my manager won’t stop talking about her romantic problems, not eating at the office Christmas lunch, and more

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

1. My manager won’t leave me alone about her romantic problems

My senior manager recently left her husband for another man. This new relationship is very unstable in that they split up on an almost weekly basis. I’ve known my manager for over 20 years, but she has only recently come to work in our team. When she and the new man split up, it is always his decision and she takes it really badly and it severely affects things at work. She will tell everyone about her problems and regularly posts about it on social media. She has called me at home in a state and I’ve spent hours with her trying to console her. But now I’m beginning to feel smothered by her, she won’t leave me alone outside of work, and me and my colleagues are literally carrying her at work and we get no thanks from her for it. I’m at the end of my tether.

Stop answering her calls outside of work. Or if you do answer and she wants to talk about her relationship problems, explain you’re unable to talk (you’re walking into a movie theater / just met a friend for dinner / entertaining guests / running out the door to meet your sister) and will see her the next day at work.

At work, if she tries to lay relationship talk on you, say this: “I know you’re going through a tough time, but since you’re my boss, I don’t feel right being a sounding board for this anymore. I’m sorry I can’t help. I hope you have people outside of work you can talk with.” And then if she continues to try it after that: “Sorry, I’ve got to finish up the X project — I hope things get better for you!” (Accompany that with appropriate body language like turning back to your computer and continuing to work.) And if it still continues: “Jane, I’m so sorry you’re having a tough time, but I’m not comfortable being your sounding board at work. Now that you’re my boss, I feel strongly that we need to have different boundaries in place. I know I didn’t say that earlier, but I’ve realized that I should have. I hope you understand.” And encourage your coworkers to set boundaries with her too.

Regarding carrying her at work — one option is simply to stop. By covering her work for her, you’re enabling her in not doing it herself. Step back from that and see if she steps up (and if she doesn’t, let her deal with the consequences of that).

2. I’m nervous about not eating much at the office Christmas lunch

I’m coming up to my first Christmas at my current company, and recently found out about their end-of-year tradition: Close early on the final Friday, head into the central business district’s premier restaurant precinct, and enjoy a long (and at 1-2 hours, presumably multi-course) Christmas luncheon.

Here’s the problem: several years ago I was struck down by an unidentified post-viral gastric condition. While the symptoms eventually stopped, six months of near-starvation had a lasting effect: I now eat like the proverbial bird — a SMALL bird. Less than a child, probably. An entirely adequate lunch for me is half a sandwich and two-thirds of a muesli bar … if I’m on my own. I tend to eat even less in company due to self-consciousness nobbling my appetite. A slap-up meal of the type I’m expected to attend is impossible.

I really do NOT want to broadcast my private (and unhelpfully vague) medical history to the entire office, but I’m not sure what else to do. It’s a very small company — no crowd to hide amongst — so if I go, my “abnormal” eating patterns will be blatantly apparent to everyone. I’m afraid that the suspicion of anorexia or another eating disorder will cross at least one person’s mind — a suspicion that’ll be hard to deny without sounding like I’m, well, in denial. (Can’t claim dietary restrictions as I’ve discreetly picked my way though several office bring-a-plates without demur.)

If I can manage not to go, I’ll feel obliged to offer some kind of reason for skipping it … but since I’ve been given ample notice to avoid scheduling clashes, have no family to serve as an excuse, and am known not to have travel plans, I can’t think of one. Either way (go, and nibble at half a salad; or don’t go at all), I’d be concerned about the etiquette implications of seeming to spurn the company’s hospitality. Possibly I’m overthinking this, but I’m new-ish to the workforce and feeling rather lost. What’s the best way out of this dilemma?

You are indeed over-thinking it! Go, eat what you want, and push the rest of your food around on your plate (a time-honored tradition to disguise the fact that you’re not eating it). If anyone questions you about it, say that you ate a late lunch or are on medication that’s giving you a small appetite or “I didn’t have a big appetite tonight but didn’t want to miss this” or even just “I’m not sure! The food is great — just not super hungry right now.” No polite person will scrutinize what you eat after that kind of quick explanation. And definitely don’t worry about seeming to spurn your company’s hospitality — by showing up and being pleasant, you are meeting your obligations there. You aren’t obligated to clean your plate.

That said, assuming you’re going to be working with these people for a while and there will likely be other events, if you’re comfortable with it, it might make your life easier to just say, “I have a medical condition where I can’t eat a lot at one time.” You don’t need to disclose more than that (and if people ask questions, it’s fine to say, “Oh, it’s boring” or “I don’t like to talk about it at work”), but it might help you not have to worry about dealing with this each time.

3. Applying for jobs when you don’t meet all the qualifications

I am a senior in college who is looking for a post graduate job, specifically in the museum development field. I am ambitious, go to a top school, and have a high GPA. I have had many prestigious museum internships over the past few years, which have all resulted in glowing recommendations from my supervisors. At the end of my most recent internship, I was told that I was perfectly qualified for a development assistant position.

My father often sends me job listings he finds online.. He recently sent me a bunch, most of which were for associates (the next level up). They all requested somewhere between 1-4 years of experience in various ranges (1-3, 2-4, etc). I have rarely seen assistant positions available. I suspect that in smaller museums, they may not even exist. My experience in development only constitutes a 3-month internship, but it was with one of the best museums in the country, I have extensive museum experience in other internship positions, and all the required tasks on the listing look quite easy for me. I would apply instantly, if not for the requested years of experience. (FYI, they do not request things like “demonstrated experience with ______.” I understand I cannot provide that.)

My father seems to think this is imposter syndrome, and keeps telling me that I’m smart and accomplished (which I do know I am) and should just go for it. But I am afraid I will look silly if I apply for a position for which I do not have requested experience. Additionally, I do not want to call upon my reference from last summer for such a position.

I’d apply for the ones asking for 1-3 years of experience (or 1-X) and see what happens. Worst case scenario, you don’t get interviews for any of them and then you’ll have more data about what’s feasible. But you’re not going to offend anyone or look ridiculous; people apply for jobs all the time that they’re not fully qualified for, and anyone who’s done more than a week of hiring work isn’t going to find that weird. And don’t worry about wasting your reference’s time, since if they call her, it’s because they’re seriously considering you. They’re not going to call a reference for someone who’s not even in the ballpark.

You should also talk to your reference and other people in your network who work in your field and ask them to weigh in on what level of position you should be targeting. You might find out you’re being too cautious (or you might find out that you’re not, which would also be good to know).

4. How do I motivate my employees?

I’m a 24-year-old manager of two employees who are both in their 30s. As you can imagine, my confidence is challenged pretty often on my ability to manage them, but I do know I’ve got the right skillset.

My biggest concern at the moment is motivating the team. I always feel uncomfortable throwing motivational ideas at them because I feel like they can see through my attempts to get them to work harder. How do I go about motivating them to feel ready to take on the day without feeling like an idiot?

Do they need motivating, or do you just think that’s something you’re supposed to be doing? Generally when people need motivating, it’s an indicator that something is wrong with the situation — either you have the wrong people for the job, or something in their environment is de-motivating them (like unreasonable expectations or terrible pay/benefits/management/culture). Generally, if you have the right people on your team and a decent environment, they’ll be motivated if you’re doing your job well — meaning that you’ve given them meaningful roles with real responsibility, ensured that they’re making progress toward meaningful goals, and recognized them for good work (both via feedback and via their compensation).

If there’s nothing in the environment that would de-motivate a reasonable person and you’ve laid out clear and reasonable expectations about how you want them to operate, and you’re having trouble getting them to hit the level of productivity and results you need (and you’ve told them that, to no avail), then I’d look at whether you have (a) reasonable expectations and (b) the right people for the work. But usually a manager shouldn’t need to get people ready to take on the day.

5. Can I ask our HR consultant for advice on leaving?

I am an office and HR coordinator for a small (under 20 employees) consulting firm. I’m the only HR person in the company and had no previous experience in HR when I started here 12 years ago as the first employee in a tiny start-up. Because we don’t have our own HR department, we have an HR consultant who we contact when we don’t know how to best (or legally) handle a situation. The company we use is one of the oldest and most respected HR companies in our town.

After 12 years here, I’m afraid I’m getting burned out. And the ownership is making a lot of decisions that are disappointing to me. So, I’m feeling like it might be time to look for another job. But, I would also like some “career counseling” to get an objective opinion on the employment situation that I’m currently in. Maybe it’s not as bad as I think it is and I’m just too emotionally involved since I’ve been here so long? Maybe I need better coping skills? Or maybe, I really do have a bad boss who isn’t going to change (I think I’ve read all of your posts on that topic).

I would really like to reach out to our HR consultant for career counseling and possibly career placement. But, I don’t know if this would put them in an awkward position or not. Do you think it’s appropriate for me to contact their career placement person, who I know and have worked with, on my own for my own job search?

If I go through with this, I’d like to use this company specifically because 1) they have a great reputation and do great work, and 2) they know my company and I think could give me an honest assessment.

Yeah, you’d be putting them in an awkward situation since they need to have some loyalty to your employer, who could be irked if it came out later that they’d helped you leave. That’s not necessarily reasonable (your employer doesn’t own you and you’re allowed to seek help in leaving), but it’s common enough that your HR company could understandably feel uncomfortable about it. And if nothing else, they might feel uncomfortable keeping a personnel-related secret from your company.

That’s not to say that this kind of thing never goes smoothly. It sometimes does. But it depends on the philosophy of the person you’d be contacting, and that can be tough to know ahead of time.

{ 187 comments… read them below }

  1. Junior Dev*

    The dad in letter 4 is reminding me of an article I saw called “you don’t have impostor syndrome.” (I’ll link as a comment.) Basically: “impostor syndrome” has become a catch-all phrase for any lack of confidence, rather than a specific feeling of being out of place and feeling like a fraud. It’s *normal* to feel doubtful about your abilities when you’re inexperienced, because you’re not very good yet!

