open thread – September 1-2, 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 :)

{ 1,580 comments… read them below }

  1. Calling all current/former substitute teachers!*

    Happy Friday everyone!

    I currently work an office job, and have a bachelor’s degree in finance. However, I’m very interested in potentially substitute teaching. My husband will graduate grad school in about 8 months, and will be entering a high demand field where he will be making 6 figures (or very close to it) right off the bat. I’ve always had an interest in teaching, and believe substitute teaching may be a great fit (I’m 24 years old, want to have children in the next couple years, and would love a job with flexibility that will still provide some additional income on top of my husband’s.) With that being said, I don’t know a whole lot about what the day-to-day life would look like for a substitute teacher. Can anyone shed some light?

    1.) Did you sub for multiple school districts, or just 1 or 2?
    2.) Did you generally work 5 days/work? How many hour per week do/did you usually work?
    3.) Do you feel like you were treated poorly by students because you were “the sub”?
    4.) What grades did you sub in most frequently (elementary, middle, high school)?
    5.) Did teachers usually provide a lesson plan, or did you find yourself “winging it” a lot of the time?
    6.) How much money did/do you earn per year (I know this will vary from state to state.)

    Any other insight would be appreciated as well!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I used to substitute teach and also teach—the two are quite different, unless you are a long-term sub. In answer to your questions on short-term subbing:

      1.) Did you sub for multiple school districts, or just 1 or 2?

      Just one. I don’t think there was anything preventing me from subbing for more than one, though.

      2.) Did you generally work 5 days/work? How many hour per week do/did you usually work?

      No. Actually, that was what was kind of nice about it at the time. I didn’t want full-time work. That said, at least for the school district I was subbing in, there was rarely any kind of advance notice. I’d just get a phone call at 5:30 in the morning asking if I could sub (usually because a teacher was out sick). Occasionally teachers would know in advance they’d be gone (for professional development or some other reason), and so the coordinator would ask if I could sub for three days straight.

      3.) Do you feel like you were treated poorly by students because you were “the sub”?

      It really kind of depended on the class. Most of the AP kids were fine. Some of the students in the remedial classes were brutal, but some of the other remedial class students were very respectful.

      4.) What grades did you sub in most frequently (elementary, middle, high school)?

      Middle and high. Middle was the worst.

      5.) Did teachers usually provide a lesson plan, or did you find yourself “winging it” a lot of the time?

      Honestly, for short-term subs, most teachers don’t expect you to really get any teaching done, so a lot of the “lesson plans” I was left with were things like “Show this movie” or “Have them take this test.”

      6.) How much money did/do you earn per year (I know this will vary from state to state.)

      This was many years ago, but it was about $80 per day, I think. Less than $100, anyway. Hopefully higher now, probably varies by school district.

      1. Author of this question*

        Thanks for sharing! I should have put this in my question, too, but overall would you recommend it/was your experience more good than bad?

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Honestly, I didn’t really dig it. It was fine for a short time, but I had trained to be a classroom teacher, so being a short-term sub wasn’t fun at all. It was also a bit stressful to not know on any given day whether I was going to get that 5:30am phone call or not. Sometimes I’d turn it down (“No, I can’t today”) and they’d find another sub, but sometimes I wouldn’t get the call at all.

        2. Not That Jane*

          I personally loved it (mostly). It’s different from full-time teaching in that you don’t have to take any work home :) and I found it a very helpful introduction to the profession. I sure learned a lot about classroom management, and about what grade levels & subjects I enjoyed, and which ones I didn’t (high school math? which I totally could not have predicted going in!)

      2. blackcat*

        “Honestly, for short-term subs, most teachers don’t expect you to really get any teaching done, so a lot of the “lesson plans” I was left with were things like “Show this movie” or “Have them take this test.””

        When I taught, I kept a list of documentaries that were appropriate for each unit. They were my go-to “oh shit” plans. So if I was out unexpectedly, 90% of the time, my sub just showed a movie (and handed out an activity to go with it). I think this is a common tactic of teachers (I was told to do it by experienced colleagues).

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Well, it’s a common tactic, because honestly a class isn’t just a lesson plan. The sub doesn’t know what you’ve already covered (“As we discussed last week…”) or usually even what the kids’ names are. You can’t reasonably expect a drop-in stranger to do your job. It’s glorified babysitting (and I say this as someone who’s been both a classroom teacher and a short-term sub).

    2. Helpful*

      Near me, it was like $75 a day. You’d get called at 5-6am the day of.

      I think maternity leave subbing can be a great gig bc you have a longer term.

        1. Amadeo*

          I think all they require in this area (rural and poor midwest) is a bachelors degree of some sort. I have a full time job and no desire at all to sub, but my mother is a secretary/admin assistant at one of the local elementary schools. She’ll occasionally ask me, out of joking desperation, if I want to sub when she can’t find anyone who’ll come in.

          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            I’m also in the rural and poor midwest and our schools used to require at least 30 college credits but dropped that when they couldn’t find subs. Just a high school diploma now. They also only pay $60/day.

          2. MsChanandlerBong*

            Our area is desperate for subs. All you need is an associate’s degree or 60 credits toward a bachelor’s.

          3. Julianne*

            On paper, the district I work in now requires a state teaching license, two years of teaching experience, and completion of an online substitute training program. To be a per diem sub.

            Having met some of the people who sub in said district, I think a more accurate list of requirements would be: have a pulse. (End of list.)

        2. Frozen Ginger*

          My mother was a long term sub for a multiply disabled class and she didn’t have anything certifications or licenses.

            1. Amy*

              Was that as a teacher or an IA ? In Fairfax, the requirements for IA’s are a lot lower than for teachers.

    3. PM Insurance*

      I did while I was in college, many years ago. Check in your state/towns as to the requirements. Some have farmed it out to Kelly Services
      Work was sporadic. Could not rely on any set amount/days.
      Teachers did provide what the plan was for the day. It was often self study type of work required
      I always did middle and high school. Only 45 minutes per group and on they went
      I was in very good towns and never had an issue with the kids.
      good luck!

        1. ArtK*

          One advantage to working with a staffing firm is that you can get placements in private schools as well. My ex worked for Teachers On Reserve here in SoCal before getting a permanent position at one of her placements.

    4. NASA*

      I subbed about 9 years ago for 2 years.

      1.) Only 1 district, but I didn’t want “that much action” :) I was in grad school already working 2 other jobs so I’d just take sub jobs randomly.
      2.) Some jobs were 2-3 weeks straight, other jobs were just for the day
      3.) No, because I specifically choose elementary
      4.) K-6, but I liked the younger grades
      5.) IMO, I had full plans. Thank you, teachers.
      6.) At the time is was $110 per day, and if was a special ed class it was $140.

      Subbing was exhausting for me. Much respect for teachers. Also, I was 22-24 when subbed and I didn’t have that much professional clothes. I still have some of the shirts I bought for subbing (LOFT, ftw).

    5. fish feud*

      I’m not a teacher so take this with a grain of salt, but have you thought about tutoring? I would guess that would be more predictable and flexible. Also, you could look into remote teaching of English as a second language – one of my teacher friends does this in her spare time (teaching children in China through a program called VIPKID, I think) and speaks very highly of it. For her program you don’t need non-English language skills, as the classes are immersion and entirely in English.

      1. msmorlowe*

        I’ll second the vote for tutoring over subbing. In my experience and area, it’s a more reliable income week to week and better paid on an hourly basis. Also, I generally find that students are more eager to learn and work in a tutoring session.

      2. A.N.O.N.*

        +1 for tutoring.

        Rates can be very good, depending on what and where you are tutoring. My SO tutored physics and math while getting his masters, and he would make over $100 per hour. Granted, he was tutoring kids on the Upper West Side in NYC…

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think at one point my niece (who had earned perfect SAT scores, and was tutoring in NYC while in college) was earning the highest hourly wage in the extended family.

          On subbing–I live in a “good schools” New England suburb and standard rate here is $100/day.

      3. brainjacker*

        I second this – tutoring one on one can be incredibly lucrative (don’t bother with Kaplan/Princeton Review, etc) and you get to set your own schedule. I suppose geography is the limiting factor here, as I happen to live in an area (Washington DC) where there are a lot of private schools and a lot of demand, but if you’re able to carve something out it’s very easy to make $100+ per hour. I started several years ago and still see students one day a week although I now have a 6-figure job, as it constitutes my spending money and I get to sock most of the rest away.

      4. Veronica Mars*

        Also going to agree with the tutoring. I did some subbing out right after college, and in my area (CT), sub pay was pretty good, I want to say around $100 a day (or just under), a little more if you were certified, and even more if it was long term. But I also have done tutoring, and vastly preferred it. I taught test prep through a reputable company, which meant they did all the soliciting, administrative and billing work. I just had to teach. I put in the hours I worked and notes into our online system and got paid via direct deposit. The hourly rate was MUCH higher than for subbing, and you can work completely around your own schedule. The company I worked for also did classroom programs, which I eventually did basically exclusively. I preferred the set schedule, and I could make, in 1 three-hour class, more than what I would get subbing for an entire day. It’s also real teaching, which is not what you’re going to be doing as a sub, unless you get a long term gig. And, at least in my area, those go almost exclusively to certified teachers.

    6. Annalee*

      My husband does some subbing for part-time work, and it’s a bit of a different arrangement from the other commenter so I’ll say here –
      1) We live in a pretty large city (~800,000), and the city’s public schools contract with an outside agency who technically employs all the subs and works with the schools. My husband can work at any of those schools – but the agency also told him that if he gets requested at a school that’s 45 minutes away, he doesn’t have to take that job. There’s never a shortage of jobs. (this can vary in more rural areas – my MIL subbed in a very rural area for a bit, and didn’t have enough work)
      2) Like the other commenter, my husband can choose his hours. I think they have a minimum they need to keep working. He works 3 days a week, I think around 8 hrs a day.
      3) Some students will treat both teachers and students terribly, but if you are a reasonable person, you’ll get along fine. From personal experience in public schools … the subs who don’t get treated well tend to be rather bizzare teachers, e.g. extreme disciplinarians.
      4) My husband does prefer to sub for elementary school though. Actually in our area they let you sign up for specific content areas, rather than age groups. So he subs for music classes, gym classes, and computer classes (he’s a musician). If you have experience in more “niche” areas, this can be really helpful — he started subbing because several local music teachers told him that they could never find subs who knew anything about music, so he’s “in demand.”
      5) usually not a real extensive lesson plan, unless the absence has been planned ahead or is more long-term
      6) this is probably the thing that varies most by area. I think my husband makes 12-14/hr (take note – this is an extremely low COL city, in a red state where education is on a string-budget, so I would hope that most places would be higher than this). It’s more for long-term subbing.

      1. Julianne*

        #4 is soooo true. A few years ago one of the performing arts teachers at my school somehow located a per diem sub who actually had music experience, and the band/orchestra/chorus teachers called him every single time they needed subs. We have a huge arts program at my school and this guy probably worked at least 30 days at our school that year.

    7. Mischa*

      I subbed for about 1.5 years, eventually getting a full time admin position at one of the schools I worked at the most.

      1. I was on the list for multiple districts, but tended to sub at one or two schools (one private, one charter). The kids and administration at those schools were just easier to work with.

      2. Somtimes I worked five days a week, but that was rare. As this was my way of supporting myself, it made life difficult.

      3. There was one school where I was treated like garbage by the kids. Never went back. I learned very fast to come off stern and strict right off the bat. It’s not fun being the mean sub, but you give kids an inch, they take 10 miles.

      4. I loved middle and upper elementary grades. Hated high school. I was 22 when I started subbing so it just felt weird to boss around people only a few years younger than me.

      5. Depended on the school and teacher. Some wrote great plans, some left me nothing at all. If they left nothing, we had a study hall.

      6. At the private school I made $100/day, and $130/day at the charter school. The private school had one central person calling subs, whereas the charter school teachers were responsible for finding their own subs. I hated being part of a huge text chain at 5am. No thanks.

      I enjoyed subbing but it is not similar to teaching at all, unless you get a long term position. But it’s a great way to get classroom experience.

    8. MorganLizzie*

      I’m relaying information from my mom, who has been subbing for about two years after retiring. She’s just doing it for something to do and she really enjoys it a lot.

      She doesn’t have a background in teaching/education beyond teaching preschool while in university. At least in our state/districts, those with teaching background/education/certifications are the only ones that can take long-term substitute positions (others are limited to three consecutive days in one classroom, but you could sub every day of the year in different classrooms.) Our district also has an app that alerts you of open jobs (teachers can put up their days off days or months in advance if they are planned). She books almost all of her jobs that way and could basically work every day of the year by doing so. This helps her avoid the 5:30am wake up call! She can also black out dates she’s unavailable so that they don’t call her (she also doesn’t receive calls if she’s already booked for another job). That has made the process so much more enjoyable for her, so I’d see if your district/s have that. If you don’t have an education background (I’m sure this is different for each state), she had to get a special certification and go through background checks and things which was a somewhat lengthy process, so get started early if you want to jump in on a certain date.

      1.) Did you sub for multiple school districts, or just 1 or 2?
      She does two districts that are close together (one very small – basically one school for each level) and one larger, 6-7 elementary, 2 middle, 2 high schools). There’s another larger school district nearby she could also do, but chooses not to as she’s kept busy enough without it!

      2.) Did you generally work 5 days/work? How many hour per week do/did you usually work?
      She works as many days as she wants, which she loves. Last school year she worked almost every day (unless she had something specific going on and didn’t want to work. This will depend a lot on the size of your district though and how they structure substitutes (some schools have hired permanent floating subs that cover last minute call-offs, etc. One of her districts has moved to that model and hired a few permanent full-time subs.

      3.) Do you feel like you were treated poorly by students because you were “the sub”?
      She said most of the time they are very respectful, but it totally depends on the class and their usual teacher. Sometimes the teacher has a very structured plan and disciplinary action to take with kids while others do not. Many will leave specific notes on “good” kids or problem causing students. Overall she said 1st and 2nd can be the toughest to get under control if they aren’t a more well-behaved group.

      4.) What grades did you sub in most frequently (elementary, middle, high school)?
      She subs any grade but prefers high school and older elementary, so she chooses those jobs first if they are available to schedule ahead of time. Sometimes she will reject certain grades and schools where she’s had bad experiences/just didn’t enjoy herself.

      5.) Did teachers usually provide a lesson plan, or did you find yourself “winging it” a lot of the time?
      She almost always has a plan for her, even if the teacher called out last minute, otherwise she says nearby teachers are usually pretty helpful. There have been a bunch of times where the lesson plan is just “let them work on their project” or “take this test” so she has crossword puzzle books and other things to keep herself busy if the kids are just working independently.

      6.) How much money did/do you earn per year (I know this will vary from state to state.)
      We are in a more rural area, so I’m sure it’s lower than a lot of places, but she’s at about 11 per hour. The annual is all over the place depending on how many days you take and if they’re full/half/whatever.

    9. Language Lover*

      I never subbed but I did used to teach and my mother was the chair of her department and responsible for finding subs so I can speak to it from that end.

      1) It depends on how much you’d like to work or how far you’ll travel. Some subs would be willing to travel up to an hour so they would work in multiple districts. Where I currently live is a big Metro area with multiple school districts so many subs are working 3 or 4 districts.

      2) I would imagine in a larger city, subs may work more. The town where I grew up had less than 50K people and plenty of subs. How often they would work depended on how established they were. My mom would focus on subs she knew were reliable, organized, good at following directions/communicating, weren’t pushovers or jerks in the classroom and were known to say “yes” if available. Those subs worked a lot and were often in demand to the point that they worked five days a week and would even get pre-scheduled. But starting out, it’ll mostly be the early morning phone call.

      5) Unless you’re a subject matter expert, most teachers don’t expect a sub to execute a lesson plan. And not all teachers will have back-up plans for subs so I’ve seen my mom scramble to throw something together. Movies were common. So were quizzes. Sometimes, if there is a project, they even get work time. Students will play dumb, though. “You have a project to work on.” “What project?”

    10. Chloe Silverado*

      I’m in a somewhat similar situation to you – my husband is in the military, and as we plan for a family I decided I wanted to leave my demanding job in marketing for something with fewer hours and work I could leave at the office. Should you decide subbing doesn’t sound like the best fit, you may want to consider administrative work at a school – some positions follow the school schedule and are off during summers, winter break, spring break, etc. (Double check though – some do work in the summer, etc.) Another option might be part time office work – I found a part time, hourly marketing position with a local city government. Because it’s city government they’re very strict about me only working during the established hours, but they’ve been very flexible about my schedule. I am allowed to decide how I generallly want to spread out my hours each week and I can move them around for appointments and family obligations. Good luck!

    11. A Teacher*

      I’m a high school teacher that subbed for over 5 years before becoming a teacher, I was in a different career where I could substitute teach as well.

      1. I subbed for one district at a time.
      2. Usually 3 days a week when I subbed more often. Good subs will be called regularly and will have their pick of jobs. Teachers request subs that have good classroom management and don’t leave their rooms a mess. Our school day is 7.5 hours a day
      3. Being treated poorly depends on the perception you give off. If you’re friendly but draw a line and hold firm on your management, you’ll be good.
      4. High School and Middle School
      5. It depends on the teacher. I always leave detailed sub plans because I subbed. Usually I leave something easy so the sub doesn’t have to figure out something complicated.
      6. My district pays $100 a day for a sub.

      Make yourself valuable to the teaching staff. Actually supervise the students and don’t leave a mess in the classroom–shut the windows, throw out trash, push chairs in, don’t go through the desk. Basic stuff, but things I’ve seen from subs. DOn’t be hateful to my kids–the kids will tell me what you’re like as a sub.

    12. Kyrielle*

      I haven’t ever done this job, but if the elementary grades interest you, also consider a role as a ‘teacher’ or staff member at an after-school program. The one our kids attend provides care from school out (2:10, or 12:10 on early release days) until 6 pm, every day, and 6:30-6:00 on school-out days that aren’t holidays, so it’s a regular but not full-time gig. Depending on the program, there may still be teaching or tutoring involved, and it seems like they are always hiring (because a lot of times they get staff members who are substitute teaching while they work on getting a full-time job or finishing up their education degree so they can, so when they graduate or land the job, they’re gone). The ones who stay around for more than a year become treasured continuity for me as a parent, and for the kids also.

    13. AnonySub*

      1.) Did you sub for multiple school districts, or just 1 or 2?
      Just one. My district has something like 20 elementary schools, 6 middle schools, 5 high schools, and 4-5 specialty schools like the early childhood center. There is opportunity to work every day if I wanted to. I tend to be really picky about my assignments.
      2.) Did you generally work 5 days/work? How many hour per week do/did you usually work?
      Subbing is one of 3 jobs for me, so I don’t work every day. It’s probably more normal for me to sub 2 days a week. I could work 5 days a week if I wanted to.
      3.) Do you feel like you were treated poorly by students because you were “the sub”?
      It depends on the school. In general, yes. Is is normally something I’m going to go home and cry about? No. If I run into a group of students like that, I make a big mental note not to sub for that teacher again. The demographics in my district vary and I tend to avoid the schools with the most difficult students.
      4.) What grades did you sub in most frequently (elementary, middle, high school)?
      I do all three! I actually do a lot of center-based special ed, because I subbed extensively as a paraprofessional before I started subbing as a teacher, so I’m familiar and comfortable with those types of classrooms. If you can get into a room with good paras they will help you out so much.
      I don’t do regular elementary school classes because I don’t know how to control a classroom for the whole day.
      I do sub for elementary school specialists, like music, because I only have to handle the kids for 45 minutes! Then I get a new group. That’s also a reason that I like mainsteam middle school and high school… they switch classes 6 times a day!
      5.) Did teachers usually provide a lesson plan, or did you find yourself “winging it” a lot of the time?
      They always have a lesson plan. Some lesson plans are better than others.
      6.) How much money did/do you earn per year (I know this will vary from state to state.)
      My district pays $120 per day or $70 per half day. It’s a suburban district in a medium-cost-of-living area.

    14. LA*

      I subbed for 4 years, and taught high school for a couple of years. Subbing is a thousand times easier than teaching, but honestly, they’re mostly two very different jobs unless you have a teaching background and a chance to collaborate with the teacher you sub for (the second of which is pretty rare). Most of my subbing was done for foreign language, because I knew the teachers and the languages, and they liked that they didn’t lose a day of teaching when I subbed for them. The teacher I subbed for the most (who I’d actually had as a teacher when I was in high school myself) had a pretty strict classroom manner, and I was able to get the kids to do a lot more than she could, mostly because I was less intimidating.
      When I was a teacher, I couldn’t count on my sub to teach the language or even be much help with any work they had, so I had a whole folder of potential sub lessons for each level; mostly cultural readings or movies that they could do without needing help.

      1. Just one. I didn’t want a ton of sub work because I was also in class part of the time.
      2. Definitely no. I usually did a full day here and there. It was a full day, though.
      3. No, but mostly my situation was unique because they knew I’d been a student of the same teacher before, and I knew what tricks they would try to pull. Most students enjoyed having a sub, but it’s important to make sure they know you’re not an idiot. Don’t write a zillion hall passes.
      4. High school.
      5. I usually had a lesson plan if it was foreign language, but only because they knew I could teach. Other teachers would just provide rosters for attendance, and some work or a movie for the students to do, and homework for them. A lot of the time, we would do the homework together as a class.
      6. At the time, I got $60 a day, but that was about 8 years ago, so I imagine it’s more like $80 or $100 now. I never counted on it as a major source of income.

    15. Gina*

      I hated every single second of being a substitute teacher. I used to cry when the phone would ring in the morning.

      I substituted in PA from 2010-2013, which is one of the more rigorous states for teacher certification. After proving I had a bachelor’s degree and providing 3 letters of recommendation from current educators or administrators, I had to complete a formal training program through an Intermediate Unit to receive an emergency certification and I had to pay all my own fees (child abuse clearance, fingerprints and FBI clearance, etc.). This certificate only allowed me to get day-to-day substituting; I was not eligible for long-term jobs (like maternity coverage).

      1.) I subbed for all districts served by the IU in which I took my training, which amount to about three counties.

      2.) I definitely did not get 5 days per week! I always got multiple calls for Mondays and Friday (therefore having to repeatedly turn down the late callers and make them angry), and I struggled to find work in the middle of the week. Also keep in mind that due to the legal changes to what constitutes a full-time position, some school districts are playing games by limiting subs to 3-4 days of work per week and then cutting them off.

      3.) This hugely depends on administrative support. In schools where the kids know that security never came when called, they would act like animals. In districts that had prompt and firm consequences, the kids behaved.

      4.) Mostly the ends–elementary and high school.

      5.) Teachers in most districts are required to have emergency plans, so I never had absolutely no idea what to do. Often the plans I was given had little to do with the current curriculum, but there was always something.

      6.) Most districts paid in tiers. For example, a daily rate of $80 for the first 100 days, then a bump to $95 after that. Because so many districts throttled your number of days (as I mentioned in #2 above), it was very hard to get to that pay bump. I’m sure that’s intentional. I never made it to even 15k a year.

      Other insights: subs are always given on-calls, so even if you’re subbing for a teacher with a cushy schedule, you will never get those preps to yourself. Expect to get last-second calls for coverage in another room. Travel light for this reason: no heavy bag, no lunch that needs heating, no high heels.

    16. Jessie the First (or second)*

      I used to sub, years ago, and my husband has subbed more recently.

      One nice change in our area – sub requests are online in our district! Meaning, when you are approved as a sub by the district, you can log on to the sub website, see what days/teachers/classes are in need of a sub for the week, and sign up for it online. There are still 6 am day-off calls, because teachers get sick, but lots of times the days off are known in advance and so you can plan out your week. My husband worked every day for a while, and didn’t rely at all on early-morning day-of calls. He had it arranged for the week in advance, online. If any districts around you have that feature, it is great!

      1. Subbed for just one district, as did husband
      2. I worked 3 ish days a week, for the school day (6 hours). He worked 5.
      3. Sometimes I was treated fine, sometimes it was a challenge.
      4. I did high school only. Husband did all grades.
      5. Usually there was a lesson plan – though super simple, like “have the kids do this worksheet and pass it in to you at end” type of thing, so that I was not teaching; I was simply managing the classroom. For a longer-term assignment I had (2 weeks) I had to make up lesson plans. (It was the start of the school year and the teacher was out unexpectedly, so no plans left)
      6. I forget what I earned, but my husband got $85 a day. At one point he got a long-term sub assignment as an instructional aide and bumped to $95. Long term subs for teachers (not aides) in our district are at $120, I think.

