatedly over the course of multiple days they could go and get as drunk as they wanted.”

          Unlimited alcohol also seems like a possible contributing factor, but even with that, I would shy away from telling interns to get as drunk as they want. I think I’d say something more like, “There’s a work event on Friday. Alcohol will be served, but please use your judgment as this is a work event, and you’ll be expected to keep normal hours the next day.”

          1. NPOQueen*

            I like this. When I was an intern, I couldn’t figure out where the line was. Some coworkers got really drunk, others less so, but no one called out the really drunk ones. As a young person, I didn’t know it was because they could shake it off and come to work the next day, nor did I know that the company put up with some people because they were high performing. It’s easy to say a VP can do what he wants, but why can Manager A come in late when Manager B doesn’t get the same leeway.

            OP, I think you did well to tell your intern the boundary, but also, I think you need to teach them that you have a very lax culture, and lay out base expectations. What happens if they go to a more conservative company? If they have a baseline standard, they’ll know when and how they toe the line. It’ll be better for them in the future, especially if they don’t end up in a tech job.

            1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

              There’s also a question of professional capital. An intern has none. If the VP of Rocking Out With One’s Genitalia Out comes to work popping ibuprofin like jellybeans and whimpering at the sight of bright lights, he can probably get away with it.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                There’s also a question of professional capital. An intern has none.

                This is a really good point, and part of teaching them what are professional norms that might differ from university norms.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                That is definitely true. But it’s also worth noting that even folks with a lot of professional capital (like the VP of ROWOGO) can lose it by being stupid drunk in public. If clients, partner organizations, or direct reports see someone who routinely fails to draw the limit on their level of drunkenness, it can eviscerate confidence in that person’s judgment and authority.

                … says someone who just received a staff complaint about an Exec Director getting so drunk on his birthday that he literally fell in the gutter, smashed his face, and had to be taken to the ER.

        6. Newby*

          If the goal is to trust them to use their judgement and behave professionally then instead of saying “get as drunk as you want, just make sure to show up on time tomorrow” you actually say “There is an open bar at this event which you are free to take advantage of. You are expected to show up on time tomorrow so I’ll trust you to use your own judgement.” The first phrasing implies that they are expected to get drunk the second implies that while no one will police their drinking, they do need to remember that they are at a work event.

          1. BF50*

            I really like this phrasing. I would probably add a line acknowledging that others will be actually drunk, but that doesn’t mean you are not at a work event.

        7. Tracy*

          I don’t agree with you that encouraging drinking to excess is showing trust in the employees abilities to behave like professional adults because a professional adult should know his or her limits. But I do agree that one stupid mistake shouldn’t sink an otherwise good intern.

        8. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          So you “work hard, play hard” and you have really interesting Friday evenings, and you tell them “they could go and get as drunk as they wanted, as long as they showed up between 9 and 9.30 the next day” and then you’re surprised when they take you at your word?

          I mean, yeah, intern was unprofessional and irresponsible, as interns can be, but a professionally inexperienced person is doesn’t have the context to understand that they’re expected to get unbelievably cheerful and stumbly but stop short of barfing in the lobby plants and passing out until early afternoon. And if they’re college-age interns, that’s what they do when they drink anyway.

          Personally, I think drinky work parties are pretty unprofessional as a general practice, and I’m kind of aghast that your employer sponsors them. I’ve never worked anywhere that organized anything harder-core than the occasional after work happy hour where they paid for a plate of nachos. If your interns are confused about professional norms working at a company that provides unlimited booze and tells them to get hammered, I don’t think that’s 100% on them.

        9. kittymommy*

          I see it as encouraging, fwiw. This isn’t something that should need to be said to any adult. Also, I think it sets a bad precedent for any future work expectations for them as it is highly unlikely behavior like that would be okay in many work places, even those with an open bar.

        10. Marzipan*

          I definitely also read this as encouraging people to get drunk, rather than reminding them to use their judgement. And, as someone who basically doesn’t drink, I’d point out that it’s also rather distancing language for anyone in my position. ‘Alcohol will be served, please use your judgement’ kind of wording wouldn’t concern me at all; ‘Go and get as drunk as you want’ wording sounds as though I’m expected to get drunk.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Yeah, as someone who occasionally has a cider with dinner, this pretty much conveys “this will be full of rowdy drunk people and you are Not A Good Cultural Fit if that doesn’t sound like a good time to you”.

        11. Joie De Vivre*

          “We told our team repeatedly over the course of multiple days they could go and get as drunk as they wanted…”

          Count me as someone who views that as encouraging people to get drunk at work events.

          Off topic a little bit – but two of my son’s friends were killed by a drunk driver during his freshman year of college. Even your statement “have the judgment not to get too drunk” bothers me.

          How did they get home?

          1. M*

            If they live in a big city, public transit and Uber/Lyft are easy options. Even drunk, I can call a Lyft and go right home.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              But it’s still a legitimate concern. Joie is suggesting that the marker of “don’t get too drunk” is not “be able to show up tomorrow AM” but also “don’t hurt other people or put yourself or others at risk the night before.”

          2. Queen of the File*

            For anyone reading this who might find it useful, our company used to reimburse taxis home for everyone or organized car service after these events & actively encouraged everyone to take advantage.

          3. Iris Eyes*

            And as a few people I know have found out, how did they get to work in the morning? (Binge drinking can easily leave you too drunk to drive even after sleeping for 6 or so hours)

        12. Gaia*

          My company often has alcohol at events. Because we trust our employees to behave as adults. We would not – ever – tell people they can get “as drunk as they like” because that is unprofessional and would be unacceptable. Your company encouraged this behavior. Yes, the interns should have known better, but part of having interns is teaching them professional norms and your company failed at that.

        13. Optimistic Prime*

          Great for working adults who have some years of work experience and knowledge! Bad for interns. If you were to do it, I would do it during a time of year that you don’t have interns around.

        14. neverjaunty*

          Reminding people over multiple days that they can drink a lot for free does not sound like “encouraging” or “work hard play hard”. Bluntly? It comes across as “we all drink way too much, and we want you to join in so we feel comfortable doing so.”

          That’s not the message you want to send.

        1. SaturnRed*

          I took this to be “We’re not going to look down on you or fire if you get drunk, but you still need to be professional”, i.e. “Drink as much as you want, but don’t behave badly or show up late tomorrow.” I actually found it kind of reassuring, like, “Oh, okay, I can have three drinks and be really chatty and no one is going to think poorly of me for doing that.” “Get as drunk as you want” means “get as drunk as you feel comfortable doing” not “Get plastered immediately!”

          1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

            These are interns, which are typically college students or very recent grads. “Get as drunk as you want” might mean “get as drunk as you feel comfortable doing,” but my wager is that they feel pretty comfortable getting pie-eyed schwasted because that’s how college social drinking goes.

            1. SaturnRed*

              I admit, I never got drunk in college, so my take on this might be skewed. If I’d gone to work event where there was drinking, I probably would have abstained unless someone told me I could drink as much as I wanted. Then I’d feel better about having a drink or two, knowing that others were likely to get buzzed.

              1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

                I’m the same, but I’ve always been a “wow, this double IPA has a delightful hop character” kind of drinker rather than a “If I do not wake up without pants and in someone else’s yard, I have dishonored the graves of my fathers and the temples of my gods” kind of drinker. That said, there’s a lot of college drinkers who binge four nights a week.

              2. De Minimis*

                When I was in college, I would have overdone it at an open bar, and it would have been even worse if I’d been told it was okay to do it so long as I made it in to work the next morning.

            2. BF50*

              Agreed. That might be they way you interpret it mid career, but at 22, fresh out of college, the interpretation is probably different.

              1. AfterBurner313*

                My 22 year old nephew would have read office memo that like Belushi in the movie “Animal House”, “WOOT! PART-TAY!”.

                I had to actually tell him drinking does not equal drink until you can’t walk. Smart kid. No common sense.

          2. Intern Manager*

            Yes, this was the underlying intention, but I find it very enlightening that hardly anyone else seems to interpret it like this. I suppose my manager’s wording was more something like ‘I don’t care what you do, you can get sh** faced drunk for all I care, but I want you at your desks between 9 and 9.30’.

            That doesn’t make it much better, honestly. I am very interested in reading all these responses and hopefully calibrate my ‘work-toxicity-meter’ a bit more to ‘functional’ instead of ‘alcoholic’.

            1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

              That’s how you and I would interpret it, but I think interns just needed a bit more context.

            2. Morning Glory*

              I think you actually don’t want them getting sh** faced though, right? Apart from the other concerns Alison mentioned, that level of drunk would mean that even the interns that manage to show up to work on time won’t be functioning.

              Why not say ‘nobody would mind if you have a few drinks/enjoy yourself but it’s mandatory to be at work between 9 and 9:30’? That puts the emphasis on what you actually want to communicate, that they need to show up on time regardless of how much they drink.

              1. AfterBurner313*

                Interns are usually just barely 20 something’s, sometimes with marginal common sense and judgement.

                When Ivy or Ivan Intern winds up ER from the stupid human tricks drinking challenge, I would not want to be fielding a phone call from Mommy Helicopter Bear why you basically green lighted them to get hammered.

                Because that’s exactly what little intern will tell Mommy Bear.

                Not enough Xanax on the planet to deal with that swarm of hornets of fun.

                All you need is one little charmer to wind up with alcohol poisoning…it is so not worth an open bar.

                I can’t even recently remember a company/charity event having an open bar, unless its the $500+ plate/donation deals. No one is power slamming Jeager at those.

                1. Observer*

                  You know what? It’s not just Mommy Helicopter. It’s going to be ANY mama bear on the planet. I mean, I’m someone who expects a 20-something to behave with some awareness and responsibility. But who in their right mind tells a young person who is calibrating their expectations “you can get falling down drunk, for all I care. The only thing that matters is that you show up the next day on time. Oh, and take advantage because we’re paying.”

                  This is not just green lighting. I’m going to point out something else. In the US, if one of these interns (or even other staff) caused damage, hurt someone or even, heaven forbid, killed someone on their drunken way home or to work the next morning, the company would ABSOLUTELY carry liability for this. That’s in addition to all of the issues that Alison mentioned.

                  OP, I’m glad you are re-calibrating YOUR expectations. This IS going to come back to bite someone. It’s not “if”, it’s “when”.

                2. Optimistic Prime*

                  It’s not even just the Mama Bear. Tech journals and even regular newspapers salivate over the idea of doing exposes of tech company culture these days. An irritated enough parent could tip off some journalist who then writes an article about the Drinking Culture at Hooli. (Or, god forbid, something bad happens…then you have a field day!)

                3. Observer*

                  @Optimistic Prime – if something bad happens, it’s not going to be just the journalists. In the US, at least, this kind of thing would be huge liability.

            3. NPOQueen*

              I think the manager’s wording works (somewhat) for experienced workers, who will understand that they can do what they want as long as it doesn’t affect their work. But for interns, that context is missing. Even if they understand the words, the underlying meaning (both for the present and how they’re viewed in the future) isn’t there. At your company, would it be okay for interns to get massively drunk at every party as long as they came to work the next day? Would that reflect badly on them when it comes time to be hired full-time? Would your boss pick an intern with a bit more restraint if that were the only differentiating factor? Interns don’t yet understand that perception, whether right or wrong, matters long-term.

            4. Becky*

              I’ve spent my entire career working in software, just-after-the-startup phase companies. There is definitely an office culture that involves drinking in this type of work environment (i.e. the communal refrigerators contain beer and wine, employees buy supplies for the hard liquor cabinet together, all company outings involve company-purchased alcohol). However, in all of these companies, the explicit language used by managers and C-level executives is always along the lines of, “Yes, there is alcohol. Yes, we all want to have a lot of fun. Yes, this is still a work event, you are still a professional, and workplace policies apply to your behavior even though we’re off the clock. You’re expected to be at your desk no later than 30 minutes after your normal arrival time tomorrow and you’re expected to be as productive as you would be on any other day.”

              Based on your posts, Intern Manager, I suspect your calibration of what’s normal regarding workplace drinking is skewed. Especially when you’re managing interns, it’s important to keep this in mind – if they leave your company for another company in your industry, these experiences could cost them some serious professional capital.

            5. Bagel Lover*

              At the start of my job they bring all of the fresh-out-of-college new hires to a central city for 2-3 months of training. While there the company would organize and pay for a few after work events, usually at a bar or fun restaurant.

              There were incredibly serious and stern conversations before each event about drinking and behavior expectations. I remember being surprised that they had to be so direct about it (since I thought it was obvious that you still needed to be professional) but I think the company rightly thought that instead of assuming people knew how to behave, they’d just be very clear and upfront. The comments usually went something like: “The drinks and food will be on the firm at our event tonight. We want you to have a good time and socialize with each other and senior leaders that will be attending. Though we definitely promote having fun and getting to know each other, this is still an extension of the workplace. You are expected to be at work tomorrow on time and be able to fully function. We trust you to know yourself and your limits when we’re at the event tonight.”

            6. Jaydee*

              It’s a matter of life experience and knowing what the unspoken expectations are behind the words. Interns are usually college students or recent grads, so they are both fairly new to the world of drinking (legally, at least) and to the world of professional expectations. If you’ve been working there for a while, you know how much you can drink and still be able to function at the appropriate level. Your interns don’t. And it sounds like your boss has forgotten that there ever was a time when she didn’t know those things and can’t imagine why the interns don’t know it too.

            7. Dee*

              Thanks for being open-minded and taking everyone’s comments into account.

              I have never been much of a drinker, but I don’t think anyone should ever be that drunk at a work event. I know it happens, but it just seems like a recipe for disaster. There have definitely been letters here about how someone got drunk at the company part and did something/said something stupid, and are now worried about losing their jobs. And beyond that, there are safety considerations that others have mentioned.

              Yes, the intern should have had better judgment, but you guys left the door wide open and stood on the other side of the door, beckoning him to come in. All he did was walk in.

            8. LBK*

              Once when a friend in another department came to get me from my desk so we could go out for drinks after work, my manager happened to be there and she jokingly said “I just need him coherent by 10am tomorrow morning,” so I can kind of see this line of thinking. But I’m an established professional with a good reputation and relationship with that manager, not an intern who’s likely already embroiled in college partying culture and who potentially lacks a good grasp on reading between the lines. To some extent, being an intern is about taking everyone at their word because you don’t have much experience to tell you otherwise and you don’t have much latitude to do your job the way you see fit. If someone tells you you can run wild at a company party, you’re probably going to interpret that pretty literally. Also for what it’s worth, when I was in college with very limited disposable income an open bar was like a gift from heaven, so you can bet I’d probably have taken full advantage if my boss had repeatedly told me it was acceptable to do so.

          3. Amber T*

            As a young professional who’s been in the work force for a few years, I can read it that way too. But as an intern who’s still figuring out professional norms, I can see where the miscommunication happened.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Eh, I don’t find it reassuring, and I suspect that that’s not how the interns heard that statement (and honestly, I think a lot of experienced working adults would not interpret the statement as “it’s ok to get tipsy, and we won’t judge you!”).

            I think it’s weird anytime an employer suggests that it’s ok to get sh*t-faced, so long as you’re reasonably professional the next AM. Under most professional norms, it’s not appropriate to be that drunk at a work event, regardless. That’s something that the interns should be learning from their employer, but instead, the employer is saying things to the effect of “get sh*t faced drunk for all I care; just be functional the next morning.” That’s not helping the interns develop a sense of what’s appropriate or inappropriate in the workplace. And if employees are frequently getting sh*t-faced drunk, I think that’s alarming, as well, for the reasons Alison has mentioned.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Especially when the employer repeatedly encourages them to get sh*tfaced over multiple days. The message then isn’t ‘we like drinking’, it’s ‘we *expect* you to get hammered’.

      2. New Bee*

        Yeah saying, “Get as drunk as you want” specifically, as opposed to “Have a good time” or “Enjoy yourself”, says some not-great things about the office culture. Interns are the last people who need to be taught that getting blotto at work events is OK as long as you show up on time the next day.

      3. Seal*

        Since internships are supposed to give students (I’m assuming these are students) real-life work experience, it stands to reason that part of that is teaching them how to behave in the workplace. That includes social events as well. On the one hand, you did give them permission to get “as drunk as they wanted”, so in a sense they were more or less following directions. On the other hand, is that really what you want to teach your interns about how to behave at workplace-sponsored social events? That type of behavior may well get them fired in the real world.

        As far as the intern who showed up at 1:30PM, since you describe him as an otherwise hard worker I wouldn’t consider this a fire-able offense, given the circumstances. And I wouldn’t be so quick to give intern 3 a pass either, particularly since you came down hard on intern 4. In my misspent youth I remember calling in at least once with “food poisoning” when in actuality I was badly hung over. I was super-reliable otherwise and hard-working otherwise myself, so of course they believed me. Little did they know!

        You might consider sitting all of your interns down and discuss how to handle themselves at future work-related events with unlimited alcohol. Getting as drunk as you want is definitely not good advice.

      4. Really*

        Even my 21 year old daughter knows this is not something that is going to turn out well for everyone. She had something similar occur on a college trip for class. There is always at least one who will drink too much. Remember this people may legally be adults but they are not always capable of making adult decisions.

        1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          Yep. As Alison noted above, this is a few tequila shots away from a DUI, a sexual harassment/assault case, alcohol posoning, a serious injury, and then Everybody’s Gonna Have a Bad Time.

    2. ZSD*

      What kind of company specifically mentions to people that they can “get as drunk as they want”?
      I wouldn’t end the internship over this. I’d sit down with intern 4 and explain why this is not professional behavior and that it shouldn’t be repeated in other work places. But then I’d talk with all your interns and apologize for telling them they could get drunk and let them know that *that* isn’t professional behavior, either, and it’s not something they should expect elsewhere. Part of the point of an internship is for the employer to model professional behavior to the intern, and they need to know that it’s not normal for employers to be encouraging them to get drunk.

      1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

        It’s not uncommon in the tech world and other startup-y industries dominated by young educated males who think they’re changing the world.

        1. Kyrielle*

          But it’s also not guaranteed. I’ve worked for medium and large tech companies, not startups, but getting drunk at a work event was not something that would fly (unless maybe you were the CEO, but even then, not all of them).

          You can’t know where the interns will go in life, so making it clear to them that getting drunk is acceptable *for this company* and may be acceptable at others, but would be enough to call your judgement into doubt or even get you fired at some other companies, would be good. They don’t need to be told “never get drunk” so much as “be aware that at some companies, this would be a very bad idea – make sure you know the company culture first”.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, and it’s a real problem. Many of those start-ups are now facing significant complaints regarding a predatory culture that enables things like sexual harassment. I find it ridiculous that those companies think “bro culture” is somehow a good thing, or a sign of coolness, and only back off on it after already creating a significant headache for their lawyers.

            1. Observer*

              Yeah, but anyone who thinks that “toe stepping” should be one of a finite list of “core company values” doesn’t care about the headaches to employees. Not every bro culture SAYS this as blatantly as Kalanik at Uber, but they sure as anything act it.

              None of the high flyers who are getting pushed out even thought of apologizing, much less changing, till things started blowing up in their faces.

      2. Job Huntress*

        As others have said, tech companies, but also professional services & finance: consulting, investment banking, private equity / venture capital, maybe big law…industries with a large analyst/associate class of overworked young people who will take any opportunity to let loose on the company’s dime. I left consulting recently and OP’s situation sounds exactly like something that would (and did) happen at my old company.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Why was this on Wednesday and not Friday?

      And I think both you and your manager have suggested acceptable consequences, tilting toward yours for a first offense for someone who was otherwise a reliable employee who does good work. It’s not bad for him to learn now and young that getting really drunk and forgetting to set an alarm and not calling in and being unreachable and not showing until 4 hours late–or just a subset of those–can get you fired. Even by people who were telling you all through the preceding week how totally wasted you could get at the work event, no consequences.

      1. Intern Manager*

        Good question, the same one everyone’s been asking… :) My guess would be cost. Friday venues are 3 times more expensive than Mon-Wed.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Maybe a good thing to do would be to suggest a limited-time open bar. As in, open bar from 7pm to 9pm, and then it converts to a cash bar. That would save the company some money and hopefully cut down on the drinking. A friend of mine is All Over It when there’s an open bar, whether it’s work or her personal life, and it’s pretty much a license to get as sh!tfaced as she can for free. Being college-aged interns (I assume), they’re likely thinking, “Unlimited free booze!”, as well as, “I can get totally hammered! My manager said so!” I think it should have been explicitly said to them that yes, they can drink as much as they want, but it means knowing their limits, keeping in mind it’s a work event, and being a fully functioning adult the next day. Perhaps what was told to them wasn’t explicit enough. (Or it was and they just didn’t care.)

      2. Becky*

        I’ve also seen it used a type off employer butt-covering – if everyone has to show up to work the next day, then employees will regulate their behavior accordingly. In reality, it doesn’t work.

    4. Triangle Pose*

      My opinion is that you should not be telling anyone, especially not interns to “go and get as drunk as you want” at a big company sponsored party with open bar and unlimited alcohol and definitely not REPEATEDLY over the course of MULTIPLE DAYS!

      I urge you to see that these interns who are newer to the workforce and have an unbalanced power dynamic with the rest of the team (not to mention with you and your boss) saw this as MAJOR pressure to drink and participate in the work culture. It’s also likely they don’t have as much adult experience drinking and with the added pressure, didn’t know their limits or act accordingly. This was a serious mistake on the company’s part and I would sit the interns down and explain to them your mistake, apologize and everyone should put this behind them.

    5. My name is Inigo Montoya*

      Since your interns are (I assume) lacking in other jobs to compare this experience to, you would do them all a favor (all six since I’m guessing they talk) to let them know – this is NOT normal. In most companies, getting drunk with your co-workers is never a good idea, no matter how good the open bar is. You would be wise to share both your office norms, where they didn’t meet those expectations, and how most other offices approach alcohol in general.

      And for what it’s worth – maybe consider revisiting the practice of encouraging people to get drunk at corporate events? It’s not going to end well.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        It is normal in some areas and in some professions. Definitely not normal in most, though.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s not really normal for a company-sponsored event, though. It certainly happens in tech start-ups, and there are definitely companies/sectors where there’s a culture of socializing outside of work with your coworkers and getting drunk (law, investment banking/finance). But the vast majority of companies do not endorse or encourage getting drunk on company time at a company event.

          1. Lucie*

            It absolutely is the norm in some company sponsored events in some cultures. I work at a Japanese company and the American’s who don’t make the effort to hang at the drinking parties and socialize don’t get the same respect as those who do. Is it fair? Not so much, but it’s a serious cultural thing that’s not going to change even though they aren’t in Japan.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I feel like you’re not reading what I said? I didn’t say it’s not a norm in any company. I said it’s not normal for the vast majority of employers in most industries (not all industries) and that it’s out of step with prevailing norms in the economy as a whole. And I’ve provided examples of industries or companies where it is considered normal to promote heavy drinking through company-sponsored events.

              If 95% of companies do not sponsor or participate in Mad-Men-style drinking/partying culture, it’s helpful for people who work at the remaining 5% of companies to know that they are out of step with other companies, as a whole.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                It’s not really useful to say it’s not normal overall, though, if it is normal in your industry.

                1. LBK*

                  But it’s better to err on the side of assuming your company is not one of those places where it’s normal because you’re more likely to be right and if you do turn out to be wrong, the consequences are likely to be less detrimental than erring in the other direction. I’d rather be the guy who’s seen as not a team player because I didn’t get smashed than the guy who’s seen as an unprofessional mess because he got blackout while everyone else nursed one drink the whole time.

                2. Myrin*

                  Of course it is. If you know that something that makes you miserable (for example; it could also be something you simply don’t like, that isn’t a good fit for you, etc.) isn’t normal overall/simply “what the world is like”, you now know that you can leave and aren’t likely to run into it again somewhere else. It can also serve as a reality check to reassure you that you aren’t the odd man out. Just in general, once you have that knowledge, you can act accordingly. But someone who doesn’t know that might resign themselves to having to live with it forever or thinking that they’re just whiny and don’t have any right to have problems with it, which is usually not the case.

              2. Anonny*

                Agree. And there’s a big difference between attending and socializing in an industry (which can be pretty normal) and getting sh*t faced/black out drunk. I work out politics/government and all one had to do is attend a legislative session to know aides can drink. A lot. But the ones who have been around know where the line is

            2. neverjaunty*

              If all those other companies jumped off a bridge, should OP’s company jump off a bridge too?

    6. The Rat-Catcher*

      Interns tend to need things spelled out a little more clearly than what it sounds like they were here. It might have been worth an extra conversation with them to let them know that yes, they can drink, but as they are not known quantities, it would be wise for them to err on the side of restraint. (And that this should probably be the norm for any internship question that they have – possibly inserting “professionalism” in place of “restraint,” in other situations.)

      1. Newby*

        I think this is what it really comes down to. You can’t trust interns to use their professional judgement because they don’t really have any yet (or at least it has yet to be calibrated correctly). You need to be very specific about what is and isn’t acceptable, especially when they are put in a social context where they may not intuitively know that they are still expected to act professionally.

      2. kb*

        And telling interns, who are probably young and not yet susceptible to the crippling hangovers of adulthood, that all they have to worry about is making it in on time the next day is really risky. In college I knew people who could be drunk enough to puke on a table and fall asleep in a park, but they’d still be at their 8 am the next morning and be semi-functional. Having some clearer boundaries for level of tipsiness permitted in a professional setting would be very helpful to students.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      This is a case of “drink as much as you want” does NOT mean “drink as much as you want”.

      The employee did what management told him to do. He drank as much as he wanted. Now the boss wants to fire him? Brilliant.

      People tend to go toward what they are told.
      This sounds like there is a lot of pressure in this workplace to drink hard.
      Not my thing.
      It puzzles me though why the company is deliberately trying to increase its health insurance costs by driving unhealthy behaviors.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        The employee did what management told him to do. He drank as much as he wanted. Now the boss wants to fire him? Brilliant.

        He did the opposite of what management told him to do, which was to show up at work between 9:00 and 9:30 the next day.

        (I agree that “drink as much as you want” is encouraging behavior that should not be encouraged, but the intern isn’t under fire for getting drunk, he’s under fire for not showing up afterward.)

        1. Observer*

          But that was an outcome that the boss should absolutely have foreseen. It’s one thing to tell someone with years of experience that the ONE limit on their drinking is that they need to make it into the office the next day. That’s problematic, but at least such a person is likely to know what they need to do to make it happen. And intern? No way. You told them to drink and get passing-out drunk. So they did. They didn’t realize that it might impede their ability to get in the next day? Why would you expect anything differently.

    8. Delta Delta*

      Seems like the intern might’ve had a lapse in judgment in drinking that much, but it also seems unwise to encourage interns to drink as much as they want/can.

    9. CatCat*

      Pretty harsh. Aside from the org’s encouragement of “getting as drunk as you want,” intern 3 is a very high performer and made one mistake with this alarm thing. If anything, I am sure intern 3 has learned that if you’re going to accidentally be very late, just call in sick.

      1. RAM*

        This is exactly what I was thinking. Intern 4’s “food poisoning” was quite possibly a hangover. Both interns 3 and 4 didn’t follow the rule you set. Intern 4 woke up.. felt sick and called in saying he had food poisoning. Intern 3 forgot to set his alarm, woke up late, but went in to work anyways and told you the truth about what happened.

    10. kb*

      I know your intention behind the statement “get as drunk as you want” was not “get plastered y’allllll,” but that may have been how it came across to the interns. I would rethink that phrasing in the future, especially for interns.

      I think you should make it known to the intern that showing up 4 hours late is unacceptable and would easily get him fired from any position, but since he’s an intern and learning you’ll let him off with a warning.

      Also, I know your question was specifically about the tardy intern, but I want to add that heavy-drinking work cultures can end up creating more issues than they do meaningful bonds between coworkers. They also can be more alienating than people think– not just to people who don’t drink, but to good employees who don’t fit into the social scene of the company.

    11. zk*

      If nothing else, they’ve learned the really important lesson that you can’t expect managers to mean literally what they actually say.

    12. JustaTech*

      Here’s another piece of data I’d like before decideing if this is a firing offence: what was intern 4’s attitude when they did show up to work? Panicked and apologetic or totally blase? People do oversleep if their alarm doesn’t go off even when they’re not hungover (although they usually don’t sleep that late); would the intern have risked being fired if he’d overslept badly on a day when there hadn’t been a party the night before?

      And if being late is a firing offence, was that clearly stated at the beginning of the internship?

      Going forward I would tell all the interns to have non-phone alarm clocks so it doesn’t happen again (assume an honest mistake) and then seriously reconsider how you and your boss talk to the interns about drinking.

      1. Anxa*

        This is one of my greatest fears. I’m so scared I’ll have a good job one day and lose it all. My natural sleep cycle skews late and I am completely dependent on alarms

    13. Hannah*

      I feel like if you put the fact that the hangover was from a company event aside — it’s a pretty common occurrence for an intern to oversleep and be late to work during their internship. They should learn from it and never let it happen again because of how embarrassed they are, but sometimes people need to learn that lesson the hard way. I don’t see a first offense here as fireable. I think your manager is being really unrealistic.

