open thread – October 13-14, 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.

{ 1,711 comments… read them below }

  1. KK*

    I’m in a tough situation at work. About 6 months ago, my boss (and my supervisor’s boss) requested that if I had any documentation on my supervisor to bring it to him, because he wanted “to address serious issues with her” (which, I realize is rather inappropriate to tell another employee). However, my supervisor does have many serious problems (performance issues, berating employees, using the company credit card of a few personal things, leaving work for extended periods of time without telling anyone, dogging company policy to anyone that will listen, etc. – I won’t get into specifics, just know they are serious.) I hadn’t begun documenting anything, but began to document per my boss’s request.
    Now, every month or so, my boss requests new documentation on things that my supervisor says/does inappropriately. Every time I give him more, he’ll call her into his office, shut the door, and address the issues with her (along with other issues that have been brought up to my boss about my supervisor by other employees). However, because I have the most direct contact with my supervisor out of anyone in my small office, there are certain situations that my supervisor knows I was the one that “tattled” on her about. I knew that this would be the case before my supervisor began meeting with my boss, but my boss assured me that if my supervisor retaliated against me, she would be terminated.
    Since the meetings started, my supervisor has done things that indicate passive-aggressive retaliation (not responding to any of my emails, shutting the door in my face as I’m walking into the office right behind her, slamming the refrigerator door when I’m in the break room eating lunch, not responding when I say “have a good night” as I’m leaving in the evening, etc.) These may not seem like huge issues to some, but I feel as though continuing to provide my boss with documentation is putting me in an extremely awkward position with my supervisor. Yes, she is a toxic employee and honestly should have been terminated a long time ago, but prior to bringing my boss documentation, my supervisor and I still maintained a good working relationship, and she could potentially provide a great reference for me in the future. I no longer want to provide my boss with documentation when he asks for it. He keeps telling me that “she’s going to be fired, so it won’t matter soon how she’s treating you.” (Again, totally inappropriate for my boss to tell me this – what he’s doing is almost as bad as my supervisor’s serious issues, but that’s a whole different story). I really want out of this whole thing. Am I “allowed” to tell my boss that I don’t want to provide him with documentation anymore, or will it tarnish my relationship with him (which is currently a strong relationship)?

    Any thoughts/comments are appreciated!

    1. Snickerdoodle*

      Oh dear. That is an awful situation to be in. That being said, have you told your boss that she is actually retaliating against you? It may be in a passive aggressive manner, but it’s still a retaliation, especially the not responding to emails.

      1. KK*

        Yes, I have spoken to him about this. He kind of sympathizes by saying, “oh, that’s irritating” and rolling his eyes, but makes it clear that he doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

        1. Snickerdoodle*

          Ugh. Wonder what his definition of retaliation is, then. It doesn’t seem like he realizes how much her reactions are affecting your day-to-day. I agree with Snark, you can definitely bring it up, but unfortunately, I don’t think you can refuse.

          1. MoinMoin*

            He’s probably thinking more along the lines of attempting to fire KK or put her on a PIP or something. But ugh, that sounds like a pretty terrible atmosphere to be in everyday.

          2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            This. What does he thinks constitutes retaliation? Ask him. He put you on the spot asking for specific instances. You can ask him what actions qualify. For example, boss did this. He rolls his eyes. You have to push back. “That isn’t retaliation?” Ok, how about this? Or this. Don’t let him off the hook.

        2. Snark*

          Then I think you need to reiterate that this isn’t just irritating, it’s making it difficult for you to do your job and making your work environment feel hostile, and you’re wondering what it would need to escalate to for it to count as retaliation.

        3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          It isn’t a big deal to him. You are doing the hard part for him. He needs to be a hands on manager, as in, “I’ve witnessed you doing this. It needs to stop.” And how many times is this nonsense going to happen: Tell me what she did. She did X. You did X. And then nothing. She’s not getting fired. Ever. Proceed with this information and act accordingly. Find a new job while you have this one and then you will have an out for excluding crazy, passive-aggressive, rotten employee and over all lousy person as a reference.
          By the way, her manager screwed you over and is a jag.

          1. Specialk9*

            This. They haven’t fired this manager, put you in an impossible spot, and are eye-rolling at retaliation. You need a new job. Any way you can find an internal transfer?

          2. Snark*

            And when the hell is this person getting fired? How long does this charade go on? It doesn’t need to be a Federal case.

          3. Lumen*

            I agree that it’s unlikely this person is going to be fired. I had a very bad experience with a coworker where I was afraid I was about to be assaulted. After I reported the situation, and my boss discussed it with company leadership, my boss told me that coworker was going to be fired. A little while later, he called me into his office to say he shouldn’t have said that, he ‘lost that battle’, and the coworker was going to continue working there.

            Never believe someone is “going to be” fired until you see them packing up their desk with a sour look on their face. And also, it’s not your job to document the reasons to fire someone. That’s for managers.

            1. Naruto*

              Agree – this person is never going to be fired. I think Boss is a wimp. So he would love to gather more and more documentation. But he already has more than enough documentation to fire Supervisor, AND on top of that he isn’t protecting OP from retaliation from Supervisor. I just have very little doubt that Boss is anything other than a big wimp who will never fire Supervisor because he wants to avoid confrontation or making a decision.

        4. Say what, now?*

          I didn’t read the whole thread…it’s long. But what I read doesn’t address the second part of your issue, which is that you don’t want to burn bridges because you might want her for a reference down the line. I don’t think that you want her for a reference. She’s definitely aware that you’ve provided information to her boss about her (I’m not saying you were wrong to do so when you were asked by your boss’s boss no less) and she’s upset. She probably won’t forgive you even if she finds out that you eventually refused to provide any more information so I’d work on building new references to replace hers.

          Sorry you’re in this mess.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yeah, the bridge is well aflame. Launching fire extinguishers now will still leave it a smoking ruin.

            Because she’s your supervisor but not your manager, you can get away with listing your actual manager as the reference if you preserve that relationship. If you try to put out the fire that is the bridge with your supervisor, you’ll lose both.

            Not that *either* of them are trustworthy references given the way they’re acting. But one is not going to turn around and recover, and the other might be an okay reference until you get better if he stays happy with you. (That said, you don’t have to keep providing him lots of info; you can scale back and stick to what everyone knows, or mostly what everyone knows, if you prefer. But it won’t un-burn the bridge with your supervisor.)

          2. Pineapple Incident*

            I agree that this bridge is totally burned and that this person (supervisor) shouldn’t be a reference anyway if they’ve got major performance issues at their job that have required higher-level involvement for at least weeks if not months. I would definitely bring up with your boss though that the passive-aggressive actions from your supervisor since this documentation phase began have made you worry about her potential effect on your reputation. I would ask your boss if there is someone else that should serve as an official point of contact to confirm your work history/performance as a reference in the future, whenever it is that you decide to move on (obviously, depending on your relationship with this person, this might not be possible- the eye rolling really worries me). Also depending on your relationship with Boss, you could tell them that the whole situation has led you to reflect on your future with the company and you’re re-evaluating whether you’d like to stay on/how long.

            I’m sorry you’re going through this, and hope it ends okay.

        5. Optimistic Prime*

          This makes no sense on his end. If it’s this kind of behavior that’s motivating him to document all of the issues to push her out, wouldn’t documenting her retaliation against you just be even more fodder for firing her in the first place?

    2. WellRed*

      Yes! Tell him it makes you uncomfortable to do it in the first place, that you don’t feel it’s entirely appropriate and that it absolutely matters how she treats you!

      1. Specialk9*

        It’s closing the barn door after the entire herd got out. That relationship can’t be repaired.

    3. Snark*

      You can bring this to his attention and say, “I feel that Supervisor’s behavior towards me is becoming so passive-aggressive that it’s rising to the level of retaliation. I feel that I’m in an awkward place here, and I’m certain that she knows I’ve been informing you about issues. This is really affecting my work and work day, and I’m wondering if you’re going to need my documentation moving forward.” But I don’t think you can outright refuse. This is a request from your grandboss.

      That said, you don’t really want a recommendation, even a good one, from someone so thoroughly toxic and unethical.

      1. Specialk9*

        The manager isn’t responding to emails and is giving the comment treatment. It’s not passive aggressive, which is easy to dismiss, it’s aggressive.

        This situation is a no win. I’d consider going to HR and using lawsuit worry buzz words – retaliation, hostile work environment – and state that it’s affecting your ability to do your job.

        1. Amber T*

          This is pushing it a bit too far I think. The supervisor is acting childish and passive aggressive and it borderlines retaliation (I’m not sure it’s quite there yet), but bringing up lawsuit buzz words, including “hostile work environment” where none of this is considered “hostile” (that’s only if the supervisor is acting this way because OP is a protected class) would just cause unnecessary problems. I think going to HR and discussing how boss/grandboss putting OP into a difficult position could be a good idea (focusing on the boss/grandboss problems)… then again, asking for these kinds of reports very well may be coming from them.

          OP, it might just be time for a job hunt, because if they’re going through such a ridiculous process (asking for your feedback once or twice regarding your supervisor is fine, but having you continuously provide reports is just ridiculous) to fire an inept employee, they’re risking pushing out capable, good employees.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Only if the HR person really doesn’t know what they’re talking about — otherwise, they’d immediately recognize that this just isn’t a situation in which they could possibly apply, and therefore they’re a sign that the *speaker* doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

              It would be a different story if there could be any kind of case made for the theory that this was because of membership in a protected class… HR people are paid to be paranoid about lawsuits. But implicitly threatening one over something that’s perfectly legal, using buzzwords incorrectly, is kind of the equivalent of threatening to sue a private citizen with no government role for “infringing your freedom of speech.” All it does is let them know that you’re too ignorant of the law to take seriously as a danger.

      2. AFRC*

        Yes, explain how it’s affecting you. Your boss is obviously clueless, but spelling it out might help a bit. Good luck!!

    4. Marcy Marketer*

      I mean ideally you would have never agreed to this in the first place! Going forward, ask to be excluded from feedback meetings. Tell your boss that you find this work distracting and that you need to focus on key work projects. Say it warmly and apologetically. If your boss says she needs your feedback, tell her that you’ve provided plenty and you hope it will be enough, and that you don’t think additional feedback from you is productive.

      I would apologize to your supervisor and tell her that you were in a bad situation and didn’t know how to handle it. Tell her you’ve been asked to be excused from future meetings.

      If either your boss or your supervisor brings this up with you again, say, “it’s such a hard situation! I hope it will be resolved soon!” And leave ASAP.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        It doesn’t sound like grand-boss is reading off a list and attributing info to specific employees (they speak to him or send him info, he then has a private one-on-one chat with the boss), rather that some things are unlikely to have had a source other than KK, but I don’t see how leaving NO doubt that she’s passed info to the grand-boss is going to do anything but encourage further retaliation on the boss’s part.

        It could also negatively affect her relationship with the grand-boss, particularly if her info is strong enough to be the deciding factor in getting Boss moved on.

        1. KK*

          “It doesn’t sound like grand-boss is reading off a list and attributing info to specific employees (they speak to him or send him info, he then has a private one-on-one chat with the boss), rather that some things are unlikely to have had a source other than KK.”


      2. Observer*

        There is no way that the OP should apologize for her actions. It’s not just that she has nothing to apologize for. It’s that, at best, it’s unlikely to help, and at worst, it will make things worse.

        Supervisor is a jerk, and is not likely to react well or graciously to the OP’s apology. She IS likely to take this as an admission that the OP was wrong – which is not the case.

    5. SilverRadicand*

      Those small retaliations that the supervisor is doing are things you can and should bring up to the boss. Both as an example of why you don’t want to be part of this process and also simply because those are even further indications that the supervisor is not fit to be a supervisor.

      1. KK*

        I have spoken to him about this. He kind of sympathizes by saying, “oh, that’s irritating” or “that’s typical of her” and rolling his eyes, but makes it clear that he doesn’t think it’s a big deal. You would indeed think the fact that my boss knows it’s typical of her to be passive aggressive indicate that she’s not fit for her position.

        1. Mephyle*

          Time to spell it out for him. “You said, ‘if your supervisor retaliates against you, she will be terminated.’ She is retaliating. It is impeding me from doing my job properly. What are you going to do about it?”
          And if he continues to say, “Nothing, that’s not what I meant by ‘retaliation’,” it is time to take measures. Like stopping the reporting for starters, up to possibly getting out and into a different job.

        2. Someone else*

          It’s possible he’s reacting that way because he’s already decided to fire her. Not that it makes his response appropriate but if they’re moving in that direction, more examples of supervisor’s bad behaviour is sort of moot. However, if that’s the case, then he doesn’t need more examples from you at all, about the retaliation or otherwise.

    6. D.W.*

      Ooof. This is certainly a bit of a pickle.
      I believe that you are well within your right to stop providing documentation to your boss for a number of reasons 1) She is already made aware of your supervisor’s inappropriate behavior 2) you have provided extensive accounts of your and your supervisor’s interactions 3) doing so is jeopardizing your current work relationship and your ability to get your work done (supervisor not responding to your emails).

      The fact that “she will be fired soon” doesn’t help the fact that she’s not fired *now*, and it’s causing strain. If you frame it from the perspective that “this is affecting my ability to do my job” and tell her (boss) that you have the most interaction with her, so the information you are providing is *not* anonymous, hopefully your boss won’t take it poorly, but honestly, you don’t need to continue. You could also ask your boss what the end game is here. Your boss has enough information to fire your supervisor. Either they will or they won’t. Don’t continue providing documentation.

      1. What the French, Toast*

        I have the same question – what’s the end game here? For them to drag this out for months while you keep getting punished for this? I would be firm that this situation has become very uncomfortable for you and you don’t want to continue. “I feel that I’ve provided enough information for the company to decide how to handle [Boss] and I cannot keep providing it. I have to continue to work with her as long as she remains here and our relationship has become so strained that working together is difficult.” Or similar, I’m kind of bad at scripts. Good luck!

        1. KK*

          I would love to know the end game. I’ve been told so many times for months know from my boss that “it’s just a matter of time until she’s terminated” that at this point, I’m doubting that she’s *EVER* going to be let go if she hasn’t been yet. There’s too much to get into in this thread, but it’s absolutely shocking that she’s still employed here based on the seriousness of the issues that have come to the surface.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, I’m not sure there is an endgame or even an ongoing game strategy; I think he’s just freestyling until something makes him take the scary firing step, and it’s possible nothing ever will.

            1. Lance*

              That’s certainly the sound of things. Saying ‘she’s going to be fired soon’ when this has been going on for months, with what sounds like extensive documentation, isn’t exactly encouraging.

            2. Lora*

              This. Have heard it toooooo many times. A-hole Boss will be fired soon! And indeed, A-hole boss is eventually fired…well over a year after the grandboss promised, and after a mountain of evidence was insufficient to pull the trigger and what they really needed was for the great-grandboss to shout, “grandboss, your employee is a problem, he’s fired AND YOU ARE TOO, get your crap and get out!”

          2. Amber T*

            There’s a good chance you won’t necessarily know this, but could she already be on PIP? And your reports are basically solidifying his assumptions that she’s not improving?

    7. Undine*

      Do you have an HR department? There might not be much they can or will do, but maybe hearing it fro a third party will help.

      1. KK*

        We do have an HR department, although they are located in a corporate office about an hour away from ours. My only reservation is that (according to my boss), he wants her fired, but HR is afraid she will sue, so they want more documentation. My point being, HR knows I’ve been documenting her behavior and apparently still wants more.

        1. Anna*

          Your HR is being dumb. Maybe if you do tell them about the retaliation, that will be enough for them to finally take some action, though.

          1. Beatrice*

            There may be reasons they need extensive documentation. I have a friend whose employer spent months gathering rock solid documentation times a million to support firing a problem employee. They needed extra documentation and wait time because her manager sucked and penalized her for using FMLA and gave her written documentation of it, in the form of warnings and write ups. They had to correct that, retrain him, and gather usable documentation afterward to show cause for terminating her, so it didn’t look like retaliation. Not many people knew, so it just looked like she was getting away with murder.

        2. fposte*

          Or grandboss isn’t being firm enough in saying how bad her behavior is now and that he can’t accept it any more. The “It’s all HR’s fault” seems to be pretty common when managers are looking for somebody else to haul the water on a termination.

        3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          Did HR say this to you or did your boss’ boss tell you that’s what is going on? Because I don’t think he’s reliable.

        4. JGray*

          This isn’t a matter of HR sucking. It could be that there are things such as protections under the ADA that you or your boss are not aware of. HR would be aware because that is there job. Documentation is what proves things and your boss is wrong that documentation is not going to stop someone from suing. All it does is allow the company to present it if a lawsuit is filed. I say just tell your boss or contact HR directly and tell them that you aren’t providing anymore documentation because you are being retaliated against. HR should take it seriously since your boss is not.

        5. Observer*

          So, when you provide documentation to your boss about her retaliation, send it to HR as well. This will put them on notice that they have a bigger problem than they thought, and will also give them additional ammunition to win a law suit, should it happen. That’s assuming that is really just being too cautious but is essentially competent. If they arent’s competent, you may need to start looking for a new job.

    8. Ramona Flowers*

      I’ve been in a similar situation (reporting on my boss). It was horrible and I ended up leaving. I’m sorry – this sucks.

    9. Master Bean Counter*

      You need to tell your boss that you’ve given him more than enough examples of the inappropriate behavior and that you’ve not seen any improvement in the situation. Tell him at this point you’d rather redirect your energy into doing your job and getting along with your supervisor, as it seems she will be there for a while longer. Because at this point the only thing that has happened is that your working situation is getting worse, not better.

      He hasn’t fired her yet, he’s probably not going to do it.

      1. KK*

        According to my boss, he wants her fired, but HR is afraid she will sue for “discrimination on sexual orientation.” Which, by the way, is quite absurd. She lives with a woman, but has never once indicated (or told ANYONE in the office) that she is gay, and often claims that she lives with her “friend” for “financial reasons”.)

        As you mentioned, there are more than enough examples and documentation for her termination.

        1. Specialk9*

          I believe that right now, sexually orientation isn’t protected in the US, although there are some delightful cases in the Supreme Court arguing that sexual orientation is inherently about gender, which is protected. I haven’t heard that the precedent has been set though.

          1. Amber T*

            I think this depends on your state. There are plenty of states where they could fire you for your sexual orientation, but there are states where (thankfully) this is a protected class. Not saying that it’s the case here, but if it’s something that the supervisor is claiming, I get why HR wants to give it a wide berth. They’re not handling it correctly by any means though.

            1. OhNo*

              There are some states (and cities) with anti-discrimination clauses that include sexual orientation (and gender identity and presentation, sometimes). It’s possible that either KK’s location or corporate where HR is located is such a place.

              Even if they’re not, it’s not going to be very productive to try and argue HR out of the idea that they’re going to be sued. IME, someone who is convinced of something like that isn’t likely to be dissuaded.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Your grandboss needs to have a Serious Chat with HR. They should not be nervous hand-wringers over “she might sue us”. An employee can always file a lawsuit, whether or not there is anything to it – the only question is whether they have sufficiently followed their own processes and documented the issues with her behavior to justify the firing.

          (Also, it doesn’t matter if she is or isn’t a lesbian, or has told anyone she has; it’s whether animus against her based on the belief that she is a lesbian was the reason she was fired.)

        3. Observer*

          Actually, HR has a valid point here, although they are handling the situation very badly. The fact that she is apparently making excuses about her living arrangements could easily be used in court to show that she had a real fear that her orientation – or the perception of it – could work against her.

    10. Purple Jello*

      Does your boss really need documentation of more of the same behavior each month? Can you just say that it’s continuing?

      1. KK*

        No, I certainly don’t believe he does – that’s why I’m hopeful I can bow out. It’s the same pattern of behavior every month, nothing new. My documentation looks a bit like this:

        Month 1: Berated Fergus for making a minor mistake regarding customer x, complained about x company policy.
        Month 2: Berated Fergus for making a minor mistake regarding customer y, complained about xy company policy.

    11. Perse's Mom*

      Frankly, I would include her new behavior (at least the unresponsiveness and definite rudeness) in your reports. I don’t know WHY she hasn’t been let go yet, obviously, but at this point if you’re pretty certain she knows you’ve been giving grand-boss ammunition, I don’t think stopping that will change anything.

      But you CAN bring this new stuff to your grand-boss as examples of retaliation and point out that while some of the minor stuff (not responding to your goodbyes) is frustrating but ultimately ignorable, NOT responding to your emails is negatively affecting your ability to do your actual job and therefore the company’s bottom-line. How would he like you to handle that? Forward him emails that require action after X time passes with no response from Boss, or does he trust you to take the best action in your experience (get that one in writing) so that the work you’re being paid for doesn’t suffer?

      1. Margaret*

        This has happened to me in the past – not on such a high scale because it was a co-worker – and more about their performance which I had to monitor.

        I did it for about 3 months, went on holiday, came back and handed in my notice. I just couldn’t focus on my own work anymore and there was no retaliation for me but I ended up losing respect for my manager. Why did I have to keep ‘snitching’ on them when nothing was happening.

        My manager refused my notice but said I didn’t have to do this stupid thing anymore. The coworker was ‘let go’ about 3 weeks later.

        It’s your integrity that’s suffering.

          1. Margaret*

            Artemesia – I know sorry I meant they wouldn’t take my letter and phoned me at home and met with me to see what could be done to get me to stay. I said that I’d stay provided I did’t have to spy on co-worker anymore.

    12. DeeShyOne*

      This has been going on for months and your boss and HR are still dragging? I get that companies are overly careful in terminating toxic employees, but when it starts dragging out like this, to the detriment of everybody in the office…that’s just awful HR behaviour and yucky bosses.
      This can’t be fun for the Toxic One either and how long before she starts searching out her own legal rights?? From what you’ve said, I don’t believe HR and your boss’ boss are completely comprehending the bigger picture.
      Above all, protect yourself too. Document everything, keep copies of everything and repeat to yourself frequently “Not my circus, not my monkeys”
      All the best.

    13. Artemesia*

      “I am in a very awkward position where it is clear that the information you are using with Supervisor must come from me and so I have to live with my supervisor retaliating in petty ways. Management has plenty of information if they actually wanted to remove her and the longer this goes the more passive aggressive nonsense I have to live with. This isn’t tenable. I can’t be reporting on my own supervisor when that information doesn’t lead to anything but more aggravation for me.”

      Or something like that. THEY are managing this woman. If they want to fire her, they can fire her. Apparently they don’t have the guts to do that and are willing to hang you out to dry. Stop playing. And I hope you are looking for another job.

    14. Lehigh*

      This might be too much confrontation, but could you have a talk with your supervisor? Something like, “Hey, obviously grandboss has asked me to document the things you do. Clearly we both know that I’m doing this, and unfortunately I’ve been told it’s mandatory. I don’t like doing it, but I have to because I need this job. So don’t do things in front of me that you wouldn’t do in front of the boss. I’m sorry that we’re in this position, but there’s nothing I can do about it. If you aren’t going to stop doing shady things while I’m around, that’s your decision.”

      I don’t know if I would ever actually muster up the courage to say that so directly, but from over here on the other side of the internet it seemed like a worthwhile idea. You’re not telling her anything she doesn’t know about reporting on her, except to remind her that it’s not your decision.

    15. Not So NewReader*

      No, you do not have to keep doing this if you do not want to. It’s above and beyond the call of duty.

      I am not impressed with how long this is taking and how involved you are. One or two chats should be enough.
      Tell the big boss that this is putting a lot of stress on you. Google the characteristics of a work place bully, print out the list and check off all that apply. Tell him that it is too difficult to work this way. Explain to him while these things do not seem like much many, many people would just leave the job. Bullying stands alone as a reason to fire because it kills the company’s ability to retain good help.

      However, I would caution you about relying on this toxic boss as a reference. I do not think she is capable of being reliable and I would not trust her to provide a good reference for me. You say you have a great relationship with your big boss so that should be adequate right there.