    17. Former Teacher*

      I was a full time teacher and subbed when my husband was temporarily relocated to a new state mid school year. I actually day to day subbed, then did a maternity leave for the same district. I liked it, but I’d come from a bad work situation and was burned out, so the day to day subbing felt like a “break”. The maternity leave is more like being a full time classroom teacher, so I’ll answer these questions about the day to day subbing experience.

      1.) Did you sub for multiple school districts, or just 1 or 2?
      Just one, but it was a huge district. I subbed for 4 schools within the district.

      2.) Did you generally work 5 days/work? How many hour per week do/did you usually work?
      I got called just about everyday. Most times morning of, although sometimes I’d know in advance. I got in the habit of getting up and getting ready for my day as if I was going in. If I was called (and I usually was) I put on work clothes, if I wasn’t, I put on casual clothes and got started early on my day.

      3.) Do you feel like you were treated poorly by students because you were “the sub”?
      Occasionally. Maybe slightly more often than when I was the classroom teacher. I only had one really chaotic day…middle school kids the day before Christmas break with no work left for them at all and shortened periods for a show/assembly at the end of the day. So that was a predictable outcome!

      4.) What grades did you sub in most frequently (elementary, middle, high school)?
      Middle and high

      5.) Did teachers usually provide a lesson plan, or did you find yourself “winging it” a lot of the time?
      Usually there was a lesson. Sometimes it was very detailed (like teaching an actual class) othertimes it was watch a video/read the book and do a worksheet. As word got around that I was a former teacher with a significant amount of experience in our discipline area (I almost never subbed out of my subject area, because there were so many classes and science subs are hard to find, so I was usually the first call when a science teacher was out), it became more of the former.

      6.) How much money did/do you earn per year (I know this will vary from state to state.)
      $125/day. Extrapolated over a whole school year, I think I would’ve worked 130-150 days.

    18. Artemesia*

      I have a friend who did this a lot and the one thing I remember her telling me was that she had folders of activities she could do with kids in different grades as frequently there was no actual lesson plan left or very vague instructions. She had some spelling games, some history quiz show games, some stories that kids could read out loud taking turns etc.

    19. Melody*

      I worked as a sub for a number of years in multiple districts. Pay was $75-100 depending on the district. Where I am there is a sub company that works with multiple districts so I was technically working for the sub company. The nice thing about this was Everything was centralized. You can choose which days or times you are available as well as which subjects or grades you want or definstley don’t want. Long term sub positions can be great for consistency. If you end up in the same schools over and over the kids get to know you and that can make things easier. It was great for when my kids were first born because I got to spend time at home with them whenever I needed or wanted. Good luck!

    20. JN*

      1.) Did you sub for multiple school districts, or just 1 or 2?
      I subbed in 3 districts regularly and 2 more occasionally for a while

      2.) Did you generally work 5 days/work? How many hour per week do/did you usually work?
      It started out slow, but as I built a good reputation as a reliable sub, I did end up working every day. Some places would call me 3 weeks out from a teacher’s planned absence so they could book me before someone else did. It could be hard sometimes to go to bed not knowing if I would be working the next day or not, so making advance plans could be a challenge unless I told districts I just wasn’t going to be available on a given day.

      3.) Do you feel like you were treated poorly by students because you were “the sub”?
      It depended on the age and school. Some kids were great and I loved going back, other kids had me mentally striking that teacher off the future assignment acceptance list

      4.) What grades did you sub in most frequently (elementary, middle, high school)?
      I told districts not to call me for high school or special ed, but otherwise I did everything from early childhood up through middle school. I probably subbed in elementary schools the most.

      5.) Did teachers usually provide a lesson plan, or did you find yourself “winging it” a lot of the time?
      Teachers are supposed to provide lesson plans, and usually I found them to be pretty good. But occasionally the plans just didn’t make sense or supplies weren’t where the plans said they would be, so I did have to wing it some. Most teachers overplanned for their absences (having more for students to do than would fit into the time available), but sometimes I did have to pull out some brain teasers to fill extra time.

      6.) How much money did/do you earn per year (I know this will vary from state to state.)
      Pay where I worked in the midwest was around $80/day, with variations a couple dollars either way depending on the district. The longterm sub assignment I did for a teacher on maternity leave paid more, I think, but it was so long ago that I don’t remember how much now. Subbing doesn’t come with benefits, so any medical and vacation time is unpaid, but if your husband has a great job, then that factor isn’t important.

      If you’re okay with being in different grades and schools from one day to the next and thinking “on the fly”, then subbing could be a good way to go, since you do have flexibility to work as much or as little as you want to. But if you want stability, then subbing can often lack that.

    21. Julianne*

      My experience is pretty similar to Anonymous Educator above. I did some subbing when I was in grad school (for teaching; I was already licensed in the state where I went to college, but I was getting certified in a new subject/state).

      1. I only subbed in one district, because I limited myself to places I could easily get on public transit. (I didn’t have a car at the time.) I looked into subbing in another nearby district, but their posted requirements for subs were beyond what I was willing to commit to (some sort of online training course + a multi-step interview process).
      2. I usually worked 3-4 days per week. School days in the district where I subbed were 6.5 hours, but I always tried to arrive at least 30 minutes early to get the lay of the land. I probably could have worked 5 days per week if I’d wanted to, but I liked having the choice to not work every day.
      3. Mostly I was treated fine by students. I would estimate that I probably subbed in about 40 different classrooms across 6 schools, and there were only 2 classes that were tough enough for me to put them on my personal “Do Not Sub” list. There was one other class where the teacher (herself a long term sub) left really terrible plans and the kids pushed back quite a bit, which was frustrating but very understandable – I held it against her, not them.
      4. I mostly subbed for elementary. I subbed twice for middle school, but never higher than 7th grade.
      5. Lesson plans of variable quality were provided for every sub job. On the weak end, these were notes with just the name of the textbook for each subject (no page numbers, notes about what they were learning, etc.). I also got some plans that scripted the entire day in 5-10 minute chunks. Probably the worst was when the plan was “show this documentary” but did not leave me either a copy of the movie or a device to play/project it on.
      6. I made $99 per day. This was in metro Boston in 2013-14. The same district now pays $101 per day.

      In addition to per diem subbing, I have also been a short-term sub (~3 weeks) and a long-term sub (16 weeks). Although you lose the flexibility that comes with being a per diem sub, I think it’s a much better gig. (Of course, when I was subbing, I was doing so with the goal of getting a full-time teaching job, so I found longer jobs were more in line with my goals.) Classroom management is totally different if you’re there for a day versus a week or more, instruction is much easier if you have an idea what they already learned, and in some districts you get paid more (sometimes even retro pay!) the longer you stay in a single assignment. If I moved away now and had to sub while looking for a full time job, I’d probably not choose to go back to per diem subbing unless we really, really needed the money.

    22. Not That Jane*

      I also was a sub for a while (2005-2009, in the San Diego area). To answer your questions:
      1) I started out just working for a couple districts, then by the time I left, I was working for I think 6 or 7 districts. High school districts, unified school districts, and elementary districts. I think I worked at about 100 different schools!
      2) I typically tried to work 4-5 days per week, full days. At first, with only 2 districts, that was hard; but as I gained districts and gained a good reputation with teachers, I started getting more requests than I could handle.
      3) It varied. Typically, I could tell what kind of classroom management the regular teacher had by how the students treated me (and by how clean the classroom was!). Better-trained students usually meant an easier day for me. It also helps A LOT to meet students at the door with their worksheet, be efficient about taking attendance, roam around the room frequently, etc. If they get the initial impression that it’s business as usual, it goes much smoother after that.
      4) I did everything! I preferred preschool (although it paid less), middle or high school.
      5) I think I only had to “wing it” once! However, I was usually getting assignments a week or more out – so it was mostly teachers scheduling personal days, conferences, etc. If you take the assignments on the morning of, often that is, say, folks who’ve been up all night with food poisoning, so it’s less likely they will have been able to prepare a plan.
      6) I earned about $20K annually, but that wasn’t working every day I could have. I think at that time, the lowest paying district was $90 per day, and the highest paying was about $120. It was also often possible to keep working in the summer, due to year-round schools, summer school, etc.

    23. Cascadia*

      I work for a private school in a large metro area and I think we pay our subs somewhere between $120 and $180 a day. Not sure if the exact going rate. A lot of our subs also sub for other private schools in the area as well. Each department has to find their own subs and they usually cobble together 2 or 3 subs for the year for all of the classes in a given department. I’ll echo what most everyone else said below. Also check into the local district and school requirements for subbing. Some places require teaching experience, or a teaching certificate. It’s quite different from teaching though, so if you’re trying to decide if you’d like to be a classroom teacher I think it would be good experience but definitely take it with a grain of salt. Generally you are a glorified babysitter, have no relationships with your students or with your colleagues, and are just keeping them from going crazy. Running your own classroom is a totally different experience.

  2. Sadie Doyle*

    Does anyone else think about what you want to ask in open thread all week, and then when the thread opens, your mind goes blank?

    1. Kim Possible*

      I’ve started typing up my questions ahead of time in a word doc so that I can just copy & paste it into the thread when it opens up. :)

    2. Over educated*

      Yes! Sometimes I have too many things I’ve wanted to discuss on the open thread and have to decide on one or two. Or sometimes it feels high pressure, like I’m not sure if I can write it in a way that’s interesting enough for people to want to respond to (I think I’m particularly bad at that, honestly).

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I do that! I think of questions and when it comes time to post them I change my mind because I think it’s not really important or interesting.

        1. Asterix*

          I worry that it becomes as long as an essay, or mini novel, to explain the intricacies of the dilemma.

    3. Fine Dining Porkchops*

      All the time!! If it’s something I really want to remember I put a note in Outlook to remind myself.

    4. JulieBulie*

      Yep, every week. (Ditto for the Saturday free-for-all.) I’m always in the car when I think of it, so I can’t even write it down! I need to figure out some kind of mnemonic to help me remember of things (lots and lots of things) that I think of in the car.

    5. Buffy Summers*

      That actually just happened to me today. I had something and I can’t remember it for the life of me. Frustrating.

    6. Smiling*

      Usually I think about it, realize I’m stewing over something needlessly, then change my mind about posting. Or, the bosses actually show up on time and I don’t have time to post.

    7. Beatrice*

      I often wind up finding I don’t have time on Friday mornings to post, and by the time I get here, the thread is 500+ posts long. If anything, I’ve learned that my Friday mornings are busy!

  3. Long Weekend Ahoy!*

    I’ve been in my current job for half a year now and I have noticed a lot of turnover since I arrived. At my last job, it was a place people stayed for many years so I was the odd one out to leave after three years. In my new job, a lot of the people leaving have only been here a year or two. Of course, there are those who have been with the company for years but they’re mainly the higher ups. The people on my level are the ones with a short lived job lifespan.

    Those leaving have told me they felt like this job was a way station, just a brief stop on their way to what they really want. However, I’m quite happy with where I am. Though I’ve only been here for six months, I don’t see myself in a hurry to leave. But when the mood of those around me are people eager to leave, I’m wondering if I’m missing something. Should I be on alert to leave? Should I already start planning my next step? I almost feel like I’m doing something wrong by being content with where I am and not thinking about my next steps, when that’s what most of the people around me seem to be focused on.

    I don’t think I’m going to be here for decades but I do think I’ll stay put for at least a couple of years. But should I be on alert for whatever is driving out my coworkers?

    1. Over educated*

      You’ve only been there six months. A lot can change between six months and two years in how you feel about the job, and how much you learn about how things work and why people move on. I wouldn’t worry about it just yet.

      1. Lora*

        Yeah, this. When I was in ExJob for 6 months it wasn’t so bad, but then they got a new VP (I later learned they changed VPs every two years or so) and he was fairly benign while he was learning the ropes himself, but as soon as he got settled in HOLY DISASTER BATMAN. I mean, eventually they fired him and they haven’t replaced him yet, but in the meantime there was a lot of turnover. And it turned out this was a pattern with the senior senior management.

    2. Generic Administrator*

      Yep, I would stay alert. People saying it’s just a way station/brief stop etc could just be using that as a cop out way of saying something else about the place.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Having ignored waving red flags at a place that ‘had always been there’ but was about to implode, I think we all want to ignore bad signs that will disrupt our lives. When you get that spidey sense, then pay attention so you can see the handwriting on the wall before the competition and jump if need be.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I worked for a company that aggressively recruited new grads. The end result was 70% of the workforce was under 30 and only the top, top management was experienced. There wasn’t any good leadership or opportunities for development because everyone was a newbe. It was a jumping off job. New hires would come in, learn the ropes of the industry, then get frustrated and leave at about the 2 year mark.

      1. CGor*

        Same here. I worked at an ad agency where the median age was 26. Constant revolving door. The long hours, stressful deadlines, and low pay certainly didn’t help.

      2. Susan*

        My company likes to recruit new graduates and new immigrants for jobs (accounting). It may sound nice, but it’s really to be able to justify a poop level of pay.

      3. Anonomatic Yo Yo*

        Im at a place right now with an extremely strong grad program of rotations, etc that lasts for two years. That’s great and all, and the grads I have come in contact with are really smart, but then you end up with this WEIRD dichotomy of most folks under 30 doing the work but senior leaders 40+. If you are in the middle its a no-man’s land: you are either doing work way below your skill level or there is no way to do more challenging work/move up. The stress is low and so are the hours, but the work output isnt very high either because those grads dont know what they dont know. So you end up coaching a lot and its just Not Good to be experienced there.

        For me this job is a waypoint and I am passing through on my way to somewhere else. It gets me some experience in some sectors I am missing, but clarified some other stuff for me and helped me out of a tight spot last year. But my buddy (an older gentleman who came out of retirement and is also bored stiff) said it best: “its like a college course that has no grades and never ends”. I will never get a sense of accomplishment there or be driven to achieve more because there is no push. So back to the market we go after Christmas.

        Now, for your situation, if you are learning and getting what you want out of the place then great! That can always change but potentially pay attention to where those folks are leaving to – bigger or smaller companies? more challenging work? different industry entirely? so that you have an idea of what to keep in mind and look out for when you are ready to leave. Its like an emergency preparedness kit – you may like where you are but sometimes the sh*t hits the fan out of your control and you need to take what you’ve got and bail.

    4. JulieBulie*

      Keep your eyes open, but don’t be so eager to find trouble that you’ll see something that isn’t there.

      Your coworkers might think the company’s strategic direction is bad, or they might feel that the pay is too low compared to similar places in the area, they may be bored or worried that the job looks weak on their resume, or they might not see a good career path for themselves. They might be unhappy with the work/life balance.

      Or, it could be toxic in some way you haven’t detected yet – though in my experience, six months is plenty of time to observe something like that. There’s also the fact that none of your ex-coworkers have told you anything to make you think it’s toxic.

      Different people like different things. It could be as simple as that. It could be that you are exactly where you need to be at this moment in your life.

      1. Bostonian*

        I agree with this completely. There might not really be anything there! At my current job, I couldn’t give you 1 criticism for the first 2 years I was here, and I was kind of nervous waiting for the other shoe to drop. And I would always hear second- and third- hand about how other people were unhappy (usually within my department, but in a different role from mine).

        Now, there are a couple of things that bug me, but nothing that comes even close to being a deal-breaker. And now that I know what the other coworkers were/are complaining about, it seems kind of petty. My previous job was unhealthy in so many ways that I *really* don’t care now that the most controversial thing here is that Jane got a celebration party when she published a book, but all Henrietta got was an email congratulations when she got her MPH.

        All that to say, it’s OK to be happy at your job even though others see it as a stepping stone.

      2. Wintermute*

        I second the pay-rate thing. Consider that as entry-level you might not realize this.

        My work has this going on, they promote from within so people can go from customer service call center to network operations or another technical department in a few years (it took me 3). But if you continue to advance your skills that amazing pay for someone that started out 3 years earlier making 13 an hour and is now at 65k a year looks less stellar when you have 3 or 4 years of experience in an in-demand field, and some highly-demanded industry certifications (Cisco, etc). You could get a 10k or more raise by leaving once you have 3-4 years experience.

    5. NoodleMara*

      If you start getting more high level responsibilites, I’d keep an eye out. For me, curent job was great if a bit tiring until I started working on higher level projects. Then I realized there are some things in legal grey areas that I don’t approve of. That’s why I’m trying to leave. I started here as an intern for two summers and have been working here three and a half years. I only got more responsibility in the past year.

      Don’t worry too much about it, but it never hurts to keep an ear out

    6. LAI*

      My last job was one that I thought I was going to want to stay in long-term. I felt that way for several years in the job. However, it eventually became clear that there were no advancement opportunities – no real opportunity for a promotion or pay increase. Even though I loved what I was doing, I eventually felt like I had to start looking outside. Not everyone felt that way though – there were people who had been doing the same work for the same pay for 20 years and didn’t seem to have a problem with it.

    7. WerkingIt*

      I was at a job like this once. Everyone under 40 never stayed more than 2 years but everyone over 40 had been there like 20 years. Around the 8-month mark I was struggling every day. Like literally head in hands at my desk. And everyone else said the same thing. There were fundamental leadership problems, but the leaders — i.e. The people who had been there 20 — were the problem and weren’t affected by the problems like low pay, lack of vacation time, limited flexibility, no room for growth or training (they were at the top already), crappy equipment (because of course they had new computers and the rest of us were sharing a Tandy)… They were wearing blinders to all the issues. Didn’t even have an exit interview process. They thought we were the problem. That we weren’t committed to the mission or that they just hired the wrong person.

      You may just be more easy going or committed. But keep your eyes open. In my experience, a lot of turnover is a bad sign.

      1. JulieBulie*

        There’s a word I haven’t heard in a while.
        I’m bringing that one back into my vocabulary.

    8. Nervous Accountant*

      Oh this is interesting.

      My company has high turnover. We employ mostly new graduates, but some with experience as well.

      I’d say that a lot of people left because they were unhappy with the type of work that we’re doing, unrealistic and unreasonable metrics, and crap pay. The few odd people complained about the hours, which in that case they need to get out of this field But in terms of the work, it’s legit less actual tax/accounting work and more talking on the phone. Many of us are on the phones for literally 6-7 hours a day and are expected to put in extra time to answer all calls and emails within 24 hours. The most common complaint is that we have more clients per accountant than we can actually handle.

      For the few that have been here long term, htey have been promoted, and I think they’re actually great at their jobs. But the newer ones jump ship in a few months/year.

      The majority I talk to also have long term goals of starting their own business after a few years, using the knowledge and skills they gain here, which I think is pretty vallid.

      My reasons for staying for so long was that I was always temp so I needed a long term experience. Plus I really really wanted/needed the stability so I was willing to do whatever this company required and met their ridiculous quotas. I just recently got promoted but I’m looking now.

      My reason for explaining why there’s high turnover in my company is because I was intentionally keeping my eyes closed to this. I knew there was high turnover and why, and I knew my boss didn’t like me, but I focused on my own goals. For a long time everyone said I should leave and look for something new but I wasn’t ready. I am now.

      My advice would be–if there’s nothing wrong with you r place, nothing wrong in staying where you are, as long as it meets your goals. and hey, there’s nothign wrong with having a goal that’s more “I want to stay here for some time”.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      It’s always wise to watch what is going on around you. And you can do that and still like your job.

      However, there is nothing wrong with your staying while others leave. There are advantages, you will rise up in seniority quicker, you may be given some of the plum tasks, and you may have the boss’ ear because you were one of the ones who stayed put.

      Some jobs/workplaces are a stepping stone and the company realizes it. While others might be ready to move on, you might have very strong reasons to stay put. I’d suggest staying until you find a stronger reason for moving on.

    10. Winger*

      I work at a large and well-known organization in our industry. Lots of people want to work here. But the turnover is extremely high. Examining why we can’t seem to keep staff for more than 18 months actually opens up a lot of interesting insights into our entire industry. It’s definitely a good idea to keep your eyes and ears open and do your own (well informed) analysis of what’s driving people away.

    11. Chaordic One*

      Yes you should be on alert for whatever is driving out your coworkers and also for better opportunities elsewhere. My last job was one of those places with a reputation for doing excellent work and we had very satisfied and happy clients. However, we also had very high rates of turnover.

      Over time additional tasks and duties were added to job descriptions. The business had a very successful marketing campaign and was attracting more and more new business, but there weren’t any additional people there to perform the extra duties and people burnt out rapidly. Also, there was generally very little in the way of financial recognition of all of the extra work we’d taken on. We were processing at least 25% more information than just 3 years earlier, but one year there weren’t any raises at all and after that just 2 and 3% annual raises that didn’t even keep pace with the cost of rising health insurance premiums. It was like they were balancing their budget on the backs of the employees.

      After a couple of years most people realized that, while a few people managed to live their dreams there, for most of us, while the mission of the company was great, in practice it was very unrewarding. If you were lucky you might be able to spin the experience you gained there as something that could lead to something better. I remember a department head who quit her stressful job there and made almost as much money working as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic, that’s how bad it was.

  4. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

    Does your office/work place decorate for the holidays or season changes? Do people decorate their offices/cubes?

    1. Wing Commander Floofengarten*

      All the cubes in my department are decorated; one cube has a giant chicken wire sculpture of a unicorn straddling the wall.

    2. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      We don’t do much in the summer, but I decorate the lobby in the fall and at Christmas (thankfully we have management that still allows this). In the cubical farm, they sometimes put things in their cube and at the common tables. It always looks nice and cheery.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Our building puts up odd colored trees so they can’t be construed as “Christmas Trees.” Last year was a purple tree and the year before was orange. We also have cube decorating contests.

    3. Amber Rose*

      My supervisor loves Christmas more than chocolate. We have a 12 foot massive tree that everyone spends half a day setting up every year, and the lunchroom gets covered in streamers and stuff. But we don’t really do the other holidays.

      I have an assortment of plushie Christmas ornaments I set up around my desk. I tried to string lights around my cubicle last year, but they kind of… lit on fire. So I think I’ll just stick to the ornaments.

        1. Amber Rose*

          It’s not that much of a story. I plugged the lights in under my desk, but like half of them were out. So I was thinking I’d see if I could find the broken bulb and swap it out, which is when I noticed the smoke. I thought it was dust at first (this stuff sits in boxes for ages) so I ignored it but then I noticed the line felt kind of warm, and when I looked at the smoky bit again it was on fire. :D

          It was great though, because my neighbor was nearby watching me do all this, and I was all calm like “oh hey, a fire” and he panicked and ran for the hills. It wasn’t much more of a fire than you get on a match and went right out when I unplugged the thing.

    4. Snark*

      I hacked up a calendar full of old-school WPA National Parks posters and decorated by cubeffice with them. I work in a relentlessly gray room that is the precise shade of mild depression and ennui, and bright, bold primary colors everywhere is a huge mood-booster. And I brought in a few fake plants, for greenery.

      Didn’t notice much in the way of holiday decor.

      1. Work Wardrobe*

        I work in a relentlessly gray room that is the precise shade of mild depression and ennui

        This is some beautiful wordsmithing.

        1. Artemesia*

          Wish I had read this before painting our bedroom ‘soul suck grey’ — had to repaint it crimson after 6 most.

    5. Emily S.*

      There’s only minimal decoration in the lobby for Christmas. As in, a single Santa figurine with a little wreath. Nobody changes their cubicles.

      I prefer it this way — previously, an overzealous colleague would put tinsel around the lobby walls, which would get ALL OVER the floor and chairs.

    6. Loopy*

      I’ve only seen anything for Christmas. My company does a tree in the lobby but not much else. We can decorate our cubes but almost no one does. I did a little bit one year but then I skipped it the next.

      I love Christmas but I understand not everyone wants to walk through Christmas land for an entire month so I’m okay with it.

    7. esra (also a Canadian)*

      We’ve still got Pride and Canada Day flags up, I think people just like having some colour in the office.

    8. Another Rosamond*

      We have an open-ish cube farm style office. My favorite part of the holidays is people will wrap their cube in wrapping paper – big presents everywhere! One of my Jewish coworkers used Hannukah paper for hers – it was lovely.