    14. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      What’s the basis for the distinction in how y’all treated Intern 3 v. Intern 4? You mentioned Intern 3 is super reliable and hardworking, and Intern 4 is also hard-working. If Intern 4 had called out with food poisoning, would your boss also have wanted to fire him on the spot?

    15. New Bee*

      This actually happened to me once, from the intern’s perspective (I was Intern 2, and “Nina” was Intern 4). Nina actually showed up so hungover she vomited on herself, so our boss sent her home and talked negatively about her to me afterwards.

      From the perspective of a rule-following intern, I understood his frustration but also rolled my eyes internally a bit. The night before, heavy drinking had been encouraged; interns, trainees (this was a teacher preparation program), and managers were blatantly hooking up; and several people underage drinking company-sponsored alcohol. I ended up working for the program later on and the drinking culture persisted and did result in liability (including DUIs and financial audits).

    16. paul*

      Your company told interns to get drunk

      Your company told interns to get drunk

      Your company needs a sanity check. Yikes.

    17. The OG Anonsie*

      Aside from all the stuff mentioned above, I agree with you. Sometimes otherwise reliable and consistent people make mistakes, and giving a warning in those situations to people who have earned it is entirely appropriate.

      Alcohol or no, sometimes people oversleep (however dramatically, I guess when I was younger I could have been dreaming solid past noon and not realized it though that seems like a far away time to me now…) and unless it’s part of a pattern of being unprepared or careless I think cutting folks some slack on rare screwups is the smart thing to do… Particularly for something with as little an impact as being late once on a regular day. Intern or otherwise, cracking down on high performers in these cases is something I only really see in very dysfunctional environments. Nothing is as demoralizing as coming in and giving it all every day, consistently doing a good job, then having management treat you like you’ve betrayed them if you do make a mistake. You gave him a serious warning, he took it the way he should. That seems wholly sufficient.

    18. Optimistic Prime*

      First of all, I don’t know how old your interns are, but at my very large tech company most of our summer interns are < 21. Therefore, I would NOT be throwing a big party with open bar and unlimited alcohol with summer interns at all, much less telling them they could get as drunk as they want! That's a recipe for disaster in so many ways! Not the least of which is that interns – and people in general – tend to post about that kind of thing on social media when they are drunk late at night ("Look at how cool TreeFruit/MacroHard/Hooli is") and all it takes is one journalist/blogger/YouTube personality to make a big deal out of serving underaged interns.

      But I agree with you. Part of being an intern is learning, and people have to remember that often all interns really know of the world is college. Waking up at 1:30 pm after a bender and missing all your morning classes is pretty normal and consequence-free in college. And particularly with the muddiness of big party with an open bar and the encouragement to drunkeness…I'd understand in this particular case if the intern got a bit confused.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        In Europe so legal drinking age won’t be 21… they wouldn’t be underage.

    19. OldMom*

      I realize I am late to the party but I am confused about what “as drunk as you want” means. To me, “drunk” is not something that any adult who doesn’t have a drinking problem would ever want to be. Tipsy, tiddly, pleasantly buzzed, mildly lubricated, these are all states that someone might enjoy. To me, “drunk” means staggering, slurred words, inability to remember one’s own actions, poor judgment, dangerous behind the wheel, possibly abusive to loved ones…all undesirables. I am mystified why any employer would encourage or condone “getting drunk.” The term seems synonymous with “had too much to drink.” Unless your company is based in a frat house or 1955, why is the phrase “get as drunk as you want” ever said aloud? And what on earth would it mean when “drunk” is not something anyone (outside of a country music song about trying to forget) would ever want to be? Is it a trick to find out who has a drinking problem?

      1. Toph*

        I think your interpretation of the term is adding more specific connotations than most would assume. To me “drunk” means “intoxicated enough to feel it”. So your list of tipsy, buzzed, mildly lubricated, these are all degrees of drunkenness, most of them mild. Whereas “smashed”, for example, is another that means very drunk. So (while I absolutely agree the choice of phrase “drunk as you want” was not a good idea in this situation, or any work situation), it does not inherently mean falling down drunk or have anything to do with a drinking problem. As drunk as one person wants might be “slightly buzzed” and to another might be “staggering” or anything in between. Certainly the invitation as phrased in general seems to imply heavy drinking was expected at the event, but use of the word “drunk” alone does not inherently imply all the stuff you just listed.

        1. OldMom*

          Ok, I think my biases are showing. Just trying to picture anyone telling me “I got drunk.” The very term seems to imply “I drank too much.”
          I’ve never been in an industry where drinking was allowed much less encouraged so the scenario described reads to me like a nightmarish time warp.
          (Perhaps it’s just a little folk dancing…nothing to be alarmed about.)

        2. Observer*

          Yeah, but “drunk as you want as long as you get into work on time” implies more than “buzzed” or the like. And, the OP actually posted clarification that indicates that OldMom is actually pretty correct – the manager said something like “you can get sh**-faced drunk for all I care”. For anyone who is not familiar with colloquial English usage, that translates to falling down drunk. So, yes, all the things OldMom said.

  6. Nervous Accountant*

    Hi all,

    I need advice on negotiations & maybe just a reality check as well.

    I plan on negotiating a significant pay raise. It’s evaluation time and we get our bonuses (in the form of PTO) and pay raises around this time.

    Right now Im getting paid 48K. I started at $38k 2.5 years ago and received two raises since then during the annual evaluations. I quickly saw that new hires with my background and experience were coming in at 65-68k.

    My range is 60-66. From what I’ve read, I learned that I should talk about what I bring to the table. So far it’s:
    -New accountants w my experience level that I will be training will be getting this amount.
    -I’m a known quantity–I improve every year. SO MANY new hires bailed during tax season, burning bridges–I’ve proved that I won’t do that.
    -Company knowledge–we have a lot of processes that I’ve seen were started.
    -I’m high producing. Each year I’ve increased my output while keeping my hours at a consistent level. Even though the bonus PTO doesn’t reflect this and I understand why, I’m working smarter/harder, not longer hours.
    -I was given addl duties (no formal title just extra work) during tax season and I took those very seriously–got verbal praise from my boss, upper mgmt, and colleagues.
    -Most recently, I’ve helped manager & team leader with new writing materials for the company >> im trustworthy

    Here are my questions:

    Am I on the right track with my points? For the most part I don’t care about what others get paid but I do feel I’m valuable and if the’re willing to hire new people who are unknown and could quit in months/weeks (so many have done that), why not?

    I plan to look through payscale, Glassdoor salary indeed. Reliable? Any other sources I should use to determine the market value of my skills? If it comes up shorter, I’ll adjust my range, but right now 6066 is the range in my head.

    On another note-I’m feeling a little paranoid. My degree isn’t in accounting but english and i have an EA license. For a long time, this never came up, until recently. Recently, a few coworkers started to tease me (not in a bad way) and that doesn’t bother me, and in a more serious way, I’ve helped with writing materials for new projects. It’s just that in the back of my head I have this thought that what if this is an excuse nto to pay me more? It was never an issue but now it is a problem?

    What if they refuse my raise for that reason or any other? I truly don’t want to leave but I don’t want to be taken for granted and lowballed. It would feel like a huge blow to my ego and confidence to be rejected.

    If I take the lower than low end, am I losing face or lack self respect by staying here?

    And this is a little emotional and maybe irrelevant? but 3 years ago I was in a desperate place and I took this with every intention to do better and grow (not to bail at the first opportunity). I’ve written about how I dont’ want to leave, but I feel like it’d be a huge blow to my ego and confidence to be rejected.

    1. Here we go again*

      On your last point, I don’t think it relates to trustworthiness, but I do think it is the strongest point you have. Your English degree, combined with your accounting knowledge and experience makes you so valuable that you have the technical knowledge of accountants with strong writing skills that you add extra value to the company.

      1. SoundtheBell92*

        Go for it! The more reasons you have to quantify the salary the better off you are. I’ve used Indeed & Glassdoor myself. I would recommend that you shoot higher; knowing that you will likely get where you’re shooting for. Good luck!

    2. Senior Staff Accountant (Public Practice)*

      If new hires are coming in at 65-68 to your firm, your range should be 72-78. As you said, you’ve been there for 2 tax seasons, and yes, doing what you do is incredibly valuable. You’ve also acquired a vast amount of client knowledge, which even if well documented, will not be easy to replace.

      I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago – we’re a small firm 2 CPAs, manager, me, 1 staff accountant, 1 bookkeeper, and 2 interns. We brought in another manager (CPA) whose duties and roles were approximately the same as mine, but at double my salary.

      So, I went to lunch with the managing partner, and we chatted. I came away with a 20K pay raise in that year, and 10k a year later. The major difference then was that I didn’t have a professional designation yet and the new manager had 10 years of experience on me. That manager has since left.

      Truth be told, I asked for a cheeky amount, and was told yes. If I’d been told no, I would have seriously considered my options.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “If I take the lower than low end, am I losing face or lack self respect by staying here? ”
      Just speaking for my own experience. If I catch myself asking that question then I am starting to slide. In a little bit I will get mad at myself for selling me short.

      When all is going well, I do not even think of that question. So the sheer fact that I thought of it indicates the answer is probably yes.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Exactly this. OP, I suspect you already feel like you would lose self-respect by not asking for the raise, because the significant pay differential signals (to you) that you are not being appropriately valued by your company. I also agree with Senior Staff Accountant that you should look at the market rate for your job with your level of experience—not lowball yourself with the entry-level salary, which would still leave you below-market in terms of compensation. (It’s ok to be paid below-market if you’re ok with it and there are other compensation factors that make it worth it, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case, here.)

        I don’t think you should feel bad about yourself if they say no, but I do think you should start job searching. Whether they say yes or no does not really have any bearing on whether you are a valuable and marketable person. It says something about the company and its priorities, and you can reject those priorities (and leave) if you feel like they’re out of sync with your own values/priorities.

        tl; dr: Don’t look to your company for validation of your worth; you have to convince yourself that you’re worth it, first, and that should be the case regardless of your company’s decision re: pay.

    4. Friday*

      Check the Robert Half Salary Guide for a gut check – it has market adjustments too, so you can modify whatever the base salary for each position is based on where you’re located.

    5. Amber T*

      Wow I could have written this. I’m making $50k, though the national average is mid $60s and the local average is high 60s/low 70s. I’ve been trying to figure out how to best approach the bosses on this but have been so nervous doing so. Thank you for posting, I’m looking forward to the responses.

      1. Amber T*

        Different field than accounting though, hence the average salary differences. But same boat negotiation wise!

    6. BF50*

      They should pay you more because it would cost the company more to replace you than to give you the raise.
      Not only would they have the increased salary that they would be paying a new hire, but they would also have to added risks of 1) a potential bad hire who leaves quickly or otherwise may need to be replaced, 2) the lost productivity while the new hire is in training, 3) the lost productivity due to the institutional knowledge.

      You hint around this stuff, but i think you should explicitly say it. You have all the reasons why you want more money, but you aren’t specifically saying why it’s in their best interest to pay you more.

      Also, you are undervaluing yourself. You are asking for the new hire wage, not the wage of someone who has performed well for 2 years.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Well the new hire wage is for someone who has a license and has at least 2+ years of experience as I’ve seen, so these aren’t fresh out of college graduates with no experience.

        You hint around this stuff, but i think you should explicitly say it. You have all the reasons why you want more money, but you aren’t specifically saying why it’s in their best interest to pay you more.

        THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SAYING THIS! I think this is what was swimming in my head but I couldn’t really articulate it well. Thank you so much!

        1. BF50*

          Though, below, they rightly point out you need to be careful of your tone, because you want it to be more of a sales pitch than a threat.

    7. Althea*

      “What if they refuse my raise for that reason or any other? I truly don’t want to leave but I don’t want to be taken for granted and lowballed. It would feel like a huge blow to my ego and confidence to be rejected.”

      I once had this conversation with my employer. She at first was saying that they couldn’t afford much in the way of raises. I said, “The question isn’t how much can you pay me. It’s, ‘How much would I have to pay someone else to do the same things?'” Considering I was doing a huge variety of tasks and had lowballed myself when I started there, I knew, and she knew, that a replacement would cost a hell of a lot more than what I was asking. They didn’t meet my full request, but they did come up enough that I stayed.

      So, you don’t have to say the same thing. It can sound like a threat to leave if said in the wrong tone, and a crappy enough employer might not like hearing it. But you should still keep it in your head, especially if you are wavering. It has an official term, actually – BATNA or “Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement.” If you fail to agree, their BATNA is to pay several thousand more for a less experienced person. Yours is to leave an most likely get paid several thousand more than what you are asking them to do, although it means job searching. Your BATNA is honestly way better than theirs, and that means you have a lot of the leverage. The employer just has to be smart enough to see it. A lot of them are not, and they realize it only after you’ve given notice.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Yes, exactly Althea. Nervous Accountant…be very conscientious of your tone. As an English Major I know you will be.
        I knew someone that was let go over tone. When push came to shove they were an awesome worker but the attitude killed them.

    8. Nervous Accountant*

      Thank you all, I so appreciate the responses and definitely got a few gems!

      1. Rocky*

        I love your points, but I would not lead with the fact that new hires get paid more. Lead with ‘company knowledge’ and additional duties’.

    9. Former Retail Manager*

      Late to the party, but hopefully you’ll see this. Based on the pay you mention, I assume you are at a mid-size or Big 4 firm in a decent sized metropolitan area….all that said…I’d definitely start interviewing elsewhere. Quite frankly, I’d get out of public accounting entirely if you can. I’ve paid attention to most of your posts (as I’m in accounting as well) and I don’t get the impression that you absolutely LOVE what you’re doing or perhaps don’t love where you are. My apologies if I’m off base in that interpretation of some of your posts. Either way, I’d definitely be 80% toward moving on, whether you stay in public or transition to corporate. Public accounting experience is very desirable on your resume and will certainly be an asset to you. Most of the other accounting folks I’ve known have all put in 3-5 years in public and then transitioned to either corporate or Government, and a couple started their own firms (I don’t recommend that).

      Also, everyone I’ve ever known in public has told me that the partners, and sometimes managers, are typically very well aware of the salaries of those below them. So whoever handles this decision likely won’t be blindsided by your raising this issue. The suggestions of the other commenters are great. However, if you don’t really love the environment/culture, I’d definitely look outside the firm as well and see if it’s time to get a raise and move on to a place where you might be happier. Best of luck and please update us on a future thread.

  7. Junior Dev*

    The question yesterday about writer’s block made me think: how do people in other creative jobs get unstuck? (I’m using the word “creative” very loosely. If your job involves creating something, even if that’s not the primary thing you do, I want to hear from you.)

    I’m a programmer; my current job involves rebuilding an internal website that’s quite unique in what it does, so there are no out-of-the-box solutions to much of what we’re trying to accomplish.

    Here are some things I do when I am having trouble with a technical problem, or am unsure how to approach some feature, and feel stuck.

    * Boring chores like people mentioned–read email, clean desk

    * Go through my open tickets and write updates on them, and make sure their status is accurate. This is sort of a “boring chore” but has the added advantage of sometimes shaking something loose in my brain.

    * Look at a co-worker’s merge request. Usually this is something that interrupts my flow, so it’s nice to get a lot of code review out of the way during slow periods.

    * write up outlines. This usually involves making lists of “what I’ve already done” and “what I still have to do” in a text file. Sometimes I can identify some separate task on the same ticket to switch to for a while; other times, the act of writing it out helps clarify what I should try next.

    * Doing non-coding programming work, either on the current ticket or from the neverending list of stuff I keep meaning to get around to. Writing documentation or comments for my own code. Reading documentation for a software package I’m using. Researching the best approach to use for a given task.

    * Identifying and/or correcting technical debt (stuff like “this section of the code was written in a messy, redundant way” or “this function needs more test coverage”–stuff that wasn’t really done correctly the first time in the interest of getting something done quickly or trying to articulate what we even wanted to do.)

    * Drawing out page mockups by hand. We don’t have official graphic designers for web, or any sort of user interface person, so it generally falls on coders to make those decisions. I don’t mock up everything before building it but sometimes it can help me to get out some colored markers and draw as a way to explore what I want a page to do.

    1. Christy*

      I’m a SharePoint developer. When I’m stuck, I talk to a coworker to bounce ideas off him. (I’d say “her” or “them” but I’m the only woman on my team.) I’ll talk through my problem, and usually a second set of eyes or brain will either help me find the problem or solution or my coworker will have a suggestion I can try. It’s the #1 thing that saves me. I’ve been codeveloping this tool with one coworker and constantly having two sets of eyes has been awesome.

    2. Eric*

      It depends on why I’m stuck Sometimes it’s because I’m trying to do too much at once. In this case I’ll try to identify a very small thing that I can do to move the project forward and set a goal to do just that part.

      If that doesn’t work I’ll sometimes branch with the intention of writing whatever hacky solution comes to mind to solve the problem. It can be freeing to write code that you never intend to ship and it usually gets me back on the right path.

      If none of those work and I’m really truly stuck I’ll start reading documentation to see if I missed something. If that doesn’t help I’m off to find someone to talk the issue over with and see what I can come up with that way.

    3. The Photographer's Husband*

      As a writer, I think of writer’s block as just being a sign that I don’t have enough ‘fuel’ in the creative tank. By fuel, I mean knowledge/research/understanding of whatever it is I’m writing about. So usually my first step is to get a deeper understanding of the product/service/teapot I’m writing about and that will usually open up a few new angles to think about.
      If that doesn’t work and I’m still stuck, I’ll go search out interesting advertising on AdFreak or elsewhere and see what creative solutions others have come up with to complex problems. Usually between those two things, I end up writing something I’m happy with.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Sometimes if I help someone else for a short while, that gives me back my power to think. Incubation time is the time away from a project. Even if we are not consciously thinking about Project we might be incubating ideas subconsciously.

    5. AVP*

      My work involves a lot of little projects,someofwhich are creative and others that involve budgets or paperwork or keeping in touch with clients. I break everything down into small pieces and, when I’m stuck on one, I work on something else for awhile until I have a new idea or fresh eyes. It helps that I think my brain is naturally wired for ADHD so I don’t mind jumping around a lot.

    6. Louise*

      Go for a walk! I do grant writing and some copy writing and when I’m feeling really stuck, moving around can really help. I find when I’m getting a creative block, it’s usually because I’m too in my head, overthinking, anxious, etc. When I work from home, I’ll sometimes even put on really loud music and dance around at my desk to get the thoughts flowing.

    7. sarakg*

      I’m a SF developer, and am the only front-end person at my company, so I end up having to figure out a lot of things that no one else I know has really figured out before. When I’m blocked on something, I like to go for a walk (even just to get a glass of water), or like you said, clean up other tickets/code/etc. Or, you know, scroll through AAM for a while. I was stuck/intimidated by something earlier, and what helped me get started was literally copy-pasting the current file so that if I break anything, I can easily go back and retrieve the working code (or compare the working stuff to what I’m trying to change). We use git (source control), so it would be fine, but somehow the manual way of it really helped me feel more confident with the change.

      Actually, doing things manually, like writing out some pseudo-code or drawing a flow map, those are also really good ways for me to get unblocked on something.

    8. Duck Duck Møøse*

      I’m a programmer/IT person. I sometimes do heavy ‘net surfing, but starting at the point where I’m stuck. I try a websearch, trying to describe the problem, or what I’m trying to do, and see what pops up. Most of the time, I’m not lucky enough to find a solution. What usually happens is the search results will make me curious about something else tangential, so then I go off following links. Often I end up pretty far away from my original problem, but I don’t see it as a waste of time, because I usually end up learning *something*. Then I really see it as time well spent when that “research” experience ends up paying off somewhere down the road, by being related to some later things I’m doing. Synchronicity. :) And the time spent also gets my mind off my original block, because sometimes you can’t move forward because you are just thinking about it too hard/too much, and you need to just stop it for a while.

    9. KAG*

      One of the things I do is print out the code, take it home, and read through it, writing out any corrections or thoughts. I think it’s because I’m using the other side of my brain and changing environments.

    10. LS*

      I’m the user interface person (UX specifically) :D

      If I get stuck on something, I park it for a short while and work on something else // move from whiteboard to paper to digital or vice versa // speak to a colleague to get a new perspective // find a different environment to work in (eg meeting room) // look for examples of how someone else has tackled the same type of problem.

  8. Green Tea Girl*

    How to deal with an obsession with my heel height? I wear heels every day to work when no one else does regularly. I wear dresses and have nice shoes and great legs plus I’m super short so I wear heels to feel good.
    I am constantly fielding comments about my heels. “I don’t know how you wear those every day. I don’t know how you walk in those. I can’t believe you wore those in this weather.”
    Yesterday I wore a kitten heel and it was like a huge deal and excitement how “maybe (I’ll) wear flats next.”
    Anything I can say to stop the excessive shoe shaming?

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      I’m 5′, so to reach anything average height I need a few inches. One way I got people to shut up was by taking them off and showing how short I was, then slipped them back on.

      I had my grandboss make a comment that “she didn’t know how I was able to walk in these” so I looked at her and said, “Like this” as I took a few steps ahead. Obviously – this one is dependent on how close you are with your coworkers.

      Other than that, I just shrug it off and say that being 5′ it’s necessary and always have.

      1. Sylvia*

        I looked at her and said, “Like this” as I took a few steps ahead

        This is cracking me up.

        1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

          The woman sitting across from me at the time snorted and said, “Oh, that was good.”

    2. Purple People Eater*

      It’s the awkward pseudo-intimacy of the work place. People want to have something to say to you that shows they “know” you. You wear heels. You must like them and want to talk about them. My favorite color is purple. When I don’t wear it, I get asked, “no purple? guess it’s laundry day!” “Did you BUY that? It’s not purple!” Yeah, I know. Thanks for pointing it out. To. Every. Body

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Yeah, this. I really don’t think there’s much you can do to stop it. Try and re-frame it in your mind as awkward banter, not obsession or shaming, because I really think it’s the first, not the second.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          Plus, you note that your legs are a great feature and I assume your shoes are too – it makes sense that people notice and comment. To put aside all humbleness for a moment, I happen to have really great hair, and often get comments on it when I wear it long or in a more creative style. Sometimes it gets kind of tedious to go through the same script, but hey, I’m proud of my hair and it’s nice for people to notice. Just be glad that people don’t randomly touch or grab your shoes (presumably).

      2. k.k*

        All of this.

        I wear skirts to work 95% of the time, because I have yet to find a pair of dress pants that I like. I live in jeans outside of work, but my coworkers don’t know that. I’ve got comments asking if I own pants, ever where them, etc. On the rare super cold winter day I’ll wear pants and get “You’re wearing pants!!!” It was a bit annoying until I changed how I looked at it. It’s basically small talk. They also ask about my pets a lot; not because they think I’m a crazy cat lady, but because that’s just the thing they know about me.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I get the skirt thing too! I wear skirts 100% of Monday through Thursdays, and maybe 75% of the time on Fridays. That once a month when I wear jeans someone is almost guaranteed to comment on it.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Ha – that happened to me today. I wear dresses and skirts 95% of the time. Today, I wore jeans. I walked in the office and instead of “hello” my boss says, in an amazed tone of voice, “Hey! Look at you!”

        2. 2 Cents*

          I admit, I’d totally be that “you’re wearing pants/a skirt” coworker, not out of shaming or anything negative, but because I see my coworkers nearly more than my family, so I notice that Janice in accounting is never in a dress or that Scott in HR is always in a tie (and never a polo).

          I am the coworker who never eats salad in a very-salad-eating office. So when I pull out a random green every 6 months or so for lunch because the stars have aligned, it’s the talk of the lunchroom. Maybe it’s a small office thing? (40 or so people)

        3. The Expendable Redshirt*

          Are we the same person?

          I wear dresses most work days because I can’t find a proper pair of jeans. And I’m also a dedicated cat enthusiast.

          For the OP, this may not be a shoe shaming situation. As others have said, this could be annoying small talk. If shoes are of your defining interests, people may reference that as a topic of conversation. If one of my coworkers wore heels often, I’d be very impressed with their footwear. In any case, how are these scripts?

          Co Worker:“I don’t know how you wear those every day. I don’t know how you walk in those. I can’t believe you wore those in this weather.”
          Answers: “You get used to it/ With practice / They are very comfortable in this weather.”
          Other Answers: “Talking about shoes is boring, how about the dolphin races this weekend?” / “Haha! So funny! I’ve never heard that joke before.” / “Want to try them on?”

        4. Kat*

          At least they aren’t asking if in you’re in one of those ‘religious groups that only wear skirts’. -.- I wear skirts and dresses almost exclusively, and have been asked that multiple times. Even weirder, it’s mostly knee length or above dresses, or fitted ones – like, the complete opposite of ‘modest dressing for religious reasons’.

    3. T3k*

      I’m not sure how they’re saying it, but I know when I say these types of things, it’s not to shame the person but more along the lines of “wow, that’s amazing that you can wear heels everyday/in this weather!” (sort of like the running in heels scene in Jurassic World) On the other hand, if you’re getting these comments on a regular basis, I can see that coming off badly. My approach would probably be direct like “I love wearing heels.” and leave it at that and repeat if necessary. They’ll probably grow tired of it eventually if you keep responding the same way, though might come off as cold, so maybe you could soften it a bit like using a friendly tone or something.

      1. Saturnalia*

        Yep. I stood out in my last office in a handful of pretty noticeable ways, and when I reached the limit of my polite jocular responses, repeating the same boring answer did the trick. Of course by that time I didn’t actually care about social capital or what randos in an office of almost 600 thought of me, so pick a repeatable response that can be warm if you want to stay friendly with the shoe shamers (the term was so perfect lol)

    4. anna green*

      I can’t imagine commenting on the type of shoes someone is wearing, and if I did, it would only be to say they were cute. So it’s totally weird that people keep doing that. I wouldn’t even mention height, who’s business is it why you are wearing what you are wearing. I would use the scripts that Alison has mentioned in the past when people comment on things that are none of their business. “why do you keep asking about that” “its weird you care so much about my shoes” and such and such.

      1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

        I love the question approach. “So why do you care so much about my shoes?” “Why do you keep asking me about my shoes?” “Are my shoes bothering you for some reason?”

    5. Solidus Pilcrow*

      For commenters you are close to (i.e., work friends), you could try the “you keep commenting, can you drop it” speech to them. (Check the archives for any other examples of “my co-worker/boss keeps commenting on my clothes/food/appearance/bathroom breaks”, the basic pattern is pretty much the same.)

      Everyone else (or if you don’t want to do the “drop it” speech) gets either ignored or a breezy dismissal (or humorous/smartass dismissal if you’re feeling up to it):

      I don’t know how you wear those every day. —
      * I don’t either! They just appear there every morning!
      * By putting them on one foot at a time.
      * Eh, you get used to ’em.
      * Huh.

      I don’t know how you walk in those. —
      * By putting one foot in front of the other.
      * Eh, you get used to it.
      * Hmmm.

      I can’t believe you wore those in this weather. —
      * I’m not having any problems with them.
      * They work for me.
      * Whatever.

      Maybe you’ll wear flats next. —
      * Maybe I won’t!

    6. Fiennes*

      The issue may not be so much the heel height, more the divergence from company dress norms. Our culture specializes really high heels–anything more than about 3 1/2″ or so–and if you’re going over that, the shoes aren’t going to read as “businesswear” in every setting. Your office appears to be one where they come across as a deliberate fashion statement instead. If this is the case, all you can do is keep your appearance professional (and maybe otherwise fairly conservative?) and wait for your shoes to become accepted just as something you do.

      1. WellRed*

        I kind of wondered this, too. Some shoes are just sooooo high or the style is just a bit outside what I consider office appropriate. Otherwise, yeah, this must be really old to listen to, OP.

    7. Triangle Pose*

      Busybody: “I don’t know how you wear those every day.
      You: “I love them! Isn’t it crazy how different shoe tastes can be?” Breezily walk away.

      Busybody: “I don’t know how you walk in those.”
      You: “It’s easy! I’ve never minded them and I love them!”

      Busybody: “I can’t believe you wore those in this weather.”
      You: “I love these shoes, actually! They are find in the weather”

      Yesterday I wore a kitten heel and it was like a huge deal and excitement how “maybe (I’ll) wear flats next.”
      You: “Whoa, are you guys on shoe watch or something? Calm down, they’re just shoes I wear on my feet and I love them.” Move on to next topic or breezily walk away.

      People are ridiculous. I love and wear comfortable high heels all the time They need to mind their own business.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Or, just:

        Busybody: “I don’t know how you wear those every day.
        You: a smile, a bemused “Huh!” Breezily walk away.

    8. Emi.*

      How long has this been going on? If it’s a recent thing (say, if you’ve only been wearing dresses since the weather warmed up), is it possible they’ll just get over it once the weather warms up?

      Otherwise, I would either ignore the shoe comments and just pretend they said “good morning,” or say something like “They’re just shoes. Let’s talk about the new rice sculptures instead.” But unless people are saying these things in a really nasty way, it doesn’t sound like shoe-shaming to me, just shoe-obsessing. That’s still obnoxious, but it might be easier to bear.

    9. HannahS*

      You could try having the same boring response to each comment.
      You: Yep, I like nice shoes. How’s your day going?”

      You: *shrug* Yep, I like nice shoes. How’s your day going?

