open thread – December 15-16, 2017

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue.

{ 1,173 comments… read them below }

  1. LJ*

    Is our facilities manager being hypocritical, or is it not a big deal since she’s salaried?

    The facilities manager at my office is a salaried employee, and is constantly out of the office doing personal things (she does not hide this; it varies from shopping, to getting her oil changed, to taking three hour lunches, to getting her hair done). I understand that salaried employees have flexibility in terms of hours, but she is in a position where she’s often needed by our sales staff during all office hours (7:30-4:30), and is nowhere to be found. It would be one thing if she was effective and got her work done when she was here, however, things often fall through the cracks in her absence (because she doesn’t let anyone know what needs to be covered when she’s gone), and work gets delayed. My boss (who is her boss as well) has made it clear that she needs to generally be available from 7:30-4:30 every day, unless she is out sick or has some sort of appointment, since there have been many complaints about her frequent absences. Still, as a full time employee, she generally works >30 hours a week.

    Here’s the kicker – the facilities manager is extremely strict about hourly employees’ hours. Up until this point, we enter our hours in an online system at the end of each week. However, the facilities manager (who I should mention does not directly manage me) sent an email to the hourly employees (myself included), indicating that we are soon getting a tablet which will reside in the front office, in which each hourly employee will have to clock into each morning, and clock out at the end of the day. We will also be required to clock in and out during our lunch break. Many of our employees who work in our warehouse come in through the back office door each morning, and mentioned to the facilities manager that it would be a bit of an annoyance to have to walk back and forth to the front office each time they need to clock in/out. The facilities manager’s response really bugged me; she said “well, there is an app you can download on your phone, and clock in and out that way. However, I want to be clear that if I catch you clocking in on your phones from the parking lot before you’ve even entered the building in the morning, there’ll be consequences. If you’re a minute late, then you’re a minute late and your paycheck will reflect that.” I just found it a little ironic coming from someone who is MIA so often (and to be clear, no one would care if she wasn’t so strict with everyone else, and was actually efficient while in the office, but neither of those things is true.) It’s a little demeaning to the hourly employees who see her frequent absences day in and day out. Also, none of our hourly employees cheat their time – they are always on time, and do not leave until our office closes. Truly, the facilities manager is the only one who takes advantage of their time. Other instances of “the pot calling the kettle black”:

    -Asked an hourly employee if she had shortened her lunch break on a day when she was 8 minutes late due to a bad accident on the highway (I’ve worked with this employee for two years, and don’t think she’s ever even been a minute late any other time.
    -Told a warehouse employee (in an email I happened to be CC’ed in on for other reasons) that it “didn’t reflect well on him to be taking his lunch hour every day, in such a busy period.” The same day, the facilities manager had come in two hours late after claiming to have missed her alarm.

    Am I off base to be irritated by this? Can I address this with our boss? The facilities manager is a peer, for reference.

    1. Kelly White*

      I would totally run this by the boss- maybe you could frame it if you are getting questions from the hourly people about the new system, and need to know how he/she wants you to address them.

      1. Anony*

        I would loop in the boss and ask for clarification about the new policy and why it is happening. I would also show the specific emails. That tone is bad for morale, especially if they are nitpicking being a minute late when that is not something that is a rampant problem. Recently, someone higher up at my work but not directly in charge of my department started making significant changes that impacted my department and the way he communicated those to us was terrible. He started sending tons of passive aggressive emails. So we forwarded those to our boss (who is also his boss) for clarification and with the added bonus that she could see exactly how he was telling us the changes. She stepped in and made him back down while also explaining the changes to us in a way that actually made sense and no longer felt like an attack. He had mostly been implementing changes she had already cleared, but he went about it in the worst way possible (and overstepped in a few places). He no longer communicates with us directly and we are much happier.

    2. clow*

      No that is really irritating. Yes salaried employees have a bit of freedom, but, they still have to actually do their jobs. Telling someone that they shouldn’t take their lunch hour is just…obnoxious, especially when you “missed your alarm”, i don’t think I have used that excuse since middle school. Since your boss has already made it clear that she needs to be available, I don’t think it would be out of place for you to address it with them.

      1. Redundant Department of Redundancy*

        Same. I think I have only once been late for work due to my alarm not going off. I used my iphone as an alarm and there was an update which basically wiped everyone’s alarms. It wasn’t just me, several other staff were late and I think it made the news as well!!

        1. Hallway Feline*

          I’ve only missed an alarm once for work, and I happened to be super sick so I felt justified in missing that day (it was food poisoning for any of the curious).

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Yeahhh. I’m salaried, as are the majority of my coworkers. People are disciplined and terminated for the type of stuff the facilities manager is doing. You have to establish core hours and stick to them unless you have prior-approved PTO. Some places treat salaried people differently, and they can come and go with a lot of freedom, but that doesn’t necessarily sound like it is the case for your company.

        The double standard for employees makes it worse, but I don’t think that’s part of the equation I would discuss with management. Seems the real problem is she isn’t there to do her job when she needs to be.

      3. Malibu Stacey*

        Well, and I think it makes sense to expect a Facilities Manager to have core hours when the office is open – it’s a support role like IT Support or an admin where you need to be available to field requests during office hours.

      4. Triumphant Fox*

        Re: Missing your alarm

        My boss would always go home at 2-3 PM every day. If he HAD to be on a client call, he would take it from home (or while going through the drive thru…). One day he had a call with a client at 4. He had a temporary employee on that account with him, but no one else. He SLEPT THROUGH HIS ALARM AT 4 PM and never dialed in, despite getting frantic calls from our office leading up to and during the call. A manager, who didn’t work with this client at all, and the temporary employee were left to be berated by the client and fired for incompetence…which they couldn’t really defend because they didn’t really know anything about the account.

    3. Murphy*

      No, you’re definitely not off base! I’d definitely address it with your boss. It’s not wrong for her to treat other people’s hours differently from her own if she’s exempt and they’re not, but obviously a) she needs to be available when she’s supposed to be available, and b) there’s no reason she should be that strict. How dare that guy take his lunch break?! Come on…

    4. Natalie*

      I don’t think you’re off base at all. Her behavior would be super annoying even without the hypocrisy – she sounds rude and nitpicky towards the hourly staff. Her frequent absences is just icing on the cake.

    5. Temperance*

      It seems to me that a person whose title is “facilities manager” should be … managing the facility during the day. You’re not off base, she’s a jerk.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I would be super pissed, my bias is I have seen so much of this.

      Okay, so a few things:
      Does she have “jurisdiction” here? She is acting like your boss but she is a peer. It looks like she is walking all over your boss’ toes.

      Does your boss want her interacting with the boss’ people in this manner? That is really not how one should talk to people.

      This is a super quick way to kill moral. There could be a downturn in productivity and there could be a higher turnover rate in employees that is directly caused by her micromanagement. I am not sure if I would mention the hypocracy. But I think the way I would handle my new circumstance is to ask my boss, “Jane is not here and I need her answer on Critical Item X or signature on Rush Item Y. How would you like me to proceed?”
      You can encourage others when they need something urgently from Jane who is not there, that they should ask the boss how to proceed with out her.

      Don’t be surprised if the boss develops a few work-a-rounds initially. Try not to ask the same question twice. The next time you have a Critical Item that needs an answer try to take an action parallel to what you did before. But when a signature situation comes up go ahead and ask the boss what to do about a signature. Find out what he wants to do in all the various situations that come up in her absence.

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        Or talk to your boss about your perception of her actions. -Hey, I just wanted to bring something up with you so you aren’t caught off guard if this causes any problems. I’m hearing some grumblings about how Jane has been handling stuff and have to admit having been on the recent email about the clock in/clock out plan, I was put off by how she acted. I just concerned…-

        Though this assumes a good relationship with your boss- if you don’t, I might steer clear.

    7. No Parking or Waiting*

      So many questions!
      Why is her poor work performance not being addressed? Has nobody complained that the suggestion she stick to core hours made no impact on her presence in the office?
      The insane part of this is she is not being managed but is using her role to manage others. Is she their supervisor? You phrasing indicates “she tells hourly employees….”
      you clearly don’t call them “her employees” or “her staff.”

      1. Anecdata*

        I think I’m hearing 2 things: that your facilities manager’s schedule impacts your ability to get your work done (sales staff can’t find her for X question, etc); and that it doesn’t feel /good/ that she’s nickel-and-diming folks on timesheets, because she’s so lax.

        It’s definitely worth bringing up the first – framed as “What should I do when I need X and FacilitiesManager is out?” (repeat as necessary). In an ideal world, your boss decides that the solution is that FacilitiesManager won’t be out so frequently :).

        The second is trickier – I totally sympathize that it isn’t fair, and it’s frustrating to see, but it’s harder to know if you have standing to bring up. (After all, if there was a legitimate reason for her absences – like the big boss kept calling her to urgent offsite meetings, you would still need a plan for how to get the information/signatures/whatever when she’s out, but it probably wouldn’t /feel/ so aggravating). If you get a workable plan of action for how to move forward in her absences, I would leave off the unfairness (aggravating as it is!), if you’re able to ignore it. If you are in a management role, or have a really good relationship with your boss though, I could see bringing up the harsh crackdown on small time changes as a potential morale issue – again, focusing on the effect on the team, and not on the fairness (“Our team is 99.99% on time; and it’s demotivating to people to be rebuked for a few minutes in an emergency – like happened to Cassandra last week. I’m worried about the effect on team morale – it makes me feel nickel-and-dimed. Is X (no checking in from the parking lot or whatever) a new policy? Can you help me understand the reasoning behind it?”).

      2. LJ*

        1.) Ha. Interesting story, actually. She was on a PIP, when her manager who put her on a PIP suddenly quit (thus apparently dissolving the PIP?) So, our new manager (who was a manager at a sister branch, and is now managing our branch AND the sister branch, two hours away), goes back and forth between cities, so he’s not here enough to see her behavior.
        2.) People complain all the time about this (with the new manager, and the old managers). Both say they’ll “talk to her about it”, her presence in the office improves for a couple weeks, then she slips right back into her old way. Our company is notorious for stringing employees along well after they need to be fired.
        3.) Sorry, let me clarify – she has 3 direct reports, but there are 5 other hourly employees who she does not manage (although, she pretends to be). I was actually her direct report before a promotion, but she still talks to me as if she’s my manager. She also is the person responsibilities for approving time sheets for all hourly employees (oh, the irony of the person who is never there approving time sheets…)

        1. Green Goose*

          You should document to the new manager when she’s out and its impacting your ability to do your job.

    8. LCL*

      You describe two separate problems. The first, the sleaziness and hypocrisy of the facilities manager isn’t yours to fix, but should be mentioned to the boss.

      The second and much larger problem is the office manager has created a slow motion disaster with the new timekeeping system. Her new practices are poorly thought out. If she does want to implement a timeclock system she has chosen a cheap ass way to do it. There are two main entrance points, and one tablet for all, and she wants one group who doesn’t work in the front office to go there to clock in? And she suggests an app, but doesn’t want them to use it? We don’t clock in here, but most of us are hourly, and the people that push the limits will argue that being on premises counts as on time. How’s she going to prove that? I would expect a lot of pushback from our group if we told them that to use the new system they had to download an app on their phone, that would never fly. It would never get that far, but imagining the riot following the announcement is an amusing hypothetical scenario.

      Anyway, she and other bosses and whoever decided people should go to a clock in system should take some time to plan and figure out how it will work and what will be needed to make it work and what they are trying to accomplish. Though I respectfully disagree with your statement that the facilities manager is the only one who cheats on their time. Statistically, there is always a couple in every group, you just aren’t aware.

      Asking the warehouse people to skip lunch is cruel. Is that even legal in your state? Lunches aren’t required by federal law, but states’ laws vary on this.

      1. Hallway Feline*

        And if there’s only one clock in/out point, wouldn’t that create a line/backup when most people arrive at the same time? So then you might get people being “late” just because the system stalled? And what about OT? Because in most places if you’re even a few minutes over your shift duration you get paid your OT hourly rate, so waiting in line there might actually be more expensive? Those are the things I would think about when implementing this type of system.

        1. LJ*

          I had the same thought. I worked a job in college where everyone had to wait in line at a time clock, so even if you showed up at 7:59 for an 8:00 shift, you could be 15 people deep in line at the time clock, and not be able to clock in until 8:02.