    16. Jules the Third*

      Your boss is already lost as far as retaliation or reference. Her behavior will continue until she’s fired (or you leave), and she’ll never give you a good reference. What you need is to keep working, and to maintain a good relationship with Grandboss. So:
      1) Keep documenting the bad behavior, keep it neutral, that looks great.
      2) Document the retaliation *as harassment due to retaliation*, *especially* not answering emails or slamming a door in your face. WTH, Evil Boss, WTH.
      3) Ask Grandboss if there’s a timeline for her termination, because Boss’s behavior has only gotten worse (see#1). Maybe mention that you don’t feel protected work-wise, and ask if there’s a way you can physically move to a desk farther from her to cut down on her opportunities for harassment. While this isn’t *quite* ‘hostile workplace due to retaliation’, it is still harassment, and you need a break, or a light at the end of the tunnel.
      4) Once a month, as a counterpoint to the ‘Boss Performance Dance’, make sure you send Grandboss a note with your accomplishments for the month. Talk to him about it beforehand, saying you want someone who is not your Evil Boss to be in a position to do a fair performance review, because it’s clear that Evil Boss won’t. You can also compile those into a ‘Guide to my job and accomplishments’ for the New Boss that will hopefully come someday, or for your resume’ if you do give up on this company.

      Good luck, office politics suck

    17. Blue_eyes*

      This situation stinks and I hope they are able to terminate her soon.

      In the meantime, could you keep giving evidence to your boss, but only give examples that are more general or were witnessed by multiple people? That way the issues boss talks to her about will not be so obviously from you. That may be the best strategy to keep boss happy while not giving more evidence that will cause supervisor to keep retaliating against you.

    18. Belle di Vedremo*

      I’m so sorry, this truly sucks.
      I’ve been in the position of reporting on terrible bosses twice (in a row, no less) and the second time was even worse than the first. Each time I left the organization. It seemed like the only viable option, even without another job lined up.

      The first time I filled the ear of the HR person for our dept in my exit interview and then at their request provided a written statement for them to use after I left (HR kept asking why *I* was the person leaving. I kept asking why HR had made it that way by not acting on any of the previous 4 departures from our 8 person unit). That boss stayed in place another few years after I left. The second time I collected documentation and made an appointment after hours with the board chair, and gave my resignation to the boss (carefully timed to meet final deadlines). That time, board members wanted to know why I was leaving as they believed they could fix the problem with me in place. Said that if they let the boss go that they should call me about coming back; that boss stayed another few months during which the problems grew exponentially. That office was subsequently closed.

      All of the above to say that I hope you’re job hunting, this doesn’t sound tenable and doesn’t show any sign of coming to an end. And I hope that grandboss will be a reference for you as clearly the current supervisor isn’t capable of separating her own issues from your performance. To that end, I like the suggestion of keeping grandboss informed of your work and accomplishments while you’re there – and, of course, keeping copies of that info for your own files.

      Good luck, and please keep us posted.

    19. Observer*

      I haven’t read all of the responses, but start documenting this. You want to show two things. One is the things that are affecting your work, so not answering an email that you need to get work done gets put on that list. And you should start sharing that with your grandboss along with your monthly updates on your supervisor.

      The other thing is a pervasive pattern of disrespectful behavior. Wait till you have a significant and dense file, so that you can show that this is a pervasive problem that is really changing your work environment in a negative way. Of course, unless you are reporting on issues that are legally protected from retaliation, this doesn’t have any legal clout, but it the boss is sensible, he’ll recognize the significance of the issue.

    20. House of Cats*

      Your boss is a terrible boss, in many ways. He’s allowed your supervisor’s problematic behavior to continue unchecked for what sounds like a long time. Then, instead of doing what every boss everywhere does and just addressing it with her, he has employees report and document things for him. Then, he keeps meeting with her about it but doesn’t actually do anything, like, say – fire her. It sounds like he’s been meeting with her based on your feedback for several months, plenty of time for the “I need to see xyz changes or you can’t continue to work here.” conversation. Then, he’s handling your problem terribly as well. Your boss is a no good, very bad manager. I would start looking for s new job.

  2. Social Committee*

    What does your company do (if anything) to mark employees’ anniversaries of employment? What about peoples’ birthdays?

    1. Banana in Pajamas*

      Every 5 years, my company allows employees to choose a gift from an online store – this involves things like luggage, camping gear, watches, apparel, etc.

      1. Sadsack*

        Yeah, some stuff in ours are random weird things. There was a deli slicer included in my last offering.

      2. Menacia*

        Yes, our company used to do something similar, but really all the choices were lame so now they give gift cards…yay! Just have to wait two more years for mine.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I got a bread machine from my husband’s company catalog. He wanted a fly rod, but was dubious as to the quality of selection in the catalog, so he let me pick something, instead.

        My company doesn’t do gifts; we just get a years-of-service monetary bonus.

      4. Specialk9*

        My old company did this. I got a fancy espresso machine. My current company doesn’t, and the best gift at this point is not being laid off. :D

      5. Jersey's mom*

        How timely. Today is my birthday and I brought a treat to work, which is what those employees who want to acknowledge their b-days typically do. No pressure by co-workers to do so.

        1. Easter*

          Same. Generally for my office birthdays, the person celebrating will bring in treats for themselves and co-workers. No pressure, but it happens enough that it’s sort of an unofficial tradition. If some folks are friends with one another outside of work there might be cards or small gifts, but nothing “official” from the office.

          As far as I know, we don’t do anything for work anniversaries.

      6. Meghan*

        I got a backpack for my 5-year at my old company. And I filled out the form and got the backpack sent to me even though I was actually leaving about 1 month before my 5-year anniversary date. I still use that backpack.

    2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      I THINK there is some kind of celebration if one’s been there 10+ years but it’s very haphazard. We don’t officially celebrate birthdays, but there are actually sanctioned celebrations for people like the executive assistant who had worked at the firm for ages and turned 60 and things like that. I’ve also been to some smaller team celebrations for partners having a major birthday. There are actually guidelines for what the firm can/should give as gifts on those occasions so I suppose it most happen more than I know of.

    3. Rincat*

      My university emails a list every year with employee service milestones, starting at 15 years I think. I think they might do a dinner or something for people who have hit the really high milestones, like 30+. They also give plaques…I’ve seen some in a few people’s offices! Beyond that, I don’t know if any of the departments do anything individually.

      For birthdays, there’s no university-wide or even department-wide thing. Most places I know around here don’t do anything for birthdays, but I figure some depts will celebrate them for their employees. I was actually quite touched with how my current manager handles it…he got my team and a few other people I work closely with to sign a card, and gave me that with a bag of candy I like. It was simple and thoughtful. :)

      1. Justme*

        We have a yearly dinner for employees who have reached 10 years of service, as well as those who have received various employee awards. I was invited to this year’s (for an employee award) but was not able to go.

    4. prg.*

      The company gives a 4 week paid sabbatical every 5 years.
      Birthdays in my dept are sometimes celebrated with cupcakes or a mid-afternoon champagne, assuming someone remembers to order them.

        1. prg.*

          I googled that to see what company you were talking about. Nope! We’re more about sending and receiving money, making online payments, and democratizing financial services. :)

    5. Fabulous*

      Our office manager sends out a monthly calendar with birthdays and work anniversaries on it. Also, she usually does a treat once a month, or every other month, for the birthdays that month.

      Although now that I think about it, she hasn’t done one for a while… but we do get bagel Fridays now! Priorities, I guess :)

    6. TeacherNerd*

      My school (public high school) doesn’t do anything, but then again, I wouldn’t expect (or want) them to. However, my husband has worked for the same airline for 17 years, and every year his work anniversary is acknowledged by his boss (at the bare minimum, a card of thanks), posted on the company intranet (“here’s who has a work anniversary this month), and every five-year milestone, employees get to choose something from an online shop. On his birthday, he gets a birthday card. It’s a rather large company, though, so I think that’s what can be reasonably expected. :-)

    7. Snickerdoodle*

      For employment anniversaries, my employer gives us gift cards. Birthdays, the company doesn’t do anything, but I personally bake something at the beginning of the month.

    8. Sole*

      Anniversaries of employment are acknowledged at 5 year intervals, and employees are gifted with a paid day off for every 5 years worked and a plaque. Birthdays are celebrated agency wide with a card signed by senior mgmt.

    9. Sadsack*

      Nothing for birthdays. For anniversaries of years 5, 10, and so on, we can pick a gift from a catalog. Value of gifts offered depends on years of service. The offerings in general are kind of crappy though. It seems like a warehouse full of stuff that couldn’t be sold elsewhere. We also get a cake to share with our department. Those are usually good! And a certificate to hang in the office.

    10. Anon-J*

      We have a monthly luncheon where we recognize birthdays/work anniversaries/upcoming births happening that month. Usually the company pays for everything and cards are passed around to be signed. Sometimes we mix it up and go more pot luck style (voluntary participation). For instance over the summer, we had a potato salad challenge. The company bought sandwiches and desserts and folks brought in potato salads. Using ranked choice voting we declared a winner who got a silly crown. This month we’re doing a pumpkin themed cook off :)

    11. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      Anniversaries are mentioned in our twice-yearly all employee meetings for increments of 5, otherwise nothing is done. For birthdays, the department I’m in orders lunch where we all pay for ourselves plus pitch in a dollar to cover the birthday person. Birthdays are also printed in the company newsletter. Not sure why they don’t print the work anniversaries in there when that seems more appropriate to recognize than the birthdays.

    12. Ellen*

      My company recognizes anniversaries that are multiples of five (5, 10, 15, etc.) in a company newsletter. There are also gifts you receive at certain levels, like gift certificates to a local restaurant. I think the first one of those is at 10 years. (Plus, your vacation time increases, but that’s not because of the anniversary per se.)

      Someone will occasionally buy cupcakes to share on someone’s birthday, but that’s not a regular thing.

    13. Mike C.*

      We get gifts and pins at 5 year increments. At the larger years, folks are taken out to dinner, that sort of thing.

      At the 50 year mark, you get your own parking spot right up front – this is a big deal given the size of this place. And yes, we have a few folks that have hit this.

    14. Marillenbaum*

      I’m grad school now, but at my old office (still in higher ed) the university would acknowledge anniversaries for every five years of employment through a newsletter and, at certain levels, the ability to select a gift through a catalogue (once you got to ten years, I think). For our smaller office, we would do birthdays; usually, the person in question would bring in a baked good of their choice, and other people would show up with some beers or wine and we’d all gather about half an hour before closing to snack a little. It was pretty informal and really rather nice.

    15. Theme Park Employee*

      My company (I work for a large Co that operates Theme Parks) will give us a different pin to wear on our nametags for our 1 year anniversary, then 5, 10, 15, etc.

      For folks who have 10+ years, there is an annual “Service Anniversary Celebration” party for those with a milestone (10, 15, 20, 25, etc.) anniversary in that year. They have catered food, open bar, entertainment, and it’s often held in one of our parks, so there are rides with minimal lines. Folks with 20+ years can also get into a separate section that has more food option (lobster tail and steak included).

      For Hourly employees, at the 3 year mark, your merchandise discount increases, and at 15 years, you get more guest passes to give to your friends/family.

      Lastly, for all employees, vacation accrual is based on years of service – 1-9 years = X weeks, 10-19 years = X+1 weeks, 20+ years = X+2 weeks

    16. fposte*

      I don’t really understand the anniversaries at my university–they’re really inconsistently observed, and mostly it’s just an email to all announcing it when it happens. I think it’s noted more often for civil service staff.

      Birthdays you get a poster on your door or cubicle. In my unit, I bring cake, because cake.

    17. KR*

      My co-workers got me a balloon and a Starbucks drink and a little cupcake which was really nice as it was within the first couple of weeks of me starting. I think my manager usually takes people out to eat at some point close to their birthdays too.

    18. A.N.O.N.*

      What an appropriately-timed question – my deptartment just had a celebration for my birthday earlier today!

      They brought in some pastries, muffins, coffee, etc. and we chatted in my coworker’s office for about an hour. It was nice, while still being low-key.

    19. Master Bean Counter*

      Cake. We live and die on cake here.
      Work anniversaries get cake provided by the company. For birthdays the upper management takes turns buying the cake.

    20. k8*

      we get a company baseball jacket at our 1-year anniversary. For birthdays, we get together and have drinks and either cupcakes or a nice fruit tray (depends on the birthday person’s diet). we’re only around 20 people, so it’ not hard to get everyone together.

    21. Susan K*

      Anniversaries of multiples of 5 years are recognized with a certificate (just a piece of paper with name and years of service, signed by a director). Also, our ID badges expire every 5 years, so we have to get a new one every 5 years or we are locked out of the facility.

      The company doesn’t do anything for birthdays. At one point last year, my department head decided to have a monthly birthday celebration, in which anyone with a birthday in that month would get a card signed by everyone in the department, and there would be one cake for all the birthdays that month. This lasted exactly one month and then the department head forgot about it.

      I have a friend who said that where he works, the branch VP personally goes to the desk of each employee on the employee’s birthday, shakes their hand and says happy birthday, and gives them a candy bar. It’s not much but it seems like a nice gesture to treat the employees like human beings.

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        “I have a friend who said that where he works, the branch VP personally goes to the desk of each employee on the employee’s birthday, shakes their hand and says happy birthday, and gives them a candy bar. It’s not much but it seems like a nice gesture to treat the employees like human beings.”

        that actually sounds nice!

    22. SophieChotek*

      Nothing. Sometimes I get an email from my direct boss that says “Happy Birthday” but no cards or gifts or anything like that. I work remotely so I am sure that is some of it.

      The coffee shop where I pick up the odd extra shift used to give pins to mark the anniversary, but no longer. Now I don’t think they do anything either.

    23. it_guy*

      I’m in a larger international organization. We have a formal recognition system that we use to recognize employee anniversaries as well as giving ‘atta-girls’, which adds to a recognition awards system where we can buy merchandise. The local office has a ‘birthday day’ and provides bagels, or ice cream for everyone and lists the day of the birthday (not the year)

    24. Jadelyn*

      We formally recognize every 5 year anniversaries with glass awards with the employee’s name on it, presented by their manager during the quarterly all-staff meeting with a brief (like, 90 seconds) speech recognizing the employee’s history with the organization. Starting this year, we’re adding a monetary bonus, something like $50 per year of tenure, so $250 for 5 years, $500 for 10 years, etc.

      For birthdays, that’s on a team level mostly. Most teams decorate the person’s office/cubicle/workstation and take the person to lunch or have a potluck at the office. The company also sponsors a monthly birthdays lunch and cake for everyone who’s had a birthday that month.

    25. Iris Eyes*

      For 5 year increment anniversaries you get a company pin and letter from your manager. Pins are different for each increment. Cake is usually involved. All anniversaries and birthdays are displayed on the intranet site, its really cool to see how many people everyday have been with the company 10+ years.

      For birthdays, the office I’m in has an end of the month celebration of all birthdays represented. This includes cake and lunch.

      TBH the cake is pretty sub-par most of the time, I mean its ok but just not all that great, at least it is always half vanilla half chocolate because #diversity lol

    26. LucyUK*

      My company gives you a six week sabbatical after every five years of service, and a fairly. generous gift if you stay for ten years (they try to get something the person actually wants; people have had things like musical instruments or music lessons and gaming consoles in the past). Recognition of birthdays or other work anniversaries is generally down to individual managers, though – some send cards or give small gifts, others don’t.

    27. Fiennes*

      My last office did a monthly “celebrations” gathering at month-end, which honored birthdays as well as various other good news–engagements, adoptions, etc. The office paid for a cake or cupcakes and some sodas. Attendance was non-mandatory, so if you were behind you didn’t feel pressured to go, but most came because it was low-key. It also seemed appreciated by those who didn’t want a big fuss–since their celebration was folded in with many others, they didn’t have to stand in the spotlight.

      We also got stock, award-looking paperweights for five years. At ten I think you got to pick out either a watch or clock but thank god I wasn’t there long enough to know for sure.

    28. Elizabeth West*

      OldExJob used to do birthday and anniversary cards and have everyone sign them and then give them out. I was tasked with sending out an email also. I had fun picking pictures of cakes for each person’s email. One person didn’t want their birthday acknowledged in the office, so I would just whisper “Happy birthday,” to him privately and he would whisper back, “Thank you.”

      I had to do my own! So I would always pick the card I liked best to send on the round robin and usually a Batman cake pic or something of that nature, and the email would say, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!” LOL

    29. Fenchurch*

      1st year (I missed the window when they started doing this) – keychain I believe?
      3rd year – umbrella and emergency blanket
      5th year (and every 5 years after that) – gift from the latest curated list & a unique anniversary web page where coworkers are invited to contribute happy words and memories.

    30. Hush42*

      A company wide e-mail goes out for Birthdays and Work Anniversaries. Other then that nothing special really happens. One of my co-workers 15th anniversary was this past May so I convinced our manager to do a team lunch to celebrate. I’m actually the manager now so I’ll probably try to do a celebratory lunch for anniversaries in multiples of 5 for my team.

    31. Audiophile*

      My company has a monthly all staff meeting where milestones such as anniversarys and promotions are announced, along with birthdays.

    32. Specialk9*

      Follow-up sub question about birthdays and such: are there non birthday celebrations Jehovah’s Witnesses are ok with, to show appreciation for having them on the team without violating their religious rules?

      I used to acknowledge birthdays on my team but didn’t know about the JW restriction for one teammate, so messed up the first year, apologized, and didn’t do it again. It felt like she alone didn’t get the ‘thanks we value you’ message, which really is why one acknowledges birthdays at work.

      Anyone know if, say, a cupcake on a random day with ‘we appreciate all your work, glad you’re on the team’ would be allowed / not uncomfortable for Jehovah’s Witnesses?

      1. Actual JW*

        Hi, Specialk9! Thanks for asking. You might ask each of your Witness employees what they’re comfortable with, but I think most of us would be fine with a cupcake or a card as a gesture of appreciation on a random date. There are no Bible principles that would prohibit that; in fact, the Bible encourages us to express appreciation and give heartfelt commendation where appropriate. Just make sure the random date is not too close to Christmas or their birthdays.

    33. Turtle Candle*

      Five-year milestones are recognized once a year, with everyone who has a five-year milestone that year recognized at once. (So like, Jane and Tim have been there 5 years, Sam has been there 10 years, and Sarah has been there 25 years–all four of them are recognized at the same time. I like this because it seems to make people feel less spotlighted/singled out.) There’s cake and a fruit plate and everyone gets a 15-minute break.

      I think there’s also a bonus, but I’m not positive on that.

    34. Amber T*

      Nothing. It’s in our company policy that after 10 years employment you get five more vacation days, but that’s it.

    35. JN*

      Every 5 years, employees get something. I just hit my 5 year mark earlier this year and ended up getting an engraved writing pen. Not sure what all the other gifts are, but I think the 25 year one might be a big clock.

      My office/department used to be big on celebrating birthdays. We’d get together for a half hour and have a treat that the birthday person liked and that was provided by the person who’d most recently had a birthday before this one. Then today’s birthday person would bring treats for the next birthday celebration, and so on in rotation. But we haven’t done any birthdays this year, now that I think about it. Kinda started downtrending a few years ago when our main social organizer retired. Someone else officially took that on, but they’re working on a doctorate and several other big projects so are tight on time and may be letting birthdays slide.

    36. Sled dog mama*

      Previous company sent a birthday card and $5 gift card for birthdays and an annual appreciation gift, last year was a set of travel phone accessories plus they have an employee appreciation week with a bunch of drawings for other prizes like larger gift cards, ipad and additional PTO.
      Current employer does a monthly birthday cake from the c-suite (drop by between these hours get a piece of cake and the CEO wishes you happy birthday), pins for 1,5,10,etc years of service (a gift as well at 5, 10,etc) and an annual employee appreciation gift (usually a grocery gift card). We’ve heard from management that that in the next six months they are going to roll the anniversary gifts and annual employee appreciation into a points system so you choose your own gift each year or you can save multiple years up and get a bigger gift but that the points each year would be enough to still get the grocery card each year lf you wanted.

    37. crookedfinger*

      We have a birthday/anniversary party every quarter to celebrate any that happened during that quarter. Usually some kind of sweet treat. I think people with serious anniversaries (like 10, 20 years) get an engraved glass plaque, but that’s about it.

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

      On each 5 year mark we have a choice between a Visa gift card (each major anniversary the amount goes up) or a commemorative university lapel pin. I don’t think anybody has ever chosen the pin. My last anniversary I got $150 and I bought a nice pair of shoes.

      Birthdays are handled (or not) at the department level so there isn’t any standard. My department usually just sends a card around for everyone to sign.

    39. Ms. Mad Scientist*

      No years of service award from the company,but I got some nice gifts from my boss for my 5 year anniversary.

    40. Turquoisecow*

      My current company (which I’m leaving shortly) gives a certificate for your anniversary (I think only at 5 year intervals? But I’m not sure). I don’t think there’s any additional compensation, but I could be wrong.

      Individual departments celebrate birthdays or don’t – a department near me that I’m not part of goes all out with balloons and a cake for basically everyone, but my department does not. I got an email from our sole HR person, so I imagine she does that for everyone.

      My old job, my department had a pizza or potluck party once a month to celebrate the birthdays of everyone who had one that month. It wasn’t mandatory – we’d just get together in the afternoon. It started out as pizza for lunch and then morphed into potluck desert later in the day – three people would be randomly chosen to bring something in, and people would sometimes bake but more often grab a box of cookies or donuts. We also would play a trivia type game, which most people enjoyed because it gave us a chance to socialize with people in our department we didn’t know well, and an hour off from work. Again, it was all optional and some people would grab a cookie and go back to work if they were swamped.

      They didn’t do any compensation for anniversaries though.

    41. UK Civil Servant*

      For government departments it would be misuse of public money, so nothing.
      Department *is* currently considering certificates for long service (5, 10, 20 etc).
      On our birthdays we get to supply cakes to our team-mates.

    42. Turkletina*

      We don’t do anything special for birthdays. Employment anniversaries (multiples of 5) are mentioned and applauded at a monthly divisional meeting, but as far as I know no awards are given.

    43. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      At OldJob, every 5 years, you picked out a gift from the Company catalog. the longer you’ve been there, the better the gift selection. LOL. And the manager would take you and your group to lunch. For Birthdays, we’d take the guest of honor to lunch and then later in the afternoon, we’d have cake.

    44. justsomeone*

      My company recognizes anniversaries at 5 year intervals. You get a bonus that goes up by $500 for every 5 years and a glass award that is different for each tier. You’re also recognized in the monthly newsletter. 5 and 10 year people get a photo, 15+ year people get a nice little writeup.

      Birthdays are handled by your department. Mine does a card and giftcard and a team snack that you get to pick. Lately we’ve been doing bagels and fruit.

      1. Emily*

        Man, as someone who just passed my 5-year anniversary and also recently had to unexpectedly remodel an entire bathroom in my basement because of damage caused by the person who was living there, I could really use $500 right now.

    45. Smiling*

      Absolutely nothing.

      As a manager, I make an effort to remember anniversaries of staff who have been here 5 years or more. For birthdays, we generally celebrate everyone who falls within a given month with one cake.

    46. Koko*

      Anniversaries – maybe a nice note/email/chat from your direct supervisor congratulating you on one year. Unlikely that there will be any recognition for years 2, 3, and 4. At 5-year milestones, in my department we will typically dedicate that week’s standing happy hour to celebrating the team member’s milestone, and maybe bring something festive like champagne or cake instead of wine and crackers that week.

      Birthdays – when we had a much smaller team we did team lunches at a local restaurant every couple of months in honor of everyone with a birthday +/- one month, and people would just sort of self-identify if their birthday fell in that range if they wanted to…didn’t really matter because we all got free lunch whether it was our birthday or not. Now that we’re a bigger department we don’t really too anything. Too hard to organize for two dozen+ people, and half the people don’t care about or actively dislike having their birthday recognized anyway.