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply to the jobs–the struggle in that position is figuring out what your strong points are so you can convince people you’re able to do the job despite a relative lack of experience, as well as identifying positions where your inexperience won’t be a huge problem. Learning to work with your limitations and eventually improve is a much healthier mindset than denying you have any.

      1. JerseyGirl*

        As someone who works in a museum, in an education role that I somehow got straight out of college, I’d say go for it and just start applying!

        1. Chloe Silverado*

          Agreed! I work at a small museum and I know we have at least one employee who started right out of college at a higher level than assistant. We also only have 1 assistant-level role (and that position is part time and the first to be cut when budgets are tight). I recommend applying, especially if it’s at a smaller/local museum. Since you have a lot of internship experience and the right education, no one is going to review your application and think it was inappropriate that you applied. The worst thing that could happen is you don’t get the job and keep looking. I’d also keep an eye out for relevant positions at the museums where you previously interned. I know at mine, we have hired former interns when appropriate full time positions become available (with the caveat that there isn’t much turnover so we aren’t able to as often as we’d like).

      2. Specialk9*

        Good points! “This is not Impostor Syndrome, this is Reality. The panic that comes from the feeling of not knowing enough, and others will find out, is accurate, if, in fact, you don’t know… My concern with this misrepresentation of Impostor Syndrome is that it pathologizes the very process of learning itself.”

    1. Smithy*

      As a nonprofit development person (but not in museums), I’m just here to echo that while being nervous and analyizing job posts is entirely understandable – I’m actually entirely on team Dad here. The development world is awful with what titles mean – so assistant, associate, coordinator, manager, officer – you’d be surprised how often any of those titles can be shuffled around. Definitely read the job postings with a critical eye, and be aware who the “dream” spots are in your field where applicants are more likely to be more competitive – but beyond that I say go for it. Especially with smaller institutions.

      I will also say that for better or worse, its very uncommon to see Development jobs posted as entry level. My first development job was with a small organization where I was the entire development department. I didn’t make a ton, but it was a brilliant (and steep) learning curve. But my primary advise is do not get caught up in titles, because unfortunately I have found that this sector is just not standardized that way.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I’m a super slow eater who doesn’t eat much, and if people comment on my food intake, I just tell them I’m a grazer (I sort of am). It shuts down most commentary, and for those who persist, I find silence with a blank look (a la “are you really asking me about my eating habits?”) is effective.

    1. Circus peanuts*

      #2 – would ordering a broth type of soup be a good crutch for you in this kind of situation? They are slow to eat and I know that hospitals serve them to people who cannot eat a lot but still need something. I also think if I sat next to you that any of the answers that Alison gave would shut me up if I had been inclined to ask. I would be more worried about judgement on my own meal. I am a picky eater and I am trying to learn to like diabetic friendly foods due to my new diagnosis. I think everyone will have a shade of your problem food wise and understand. Best wishes.

      1. Specialk9*

        A great technique is to enthusiastically talk about how great this food is… while taking small portions, cutting small bites one at a time so it takes longer, and eating slowly. Bonus points for engaging others in animated conversation, preferably about themselves.

        1. Mookie*

          As a (non-clinical) paranoid, self-conscious eater, the last thing I want to do is draw attention to LOOK AT ME EAT OM NOM I PERFORM THAT THIS IS TASTY, but others’s mileage probably varies. It’d make me feel very uncomfortable to have to pre-emptively persuade fellow diners that I’m eating as I wish to, plus it sort of takes the fun out of food when you have to use it to make other people feel comfortable.

    2. Artemesia*

      Sounds right to me. I would not say you have a medical condition that means you can’t eat much — this immediately says to the snoopy that you have had gastric bypass surgery whether you have or not. I am not a big eater and often push the food around on my plate and eat much less than those around me. People almost never say a thing. And ‘Oh I am a grazer’ or ‘I never eat a big dinner’ or ‘I’m not very hungry’ works.

      1. Tyche*

        Well, there are various medical conditions that prevent you from eating a lot. My mother suffers from gastritis so she can’t eat a lot: she has to eat small servings at lunch and dinner while eating snacks various times a day.

        So the OP can simply say that she has already eaten something, or that eating too much upset her stomach.

        1. Artemesia*

          And none of those are things you want to have people speculating about while eating? You just want the focus to be off your stomach and bowels as topics of thought or conversation at the company dinner. No discussion of upset stomachs or ‘medical problems.’ Just pick at the food and you won’t be the only one.

          1. fposte*

            I don’t think people are going to dwell all that much on it, though, and if they do that’s on them. I mean, I think it’s fine to say “I just don’t eat a lot” but I also think it’s fine to say “It’s a medical thing,” especially if people are persistent. I say “Nah, it’s a Crohn’s day” all the time and it’s no big deal.

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              OP said “I’m new-ish to the workforce and feeling rather lost”

              Which says to me that they’re still learning how to do this stuff. People need to learn how to answer a question briefly and without details. Your example is great!

            2. Bleeborp*

              It just depends on the people you’re with- I would say people with good boundaries won’t dwell but I’ve known many people who love to talk about the nitty gritty of stomach issues and ask lots of personal, gross, nosy questions so if you don’t know what kind of folks you’re dealing with, it might be safest to avoid medical discussions if talking about bowel movements while you eat isn’t up your alley.

        1. PB*

          Agreed. There are lots of medical conditions that lead to dietary changes like the OP described. My mind wouldn’t jump straight to gastric bypass.

          1. MicheleNYC*

            I wouldn’t either. I am on medication that one of the side effects is loss of appetite. Few people have mentioned it and the ones that do I just tell them it’s my medication and the conversation ends.

          2. esra*

            Same. I mean, I’d probably wonder if they also have Crohn’s (#grazinglife), but would be unlikely to say anything. Some people are nosy, but a lot of people just want to check in that you are happy/okay/having a good time.

        2. Health Anon*

          I have reactive hypoglycemia, which I manage by having lots of small “meals” a day and various dietary restrictions that I will sometimes ignore if I’ve been sufficiently consistent to tolerate deviation and my coworker’s delicious thanksgiving rolls are on offer.

          I’m sure, by this point, my coworkers have noticed that I’m not always strictly consistent. But they trust that I can manage myself and don’t require all nitty gritty details and justifications over everything I eat. A bland “I have a health condition and can’t eat that (right now)/need to eat small meals” has always been accepted. And I don’t think anyone’s ever assumed I have had gastric bypass surgery. If they do, they certainly haven’t let on.

    3. Kiwi*

      OP2, if you find yourself having to say you can’t eat much, try saying you can’t eat much *at lunch*, you feel crook if you do. That way people will assume you eat normally the rest of the time.

      Also, if it’d fit with the culture you’re in, asking for a doggy bag might shut down thoughts of an eating condition. And give you dinner. :-)

      I’m taking my team out for a meal like you describe and we’ve got one person who doesn’t eat much. No-one else will comment, and no-one assumes she’s got an eating condition either. Your team will probably be fine, especially if you focus on enjoying their company and just eating whatever you want to.

    4. Basically Useless*

      You could try saying something like “I dunno; guess I’m just not feeling hungry right now. ” Then sigh, grin and say “which probably means twenty minutes after I get home I’ll be starving. “

    5. Blue*

      I get full very quickly, so I tend to have small meals at work (like half a sandwich and a piece of fruit). Like OP, I’m a bit self-conscious about it because people definitely do comment, but I employ the light, breezy tone Alison so frequently recommends and just say, “Oh, I just fill up fast. I may grab a snack later.” I’ve never had anyone push it after that. At multi-course functions, “Just saving room for the next course!” has also been enough to deter commenters.

      1. Q*

        People ask at work here. Fortunately I’m incredibly petite so when they point out that I don’t eat much, saying that I’m a very small person and don’t need as much seems to shut them up, whether it’s true or not.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I think people will easily accept this statement (if they even comment in the first place)!

        I’m a complete grazer – I “pack a lunch” for work and eat some of it at 10… and 12… and 1… and 3… And the only time it’s come up in conversation is when I’ve brought it up for some reason.

        1. Former Employee*

          Sounds like me. I eat all day, but very little at a time. It turns out that is actually a good way to eat for a number of different medical conditions and not just one involving stomach/intestinal problems. Example: I was told that if you tend to get migraines, you should never let yourself get too hungry (or too tired or too anything else).

    6. ErinW*

      I’m on board with ignoring the medical component altogether. “Grazer,” is good, or I would recommend saying you’re a picky eater (“the food’s obviously great, but the tomato sauce is a bit heavy on the cilantro and I just can’t with cilantro”), or that the particular type of food doesn’t agree with you. Or even say you’re keeping an empty stomach for some big meal later. Nobody’s going to follow you home to find out it’s not true.

    7. JessaB*

      Also Alison’s advice about “medical conditions mall meals,” is actually really good because there are tonnes of conditions for which this is reasonable advice. Heck a lot of nutrition people are starting to say small meals more often are better for you than big bulky meals three times a day. They manage your energy better.

      And for us slow eaters, for us picky eaters, for us with eating disorders, for us with diseases or religions or other habits that make us eat certain things, can we once and for all get people to understand they need to QUIT MONITORING PEOPLE’S RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD. Sorry for shouting but I’d like that in 100 point headlines on every newspaper front page there is. And that includes not only what we eat, but what quantities, and when.

      Especially slow eaters. My body lost it’s battle to understand “you are full,” signals as a child because I wasn’t let to eat as slowly as I wanted to. It’s had lifelong medical implications. Why yes, I’m fat.

    8. HB*

      This might be odd but I was also wondering if this person could flag down a server early on in the meal and ask for half portions? I am notorious for never finishing my plate so I know that it is easy to feel “guilty” about this! If you truly don’t want the food I would see if the restaurant would help you out with smaller portions or maybe bringing substitutions (salad, soup) for some of the courses you don’t want, if you didn’t feel too awkward asking.