      If there are follow-ups, like, “BUT DON’T YOUR FEET HURT?” you can politely deflect by saying, “Oh, don’t worry about my feet. Was there anything you needed to discuss with me?”

      I actually don’t advise saying that it’s a necessity (like someone else suggested) or giving any reason other than that you like nice shoes. One, because saying, “I do this because I like it” is hard to argue with, so it can end a discussion easily, and two–well, I’m a short person who doesn’t wear heels and it really annoys me when other short people say, “I’m [same height as me], so it’s necessary.” It’s not necessary, it’s a choice, and just saying, “I like nice shoes” is a sufficient justification of wearing nice shoes to work.

      1. A.*

        I actually used this tactic for office busy bodies. I walk to work every day and I field questions about walking to work every day.
        Them: Wow you walked to work today? It’s raining.
        You: Yes I walked to work. I have an umbrella.

        Them: Wow you walked to work today? It’s snowing
        You: Yes I walked to work. I wore a hat.

        Them: OMG it is so hot out. How did you walk to work?
        You: Yes I walked to work. I carried a water bottle.

        Rinse and repeat every single day.

          1. Bobbin Ufgood*

            Oddly, I share this desire, and it’s a part of why I recently moved back to Iowa from [elsewhere]

    10. asfjkl*

      I live in a state with harsh winters. Our summers are mostly mild but do hit some hotter temps with high humidity. Once we reached the 70’s I made one off-hand comment that I enjoy the heat. My coworker goes for walks during her lunch break. She comes back and says, “It’s a real hot one today! You’ll love it!” Every. Single. Day.

      It drives me insane. I don’t know how to respond. It doesn’t feel worth it to correct her: “Actually no. 95-degrees and 100% humidity is obviously unpleasant.” It’s just weird office life. I feel for you. People are annoying.

    11. Working Mom, Keeping Her Kids*

      I’m 5’9 and have an ankle that rolls easily so I never ever wear heels. I sit at a desk all day. My coworker is 5’3 and does outside sales and is in/out of the car all day. We love to compare our Fitbit steps. A few months ago, she got 10k steps and I gasped and said “I can’t believe you got 10k steps in wedges!” Now it’s our little joke.
      Bottom line: wear what you want to wear, don’t take it so personally. It’s just small talk. People say to me all the time, “I don’t know how you do everything you do AND have 3 kids.” I choose not to take that personally and /or a suggestion to get rid of my children. :)

    12. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t think anyone is shaming your shoes. I think they are just noting that high heels are difficult for them to use.

      I have big, fat feet. When I buy sneaks I end up with men’s sneaks sometimes because they are just more comfy. Manufacturers do not make high heels for my big feet. I have tried wearing low heels and I end up with blisters and blood.
      It used to embarrass me that I could not wear heels like other women. It took a while for me to get a grip. Even now, I still occasionally wish I could wear dressier shoes. If I commented on your daily high heels, it would be my little bit of jealousy showing through. I hope you can see that some folks aren’t putting down your shoes but rather they wish they could wear them, too.

      1. the gold digger*

        This. If I comment on your gorgeous high high heels, it is out of envy. I can no longer wear anything higher than about two inches without screaming in pain. It hurt so badly to send my teal leopard-print heels with the tangerine ribbon to the consignment store. I am still in mourning.

        (However, I did find some Clarks leopard-print heels with a 2″ heel that are 1. gorgeous and 2. comfortable, which was a combination I thought did not exist.)

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It could also just be the most obvious thing they can think to comment about that is not otherwise socially unacceptable. Sometimes people latch onto one part of your professional demeanor/appearance, and it’s because they’re trying to find a shared topic of conversation and are flailing at finding a better or more interesting one (the comment upthread about warm weather is a good example of that phenomena). But it may not be out of a desire to shame your footwear choices.

        I did once tell a colleague who wore high heels to class every day that I was impressed with her heel collection. (I was! I was also impressed by her ability to walk effectively in shoes that would make me look like a baby deer just learning to walk.) She laughed, winked, and said that it came from years of living in Manhattan and working at legal organizations. And I never brought it up, again, except to tell her how much I liked her shoes.

        1. Kat*

          Exactly! Small talk can be hard, and OK, if they repeatedly make these comments then that’s bound to be annoying, but it’s not really the worst thing in the world. I worked in Lush and everyone who came in asked how I could work there with the strong smell. It was slightly irritating to hear so often, but they were just saying it for something to say.

      3. Beachlover*

        Same here! Many years and pounds ago, I could go all day in heels. So when I see a co-worker, and we have a couple that wear pretty high heels, without any visible discomfort, I am soooo envious. But I usually do not comment, other than to complement the shoe. On the other hand, I also do not really like any attention drawn to me ( introvert here). Our office is very casual. Jeans and Tees are the norm, I rarely wear skirts, because I get anxiety thinking about people noticing and commenting.

    13. BadPlanning*

      I think its that you get stuck on weird things about someone at the office. Like, people are trying to be friendly, but get stuck on one thing. I had a coworker who runs a lot and does marathons. I found myself only asking him about races. While I’m sure he did like talking about races, I didn’t want to seem obsessed with his races. I tried to branch out on other topics. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

      1. Kat*

        Or you have little in common with them. One guy at work I have *nothing* to say to so I only ask him about things I’m sure he must find boring.

    14. Temperance*

      I think it sounds more like lighthearted teasing? I’m super short, too, and generally stick to flats because I don’t care much about being average height. YMMV, obvs. It’s a running joke in the office that I need a normal-height person to reach the coffee.

    15. It's all Fun and Dev*

      I get the same thing, only the opposite – I’m 5’10” without heels, so my 2″-2.5″ shoes regularly push me over 6 feet. I get a lot of “You’re so TALL! How TALL are you??” My standard answer is “about 8 feet” and then I’ll either smile and humor their question with my real height, or I’ll walk away. I try to see it as a compliment, except when folks do it EVERY DAY – then I go for a dry “yep, I’m a freak of nature”. That usually shuts them up :)

      1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

        My wife is about the same height. Her go-to is to point out the obvious.

        “Ahmagad, you’re so TALL!”

        “And you have brown hair. Can I help you?”

        “How tall are you?”

        “Pretty tall. What’s your neck measurement?”

    16. Actuarial Octagon*

      I have literally this exact problem, (also super short) and my go to response for literally any comment on my shoes is: haha, yeah, so how is [insert random work thing] going?

    17. Nervous Accountant*

      are you sure it’s shaming and not just envy? I know I’d be totally jealous bc it’s not something I can do easily.

    18. Catalyst*

      I’m not sure I would take it as shoe shaming. It sounds like you are diverging from the cultural norm at your company and people are noticing. It’s something different to them, most of them will get used to it, others will never stop commenting, don’t take it personally. I got this at my last company a lot when I first started and it eventually tapered off….. then when I did wear flats people would comment.

    19. Hannah*

      If it’s the same person all the time, I would just say can you not comment on what I’m wearing please? You don’t have to be aggressive, but you can be direct.

      But if it’s someone new every time, then that’s just people looking for something to make small talk about other than the weather. I think you have to either accept that your shoes are interesting :) or wear more boring shoes.

    20. Nan*

      I used to wear heels all the time and got a lot of that. I just tuned it out. Now I wear mostly Chuck Taylor’s (super casual office) and no one comments. I don’t get it, either. Granted, my heels ran the gamut from plain black to pink with pink glitter heels and with unicorns and ice cream on them. But the boring ones got just as many comment. I dunno… People just need something to talk about.

      Now, my question is how do you wear kitten heels? I love the way they look, but for whatever reason they kill my knees. You wouldn’t think so, but they do.

    21. Avocado Toast*

      One time I was wearing heels and someone I guess was trying to make conversation while we waited for the elevator and said “Wow, can’t sneak up on anybody with those heels!” It was the weirdest thing. I didn’t even know the guy.

    22. Gwen*

      What someone is wearing is generally considered to be a safe topic of conversation, so I don’t think it’s shaming…your coworkers are just trying to make small talk about a choice you regularly make that is different from the office norm. I have very quirky fashion sense and unnatural hair (this is fine with my work!), and coworkers/peers/random strangers on the street comment on what I’m wearing regularly. I just say thanks or make a little “haha, you know me~” comment to coworkers. I would try not to take it personally, they’re most likely just trying to be sociable.

    23. Mananana*

      I would go with a breezy “It’s my super-power!”. And as others have pointed out, perhaps reframing the comments as just comments, not shaming, may help.

      I love my high heels, and get comments when I’m suddenly 3″ shorter because I chose flats. It’s never crossed my mind to think of these comments as an attempt to shame my choices. In fact, I’ve never given these comments a second thought. They’re just a part of the small talk that connects coworkers.

    24. The OG Anonsie*

      Honestly, I think there are certain workplaces where this type of constant commentary on some people is normal, and I don’t know if there’s anything you can do about it. I find it gross and I usually see it as part of an overall crappy culture.

      1. Confused*

        I’m really not trying to say this in a rude way, but how can these comments be taken as offensive, gross, crappy, etc? What on earth do some of these people actually speak to others about if they feel the need to shut down a simple comment on shoes, or something equally banal. I’m sorry, but I really don’t get it.

        1. Toph*

          It’s the repetition. It’s not inherently creepy or anything else negative, but if the person feels the need to constantly, every day, say something about the shoes (or any other one thing about one’s appearance) can be irksome. In part it’s because it’s banal. If it’s one offhand comment once just making chitchat, I wouldn’t even notice, but if the only thing someone ever talks to me about is what I wear, at a certain point it’s like “why are you so focused on this”. THAT SAID, other commenters who mentioned the person isn’t actually focused on that and might just be stuck on the one thing they know about the person, and thus it’s the only thing they say, really helped me recently. So having that perspective that the person may not actually be focused on this one aspect, but may be just making a poor attempt at chit chat having no other jumping off point, I found to be really helpful and an observation I would not have come up with on my own. I do still think it’s reasonable to try to shut it down if it’s vexing though. Especially if it turns out it is coming from a poor attempt at chit chat and not an actual interest in shoes (or whatever it might have been) the cut-off can redirect the person to stop harping on the one thing.

  9. Art Interviewer*

    I have an interview at an art gallery next week doing sales and helping with events- I have no experience or knowledge of the art industry though! I’m studying as much as possible but any advice from art consultants/gallery workers would be appreciated!

    1. Erin*

      I’ve done extensive gallery work in college and just after graduation. I’m not in the industry now because of distance, I make the same amount where I currently work than working in a galley and I have an hour shorter commute.
      You’ll be a little bit of jack of all trades. Read some websites on how to set up an exhibition. It’s very similar to merchandising in retail. Otherwise it’s a lot like event planning.
      Also measure out the space, and keep those measurements handy. Everything must be centered on the wall. Also read up if they have the walker system for hanging art. If not you’ll love this stuff for painting walls called onetime.
      Most of my experience is with 2d art.

    2. Art world survivor*

      How high-profile is the gallery? When I first got into the art world, I read Blouin, ArtNet, Hyperallergic, etc., all of which were really helpful in explaining relationships: which artists work with which gallerists, etc.
      Like Erin said, you’ll be doing a bunch of different things. Be willing to dive in, be willing to learn. And be positive–a calm, upbeat, unflappable personality is a huge advantage in this industry!

    3. Art Gal*

      Hi! I’m an artist and long-time art industry worker (I currently work for a nonprofit contemporary art museum, but have worked for commercial galleries in the past).

      I know I’m starting this off with a negative, but it’s true, no matter where in the art world you work: The art world is INCREDIBLY abusive. It’s a small world – not everybody has the skills or knowledge to make it here. Because of that, nobody really has the luxury to decline jobs or leave when it turns out the gallerist/exec. director doesn’t know anything about management or boundaries. This is just the way it is. Galleries are often passion projects by people who have no experience running a business or managing people. They’re often not profitable. Which brings me to:

      The pay is generally low, because NO ART GALLERY OR MUSEUM ANYWHERE has any money, no matter what front they put forth. The exception is blue chip galleries like Zwirner, Gagosian, and Hauser & Wirth (though I’ve heard through the grapevine that Gagosian is having problems, and wouldn’t doubt it if the others are, too). The Met, one of the biggest, most-visited, most famous museums in the world, is currently experiencing a financial crisis. MoMA has had a partial hiring freeze for like 15 years. Galleries that have been around for 50 years are closing all over the world. You probably won’t get paid what you’re worth.

      What the other commenter has said is true: you will be expected to wear many hats, whether or not you’re qualified to do so. You can take this as a negative or positive, because you’ll have to gain a lot of skills very quickly, and this could help you get a better position somewhere else in the future.

      Here are some resources I suggest you look into if you’re doing research: (organization for preparators, who are the people who actually handle art and install it) (org for registrars) (probably the most-read art blog) (another blog)

      Ultimately, the thing that will keep you going is a love of art. If you don’t love art, I think the art world is one of the worst industries to be in.

  10. TheyCallHimFlipper*

    So I’m having one of my front teeth extracted today. It broke off at the gum line last week. I’m getting a dental flipper with a front tooth on it to wear, but I’ve been told I should remove it when I eat. I often go out to lunch with clients and I’m not sure how to handle this. I could eat with the flipper in if I stick with something like soup, but not everywhere I go has soup (and I’m a vegetarian, which makes this even tougher). I don’t want to remove the flipper and be without a front tooth in front of clients. Does anyone have any advice or been in this situation before?

    1. ZSD*

      I’m sorry you’re facing this issue. I’m unfamiliar with flippers, so can you clarify whether this is the permanent fix, or just a temporary filler for until the permanent repair is done?

      1. TheyCallHimFlipper*

        This is temporary for the next 7-10 months. I’m beginning the process of getting an implant. Today following the extraction, I will get a bone graft. The bone graft needs to heal for 4-6 months, at which point I can get the metal rod inserted. That has to heal for another 3 or 4 months, at which point I can get an abutment and crown.

        1. paperfiend*

          Implants are awesome! Bone grafts are not so fun. Seriously, it’s the most painful part of the whole process (I’ve had 3 implants with bone grafts). So once you get through the graft healing, know that you’re through the worst of it!

        2. Optimistic Prime*

          A flipper for 7-10 months? That seems…odd.

          I’ve broken both of my front teeth repeatedly at various times in my life, and my dentists have always used dental bonding to build them back up to look like teeth. They can do that in the same visit. In fact, when I finally got crowns put on the two teeth in my mid-20s, my orthodontist used bonding to temporarily make my teeth whole until my crowns were made – and that was only for a week.

          There are lots of different options besides temporary partial dentures/flippers. I am not a dentist, of course, so I can’t speak to the feasibility of one, but I’d be really upset if my dentist expected me to use a removable flipper for almost a full year.

          1. TheyCallHimFlipper*

            So both my front teeth were/are capped. This one also had a root canal. I broke it off at the gum line, so there wasn’t enough tooth left for them to try to save it, by doing a crown and post or anything of the like.

            It turns out I managed to crack my other front tooth when I broke this one. But luckily that tooth is still solid and can be saved. Once I go through the process of letting my tooth heal, I will get new crowns on both teeth.

            The 7-10 month period is because after they pulled this tooth, they had to pack bone material into the roots, and that needs 4-6 months to ossify. Once it’s ossified, they’ll install the metal rod. That’ll need another three months to heal. Then they can do the actual crown.

            I didn’t want a temporary bridge as they have to compromise the integrity of the two neighboring teeth to do a bridge. (And my other front tooth is hanging on by a thread right now). I suppose I could have gotten the Invisalign style flipper for this tooth, but I don’t have a lot of money, and my insurance doesn’t cover any of it.

    2. paperfiend*

      If by “flipper” you mean something like an old-school plastic retainer with a tooth on the front… you can totally eat with those in. It takes some getting used to, and cleaning afterward is a beast, but you can do it. Just avoid super crunchy or sticky foods (anything you would avoid while wearing braces) and take smaller bites than you might otherwise. That’ll allow the suction between the plastic part and the roof of your mouth (or the lower gums, depending if top or bottom) to hold.

      I had one of those as a teenager, and there was no way I was taking the thing out when having snacks with my friends!

      1. TheyCallHimFlipper*

        The dentist’s office told me that since this is my top front tooth, attempting to bite down or chew with this tooth could break it. They didn’t specifically prohibit me from eating with it in, but if it breaks, it’s another $450 for a replacement, so I’m sure they’d be thrilled if it broke.

        1. paperfiend*

          Ok. Mine was my top next-to-the-front so maybe it didn’t get as much pressure on it. You might still be able to use a fork to put bites of food into your mouth so that tooth isn’t being used for chewing — but obviously, whatever you and your potential budget are comfortable with.

        2. Anna*

          It might be an annoying thing where you’re making food choices when you go out based on the toughness of the food. Maybe the next 7-10 months will involve a lot of pasta lunches?

        3. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          If it’s your front tooth, I’d just fork bites into molar range. No subs or burgers or whatever, but you can work around that.

          1. Kelly White*

            This might work. My kid has a facial injury now, and will be loosing teeth, and currently can’t bite with her front teeth, and it’s remarkable how she can work around it. She spent a lot of time cutting things up at the beginning- but now, she is pretty adept at using just her molar-y teeth.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, agreed. I would just avoid foods that require you to use your incisors (burgers, sandwiches, etc.). I’d eat things that are soft, like pasta, or able of being delivered, by fork, toward the back of my mouth/molars.

    3. Fiennes*

      I’ve had extensive dental work–not this in particular but virtually anything else that can be done to teeth. So please understand that I’m not being flippant when I say: Stick to the places that serve soup.

      Just own it. Probably if you steer clients to those places, they’ll be fine. If they aren’t? While you don’t have to go into details, you can say something like, “I need something soft – dental work!” and everyone will understand that.

      This is a much better strategy than testing the limits of your temporary dental stuff. TRUST ME on this.

      1. TheyCallHimFlipper*

        This is what I was thinking, though one of the problems is that I am the most junior employee having meals with clients, so often what I want/need isn’t considered as important as what the higher-ups/clients want/need. My managers are aware of the situation with my teeth, but I know if it came down to it and a client wanted to go to Crusty Baguette Sandwiches R Us, that’s where we’d end up.

        1. k.k*

          In that worst case scenario, eat the bits your can, push the rest around on your plate? Or just order a small side or nothing. Depending on the situation and what you feel comfortable with, you can just say it’s due to dental work, or use the old excuse of having had a big meal earlier. Hopefully that situation will be rare enough that it wouldn’t cause much notice.

        2. Saturnalia*

          Is it terribly weird to only get a drink or side if you end up at The Crunch Castle, and claim to (and/or actually) have something before or after? Since you’re veg you probably have had some meals like this anyway, right? I’m vegan and worked in a pretty meat-loving group, so I’m wondering if you can just treat it like they brought you to one of those BBQ joints that adds meat stuff to all their side dishes?

        3. Spice for this*

          I had to have both upper front teeth extracted in 2007 and I had to wear a flipper until my gum healed. This is what I did when I had to have meals with clients, co-workers, etc.
          – I would always order foods that I could eat with a fork and knife. I would then cut the food into very small pieces and then used my fork to place the food in the back of my mouth so that I could use my molars and chew with my mouth closed
          – order soft foods from the menu
          – explained to clients or co-workers that I have had dental work done and have to eat very slow
          – if possible I would skip the lunch and eat at the office
          Good luck and I hope you love your implant.

      2. LKW*

        Yup, avoid anything that requires significant chewing. Italian restaurants are your friend as pasta and risotto will be easy to manage as long as they don’t have proteins.

      3. pahcad*

        I been using a flipper for my front tooth for about 40 years and have no trouble eating with it. I’ve bitten into hamburgers and sandwiches using the opposite side of the mouth. The trick is to avoid using the false tooth to bite into food. You eat just about anything except the really hard stuff (I avoid that since I don’t want to break my flipper). I keep my flipper in all day and remove and clean it at every night when I go to sleep.

    4. dyinginbiglaw*

      I had a friend with a flipper! We ate together a ton and I didn’t even notice it until over 6 months after we met. She was really skilled with her discretion. She’d take a napkin up to her face and turn away to take it out and leave it on her lap. She’d cover her mouth if she spoke as if she was talking with a bit of food in her mouth or use a napkin. She’d also go to the bathroom after she was finished with her meal to put it back it. She had great finesse; I was oblivious.

    5. Newby*

      When eating with a client I suggest avoiding anything tough to chew and cutting things up so that you do not need to bite down on them. That way you can chew using only your back teeth. Soups, salads, pasta and stir fry would all allow you to do that. Avoid sandwiches and pizza since it would be weird to cut them before eating.

      1. TheImpossibleGirl*

        Psh I cut my pizza all the time. My manager made fun of it as something no one does until he noticed one of my co-workers does it too. #vindication

    6. SQL Coder Cat*

      Unfortunately, I have! A upper front tooth broke off at the gums, got the flipper for the 12 months of setting up my implant, the whole deal. Unlike the plastic retainer I had during high school, the flipper covered the whole top of my mouth and didn’t have the open part in the center, so it took up a lot more room! Eating with it in was basically impossible unless it was super soft food and I took very small bites. I practiced my closed-mouth smile a LOT that year. At meals out, I would excuse myself to go to the restroom and ‘wash up’ and put the flipper in its case in my bag. A lot of people were surprised to find out afterwards that I’d lost the tooth- they’d never seen the opening even when eating with me multiple times. It definitely takes some practice to keep it hidden though. Maybe have some practice meals with a trusted friend/coworker who you trust to give you honest feedback about if they can notice it or not?

      Also, you will love the implant.

      1. Red Reader*

        Yep. I had no front teeth (and no fakes either) for two years – at the end, when I finally got my implants and arch, like 80% of the people I know had never noticed. One of my coworkers at the time saw my graduation pictures from the previous weekend and wanted to know where my big cheesy toothy grin was, and I was ticked because I thought she was making fun of me – she felt super bad about it when we figured out that no, she just never noticed, and she was trying to make a cheerful joke, not a mean one.

    7. LostACrown*

      I can understand if you have a really formal relationship with your clients and you wouldn’t want to be honest– but if it were me I think I would be honest about it in a very brief, matter-of-fact way, perhaps as you excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and remove it. I’d be worried about taking it off in secret and the person realizing halfway through lunch that your tooth had disappeared, leaving them to wonder what, if anything, they should say to you.

      FWIW I once had a temporary crown pop off my back tooth in the middle of a large lunch meeting in front of all three of my bosses and the co-founders/execs of another company… at *their* place of business. I had no idea where the bathroom was, so I calmly stated that I thought my crown had been dislodged, faced away from the group, carefully fished it out of my mouth among the food, directly placed it into a napkin, swallowed my food, and then asked to be shown the bathroom. Totally gross, probably could’ve handled it differently, but then again, how does one prepare for that?!

      I was mortified at the time. It’s been a couple years, but I jokingly mentioned it to my boss the other day and she could barely remember the incident. So… if it helps, it’s really just a temporary embarrassment!

      1. Rainy, PI*

        I have a friend who, during an interview, had one of those spontaneous, horrible fountaining nosebleeds, and in reaching into her suit pocket for a tissue, knocked her music player, which started music blaring out of her earbuds, also in her pocket.

        She got the job.

        She asked the interviewer, who was also her new manager, about it after she’d been there a few months, and he not only hadn’t noticed the music at all, he thought her reaction to the nosebleed was full of, you should excuse the term, sangfroid, and was very impressed. Given that a big part of the job was responding calmly to sudden crises, he thought that being chill about suddenly having a ton of blood jet out of your face in the middle of an interview was a good indicator of the correct temperament.

        Which is all to say that I think moments of extreme embarrassment are never as prominent in the memory of others as they are in our own. :)

    8. DaniCalifornia*

      Would your clients be okay with going to more coffee meetings? Or breakfast meetings? Where you could drink coffee and have a soft muffin?

      If not, I’d practice discreetly taking it out while eating, and just eat normally. I wouldn’t risk chewing with it and breaking it. Maybe you could go out with a friend or family member, eat something you’d normally eat with a client and see how it works? If the other person can even see your top teeth while eating.

  11. Eugenie*

    My office nemesis just got let go (most likely for being generally terrible) – it’s really hard to contain my glee today.

    Happy Friday!

    1. Alli525*

      Good for you!! This happened to me twice at my last job (one an incompetent and vindictive colleague, and one a vindictive boss) and I remember both days as being Very Good.

    2. Clever Name*

      Congrats! When my office nemesis moved on, my mentor asked me how I was feeling about his departure. I said, “I’m trying not to be openly gleeful”. So I know how you feel. :)

    3. Willow Sunstar*

      Congrats! I wish they would let mine go, but he is being protected, so I have given up and been looking for another job instead.

  12. KiteFlier*

    How do you handle a low performer who is having family issues? Both of his parents are very ill and I have been accommodating in taking time off work, leaving early, etc. There are a lot of performance issues going on that have not been improving over time, and I am ready to start the PIP process. I can’t help but feel as if I’m being “mean” because of the family issues that are going on, but at the same time, we need him to perform at a higher level. Has anyone ever been in this situation?

    1. Here we go again*

      Did the performance issues start at the same time as the family issues or are they not related to each other?

      If it’s the former, I would start by suggesting your EAP. If it’s the latter, then go with the PIP.

      1. KiteFlier*

        So both preceded me – I inherited him when I got to my current job a few months ago. There were some documented performance issues in the fall/winter, and I believe the family issues started later in the winter, waned, and have since picked up again.

        1. NylaW*

          Issues starting in fall/winter (November) and then a family issue starting in late winter (February), may mean the family issues actually started at the same time, and you didn’t hear about them until they built up to needing to use PTO and family leave. Not everyone is going to tell you something is going on that’s stressing them out and causing them work issues until they realize that it is. This is definitely something I’d talk to him about if for no other reason then to make sure he realizes the performance issues are as critical as they are prior to starting the PIP.

    2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      I agree with the above comment regarding when it started. If it started when the family issues started, I’d recommend even just talking to them. A little over 18 months ago my dad died (suddenly and unexpectedly). It was right before Christmas and I only had 3 days off before having to be back to work. My performance suffered. Instead of anyone talking to me, I was immediately called into my boss’s office and reprimanded. I’d been there nearly 5 years and it was extraordinarily off-putting. I get that companies need to function, but people should be treated like people and not robots. (Obviously if they’re unrelated and there’s been conversation this situation does not apply.)

      1. KiteFlier*

        Thanks, WDB. As noted above, they both started before I came on board. I was aware of some performance issues from the prior manager but wanted to observe for myself for a few months before taking any action. I have had a few different discussions with him on the issues, but I haven’t seen any improvement, or even the effort to make any improvements. The fact that others have commented on the performance (my boss, managers of departments he works closely with), backing up my own concerns, have me feeling that it’s time for a PIP.

        I’m sorry about your dad! 3 days off after a parent’s death is just not enough time. That sounds like your job and boss didn’t have your emotional well-being in mind at all.

        1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

          No, no they did not. My coworkers did – I will say that for them. They all did what they could for me, so it was a very odd Twilight Zone sensation.

          But in this case, definitely, you are not being mean starting PIP. And…who knows? Maybe this will be the appropriate kick in the pants he needs to either step up or find somewhere else with a lighter load that he can handle with everything going on.

          1. NPOQueen*

            Did you end up leaving that company? If your boss can’t be compassionate at such a time of need, I wonder what you suffer through for smaller issues…

            1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

              I haven’t – yet. I wanted to take a year before making any life changing decisions. Plus, there is NO WAY I could have adequately interviewed. I was doing good to know my own name for the first six months. Let alone have a clean suit and updated resume. It wasn’t pleasant, but at least it was the devil I knew.

              Now, I’m applying like crazy, and have gotten a few nibbles. So far they’ve been incompatible or just didn’t pan out. To keep from going crazy, I volunteer with an animal shelter. It’s good for my soul. I also mentally leave everything behind as soon as I walk out the door. I know life is too short to get worked up about it outside 8 -5.

              I could go on for HOURS about how dysfunctional it is. But I won’t. I’ll only state my daily motto: Paper trail, paper trail, paper trail.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          How direct were you when discussing the performance problems? Unless it was crystal clear that these were big deals that could affect his job, I would be loathe to start a PIP without at least having that crystal clear convo. But if you’ve done that, then you are not mean for starting a PIP.

          But it may make sense to remind him that he may be eligible for FMLA leave (in addition to an EAP referral), with a comment that when he comes back, you need to see concrete improvement in performance (and then be very specific about what the performance indicators and improvements must be). When he comes back from leave, reiterate the conversation re: performance improvements. And then PIP accordingly.

        3. MillersSpring*

          You need to have a clear conversation that you have not seen any effort to make improvements and ask him what is going on. Make it clear that his job is at risk and that a PIP (one last chance) is imminent.

      2. Rebecca*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. My Dad died on Easter Sunday this year. He was sick but we didn’t realize it would be so fast (final diagnosis was on Thursday a few days before). My workplace was great. I had already taken off Thursday afternoon to take him and Mom to the doctor, and then Friday to spend with him, so on top of the 3 bereavement days I was granted, I took 2 PTO days so I at least had a week off. My coworkers covered everything for me. When I walked in the following Monday, all my work was done, emails read and filed, unrelated emails deleted, and my desk was clean. They were so kind to do that.