    47. NB*

      For 5, 10, 15 (etc.) anniversaries, our organization does the following:
      (1) At the annual holiday party, the person’s manager says a lot of nice things about the employee.
      (2) The employee gets a certificate of appreciation.
      (3) The employee gets a monetary bonus.

      For birthdays, we have a monthly list in the staff break room that reads “Happy Birthday, October [or whatever month] Birthdays!” It doesn’t include the actual birthday, and participation is voluntary. Admin asks before including us on the list.

    48. Is it Friday Yet?*

      I work for a small company. They do nothing for anniversaries of employment. They may do something if it’s a big anniversary (10 years, 20 years, etc.), but I have not been around for that. For birthdays, everyone in the office signs a card, and we order lunch that month to celebrate that month’s birthdays. The birthday people get to pick where we order from.

    49. OhNo*

      My department at the university doesn’t do anything for length-of-service (at least not that I’ve heard of, though to be fair there haven’t been any big service anniversaries since I’ve worked here).

      We do sweets for everyone’s birthday, though. There’s only five of us, so usually either my boss or most senior coworker will pick up cupcakes, fancy doughnuts, or cake on their way to work.

    50. On Fire*

      For the first 10 years – nothing. But from the 10-year anniversary on, we get a $500 bonus on our career anniversary.

      Birthdays – I’m in a small office that’s part of a larger organization. In our small office, we usually do a breakfast potluck – breakfast because it’s simpler: muffins, fruit, juice, bacon, etc.

    51. TheCupcakeCounter*

      We get a company branded item every year. Insulated cups, mini-coolers, dop kit/travel bag, etc…

    52. Landlocked Thalassophile*

      My company does annual “employee appreciation” gifts, which are ALWAYS company branded T shirts, hats, etc. No, employer, I don’t feel appreciated by an ill fitting cheap T shirt plugging your latest ad campaign.
      For birthdays, a free lunch in the cafeteria. Which would be *useful* if my working hours coincided with the cafeteria hours, but most years goes unused because I work evenings/nights when it’s closed.
      For every 5 years, you get to order from the same catalog of “stuff that hasn’t sold elsewhere” as someone described it above (an apt description for sure!)…For my 10 year, there was literally NOTHING I wanted, so I didn’t bother to order anything. This year is my 15th and my husband picked out something for himself from the catalog because once again there wasn’t a darn thing there I could use or enjoy.

    53. Piano Girl*

      At my former job, five-year increment anniversaries were celebrated at the annual Christmas/Holiday party. Your supervisor would get up and talk about you for a few minutes. Each five-year increment would earn you a specific gift (trophy, clock, etc). I was laid off the first time after about a year (I was hired back within the month) but I had to wait five years from my new hire date for acknowledgement. :(. Interestingly enough, a long-time employee is being laid off, but has been given a long notice time so he can hit his 25-year anniversary.

    54. Nacho*

      We get a little pin on our lanyard, and everyone on the team signs a card that nobody actually cares about. Plus we post something on our company’s internal facebook.

    55. Kiwi*

      Great question! My company gives you an extra day of leave to take the week of your birthday. A lot of people use it to get a 3-day weekend. It’s a great policy.

      For 5, 10, 15 year etc anniversaries, we get a certificate handed out at an all-staff meeting, a gift voucher ($10 per year), and an increase in annual leave. It’s pretty good.

    56. Middle School Teacher*

      We had pie today to celebrate the August and September birthdays! Usually it’s nothibg, so that was nice.

      We get service awards (usually a gift card) for every five years worked. The value rises with each step. Five years =$100, ten =$250, etc. I believe thirty years of service earns a $5000 gc of your choice but I’m not sure. We haven’t been around for thirty years so no one has made it to that level.

    57. Workaholic*

      Bdays: my team has an opt-in bday list. Bday person 1 buys a card for everyone to sign and brings in some kind of goodie (cake n donuts, cookies, or something appealing to bday person 2). Then bday2 does for bday3.

      Last month i donated a bunch of genetic bday cards in case somebody forgets.

      Work anniversaries: pretty much our boss said “congratulations! It’s workaholic’s 4 year anniversary!” In or morning meeting, everybody smiles, maybe congratulates, then move on.

    58. Optimistic Prime*

      My company gives a pretty distinctive gift to employees to mark their 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25-year anniversaries. (You can choose a cash bonus instead, but the gift is so nice most people choose it.)

      Also, most teams do anniversary recognition on your first anniversary and then on the 5s after that at our all hands meetings (which we have quarterly for our divisions – they are usually anywhere from 100 to 400+ people). Usually there’s a PowerPoint presentation and they put your names on it for everyone to clap. We’ve got one general manager who uses a really cute way to recognize all his anniversaries in addition to this (it involves audience participation).

      My manager gave me a really nice card and a slice of cake on my first anniversary, and she remembered my second anniversary as well which surprised me.

    59. samgarden*

      I work for a big mining / resources engineering company. For our five year work anniversaries we get a card signed by the general manager. For ten years we get taken to lunch with our team.
      Birthdays are ignored unless the birthday person wants to bring in cake or whatever. It gets put in the relevant kitchen and admin send an email saying there’s cake.
      That’s it, really.

    60. Testy McTesterson*

      Birthday is a card with two movie vouchers that gets posted to you.

      1 year is a pen, and then 5, 10 etc years are a plaque and a gift card, starting at $500 for 5 years.

    61. Kathleen Adams*

      Ours (I work for a non-profit with a pretty long history) is very orchestrated. The 5-year is somewhat flexible in that everybody gets something, but what it is varies considerably. At my 5-year, which was long ago now, I picked from a catalog, but they don’t do that with everybody.
      But many of the other milestone markers are very established: 10 years, a watch; 15 years, a gold lapel pin decorated with a little ruby (it’s quite attractive, really); 20 years, a gold and diamond ring (yes, real gold and diamonds); and 25 years, a gold-and-diamond lapel pin. I don’t think there is an established tradition for 30 and 30+ years (I think there’s a present and some money), but I could be wrong.

      1. Newbie*

        My current company doesn’t do much in the way of celebration for birthday’s or anniversaries. When I first started here I would check the employee directory regularly to recognize employee work anniversaries by writing a little card of congratulations. However, the process felt really forced and I got the sense that it made employees more uncomfortable than not. I’ve taken on a few additional tasks recently and have forgotten to do this in turn and nobody has mentioned it, so I’m just going to let it be. In my past job managers would recognize yearly milestones with a card and then the company would offer a bonus for larger anniversaries (10+ years). I think I personally prefer this process since it’s a lot for just one person to stay on top of for the entire company.

    62. Janonymous*

      We don’t typically acknowledge it in the actual office, but we get an annual raise on the anniversary of our start date, and personal days reset for the year.

      Birthdays are usually celebrated by passing around a card and someone bringing in cake or other treat, and maybe getting a drink after work, depending on how busy we are.

    63. Quickbeam*

      I now work for a large privately held insurance company, over 100 years old. I am an RN. They really value longevity. For my 5th anniversary I was sent a box of artisan candy, a certificate of appreciation, got a raise and a gift of my choice (I chose a gold necklace). They also publish all work anniversaries in the company newsletter.

    64. De Minimis*

      My current employer [nonprofit sector] does nothing for career anniversaries that I’m aware of. We have several people who have been here 10+ years [and at least a few senior/director level staff that were hired here as new grads, so they’ve never really worked anywhere else] so I guess no one minds. For birthdays we’re given coffee/sweets at the monthly staff meeting each month, designated in celebration of any birthdays.

      Last employer [federal agency] gave a nice plaque at 10 years, I’m not sure if they did anything for 5. I think people just kept getting plaques at 5 year intervals after the 10 year mark. I didn’t make it quite that long.
      My department had a special group potluck in any month when someone had a birthday [I think the birthday celebrant didn’t have to bring anything.] We were a fairly small department, so we didn’t have celebrations every month.

      Job before that [quasi-federal agency] I got a letter of recognition at the 5 year mark. It was an actual letter I received in the mail, and a copy went into my file. No kind of recognition at the actual workplace, though. We only did things when people retired/quit. We didn’t celebrate birthdays either.

      I’m in favor of the single monthly birthday observance, any more than that tends to take too much time from work, especially if workplaces do the potluck route.

  3. Green Buttons*

    My coworker’s subtle bad attitude is driving me crazy. Joe is a Senior Teapot Designer and I’m a Junior Teapot Designer (similar job descriptions), though I’ve been in my role for longer. Though he’s good at designing teapot patterns (something he clearly enjoys), he acts begrudgingly (as if he was doing you a favor) when asked to assemble teapots. For more complex assemblies, I overhear him telling people he doesn’t know how to put handles on. So, tasks like that often go to me. While I have some handle assembly experience, I’m more inclined to go find resources to get the job done if I run into issues.

    I’ve addressed this with our manager, who I assume has talked to Joe about his performance issues. We used to be pretty friendly, but now, I haven’t spoken to him much because he complains that he’s way too busy assembling teapots, and brushes off questions about teapot assembly. Or he’ll grumble about how he’d rather do teapot design and how he’s underpaid for doing teapot assembly, even though it’s part of both our job descriptions.

    I’d be happy with a simple “I’ll try to find out how to attach the phalange”, but he flat out says he doesn’t know and it’s end of discussion. Am I right to be annoyed by this behavior? I feel like I’ve already tactfully brought up clear performance issues to our manager, but this is more of a tricky soft skill frustration that occasionally affects work.

    1. Purple Jello*

      Are you supposed to go to Joe with questions? if so, was that made clear by your manager? Otherwise, does it matter to your performance that Joe isn’t helpful? Can you clarify with your manager what exactly YOU are supposed to be doing? Does he know that Joe doesn’t want to do teapot assembly and frequently passes it off to you?

      I guess I’m asking if you’re just annoyed that you have to do assembly that Joe should know how to do but doesn’t want to; or maybe you really are supposed to be doing most of the assembly as the “Junior”?

      1. Green Buttons*

        We’re both supposed to do assembly. People from packaging are supposed to go to Joe when they have questions about the assembly process. But after unsatisfactory shrugs from him, people come to me and I do know the answers because I’ve been here longer. As the Senior, he’s supposed to own the assembly and design.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          You need to go back to your manager and ask how you should proceed when Joe tells someone he can’t do the work they are requesting and they come you. Should you drop everything on your own project to do it? Every time. Should you ask them for clarification and then explain that Joe must have misunderstood, and this is something he does know how to do…and then walk away?
          Which I would love to do.

          1. Artemesia*

            The real question is why you aren’t being paid as a senior teapot designer if you have been there longer and know more about it? I would ask about promotion to Senior since you are functioning as a senior teapot person and the go to person on problems related to this role.

            1. Jules the Third*

              Yeah – this is an opportunity for you. Document (I assembled x teapots; answered questions about y areas, like handles and phalanges; etc) and ask for a promotion based on work you already do.

            2. Close Bracket*

              Yup, this was my thought. Document all the senior level work you are doing and leverage it for a promotion.

  4. Jimbo*

    My question deals with being a graphic or other type of designer and how to communicate better with clients and colleagues.

    My wife works as a graphic designer. English is a second language for her. She speaks and reads English pretty well but sometimes gets lost in the nuances and cultural references that are second nature to fluent, lifelong native speakers.

    In her job, she often has to explain and/or defend her ideas and decisions to critical and nitpicky people up and down the org chart. Some folks are easier to deal with than others but she often has difficulty with strong personalities and headstrong folks who love to debate and argue. In dealing with these people and in group meetings or decision-making to get consensus, she often finds herself giving in and getting rolled over by headstrong and opinionated personalities and unable to effectively defend her ideas or get her perspective across especially if she disagrees with them.

    This has resulted in her losing self-esteem and feeling as if she is not respected by her colleagues. Engaging effectively with in-house or external clients, of course, is a must for graphic or other type of designers. I imagine that until she deals effectively with this issue, that she will continue to experience dissatisfaction and not feel respected no matter what job she has.

    I’ve urged her in the past to take English language classes or even try public speaking clubs like Toastmasters. I have a feeling that is not what she needs. But I am stumped as far as what resources graphic and other designers can tap into to improve their communication skills in having effective conversations and interactions with clients and colleagues.

    NOTE: My wife and I are raising a young child. That means funds, time and opportunity for quiet reflection and alone time are in short supply. But we do live in the Washington DC Metro area so I imagine there might be plenty of resources we might have access to and don’t even know about. We just need to be pointed to the right direction.

    One idea I have is perhaps she can get a mentor relationship with a more senior designer who is very strong in the area she would like to improve upon. Perhaps a designer who also has a background with English as a second language? But how do designers find mentors, especially specific types of mentors?

    We’d love your suggestions!

    1. Marcy Marketer*

      This is a common problem for many designers, not just your wife. Usually teams have a project manager who is in charge of convincing clients of the benefits of the design, or conversely, convincing designers to change their design based on client feedback. Ideally, designers shouldn’t have to interact with clients at all. I find that designers, developers, and sometimes writers tend to put their whole selves into their work (possibly because it’s creative) and seeing or hearing client feedback right at the moment when they’re revealing a final draft of something they’re really proud and excited about can be hard. Project managers have the communication skill to find a happy medium between the two parties, and also speed the project along and field client communications and questions about timeline.

      Can your wife ask/pitch the idea of hiring an entry level project manager or client lead/liaison?

      1. Jimbo*

        She works as an in-house designer for a Communications department of an organization. I don’t think the org has a budget to hire anyone new. For projects that involve communication with other departments in the organization or outside organizations, there may be a project manager that serves as a buffer between creative staff and the clients. But in internal departmental meetings and dealing with her immediate colleagues, there is no buffer or someone who can serve as a buffer.

        1. Marcy Marketer*

          I have only ever worked for internal comms departments. Here are two things I’ve seen I’ve seen work for the designers on my teams:
          — Talk to the boss and ask if it’s possible to reduce the number of people giving feedback on designs. Just like how presumably she doesn’t read writers’ work and give them feedback, why are writers giving her feedback? Explain that having to defend design principles to non-experts is affecting the quality of work produced.
          — as a result of the above conversation, the boss might become the only person wth approval and feedback power, with client feedback filtered through and approved from boss. This also takes the onus off your wife to mediate and interpret conflicting feedback.

          1. Triplestep*

            … reduce the number of people giving feedback on designs.

            Yes! This, all day long! As the lone designer in my group, I can’t tell you how exhausting it is having to take feedback from everyone and their uncle, most of whom would never solicit anyone’s feedback on their own work.

          2. Tuesday Next*

            “having to defend design principles to non-experts is affecting the quality of work produced” – I don’t agree with this. I have to defend (or rather, explain) my design decisions to business stakeholders, developers and other designers. In my experience, a designer who isn’t prepared/able to do that comes across as a prima donna or lacks credibility.

            1. Tuesday Next*

              To be clear, that doesn’t mean making changes based on the uninformed views of whoever ventures an opinion. As a designer you also need to be able to stand your ground if you feel your decisions are sound and you can back them up.

              1. Triplestep*

                Yes, one needs to be able to explain the design to higher-ups and stakeholders who are not designers. But in my last job I had non-designer *peers* who needed to provide feedback in the name of “collaboration”. They thought their input needed to be acted on every time. It was exhausting!

                Marcy Marketer’s example of how a designer wouldn’t be weighing in on a writer’s work is a good illustration of exactly this.

        2. laevian*

          The idea of a mentor is good, but if she can’t find one I’d suggest that in the meantime she start to keep a record of the design decisions that she makes, why she made them, and try to memorize those and use them as talking points when she’s presenting her work. But she should also keep in mind that the questions people are asking aren’t always criticisms- the people she’s presenting to are trying to understand her work and make it better. There is a delicate balance between knowing when you absolutely must push back on an idea and when you could afford to compromise, and as she accumulates experience I’m sure she’ll start to get a feel for walking the line.

          One phrase that’s incredibly helpful and should be in any designer’s toolkit- “Let me do some research on the subject, and I’ll get back to you.” If she’s getting pushed by someone to make serious changes that go against her gut but she can’t articulate why in the moment, this is a good way to give her some extra time to think and reason out the problem that is being addressed.

          1. Jimbo*

            Excellent advice! Thank you laevian and Marcy Marketer! I think in the fast-paced give and take in meetings to try and arrive at a consensus on group decision-making, that is her Acchiles heel. The advice you gave allows for tactics that can give her time and space for self-reflection and to get her thoughts together before she responds or reacts to a critical comment or colleague

      2. Emily*

        Agree with this! I’m in a role that involves a lot of project management and I have always considered it one of my obligations to shield my developers and designers from having to directly interact with (often temperamental) external vendors.

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      My suggestion (as a desktop publisher and graphic designer) is to read Clients from Hell. You and your wife will discover that the creative part of business is: 1) greatly undervalued, as in, you are just pushing some buttons; 2) greatly misunderstood, as in, if I had Photoshop, I could do that too; 3) everyone knows what they like, but they don’t know how to say it, as in, “can you jazz it up? can you calm it down? can you make it more/less professional.

      Once she realizes she is not alone, it will be a lot easier!

      1. MissDissplaced*

        Oh Karma, this is so true!
        The marketing people think themselves so smart but couldn’t draw their way out of a paper bag if given a crayon.

        1. Marcy Marketer*

          I’m glad! Yes, I remember those group meetings well, where a meeting about an event would have the desiner’s work examined with “helpful” suggestions until you could see her get visibly flustered. We weren’t doing it on purpose, just didn’t understand how it was affecting her. The designer spoke with the boss and the boss would redirect those conversations to “good idea, Designer and I will think about it.” Or “good idea! Let’s focus on X though; we’re not going to rework the design right now.”

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Is she freelance? Because this kind of thing is a huge reason we have account executives in advertising: many creative types, not just ones whose native language is not English, have trouble presenting and defending their work. So it helps to have someone else in the room whose responsibility it is to manage the client relationship, in part by supporting their creative team in meetings.

      If she’s working for herself, perhaps she’d be happier at an agency or other situation in which she never has to present by herself?

    4. Meh*

      Speaking as a video production person (similar problems as with graphic design plus I did a bit of graphic design when I was first starting out). I’d say that biting your tongue and needing to put out a “not so great” design/video that the client wants is often necessary. Sometimes the client/coworker knows something about the project that you don’t. Like I had to make purposefully boring videos because they were going to be put in a course for kids with autism who couldn’t handle the stimulation of a normal, “good” video.

      A good strategy I learned when figuring out designs with headstrong clients/coworkers is I listen in on what they want and make three mockups: one that is *exactly* what they asked for, one that *I* think is the best design, and another that is a happy medium between the two that takes elements from both. And inevitably … they pick the fist one that is *exactly* what they asked for. So while they don’t use my good designs/video suggestions, I know I made a best effort with the design and they decided to do things differently (and if anyone questions my design skills I can show them the *good* mockups and explain I did what the coworker/client asked for instead). It’s better than the other extreme when the client/coworker leaves everything up to me and gets upset that I didn’t read their mind and gave them what they *actually* wanted.

      She may have luck with finding a mentor if she thinks she needed, I’d recommend checking for similar professionals on places like Facebook Groups, Meetup Groups, Reddit, and other online forums. Also, AIGA (The American Institute of Graphic Arts) has peer-to-peer mentorships in some cities (it looks like DC does – Good luck!

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

        The 3 design options is usually what I do too — however they never choose one of the 3 thought out and purposefully composed designs. Instead, they pick elements of each and “assemble” their own frankendesign that is a mess.

        I’ve had some success with pushing back and advocating for my ideas but ultimately I work for the “clients” (I am also in-house). One time I got really frustrated with some changes because they loved the tag line but then totally missed the visual theme that played off from the tag line. Something similar to “Get a handle on your next teapot” catch phrase but then they wanted to remove all of the teapot handle photos and replace them with photos of cars. I pointed out the disconnect and they relented. In creative fields, you have to be able to defend your work…nicely.

    5. sb*

      Is there someone she can roleplay the conversations with beforehand? Even if they don’t know the material that well, she can tell them what sort of critique to make (and what sort of “strong personality” to display). If she’s one of several people at the same level, this can be an exchange — she can be the critique-er for them rehearsing their conversations with as well. It sounds cheesy, and it is, but it also is really useful.

    6. Cwaeth*

      If you are in the U.S., contact your local Literacy organization – they may be connected to the public library system. The Literacy organization will have an ESOL program and they can find a tutor to meet with her to help her improve her language skills and confidence. The program should be free and the tutor will be a trained volunteer.

    7. BF50*

      I don’t know that she needs specifically a designer to help her. She might actually be better off with someone in sales who can help her learn some sales techniques.

      Personally, I would look into getting coaching to help her with confidence as well as strategies for explaining and defending her work. Some therapists are great with that and might be covered by your health insurance, but you can also find a specific career coach to help her.

    8. Jimbo*

      Thanks everyone for the great feedback! I will forward these to her. I appreciate everyone who responded (and who may respond later) with advice and tips!

    9. cleo*

      what resources (can) graphic and other designer tap into to improve their communication skills in having effective conversations and interactions with clients and colleagues

      1 – professional associations / professional development
      I second the recommendation for AIGA, FaceBook and LinkedIn professional groups. If your wife’s company pays for professional development, she may be able to go to a design conference as well. AIGA has conferences, as does HOW magazine. Often they’ll include mentoring or portfolio review opportunities.

      2 – professional meet-up groups
      As a web designer, I’ve found some great mentors through local web design meet-ups. I prefer the meet-ups that meet regularly and have a presentation on a set topic with some time for networking (as opposed to the ones that are just networking / socializing).

      3 – critique groups
      This may not exactly work for your wife but I’m a studio artist as well as designer and I’ve participated in a few artist critique groups (usually run out of an arts organization or non-profit gallery). I’ve found that they’ve really helped me get more comfortable talking about my work and other people’s work and that has over to my work as a designer as well. It’s a relatively low stakes ways to practice talking about one’s work.

      And, FWIW, this is hard for most, if not all, designers. It sounds like your wife may have other factors that are making it even harder. One thing that’s helped me is to be aware of how my cultural programming interacts with this – I’m a white, midwestern woman and I was socialized to be NICE and AGREEABLE and I’ve had to redefine both of those qualities to allow me to do my job as a designer and be a good advocate of my work and for my clients.

    10. Nerfmobile*

      I recommend a book, “Articulating Design Decisions” by Tom Greever, published by O’Reilly Media. Very useful discussion of preparing and presenting designs, listening and responding to feedback, and following through on revisions.

    11. Triplestep*

      I’m late to respond, but hopefully you’re still reading; I saw this yesterday but didn’t have a chance to respond. (Site is blocked at work, and had too much to say for phone typing!)

      I work in the building trades, so a different field of design than your wife, but I do feel that her command of English is not the major problem here. The problem stems from the fact that everyone thinks they are a designer. It didn’t used to be this way, but now that anyone with an internet connection can create their own graphics, websites and print campaigns – and anyone with a cable connection can watch HGTV – design is not valued the way that it used to be. In my previous workplace where I designed mainly labs and offices, some of the scientists seemed to feel that they could do my “fake job” if they weren’t so busy doing their important “real job.” When it comes to executives, I have found the higher up a person is in the organization, the more they want to “have input into the design”; this may manifest itself with vague or useless comments that seem like changes for the sake of making changes just so they can leave their mark.

      English is my first language, and I am a pretty confident speaker, but I have learned to keep as quiet when first getting feedback from internal clients and/or higher ups about designs. I need to take things into consideration that will not be immediately apparent to most lay-people. (Building code, ADA, egress, space constraints, budget, etc). Typically my managers want to hear about these things when I’m presenting to them, but for anyone else, I mainly say things like “Good idea; I will try that out!”. And then I will try their ideas if I think they will work within the constants I have. Or if their ideas won’t work, I’ll just make minor tweaks and re-present. You wouldn’t believe how often this works, and the client or exec is happy because they “had input.”