      2. LJ*

        I agree that the new time keeping system is poorly thought out. However, the new system came from our corporate office, and this is being implemented in all 23 branches nationwide, in an attempt to standardize (so, it probably works better for other branches). As to how she’s going to prove employees clocking in when on the premise/in the actual building…I have no idea. She’s always on a power trip, so I think she just likes to make the threat to show her “power.” The new system won’t be implement until sometime early next year, so I anticipate that there will be a lot of pushback,

        You’re probably right about the cheating on time. There are a few people who I don’t see in the front office (where I work) on a regular basis, so I don’t see their comings and goings. However, I doubt anyone abuses time as much as the facilities manager…it’d be pretty hard to do that!

        Unfortunately, it is legal in my state. For context, though, it’s asinine of her to claim we’re “too busy” anyone to skip their lunch breaks. Although busy, I can say with certainty there is plenty enough time in the day for everyone to take a lunch break. (Even if there wasn’t, I’m sure she never gave the individuals who the email was directed at any indication that she wanted them to skip their lunch breaks before being nasty with them.)

    9. MissDisplaced*

      This is not the norm for salaried employees. She is abusing the system.
      Yes, we do have a bit more “flexibility” with structuring hours, but generally are still expected to conform to a standard set of office/working hours: 8-5, 8-4, etc., and are expected to be available during those times. If you do take time off for a long lunch or or come in late (which may be allowed), you’d be expected to make up the hours by staying later that night. (Medical is taken out of PTO typically and different)

      So, in general, it’s still a 40 hour week, same as the hourly paid ‘folks.
      It’s been this way at nearly every place I’ve worked.

      1. Ainomiaka*

        This is pretty similar to what I would expect. If you take a long lunch you’ll probably stay late, and don’t let your hours be a problem. Neither of which it sounds like the manager is doing.

        1. LJ*

          You are correct. I’ve worked here for 2.5 years, and I can’t remember a single day when she’s been here when we open at 7:30. She also never stays late, even after usually be going for at least a couple hours in the middle of the day. I’ve heard her openly complain to other employees about how she “doesn’t get paid for her overtime since she’s salary”, which is a total head scratcher, since she’s literally never worked close to even 40 hours a week.

    10. Artemesia*

      These are always political calculations. Is she tight with the boss? Does s/he seem to be aware and condones this behavior? If not I’d be tempted to discuss contingencies for dealing with facilities issues since facilities manager is so often out of the office and not available e.g. yesterday when we needed X and she didn’t arrive till 10:30. And last week it took 3 days to get X fixed because she was unavailable so much of the time. This is cutting into our productivity and we need to know how to deal with it.

      I’d be more concerned about the impact on your collective work than the pettiness of clocking in.

    11. Samiratou*

      I don’t think you’re off base at all, and this: “Told a warehouse employee… that it “didn’t reflect well on him to be taking his lunch hour every day, in such a busy period.” gets close to illegal territory. If I were a manager, to hear that someone was trying to stop employees from taking legally-mandated break periods would have me though the roof–that’s lawsuit/FLSA investigation territory. Yeah, she could go all innocent “Well, I wasn’t going to stop him!” but that excuse will only hold so much water, if employees feel obligated to skip breaks and she’s conveniently given the feds ample documentation by requiring everyone to clock in and out for lunch.

      I work at Target, FFS, and we can get fired for not clocking in and out for lunch within 6 hours of starting a shift of 6+ hours.

    12. Anonymous Poster*

      I would be peeved too, but I think there are two very separate issues here, and I’d really work hard on not conflating them:
      – The salaried employee has to do their job functions, and those aren’t happening. This is really bad and will have an affect on the company’s performance, because the facilities manager isn’t providing the support the rest of the team needs. This is absolutely an issue and needs to be addressed.
      – The company absolutely needs to keep track of hourly employees’ hours, and if is the new way to do it, so be it. But this seems really important to making sure that they comply with properly paying those employees. The facilities manager may have rolled out a new system poorly, and is not a good example of what to do, but ultimately it’s a way to make sure that they’re complying with the law and properly paying employees.

      I’d really work on not tying these things together, because they aren’t really related. I’d ask for additional support on getting what you need from the facilities manager, and ask for the reason for the change in tracking non-exempt employees’ hours.

    13. Trout 'Waver*

      I had a boss that was like this. He was so incredibly bad at listening that he had no idea what his staff actually did. The only way he could evaluate performance was based on attendance, but his own attendance was terrible. He would come in at 10:00 am, take a 3 hour lunch, and then sit by the door at 5:00 pm grumbling at salaried people that had the audacity to leave right at 5:00 pm. It was bad for morale, to put it mildly.

      I don’t have any advice unfortunately, but I get understand your irritation.

      1. LJ*

        Sounds very much like the facilities manager. She too grumbles at employees that leave right at 4:30 (myself included). I finish my work by closing time, and put in 8 hours every day. Why wouldn’t I leave at 4:30? She also “assigned” employees to turn of lights in different parts of the office because “[she] was staying late every day to close down the office, while everyone else ran out the door at 4:30.” For one, it takes about 2 minutes to “close down the office”. Two, the rest of us get to the office on time each morning, so we should be able to run out the door at 4:30, unlike her!

    14. Green Goose*

      I think you should look at this as two separate issues. Issue one is the FM nitpicking about time clock-ins, and issue two is that the FM is not in the office and causing delays in your own work. I feel like Issue #1 is something that your boss should deal with on their own, but Issue #2 should absolutely be brought up to your boss.

      An FM needs to be in the office, its not the type of position that allows for remote work, or being out for hours. It might be worth it to bring up with the FM first. “Hi FM, this week I wasn’t able to get X done on Tuesday because I needed you to for X-related process, and then I also wasn’t able to get Y done on Wednesday because I needed you for Y-related process. Can you let me know when you will be in the office? I don’t know your in/out of office schedule and its been impacting my ability to do my own job.” And if she is not receptive to this, you should definitely tell your manager.

    15. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Yeah…that isn’t what salaried is supposed to mean. She is off her rocker and someone needs to check her pronto

    16. Nacho*

      Clocking in and out isn’t really unusual or overly strict. Same with only paying you for the time you’re there. And the phone app for clocking in seems like a good compromise for people who work far away from the clock in station. All in all it sounds pretty normal for hourly employees.

      If the FM’s absences are affecting your job, I’d bring that up with your boss, but don’t let the point get clouded with worries about hypocrisy or other unrelated issues.

  2. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I just found out that I’m the only director and person in my entire department not invited to the big boss’s annual Xmas party. Normally we rarely get invited but he wanted to branch out this year. We’ve not always gotten along, but I didn’t mind him too much during all the other rare times we interacted. The problem is there’s a 50/50 chance this could be an oversight or intentional. I’m not going to ask because etiquette doesn’t allow it, and even if I did get an invite (invites went out three weeks ago), it’ll be more out of pity and optics than anything else. What do I say when people ask me what I’m wearing or if we can go over together? I’m starting to get these questions, and I don’t know what to say.

    Similarly, I’ve been at jobs where a majority of people were invited to weddings and I wasn’t. In one case, 12 out of 15 employees were invited so I never knew what to say when people asked me about what I was going to wear or who I was bringing as a date. Things got even MORE awkward with my former boss. She always threw a ladies lunch whenever someone was getting married. During one lunch, a coworker asked me what time I was going to go and could we ride together? I had to admit I wasn’t invited. Boss clearly didn’t know that. Things got super awkward silent after that.

    1. Lehigh*

      If you want to be tactful, when they ask what you’re wearing etc. you can just say you can’t make it to the party. Not that you have an obligation to shield your boss that way, but it would save you the longer conversation.

      1. Amy*

        I would just bluntly say I wasn’t invited but I’m not worried about being tactful or not making thing awkward for someone else. You can say it in a nicer way like “I wasn’t aware there was a ladies lunch or party ?”

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      The wedding thing I can understand; it stinks to be one of the few not invited, but the wedding guest list often has to be pared down. The other stuff is, in my opinion, unprofessional. If the big boss is “branching out” and inviting work people, then he needs to make concrete cut-offs like position in the hierarchy or departments (i.e., only directors and above get invited, only a couple of ENTIRE departments). If someone asks you those questions, you may say you didn’t get an invitation. It’s ok. Especially if it’s an oversight, because if that’s the case, then you may give someone the opportunity to rectify or acknowledge the mistake.

      That ladies’ lunch thing bugs me. First, ladies’ lunch? Oy. Second, if you’re going to invite all the ladies, invite ALL the ladies! That kind of thing is bad enough socially (I recently experienced it myself and it rankles), but at work? People need to tread more conscientiously.

      1. Imaginary Number*

        I think a ladies’ lunch is okay only if they’re a significant minority of the group (i.e. you’re not taking 70% of your office out to “ladies’ lunch”.) But, yes, if you’re going to do something like that you have to invite ALL of the ladies.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          But then my thought is…. what if a male coworker is getting married? Is he getting a man’s lunch?

      2. Lily*

        Seriously. It’s fine to congratulate a coworker on an engagement, a baby, etc. and maybe bring in donuts or something for the office, but those types of life-event parties tend to make people feel excluded/weird, even if intentions are good. Your boss does not need to through you a pseudo-shower. It’s just not appropriate for the workplace IMO.

      3. Snarkus Aurelius*

        To clarify, all the women were invited to this lunch. My boss did it when a female employee got married. (When I worked there, the male employees were already married.)

        It was the wedding itself that not everyone was invited to. My boss falsely assumed for at least two weddings that everyone was invited because 80% of the office was.

        You’d think the boss learned the first time that awkward encounter happened!

        For the record, when I got married, I never told my boss precisely because not everyone was invited and I didn’t want that damn breakfast.

    3. Imaginary Number*

      Ew, that sucks. I would try to find a way to subtly bring it up that you weren’t invited to see the result. But then, if the pity invite comes, decline because you had already made plans for that night in the interim (and do actually make some fun plans with friends.)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Absolutely. None of this is YOUR awkwardness to wear, OP. Let the awkwardness bounce back to where it belongs.

    4. Murphy*

      I would just be honest and say I wasn’t invited, unless you really don’t want to make a think of it. Then you can just say you’re unable to make it and invent an excuse if you want.

    5. Myrin*

      I don’t see why you shouldn’t say honestly – with a calm demeanour – that you weren’t invited. Any resulting awkwardness will be on your boss’s shoulders since people who are bothered by your being left out are going to confront him about it and that’s really not something you should be concerned about. (And should a “pity invite” find its way to you, you can indeed cheerfully said that you’ve now already made plans elsewhere.)

    6. Liz2*

      I would say get the admins involved. My mgr wasn’t invited to a big social thing as she was in a new/weird position, but completely on level with the invites overall. She nudged me as the admin, I nudged the host’s admin, they had a quick chat and, viola! Invite!

      Even if they say no, then you’ll have certainty and whatever their rationalization is.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      Why would your invite be out of pity or why would you think it an oversight?
      Not sure I get your stress. If you were invited, you go and put in an appearance. Be gracious and kind to your host, and leave as soon as you feel it is respectful to do so.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Sorry, I didn’t read that right. So you weren’t invited.
        Then I’d be glad I didn’t have to go. If asked, say you weren’t invited or you have other obligations this time of year.

    8. MLiz*

      BOTH has happened to me!

      The work thing was an oversight, though. I’d changed offices and then the assistant of the CEO (small company) called me to ask why I didn’t RSVP to the Christmas party. I told her truthfully I had not been invited and while I knew it would take place (my colleagues had been talking about it), I had assumed it wasn’t for everyone. She made a huge production out of it. In the end I did receive an invite, but I didn’t go to the party. I was weekend-commuting at the time and was working in a city I hated and where I was feeling unsafe to be on the streets after dark.

      The wedding one is one of my longest friends. I’m not sure if it was intentional, or of it was an oversight or if that wedding even happend. Said friend is super active on Facebook (like…her whole life is on there, but not in an obnoxious way), meanwhile I have not even logged on since hm February? And I know there was talk last year to have the wedding this past October. I never heard anything about it, I never received an invite and do not know if it tool place. My invite might have been on Facebook. Which I do not check and so have not received. I have decided to plead ignorance.

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I need a sanity check please.

    The day after Thanksgiving, I had a phone screen with a recruiter for a new opportunity.

    On Monday the 4th, I had a phone interview with the hiring manager. There was a slight hiccup with my phone not ringing the first time she called, so I called back immediately and, of course, got her voicemail. I left a message and then also sent a LinkedIn request with a note apologizing and letting her know that I was available (the recruiter provided me with her LinkedIn profile but not her email address).