      1. Caraval*

        OP #2, I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this! If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last five months struggling to find a diagnosis, it’s that gastric problems are unhelpfully vague by nature. Don’t feel bad about eating what you need to eat, no more, no less. Don’t feel bad if you decide to create an emergency exit (even if it’s using one of those dating-safety apps that robocall your cell soyou can bail). Don’t feel bad if you find a really compelling emergency hairwashing that keeps you from going to the meal. Of course don’t call it that, but sometimes making up a reason not to go to/participate in something you really don’t want to (for whatever reason! Stressing because people are judgy about what we eat is a valid reason!) is the better part of valor.

        I’ve been lucky that I (after a search and a near miss) found a good gastroenterologist who listened to me, believed me, and was logical and methodical in his testing. And I still ended up with a “we don’t know what causes it or what makes it better, sometimes it goes away and sometimes people live with it forever” diagnosis. Worrying about other people’s reactions to your “not normal” eating pattern is too hard on top of what you’re already dealing with. The best thing you can do for your health is give yourself permission to not give an eff about anything but taking care of yourself.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, this is a great opportunity to reinforce boundaries. And please do stop covering for her. She may not have time to treat the workplace like her personal group therapy if she has tasks she has to complete or consequences to deal with.

    But she’s calling you after hours to moan? She’s lost perspective on appropriate behavior; help her find the way back by refusing to engage with her personal problems.

    1. Circus peanuts*

      #1 – I would find out if your company has an EAP and try to suggest it to her. I know the referrals usually are self referrals or from the top down but it might be worth mulling over. Good luck.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        This can be a way of setting boundaries. You can say this: “This sounds like something the EAP could help you with. I’ve got their card here if you need it. Here you go. I hope it’s helpful.” Then turn back to your work.

      2. Anon anon anon*

        Yeah. This sounds like someone who’s going through some kind of crisis. EAP could be a good starting point.

  4. Alienor*

    OP #2, I feel you. I’m a super slow eater to the point where people comment on it. I hate going out to eat with a group because I’m always the last one eating, and I usually end up stopping before I’m really finished, because I either feel uncomfortable about it or because we’ve run out of time and have to leave. In a situation where I know I have to eat in public, I’ll try to get smaller portions of everything (or order things that are easier to eat fast, like soup) because for whatever reason, it attracts less attention to clean/almost clean a small plate than it does to leave a lot of food on a loaded one. I wish people would just mind their own business when it comes to other people’s eating. :(

    1. Matt*

      Funny, I’m usually a fast eater but soup is the one thing where I’m always the last one to finish. Seems I’m more sensitive to heat than everybody else, and I’m still blowing on every spoonful for ages while everyone else is shoveling spoon by spoon inside themselves.

      1. Alienor*

        It seems like it really varies from person to person – I can eat soup, fruit, salad etc. relatively quickly, but bread and pasta take forever. The only time I eat those is when I’m at home and can take an hour-plus to finish my spaghetti, the way I did last night. :)

    2. Myrin*

      Hire me as your fast-eating gluttonous friend who will eat a second serving or dessert while everyone else is still midway through their meal so that we can be late together! For real, though, I’ve never been in a situation where people were scrutinised for eating too slow/too little but I’m always one of the last ones to finish because I eat so much – I’m very relaxed about it but I’ve gotten together before with people who felt a bit conscious about being super slow eaters and that way, they didn’t have to be alone. OP would probably know if she had someone like that at work but in case she’s never thought about it before, maybe she’ll be able to think of someone?

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      My mom is a very slow eater. (My husband’s line is that Grandma could starve to death with a plate in front of her.) We just accept that this is how Grandma eats, and no one polices her amount–OP is likely overthinking this.

      Quite possibly her colleagues are thinking “Does OP want that roll? Or can I have it?”

      1. KRM*

        Yes! My boss is a slow eater who prefers to eat several small meals a day. When we went to a teppanyaki grill for a company meal, she offered me her leftover steak (after seeing me eyeing it). The only thing I was thinking when eyeing it was “Hmmm, I wonder if Boss is going to eat that, or if she’ll let me have it!”. I tease her that I always sit with her at company functions to get her leftovers!

        1. SechsKatzen*

          See, while I understand that this is likely said in jest and with no malice intended, and that the recipient probably doesn’t mind, if someone said this to me I would become much more self-conscious of my eating. I’m a very slow eater and it doesn’t help that I’m very thin as well–so my whole life I’ve had “well-meaning” people ask me about my eating habits and diet, question whether I’ve had an eating disorder, and been forced to eat so much food that I became physically ill from it. I truly cannot eat without becoming very, very stressed because of this and anyone making a comment will make me freeze up and be unable to continue. The scripts Alison provided are what I would use and generally seem to be enough, but in general I really wish that even joking about a colleague’s eating speed/habits/diet weren’t so acceptable–particularly when if it were a situation where someone were eating extremely fast and noticeably more than everyone else, that would likely be seen as unacceptable body-shaming.

      2. Specialk9*

        There are many cultures in which pushing food – and haranguing you to eat, or guilting you to eat – are the norm. For many many people, eating food has outsized importance, and they believe they get all kinds of messages from people passing up their food. It doesn’t mean you have to give in, and the scripts from Alison and others are good – but some people really won’t stop bugging you if they have food related beliefs in their head.

    4. MechanicalPencil*

      My former SO was a very fast eater and I thought I was a normal eater until him. Then I became super self conscious of my eating speed and think I may be more on the slow end; however, I am on medication that has severely hampered my appetite. It’s always a game of wondering whether I’m comfortably full or about to explode, which may be part of my speed issue. In my case, faster is definitely not better.

    5. the gold digger*

      My husband eats so slowly I cannot stand to eat with him. I have things to do! I can’t be sitting at the table waiting for him to finally finish! Our solution is that when we do eat together at home, we will watch a movie while we eat so at least I am not so darn bored.

    6. Cassie*

      I have a notoriously slow-eating colleague who has been with the company a zillion years. An intern once commented on it in a teasing way, and the long-timer adopted a gruff persona and told him “Boy, I shoveled food down my throat every day for ten years in the army, and nobody will ever make me eat fast again!” The intern blushed so hard he almost turned purple.

      Anyway, said slow-eating colleague always requests a to-go box when placing his order at restaurants. That way he can immediately pack up when people get restless, and take his food back to his desk if needed. It’s not ideal, but maybe that would help you?

  5. Mike C.*

    Op 4:

    Given that wages (in comparison to per capita gdp, and most certainly in recent years after this recession) have been stagnant as all heck, I would really ask yourself if money might not be the issue.

    Are they being paid fair market wages? Have they been asked to take cuts in the past that haven’t been made up in light of overall improvement elsewhere? Anything along those lines?

    It’s not the only possibility but when you see hoof prints think horses, not zebras.

    1. JamieS*

      Certainly possible but that seems like a little bit of a leap since there’s not really an indication they’re not motivated only that OP feels they need to be motivational. I don’t won’t to overly speculate but this has the makings of a retail environment, least ones I’ve experienced, where managers are expected to give “pep talks” so I wonder if OP is either in retail or their point of reference (past management observation) is a retail environment. So I’d echo Alison’s sentiment and say the first step would be to determine if there actually is a problem with their motivation.

      On a bit of a related tangent, regardless of whether there’s an issue with employee motivation, I think OP should also look closer at the second issue of constantly feeling challenged which struck out to me as the bigger issue. Does that mean the employees are constantly challenging OP’s authority or that OP just doesn’t feel confident managing them (possibly due to the age difference)? Either way, seems like something that should be addressed before it becomes a larger problem.

  6. musedgirl*

    To commenter number 3, I could have written your letter a year ago; the only difference is that I’m in education rather than development. I applied to many positions, including those where the experience range was above what I could potentially have, keeping in mind that internship experience does hold weight in the field. Still, I heard back from few of these positions. I ultimately interned in another top museum over the summer, continued to apply to jobs and interview, and recently was hired at a top museum at which I interned. My advice is to apply to everything that you feel enthusiastic about and qualified for, but also stay open to doing another internship or a short term/part time position to start with. Many people get jobs from connections made during previous shorter term, part time, or internship employment. I also found that many museums hire only when people are ready and available to start, so you may not have much luck leading up to graduation with full time positions. Be patient and don’t lose hope! It can take quite a long time to jump into this field, and many, many people are applying for these jobs, including those who have previously had comparable positions to the listing. Stay confident in what you have to offer, stay connected to your network, and keep applying. Best of luck!

    1. perpetuallytired*

      Completely. It’s easy to think of yourself as not qualified and it’s not an issue that often addressed during school – school is more about gaining all of that valuable exp in order to graduate and get that paper. Even after a few years of work and publishing, I still feel completely unqualified a lot of the time! But that hasn’t stopped me from applying every once in a while for a job. I’ve even gotten to the phone interview stage before realizing that it wasn’t a good institutional fit for me. It all depends.

      But if you feel a though you have a shot at a place, don’t hesitate. Everyone has to start from somewhere. I’m just lucky that I gained a lot of experience during school (I held, like, 3 jobs part-time positions and juggled an internship per term). Even then, cover letters, letters of rec, and other factors are a part of the job hunt. So instead of focusing on the years of experience, think of it as one part of the entire package that you’re presenting yourself with. And seriously, networking!

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      I second applying for short-term positions, even if they’re super-short – my partner broke in via a 3-month and then a 6-month museum contract. And do apply for things outside your specialism too that are still museum-y.

      If you can afford to be a volunteer, and are in a city that can support that, do that too – even if it’s just 1 day a week. There are tons of things like digital archiving that pretty much always needed, as an example, and that gets you able to say you’ve been working in museums for X amount of time. And the usual advice of if you can’t volunteer get some temping/casual work in while you’re applying, rather than doing nothing so your CV looks good and has “real world” experience.