      Last year, one department decorated their whole pod to be different parts of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls. It was awesome, and just-holiday-enough (with the snow everywhere) to fit in well

    9. Aphrodite*

      I love to decorate my home for fall (October 1 to Friday night of Thanksgiving weekend) and Christmas (from Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend to December 28 or 29). But with so much time spent at work, I like to do it there too.

      I don’t go all out as I prefer a more minimal rather than over-the-top look but I am considering buying a champagne-colored Christmas tree for work and then keeping it for myself. (At home now, I have a lipstick red one.)

      But I love decorating for these holidays and as I get closer to retirement and am itching and occasionally desperate to get out I think making myself happy by decorating at work too will do me good.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      My first year at Exjob, we had a huge competition to decorate cubes/aisles and a giant potluck. They never did it again while I was still working there, though we often had informal food days. I don’t usually bother to do anything like that on my own. Other people did, however.

      At OldExjob, we did decorate the office with a Christmas tree and some evergreen garlands up front. Guess who had to do it every year?

    11. Angela's Back*

      At my last job, there was an Ecumenical Tree on permanent display in one particular suite that would get decorated for holidays throughout the year with appropriate colored Mardi Gras beads and assorted other ornaments. We would do the big ones like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, but also stuff like Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras (I mean obviously), St. Patrick’s Day (BIG St. Patrick’s parade in my Southern town, go figure), Memorial Day/4th of July, and Napoleon’s birthday :D

    12. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Our office goes ALL out for Halloween. Enough that staff who don’t celebrate Halloween for religious reasons take the day off. :/

    13. Alli525*

      At my old corporate-office-building in midtown NYC, they only decorated for Chrismukkah, but it was GORGEOUS. We were in a historic building so all the archways were festooned with expensive-looking garland and ribbons, and there was a really beautiful 6-foot-tall menorah to one side of the security desk. I don’t recall seeing a tree but I could be mistaken on that.

      Now I work for a college, so the RAs will decorate semi-seasonally, but not much else. I have several fake mini-trees that I salvaged when my first post-college workplace went out of business, so I’ll stash a couple on my desk but otherwise keep my Christmas Explosion (TM) confined to my apartment.

    14. Kelly*

      I decorate the sh*t out of my cube for Halloween, since it’s my favorite holiday. I have xmas lights on my fake palm tree all year round, but that’s it.

    15. KR*

      I don’t think my technician co-workers have in the past but I plan on buying some cheesy fall and Christmas/holiday themed decorations. Just little things. In old job we did everything on white boards so I usually drew an elaborate christmas tree and star of David on the white board and put up paper snow flakes in our office.

    16. kittymommy*

      Uh my old office I used to, more than here. Mainly cling stickers and tchokies for the holidays (and a couple of holiday themed beanie babies my mom had). Now it’s primarily Christmas and a holiday themed candy dish, if I have it. I do change my coffee mug by season/holidays!

    17. not so super-visor*

      we can decorate but only if the decorations don’t exceed the cubicle height (on top of the cube walls) and can’t be outside of the cubicle. Also, we share desks, so the third shift deskmate has to agree to it.

      1. officegrinch*

        People have some desk decorations (lots of plants) but its been cleaned up a lot from the original office. Before we moved, we were in the same space for 20+ years and people pack-ratted in a way that just read as super unprofessional to me. However, I work best with minimal visual clutter.

        The holiday decorations make me feel somewhat grinchlike, plus we have a christmas rat contest where people can find hidden christmas rats (like from the nutcracker, I guess) around the office. Whoever wins I always think “that person does not have enough to do”.

    18. TheCupcakeCounter*

      We decorate for Christmas with a couple of really nice trees and a lot of poinsettias. You are allowed to decorate your cube (within reason) for whatever season/holiday you want.

    19. Optimistic Prime*

      We have one person on our team who is really into Halloween, so we decorate for that. And then we generally put up some lights for the winter holidays, but last year we forgot to take them down so they have literally been up all year.

    20. Bagpuss*

      We have a tree in reception for christmas, and some decorations in the window. There’s a glass wall behind the reception desk and all the christmas cards which come addressed to the company rather than to any individual are stuck up on there.

      This summer we sponsored our local Pride event so we had rainbow bunting in the windows for that.

      Some people decorate their offices – I don’t, personally, but that’s mostly because I don’t put decorations up until Christmas Eve, so it would only be for one day, for work!

    21. Specialk9*

      The company does decorate, big-time. But only in the most token way for all the Indian workers and their holidays. And, even in a heavily Jewish town, and with at least one very Jewish C-level, they try but miss in winter. Big elaborate winter holiday displays that are ostensibly non-specific on religion, but it’s all actually Christian. Like Christmas trees with blue and white balls, but no candles. Thanks?

      Muslim religious holidays are utterly ignored, as far as I’ve seen. Which is weird, we have at least one Muslim-country-of-origin C-level too. Though it’s possible I’m missing the signs.

      Halloween brings out a competition like I have never seen before, or even imagined. (Previously, my time was all charged to specific client tasks – holiday stuff was pretty curtailed as a result.) People bring in kids to trick or treat, and the halls get turned into themed… Wonderlands is the best word. It’s pretty wild.

  5. straws*

    I recently had a conversation with my boss about hiring where he said that he was told that cover letters are becoming passé. That hasn’t been my impression at all, although plenty of applicants forego providing one when requested. What is everyone’s experience with this—are cover letters becoming a thing of the past? If so, what is (effectively) used instead?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There have been been people claiming that for at least 10 years. Media outlets also like to run stories claiming it. It’s not true. There are certainly hiring managers who don’t care much about them, but there have always been those.

      1. Cloud Nine Sandra*

        I was speaking to a senior in college yesterday and his professors were telling him to forgo cover letters, too! (I said, no no no, I promise.)

        1. Frozen Ginger*

          A cover letter is more likely to help than hurt even in a situation where it’s optional.

          Also, when was the last time those professors did a job hunt outside academia (where your CV generally speaks for itself)?

          1. rj*

            You need a cover letter for academic jobs too – they have a different format than other kinds of cover letters. Professors are notoriously out of touch, especially if they are in their first and only job and got it 15+ years ago. (I am one – academia has changed significantly in that time).

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I think it may depend on your industry. The first time I applied for a job at a startup, I saw there was no place to submit a cover letter, only a résumé, and I have friends who work in tech and have told me they never submit a cover letter when applying for jobs. I work in education, and I’m pretty sure your résumé will be thrown away if you apply for a job at a school and don’t include a cover letter.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, tech is a field where it may not matter (although I’ve also talked to managers in IT who say that they do want them so it seems to vary even within the field).

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          It doesn’t matter to me (I lead a data science team). For the most part I don’t even read the cover letters.

          1. A Person*

            I don’t know – I’ve been hiring in tech analytics and I definitely give weight to a well written cover letter. Still depends on the person and I can’t imagine it hurting if it’s well written.

        2. Wintermute*

          Tech is way more about hard skills than soft ones, and attracts people that don’t schmooze well. Either you’re a Certified Tea Administrator or you don’t, either you’re a Chocolate-certified Teapot Architect or you’re not. If you claim to know Java they can test you by asking questions about messy things and seeing how you choose to fail (the archetypal example is multiple-inheritance , which Java can’t do well, how do you implement the classes for teapots that are also tea kettles and need the properties of both?). Also, the field attracts a lot of people that don’t speak English as their first, or even second, language, and to be honest a lot of managers see no problem with someone that doesn’t communicate well in writing if their technical work is superior.

          Consultancies may want them more though, roles where written and verbal communication is a big part of what you’ll be doing besides just managing TaaS (that’s Teapots as a Service) implementations.

          It’s a good opportunity to stand out though.

        3. Quirk*

          I think this may vary by area.

          In tech hubs where a lot of companies are competing for talent, people with in demand skills don’t apply for jobs, they get headhunted.

          And once you get used to having to hunt your talent, having it come to you is a tiny bit suspicious, and the more effort they are putting in the more you wonder what red flags you’re missing that are making them unpalatable to the rest of the market. Why are they knocking on your door rather than discarding the job specs they don’t like and indicating the companies they approve of can ring them back?

          If you genuinely are doing something very different from everyone else and they’re well informed on your speciality and clear as to why they want to work with you, that is of course a positive. If though they’re enthusing about something worthy but dull that many companies do, that’s not.

          In places where good techies have less options I imagine the dynamic changes, and new graduates aren’t coveted in the same way so putting effort into applying wouldn’t raise any questions for me. On the other hand I would think other in demand fields might work similarly.

      2. straws*

        That could be. My boss reads a lot of tech blogs. We certainly don’t receive a lot of cover letters, but we do ask for them. At minimum, it’s a good indicator of the ability to follow instructions and not be completely incoherent while communicating. I value both of those in any employee for any role, so I see no reason to quit asking.

        1. SFKiwi*

          I recruit for a tech company and I always look for cover letters. They’re not essential and I’ve hired candidates that didn’t submit a cover letter, but I would always recommend that job seekers include one. Why pass up the opportunity to sell yourself and show your personality?

      3. esra (also a Canadian)*

        We more or less consider your email to be your cover letter. I think where it’s confusing people is that yea, you don’t necessarily need a formatted cover letter, but you do at least need to have the body of the email serve that same purpose.

      4. PB*

        Yep. I work in higher ed. If you don’t submit a cover letter, your application goes straight to the virtual round file.

        1. Slantwise*

          I was just hired for an administrative professional position in higher ed.

          I was required to submit a cover letter through an online application system. Right before the first round interview, I checked the application site to remember what I had written for the cover letter… and I realized I accidentally uploaded my list of references where I should have uploaded my cover letter.

          That means either they didn’t notice or didn’t care that I didn’t actually provide a cover letter. And hired me anyway. So I guess YMMV for cover letters even when they’re required.

      5. TX CPA*

        I don’t think they are a big thing in accounting either, at least corporate accounting. Not sure about Big4. I don’t remember having ever written one when applying for a job.

    3. CoffeeLover*

      I recently spent the time writing a cover letter for a position (not from scratch, but still invested some time). When I was applying for the position there were a few pages you had to go through. I clicked next, next, next until BAM I had submitted an application. Didn’t even get a chance to attach a cover letter. No option. Time wasted.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I hate that!
        If I can see it coming, say if they only have the option to upload one document and there’s no other place to paste or attach a cover letter, I make the cover and my resume all one document and save it as a PDF. But like you said, sometimes you can’t tell until it’s too late.

      2. Jerry Vandesic*

        Even though you weren’t able to submit your cover letter, succinctly getting your thoughts together about your professional life was a useful exercise. You are probably better able to talk about your experience, and how it might apply to various positions. That’s a good thing.

    4. Southern Ladybug*

      If I don’t ask for a cover letter, those who send one automatically are higher on my interest list. When I do ask for one, and don’t receive one, those application are usually discounted since they couldn’t follow directions (with exceptions made for exceptional resumes…though I definitely factor in the no cover letter in the evaluation. They may just get a screening call when otherwise they wouldn’t have.). My most recent hire was on the bubble based on resume for a screening call. The cover letter was very, very good – so I put the individual on the list. The individual was an awesome interview and pushed themselves to the in-person stage….and was our first choice for hire.

      1. Southern Ladybug*

        I should add they were on the bubble based on years of experience etc. We had other applicants with more experience apply, which is why on paper they weren’t at the top originally….but this person really shined and showed their potential in the letter and the interviewing process and the others were just so-so.

        1. Shadow*

          How would you defend interviewing/hiring someone who was far less qualified if you were ever accused of discrimination?

          I mean it’s pretty hard to defend your decision if you’re ever challenged by someone who falls into a protected category who has far more qualifications.

          1. Wintermute*

            This is where bias-protection strategies come into play. If you strip names from resumes before sending them to evaluators, for example. You can prove you are making good-faith efforts to avoid any bias and you take equal-opportunity seriously.

            Also, courts recognize businesses have a right to make hiring decisions based on intangible factors and their personal feelings about candidates, that is not an EEOC violation. What is a violation is using impermissible factors.

            The onus is on the allegator to prove bias occured, not on the company to do the impossible and prove it didn’t. Smart policies, a diverse workforce (it’s powerful to be able to say ‘look we hire a LOT of people from all categories, this guy was just a tool’), and intelligent use of anti-bias best practices (stripping names and addresses, randomized reviewing, a diverse interview panel, cultural bias and implicit bias training for hiring managers, etc) are great defenses. the BEST defense is making sure no impermissible questions are asked, and to advise people that bring these things up spontaneously (I’ve heard of people trolling for EEOC suits that will inject impermissible topics into the interview, like bringing up and expounding on religion just so they can turn around and sue saying they were denied for being religious) explicitly that you don’t consider such factors in your interviewing and you’d prefer to stick to business topics.

            the long and short of it is courts do not simply apply math and decide who you must hire based on the number of qualifications.

          2. Cascadia*

            There is also such a thing as being too qualified for a job, especially an entry level job. If someone is going to leave within a short period of time because I know this work is too easy for them, it’s not as good of an investment for us who have to train somebody.

      2. straws*

        This is exactly how I operate as well. I find that when I do make an exception for a great resume without the requested letter, they fall short in other ways during the interview process as well. Our 2 top candidates for our last hire probably wouldn’t have made it to the short list on their resume alone. We had 3 “finalists” for that role, and the person with the most closely-aligned resume to the job posting was #3. The final hire has been amazing, and he may not have even been interviewed if not for his wonderful cover letter.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This doesn’t really sit right with me. I believe in following the directions of an application process, so if there is no request for a cover letter, I’m not going to send one.

        1. MissGirl*

          I agree. It’s like you’re playing game with someone who you’ve never explained the rules to. You’re punishing people for giving you what you asked.

        2. Wintermute*

          I think that this is more of a test of workplace norms. Which is problematic of course because it biases against people that might not have an intuitive understanding of these things (like people that don’t come from a white-collar background and all their family got jobs with no resume just an application) or got bad advice from misguided career centers that employ people that read too many thinkpieces and talk to too few real hiring managers, but that is an uphill battle to fight.

          The assumption is it’s the norm, if they don’t say anything you do the norm, unless requested otherwise.

        3. Slantwise*

          I have similar beliefs about following the directions to the letter. I’m sure some people see it as a sign that you’ll go “above and beyond” in your job, but I think that “above and beyond” mentality can actually waste time (yours and others) rather than make a positive contribution.

          I used to be a teacher, and if I ask you for a three-page paper, I really don’t want you to go “above and beyond” and write a ten-page paper.

    5. Cookie*

      For whatever it’s worth, there are many jobs with the state government where I work that won’t allow you to submit anything other than a resume. The reason being the choice should be based on education/skills/experience that should be evident in your resume and not based on something in your cover letter that’s impermissble to consider.

    6. T3k*

      There’s a well known tech company nearby that I’ve been trying to get in with for years and they have one of the simplest job application sites: literally just wants name, address, portfolio (if design job) and a place to upload resume, no place for a cover letter or even to add a note. I finally decided I’d try to submit a letter as part of my resume file and I’m 99% certain that’s what finally got me an interview with them.

    7. Mazzy*

      No! I have a strong opinion on this one. Sooooooo many resumes look almost identical, do hundreds of candidates really expect me to do all of the digging to find out why they are applying and what makes them uniquely qualified? The issue is that so many people are applying to every job or many jobs and haven’t read the ad, and writing a cover is a sure way to show that you’re in the group that did indeed read the ad and know what you’re applying to, at a minimum. Also, for me, especially for low level positions, knowing why the person applied and guaging their interest level is huge

      1. Shadow*

        I could see where cover letters might make the difference if you have tons of similar resumes and need to decide who to call.

        But I can’t imagine that a cover letter could ever make someone more qualified to do the job unless the job involves similar writing.

        1. Mazzy*

          Well….at that point you’re just trying to pick which 20 or so resumes to put on the top, not picking the most qualified yet. Again, I can’t mind read what the candidate is thinking if they don’t include all materials. I’m sure I’m not hired the absolutely most qualified person in a few cases, but then again, I can’t interview and call and hunt down every possible candidate in the world.

          1. Shadow*

            why wouldn’t you start with the most qualified/accomplished resume app then eliminate and work your way backwards until you’re left with a match?

            1. Mazzy*

              Because when I’ve started with resumes first, and not cover letters, I’ve spoken with candidates who don’t remember applying, or I have had to sell them the position, or they aren’t really interested, or they 100% claim they never applied – I’m pretty sure Indeed and Linkedin and such send “applicants” that aren’t really applicants.

            2. Cloud Nine Sandra*

              Resumes are all laid out differently, in my experience, it’s work to scan each one and figure out how qualified/accomplished they are. Unless everyone has the exact same job title from the exact same company, I need to figure how to compare 3 years as a Teapot Cooler vs 4 years as a Teapot Refrigeration Specialist. How do you create a ranking in that situation?

              1. Shadow*

                Yes it’s work but u should use your minimum and preferred experience/skills as the baseline and to compare candidates

                its really risky to hire someone that has far fewer relevant skills/experience/education without a really good reason

                1. Zathras*

                  You seem to be coming at this as if “experience” and “skills” from a resume are quantifiable in a way that makes it really clear which candidates are “more qualified”, but that’s frequently not the case.

                  I think it was a comment here that put it really well – some people get 5 years of experience, and some people get one year of experience 5 times, either because the role is poor fit or because they don’t make enough of an effort to improve and grow. The cover letter can give you a chance to see a bit about how the person thinks about the role. For a lot of roles you’re much better off hiring the person with 2 years experience who learns fast and works hard, vs. the person with 5 years experience who coasts along doing just enough to not get fired.

                  The cover letter can also be a way to glimpse that while the 5-year person with skill X did that thing maybe three times a year, but the 2 year person did it daily – so actually the 2 year person has more experience in that thing.

                2. Shadow*

                  Yes that’s true but you will have a very hard time trying to convince anyone by saying “I know he doesn’t meet my minimum requirements but his cover letter makes him more qualified than the the person in the protected category who meets/exceeds them.”

    8. Shadow*

      I don’t really pay much attention to cover letters because I’ve never seen one that made me re-think my evaluation of the app/resume. And I don’t think it’s a very good indicator of how you’d write on the job.

    9. Optimistic Prime*

      I will say that employers give mixed messages. I work in tech, where a lot of applications either don’t include a place for applicants to attach a cover letter or explicitly say that they don’t want or need a cover letter. For example, Google’s very bare-bones online application says “Cover letter/other notes (optional). We think your work speaks for itself, so there’s no need to write a cover letter.” Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon all tell you to upload a resume and allows you to upload up to 3, but there’s no place for you to upload a cover letter (unless you do like I did and combine your cover letter and resume into one PDF document).

      However, I’ve chatted with a couple of hiring managers from these companies (I work at a peer tech company) and it appears that at least some of them still expect cover letters from candidates, and a few I talked didn’t even know that their company’s HR isn’t providing a spot for cover letters anymore. I found this out because one mentioned in passing that she was surprised at the number of candidates who flat out didn’t include one, and I pointed out that the application portal doesn’t make it easy for you to submit one.

    10. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      I look at a cover letter has free advertising and an opportunity to showcase your talents. Why would you ever not send one?

    11. MissGirl*

      I recently went through the hiring process for a more tech position and hardly anyone wanted cover letters. In many cases, there wasn’t even a link to upload a cover letter to.

    12. Harryv*

      I read it if it is there but won’t ding it if there isn’t and there is a detailed resume. If the resume doesn’t paint a good picture and you claim you have 10+ years of experience but don’t have a CV, then you will get tossed.

  6. BRR*

    Burnout. How long did it take to recover from burnout and were you able to recover while at the job that burned you out? I’ve been at my current job for almost two years and started experiencing signs of burnout almost immediately due to several reasons including a super long commute, a poor manager, and an unreasonably high workload. This peaked a couple of months ago and thankfully has let up some as I can work from home a couple of days a week, I got a new manager who seems good so far, and my workload has lightened somewhat.

    While these are hopeful signs, I have strong, lingering symptoms of burnout. I have employed every tip I could from searching the internet but feel like I need several months off to recharge which isn’t possible. Has anybody been able to recover from burnout while at the job that caused the burnout (I’m looking for a new job but openings are far and few between)? How long did it take to start feeling like yourself again? Thanks!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I recovered from burnout fairly quickly (a week or two?), but not at the job I was burning out at. I had to recover at the new job.

      1. Sled Dog Mama*

        I too had to change jobs to get anywhere on the feeling of being burned out, but as far as recovery? I see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s been 8 months. Now I should say I have some extra health challenges that get worse when I get tired and run down (and burned out) so it probably takes some extra time for me to get to where I consider recovered.
        The biggest thing for me was (finally!!!) at new job being able to take a totally unplugged vacation, no taking the laptop to log in remotely, no calls, nothing. Just focusing on me and my family.

    2. CatCat*

      I never really recovered from burnout at the job that burned me out, even when they started easing back on my number of cases. There was high turnover and I was good at the job so I always feared getting too much higher level work piled on me again. When I switched jobs, I recovered really fast. It was amazing, like a load had been lifted from me.

    3. Jbean*

      It depended. Project related with one or two months of intensive, stressful work? 1 or 2 weeks. Project related with 3-5 months of intensive, stressful work? 1-2 months. Work related (stressful, poor management, difficult coworkers, long hours, etc.) over a long period of time? 1-2 years. I’m just coming out of burn out from old job that I left 2 years ago – and I took 3 months off to travel the Caribbean after I left that job. :-)

      Take care of yourself first.

      1. Kalamet*

        I’m glad this isn’t just me. I had a six month rough patch at work last year, and I still don’t feel like my normal self. Part of it is knowing that the same mistakes that led to the rough patch could definitely happen again, and folks here really don’t care.

    4. Lora*

      Ugh, from the worst job that ever burned me out, I was consulting for about…hmm let me think…must have been 15 months of more or less, during which time I was pretty much my own boss and only had to worry about grumpy clients. There were some projects where I just worked from home, some where I had to go to the site, some where I put in long hours, but I was being paid hourly and when clients were really egregious I told them if they didn’t shape up I would take my toys and go home. Which is, let me tell you, INCREDIBLY liberating: even for $200/hour, you don’t get to scream and yell at me like a douchebag. Calm the heck down, jeez. And after that I took what was basically an easy job that I could do in my sleep for two years, but I was bored and ready to do something challenging about 12 months into that one. So two and a half years till all was said and done. But including the time I spent in Burnout Job, it took four solid years to get back where I was professionally when I left the last awesome job I enjoyed, and I only left for a giant pile of money (40% raise). I was super-picky about the job I took after the Easy Job, and looked for a whole year to find a company that would be a good fit.

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

      I had to change jobs but I think if all of the causes of the burnout are changed, then you could potentially recover while at the job that burned you out. But

      I think the recovery period might be proportional to the amount of time you spent in the job that burned you out. I took a year to recover after I switched jobs almost a decade ago because a lot of the habits and thought patterns I developed at the burnout job became so ingrained. For example, I was never able to take my vacation days at the burnout job and I did a lot of overtime. Even at the new job, I couldn’t bring myself to use my vacation if I didn’t have a “good enough” reason —
      relaxing wasn’t good enough — and I kept coming in a half-hour early everyday because that was my habit for many years.

    6. misspiggy*

      I got various opportunities in my old job to take good chunks of leave, but the problems weren’t fixed so the burnout came back pretty quickly. After leaving, recovering mentally took three or four years – I couldn’t look at my email without feeling sick. Physically, the effects have been much longer term, although complicated by an underlying health condition.

    7. SystemsLady*

      Taking two weeks off (my boss just handed those to me in consideration of all the overtime) all but did the trick for me. A week felt pretty therapeutic, but it just wasn’t enough. Following that by two weeks of a lighter workload and different client helped keep it from coming back.

      (My case was also a bit different because an extremely stressful and out of the ordinary project had ended by the time I took the vacation.)

    8. Valkyrie*

      Yes! It took about a year though. Mine was caused by a new owner/partner/manager , some rough staffing decisions and generally feeling like I was being nickled-and-dimed at work (new partner was weird about reimbursing mileage and declined my annual raise for dumb reasons). He ultimately left, our staffing leveled out, but work felt really chaotic for a while. I adore my boss, so I hung around out of loyalty, not self-interest, but it really worked out. I increased the frequency of my workouts and did a BIG self-care push. I also got to the doctor and was put on anti-depressants (I’ve been on them on and off since college, this was definitely a time I needed to be on). It all helped quite a bit. GOOD LUCK!