    This past Wednesday, I had a video interview with her manager and she told me that they were hoping to make a decision by the end of this week or early next week.

    When I woke up this morning, I had an email notifying me that Hiring Manager accepted my LinkedIn request. I’m trying to convince myself it doesn’t necessarily mean anything and that maybe she just doesn’t check LinkedIn that often but… IDK. Should I consider it a good sign? I’m driving myself nuts right now.

    1. Frank Doyle*

      I wouldn’t consider it a sign at all, unfortunately. If they want to hire you, they’ll indicate that by making an offer, not adding you on LinkedIn.

  4. Kiki*

    Asking a question for my husband today. For context, he works at a tech startup of ~200 people. His manager (Jonathan) manages two teams, Team A and Team B. My husband works on Team A– everyone on Team A reports directly to Jonathan. The people working on Team B report to a mid-level manager (Steve), who reports to Jonathan.

    A few months ago, Steve quit very suddenly and his role has not been filled. A member of Team B (Nancy) stepped up to the plate and took over a lot Steve’s management responsibilities. Technically all of Team B is reporting to Jonathan right now but Nancy has been absorbing a lot of Steve’s work. According to my husband, Nancy has done an awesome job and Team B has been running better since Steve left. Many people on Teams A & B encouraged Nancy to apply for Steve’s position formally.

    Nancy floated the idea by Jonathan and stated her interest in the job. Jonathan said he wouldn’t be able to promote Nancy into the management position because her degree is in the humanities and the position requires a STEM degree. Jonathan encouraged her to pursue another bachelor’s degree if she wanted the position. Nancy asked if there would be any tuition reimbursement and was told no because the degree requirement isn’t company policy, just Jonathan’s own preference.

    Nancy confided in my husband she’s upset because she’s currently doing the work at a high level and doesn’t want to “pay $50k to do the work [she’s] already doing”, especially since the raise that comes with the promotion would be maybe $10k at most. Team B caught wind of what happened and are now very upset with Jonathan because they think Nancy deserves the position. Morale is low on Team B now and their relationship with Jonathan has become chilly.

    My husband wants to advocate for Nancy. His role works closely with Steve’s former role so he has a good view of everything Nancy’s done in the past couple months. However, he’s not sure of the best way to approach the subject, since he is on Team A and also doesn’t want to overstep his boundaries in terms of Nancy’s career (she is a peer to him). I encouraged my husband to compliment Nancy’s work to Jonathan during a relevant moment, something like saying how Team B is now better at XYZ thing, which makes Team A’s jobs easier. Outside of that, is there anything he can do or say? Jonathan values my husband’s opinion and he’s willing to spend some capital to keep Nancy on the team.

    1. Lehigh*

      Personally, in your husband’s shoes, I would try to ask Jonathan what exactly Nancy is doing inadequately because she lacks the correct degree, and discuss whether she could be taught that on the job by Jonathan rather than putting out the $$. Anything else is going to alienate this stellar employee.

      Another option might be to give Nancy the position & raise as soon as she is enrolled in classes. She can spread that $50k over 5-10 years and come out ahead yearly, as well as in the long term.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I kinda hope Nancy wouldn’t seriously consider putting in another four years of school to get a second degree she doesn’t need to do the job she is already doing.
        Nancy could reasonably see this as an indication that she will never be promoted at the company without that degree, and use this opportunity to take her stellar skills elsewhere.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          I doubt another bachelors would be 4 years in total – she could likely get into a program that would accept many of the gen ed requirements from her other degree and just take the science courses she needs. I wouldn’t advocate she get a second bachelors in science unless that standard in her industry and is a worthwhile credential.

          A master’s in a science field may require a few pre-requisites in science that should could do at a community college or online in addition to the degree (usually 2-3 years), but would be a much better credential (again, super field-specific) in the long-term. In the same vein, a certification may be a better option – I would definitely look at industry associations as see if anything that is more tailored to the job could be a replacement for a science bachelors.

        2. Bostonian*

          Well.. unless she got her first degree a long time ago, it could take as little as 2 years to get a second bachelor degree.

          Though, I agree she shouldn’t need to do that if she’s already doing the work for that position well. This degree “requirement” sounds like a weird hang-up that Jonathan has.

      2. Artemesia*

        I’d be inclined to not ‘know’ about Jonathan’s rather stupid ‘policy’. I assume it is really just sexism in play. Instead I think your husband should go to Jonathan and say: ‘Since Nancy has been doing the job Steve used to do, things are going so much more smoothly and we have become more productive; I would like to suggest that we promote her to Steve’s old position.’ Then if the ‘STEM’ thing comes up your husband can say ‘Well she is great, why would we put a hurdle that has nothing to do with getting the job done? And if Jonathan blusters, I might go with ‘It is going to look pretty sexist if we bring in another male team lead who is not as effective as Nancy is.’

        1. Jules the Third*

          +1 to this.

          1) A man advocating for someone can often have a huge effect on other men
          2) Your husband actually knows the work and the requirements
          3) Make sure he knows to save the ‘going to look sexist if we hire a male when Nancy’s doing so well’ for a last-ditch persuasive effort. However, if the degree requirement is only Jonathan’s preference, not a requirement (per the ‘no we won’t reimburse’ statement), Nancy’s got *serious* standing for a discrimination suit, and Jonathan needs to factor that into his thinking.

          He might also have the conversation that a degree is a shortcut to knowledge, not the only path. Learning by experience is valid! If Jonathan’s concerned about specific skills, then Nancy or the husband can suggest she take specific classes (eg, Statistics or a specific programming language) to address gaps, but the delta between a Humanities BA and a STEM BA is usually only 6 – 12 classes; my Econ degree (with the math requirements and my side interests) was only 4 classes away from a biology degree at the same school.

          1. zora*

            The sexism issue isn’t just about a possible discrimination suit. There have been a ton of articles about how a lack of diversity in tech is actually going to/already is hurting creativity and there are business reasons to make sure you have the absolute best people for the jobs. Which might be a woman of color who doesn’t have a STEM degree. I think that statment shouldn’t be saved for a last ditch attempt, these issues need to be more central in every day discussions in tech, or nothing is ever going to move forward.

        2. Drew*

          +1. I care way more about whether someone can do the work than if they have a degree (that doesn’t prove they know how to do the work necessary to get it – ask me how I know that). Our CEO took one semester of college classes, got fed up with the stupidity of academia, and never looked back, and it hasn’t hurt him a damn bit; he’s been promoted on merit several times.

    2. paul*

      I can’t offer advice on how to approach, but I dont’ blame them for being upset. She’s already doing a lot of the job.

    3. Chriama*

      I think speaking frankly is more likely to work that trying to be subtle. Point out that Nancy is doing the work and that while he understands Jonathan’s concerns about the technical background, Jonathan should really ask himself what gaps in knowledge Nancy has and how they could be breached without such a significant time investment. Point out to Jonathan that a lot of the team is taken aback by his decision and it seems like it would be pretty bad for morale to put up barriers to Nancy’s (and the overall team’s!) success unnecessarily.

      (I’d also like him to point out that being a stickler for degrees over knowledge is more likely to result in gender, race and income discrimination and Jonathan should really assess is pre-conceived assumptions. I know that second half is not necessarily something you can say to a manager, but maybe it’s something people can bring up to HR en masse?)

      1. Kiki*

        >I’d also like him to point out that being a stickler for degrees over knowledge is more likely to result in gender, race and income discrimination and Jonathan should really assess is pre-conceived assumptions.

        My husband and I talked about this as well. Nancy is a non-white woman and my husband is afraid that Jonathan has unintentional bias in this regard and maybe wouldn’t be so much of a stickler if it were a white man who’d taken over for Steve.

    4. AnotherJill*

      The ” degree requirement isn’t company policy, just Jonathan’s own preference”? That seems problematic. If your husband can’t advocate for Nancy, it might be worth going above Jonathan to get a resolution on what the company policy is. I know that in startups things can tend to get made up as they go along, but if someone is doing the work, it doesn’t really matter what their degree is in.

      1. Anion*

        That was what I wondered; can he go over Jonathan’s head? Something like, “Nancy is doing a fantastic job in Steve’s old role, and the employees love her, but Jonathan says he wants someone with a degree in that role. I thought I should let you know that that’s upsetting many of the employees, who feel that Nancy deserves the position and her lack of degree isn’t affecting her abilities at all. Is that company policy?”

        That way if they say no, he can continue with, “I’d like to suggest, then, that Nancy be given that position. Her work is stellar, and I really feel it will be bad for morale if we hire an outside person for that job.”

        Obviously he should only do this if he thinks it’s possible/will work.

        Maybe all of the employees together should speak up, too? They don’t have to threaten to quit or anything, but it might be worth them all putting their names down (so to speak) as being pro-Nancy.

        1. Anion*

          Note: I said “if they say no,” just in case the company’s position on this is different from what you’re aware of. I assume they’ll say no, but if they don’t he can still advocate for Nancy by pointing out how well she’s doing etc.

    5. Myrin*

      No advice, but I think it’s really awesome that the whole team has Nancy’s back in this (even if it’s resulted in an overall lower morale for them). And good on your husband as well for wanting to support her in any way possible!

    6. neverjaunty*

      Your husband should encourage Nancy to step OFF the plate and be clear why. They are ok with her doing the job, just not for giving her the title and promotion to go with it? Then I guess they don’t care all that much if she does the job, and she shouldn’t give up free labor for them.

      He might also consider putting in a word with HR orthe C-suite. Is that degree in fact a requirement for the position, or is that something Jonathan pulled out of his hat to avoid promoting someone who isn’t Chad?

    7. Not So NewReader*

      “Jonathan, I see Steve’s position is still open and FWIW I am really hoping you consider Nancy. We will search far for what we already have here. My rationale is this:
      Nancy knows the work and is already doing it.
      Nancy has improved the team in x, y and z ways since Steve left.
      Nancy is a good fit, she gets along with people and people enjoy working with her. This only benefits the company when people work well together.
      If you move Nancy forward, you already know what you will be getting. Hire someone from outside and we are going to lose time and money bringing that new person through the learning curve. [If you know the time for the learning curve in your job, this would be helpful right here. You can say we will lose six months or one year or whatever.]

      If you can mention the thing about the degree, then I would point out that:
      A degree insures general knowledge. It does not insure that they know our work, our methods/systems and our people.
      A degree means a person can learn the material to some extent. It does not show you the limits of that extent, NOR does it show you that the person would fit in well with our group.
      Just my opinion but I am afraid that if Nancy gets passed over she will leave us. No, she has not said that but I can see the concern and I am concerned as this would be a true loss here. So this means we would have a new person going through the learning curve AND we could have to end up replacing Nancy at the same time. We both know that Nancy has been excellent for this company and we both know that losing her would be a loss, indeed. I hope I can persuade you to consider her as a candidate for the opening.”

    8. MissDisplaced*

      I’m not sure there is much your husband can do except to continue to be supportive of Nancy and make a note to Jonathan that Nancy is performing well in the role.

      Nancy needs to check with HR to see if the STEM degree is a requirement of the role or not.
      And goodness! If the STEM degree IS a requirement and Nancy is doing great int the role, why not support her by paying tuition (for the needed classes)? It’s a pretty lousy company that would risk losing someone good over such a stupid thing.

    9. Agathe_M*

      Agreed with a lot of the above: your husband should try to speak plainly about this, not just drop hints (assuming he has the capital to spend). And he should point out that trying to identify specific skills needed and correct any knowledge gaps is going to be way more beneficial to everyone than if Nancy spends four years and a lot of her own money getting “a STEM degree”.

      “STEM” is a HUGE subset of human knowledge (and there are serious problems with the STEM/non-STEM intellectual paradigm, but that’s another conversation). I assume the startup is tech-y/compsci, yes? Does Jonathan really think that an undergrad zoology degree would make Nancy more qualified for a tech industry job that she’s already doing well?

      Zoology is awesome, for clarity. But I strongly doubt it’s more related to Nancy’s current field than whatever she already has.

    10. Emmie*

      Nancy doesn’t need a STEM degree as an individual contributor. It defies my knowledge that she’d need a STEM degree for a higher level position that presumably focuses on managerial and strategic initiatives. It’s also surprising that the company advocates for a STEM degree generally rather than a specific field of STEM such as engineering, or biology. That appears harder to justify in an EEO complaint or anti-discrimination lawsuit.
      I realize I haven’t helped you solve your husband’s problem. I think he’s a great person for realizing the absurdity here, and his willingness to say something. If he decides to push back on the education requirements, perhaps the company is open to her doing an Associate’s degree, or a combination of certificates (such as common in IT) that imparts more current industry knowledge.