      There is a problem in that the museum field is over-saturated and, if anything like the UK, unfortunately has a lot of people who are wealthy enough that they don’t need to rely on a salary, so wages can be really low – so it might take you longer to break into working in the field than friends in other industries. But if you know that, you can be prepared for it taking longer for you, and not give up.

    3. Midge*

      I got my first full time museum job after both interning and working a short-term position at that museum. Internal recommendations really do hold weight, so if there’s a particular museum you’re interested in, getting volunteer, internship, or short-term experiences *there* (in addition to your experience at other museums) can be a real help.

      And a little extra context for your dad – there are many more people who want to work in museums than there are museum jobs. This can mean that people are working in lower-level jobs than their school and experience would suggest. Or that they don’t move up from those entry level jobs as fast as you might in the corporate world. And as a result, there often aren’t a ton of entry level jobs available and you may be competing with people with more experience and/or advanced degrees. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try or you won’t get a job, but it’s helpful to understand the job market before diving in. (And before your dad makes you totally nuts with his unrealistic expectations!)

    4. Smithy*

      Also hear to add that especially if you’re in NYC or DC, ask around for which temp services are used by nonprofits. In DC, I worked somewhere that basically hired entry level development roles (donor services positions) via temp agencies when there was an increase in work. Lots of those temps were ultimately hired, but it can also be a way to beef up a nonprofit resume.

  7. HA2*

    To #5 – bad idea. Don’t do it.

    Remember they’re not *your* HR consultant. They’re *your company’s* HR consultant. When you’re asking them for personal advice and career coaching, you shouldn’t be doing it on the time your company’s paid for – after all, your company isn’t paying them for that! And you may have worked with them a long time, but I doubt they’re your personal friends and just gonna offer professional services for free.

    And of course you put them in a position with a conflict of interest – they’re working for both you and your employer, whose interests will be at odds. Feels like a lawyer representing both sides of a divorce case – not ethically healthy!

    I mean, maybe you could get away with it. But there’s also the possibility for wacky shenanigans like “You work with the HR company, you give your two weeks notice, your company goes to their trusted HR consultants for advice on how to keep you” or “You work with the HR company and decide not to leave yet, but then they are put in awkward positions where they have to pretend they don’t know you’re thinking of leaving when giving your company advice” or “You work with them, they respond to your work email, and your work email goes through your company’s IT so they know”. Definite chance of burning some bridges or leaving a bad last impression.

    Best get advice on leaving from someone who isn’t a current coworker.

    1. Czhorat*

      Agreed. There are two ways of looking at appoint for a consult: either the HR consultant is offering professional services for free or they’re doing it on your employer’s dime. Neither way is fair to anyone involved.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      “Do you think my boss is crazy and terrible?” is not something you want to be asking this person, who has to work with them.

      1. Specialk9*

        Yeah. And really, if you’re even asking that question, you know the answer. They’re either objectively terrible for everyone, or subjectively terrible for you. And since the only one whose opinion you really care about is your own, you already know the answer. You don’t need external validation when you know they are crazy and terrible in combination with you (at a minimum). This isn’t working for you – get out and find a boss who is kind and professional. They totally exist.

  8. Former Computer Professional*

    #2 – I once knew a young woman who had a health issue where she could only eat in tiny portions.

    People would see her pick at her food and become concerned that she had an eating disorder. She took to saying pretty much what Alison suggested — ‘I have a medical condition that means that I eat in very small amounts.’

    In retrospect, I realize how rude it was to even say anything at all. It’s inappropriate to judge what other people eat, even if you think it’s “out of concern.” You don’t know that person’s health history unless you’re a close friend.

    1. Not Australian*

      Agreed. If you wouldn’t criticise a person for eating too much, you don’t get to do it when you think they eat too little. At most a gentle ‘are you feeling okay?’ should be enough.

      1. Justme*

        People judge others, especially fat people, all the damn time for eating what the observer deems as too much. So that happens. And it shouldn’t. It’s overall just rude to comment on what or how much someone is eating.

      2. Marthooh*

        “At most a gentle ‘are you feeling okay?’ should be enough.”

        No, it’s not enough, it’s too much. What is a slow eater supposed to say in reply? ‘Yes I am feeling okay! How about you? Are you feeling okay?’ ‘Yes except that I have a medical condition that gives me a small appetite.’ No, I have anorexia, thanks for asking.’

        Why not just trust people to tell you if they need your help?

        1. fposte*

          “Yes, I’m fine.” People genuinely do get sick at inconvenient public times, and it’s all right for their co-workers and friends to assist, even if it means sometimes people who are feeling okay get asked that.

          I don’t think you whip the “Are you okay?” out every time you see somebody not choke their whole turducken down and you don’t yell it across the table, and I would go first to saying that if there’s a food that would be more appropriate for them that could probably be arranged. But I think that there are areas where human kindness is better served by easing the “don’t comment on people’s eating” rule than keeping to it.

    2. Allison*

      “It’s inappropriate to judge what other people eat”

      Agreed, especially around the holidays! When I was a teenager, I had a normal appetite but a sensitive palette and there was a lot of food I didn’t eat, so people mistook my picky eating for just not being much of an “eater.” My boyfriend’s mom would always harp on how I never ate and I was too skinny. But now my cousin makes comments at the holiday dinner table about how overeating is gross and it’s disgusting how much meat Americans eat. Both sides need to shut up and let people eat what they want.

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        I have to admit, I’ve always had this fantasy of getting up and flipping the entire table the second anyone starts talking in value-judgment terms about food, and screaming something like, “LET’S ALL FORGET THIS AND CHANGE OUR BATTERIES THEN” #makeastupidcommentgetastupidreaction #andtheniwokeup

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I used to be the same way. I would fill up on stuff I liked but not touch anything new or different, or anything I didn’t care for (a lot of foods). When I was eighteen and took my first trip to London, my auntie thought I would starve to death. I barely ate anything. That changed over time, and now I’m eager to try new foods. I even had haggis and black pudding and liked them. There is NO WAY I would have eaten them back then.

        It’s nobody’s business. Most adults are capable of feeding themselves.

        1. Just employed here*

          “Most adults are capable of feeding themselves.”

          And whether or not they are, it’s not really something for coworkers to concern themselves with (unless specifically asked to).

          1. JessaB*

            Unless you are the person responsible for feeding said adult NOT able to feed themselves, it’s still nobody else’s business.

    3. Specialk9*

      But what can random co-workers do about an eating disorder? Disapprove them back to health?

      My relative spent *years* of intensive therapy with eating disorder specialists. Meddling from co-workers would have sent her into a tailspin of binge and purge.

      The involvement of concerned non-family non-experts may be appropriate in some instances… But not food.

      1. JessaB*

        Exactly, every person I’ve met with eating disorders (and I know a few, but also reading on the internet from people who have them, and people who treat them,) say that people talking about their relationship with food screws them up mightily. It’s hard enough to follow the plan you and your health care team have come up with, and believe you should or should not eat the thing, when nobody is up in your face about what you’re eating.

        Also fat people can have anorexia, can you imagine having that and being told that a fat pig like you shouldn’t be eating, when you’re trying to recover from starving yourself due to fat stigma? Why yes my friend is going through this right now. And no friend is not cant for it’s me.

        People need to seriously quit with food pressure. How about we limit out discussion to “hey that stuff is yummy, wanna try it? No? Okay.”or “Hey I know you totally hate shrooms, can I have the shrooms in your salad? Push em over here.”

  9. Esme St. Claire*

    I have a similar eating issue as LW#1, and from my experience, I suggest that you have a response prepared, because coworkers never fail to comment. I just say, “Oh, I’ve just always had a really small appetite,” and leave it at that. It amazes me that people feel they have the right to notice and mention my eating habits, especially when a lot of them really seem to chow down excessively, especially at work events. American restaurants are notorious for serving portions that are too large anyhow. I’ll often order just an appetizer or soup, which can be less noticeable because I leave less behind. For the most part, I’m beyond caring what they think, since it’s pretty rude behavior to ask.

    1. Project Manager*

      No kidding about the portions. I don’t have any conditions affecting my appetite, but I’m short (5′) and pretty slight, so I cannot remotely finish off the average portion in a restaurant. People have occasionally commented (“Was your food not good?” when I ate so much I was about to explode, but the original portion had been about 8 servings, so the plate looked untouched), but it’s usually not an issue. I don’t think I’ve ever had a coworker say anything other than “that looks good” about my food when we’re eating in a restaurant. Hoping your coworkers are equally tactful, LW!

      1. Q*

        My response to that is to point out i’m really tiny and don’t need a lot of fuel. People have never argued with that one.

        1. OP #2*

          Yeah, I’m thinking that a deadpan “I’m fuel-efficient” might work for me, since I’m on the wrong side of 160cm and slightly built. (And yet I have an even smaller colleague who is constantly eating. Go figure.)

      2. Artemesia*

        I do wish American restaurants served less but better food. When I am dining out just with my husband, I will often just ask for a take out box when the food arrives and put half of the unmessed with food in the take out box where it makes another couple lunches for me. But with an office event, that is gauche, so I’d just pick at the food. I am pretty big and still can’t come close to cleaning my plate.

        1. Allison*

          I often get an appetizer for my meal, because both the size and price are more reasonable, and I only get an entree when there’s one I just HAVE to order.

        2. the gold digger*

          But with an office event, that is gauche

          I am so glad I work with practical engineers. We take the leftovers from company meals all the time. One out of town guy even asked if I wanted to take his leftover BBQ ribs so they wouldn’t be wasted. He had eaten only half of them.

          Yes I did.

          I am with My People. We Do Not Waste Food.

      3. Specialk9*

        My husband and I often share an order (we might add extra meat so he gets enough protein) – it’s both frugal and healthier. But I focus on the frugality, since health/food hits a lot of negative emotional buttons, and frugality is a simple pleasure I can bask in.