    9. katamia*

      A month and a half to six months, depending on the burnout. I’ve never been able to recover from it while still doing the same work, but luckily it’s my freelance work that causes the burnout, so I just stopped for a little while when I got too burned out.

    10. The Other Dawn*

      I was able to recover somewhat while being at the same job, but that was only because I had a meltdown and my boss finally let me hire someone to help me. At first it was my fault I was burned out because it took me a very long time (couple years) to speak up that I was completely overwhelmed; I was a rock star and had the drive to move up really fast and do All the Things. When I finally spoke up–after working really long hours, working from home, while on vacation ,etc.–, my boss told me that it’s not going to let up anytime soon and just deal with it. Um, OK. Many months later I finally had a meltdown when my mentor asked me how I was doing (Innocent question, right? Poor guy…). He then talked to my boss and they allowed me to hire someone. I recovered somewhat because I finally had a body to help me, but I still had a ton to do with little resources. It wasn’t until the company shut down a couple years later and I was out of work for a couple months that I truly recovered from it.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      I found that self-care was absolutely critical. I would not have made it if I did not insist on setting a schedule and following it. For me it was probably a good year or so, but I had life stuff going on that did not help. Oddly, I felt like I could not leave until I got a bit better because I did not think I would make a good impression at a new place.

      It’s tough to come back from burnout because we have to learn to trust the employer all over again. It sounds like you can start to trust your new boss so this is in your favor.

    12. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Stepping out of the building of old job for the last time was the equivalent of 3 months off

    13. Bess*

      I typically take months to recover from the type of work stress you are describing…but some of that is in hindsight. Like five months later I’ll be like “oh I kinda want to start a new personal project instead of just lying on the couch after work! oh I guess I was still working through some stress, hmmm!”

      Typically I have found I need either an extended break (happened to be built into one job) or just a change in job. Sounds like a long break isn’t an option–any chance you can take a 4 day weekend or anything, somewhere totally out of contact with work? Not a “solution” but might allow some deeper rest than you’re getting.

    14. Cleo*

      I did recover from burnout while staying at the job that burned me out. I did it mostly by employing serious self care protocols and also recommitting to having a life outside work. (I feel like I’ve posted this story before on another open thread, but to quote my great grandmother, “it’s a good story – you’re going to hear it again.”)

      It helped that I was teaching at the time, so I had the summer off – not that teachers actually are totally off, but having 10 weeks where I could mostly set my own schedule helped tremendously. I took the summer to recommit to making my own art (I taught art and design) and then I committed to working on my own stuff a certain number of hours per week during the school year (like 2 or 3). And I also started meditating every morning. And I think I took up weight lifting. I did joke that I was spending so much time managing my stress that I didn’t have time for anything else, but it did actually work. And the following year, not only did I enjoy work more, I earned my first “exceeds expectations.”

    15. Chaordic One*

      I’ve never really fully recovered from the burnout I experienced at former-toxic-job. I had a short commute, so the real problems were poor management, an unreasonably high workload and conflict with other departments not doing their jobs and dumping on my department as well as a real lack of any meaningful recognition or even gratitude for the hard work I did.

      Even though it has been almost two years since I worked there, I still find myself getting angry about my experiences working there and how I was treated. The worst thing is that every once in a while I will run into former co-workers while I’m out shopping. With a few that I was close to, I’m honest about things, but with most of them I’m polite but cool. A couple of times I’ve run into former managers and I just don’t acknowledge them at all. One time I saw a former supervisor in a supermarket aisle, so I went down a different aisle.

    16. only acting normal*

      Hmmm. I sort of recovered in the same job, but only because I was too exhausted and depressed to look for a new one, and the job at least comes with good sick leave.
      The burnout was caused mainly by my boss and grandboss and piling more and more work and responsibility on me, with the carrot of reward always disappearing further into the distance. (People around me thought I was 2 levels more senior than I was, I was even being marked against more senior colleagues, but I was blocked from promotion for 3 years with the most BS reasons I’ve ever had the misfortune to hear). I burned out so badly I was off sick for 6 weeks with a horrendous chest infection and a major depressive episode. My colleague stepped up and took on leading my main project for a while, I still worked on it then took it back after the next milestone.
      My new boss and new grandboss (coincidence they changed, not design) were both great and supportive, and the rewards finally started materialising, along with a reduction in my ridiculous workload.
      I’m still in the same company, in a more senior job, but I have never felt the same about working here – in a way caring a bit less about the job and more about myself helps protect against another burnout.
      It’s probably unhealthy to stay, but the relatively niche industry and the lingering depression make moving on difficult.

    17. Working Rachel*

      I spent a good chunk of last year burnt out in a situation where I was, though not quite a one-woman show, basically alone in the amount of responsibility I felt and taking on way too much. I also had a really unpleasant coworker situation from about January to June this year. Now, I feel pretty much back to normal, though I’m having to re-learn how to trust my colleagues.

      Things that helped:
      – You probably can’t, but: Working two days a week for three months. Maybe in your situation the working from home will help, since it cuts out the commute.
      – Maybe more realistic: Completely unplugging from work any days that you are able to take off. No email, no other communication with work people, distracting yourself if you’re thinking about work stuff. Self-care in the ways that other people have mentioned–physical, mental, social, etc.
      – I was always passionate about my job and had a lot of good experiences with the work I do from the past, so I’ve been able to reconnect with that.
      – Changing the working conditions that were most responsible for the burnout: it sounds like much of this has happened for you. Great! I wonder if you might also be able to focus on different aspects of your job for a while, even if those aren’t the specific things that have been burning you out–if you’ve been spending a lot of time on teapots, can you focus more on coffeepots for a while? That might help teapots feel fresher when you go back to spending more time with them.

  7. Anonymous Educator*

    I’m looking for some terminology help (something like Dunning-Kruger effect, stereotype threat, gaslighting, etc.).

    Does anyone know if there’s a term for a situation in which your co-workers have to do some intensely laborious manual labor, you provide an automated solution that does 95% of what they did manually but in an automated way, and then they sort of seem grateful but also ask why your solution can’t do the other 5%?

    I should qualify this by saying it’s not necessarily my job to create this automated solution. This was a favor I thought would be helpful to my co-workers based on one’s request. It’s also automated based on information stored in a database (one whose data I don’t manage), and that database does not account for the extra 5% of information.

    Just curious if there’s a name for this phenomenon.

    1. Manders*

      I’m not sure if it’s exactly what you’re looking for because I don’t know what this task is, but there’s been a lot of research recently about how humans can’t really focus when they’re given a driverless car that sometimes randomly needs them to take the wheel. Basically, the human attention span can focus on the task at hand or totally ignore it, but people can’t be constantly alert in case of a very small chance of something going wrong.

      I also wonder what’s going on with that extra 5% of information–has your coworker explained why that has to be stored and dealt with differently? I can totally understand people pushing back a bit if they don’t really understand why that 5% of information is different.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I’m wondering why the employee wants to eliminate the last 5% of the task. Wouldn’t that eliminate their job? In that case, I would call the phenomenon downsizing.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          No, this task is not their primary job. It’s just an annoying thing they have to do once a year to make their lives easier, so I was trying to make that annoying part slightly less annoying.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        I also wonder what’s going on with that extra 5% of information–has your coworker explained why that has to be stored and dealt with differently? I can totally understand people pushing back a bit if they don’t really understand why that 5% of information is different.

        Different co-workers. So one co-worker handles the database, and I don’t mess with that (I can take information out of the database as part of my job, but I don’t manage the data in the database). Another co-worker who uses (but doesn’t manage) the database asked for the scripted way to get information out.

        The person who manages the database is not in the group of people the automation helps.

        1. Owl*

          When you say “intensely laborious manual labor,” do you mean physically lifting things? Because that’s what I thought you meant but now I think you mean, like, data entry . . .

      3. Nancie*

        Interesting, I assumed it was 5% of the process that Anonymous Educator didn’t automate. Like, the excel macro can do all of the importing, formatting and saving, but you need to email the file yourself.

        I don’t know if there’s a term for it. I’d probably call it “looking a gift horse in the mouth”.

        I’d be very tempted to say something like “gosh, I’m sorry this solution doesn’t work for you. I guess I should uninstall it then!” — but I wouldn’t.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I’d be very tempted to say something like “gosh, I’m sorry this solution doesn’t work for you. I guess I should uninstall it then!” — but I wouldn’t.

          Yes, especially because it’s not my job. I thought it was a favor, but no good deed…

        2. Jadelyn*

          I was just going to go with “your coworkers are a pack of ingrates who are taking your skills for granted”, but “looking a gift horse in the mouth” is much pithier.

        3. Specialk9*

          Why wouldn’t you say that about uninstalling the script? It actually seems like a reasonable response to ‘I did you a favor, using my time and knowledge, it made your life easier, and you complained’.

      4. Anonymous Educator*

        I’m not sure if it’s exactly what you’re looking for because I don’t know what this task is, but there’s been a lot of research recently about how humans can’t really focus when they’re given a driverless car that sometimes randomly needs them to take the wheel. Basically, the human attention span can focus on the task at hand or totally ignore it, but people can’t be constantly alert in case of a very small chance of something going wrong.

        No, it totally makes sense. I was just curious whether there was a name for it.

      5. Optimistic Prime*

        I find this to be soooooooo interesting, probably because I’m a human-factors researcher in technology. In this case, constant alertness isn’t what’s the problem; we do that all the time when we drive non-autonomous cars (or operate forklifts or power tools or any other dangerous machinery). It’s the task switching. Humans are bad at quickly switching tasks – even if the “task” is nothing to something. I love the way this Wired article put it:

        Imagine you’re watching the final moments of ‘The Shining’ when someone suddenly turns on the light and tosses you a Rubik’s cube. How quickly could you register what’s happening, let alone attempt to solve the puzzle? Now you see the challenge of the handoff.

        This is why it’s my sincere (and self-serving, lol) belief that the way forward in technology isn’t just more developers and designers, but more behavioral scientists who can help us make sense of how we interface with all of this new technology and how to make it work in our lives.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I think in that analogy, it’d be less about someone tossing you a Rubik’s cube and more like you have the options of hand-cranking the projector the entire time or having it automatically project for most of the film and then the last few minutes you have to hand-crank.

        2. Manders*

          Thank you for clarifying! I’m fascinated by the field but, as I’m sure you can tell, not an expert in it. I’m also secretly rooting for widespread totally autonomous vehicles, because I’m a lousy driver and I would love to hand that task off to a machine (plus, some of the proposed ideas about all-electric autonomous vehicles available through an app are just incredibly cool, and would love a lot of my city’s current transit headaches).

        3. AcademiaNut*


          I sometimes have tasks at work where I set something running, wait 5-10 minutes, check the results and then set the next stage running. When I’m doing that, I can’t switch tasks with anything that requires mental effort – I can do a tedious but mindless task, but otherwise the mental effort to shift back and forth means I’m doing neither well.

    2. Anon and on and on*

      We named it after our co-worker, so I can’t share the name. It’s proprietary :)
      But yes, I created something to X and got from said co-worker, so you didn’t do Y.

      1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        Were they *complaining* that it doesn’t do Y, or only remarking/commenting/clarifying?

    3. Alice*


      I have a job where most of my day-to-day activities are about providing solutions through automation. (I work in IT at a non-IT company.) Without fail, even if I provide a solution that’ll make a software user’s job easier by 99%, they never fail to ask why the solution won’t work for the last 1%. I get why they want to know, but even when I explain why, I’ll still get push-back from the users saying they don’t want the solution if it won’t fix 100% of the problem. Very frustrating when they only want the solution if it basically thinks for them. Honestly, there’s probably always going to be that 1% or 5% that doesn’t happen automatically because there are always exceptions.

      If there’s a term for this, I’d love to know it.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Also frustrating because before you provided the 99% solution, they had to do the full 100% themselves. Maybe we should make up a term for this…

      2. Eva*

        The worst thing for me watching situations like this at my job is that the ones complaining that it doesn’t do that last 1% will then tank the entire implementation and get the IT solution scrapped, which puts us all back at square one. I’m about to lose my mind about it if it happens one more time.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          That’s a logical fallacy called black and white thinking or all or nothing thinking. If it isn’t 100% then it’s 0%.

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        I think the “imperfect solution” fallacy might be what you’re looking for–that’s the term for when people believe that a perfect solution exists for a problem, so they reject anything that is even slightly less than that.

        On a more colloquial note, when I encounter people who act like this I like to say they are the princess with the pea–you put down a hundred mattresses and they still complain about the tiny little bump…

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Oh, maybe that’s it! I’ve heard the expression “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” or something like that. That could apply, too, I guess.

        2. Rat in the Sugar*

          Gah, I see Shiara’s comment below that it’s actually the “perfect solution” fallacy, not “IMperfect solution”.

          Clearly my comment falls short of what a perfect comment could be and should therefore be deleted.

      4. Wintermute*

        I work with automation on the other side, I use automation products developed for my job by our automation engineer.

        I don’t WANT a tool that does 100% of the job. A certain telco we work with whose logo may or may not resemble a space station has a solution like that and about 50% of the time it gets it wrong and auto-closes our tickets requiring us to then escalate the situation and costing us hours of lost time to resolution.

        Automation cannot be intelligent enough to do the entire job better than an engineer but if you have an engineer do the most subjective or ideal for human intuition, experience and judgement 10%, then your automations can be amazing tools. The 99% solution that gets 4% wrong and causes 50% more work because of it is worse than the 95% solution that gets 0% wrong and doesn’t cause extra work.

      5. Triscuitoncheddar*

        Last mile solution.

        Like when communications companies upgrade their lines, but it’s the last mile (i.e. The part that runs to individual houses or businesses) that remains unchanged.

      6. Specialk9*

        Some of that may be because they don’t understand any of it, and so ««magic magic magic»» should end with perfection. Whereas if you were physically building something in front of them, they’d get, viscerally, the tradeoffs one makes. When it’s ««magic magic magic»» they think you should just be cleverer.

      1. Anonymous Educator*


        In all fairness, this is helping well over a 100 people, and only a handful complained about the 5% still-manual parts, so it does restore my faith in humanity somewhat that the vast majority are extremely grateful.

    4. Phoenix Programmer*

      This is a huge pet peeve mine. I automate 98% and am told it’s not really useful since it doesn’t do 2%. Well how about I not bother next time!

      Also new phenomenon with one boss is that I suddenly own the processes I automate. Even if error is user error sh*t falls on me cause I automated it. Very frustrating.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        I think of it like blaming the toaster for under cooking your steak. Uh it’s your fault for putting steak in the toaster man. Toaster is working fine.

        1. JulieBulie*

          Oh, man! I am so putting steak in my toaster tonight. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Phoenix Programmer gets all the credit for the idea!

        2. Shiara*

          “Program X is broken! It is displaying something incorrect!”

          Turns out program X is displaying exactly what is in the database, which is what Program Y correctly inserted into the database based on user input.

          Why yes, it has been a very long week chasing down supposed data issues/program bugs, why do you ask?

        3. Wee Sleekit*

          Thanks for the laugh! I can’t stop visualizing it… toaster goes ding! and steak kind of wetly shudders but does not at all pop up the way toast does.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        Phoenix Programmer, I hear you on that. You take an existing process that you had nothing to do with and do some tweaks to make the person who is responsible have an easier time, and then suddenly someone else wants to make you the go-to person on that process… yikes!

        1. Jenny Next*

          I’ll see your “go-to person” and raise you a “person whose job it now is permanently”. And let’s top that off with “no reward, no raise, no promotion”.

          I’ll automate stuff for myself as I’ve always done, but I’ve learned not to share my programs with co-workers.

    5. Shiara*

      I don’t know that it’s official, but I’ve heard something similar to this described as the “perfect solution fallacy”, where a solution is rejected because it doesn’t compare to some nebulous, non-existent perfect solution, even though it would be an improvement over the current situation.

      As someone who writes software for a decidedly non-technical userbase, you have all my sympathy.

      My current gripe about our clients is that they want checks to ensure that they don’t mistype something, but they really only want mind-reading checks, because they don’t want to click through extra screens when they do something a bit weird that they really do intend, but also we need to make it so they can’t click through extra screens without reading them when they’re doing something a bit weird that they don’t intend.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        Yes, that sounds similar to what Rat in the Sugar suggested above. Thanks. I think that’s the term! Sometimes naming things can be such a psychological relief…

      2. veggiewolf*

        “My current gripe about our clients is that they want checks to ensure that they don’t mistype something, but they really only want mind-reading checks, because they don’t want to click through extra screens when they do something a bit weird that they really do intend, but also we need to make it so they can’t click through extra screens without reading them when they’re doing something a bit weird that they don’t intend.”

        Mine is that however many clicks we agree on, their ideal number is always two fewer. Who are these people who want everything on one screen in teeny-tiny characters they can’t read?

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Not sure what that would be called, but to the complainers I might say, “Good! You have identified a problem. Let me know when you figure out the solution.”

      This is why I didn’t offer ideas that don’t work all the time, because I would have had to clean up the parts that were missed. Currently, I face constant situations where A works unless you have conditions M or X. But there are exceptions to M with subcondition 1 or 2 then solution Z might actually work. It’s an exhausting way to go through the work day. I do see people getting upset with this type of reaction. Part of the problem is that they fail to realize how many times a day I have to calculate for exceptions and then exceptions to the exceptions. My hours don’t expand but the work load grows at an ungodly clip.

  8. JustaCPA*

    New manager here with one report. I have nto noticed one way or another re the corporate culture here but my report has a birthday coming up. I was just planning on taking her to lunch (my trat of course) Do you think thats sufficient or should I bring a card etc? Since I havent noticed it, I’m assuming people dont make a big deal out of birthdays here.

    1. Here we go again*

      Lunch is great! I would skip the card… It sets an expectation moving forward and is hard to keep up with if you happen to forget one year… Lunch is easy to plan on the fly.

    2. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I personally would not want to go to lunch with my boss, though I would appreciate the thought behind the gesture. (I like my boss and we have a good relationship, but it would feel a bit like my only hour away from my desk was now being turned into a semi-work hour in which I have to stay ‘on’ since it’s my boss.)

      Before planning lunch, make sure this is something she’s interested in doing, or ask how she prefers her birthday to be recognized.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        This! I never want to share a meal with my boss. She’s a perfectly nice person, but I use my lunch hour to decompress from work.

      2. JustaCPA*

        I did ask her if she would like to go to lunch and mentioned a restaurant I know she likes. Her response seemed very appreciative and eager. FWIW, neither of us is hourly so it not like she has to clokc out or not get paid.

        1. Liz2*

          But that’s also a leading question. You didn’t say “I happen to notice it was your birthday, is there a way you prefer to celebrate or not?”

          You as the authority presented a single specific option, even a location. The authority differential automatically makes this impossible to give an unbiased response. She easily could think “He’s being generous, I need to do this or look like an ungrateful team member.”

          Cause if my boss came to me and said “How about lunch next Wed?” I would say “Wow yes sure!” and have a pleasant time but inside I would go “Ugh, no time to just enjoy what I want without caring if I get a drip of salad dressing on me.”

          They may of course really really want this and it IS a generous offer- but you have to think as the boss how you present options to those who can’t give truly free responses.

          1. Random Observation*

            I mean, you DO realize that lunch with your boss is a good way to get noticed? I have read about newly-minted MBAs who get recruited by Fortune 500 companies, and they accept on the condition that they can have lunch with the CEO once per year. Companies often oblige.

      3. who?*

        Agreed! Also, you have to think about the precedent you’re setting if you ever do get more reports.

        Personally I would prefer it if people ignored my birthday altogether. I celebrate with family and friends, and I don’t need that level of personal involvement from coworkers. But I am quite curmudgeonly.

    3. Zip Silver*

      Lunch works if you’ve only got the one employee. I have around 30 reports and I usually skip lunch, except for my team leads, but we do a monthly cake party for all the people having birthdays that month.

    4. Snark*

      Honestly? I wouldn’t even do the lunch, personally. Most of my managers have been like, hey, can I bring you a coffee for your birthday. I think it’s generally good to establish a culture where birthdays are warmly acknowledged but not made a big deal out of.

      1. Owl*

        Yeah, I’m sure it depends on the person, but for me, lunch is my time to relax and be alone. I wouldn’t really want to spend my birthday lunchtime one-on-one with my boss, where I would feel like I had to be “on” to some degree.

    5. Bored IT Guy*

      My birthday was yesterday. I got an email from my boss wishing me a happy birthday. I don’t expect (or want) anything more than that.

      1. Specialk9*

        Once, at one job, the (really nice) clients included me in the monthly birthday cake. I was really touched.

        But, I mean, I don’t even remember birthday emails from bosses, and I’ve had some great bosses.

        One alternative is a gift certificate for your employee. You mentioned a specific place, you could get her a gift cert there.

    6. Manager*

      At LastJob we celebrated birthdays with a cake and a card. At NewJob nobody even knew when anybody’s birthday was. I put their birthdays on my calendar and wish them a happy birthday. They are pleased that I make a point of doing that.

    7. JustaCPA*

      I should probably add that she had mentioned to me that ion the past she would go to lunch with the person who had my position about once a month. I’ve been here a few nmonths and frankly have just not had the time (and yeah, my lunch break is my time to get away too!) I figured since she had mentioned that to me and since I dont really plan on picking up on the monthly lunches, once a year would be a good compromise. :)

    8. Liz2*

      Ask first. Unless you’re already on good lunch terms, that may be exactly the opposite of what they want. As noted in an earlier thread this week, lots of people want ZERO birthday attention. To me the best birthday gift is an extra half or full day off. Or just give me a gift card.

    9. Random Citizen*

      I had off on my birthday, and my boss texted me gifs of kittens and bunnies in birthday hats. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ We have the kind of relationship where that was normal though (and I did the same thing on his birthday).

  9. Emilia*

    Not sure how standard a question this is, but: when you have a ‘work from home’ day, do you actually have to physically be at home? Assuming all you need to do your job is a laptop (and also assuming you take due diligence regarding confidential documents etc.), is it okay to go to a café or bookstore (or basically somewhere you prefer working in?)

      1. Emilia*

        In fact I find I concentrate better in a cafe-ish environment (leftover habit my uni days I guess), but wasn’t sure if that break some kind of WoH rule (this is the first job I’ve had that’s allowed that)

        1. AndersonDarling*

          My co-workers frequently work form coffee shops. But they can only work on items that aren’t confidential.

        2. LiveAndLetDie*

          I work from a local coffeeshop now and then to get a change of scenery from my home! As long as the internet connection is good and you can do the work you need to get done, it shouldn’t be an issue. If you’ve got conference calls it may be somewhat difficult with the background noise, but otherwise I can’t see why anyone would get huffy about it.

          The one thing I do always try to do when I do that is to give the shop that I’m sitting in for hours plenty of business — don’t be that guy that only buys one $2 cup of coffee all day!

    1. Kim Possible*

      I used to have a work from home day once a week at my old job, and frequently went to coffee shops! Also, the wifi was often faster than at my home.

      1. Specialk9*

        One can go to a coffeeshop and use a mobile WiFi hotspot. If that’s a regular thing, it’s way more secure.

    2. Andy*

      in my org work from home means that you had your workspace cert’d and so it’s assumed that you will be working at the home, and yet approved, work-space. That being said…we do go out to coffee shops occasionally when it’s highly unlikely that someone will ask us to scan and send something.

    3. moss*

      I’m 100% remote and I could work from anywhere. I do stay at home with my chair and my coffee and Netflix but I could go sit by the pool if I wanted.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      I think “work from home” is usually code for “work remotely.” I don’t think it necessarily means you’re physically tethered to your primary residence.

      1. Alli525*

        Came here to say exactly this! Unless your office has specifically paid for home equipment (like a landline or a special desk or something), it’s reasonable to assume that work could be taking place from your bed or Starbucks or Fiji.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          In my case a coffee shop would be fine (I sometimes go to a coffee shop for an hour or two to work when I’m at the office). But you have to file a travel request if you’re going to be out of the city on a work day, so you couldn’t work remotely from out of town without explicit permission for each day.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That’s why we talk about “telework days” instead of “work from home days” at my company. I did that for a while when my dad was sick — there wasn’t much for me to do most of the time, so I still got in 8 hours a day, just not consecutively like I would at home. But I needed to be there for some things, so it really helped being able to work from the hospital, rehab center, and his apartment, since they all had wifi.