      The point is I never explain to people why their ideas won’t work at the time the ideas are offered. I used to – back when I thought that reasonable people would want to have a conversation about such things, but they really do not. Then I learned that trying to have these conversations got me labeled as “defensive” and “not open to others’ ideas”. (No matter how hard I tired so sound open and not defensive, or how many examples there were of my being very open to others’ ideas. These labels can stick.)

      I also suggest that your wife not try to explain to the internal client or higher-up how her designs meet the requirements they laid out for her during the first phase of the project. Even if she is correct (which she probably is) this will not help. I can remember trying to explain “But you asked for ‘x’, and if I make the change you are suggesting, you will no longer have ‘x’! See how I’ve given you ‘x’ and that will no longer be possible if I do as you’re saying?” Nooooo … do not do this! Many people upon seeing exactly what they asked for brought to life think better of it and then ask for something else, although they will not frame it that way. This works differently for firm designers – they will charge fees for changes – but internal designers just have to just keep plugging away. See above about going away and coming back with something slightly different.

      Hope this is helpful. There are a lot of great tips here, and I’m going to check out the links myself. I will leave you with some humor for your wife, which I’ll post in a comment to this post …

    12. Tuesday Next*

      I’m a UX designer and I was approached by someone on LinkedIn looking for a mentor. Perhaps your wife could try that?

      Also, this can be difficult for any designer, regardless of first/second language. Most designers are not taught to explain their rationale in a clear way. I can see that it could be more difficult if you are less confident with the language.

      One thing that helps me a lot is to think through and verbalise my design decisions before I present my work. Hope this helps!

  5. Mustache Cat*

    I love Dear Prudence, and there was a letter this week that I’m dying to discuss with the AAM commentariat (I hope this is okay, Alison- it is about work and I don’t think it would fit in any other post!) What do people here think? I’ve copied it below:

    Dear Prudence,
    I am an older, sexually conservative woman who got herpes from a man I was dating. He’s a pillar of the community and did not tell me he had herpes. I had a long dry spell before we started dating. My issue is that I have an unlabeled bottle of herpes medication in my desk drawer at work. My administrative assistant asked for some pain relievers, and I opened my desk drawer and shared from a labeled, over-the-counter bottle of acetaminophen. I saw her staring at the unlabeled bottle in the drawer. Later that day I went back to my office, and she and another person had actually opened the unlabeled bottle and were looking at the medicine! I was too stunned to say anything, and they left. I guess they looked at the color and numbers on the pills and looked up the medication. In the few months after that —I kid you not—several people at the office have “casually” mentioned herpes and how disgusting it is. At the company potluck, no one touched my dish. One co-worker asked about a red spot on my hand and said loudly, “Yuck, it looks like herpes!”

    One odd thing about this is that I have been extraordinarily financially generous to the admin who peeked and told. I don’t understand why this is happening. I used to like my job, and I make a very high salary. If I leave the company, I fear this issue will follow me. I was not in the least bit promiscuous in my life (truly). I feel so ashamed, though.

    Thoughts? Let’s discuss!

    1. Murphy*

      WTF? That’s incredibly inappropriate! To go through someone’s desk and look up their medication? I can’t imagine why anyone would ever do that.

      1. Lora*

        Honestly, my first assumption would be “admin was looking for opiates and needs the EAP for addiction services.”

    2. Eowyn*

      Not only was this person’s admin going through her desk but they went through her medicine?!?! WTF. If the LW is a manager for her admin I would have a serious talk with her and HR and tell her that her job is now in jeopardy. That is so ridiculous and such an invasion of privacy I don’t know how LW could continue working with her admin.

      1. Brandy*

        To have the bottle open and be staring at the meds. And if the bottle was unlabeled, how do they know its herpes meds. And some meds are used for many conditions.

        1. Alice*

          To answer your question — there are some apps that can help identify pills based on size, shape, color — it’s actually a helpful thing for people who are trying to sort out their own medication. Imagine that your grandfather spilled his weekly pill holder on the floor and everything’s mixed up. But to use these apps to re-identify someone else’s pills out of prurient curiosity is very weird.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Yes, I’ve used those apps when a label came off a bottle before, and they’re useful for that. But using them to snoop through someone else’s meds and figure out what they are and then gossip about it? That is so far beyond the pale.

          2. LCL*

            Oh yeah, I forgot these data bases have other uses than trying to figure out if the aspirin in the teenager’s medicine bottle is really aspirin.

          1. Specialk9*

            OP, you are totally normal, if more informed than most.

            My doctor won’t even give a test for herpes (HSV2, “genital”) without a reeeeally compelling reason. She said that roughly half of the population has herpes*, but people don’t realize that. It’s an unfortunate and terrible stigma. But that’s not the key question.

            The key thing, OP, is that a co-worker snooped in your desk, opened your medications, and are now organizing a smear campaign based on YOUR PRIVATE MEDICAL DATA. There’s it’s soooooooooooo much wrong with this — general ethics, basic human decency, and workplace appropriateness.

            The only thing to do is to write up every single person involved – without mentioning the specific medical condition – and request that they be fired.

            If you leave, only did so with a big freaking monetary settlement for workplace harassment. But don’t leave – get them all sh1t-canned! Their behavior is egregious.

            *The stats I’ve read say 25%, but since almost nobody with herpes knows it, I believe the 50% was an estimate based on very low testing rates.

            1. Tiny Soprano*

              Seconding this. If it wasn’t already the height of inappropriate behaviour to go through your meds (what even. Who does this???), viruses in the herpes family are so common I can’t believe there’s even still a stigma around them. Anyone who’s ever had mono/glandular/cyto/coldsores? They’ve had herpes too.

              Heck this brings up so many questions. Do they act like this towards disabled employees too? Do they go through people’s bags to see if they have birth control pills in there?

      2. Brandy*

        Exactly, this invasion of privacy is akin to the boss going thru her employees purse. I would have to let the admin go. If my boss caught me gossiping about her or going into her desk, Id be out.

      3. Blue Anne*

        Yes. Admin should be fired.

        In an ideal, staircase-wit world, I like to imagine OP finding them in her office going through her medication and asking “Why shouldn’t I fire both of you right now?”

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          I normally wouldn’t advocate jumping to this, but I’m on board here. I can’t imagine being able to trust the admin with anything again.

      4. neverjaunty*

        Seriously. I’d be tempted to tell the admin “I’m not comfortable working with someone who snoops through my personal medication, and you’re clearly not comfortable in a role where you’re expected not to snoop and gossip into other people’s medical condition. Please collect your things from your desk.”

    3. Katniss*

      This is so sad. Both that the woman is feeling like she has to defend herself against being labeled promiscuous (because tons of people get herpes, and it rarely relates to how many people you sleep with, and even if she WAS promiscuous, there’s nothing wrong with that!) and that people at her workplace are acting so awful based on outdated, inaccurate ideas about a very common disease.

      1. Mustache Cat*

        I’d be awfully tempted to wait until I see a cold sore on one of the tormentors (and I’m willing to bet many people in the office have them!) and loudly offer my condolences that they have herpes. But that’s not quite helpful to anyone or society at large.

        1. Myrin*

          Incidentally, that’s what is meant in my language when you say “Herpes” (I mean, it’s certainly also used for the genital kind but whenever people speak about it, they mean cold sores). It was quite the misunderstanding for me when I first stumbled across it on an English-speaking website and they decidedly didn’t mean the sores at your lips.

    4. Fabulous*

      WOW. Not to mention that herpes wasn’t even taboo until advertising made it so in the mid-twentieth century.

      It’s absolutely NONE of the admin’s business what is in the LW’s desk drawer. I would agree that it’s a fire-able offense, not only because if the admin is snooping on this, then what else is she snooping on? She obviously has no regard for private information and could be a liability to the company.

      1. LCL*

        I read this. It’s not even the snooping, it’s the opening someone else’s medicine without their permission or a medical emergency in progress. That lack of judgement alone should be enough to get her fired.

        1. Kvothe*

          Ummm not to mention I would be pretty miffed if my coworkers stuck their fingers and hands all over medication I’m supposed to swallow…like I very much doubt they scrubbed up before sticking their fingers in the bottle to investigate. So gross and boundary violating on a completely separate level in addition to the snooping

    5. GG*

      Is it not understandable though that people want to protect themselves against someone with an infectious/contagious disease?

      1. Julia*

        Not sleeping with your co-workers might solve that.

        Plus, they didn’t even know what kind of medicine the LW had. If someone had gone through my stuff to look at my antidepressants, I’d be livid.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Ditto. And as open as I like to be about my mental health, there are plenty of people with conditions who don’t want to share that private info with their office. Anyhow I’d still be horrified if anyone started going through my meds at work. That’s pole-vaulting over the line right there.

      2. Athena X*

        No, it is not.

        Going through someone’s unmarked pill bottle in their personal work space and researching what the pills are for is not an understandable response to fear of disease.

      3. Lissa*

        What part of snooping in medication to find out what it was, and then making nasty comments to your coworker about their condition will help somebody protect against a disease?

      4. Ted Mosby*

        You are not seriously suggesting that you have the right to all of your coworkers medical information? That’s as stupid as it is rude.

    6. RVA Cat*

      I was hoping that someone would post this in the open thread.
      This is ridiculous, and that admin and the other employee who snooped at her medication should have been fired. The OP should absolutely go to HR about this and the gossip – which is really just sexism and an attempt to undermine her authority.
      p.s. The OP has nothing to be ashamed of, and our society *should* see herpes as just another medical condition.

    7. Brandy*

      Wouldn’t this be considered sexual harassment? Jumping to the conclusion that your boss has a (supposed) STD(she doesn’t know for certain and its not always sexual either) and spreading this about.

        1. fposte*

          NAL, but I doubt it, because there’s no indication it’s based on gender or sexual behavior. OTOH, I think there could be ADA issues; apparently there was at least one ADA in the workplace case that was allowed to proceed with a claim of discrimination against genital herpes.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            I was thinking about ADA concerns myself. Treating the OP differently because she has a chronic medical condition has got to be some kind of violation.

      1. Specialk9*

        This letter is actually a really good example of why we should all remove “STD” (sexually transmitted disease) from our vocabularies and switch to “STI” (sexually transmitted infection). The stigma around STIs needs to die down, and safer sex measures be seen as blandly routine as nurses wearing gives.

        1. Fabulous*

          They’ve been trying to switch the terminology to STI for 15+ years and it’s still not used. I learned “STI” back in 2001(?) and even in class people still said STD. All. The. Time.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I read a while ago that there is a cancer that can be sexually transmitted. Yeah, I think people need to have that raised awareness. Hep C is another example.

          1. OhNo*

            Are you thinking of HPV? It’s a virus, and I believe certain iterations of it can cause cancer. It’s the one that vaccine (Gardasil, maybe?) was supposed to help prevent, and there was a big marketing push for young women to get the three-shot series.

            As far as I know, though, there’s still no way to spread cancer by sexual contact.

            1. Anion*

              Yes, thank you. You CAN have cervical cancer *without* having HPV; I know, because it happened to me.

              In other words, just because you’re not sexually active doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be getting pap smears, ladies, and just because you’ve had the vaccine doesn’t mean you can skip them, either.

            2. ST*

              “As far as I know, though, there’s still no way to spread cancer by sexual contact.”

              Unfortunately, that is not quite correct. HPV can easily be spread by oral sex, and is leading to a great rise in head and neck cancers.

        3. fposte*

          I don’t think that’s going to make any difference to the stigma, though; the stigma comes from the ST, not the D.

        4. Mike C.*

          How is STD stigmatized in a way that STI is not?

          /Also, car folks hear STI and think “Subaru Tecnica International”

          1. Ann O.*

            I’m not in the health field, but I thought the STD/STI distinction was actually a distinction among the various types of sexually transmittable conditions. Like syphilis and gonorrhea are STIs, but I thought herpes was actually an STD.

            1. Optimistic Prime*

              Sort of…the usage STI became popular because a lot of the infections you can get sexually don’t necessarily develop into diseases or show symptoms in certain folks. Syphilis and gonorrhea can be diseases or infections, depending; herpes is in a grey area; HPV is an infection and not a disease. HIV is an infection, but the disease is AIDS. STI was just a more general catch-all term that was more accurate than STD.

              So all STDs are STIs, but not all STIs are STDs.

    8. Brandy*

      Wouldn’t this be sexual harassment from her admin? Thinking her boss has a STD and spreading this gossip throughout the company.

    9. fposte*

      Let’s also note Mallory’s totally wrong assertion in her answer that this was a breach of FMLA. Whaaa?? No. (On the other hand, the company disparagement of her could be an ADA issue.)

      I think the poster may have been trying to manage by nice even before this incident and was additionally weighted down by her personal feelings about herpes in this instance. Assistant should have been fired ASAP and HR reported to, and the moment people got gross and shamey a complaint should have been filed (and hopefully the jackasses read the riot act, thought it didn’t sound like the OP was up to that yet).

      1. Jadelyn*

        …where does she think FMLA gets involved here? Just, how do you go from “intrusiveness into a medical condition of a coworker” to “violation of protected leave laws”? I mean she links to a story about a worker who had filed an FMLA claim, the manager knew why based on his leave certification paperwork, and told others at the company about it, and the courts found *that* to be an FMLA violation, but this is…not really comparable? Given that OP hadn’t filed an FMLA claim so they didn’t find out her information based on FMLA paperwork, which is what the court’s finding in the linked case was based on, that medical information disclosed during an FMLA claim is confidential information…yeah I don’t see it.

        Although, if OP were in California, this could be a FEHA discrimination claim, since CA’s anti-discrimination statute includes medical condition as a protected category. And I think you’re right about a potential ADA claim as well.

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s just that this is medical and therefore FMLA seemed relevant (though I don’t think this would breach any of the confidentiality guidelines even if the OP were taking FMLA, so it’s doubly off-base). Mostly I think many people are sure that PHI is universally legally protected somehow. Which of course it isn’t.

          Interesting about the FEHA thing. But she has to tell her bosses or HR for anything to happen on anything, that’s for sure.

          1. Susan K*

            I’m guessing that she was thinking of HIPAA, which is also not applicable here, but is frequently invoked by people who mistakenly believe that PHI is universally legally protected.

        2. Close Bracket*

          FMLA has requirements regarding confidentiality of employee medical records. Not sure whether they would apply to meds kept in a drawer, though.

      2. Footiepjs*

        Mallory is so misguided on office norms and workplace laws. As soon as I saw the letter I thought, “Oh, the LW should’ve written AAM instead!”

        1. Artemesia*

          This. She should have at least gotten consultant help before blathering about the law and getting it wrong. She is so inexperienced in the workplace and her advice is so often ridiculous when it deals with anything professional. ‘Hey it would be fun to write an advice column.’ just isn’t qualification for doing this especially on workplace issues.

          1. Jules the Third*

            She does really well with LBGTQx and family issues, but yeah, she needs a workplace law primer.

          2. BenAdminGeek*

            I don’t think ‘Hey it would be fun to write an advice column.’ is a charitable interpretation of Mallory’s work. I find her columns very helpful. That doesn’t mean she is 100% correct on workplace law in every situation, but she does good work and it’s well-focused to the situations people write to her about.

          3. Ann O.*

            Workplace is Mallory’s particular weakness, IMHO. I don’t think she’s had much, if any, conventional workplace experience. But I prefer Mallory’s weakness to her predecessor’s!

        2. BF50*

          I think she’s confusing FMLA with HIPPA, not that this is a violation of HIPPA either. It’s firable, but not specifically illegal. You can legally be a snooping jerk, but it should also get you fired.

          She links to an article were disclosing a medical condition is a violation of FMLA, but in the article, the medical condition was used to request FMLA and the manger who received the FMLA request obtained the confidential medical information in her capacity as manager and then gossiped about it with those who had no reason to need to know that info. So maybe in that very specific scenario.

        3. Turtle Candle*

          Yeah, she’s also a couple of times invoked ‘hostile workplace’ where it didn’t apply–which is a common mistake to make, admittedly, but cringey when you’re actually giving advice. Or advised people to threaten legal action over workplace matters that were not in fact actually questions of law.

        4. NASA*

          I think this 99% of the time when I read DP, LOL! Work questions just don’t really fit with DP IMO.

        5. BenAdminGeek*

          I’ve not noticed any issues with that for Mallory, though I’m a big fan of her work, so may be biased.

        6. Drew*

          And/or Captain Awkward – because I’m imagining Jennifer’s response to this letter and it is warming my chilly toes.

      3. The IT Manager*

        Yes. I caught that right awake. Snooping and gossiping are not a violation of the FMLA. They’d have to use medical info disclosed in support of the FMLA in order to violate the law.

      4. Close Bracket*

        FMLA has requirements regarding confidentiality of employee medical records (and boy do I wish I had known this when my supervisor broadcast the medical information in my FMLA request to all and sundry).

    10. Anonymous Educator*

      Apart from the snooping aspect of this, there is altogether too much herpes stigma in society.

      The letter writer thinks she got herpes from the man she was dating, but it’s very possible she got it from someone else and is only showing symptoms now. Many people have herpes and almost never show symptoms. It’s also a treatable (not cureable) infection.

      Probably many of the co-workers being jerks have herpes, too, and don’t know it.

    11. RME*

      Identically the same medicine is used to treat shingles and chicken pox. If she is willing to misdirect the judgement, she could casually make some remarks about shingles (“did you know that chicken pox is in the same virus family as herpes? Who knew! I wish I’d been vaccinated!”). Certainly her company should be hit with a large HIPPA mallet, but the sad reality is that this will affect her work environment, and people will be judgmental unless they can be persuaded her “drugs of shame” are for something “normal.”

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        Exactly. Cytomegalovirus sounds much more “medical-ish” than herpes. Even though it’s totally a herpes virus.

    12. it_guy*

      This is an EEOC violation, if they are discriminating against you because of a medical condition, which is a protected class.

      I would talk to HR

      1. You're Not My Supervisor*

        But what would the discriminatory action be here? Not eating her food at the potluck? Just being nasty in general?

        I mean I agree this is SUPER crappy behavior on the part of the OP’s coworkers, but is it discrimination?

        1. Mike C.*

          I mean, isn’t it a major problem if I start treating someone like garbage if it’s based on their race or religion? If this medical condition is treated the same way, then it seems like it would make sense.

    13. Natalie*

      Wow, nobody tell these people that 2/3 of people have had herpes at some point in their lives. They’ll never be able to touch potluck food again!

    14. Lynca*

      I read this earlier this week and was like WTH you let it get this far before pulling them into your office about going through your desk drawer for medication? Let alone when the harassment started.

      I can understand being blind sided in the moment. But not letting it go unaddressed for several months. I guess I have heard too many workplace stories about medication stealing in search of pain killers.

    15. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      THIS! I was thinking the same thing. First of all, going through the desk and touching her meds? Secondly, they were unlabeled (I wondered why, but now I understand). How can you still keep her there? OMG!

    16. August*

      Ahhhh I was hoping someone would bring this letter up here! I’d love to hear Alison’s take on it (especially since, wonderful as she is, Mallory’s specialty is definitely not workplace advice– what is she talking about with FMLA?). This woman’s workplace sounds absolutely terrible, and it’s such a shame that her ignorant coworkers are compounding her embarrassment surrounding such a common disease. She should fire that admin immediately, report the other person to whoever oversees them, and explain that she found the both of them sorting through her desk and medication to whoever asks.

      1. Close Bracket*

        FMLA has provisions for keeping medical records confidential. Not sure how that would apply to undisclosed pills in a drawer, though.

    17. D.W.*

      I don’t even know where to begin. I wish the LW wrote to AAM, so she could read advice from the commentariat.

      The admin AND co-worker should absolutely be fired, and the LW hopefully high-tailed it to HR to report them.

      1. Liane*

        I am pretty sure Mallory has suggested AAM once or twice, so was surprised she didn’t refer her LW on this one.
        (I know a lot of people here prefer Mallory to her predecessor, Emily Yoffe, but I really think Emily was better about recognizing when a question was out of her expertise and is one reason I still miss Emily)

        1. DaniCalifornia*

          I also miss Emily! I often agree with Mallory, but sometimes I think she misses other good points that Emily would bring up (I felt her answers were longer) But Mallory seems to be growing into the role quite well.

        2. Lissa*

          I feel like I usually agree with 2/3 of Mallory’s advice but there’s often one or two letters where I disagree *really* strongly and feel like she just rips into a letter writer with no actual advice. Or maybe deliberately selects letters where she can do that, since people do seem to like that.

    18. DaniCalifornia*

      I saw this and wondered what Alison would say about this! (Other than WTF?!? because really there is no other good reaction)

      I would have gone to HR by now if that was happening. The minute someone brought it up. I hope this woman’s HR team helps her out and/or she finds a better job. Those coworkers are scummy!

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

      Yea, I’d look at them oddly at their herpes comments and respond, “No, I don’t think it’s chicken pox. Why would you think that?” “No, I’ve never heard of a cold sore on someone’s hand. Why would you think that?” “No, I don’t think it’s shingles — that’s usually extremely painful. Why do you think that?” Always put it back on them to justify why they think that. Say it with a bemused look on your face like they are just the silliest little child ever.

      These ignoramus’ probably don’t even know what herpes is or how common it is. I remember being part of a discussion on another forum and one lady was asking about what to do with a food thief boss who would casually take a bite of other people’s food (while they were eating it) or pick up beverages from their desks and drink from it and how could she politely get him to stop without making it a Big Deal. In the conversation she mentioned that he gets cold sores and someone piped up that they’ve now been exposed to herpes (if she hadn’t already) and several of the posters would just not believe that cold sores were caused by herpes because they get cold sores but (gasp) don’t have herpes — how dare you!

    20. nep*

      As many have said — unfathomable invasion of privacy. Someone should be held accountable for that.

    21. onlyhuman*

      Everybody has herpes. It’s a virus we have in our body. Sometimes it shows up, sometimes it doesn’t. Same as having a cold sore. Who gives a shit.

    22. Indisch Blau*

      It has been months since this occurred. Of course the admin should have been disciplined (or fired) immediately. But what should the question-asker do now? Should she still fire the admin? How can she contain the damage that has ensued in the meantime? The whole office knows about the pills.

  6. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    How do you explain why you know a lot of unusual stuff that don’t fit your background?

    This is a lighthearted, almost humblebraggy question but it does seem to come up fairly often in my work life.

    My “special talent” is that I know lots of stuff about lots of different areas. It makes me a great trivia player and has even won me some money off trivia tv shows, but other than that, it’s nothing remarkable. It also makes me a good dinner partner – I can ask reasonably intelligent questions about most topics.

    I don’t exactly know WHY I know so much stuff, a combination of well-read parents and a good memory coupled with curiousity, is my best guess.

    I work as a management consultant so it’s not entirely unexpected that I should know have a broad general knowledge, but I’m still very junior and my degree is in business.

    With some regularity, I’ll ask a question or clarify something that’s outside the sphere of general knowledge and the people around me will do a doubletake and ask “Why do you know about that?”
    It’s not unusual knowledge, just somewhat unusual for someone with no background in whatever we’re talking about.

    It could be everything from knowing about a social secuity law acronym, to the history of German Starkbier or the name of the IT system doctors in my country use to apply for special prescription licenses. Or who’s running an obscure department in the Army or the divide between politicians and medicical professionals in my country about doctors seeing patients through apps.

    I usually laugh it off and say that I have a memory like sponge so I just pick up a lot of random things or say that it’s my party trick.

    Any advice for what I could say other than that?

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      I’m in a somewhat similar position. I’ve started using the Tyrion Lannister line of “I drink and I know things” with a smile and a shrug, but my audience usually understands the reference.

      1. Elizabeth*

        I have a t-shirt from the Suess Family Foundation with the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 that says “I read and I know things”. I regularly wear it to trivia night contests. I often joke that my brain is the off-line Wikipedia.