      1. zora*

        If you look at the 3rd paragraph, this isn’t company policy. Johnathan stated clearly it’s “his own preference.” this is EXACTLY why diversity is a problem in tech.

    11. zora*

      I agree with the above and I want to encourage your husband to speak plainly about the sexism/diversity issue at play here. My boyfriend is also a white guy in tech, and he is very blunt about talking about diversity issues and it’s really the only thing that is going to move this stuff forward.

      I want to highlight what Artemisia suggested above:

      ‘It is going to look pretty sexist if we bring in another male team lead who is not as effective as Nancy is.’

      I think your husband should literally say this word for word. I really don’t think the biggest worry is ‘overstepping boundaries’ for Nancy, the biggest worry is men standing on the sidelines and NOT saying anything, which actually means they are complicit with keeping the status quo. I think it’s his responsibility to say something even if Nancy didn’t want this particular job.

    12. Jules the Third*

      Please encourage your husband to spend capital on this. Promoting Nancy is a win / win for her and the company. The fact that it’s also a small step in addressing wider social inequalities is a plus, but he should probably avoid that aspect unless he keeps a ‘here’s how that benefits Jonathan’ spin to it, like, ‘you know the company’s working on diversity – promoting Nancy will look *so good* to [C Suite Boss].’

      SJW aspect aside, promoting Nancy is good for the company, good for the team, and good for her. As others have pointed out:
      – Proven quality and track record
      – No learning curve
      – No cost for recruiting and hiring
      – Not losing Nancy – she’s clearly good enough to get recruited elsewhere

      Possible additional talking points:
      – Diversity promotions and hires make managers look good
      – Small companies don’t really have the luxury of sticking to rules and paper, they need to focus on results. Nancy doesn’t have Jonathan’s preferred paper, but she’s giving great results.

      If a piece of paper from a decade ago is going to override the evidence of her experience, Jonathan has a bigger problem than just this, and your husband may want to take this over Jonathan’s head if Jonathan doesn’t promote Nancy.

      The likelihood that Jonathan is being discriminatory is high, but it’s going to be so buried in his head that you don’t want to go there with Jonathan – use carrots not sticks.

  5. Solaire*

    Hi everyone. I posted a comment on last week’s open thread about requesting ADA accommodations. I have an update.

    Unfortunately, it isn’t a good one. My boss replied to my email requesting accommodations with another email saying that we “need to have a serious conversation about [my] future in January” (he’s working remote for this week and out the rest of the month). Then he forwarded the entire email chain to every other manager in the department (I know because I was cc’d on the forward) along with “Just FYI.”

    Thepeople he forwarded it to have been treating me much differently ever since. One guy comes over to my desk a couple of times a day to say “you need to calm down and act normally.” I think that guy means well, but my boss’s email has totally damaged my relationships with the rest of the department.

    Of course, nothing from HR. I’ve sent them more emails and the response to each has been “I have received your previous emails and will get back to you.” They’re not going to be helpful, and if I tell them about my boss’s email, I’m sure they’ll do something to cover it up.

    I’mnot sure whether I want to make a complaint about his response to my request. I’m debating going to the EEOC or calling a lawyer, but honestly, I’m scared to do either.

    I want to quit, but I’m not sure if I should yet. Reason being, I was only at my last job for a year, and I’ve been at this one for 6 months. I’m thinking of leaving it off and giving a white lie about what I’ve been doing since the last job, since “I quit after my boss disclosed my disability status to the rest of the department out of anger at me” won’t sound good in an interview.

    I know that my next step is to speak with a lawyer, so this is mostly just a venting post. Thank you for listening and giving me advice.

    1. fposte*

      I’m sorry, Solaire. That’s really frustrating. Remember that just talking to a lawyer isn’t a commitment–you’re just asking questions to figure out your options.

        1. Jesca*

          Ya know, I was like this a bit for many years. Fearing the consequences of speaking up. I had a horrible experience with it when I exposed deep seated sexual harassment and assault at a job when I was 22. I just want you to know that there is nothing wrong with standing up for your rights. It is ok to be loud and proud about the fact that they are trampling all over them. I know that may seem counter-productive but in reality the discomfort lies with all of them. I had found in the past when I was too nervous to be outgoing about my boundaries and what I was willing to tolerate, really awful people took advantage a lot. So just remember that it is soooo OK to call a lawyer. The worse that can happen is that they fire you. Remember that! And the fact that you are already looking to quit and leave them off your resume should help you relax some of your anxiety a bit. I am not telling you what to do or how to feel, I am just offering up a different way to look at it in the even it helps with your nerves right now! It is ok to be angry, and it is ok to hold them accountable for failing to follow the law. It is also OK to just drop it if you don’t feel like your nerves can handle it!

          1. Solaire*

            Wow, thank you for sharing that. That takes a lot of mental strength. It’s very kind to take the experience and use it to help other people out.

            My worry is about doing things the “right” way here. I find this very stressful and think about quitting every day. I could do this – I have connections and I have plenty of savings. But I also want to assert my rights, and stand up for myself. “How much is too much?”, in terms of staying here to gather data, is a hard question.

            Thank you so much.

            1. Close Bracket*

              If your connections can get you employment, just take it. It’s nice when you can assert yourself to someone who is both a jerk and breaking the law, but it’s nicer not to have to. Take the path of least impact to your mental health.

      1. Jesca*

        Exactly. I would actually reach out to one today just to see what they say. A lot of times they will give you some direction over the phone. But the reason I say reach out today is because the holiday week is approaching fast, and January is right around the corner. If you want to go this route, it is best to be ahead of it all. A lot of lawyers will be out, so you really want to contact them now. This is awful, and I am so sorry you are dealing with this! Good luck!

        1. Hallway Feline*

          I spoke with a lawyer after my previous job threatened to fire me because of my depression. It was a no-strings attached 10 minute phone call that gave me options and a lot of answers. So I say go ahead and make the call. The lawyer won’t force you into hiring them and they may be able to give you some ideas on what to do next no matter which option you choose!

      1. Close Bracket*

        Oh, my goodness. I am also autistic. I’m the type that comes across as a quirky @$$hole, and it has caused me problems at work. That guy who told you to act normal should be held down and repeatedly stuck with a wet carp. I have no good advice for you, just lots and lots of sympathy.

    2. Justme*

      Honestly I would quit and file an EEOC complaint. Your workplace sucks and your boss forwarded information when he had no right or need to do so.

      1. Solaire*

        I’m thinking about it. My primary concerns are severance (trying to discreetly find out about it), and how to spin it on my resume and in interviews.

        I’m going to come up with a plan when I see my therapist next week. This job has become a very uncomfortable place to be, because now I wonder about every interaction with my coworkers, and whether I’ll be fired today.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Talk to the lawyer before you quit. If they fire you for talking to a lawyer, that’s a great retaliation claim.

      2. Big dawg*

        I see where you’re coming from but being a self described “quirky asshole” is not a good thing in a work environment and is likely not going to contribute to future success. I’d recommend you revisit your approach to the work environment.

        1. Solaire*

          I think you’re replying to someone else? If anything I keep my head down and try to minimize even talking about myself for the first 6-12 months at a new job. I conduct myself like that to specifically to avoid things like this.

          That might make people think I’m a little stilted/awkward, but I keep people in the loop on what I’m doing and I’m fine with people in my office thinking that I am awkward as long as they also know I can get stuff done.

    3. Chriama*

      Talk to a lawyer and call the EEOC. You don’t have to commit to anything, but talking will let you know your options and what your chances for success are. I’d also make sure to forward the emails to your personal email address and record all incidents when they happen, so that if you do decide to report/litigate you have the info you need.

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this and that HR isn’t being helpful. I’m in a pugilistic frame of mind today, and I’d like to see these guys sued and fined so they get their act together for potential future employees who may be more vulnerable. But it’s not your responsibility to save everyone so do what’s best for you and keep your options open while you decide.

      1. Solaire*

        I get where you’re coming from, and I feel the same way.

        My big worry is that the boss sent out his stupid email a couple of days after I emailed him. So it’s not like he said something stupid in the heat of the moment, or because of pressure from his bosses, or anything like that. It was thought through, and he thinks it’s okay. So if he gets in trouble, he might go on the warpath and shit talk me to everyone who will listen. I’m early enough in my career where I’m worried about that.

        1. Chriama*

          You mean in other organizations? That would be spectacularly illegal, and something you could include if you decided to litigate. What kind of career are you in? I think in many cases our fear of retaliation is more than the reality. I would definitely take precautions like having a friend contact him as a fake reference check, but I think you’ll probably have other options.

          Another thing to do is wait until you secure his reference and get a new job, and then pursue action. I do think you should still do the fake reference check because, as you said, he seems to have a strong bias and there’s a risk he would say something to harm your reference anyway. But maybe if he’s being a jerk about it and you know you have to leave, you don’t have too much to lose by talking to him about a transition plan out of the company. He obviously doesn’t want to make accommodations for you, and if it was implied that you’d pursue legal action he might be willing to guarantee a certain reference if it would get you to leave peacefully. And I wouldn’t morally consider any agreement you secure to preclude you from litigating in the future.

          1. Solaire*

            On legality: I’m not sure if it’s illegal, just extremely shitty. Are you referring to HIPAA? That wouldn’t cover my boss. The other people he told are other management-level employees in my department. I don’t know if he spread the information to other people, offline, but I wouldn’t be surprised. He probably did.

            On references: I don’t think this guy could ever be convinced to give me a decent reference. He waited a couple of days before replying to my ADA email, so he spent some time thinking about how to respond, and decided the best way would be to scold me, threaten my employment, and send the email out to a bunch of other people. That was all very planned and I can’t see him suddenly feeling remorse over doing that and trying to reconcile. The best outcome I can see is some sort of deal worked out through a lawyer and/or the EEOC.

            On my career: I’m a software engineer in a tier 1 city for it. My main fear is that I was only at this job for 6 months, and the last for 13 (left on good terms, but going back wouldn’t be my first choice). I do know enough people that can help me find something new, and I have a decent chunk of savings, but I’m worried about the job hopper stigma.

            1. MerciMe*

              Job hopper isn’t a problem with only two jobs. Just tell them you loved the first job, but the second one seemed too good to pass up. Unfortunately, once you were there it turned out to be a poor fit, so…..

        2. Specialk9*

          I worried about that too, when I finally filed an EEOC complaint. It did not destroy my career, however, I’m doing fine now. (Though it also did not fix the problem – I ended up having to leave after retaliation. So, even in an example of justice not being done, I still came out ok.) If your main concern is reference, I would talk to a lawyer and work that out. You can also have a friend call as if from a potential employer, to check how they reference you.

          But really, I think a lawsuit may help you (financially while between jobs) and help those who come after you who will also be discriminated against for having medical stuff. It’s really not ok, and they need to stop.

          1. Solaire*

            So, the reason I’m worried about my career is because of my boss’s response to the ADA email. That was so over the top that all bets are off on what he’ll do if he thinks I’ve disrespected him or whatever.

            I have older friends who’d be totally up for doing the “reference check”. I’m just worried that the guy may be that nuts.

            But I think that may be catastrophizing rather than a real worry. Honestly, I can probably get away with leaving this job off my resume and saying I took a few months off, after my next job. People interviewing me now won’t ask for a ref from current manager.

            1. Specialk9*

              It’s not an invented concern, but yeah I think a bit overblown. But I get that, very much so, because I had the same concern.

              But again, this is NOT a nice guy. This is a controlling man who sometimes acts nice, like most controlling people do to get away with it. (Check out Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That, for a logical and systematic explanation of the structure of controlling behavior.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Put the emails on a portable drive and bring them home with you. Do not keep the drive at work.

      2. Solaire*

        Done it, in multiple formats. I’m feeling very anxious and upset over this, but I’ve been able to hold it together enough to remember to do that.

    4. RachelR*

      Whatever you do, SAVE THAT EMAIL CHAIN. Print it out and get it out of the office. Save HR’s useless responses too.

      Document. Document. Document.

      1. Solaire*

        I’m good on that front. First thought I had. I’m feeling very anxious about all of this, but I kept myself together enough to do that.

    5. blackcat*

      I’d forward the emails to your personal email, and then each day, send yourself an email documenting these slights and comments. The documentation will be useful if you go the EEOC/lawyer route.