        I’m sorry your boss reprimanded you. That was a crappy thing to do. The first day back, one of our managers stopped by, sat down, and asked me if I needed anything. I started to tell her my work was caught up, and she said no, do YOU need anything, I wasn’t asking about work. That meant a lot too.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Can you offer family leave?

      OTH, low performer may not care. He might think the job is a bad fit anyway. People can be surprising with what they tell a boss. He may say, “I know. I am sorry. It’s for the best, I understand. Stuff is just not coming together for me.”

      1. KiteFlier*

        He is aware of family leave, and has taken several days off as needed with no issues, I’m happy to grant that time.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      I put someone with family issues on a PIP. The performance issues preceded the family issues as far as I knew (I’m sure I didn’t have all the details about the family). In the end, she resigned before the end of the PIP and seemed to genuinely feel relief that she would be able to focus on the family issues before looking for a new job she’d be more suited for.

      Good luck!

    5. SC in SC*

      I had a similar situation although mine wasn’t quite as tragic for the employee. One of my managers was just a bad fit for her position. Team morale had fallen off a cliff, projects were not moving forward and overall she was having a seriously detrimental effect on the performance of a large and critical group. The mitigating personal factors were that her husband had a spotty employment record at best, they had two kids in college and money was running tight. Long story short we had already gone the coaching for improvement route and did not see much difference in her performance. In the end I had to make a call whether I was going to continue to damage both my department as well as my own reputation by not addressing the situation. As painful as it was I had to let her go. The actual termination went much better than I expected but leading up to it was very stressful with lots of internal struggles.

      In the end there were a few things that I helped me come to grips with a very difficult decision: focus on the long-term company and team needs as opposed to the immediate situation; as managers it is our responsibility to make difficult decisions; is the employee having a detrimental affect on others; what is the likelihood that the employee will improve in a reasonable time; are there any other options; if you don’t terminate the person now are you just going to be having the same conversation 6 months from now. One last thing that helped was something I believe I read on AAM, “If the person you’re thinking about terminating quit today, would you be relieved?”

      All that being said I also had the advantage that we were willing to offer a very generous severance package. We also tried to manage it as humanely as possible to maintain the employee’s dignity. Regardless, I still wrestled with the feelings of being mean.And although it would be nice if I never had to fire another employee I expect that won’t be the case and I hope that I don’t become so jaded that I don’t have some regrets about it.

    6. Jadelyn*

      A PIP isn’t “mean” – used correctly, it’s giving someone clarity on the gap between where they are and where they need to be, specific actions they must take to close that gap, a timeline to do it by, and support in the form of periodic check-ins during the PIP period.

      If you’re just doing it as a precursor to firing him, then that would be mean. But there’s nothing mean about saying “I sympathize with what you’re going through as another human being, but as a manager I need you to be able to do [whatever performance things aren’t currently happening], you’re not doing [things], and I can’t bend those needs any further than I already have. How can we resolve this?”

      I mean, I wouldn’t recommend it as your first reaction, but if you’ve already worked with him and talked about the performance stuff and aren’t seeing improvement, then there’s nothing “mean” about starting a PIP.

      1. KiteFlier*

        Thank you, Jadelyn! These are easy fixes that I have no doubt he can turn around, but it seems that mentioning the issues without any formal documentation was not working. Definitely not a precursor to firing if I can help it!

  13. AdAgencyChick*

    Update on my freelance pay saga (for those who don’t know, I do some side work unrelated to my day job, and one of my clients, who I knew had had a history of not paying my predecessor on time, but who paid ME on time, missed a payment right after he fired his business manager in May):

    Those of you whose instincts were to cut ties were right. I was paid a few days late last month. This month, I asked twice for confirmation of payday. No response. The usual payday was a Saturday (7/1). First business day in July also went by with no pay. So I deleted all of my work from shared servers.

    On Wednesday morning I emailed my resignation. I said that I would replace the files, which represent work I hadn’t yet been paid for, as soon as I got the direct deposit.

    No response until yesterday afternoon, when he wrote back with some excuses about major expenses that had come up in the last month and how he should have included me on those decisions. (Huh? I’m not the business manager. I certainly would have liked a heads up about difficulty making payroll, so that I could have said, “OK, I won’t do any work this month,” but it’s not like I want to be the business manager and I wouldn’t have had anything to say about whether or not a particular non-payroll expenditure was necessary!) He also asked whether I would reconsider.

    I said no, just pay me and I’ll give you the files back. He said he could do it through the normal payroll direct deposit system, or that he could pay me faster by Venmo. I said yes to Venmo.

    Fortunately, after accepting the Venmo payment (which was short by about 5%…really?!) but before returning the files, I learned that Venmo works like a check in that Venmo payments can bounce. I’ve decided not to make an issue of the 5%, but I did reply to the Venmo payment saying he could have the files once the transfer to my bank goes through.

    I’m just really disappointed. I thought maybe he was just horribly disorganized (which he is), but I can’t help wondering whether he intended to reverse the Venmo payment as soon as he got the files, since I also found out yesterday that he has bounced checks to his former business manager.

    I’m considering emailing all of the writers (I was the managing editor, so I still have all of their contact info) telling them not only THAT I quit, but WHY I quit. This is partly because I know that at least some of them have not been paid either (wouldn’t surprise me if none of them have), and they’re good people and they should know what they’re dealing with so they can decide how best to pursue what’s owed to them. I also admit it’s partly because I wouldn’t mind at all if the owner finds himself with no one wanting to write for him.

    On a happier note, the business manager who was fired ended up putting me in touch with a potential new client, whom I’m going to talk to tomorrow. Not that I needed this side work financially, but I really enjoy it and there aren’t many paying markets for it.

    TL;DR: Deadbeats suck.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it doesn’t matter much whether the employer (or employee) is doing crappy stuff out of malice or incompetence–you need to be paid, regardless of any hoped-to-be-extenuating circumstances below the level of “a hurricane has wiped out all the online banking in the area for a few days.”

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      He also asked whether I would reconsider.

      “Sure, but I’ll require full payment upfront.”

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I thought about that and decided I didn’t even want to offer him that, much as I enjoy the work. When I was getting paid regularly and on time, I had the editing work down to a science — what I would get done on what days so that I would always be editing things a certain number of weeks ahead of their actual use date. (There are more steps that happened to the work after I finished my part.)

        If I had to stop work while waiting for my retainer to come through and not start again until paid, I’m pretty sure my cushion of weeks-ahead work would quickly dwindle to a much smaller number. Knowing this guy, he’d expect me to maintain that cushion (even though that would mean huge bursts of work hitting right after I get paid). My day job is my priority, though, so I didn’t want to have to deal with that and I didn’t offer him that option.

    3. Newby*

      You might want to just tell the writers that you quit and leave out why unless asked. It seems like this might fall under the “don’t badmouth a former employer” umbrella and it wouldn’t really serve much purpose. If they have not been paid either then they already know that this is an issue. It doesn’t sound like it is a new issue either.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        It’s not a new issue, but it is new to most if not all of them, since most of the writers started working for the company after the now-fired business manager started and had pay under control. (I myself had never dealt with the issue until the last two months — I was only aware of the previous problems since my predecessor gave me a heads up.)

        I ended up getting a couple of questions related to the work this morning, so I did exactly as you said and emailed all the writers that I am no longer with the company, but didn’t say why. A couple have responded privately, and I have told them why.

        I do hope the writers as a group will be wise enough not to do any further work without first being paid for what they’ve already done.

        1. MsChanandlerBong*

          Sorry you are dealing with this. I’ve been freelancing for almost 15 years, and I am lucky that I’ve only had to deal with this two or three times. But one of those times was with an invoice for $1,310 (my rent, my utilities, etc.). I wrote a bunch of sell sheets for performance fabrics made by a company in Canada. However, I was not working directly for them; I was working for a marketing company retained by them to prepare for a trade show. I never got paid. I should have contacted the fabric manufacturer and told them they were using materials that had not been paid for, but I was new to the industry at the time, and I wasn’t sure if that would be the right course of action.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I somewhat disagree, because we’re not talking about late pay, only, or an interpersonal problem. This sounds like this guy has a culture of stiffing people, and for freelance writers, that can really jeopardize their safety. I think the situation is closer to someone being exploited/fleeced. In that case, I would want to know.

        But I’m struggling on what the best approach or medium would be for letting others know that someone is not paying for work. I’d hold off on sharing the Venmo story about bouncing payments, just because it’s not 100% clear that that was his intention (although it happened to the business manager). This is tough—I wish I had better advice :(

    4. The OG Anonsie*

      Whooo yeah, don’t give him anything until you have cash totally secured. Whether he’s disorganized or shifty (probably both, but shorting your payment and doing it via Venmo is definitely super shifty) doesn’t really matter so much. You can’t trust him either way.

    5. JulieBulie*

      I think you should tell the other writers. If I were one of those writers, I would want to know just how much of a deadbeat this guy was.

      And yay for the old business manager!

    6. This Daydreamer*

      Just curious – have you checked out It’s a site for freelancers to vent and they do have a lot of advice for dealing with deadbeats and the other crap that comes with creative freelancing. And the stories are highly entertaining.

  14. Whoopsy*

    Today’s my last day at my first real job out of college. I’ve quit so I can have more time to put together my upcoming move. I gave standard notice, we’re all on great terms, I’ve got the reference on lock, et cetera. But my boss didn’t tell me until this morning that he needs a resignation letter from me as per HR requirements. Can it just be the sentence “I resign from Company effective today”, or does it need to read like a letter I might have handed to him when originally giving notice? Should I backdate it to that date? The way he said it (and the fact that he didn’t tell me til today) seem to militate towards it being so pro forma that I can probably do the one or two sentence thing, but I just wanted to be sure.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Even if you’d been asked for a letter originally, it would still only need to be one or two sentences. “This is to confirm my resignation, and that July 7, 2017 will be my last day. I’ve enjoyed working here and wish the company the best.” The end.

    2. C in the Hood*

      Personally, I’d say something like “Per our conversation on [whatever date or timeframe], I will be resigning effective today.”

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yeah, exactly. Just in case anyone ever interprets the letter as your not having given notice.

        1. Whoopsy*

          That actually touches on another concern I had, which was whether the paper trail was just about the letter existing, or if the text actually mattered as well. Sounds like option 2?

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yup. This is what my last resignation letter said.

        Whoopsy, you can address it to your boss and add a line at the bottom noting it’s CC’d to HR. Or just address it to your boss. It’s really ok for resignation letters to be very short—they’re usually just for internal housekeeping.

    3. Newby*

      You could always ask him what he needs in the letter. It sounds like you are on good terms and it is in his best interest to make sure the letter is sufficient for whatever it is that they need it for.

  15. straws*

    I have what is probably a dual problem going on. First, I’ve been in my role for a year, but coworkers from other departments still go to my predecessor, “John”, (his dept was split and I took over the half he let go) when they need to discuss my projects. Second, John passively dislikes me. He’s made a career of getting comfortable, whereas I’ve made a career of getting ahead. So although we’re counterparts and he’s been here longer, I outrank him in the company due to additional responsibilities and both a broader and deeper skillset. I know that he has some fairly sexist personal viewpoints and I’m female, although I don’t know if he allows that to affect his workplace behavior (did I mention he’s passive? Extremely. Passive).

    Either because of this or in addition to it, when coworkers go to him about my work or with relevant info, he gives them answers (that are frequently wrong because they’re a year or more out of date) and accepts information without telling me. So I only find out when the information crosses my boss’s plate down the line and nothing is done about it. My boss does recognize this as an issue, but he seems to still think that having discussions with John will be effective. I don’t know what exactly is said in these discussions or how. I try to make an effort to be proactive about information gathering and about updating other departments regarding relevant projects I’m working on. I end up feeling more like a messenger than the resident expert, however, and nothing seems to change. I’ve also spoken to John directly and asked him to redirect people to me or at least inform me when he has discussions. He always agrees with me and goes on about how it will be great for him to have fewer people contacting him, and then nothing changes. I suspect he does the same thing to our boss, which is why he seems to think the discussions go well. Is there anything I can do beyond waiting for my boss to catch up to the impact this is having or giving up on it ever happening?

    1. Aunt Margie at Work*

      Question about the impact. Is this just affecting you? It needs to affect your boss and he needs to toss it back to the people who are making it happen.
      If someone gets outdated information from John, proceeds with it and gives your their boss the final product, are you expected to correct it? You need your boss to stop wasting his time talking to John and to start talking to the people who going to him. “Nope, this is wrong. Please get the correct information from Jane and resubmit by end of day today.”
      John is a jerk. He’s a problem; he’s not the solution.

      1. straws*

        We’re kind of a cusp where these issues are starting to affect my boss. He still seems convinced that conversations will fix everything for now, but I’m betting that won’t last much longer now that a couple of important issues have been dropped. So to answer your question, initially it was just me, but it’s creeping out of my personal zone at a fairly swift rate now. To my boss’s credit, he just suggested that he speak with one of the coworkers going to John, so there’s some progress already! John has a lot to contribute, but he’s definitely a problem right now.

        1. Aunt Margie at Work*

          That’s good. Maybe you boss is reading AAM! I wonder if he did mention to someone that he’s having a problem with people going to John and getting wrong info and that person said, “tell your staff to stop doing that!”

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, agreed! I think it’s ok to also speak directly to John, but don’t expect him to be useful. Hopefully your boss will step up, but it’s also ok to speak directly to coworkers and cut John out. But I do want the boss to get on the same page about backing you up. It’s not about avoiding conflict and pretending that’s somehow more “effective.”

            I had a similar situation when I took over for an outgoing editor who took something akin to quasi-retirement for a few months before his final departure date (there was a 2-3 month overlap). People went behind my back to speak to him for reasons that were all unreasonable and unprofessional. He loved feeling needed and like the resident expert. When I raised the issue with him, he was like, “but isn’t it rude not to answer questions?” (his answers, btw, were directly sabotaging our work as a department and my work as lead editor because, to be completely honest, he was a little incompetent). I had a firm but direct conversation that he needed to redirect people back to me, and I gave him sample scripts so he wouldn’t feel “rude.” That worked because, unlike John, he was not trying to be a jackass and didn’t dislike me—he was pretty neutral and, after thinking it through, realized why/how his involvement was undermining.

            And I put the EIC on notice about what had happened, because sure enough, some of my problem editors wanted to go around me to complain that I was “interfering” with their “right” to speak to the old editor. (Sidenote: They’re allowed to escalate to my boss, and I encourage folks to do that if they’re uncomfortable raising issues directly with their boss [me].). It looks pretty stupid when your complaint is, “My manager wants me to direct management questions to her instead of the prior department head, who btw, isn’t even part of the leadership team anymore and will be gone in 2 weeks.”

            But, it helped that the EIC had my back. I really want your boss to have yours.

            1. straws*

              My boss definitely is on my “side”. I think the only issue in his court is that he’s extremely busy and at a loss as to why anyone would be behaving like John is. He tends to think the best of people and gets thrown off when they don’t fulfill his expectations. Usually he has a good recovery, it can just take awhile. He’s been very supportive during discussions so far though, and although having my back won’t prevent issues from starting, it will prevent them from compounding at least.

              The “rude” issue rings a little true to me. I think at least part of John’s problem is an inability to say No to anyone. I don’t think he’s purposely sabotaging me, but I also don’t think he has any respect or care for me (professionally) either. So, he’d rather feel comfortable in the moment than avoid undermining me. I’ve had a couple of conversations like you did with your editor, but it never helps. He agrees and then goes back to his old habits as soon as the discussion is over. I suspect all of this will backfire spectacularly at some point, but I’m hoping to minimize the effect on me!

    2. anna green*

      Can you notify the coworkers directly not to go to John anymore? (again and again until it sticks?) John sounds like he just doesn’t care about anything, so maybe circumventing him is the only option.

    3. rubyrose*

      I would start bringing it to the attention of the people who are going to John as soon as you find out. You want this documented. Start with an email straight to the person, requesting they no longer contact John and point out whatever problems were caused by contacting him. If it occurs again, another email, including your manager and theirs, and perhaps John.

    4. Menacia*

      Just like others have said, cut out John as the middleman and go directly to anyone who needs the information, or needs to provide you with the information. And keep on reminding them.

      You never know what John is saying to them but it’s obvious that there are balls being dropped all over the place, and he does not care.

      If you want to get ahead, being proactive is pretty much a requirement.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Let your boss know that you have had numerous conversations already. Then ask how many more conversations you should have before something else will be done. Nail him down on a number. “Oh so you are saying to try three more times and then we will build a different plan?” Repeat back to him what ever he says.

      Then write down the dates and the incidents. When you collect up the number of incidents go back to the boss and say, “I have here a list of three incidents of the same problem that have occurred since the last time we spoke on this. We had agreed that we would do something different if these incidents did not stop. I think we need to make that plan.”

      I have done this and it has worked okay for me most of the time.

      1. straws*

        I do need to be more consistent with documentation. A lot of our correspondence is via email, so that makes it easier to compile at least.

    6. Been there*

      The good news is that this is generally self correcting. When Bob comes to you because his project is in chaos because of the bad information he got from John, you can then calmly say, “Hmm, that’s interesting, I’m not sure where you got that outdated information. If you would have come to me I would have been happy to explain all the recent developments.”

      Word usually quickly gets around that going to John will cause more work for people. You will also start gaining the expert credibility.

      Of course there’s a stick to this carrot/stick solution. When Bob comes to you with his project in chaos because of John’s information, you can always refer him back to John to help him fix it. That one teaches both Bob and John who should be the one to go to for information. I generally only use the stick when people offend multiple times.

      1. straws*

        Thank you, these are some good scripts/ideas. I think some of the upcoming situations will lend themselves well to the stick method, so I’ll see if I can work that in.

    7. Lora*

      OMG do you work at a pharma starting with M? You’ve described my workplace nemesis perfectly, and I’ve spoken with the boss twice about it now, plus I have an appointment to discuss with the boss AGAIN Monday because I am ALL SET with this nonsense. This guy. Arrgh. Boss has spoken with him but to no effect, so we’re back to “things have not changed, he still sucks and it affects my work by X Y and Z, please do something to make him just go away.”

      I keep thinking he will get canned because he’s flushed enough of the CapEx budget and several months’ worth of development work down the toilet on bad designs and foot-dragging and general incompetence to fund a small island nation and establish a dynasty thereupon, but it hasn’t happened yet. And I’m out of patience.

      On a positive note, the people who used to go to him are gradually starting to come to me because they are tired of his incompetence. So, there’s that.

      I got nothing but sympathy.

      1. Anon for this one*

        I work at a Pharma starting with M and while I don’t have anyone directly sabotaging my work, the level of dysfunction that I see in certain individuals or departments, the inefficiency, the reverence for people who do things half-ass backward and cause others extra work just because they have been around forever, the overly bureaucratic nonsense and the sense that everybody is happy with their little fiefdoms and closed off silos will eventually drive me stark raving mad.

        1. Lora*

          Well heck, it’s time to go drinking at A4 if you’re in Cambridge. I just wrote up my mid-year metrics and I’m useless for the rest of the day.

          1. Anon for this one*

            Lol nope in the US, but I would imagine you might work for the same company.

      2. straws*

        I do not, but you have all of my sympathy as well! I’m glad to hear that people do tire of incompetence though. There is hope!

    8. MillersSpring*

      I had a similar issue–my role was created by carving out work from a guy who then became my peer. Multiple external contacts continued to go to him, and he wasn’t redirecting them to me; he enjoyed being a resource and building the relationships.

      And like your John, this guy was Oh So Passive. So the third time he didn’t redirect a contact to me, I was extremely blunt and pointed with him, e.g. “WHY are you not pointing people to me? I KNOW you like talking to them, but that’s NOW MY AREA. I have to be able to DO MY JOB. I don’t want this to happen AGAIN.”

      It worked, and he was a pussycat for the rest of the time I worked with him. Still is and we look back and laugh about it. Good luck!

  16. Antti*

    I already know what I’m going to do with this, but I’m curious what y’all think.

    My company, in applications for internal candidates, only has a slot to upload a resume, no cover letter. Would you consider saving a cover letter in the same PDF/Word doc as your resume to be not following directions, etc., or would you be more surprised to receive an application without that?

    My own thought: I’m including the cover letter because it’s such a normal thing to submit, and I feel like it would be even weirder for me to not submit one than it is for the system to not explicitly ask for one. I know it’s an internal applicant situation, but this is a *huge* company and you absolutely can’t assume everyone is going to know everyone else, and I’d really like to expand on achievements in a way I just can’t with a resume anyway.

    1. straws*

      We don’t have an internal process like this, but for external candidates I would only see including a cover letter as a positive. If there’s only one attachment field and you have important information to convey, I’m not sure how else you would be able to pull that off.

    2. Toph*

      It depends on if the application system anywhere it mentions cover letters at all. If it’s ambiguous because it has no spot to attach one and there is no mention of it anywhere, I don’t think I’d be bothered by it being in the same pdf as the resume (but it’s also neither a plus nor a minus in this context).

      If the application system, or the job posting itself, or basically anything official in writing about how to apply says where/when to include a cover letter, then having it in the resume pdf would strike me as not following instructions. However that only applies if there were some explicit contrary instructions somewhere.

    3. Sualah*

      In my big company, when I’m applying, I attach my resume only through our jobs system. Then, I send an email “cover letter” to the hiring manager listed on the job posting and also add that I’ve already applied through the jobs site and I’m attaching my resume for convenience. I’ve had really good luck with it–most have thanked me for reaching out and I’ve almost always gotten a phone screen at least.

    4. Jessica*

      I just dealt with this, and I attached a cover letter to my resume and uploaded it as a single attachment. I knew who the hiring manager was (it isn’t included on job listings, but the position was within my department anyway) but I personally felt it might be better to keep everything within the system.

    5. Optimistic Prime*

      Nope. My current company only had one slot for attachments and I attached a cover letter and resume in the same PDF. I found out after the fact that my manager doesn’t like applications without cover letters and didn’t even realize that the company application site doesn’t have two slots!

      Unless the directions specifically say not to include a cover letter, you’re not NOT following directions.

    6. Nic*

      I think your logic is good there. I recently applied internally and submitted a cover letter. In this case the people doing the interviewing know me, but if it had been a department where I wasn’t known that could have been a helpful boost. Not to say it wasn’t even with people who know me; I was able to highlight things they don’t see in my day to day that would be pertinent to the other position.

      Good luck!!

    7. JulieBulie*

      More often than not, in situations like this where the instructions seem incomplete or vague,, I consider “following instructions” to be a losing proposition. I agree with your decision, and I feel that a hiring manager would have to be awfully petty to hold a cover letter against you.

    8. MillersSpring*

      Yes, include in same PDF. I have done this in the past. Only upload PDFs, not Word because it can be edited.

  17. DecorativeCacti*

    I would like to know if anyone has taken classes through Coursera and if you/employers consider it a legitimate way to learn.

    I have my eye on a couple but don’t want to end up basically putting an ITT Tech or Phoenix University equivalent on my resume. Thoughts?

    1. Christy*

      I mean, take the class so you learn stuff, but don’t bother putting it on your resume, if you ask me.

      1. Newby*

        Exactly. It is a good way to learn things, but it isn’t a degree. I have found it very helpful but I only put how I used the skill I learned on my resume, not the course itself.

        1. DecorativeCacti*

          I already use the skill in question on a limited basis but I want to move into using it on a not-so-limited basis. So I would just be supplementing and formalizing (is that a word?) my knowledge. What I know now was learned on the job in a kind of hobbled together manner.

          1. Toph*

            You don’t need to formalize it though, and I don’t think this type of course would actually formalize it. If your resume currently indicates some familiarity with The Thing and after taking the course you become very comfortable with The Thing, then you could change your resume to make that more clear. If one couldn’t tell by reading your resume whether you’re kinda sorta familiar with The Thing or if you are totally comfy and experienced in The Thing, then completing the course won’t change your resume at all, but will boost your skills and thus your candidacy.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes, this. I don’t think it helps to list Coursera classes. To be honest, I’ve seen candidates take formal classes through University Extension (seen as a more legitimate education provider than Univ. of Phoenix), and it looks strange/off. It basically looks like the applicant thinks that the courses are very important and that they somehow signal pedigree. As an employer, the skills are more important to me.

        List the skills and competency levels, but don’t list the coursework. For many skillsets, it’s ok if you learned it on the job or in an informal manner as long as you can accurately assess your proficiency. Even if you had a skill that requires certification to prove proficiency, I don’t really care how you qualified for the certificate—I only care that you have it.

        1. Becky*

          I recently sat in on an interview where the candidate had a year and a half resume gap due to moving from a different country to the US and getting a visa to work in the US. When asked what she did in that gap she mentioned, among other things, online courses to enrich and expand her skill set (she didn’t name the specific source–could have been coursera, could have been code academy or something else) –it isn’t something that I think would have been appropriate on her resume, but it was certainly appropriate to bring up at that point. If there are specific things you have learned that can apply to a interview question or such, by all means bring them up, but it isn’t really something you list on the resume.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      We had a resume come through that had a bunch of these classes listed and we thought it was odd. There was no relevant work experience and no traditional education…not even a certificate from the community college. Anything would have helped legitimize these freebie classes. But you don’t know if they even finished the class.
      If you have a solid work background or traditional education, then I could see adding this class if it was in a specific area that the position required.

    3. Beth*

      It depends.. a single class, I’d say no. A certificate or something, maybe. I have seen a few job postings that reference “knowledge of X skill, including from MOOCs” or something like that, implying that they thought Coursera counted.

      Personally, I received an online paralegal certificate from a program that wasn’t ABA approved, and is primarily known for its use by inmates for learning paralegal skills. I have no legal work experience, so when I apply for jobs at law firms, I list it at the bottom of my resume under “continuing education” — for me, listing it at all says “Hey, I am so interested in this topic that I did an online certificate, that I completed at the same time as my ‘real’ degree!” But the fact that I put it at the bottom, and not with my “main” education, says, “Hey, I know this isn’t totally equivalent to an actual degree, don’t worry.” One recruiter at a law firm told me I should list it higher up, which I thought was strange, although I’m not applying for actual paralegal jobs, so that could certainly have something to do with it.

    4. Alex*

      I wouldn’t put the course on your resume, but if you actually learned a skill from it, put that on it.

      1. Jillociraptor*

        I would say to not even include it unless you can demonstrate that you can successfully employ the skill. I took a physics class in college, but ask me to explain anything related to physics and it’s gonna be a rough day for all of us. A possible exception is if it’s an entry level position and you want to show that you at least have a little background in the topic at hand.

        1. DecorativeCacti*

          The class in question is related to what I already do but it’s deeper into the subject. So, say I currently proofread and edit teapot designs but want to move more in the direction of the actual designing (which I already do on a limited basis). I’m having trouble finding a continuing education course that doesn’t require previous degrees in teapot designing so I am trying to get further knowledge however I can.

    5. Alli525*

      I’d say don’t put it on the resume, but if it’s a natural fit to include it in your cover letter, definitely do – and be sure to mention any relevant skills in your interviews too!

    6. CC*

      I’ll buck the trend and argue that it depends at least a little on the field. I work in software development and I see Coursera/other MOOC courses on resumes a fair amount, especially for roles where we hire mostly people who are newly transitioning into the field. It doesn’t prove that you’ve mastered a technical skill, but it at least demonstrates a sustained interest (especially if it’s in conjunction with related projects) and certainly won’t count against you if you’re a strong candidate otherwise. And if you are faking your technical skills, you’ll get busted in the phone screen regardless. :)

  18. Audiophile*

    Happy Friday!

    It’s payday for me, which is always fun and exciting until it comes time to pay bills and then you have that moment, at least I do, where you think “where did my paycheck even go?”

    No real weekend plans, still trying to coordinate my vacation for next month. I’m getting a laptop from work, so I can work from home during bad weather. I’m excited about the prospect of that.

    1. DietCokeHead*

      I call pay day money exchange day. The money comes to me and then I send it to its various final destinations.

      Yay for working from home! I have a laptop and could easily do my work at home but my company does not allow work from home for hourly employees.

      1. Audiophile*

        I like your way of thinking. I thinking I’ll start using this and calling it that around work.

        I understand your jobs hesitance in letting hourly employees with from home. They have very few ways to monitor how many hours that you actually work.

  19. The Photographer's Husband*

    I’m currently a copywriter with but am looking to change careers, as I’m just not passionate enough about writing for marketing/advertising to be really great at it. What other careers are out there that would utilize the same type of skills? I thought Project Management might be a good alternative, but I’m curious if anything else is out there.

    For clarification, these are what I’d consider to be my skills gained from working as a copywriter:
    Excellent writing/communication skills
    Good attention-to-detail and organization
    Good research and interviewing skills
    Comfortable with (and really enjoy) public speaking/presenting
    Passionate about making an impact on people’s lives and building into/developing those around me whether professionally or personally
    Deep knowledge/understanding of the real estate industry

    1. hermit crab*

      What about grant-writing or proposal-writing? That could be a way to apply your communication and organization skills to an organization whose mission you support. Community colleges, public libraries, etc. often have short courses on grant-writing where you could pick up some basics and see if it seems appealing.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I’m a project manager, and I think that you could potentially move into it if you focused on the real estate field. My cousin works for a real estate developer as a PM, but she came into it by being a PM for commercial projects for a big telecom company. (Basically, she managed construction of retail stores for the company.)