    2. NeverNicky*

      I’m a bit the same – although your obscure knowledge had me beat – and I just laugh and say “oh, Trivial Pursuit was a competitive sport in my family!” or “I was a geeky child who would read the Encyclopaedia Britannica on rainy lunchtimes!”

      I find people don’t actually want to know how you know this stuff, they are just expressing their surprise.

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        Oh, I agree with you there! They’re not actually interested in the how, but I still have to say something in response, you know?

        I love your first suggestion, that would work very well !

      2. nonegiven*

        My mom had to supervise if I needed to look up something, for school, in the encyclopedia. I’d end up reading random things I while looking for it and waste an hour.

    3. Barbara in Swampeast*

      I have been there. You just have to roll with it.

      Some people will be very intimidated by your knowledge, but that is because they are so insecure about their own. Others will look at you weirdly. But once in a while you may find someone like you and have great conversations. Treasure those times because they will be few (unless you are very lucky).

      Just keep being you and keep reading. I am always finding weird facts just before I need to use them. It comes in very handy.

      1. Mazzy*

        I would just say “I read a lot.” The problem is that now a days with everything being Google-able, I’ve also met people who “know a lot” when in reality they “know that thing exists,” which isn’t helpful. So when I say “we should do X” and they say “it’s a great idea” and I ask why and they give me an answer that basically boils down to “an internet article told me so,” their credibility takes a ding. It’s also important to think about how deep your knowledge is of the topic, and if it’s superficial knowledge, it may not be worth bringing up in a business situation where people will be looking to make decisions impacting money and personnel on it

        1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

          Oh, I don’t pretend to be an expert! I definitely know I know nothing, in reality. I literally use it the way I said: using the correct acronym in place of a general term or ask a question along the lines of “is this similar to x?”

          1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

            To give an example from this week:
            I was going through a long list of different types of medical specialties and clinics in my city with a group of medical professionals. We were trying to figure out if any were missing and I asked if they thought certain services for people with disabilities should be included.

            Most people know those services exist but probably don’t know the proper name.

            But I’m certainly not playing it as me being an Expert on Everything ™.

      2. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

        What Barbara in Swampeast said. I’m also a Trivia Buff. Some folks are intrigued others, not so much. But I just keep doing my thing–reading, learning and taking in all kinds of weird and interesting facts. A few times, it’s won me money and prizes. Ha!

      1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

        Love it!! Unfortunately the pun doesn’t work in my language otherwise I definitely would use that!

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      My spouse knows a lot of random crap, and her explanation is usually “I watch a lot of TV.”

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’m the same way. I usually tell people that I just have a really good memory (true!) and I usually follow up with a joke about how I can’t remember what I did this morning before my coffee, but I can remember something I read about when I was 12. Knowledge of trivia is often nothing more than a function of memory combined with interest; I (and, I suspect, you) simply have a great memory and find a wide variety of things interesting.

    6. Nan*

      I’m like that, too. I have a pile of useless/obscure knowledge that’s unbelievable. When my husband asks me how I know something, I just smile and say “everybody knows that!” because I know it irks him. In a professional setting you could just go with “I read it somewhere, and things like that tend to stick with me.”

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        That’s the weirdest thing, because I also know (and love trivia). But I currently live in a different state than where I grew up. I occasionally had former co-workers ask how I knew certain things, and I mentioned learning it in school. Since they knew I had an advanced degree, they’d say, “Not everyone went to grad school.”

        It was usually something I learned in middle or high school. Really made me question the curriculum around here… (FTR we all went to public schools.)

        1. Boötes*

          Sometimes I will pause for a moment before earnestly responding, “Grade 6, in the unit on Peru.”

    7. J.B.*

      Can you extend the skill to becoming the person who knows how to find things out? That can be incredibly useful, and comes with openness and willing to talk with different people about things. Finding people who are genuinely curious can be incredibly useful.

      I would just generically say something like “I’m curious, read a lot” (or watch TED talks) but I do like the Tyrion quote suggested :)

      1. oldbiddy*

        I once took an online intelligence test and it gave me an IQ number and also categorized me as an “information collector”, which is pretty true. I’m the master of obscure facts stored semi-randomly in my brain. My brother is the same way. I suspect most of it comes from a combination of reading a lot of non-fiction/articles and talking with people about random stuff.
        As a chemist, it comes in pretty handy, and many of my colleagues are the same way, so I don’t get questioned about it very often. We used to kick butt when we went to trivia night.

    8. What the French, Toast*

      My older sister used to get mad because I have a really broad range of trivia/knowledge as well and I would answer Trivial Pursuit questions correctly that should have been beyond someone my age. She’d sputter “How does she KNOW that??” I read a lot and watched a ton of TV – you’d be surprised what kinds of knowledge you can pick up from offhand comments made in movies and TV shows. I knew the answer to a Jeopardy question about the Rat Pack because of a joke the father makes in the movie Clueless. Stuff like that.

      Is “Jeopardy” a thing where you live? You could just shrug and say you watched a lot of Jeopardy.

      1. Reba*

        One time we were playing Cranium (a game that blends trivial pursuit, charades, etc.) and my brother, then about 9, somehow came up with “Zsa Zsa Gabor.”

        This became a kind of shorthand in my family of origin for “I just know, ok?!”

      2. Drew*

        Reminds me of the time we were having a family game of Trivial Pursuit (I was probably 12 or 13) and the question was to name the grandchildren in “When I’m 64.”

        My mom started sputtering that no one could possibly be expected to remember that. Meanwhile, I’m humming quietly and suddenly blurt out (singing, no less), “Vera, Chuck, and Dave.” Mom just looked at me for a second and then said, “You scare me and I’m glad you’re on my team.”

        (This was the same game in which I missed a question I will never ever forget: the national vegetable of Wales is the leek. I will not forget it because I blurted out a really inappropriate response that centered on “taking a leek” and my family has still not let me forget it.)

    9. Flossie Bobbsey*

      I’d probably say something lighthearted about being a huge trivia buff, never missing an episode of Jeopardy!, or having a lot of random interests.

    10. Andrea*

      I always say I do crossword puzzles, which have a wide variety of random knowledge! (It has the added benefit of being true, I do work on crosswords, but I also read a lot, and fall down the wikipedia rabbit hole upon occasion).

    11. Temperance*

      I am similarly into trivia (although have never been on TV!), so I say that Ken Jennings is my spirit animal and then spout off my favorite anecdote about Ken, which is that he knew the name of the doctor who set John Wilkes Booth’s broken arm (Dr. Samuel Mudd).

    12. But you don't have an accent*

      Hi, are you me? I usually just shrug my shoulders and say “I just know a lot of random facts for no reason”. But I might start stealing the Tyrion quote MechanicalPencil mentioned!

      1. AngelicGamer*

        ^ That for me plus a healthy curiosity. If I don’t know the answer, I Google and then start reading about the topic. I have spent many of nights up reading because someone went “hey, what’s x?”, Googling, and then wanting to know everything about it.

        I also remember really off hand stuff about Marvel / DC comics lore that make people do a double take on me. Only because of my gender but meh. /eyeroll

        1. OhNo*

          I’m with you on the comics thing. With my gender, I don’t get questioned on it, but I do know a lot of weird alternate-universe facts that confuse people. The Marvel wiki is like a sinkhole for me.

          FWIW, my answer whenever someone asks how I know something is always the same: “Learned it on a Wikipedia binge once.” It’s vague enough that people who don’t care can dismiss it out of hand, but people who are interested always have follow-up questions (usually of the “How the heck did you end up there?” variety).

    13. Perse's Mom*

      Six degrees of Wikipedia separation.

      Look up something about A, follow a link there about subtopic B, follow a link about interesting person C and suddenly it’s three hours later and you know way more about random topic X than you did before.

      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        The trivia sections of IMDB. One minute, I’m trying to figure out why I know that actress in that movie and now suddenly I have a list of all the actresses ever considered for a role. Or how many directors wanted to make the movie before it finally got made. So much entertainment trivia, so few places to actually use it!

        1. Perse's Mom*

          I’m terrible about it on multiple websites! Just one more article/video/thread/cat picture, then I’ll go to bed! It’s never just one more!

    14. Dave Wheeler*

      I have the same issue, never considered it a problem though. I do have one up on you here, my educational background is in Sociology, specifically deviance and criminality. This has brought many a ghastly stare when I am able to explain or give an opinion on story in the news that is much darker than would be expected from a Tea Pot Administrator. Example: A few years ago in NYC a man was arrested for murdering a young boy, half of the boy’s body was in the man’s freezer the other half in a dumpster, I explained to a coworker hat the man probably couldn’t fit the entire body in the freezer, being that many NYC apartments are quite small, and is why only half of the body was there. She replied , “How could you even think of something like that, let alone understand it?” All I could do was shrug and explain my educational background.

      1. OtterB*

        My daughter has a degree in law enforcement. She says she has to remember that not everyone wants to have a discussion about serial killers or crime scenes over dinner.

        I like the “I read it somewhere, and these things stick” explanation. Though if you want to go for the humorous touch, I’d try something similar to what AvonLady Barksdale suggested: “I know, I remember things like this but don’t know where I left my car keys.”

    15. Not That Jane*

      My husband is like this. When people express amazement at his general knowledge, he shrugs and says, “I read a lot.”

    16. Myrin*

      I have a thing that is somewhat adjacent to that – I have a great memory for really insignificant stuff but a not-so-great memory for a lot of important stuff.

      Example from just two weeks ago: I was at a conference and talked with a group of people when someone mentioned a scientific article I was very interested in. I even specifically asked the name of the author! And when I got home that evening, I had promptly forgotten not only author and title of the article, but even what it was all about! However, I could describe in minute detail what the guy who mentioned it wore, what kind of book was being exhibited while he mentioned the article, what was said in the conversation surrounding the article, who else was present and where they stood, etc.

      That led to some kinda-awkward situations where it seemed like I cared intensely about something that was completely trivial just because I remembered it, or where I told someone “Haha, remember when we said this and that, that was fun!” and they had zero clue what I was even talking about. I mostly just roll with it and say that I have a weirdly good and specific memory.

    17. Not Tom, just Petty*

      It doesn’t matter. Some people just suck. “Hey Karma, what was that group that famous actor used to advertise?” Oh, he was the XYZ corp. spokesman in 1962.”
      How do you know that? I hear things.
      Well, that’s just weird. I would never bother remembering that. That’s why I ask you.
      Because you wanted to know or because you wanted to mock me? It’s ok. I’ll wait.
      And god forbid you don’t know some obscure fact. Then it’s “oh! you’re becoming like your parents. It’s bound to happen.”
      yeah, my parents both have dementia and 24/7 nursing care.
      I work with a-holes.

    18. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      My husband calls me the queen of useless knowledge. Weird bits of info just stick. Usually, I’ll laugh it off or say something about how weird/random things just stick for me. Sometimes I throw in a self-deprecating remark about how I wished I could remember all the things I’m supposed to remember. Although, I don’t do that at work!

    19. Yorick*

      Most of the time people will ask about a single bit of trivia and you can just say, “oh, I read it somewhere”

    20. Turquoisecow*

      No advice, but this has happened to me often. I usually just say “I read a lot,” because most of the information I’ve picked up has come from reading.

    21. TiffIf*

      Oh geeze, this reminds me of something that happened a couple of months ago. A friend of mine invited me to watch the perseid meteor shower with her family. Her parents were also there and her father is a older man who likes to talk and likes to show how much he knows. It was a little stormy and cloudy that night–and he was saying if there was lightning nearby the safest place was in the car. He then said “anyone know why?” and so I answered (knowing he actually wasn’t expecting anyone to know) that a car can act as a Faraday cage. It totally caught him off guard which was kind of funny, but also really annoying–he then asked if I was in the sciences–which I am not. I just happen to know a lot of things and read a lot!

      1. JanetM*

        I have also found that I know things I didn’t realize until the right lever was pulled.

        About 20 years ago, I was on a flight back to my childhood home because my Mom was dying, so I was in no mood for nonsense. While we were waiting for taxi permission, the guy next to me said, “Oh, for crying out loud! The air conditioning just died. It’s going to be a miserable flight. I’m ringing for the flight attendant.”

        Before he could do so, I heard words coming out of my mouth. “No, don’t. The annunciator ping we just heard was the plane coming off the power cart and onto internal batteries. As soon as they spin up the engines, it’ll cool off.”

        He stared at me as if I’d grown a second head. Then did so again when the pilot started the engines and the air started cooling down.

    22. Clever Name*

      Both my mom and I are like this. I was chit-chatting with the CEO in the break room and I made an offhand comment about nanoparticles (trust me, it was relevant). She said, “Wow, you really know a lot about a lot of different things.” My go-to response to stuff like this is to shrug and smile and say, “I read a lot”. :)

      1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

        I had a great Uncle who had a powerful memory and was full of Useless Trivia. I’m proud to say, I’m exactly like him.

    23. Bryce*

      Depending on the person my response can be anywhere from “you pick things up here and there” to a shrug and “doesn’t everybody?” Sometimes I’ll specifically remember exactly where I learned something but I’ve learned that “oh one of my elementary school classmates was family friends with an Apollo astronaut and he talked to us about that sort of thing” is not actually what people wanted to know, and can sound too much like name-dropping.

    24. Djuna*

      I just shrug and tell people I’m a mine of useless information.
      It seems to work in almost all situations. I’m also careful about “just” knowing a lot of random stuff, rather than knowing a lot of random stuff “at” people. Like, I’ll be an ace on your pub-quiz team, but I won’t deliver a treatise on the Hiberno-English dental t just because someone remarks on an accent.

      I don’t know how often your “some regularity” is, but be wary of feeling you have to show how much you know at every opportunity. That can get wearying for those around you, very quickly. I’m not saying you definitely do this, but if you’re looking for help dealing with reactions you’ve noticed, it may be a cue to dial it back a little?

    25. Lissa*

      My “Thing” is similar. I have a really really good verbal memory (don’t ask me where I left my keys though.) I will often remember something someone told me like 6 months ago. This is usually cool and people like it but occasionally I get a comment that it’s creepy that I “think about someone’s life that much” or act like only an obsessed person would remember little details. I can’t help it, it’s just normal to me and I don’t even really know what’s weird to remember vs. expected!

    26. Tiny Soprano*

      If you’re talking to an Aussie, claiming that you’re a “suppository of wisdom” will usually get you a giggle. (We had a complete onion of a PM a few years back who coined this phrase)

  7. qwertyuiop*

    I’ve been at my job for 3 months now and my boss has asked me now a second time if I’m happy in my position.

    He asked it a previous time and said that he didn’t want me to leave. He asked me again recently and I’m not sure why. I have a resting face (BRF) that makes it look like I’m upset/worried all of the time, but short of plastic surgery I can’t change my face!

    I talk with my co-workers and socialize, so I don’t know what else to do. I can’t walk around with a smile on my face all of the time, so I don’t know. Maybe people are saying that I don’t look happy? I don’t know.

    Should I ask him why he is asking?

    1. Anonymous Poster*

      Yes! There is no reason not to ask about this.

      “Hey, I’ve noticed you’ve asked me a couple times if I’m happy here. I enjoy my work and this place, but am wondering why you’ve been asking me. Is there any particular reason?”

      Then let them answer. Who knows what the reason is, but maybe there’s a vibe you’re giving off, maybe they’re insecure, or something else is going on.

    2. rosiebyanyothername*

      I’d ask. Does the position you’re in have high turnover? Maybe they’re trying to get a sense of what makes people leave or stay.

      1. K.*

        That was my thought, that maybe the bloom has fallen off the rose at the 3-month mark with previous employees who have held the position and he’s trying to see if that’s happening now.

      2. AMPG*

        This is my thought, too. When I started in my current job I was the 4th person to hold this position in 3 years. A few months in I went to confess to my boss that I had made a mistake, and he said, “Oh, is that all? I thought you were going to tell me you found another job!”

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      You can ask, but honestly I’d take it as a compliment, since he also told you earlier he didn’t want you to leave. If he’s concerned about you leaving, it means he knows you do good work.

    4. beanie beans*

      I wouldn’t think too much of it – you haven’t been there long, so it sounds like he’s just making sure you’re off to a good start and wanting to address if you’re not happy!

    5. Fiennes*

      Definitely ask. Like as not the reason has nothing to do with you — maybe the person before you quit suddenly, or they had another recent, unexpected departure and want to be more careful about employee retention going forward.

    6. Specialk9*

      I have RBF, or else resting worried face.

      I actually DO put on a slight smile every time I walk the halls – going to the bathroom, to get coffee, etc. I also make sure I have a boss lady gait in the highways: stand up straight, head held high, confident stance.

      I learned both as a waiter. Smiling actually does make your emotions shift, it’s incredibly powerful. Holding oneself without slumping is interpreted by others as confident and strong. I think it works – the feedback I’ve gotten is that I’m generally seen as positive and assertive.

      1. A. Non.*

        There was an advice column a while back, and one of the comments to it was about a woman who, before every job interview, would stand at home with this replica knight’s sword and kind of like, walk around pretending? And how it made her feel more confident for job interviews.

        I can’t vouch for that, but I know that when I’m doing something at work that requires a lot of mental fortitude, I will stand in front of a mirror at home with my hands on my hips in classic “superhero” pose and tell myself that I am going to be awesome, it is going to be awesome, and if I make a mistake, only I will know and my kids will love it anyway.

      2. Koko*

        Sitting/standing up straight can also really make you feel more confident! My therapist taught me this a while back. When we’re in danger we instinctively curl forward to protect our vital organs, so there’s something deep in your lizard brain that reckons you wouldn’t be exposing your soft underbelly if there was anything to worry about, and downregulates production of hormones associated with the fight-flight-freeze response, also known as stress hormones!

      3. Hillary*

        I try to engage the muscles at my temples (sort of keeping my eyebrows slightly lifted) – it gets rid of the RBF. I don’t manage to keep it going at my desk all day, but I try to put it on when I get out of my car and every time I step out of my office.

    7. Anonymous72*

      When I hired in at my current company, my soon-to-be-former boss* asked me about every month if I was happy and challenged – and it was because he knew I was underemployed, and he was expecting me to be job searching. I later learned that he and his right-hand-person didn’t even 100% expect me to show up for the first day of the job. He wanted to keep me around, so he checked in a lot. After a little while and a few small promotions, my boss stopped asking me so often, but every now and then, he’d check in. Is it maybe something like that?

      *He’s my soon-to-be-former because he just gave me a giant promotion in his area but I’ll be reporting to someone else. Sometimes it’s really, really, really nice to have a boss who is keyed-in to your happiness and work needs.

  8. Happy Gauge*

    So a post on the open thread last week got me wondering about job satisfaction/happiness. How happy are you in your job?

    Obviously jobs are not typically meant to be fun; you’re meant to do your work and get a paycheck. So how much satisfaction should you strive to find in your job? My last job, I knew I was in a terrible place; it was a crying on a weekly basis kind of position. My new job is leagues better (no tears!) but it’s still just… Okay. I don’t jump out of bed eager to get to work, I just head on in. There are a few times I get excited, with interesting projects or tasks, but nothing that doesn’t have me rushing out the door happy to be heading home in the evening. And my friends all seem the same; most just get by with their jobs. I can only think of two friends who are in jobs that they would consider dream jobs that they actually enjoy on a daily basis.

    So how do you gauge your happiness at your job? Are you actually happy or just content enough to put in your 40 hours a week for the payday?

    1. Murphy*

      My husband and I were just talking about this the other day. I don’t love it. I don’t hate it. If I suddenly won the lottery and didn’t have to work, I’d quit. I think what my office does is important work, even if I don’t love the day to day of doing it all the time. I can usually leave work at work and my benefits are pretty good. It’s a job, but generally I’m content.

      1. Fiennes*

        I’m one of those people who turned her passion into her profession and genuinely loves it. It plays to my strengths and is tolerant of my weaknesses. I set my own hours and make a good living. Every time we see warnings here about how your dream may not actually be your ideal job, even knowing how often that *is* true, I always want to jump in with “But maybe it is!”

        That said — it still feels like work most of the time. I still have to take care of the essential, mundane tasks that bore me silly. There are days it feels like hauling rocks, and I accept that, because the truth is–if there’s no downside to a job, nobody gets paid for it. It gets done for free.

        So I would just say that you have to expect some bad days/rough patches no matter what. Only you can determine, with your own individual criteria, when “rough patches” have turned into “most of the time,” and thus good reason to consider moving on.

        1. Al Lo*

          100% co-sign.

          I got my education in theatre; I make a living in the arts. I’m living the dream, but work isn’t always a dream. But I do love what I do, and what I get paid to do is what I did as a hobby before I started getting paid for it, and it’s what I loved to do as a kid.

    2. Snark*

      I mean…it depends. Would I do it for free? HAHAHAHAHANO. Am I eager to get to work? Sometimes, but usually, it’s just the thing do in the morning. But my job is in my field, it involves technical writing and analysis, I get to do interesting things, I enjoy the respect of my clients and colleagues, and I’m entrusted – as I was this morning – with sensitive, high-level, urgent projects. Hard not to be satisfied with that, even if it’s not precisely enthralling.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        That’s exactly how I felt at my last job. I got to learn and do things I thought were cool, but it was tempered by make-work type stuff. It wasn’t a dream job, but it was definitely enough to keep me from job hunting on the regular.

        1. Snark*

          And I think part of it for me is that my life satisfaction comes when I’m on a trail with my dog, playing with my kid, cooking dinner. It’s not and has never been from work, even though I consider my field to be fascinating and fulfilling and of near-paramount importance in the world today.

    3. Work Wardrobe*

      I very much enjoy the work I do (it’s what I’m best at) and I like most of the people I work with. The hours are good and the commute is short. So, yeah — I’m happy in my job.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      I love my job. For basically the first time in my career (and I’m in my mid to late 30s) I can say I do tasks I like with people I enjoy working with. Which I used to think was an impossible dream.

      I now have the very pleasant problem of feeling unable to move job as nothing else could be this good.

      1. MoinMoin*

        As someone in her early thirties who feels like she’s floundering, this is very encouraging to hear.

    5. TeacherNerd*

      I think there are folks whose jobs are enjoyable and fun, but how we define those terms is subjective. I get to work with teenagers all day; I think that’s pretty enjoyable, and sometimes I can even have fun with them. (Sometimes we get silly.) There are things I dislike about my job (mostly having to get up at 6 a.m., but on the other hand, I’m usually home by 3:15 p.m., which I like). I’m happy at my job; I like my students (mostly), my colleagues, and my administration team; I like the culture of my school.

      That said, I don’t think everyone has a job that makes them jump out of bed with happiness. Sometimes it’s the job, and sometimes it’s because that person – like myself – just doesn’t have that personality. I like who I get to work with, and I like thinking about how to teach writing, and developing new ways to teach. I like being professionally engaged, and looking for ways to make that happen. For me, teaching is interesting in a way that office jobs are not – I find them mind-numbing, but that’s my own preference; there’s nothing wrong with office jobs: They’re just not for me. And also, as much as I like my job, I don’t want to spend 18 hours a day there; I want to spend time with my husband, or read, or go for a walk, or or or or or. I want to be more than my job.

      I think the questions to ask might include: What kind of work makes you happy? It might be paid work; it might be volunteer work, or a creative outlet (one friend loves designing and sewing costumes for local theater productions). I think one mistake people make is thinking that one’s job needs to be all encompassing (“all things to all people”).

    6. Sole*

      I think for me, happiness at my job and ‘jumping out of bed’ to get there are two separate things. I absolutely love my job, but it’s at times boring and repetitive – just a fact, not every day is going to be passionate and stimulating. Sometimes it’s just numbers in spreadsheets. But I’m ultimately still working in a healthy environment that’s supportive, fun, and surrounded by people I like and inspire me.