      1. Solaire*

        I have copies of the emails.

        My concern about recording all the comments is that the guy who’s making them is a decent person. He just has an old fashioned view of mental health. I would love it if I could stay collected and see things the way everyone else does, but it’s not so easy. That’s why I see a therapist.

        1. blackcat*

          Still, it’s good to have a record. And you could even bring it to your therapy appointments to discuss with your therapist.

          1. Solaire*

            Absolutely doing this. I’d already planned on it, so I’m grateful for hearing from you that it’s a wise idea.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*


            If he was a truly decent person, he would be treating you with the respect you deserve.

            1. Solaire*

              He thinks he’s giving me advice, but my own issues go way beyond just trying to be more confident. It is a little discomforting, but he’s 20 years older than I am and I don’t think starting a conversation about the treatment of mental illness is productive.

              Just to be clear, I’m not talking about my boss, Angry Email Guy. This guy is another manager in my department.

          2. TL -*

            He could absolutely be a decent person acting in a horrible way. As the song says, we’re all a little bit racist. Doesn’t mean we’re all horrible, just that we all need to be called on our sh*t and preconceived notions, sometimes in ways that make us feel bad about ourselves.

          3. Specialk9*

            Echoing. He is not a decent person. Really not. He began a systematic smear campaign, threatened your job, and encouraged a concerted daily harassment campaign. You are convinced, based on your experience with him, that he could easily try to smear your reputation further, in the industry – and that even if told by a lawyer that his actions are illegal and hostile, he would spike your career.

            He is very much the one with issues. He sounds terrible, and pathological, and like a very bad person.

            1. Solaire*

              So there’s two different people here:

              Wario is my boss, who I sent the ADA email to. He’s malicious, no questions about that. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went on the warpath against me for calling attention to his discriminatory and possibly illegal behavior, which is why I’m talking to lawyers. I think that if I get a lawyer and/or EEOC involved, the company’s lawyers can get him to shut up and go away. He simply has too much on his plate to work on a years-long grudge against me, if he knows he’s being watched for that.

              Waluigi is the other guy. He might be a bad guy, but I think it’s just that he doesn’t get mental illness. If I could just understand people better by thinking really hard, I’d do that rather than go to expensive and stigmatized cognitive behavioral therapy sessions. He’s a good bit older than me, and judging from the tone of our previous interactions, trying to speak up when he goes on a “calm down and be normal” speech will just piss him off and make things worse for me, not to mention I’d be doing that in front of a bunch of other people. Waluigi is also a former Marine, so I’m pretty sure that has to do with the origin of his belief that I just need to toughen up and take work seriously or whatever.

              I feel like I should name Waluigi as well as Wario in the complaint or whatever, but I feel a little bad about naming Waluigi. If HR seemed half competent there, I’d talk to them and see if they could discreetly and politely tell Waluigi that what he’s doing isn’t cool and isn’t helpful, but I do not think that’s possible.

        2. Close Bracket*

          It doesn’t matter whether he is a decent person. He’s. Wrong. Don’t look out for him, he’s NT, he can look out for himself.

          I’m really angry on your behalf. They say autistic people lack empathy, but I don’t see your NT boss/HR/coworkers exercising any.

          1. Solaire*

            If anything, I’d describe my experience as being ASD (high functioning, but still: I have relationships, live on my own, and do some other useful stuff in my professional community aside just work) as a sort of social deafness: I can see people’s lips moving, but I’m at a loss as to how to respond.

    6. CM*

      As a lawyer, I know that going to the EEOC or calling a lawyer sounds like a scary, drastic thing to do. But I think it will actually give you some peace of mind. You’ll be talking to somebody who understands the situation and who won’t minimize what you’re going through. (Assuming you talk to a decent lawyer/EEOC person.)

      1. EddieSherbert*

        +1 I would agree that it can’t hurt to at least get some advice from a lawyer or EEOC person!

        (I’m not a lawyer)

    7. Iris Eyes*

      Is there a way you can follow up with HR directly like with a phone call, you were worried about outing yourself last before but it sounds like that ship has sailed? Is there a reporting hotline? I’m sorry that people keep having such poor responses.

      I would definitely backup the email from your boss and document any weird issues so that if you do need to move forward legally you have as many possible ducks in a row.

      Depending on what it is and your comfort level, for the weirdness in the office would it be possible to address it head on? If it something that a lot of people haven’t encountered before then maybe a little education could go a long way toward smoothing things over. (I’m thinking of situations where people didn’t understand that diabetes or cancer wasn’t contagious) Since they are already partially aware you could make it obvious that a few adjustments would make everything run more smoothly. Maybe share examples of how having the right support can make all the difference. Comments along the lines of “I just want to have the tools to do the job well.” or something like that might work.

      1. Solaire*

        I don’t have any trust in HR, an anonymous ethics hotline, or anything like that where the people who run it are getting paid by my company. For the size of my company, the reporting structure is rather flat and my boss has pull with some people very high up.

    8. MuseumChick*

      Document, document, document. In addition to keep all the emails has others have said also keep a written record of how the manager have been treating you, what they have been saying to you, with times and dates and the names of witnesses.

      I’m so sorry you have a crappy HR and a crappy boss and crappy managers.

    9. Triangle Pose*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this.

      I looked at your original comment and want to say that 2 of the 3 accomodations would not be workable in my workplace. 3 seems doable but 1 and 2 would totally be an unreasonable burden on coworkers and there would be bona fide business need for different accomodations. There’s an entire process for ADA accomodations, raising of objections, bona fide business needs, etc. I really hope you get your due process and I sincerely hope your workplace is not like mine and that your requested accomdations would be workable.

      1. Advance notice of all face to face meetings or calls by email. 5-10 minutes would be enough.
      2. Assignments with deadlines in email. I can provide this myself but in that case I’ll need some confirmation from them; just replying “That’s right,” or “please do this other thing first” is enough.
      3. Change of seating. Right now I sit in a windowless area that also is very high traffic, and all of that gives me a lot of background stress.

      1. Bad Candidate*

        They still need to engage in the process and failure to do so can warrant a complaint to the EEOC.

        1. Triangle Pose*

          I am very familiar with ADA laws…I literally said “There’s an entire process for ADA accomodations, raising of objections, bona fide business needs, etc. I really hope you get your due process.”

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Whereas my workplace could accommodate all of these no problem. Hell even when I worked in a newsroom I could’ve made this work for someone.

      3. zora*

        Counterpoint: 1 and 2 would be totally reasonable in my office and 90% of the time are happening anyway. Especially if as they say in #2, that they could send the email “Here is the assignment as I understand it, and the deadline when i will have it” and just want a quick approval by email.

        Our office has a lot of teams that don’t sit together, so this happens most of the time anyway. And if someone said specifically, I need these steps to happen every time, that would be so no big deal, everyone would be happy to do that.

        As for phone calls, our schedules are full, everyone has a lot of work to do. So, everyone would actually appreciate an email or IM: “hey I need to ask you some questions, can I call you at 10:30am?” heads up instead of people just calling out of the blue.

        I just want to reassure Solaire that there are MANY workplaces out there where these are very reasonable accommodations. And I believe you can have a long, happy, productive career even with your autism. Your current boss is a jerk, try not to let this discourage you!!!

      4. Elizabeth H.*

        I also feel that these would be feasible accommodations in my workplace. 1) is the trickiest and it certainly wouldn’t work for someone in my role, but if Solaire isn’t in a support type role, it could work.

      5. Close Bracket*

        Seriously? Five minutes advance notice and written deadlines are an unreasonable burden? If you are kind of callous and lazy, I guess. Planning five minutes ahead and sending an email shouldn’t be an unreasonable burden on anyone. Sounds more like people just don’t want to, which is not a good business case.

      6. Solaire*

        Yeah, we could’ve totally made different ideas work, if my boss was willing to talk about it like a mature adult. Could’ve is the operative phrase here, because my boss decided to spread that information around to instead of discretely saying (or getting HR to say) “look, Solaire has some health issues and we need to do X when working with him.”

        But now at least one of the guys he’d have needed to say that to thinks I’m just trying to claim a diagnosis to get out of work or something. Even if I get a lawyer involved or HR gets it together and lays down the law, there’s still going to be some resentment and I can’t see a guy who thinks I just need to “calm down and act normal” completely reining that in and acting 100% professionally towards me. So I don’t see how I have a long term future here.

        Maybe if I transferred to a completely different department, but I don’t know if my boss is going to be spiteful enough to poison my reputation with a potential new boss, when he can do it easily because we’re in the same office.

        Even at my old company, my bad boss had the sense to go along with HR at least on paper.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I went back and scanned the original thread.
      You have a bunch of unanswered emails to your boss? Save those. Make a master list of dates and times you sent emails that never got answered. I am growling here because I think of all the times I busted my butt to make sure people in our group had the answers they needed.

      Let’s see. The guy can’t answer emails, he can’t tell you when deadlines are and he can’t get you seated with your department even though there are open spaces. I don’t see anything here that is any huge request, I have to wonder why it is that HE can’t do these things. Most of this is pretty basic to being a boss. My crew had their questions answered, knew what their deadlines were and I kept them clusted together so they could support each other in the task they were doing. This is NOT hard and it’s pretty basic. I think it’s a crock that you have to go through this, when what seems to be wrong here is the guy doesn’t know how to do his job.
      Icing on the cake, you get formal with him in your ADA request and he runs off to find peers to help sheild him.
      This reads to me like this is a guy who is scared to manage people and should not be in management. He has no idea what your email about ADA says and HE is scared. Just my opinion, though.

      You know what. There are a lot of workplaces and bosses who would be absolutely delighted to work with you. You sound like you are a conscious, sincere employee. Chin up. Drag in support as others have mentioned- a lawyer and EEOC. Privately, keep in mind that you could be exposing this guy as a bad boss in more ways that it looks like right now.

      1. Solaire*

        Rumor mill says that my boss is getting a lot of heat from his superiors and he’s blaming and bullying the people underneath him. Apparently he’s been screaming and cursing at other people in our department because they can’t get stuff done (I don’t know for sure because I sit in a different area from everyone else, which is why I think the advance notice accommodation makes sense – it’s an elevator ride and a decent walk to get to me).

        As for me as a worker, I have my own flaws. But thank you. I know I’m good at what I do, and I like doing it. My main concerns here are reputation and managing my mental health.

    11. Trout 'Waver*

      The best time to talk to a lawyer is before you actually need a lawyer. Even if you have no case, an attorney can still lay out your options for you and give you realistic expectations. That’s also true if you have a case, but decide not to pursue it.

      Even if you decide not to sue, an employment attorney can still write a letter for you to negotiate severance or references.

    12. Jules the Third*

      Aw, this sucks. You have my sympathy Solaire. I hope it works out somehow. Your boss and the person who came over and said you needed to calm down SUCK.

      In future interviews, you can maybe say ‘it wasn’t a good fit, and I missed that during interviews. So, how would you describe your management style?’

      1. Solaire*

        Thanks to one of my older friends / professional mentors, I’ve come up with some pretty solid answers, and after I land a new job, I’ll probably remove this one from my resume.

    13. Close Bracket*

      I am sorry, Solaire. I had a bad experience getting ADA accommodations as well, and I’ve also had problems after my boss revealed personal information that he should not have. SO I can relate. I think I missed your post last week, so I don’t have the whole story. I’ll just tell you that my experience getting the EEOC involved didn’t go well, either. I don’t want to discourage you from going that route bc you deserve your legal protections. I just want to give you a head’s up that it will be difficult and expensive, and it will take an emotional toll, so be sure to have a support system in place and a way to perform self-care. I hope you get the resolution you need.

      1. Solaire*

        I’m sorry for that happening to you. I hope you are doing well now.

        I’m not sure where I want to take this. I think it’s important to stand up for myself, but on the other hand, I have plenty of savings, and I also have a valuable skillset and connections. So it might be better for my mental health if I quit, relax (and potentially double up on mental health visits) through the end of the year and start hunting for a new job in January.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          If you have plenty of savings, a valuable skillset and connections, there may not be much reason to stay at this job right now. The benefit of staying at the job would be that it’s easier to find a job when you already have a job. That is the issue that you would have to balance against how unpleasant it currently is.
          If you’re a software engineer and you are skilled, it depends on your geographic location but it wouldn’t necessarily be terribly difficult to get another job. I have a number of software engineer friends who have both randomly quit their jobs (for no good reason!) or have been fired for software engineering jobs and they were getting contacted by recruiters incessantly and landed high paying jobs afterwards.