      Otherwise, I think it is hard to break into PM in an unrelated field without direct PM experience. (Even with direct PM experience in one field, it’s not easy to move from, say, construction to IT.)

      1. The Photographer's Husband*

        Interesting. Thanks for the insight. I’m definitely going to look into PMing in more detail It’s not a field/role I know a lot about, but judging from what the PMs I’ve worked with do, it seems like my skills would translate fairly well.

    3. GarlicMicrowaver*

      What about copywriting for the marketing department of a hospital? It’s not very “advertise-y” and you’re doing good for humanity.

      1. The Photographer's Husband*

        That’s not a bad idea, but I think ideally I’d be getting out of copywriting. Still something to keep in mind though, I sort of like the idea of working in a hospital.

    4. the.kat*

      How do you feel about fundraising? This sounds like the raw skills to work in Development or Fundraising at a non-profit.

      1. The Photographer's Husband*

        I’ve thought about that, and I suppose this might be similar to grant-writing/proposal-writing that was suggested above, but now that I see it in this light, I am not real keen on the idea. I hate asking for money/stuff personally, so I can’t really imagine doing it professionally. I’m sure it’s much different, but with what I know of it, it doesn’t sound that appealing.

        But I greatly appreciate the comment/suggestion!

        1. Audiophile*

          If it works for a larger organization, chances are good that your wouldn’t be directly asking for money. The org I work for outsources all their fundraising to a firm, the firm creates, does the copywriting, tests, and mails the campaigns. The donations come to us directly and occasionally I have some donor contact, but I’m not directly asking for money.

    5. Dee*

      Public information/outreach for a non-profit? I interned at a performing arts organization, and it involved writing press releases, editing program notes, putting together the program magazine, organizing events with the performers, some educational outreach, and so on.

    6. Bostonian*

      Teaching/training was the first thing that came to mind (hits all the bases except… real estate, I guess)

      1. cornflower blue*

        Do people have to take classes to become a licensed Realtor? Teaching said classes would count!

    7. JBPL*

      You sound like a librarian (other than the real estate thing, I suppose). I’d love to have someone like you at my reference desk or helping with our marketing.

    8. Optimistic Prime*

      What about market research, user experience research, personnel psychology/industrial-organizational psychology, etc.? Bonus points if you have a social science degree. I am a UX researcher and my job requires all of the above, except for the real estate stuff.

      1. LS*

        What about UX writing? UXBooth explains it simply – “UX writing is the act of writing copy for user-facing touchpoints”. I think it would be a great fit for your skill set. I’m a UX generalist and I’m seeing more and more need for writers who understand UX.

    9. MillersSpring*

      In my experience, copywriting is a great entry to mid-level job in marketing. Yes, some people make a career out of copywriting, but you also can take that experience and apply for a job as a marketing manager, PR manager, corporate communications manager, social media manager, etc. Then the copywriting becomes just one task out of many. You’re managing projects and analyzing metrics more than actual writing. Also, you often end up editing more than writing.

  20. T3k*

    Well, I’m supposed to have an interview early next week, but I haven’t yet got the e-mail with the interview information (they do this weird thing where they send a confirmation email, I respond saying I got that, and then supposed to send me the details). So I’ll probably end up calling them this afternoon if nothing shows up, otherwise I won’t have the information until the day before my scheduled interview.

    Also getting nervous about if I’m going to hear from another place. Long story short, I know someone who knows the people there and talked to them about it, and so I know they’re expecting to get the hiring ball rolling very fast (they want someone in before the new school year starts up). I know I’m not a guaranteed sho0 in but just to hear something would be nice.

    1. extra anon today*

      This exact situation happened to me once. I think I got the email at like 5:55 on Friday night for a Monday interview. It was stressful!

      1. T3k*

        Oh god, that would stress me out to no end. I’m practically having to sit on my hands right now to keep myself from calling, just in case they plan to do it this afternoon.

    2. Bostonian*

      Well, from the inside of things, considering the fact that I just today got an invite to interview a candidate for Monday, the place you are interviewing with might not have the schedule ready yet. I don’t think it would hurt to follow up now, but you might not get that information until the day before the interview. (And this isn’t necessarily due to a general lack of organization; if there are a lot of different people that need to be scheduled for interviews, it could take some coordinating.)

  21. Jimbo*

    Just found out through Linkedin that the previous person who held the position I am interviewing for next week only held it for ten months. That is a yellow flag for me which indicates potentially a problem with the boss, the work environment, or just a bad fit (which may or may not apply to me if I get the job). What questions would you recommend to ask in the interview to determine if this short tenure is a red flag about the boss, department or organization or not really? Would you recommend reaching out to the person in their new job or would that be strange? FWIW I checked out the org’s Glassdoor reviews and saw no consistent pattern of complaints about organizational dysfunction.

    1. straws*

      Perhaps you could try inquiring about how long employees typically stay in the role, and what types of roles they move onto next?

    2. MechanicalPencil*

      Honestly, it depends on your field, and you also have to consider that the other person may have had personal situations necessitating their need to leave, particularly since you can’t find any causation via Glassdoor. I’d certainly ask why the position is open though.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        My predecessor only lasted 3 months. I was cautious when interviewing, but it turned out they were fired for stealing. No one could tell me while I was interviewing, but someone told me a while after I was hired.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I would be very weirded out if a candidate for my old job messaged me on LinkedIn asking me for the inside dirt, unless I happened to already have a relationship with that person.

      I think it’s fine to ask why the position is vacant, or what the organizational challenges are that someone in this role might face, or what the boss’s management style is.

      But, to me, 10 months is not that big of a yellow/red flag so long as the interviewers are able to satisfactorily answer these questions.

    4. T3k*

      Are there any other past workers you can find that held the position to see how long they were there? I learned too late at my last job (aka, after I started) that they’d gone through at least 3 designers in just a couple months. The red flags I missed was not asking how many held the position before, the fact that they wanted to hire me during the interview (means they typically don’t do their due diligence and just need someone to fill the spot that may not work out after a few weeks), and of course you can always ask why the position opened up. But the good news is you have glassdoor reviews to look through (I’m assuming more than a handful) and if you don’t see a pattern of dysfunction, it could be a sign the person left for other reasons.

      Also, I wouldn’t message the person unless you know them (or they’re friends with someone you know). If I ever got that kind of message from one of my successors, I’d be giving a serious side eye if I left for personal reasons rather than dysfunctional.

    5. dyinginbiglaw*

      I usually ask the common career trajectory of people who held the position and why the last person left. Both have given me really interesting answers! For example, one had left to open an event barn (wedding venue, etc) on an apple orchard! If they say someone left because it wasn’t a good fit, you can inquire what traits area good fit, etc.

      1. dyinginbiglaw*

        I will say read the room before you ask these questions. If these people seem touchy about people who leave, don’t ask (and also that’s a pretty big red flag, imo).

    6. Carla*

      I was burned twice by jobs where the managers pretending like everything was going great, but the company was hemorrhaging employees–people would leave weekly. During the second interview for my current job I straight up asked them about the turnover rate. I also asked if the position I was applying for was brand new or if it was filling an existing position. Mine was brand new, but if they said it was filling an existing position you may have room there to ask about how long past employees have stayed in the role.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I had 3 people in 8 months doing my job before me.

      Knowing this what made me take the job?
      When I spoke to my boss she was very candid about where the problems were.
      I realized that I could help with those problems. And I was impressed with her open discussion of the problems. No head games going on. No rose colored glasses.

      Also in speaking with the boss, I could see that we were of similar personalities. I could see that we had similar work ethics and it looked like we would match up well.

      I was very impressed that she had a plan to get me training. That told me she understood the learning curve would be steep.

      For my own part, I made a commitment to getting through the learning curve. It was tough but I knew I could ride it out.

    8. Rhodoferax*

      I’d say at the interview, ask “Why is this position available?” It’s a pretty common question, and in a case like this the answer will hopefully be something mundane like “The last person decided to follow their partner to a hippie commune in Australia.”

    9. Optimistic Prime*

      I’d ask how long people typically stay in the role or the last few people have stayed around. I also generally ask something like “when people leave, why do they typically leave?”

  22. Kristinemc*

    When do you give up on having an employee complete a certain task, and just acknowledge that they won’t be able to do it?

    We have an employee that is new-ish to the admin/accounting side of things. She’s been here for over 6 months, and we’ve trained her on a lot of our processes.

    There are certain monthly tasks that she does that she makes errors on almost every month – sometimes they are the same error, sometimes not. I’ve tried walking her through the task, sitting and doing it with her, giving her a list of items to look out for.. I’m not sure what else I need to do in order for her to realize what she needs to look for.

    We like her, she has a good attitude, and there are other tasks she does for us that she does a good job on, so she is definitely capable of doing the job. She’s not overloaded, and has time to do the task correctly – I’ve emphasized with her that taking the time to do it accurately is more important to us than her finishing quickly.

    Currently, I’m reviewing the task each time, before questions are sent out to other people, so that I can catch her errors, but ideally, she would be able to bypass me on these tasks and just ask questions directly.

    My only other thought is that I either take her off the task completely (which isn’t ideal, as someone needs to do the task, and we don’t have another person that can take it on), or I give her a list of things to check for each task, and make her give me that checklist with the completed task.

    Am I missing any other options on how to train her to complete this? I feel like I am failing as a manager. She says she learns more by doing, so I try to give her verbal and written guidance, let her try the task, and then go over it with her, and have her fix it.

    1. New Bee*

      Can you have her lead the error analysis? Either a broad conversation about why she’s making mistakes and how she can proactively avoid them, or in the moment have her reflect on individual mistakes and where she went wrong.

    2. WellRed*

      I don’t know what the task is, but can you instead of reviewing it with her, can you flip it so she’s reviewing it with you?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Do you ask her to build a plan not to make that mistake again?
      If you need her to do the work then it’s better to say so very soon. Let her know that it is part of mastering the job.

    4. TheImpossibleGirl*

      When I work with people who do this I help them build a checklist of the task steps including things to be reviewing along the way. Grow it as needed.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I love having a checklist of the task steps. It really helps a lot when you are learning a new job or taking on a new task, dealing with a new computer system or something like that. Unfortunately, lots of times my supervisors would get really annoyed with me for taking a few extra minutes to document the task steps. But still, it really works for me and it saves a lot of time down the road.

    5. Toph*

      To me, six months of continuing to do it wrong, assuming this has been on her plate the entire time, is too long. If it seems like the number of errors is decreasing (but still too high), maybe she’ll get there, but if it’s a revolving door of mistakes, some repeated some new, and you’ve been over it and done all the things you mentioned, I would recalibrate my expectations. At that point she’s probably either unwilling or incapable of improving at this thing. You mentioned she’s good at other stuff and therefore capable of doing the job, but if the job requires this and there’s no one else’s plate to pass it to, then she’s not really fully capable of doing the job. If you haven’t already it might be time for a hard talk to see if that makes a difference. If it’s expected to be hers and there isn’t a good person to shift it to, it’s probably time to make sure that’s super clear to her. If it still doesn’t improve in probably another two months, I’d say your options are seeing if there is something else currently on someone else’s plate that you could swap this for so it gets done. Is there anything you could take from someone else to give to her before giving this to them? If that’s not feasible then I’d come to terms that she’s not actually doing the job. But it depends on how unmovable an object these tasks are.

      In my experience when working with people who couldn’t do a major component of their jobs, and were given the “but she’s new!” treatment for over a year, my experience has been six months is about when you should see that comfort level sinking in. If their improvement velocity isn’t spiking sharply at that point, it’s probably going to flatline and more chances and more training and more coaching and reviewing of mistakes is unlikely to fix it.

    6. Hillary*

      Once a month is hard – the tasks are just far enough apart that it’s easy to think you remember it when you don’t actually. I won’t get into detail about how many mistakes I made during my first six months doing financial closes (and I already did finance work for a living).

      Is there a way to give her more frequent practice with less pressure? Maybe ask her to redo some old ones from before she started handling them and develop her own checklist for her mistakes.

      That said, some people who are very good at other aspects of work aren’t great at details or accuracy. I work with people who are fantastic at their jobs and aren’t allowed to anything resembling data entry because they get details wrong. I couldn’t do their jobs even if I wanted to.

      1. MillersSpring*

        Amen to this. It’s hard to remember the steps of something you’re only doing monthly. I really agree with the suggestion to have her do her own checklist. But at this point, you’ve got to warn her that you’re sensing the role is not a good fit for her and she could be reassigned or terminated (if those are possibilities).

        You’re not failing as a manager. She says that she learns by doing, and she’s had (presumably) six times to learn this task. You’ve addressed this in multiple ways, and as a manager, you have the responsibility to ensure that the task is done accurately. You’ve spent a significant amount of time training and coaching her, when what you need by now is just for the task to be done accurately with little managerial intervention. At this point the failure is hers.

    7. Mark S*

      Take this from a man who has committed more errors than I wish to admit.

      The main reason why employees make mistakes is either a missing piece to the puzzle (something they do not fully understand) or a misunderstanding of what’s being asked. It’s usually the first. Try giving an example of completed work (error free) or show your employee how you found those errors. There is also the issue of conflicting/ambiguous information. I applaud you on being a good manager though!

  23. ANON4Today*

    Do you know of any websites to find part time admin. / office manager type of work? I usually check craigslist and indeed.

        1. ANON4Today*

          Yes, I have contacted a few temp agencies. They don’t get many part time assignments.

  24. intern supervisor*

    My intern is, um, not a great writer. I probably think too highly of my own writing skills, but I honestly kind of cringe when I read items that they’ve prepared for me. Their grammar is *technically* mostly correct, but very verbose and convoluted (lots of passive voice). I’m torn as to the extent to which I should go into documents and rewrite them, versus giving feedback primarily on content. These are mostly internal documents – if their writing was going out to the public I would not hesitate to rewrite in order to represent the organization well. But I still don’t know if I want my manager to see this writing, since it is reflective of me as well as the intern. For context, this is my intern’s second year here (first on my team), they are paid, and they have just finished a graduate program and are applying for entry level positions, including one on my team. This is my first time supervising an intern.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Writing is generally hard to teach in the amount of time a manager has available, but you’ve named two issues here that are among the easier writing problems to give feedback on — the passive voice and the verbosity. I’d say give very clear, direct feedback on those things and see what happens (including when she turns in a document, giving it back and telling her to edit out all instances of passive voice, and/or telling her to cut the length in half, or whatever makes sense).

      1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

        Also, I think a lot of people think verbose, convoluted language sounds more professional. In addition to telling them to cut the length in half and cut the passive voice, you can say, “Professional writing needs to be simple, direct, understandable, and functional. Your writing is so convoluted that it comes off as unprofessional. I need you to focus on communicating ideas in a straightforward and direct manner, and I suggest you focus on shorter sentences and a more thesis-driven paragraph structure.”

        1. CityMouse*

          I actually had an employee I was training push back when I edited down his verbosity. It was really tough to get it through that using 10 words when one was necessary was a bad idea.

          1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

            Yeah, I’ve had the same pushback, to the point that I had to make it clear that this was a job performance issue and that I was willing to fire over it. And I was.

      2. blackcat*

        Yes to this! I have taught students where it just took one conversation and an example of the type of writing I want (so I can say “X, not Y”) and BAM! Good writing appears next time. It may not be so easy for you since you’ve already been working with this intern for a while, but I do think this is an easily coachable thing.

        In my experience, the hardest part of teaching someone to write is how to organize ideas and have good “flow.” As a teacher/professor, I have to address that sort of stuff. But I don’t think that’s your job as a supervisor.

        Also, I have a “story” (relayed to me by another teacher, probably more of a teaching fable) about the passive voice:

        Student: “Should I use the passive voice?”
        Teacher: “Tell me, which of the following sentences is more clear? ‘If this paper is written in the passive voice, ass will be kicked.’ or ‘If you write this paper in the passive voice, I will kick your ass.'”
        Student: “The second one?”
        Teacher: “Indeed! In the first, it is entirely unclear from where the paper will emerge. Both the subject and object of the ass-kicking is unclear. In the second, there is no room for doubt.”

      3. intern supervisor*

        Thanks for the response – I have to remind myself that direct feedback is a kindness as it’s the most likely way to improve. I think it’s that *I* would take it personally if my manager criticized my writing but I think that speaks to my own vanity more than what is normal.

    2. Courtney W*

      I would definitely just give direct feedback. It sounds like they might be stuck in college writing mode – my English professors generally require passive voice and prefer complex, very detailed writing. I get that isn’t something to carry over to general writing in the workplace, but some students may need that spelled out for them. I think you’d be doing them a favor by having a discussion with them about it.

      1. Lady Jay*

        O lord. Those were bad English teachers then. In general, passive voice is only used for scientific writing, where the results need to be stressed above the scientist getting the results; active voice is clearer & packs a greater punch.

        And don’t get me started on English teachers who tell students to never use the word “I”. Grrr.

        1. blackcat*

          This even depends on the scientific sub-field. In my sub-field, we are gloriously pro-active voice. Because it *does* matter that I (a fallible human being) did X, while someone else (also a human) did Y, and these are consistent because of Z (which is good for both of us, yay!).

          Such explanations are much less clear in the passive voice. And the passive voice in scientific works thing is a pretty recent phenomena. If you read some of Einstein’s stuff, for example, you’ll find plenty of “I” and “we” throughout.

          1. Lady Jay*

            Hurrah! I love hearing that science sometimes uses the active voice. I like reading science stuff & find it more accessible written in active voice.

        2. intern supervisor*

          My spouse protested when I complained to them about my intern’s passive voice usage – spouse has a physics undergrad degree so their response was that passive voice is requisite to formal writing. I definitely gave them a hard time about that.

        3. Had it up to here*

          At my high school we couldn’t use any form of the verb “to be” in papers. It was hard to do, but it did reduce our use of passive voice.

          1. Jessica*

            My freshman college professor limited us to 3 uses per page. A very handy tip, honestly.

      2. Optimistic Prime*

        Yeah, you know, it’s funny but a lot of college and academic writing is actually bad writing. I used to write scientific journal articles when I worked in academia and those articles are full of passive voice, verbosity, and jargon. Writing reports for my current job is so refreshing compared to that.

    3. Lady Jay*

      I actually love hearing that you’re having this problem. I teach my students to avoid verbosity & the passive voice, so I’m glad to hear that people working “real” jobs (I teach writing, of course I’m bothered by bad writing!) are bothered by it too.

      But my satisfaction doesn’t help you. As a recovering wordy writer, I’d suggest you might try a word count . . . and hold to it religiously. My professors in college had both minimum & maximum length requirements on papers. My first draft was *always* super long, and I had to trim and trim and trim in order to get it under the maximum requirement. This effort taught me how to use words efficiently.

      You could also try a little “modeling”. Sit down with your intern (or create a screencast for her) and show her how you personally would change her writing. Then expect her to change the writing similarly: not necessarily using the same methods, but reaching the same goals (active voice, efficient language use). This could take 10 minutes; that’s about how long meetings with my students are.

      There are also plenty of resources about this online with a quick Google search. Direct your intern towards them. She can even take practice quizzes to improve her writing skills!

    4. Lily Rowan*

      If you have time, what I try to do is rather than re-write myself, add a lot of comments like “This paragraph is unclear – please simplify,” or literally highlighting all the passive voice and getting them to re-do it themselves. It makes every document take way longer to get out the door, but I don’t know that people learn from accepting my tracked changes.

      And then make sure you’re really clear on what’s good enough, even if not up to your own standards.

    5. JBean*

      Seconding the recommendation for providing feedback. How else are they to learn? And nothing is more demoralizing than submitting something, when given little direction (that might not be the case here), and then your supervisor simply rewrites it without giving you feedback. If you don’t build the capacity of your team members to do certain tasks, you end up doing those tasks. Over time, you will not be able to effectively delegate and your ability to move to more senior-level work will be hampered.

      Also, send them resources on plain writing. Let them train on something concrete.

      1. intern supervisor*

        This is a great point. I unfortunately dropped the ball here with the first assignment they did for me – I tried to restrict myself to giving comments rather than rewriting (I definitely know that it sucks to have someone rewrite your work!), but I wasn’t direct enough, I think because I felt bad about criticizing their writing since I know I take my writing skill personally. By the time they gave me their second draft, I didn’t have time to give more feedback on their writing since I needed to pass it on to my manager, so I edited it myself. Next time I’ll work on being more direct from the get go.

        1. MillersSpring*

          Don’t feel bad about criticizing their writing, when it’s literally your job to supervise their work, including their communications. When I’ve had interns or other junior staff, I’ve had them sit with me while I edit their work, and I comment aloud on why I’m making each edit, or I’ve printed it out and sat with them to explain each edit. They may cringe, but ultimately they find it helpful.

          Also, +100 to providing resources on clear, concise writing. A couple of classics are Elements of Style by Strunk and White and On Writing Well by William Zinsser. I also have enjoyed a couple of books by Paula LaRocque, the former writing coach of The Dallas Morning News.

      2. LibbyG*

        If you can give the intern an example of what you’d like to see, that’s both effective and efficient. It’s hard for wordy writers to see words and phrases as extraneous, but a good, clear example might help them a lot.

    6. Anon16*

      I had a manager that sounds a lot like you, but I was a full-time employee, not an intern! The problem was more designing materials (brochures, pamphlets, etc.), though she had some issues with my writing style. I think it’s very, very related to academic writing and is something that will be improved upon over time. As others mentioned, I don’t think it would be hard to fix.

      Every time I write (professionally), I re-read the writing and try to reduce as many unnecessary words as possible. Could you encourage her or him to read back their writing and do the same? My English teacher in high school always recommended removing “is”, “was”, etc. from writing to encourage active voice. I recommend showing them examples of writing you do like and seeing if you can get them to replicate it.

      Also, I encourage you not to re-write the work! This (I believe), really did such a disservice to the organization. My manager started designing/writing brochures entirely on her own because she didn’t feel she could explain what she wanted. As a result, she was overworked, I didn’t have enough to do, and I felt stunted professionally. I never improved because she never gave me room to improve. I also would push back on the idea that this reflects badly on you, unless you reviewed their writing samples before hiring them. That’s just my $0.02, I’ve never been in the management position in this scenario.

      1. intern supervisor*

        Thanks for this reminder. I definitely don’t want to be that manager so I will take to heart your advice. I do think the intern’s work products reflect on me – although my manager will likely recognize that it’s not my writing, they will expect me to ensure that the product is up to the organization’s standards. That doesn’t require it to be the best writing, but it does need to be clear and communicate effectively.

        1. Anon16*

          I totally get it. It’s also not personal, writing is a skill – it takes time and work to master. I think it’ll only appear personal if it’s believed it’s personal. I understand, I take my writing very personally too. It’s an art form, but when it’s for a professional reasons, it needs to be seen more as a skill than an extension of yourself. Hope that helps and good luck!

    7. JustaTech*

      My whole company had training on these two specific things (passive and wordy) so while it’s not just your intern, it does need to get fixed and they can’t fix it if they don’t know it’s a problem.
      If you want two rules I got with 1) No passive voice. 2) No sentences of more than 20 words (unless the name of the thing you’re talking about is 5+ words long).
      I might also say “In the working world you don’t need to write in an academic style to prove you’re smart. You show your skills by being clear and concise, which is harder.”

    8. MS*

      Also if you have examples of documents with similar tone that you’re happy with, that would be useful to provide. I’ve had 3 different managers at essentially the same job and they all had different expectations about writing.

    9. over educated*

      Ask your intern to run their writing through Hemingway app dot com before sending! It highlights passive voice, overly complex language, and long sentences, and it estimates reading level. You can just tell the intern to aim for no red highlighting and whatever grade reading level is appropriate for your internal communications and it will probably help quite a bit. (I find it helpful for my own writing, and I also find it works better than “I’ve been writing for the public for years, trust me” when I have to explain to technical specialists that the language they’ve provided me is not appropriate to publish for general audiences in its current complex form.)

    10. Ghost Town*

      It sounds like your intern is used to writing for the academy and not the real world. Academic writing can skew to verbose, passive, and convoluted (especially when you’re trying to reach a minimum word count on a deadline!). My UG and first MA were in literature, and I still find myself writing as though I were writing for grad school. Close to a decade in university administration and 6 education courses later, I’m finally getting better at writing succinctly.

      Does the intern have good examples of the kind of writing you’d like to see? I found examples to be very helpful when I was first transitioning from MLA to APA writing (and citation) styles.

      If you have the time to do this exercise, it might be helpful. Take examples of their writing that contain these errors and rework them to better and/or best alternate options. Now, either show them the examples side by side so they can see the difference or go through an editing exercise with them, holding your reworked text back till they’ve already taken a turn at editing the passages. Feel free to crack a few jokes about writing for school versus writing for work.

    11. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I think some specific feedback would be kind here. It’s not entirely impossible that this would be a new critique for your intern as many teachers tend to encourage students to write more and use more complex vocabulary. For most students, that takes their work to an acceptable level of complexity, but the odd student gets carried away and becomes a verbose and convoluted writer, as you’ve said. It’s hard for teachers to push back on this since, technically, the students are doing what you’ve asked. This is a great opportunity to explain that, in a work setting, clarity and conciseness are more important than word count.

    12. Em Too*

      I’ve asked people to cut a specified section by half without losing any info (they did and it was much better). And I mentioned that’s how I edit my own work too so hopefully didn’t come over as too patronising.

    13. Chaordic One*

      In my first jobs my bosses frequently returned my letters and documents to be revised (complete with red copy editor marks). It was a bit frustrating and disappointing at the time, but I really learned a lot.

  25. BDS*

    How do you handle a lax culture at the job?

    I work in an environment where people are very comfortable not doing their jobs, not being detailed or efficient and it’s a daily issue.

    We had new printers installed in November and many are having major issues. It’s finally gotten to a point that people are talking about maybe replacing them but nothing is moving on that and people are more apt to make a joke that ‘someone must have gotten a golf trip to have these put in’ than to actually deal with the issues.

    I was asked to reserve a car for my manager and given the corporate car rental account number. I asked two people in Finance who provided it if I needed anything more than that, any special instructions – they both didn’t think so. Well without a pin and not being authorized on the account, there’s nothing I can do, I of course find out on the phone with the rental company after wasting time getting transferred and trying to get things done. I reached out afterwards and was told someone will get back to me from the Finance dept, they will “ask around”. I bet I won’t hear back today (a Friday, and you want people to work??? are you crazy?!?!) so I made a regular reservation (manager is traveling tomorrow) – no one cares either way.

    Every day, every single day things take so long to get done and it’s really starting to get to me. How do you detach and not let it phase you? The whole environment is like this and so I have never ‘gotten in trouble’ due to the inefficiencies, I always work around it and people don’t get in trouble here, but I just don’t want to work like this day in and day out.


    1. Lemon Zinger*

      Your workplace is not going to change. Start job-hunting? That’s really my only advice. I’m sorry.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Agree. Lax cultures like this have a way of becoming parasitic – not only are they lax, but when you’re efficient, they expect you to do all the work and then become even more lax.

      2. JulieBulie*

        I agree also.

        In the meantime, just keep in mind which things are your responsibilities and which things are the responsibilities are someone else. Sometimes I used to get stressed out trying to solve problems that other people were responsible for, but in time I was able to force myself to let the failure be theirs.

        I don’t know if that will work for your situation or not. It worked for mine, but it was very difficult to do and I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that any more. (Different employer where people actually want to get things done.)

    2. LAI*

      I used to work in a similar environment, and it drove me crazy. I had to learn to let go of some of my own standards and accept that sometimes things wouldn’t get done, or wouldn’t get done well. I tried to use it as an opportunity to show others that things *could* be different and be a good model even if I was the only person working hard. I ended up building a really strong reputation for myself, but eventually, I did leave for somewhere where I thought that would be more appreciated.

    3. zora*

      This is a perfect example of what we were talking about on the “culture fit” thread yesterday. Some people prefer a place where they can just phone it in and stuff basically gets done eventually, some of us (me included) want things to be operating at a high-level and feel better when we can actually get things accomplished every day. This is not a good fit for you! I would start looking for a job now, but knowing that you are okay to stay at your current job and aren’t desperate to get out is a major benefit to you! You can take your time and look for something that is really great.

      And this is something to ask about in interviews! Think of some ways to ask questions about this kind of thing so you can really know that the culture fit in the next place will be good for you.

      1. JulieBulie*

        I’ve been wondering for years exactly how to gauge this in an interview. What is the tactful way of asking if people in this office are a bunch of lazy slugs looking for an industrious new host?

    4. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

      Oh wow – I totally feel your pain. This is exactly how things worked at my last two jobs (both at smaller companies – one tiny-family owned the other just a small firm). I felt like I spent more of my day figuring out work arounds than actually doing work.

      Honestly I could not detach or not let it phase me. I hope you can figure out a way to make that happen, but I just couldn’t.

      I just knew I had to move on. What did work for me was screening for a large company that runs “lean” (in the hopes that “lazy” employees would be let go/driven out) and one with a certain degree of structure (I wanted to work for a company with solid policies and procedures in place, but that was also thoughtful in its approach and valued efficiency). It seemed to work – my current company is so great! I feel like I have the proper support so that I can focus on my actual job instead of playing receptionist/admin/PA/IT/HR/MacGuyver/Janitor/Detective/Referee to just get the smallest things done.