      Some mornings I’d rather stay cuddled up with Netflix than come to the office, but it’s rarely job specific – sometimes I just get tired of ‘work’? If I won a billion dollars I’d still want to volunteer with my organization but probably not 40+ hours a week!

      1. Bleeborp*

        I really like my job! I tried a lot of things before I found librarianship and never liked them and just figured my whole working life would be a slog but when I started working in a library I was like “OH this is it!” I love the mix of public service and desk job duties (I get burnt out by too much of either) and I am very lucky to have a boss and coworkers I like. Some libraries are not run so well so I feel very lucky in that regard. I help people, I get to be creative sometimes which I need, I learn new things constantly, and it’s pretty low stress. I don’t like it enough that I’d still work if I didn’t have to but I would consider volunteering, I like libraries that much!

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m pretty happy at my job now, to be honest. There are some downsides, of course, but there have been downsides at every job I’ve had. Right now I have some major upsides, though:
      * My commute is short (one bus, no transfers)
      * I keep getting unsolicited pay raises and bonuses
      * I find my work intellectually stimulating
      * I get to work with kids but don’t have to grade papers or have parent meetings
      * Occasionally there are “fires” to put out, but we generally have it fairly evenly paced here

      That said, I don’t think there’s any shame in disliking your job and working just for a paycheck. Most people aren’t independently wealthy and so actually need a paycheck to pay rent/mortgage, get groceries, save for retirement, travel, etc.

    8. NeverNicky*

      My current job is the best one I’ve had in a nearly 30 year career (well, I call it a career, that suggests planning and a defined path…)

      How do I tell I’m happy:
      – I have positive things to discuss with my partner at the end of the day
      – I feel fulfilled and that I’m making a difference
      – I’m recognised internally and externally for what I do, so I have some positive strokes
      – I work from home, and I cheerfully manage to get to my desk and don’t procrastinate (well, not much)
      – I’m motivated and proud of what I do
      – I’m not tearful, depressed, subject to low grade pain and headaches on a permanent basis, nor do I stand at the top of my stairs and think “if only I tripped a little bit, I wouldn’t have to go in”
      – I have a manager who manages me in the best style for me (although he could be a bit more generous with his praise at time, but equally if I’ve dropped a clanger, he doesn’t go on about it)

      Would I do this job if I won the lottery tomorrow? Possibly not, but I wouldn’t leave immediately, and as it’s a charity, I’d probably fund some specific projects we don’t currently have the resources for.

      I would say getting to this level of job happiness took a long time coming, and all the various skills I picked up in less than ideal jobs got me to this role at this point.

      1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

        I’ve definitely had a job that caused me to hope I would get into a car accident so I would have a “valid excuse” to not come to work for a while. Every job since then has been much better by comparison! Your story makes me hopeful that my “career” will turn out alright, even if it’s not exactly mapped out yet. That first horrible job taught me that I can be content at a job, and that’s enough for me. I just want to avoid misery!

        1. I'd rather be blue*

          I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who thinks this way. This is a pretty regular thought process for me.

        2. Anonymous72*

          I also had that someone-please-hit-me-but-don’t-kill-me job. I spent evenings sobbing in my corner office, Saturdays obsessively/irrationally worrying about mistakes, and Sundays sobbing on my couch. To get out of it, I jumped into a worse job (I’d worked at the company before, so they didn’t want to call my crazy boss for a reference), burned out, flamed out, walked out – and spent two years unlearning terrible work habits. I’m finally–FINALLY–“officially” back on my feet and caught up to where I’d always wanted to be at this point.

          Those jobs suck. Souls. Life. Everything.

    9. J*

      I’m content. This job isn’t the greatest fit for me, but it’s close enough, I like the people, and it affords me a lifestyle that I enjoy. I left a job that was a perfect fit professionally–loved the people, the job was in my wheelhouse and hit the sweet spot of challenge–but it was a bad fit family-wise. This was a fair trade, and I only regret it in brief moments of frustration when I’m doing more of the things I don’t like to do.

      I don’t need my job to be the be-all, end-all. I have too many other things I want to do with my freetime to want to work a gig that was all-consuming. So this is fine.

    10. KR*

      I love my job! It’s fun, my manager rocks, I love working to make the world a better place (renewables), the pay is good, and I get to travel a modest amount. I think I know I love a job when I don’t dread going there every day, I feel good after a long day, and I don’t have an urge to get high for work or immediately after (I don’t smoke that much any more, don’t worry about me!). I also love a job where I can get stuff DONE. My old job was one where we had constant ongoing projects that never seemed to get done or closed out completely and I never realized how much it annoyed and demoralized me until I got here and I can get projects done and closed out and not worry about them anymore. I also love a job where I don’t deal with customers or Needy Employees. I have to get my stuff done and I am the customer, so I’m not bending over backwards for rude or clueless people for the sake of Customer Service. I can for the most part choose not to work with someone or a company if I want to. I love that.

    11. Temperance*

      I actually love my job. I work in law firm pro bono, which is admittedly a niche industry, but I get to help people while having the fancy resources of a big money firm. It’s awesome.

    12. Deloris Van Cartier*

      I have a feeling that I’m one of those people who may never be truly happy in a job. I think a lot of this has to do with my anxiety and how I process things but even in jobs I’m excited about, there is always something that stresses me out/makes me unhappy. I just get weighed down by the not great things in a job. My technique is to focus on and remember the things that I do like about my job so when I’m feeling really awful, I do remind myself there are benefits to this job. Right now, it’s the schedule and flexibility and possibly building some skills. Sometimes I wonder if I’m just in the wrong field but I’ve worked in volunteer management for the last 6 years so I’m not really sure where else to go or what other fields I’d do well in.

      1. Mimmy*

        Hi, are you me? I think I’m the same way. I keep meaning to make a list of the pros and cons of my current job – great idea.

        1. Deloris Van Cartier*

          Glad to know I’m not alone! Sometimes I feel so down about that (which doesn’t help to feel already down about my job) because I don’t want to feel unhappy and so stressed about stuff that isn’t probably that bad. I’ve found having that list helps and finding something outside of work that makes me feel creatively fulfilled helps balance out the anxiety of my job.

      2. Koko*

        Another approach you might try is remembering the things you like *outside* of your job. All jobs get stressful at times…if you didn’t get stressed out from time to time you’d honestly probably be in a job that didn’t challenge you enough and you’d find it interminably boring.

        I also have anxiety/depression and for me, I love my job because even if it stresses me out sometimes, it’s a low enough level of stress that I can mostly refuse to let it taint my general mood. It’s not perfect – there are times when I have to work late or I get urgent “something is on fire!” emails after-hours that I have to drop what I’m doing to extinguish, and that does impact my mood those weeks. But most of the time if I’m stressing about something at work, I check my stress at the door on the way out, and then I go home and cuddle with my pets and watch my favorite show on Hulu and eat some delicious nachos and you know, that’s a pretty good life notwithstanding the stress I was dealing with at work that day.

        So it’s a little of both – it’s part my job not being *overly* stressful, but it’s also part coping skills I’ve learned in therapy so that I don’t let things that bother me, bother me more than they need to. Being able to emotionally let go of things that don’t need to be dwelling on or caring about. Dwelling is just a negative and unproductive thought pattern you need to break. Wellbutrin also helps with that.

    13. ThatGirl*

      I’m sure part of it is still the newness, but I’m really enjoying my job right now.

      There are less-fun parts, of course. People can be aggravating, our bureaucracy is a bit ridiculous, and sometimes it’s hard to get answers I need.

      But it’s a fun company to work for, in general. We had cupcake-decorating classes yesterday as part of the workday. I really enjoy helping people. I am being paid fairly. I like my manager a lot and most of my coworkers. The benefits are really solid. And my commute is a vast improvement over my last job.

      In general, office atmosphere has a lot to do with it. Job responsibilities is another big chunk, and I’m finding a nice blend of “everyday tasks that I can do a little mindlessly” with “larger projects that are more fun and challenging”. I get to research, I get to write, I get to help people…it’s a good fit.

      1. Happy Gauge*

        That sounds like a dream job to me! What do you do that involves research, writing, and cupcake decorating?

        1. ThatGirl*

          My exact job doesn’t *usually* involve cupcake decorating, that was just a bonus yesterday :) But I work at a major household brand that makes baking supplies and uh, teaches decorating.

    14. Elizabeth West*

      I enjoyed Exjob until it changed. I was left alone to do my work, most of it was work I liked and had actual ability for, and the pay was good/benefits good. Though if I’d had a chance to move into doing the document work exclusively instead of being an admin, I would have jumped at it. Or, you know, lottery or best-selling books with scads of money rolling in, either of which I have an equal chance of achieving! :P

    15. Jadelyn*

      I’m…mostly happy. I work with a team of people I genuinely like and respect and 99% of the time I feel that’s returned (we all have our moments otherwise, of course); my work is varied day-to-day which is critically important for me to not go utterly batshit crazy; I have opportunities to learn new skills and am valued for the unique skills I bring and have developed since being here; I have a high degree of flexibility in my schedule despite being an hourly employee; most of the time I enjoy the challenge of the work I’m doing, although sometimes certain tasks can be more tedious than pleasantly stimulating; and I love that I work at a nonprofit whose mission I can believe in.

      The big downside tbh is the pay and the fact that for over a year now I’ve been doing a job a couple levels above my current title, and despite there being “plans” to restructure and reclassify me into a more appropriate title and role, it keeps getting kicked down the road and I’m really getting sick of that. My team values me at a personal level; I don’t feel like the organization does in any meaningful way, or at least they’re not willing to show it. I had to fight tooth and nail to get my position priced in the first place after they converted me from temp to regular but kept me at the temp pay, and even when they finally did it they lowballed me on salary. So while I am mostly happy in my job, the resentment from being lowballed on pay and the constant postponement of reclassifying my job to reflect what I’m actually doing, and my overall feeling of being taken for granted by the organization, is growing to the point where I’m almost ready to move on.

      1. medium of ballpoint*

        Pay is a big issue. I found myself in a career I hadn’t anticipated in part because we didn’t any career planning advice in high school. (My kingdom to have had some career advice then!) I’m well-suited for the work I do now, I generally do it well, and it contributes to the general good. But sweet bippity, the pay is so low that it can be really demoralizing. I work in teapot manufacturing and my friends who work in teapot painting are so much more financially secure, have more disposable income, and have been saving for retirement for years. There are some months I’m still paycheck to paycheck and just started saving for retirement his year, and I’m close to 40. It’s frustrating to have a terminal degree and such low pay, and it makes those stressful days seem like it’s not at all worth it. I try to remember all the good things about my job, but fairer pay would certainly make me much, much happier.

    16. Blue Anne*

      I’m pretty happy at my current job. My colleagues are okay, and a year in, I’m starting to work well with the bosses and know most of the things about what I should be doing. I’m trusted to manage my own workload. I’m getting into a routine with a lot of the tasks and it’s satisfying to be able to power through a big pile of work without asking too many questions. Plus it’s ten minutes from home, I’m learning a ton and I get free bagels and diet coke. :)

      I just wish it paid another $5/hour.

    17. JN*

      I like what I do, the people here, my boss, the city, the friends I’ve made here. I can leave work at work, unlike my previous career field. What I don’t like is the paycheck–and why I’m looking for something better. Leaving will be hard, because the only reason why I’m looking is the less-than-ideal salary.

    18. D.W.*

      I’m pretty dissatisfied with my job. I was on a certain career path (with a separate option in my head) throughout college, and a gap year between undergrad and graduate school affirmed that the option in the back of my head was the way to go, but getting into that field has been such a huge challenge. After my gap year I was able to secure a fellowship in my desired field, but was not able to secure full-time employment. So I went back to my trained discipline.

      While I totally believe the work I do is needed and incredibly useful, I find absolutely zero fulfillment in it. I find myself day-dreaming of all the things I’d rather be doing. Leaving is the highlight of my day. Don’t even ask me how my day was! I do not like discussing work and never have anything positive to say about my work day. It’s literally just a job. It pays very well and have great benefits. That being said, I do enjoy a few people in the office, but I can’t wait to get out of here.

    19. Oryx*

      I’ve had previous jobs where I would literally be crying while making breakfast because of how much I did NOT want to have to go into work. So, it’s a low bar but I pretty much gauge work happiness by that metric.

      That said, I’m actually excited to go to my job everyday so I’ve swung from one end of the spectrum to the other.

    20. DDJ*

      I’m definitely in a place of being content to put in my hours and get my paycheque. But that’s because I have non-work things that I’m passionate about, and having a job allows me to have stability and financial security, which, as someone who suffers from both depression and anxiety, is important.

      I wouldn’t say that I’m unhappy. But I’m not jumping out of bed every morning. Although with my industry being very hard-hit the last few years, morale has been really low, and that’s definitely had an impact on things. But we’re working on it! And I’m…excited about the possibilities? And the opportunities that might arise.

      But I’ve always thought of jobs pragmatically. Largely because of my Dad. How many people go to work every day doing something they love that they’re passionate about? How hard do they work and how much do they have to go through to get there? That’s fine for some people, but for me, a job is a job. It always will be.

      I like my company and my coworkers and my bosses. I think we’re going in a really good direction. Who knows, maybe I WILL become one of those “jump out of bed, excited to go to work” people. But I’m ok if I never do.

      The only job I absolutely loved and was excited to go to every day was working as a bartender at a small town bar. I could work six days a week (and sometimes did) and STILL feel excited about it. But I was young and didn’t have a mortgage or car payments or adult responsibilities. If I was making $400/week, that was fine. So maybe it was more just being youthful and having a job that was super fun, I don’t know. Someday I’d like to do it again. If I won the lottery (which would be tough, considering I don’t play the lottery), I think I’d stay at my current job, but I MIGHT be temped to quit and get back into tending bar.

    21. Specialk9*

      I adore my job.

      I love the mission of helping people in a really tangible way, that’s the biggest thing. I love feeling competent, and the satisfaction of putting out high quality products. I love being able to lose myself in my work.
      I love that I’ve worked myself up to a point of getting to manage my own program how I like. I like my co-workers, mostly, and respect the heck out of my manager.

      That said, like every job mine has *lots* of boring stuff and I also can’t wait to go home many days. If I were to win the lottery, I think there’s a reasonable chance I’d still want to do my job, but only part time and remotely.

      That said, manager and co-workers make such a difference. This same exact job for/with other people who were difficult was not fun.

    22. Mimmy*

      Eh – I’m not entirely thrilled with my job, but I’m in a slightly better place than I was before; at least now I’m not on the verge of crying or a panic attack. What I’m doing is not what I envision myself doing long-term, but at least I get to meet a variety of students (I’m an instructor for adults who are blind or visually impaired) and several have expressed gratitude for what I’ve taught them. Plus, my supervisor has been very understanding whenever I’m late due to paratransit because she uses it too (as do several other staff).

      Will I ever find a job that truly makes me happy? I hope so. While I am gaining valuable experience in my current job, I’m not using the skills and knowledge that I’d like to. I know that no job is 100% perfect, but I feel like I’m chasing an elusive dream of feeling like I’m truly where I should be.

    23. Fishcakes*

      I strongly dislike my job. I feel trapped because the market isn’t great (it took me over a year to land this gig). I don’t feel valued at work at all. My boss doesn’t talk to me and I’m the last to know when something is happening in the office. My colleagues think my work is easy (graphic design and writing mostly) and tattle on me when I work in unconventional ways (i.e., researching, sketching). We have serious spyware monitoring our every move. All non-management staff are treated like unprofessional idiots. Us lowly staff have a bunch of ridiculous rules we have to follow, which of course management doesn’t (i.e., nothing allowed on our desks, not even a photo of our families). New rules and computer restrictions are constantly introduced, sometimes I can’t even do my work because a new piece of restrictive software won’t allow me to write simple code or even log into our CMS. Then it takes days and a lot of condescending comments and quizzing from IT in order to get it fixed (actually example: “well why are you even allowed to write code?”). I can’t even let loose with my co-workers, as they’re very reserved, much older than me, and not into joking around.

      Anyway. I know I’m happy at work when I feel connected to the team and feel proud of our accomplishments. And if I don’t dread going in.

    24. Koko*

      I tell people all the time that I love my job and it’s the best one I’ve ever had. But on a daily basis I don’t really feel jazzed about 90% of my work.

      Every now and then I get to do some fun projects that I genuinely enjoy, but the work itself is not really what I love about the job. I love it because I work with talented and kind people and I’m well-compensated in both salary and benefits. I love it because I can work a flexible schedule. I love it because I’m good at it and I know it, which is great for my self-esteem. I love it because feeling stressed out or overworked is the exception and not the norm.

      For me, that is everything I’m looking for in a job. Not that I will love the work, but that I will love the job as a whole package.

    25. mooocow*

      My job is pretty neat. I get to work in my chosen field with excellent salary and benefits, and a company culture that suits me well – very informal, but still focused, very collaborative, I mostly get to set my own hours, I can just be myself without sticking out, because really, almost everyone who works here is a bit weird (but in a nice way!). My commute is a 15-20 minute bike ride, 90% of which is through parks.

      The biggest downside is that the job is way more technical that I’d like it to be (I would prefer a higher proportion of research), and that the sheer amount of different skills and knowledge required to do the job can be pretty overwhelming (I’m 4 months in and just about feeling like I’m getting the hang of things). Then again, I switched to this job because my last job was boring the hell out of me, so I guess I got what I asked for.

      The biggest perk: I get to spend 10% of my paid work hours for pursuing my own professional development. As long as it’s vaguely related to my field, what I do is entirely my choice. Plus, I get to do that at home – to me, it feels like an extra day off every 2 weeks, because my chosen projects are interesting enough that I would spend free time on them anyway. Except the fact that it’s work is a good motivating factor to get me to stay at it.

      I used to define myself very much through my work (used to work in academia), but nowadays I’m a bit ‘meh’ about work in general, so even though the job is an excellent fit, it’s not like I jump out of bed in the morning and can’t wait to get there. If I won the lottery, I would probably stay in the field, volunteering a bit for some good cause, and maybe getting back into research for the fun of it. But there’s also a decent chance I’d use that lottery money to buy an old farmhouse and focus most of my time on gardening, renovating, and organizing social events.

    26. Snargulfuss*

      I’d always prefer a day off to going into work, but I do enjoy my job. I have a lot of autonomy, I’m appreciated, and I get to work on interesting projects. Some days are too dull and some are too busy, but there are frequent spans when I really enjoy what I do. I’d love to be earning another $10-20K annually, but I like the stability and 9-5ness of my job.

    27. Windchime*

      I’m happy with my current job. My last job gave me a nervous breakdown — I couldn’t sleep, I was anxious all the time, and I cried constantly. I had to take a 2 month break for anxiety and cried when I had to go back. I’ve been in this job for a year, and I have cried about work exactly zero times. The commute is no fun, but other than that it is perfect. The people are nice; the environment is great (windows! Overlooking a beautiful street in Seattle!), and the work is satisfying. Not super challenging, but not horrifically boring either.

      There is something to be said about going to a work environment where there are no negative undertones and no nasty gossip and backbiting. If I have to work (and I do), I’m glad it’s at this job.

      1. qwertyuiop*

        +1 At old toxic job, I would cry on my way to and from work, throw up in the mornings, etc. I haven’t done that at my current job. It isn’t exactly perfect, but the commute is a lot nicer and my co-workers are too. There still is that clique-y office vibe, but my boss is funny and the woman that I work with is a hoot!

    28. Frankly*

      My job is super stressful and I wouldn’t really say that I “like it.

      What I like is knowing that I can do the hard parts of my job. I can put out any fire; I can wrest control away from an incompetent project manager; I can wear anyone down with my reason and determination; I can take on that new role and figure out that new process!

      So I guess maybe I don’t look or sound happy from the outside, but I’m getting a lot of good feels out of my job and I’m looking to grow in it, not find something easier.

    29. Drew*

      I enjoy about 50% of the work I do, and the other 50% is necessary to get the first 50% done so I’m willing to put in the time. I am frankly WAY overcompensated for what I’m doing, which is certainly playing its part in keeping me anchored here. And I do like most of my coworkers, most of the time.

      All that said, I would be a lot happier if we would clear out all the dysfunctional management that’s standing in the way of us doing way more than we’re doing now. The company has decades of accumulated worst practices and stultifying “legacy code” that are keeping us from being the efficient engine we ought to be, and it stems from the top. I keep hoping we’ll get bought out just so someone will come through and scrape off a lot of the barnacles that need removing.

      Realistically, I should be looking around right now, but I know I’m very unlikely to find another job in my field that pays nearly this well, and for a variety of reasons I need the paycheck for the next year or two, at least.

      Summary: love some of the work, like most of the people, actively hate the office and the BS it puts us through, probably wouldn’t still be here if it weren’t for the paycheck.

    30. Workaholic*

      I worked 3 months in a photography studio before. Not a “dream job” because i made just over minimum wage. But i had so much fun. It was the first boss to ever give me the freedom to run with my love of learning, and let me do everything i learned. The position was typically a one person 40 hours a week sometimes needs help getting work done on time. I was able to do my job, finish on time or early with no help, and assist 3 other departments at the same time. After my first day – i said to myself “i can’t believe they’re paying me to have this much fun!” (I also said that to the owner on my last day).

      My current job doesn’t make me as happy as the photography studio. But so far every boss I’ve had here has been open to letting me learn, grow, multitask and help with anything i know how to do even if it’s “not my job”. between the type work i do, and the freedom to expand and push myself, it feeds my workaholic tendencies.

      So I’d say I’m fairly happy where i am. Not ready to move on to greater and brighter, shiny new experiences yet. Happier than most of my working life, Though not as fun as the studio.

  9. Discordia Angel Jones*

    Hey Open Thread!

    I have a question for anyone involved in academic recruiting.

    My husband is applying for PhD programs in the US – we are from the UK. If he gets invited to a face-to-face interview, how likely is it that the university will pay to fly him out for it?

    I’m asking because hopefully he will be asked for interviews at several colleges and we wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for multiple trips for interviews (possibly not even for one, we aren’t exactly well off as we have been living on a single income for years now).

    Any advice or answers would be appreciated!

    1. Blank*

      That’ll depend on how rich the university is – a former flatmate was flown across the continent for a long weekend (large, well-known private university) and full-on wooed. I went in the other direction (North America to Europe) and made do with phone interviews.

      Best of luck to your husband!

    2. No gifts*

      To some extent it depends on the discipline/how in-demand he is, but in my experience most places won’t pay to fly most people in (but might find you free accommodations if you ask)

    3. Simone R*

      Everything is different with different disciplines, but generally in the sciences they pay for people’s flights within the US. I got all of my flights/hotels/food that went with interviews paid for. However, this wasn’t true for international students-they usually were just offered a skype interview. You could always ask-they may be willing to pay for part of it, or if there are 2 programs with interview dates close by, one program would probably pay for the flight from the US interview to them.

      However, my friends applying to humanities programs generally didn’t interview, and had to pay for their own flights to the visit weekends.

      Hopes this helps!

    4. Barbara in Swampeast*

      In the US, “applying for Phd programs” means your husband is applying to be a student to earn a PhD. Is that what you mean? If it is, in-person interviews are rare. Decisions on admission to programs are usually just based on the application.

      1. Snark*

        Uh….no. In fact, it’s the diametric opposite, in my experience. In every department I’ve been a part of or interacted with, the application was a formality, and you were in if your adviser wanted you in. At best, it’ll depend on field, but she should expect her husband to interview in person with advisers with whom he might be working.

        Hell, I never even took the bio GRE and got accepted by my department because my adviser said, “yeah, so accept this guy.”

        1. nosy nelly*

          Hey I’m not arguing against the fact that the application is a formality, but interviews in person are super common. In fact, I posted about the know-your-PI-before-you-join-a-grad-program thing on the gumption post earlier this week. Totally agree with your concept *except* the idea that interviews in person don’t happen (I went on seven myself).