      I’d say start working on making “telework” the term instead of “work from home”, and the expectations will be different. It shouldn’t make any difference….as long as the people who might need to contact you have your cell phone number, because part of the expectation of “work from home” is that, since you will be in one place, they can call you at home at any time. Now, I don’t use the phone at all most days at work, I tend to email or IM, but I did have some conference calls via Skype and Google Talk while I was teleworking from the hospital, I just had to find a place close by where I could do so (patient lounge), and I made sure I had my computer headset so I could hear and be heard.

    6. The IT Manager*

      Depends on your company. My organization wants my address where I work from so I am not flexible.

      I think it would also greatly depend on whether you have audio calls where you must hear or speak. As someone working on schoolwork in a restaurant with WiFi, I found it annoying to hear other people clearly making sales calls probably because the speaker was speaking clearly on purpose. And a noisy coffee shop might not be the best place for you to be understood through your mic.

    7. lionelrichiesclayhead*

      In my job I’m typically at home but it’s fine for me to work elsewhere. If I were to work out of town I would probably just let my boss know in case any technical issues came up.

    8. Bea W*

      In my experience, no. You can be wherever you want so long as you are online, available to co-workers, and actually working.

    9. I heart Jared Dunn*

      I’d recommend not being in a coffee shop/cafe if you need to make phone calls. I’ve listened to calls from public places, but it’s much hard to participate and adds a lot of extra noise if you need to speak. We have a few people on a recurring call who travel regularly, and one week someone was in an airport – we had to ask him to email responses to questions because all we heard every time he un-muted his phone were airline announcements.

    10. Bored IT Guy*

      My leadership is cool with working remotely from wherever, as long as we are productive, and call in to join all the meetings that we should be.

      With that being said, I prefer my home-office space to public places … I have a hardware VPN device, I have a dual-monitor setup, and I have a headset for my soft phone at home, whereas I don’t have any of that stuff when I’m in Starbucks or Panera … The tradeoff is that they have better food :)

    11. miyeritari*

      at my office, you can work from anywhere as long as you’re doing the work. So cafe or bookstore is fine too (or parents’ house, or hotel…etc).

    12. INTP*

      Generally, it’s fine. The only ways I could see it being a problem is if +
      1) WFH at your office is meant to be an occasional perk when you really need the flexibility to wait for the repairman or don’t want coworkers to catch your cold, and if you can be out and about they would want you to be at the office
      2) You’re handling sensitive information or connecting to company servers and it’s considered risky to be on public wi-fi for that
      3) You need to be able to answer the phone on short notice

      Otherwise, work where you want! I work remotely full-time and while I work most efficiently on my home setup (mainly the multiple monitors), it’s nice to get out of the house sometimes too, and can make me more productive when I’m just feeling sick of being in the same room for 16 hours a day.

    13. Anecdata*

      Yep! Totally normal for “work from home” to be “work from anywhere not the office”. But if you’re unsure, this would also be a perfectly normal question to ask your boss – if one of my reports asked me, I would just think “Oh, they’re conscientious about using this benefit correctly – that’s great!”

    14. katamia*

      Assuming you’re not dealing with sensitive material and you don’t have to take phone calls/do something else that would be disruptive to other patrons, going elsewhere shouldn’t be a problem.

    15. Windchime*

      On my last job, I would sometimes work remotely from a coffee shop. There was a Starbucks nearby with a nice outside patio and I would work from there. But I don’t really do that at this job because about 95% of the time, I have confidential material on my screen and can’t have that up for the casual observer to see. So now I work from home in my cushy living room chair or outside on my own little patio.

    16. Gloucesterina*

      Not what you’re asking, but my partner has a full-time work from home arrangement and his contract specifies what he must do. In this case it means being at a devoted workspace at home with a landline (he takes many calls piped in from the main office) as well as having childcare, and I think somethings related to workplace safety.

    17. Fenchurch*

      I would guess that depends entirely on your company and the type of work that you do. Assuming that you do not handle sensitive/private information that you would not want random people at a cafe peeking at, I would think it wouldn’t be an issue.

      Best to check with your manager/coworkers to see what the best practice is for your position.

    18. Beth Anne*

      I think as long as your wifi connection doesn’t lag/disconnect and you don’t have to use any kind of vpn that could be blocked it would be fine. I’ve thought about working from home from coworking offices.

    19. Teapot project manager*

      I’m 100% remote and almost always work from my office at home. At home I have two full size monitors and a regular size keyboard which makes me much more efficient on much of my work. I am also on conference calls a lot. No way would I take one in coffee shop, not only would it be annoying to other customers, I shouldn’t be having some of my calls in place where anyone could overhear plus I need to hear and be heard, way easier on my land line and with a headset.

      That said, last Monday I worked elsewhere. We were out of town for the weekend and my husband stayed to fish Monday, my plan was to come home Sunday I realized I would have the house to myself with wifi and only had one internal call and could do my work with just the laptop monitor, didn’t have a ton of work that needed two monitors. So I forwarded my work phone to my cell phone and worked there.

      I’ve also worked elsewhere when needed to be sit someone with health issues but I wanted to get work done

  10. Dept of Mean Girls*

    My supervisor basically bullied my colleague, Diane, to go on FMLA by putting her on a ridiculous PIP amidst coworker’s personal family drama. Writing is on the wall that supervisor wants Diane gone but HR said she needs to start tracking Diane’s time to make a case that she isn’t performing.

    Diane is due back in two week and my supervisor has set up a meeting before then with our team of four plus her boss (who is just as awful to Diane and thinks supervisor is funny when she badmouths people) to talk about our feelings and the extra work we’ve had to do while Diane had been out. Note, supervisor did not pick up any of the extra work. I think snake supervisor will try to convince us to keep Diane’s work to help make her case that she’s not doing enough work. I don’t trust my colleagues to see through this as one is very young and naïve and the other is BFs with supervisor. I’m also disgusted that this is how we welcome back people from leave, venting rather than offering support? I’m kind of at a loss between keeping my own job (staying on the good side) but doing something in what feels like a really terrible, icky situation.

    It’s a mean girls scenario but I thought about mentioning in our “vent session” that it worries me what kind of team we are that we aren’t supportive when people are on leave and anyone of us could have to have surgery or a sick family member. Not making it personal to Diane but bringing up the fact life happens . I don’t know. I’d like to talk with HR but at this company, that gets you nowhere but in the line of fire.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Did you actually have a significantly increased workload when Diane wasn’t there? I think you could be supportive of her by telling the bosses how much work Diane does, and how glad you’ll be to see her back. Treat it as an informational meeting, not a venting session, and if they try to prod you to gripe about her being gone, just repeat that you appreciate being able to leave when life pulls you in different directions, and you’ll be glad when Diane is back to pick up all of her work again.

    2. LCL*

      Wow, there is way too much feeling at this work place. Your supervisor is managing by feelings, she sounds like she has the emotional maturity of a child. The only thing you can do is try to keep the meeting strictly business. So at the meeting talk about how much extra work you are doing with Diane out of the office, and what other jobs this is preventing you from doing.

      What you might do is ask, towards the end of the meeting, how the company prefers you to handle surgery or sick family members. Because ‘I want to make sure I am complying with company policy’. Your manager is being a jerk, but, I don’t think directly calling her out on it will result in anything good happening for you OR change how she is treating your coworker.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I’d casually bring it up with the co-workers ahead of time. As in “Gee, I’ve had so much extra work to do, but I know that if something happen to me then Diane and everyone would make sure everything keeps running smoothly.”
      That is really the key. If you are sick/have personal issues then we will help. If Snake-Manager wants to make a stink, then I’d ask what would happen if I had to take time off. Will I be forced out of my job?

    4. Nonnonnon*

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for recognizing the toxicity here and trying not to get drawn into it. I highly recommend a book called “Mobbed” by Janice Harper. It perfectly describes the underlying dynamics of these types of situations. I hope you can get out of there, if that’s what you decide.

    5. Phoenix Programmer*

      I was the Diane is this situation once. Sadly all my coworkers caved. I like the suggestions above. Any time you can speak up for Diane do it.

      One of my co-workers from this team called me years later crying and begging forgiveness and explaining that she felt pressured to complain about me. Guilt ate her up.

    6. Competent Commenter*

      I realize that without knowing the really specific dynamics of how your work meetings go, my advice may be off-base. But one approach is the wide-eyed one. “Oh, we wouldn’t keep Diane’s work after she returns, would we? I mean, she’s always been so competent, and of course if we do that, wouldn’t it look like harassment? I just want to be sure we do what’s best for the company. I mean, am I missing something here?” etc. I don’t mean those exact words, but that kind of tone, with a somewhat bewildered but smiling expression. You can sometimes get away with more if you are willing to sound a bit naive.

      You can also take the “I’m just confused” tone, which is a bit more matter of fact without being too aggressive. “I’m just confused. Why would I take on Diane’s work?” “Maybe I misunderstood, but if we take this action, won’t it seem like retaliation for Diane being on leave, even if that’s not our intention? I’m just checking.”

      Most aggressive (but still not in-your-face) would be saying things like, “I don’t feel comfortable with topic X. Diane is getting back from FMLA after all.”

      Hard to convey tone via a comment, but hope that helps a little.

      1. Joshua*

        The retaliation bit is a big deal. If Diane comes back from FMLA and all of a sudden she doesn’t have a job because the supervisor divided her responsibilities up and gave them to coworkers, then I think Diane has a very strong case against the company if she’s laid off. Ironically, the supervisor may have made it harder to get rid of Diane legally by forcing her onto FMLA, because now Diane has a legal claim to return to an equivalent position to the one she left when going on FMLA.

    7. Shamy*

      Good for you for seeing through this awfulness for what it is. I echo everyone’s sentiments. Please go to bat for her as much as you can. As someone that went through a hellacious year last year where one thing after another kept getting piled on me, with no time to take a breath, it helped so much to know my coworkers were supportive. I really think I may have had a mental breakdown in Diane’s situation.

      Don’t become weak in the face of their mob mentality. I think no matter what the outcome is, you will never regret having Diane’s back, but I think if you cave or stay silent, it will be something that haunts you forever. And you sticking up for her could make a world of difference, maybe others will join in in their support. Meanwhile, brush up your resume, this could easily have been you or anyone else in the group.

    8. Troutwaxer*

      I think you should go over the top with it. “I think it’s great that we all came together to help Diane when she was sick. If I ever get sick I’ll be glad to know that all of you have my backs. I think what happened is really, really healthy and I hope it carries through for the rest of us because stuff happens!” You can particularly emphasize this with female coworkers who might be of child-bearing age and with people who are old enough to have possible health issues going forward. “Its great to be part of such a supportive workplace!”

      Also, bone up on FMLA and retaliation so you can speak intelligently about that.

      Lastly, is Diane’s “personal family drama” a temporarily or permanent issue? If this is a problem which has occurred previously then managing Diane out might be warranted. On the other hand, if Diane’s issue relate to some kind of abusiveness at home then there might be possible EEOC complications.

  11. Can you (not) hear me now*

    Did my comment get eaten?

    In any case, I’m looking for noise-canceling headphones to help me concentrate at home (I live in an apartment with a few noisy families). I’m easily distractable so need a high-quality pair.

    1. NASA*

      I’ve borrowed my dad’s Bose QC35’s and they are excellent. Pricy, but gooooood. I’m sure you’ll get a lot of recommendations at different prices points here though :)

    2. Samata*

      We have Bose Quiet Comfort wireless and love them.

      Well, I love them when I am wearing them. I hate them when my partner is wearing them – because I fruitlessly yell that dinner’s ready and he never hears.

      They are around $300 but worth it if you are willing to invest. I got gifted a $100 pair thinking they’d be the same but they aren’t.

    3. Reba*

      I have the Bose QuietComfort wired (not bluetooth) style. I can’t compare to other brands but they are truly amazing. If there is an outlet mall near you, see if they have a Bose store–I got a return/refurb pair for much less than retail.

    4. Owl*

      I was just reading an AAM post where people talked about headphones, but maybe it was an older one . . . anyway, before you drop a chunk of change on noise-cancelling headphones, know that they might not work for your situation. The way they cancel noise is by listening to the noise outside of them, and counter-acting those sounds with different soundwaves. (Or something like that.) So they work well for things like the background noise of an airplane, because that’s a constant droning sound, and less well for “sharp,” sudden noises like kids yelling, because they don’t have time to adjust.

      You might be better served with ear protection, like the kind people wear to shooting ranges or when using loud equipment. If you want to listen to music, you can wear earbuds inside them.

      1. nonegiven*

        My battery powered shooting headphones let you hear normal sounds like conversation but deaden sudden sharp sounds like gunshots.

    5. Ori*

      I have the Bose earbuds and I love them, but they’re not great for sudden or inconsistent noises – they mostly just drown out continuous noises (think airplane engines) and voices, stomping feet, toys hitting walls, etc still ring through clear.

      You might be better off with just a good pair of over the ear headphones, or maybe wax earplugs if you’re not going to be listening to music/podcats/etc.

      1. Can you (not) hear me now*

        I’ve tried earbuds & the noise of the kids cuts through that. Maybe I’ll give full-on headphones a try. Suggestions?

        It’s frustrating, because the kids are out there MANY days. If it were just a handful, I’d go somewhere else, but I don’t want to be always fleeing from my own house.

        1. Thegs*

          As Owl stated above, noise cancelling headphones don’t work too well in preventing sudden noises from getting through. What you can look for is noise isolating headphones, which instead aim to prevent sound entering through passive means similar to ear protection. I personally use ATH-M50 at home (now sold under the name ATH-M50X) and they’re comfortable for 3-4 hours of constant wear, even with my sensitive ears. Sennheiser HD280PRO is better if you’re looking under $100 though, they block as much noise as ear plugs do.

        2. StitchKittea*

          My suggestion are earbuds, specifically iFrogz ( ).
          They aren’t noise cancelling, and they aren’t expensive. I absolutely love them though. I have very good hearing. When I’m not wearing them I can hear everyone in the office, no matter where they are. I put my music on and it tunes them down to nothing. Even when a yelling, on the phone salesman walks by my desk, they are a mere whisper. The only things I can hear is my music and the sounds that I make (typing, breathing, etc)

          They are corded, very comfortable (comes with different sizes), and durable. I’ve dropped mine in my coffee a couple times, still works great.

          Not sure if these would work for you, but that’s my two cents.

    6. LiveAndLetDie*

      Sennheiser makes a great over-the-ears pair for about $40 and they also have really good earbuds (similar price point), if you’d prefer that style. Both are on Amazon. I use the over-the-ear at work and the earbuds at home and I really like both pairs.

      Also great for cancelling noise are gaming headphones, though they also tend to be HUGE.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve used Creative Labs headphones (about $60 on Amazon, if your budget won’t allow the Bose ones). They work pretty well to cancel out ambient sounds and they do mute noise a bit, but they do not block talking or yelling, etc. They’re comfortable and have a microphone that works with iPhones–I dont use this feature, and in fact, I broke the mike on my latest pair. They take a AAA battery and you just have to make sure you keep some around.

      A friend of mine gave me a pair of Symphonized wooden Wraith headphones he didn’t want–oh my gawww they are so nice. Same issue with voices and other sudden sounds getting through but the sound quality for music is amazeballs. They cost around $99. They’re so hipster, with a metal band and fabric cord; I can’t wait to wear them at a new workplace, haha. I can’t believe he didn’t want them.

      Oh look, they’re on sale!!

    8. Windchime*

      I have the older Bose Quiet Comfort headphones and they are amazing. Be aware that they won’t filter out conversation alone; they filter out ambient noise really well. When I’m trying to filter out voices, I use them in conjunction with a white-noise app on my phone or else music. The white noise app is great; it’s actually called “White Noise”.

    9. Sprechen Sie Talk?*

      I live in a noisy city and while we moved to a much quieter neighborhood, I can occasionally hear the neighbors going up the stairs or a bit of talking through the walls. I also work in an open office.

      I have a couple of approaches to noise management. Initially I was looking at the Bose headsets but after trying some on in a Costco one day and realizing it fixed the loud overheard fan but NOT the screaming kids across the way, struck them from the list. One thing I can’t tolerate is hearing an inaudible voice murmur (see: neighbors).

      So instead I use:
      1) Fan for white noise at night/drown out neighbor talking

      2) Cheap Skullcandy in-ear earbuds. These are like $9 at Walmart and I keep 3-4 pair on hand at any time so I can replace a pair that blows up. Good sound, isolate a lot of noise, and I can sleep on them/roll them up/squish in bag/etc and if they break eh, who cares. These are also my commuter pair and work if I have to get up and down and dont have time to put in the pair below

      3) A reeealllyyy nice pair of in-ear sound isolating earphones – Shure 315s. They cut out a LOT of noise even before you turn the music on, but getting them in can be a hassle at first. Once you solve that problem people THEN dont realize you have headphones in and talk to you anyway. I also use these at home for listening purposes. At work I like to listen to rain or ocean sounds to help me concentrate

    10. only acting normal*

      I love my Bose QC15 headphones. My husband was so jealous he got his own pair. I also know more than one pilot who has a pair for travelling. I’ve had them maybe 7 years and worn them so much I had to replace the ear pads (very easy with a replacement kit).
      Actually originally they were a pair of v-good Sennheisers but they didn’t fit me, so returned them for the Bose. Basically try some on before you choose.

  12. moss*

    My coworker! We both work remotely and I think I’ve been too friendly to him because now I’m his goto for all his admin questions and jokes and complaints and brainstorming and thinking out loud (THE WORST). I have tried to pull back from my initial friendliness and just be professional and terse. I feel bad, maybe he’s lonely at home, but that’s not my problem. He’s interrupty and rambly and ARGH. I have a lot of respect for his work and I try to be collegial but I dread seeing his name pop up on my instant messenger.

    1. Helpful*

      Can you be up front? “Hey, I’ve enjoyed having ‘water cooler’ chats but I need to focus for longer stretches so I can’t be interrupted for non-work stuff. Thanks for understanding.”

      1. Helpful*

        Also, depending on how many remote ppl you have, you can set up a slack channel (or whatever you use) that is the figurative water cooler– a place for jokes, gifs, what are you doing this weekend, etc. That will consolidate it and also can help remote employees feel more connected.

        1. moss*

          Thanks! Great ideas. The social stuff is the least of it really. He’s coming to me with stuff he should be taking to IT or wanting to think out loud at me as he navigates his job tasks.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah… this happens sometimes. Sounds like he just needs a sounding board sometimes or someone to bounce things off of. Does your team have regular catchup calls? Maybe you could ask him to hold those thoughts until the call? Or you could set some boundaries such as only being available between 9-10 am for questions, that type of thing to limit it.
      If not, just be upfront. “Hey, I really can’t chat as I need to concentrate right now.” “You need to contact IT about that.” ETC.

    3. Camellia*

      I have a coworker who will occasionally do this also. If it gets too much, I simply don’t reply for a while – 10, 15, or even 30 minutes – and then just reply something like, “Sorry, I’m so busy I didn’t see your message” but without saying anything that encourages further conversation.

      And if necessary, either because I really am that busy or because they are being really annoying, I just don’t reply at all. The world doesn’t end if you do this, and if they say anything (I’m mean in a actual conversation, not over IM again), then just repeat about how busy you are/have been/will be.

      1. Bostonian*

        I just recently started doing this with my super chatty/complain-y coworker and it’s been surprisingly effective!

    4. You Got This*

      I have been this person. *face palm* It’s embarrassing but I’m really chatty over IM. People (that are still good friends) just gradually stopped responding to IMs and always referenced having to get back to work. I think the speed in which you respond can also be a great signal. Maybe wait 15 minutes or an hour. And then provide a response that’s more direct and doesn’t lead to a continuation of the conversation. Such as, “Oh, that sounds like an IT question. I’d submit a ticket.” or “Yeah, that sounds like a good plan.”

    5. Willow Suns*

      Oh man. I had this issue with a co-worker when he was new. He had major boundary problems. He wouldn’t take a hint. I had to push back repeatedly and state things like, I need to focus on my work, please leave me alone. It took months of doing that. :(

      I think he was lonely. I did advise him to look for clubs outside of work to join.

  13. CBH*

    I want to approach a few companies for some networking research. I always interpreted “small business” to be a company that was not a big box company regardless of legal standing (corporation, LLC, sole proprietorship). I don’t know if that’s how others in the business world define small business. I don’t want to be offensive referring to a company as a small business when the company made $1million in revenue last year and seems to be growing.

    Is there a threshold or guidelines for what makes a small business?

    Is there a proper way to say I am looking to network with small business non big box companies?

    1. RL*

      There are some different ideas about this but I think in general, small business is less than 100 employees and medium can be up to 1000 employees, and they can be categorized together as SMB (small to medium business) if they make under $10 million a year in revenue.

      Middle market or small to medium enterprises would be over 500 employees with revenue of 10 mil-1 bil.

      Large enterprise – over 1000 employees, over 1 billion in annual revenue. Big boxes – like a Home Depot or Macy’s would fall into LE territory, though a more local chain store would most likely be a MM.

      (My company works with businesses of all sizes and we consider SBs to be under 2mil in annual revenue, but that’s specific to my company and not necessarily industry standard. I can’t remember where we draw the line between MMs and LEs, though.)

      1. RL*

        sorry, to answer your question (in my opinion) you’d probably say you are looking to network with SMBs, rather than middle market companies or large enterprises.

    2. CBH*

      Hi All – Thank you for your responses. Based on RL’s definitions I am definitely looking to network with small businesses. I guess when doing preliminary research, I was surprised at how much revenue was earned. Then when typing out an email I didn’t want to offend the company saying they were small when they earned over $1m.

  14. Panda*

    I have a long-term health problem which affects my ability to work. I am currently working part-time, having previously left a full-time job, and now I may have to give up work altogether. I realise this is a work advice blog and so this may not apply, but has anyone here been in a similar situation? How do you deal with not working? We can cope financially due to my husband’s salary, but I worry about my sense of self-worth and what to do with my time. What if my health improves and I want to go back to work?

    1. CBH*

      I’m so sorry for all you are going through. Can you volunteer one day a week? WHat about starting an online business you can work on at your leisure at home? Your situation is nothing you have control over. You should be proud of your self worth – take things one step at a time, get better first!

      1. Emily S.*

        I was about to suggest volunteering also. There are many different organizations – depending how large your city is. I hope you can find something.

        Also, do you have any hobbies that could perhaps turn into profit-making pursuits? (e.g. photography, art or crafts?)

    2. Helpful*

      I agree with volunteering and using your skills in some way. What industry are you in? We could help you brainstorm ideas that are work-adjacent.

    3. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Are you able to do any sort of online education? I think just keeping your mind occupied and doing something constructive might help. And if you do go back to work, you’ll have a good answer for potential interview questions about “what did you while you were off work to stay up on your skills”. The community colleges in my area tend to cater to non-traditional students and so a fair number of classes in many different departments. They are also more reasonably priced that the four year universities. I don’t know what your field is but with a little creativity, I’d bet you could describe just about any class as “helped improve my problem-solving/communication/critical thinking skills”. Good luck and good health!

    4. Inspector Spacetime*

      Sorry to hear you are going through this. I would strongly recommend volunteering in a position related to your field to keep your resume up-to-date and to maintain a schedule. If leaving the house regularly is not an option, maybe there is work-from-home volunteering you can do. Good luck!

    5. Torrance*

      I dealt largely by working through this issue in therapy. I’m currently in your situation and, while I never considered the ability to earn a paycheck as part of my self-worth, I struggled for a while at dealing with the societal pressure to do so. Now I don’t give a fig. I have so many hobbies and interests that it’s actually hard to find the time to do it all.

      If you foresee yourself having the desire and the ability to go back to work at some point, the others’ suggestion of volunteering would help keep the resume shiny and continuing education is always a good thing. (If it fits in your ideal career path, perfect! If it doesn’t, there’s never a downside to learning something new.)

    6. Sad Freak Out in the South*

      I’m sorry you’re experiencing such a tough situation. I’m in the process of transitioning from one career to a less demanding one because of side effects from cancer treatments. I’m a lawyer, but chemotherapy has had a lingering impact on my mental functioning, and I’m scared I will screw up something important and get my ass disbarred. So I’m looking for a job in a nonprofit with more flexibility and better work/life balance. It’s disappointing after working so hard to get into law.