      4. Leah Sawyer*

        My husband and I often share an order (we might add extra meat so he gets enough protein) – it’s both frugal and healthier. But I focus on the frugality, since health/food hits a lot of negative emotional buttons, and frugality is a simple pleasure I can bask in.

    2. CheeryO*

      Yep, I have vague anxiety around eating in front of people and usually can’t get much down at office lunches, and someone always has to comment. My canned response is, “I’m not a big lunch eater! I usually eat a bunch of smaller meals throughout the day.” Don’t overthink it, OP. If you want to go to the lunch, go.

    3. ClownBaby*

      No matter how you eat, people feel the need to butt in. I am a fast eater, not a good habit, I know…but I hate trying to talk while eating, so if I am a a luncheon with coworkers or on a date, I tend to eat fast so I can focus more on the conversation and less on “Okay, I just finished speaking, I can take a bite now…oh crap, he just asked me a question, guess I can’t take a bite yet.” Stupid, I know, but that’s just how my mind works eating in public. So I tend to chow down my burger or steak or whatever, leaving maybe a couple fries or some veggies so I can pretend to still be eating every now and then, but the truth is, I’m probably not going to finish any food left on my plate after 10 minutes. Waitstaff annoy the living daylights out of me when they giggle and say “Ooh someone sure was hungry” like I am a child.

      I get that people are just trying to make conversation, but it sure is insensitive.

      1. Birch*

        Everyone should just stop making comments about other people’s eating choices! Wouldn’t we all be so much happier if we didn’t need so much anxiety around shared meals? I’m necessarily a slow eater and when I’m around people who eat fast I always feel pressured to eat faster, so either I match the wolfing and feel terrible later, or I don’t get enough to eat. I’ve had food taken away from me with the fork still in my hand because everyone else already had clean plates. I’m more than happy to run the conversation while you eat first, and then you can chat at me as I finish my food at a glacial pace! :)

    4. Specialk9*

      “It amazes me that people feel they have the right to notice and mention my eating habits, especially when a lot of them really seem to chow down excessively, especially at work events.”

      See, right there – where people wish others would MYOB about what they themselves eat… but also want to judge others for what those people eat.

      It’s one of the reasons why people who eat too much or have guilt/shame feelings around food get defensive (which can often manifest as poor behavior) when people eat ‘virtuously’. Just because you’re not saying anything at that moment doesn’t mean they haven’t heard it said aplenty, possibly by you.

      Like they say in yoga,”keep your eyes on your own mat”.

  10. bridget*

    OP 2 – I think you are probably overestimating how much other people will notice this! I might notice someone not eating at ALL (I think I’d have the good sense not to say anything even so), but half a sandwich and half heartedly picking at a salad or something? Totally within the spectrum of unremarkable appetites. That’s how much I eat in a meal pretty often, and it’s usually just because my previous meal was more filling than usual. No big deal, and nobody has ever commented on it, as far as I can recall.

    1. Amelia*

      I wish you were right, but I think you may be *under*estimating how eager many people are to comment on others’ eating habits.

      OP, I think ordering a smaller amount of food and saying you can’t eat much at one time is probably best. Normally I’d say people don’t have the right to know your personal info, but if you want them to comment less, that’s probably your best bet.

      1. JamieS*

        Certainly some people can be rude and nosy but I think that’s more likely to occur if OP isn’t eating at all and less likely if people see her eating even if she’s not stuffing her face. Agreed OP should have a response ready but she shouldn’t go in expecting she’ll need to defend her eating habits nor should she preemptively say something since, IMO, doing those things will only cause OP to over think it and/or will unnecessarily draw attention to OP’s eating habits.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          I’m willing to bet OP is going in expecting to defend their eating habits because they’re so used to having to.

      2. AnonForNow*

        My mom has had a condition that means she can’t eat much at once for over six years now, it’s nearly killed her twice and everyone at work knows about it, yet people still comment when she orders a small meal or doesn’t clean her plate. Some people are just really weirdly focused on other people’s eating habits

      3. Specialk9*

        Agreed – I posted up thread that there are many cultures, and many individuals outside of those cultures, who take food personally. It’s also really common for people who feel guilty about their own eating to feel that people making healthy choices are being judgmental and radiating disapproval. It’s a combo of guilt and, in my life, experience of people actually doing just that. It’s complicated… But it totally happens. People *care* about others’ food choices.

    2. Anon anon anon*

      I think it depends on who you’re around. I’ve seen it go both ways. Some people are kind enough to mind their own business or not notice. Some people scrutinize everything.

  11. MamaSarah*

    OP #2 – Glad you are fully recovered. I started running half-marathons this year and ironically found this has seemed to shrink my stomach. I need snacks often yet get full fast. A lot of folks do 5 to 7 mini meals (think apple and almonds, half-sandwich, yogurt and granola). Totally normal, totally healthy. Go have fun!

    1. ClownBaby*

      I wish I had that happen to me! Ever since I got into running, I feel like I have a hunger that can’t be sated. Just goes to show you though, everybody, every body, is different. Hopefully OP 2 doesn’t have to put up with too many comments from coworkers. It’d be nice if it’s a luncheon that involves standing up and moving around with a plate. People won’t know how much you’ve eaten before you get to them.

      I did a marathon in Reykjavik, Iceland this past August…and man, that is one expensive city to be hungry in, haha. Luckily I brought a ton of granola bars to supplement my roughly $30 bread bowl. Their supermarket prices are extremely reasonable though and strangely avocados were very cheap and delicious. Lived like a true millennial and had avocado toast daily ;) .

  12. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 Like Alison, I’m curious about why you think you should be motivating them to take on the day. I’m about as motivated as it gets, but if my manager started suggesting motivational ideas or trying to get me mentally pumped for the day it would DEmotivate me pretty fast.

    In most jobs, being a manager really isn’t like being a cheerleader in the way you seem to be implying. Set meaningful goals and expectations, try to let people lead on some things or have projects they can own, and acknowledge good work. And then leave them in peace!

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      PS I just realised I missed this: “I feel like they can see through my attempts to get them to work harder”

      You are their manager. If you want them to make teapots more quickly or tickle more llamas, you need to use your words and tell them that. You shouldn’t be trying to attempt this in some other way that’s not designed to be seen through.

    2. Snark*

      Came here to basically say this. Do you just think that motivating people to work harder is a thing of bosses, OP4, and so therefore you must boss harder and motivate the people? Because I gotta say, if I had a considerably younger boss puppyishly trying to get me stoked for a fresh day of llama herding or whatever, I would roll my eyes so hard I’d do a backflip.

      As a boss, I generally find that well-paid professionals don’t need cheerleaders. They need clear feedback on their performance, clear goals to perform to, and timely feedback if their performance slips. If you have specific, actionable concerns about their motivation level, address that clearly and directly. If they don’t know what they should be doing, establish clear goals and directives, both for individual projects and processes and for the team as a whole. If you’re going into crunch time, a low-key pep talk might even be a thing. But they don’t need regular pep talks.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Yes! A boss trying to motivate me to “take on the day” sounds like a nightmare. This isn’t a pep rally and I’m not a small child. OP, if there are productivity or attitude problems, address it directly. Otherwise, let people do their jobs in peace,. For most professionals, respect, appreciation, and positive feedback are excellent motivators. (Obviously in addition to raises, bonuses, time off, etc., but I don’t know if that is within OP’s power to give, whereas a sincere “Thank you” certainly is.)

        1. Allison*

          Yes, in fact I had a boss like this, and in hindsight, his energetic cheerleader stuff was probably counterproductive. It felt like we needed to be SUPER DUPER EXCITED about work, and the reality is, that’s not necessary, or realistic most of the time.

        2. the gold digger*

          A boss trying to motivate me to “take on the day” sounds like a nightmare

          I don’t even want this in an exercise class! Just tell me how many reps and give me the count and we’re good.

      2. RVA Cat*

        This. I suspect that OP 4 is a Live to Work type (which has earned that promotion) while the employees are more Work to Live, because they may have more family responsibilities, etc. How about instead of trying to get them to work harder, you ask them what things make their jobs harder? There have got to be some systems or procedures creating bottlenecks or causing errors that may impact productivity a lot more than how fast they work or how many hours they put in.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Eh, being in your 30s doesn’t necessarily mean you have a family. And let’s be clear: whether you live to work or vice versa this still isn’t what a manager is for!

          1. Type A myself*

            ^What Ramona Flowers said. RVA is being incredibly ageist to assume a correlation between being a “type A go-getter” and youth.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes, so much. Also, most psych on this suggests external “motivational” pressure depresses internal motivation. So the approach could also straight up backfire. If my bosses tried to motivate me, even when I was a teenager and first-time retail/food service worker, I would have gotten fed up right quick.

        A kind word of thanks/praise will go further if it’s genuine. I still remember being praised/thanked for handling a Harry Potter release date masterfully (I worked at a bookstore, was 15, and had to break up multiple fights between grown-ass parents that day). That was a lot more motivational for me than any pep talk or whatnot.

      4. Specialk9*

        “I gotta say, if I had a considerably younger boss puppyishly trying to get me stoked for a fresh day of llama herding or whatever, I would roll my eyes so hard I’d do a backflip.”

        Same, though I’d eyeroll-flip for an older manager pulling this obnoxious cheerleader nonsense.

        (Not saying you’re doing this, OP – it’s one of the options, and that option would not sit well with many of us, especially top performers. But the situation may be very different – it was a bit vague so we’re guessing.)

  13. Jemima Bond*

    OP 4, good management is motivating as a side effect. When I feel demotivated at work it’s not because my boss isn’t trying to motivate me per se, it’s because I feel for example that she doesn’t know what I do, doesn’t care, doesn’t trust me to do my job, doesn’t respond to queries, that sort of thing. So if you are engaged with your team, give praise and thanks when did (I feel like I’m quoting a psalm – no need for the loud cymbals!), don’t micromanage but don’t leave people hanging – all the good manager stuff – this will help with motivation.
    Also if there is any situation where teams’ work is publically vaunted such as a company newsletter, make sure your team receives fair credit. I’ve had a few situations in the past where we designed and made a beautiful tea set but the team who served the tea got all the credit, because their bosses were much better at self promotion. Cue hideous resentment on my team as we felt let down by managers!