        2. Portia*

          In humanities programs, the admissions process focuses less on the advisor-student relationship, so the application is more important — but every program I applied to still had either in-person interviews, or an in-person accepted-student weekend, where you talked to potential advisors. In both cases, the universities paid for applicants’ flights and lodging, but I don’t know about international students.

      2. Yorick*

        It’s unusual in my social science field to have interviews for PhD positions. They often have a recruitment event, but that’s not mandatory and is sometimes after being accepted to the program.

      3. PhD Student*

        Just want to add my two cents that the application process for Ph.D. programs in the U.S. is very field dependent. As others have said, admission to Humanities programs is not as closely tied to the advisor-student relationship and the elements of your application definitely matter (although they should definitely mention professors in the department whose work overlaps with or connects with yours). That said, my understanding is that programs across the disciplines will typically NOT provide funds for international students to travel to the campus. If they do interviews, international students will typically do a phone interview or video conference.

    5. Andy*

      Hi! Admin in a US state university here!
      We are a mid range state university and for professorial interviews there would be a debate as to cost effectiveness of cross-pond flight, for PhD candidates I don’t know of a single program that would have the funds to fly students over for interviews. If his program is tech heavy and he has industry funding for his thesis project it’s a slight possibility.
      The more likely option for the school would be to have interviews via skype.

    6. Discordia Angel Jones*

      Thanks for replies so far!

      Yes, he’s applying to be a PhD student.

      I sort of thought that he would have skype (or similar) interviews, but one of his prospective supervisors mentioned face to face and that threw us.

      He’s in a STEM field, and has great academic experience in a field which just won a Nobel, if it is of any use to anyone.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        My partner is a PhD student in a high-demand field (I suppose it is considered STEM, but I never think of it that way), and he only had one interview that I can recall; it was for a program where they were on the fence about him and wanted to meet to discuss his qualifications. That one was in the city where we were living, so it was pretty easy. I doubt they would have flown him in for it. Skype is probably the most-used option, especially if the university is looking at transatlantic candidates.

      2. Mad Woman*

        Alright, Husband gave me the downlow. For context, he is at a very large research university on the East Coast that has one of the most notable departments for his discipline.

        They didn’t do in-person interviews for their intl students, only Skype with their potential advisor and a few other grad students. Cost and visa issues came into play. But there are several in his research group and many in his department, so it clearly didn’t affect their offers.

      3. London Engineer*

        My sister had a postdoc position in the US in a STEM field coming from the UK and she had her expenses paid for the interviews. However the costs were shared between the different institutions, so that she interviewed at a few different places on the trip. I don’t know exactly how this was organised but it might be an option if dates line up. Flights are the most expensive part so hopefully it should help.

      4. Amadeo*

        There are perhaps some others with more admissions experience, but I worked briefly for a math department and one of my side tasks was assisting with grad student admissions. Our grad director for the department never did interviews. The applications required two or three statements (at least an academic/research statement and a bio/personal statement) in addition to all of the usual things, like transcripts, recommendations from other instructors and so on.

        Nobody got interviewed before an offer of admission was extended.

      5. As Close As Breakfast*

        When I was applying for PhD programs in STEM (engineering) none of the schools did interviews. After acceptance though, every school had a ‘prospective student’ weekend. The power dynamic sort of flip flops at that point and now the departments are trying to convince you to come to their program. Each school, from coast to coast, paid for my flight and put me up in (sometimes very nice) hotels. It was all domestic travel, but I know some of the flight options I took were certainly not cheap.

      6. Jessica*

        Humanities grad student married to a engineering grad student. Neither one of us had any interviews before we were accepted. My department has a welcome/recruitment weekend for admitted students, and students were reimbursed for travel expenses. I was actually in Spain for the year when I got accepted and decided it wasn’t worth the hassle of traveling, but I know we have had students come from abroad just for the recruitment weekend. Like “As Close As Breakfast” wrote below, the dynamic sort of changes once you’re accepted. He could get in touch with grad students attending the universities he’s applying to and ask them what their experience was like, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that 1) he’d be able to visit campus after being admitted but before committing to attend and 2) that the university might fund all or part of that travel.

      7. TL -*

        Nobel prizes tend to lag behind the times and schools don’t tend to make financial exceptions for applicants anyways.
        In my field (molecular biology and adjacent medical research), your flights/hotels are paid for usually up to a certain amount, and the majority of interviews will be held in the same three to five weekends in January/February. A group of applicants comes out Friday, meets the profs, meets the other students, do some one on one, go out on the town Friday night, do more interviews, ect. Saturday, then head home Sunday.

    7. Mad Woman*

      My husband was flown out to all of the schools he applied to for his Masters/PhD. They covered transportation, food, lodging, etc. Only a couple of them had a cap on how much he could spend transportation-wise; the rest arranged travel for him. We’re in the US, but many of the schools weren’t near super big airports and he was coming from a small airport, so I can’t imagine it was cheap.

      He is also in a STEM field, which to my knowledge traditionally does this type of thing for students. It may be different for the humanities.

      The only fluke would be that you’re so far away they won’t pay or can only pay some. But if he’s a very competitive student, I wouldn’t say it’s a no-go.

    8. nosy nelly*

      Not sure about from the UK, but I flew to domestic PhD interviews at cost of the inviting school, across distances up to 1900 miles as the crow flies. So I would guess yes? But also if they won’t pay for the trip they will likely offer a Skype interview option rather than force you to spend your own money.

    9. persimmon*

      In my discipline, any interviews would be Skype/phone, and many departments don’t interview at all. He would likely be invited to visit if admitted, without funding or with not much. This isn’t mandatory but it is definitely valuable since this is a big decision. If possible, I would plan one US trip in mid or late March to see all the possibilities. If not, plan on a lot of phone chats during this time–and make sure to reach out to current students as well as the potential advisors.

    10. sugarplum*

      Totally depends on the program and the kind of resources they have for graduate recruitment. I interviewed with one program (in the social sciences) that was happy to reimburse domestic airfare, but one of my cohortmates was, at the time of our interviews, living abroad and they did not pay for her to come to the interview in person. Another program in the same field, within 100 miles of the previous location, did not pay for travel. So it’s a totally mixed bag. If they are unable to reimburse for travel, and you are unable to pay for travel, they will likely work with you regardless, like requesting Skype interviews or something instead of requiring you to be there in-person. It’s also *somewhat* less common for some STEM fields to interview in-person at all, though that depends on the specific field.

    11. Bye Academia*

      I got my PhD in chemistry and a lot of my friends went on to PhDs in biology. Not sure which STEM field your husband is in, but it varies by specific major and institution.

      In my experience, the chemistry programs will accept/deny based on applications, and then have a visiting/recruitment weekend for accepted students. They would claim to pay for travel expenses. Free hotel, and reimbursement for flights up to anywhere from $350-$600. I ended up having to eat some of the cost at some of the institutions, but going to the visits helped me decide where to attend so it was worth it to me. And the visits weren’t required, so I could have skipped them if finances were a dealbreaker.

      In biology, my understanding is that they hold similar visits but they are indeed interviews. Most (but not all) are accepted. Again, they institution will usually pay for flights up to a certain limit.

      Regardless, it doesn’t hurt for him to apply and see what happens. If they do require an interview, they very well may pay for some/all of the travel expenses or allow for Skype interviews instead for overseas applicants. You can cross that bridge when you get there.

    12. Nye*

      Depends a lot on the school and to a lesser extent, the field. I’m in Biology, and private top-tier universities do pay for prospective students to visit. This is usually a group visit either for short-listed students prior to acceptances (e.g. Stanford), or for accepted students who are deciding which school to attend (e.g. MIT). Many public universities, even very good ones, can’t afford this. If your husband is in high demand in a lucrative field, he might get a prospective advisor who’s willing to fly him in for a visit, but this is more unusual.

    13. Turkletina*

      In my field, it’s common for the university to pay a set amount toward flight costs. Usually, it’s enough to cover a domestic round-trip flight, but it’s likely that your husband would need to pay for the ticket himself and be reimbursed, say, $300 by the institution. I don’t know how normal this is, but in my small field, graduate coordinators are very willing to work with each other to collectively cover travel costs. (Let’s say Berkeley pays for one leg of the trip and one of their grad students volunteers to drive you to Stanford, where you have an interview the next day. Then maybe a grad student at Stanford will have a couch for you to stay on and Stanford will pay for another leg of the trip.)

    14. Thursday Next*

      Currently I’m a PhD student in a STEM field. Everywhere (R1 public universities) I applied to payed for 100% of transportation and housing.
      Schools will usually allow potential students to come during non-interview weekends, if they have a conflict with the schools official weekend. Maybe your husband can arrange to do one 2-3 week US visit to see all the schools he gets interviews at? I’m sure a department would be willing to reimburse some amount of a flight cost if you’re able to buy tickets up front. Not to mention there’s a big difference in ticket cost if you’re flying from, say, London to NYC vs San Francisco. I just looked online and midweek RT tickets from London to NYC are as low as $400 – that’s cheaper than many domestic RT flights in the US that I’ve been on. I’m on the west coast and it can easily cost $500 round trip to fly to the midwest.
      If you can arrange a visit (I assume your husband would only need a generic tourist visa for a short trip to the US) I would prioritize the schools he’s most interested in and I would try and visit if possible. So much of your PhD experience depends not only on the PI but on the people around you – the other people in your lab, in you program and in your department in general.

    15. AcademiaNut*

      I’m in a smallish STEM field with good funding. It would be incredibly rare for someone to be flown in internationally for a PhD program application, and rare for domestic applications, unless the person is very close or incredibly good.

      But generally the departments understand this. They’re not expecting an undergrad to pay for an international trip to check out the department, although they’d welcome you if you happened to be in the area. Interviews would probably be done by Skype, although possibly at an odd hour to accommodate time zones.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Oh, and in my field international students are very common – I’d say 1/3 of my Canadian grad school program consisted of international students. So it’s something they’re used to dealing with. I was accepted (domestically) into the program without a visit, for that matter.

  10. Fabulous*

    Finally got my annual review yesterday. The end of the fiscal year was July 1st. Anyone else have dawdling managers?

      1. Redundant Department of Redundancy*

        Part of my job is tracking peoples annual reviews. We have one person who hasn’t had one in 6 years. At this point we’re not sure if it’s that the manager doesn’t want to do it, or if the employee is actively avoiding it!

      2. College Career Counselor*

        I haven’t gotten a review since I’ve been at my current job (4+ years). Before that, I had an annual review (that was a joke of a process for a lot of reasons, particularly because in my experience, evaluation is largely uncoupled from pay in administrative higher education) at the previous job, never had an annual review in the 8 years in the job before that (although I gave them to people who reported to me) and only had them sporadically in the previous jobs I had.

        Honestly, I don’t really miss it because I have regular contact with my supervisors and other people who know my work. The place I had annual reviews? Was the worst-managed division I’ve ever encountered. And the division head would routinely send back evaluations to department heads to be LOWERED, when this person had no real idea of their performance.

    1. beanie beans*

      I got mine in September (supposed to be done by March). It was 100% copy and pasted from the notes that I had emailed in January on my accomplishments. Lack of full sentences and everything.

    2. Michelle*

      Ours is supposed to be done by March 15th. We get the email the first week of Jan. Very rarely is ours completed by March 15th. We are actually so busy with work and ours is 9 pages long. No kidding.

      First we have a “cover” page with our name, title, department, hire date, today’s date, manager’s name, etc. Then we have to write about our goals from last year, how we achieved them or why we didn’t, etc. Then new goals (at least 2 professional and “voluntary” personal, at least 1. Then another couple of pages where your supervisor jots down how they think you did and what you could improve on. We don’t get merit raises for a good reviews, either.

    3. Nan*

      I’ve been here 9.5 years and still haven’t had my 90 day review :) but I’ve had all my annuals on time. Ours come along with pay increases, and managers have to have them done before increases hit checks or corporate throws a fit.

      1. Fabulous*

        Ours come with pay increases too. My pay increased months ago, but the actual 1:1 took f o r e v e r to schedule.

    4. Lady Dedlock*

      I just got mine. We’re supposed to do them in June, and I didn’t get one at all last year. Better late than never?

    5. Perse's Mom*

      They’re swapping ours to quarterly ‘check-ins’ now. And changing the rating definitions – used to be it amounted to Not Great, Fine, or Great! and now it reads more like Not Great, Fine to Great, or The Business Would Literally Fail and Spontaneously Burst Into Flame Without You. Which just… seems like a way to limit raises because those of us who keep the machine chugging along can be absolutely fantastic at what we do but we’re never going to be seen as mission critical like Sales or the people clients talk to directly.

    6. Chelle*

      We’re technically supposed to have quarterly reviews at my job, but my manager is not great with that kind of thing. I remind him around my annual remark that “hey, it’s probably time for a review for me, can we do it during this one-to-one in two weeks?”

      Mostly I’m not expecting any new feedback to come out of it as we have a huge feedback culture, but rather, we do stack ranking which directly determines raises, and the rankings for my role happen shortly after my “anniversary” date. So I want to make sure my annual accomplishments are fresh in his mind :)

    7. Madeleine Matilda*

      In government we have to do them and do them on time – both an annual review and a mid-year.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I work in a mid-sized private company, and doing them annually and on time is non-optional. I would be written up and dinged on my review for refusing to comply. I suspect the current director of HR would fire me, actually.

    8. Jennifer*

      Still haven’t done mine yet (due…. June?), but I’m not gonna remind anyone and since the Big Boss left I don’t think any reminding is going to happen. I got told I’d get “meets expectations” and since the last few I had didn’t, I’m good with that.

    9. A. Non.*

      Oh man do I have a story about this.

      So technically I was promoted: Teapot Historian I to Teapot Historian II, right? Only there’s no such thing as “promotions” where I am, apparently it’s a new job, that you have to apply for, interview for, and be reviewed for in the same way. So it’s 30-60-90-yearly, every single time. It makes me want to scream. :|

  11. Sophia*

    This week I noticed one of my employees was reading this website. Now I’m a little paranoid she’s searching for a new job.

    (Yeah I know there’s nothing I can do about it if that’s the case, but can’t stop over-reading into everything she says now…)

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion she’s looking for a job. Maybe she’s reading it for the awesome advice that covers everything from job searching , dealing with crappy managers and coworkers, etc. That’s why I read it.

    2. Banana in Pajamas*

      I would assume most people that read AAM AREN’T job searching. Clearly, you’re on AAM and it sounds like you aren’t job searching since you’re fearful of losing a current employee. I wouldn’t read into anything. :)

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah — this isn’t a job searching advice site in particular. It’s one of the things I talk about here, but it’s only a subset of a much broader slate of topics.

        1. MoinMoin*

          My only thought would be that I thought you said most people find this site searching for cover letters (that’s how I found it as well), so if she recently discovered it, it’s fair to assume that may have been the avenue. Come for the cover letters, stay for the Chanukkah balls.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Hmmm, I don’t think I’ve ever said quite that. It’s true that a lot of people come to the site by searching for job-searching info, but I don’t know if it’s “most” or not. (I think it’s not?) But also, there are about 1.1 million first-time visits to this site every month. So even if, say, 60% of those were from job searchers, that’s still 400,000 first-time visits per month from people who found it a different way! (Plus, even if she did originally find it because of job searching, that could have been before she came to work for the OP.)

          2. copy run start*

            I DID find this site from searching for cover letter help!* I was looking for my first professional job and stayed because I found the advice really valuable after I got the job. I feel like it’s helped me become a better employee/coworker faster than I would’ve on my own.

            *So far my cover letter success record after finding this site is 3/3!

      2. Sophia*

        Oh yes believe me I feel like a total hypocrite to feel this way, but…paranoia is never rational.

      3. Naruto*

        Job search aside, I read AAM in part because management is so crappy at my current firm. I want to, I don’t know, reaffirm in my own mind that certain things aren’t normal, professional, useful, or healthy; and remind myself that there are good bosses out there, etc.

    3. NASA*

      Yeah, I’ve been reading AAM for 7 years or so and been at this job for 5+ years…def not looking for a job anytime soon :)

    4. Some sort of Management Consultant*

      I read it several times a day, and I’m quite satisfied where I am right now! I just think it’s interesting!

      1. Specialk9*

        Exactly. I can’t read Dear Prudence, Savage Love, or Captain Awkward at work. (Without worrying about triggering an awkward keyword that puts my computer under scrutiny.) So I read AAM at work.

    5. Fabulous*

      I’ve been reading for 2 or 3 years now. While I have job searched during that time (that’s actually how I found the site) I’m not now, I just like reading the posts!

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve been reading this site for years… haven’t been looking for a job… for years. I’m not currently looking for a job, but I’m posting here now.

    7. But you don't have an accent*

      I told my boss about AAM! I was explaining to him my philosophy on reviews and ratings, and he was impressed and I said reading this site had helped me understand a lot more about them :)

      1. Dave Wheeler*

        Maybe she’s just taking a Gander at it . I know that’s a goose but typing DUCK !!! wasn’t funny enough.

      2. Dave Wheeler*

        Maybe she’s just taking a Gander at it. I know that’s a goose but just typing DUCK!!!! wasn’t funny enough.

    8. SoCalHR*

      I’d be more worried she is experiencing some weird/bad situation at work and looking for advice, job searching would not be the thing to pop into my head based on the majority of what this site is focused on (not to make you MORE paranoid Sophia). But, the Ghosting Guy’s article got a lot of press and reached over into Buzzfeed/facebook, so maybe more people are interested in this blog and its funny stories for entertainment value, cuz let’s face it, some of these are REALLY entertaining!

    9. Madeleine Matilda*

      Since you are worried about her leaving I assume that means she is a valued employee you want to keep. Why don’t you meet with her and ask her how she feels about her work, how you can support her career development goals, etc. As her manager you are in a position to let her know she is valued and to do what you can to support her so she doesn’t want to leave.

    10. MoinMoin*

      I keep this site up most of the day to read off an on while doing tedious tasks. I worry people might see it and think that, but it’s more that it fills that niche that’s interesting and still “professional” so not quite surfing or being construed as completely off-task.

    11. DDJ*

      I read this site pretty regularly so I can be better at my current job because I want to stay :) If that helps you at all. Maybe she originally started reading back when she was applying for the position she currently has, and now she reads it for entertainment, or to get insight into how people function in a professional setting. Finding out what kinds of things are normal and which are red flags, that sort of thing.

      I read is mostly for entertainment, and mostly to help me be the best at my job that I can be. I do manage people, and I’ve gained a lot of insight through reading the column.

    12. Purple snowdrop*

      I read the site every day, I’ve been at my job 2.5 years and I’m certainly not job hunting.

    13. Samiratou*

      Another reader not looking for a new job.

      Though I did read a bunch of stuff on resumes & cover letters, and asked in an open thread about cover letters when applying for a management position under your current manager, who you’ve worked with for 15 years.

      But not job hunting in the regular sense, though my husband has been unemployed for awhile and I’ve been passing on useful bits.

    14. Epsilon Delta*

      Ha! My boss saw me reading the site and asked me in a very concerned way if I was happy at my job. I got all flustered and was like, “oh yes, this is just a work advice site, she posts all kinds of interesting articles beyond job search stuff, like (scrolling) well this one is about a guy using chewing tobacco at work, ok um (scrolling) and this one is about breakups, erm (scrolling), (scrolling), all kinds of stuff really!!!” In my head: I swear this is useful lunchime reading!

    15. JamieS*

      I wouldn’t worry about it. She’s probably just looking for advice on how to handle a paranoid employer. I kid. I kid.

    16. Not So NewReader*

      If she is searching for a new job then it is what it is.
      However she could just want to be a more informed employee.
      If you can’t shake off the fear then ask her how things are going for her, ask her if she has everything she needs to do her job and remind her that you are available if she needs something. OTH, you could tell her that you enjoy reading AAM, too and you are happy to see her reading it, also. Sometimes the very thing we don’t want to do is exactly what to do.

    17. buttercup*

      I read this site all the time and I’m no longer job searching thanks to reading this site. I now read it for the wacko stories people write in about their work places! Also, people write in here for other types of work advice besides job searching (like what to do if a coworker smells or something.)

      My guess is that a lot of people discover this site while Googling job advice (which is how I found out about it), but stay for the entertainment. This is the most popular site that pops up whenever I Google anything job related. Alison gives more nuanced advice than most of the cookie-cutter job advice columns and sites out there.

    18. Gen. John Kelly, Sr*

      I’ve been reading it a lot lately. Helpful stuff here.

      “Sophia,” if you’re my boss, I assure you I intend to stay. Do you want me to call another press conference?

  12. constipated accountant*

    How do you respond to someone on your team resigning when you really wanted them to leave? It seems like the general response when someone resigns is “oh no, how sad, we’ll miss you so much” but this is someone who I’ve hated working with and who was awful at their job. I know a simple “best of luck in your future endeavors” is probably best, but I’m wondering if it’s ever appropriate to tell someone that it’s for the best that they’re leaving.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I would leave it at some polite well wishes. I don’t think there’s a reason to say that it’s best they’re leaving unless there’s some really compelling reason to do so.

      I’ve been happy about several direct reports leaving and I just wish them well and thank them for their contributions over the years.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        “I wish you the best at XYZ Industries.” Which is true! You sure as hell don’t want them at YOUR company on YOUR team.

    2. Malibu Stacey*

      The only reason I could imagine to tell someone it’s a good idea if they are leaving is if they asked for your opinion (which probably wouldn’t happen if they’ve already resigned), and even then I wouldn’t really say anything unless pressed, and then something vague like, “I think the less deadline heavy environment at [your new job] is probably a better fit for you.”

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        My last boss told me she wasn’t surprised I’d decided to leave, because I’d been “unhappy and very negative” and then went on to say it had been affecting her as well as the entire team. Nice. I fully acknowledge that I’m not an automatic ray of 24/7 sunshine. But I refused to bend over and say thank you with a big smile on my face every time someone crapped all over me. In her book, that’s being too negative. I didn’t even bother to respond. If that’s what she needed to tell herself to make herself feel better, I really didn’t care.

    3. Jukeboxx32*

      Lol, I’m actually on the opposite end of this as an employee who hated their job and was drove batty by their coworkers. At my farewell party yesterday my boss gave a little speech before the cake was cut and asked if anyone else had parting words for me… After about 2 seconds of silence I chimed in with a jokey “That’s ok, I’m just here for the cake!”. Problem solved, we ate cake and everyone split off into their own little cliques to talk, with minimal grilling/crying over me. I did not ask for a farewell party, and I’m planning on spending as little time at my desk (today is my last day) as possible to avoid all the fake “we’ll miss you’s”! because I literally can’t, I’ll jab a fork in someones eye if they try and hug me. In a nutshell, just don’t say anything. They probably won’t notice or care.

      1. Liane*

        “I’ll jab a fork in someones eye if they try and hug me.”
        So you kept the cake fork, just in case?

        Good luck at your new endeavor and glad to see you’re leaving an unpleasant job.

    4. Mazzy*

      This would be one of the few situations where I’d be overly polite. Nothing bad will come out of pretending that you’re going to miss them a lot and that the office is going to be dull without them. The “best of luck with future endeavors” to someone you see every day seems a little curt.

    5. Master Bean Counter*

      I bring in donuts they day after their last day.
      I also wish them well in their future endeavors.

    6. Been there*

      Agreed, I’ve have a few employees leave over the years that honestly I had to suppress an audible ‘Thank God!” when they handed me their resignation letter.

      I generally go with the, “Good luck, I hope that you’ll be happy in your new role, now let’s talk about the transition plan”

      I’m sure that I came across as cold and unfeeling to a few, but honestly they were the employees that fell into the just north of tolerable category and we both new things weren’t working out. I had two employees that fell into this category and I had inherited them. Apparently my predecessor gave them glowing reviews but he also did all of their work for them (I wish I had a quarter that first year in the position for every time I heard from them “Oh, I don’t know how to do that Fergus always took care of it/did it/wouldn’t let me do it”. Ughh these were in reference to me asking my Tea Pot Inventory Coordinator to reconcile our Tea Pot inventory, so core duties.