      Think about something you might like to do that’s less demanding, whether it’s paid or unpaid. You might look for an opportunity to help other people with a similar health condition. That could be rewarding and would put you in an environment where people understand your limitations. If your health improves you tell potential employers you took time off for medical reasons. I literally just had an interview today where I explained my situation and the interviewer was totally unphased.

  15. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Nothing important to add but, my GOD, it’s been a dumpster fire of a week. Thankfully it’s a three day weekend!

    Oh! And a quick thank you to everybody here. I don’t post all that frequently, but when I do everybody is extremely supportive and welcoming. Truly one of (if not The) best communities online!

    1. OwnedbytheCat*

      Yes. Dumpster fire of a week is a really good descriptor. I still have one really horrible, stressful conflict to deal with before end of day and I just want to go home and binge watch television!

    2. Competent Commenter*

      I misread your post at first…not a dumpster fire of a week so much for me at work, but I’m in Northern California and the wildfires in our region are seriously impacting air quality. So real fire is on my mind! Sunlight on the reflective surfaces is orange, skies are brown, and you can even see a haze of smoke if you look down the street. And it’s going to be 111 degrees this weekend, low wind.

    3. Tammy*

      It’s not been a dumpster fire of a week for me, but a real emotional roller-coaster dealing with some serious team member issues. But I got to give a deserving team member a promotion, so that’s to the good.

  16. Nonnonnon*

    I just finished a book about workplace mobbing, which helped me recover from a toxic workplace. Have you ever experienced or witnessed mobbing? What helped you?

      1. Nonnonnon*

        In simple terms it’s a case where a target is essentially selected for elimination from the workplace, and a group engages in harassing/bullying/etc behaviors to force them out.

        1. JanetM*

          I am honestly not trying to be snarky.

          Is “mobbing” a new term for “scapegoating,” or is there some difference in connotation that I’m missing?

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s a more common term in Britain than in the U.S.; I’d say it’s more like group bullying than scapegoating.

      2. Anon and on and on*

        As a matter of fact, jump down to poster named, Dept of Mean Girls. You will see exactly what it is.
        Writer describes where the situation is, how it got there and where it is going. Bleak stuff.

    1. LSP*

      I spent three years working at a governmental office of elected officials that were of a different political belief system as myself. I knew where they stood when I started, and vice versa, but that didn’t stop them from picking on me, mocking me, belittling me, and even bringing on some nice subtle threats when I refused to do political work for them on my own time (which is pretty normal in offices like that). Add on top of that finding out my Chief of Staff was sleeping with an intern more than 15 years younger than her (and she was married), and yeah, that was a pretty toxic place.

      What helped me deal with it while I was there was actually when I met my now husband, because he gave me something to think about other than my daily suffering at my job. Eventually, though, I just needed to get out of there. I finally found a new job with a manager that I still consider myself to be close with.

    2. C in the Hood*

      Never knew what this was till I just googled it–and it describes my former workplace to a T! It was a small office & certain people had the “power” and wielded it. Even the HR person was in on it. Anyone who made any sense or didn’t fit the “mold” was passive-aggressively targeted (I was a female in a male-dominant industry).
      What helped me? I finally said to myself, “What am I trying to prove by staying here?” Then started looking for another job (NOT in the industry; this job made me lose my taste for it). The job I found is the one I’m at now…for the past 13+ years!

      1. Windchime*

        This is what happened to me at my old job. I didn’t know there was a word for it. A person from another department was brought in and became our manager, and she systematically targeted people and decided they were the “problem employee” (PE). She would start whisper campaigns about them, confide to the PE’s peers about the PE’s supposed disciplinary issues, etc. Then she would start building a case against the person. She did it to 5 or 6 people before she started on me–I had always thought I would be immune but I wasn’t. I finally had to leave and find a new job because I was so distraught and depressed and anxious.

        She recently got fired from OldJob, but I have no doubt that she will start right back up again as soon as she finds a new job.

        I found this excellent article about workplace mobbing:

    3. Fishcakes*

      I was a target of workplace mobbing years ago. I quit, which helped immensely. I was immediately hired by a supportive and healthy organization, which helped me get my confidence back. I still am suspicious and on the alert for toxic people, but that’s not all bad.

    4. Phoenix Programmer*

      I was the target of workplace mobbing but thankfully it was a huge company so I was able too get a promotion out of it.

      One thing people don’t realize is that the coworkers joining in with the mobbing are also negatively affected. See my post above about ex coworker.

      In my case although the company was huge and international all the managers of one department went to the same small highschool. This the of power clique leading too all of their team leads mobbing for position. I did not play along so was targeted but thankfully my skills won me external department allies and ultimately a promotion. It was really hard though until I got out.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Bullying or mobbing is not illegal or actionable unless it involves a protected class, but if a company’s management tolerates it, then there’s not much you can do except leave. Somebody did this at OldExjob to a new salesperson. She was a tall, slightly overweight woman and the rest of the sales staff were men. Only one of them didn’t do it. But he didn’t stick up for her either, not that I ever saw.

      The shop guys got in on it too, to some extent (not all of them). They belittled her appearance, made remarks about her weight, her food, etc. She quit after a very short time–the reason she gave was a medical issue, but I’m 99% sure it was because of them. I tried to get them to stop and told them off when she left, but they just laughed at me. I kind of wish she’d sued them. I would have backed her up, even if I got fired, but I guess she just wanted to get the bloody hell out of there. I really can’t blame her at all. In hindsight, I wish I had quit over it myself.

      It really was a toxic place in certain ways. This was where I worked with the guy I refer to as Bullyboss. He bullied one of his sales reps endlessly, so much it used to stress me out. He ended up getting fired after I got laid off (I would have paid actual money to see that happen). I ran into him in the vet’s office when I went there to see about getting Pig in when she was in her last illness, and he didnt’ recognize me at first because I had changed my haircolor. I hated him so much I will never work for any company that employs him unless I never have to see him.

      We also had a temp toward the end of my tenure who was the most chill, awesome person I’ve ever met. She and I are still in touch!

    6. Chaordic One*

      Do tell!

      If it helped you recover, you HAVE TO to share the title and the name of the author. You have a moral obligation to the recovering members of the AAM community to do so!

  17. Still 'non today*

    When is a good time to ask for time off after you have already been on leave for a year?

    Before I give further details, I feel like most people would say 6 months or so….

    However, my spouse was on leave for a year because they were on deployment (you know…being shot at on a daily basis in a combat zone, but *shrug* some people still think they were on vacation for a year). Spouse and I would like to take time off 3 ½ months upon their return to civilian job. When would be a good time to put in the request? ASAP? A few weeks in? Spouse wants to wait, but if we want to go on this vacation things need to be booked 5-6 months in advance so either way the timing isn’t ideal.

      1. Still 'non today*

        Ideally 10 days (8 work days), but I think we can do it in 5 work days (+2 for the weekend, ideally over the holiday weekend). So, one week off.

        Spouse left with 2 weeks PTO, so those days should still be there and they will accrue another 3 between returning to work and our vacation (that I hope we can take!).

        I see other q’s below:
        S has been with the company for over 5 years, but in this role for 1.5 years (would have been 2.5 had S not been on leave). S’s manager is so-so. I think she’d understand, but I also feel she’d be annoyed. She has already emailed S saying that upon returning S will be in charge of projects ABCDEFG (prior to leave S managed ABC).

        Thanks so much everyone, this is great advice!

        1. Still 'non today*

          You know, S could request 4 days off if we left Friday after work, had the weekend + holiday Monday, Tuesday – Friday would be PTO, and we return to the US that Saturday or Sunday.


    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think in these circumstances, it would be good to do it as soon as possible. Make it part of transitioning back into civilian life, rather than “I’m back, but I’m leaving again.” I’d go with something like “I’m glad to be back to civilian life but Still’non and I were apart for a year and we really need a vacation to regroup. I was hoping to do it soon, during my readjustment period.”

      (And thanks to the spouse…)

    2. Sualah*

      How long was spouse at the job prior to deployment? What’s spouse’s manager like? I would think while spouse and manager are hashing out details of return (exactly what date, etc), spouse could say, “I will be back from deployment on September 30 and return to work on October 9. I would also like to put in the request for two weeks time off in February since we’re dealing with all this now.” If there are any other logistics, those can be addressed as well. Since your spouse is deployed and doesn’t have access to the boss for “quick question” type stuff, it makes sense to put everything all at once.

      I really think it depends the job. I had 16 weeks maternity leave but wasn’t shy at all about using my other PTO once I came back from that (definitely did not wait 6 months!) and I don’t think my manager even batted an eye.

    3. Anon and on and on*

      This is similar to people using FMLA or who have part time positions in offices. “Why would you need time off? You can just recharge when you are not here already.”
      I don’t need time off. I need a vacation. I need to use the part of my benefits package entitled to me. It’s a pain, but it’s a reality.

      I would talk to boss immediately. Treat it like when you first started your job and you already had something scheduled. There’s going to be “debriefing/retraining” meeting with the boss to welcome back and get Spouse up to speed. Here’s what you need to know, here’s what you’ll be working on. Here’s what’s changed. Have any questions?
      Yes, X, Y, Z and trip.

    4. Generic Administrator*

      I’d say you’d want to wait two or three months as a minimum, and even then you’ll want to word your request carefully. Do you have an employee handbook that states how much notice you need to give?

    5. KR*

      If he has to put in a military leave request, asap. Especially if it involves booking expensive non refundable things. I’m guessing he’s reserves if he’s coming back from a deployment to a civilian job so hopefully the civilian job will be understanding if he asks for time off. I think if he has access to email he should request off the time now to give them plenty of notice. You might want to look at the laws surrounding military leave. Even if his employer or co-workers might treat it like a vacation they aren’t allowed to penalize him if he gets deployed I’m pretty sure, so his vacation/leave/ect should still be available to him.

    6. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      If I were your spouse’s manager, I would prefer him to take that leave immediately upon return from deployment for a variety of reasons: minimize disruption from him going in and out, minimize his own disruption to transitioning back to civilian life, and protect his mental health. He will be a better employee if he has the chance to decompress and then return.

      However, I think you also need to be a bit less communicative with boss. Your spouse’s orders will not terminate the day he returns to HOR. They build in debriefing at sponsoring base and a transition time. Your spouse should not be telling boss he returns home on 1 October – he should be telling boss he is off orders 10 Nov. Military leave programs for civilian businesses are based on the dates of orders. It is not common for orders to end the instant the servicemember returns to HOR. I work frequently with Reservists and Guardsmen and I’ve never seen a single deployment order that ends with CONUS/HOR. In fact, last year I had several of my students who deployed March to October; their orders for work and school listed 1 March to 15 November. They were required to spend time training prior to deployment, 6 months deployed, then four weeks debriefing and completing additional duties.

    7. who?*

      Civilians just do. not. understand. that being away from the office does not mean you’re on vacation.

      I would suggest your spouse put in the request ASAP, even before they return (I can’t really tell if they’re back yet?). Rusty and Sualah below have great scripts along the lines of what I was thinking. The key here will be to make it clear that the time away has been stressful and they need rest and time with family before returning to civilian job.

      Reemployed service members are entitled to the seniority and all rights and benefits based on seniority that they would have attained had they remained continuously employed. From one of your responses it sounds like your spouse wasn’t accruing vacation while they were deployed? As an example, if you’ve been with your company for 4 years and you’re deployed for the entire 5th year, and the company policy is that after 5 years you get an extra week of vacation, then you should come back after your deployment with that extra week of vacation. That one year of deployment still counts as a year of being employed with the company, so you’re accruing that benefit. Sorry if you were already aware of that, or if the way vacation is accrued where your spouse works is different and somehow doesn’t apply here, but my experience is that a lot of service members don’t fully understand their reemployment rights and I have very strong feelings about this so I wanted to be sure you know! I’d strongly suggest you/your spouse look into USERRA so you know their rights.

      1. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

        SUCH a good point! He has more than 2 weeks. He has accrued leave at the same rate whether he was physically present or not. He can request 4 weeks of leave now… or he could go FMLA for mental health as well.

    8. Floundering Mander*

      I don’t know the specifics here so can’t give you advice, but I just wanted to offer a little solidarity as an Air Force brat. What morons think that being deployed to a combat zone = vacation??? That’s a bit like thinking that being in the hospital in a coma for a few weeks is having a nice long refreshing nap.

  18. Website Development Costs*

    TGIF Everyone!
    My company is in the process of selecting a vendor to update our website. Previously, it was developed by an employee, and is not very good. It would be a pretty basic one, maybe 5-8 pages long, with no e-commerce features, or anything like that. The employee who developed our current website is involved with the selection process, and thinks that all of the quotes are too high, and doesn’t understand why we are hiring an outside company to do the development. So, that’s why I’m here – I need to get some objective ideas of what we should expect, so that I can let the owner know that the prices we are seeing are reasonable, because honestly, I have nothing to compare them to. Right now, it’s looking like $3,500-$4,000 is the average. Please let me know if I’m leaving anything out that you would need to thrown a ballpark figure to me, I’ll keep checking in. Thank you so much!

    1. Manders*

      Honestly, that sounds pretty cheap for a site redesign, especially if you’re adding stuff like e-commerce. You really don’t want to cheap out on the stuff that will be making your company money (or losing it if it breaks).

      Ultimately your budget is going to be determined by what you want to do with the site and what scale you need to do it on. Amazon probably spends more than that per day just making little tweaks; a very small business might spend less than $5,000 on site-related stuff in its lifetime.

    2. Jimbo*

      Here’s an article that can give you some useful info in planning for a redesign:

      Honestly, it all depends on what you are looking to do and how complex your site is and where you want to take it. I’ve been through several web redesigns that cost in the six figures and where we worked with a digital agency. I also have seen some cheaper rates for redesigns but nothing for less than $40-$50K

    3. Emily S.*

      My company recently paid about $7,000 for a new website, but it has lots of features (but not an online store).
      We’re in the Midwest, in a medium-size city.

      1. Website Development Costs*

        Well that went wrong. Anyway, thank you! Also want to point out that there is NO e-commerce involved.

        1. Eden*

          My husband works for a web development company and the quotes you are receiving look normal to a tad low, depending on the complexity. But since you say there’s no e-commerce or (I assume) database component, sounds like you are getting good quotes. Naturally the co-worker who originally developed it may feel defensive and might try to criticize the quotes, I’d expect that. Hopefully some care is going into how this is being presented to former developer – I had a previous boss say in front of that person that he wanted something a little less “homemade.” That had to sting a little.

          1. Website Development Costs*

            Yes, you’ve hit the nail on the head. We are definitely doing our best to be sensitive.

            1. KarenK*

              I designed a website for a client. It was OK when it was first done, but it’s now woefully out of date in both looks and functionality. I built the whole thing in HTML. I was honest with them. If they want something more updated, they’ve got to get a pro. It’s time.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      $4k sounds very low. The website was one of my first projects at my job and the cost was $50k, but it was very complex. We’re looking again and I budgeted about the same, but my boss thinks it will not be nearly enough (!) So, it depends on what features and integrations you want and need. From what you explained, your site sounds fairly basic. Your best bet might be to find an independent website developer and not an agency.

      If you’re providing all the content and just want design/setup/coding basics, I’d budget about $10k to be safe.
      You should be able to get a very decent and customized WordPress or Joomla site in this range. (There might be some yearly fees for hosting and domains and certificates to factor in, so I’d err a bit higher to include these for 1-2 years upfront.)
      Plan on more if you want the agency to write and develop copy and content in addition to site design and/or if you expect them to manage the day-to-day changes on the site.

      For enterprise-portal-level multi-sites (Drupal, Liferay, etc.) with multi-language, extra security and other content delivery features, probably $40k-$50k on up, which may include the cost of the CMS license. I won’t go into all of that, as sounds like more than you’d need at this time.

      1. Website Development Costs*

        Thanks for this feedback! Yes, it is going to be fairly basic. We are a fairly small business, and don’t use our website heavily for marketing; but need for it to be user friendly, functional, and informational. Our IT employee, the one who created the original, will be able to make day-to-day changes. Also, the text is good on the old site, so there won’t be any need for content development. Also, I call it an agency, but it is literally a father/son team.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      It sounds like even that average is low, unless you’re talking what I would call a refresh rather than a redesign. I consider a refresh to be updating content and redoing some elements of the template and design, but not creating and implementing a new design from scratch. You’d keep your current platform and templates, but they would be updated, so it is much less work, but it’s also much more limiting.

      For setting up a new CMS installation, designing and creating new templates, and setting up the content and the CMS so that it’s easy for you to update and manage afterwards, I’d probably charge….well, I’m salaried, so it’s hard to say, but even for 5-8 pages, assuming they are not extremely short and basic pages, I’d probably charge $15-20K. Maybe as low as $10K if the content was very basic and didn’t require any architecting (like making things searchable, creating sortable views or databases or forms).

    6. who?*

      My company is also in the process of selecting vendors for a website redesign, and i’m the lead on the project. So far 3 of our quotes are in the $20k-25k range, and one in the $50k range. Granted, our website is much larger than 5-8 pages, but it seems to me that you should base whether the quotes are reasonable on the fact that they’re all in the same ballpark. For us, we’re not even considering the higher-end quote because it’s an outlier. It seems unreasonable to us when it’s the same proposal, yet it’s so much more expensive than the others.

      It sounds to me like perhaps your coworker is a little miffed that their work is being redone by someone else.

  19. yo Anon*

    Has anyone ever gotten to a point where they can do their job in less than half the time? For a multitude of reasons, leaving the position may not be a valid option for another year or so (but I am exploring). I am bored out of my mind (even though I generally like the work) and have tried to take on additional side projects, but am still struggling to fill my days.

    1. Uncivil Engineer*

      Yes, but only in lulls of a month or so while I was in between projects, not as a permanent condition. I planned vacations and read during the extra time. The library system in my city has an option to download books to a personal device and I used my work computer as my “device.” So, as I was reading, I was facing my computer and looked like I was doing something useful.

      1. yo Anon*

        Okay, good to know. Sometimes I feel guilty (I’m salaried, but non-exempt, so still get OT), but I recognize that a new person could not do this job as quickly as I could.

      2. Emily S.*

        I’m in a very similar situation! But in my case, I have to answer calls throughout the day, so it wouldn’t work to be in any less than the full 40 hours/week.

        I just read lots of articles online. I also enjoy looking at Instagram.

      3. Bored At Work*

        Same here – I’ve posted about it before. And I’m hourly, and my company has a very butts-in-seats mentality, so…I’m basically bored all the time. I’ve done all the recommended things of asking for new projects and being clear about my available bandwidth…and yet when my coworker got pregnant, they had someone else, who really does have a full time workload, train to cover her maternity leave, so that person is now doing two jobs while I twiddle my thumbs. So frustrating.

        I’m hanging in here until the end of the year (year end bonuses are distributed in November) and then I’m going to get serious about searching. If/when I leave, I will be advising them that they should make my job a half-time position.

        1. Bored At Work*

          Oh! And! Covering coworker has been told, in my hearing, that if they start to feel overwhelmed be sure and speak up because they will “happily bring in a temp to help out.” (I almost spoke up right then but covering coworker is highly territorial and was already protesting the implication that she can’t Handle Everything and I was like, whatever, I don’t need that negative energy directed at ME for taking away “her” responsibilities.)

    2. Fred G. Sanford and Son*

      Yup. I committed to learning something new. I set a schedule for training myself and stuck to it as best as I could. I treated it like work. I learned a language. Now I do translation at my company. I learned Adobe design software, now I’m the go-to for in house art work.
      I also did fun, personal stuff, but I’ve been here a lot of years!

    3. Alex*

      I’m officially an hourly employee. So things that I could actually do in a few minutes always get stretched out to as long as possible. I just don’t have anything to do that is challenging and it’s kind of annoying. I definitely feel like I’ve plateaued. I’ve been given a few additional tasks (that I asked for), but it’s still not enough to keep me from being really underwhelmed most days.

    4. Michelle*

      Yes, I recently noticed this in my job, too. I’m full-time nonexempt and my boss wants me do my 40, but I could easily do this job part-time, or even remotely (if our company allowed it!). Our culture is very much butt-in-the-seat, so I don’t imagine that remote work will ever be a possibility. I’m being paid fairly and my evals are always great, so I try to “look” busy even if I’m not. I spent the summer organizing and labeling the office supply room and recently downloaded a couple of e-books. Many people here also use their phones or other electronic devices and as long as your work is done and correct, most managers are fine with that. We do have a couple of managers that think you should never look at your phone and a tablet/i-Pad is the devil that is ruining the workplace.

    5. Lora*

      Yeah, mostly because I automate it or write a shell script to do it or something. Get software that does the job.

      I have loads of side projects and use the time to be creative, do some extras that ordinarily would be out of my scope. Or if someone else is slacking off despite many pleas for competence, then I write a shell script to do their job too…At the moment I’m doing some method development that we have a whole department for, but the department is swamped just trying to keep up with their own workload. It’s critical to me doing my extra thing, but not critical to my job function so there’s no support for it otherwise.

    6. Fabulous*

      YES. In a past temp job, I was given one weekly report it took the person I was covering the entire week to do. In just a few weeks, I got it down to 3 days. And then 1.5 days. She was fired, I was hired, and I was given two additional weekly spreadsheets to manage. I haven’t found a way to get more work in my current jobs, though. Being bored at work is the worst.

    7. JGray*

      I am in the same boat. I took a job as an HR assistant which is full time and is expected to cover the office from 8 am to 5 pm. There are parts of my job that are completely dependent on work coming to me like employment verification- if no verification or other items come in than I have nothing to do. I replaced someone who only worked 32 hours per week and as I discovered only did about a quarter of the work that I do and parts of the job that the person before me did were actually given to someone who was hired after me. I could very easily do both jobs but instead it’s a situation where I work full time the other person works 32 hours a week and I think he has even less work than me so there are times where we are both bored. My boss has even rearranged who does what job duties & given him things because I think she was tired of him surfing the internet all day. Based on who he’s married to my boss will never write him up or fire him even though there have been times when she should have and she probably would have if it had been any of the other employees in my office. So my boss apparently didn’t think through that I was working 8 hours a week more and what I was going to do to fill those hours. My boss has even stated that I could do both jobs to other employees but won’t do anything about it. So now that I have had my complaint I fill the hours when I have nothing to do with looking at articles related to HR. I’m running out of resources so I was actually thinking about taking a class or something online like others have suggested. I think that this is about all you can do unless you want to find another job doing something else. I love my job & am hoping that a job comes open in the finance office that I could apply for so that I can stop being bored.

    8. Small but Fierce*

      My current position is very “hurry up and wait.” I’m swamped for a couple of weeks, and then a month or so can pass until the next major project comes up. I’m often very bored during those times. I used to actively pursue more work from other people, but that work turned very admin oriented, which made me uncomfortable as one of the only young females in our male dominated office. I didn’t mind helping, but it was completely outside of my scope (marketing and technical writing). I stopped pursuing other projects because of that, but to this day, I still get asked to get lunch orders or set up rooms for meetings. Lesson learned. Now I mostly stick to personal development – reading a lot of AAM and LinkedIn, watching tangentially relevant YouTube videos, etc.

      Although it doesn’t feel like it given how slow the offer/background check process has been, I anticipate starting a new job in late September that promises to be much more busy. Although I hate how underutilized I am now, I hope I don’t regret leaving once I have a more stressful role.

    9. Competent Commenter*

      Oh yes, I totally had this experience. Second job out of college. Previous person in the position had apparently been on drugs. Spent about two months figuring out what the job was, then realized it was almost strictly clerical, when I had previous been writing grants, running membership programs, etc. Once I had a system down, I was getting the job done in 20 hours/week. Explained this to my boss, and said I could start pitching in on the grant writing and other projects. That completely freaked her out and she wouldn’t give me any additional work. I don’t know what her problem was. And 1) we shared an office and 2) this was pre-internet. There was NOTHING TO DO. Fortunately I worked at a major science museum so I’d go off to “make copies” or ask someone something and play with the exhibits for half an hour at a time. It was excruciating.

    10. Specialk9*

      Once you’ve tried to get enough work and they just don’t have it, shift your mentality. They’re paying you have you on reserve, ready and available to work when you need it. If they only paid you half, you’d be off at another job when needed.