      Also, I do value the resourcefullness that those companies taught me. Maybe you could try to focus on that (reframing your current experience and all)? In a more functional environment you would (will!) be seen as an ingenious, go-getter.

      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

        This is really helpful to read for me. I am currently in a place where its shall we say, far less than efficient, and its driving me up the wall. I am struggling mightily with this, and my last place was like this too. Screening for running lean sounds like a good plan – my buddy just got a new job (we had been at the prior job together) at a very lean place and so far its working out great for him!

        I thought it was just me being cranky but I really do have a drive to get things done and ensure they are impactful, and if you aren’t in a place that supports that well… I guess you end up where I am at mentally right now.

        1. JulieBulie*

          Just keep in mind that a small staff is not in itself evidence of “running lean.” In the aforementioned place where I worked, I thought they were running lean, but it turned out that they had literally nothing to do most of the time. So they became even leaner, but that only meant that there were fewer people watching cartoons on YouTube all day.

    5. The Queen of Cans & Jars*

      I wish I had the answer to that! My company is very much like that and it drives me up the wall! My only solution is to job hunt.

    6. A Person*

      If the workplace perpetuates the lax culture, not a lot.

      At my job, the higher ups don’t care as long as it looks like a good job is getting done. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between an actual good job and something that looks like a good job but is actually ok at best especially in the limited contexts we are likely to be observed (See also: A good job done well can be near seamless in its execution so unless you know its happening, it’s not always easy to observe). Compounding things are a couple of ‘part of the furniture’ staff that have a grip on the office culture and well, I’ve been fighting an uphill battle for the past 15 months.

      Due to circumstances, I’m basically biding my time until I can leave. I’m in the process of getting the next qualification so I don’t want to leave as I need to have accrued holiday and management cachet.

      Things that have helped me:
      Picking a few hills that I intend to defend seriously and letting some stuff go (the second part is a work in progress)
      Not engaging with co-workers I find draining unless I need to
      Giving in to the occasional sarcastic/pointed comment and passive aggressive impulse
      In situations where I need other people to do something, being willing to be very clear and explicit how I want things done and providing lists/materials as needed
      Documenting BS

      I’ve somewhat accepted that I’m probably regarded as the office bitch but one, for me, it’s the price of making sure I keep doing a job I’m proud of and two, the clients deserve to get good service, that’s what I intend to give them.

    7. Chaordic One*

      I totally understand where you are coming from. It sounds like my old job at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. It was never really clear to me if I was better off trying to teach someone (who would probably be quitting in another month or so) how to do something the should have been taught, or whether it was quicker to just do it myself.

      The other really bad part was having to follow up with people who didn’t get their paperwork returned or approved in a timely manner. No one else there seemed to have any sense of urgency about the work, even it meant losing sales.

  26. Sandi pariso*

    My boss asks me every week: what are you managing?” I find it difficult to say interesting & new things each week when I’m always managing the same thing.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I’m confused why your boss doesn’t already know what you’re managing as presumably, your boss is the one who assigns it to you? I think I would start falling back on, “as usual, I’m managing the Teapot Project. Everything is going great [or whatever the actual status is].”

    2. Emi.*

      Can you give updates on that thing? Like, “I’m still managing the Teapot Lacquer Development Project, and this week we closed out that pigment issue.”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Consider it similar to “What is going on this week?”
      Your answer could be “I am doing A, B and C like last week. But A has issue X and B has issue Y which prevents me from doing a lot about finishing C and C has no problems. I think that X and Y will be solved Tuesday or Wednesday. Meanwhile I will fill in with finishing C, maybe I can get that done in between.”

    4. Jessica*

      Is this a request for you to sound exciting and innovative, or more of a status update? The former sounds kind of excessive, but the latter is pretty standard.

      If it’s a status update, I’d just do a quick run-down of everything currently on your plate.

      “I’m wrapping up Project A, which just needs some final copy edits before it goes to the publisher. Project B is 50% complete and is currently having mock-ups completed. The first review is on Monday. Project C just kicked off, and I’m working on the research before I start on the initial draft.”

      Because sure, your job is pretty much the same from week to week (mine is, too) but you no doubt have individual tasks within that job, so talk about that. You might even consider sending your boss a weekly email with “5-second update” that includes a bulleted list detailing the statuses of the things you’re working on. It keeps your boss in the loop, but isn’t a hassle to put together.

  27. LAI*

    I just started a new job, and my physical office space is in a different building than the rest of my team. I can use the kitchen and printer in their building but that means walking downstairs, outside, and back upstairs. I asked about access to these resources in my own building, and was told that it should be fine to just use them. However, as far as I know, no one has told any of the staff in my current building about this, so I’d just look like a stranger using their area. Should I contact the office manager myself and ask? This feels so awkward!

    1. anna green*

      Yes, that’s what I would do. Either ask the office manager or if there are people in the copy room or kitchen etc. just starting talking to them and explaining who you are and why you’re there. They’ll likely get used to you pretty quick!

    2. MillersSpring*

      I would go ahead and use the resources in your own building. It’s 100% justifiable, and they will get used to seeing you. And you could introduce yourself! Word will get around.

  28. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I need help trying to deal with a co-worker who has anxiety. I’m at my wit’s end, ready to give up on interacting with her.

    Ever since she got hired, she has been trying to prove herself and it’s turning people off to the point they don’t want to work with her, which perpetuates this cycle where she needs to prove herself to them. She inserts herself into things, and she spends all her mental energy on the process rather than the substance. It’s pretty common for her to spend hours planning a simple meeting only to have nothing to say on the subject matter because she hasn’t thought about it.

    Things got worse when my employer got sued over an incident that occurred the week before she was hired. We had meetings to discuss the lawsuit as well as closed door meetings, nothing out of the ordinary, but she called me that night convinced she was going to get fired because she was sure she was being talked about in those closed door meetings. I know she doesn’t mean to be self centered, but it was a selfish thing to think about.

    On top of all of this, she works nights and weekends, expending energy writing and rewriting simple stuff like one page documents. Again, she misses the substance of things because she’s scared to talk to people she’s pissed off so her work is low quality. So she’ll do it herself and get in trouble for it.

    I finally drew the line on emails over the weekend, especially last weekend. I told her I don’t work outside business hours and I’ll look at whatever she sent on Tuesday. That will result in her stewing in her thoughts and rewriting things over and over again.

    Seriously, I’ve never seen someone work so hard with little reward. And she keeps doing it!

    How can I redirect her anxiety to another source???

    1. Christy*

      Stop accommodating it. Telling her you’d look at her email on Tuesday was a great step.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I think the thing here is that the onus isn’t on you to find a way to redirect her anxiety. It’s just to set appropriate boundaries for the way it impacts you. Beyond that, it’s really her thing to manage.

    2. Snark (formerly Liet)*

      That’s not on you. I’d establish some boundaries – I will not read your emails on weekends, I do not want you to call me outside work hours, I don’t have time to reassure you about this right now.

      When she blows a meeting, I think that’s actionable feedback. “You spent too much time planning the meeting and not enough time working on the subject matter. Moving forward, I think you really need to work on the substance, not just the process.” “Working endlessly on this document is not productive. You need to reach out to Wakeen and get his input.”

      Personally, I think she sounds like a basket case, and I think she’s going to be let go.

      1. Carla*

        I’d appreciate avoiding terms like “basket case” about people with mental illnesses.

        1. Snark (formerly Liet)*

          Her mental illnesses are entirely notional at this point, and Alison would prefer that we not assume that diagnosable mental illnesses are in play unless we’re told they are. And basket case does not denigrate mental illness; it’s used broadly to describe organizations and people who are completely dysfunctional and disorganized. It sounds like she is.

          1. Louise*

            It’s an offensive term. It came from WWI to describe soldiers who lost limbs and now signals mental or physical helplessness and a loss of function. As someone who struggles with pretty severe mental illness but tries to keep it out of work, if I found out someone called me a basket case, I would be very offended, mortified, and angry. It’s also a really good way to diminish the very real emotional struggles that people with or without mental illness go through.

        2. an.on*

          also, the origin of basket case is about soldiers losing their limbs and literally having to be carried around. it’s not historically or even generally regarded as a slur against mentally ill people – it’s about something that’s out of control, unable to move/work independently, etc.

          1. Louise*

            Right… and to metaphorically imply that someone with a mental illness or someone struggling with intense emotions of out of control and unable to work independently is incredibly offensive and can lead to a culture where people who do struggle with mental health issues (diagnosable or not) are afraid to speak up for fear of being perceived as helpless or incompetent.

    3. NPOQueen*

      Do you have examples of what good, quality work looks like? If she’s afraid to talk to people because they might not like her, it might be helpful for her to have a resource to check. But also, you can set expectations. If she spends hours planning a meeting but doesn’t think about the substance of the meeting, can you tell her how to structure her day? As in, she has three hours before the meeting, so one hour planning it and two hours figuring out discussion topics?

      I’m saying this because I assume she’s young and might not know how to set these boundaries up herself. However, if she’s an experienced worker, this might be far more difficult to solve. You don’t want to get in the habit of hand-holding, or have her come to you for every little thing. I’d also want to set boundaries on how long she can work (nights and weekends shouldn’t be acceptable in the long term, she’ll definitely burn out). But as others have said, it’s ultimately her responsibility to deal with this. If you are giving guidance and she’s not listening, that’s the bigger issue.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      You say she’s your coworker, so you don’t manage her, is that right? If that’s so, all you can really do is set limits on how you behave (you don’t have time to reassure her, you will not answer emails, phone calls, texts or telegrams outside of work hours), and to lower your expectations of what you can get from her – assume that she’s not going to contribute useful content in meetings, for example. It might be appropriate to bring this up with her manager – particularly that people are avoiding working with her, because it’s so draining.

      If you are her manager, I think it would be most kind/useful to address it head on, from the practical viewpoint of how it is impacting her ability to do her job. And if you have an EAP, make sure she knows she can access it to help with work related anxiety. Would it help to give her shorter deadlines? If she gets an assignment in the morning and has to submit it that evening, she can’t re-write at night. Or when there are discussion meetings coming, ask her to give you a written bullet-point summary related to the content of the meeting before hand (again, with a fairly short deadline), to focus her attention on important things.

      1. JulieBulie*

        The shorter deadlines are a good idea. I used to sweat over things a lot more when I had more time to do them – and the extra time was not necessarily well spent. Having to do things much faster taught me how much I was really capable of doing in a day, and it made me a much more effective worker.

  29. CatCat*

    A person on my team is suddenly gone this week. I found out via perfunctory email that Tim is no longer working here. I’m in a satellite office so I don’t really have a good sense of anything underlying at the main office. It makes me anxious :-/

    1. Lumen*

      That’s rough. :( Maybe send your manager an email asking for a time to talk (over the phone or Skype, preferably, if in-person isn’t an option).

      Things I suggest in that conversation:
      – Don’t focus on your anxiety, but on your goal.
      – Presumably your goal is to be more aware of/involved in the office, team, and what’s going on.
      – Use Tim’s departure as an example of this, not as the main point of the discussion.
      – Come to the table with a few ideas of your own about HOW you could be more ‘in touch’ with the main office, and ask your manager for some additional ideas. You two can brainstorm and collaborate.

      On your own, it may be worth taking some time to write down or talk with a friend or professional about why this causes you anxiety, and what you can do to manage those feelings so they don’t impact you at work as much.

      1. CatCat*

        Good tips, thanks! Because to me, this looks out of the blue, I really just want to know that if my job were in jeopardy, my manager would be crystal clear about that.

        1. Jessica*

          In my company, an abrupt departure accompanied by an email saying “Effective immediately, So-and-so has decided to pursue opportunities outside of Company. We wish them well on their future endeavors” = they got fired.

    2. On Fire*

      Do you feel that your workplace is generally functional or dysfunctional? Has there been a high rate of turnover (historically/lately)?

      In a generally functional workplace, there is probably a good reason for someone to be abruptly gone. And your manager may or may not be able to talk about it. For example, in my workplace, someone was dismissed, and literally the only thing they could say was “Sally no longer works here.” I only knew because of personal connections that Sally had been retrained and counseled about X issue, to no avail. So although it seems out of the blue, it may really not be. Unfortunately, you may not ever know that.

      Lumen has good suggestions for the conversation. I emphasize the mention of making this conversation about how to get YOU more plugged into what is happening in the office (this has both work-social benefits as well as strictly professional – you’ll know more about professional development opportunities, promotions, etc., if you’re plugged in).

    3. MillersSpring*

      Tim could have resigned with two weeks notice, but your manager felt it important that he not have access to critical systems (or clients, whatever) during the notice period, so they had him leave the same day.

      Or Tim could have gotten counseled/been on a PIP, so that it wasn’t out of the blue for him.

      Or Tim could have had an urgent personal issue that necessitated resigning without notice.

      My point being, you really can’t be anxious that your own job is at risk. It’s simply too likely that Other Reasons are the case.

  30. Anonosaur*

    I interviewed for an in-home care type job. The parent was the interviewer, and I’d be working in the home. I didn’t disclose that I am in a same-sex marriage and I learned that the family is religious. I’m kicking myself. I normally would never worry about this but I feel like the dynamic is different when I’m working in the person’s home and there’s no HR to protect me and I’m working with their child. I got the job. I don’t think that the employer is going to be biased or freak out and fire me if they (the family) gets to know me better and it comes up in passing because they seem like they will be professional and may not even care, but there’s always that “what if” thing. There’s nothing to be done now and if I’m wrong and the family reacts poorly if they find out at some point, the worse thing that can happen is I’ll be out of a job. But I just needed a place to put this down because it’s been taking up residence in my brain.

    1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      I mean, I am in a same sex marriage and I have had people react badly- but religious doesn’t always mean anti-LGBT.

      I had a similar problem to yours when I was in college; I had a job, in exchange for rent about 50% below market rate, in a campus ministry building. Easy enough, do yard work, clean, cook for weekly student meals. Well, I was already out to some friends at the time and was worried (some were Christian) that it would get back to pastor/boss and I’d be evicted if found out. So I nervously decided to beat that gossip and tell her.

      Her response was that God had obviously made me that way, so why should it matter or she care? And then she told me to finish th dishes.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I think that being out like this really does help promote LGBT equality. It contributes to minds being changed and hearts being opened.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      In addition to religious not necessarily meaning anti-LGBT, a whole lot of people who might be anti-X as an abstract theory have no problem with a person X they actually know. The huge shift in opinions toward same-sex marriage (which isn’t just old people dying off, but every age group shifting about 10 points toward in favor over the past couple of decades) has a whole lot to do with people coming out. So rather than gays being mysterious people one has heard live in NYC, it’s the choir director and chief accountant and they’re all really boring and how would their getting married impact one personally anyhow yawn?

      1. Amber T*

        This. I think this is a really a really big struggle and detriment overall (“I don’t approve of *insert discriminated against group here* overall, but you’re ok!”) but it can work out in the individual’s favor.

    3. Temperance*

      To be totally blunt, if it’s an issue for them, they should be the ones asking about it.

      1. Newby*

        Can they ask about it? I thought that LGBT was a protected class (but I could certainly be wrong about that). I hope that they are not anti-LGBT but not asking about it is not a guarantee that it is true.

        1. blackcat*

          No, it’s not in the vast majority of states in the US. Some additional municipalities also have LGBT non-discrimination laws, but, by and large, it is 100% legal to fire someone for being gay in the US.

          1. Natalie*

            Additionally, anti-discrimination laws usually don’t apply to businesses under a certain size, which would absolutely include someone hiring one individual in their home.

        2. Temperance*

          Sadly, it’s only true in certain states and municipalities. We have no federal protections for the LGBT community.

    4. MS*

      Depending on my other job prospects, I would consider outing myself before starting. It would take up space in my brain until it does come up, and I feel like working closely with someone in their home and with a child it would be more likely to come up. I’d rather know up front if they’re uncomfortable with it than to be worried about getting fired or the dynamic suddenly changing later on. That said, a job’s a job and it sucks to have to think about these things.

  31. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Earned sick and safe time ordinance just went into effect for my city as of the 1st! It’s pretty skimpy, but for my total work hours/year, I will get 5-6 days of PTO now.

    I am literally never missing work or seriously sick, so is it okay to use it for doctor’s appointments or a mental health day?

    1. ASJ*

      I say yes – I have taken some mental health days before (usually when I am literally so exhausted that I know I won’t be able to function at work) and typically average 3-4 a year. But since you don’t have many days, you might want to look at keep at least 1 or 2 until the end of the year… just in case you really do get sick.

    2. hermit crab*

      Nice! Good for your city (and you)!

      At places I’ve worked, doctor’s appointments (and dentist appointments, physical therapy appointments, etc.) have always been a 100% acceptable use of sick time. Mental health days can be more of a know-your-office thing — I think there are a few posts about that specifically. (That’s mental health days of the “I need a break to avoid burnout” variety, rather than the “I can’t work today because of mental health symptoms” variety; the latter always counts as a legit sick day in my opinion.)

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        I know, right? I’m excited. My church was actually a major backer of the ordinance- they saw it as a social justice issue, because for them it comes down to not forcing people to choose between caring for their families and having enough to eat and pay rent.

    3. Emi.*

      I would say probably, but check the ordinance to see if they have specific rules about it.

    4. InternWrangler*

      If you live in the same city as I do, the ordinance actually spells it out. Yes for doctor’s appointments and to treat mental health symptoms.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Please do this. I very seldom miss work myself. So once every 18-24 months I take a day. Usually it is snowy or I worked a long day the day before, something like that. But yes, take a day every once in a while.

    6. Nic*

      Every job I’ve worked that has included sick time has told me that it’s expected to be used for doctor’s appointments. One place actually DID NOT want us using it for unexpected illness, and we were required to give multiple days’ notice when we were going to use it.

      Congrats on the time! Please use it for your health.

  32. Pepper*

    I had a meeting with my manager this week where I got some (warranted, in retrospect) feedback. I was essentially told that a) I needed to focus on being time to work, b) my productivity levels had dropped, and c) I need to work on presenting a friendlier/more helpful attitude (particularly so that no one ever felt they were being a burden by bringing things to me). This was initially presented to me as a “chat about workload”, but I noticed that some other people in the office also had meetings set up – so it may, in fact, have been a quick check-in/review for everyone, even though my manager’s never done them before.

    I’ve taken this feedback to heart, or tried to at least. For the past three days, I’ve made it a point to get up ten minutes earlier so that I can leave the house earlier and get to work about five minutes early (two of three mornings I was the first one here, the third morning I met another coworker in the hall). A coworker remarked to me today that she’s noticed I’ve been getting in earlier, which made me feel good. I’m also trying to be more aware of how I’m speaking and reacting to people (I tend to think before speaking, so I’m trying to learn to bite my tongue while also being more welcoming), while also focusing more on work.

    My question is, does this sound like something I can come back from? This is my first long-term job (what I’ve had before was temp work/contracts) so I feel like I’m navigating new territory and I legitimately don’t know if this is “your reputation has been permanently tarnished” territory or more of a “bump in the road you can easily recover from”. Compounding the issue is that my manager is on vacation for the next two weeks, so it’s harder to “prove myself”, though I realize this is something that you can’t prove you’ve changed overnight.

    My other question is, can I ask for a meeting in early August to “check in”? Is that too soon? She doesn’t seem to do one-on-one meetings often, and when she does I suspect they tend to be bad news. So does it seem needy, I guess, to want to make sure I’m progressing well or that I’m performing to her level of expectation? I struggle with anxiety (and this has been a very hard week for me, I’ve basically been on a “you are trash and suck” spiral since our meeting on Tuesday) and I don’t want a reputation as someone who needs to be ‘handled’ or anything like that.

    1. Dahoo Dores*

      I think you can come back from this, definitely. Congratulations on taking steps to improve the situation!

      As for the check-in meeting, I’d say wait till the end of August. Just keep trying your best in the meantime. Good luck!

    2. MechanicalPencil*

      Given that your manager is out for 2 weeks, asking for a meeting in August is too soon. I would give it until at least the end of September so that you can show a pattern of sustained “good behavior”. Continue making an effort to be on time/early to work. Work on being more productive and completing projects/tasks in a timely manner with good efficiency.

      The thing I try to remember as both an employee and a coworker when people seem to be short/not as welcoming is that people have things that they’re going through in life, so maybe their temperament is part of that. We all have bad days/weeks. While that may not be the case with your situation, it does apply in that I don’t think this will follow you around permanently, especially if you take strides to improve how you interact with people.

      I’m also a “think before I speak” person, so when I feel like I’m taking an especially long time to respond, I say something to the effect of “hang on a sec, I’m thinking” or…something. Or make a “Well, if we do…” and then trail off. Something to acknowledge that yes you did hear them and aren’t just staring at the person awkwardly while you think about how to respond.

      This feedback is not the kiss of death for your job. It’s just feedback; we all get it. You’ve already mentioned that you weren’t the only one to get called into the office. Take what you heard, work on it, and know that it’s all things that are fixable.

    3. LQ*

      I would definitely ask for a meeting to check in. I don’t think early August would be too soon, I wouldn’t do it immediately after she gets back from vacation, but absolutely by early August. And yes, I think this is something you can come back from. It sounds like you are making efforts and as long as they become habits, I think it is entirely reasonable to overcome.
      I had to overcome something similar not for myself but my work area, getting people to come to us because it had previously been that people who brought problems weren’t treated great. It was a lot to overcome but we’ve swung so hard we’ve gone too far the other way. Entirely possible to overcome, but takes some effort and sometimes being a little more than normal. (I have to check myself still when people bring a really complex or pita problem, so I make it really clear that even when I seem annoyed or more often distracted that it’s about the problem and I’m really happy they brought it to my attention.)

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      You can absolutely come back from it.

      The annals of AAM have many anecdotes of people who had X bad habit right up until it became a problem in an early job, at which point they managed to change.

      And I agree with Pencil that you want to give it two months to demonstrate a sustained change.

    5. DaisyGrrl*

      I think this is something you can come back from in a reasonable workplace with a reasonable boss. Your boss gave you feedback, and now you have a better idea of what she expects and can adjust your behavior accordingly. She didn’t put you on a PIP, or tell you to pack your things.

      That said, one thing almost every manager wants to see from their employees is an ability to take feedback constructively and act on it. If you improve and meet her expectations, she will be happy. You’ve already mentioned that people have noticed your improved timeliness, so keep up the good work!

      As for requesting a check-in for early-mid August, I think that’s reasonable. It doesn’t have to be long (15 mins should do). At the check-in, your goal should be to thank her for the feedback, express openness and commitment to changing your behavior, explain what you’ve been doing, and see if you’re on the right track or if you need further course correction. If it goes well (and it should), no further follow-up needed.

      It takes maturity to accept feedback and act on it with grace and poise, so tell your anxiety to shut up. You’ve got this!

    6. NPOQueen*

      Haha, I received this exact feedback from my boss. I came from an environment where they didn’t care when you came in, as long as you got your work done, but it seemed like this new job had the same attitude. But then I missed an 8:30am meeting (my start time was at 9am though), and I definitely got reprimanded. However, it did no damage to my reputation. It’s good that your coworker noticed though, those things tend to get back around to your boss, one way or another.

      I’d say this is just a bump in the road. Continue coming in on time, but setting a meeting in August might be a bit too soon, only because she’s on vacation. Maybe look toward the latter half of August or early September, just to give her time to evaluate you. Though anxiety often clouds your judgement, if it were a really big issue, she probably would have said so. I also have bad anxiety and I’ve obsessed over meetings and talks and my own mistakes, only to find out that no one else thought anything about it. Work hard, and check in with your boss. If you’re new to working permanent jobs, setting up weekly/monthly check-ins is not a bad idea, just to see how you’re progressing overall, not just for your attendance.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      FWIW, it sounds like you are handling this just fine and so that means YES you can come back from this. It’s not the end of your reputation. Matter of fact, you keep doing what you are doing and you might get a solid rep as a person who is approachable and willing to address problems. That is a GOOD thing.

    8. Jessica*

      If other people also had meetings, it sounds to me like it could be part of an office-wide recalibration after a general trend of people getting a little too comfortable. In my experience, some periodic level-setting is pretty normal, and even healthy. In your case, these are all very measurable items that you can tangibly demonstrate successfully.

      I personally would keep up the trend for 2-3 months before asking to check in. It’s easy to put in a special effort for a few weeks and then slack off again, but it’s a more powerful message to have kept it up long enough to have not been a fluke.

      In terms of seeming more helpful, I work in a pretty helpful office culture, and people do a lot of the following: 1) Sending out emails saying, “Hey, I’ve got some free time while I wait for this project, anyone need a hand?” 2) When someone helps, the helped person invariably thanks them, fairly specifically. “Thanks for helping me on that email thing. I really appreciate it.” 3) When helping someone else, finish up with, “Just let me know if you need anything else from me.” 4) If someone needs help, but you’re in the middle of something or not available, “I’m currently working on XYZ, but I’ll be finished in about 10 minutes, can I stop by then?” Which lets them know when you *will* be available. Or if you just can’t break away (which happens!) then, “I really have to focus on this right now, but check with Wakeen, he should have that information for you.”

      It all sets expectations and also makes people feel like their efforts are acknowledged. As a result, we all get along pretty well, and things get done! And it takes almost no time to say these things, either, but those few extra words make a difference.

  33. First day*

    I start a new job on Monday! I’ve had a few weeks off to decompress and now need to get back in the swing of things. It’s been a while since I’ve had a first day of work, and I don’t know very much about the new position (kind of taking a leap of faith that I’ll like it, but career-wise it’s undeniably a great opportunity). What should I keep in mind on my first day, or bring with me? Anything you’d suggest doing this weekend/next week to prep myself/mitigate some of that first-week fatigue that often happens?

    1. peanutbutter*

      I recommend bringing an afternoon snack for energy. Usually by 2PM, I’m drained on the first week of the job

      1. twig*

        And your favorite Headache medicine! I usually get a headache the first day or two at a new job — just from the sheer amount of information that I’m taking in. (I’m not normally a headache-prone person)

    2. Jessica*

      Plan your first day outfit and your lunch, if you plan to bring one, the night before. Whatever you don’t need to do in the morning will give you extra time to get ready. Go to bed early and make sure you get a full 8 hours! In fact, go to bed early all weekend so your circadian rhythm is on track Sunday night.

      Make sure you have two forms of ID in case you need to fill out official documentation for whatever reason. If it’s a place that issues badges, wear something that looks good in photos. (E.g. Clothing in solid colors or subtle patterns as opposed to large florals, etc.)

      Expect to not know things. You’re new and that’s to be expected. It feels awkward to not have any context, but you’ll learn that quickly enough. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

      1. Chaordic One*

        Yeah, the kind of things you’ll need to fill out an I-9 form (usually your driver’s license and your social security card).

        When I started my new job I had to list beneficiary information for the 401k plan and for the company provided life insurance. They wanted the names, addresses and social security numbers of my beneficiaries which wasn’t something that I had at my fingertips. (I had to call my sisters to ask them their social security numbers).

        Fortunately, they didn’t want the beneficiary information the first day, which gave me some time to research the different investments that were part of the retirement plans offered.

  34. peanutbutter*

    Story Time! What’s the oddest thing you’ve seen a coworker during a video conference?

    My company is pretty casual and has a fair amount of remote workers. Some of the departments will insist that people have their cameras on during a phone call and as a result, I’ve seen people do laundry in the background.

    1. Junior Dev*

      I took an online community college course and sometimes the instructor’s cat would wander on-screen.

      One of my coworkers works remotely and we sometimes hear his toddler in the background.

      1. blackcat*

        My cat is the worst about this when I work from home and do web-meetings. And if I shut him out of the room, he just yowls. Maybe 2/3s of the time, I can get him to sit quietly on my lap if he’s in the same room. The other 1/3 of the time, he must be rubbing the monitor (which has the webcam attached), or smack between me and the computer.

      2. an.on*

        my cat occasionally makes an appearance in my video conferences. my boss’s boss once stopped a meeting to comment on her presence (positively, not that it was a problem.) she laid down on the back of my chair with her head on my shoulder and stared into the camera with me entire meeting. she’s usually not interested but that day she stayed the entire time. :)

        1. catsAreCool*

          This wasn’t on video, but recently while I was in a work meeting (I was at home, calling in), my cat threw up on some of my stuff, and started doing this while I was unmuted (I muted the phone before people heard much of it.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      I have several coworkers who work remotely. One time we FaceTimed a colleague so she could participated in an onsite training. When we were all saying hi to her, she had to duck out of the frame to rush to the bathroom (pregnant and nauseous).

    3. The IT Manager*

      A man’s video came on during a telecon accidentally; he was sitting at his desk shirtless.

      My laptops video camera is covered.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      My dog knew that I was talking to people inside the computer (context: the past few times this was my husband, as we skype when he’s on overseas travel, and daddy loves her and will talk to her on those calls), yet these people were not paying attention to her, and so she joined in with a long comment on the theme “no one is petting me.”

      Fortunately everyone laughed.

    5. JustaTech*

      I had a classmate who’s office smoke alarm low-battery beep was going off in one of our calls (everyone could hear it and finally someone asked whose it was). The weird part was in our next call several weeks later it was *still* beeping. I could not imagine how he could ignore it all day every day for weeks!