    1. Specialk9*

      This may actually be an excellent chance to talk with your people and ask for their ideas on how to get the results you want.

      So first identify what you want from them, and be honest with yourself about how much work you’re willing to do in order to help them get there.

      If it’s a productivity issue, then have a performance talk, tell them where they should be and consequences if they don’t, and ask for ideas on how to get there, and how you can clear roadblocks in their path.

      If you want them to have more ownership of their work, ask them what would make them feel that way, and how you can support them.

      (Unless you just want them to emote and enthuse at work because you have an idea in your head that they should, because. Don’t do that, like at all, it’s really disrespectful of other humans and the many beautiful ways to be. Unless you’re actual professional cheerleaders or resort/tour activity leaders.)

      1. Specialk9*

        Here’s an excellent thread on how it feels from the worker’s view when managers demand visible emotion and enthusiasm At All Times as a sign they are dedicated. (Hint: exhausting, and a deal breaker for top performers.)

        Again, not saying you’re doing this, OP, just that it’s one possibility for you to try on for fit. You’ll know if it fits, likely by an initial feeling if defensiveness, if you’re at all like me. :D

  14. Birch*

    OP 2 I’m a super slow eater in general but my appetite also totally varies by day and season–sometimes I’m ravenous and sometimes I can’t eat more than a few bites for a meal due to whatever my body is doing that week. People have mentioned it when I don’t eat a lot, but I’ve found that the best way to get them to leave me alone is to brush it off really breezily. Any of the previous excuses are great– I’m not hungry today, I had a big breakfast, I don’t eat much at lunch, it’s a bit early/late to eat lunch for me, I just had a snack a bit ago, just don’t feel like eating a ton today, going for a run/pilates/yoga/spin class later, etc. Stick to one excuse and don’t make it a big deal. No need to bring up medical conditions, and no need to make it seem shameful or like you’re hiding something dramatic. Just take a few bites of whatever you do feel like eating and act normal. If you don’t make a big deal about it, any reasonable person won’t either, and a reasonable person will not jump straight to accusing you of having an eating disorder after one work lunch! Slow eating also helps here because you can appear to be eating at the same pace as everyone else but end up having eaten less.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I agree with this tactic.

      I just think saying “medical condition” opens the door to all sorts of weirdness and assumptions. It almost invites speculation (“do you think she had gastric bypass??!”) or further discussion.

      I was going to suggest that if you wanted to lay some groundwork for later, you say, “I have a weirdly small stomach” in a breezy tone. It’s the truth without any detail.

      But even better is stuff like “I’m not a big eater.”

      I also think you should pick one that feels comfortable and say it literally word for word every time the topic of your eating comes up.

      Be breezy and confident. You are a healthy person (now—so glad you recovered!), and you’re entitled to eat what you want. Project that, and people will believe you.

      1. Birch*

        Yes, just trying to normalize the fact that sometimes people eat differently and that’s totally ok and not worth discussing. You never know when someone is going to start obsessing about your “weirdly small stomach” or policing when you DO feel like eating more! And also it gives others the chance to feel ok about however they want to eat, too, without needing to give an excuse. Once I ate just an apple for lunch and coworkers commented–I ended up explaining to them that it was medically related, but then everyone else felt the need to justify the fact that they were eating more, or get into that public self-flagellation about “oh I wish I had your discipline” etc. etc. Don’t play into that either. Some people will say leading things in order to get others to get involved in that kind of self punishment. Don’t act like you want people to ask more or that you’re hiding anything, and no one will notice.

    2. OP #2*

      Oooh, I like the “it’s a bit early” line – I’m ALWAYS the last person in the office to take lunch, and the Christmas lunch is noon-ish.

  15. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No. 5 Check out the career counselling services at your local university or college. I used mine years ago and it was very helpful. I did all kinds of tests to discover my strengths and weaknesses. It’s what they do so they are in a better position to give impartial advice.

    1. Specialk9*

      Another great option is Johnson O’Connor Foundation career aptitude testing. It’s around $650, so not cheap, but the 2 people I know who took it said it was well worth it for understanding what they would be good at. (And one had been considering getting an advanced degree, at $75k, but was able to find a better fit in their current industry, based on the test. So huge saving there!). Not affiliated, just a super enthusiastic witness to its efficacy for mid career changes.

      The other helpful thing was a career coach. (I’m told CTI is the cert you want to see.)

  16. Anne*

    OP2, I totally feel you! I am on a stimulant medication that has a side effect of suppressing appetite, and sometimes half a sandwich is all I can manage, too! And when I’m done, I’m DONE – I have left a single bite of something on my plate because I just can’t fathom eating that last bite.

    My advice to you is to order an appetizer or small plate as your meal! Often those things are tastier than the full meals anyway, and the portion size will be more your speed. I have never gotten odd looks from doing this – if anyone asks (which is rare), I just say that whatever it was looked too good to pass up. It’s also not a bad move to get something that already comes in little pieces (i.e. pasta rather than chicken).

    1. TootsNYC*

      There are also these:

      Eat only a little bit of each course
      Skip a course or two completely (dessert and salad are easy to avoid—“I’m not much for salad,” though it sounds like you like salad, so then don’t eat the entree because “the salad filled me up” if anyone comments.

      Though I think that’s too much work and you should stick to the “I get full easily.”

      1. J.*

        Agreed with all of this and Allison’s advice.

        Also, OP #2, I would suggest that depending on how big the group is, 1-2 hours doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be a huge, multi-course lunch. Even a slightly larger group of 6-8 people can easily take an hour for a sandwich lunch, and if it’s a lot of people, they’ll want to budget enough time for socializing and so people don’t feel rushed if they don’t get their food right away. You may be stressing out and making it bigger in your head than it will actually be.

        1. TootsNYC*

          but it’s a fancy restaurant. So it may be sizable amounts of food. And it may also be the sort of place that people end up talking about the food.

          And if the OP wants to eat just a little bit of each course, she can join in the “so yummy!” conversation.

          1. nonymous*

            If it’s one of those super-fancy many course places, usually the portions are quite small. Not OP#2 small, but enough that her nibbling shouldn’t be incredibly obvious. If anyone says anything, in addition to the suggested script, she might follow up with an offer to share food.

  17. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

    OP3, I don’t see this as you having an application problem, but a Dad problem. I see two ways to deal with that: 1) roll your eyes, grit your teeth, and send those applications straight to the trash bin without saying anything, or 2) deal with it head on by telling him exactly why you’re not qualified for each one. Example: “Dad, this requires X years of experience, and training on Y software and Z equipment. I have *x* years of experience, and I know very little about Z equipment and nothing at all about Y software. It is inefficient to apply for jobs where I know that I’m not going to get hired.”

    I’m having a similar problem–a friend keeps shoving apps my way that are for positions much, much later on in my career. No, I just became a job-insecure lecturer, I’m not going to apply for museum curator. That’s like 15 years from now, thanks.

    1. Czhorat*

      I think this depends on how close you are to the requirements. If it’s a very senior level position then I agree, while if it’s ” our ideal candidate will have five years of experience” and you have three then you as well toss your Harry into the ring.

      Postings are generally aimed at finding the ideal candidate; if you don’t quite have the perfect background but otherwise have strong reasons that you’d be a good for then you aren’t wasting anyone’s time by applying.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Actually she has a Dad advantage.

      Her dad isn’t sending her weird jobs.

      But it’s been remarked on at AAM before that men are more likely to apply for jobs that are a bit of a stretch, and women aren’t. Men get those jobs enough times for it to be a sensible strategy.

      Our OP may not be female, but rookies often have a similar hesitancy.

      Dad is demonstrating a confidence that might help the OP.

      1. CM*

        Yes, for once we have a dad who’s giving useful advice and job listings to the OP! I was expecting that the dad was encouraging her to apply to way more senior jobs, which is what we often see here. But instead, he’s very reasonably encouraging her to go for jobs that require 1-4 years of experience. That’s totally within reach for somebody who has a few internships under their belt. Listen to Dad, OP!

      2. Specialk9*

        Exactly, agreed. Dad is sending career postings that really are quite close (1-3 years experience? Read that as “entry level with a tiny bit of polish so I don’t have to hold your hand” – which with your internships is you), not super senior. These are positions a guy would already have applied for, but a woman will often hesitate because she doesn’t fit all the criteria exactly. (I’m totally guilty of this.)

        It’s a wish list, OP, go ahead and apply.

    3. Emma UK*

      I listened a radio programme on the BBC that said that men apply for jobs that they aren’t necessarily fully qualified for and that women tend not to. Those men often get hired too! I think we should apply for jobs that look like an 80% + match, not just wait for the 100% match.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      This keeps happening to me also. I keep getting suggestions that are WAY off anything I am qualified for or remotely interested in. I get so tired of explaining that no, I don’t feel like being a para at the public school would be a good fit for me, or that no, I can’t work nights at the gas station because I can’t sleep during the day (I’ve worked nights and it sucks), or no, I’m not qualified to be an acquisition editor at a publisher. It gets old.

        1. Specialk9*

          Such an annoying thing to deal with – but agreed, not what OP’s dad is doing at all. He’s spot on in his advice! (Which is probably annoying, given parent child dynamics.)

  18. HR is Fun*

    #3: There are definitely some recruiters and hiring managers who would consider you to already have 1 year of experience — because we would count your internships. I can’t say for sure without seeing your resume, but from what you’ve described, I would consider you qualified for the jobs that require 1-3 years of experience. I agree with Alison – apply and see what happens!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Tech is famous for requirements like “You must have 3-5 years of experience in a program released 2 years ago.”