      Some things I know people do: Researching random topics online, exhaustively. Reading personal finance blogs (somehow seemed better than less serious blogs).Getting a discreet headphones or Bluetooth and listen to audiobooks free from the library (Overdrive app).

      The two things you do NOT do: any other paid work, and politics, in their time. Just don’t – you can probably justify it if you really try, but you’ll deserve to be fired.

  20. nonnynon*

    I’ve been recommended to apply for an open position on my team, and it’s full time while I’m on a contract, but I don’t know if I want it. I love working here, and it’s a position I know I can handle, but it’s an EA position while I’m looking to go into a more creative/strategy direction. It’s been making me feel very Robert Frost: two roads diverge, and I don’t know which one to take! Been a stressful few days considering all of the options. (No questions, just a vent! It’s been all that’s been on my mind for two days since my manager reached out to tell me about it.)

    1. Morning Glory*

      It can be really, really difficult to escape from administrative work once you start doing it. It’s possible if you take this job, you will involuntarily become a career EA.

      If your current contract work is more in line with what you want to do, I would recommend not making this move, even if that means a bit less security.

      1. nonnynon*

        Thanks – that is actually one of the things I’m really afraid of. It’s a great opportunity (would learn a lot from the director/managers I’d be working with) but it’s veering off the career path I think I want right now.

      2. Fishcakes*

        This. Don’t take the job if you don’t want to get stuck doing admin work for a very, very long time. And I say that as someone who went from creative work to admin and is now trapped in that role.

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      It doesn’t sound like there is any benefit to you professionally, only in terms of security and benefits.
      Typically, someone considering this situation thinks, “I’ll take this job to get my foot in the door. I will prove I’m a good employee and they will give me a chance to grow into the work I want to do.”
      Right now you are doing the work you want to do and they are asking you to walk away from that, to help them out with no discussion of how you will advance from there.

    3. Your Weird Uncle*

      I couldn’t agree more with what the other folks in this thread have said.

      I also wanted to add that I recently went through a similar situation, myself. The job I didn’t want so much (similar to your EA role) was sweetened by a higher salary than the one I ended up taking, and it was a tough decision. When I was able to step back to look at things, I realized I’d be taking the high salary/less desirable job out of fear, whereas I took the job that paid less but was more aligned with what I wanted to do out of excitement. Maybe that will help you feel better about making a decision. Either way, good luck!

  21. Rockstar Keytarist*

    I’m looking for tips on sharing a desk. We recently moved offices and the options were a ridiculously small desk or I share an ok-size cube (with an L-shaped desk) with someone where we each work from home a couple of days a week and the other comes into the office. This was all very last minute so we haven’t had tons of times to hammer out the details but we established some basics like who gets which drawers. I’m concerned this is going to turn into an awful roommate situation (your side of the desk is mess, etc). Has anybody done this before and what helped you keep your sanity?

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      No, I have never encountered this before because it is ridiculous. This is something that happens when companies have expanded to fill current space and can’t move offices for business reasons. This is not what you face going into a new office.
      At least not in the perfect world where I live. So with that said, sympathies for you sucky situation and hope it works out well.

    2. JulieBulie*

      So you’ll pretty much never see one another, right?

      I had a situation like this back in the 90s. We picked out our shelves and drawers, and agreed to put our things away at the end of each day. We never had any problems, believe it or not.

      If she HAD left a bunch of papers out or whatever for me to find in the morning, I would have gathered them up, shoved them into one of her drawers, and sent her an email saying “hey, looks like you left in a hurry last night, so I put your stuff in your top drawer. Have a good weekend!”

      If I’d thought she was messing with my stuff, I’d have started locking things up. But we didn’t have any trouble like that.

    3. k.k*

      When I was part time I shared my desk/office with another part time worker. Basically we decided which drawers belonged to who and made sure that our papers and things were stored away when the other person came in. We never were there at the same time so if we had anything to tell the other person we’d use email (things like “Feel free to use the ___ I brought in”, “Do you mind if I leave a ____ at the desk”). We never had issues.

      I would recommend keeping some disinfecting wipes at the desk so you can do a quick wipe down at the end of the day, especially during cold season.

    4. Admin of Sys*

      I’d definitely lock down the rules now – separate drawers, separate ‘inbox’ organizers and then declare a rule that all things have to be put away at the end of the day / before it’s time to swap desks. And clarify what ‘put away’ means – all papers in independent inbox plastic paper organizers or in personal drawers, all pens picked up and put back in pen holder, coffee cups limited to 1 per person and washed out (or whatever you decide on), a few decorations agreed upon, whether there’s a plant, etc, etc. It’s been years since I had to deal w/ a shared desk (though we were on opposite shifts) but having everything officially written down was the key to making it survivable. And don’t be afraid to be meticulous about documenting things it starting out – it’s easier to relax the rules than to make them tighter.

    5. Christy*

      My employer (though not my division) has desk-sharing. You have to have a clean-desk policy so that each person is coming into a blank slate. I’d recommend putting family photos and any relevant notepads into your top drawer so that you can always start your day by re-personalizing the desk. Far better to have to put your own stuff away than to deal with your deskmate’s stuff as well as your own.

      My general vote is to be the loveable tyrant–be really strict about everything but also be like “sorry, I know I’m a tyrant, but please humor me”. It’s worked well with my suitemates. They laugh at me but don’t use speakerphone anymore.

    6. Lora*

      Yup, long long time ago and we were on opposite shifts. We divided the drawers and cabinets down the middle, basically. The key was really to make sure we saved our work and shut off the computer before leaving, because if you forgot and the other person logged you off, you’d lose everything. Otherwise it was uneventful. Dude was very neat and tidy, so it wasn’t a problem.

  22. DecorativeCacti*

    I’m hoping you all have some advice for improving my job search. I just don’t know what titles or keywords to use. I will be best in some kind of administrative support role, but I don’t know what to search for.

    Administrative Assistant brings me receptionist openings and “document control” brings me almost everything somehow. I can’t be a receptionist again, I just can’t handle that much of the general public. I don’t mind being a personal assistant, but I can’t be the first line of defense. Below is a little of my background/skills.

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      • Currently in a health care related field
      • Revise all of our companies standard operating procedures
      • In charge of filing critical documents
      • In charge of tracking and ordering critical department supplies
      • Regular audits of computer systems and files
      • Know Microsoft Office programs (including Visio. Spreadsheets are my jam!)
      • Know Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and LiveCycle Designer, etc
      • Self-taught on the computer (I can Google!)
      • Meticulously organized – I keep my closet organized by color and sleeve length and even was in the process of researching the Dewey Decimal System for my personal books before I decided it wouldn’t work for me

      1. Beth*

        Hmm, have you considered records management? Records specialist, etc.
        If you do any scheduling/booking, maybe facilities coordinator.
        Many companies would call that sort of work “Administrative assistant” .. I just attempted to search on Linkedin and tried “Administrative Assistant NOT receptionist” and it worked with their job search.

        The other thing I’d say — as a librarian, I can tell you that sometimes even the best keywords can fail you. Since you mentioned healthcare, you could go direct to the websites of your local healthcare companies and browse through the listings to see what might be relevant for you, you can select relevant departments to narrow it down. Looking at one of my local hospitals, I found “Document Management Clerk” (seems to be an odd hybrid of mailroom and filing) .. you might be bored in something like that, but it’s just an example of something you would find by browsing without knowing the correct term.

        1. DecorativeCacti*

          I have searched our local health care systems, and so far there isn’t an admin role that fits but I’m keeping an eye on them. I’ve had really bad luck with LinkedIn so far but I’ll try “records” and see what I can find. Thank you!

          1. Beth*

            I should clarify, I was not necessarily suggesting LinkedIn, I was using it as a test to see how adding “NOT receptionist” would work. If that is what mainly comes up, see if whatever search method you are using has a way to remove results that include “receptionist”! (Clearly I need some more coffee.. :))

      2. krysb*

        I have to advice, but I own about 2,500 books and I have found that I have to play with the DDS to make it work for me. I just do alphabetical by author for fiction books, but my nonfiction is modified DDS. I have issues with DDS because for some reason books that are distinctly the same genre can be in totally different DDS groups. I create a new number for those books so they can be with other similar books. It works for me because it gives me a more specific grouping, which is necessary for books that cross multiple groups. (For example, if I have a book about historical tales of ancient women, where does that go? Ancient history, or women’s history?)c

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Look at positions with “coordinator” in the title. I’ve found those are generally comparable with my skill level at this point in my career.

      1. Berry*

        +1 to this, positions are my org that are like what DecorativeCacti is describing are called coordinator roles

      2. DecorativeCacti*

        Good idea! A surprising amount of “Front Desk Coordinator” postings, but I did find a couple that would work for me.

        I don’t know when “receptionist” became taboo, but it’s annoying. I saw one opening for Director of First Impressions!

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Director of First Impressions is AWFUL.

          But Front Office Coordinator is usually a more highly skilled position than a Receptionist, at least in my experience.

        2. krysb*

          Director of First Impressions is totally what we call our receptionist (other hipster titles include Director of Employee Happiness, Culture Warrior, and Production Commander).

        3. Floundering Mander*

          Reminds me of a big church I went to once that had several ministers in charge of various things (minister of youth, minister of women, and similar) and they all had little brass signs on each office door. The janitor’s office/closet had a sign that said “minister of maintenance” though I’m pretty sure the janitor was not ordained!

      1. Loopy*

        Yeah, I found myself more curious about my coworker shared reaction than if it was true bc it doesn’t feel real to me.

        Regardless, he said he would have had the same stance as the boss! I wasn’t like no! No way! This would be a BAD sign!

    1. Montresaur*

      Wow. I’m inclined to agree with your red-flag assessment. This guy doesn’t seem to be considering the hassle (and potential hazards) of bleeding all over the office, and insisting that people carry on as normal in a situation where someone is seriously injured is unreasonable.

      While I understand the temptation to praise what looks like dedication, it smacks of disregard for others. And refusing to call out when sick? Yikes.

    2. RL*

      Not Always Right is a website where people share greatly exaggerated personal stories about customers and workplace interactions. They are almost always written in an extremely exaggerated, comic tone – people who submit to this site are trying to get outrageous interactions posted rather than telling “true stories”. (It’s along the vein of that old “FML” site.) It’s definitely not an “article,” it’s a humor site.

      1. Optimistic Prime*

        Yeah, some of the earlier entries were more realistic and also funnier IMO, but in more recent years it’s gotten outrageous.

    3. INTP*

      It just makes me really sad that he apparently was in such a bad situation and had such a hard time finding work that he went to an interview with a broken arm and bleeding.

      I would also consider it a red flag more than a sign of impeccable work ethic. I mean, I’d feel bad for holding it against the guy when he was that desperate…but it’s not normal behavior. And I think it sends a bad message to the other employees that this kind of behavior, coming in when you should be at the hospital, is what’s perceived as a good work ethic.

      The story sounds fake to me though, made up by bootstrapper types.

    4. Jadelyn*

      It’s a red flag, but NOT on the candidate – on the second-level manager who freaking PRAISED that kind of thing!

      If someone really needs a job, and especially if they’ve spent a lot of time in the retail environment which in many cases has cultivated an attitude of “no reason is good enough to call out sick” – seriously, peruse the rest of that blog or pretty much anywhere else that retail employees talk about their lives for horror stories about managers refusing to let people call out no matter what’s wrong with them, writing them up for unexcused absences due to being in the hospital, etc. – then they’ve had time to internalize the idea that they have to be absolutely superhuman and invulnerable in order to be worthy of getting and keeping a job. Most likely it’s less about his own personal work ethic and more about the kind of twisted survival mechanisms you develop at a toxic job over time, and I would hate to see anyone hold that against him.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      This is sad. It gives people an unrealistic view of what they should do to get a job or to remain employed. Or maybe it taking a jab at some employers, can’t be sure.

      To me, the correct answer is do not hire this guy because he can’t prioritize. The building could catch fire and he would remain behind to make sure the files are all in alphabetical order.

  23. FDCA in Canada*

    So my current workplace has opted to not hire anyone on for my position when my contract comes to an end soon, and I’ve found myself becoming intensely interested in work-from-home positions. Is there a good way to seek out specifically WFH jobs (in Canada, although as I’m also a US citizen I can work for US companies hiring citizens abroad)? I keep running up against scammy-feeling positions and the real ones seem fairly few and far-between. Alternately, any Canadian-specific job boards that separate out positions that allow WFH?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      When I was actively searching last year, I got a short term membership to FlexJobs. I believe they are international.

    2. Emmie*

      I found my WFH job on Indeed, but it was a one-off thing. There are a lot of lists floating around about largest WFH employers. Maybe Google that, and search their job boards.

    3. motherofdragons*

      My sister is in your situation (US citizen living in Canada), and she found some remote work through Upwork.

    4. esra*

      What kind of work do you do? There are definitely boards that have Canadian jobs, but they tend to be industry-specific.

  24. Anna*

    Eep! I just got a call to go to an interview for a job I applied for last week. From the job description it sounded like a job I’d really like to do, but the requirements seemed like it might be a bit of a stretch. I applied anyway because of the ‘why not’ factor and basically had to myself going ‘eeee!’ when I got a call that I’d been short listed!

    Of course it’s just a first interview, and I’m not getting my hopes up, and I’ll be trying to approach this without the ‘dream job’ mindset, but still…it made the (early) start to my weekend a little bit brighter!

  25. PM Insurance*

    I think I am going to lose my job. Had a toxic manager, filed a complaint, and was transferred to a new manager. (took 9 months) One week later put on a performance notice. I don’t think there is any way to survive this, nor am I sure I really want to. The stress of this whole process has impacted my health to the point I have Intermittent FMLA

    I can’t quit, I would need unemployment. I used to be a great employee here (10+years) The toxic manager took its toll on me.
    Any advice? Anyone try to negotiate an end date?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        wth. The new manager put you on PIP after one week? Why even bother hiring you on? Something is amiss here. Is there an HR? You have been at this job for ten years, you must have allies some where.

    1. Maria*

      I’m sorry you’re in that situation, that sucks. :( Definitely devote everything you can to job hunting. I was in a similar situation last year and only got out because I managed to get another (much better) job before they could set me up enough to get rid of me. On another note, my health problems ended up improving dramatically once I was away from Toxic Job… Not sure what sort of issues you have, but you’d almost certainly be better off elsewhere, as long as you have access to the health insurance you need.

      I’m assuming you’ve documented everything? Even if it doesn’t save your job it might help you get unemployment. I wouldn’t talk about end dates because they might take that as a resignation. Good luck!

  26. Misty Watercolor Memories*

    I have a minor memory problem due to a previous head injury. It doesn’t affect my work or day-to-day things. However, when I try to work on my resume and describe previous jobs, I find I have little recollection of them. I can drum up memories based on previous work I saved, but I worry this could hinder me as I job search. Some of the jobs are 5 or 10 years ago, so perhaps people with regular memories can tell me if this is just common. How “top of mind” should this stuff be?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’ve seen the suggestion to keep a “master resume” type document with all the details of every one of your jobs that you can then tailor for specific submissions so that you don’t have to remember.

    2. Kim Possible*

      Actually, I don’t think this is all that uncommon. I was just telling my husband as I was updating my resume a couple days ago how hard of a time I had recalling a lot of my job duties from previous jobs. Going forward, I would just suggest updating your resume while you’re still at each job. That way, you’re not trying to remember work you did years and years prior.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is what I do. I keep it in a master resume, like Detective Amy Santiago suggested. And I also keep address, telephone, etc. information in a separate document–that really helped when I had to pull it out for a law enforcement internship application where they wanted practically everything I’d ever had.

    3. Not a Real Giraffe*

      This probably isn’t helpful to you now, but may be helpful the next time.

      I have a terrible memory, to the point where I have to rely on other narrators to remind me of funny/interesting anecdotes about things I was a definitely part of. So I suffer from the same thing as you when it comes to recalling achievements and details about past jobs for my resume and interview answers.

      As a result, I’ve started compiling a running list of achievements, potential resume lines, and experience that could be potential interview answers while I’m currently in my job. Having this list handy when it’s time to do a job search helps me recall my experiences and removes a lot of stress in creating application documents and formulating interview answers.

      1. Admin of Sys*

        Definitely this! Also, if you have performance reports that are useful from previous jobs, they can help fill out details in the job summary. But it’s definitely useful to keep an up to date list as things happen.
        Also, if you’re relatively clear on the facts involving events and accomplishments but can’t recall the details, you can create an after-the-fact summary to pass along if people ask you about it. It’s unlikely an interviewer will ask you deep and probing questions about your emotional state and such, so it’s all right to basically recreate the event from the information you have.
        I’ve found it’s also very useful to get into the habit of documenting everything that’s even vaguely interesting in a journal or something similar. It doesn’t need to be an insightful look into your emotional state and such, it’s just to help trigger memories. (as someone who has permanent long-term personal recall issues from a head injury, this has been invaluable to me)
        Then, before an interview, you can go back and read various events to have something in the forefront of my memory. If someone asks me about a time I solved a problem with a coworker, I’ve already chosen which event I’m going to offer. As long as you’re careful not to sound scripted, it’s fine to pre-load your memory of events before a conversation about a previous job.

    4. Trixie*

      I keep track of my regular to-do lists which tends to help with recall. Reviewing my daily/weekly notes also helps when prepping for reviews.

    5. This is my real name*

      Would you consider asking HR for a copy of your job application from when you applied at your current employer? You could tell them that you lost some computer files recently, or something, if you don’t want to discuss your memory difficulties.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I actually randomly stumbled into it. I’d say I love it mainly because it’s mentally stimulating but not overly stressful (at least compared to classroom teaching, which is what I used to do).

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Right now I’m doing tech support at a school. Used to be an English teacher. So, still in education but doing something completely different.

    2. periwinkle*

      I’m in the workforce development field, broadly speaking. What I actually do (as opposed to what my job description says) is analysis of learning and other performance needs for our organization, plus act as an expert in learning science, evaluation, and technologies. I looooooove my job.

      So I started years ago in IT as a tech support geek and realized how much I loved troubleshooting down to root causes. I also realized I was more interested in how IT was used rather than IT itself. In later tech support roles I trained and coached others, which got me thinking about training in general. I also realized the impact of management decisions on how we could perform our jobs, which got me interested in performance improvement. When the startup I worked for went belly-up, I took a temp job which grew into a permanent position as an HR coordinator; that solidified my interest in both workforce development (beyond just training) and performance improvement. The really bad management there served as the final inspiration to leave and get my master’s in that field. The master’s program put as much emphasis on theory as on practical knowledge, which gave me an edge over people who knew the how but not the why (link back to my love of root cause analysis!).

      And that’s how I ended up here – I paid attention to what I enjoyed about each job and learned from what was going on in the work environment, and kept building on that until I was moving in the right direction. It might take a while – I graduated from that master’s program at age 47!

    3. NW Mossy*

      I work in retirement plans (which is why I’m commenting a lot on the short-answer post today!), and I love it – it’s a great blend of math, writing, and relationships and is always offering me new things to learn. It’s nerdy, but endlessly interesting and puts up lots of complex puzzles to solve.

      I got into it very much by accident, which is very common in this field. I had been working for a property/casualty insurance brokerage that went under suddenly when the owner was indicted, and a colleague there referred me to his sister’s employer that was looking for an entry-level person. That was 14 years ago and while that company itself was kind of dysfunctional, it set me on a path to a really rewarding career.

    4. Lemon Zinger*

      Higher ed! I loved my undergrad experience a lot and had a professional interest in it, so here I am. I’m not paid much, but I love what I do and feel good about helping students every day.

      1. LAI*

        I work in higher ed too! I advise college students. Love it. Also kind of fell into it by accident – I was an orientation counselor for other students when I was still in undergrad, and really enjoyed it. So when I graduated, I started looking for similar roles. This is why I always tell my students that it’s so important to do internships or get work experience in school, because this is how you figure out what you like or don’t like doing. I had probably a dozen jobs before that orientation job.

    5. BusStuff*

      I work in the transportation industry.

      I ended up in this field through a college job actually. I graduated school with a liberal arts degree(a concentration in Medieval Literature). But during my time in college I worked for my university’s transportation organization, obtaining my CDL(Commercial Drivers License), and eventually managing our paratransit division. When it came time to do a full time job search, it only made sense for me to continue in transportation management.

      I love the field because of the people in it primarily. We deal with all socioeconomic groups, both as passengers and within our organizations. But at the end of the day, we want to help people and are always doing our best to figure out how we can make a route more efficient(provide service to more people, faster, cheaper fare, etc). Its a really down to earth group of people who are idealists at heart, but are well versed in making practical decisions. Plus, I love big vehicles! That’s really what pulled me in, I absolutely loved driving a bus. Now I’m stuck behind a desk, but I still get to sneak out and drive a loop or two occasionally!

        1. Bus Stuff*

          haha I love it! I once saw bumper stickers that said “Do not let the pigeon drive this vehicle!” and desperately tried to convince my boss that we needed to get them for our fleet. Sadly he said it would be unprofessional!

    6. Jadelyn*

      Fell into it by accident via a temp job – I was sent by a temp agency to do filing and data entry support for an HR department at a nonprofit, finished that sort of stuff fast enough that I had extra time, started asking questions and offering to help with other projects, luckily the team was very welcoming and happy to share knowledge and work with me, and I discovered I really liked working in HR. So with everyone’s encouragement I went back to school, got my degree in HRM, and am making a career out of it.

      I love that it’s constant variety – no two days are exactly the same. That’s been a HUGE problem for me at past jobs, I get bored easily and when I get bored I stop bothering to do things at all. I have a relatively high degree of autonomy and am frequently dealing with complex situations, and I like that. I’ve got a good head for regulations and laws – I’ve been an activist for many years prior to this so I’m used to reading bills and figuring out the practical outcomes they’re going to lead to – and how they interact, so I enjoy keeping up on labor law developments; since I’m in California, I get a double dose of that stuff since our labor laws are often more intense than the Federal equivalents. I get to feel like I’m contributing something useful to support people (thankfully our organization has a very pro-employee HR philosophy, so we’re not just guardians of compliance or management watchdogs – we actually are here to help our employees) and making a difference, both in their work-lives and in the world as a whole since I’m working for a nonprofit – but I don’t have to spend a ton of time directly interacting with people, because I’ve been able to take a systems and tech-focused role dealing with our HRIS and our nascent analytics initiative.

      And if nothing else, “HR” as a discipline encompasses a ton of possible specialities, so there’s always new directions to explore without having to completely start over in a new field if I want a change.

    7. Yams*

      I work in sales, and I really like it. It’s stressful, sure, but there is a lot of interaction with a ton of different people. I specially love not sitting in an office all day long! Technically my position also includes supply chain management and logistics, which I love! I set up JIT system for industrial customers, which is a big pain but a lot of fun because I get to make all the pieces go together. I honestly kind of stumbled into it when a friend recommended me for the position, but I haven’t regretted it ever since.

    8. misspiggy*

      I got into my field (international development) through a process of elimination. I worked out that I didn’t want to work for a profit making concern, but that government and charities in the UK would be far too depressing to work in (for various reasons to do with politics at the time). And I was well into environmental issues, so I figured that supporting people in developing countries would speed up the process of societies becoming more environmentally sustainable. And, I confess I was desperate to travel and see the world, which played into it more than I would admit at the time.

    9. CG*

      International relations. I got to it by getting degrees in related fields, moving to the right cities where there are actually related jobs, and working in a lot of jobs that were all incremental steps toward what I wanted to do. A lot of people who want to be in this field really don’t get that you don’t (USUALLY) just get a bachelor’s in international relations and then just get immediately recruited by the State Department or something.

      Oh man, I don’t know… I think my field is living the dream for a lot of people! I like it because I get to travel the world, I get to talk to people from all over in all kinds of different roles, I get to work on policy issues that are really important to me, and in my job specifically, I get to scratch the itch on multiple disparate things that I like: public speaking/networking, science, pressure situation problem solving, and writing. Plus, I just find the topics really, really cool, and I’m nerdy about them inside and outside of work.