        2. Close Bracket*

          I guess you have ask, will standing up for yourself improve your work situation? Standing up for yourself for an improved outcome might be worth the hassle, depending on the hassle. Standing up for yourself just for the sake of standing up for yourself … There are no prizes given for not letting someone get away with something. Walking away can be the best form of protest.

          I think my advice would be stand up for yourself while looking for a new job. When the new job comes through, eff it and walk away.

          And ask that jackass who keeps telling you to “act normal” whether he would tell somebody with cerebral palsy to “walk normal.” And then point out that it’s “normally.” Grr.

          1. Solaire*

            I want to stand up for myself because I’ve been historically bad at that. I should’ve been quicker and more aggressive in talking to HR, lawyers, and EEOC at the job I was bullied out of. I’m still not sure how to broach the issue of my ASD and accommodations at future jobs, though.

            I’m unconvinced of the benefits of going to court or an EEOC hearing when I have plenty of savings on hand. It’d get some justice, but it would be very stressful and also take months if not years. But I’ve been convinced that proactively talking to a lawyer and getting a consultation to understand my options is a good idea.

            I don’t want to start a fight with “act normal” guy. I’m the new guy and it’d probably tank my reputation with the people who aren’t in the know or are undecided on how they feel about me.

        3. Close Bracket*

          btw, I can’t tell if this comment got caught in moderation or not since other comments have gone through, but I am also autistic, and that caused a large part of the situation that I described above. I wasn’t diagnosed at the time, though.

    14. Solaire*

      Here’s an update. This may be my last because I’ve started talking to lawyers.

      I finally got a real response from HR. They sent a form that I need to fill out with my doctor before they can discuss accommodations. That doesn’t seem like it should take a week. I’m not sure if requesting accommodations will delay my boss being able to fire me or not.

      There have been no more emails from my boss at all (again, he was remote this past week).

      I called a few lawyers, but I ended up going to voicemail or getting their assistants and not being able to pick up when the lawyers themselves called back, because I was stuck in the office with “calm down and act normal” guy. I’ll be talking to them Monday regardless. I’ll just take lunch at a different time.

      I already have a few leads on new jobs, so I’ll keep talking to them.

      On the mental health front, a couple of friends have advised me to tell the story to coworkers who I like/trust and quit without notice (write out an email like “This email is to report my resignation, effective immediately. I have left my keys and badge with X.”, only to my boss and HR, with my personal email BCC’d) . I also deal with pretty bad panic disorder so I’m seriously considering that, as my stress levels have been really high lately.

      I’m seeing my therapist next week, and that should be helpful.

      1. Specialk9*

        I work at a mega corp, which may have different compliance rules than smaller orgs, but *absolutely* status of pending HR complaints is considered for firing decisions precisely to avoid the appearance of retaliation. So when mass layoffs are lined up, our legal employment team has to check that nobody on the list has filed a complaint against their manager or the like. (That’s not to say that it can’t happen, but that wise companies that have lost that lawsuit usually learn.)

        1. Solaire*

          I’m at a very, very large org, but they also took over a week to get me basic ADA paperwork and half the links on our HR portal are broken.

          When you’ve passed your probation period here you’re effectively unfireable. They screwed up my payroll for my first pay period, refused to respond to email at all, and took a month to get me my paycheck for my first two weeks. At other places I’ve worked at, both big and small, that would probably get you fired even if you had 20 years with the company.

          tl;dr I’m not sure which way it could go. They could definitely afford to drag it out in court because they have an unbelievable amount of resources, and I don’t want to deal with the financial and mental stress of a years long lawsuit. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean they’ll want to. They may very well be willing to offer me some money and a good reference from HR (or even my job back – not that I’d want it) if I show I’m serious about it.

  6. Dani*

    Since there seem to be a number of people here who work (or have worked) as teachers or admin staff in a high school there was something I wanted to ask:

    In my final year of high school (over a decade ago now) I took a subject that was notoriously challenging – but gave you a huge advantage when it came to university selection if you did well (btw this is not in the US).

    Well, a few weeks into the school year our class decided the teacher we had for that subject (Mr Q) wasn’t good enough (I can’t remember the exact reason, maybe his teaching style wasn’t great or he couldn’t answer something specific) and basically we went as a group to our year adviser to ask for Mr W to take over instead. (Mr W was a very good teacher but only taught an adjacent subject).

    In the end we did manage to get Mr W (and I did very well in the subject). But looking back now, I often wonder what would’ve happened on the administrative side of that change. We probably made Mr Q feel terrible (although I’m not how much a grown man’s confidence could be shaken by a bunch of teenagers), and while Mr W was probably flattered we wanted him to take over, it probably made a /lot/ more work for him (none of us even thought to ask first whether he’d even want to teach that subject).

    But mainly: if you’ve worked on the admin side of a high school, how would you handle requests like this? Would it involved stuff like rewriting contracts or renegotiating salaries? Or major juggling around of schedules so as not to overburden the staff?

    (We truly were concerned this would affect our chances at university places, which at the time was our whole purpose in life (I know I know), but there must’ve been a better way to go about it than the route we took…)

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      In both of the high schools in which I have worked, there is NO WAY that a group of students (or even parents) could have affected a change like this mid-year. It would have been a scheduling nightmare from an administrative standpoint. The only reason it might have happened is if the administration was looking to make a change of their own based on job performance or a personal issues. No one would have undertaken the schedule juggling lightly and it just wouldn’t have happened unless the administration wanted it to themselves.

      1. Lala*

        Seconding this. Someone involved had to already want that change to happen. Hopefully Mr. Q had already been pushing to teach something else, and/or Mr. W had been pushing to teach that class. Not knowing all the details, if Mr. W had already taught that subject previously (or really wanted to), or if they simply swapped classes, that would’ve made it an easier thing to shuffle around.
        But it probably did suck for Mr. Q, even if he wanted to teach something else and got to. I would’ve felt like a complete failure if my students banded together like that to try and keep me from teaching them.

        It’s kind of incredible they actually changed it. There had to be multiple people involved in the admin/between the two teachers who wanted that change to happen, too.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t know what happened at your school specifically, but I’ve worked at a number of high schools (all in the U.S., not sure if that has anything to do with it), and I can’t imagine an administration changing out teachers a few weeks into the school year based on student demand unless they also agreed with what the students were proposing or had their own reasons for switching the teachers out.

      You say maybe his teaching style wasn’t great or he couldn’t answer something specific, but that may reflect a larger issue. It’s possible the administration was already aware that Mr Q was underperforming in some way or just fine as an employee and teacher but not particularly well suited to teach that subject. I have worked in schools that press a teacher to teach outside her academic comfort zone (a chemistry teacher made to teach biology or a math teacher made to teach computer science, for example).

      Would it involved stuff like rewriting contracts or renegotiating salaries? Or major juggling around of schedules so as not to overburden the staff?

      The former, probably not. In theory, Mr Q’s teaching load was probably lighter and should probably be paid less, but it may not work out that way. The latter, for sure there was probably some stuff that had to happen in the student information system and registrar’s office. But all that stuff is part of what administrations do. There are always curve balls to deal with.

    3. blackcat*

      I’m also interested in these responses.

      When I was a senior in high school, I basically got a teacher fired for sexually harassing students. I was not super professional about it, but the guy did get fired. He wasn’t touching students or anything, but there was a constant stream of “You must be on the rag” or “I bet your boyfriend likes that” sorts of comments. He said something to me exactly once (in the hallway), and I starred him down and said something about how he should never speak to a student like that. He yelled at me for being disrespectful. I calmly said that if he wanted to pick this fight with me, he was going to lose. He yelled some more, and I just stared at him while he did it. He got confused by my lack of response and walked away as a crowd was gathering. After that, several freshman girls who witnessed it came up to say he said things like that all the time. Then I heard from more at lunch. And I then skipped class to march into the headmaster’s office (where she was meeting with other people!) and laid out what went down and who had told me what. I think I handled it pretty well for an 18 year old high school kid, but, in retrospect, there were definitely better ways to handle it! Like I could have told the secretary that I needed to speak to the headmaster about something urgent rather than just busting in there full righteous anger.

      IDK what happened from the administrative point of view. The headmaster thanked me for coming to her, and I was never disciplined for the unexcused absence. But two weeks later, asshole teacher was gone. I wonder if what happened was a sort of final straw–which also may have been the case in your example. If administrators knew something was off, it makes sense that student uprisings could spark change.

      1. Lala*

        Sexual harassment/comments is such a bigger deal, though, and such an obvious case for firing that I wouldn’t categorize your scenario with the earlier one. Admin will just about always move fast on that if there are witnesses or repeated reports from multiple people (only supremely incompetent admin would ignore it). Parents/the community at large flip their shit (rightfully so) over that, after all, and it’s potentially criminal–or at the very least a red flag for someone who probably would commit a crime.

        1. blackcat*

          See, I wish I agreed with that, but when I was a teacher, the school I worked at would not take student reports of inappropriate comments seriously unless a parent made a huge stink. Students, even a large group, complaining about a racist teacher got no where (and the comments were REALLY racist). But the fact that there wasn’t a (white) parent making a stink and that no other teacher witnessed the remarks meant that they treated it as a “witch hunt” by the students. And the sexist comments by another teacher were blown off as “that’s the way he is.” Incompetence complaints were laughed at.

          Having not been on the admin side–just the student and teacher sides–I get the strong impression that something will only happen if administrators already want something to happen. But I am curious if that’s what folks in administration think, too. I suppose some things could just be way over the top, but in my case, each of the remarks wasn’t “that bad.” It was the pattern that was so bad. (The fact that he seemed to be targeting the youngest girls primarily is what got me so angry. As a teacher, I might not have seen that much of a difference between those comments being directed at 14 year olds vs 18 year olds–it’s really, really bad in both cases!–but 18 year old me went all mama bear mode. I felt like I had handled my own interaction with him fine and wouldn’t have talked to another adult about it. But him doing that to younger girls was really upsetting to me.)

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          Admin will just about always move fast on that if there are witnesses or repeated reports from multiple people (only supremely incompetent admin would ignore it).

          This will vary a lot based on the school. Some admins will do everything they can to cover up an incident that makes the school look bad.

      2. Anonymous Educator*

        When I was a senior in high school, I basically got a teacher fired for sexually harassing students. I was not super professional about it, but the guy did get fired.

        Good on you for reporting it and good on your school for not covering it up (yes, we shouldn’t have to congratulate people for having basic human decency, but there are far too many cases of secondary schools and schools of higher ed covering up sexual harassment / assault).

        By the way, you were a student. It doesn’t matter if you’re “professional” or not. It does matter if he is (and he was not). You did exactly what you should have done.

        After that, several freshman girls who witnessed it came up to say he said things like that all the time. Then I heard from more at lunch.

        This is awesome. I had a friend recently tell me (we didn’t go to the same high school) that she tried to get her school to fire a sexually harassing teacher, and she tried to get other girls to help her with it, and they dismissed it as “No, he’s funny.” So he stayed.

        Also, I know this is just a small semantics thing, but you didn’t get him fired. He got himself fired. You just helped his bad behavior come to the attention of the administration.

        1. blackcat*

          In this case, I agree with “By the way, you were a student. It doesn’t matter if you’re “professional” or not. ” But as a teacher, I generally *did* care that my students conducted themselves in professional ways. I definitely gave them a lot of leeway, but it was part of my job to teach them about professionalism.

          That said, I expected them to be professional about things like email etiquette, not about anything even vaguely safety related. IDGAF then. Kids, if you see an “adult” problem, make it my problem, not yours! And make it my problem in any way that you can! If all you can do is yell and point, that’s cool! If you drop a ton of f-bombs when telling me about your racist teacher, that’s cool! Just tell me!

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            I should have been clearer, I guess. I mean that in the context of reporting a sexually harassing teacher, how “professional” the student is in doing so matters far less than the fact she reported it. Sure, if they’re just doing normal things like participating in class, talking to teachers, emailing outside organizations about community service opportunities, they should be 100% professional.

      3. MsChanandlerBong*

        I really admire 18-year-old you for doing that. When I was in junior high, my social studies teacher was a total creep. He would buy teddy bears and other gifts for his favorite female students, and I am fairly certain there may have also been some inappropriate touching going on. I did tell my parents that he was a creepster, but I didn’t make enough of a fuss about it. The worst part is that he was a known creep who got shuffled from school to school instead of being terminated. A few years ago, he finally got fired and lost his teaching license because he got caught stalking a 14-year-old.