      But I think several internships is probably reasonably close to 1 year experience.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        Agreed. If it’s 1-3 years of experience desired (and you have a string of internships, even if they’re not all in the exact departmental area), I say go for it. Many job descriptions are written with the “ideal” candidate in mind, but his person may or may not exist (or may or may not be willing to do the job for the salary). It is also an excellent idea to ask your references for some assistance in calibrating the type of job you should be applying for. They know the field, your background, and presumably have some experience hiring for a variety of roles. They’ll tell you where you’re likely to be competitive.

  19. HR is Fun*

    #5: I’ve been in HR for more than 15 years and I’d encourage you to look for other jobs if you want to stay in the HR field. HR people gain a lot by experiencing how various companies do things, and also you grow in your role when you are supporting more employees. (For one thing, there are several employment laws that don’t kick in until you have 25 or 50 employees, so I am guessing you haven’t yet gotten experience with those laws.) So I think getting experience somewhere else will be really helpful for your professional growth.

    Even if you’d prefer to stay in the office management field rather than HR, there is still a lot to gain by changing companies.

    Also, pay attention to your feelings of possible burnout, possibly being too emotionally involved (I’ve definitely been there, done that – it’s a good reason to leave!), and frustration with your (possibly) bad boss. All of your story, when added together, adds up to a good time to move on. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised when you start a new job about how much more motivated you feel and how pleased you are about much new stuff you learn.

    One thing you might do is surreptitiously let the consultant know that you are looking for other positions and she should keep you in mind if she hears of job openings. There is a chance that she will tell your current employer, but you might want to take that chance if, for example, you know that you would like to work for one of her other clients. Be sure to mention to her that you don’t want her to tell anyone at your current company, but do not say anything negative about your current company – just say you are ready to move on.

    Good luck to you!

  20. MuseumChick*

    #3, breaking into the museum world is HARD. It sounds like you have done a lot of things right though, which is really good. I agree with Alison, apply to the jobs that want up to (but not over) 3 years of experience. It is not uncommon at all in this field to apply to dozens (some times triple digits) of jobs before you land something that pays anywhere near a living wage.

    I also highly recommend you join your states EMP (emerging museum professional) group, and sign up for things lime Museum-L if you haven’t already.

    Best of luck!

    1. Eugenie*

      Yup — ditto to all of that! I’ve been a hiring manager in museums for almost 10 years and anything listed as 1-3 years of experience seems like it would fit you. Museum people will count your internships (and possibly volunteer gigs) as experience as long as they’re in museums or related fields (ie. if you’re looking to get into public programs or visitor services, retail customer service is SUPER useful to include on the resume – and would count towards experience!).

      Also, pay close attention to the other requirements or desired skills, if you’re match all or almost all of those and they’re asking 1+ year of experience they’re looking for you! Apply!

  21. LadyProg*

    OP2, I used to eat like a proverbial bird for many years, and though I got better (I was getting colds from being underweight and decided to get a nutritionist’s help to get the weight back, ended up managing to eat a bit more in the process) food has always been an issue for me. But since I have no medical condition to explain it I never thought much of it, I pretty much just tell people I don’t eat a lot and they let it go! Try not to let that stress you out as it makes it worse to eat, doesn’t it? Concentrate on talking to the people, having fun, and just let it flow. Hope you enjoy yoyr luncheon!!

  22. Anon Marketer*

    OP 2: Definitely don’t worry about it! Eat what you want, how much you want, and most people might not even notice! I had something very similar and went to my first day on the job (and the usual “take the new coworker out to eat” meal by…opening a pack of baby food. No one said a word about it and just continued asking me new hire stuff.

    Despite all you read on AAM, most people do have the common sense to not ask about eating habits. I usually default to, “I’m a little limited on what I can or cannot eat,” until I feel comfortable enough to say, “Yeah, my stomach just can’t handle most things, but I’ll happily chat with you with while you eat!”

    Don’t worry, you’ll do great! :)

    (Bonus: eventually, you’ll work your way up to larger amounts of food, it’ll just take some time. :) )

    1. Specialk9*

      I would be pretty startled by someone eating baby food at work. I’d hope my Internal Editor could keep comments from coming out of my mouth, but sometimes my Internal Editor is asleep or, apparently, drunk.

  23. eplawyer*

    #4 – most good workers are motivated. If my boss were doing the motivational poster thing all the time, I would be rolling my eyes and sniggering. If they are doing good work, they don’t need motivation. If they are not doing good work, no cliche in the world is going to change that. Leave the day to day motivation to your team. They know how to motivate themselves.

    Now if it’s a big project, you might need to give them some encouragement to get through. This is not cliches about climbing every mountain or fording every stream. Real tangible encouragement. If it’s in the budget, bring in lunch for them on the company. If they have been putting in extra long hours, talk to your boss about comp time when it’s over. Your team will know you have their backs and will be happy to put in extra for you. But if all they hear is cheerleading, they will tune it out.

    1. B*

      This! If you are thinking you are a manager who needs to motivate go for the real tangibles. If it’s just because you want them to work harder I would take a look at a) are they working slowly – this requires a different approach than b) is asking them to work harder actually feasible or are they already overworked. Also, do you understand what they are doing and what is required of them and what they require of you. Nothing annoys me more than when someone tells me how to do my job better and faster without actually understanding what it is I do. Before critiquing/motivating spend some time in their day to day.

    2. Jules the First*

      As I said in my management training class last week “motivation comes only from within” – true and trendy enough that it won me brownie points from the trainer. Unfortunately it then caused him to wax eloquent about how we should be “inspiring” our direct reports instead. Um, no. A manager’s job is to set expectations, solve problems, and develop skills. Inspiration is not in the job description!

    3. nacho*

      My boss is doing the motivational poster (and movie, and speech, and game, and Facebook post) thing all the time, and I do roll my eyes constantly.

  24. Alli525*

    OP 5: If you have the financial means, there are a lot of independent career coaches/life coaches who do exactly what you’re asking for. And I think many if not most will offer Skype/FaceTime services if they’re not geographically near you. Asking your outsourced HR company is too risky.

  25. Jules the 3rd*

    OP 5, it sounds like you have two questions – one on your career, the other on your current job. Could you have the HR company to do an assessment on the current job without bringing in your career decisions? Something about ‘formalizing / checking roles’ or ‘putting together a long-term growth development plan’? (Eg, at what stage do you want to hire a full-time HR person with training in-house? A full-time in-house accountant or other support personnel?) Such a plan could also be a way to either highlight ways to improve your current position or lay the groundwork for a transition.

  26. Ann O'Nemity*

    #2 I wouldn’t presume that the holiday meal is a multi-course binge fest. Serving a large party can take a long time, especially at a fine restaurant. You probably get to order for yourself, or help yourself to a buffet if it’s a catered private party situation. If you’re really curious, ask some coworkers ahead of time what to expect.

    I also think that most people won’t notice or care if you nibble on a small dish (soup, salad). And if by chance you get questioned by a busy-body, the language Alison provided would help with that.

    1. Artemesia*

      I think it is rare to get to order at a large lunch sponsored by a company. The courses just come although sometimes there is a choice of main course. Usually there is a salad on the table and then a main course is served and then a dessert. In an American restaurant it will almost always be a huge amount of food and there will be many people who eat half what is there. If you order from the menu then just order an appetizer or soup and an appetizer and if everyone is having dessert get sorbet to pick at, but most of the time in my experience with a group lunch paid by a company there is a set menu.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I also don’t think of an hour or 90 minute lunch as “long” – my entire company (all 7 of us, LOL) goes out to lunch once a month to ordinary casual dining restaurants and we are usually there for an hour or more.

  27. CM*

    OP #4, give your reports some breathing room and autonomy along with clear expectations. Assuming they’re OK at their jobs and aren’t just sitting around, they may be more motivated to know that you trust them and won’t micromanage them.

    OP #5, I would look for career counseling elsewhere, but maybe you could still use this company for placement. Is it big enough that you could contact someone who doesn’t directly work with your company and ask them to keep your job search confidential?

    1. Artemesia*

      Some busybody is likely to feel that ethics requires them to rat you out since they have a big contract with the OP’s company. This is a company to steer clear of in a job search.

  28. Anon for this*

    OP#3 In a past life, I managed a gallery/arts org and would have taken a few great internships as “1” year of experience. These are pretty clearly entry level jobs and you likely have enough industry experience.

  29. Kristine*

    Re OP#2 – I certainly sympathize! I’m just wondering why there is so much conflict at work about food?
    I’m facing a medical procedure that requires a fiber-free diet, then lots of liquids at certain times the day before. I have become so stressed out and anxious thinking how to manage this at work due to people coming into the kitchen and commenting on my meals (“Wow, that’s sure a LOT of FOOD!” etc.) or cajoling me to eat, especially sugar which I’ve fortunately or unfortunately developed a repulsion toward (“You have to TRY it!” “Oh, don’t be so good!”) that I’ve taken that day off. (Plus, I might feel faint living on broth and Gatorade.)
    I did a search of this site and found so many instances of workplace boundaries-overstepping regarding food that I wonder if a day should be devoted to it, and possible solutions, here.
    Really – eating is putting something in your body. Other than “Mmm, that looks good,” “Did you make that yourself?” etc. eating should be regarded as similar to sex, IMHO. Yes means yes, and no means no, and your body, your rules.

    1. Specialk9*

      Good points!!

      It may not be applicable, but for colonoscopy prep, there are now clear protein drinks. The only ones I found in stores is red, which is not ok for that test, but the other colors are available online. It keeps me from wanting to chew my own arm off.

      (Not at all asking about yours, just sharing with the commentariat what I wish I had known before.)

  30. Ruthie*

    My coworker and I both eat very little. I’ve never had a large appetite and have always had difficulty finishing a meal and tend to eat only once a day. My colleague is the same way, but she broadcasts to everyone that she doesn’t like to eat. I have never said anything. Everyone notices and comments that my coworker barely touches her meal because she makes it top of mind. No one has ever said anything to me. If you don’t make it obvious, people are unlikely to notice!