    6. Kowalski! Options!*

      Not a co-worker, per se, but when I was still doing language instruction and writing coaching over Skype, I had one guy whose index finger spent a fair amount of time up his nostrils.

      I just told him not to use the camera any more because the video was eating up too much of his bandwidth.

    7. cornflower blue*

      During my last online class (so technically not work, I guess) my professor had a huge grandfather clock, and when it would toll the hour, his beagle would howl along with it in the background. Everyone had to pause for the caterwauling.

    8. Chaordic One*

      In one of my previous jobs, one of my duties was to turn on the camera and monitors for video conferences that were originating from the company headquarters. If there were going to be a lot of people in our office attending I’d adjust the camera to show everyone present, but if it was only one or two people I’d focus the camera on those people or that person.

      One time I set up the camera a woman who was the only person from our office attending the video conference. She must have forgotten about the camera being present because afterwards she was a little upset with me because people at headquarters had seen her yawning and scratching herself during the conference and afterwards they teased her about it.

    9. Nic*

      I didn’t see this, but a friend of mine has a green cheek conure who sits on his shoulder all day while he works from home. Including on video calls.

      As someone who has birds, I cannot fathom trying to get a meeting done with that, even with a relatively quiet bird.

  35. extra anon today*

    I am fairly new to my office and I am in a very quiet, reserved group. There is another group (from a different department) that sits near us. Whereas my supervisor is generally cordial and mostly makes requests and comments via email, there’s is the opposite. Whenever he speaks to his two reports, he is berating them, being extremely condescending, and often times just MEAN about things that don’t even matter. He has been especially bad this morning and I want to say something but I don’t know who I should approach. We work in government, and I’ve never seen this behavior tolerated at other gov offices where I’ve worked. I know my supervisor is also overhearing this but she is very non-confrontational, so I have never heard her speak of it (that doesn’t mean she hasn’t reported it, but I know she’s never addressed him about his behavior directly). He is senior above me in a different department, so it seems like none of my business but I have to hear it every single day and it is stressing me out! If I were either one of those two I would have filed a complaint already. Should I contact HR and have my concerns on file to back them up in case they have? I’m not sure what to do.

    1. jes*

      I’m curious to know what others think about involving a supervisor or HR, because if it’s distressing to you, that’s definitely an issue – you shouldn’t have to listen to other people being mean, even if it’s not directed at you. However, one other thing could be to approach his reports privately and say, ‘I heard what he said there/the other day, and was taken aback by his words and tone. I just wanted to check in with you to see how you’re feeling, and how things are going’. Showing a supportive ear and acknowledging what you see as happening could open up a conversation, and let them know that they have support if they decide that they want to raise it.

    2. Frustrated Optimist*

      Rather than addressing the situation directly (which is not mine to step in, so to speak), I might try just being extra kind and supportive to these particular colleagues. I’m not sure how much your work overlaps with theirs, but if it seems appropriate, you might also add that you appreciate their work, etc.

      I’ve been both the abused worker, as well as witness to abuse of others by a manager. Totally understand how it’s stressing you out!

    3. MillersSpring*

      Document, document! Keep a little journal in your desk drawer. “Friday, 07/07, 10:30 a.m., Fergus yelled loudly at his team in my area. He used the F-word and was ranting about spout alignment. I later saw one of his team crying.” Etc.

      Or during one of his rants, you might rush over and ask, “I heard yelling–is everyone OK?” Repeat ad infinitum.

  36. jes*

    Advice warmly welcomed! What is the etiquette for thanking an interviewer for whom you don’t have an email?
    I interviewed for a job I really want with the senior manager (it was a screening interview – the full interview comes later, but we had a nice conversation), but it was arranged for by the organization’s administrator. Do I (a) use logic to deduce the email address of the senior manager and thank her (I feel like this is creepy), (b) write to the admin and ask her to convey my thanks?, or (c) do nothing?

    1. Morning Glory*

      I am the admin (assistant) in this scenario on a regular basis. It’s pretty common for candidates to ask that I pass along a note to the interviewer, that’s what I would recommend in this situation unless by administrator you are referring to a much more senior position. It’s not a big deal to forward it along, and it avoids that awkward ‘how did you get this email’ dynamic.

    2. Lemon Zinger*

      I was in this situation while interviewing for my current job. I just emailed the admin and said “Please pass on my thanks to Jane, Fergus, and Felicity for the interview. I really enjoyed getting to know them and am looking forward to discussing the role more.”

    3. SL #2*

      Definitely write to the admin! Speaking as one myself, and knowing the other admins in the office, we’re happy to forward nice notes to our bosses, especially if you ask politely if we’d forward the note along because you didn’t get the senior manager’s email.

    4. Lily Rowan*

      I don’t actually think it’s creepy to deduce the email address of the senior person — if it even occurred to me that I had never emailed the person, I would just think they were smart enough to figure out that if had set up the appointment, I must be

      1. Jessica*

        Be advised that in large companies, there can be more than one person with the same name. I am and there have been as many as 5 other Jessica.Commonlastnames employed at the same time. Subsequent me-s are assigned emails like Jessica.Commonlastname2@, 3@, etc. but people don’t necessarily have visibility to that subtle nuance. When in doubt, go for the sure thing and email the person whose contact info you already have.

  37. peanutbutter*

    My husband and I are thinking of relocating back to my hometown which is across the US. My husband can work remotely, so it will be up to me to find a new job back home. What are some things I should keep in mind while doing the job search?

    Some additional background, I work in IT in NYC and I’m looking to return to the Pacific Northwest. I do have contacts in the pacific northwest that I could reach out to for job leads.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’d suggest leaving your address off your resume and just including a phone number/email address. A lot of people will dismiss an out of town candidate.

      1. msroboto*

        This is a good start but I found that people saw my last position on other state and it still works against you. I had never given up my current state cell phone number and had the same email account for years but it’s hard to overcome the you last worked in NY and now want a position in PNW.

        1. OtterB*

          When I was doing something like this, I put it in my cover letter as “expect to be relocating to [new place] for family reasons” which means they don’t have to guess about the change.

    2. zora*

      I wouldn’t actually just leave off an address or location, that actually can look odd like you are hiding something, and as msroboto said, they will guess when they see where your last position was located.

      I found the best thing was to bring it up in the first paragraph of my cover letter and be as specific as possible to make it sound like a foregone conclusion: “I am currently in the process of moving to [Town] by mid-September. I am extremely interested in this position and can be flexible with my move and start date, and am willing to travel at my own expense to interview.” Of course, only write those things if they are true, but the idea is to be really clear about the specifics of your situation, because that is much more believable. If you just say in passing “relocating to [Town]” most people will assume you want them to handle relocation and that you aren’t really local and it will seem easier to just move on to someone local.

      In my situation, my move date coincided with their desired start date, they did go ahead and pay for my travel for the interview even though I offered, and I got the job.

      1. jes*

        I agree with keeping your current location what it is, but making your goals very explicit. I’m doing the same thing right now, and have a line near the end of my cover letter that says “Originally from HOMETOWN, I am actively looking to return and am able to relocate immediately”. Once I made it clear that (a) I had lived there before so I knew the city and what it was like living there, and (b) that they wouldn’t have to wait for me to go through a lengthy relocation process, it completely changed and I started getting a lot of interviews in that city. That said, I also live not unreasonably far from hometown so interviewing there is expensive but feasible, and I also work in a sector where remote interviewing is relatively common. If they’ll struggle to interview it, that could still be a problem.

  38. Hershele Ostropoler*

    I suddenly remembered a job listing I saw a while ago, that asked for resume, cover letter, and two pitches. Completely reasonable, except that nothing in the listing gave any indication of the publication’s tone, subject matter, or name.

  39. ARB*

    I don’t have a driver’s license, and I want to ask in an upcoming job interview if that will be a problem for the job. What is the best way to bring it up? I would really appreciate examples of language I could use. The job description did not mention a requirement to have a driver’s license or a car, but due to the nature of the work, I suspect that this position will be expected to meet research participants at different locations sometimes (which requires driving in my city).
    (FYI I can reliably travel to and from the workplace, so that won’t be an issue.)

    1. extra anon today*

      I agree with Fabulous that it is just a straight forward question. You want to know as soon as you can so that if it is a requirement, you don’t get too far in the process before you find out.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      You could also ask more broadly “Is there any kind of travel involved in this position?”

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Rather than “travel”, perhaps “off-site component,” or “location visits,” as when I hear “travel” I don’t necessarily think of off-site work happening entirely within the typical business day.

        1. Newby*

          That is a good way to put it. If there is, ARB can follow up with asking how often that would be required. If the distance is not too far and it is not too often, they may be able to use a taxi or uber without the expense being too high. If it is far or often that would probably not be feasible.

  40. Going Solo?*

    I provide specialized in-person services to a niche client base. I’m a FT employee (salary only, no benefits) working remotely. My employer is a small start-up, and there is only one other employee in my geographic territory – a supervisor who has another FT job and limited time.

    The company funnels new clients to me. They do an “ok” job on screening and a good job with invoicing/billing. There is high attrition in the client base, so a steady pipeline coming in has value. On the down side, I am essentially working as an independent expert without any opportunity to benefit from shared network, mentoring, etc. I also have to use company materials and follow company policies that at best, I don’t love (and at worse are a little embarrassing bordering on unprofessional). I’ve made suggestions for improvement before, and very little of my feedback gets incorporated.

    I am based in the US. There is no non-compete clause. In fact, employees are free to provide the same services outside of their employment or clients that come through the company.

    I’m thinking of starting my own business and consulting back with the current employer – switching to independent contractor for them for some clients. I’m looking for tips on negotiating this, handling existing client load, and pitfalls to be wary of. Also looking for scripts that maintain a good relationship when my motivation is:
    – wanting to be able to market myself, while not wanting to be ‘branded’ with their stuff/approach
    – maintaining creative control and ownership over new content I create
    – more flexibility in working with clients than their policies allow
    – believing that they are not pricing services correctly in our geographic market
    – disagreement about the amount of time different projects or client services take

    Thank you for your advice!

    1. Kristie*

      I saw that no one had commented. I don’t have any advice. I’m a school teacher, so I wouldn’t be helpful to you! But good luck with your idea of doing your own thing!

  41. Forensic scientists?*

    I’m curious to hear from anyone who worked or works as a forensic scientist. I realize there’ll be a lot of possibility for variation (especially between states, if you’re in the US like me), so I’m just curious to hear what kind of things you did each day, the balance of slow times and fast deadlines, the culture in your lab, etc. The prosaic stuff.

    One thing I’m curious about that I’d never ask about in an interview is cellphone/Ipod use. Is it generally unheard of to permit those in a lab? I’m wondering if the camera capabilities are considered a security risk.

      1. jamlady*

        It’s very similar. I’m in a related field that has way more jobs, and my field is also full of unemployed graduates.

  42. Dahoo Dores*

    I’m not very happy in my present position. There is literally nothing to do here. Sure, I could sit here and ride it out till I retire, but that’s a good 15 years in the future. I took the job because 1) I was unemployed for two years; and 2) I thought I wanted to pursue a master’s in the field, but found the work wasn’t for me.
    So I am thinking of applying for an office assistant job within the college for which I work.
    I’m wondering: Do I owe it to my supervisor to tell him that I’m applying? Suppose I don’t get the job, or I do the interview and I don’t think I even want the job. Will this hurt my relationship within my current department?
    I’m after more money and better working hours. I can’t get the hours within my department. I’ve been here five years and the place changes at the pace of frozen molasses.

    1. Lady Jay*

      Don’t tell your current supervisor! Over the winter, I applied to graduate school; it was a prestigious place, several states away, and would have meant the end of my current position. I toyed with whether or not to tell my boss, out of courtesy, and came down on the side of Not.

      I didn’t get into graduate school. I’m so thankful that I didn’t say anything; I would have strained my current working relationship for nothing.

    2. dyinginbiglaw*

      Don’t say anything until you have an offer in your hand. You could risk being seen as a flight risk which would potentially ruin your relationship or your work life as it exists right now.

      1. Dahoo Dores*

        Thanks, everybody. I’ve been leaning toward keeping my mouth shut anyway. I definitely will now.

    3. LaterKate*

      Wait, this is an internal transfer, right? In some companies, it’s a requirement to notify your current supervisor before applying, and in many others, your supervisor would be made aware, either formally or informally, at some point in the process. I would look into policies, and maybe discreetly ask around to find out what the case is in your place of employment. If your supervisor is going to find out anyway, it’s better coming from you.

  43. Ella Minnow Pea*

    I’m a new manager of a small team, and I’ve inherited an employee who unfortunately is just not a good fit for her role. I’ve worked with this person closely during the two years she has been here and she has struggled with meeting deadlines, being proactive when it’s called for, prioritizing her time, and understanding what types of things are/are not appropriate for our market (we’re in a creative field). As soon as I became her manager we met to discuss the problems and devised a course of improvement, and I have provided tools to help. She has made strides, but I need her to have a level of drive and industry savvy that I am not sure she can easily attain. Any tips for navigating this?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you’re pretty sure she doesn’t have the inherent qualities she’ll need to meet the bar for the role, you may just need to have a candid conversation with her about that and jointly figure out what to do next, which could be (a) transitioning her out of the role in some agreed-upon timeframe or (b) if she thinks she can do what you need, giving her a limited amount of time to show that (like a month, not six months). There are some good resources on this from one of my clients here (mostly written by me):

  44. Skint Anon*

    Does anybody have advice on how to find short-term part-time work with flexible hours? I work a standard 9-5 job but am having elective surgery in a couple of months that’s not being covered by insurance. It’s going to be a major blow to my savings so I’ve been brainstorming ways to make some extra cash to offset the cost. As part of that I’ve been looking for potential side work (preferably stuff that can be done from home) but am having a couple of issues:

    1) It’s difficult for me to tell which companies are legit and which are scams.
    2) Over the next few months I’ll be working several weekends and a fair amount of overtime at my regular job, so the hours need to be flexible.

    Anyone have suggestions?

    1. dyinginbiglaw*

      I waitress part time. If you get in with a good restaurant, hours can be pretty flexible and the money can be really good. You’d have to know your hours ahead of time, so there’s no taking off work short notice. If you coordinate a set schedule and you just build those shifts into your calendar, it feels like blocked off time anyway.

      1. k.k*

        My only caveat to that would be to ask your doctor first. Servers spend a lot of time on their feet, so if you plan to be doing this job after the surgery, make sure it won’t impact your recovery.

        1. Skint Anon*

          Yeah I’m not going to be able to be on my feet much at all for almost a month afterward, which is why I’m mostly looking for at-home stuff (that I can possibly continue doing from the couch while taking recovery time off from main job).

    2. Maya Elena*

      I worked as an over-the-phone translator without any prior relevant experience, but very good language skills.
      I just applied online after finding the job on a job board. I got to pick my shift and just had to do a minimum of 16 hours, which I did across 4 days in even-sized blocks. I didn’t change the shift often (once or twice in 12 mos) but the ability to do so was implicit.

      I’d assume there are tons of customer service or other call-based jobs like that (e.g., credit card customer service or basic outsourced IT help desks).

      If you have specialized training as a nurse, social worker, billing coder, etc. you can almost certainly find analogous positions for your specialization, and for better pay than generic phone jobs.

      But expect the employment process to take a while, esp. if the company has federal agencies as a client.

  45. cornflower blue*

    Sooo grumpy today. Last week I cleaned out my desk area and took home a bunch of things I never used, including a spare pair of shoes. Today we had unforecasted downpours, and I had to wade through an ankle-deep river in my company’s parking lot. I have been sitting in soaked-through leather heels all morning. Grrrrr.

    1. Emi.*

      Arrgh, I’m so sorry! Can you take them off under your desk and stuff them with paper towels?

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Ugh, it’s always the way! I took my spare lenses out of my bag and the next day I ripped a lens for the first time in years.

  46. Elle the Bell*

    A bit late to the party today… but does anyone have resources (blogs, books, apps, anything else) for people working remotely full time? I was able to move to a remote job with an office I was in for 2 years, but I’ve been struggling to stay connected to my team and my office since then. I knew that I’d miss the watercooler talk and off hand conversations, but it is really impacting how involved I feel and ultimately how valuable I feel as a contributor. There’s a handful of us that work remote and we support each other as much as possible, but just looking for other ideas and resources from others.

    We do already use an IM app and video conferencing for meetings (when it’s working.)

    1. ToodieCat*

      I worked fulltime remotely for a couple of years, and even though my boss (who had herself worked remotely fulltime) did her darndest to keep me in the loop, it was difficult. The two things that worked best for me were (1) scheduling regular trips to the main office, always centered on dates when we were having team activities. This happened about every four to six weeks. (2) Signing up for a course at a local college for a class that was related to my job (just so I could get paid tuition). I was a tech writer and the course was a linguistics thing. That course was a great thing for me because it got me out of my house and talking to other grownups about words.

      Today I have a better work setup: on Mondays and Fridays I get to work from my home, and Tuesday-Thursday I work at the main office. I actually find this is a better setup for me, because I need (limited!) human contact. I hope you’re able to find something that helps you, because remote FT can be tough, no matter how much laundry you can get done at the time time. : )

      1. Elle the Bell*

        Thanks! I think the regular trips to the office is a good idea… currently there only 1 all staff training per year but I’m close enough that I may be able to go in more often.

    2. Never Nicky*

      I agree about actually physically keeping in touch. I work remotely full time about 4 hours away from the rest of the team. I am the only person doing this – some people are closer and maybe work one or two days from home.

      I do an overnight about once a month for the main team meeting. I previously worked out of the office so I have an excellent relationship with many of the team. They are great at keeping in touch but we’re expanding and new staff aren’t quite used to me and the working pattern . Face to face is especially helpful with them.

      We also do a “10 at 10” every week – just a stand up meeting/conference call where we cover the top 3 things we’re up to.

  47. Henrietta Gondorf*

    What are the “best” answers you’ve heard to interview questions asking about a candidate’s weaknesses? What kind of information has that question yielded that’s been most helpful in hiring?

    1. extra anon today*

      I think the most helpful answers, regardless of the weakness itself, include an example of how that weakness has hurt them in their work in the past and what they did concretely to make changes and improve themselves. I think being able to recognize weakness and improve on it purposefully is an important quality in a worker.

    2. cornflower blue*

      I once sat in on an interview in which the candidate said he’d previously gotten feedback that he ‘didn’t seem to care enough’ about problems that came up in the workplace. He pointed out that he was a combat veteran, and he found people running around freaking out about things like deadlines to be melodramatic and silly (my paaraphrasing, I can’t recall his exact words).

      He did come across as a weird combination of overly stiff and overly calm, so hearing his background was useful in sussing out this mindset. He ended up being a good fit for a job under a manager who liked to leave his reports to work mostly independently. If we had placed him under the alternate option, a micromanager, I doubt it would have gone well.

      1. over educated*

        It’s ALL relative! I’m no combat veteran, but my old supervisor used to say she loved how I was unflappable and nothing could upset me…actually, I’m one of the most anxious people I know, and I hate uncertainty and worry about my career and future constantly! But when I worked for her I was also in a very stressful graduate program, and that job was my sanctuary where I felt competent and appreciated.

  48. Jessen*

    So I know this was covered in a more general post, but I have a fairly specific question. I’m looking to switch from one call center job to another. From what I know, the 2nd job is almost certainly a busier and more stressful working environment. My primary reason for switching is that I hate my benefits at my current job – I’m forced onto a high-deductible plan. Given that I have medical issues that require regular care, this is taking a giant chunk of my income. I honestly don’t care about either company either way, but I put in my time at work and do a good job, and I’ve had consistent outstanding monthly reviews as well as a commendation for catching an error that would have cost the company money. The new company would pay better and has better benefits.

    My question is, what do I do with the questions of “Why do you want to leave your current job?” and “Why do you want to work here?”

    1. Elle the Bell*

      What about focusing on the “challenge” of working at the new call center? Especially since you have outstanding reviews at your current role, you could talk about how you are looking for the challenge to grow in your role.

      1. Jessen*

        I’m worried that talking about the “challenge” when I’ve been at my current job for less than a year (and in my current position for only 6 months) might look a bit off.

        1. k.k*

          What’s the turnover at your job like. I did some work in call centers and they tend to be super high turnover. At one I was there 9 months, and had been there longer than anyone else.

          1. Jessen*

            It’s not as high as some, but it’s fairly high. A lot of it’s just being a call center – it’s the kind of work a lot of people take when they can’t find something in their field, or (like me) they’re trying to go back to school, or something.

    2. Rhodoferax*

      Maybe you could say “I’m on a temporary contract and I really want something more permanent.”

      1. Jessen*

        They know where I currently work, they’ll know it’s not a temporary contract.

        1. Rhodoferax*

          In that case, if the work is sufficiently different, maybe something like “From what I’ve seen, I think the work you do here is more interesting.”

          1. Jessen*

            Honestly it sounds like pretty much the exact same job I’m already doing, probably a little higher volume, but that’s about it.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              In that case, is the new company’s overall industry or product different? Customer service can sometimes be a good foot in the door to learn about an industry, so that’s something else you might be able to position.

  49. Jubilance*

    I’m pretty unhappy in my job and my family really wants to relocate, so I’ve amped up my job search. A former colleague told me about a position with her new company, so I applied and the recruiter reached out. We agreed to speak this morning and then… Nothing. I emailed and called, thinking maybe I had the wrong time, but nothing. Maybe she’s out sick? Either way, I’m bummed :-(

    Also related – if I talk to one more recruiter who is looking for someone with 5+yrs experience, and an advanced degree for a position paying $50k,im gonna lose it. I made more than that in my first job out of school, TEN YEARS AGO. Some companies are seriously out of touch.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      if I talk to one more recruiter who is looking for someone with 5+yrs experience, and an advanced degree for a position paying $50k,im gonna lose it. I made more than that in my first job out of school, TEN YEARS AGO. Some companies are seriously out of touch.

      That depends a lot on the location. Salaries in big cities like New York or DC are going to be significantly higher than salaries in Columbus, OH. You need to make sure that your expectations are in line with the regional norms.

      1. Jubilance*

        This isn’t a location thing, it’s an out of touch company thing. I’m looking in a large city (one of the top 10 largest cities in the US) with 2 degrees in STEM & 10+yrs of technical expertise. Some companies are simply out of touch with the market, which is why they have job reqs that have been open for months.

        1. Jessica*

          A lot of companies are also super cheap. My sister is in San Diego, and she was astonished at the number of start-ups and new companies that were offering egregiously lowball salaries for the skill sets they wanted. And these are new technologies and new companies, so it’s not like they’ve been around for 30 years and haven’t updated the job description since 2002. Ridiculous.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          That’s what I figure when I see job postings that have been up for MONTHS. They’re not paying enough. Around here, that’s basically the reason. And I keep seeing the same ones over and over. It’s because the good people they hire into the roles are probably leaving. There probably isn’t anything to advance to, either.

    2. Frustrated Optimist*

      I don’t think this is even about the specific *amount* of the salary you mentioned. I know exactly what you mean: Companies will want someone with an advanced degree, with years of experience, and a very specific skill set. Yet the salary is only above entry-level.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I hear you. . .I think other folks here need to know that in a STEM field, with an advanced degree, $50k is insulting for a mid-level person, no matter where you are.

      Granted, I am in a field which is known for being a highly paid undergrad degree, but our new grads with BS degrees are making in the mid-60s. In flyover country.

      Good luck with the search (and hopefully the move).

      1. Anxa*

        I don’t think that’s a stem thing, but a subfield thing. There are plenty stem fields where mid 60s its entry level in flyovercountry, but mid to advanced in a high cop area.

    4. OtterB*

      We have a cartoon on our refrigerator door from the last time my husband was job searching. Recruiter, talking to potential employee: “We’re looking for someone with the wisdom of a 50-year-old, the experience of a 40-year-old, the drive of a 30-year-old, and the payscale of a 20-year-old.”

    5. Iris Eyes*

      Last time my dad was job searching in a skilled trade the pay range several companies were offering was lower than what he had been making in the early 90’s. Sometimes I wonder if companies forget the axiom that you get what you pay for…

    6. LabTech*

      I can relate on the wildly out of touch salary thing. I’m job searching too, and have been seeing lab tech requiring a chemistry BS and several years of experience at $15/Hr in very high cost of living major cities. Do they just expect us all to be independently wealthy or something?

  50. Anne*

    Slept through my alarm and woke up at 8:05 before a 9am interview. Managed to throw on a suit and get all my crap together and get out the door by 8:13, got to the train station just as the train was arriving, spent the ride drinking coffee and trying to slow down my racing heart, got to the stop at 8:40, put on makeup in the train station, and arrived at the interview right on time.

    I think I did a credible job in the interview, but mostly I’m just happy I managed to GET THERE ON TIME. Good lord.

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      That is seriously impressive! Well done! You probably perform well under pressure. :)

      1. Anne*

        They want me to come back for a final interview!! (This was a second interview following a phone interview.) OMG today has been emotionally bonkers

  51. Aspie*

    I’m on the spectrum. Do you think it’s wise to tell people when starting a new job? At old jobs sometimes it helped people not get frustrated at me — but the people at my new job are also more mature.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This is sooooo office dependent, where the perfect answer in one office might not apply at all in another. Is there someone you can ask–your manager, or the person who has been there several years and knows the ropes and is helpful with your questions?

      I lean toward telling people because it can provide context, so rather than wonder “Why did new person do that out of the ordinary thing?” they can answer for themselves “because she has trouble standing for long periods” or “because she is on the spectrum” or “because she has a bird phobia.”

      (Thinking here of someone’s example of a senior manager who told people she had a bird phobia, so three years in when she suddenly tore out of her office they all figured it out and stepped out of her way.)

    2. Lumen*

      As you say, the people at your new job might just be less impatient. I’d give them a chance to prove it, and not say anything right off the bat. For one thing, it is really none of their business.

      For another: other people’s frustration is their problem to manage, not yours. I am not on the spectrum, and I have coworkers who get frustrated because I do things differently than they do, or struggle to understand a new concept, or just because they’re in a bad mood that day. That is their problem. We’re at work, and we all have to manage our frustrations and stress like adults. You would not have gotten the job if you hadn’t shown that you were capable of doing it just fine.

    3. neverjaunty*

      No. Do not tell people unless you want to find out the hard way all the stereotypes people have about being on the spectrum.

      You can instead tell them the specific issue if it comes up. “I’m sorry, I sometimes find it hard to follow X without clear instructions. Can you explain that one more time and I’ll take notes so I remember?” kind of thing.

      1. Aspie*

        Hmm. Ok thanks everyone. I think this new place is way better anyway and people are better at managing their own emotions. So I won’t say anything.

  52. Graphic Designer*

    Since my company has trimmed employees back to bare bones I find myself doing more copy writing for email blasts, websites, Facebook, sales materials etc. While I can come up with really clever copy every 10th time, I did not study writing back in college. The question is this: how can I sharpen up my writing skills without taking classes plus practice, practice, practice? Is there any books out there for people like me ( like Copy Writing for Dummies?). Muttering “dang it Jim, I’m a graphic designer not a…” doesn’t get me very far. Help!

    1. alsoadesigner*

      I just listened to a podcast (Creative Pep Talks by illustrator Andy J Miller – I recommend) that kind of touches on this. Start journaling! Get used to putting thoughts into real sentences! It doesn’t have to be work related copy, but just flexing your writing muscle will make writing copy a little bit easier. He suggested that we should become part time journalists to create stronger and more compelling visual narratives, which I found very interesting.

      My first degree is writing related, but since I haven’t written anything in years I’m now terrible at it (relatively speaking). Anyway, your situation sounds challenging. Good luck!

    2. Lumen*

      When it comes to creativity: fill the well. Watch movies and documentaries, read anything and everything that catches your eye, sketch some random thing, etc. I think it’s more about putting your brain in a receptive “I might write about this later” state.

      And going back to basics doesn’t hurt. Make sure you keep a copy of Elements of Style close by. Do writing exercises and prompts made for grade schoolers. Keep a journal and commit to a goal of 3 pages per day, longhand. No typing. There’s more about the ‘why’ of this in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, but I have found it incredibly helpful. Even if all you do is write “I don’t know what to write about” over and over, eventually your brain will crave stimulation so badly that it will start making stuff up.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Read. Widely, including stuff you might not have thought would be interesting. (For myself, I like The New Yorker for precisely that reason.) But also stuff that’s being produced by people in the same or related industries doing this work.

      (As an example: TVTropes will have tons of examples of a storytelling trope being put to reasonable and terrible use. A theme they hit repeatedly is that tropes aren’t bad–they are an integral part of storytelling. So if there is some sort of guide to the tropes of your field, like a widely read blog or book, that’s a good place to look for blueprints. Of what to do, if you want to spit out something adequate on a deadline; of what to twist, if you want something that feels more original.)

    4. book designer to be*

      I also save examples of things that I like and pick apart their style – email blasts, facebook posts, etc. Usually looking at my little inspiration library will give me some ideas. The NYer and the other ideas are of course good too, but when you need to post something to facebook NOW, you might need a quicker solution!