    7. fposte*

      I can’t really see any situation where it would be a useful addition. It’s never appropriate when it’s in response to their performance problems or if it’s somebody you don’t like. It could be appropriate when your best work buddy at your tanking company gets a great job job elsewhere before you do, but it’s also pretty superfluous.

      It can be absolutely true and still be a bad thing to say.

    8. hbc*

      Unless you guys were openly enemies or something, just say the nicest thing you can pull off sincerely. “Sounds like a great opportunity for you, congratulations!” Or “Wow, it’s hard to imagine things without you here.” You can leave unsaid the part that it’s a great opportunity to make someone else’s life miserable or that you’re trying to imagine how much better it will be.

      But I also consider “You’ll be missed” as a pleasantry equivalent with “Nice to meet you”–the actual words mean nothing about your feelings, it’s just a thing you say.

      1. Been there*

        So open to interpretation :)

        I like to take the work/performance out of the equation in these cases. Generally speaking I have no issues with the individual, so it’s easy to focus on the personal ‘You’re going to be missed’ because on a personal level they usually will be vs. ‘Woohoo now maybe I’ll finally get that weekly teapot report on time without having to remind someone’ lackluster performance

      2. Anon for this one*

        One of my former co-workers (who I worked with on a specific project every month) was unceremoniously canned and walked out one Friday after work. She messaged me later on that evening to let me know what had happened, and I agreed with her that it was a terrible way to be treated, after so many years.
        The following Monday it felt like a pall had been lifted from the office. I had never realized how stressed out working with her had been. The office was never the same without her (thankfully!).

    9. Fenchurch*

      Yeah, as an employee who moved internally a few weeks ago I can weigh in. The one person I did not get along with actively avoided me the last couple of weeks after I announced I was moving on. It was blissful. I wish I had told her I was leaving sooner so I wouldn’t have to deal with her! So don’t sweat it. It’s pretty likely this is a win/win for both of you.

    10. Lemon Zinger*

      Of course it’s not okay to say “It’s best that you’re leaving.” Come on.

      My dreadful coworker left a few months ago and I was genuinely happy for her because the new role was a much better fit. I said stuff like “I’m so excited for you! I know you’ll be great as XXX. What are you looking forward to most?”

    11. Not So NewReader*

      I put it under the category of too little and too late, to tell them anything if they are leaving.
      Where I live it would be normal to run into this person in the grocery store at random intervals. Don’t end this in a place where one of you has to hide in the canned food aisle. Wrap it up, set it in a peaceful place, even if you don’t want to and move on.

      1. Drew*

        Adding that “canned food aisle” line to my list of useful life wisdom. Brilliant.

        One of my former bosses once responded to a not-going-to-be-missed employee’s resignation with, “You know, you have some vacation saved up. Why not go ahead and use it?” Not sure if the “we’ll have a better transition the shorter it is” message was conveyed or not, but the resigning coworker was gone that afternoon, and there was much rejoicing.

  13. The Other Dawn*

    I had a weird thung happen yesterday and I’m not sure if I’m right to be a bit annoyed by it.

    I’m on a business trip for a three day conference. It’s run by the vendor that provides the application we use in my department. The day before the conference I met an attendee (a man; I’m a woman) who is from state that borders my own. We talked a lot about business. Turned out we had a similar career background and are one week apart in age. He mentioned that he’s not using the software to its full potential due to lack of time and resources. Been there, done that! I came away wanting to help him since I’ve been using it for awhile and have a good system in place. We also talked a little bit about personal stuff. He told me about his wife and kids, and i told him about my husband and cats. All in all, it was a casual conversation by the gardens.

    I saw him at the conference yesterday and we chatted for a minute. I got my seat in the conference room, then grabbed a business card and went outside the room to give it to him. I told him, “I wanted to give this to you in case you ever want to chat about X software or Y topic related to X software. If you ever have any questions feel free to contact me.” He smiled and said sometjing like “no that’s ok. Thanks anyway.” It didn’t register with me so I chatted another minute or so. Just basically asking when he’s flying out since we’re in the same region. He then mentioned the woman standing next to him was flying out to the same airport as I am. He then said that he should give her the business card and pushed it into her hand. She looked a bit confused since she hadn’t met me and had no idea who I was. It didn’t register with me again (I’m so oblivious sometimes). I said goodbye and I went into the conference room and sat down.

    As I’m sitting there, I realized that he openly rejected my offer to help him out and be a resource. And on top of that he have my business card away in front of me. The more I thought about it, the more rude and bizarre it seemed. If he didn’t feel he needed or wanted a contact who might help him out down the road, why not just politely take the card and then toss it later?

    My sole intent was to help someone out, as I’ve been in the position of having few resources and a mountain of work that needs to get done somehow, as well as having a system that needs to be figured out in order to be used to its full potential and processes that need to be created; it can seem like an insurmountable task. The only conclusion I can come to, other than him just being rude, is that he thought I was hitting on him (a friend suggested that as a possibility). But I said nothing that would indicate anything other than a desire to be a contact and possible resource. I didn’t touch him or anything like that.

    Anyway, I have no plans to track him down through the software application (there’s a community page). If he thought I was hitting on him then he will likely think I’m creeping on him or something.

    1. Chupalupe*

      I’d chalk it up to a weird thing on his side. I’m in a field where people give me their business cards all the time unsolicited. I smile, take it, and throw it away next time I’m cleaning out my wallet.

    2. NoMoreMrFixit*

      He was rude. You’ve every right to be annoyed. It’s his loss as it sounds like you could have been a big help.

    3. 4 Pete's Sake*

      Me too, I think he thought you were hitting on him. I suppose we should be all “good boy” that he didn’t take you up on your misperceived offer, but for Pete’s sake men, having a business-related conversation does not mean we want to see your boners. We mostly never want to see them.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Samantha Bee did a P*nis PSA the other day and she said “Sorry to break this to you, but…..your d!ck is ugly. No one wants to see it. In ANY context.” I laughed until I cried!

      2. Specialk9*

        I actually think that he was the one with lustful thoughts. If he was just a Mike Pence “get thee behind me Jezebel” type, they wouldn’t have talked at such length about business, with birthday and spouse detours. Because that conversation happened, instead of him shutting it down initially (as it would Pence-style, or if she was perceived as flirty), I think he may have been having lusty thoughts that he feels guilty about.

        OR his wife is jealous and snoops through his card and grills him about who he met.

        It’s some theories – you’ll note they are about him and not you. Let this weird, very very very rude person just be a funny story.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Also, I’m not a vendor looking for business. I’m simply a peer. We’re in the same position at our respective companies. Not sure if that makes a difference. I generally don’t give my card out unless someone asks for it.

    5. Grits McGee*

      That’s so weird! I also got the impression based on his reaction that he was suuuuper awkwardly rejecting to a (perceived) romantic overture,* but then that makes him giving your business card to a complete stranger even weirder.

      *Also bananas that he might have thought he was being hit on.

    6. nosy nelly*

      I am going to open a different line of thought than the other commenters–is there any chance he thought you had a sales pitch in the wings? I can imagine some conference attendees being very averse to seeming interested in a contact or conversation that would end in an attempt to make a sale, even of the professional kind.

    7. Myrin*

      Reading this all nicely condensed and story-like, I immediately came to the same conclusion as your friend. Still quite bizarre and borderline rude of him, though, since, like you say, it sounds like a situation he could’ve smoothed over very nicely by simply being polite.

      (And I actually have the opposite problem from you – I constantly worry that people think I’m flirting with them. It hasn’t actually happened that often in the past but it was very embarrassing nonetheless. I get where it comes from – I’m a very cheerful and exuberant person – but I still dislike that some people immediately seem to equate “person is laughing and being friendly with me” = “person is hitting on me”.)

    8. fposte*

      Yeah, either he thought you were hitting on him or he, for Mike Pence-y type reasons or whatever, limits his contact with women. Don’t worry about it.

    9. Jules the Third*

      He’s very probably one of those men who can’t eat lunch with a woman alone lest he be seen as sinning.

      I second the ‘he thought you were hitting on him’, despite your perfectly appropriate and professional behavior. There’s a lot of risk around that kind of interaction, for both genders, and he may be feeling particularly risk averse right now, especially with the current Weinstein frenzy. It’s completely dominated my news feed.

    10. Stop That Goat*

      I’m going to fall on the ‘he thought you were hitting on him’ side and that was his way of trying to politely signal his lack of interest and/or end the conversation. It sounds like it was a misinterpretation of your intentions. May be annoying but if he truly felt you were hitting on him and he wasn’t interested, I can’t fault him for it. I probably would have taken the card and then tried to get away from you if I thought that was the case.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      I went the opposite way from what others thought here. I thought he was thinking of hitting on you and decided not to for whatever reason.

      Sometimes all we walk away with was knowing that we were sincere. He had other things running in the background and it looks like he was not sincere. His burden to bear, not yours.

    12. Stellaaaaa*

      Is it possible that he was just BSing you about not using the software due to “lack of time and resources”? Maybe he just doesn’t want to learn how to use it and his business needs don’t require him to. For example, I still have an iPhone 5C. If someone asked me why I didn’t upgrade, I might laugh it off and say, “Ah, I just don’t have the energy to learn how to use newer tech.” In reality, I like my phone and the way I use it. If someone didn’t accept that answer and asked me a few times if they could help me learn how to use a newer phone, I’d feel cornered, like the other person wasn’t getting the hint. At that point (I’m sorry to say), I might resort to a bit of calculated rudeness just to end the conversation. He didn’t want help learning the software. He likely already does have the “time and resources” to learn it but just doesn’t feel like it. He was never going to call you up for a software tutorial. He has people at his own job he can ask if he ever starts caring.

    13. Close Bracket*

      > he thought I was hitting on him (a friend suggested that as a possibility). But I said nothing that would indicate anything other than a desire to be a contact and possible resource.

      Unfortunately, for a certain kind of guy, conversation about software is the equivalent of tearing of your clothes and throwing yourself at him.

    14. Miss Ann Thrope*

      I think you’re overthinking it. He doesn’t have to be Mike Pence- like. He probably thought it was weird you gave him your business card for help re something you both mentioned very briefly the day before and he’s likely awkward (trying to introduce you and make some kind of connection to the person next to him since it seems you didn’t say hi or introduce yourself)

  14. Ling*

    I follow a few baking-related blogs (purely for the pretty pictures, I don’t bake at all), and every now and then the bakers would post a screenshot of a DM or email they receive from people requesting they provide their services (usually an elaborate cake) at some event or another (usually for minor celebrities of Instagram or Youtube fame) for free. The reasoning being that they’ll get exposure because this ‘celebrity’ has X number of followers/subscribers and the value of that exposure is more than the cost of making the cake.

    Is this something that happens regularly? Is there any basis in that argument (i.e. the ‘value of exposure)? It feels a bit like when people are asked to do a free shift as sort of a test but without any definite promise of steady work afterwards.

    1. Academic Escapee*

      My husband is a photographer and it happens to him all the time. He usually responds with something like, “Thanks for the offer, but I can’t pay my electric bill with exposure. If you can guarantee me $X of revenue as a result of providing a free service (which of course, they can’t), I will consider it. Otherwise, I will have to charge you for my services like I do with every other customer.”

    2. Marzipan*

      I have definitely seen posts from people in that line of work about how often they get asked to make free cakes for ‘exposure’ and stating how exploitative they feel it is, and how they don’t feel it would genuinely be of benefit to them. Often they also say they did things like this earlier in their careers before realising it wasn’t worth it.

    3. Snark*

      There’s no value to it. You get exposure whether you’re paid or not, and exposure doesn’t pay the bills. If it’s worth having a cake at your event, it’s worth paying for that cake.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      I used to get asked this all the time as a freelance writer. And I used to tell people that, seeing as they found me, I was exposed enough thanks.

    5. Akcipitrokulo*

      No, it’s not OK. Just like asking a writer to do an article, a musician to do a gig or a plumber to fix your toilet “for exposure”… no. Just no. If I do work you want, pay me.

    6. Work Wardrobe*

      I sell on Etsy. You would not believe the amount of spam messages sellers get asking for free stuff.

      “I’ll post a pic of me wearing (thing) on Instagram and my millions of followers will see it!”
      “This (thing) matches my daughter’s birthday party color scheme exactly! Send me 3 and I’ll post on my blog where people can buy them!”
      “We’re having an auction for (sad story, 99.9% chance it’s a lie) and if you send us (thing), we’ll print your name in the event program!”

      1. Jules the Third*

        These are all forms of advertisement. Designers do it a lot with, for example, red carpet gown and jewelry. For some people, it does generate sales. You just have to decide the return on investment for you. The Instagram thing – if they really have over 100K followers, my understanding is that their name dropping does generate sales. They should be able to show their account though.

      2. Erin*

        I hate that! It’s such a scam, every creative person has heard the exposure line at least 3 times a year. I’m a painter and I wont paint your nude life size portrait in the style of Ingres Napoleon for free “exposure”. That will take at least $1000 in materials and at least 200 hours of labor. What you want is to commission me for a portrait.
        I am willing to trade for certain service like dental work, or the installation of a new furnace. I’d gladly trade a painting for that. Or else please pay me in cash or PayPal.

    7. Old Cynic*

      Well, it happens a lot in various businesses. I’m a picture framer, both art and mirrors. I can’t tell you the number of times over the 20 years I’ve been doing this that people ask for discounts, or free product, for the exposure. Apparently, their friends will see my frame on the customers wall, will ask who made it, and I will be deluged, yes DELUGED, with business for the rest of my career. I’ll be come rich, rich, rich.

      My dentist, hair stylist, florist, handyman all have the sam experience.

    8. LCL*

      Ahem. To quote my all time favorite rockabilly band, the Hillbilly Hellcats, from their song ‘I hate music’:
      ‘At least it’s exposure,
      that’s what they say.
      But you can die of exposure
      in less than a day.’

    9. J*

      I think creatives in all fields get asked to “do it for the exposure”. And I’m happy to see more and more of them pushing back on it.

      (I also see people pushing back to news outlets online when they ask to use someone’s content for free. Twitter threads will be filled with people advocating for the news outlet to pay for the content and it makes my heart swell.)

    10. Anna*

      I have a LOT of artist friends who get the same line all the time. Some of them are already pretty successful and still people try to pay them in exposure. It’s BS and it happens all the damn time.

    11. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I get asked to write free things all the time, and I get emails from people who want to run their own articles here for free (as opposed to buying a sponsored post). Most of the people who tell me I should do it for “exposure” on their sites have traffic that’s a fraction of the traffic here; it’s bizarre.

      I have started sending back Very Snippy emails.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Here’s one I sent to someone last week:

          Well, no, because I don’t work for free, like most established professionals. And you’re not a charity, where asking for free work might be reasonable.

          Do you not realize that asking people to work for “exposure” has become a widespread joke — that writers get offered that so often that there are entire memes and campaigns against it? (See, for example, this or this or this.)

          I urge you to reconsider. The tide is really turning against your type of business model, and this is going to get you a terrible reputation with any reasonably established writer.

          1. SaraV*

            I initially read your first response as a “Very Snappy” response, so I’m now going to make it a “Snippy-Snappy” response. ;)

      1. Samiratou*

        A legal blogger I follow gets all sorts of solicitations to do “guest posts I know your readers would just love” that have nothing to do with the content of the blog.

        He delights in engaging them on doing a guest post on the perils of ponies, and posts the back & forth on his blog. It’s pretty hilarious.

        1. JamieS*

          It’s obvious to me that legal blogger was never kicked by, thrown from, stomped on, and bitten by a pony. Always remember, a pony is nothing more than a hostile horse with Little Man’s Complex.

      2. many bells down*

        I wonder if you’ve ever seen any of Popehat’s emails to people who want free advertising on his blog. It usually involves a very long diatribe on the dangers of ponies.

    12. hbc*

      I can’t quite figure out the pithy way to say it, but these people should have it pointed out to them that connecting to someone who’s so unsuccessful that they have to beg for free food is probably not a way to gain good exposure.

    13. Construction Safety*

      Well, it takes some gumption to do that (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

      I used to peruse a site for magicians. It happened all the time to them.

    14. AdAgencyChick*

      If you do any kind of work at all that is useful to the general public, someone at some point is going to ask you to do it for “exposure.” Writers get asked to produce free articles, doctors get hit up at parties for medical diagnoses*, graphic designers get asked to do free websites, and so on forever.

      My landlord does not accept exposure as payment, so neither do I.

      *One of my favorite Miss Manners columns of all time mentioned that a doctor who kept getting asked for medical advice at social gatherings would respond with, “Certainly. Please take off your clothes.”

      1. Laura*

        I’m well known in my field and regularly get hobbyists trying to ride my coattails, ask me to promote their work for free, etc etc. Without fail, these people have never done anything to push a project of mine, and are hugely surprised when I ask if they have.

        And that reminds me to email the startup magazine that asked me to write something for them without mentioning a fee, and ask them what they’re planning to pay me if I accept. I am already assuming that they will say they’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to pay contributors and want me to do it for the exposure. But since I’m much better known than they are…

      2. puzzld*

        Librarian here. We get asked all sorts of odd questions at weird times. Sometimes I answer them… other times I suggest they zip me an email or drop by when I’m at work, or even contact the xyz library as they’d be more able to answer this particular question (or their doctor, lawyer, landscaper) and some of them get all snifty. “You’re a librarian, you’re supposed to answer questions!!! ” But not 24/7. Seriously.

        1. Drew*

          Oh, dear silly person, “Here’s where you can find that information” IS an answer.

          It’s just not the answer you wanted.

      3. Troutwaxer*

        I’ve often thought that people who are asked to work for “exposure” should immediately hand the person who expects this a $100.00 bill for “time wasted.”

    15. Fiennes*

      Almost certainly “exposure” is worthless. The only contexts where I could see it working for a baker might be some large charity function, where your gorgeous cake and a sign identifying you as the baker would be on display to hundreds or thousands of local rich people. Plus maybe there’s a way to count it as a donation on your taxes.

      Otherwise: no.

      1. Laura*

        The clue is that none of these people who ask are working for free for ‘exposure’ themselves…!

        1. Boötes*


          So, unreasonable-request-maker, how much exposure are you getting an hour? How’s that workin for ya?

    16. Gwen*

      I mean, there definitely can be value in exposure, there’s a reason that brands are dying to throw free product at influencers, but I would say as a general rule, if you have to ask to be given the free thing, you aren’t at the level where you do actually provide any value.

    17. Nerdling*

      It happens so often there’s a Twitter account for it that posts multiple times daily with different instances of it. (@forexposure_txt, if you’re interested.)

      It’s also almost always baloney peddled by someone too cheap to pay for someone else’s labor. Incredibly rarely does this work turn into anything positive.

    18. Sled dog mama*

      FWIW I wonder how many of these requests come from someone like the PTA at my daughter’s school who seems to think that the way to get items for the annual silent auction is to ask EVERY SINGLE BUSINESS in town for a donation.
      How about we notice that the ones we actually get donations from are a) kids stores or b) ones that a parent knows the owner or c) owned by an alum or parents of an alum.
      Makes me so angry that each member is required to send out a certain number of solicitations, how about I’ll just buy a gift card to the bakery instead of us sending them a form letter for the 15th year in a row and getting nothing them we’ll all be happy. Business owner gets business, PTA gets auction proceeds and I don’t feel bad for asking a business owner to donate.

    19. OperaArt*

      I sometimes work as an actor and have an IMDB page, even though in my day job I’m a software engineer. The “for exposure” thing is a constant irritant and joke in the acting community.
      Sure, I’ll be in your local appliance store commercial, and could you give me one of those refrigerators for free. I’ll show it to all my guests! It’ll be great exposure for you.

      And then the shoots where everyone except the actors get paid…Sheesh.

    20. Engineer Girl*

      My favorite was the bloggers asking for a free meal in exchange for exposure on their blog. The irony? The restaurant already had a Michelin star! Nope, don’t need the “exposure”.

    21. Bryce*

      “Exposure kills people” is the unofficial pun-motto of a lot of people in creative professions.

    22. Close Bracket*

      > every now and then the bakers would post a screenshot of a DM or email they receive from people requesting they provide their services (usually an elaborate cake) at some event or another (usually for minor celebrities of Instagram or Youtube fame) for free The reasoning being that they’ll get exposure because this ‘celebrity’ has X number of followers/subscribers and the value of that exposure is more than the cost of making the cake.

      For some celebrities, the value of the exposure is high enough to charge for it. Yep, this is a thing. The cost can run into five figures.

    23. Tiny Crankypants*

      I did an internship at a lifestyle magazine for free. It was a fairly famous brand, and they banked on how established their name was to persuade interns to work for free, hinting that it would land them more opportunities. While it was true, it was one of my first early career mistakes. On hindsight, I shouldn’t have done it as it deprived for of money and savings that I needed.

      Nowadays, if anyone asks me to work for free, I ask how much they’re willing to pay. That usually shuts them up.

    24. SureWhyNotSigh*

      I’ve been a visual artist for 40 years.

      People only value things when they pay the going rate for them.

      I’ve donated items for charity auctions and fund raisers here and there. Different deal altogether.

      I get loons who want freebees all.the.time. The few times I did it “for exposure” was a massive mistake. The person burned up more of my time trying to micromanage me, and was generally a PITA.

      Never under price yourself. If you are a professional, charge the professional rate and let the grifters go prey on some other poor soul.

      I have friends who own a party planning business aimed mostly for children’s birthdays. People try low ball the all the time when it comes to face painting and ballon twisting. “You leave your cards out at the party.” That’s instead of paying for the talent for painting 15 kids faces (high end designs), balloon twisting and party games for 4 hours.

      They had one insane mom who thought snap chatting and Instagraming the party was more than enough payment because it was *exposure* They didn’t take that job.


  15. Susan K*

    Does anybody have a good system for remembering to follow up with people?

    I have an incredibly hard time with getting people to respond to my e-mails. I will often reach a point in my projects where I need information, a decision, or action from someone else before I can proceed. These are usually not things the other person can answer on the spot, so I make the requests by e-mail. Once I request the information/decision/action, I mentally move the project to the back burner and move on to something else while I wait for a response. Weeks or months will go by, and I’ll realize I never heard back from the other person, and the project has been at a standstill for way longer than I planned.

    I want to be more proactive in following up with people, but I am juggling so many things that it’s hard to keep track of what I need from whom. I usually keep notes about these requests in the project files, but I need a system to remind me to follow up when I inevitably don’t get a response. If anybody has a system for this, what do you use? A spreadsheet? Calendar reminders?

    Also, how often do you keep asking when you don’t get a response, and how many times do you ask before you start CC-ing the person’s manager? If you are waiting for responses for multiple things from the same person, do you follow up about them individually, or use a digest format with a list of things you still need from that person (like my immediate manager, who has ignored at least half a dozen things I have requested over the past couple of months)?

    1. Monsters of Men*

      Do you use Gmail? You can turn those stars into other symbols. When I need to follow-up with someone, I *star* the email into a red exclamation point. When they’ve replied, I *star* it into a green checkmark. If you go under “starred” it all shows up there, which I find handy.

      1. Susan K*

        No, we use Outlook… Outlook has features to flag for follow-up or add a category to a message, so I could do something like that. Do you look at all your stars on a regular basis (like once a week or something) to see what you need to follow up on again?

        1. Lucille B.*

          In Outlook, I like making a “To-Do” Category and maybe a “To-Do – URGENT” Category. Then sort by category in your inbox so those are at the top for you.

        2. a-no*

          You can set reminders on the flags so it reminds you on the date (and time!) you specified it to in outlook. Just right click over the flag and select ‘add a reminder’. I find it pretty handy that if i need to follow up in a week it reminds me to do it, and you can just click the flag to remove it if you get a response sooner