  31. Dev Professional*

    OP #3 – you should absolutely apply for those associate jobs. Source: I work in development and have worked in development for 2 museums. Go for it, and like Allison said, the worst case is they don’t call you.

  32. ten-four*

    OP #5 you’re overall unhappy with your job and that’s the only reason you need to job hunt. What could the HR consultant tell you that would change your assessment of your boss’s bad decisions and your feelings of burnout? There’s no objective standard for good jobs. You could have the World’s Best Boss and the job could be made out of magic, but if you’re feeling entangled and stuck and unhappy then it’s time to move on.

    A job hunt isn’t a commitment to leave, after all – it’s just an opportunity to see if there’s another job that might be a better fit. And hey, if there isn’t then you can stop wondering and feel better about the job you’re in!

    I wonder if you’re thinking about talking with the HR consultants as a less scary first step on the job hunt? I’d dig into the AAM archives and map out some other baby steps for job hunting and start checking those off instead. When I had to do this last, sitting down with a friend and updating my resume was the thing I dreaded most and it was actually the best thing to do – getting my accomplishments down in black and white really made me feel confident about my search (and having a friend to help me remember and stop the panic spirals was clutch too). After 12 years at a start-up I bet you’ve got some stellar successes!

  33. Bobsterbrownie*

    RE #2 Half a sandwich and a musleii bar isn’t that small- it seems perfectly fine. A lot of people eat small meals for lunch and no one thinks anything of it. I’ve been to many work luncheons where people people in my group eat generous amounts and others focus on sampling with a nibble here and there. Both are perfectly normal and it’s more about you enjoying the meal according to your style of eating. Eating vast amounts doesn’t need to be the norm. If anyone comments on you eating not very much, just say “huh? I ate a bunch and am stuffed.”

  34. Former Hoosier*

    #5 I understand why you feel like you can talk to the HR consultant but you probably can’t. However, this is a perfect example of a time to reach out to a mentor or even a colleague who doesn’t work at your company. I tend to collect mentors. People you interact with that you can trust to give you advice in situations just like this. It isn’t some big official acknowledgement, I just tend to seek advice from people I know and respect in my field or related fields. Staying in touch casually then allows you to call when you need advice.

  35. Jane!Jane!*

    OP2-I certainly sympathize with you. There’s been many a company party at which I could eat very little due to my rampant food allergies. It’s difficult to deal with but here’s a suggestion (my apologies to anyone who’s already suggested this. No time to read every comment today.) Go, pick at the food, and when someone notices and asks why you’re not eating, just say, “Ugh! I’m not feeling so well. My stomach’s upset for some reason.” They may possibly mention that you ought to go home then.

    1. Jules the First*

      My solution is a breezy “oh, I don’t eat” and change the subject. No one has ever pushed – possibly because it’s such an “out-there” statement.

  36. K, Esq.*

    #2, if anyone notices, just say you don’t eat much for lunch but that the food is so good you’re taking the rest home for later.

    1. fposte*

      That’s not something you want to say when you’re eating on somebody else’s dime, though; it’s too much like surfing the buffet with a bag.

      1. Specialk9*

        True if it’s a buffet, but if you order a meal but can’t eat all of it, it goes into the trash otherwise. Getting a box is perfectly legit. What’s not cool is deliberately ordering to go straight into the box, like 2 entrees.

        1. fposte*

          I think it’s a dicey one, and I would definitely avoid stating it as a plan; if you’re going to do it, just quietly ask to get things wrapped or boxed at the end.

  37. Sualah*

    #5 – I think you could ask the HR person for suggestions for career development since your manager presumably doesn’t have the HR experience to know what you need. You could ask for suggestions for classes, for certifications, for networking groups, and those kinds of things. Those would be reasonable things and could help you with a job hunt but also to continue working effectively while you’re at your current employer. But actually asking the HR person to help you leave or find a new job? No, I don’t think that would go over too well.

  38. Argh!*

    Re: #4

    Motivating employees is only necessary if they’re underperforming. Your supervisor should give you an idea of what your expectations for them are supposed to be. If they’re seriously not meeting expectations, you need to be sure they know what those expectations are. I once had the misfortune to replace someone who was fired after years of letting his staff get away with all kinds of nonsense. They resisted my attempts to turn the place around but it’s amazing how fast the sincere ones step it up when they understand why you’re there and why the status quo had to go.

  39. Almost Retired*

    Reminds me of my situation 35 years ago. I graduated with a degree in history with a second major in public relations. My goal was a museum job; I volunteered at the history museum in my college town where I remained after graduation.

    In those pre internet days, my mother would send me help wanted ads from the newspaper in the large city near my hometown. When she sent me an ad for a curator in a museum in that city, I explained that as a BA holder, I was not qualified. She became very angry with me and told me she’d never send me anothe ad if I didn’t apply.

    I applied, and of course, never got an interview, only a fast rejection letter. Eventually, I did find a job in my college town, but it wasn’t anything near what I wanted.

    For some reason, this still hurts today…

  40. nnn*

    While reading #4, I was reminded of a piece of advice I heard somewhere: You don’t have to be motivated, you just have to do the thing.

    Are your employees doing the thing? If yes, you don’t need to motivate them. If no, you need to look at why they aren’t doing the thing. Do they have too many things to do? Are there logistical impediments? If so, those are the things you, as manager, are responsible for addressing. I think motivation would only come into play if they’re sitting around doing nothing when things need doing. And even then, they’re grown adults. “Stop sitting around doing nothing and do the thing instead” should be adequate instruction – they can figure out the motivation on their own.

    You could, as manager, ask them if there’s anything they need to do the thing more/better or any improvements to process or environment that would help them do the thing better or be more motivated to do the thing. But the actual internal work of getting off one’s ass and doing the thing is incumbent upon the individual employee.

  41. SallyForth*

    OP#1 My manager, who was dead sober at the time, ran into my husband and me one weekend. She told us she had broken up with her long-term boyfriend the night before. Yada, yada, yada & the evening ended with her peeing on the handles of his beloved Mercedes & the door handles of his business.

    My husband was shocked. I wasn’t. Afterward I told him the long sordid story of the relationship. Then I realized how bizarre it was that I knew so many details. I practiced with him and the next time she started, I changed the subject to work matters. When this didn’t work, I just flat out asked her to stop because it was affecting my ability to see her in a professional light. It stopped.

  42. N Twello*

    I have a colleague with a lot of food restrictions: she doesn’t eat meat, fish, eggs or cheese. She is from India and also doesn’t like western food. I have been going out to meals with her for years and never noticed – until she recently told me – that she never eats anything. She told me that she eats her own food before she goes out and then she just pretends. She seems to eat – she orders something and she must at least take a bite, but then I guess she pushes it around on her plate. Sometimes she asks for a “to go” box which I think is just part of the cover. She fooled me!

    1. Becky*

      That actually sounds awful to me–if I found out a friend/colleague had been wasting money and food for YEARS rather than simply telling me that eating out wasn’t a possibility I’d feel terrible! I’d certainly try come up with an alternative that didn’t involve food or one that involved food she could eat (at, say an Indian restaurant that can accommodate her dietary restrictions, or bagged lunches where you each bring your own so she has food she can eat).

  43. nacho*

    OP4: Are your employees doing an appropriate job for their pay? If no, work with them to fix that problem. If yes, please, for the love of god, stop trying to motivate them. I’m the victim of an over-motivating boss, and I hate it. Her constant attempts to make me “challenge the day” and “be a high performing team” aren’t helpful, and they certainly don’t make me want to work harder for no extra pay. Some of us just want to do a decent job and go home at the end of the night. We’re not trying to be super employees.

  44. Leenie*

    I’m guessing no one will see this because it’s so late, but I didn’t see anyone else make this comment to LW#2, so it’s worth a try. If someone comments on what or how much you’re eating at the lunch, it’s probably going to feel like a big deal – you might feel conspicuous, even judged. But please be aware that the person making the comment might not even care about the answer. It isn’t a big deal to them. People get awkward at business lunches and start making conversation about whatever is in their field of vision. I know that people shouldn’t make conversation about other people’s eating habits, but a lot of your colleagues don’t read Ask A Manager. Most people would be mortified if they knew they were causing you anxiety. They’re just talking to talk. So please try not to internalize what is likely a meaningless, throw away question from the asker. Of course if you run into a card carrying member of the food police, you can change the subject and be obvious about it. But chances are, this thing that seems important to you won’t seem important to others, even if they bring it up.

  45. ladycrim*

    LW #2: I also eat a small amount at meals, due to having had abdominal surgery. I get asked about it sometimes. (“You’re not hungry?” “Was the food OK?”) I just smile and explain that I don’t eat much in one sitting. I don’t remember any inquiries going past that. And if I’m in a restaurant, I ask to have the remainder packed up to go. Lunch for the next day! I don’t know if that will be a feasible option at your party, but it does stem concerns that you might not have enjoyed the food. Go and enjoy yourself!

  46. Kira*

    For the Development Associate – I started my career with Develepment Associate/Assistant type roles (not in museums, unfortunately). As far as I can tell, they never say “0 years experience”, they just start at 1. Go a head and apply :)

    Oh, and my second job I had 1 year experience, they said 3-5. I got it hands down.

  47. NorthernSoutherner*

    Hi Bird-Like Appetite: If you follow an important rule of etiquette, all will be well. That is, put other people at ease. When people see you aren’t eating, they will immediately become uneasy. Either because they’re scarfing their food and feel self-conscious, or because they’re concerned. So as others have suggested, just eat what you want. But eat. If you leave food, so what?
    I hope you don’t secretly want to stand out, which is something you have to ask yourself. NOT showing up would definitely do that. “Where’s Birdie?” many will ask.

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