      I find a lot of copy inspiration from Refinery 29 for some reason- go figure…

    5. Jessica*

      I know you said you don’t want to take classes, but what about just buying a textbook or two on writing, and reading through them and doing the exercises? That’d be a pretty minimal investment but still be good practice.

    6. Graphic Designer*

      Thanks for all the suggestions – I have a hold on the Elements of Style and the Artist’s Way at the library. Also noticed on Amazon that a reprint of Elements of Style offers the book and a set of writing exercises so I may order that. The podcast sounds interesting and will listen to that at work. Woot!

  53. Burningwoman*

    I know this subject is not new but I’m hoping for new ideas (also partly venting): have you ever come back from burnout?

    I am a previously high performer who got burnt out about 18 months ago, after my previous manager piled more and more on me until I broke. I moved from that job a year ago into a promotion with a lighter workload (same department, different boss). The workload IS lighter, but the rug got yanked out from under us immediately after I started and I haven’t been able to effectively set or achieve any meaningful goals primarily due to role ambiguity and conflict. I’ve tried to find small and large ways to contribute but often fail because I bite off something only to find out later that someone else is already chewing it. I feel unproductive, exhausted, and disconnected, and am at the point where starting anything just seems pointless. My manager is a nice person but is so overwhelmed herself that she hasn’t been able to help me figure this out. We’ve met twice in the last six months and she knows I’m struggling, but my fire is never the hottest one burning.

    There is dysfunction here—I know it’s not all me—but most people are managing to work through it, turning out projects and staying productive. So I feel weird and needy that I want my manager’s input to help me fix this! I am not used to underperforming and I hate hate hate this feeling. I have 12 years of seniority here, really good benefits, and am pretty intimidated by the idea of starting over in a field full of fresh interns and open-concept offices, especially when I feel like a broken employee. My motivation and resiliency are MAJORLY low and job-hunting just ugh guys. Ugh. What if I just drag the burnout with me wherever I go? I shouldn’t have let it get this bad.

    Is there any way to get my head to a place where I can start finding some solutions *without* support from my boss? So far most of the advice I’ve been getting is of the preventative or symptom management variety (deep breathing, positive thinking, eating healthy), but it has not been enough. Any ideas on how I can start baby steps on an action plan?

    1. J.B.*

      So, for me, the inverse of burnout is that when things are slow I have a much harder time focusing. For the short term, is there anything you can focus on and work on independently? Is there anything you could partner with one of those employees who are accomplishing something to work on something as a team? Or take classes?

      For me, finding something specific to focus on and get that accomplishment feeling was necessary. I am planning to leave, but am in a better place with that feeling in place.

      1. Burningwoman*

        I gave this some thought and I think you’re right that even temporarily feeling focused and accomplished would reduce my stress levels. I did the time off thing and, while I mostly enjoyed the time away, it actually stressed me out because I felt even more disconnected and behind when I returned. Maybe I’ll look for a few really short-term items I can tackle just to remind myself that I am in fact capable of finishing a thing. Thank you.

    2. Another person*

      You sound as exhausted as you say you are. Honestly the best thing I’ve found in positions like that is just take some time off to breathe before you start making a plan. After 12 years I imagine you can get some paid leave. I also found it helpful to talk through my burnout with a therapist before even starting on making a plan. Best wishes to you.

      1. Burningwoman*

        Thank you! I’ve considered talking to a therapist, if even just to avoid laying all the emotions on my manager and coworkers (and internet strangers). So hard to find the right fit though!

        1. Jessica*

          I went through a tumultuous period that sounds similar to what you have gone through, and it helped me a lot to make sure I was taking care of myself. Healthy food, vitamins, plenty of sleep, exercise, brain downtime where I am not doing something even remotely work-like. Making a point to do one thing at a time and not multitask. Baking. Cleaning. Taking walks in the woods. Sitting and listening to music. But only doing that one thing, and then moving on to the next–not trying to juggle multiple things at once, even if it would be more practical. The purpose was to recondition me to not split my focus in so many directions.

          It couldn’t hurt to get a physical, either. I was experiencing some health issues and finally saw a doctor about it, and unsurprisingly my several months of high stress, and coincident eating garbage and not exercising, made me anemic and put my thyroid out of whack.

          The upshot is, don’t underestimate the physical effects of mental stress, and as a corollary, the benefits of physical self-care on mental health.

          1. Burningwoman*

            Thank you! Yes, I have seen my doctor, and the stress is certainly causing/exacerbating some physical issues. Eating well and making time for exercise are big challenges for me.

            The idea of paring down is pretty appealing, and I do have a tendency to multitask a lot in my off-hours (a misguided way to feel work-life balance?).

    3. Lindsey*

      Wow, I definitely feel you here. Same deal – high-performer, overwhelmed boss, in a side department that the CEO directly told me about two months ago would always be lowest on the totem pole. A couple things that have helped:

      (1) Taking some time off. Seriously. I was just in a bad headspace and that really helped. I’m also repeating a coworker in my head “We’re not creating world peace here, guys.” It was said in a nice way, but just a reminder that everything isn’t the end of the world.

      (1a) To be perfectly honest, I’m pulling back at work a bit and focusing on outside projects. Getting in and leaving exactly 9-5 every day definitely isn’t my modus operandi, but scheduling stuff I have to leave for after has helped my focus shift a bit.

      (2) I’ve started fun side projects with other departments. It started by asking a lot of other people what they’re working on in the guise of getting more training (which might not work as a higher/senior level), but it ended up with finding a couple of cool coworkers that I didn’t even know existed (my company is 90% remote workers) and we set up some informal “working groups” that meet once a month or so to share experiences and ideas, like a structured watercooler (i.e. I plan in-person events, so I found some people who were working on virtual events). That gives me something to look forward to and helps me not accidentally take on other people’s workloads. (We found out at the first meeting by suggesting everyone invite someone else that SIX different departments were working on the same project.)

      1. Burningwoman*

        High-five, burnout buddy. I work remotely and it is part of the challenge–I love that you started up some informal meetings like this. We’re in a bit of a weird space right now in that people are nervous about losing their jobs and are much less inclined to cooperate and share information than they used to be, and that’s definitely part of what’s making things difficult for me.

        I think concentrating on goals outside of work again would also be good for me. Just have to find a way to be less dead at the end of the workday/week! Maybe it’s time for me to try taking that time off again after all.


    4. Not So NewReader*

      I would have to have a serious sit down with the boss. Make your fire the hottest one burning.
      “Boss, I cannot work like this. My efforts have no meaning. Other people are working on the same thing I am and my work gets chucked. I am seriously floundering. ”

      Maybe you can work beside your boss and clean up what she misses. I think it’s fair to point out to her that you are floundering and she is overloaded, why don’t the two of you team up? You can take her excess or do her follow ups once she gets the ball rolling.

      In the right setting, I have said, “I am afraid that the higher ups will want to fire me if they find out that I am contributing nothing. We have to fix this.”

      1. Burningwoman*

        Thank you for your wording! I am going to give this another go and I think asking if she has a task she can offload to me could be helpful. I will probably avoid going so far as to say I’m nervous about being fired in this setting (she’d be the one firing me–and there’s a good chance people here are going to be laid off) but I am generally a fan of this direct approach.

  54. Exhausted Anon for this*

    I posted on the 4th of July open thread about being burnt out at work try to keep up with coworkers working hours and hours off the clock to keep billable hours down and I already have an update!
    I sat down with my manager and we had an honest conversation. They were completely understanding and agreed that the environment has changed and it was no longer a good fit for me – but due to no fault of my own and not for a lack of skills or effort. So I’m now officially wrapping up my projects and on my two weeks notice! Being unemployed won’t be ideal, but they’re not going to fight unemployment and they’ve offered me references and to put me in contact with anyone in their network, so I’m leaving on excellent terms and starting off on a good foot.
    I’m a little sad, but mostly incredibly relieved. I honestly should have realized things weren’t going well long before I got to the point of dry-heaving from stress every morning.
    Wish me luck!

    1. Another person*

      Good news about them not fighting the unemployment and offering good references. I hope you get some much needed rest and wish you the best of luck with future endeavors.

  55. A-nonny-nonny*

    Anybody work in corporate training? I’m a teacher, I love teaching, but the finances may not work long-term for me
    & possibly interested in getting into a job that lets me keep teaching, but also pays better.

    1. A-nonny-nonny*

      Should clarify: I’m interested in what you do, how you got your foot in the door, whether I need further training beyond what I have (an MA in the humanities from a state university, plus seven years’ experience teaching first-year college courses).

    2. anna green*

      I don’t have much advice, but I am also looking to get into corporate training! I am currently an environmental consultant/trainer, so its a bit of a career change for me too. I recently went for a graduate certificate in instructional design (although with an MA already, that prob won’t help you) and I joined my local Association for Talent Development (ATD) group to network. Other than that, I am still working on it. Good luck!!

    3. Kowalski! Options!*

      I work in corporate training, having made the move over after 16 years in language training and curriculum planning. I know that there are organizations and programs that people can join/take, but to be honest, if you’ve already got experience teaching, reading stuff by people like Julie Dirksen, Michael Allen and Jane Bozarth will help round out your previous knowledge nicely. Julie, in particular, has a great Facebook community named after her book, “Design for How People Learn”, and Jane hosts (or helps facilitate, not sure which) a #lrnchat (learning chat) Twitter discussion Thursday nights around 9PM EST. Both are good resources for getting a bead on what’s involved.

    4. whichsister*

      I am in training. I actually fell into it. My master’s is in Advertising and Public Relations but my first job out of school was actually a training position and it turns out they have a lot in common and I love it! I have done it in manufacturing, but am currently in the food service industry. I was also in academia for a while where I developed and taught a leadership soft skills course.

      I would definitely join your local ATD and would look at training coordinator positions as entry level. Play up your instructional design skills, facilitation and project management skills. I would also play up any diverse audiences you had , as well as the whole ADDIE process. Its all about ROI!

      1. periwinkle*

        I’ll note that you should be familiar with the principles of instructional design but you do not necessarily need to know how to do it. In larger orgs, instructor and instructional designer are separate roles. These are two different skill sets so it makes sense. Our IDs tend to be very analytical and precise to ensure that the course content is accurate and the course structure follows sound adult learning principles. Our instructors tend to be real people-people who are also skilled in managing the classroom (not an easy task as you know!).

        In our org, most of the instructors moved into that role from their functional roles; they were subject matter experts, not professional trainers/facilitators, and use their deep knowledge to make the training materials relevant using real examples/realistic hypothetical scenarios. Not sure how common this is, but considering the kind of knowledge taught in most of our courses, a SME has to be the instructor.

        I’m thinking you should be looking at companies which are focused on offering courses/programs to other organizations. For example, a big concern in HR is the impact of unconscious bias. Our HR org contracted with a company that develops & delivers corporate programs; that vendor delivered a (terrific) 1-day course on the subject using their materials and one of their professional trainers.

        The aforementioned ATD is a good place to start – look at what vendors are advertising their services and find out if they’re hiring!

        I’m a former instructional designer who was a terrible trainer and admires the ones who make it look so easy and fun…

    5. krysb*

      I’m actually moving into corporate training within my company. We’re hoping to create a new role for me this fall that will be to manage the training and development of all employees. I’m coming into it from an HR/Ops management direction, using my supervisory experience and my soon-to-be finished college degree.

      (My only hope is that I can get my company to agree with my preferred pay…)

    6. ronda*

      I was a project manager in an accounting dept and took on responsibility for the systems training. I hired 2 trainers to do the classes and update / write materials.

      #1 was a great instructor but did not have any accounting background or accounting systems background. personality wise, people loved her.
      #2 had an accounting background, had worked on a systems implementation, and was a good instructor. She didnt have the personality of #1.

      If I had to choose between them I would choose #2
      #1 struggled with feeling comfortable with the materials since she didnt have the background. And the systems training was very specifically accounting related, so it was a problem.

      So…. I would think about what kind of training programs you could work on and see if there are opportunities for that.

  56. Cece*

    I’m coming to the end of a fixed-term contract at the end of this month. Three management layers have all told me that they’re “trying to sort something out”, but it’s the fourth layer (my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss) who’s blocking a quick renewal. It’s frustrating knowing that there is work that will need doing over the next few months/year – and it’s not possible to double-up other people’s duties, believe me – but I might be made redundant in a few weeks because the higher-ups can’t agree to keep me around. My boss is sympathetic/annoyed on my behalf, and my boss’s new boss was sympathetic when I introduced myself and advocated for myself, but I’ve still had to have an official “have you noticed your contract is about to end” meeting.

    (Job searching in a competitive industry hasn’t been fruitful. There was a fairly entry-level fixed-term job I went for, but a friend with almost a decade more experience was hired. :S)

    Just, cross your fingers for me?

  57. Roza*

    This is mostly a vent, but I’m also curious as to whether others find this as odd as I did.

    I worked a year and a half at toxic job, then found a position at an amazing new company where I’ve been for about six months. The worst thing about toxic job were the managers and directors who had been there forever, and were condescending to at best and borderline abusive at worst to newer staff (not just in my head–turnover has been massive and some junior staff have had to go on mental health leave). However, there were a couple of “lifers” with whom I had a decent working relationship while there. I was always a little confused about how seemingly reasonable people were oblivious or indifferent to the toxicity, but figured they had there own reasons for staying.

    One of them, let’s call her Alice, contacted me out of the blue about a manager opening at new awesome job. Because she seemed like one of the sane ones, I happily referred her. Throughout the interview process she emailed me repeatedly about how great the company seemed, she’d take an offer if they made one, whatever happened we should grab drinks some time as a thanks for the referral, etc. The company made her an offer and she immediately went to radio silence–no acknowledgement of the offer until a couple days later, when she came back with a counter offer. She ultimately declined without giving a reason, ignored further emails from awesome company, and didn’t even bother emailing me to tell me she’d declined.

    I still have friends at toxic job (which I guess Alice doesn’t know), so I know that the second she got the offer she used it as a bargaining chip for a shiny new title and I assume more money at toxic job. That’s fine, people use outside offers to negotiate, but am I right in feeling annoyed at her rudeness as soon as she got what she wanted? And also at the fact that I’m pretty sure she was negotiating in bad faith and had no intention of taking offer from awesome company (hard to prove, but some of the details that could de-anonymize this post really, really make it seem that she just wanted an offer, any offer, in hand as a bargaining chip), and so, despite being a former mentor, had no compunction about using me and discarding me professionally?

    Again, I’m not upset per session at her turning down the offer–it fact, if she’d just sent me and/or awesome company a quick email after declining along the lines of “Thanks for the offer, but my current company made me a counter offer I couldn’t refuse/this just isn’t the right time for me to move on/literally any polite reason for decking” I’d have no hard feeling at all. But the way she left it, totally ghosting both me and the hiring team as soon as she had what she needed, I’m feeling very angry and this bridge is VERY burned. Although the joke is on her, because now she can continue to work at toxic company, which I guess she likes because she’s also a jerk. Am I overreacting, or is this actually weird behavior?

    1. Roza*

      One more bit…I guess I’m taking it kind.if personally because Alice was one of the few people I genuinely liked working with at toxic job, and I thought of her as something of a mentor. Really stings to feel like she lied to me and manipulated me to help her get an offer she had no intention of taking.

    2. anna green*

      Yeah, you are right to be angry. That sucks. She had no reason to ghost everyone like that. Definitely bridges burned!

    3. J.B.*

      That’s rude, but if she’s a more senior person a bullet probably dodged. Maybe talk to your boss about how rudely she treated you, and that you feel burned by making the referral. More from a position of “should I have done anything differently” but also so s/he knows that you weren’t expecting that treatment either.

    4. Frustrated Optimist*

      Yup. She played you, and you have every right to feel manipulated and used.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Stockholm Syndrome type of thing?

      Maybe she assumes all companies have their pit falls. If given two equal companies she would rather stay where she knows where the pits are?

      It’s not just in work/jobs. You can show people an easier path and they will say, “No. I’m good here. Thanks.” I think it is sheer disbelief that things can be different.

    6. LKW*

      Yup, consider it a bridge burned (by her). For whatever reason she preferred staying at toxic job than moving on. If she contacts you in the future you can ignore or just vaguely non-respond. She’s a jerk.

    7. Chaordic One*

      I can sure relate to your feeling burned, and yes, an email along the lines of “Thanks for the offer, but blah, blah, blah… ” could have done so much and saved the relationship. It’s so sad that your one-time mentor turned out to be such a jerk.

  58. anon today*

    I’m afraid that I’m not smart enough, or at least not well informed enough, to apply to this job.

    There’s an opening for a position that sounds like an amazing fit for me, based on the duties of the job. The organization is a nonprofit media outlet that is very political leaning. I have nonprofit experience, and the job aligns perfectly with experience and skills. While I agree with their values and political stance, I’m no news junkie. I’m sending my resume in, but I’m a bit terrified of what will happen if I get an interview. The job is on the admin side, not producing content or anything like that, but I’m afraid they’ll still think I’m a complete idiot for not knowing more about current events. I mean I keep up, but not as much as I would like. One of the things that draws me to the position is that it would keep me more up to date on issues that I care about and I’d like to know more about. But I find myself feeling like a fraud writing on my cover letter that I’m passionate about their mission. Does anyone have experience apply to or working for a news outlet, or very political organization, when they feel out of their depth?

    1. Anne*

      There’s nothing wrong here at all, you just need to reframe it in your head!

      1. You ARE passionate about the mission, in the sense that you care about it.
      2. You do currently keep up with current events.
      3. This job would be a great opportunity for you to keep up to date on issues that you care about.

      I do development for an NGO that works in a pretty specific subject area, one that I knew absolutely nothing about when I applied. I just spent some time before the interview reading about recent developments in the field, and also specific projects that the org was working on. And it worked! I was able to say, here’s why I agree with values X Y and Z that your organization holds and why I think your work is important, without having to act like I was some sort of expert. I’m doing the same thing now in my current job search, and I’ve gotten calls back from two places whose missions have NOTHING to do with my work history.

    2. Lumen*

      ALWAYS apply for the jobs you are interested in. Literally the worst thing that could happen is that they don’t call you. Can you survive that? Then you should apply for the job!

      It sounds like you really want to work there. Be passionate in your cover letter. Don’t drag yourself down or apologize in advance for ‘not knowing enough’. If they ask you in an interview how many hours of news you consume a week, be honest. (I doubt they will ask this, by the way.) You can also say, just as you did in your post: “I keep up, but not as much as I would like. One of the things that draws me to the position is that I could get more involved, directly, with issues I care about.” Boom.

      You are NOT a fraud. You care about what they do and you want to be a part of it. That matters more than knowing every detail of the G20 summit.

      1. Queen of the File*

        Agreed! Someone gave me the advice once not to screen yourself out of jobs–that’s someone else’s job :)

    3. anon today*

      Thank you, both, for that. You’re right. I think I’m just psyching myself out because this job sounds perfect, and I don’t want to get my hopes up. I work at a nonprofit now and knew NOTHING about the cause when I applied….just wasn’t so worried because I wasn’t as excited about the job.

  59. Grey*

    Sharing Hotel Rooms

    My job requires travel in the summer months and the hotel costs are taking a hit on my finances. My company will pay for a room but only if I share it with another colleague. The problem is that I’m disabled, so this has its disadvantages: I talk and sometimes yell in my sleep because of the pain. I’d rather my colleagues not know this about me and I don’t like wondering the next morning if they do (and who they might tell). Sometimes I need to sleep on the floor too. It’s a great way to get stepped on or tripped over if I move there in the middle of the night. Plus, I don’t want to become known as the guy nobody will room with because they’re unable to get any sleep. It’s embarrassing.

    I can’t really go the Reasonable Accommodation route because it’s not me who needs the accommodation. It’s the poor sap who has to deal with me in the middle of the night. And my actual disability is still undiagnosed beyond “back pain’ so it’s going to look like I’m just trying to score a private room.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Christy*

      Oh, you can totally go the Reasonable Accommodation route. Please, go the Reasonable Accommodation route. This is a medical issue stemming from a disability and should be very straightforward for your office to handle.

    2. RVA Cat*

      Maybe get with your healthcare provider and see if you can get an accommodation for it as a Sleep Disorder? Many people use a CPAP for sleep apnea which IMHO would justify having a private room.

    3. AnonAcademic*

      While I appreciate your consideration of your coworkers, it sounds pretty unambiguous to me that you need the accommodation for your own comfort and health. Back pain sounds like a diagnosis to me. I think you are overthinking the optics of this personally. I would not envy a coworker whose medical issue meant they got their own room so much as I’d be grateful to not be woken up by the sleep talking or what have you (as a light sleeper).

  60. Should I offer to travel, or something?*

    Was waiting for the thread this week!
    I work on a team of 7 in a larger institution. We have a great boss, it’s a great place to work, non-toxic, we get along, etc etc.
    The other 6 people on my team have to make day trips for their jobs, a couple or three a month. These are paid for by work, of course. The reasons they have for traveling make sense.
    I do not travel for my job. There is just no reason for me to, as I don’t work with any of those off-site partners. I wonder how this is perceived by the others on my team. No one has said anything to me about it, but I wonder if they think it’s unfair. It is fair, in fact, since I have no reason to travel.
    What I’m wondering is, should I ask my boss if there is something I can do to make up for this disparity? I have no ideas what hat might be. I volunteer for all the projects I can, and my evaluation was good and I was complimented on being a team player. If I bring this up, do I look like I just don’t get it and am overthinking? Or would it be good to notice this disparity and comment, to see if there is anything I can do?
    Hope this makes sense. Thanks!

    1. Squeeble*

      I wouldn’t say anything–from the way you describe it, I doubt anyone notices or has an opinion about your not traveling. Sounds like you’re doing well and your boss and team are happy.

      If it’s really bothering you, maybe you could offer to take over a coworker’s trip if they are unexpectedly sick or out of the office (I have no idea if that would work in your situation, though).

    2. anna green*

      It doesn’t seem like you need to say anything. As long as your job descriptions are different and there isn’t a need for you to travel, I would guess they understand that. I travel for my job and some others don’t because it’s not what they do. As much as I hate the travel, I certainly don’t blame them for it, I have to do it, its my job.

    3. KR*

      If you have any chance of getting then into the event can you suggest they just put giant sharpie X’s on their hands? That’s what clubs, concerts, and bars do that allow people under 21 and it makes it so that even if they get their hands on a drink people can clearly see when they hold it that they are under 21. Really, to exclude all interns because they aren’t 21 seems really. . Babyish?

      1. KR*

        Oops, that was supposed to be a reply to intern supervisor. I don’t know how that happened.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      We have people who need to travel and people who don’t. It’s really not a problem if you don’t travel when you don’t need to!

  61. intern supervisor*

    I’m supervising two interns that are part of a program at corporate (includes about 15 interns total). Our company has a fun event next week and the interns are not allowed to participate (beach day, it includes alcohol and not all of the interns are over 21). They already do some pretty boring work in our dept so it feels mean for them to be excluded from the fun stuff. What can I do or buy them as a small treat to make up for the fact that most of the dept is taking off that day to have fun? My scope is limited, I can’t change pay rates or give time off, but these are nice guys and I don’t want them to feel totally slighted.

    1. SL #2*

      When I was a fellow and one of us was leaving for the Peace Corps, we decided that we wanted to have a farewell happy hour for her, but just the 5 of us and we figured we’d all just split the bill. Our manager got wind of it and handed us some petty cash that afternoon to cover it on behalf of the company. It was enough to cover a couple drinks each and quite a few appetizers. Since your interns can’t drink, do you have the ability to do something similar for them? Order a nice lunch for them to be delivered at noon or even leave behind some petty cash so they can go out for lunch? You’d be surprised at how appreciated a free meal can be.

    2. The Foreign Octopus*

      I’m really glad you caught that they might feel excluded!

      Something like this happened to me at a job that I worked at whilst at university. I was part-time and the only part-time employee in a section with full-time workers. Whenever there was a special event or an in-office activity, I was always excluded. Although I hate work activities and forced fun, it still rankled to be completely overlooked. One particularly galling memory is when the manager bought in cream cakes for everyone and omitted me. She laughed it off and said that she’d forgotten I would be there but I still felt excluded.

      So do something a little different that afternoon. Pizza is a great idea, maybe some cake as well. Then they feel a bit more relaxed and like they’re part of the team.

  62. Ihmmy*

    In my office, we often get emails addressed to “ladies”, referred to as the office “gals” or “girls”, I get emails from people addressing me as “Ms./Mrs./Miss” with some regularity as well. I’m finding these are all super grating and while I’m not non-binary, a lot of the gendered titles don’t sit well with me. Is there a reasonably polite way to ask people to stop using them? I may not have as much success with people outside of our office (likelier to use ms/mrs/miss) but it makes me incredibly uncomfortable each time I read “Hey Ladies, here’s that email about…” and increasingly so.

    1. Lumen*

      I’d love to see an answer (especially from Alison) to this. I am particularly bothered by things like “girls” and “gals” – very casual, often diminutive addresses for women and femme-presenting folks. How do I stop my coworkers from calling me “Miss Lumen” or “girlie”, especially if other women on my team aren’t bothered (or are the ones doing it)?

      1. Natalie*

        “Girlie”???? Blech.

        The fact that no one else objects doesn’t matter one bit. Exactly what tone you strike is up to you, but there’s really nothing wrong with some version of “Oh, I actually don’t like that, stop calling me ‘girlie'”.

        The trick is not to back down if they apologize excessively, challenge you, or keep doing it. I have to do this with people calling me “Nat” all the time. Mostly it’s the excessive apologizing which gets one “it’s okay, you didn’t know and now you do” from me and then gets ignored.

    2. The Queen of Cans & Jars*

      Ugh, so annoying! We have a department of 4 women who are regularly referred to as “the copy girls.” Drives me crazy. I have been using “crew” and hoping it will catch on.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      You could role model alternatives:

      “To all:”
      “Hey, folks,”

      1. Ihmmy*

        I do! I always address emails as “Good Afternoon everyone/all/FN, FN & FN” when it’s to more than two people. The unit I work for in academia is mostly women. Sigh.

    4. curmudgeon*

      as much as I dislike group emails addressed to “Ladies” , not sure what to substitute..
      I’m a Jersey girl, a dancer, in a world where unless you are the lead dancer, you are referred to as the “girls” & “boys” … just used to those I guess

    5. Alice*

      I know that lots of people don’t like being called ladies, and certainly if one of my colleagues asked me not to use “lady” for her, I would take note. But I routinely email a pair of women colleagues and start off “Ladies” – just as I routinely email a pair of men colleagues with the greeting “gentlemen.” “Hi everyone” for two people grates on me, and some of the other alternatives are too informal for our culture.
      I think there’s a big difference between dismissive gendered language (girlie, Miss when men are greeted by first name, Miss/Mrs after someone has asked to be called Ms, Ms after someone has asked to be called Dr, actress after someone’s asked to be called actor, lady in the singular as a form of address) and gendered language in general.

    6. FinePrint*

      My convention is to use ‘Dear Colleagues’ for everyone. ‘Ladies’ grates on me too, as does ‘Hi Everyone’ or ‘Hi All’, especially when it addresses people up the hierarchy chain. My only exceptions are a few office friends, and I’ll use ‘Hey’, ‘Hei’ or ‘Dear Fiends’. I would stop immediately if anyone of my office friends didn’t like it (and vice versa).

  63. Lynne879*

    I had a job interview for an event facility few days ago & I think I did pretty well. There were maybe one or two questions I could have answered better, but I didn’t do anything too embarrassing. I’ll hear back to see if I have a second interview on Monday or Tuesday.

    I liked the people I interviewed with (they would be my coworkers/supervisor) and the facility itself was pretty, but I’m going back and forth over whether not this job might be for me.

    Positives: I’ll be paid better than what I’m making now (roughly $400 more a month); the commute will be shorter (30 min at most compared to 1 hr); the grounds are gorgeous (seriously, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen); my potential coworkers seem like good people; I no longer have the stress of working with my micro managing boss at my weekend job

    Negatives: I’ll be working 35-40 hours with no benefits (other than MAYBE health insurance?). I find this disappointing considering the facility is owned by the county government & that there will be days where I would work 13.5 hour shifts when working events; I will be working with 3 other people, so hours aren’t flexible which means I won’t be able to volunteer as much as I have been doing; because the hours aren’t flexible, it seems like it’ll be difficult to take time off; but most importantly, I’ll be working with customers more than I would at any other job I’ve ever had. If I have to work with a bridezilla, then I have to work with her for at least 4 months until the big wedding day. I don’t know if I can handle any of that stress; even though I will be making more money a money, it’s still not enough money to live on my own in my county without sharing with other people & I’m too old to still be living with my parents :/

    Typing all of this done, there are definitely more negatives than positives, but I also think it’s time to move on to finally work one full-time job instead of working 2 part-time jobs. Honestly, this is the first job I’ve seen within the past few months that’s peaked my interest enough to apply.

    1. Beez*

      To me, it sounds like there are more positives, though of course ymmv.

      I would definitely ask at a second interview how time off, both planned vacation and sick time, work in this position. And definitely figure out the health insurance situation.

      There is also the potential for a negative client, but if it’s for an event at least it (mostly) won’t be a daily issue, and I’m sure your co-workers will have advice on handling the negative people. But the commute, stable full time job, and gorgeous location would sell it for me.

      1. Jessica Davison*