    10. The Expendable Redshirt*

      I’m a type of informal trustee for people who have a mental health diagnosis. I found my way to the field through semi-focused occupational meandering. Things started out in the homeless sector where I was a frontline worker. There were times when (for fun) I would help clients with setting up a budget. Then I moved to the disability sector as a community support worker. When the informal trustee position opened up, I applied for the internal position and was successful. When I graduated from university (with a liberal arts degree), I had NO CLUE that informal trusteeship was in the future. What I love about my job: Everything. It’s fantastic to see the concrete and direct results of my program. Some of the cool things this week include 1) A client avoided being evicted because his rent was paid. 2) A client set up a disability retirement plan. 3) A client with a history of addiction bought a GIC investment 4) Peoples have enough food and spending money.

    11. Windchime*

      I’m in IT and am basically a SQL programmer with some reporting thrown in. I got into it by accident. I was working in a billing office at a big medical clinic and became friends with some of the people in the IT department. I thought it looked interesting, so I signed up to take classes in networking and desktop support at my local community college. One of the requirements was that we take a programming class. I was hooked on the first day and I’ve been doing some form of programming for about 17 years now.

    12. Bea W*

      Accidentally fell into it. I work with research data, and I just found it makes my brain happy. I don’t know how quite to describe it.

    13. Optimistic Prime*

      Progressive revelation, sort of. I’m a user experience researcher in technology. I started off as a behavioral health researcher, using the same skills but applying them to understand how people’s behavior and social interactions affect their health. The issue was that I love research in general – I like writing, I love analyzing data, I love thinking through big problems and trying to answer my own questions. But there were lots of mismatches between that particular field and my work style – most of it’s academia, and the pace was too slow, I’d have little control over where I lived geographically, and the work-life balance was awful. So I did an internship in graduate school in market research, and it just happened to be in the video games division of this market research company (not really a coincidence – this was 6 years ago but I am pretty sure I mentioned it somehow).

      Well, I really liked it – and I really liked working in the corporate sector. Faster pace, more desirable employment centers, and better work-life balance, among other things. Some further Internet research showed me that UX was kind of a “cousin” field of market research which seemed even more appealing because I could have direct product impact, and I decided that if I didn’t go into academia that’s what I’d pursue (with market research as a backup). Fast forward 4 years; I had a great postdoctoral fellowship but I didn’t like it at all! So after I’d completely burned out of academia and was more sure that I didn’t want a career there, I started pursuing UX and market research jobs. I found this job online of all places – I didn’t know anyone – but I interviewed and now I’m here.

  27. Icklebicklebits*

    So I work in an hourly job that’s important but market norm is consistently under $20/hr. We pay about mid level in the range, maybe a shade on the higher side. When we were hiring a while ago I mentioned to my boss that it’s nice that we get paid even that much because a lot of places around here will pay the lower end or even minimum wage. But I think that we need to pay more to attract more talent and I think I may have shot myself in the foot when it comes to getting raises, which happens (no really) once every three or four years. We don’t even get cost of living increases. How can I backtrack what I said when the rest of the market is going up around us?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      “Hey boss, let’s talk about a raise.”

      “Wait. You said we pay more than other places. Why do you need a raise?”

      “I assumed we paid more because we want better quality people. That’s why I like working here. That mindset isn’t going away, is it?”

  28. claire*

    I started a new job and my coworker who sits behind me, whispers to me. I’m quiet and had this happen at previous toxic work place, so I may be a little sensitive…. But it’s annoying to have someone whisper at you. She did it in front of the IT guy- she whispered “Good Morning, Fergus!” and it was embarrassing. I know that I’m quiet and speak softly, but that’s just me. Other people in the office can be soft spoken, so why pick on me? Plus, she’s a good 25 years older than me!

    I might still have some residual anger left over from previous toxic work place and may be sensitive to it, but is there a way to nip this in the bud in a professional manner? I don’t know how to deal with this.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is what I would do. Don’t reward or give any attention to the behavior you don’t like. Only give attention to the desired behavior.

        It works with children and dogs; no reason why it shouldn’t work on coworkers too. ;)

    1. CM*

      Are you sure she’s picking on you? I think your past experience is causing you to interpret this as an insult, but maybe it’s just a weird habit. If she’s always whispering, not just “good morning,” you can politely ask her to speak a little louder.

      1. only acting normal*

        They’re mimicking/exaggerating Claire’s soft speaking voice. They may not intend it meanly, but as jokes go, making fun of the new kid’s mannerisms is pretty mean. They need to know their audience to know if a joke is going to land right, and they obviously don’t know Claire yet as Claire is new.
        I have a colleague who jokingly accuses me of being too loud (I’m also softly spoken, but in no way shy or unassertive) – but we’ve known each other for 10 years, he knows I don’t mind (he’s also kind of making fun of his own acknowledged loudness), and if I did mind I’d feel empowered to tell him to quit it… it would not be the same dynamic if he’d only known me a few weeks and I was the new girl.

    2. fposte*

      I don’t see in your description why it’s picking on you, but you can certainly ask for her to greet you in her normal voice (assuming that the whisper isn’t her normal voice): “Sorry, Jane, I don’t hear whispers very well. What’d you say? . . . Oh, good morning to you too.”

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      Is it possible she just has a quiet voice?

      I have a coworker who totally sounds like she’s whispering. It’s just her voice!

      1. LQ*

        I moved to a new spot recently and the person across from me greets me similarly. It’s because she thinks I’m quiet somehow?! (I’m mostly gone at meetings and that’s fooling her, because I am an inappropriately loud person most of the time.) But it’s a collegial and pleasant way to greet and acknowledge me, including that she thinks I’m quiet. (She’s said you’re so quiet several times. To which I have laughed raucously.)

    4. Jemima Bond*

      My reaction would be to sing out, “good morning!” in a sort of Julie Andrews fashion (to demonstrate that there’s no need to whisper) or stage-whisper, “what’s up, why are we whispering?” to find out what the deal is.

    5. JustaTech*

      When I notice a coworker is starting to whisper in a conversation with me I make sure to keep my voice at a normal volume. People tend to match the volume of those around them, and it’s an indication that I’m not going to whisper.
      But it doesn’t sound like she’s trying to be mean, unless you think she’s mocking you (which would be super obnoxious).

    6. HannahS*

      Wait, she’s whispering prompts to you? Like as if you’re a little shy child? That’s…really weird. I’d spin around in my chair and say, “Pardon, Jane?” Never do the thing she whispers at you to do. Repeat, “Did you say something?” or “Didn’t quite catch that, could you speak up, please?” or “Sorry, Jane, but I can’t seem to catch what you’re saying when you whisper.” All with a pleasant, puzzled smile. You don’t have to pretend you can’t hear her, just that you have trouble understanding whispers. It’s a real thing, I promise, because I genuinely can’t understand whispering. I can’t read lips, and all whispering sounds like to me is “HuhSHMAHSHMUhsshhhhhh mushmushHAMSHH” accompanied by someone’s hot breath on my neck.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Address it head on.
      Jane, if you want me to hear what you just said then you will need to use a regular speaking voice or I probably will miss what you said.

      Don’t let this go on and on. Don’t correlate this to your previous job. Tell yourself that previous job is over now. And remind yourself that comparing this job to your old job will not help you succeed at this job.

    8. Specialk9*

      Get a white noise machine, and/or get headphones. That way you won’t hear someone behind you creepily whispering at you, or you can pretend you don’t.

      1. Specialk9*

        But btw, I wouldn’t assume the whispering co-worker is bullying you. They might have highly developed sympathetic neurons, and are trying to act like makes you comfortable. Not to discount your instinct, but you did mention a toxic old job. Another possibility.

  29. Eva*

    How do you guys deal with butting up against slow moving and older policies and “workplace norms” and the advance of technology?

    I’ve had multiple times in my current career where I’ve seen a new piece of software or hardware come out that was reasonably priced, solved a need, and would greatly increase workplace productivity with little to no overhead cost. But my organization just can’t do it, ever. They have regulations that specifically prohibit agility when it comes to technology, and some of them are for good reason, but most are outdated at best, and actually against best practices at worst.

    As an example, they just implemented a sweeping change to our password protocols, and every single new restriction is against the recent suggestions goes against the newest NIST guidelines, nearly word for word. NIST says stop doing X, they now require us to do X, because five years ago people thought that was a good idea and they just now caught up.

    How do you suck it up and keep going day to day when you know it could be better if the people in charge were actually up to date and knowledgeable like they should be?

    1. Eva*

      Also, I maybe should specify that I don’t work in IT. I just use technology for my job on a day to day basis, and try to stay up to date on the newest recommendations because it affects my work. I have no power or influence in our IT department whatsoever, beyond you know, the one IT guy that is nice to me because I don’t call him until after I’ve turned it off and back on again.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Are you me? It’s taken a year for me to make headway in Current Job. My supervisor is finally accepting that using tools will solve a lot of his problems in tracking and managing work. He’s just not tech-savvy. But I hear ya on the outdated policies. I fight about SharePoint usage daily. IT just sent me a rather snotty email about uploading files to SharePoint. What the hell do they think it’s for?

        1. Eva*

          Sharepoint is actually one of the things that’s on the long list of problems. They won’t let us have it at all, even though we have no method for sharing files that need to be shared to actually do our work properly. We all end up emailing files (super safe protocol there guys) and then they send out notices talking about not just trusting every attachment you get. It’s an endless loop.

    2. Uncivil Engineer*

      Unless you’re in a position to recommend a change, you have to just let it go. My workplace (a gov agency) is like this. We upgrade our systems to be 10 versions newer and IT thinks we should be ecstatic… but we bought the version that came out 3 years ago and there are newer ones available so what we have is nowhere near the current version. I refocused my annoyance on things I can change like the outdated interview questions we’ve been recycling for years.

      1. Eva*

        That’s a big part of what’s frustrating me. They roll out a software upgrade that’s upgrading to something from 2010 that doesn’t actually do the things we need it to do at this point, or worse the company that makes it doesn’t even support the software anymore and we only just go it.

        I try to take a deep breath and just do what I can with what I’ve got, but I think my tolerance for it gets smaller every time it happens, and then somebody asks me to suggest ways to increase productivity and I just want to scream.

        1. Jadelyn*

          To be honest, you might want to start looking for a new job, because it sounds like this is a huge issue for you and yet not one you have the power to do much about. I think this falls under the category of “Your boss/company sucks and isn’t going to change”, where you just have to decide if you can put up with it or not and stay or go accordingly.

    3. Phoenix Programmer*

      I feel you. We just went open office even though it’s falling out of style due to reports of how awful out is. I am convinced we went open because it looks nicer.

      1. Eva*

        I hate open offices. I can understand why people think they’re more polished looking, but there’s so much evidence that it backfires and doesn’t work the way management wants it to work. Which I guess is the way things are, huh?

    4. Jadelyn*

      I wish I had an answer for you. I’ve joked with my team that I’m going to drag this company into the 21st century kicking and screaming if I have to, because I’m a tech geek and I see SO much potential in our HRIS for things we could be using it for and just…aren’t bothering to right now.

      For me it’s a combination of letting things go in order to stay sane when I know I’m not going to make any headway, and picking my battles when I think I have a proposal that stands a chance. And when I do put forth a proposal, make sure I’ve got reams of backup data to support it.

    5. LQ*

      I’ve done 2 things. (I work for government.)
      1. Attack the other half of the problem. Technology is only part of the problem, there are so many things that are human problems, not tech problems. And those that are human problems I can work on I do.
      2. Become a one woman solution to tech problems with back door tools. I managed to do this by teeny tiny bits and bites until I was solving significant organizational problems with things like SharePoint (which I managed to after a lot of time and trust built wrestled my way into having full control on our site collection), google drive/doc/forms, and even the lowly lan drive and word/excel/access documents. Like sure I can build a learning management system with it, I can build a content management system, I can build a performance review system, I can build just about everything but getting you coffee with it.

      And they just moved me into a project where I can drive where technology is going to be aiming for the next 10 years for our program. It’s AWESOME. (And there are going to be so very very many battles ahead of me, but I feel like all of this history was building me up to being here and having this power in the advance of technology.)

      1. LQ*

        (I also don’t work in IT, I’m on the business side, though barely, they’ve tried several times to reclassify my job to be in IT but I cling to the business side of things because weirdly the IT side doesn’t seem better and I have a good ear this way.)

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Not really helpful, but that seems pretty normal for government. Matter of fact auditors suggest control methods that went by the wayside 20 years ago. Taxpayer dollars hard at work. I try not to think about it.

      You can look around for rock-the-boat type people. These are people from different departments that may influence TPTB.
      You can decide that you will be come great at making archaic work.
      You can decide that there are too many other things that are right about the job and it suits your purposes for the moment. This one has helped me a lot. I have been hitting personal goals repeatedly. So not all of life is stagnating for me.
      You can print out and give your boss ideas on things that would be better. (I only do this with things that I know my boss can change. I don’t want to frustrate her any more than she already is. For this reason, I present ideas in the form of options. She is consistently very wise and chooses among options very well, she picks up on things I missed.)

  30. anonhere*

    Is it possible to be the BEC when you just started a new job?

    I’m quiet and introverted, but I tried my best to socialize. I told funny stories and everyone laughed at lunch the first week, but then after that they made excuses or ditched me. They’re more outgoing and extroverted than me. I feel like I don’t fit in at all. They’re all married and have kids- I don’t. I wouldn’t fit in with the 20-something singles who party either… It’s very clique-y by ethnic groups as well.

    I just don’t know what to do. I take lunch by myself and my boss asked me if I was happy at my job because she didn’t want me to leave. I like to have time by myself to call others or surf the web. I just want to fit in.

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Nah. This was me when I started at my current job. I don’t party. I’m not married with kids, either. It took some time, but, I eventually found another person like me. Since we were both quiet it wasn’t easy to find each other! Just stick it out. Not the best advice, I know, but it’s true!

    2. Red 5*

      I’ve found that generally at most of my jobs, I end up being in a situation very similar to this when I start. It just takes me a really long time to get settled and either find my people and/or figure out who actually ARE my people. For example, at my current job I went in not really expecting to find people who were as into nerd interests as I am because that’s how my last job was. But it turns out it just wasn’t the top of the discussion heap, and as time went on I found people who maybe weren’t my age but we had the same favorite movie. Or they like to party when I’d rather stay home, but we listen to the same kind of podcasts on our commute.

      I don’t know that I have any advice to offer, because those early days are always rough. And I’m not going to lie and say it always works out, I had one job where I never ended up having a single thing in common with anybody there after they fired the one friend I had. But in most jobs I’ve had, I’ve ended up with at least a few friends. I still eat lunch by myself usually because I’m like that (I need time to not be “on”) and skip the after work happy hours, but I don’t feel like I’m by myself either.

      Good luck. I do hope you find an equilibrium.

    3. fposte*

      Can you identify what it is you want from them? I can’t tell if you want to have lunch with them or want to spend that time on the phone and surfing the web. Are they pleasant and professional with you when you need to talk to them for work things? If so, I suspect it’s not that they dislike you but that they went back to their usual practice after spending a week or so welcoming the new person.

      What I’d do is stop looking at them as groups and instead find one or two sympathetic, maybe quieter people to open up to a little more. That doesn’t mean you have to go to dinner with them–just that you share a little more watercooler talk with them, or mention where you’re going on vacation, etc. A lot of times what people are looking for isn’t funny stories but a look into your life.

    4. CG*

      To add on to what some of the other comments said, it sounds like you’re approaching this from a “how do I get everyone to like me all at once?” perspective, but… I agree with fposte: rather than trying to connect with the whole group all at once, try one-on-one with a few folks first. Ask if your closest work neighbor will grab coffee or lunch with you later in the week, or ask someone about their family/history in the field/local sports team fandom/whatever you notice they might want to discuss, and then go from there.

      Please will warm to you, but as the others have said, I’ve usually found in new jobs that after the first few days of trying hard to be inclusive to the new person, people (reasonably!) fall back into their normal patterns of office social interaction, so you slowly have to work into those as you become a more regular part of the office too.

    5. The Expendable Redshirt*

      Embrace the situation?
      You may be at a workplace where you honestly do fit in. Like you, I’m an introverted and quiet person. For me, solitude is a blessing, and I must make an effort to eat lunch with my coworkers. And yet, I do feel like I fit in at work. There are a few coworkers that I have a connection with on an individual basis. My tribe is that of the Nerdy Cat Enthusiasts. Everyone is friendly here, but I can only have soul connecting conversations about cats with a few people. Your being at a new job may also be a factor. In my case, it took about two years for my brain to put a people in the “Coworker-friend” category. Lastly, spend some time examining WHY you feel that you don’t fit in. Is it because you aren’t in the same life-place as your coworkers? Are you upset that you aren’t eating lunch with them? Once you know what’s missing, you can work on a solution.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Decide you like them.
      Often times we spend too much time thinking about, “Do cohorts like me?” and we fail to decide if we like them or not.
      If you decide you like them that will come out in your tone and your actions. It will show in your thoughtful gestures. They will tend to warm up to you.

      I hate to say this because it’s hard to do, but when I first join a workplace I tell myself that “It’s all about them.” Initially there can be very little reciprocity, I take an interest in their lives and their families and I get nothing back or so it seems.
      It takes time. Six months? a year? It takes buckets of time. Suddenly they start noticing and conversational stuff comes up: “How did you make out with your car problem?” or “who cuts your hair, is it someone near by?” This is a talk less and listen more type of answer. Ask them questions about themselves. Don’t expect yourself to be humorous and the life of the party every day. You’re not there to provide entertainment for them, just like they don’t entertain you. It’s not fair of you to expect this of yourself.

      I had a subordinate who would not take lunch with her cohorts and then wondered why they did not interact with her. I think it’s fine to eat lunch alone, but the other half of the story is what are you willing to do to build some type of relationship with people? It might be unfair, I think the onus is on the new person to reach out first and reach out consistently. It starts with saying good morning and moves on to showing concern for others as the workday drags on. It’s very tiring, to me. I have to get extra rest the first few months because I am more introverted, than extroverted. But the extra rest does kick me over to the side of being able to do this.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        PS. I am widowed with no kids. So finding things in common with coworkers can be a life long search. Reality is that even if you had a spouse and kids like they do that does not mean automatic bonding. It’s helpful to know that people love it when we show concern about those they love. For example asking someone how their sick child is doing can go a long way in solidifying a working relationship. People are usually touched that we even remembered.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah. If you find someone has a kid or dog or safe-for-work hobby, ask to see a photo. They’ll either have one then, or will go home and take one. Most people like to tell stories about their interests.

  31. My Cat Posted This For Me*

    Anyone have any stories about how you dealt with difficult faculty members? I’m at a large public university, working in one of the colleges. We have a couple of star faculty members who are giving our small staff team some problems.

    Professor Drusilla is kind of a victim-bully: she gets more direct service than just about any other faculty member (which is fine, she’s a star), but no matter how much she gets, she bitterly complains that our college does nothing for her. Bitterly and relentlessly. Her most recent request to me was blatantly BS—not my job, not a legitimate request—think something like “why does no one bring my team coffee? why must they walk to the cart outside for it? why does the college neglect them this way?”—only with something my team produces. I have no problem deflecting with a “oh, you must need to know the number of the coffee cart!” but she’s befriended a member of my team and harasses her repeatedly via text. And the way she frames things as her being neglected sucks people in.

    Professor Darla recently ramped up her requests to an absurd level, getting upset when we kept saying yes to her because we had the temerity to also ask for a description of the project and a timeline. The email chain is amusing. Less amusing is that she’s apparently starting to complain around the college about my service, which has been excellent. That’s crossing a line.

    I’m really fine with boundary setting and feel I can do it in a polite, professional and low conflict way, per my example. My supervisor is less comfortable with that. I think approaching our dean might eventually be the way to go.

    I’d love to hear your stories of how you handled difficult faculty.

    1. jillybean*

      It’s really depended on the faculty member. I’m at an academic library, and while we aren’t tenured, we are faculty. With difficult professors, I first stress that we are colleagues; I am not support staff. It sounds like you have to work with the professors, though? A technique that works well for me is ending no’s with yes. “I’m sorry, we can’t assign a librarian to you to conduct all of your literature reviews, but we’d be happy to train your graduate assistant to do so. In fact, we offer these resources for graduate students etc etc etc”

      If Professor Fancypants tries to turn to one of my reports, I have the report bounce PF right back to me, with a “Jillybean is the one to talk to about that.”

      IME, troublesome faculty are difficult in almost every venue, and people have their number. If Professor Fancypants starts talking smack about us, I feel pretty assured that no one is going to listen.

      And lastly, my dean has our back. When I’ve set boundaries, she has always stood at the ready to reinforce them. (I do give her a heads up when someone is being difficult, so she knows to be ready!)

    2. Anonymous for this one*

      I had a passive-aggressive faculty member who was driving me crazy – very entitled and pushy but also all her requests were in the vein of ‘someone should do something about…’ I finally called her on it, politely, saying something like “if you have a specific suggestion, please let me know,” and I asked her if she would be willing to participate in [the activity she had been complaining about]. I was worried she’d be awful to me after that but actually I think it really helped. She is polite now and doesn’t seem to hold it against me at all. I think she bullies until someone stands up to her; if you show weakness, she keeps at it. So she mostly tortures the younger staff. This may not be helpful with your faculty but might be worth a try.

      1. My Cat Posted This For Me*

        I really feel like we have the same dynamic here (maybe not the young part but otherwise), and I definitely refuse to show my soft underbelly. But I wonder about repercussions, not sure my supervisor will back me up, etc. That’s why I’m interested in getting more personal experiences for greater context. Thanks for sharing yours!

    3. Dr. Doll*

      I find that if you stand firm and don’t fall for the bs, they back down quickly. And, if they are vicious, people know that and only their equally vicious cronies will give them time. Faculty have less actual power than you think. –Caution: Medical schools are different. Vicious faculty there can actually do damage to you.

      One difficult guy that we work with is difficult because he never responds on time, never attends scheduled meetings, and then shows up randomly and wants attention immediately. One thing I did was give my staff very firm direction to do the minimum for him — give him *exactly* what he asked for and not a tiny bit more, and then *not* to follow up to see if he’s happy. This wasn’t to be passive aggressive and provide him lesser service than anyone else, this was to protect them from spending their energy fretting that they weren’t serving him adequately. Regarding the showing up randomly, if they are not otherwise committed they can meet, but otherwise they are to say “Oh, gee, I am in the middle of something, can we schedule for Thursday.” And if he ever raises his voice or says something even the tiniest bit mean they are to tell me immediately. This might work for Professor Drusilla.

      For Professor Darla, it may be worth creating a policy. “We accept projects only if they are accompanied by a description.” That way it’s not you, it’s the policy. If you need to defend the policy to your supervisor, it’s so that you can work efficiently.

      Good luck. Faculty can be the strangest people, soooo smart with suuuuch big blind spots.

    4. Yup*

      I’d advise being firm and direct, as others have suggested; more importantly, I’d strongly advise you NOT approach the dean. That would be such an asymmetrical reaction to a fairly mundane (though, I understand, annoying) problem, that I think it would really backfire on you.

      I’m not trying to minimize your irritation at the issue here, but deans are super-busy, it’s the start of term, they deal with faculty above all and unless there’s an egregious offense, will not take kindly being talked to about service request issues. There are so many steps in between where you are and talking to a dean (which is not something that you would do, but a higher up anyway) – just, my advice: don;t go that route.

      1. My Cat Posted This For Me*

        That’s the kind of context I was looking for. Thanks! I probably should have clarified that I provide direct support to the dean, although there are two (very thin) layers of bosses above me. There are lots of times when my job requires me to meet one-on-one with him and he frequently praises my work. That doesn’t mean that approaching him is the right way to go, though.

  32. Luce21*

    I recently started a new job at a large nonprofit. Since I started in the Spring, they have lost nearly 10% of their employees.. One who had been working here for over 20 years. Three left without notice. This is mostly due to bad moral and questionable management techniques.

    On a scale from 1 to having a six month job listing on my resume, how much should I be looking for a new job?

    1. Keeping My Head Down*

      I wonder if you work at my company. The turnover is insane, and sometimes it really feels like rats from a drowning ship.

      The way I always try to look at it is, it’s always a good idea to keep your resume up to date and keep your mind and eyes open to new possibilities. But don’t bail out until your cubicle is taking on water. Exit strategies are great, but I’ve found in my own org that I actually haven’t had a hard time carving out a spot for myself that’s relatively stable and I can stay