        1. blackcat*

          I actually never told my parents about it! They talked to me about it later, I guess because either the headmaster or another parent talked to them about it. But the conversation was like, “Did you go to the headmaster and tell her about XYZ?” “Yes.” “Good for you.”
          18 year old me thought I could handle shit. And for an 18 year old, I was pretty damn good at it. But I’m not even sure I would have done the same things if I saw peers being harassed. I doubt I would have gone straight to the headmaster. My actions were directly a result of “HOW DARE HE TREAT HELPLESS 14 YEAR OLD GIRLS THIS WAY!!!!!” Like I was so much more of a grown up!

      4. Not So NewReader*

        My father was politically involved in our community. His views were not always popular but he had a way of getting his points out there. Sigh.
        Anyway he bumped heads with the Teacher’s Union President in a public meeting. PEACH. I had Prez’s wife for a science class. This particular branch of science does not come easy for me. Every single paper I handed in had a D or D minus on it. (Just above failing.) I worked really hard on those papers, I thought I had some parts right, the whole thing was not trash. Finally one day, I copied another student’s paper for the same thing. She had a different teacher. She got an A on her paper and I got a D minus. Same exact paper.
        I went to the guidance office. I said point blank, this is because of stuff my father said in public meetings. My counselor knew. I showed him the papers. I explained I knew copying was wrong and I would happily make up the work on my own. He said there was no need and that I had made my point quite well.
        He quietly transfered me to the other teacher. Suddenly, I started carrying a B average in this course. Just to show the differences in people, this new teacher asked my parents why I couldn’t sit still. He said, “She gets the material, I know she is paying attention and absorbing it. But she never sits still.” My parents explained that I had a back injury and the pain levels were very high. After that conversation, when ever he saw me squirming,he would throw a hall pass on my desk and tell me to go for a walk. Differences in people.

        This was a case of the guidance counselor knew he could not go forward with anything and be heard. So he just quietly resolved the matter himself and let the rest go. The teacher who targeted me went on with her life unimpacted.

      5. twig*

        I want to say: this is badass. you did the right thing.

        we had an english teacher in my highschool who was… questionable: leaned on girls desks in such a way that he could look down their shirts, “accidentally” entered the makeshift girls dressing room during school plays (he always directed them), was “known” amongst the students to have had sex with students in previous years (this was gossip among the kids — but I don’t know for sure — he was definitely a creep), read sex scenes from novels to us… played favorites. He was also a lying liar who lied about soooo much of his life. (turns out his stories about ‘Nam were all made up — he got kicked out of bootcamp).

        The dude taught at my school for something like 30 years

    4. Enough*

      When I was in high school (70s) my math teacher left and they replaced her. The was another teacher who was not impressed with the new teacher and voluntarily gave up a free period to take over one of the classes which fortunately was mine. Don’t think you would see this these days.
      Administration is most likely to shut any complaint down. I have found as a parent that they tend to really dislike admitting they made a mistake of any kind.

    5. GingerSnap*

      This actually happened in my high school. A class of seniors decided that the teacher wasn’t adequate to prepare them in a very difficult subject. I went to a very academically rigorous school so this was taken seriously. The administration shadowed the class for a few weeks and eventually he resigned to “spend more time with his family.” A local college professor was brought in to teach the difficult class and his freshman intro classes were given to another part time teacher who was brought on full time. It was quite the coup by the seniors but they were insistent that the school had a responsibility to provide competent instruction. I was pleased the administration listened to them, as from what I heard the teacher was pretty ill-prepared.

    6. Anon for this*

      I work for a *really* different school. But IMO, this is how it should work. If a teacher isn’t teaching adequately, the students should be able to choose a different teacher. The school is supposed to be set up to benefit them academically, and if it isn’t, something needs to change. . It sounds like Mr Q may have been the only one teaching the subject, so you couldn’t transfer classes to a different teacher–so while it may have been painful to Mr Q, having him replaced as the teacher was the only effective action.

      In most schools it doesn’t work like that, but it should

    7. Teacher1234*

      This would NEVER happen midyear at my school, because it would be a logistical nightmare. MAYBE in really extreme situations there could be a change like this at semester.

      These kind of changes do happen in the scheduling for the next year. For example, due to student and parent complaints about the previous physics teacher (incidentally, he’s my department head which makes things weird), I’m teaching physics this year.

  7. Katie the Fed*

    I’ve been doing a LOT of interviews for entry-level applicants lately, and I’m shocked that this message hasn’t made it to the masses yet:

    If you are asked for a weakness, DO NOT SAY “PERFECTIONISM.”

    It is the worst possible answer. At best it makes you seem cliché. You’re probably the 3rd or 4th person to answer with that, and I internally rolled my eyes at all of you. At worst, it tells me that you can’t be bothered to do any serious reflection to think about what your weaknesses are, or answer the question honestly. Also – if your resume is riddled with typos, then I also now think you’re pretty bad at being a perfectionist.

    Just answer honestly! Don’t even bother with that “turning a weakness into a strength” thing. Just tell me what it is! You can tell me how you work to overcome it – but be honest. We all have them.

    1. nep*

      I can’t believe you’re still getting this from candidates. Wow. Just wrong on so many levels — hopelessly out of touch, for one.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I know! They’re pretty young so maybe they’re getting this nonsense from their parents or college career offices.

        It’s not one of my favorite questions, to be honest, but I don’t get to write the questions.

        1. Coldbrewinacup*

          Yes, I get YOU don’t write the questions, but trust me, you’re in the minority when you say you want honesty.

          Or maybe it’s the places where I have interviewed… the whole process can be very demoralizing.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I can’t speak for all interviewers, but I REALLY want to know what these people are all about. I like to know their quirks and interests

            1. Sam Foster*

              You are one of the few and far between then. Heavily active job search here and it is clear that most of the interviewers are looking for things to use against me.

        2. Specialk9*

          My problem is that I am fully aware of every flaw, so could spend the whole interview on that question alone. :D

      2. Coldbrewinacup*

        I can’t believe interviewers still ask this question. Makes me roll MY eyes– inside, of course. Come on, what do you think people are going to say? Do you honestly think people will tell you the truth?

        1. Anony*

          I agree. It is a terrible question and does not really give good insight into the candidate. Ask this question of the references instead. It reminds me of the old saying: Ask a stupid question and you will get a stupid answer.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I agree – I notice it doesn’t usually get asked in senior-level position interviews, and there’s a reason. There are so many better ways to get at the important information about a candidate. This question really can only be answered two ways – the bad answer (“perfectionism,””workaholic,” and the others that can supposedly be spun as strengths) and the useless answer (actual but irrelevant ‘weakness’ that dodges the question).

          Ask about specific challenges and how those were faced, that will usually tell you more about the applicant than a generic “weakness” question.

        3. Fortitude Jones*

          Yeah, this isn’t a good question at all. The last company I worked for asked STAR questions, and that was much better for getting useful information out of job candidates.

      3. Artemesia*

        I can’t believe hiring managers are still asking this stupid question. A focus on problem scenarios eg. times when you dealt with a difficult colleague or corrected a mistake etc can elicit useful answers. ‘Tell me about a weakness’ is lazy interviewing and really deserves ‘perfectionism’.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think this and a couple of the comments above are pretty harsh! It’s reasonable to want to have a discussion of the person’s weaker points and ability to self-assess. The question itself isn’t great because it’s so tired and invites so many canned answers, but Katie already made it clear she didn’t pick it, and it’s a fine question when asked in different ways (like asking what kind of feedback the person has had from managers in the past, or what areas they’ve worked to improve in).

          1. nep*

            My comment was indeed harsh, as I note in another. My knee-jerk reaction was to be too harsh on the candidate but agree that’s not justified.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            The way we worded it was more like “What characteristic do you have that would help you be successful at this job? What is a characteristic that would be a challenge for you?”

          3. zora*

            I’m actually super honest about my weaknesses in interviews, because at this point in my career there are certain things I Do. Not. Want. To. Do. These are reasonable things to not want to do, especially considering what my main job/skills are, but I’m super clear I do not want to go in that direction now or in the future. It is a good opportunity for me to make sure they don’t need those things to be part of this job, so that I can pick jobs that will not need me to do those things, EVER.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              I agree! If a job has a very public role, I don’t want it. I’m someone who thrives behind the scenes.

            2. Fortitude Jones*

              I’m actually super honest about my weaknesses in interviews

              I am too. In fact, for the job I just started two weeks ago, I wrote a cover letter advising I have very little experience in it (proposal management) and when they asked me during my interview what my comfort level was with Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, I told them straight up – I haven’t used those things in years (15 in fact). They hired me anyway and said they’d walk me through everything, including the design piece, and so far they have. I just wanted them to know upfront what they were getting themselves into training-wise so they didn’t hire me thinking I’d be able to be up and running solo within the first week.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              This–I have been really open about the dyscalculia and what kinds of things I can and can’t be expected to do, because I don’t want to be given a task that is impossible for me and then have people think I’m just saying that to get out of it.

              Also, I’ve been nervous re what my ex-boss would say about me, so if asked, I have a go-to that covers that.

          4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            I think folks are responding in-kind to Katie’s harsh criticism of applicants. Katie’s frustrated, but so are applicants who experience this kind of question as a “gotcha.”

            I tend to answer with something legitimate that would make me reconsider whether the role is a good fit for me. For example, a couple of years ago I interviewed with an organization that was rethinking the role they were hiring for. We talked really openly about how I may or may not be a good candidate, depending on where they landed on what the focus of the role needed to be. (I knew the hiring manager well, so it was a very candid conversation: “Listen, you know that I’m not a lobbyist, so if what you need here is someone who’s going to manage influence I’m not going to be the right person. But if you’re looking for someone who can lead the organization in designing engagement opportunities for our members, that’s what I do well.”)

      4. nep*

        I think I am being a little harsh — I don’t mean to put down the people who are doing this. Some people are naive and getting poor advice. Hope they’ll start getting better advice. It’s all a learning experience.

      5. Trout 'Waver*

        I can’t believe people are still asking this outdated question, tbh. I’ve always viewed the “What’s your greatest weakness” question as a sign of a bad interviewer.

    2. EA*

      There is so much bad career advise out there.

      I never said perfectionism, but I def use to pick an irrelevant weakness, that I knew was completely unrelated to the job. It really took AAM to see job hunting as not just get the job, but as figuring out if the job is right for you, mutually. The issue is that entry-level people probably don’t have enough options to feel like they can answer the weakness question honestly.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I really appreciate the candidates who interview us as much as we interview them – I want them to think hard about whether or not this is a great fit!

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          Asking a question like this is an indication that the company is not well managed, and would not be a good fit for me.

        2. Pudgy Patty*

          Not all employers are like you, and if you’re entry-level, or desperate for a job, you will do whatever it takes to put yourself in a good light. It seems like a luxury to find a job that ticks all the boxes on your list.

          I get what you’re saying; I just think pragmatism is why some people don’t answer this question 100% honestly.

          I will say that it’s only after 10+ years in the workforce that I am more willing to be honest with this question now. As others said, I’m not at a place where I AM vetting the workplace, and not just wanting to make a good impression. I think it takes time to get there for a lot of people.

      2. Jadelyn*

        I think your last sentence hits it right there. Ideally, interviewing is mutual and you’re seeing if it would be a fit from both sides. But for a lot of people, the choice is “a job, any job” or “poverty”, so in that case their focus (very understandably) is entirely on *getting* the job, regardless of the fit, and saying whatever they need to say to make that happen. I don’t know that this mindset is restricted to entry-level, so much as being about a level of need. A mid-career person who got laid off and has little savings with bills piling up would have the same mindset most likely.

        Whereas, someone with options and/or current steady employment who’s just looking to make a change has the luxury of honesty even if that honesty might mean not getting the job because it makes it clear that it’s not an ideal fit.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m surprised too. But I’m also surprised you’re actually asking this question, which is notoriously bad for gleaning any useful info. I’m sure Alison has suggested better alternatives in the past.

        1. JD*

          I do think it sucks to have to go off a script that aren’t your words. General questions about the position they want you to ask yes, but something like this, not good for you. That question is just bla. Every time I hear it I think “I can’t walk by a pair of shoes I love without buying them” or “Vodka!” or perhaps “Men who look like Jason Statham!” ha. There just will never be a good answer to this.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              I meant, you’re judging candidates about their answers to this specific question, which you acknowledge is terrible. Don’t do that.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                It’s not a great question, but it’s also not unreasonable to expect people to have given it some thought since it’s SUCH a standard question. Even if they haven’t, they should be able to come up with something a little more telling than “perfectionism.”

    4. Cookie Monster*

      Can I get your opinion on my default answer for this one? For reference, I’m six months into my first job out of college. I usually say something like “I’ve struggled with flexibility in the past, but that started to change when I worked on “X” campaign and learned the importance of dealing with unexpected obstacles and adjusting plans accordingly.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I think it’s fine, as long as you can explain what you mean when you say you struggled with flexibility.

      2. Imaginary Number*

        I’m not a fan of this one, because being inflexible is more of a personality trait than something you can actually work on. You can work out how you react to change, but not how you feel about it.

        Instead of saying you’ve struggled with “flexibility” I would be more specific. You haven’t always been great at planning for the unexpected. Maybe you had a tendency to be overly optimistic about plans you made and assumed everything would go 100% according to your vision. Then you can talk about (specifically) things you’ve done to improve your ability to work with unexpected obstacles.

        1. Cookie Monster*

          Thank you for this! I think that’s a good point. I think the second option about being overly optimistic about things going according to Plan A (or even Plan B) is most reflective of my situation.

      3. awkwardkaterpillar*

        I always use impatience. Because…well it’s true. It’s generally not impatience with others (but can be) but with myself. I’ve been working on it (for years) but it continues to be my weak point. Since it’s the most honest answer, I go with it. Not sure how it is received though.

    5. Book Lover*

      It is probably the most honest answer I have, and even in medicine is a real weakness. That said, I understand where you are coming from. But anyone who thinks perfectionism is a positive (in reality or in job interviews) is so so wrong. I have worked on it over time and it is less of an issue now, but perfectionism and people pleasing are both things that can make you look like a good employee at first and make you a total nervous wreck very very quickly.

      1. Book Lover*

        If I had to answer now, and answer honestly, I’d say that I hate surprises, don’t like it when schedules change, like to control my schedule. Probably wouldn’t get hired, which is a shame, as I am excellent at my job :)

            1. Rat Racer*

              I think, if asked this question, I’d respond by saying that I need to be better about staying in my swimlane. Questions/projects come to me that should be delegated elsewhere, but because I can do it, I’ll take it on. Basically, I’m doing an end-run around standard operating procedures because I think it’s more efficient if I do it myself. But it has a real risk of sowing confusion and frustration among my colleagues and gives the impression that I don’t trust them to do their jobs.

              Note – this is in part a function of the dysfunction within my organization, and the ambiguity of my role as chief of staff. But my own personality traits (impatience, desire to be all things to all people) definitely fuels the fire.

              I could see this being a disqualifying character trait in an organization that really values process improvement and where the QA risks are particularly high.

            2. Katie the Fed*

              I really like refreshingly honest ones. Some that I thought were good:

              – “I sometimes don’t know how to get started on a complex project, so I need guidance on that.” (keep in mind these are entry-level, so that’s a fine answer!)
              – “I’m naturally pretty disorganized and I can forget meetings, so I have to use a calendar to track every single milestone and engagement”
              – “I tend to rush through things, and I have to remember to slow down and pay more attention to accuracy rather than getting things done first”
              – “I can be overly blunt with teammates who I think aren’t pulling their weight. I’ve had to learn to adapt my communication style so I don’t make people mad”

            3. Triumphant Fox*

              They asked this during the interview for my current position. I was happy in my old jo but they had approached me about working here and I felt I could be more candid in the interview because, while I wanted the position, I wasn’t dying for it.

              My response was that I’m not good in isolation. I’m the consummate extrovert – I get energy from those around me and if I’m left in a room by myself for days on end, without much external feedback, I will not thrive. That’s not to say that I can’t or don’t do solo work, but a lot of my energy and creativity come from collaboration. I wanted to gauge their work environment as much as I wanted to answer their questions. If they had said, “Well the reality is that your team will be remote most of the time and you’re going to be expected to come up with projects on your own, with occasional presentations to the C-suite and mostly e-mail correspondence,” I would have known it would be a terrible fit long term.

            4. Elizabeth H.*

              I can’t remember if/what I’ve talked about in interviews, but personally I think my biggest weakness is hoarding knowledge/wanting to do something myself rather than delegate or explain someone else how to do it. I haven’t come up with many solutions to this (I’ve been half-writing a question about this for Alison in my head) but it’s something I’m very conscious of and dislike about myself. The best solution I’ve come up with is to notice and acknowledge when I’m doing it and consciously make myself not do it. It’s a really bad quality and generally everyone is better off when knowledge is shared.

              The other one which is a bit petty that I’m always 5-10 minutes late. I do not think I could take a job where that was going to be a dealbreaker. I wouldn’t say that in an interview, but I’ve said it in performance reviews.

              1. Specialk9*

                Being constantly 5-10 minutes late isn’t a bit petty. That pretty much entirely excludes you from entire industries. I guess if you don’t usually have meetings, and just plug away solo all day… But you have to be darned good to get away with chronic tardiness.

          1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

            “Tell me your weaknesses.”

            “Oh the usual. Drunkenness, debauchery, spending my entire paycheck on hookers and blow.”

        1. Imaginary Number*

          It’s fine to be honest, but I think it’s important to separate “This is my personality flaw” from “This is something I suck at and I’m working on.” Hating surprises is a personality trait. Struggling with responding to last-minute changes is a skill that needs work. One is fixable. The other is not.

          1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

            My biggest weaknesses stem from a personality trait that is also a source of my biggest strengths in my current job.
            The personality trait is “High Control”. As in, I feel as if I need to be in tight control of literally everything in my bubble (sometimes off-handedly branded by others as “Type A personality”).

            The strengths are: Meticulous organization in my processes and documentation, staying on top of my deadlines, and discovering parts of other projects/processes that could be relevant to what I’m working on and showing a possibility for incorporation (this usually happens when I’m writing procedures for our various manuals).
            The weaknesses are: Easily frustrated by colleagues who don’t operate in a similar manner, can be overwhelmed if I have to depend on things I can’t control, not handling short-term changes with ease, and falling into a delegating/supervisory role despite not having that authority (I was called “bossy” as a child a lot).

            I’ve spent a lot of my career working very hard to mitigate and lessen the weaknesses, so I pull examples from that pool to answer weakness-related questions.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I get that, but I’d strongly recommend you figure out a different way to say it. If it manifests as poor time management, or an inability to decide when to let a project go – say that.

        1. Book Lover*

          Fortunately I don’t have to worry about applying for new jobs or interviewing at this time and would likely go into private practice if I left my current consultancy :)

    6. Nanc*

      I know you don’t write the questions, but can you phrase it as “what would your current supervisor say you could improve in your work?” or something along those lines. I do the same thing for biggest strength–what would their supervisor say was their biggest strength. If they haven’t had any real jobs you could phrase it around what their professors would say. I’ve found this really helps, especially in entry level positions because I can follow up with something like “what could your supervisor/company/prof do to help you improve in that area?” which lets me see how they think (or don’t!) about how to improve themselves.

        1. Grits McGee*

          Katie, do you mind if I ask a question? I’m also a fed, and I’ve always wondered how much an interviewer could answer to something like, “Are there any reservations you have about my candidacy that I can address now?”

          1. Katie the Fed*

            It kind of depends on who is running the hiring process. Some people are REALLY stringent that they have to ask all candidates the exact same questions, and some will take some latitude with follow-up questions to get a little more useful information from the candidate. So if you asked me that I might very well say something like “yes, to be honest, I’m not sure I have a really good feel for how you think about XXX” or something like that. But some people would be really reticent to venture beyond the scripted questions.

            I think government employees are really risk averse and there’s also misinformation out there, so there’s a fear that if you stray at all from a specific list of questions you’re basically inviting a lawsuit. You’re not, but people worry about things like that.

    7. rosiebyanyothername*

      I’ve been helping my boss with screening applicants for an entry-level position and I see comments like this EVERYWHERE. Yikes!

    8. Anonymous Educator*

      Can we also have interviewers stop asking for weaknesses? I haven’t found it to be a very helpful question, and there are other (and better) ways to get at a candidate’s weaknesses without asking directly. The more show, don’t tell, the closer you will get to an actual sense of how a candidate is. Otherwise, it’s too easy for smooth talkers to get positions for which they are not qualified.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          However – it’s such a standard interview question that although it may be stupid, it something that most people should have at least thought about.

          1. Elizabeth H.*

            I agree completely. I also do not think at its heart it’s a bad question. Basically you want to find out if the person is capable of reflecting on their own job performance, being aware of things they need to improve on, and proactive about overcoming things they’re not strong at or finding ways to minimize their impact. Someone who has self-awareness and is motivated to continue to improve themselves in the workplace.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          Sorry—I wasn’t trying to single you out. I just mean in general can interviewers stop that.

    9. CatCat*

      Stupid answers are what is commonly coached in response to this particular stupid question.

      If you have no say in whether a stupid question is asked, just accept that you are going to get the stupid answers in response to it.

    10. Jubilance*

      Man, I’m amazed but not amazed that this one is still floating around.

      A few years ago I got the advice to answer that question with a real weakness and what I’ve done to improve on it, and that was such a game changer for me.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        That’s my approach. I have a horrible fear of public speaking – I’ve mitigated it by putting myself in positions where I have no choice but to brief, and getting more exposure to it. I do practice runs and practice questions. I’ll never be 100% comfortable with it, but I can get through it fine now.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Not well. Canned or not, it’s reasonable to expect some variation that question in many interviews. And there’s no need to provide anything glib.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              So you’re judging people based on their ability to give canned answers to bad questions?

              Have you found that that tracks with on-the-job performance?

              1. Katie the Fed*

                I don’t know how else to say this: your answer doesn’t have to be canned. You can still give a good answer to a less-than-great question.

                1. Trout 'Waver*

                  But preparing an answer specifically for a certain question is the definition of a canned answer.

    11. Clever Name*

      Buuuut what if you ARE a perfectionist? I hate that a perfectly normal weakness has been twisted into a cliche. :(

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I’d still come up with something else to say. If it manifests as poor time management or an inability to let things go, or being hypercritical of coworkers – I’d go with that.

      2. Texan at Heart*

        I always think that same thing when this comes up, because I am one… and it is definitely my greatest weakness.

        I do tell my interviewer the truth. Recently, I just acknowledged the cliche (maybe not my best move but we’d deceloped a pretty good relationship by then) and said: I know tha is cliche, but my honest answer is that I’m a perfectionist. I went on to describe how that impacts me and how I’ve been actively working on it.

        I’m so glad I did, because 6 months into the job, we had some big issues going on and my perfectionism got the better of me. A sweet supervisor called me on it, citing the interview, and I’ve never been so grateful or able to improve on the issue so quickly.

        I think there’s something to be said for honesty on this one, especially if you explain how you’re working on it.

  8. louise*

    I started a new job as an engineer about 2 months ago. Previously, I had been unemployed for around 8 months, diligently looking but to no avail. I took this job because I needed a job, it seemed like a decent group of people, and there were perks for me, such as no more cubicle life, now sharing an office with another teammate.

    Unfortunately, it’s not been a walk in the park since I started. Engineers in my field must spend 3 or 4 years (depending on education) as an engineer in training, unable to stamp outgoing designs but working under a professional engineer to develop the on the job skills needed to be licensed after the time is up. I’m female, and spent my first 3 years at a company where I was passed over for projects and routinely subjected to varying levels of sexism (you may remember my post).

    My boss is rather a micro manager, and lectured me for being less than 5 minutes late one day when I was stuck in traffic. Instead of being put on a team for varying ceramics, I was put on a team specifically for teapots. Thus far, I’ve visited teapot facilities and made so many drawings of teapots, but what I really want to do is work on the ceramics team because being licensed encompasses all sorts of designs and I have hardly been exposed to other types of pottery.

    Now, I’ve been put in charge of, say, making the drawings for teapots. Knowing how to draw teapots is important for engineers, because then we know how teapots are assembled and how they fit in their boxes and what will make it easier for the factory floor to put teapots together. But I’m struggling here. I’m not doing ANY engineering, and I’m worried it’s going to affect my licensure (I’m eligible in the summer) and also make me less confident in my ability to design teapots, especially considering how I’ve been overlooked and stifled in the past. The other EIT on my team is in charge of teapot design, which seems pretty unfair to me – I know I’m still new, but I want to learn pottery design and it doesn’t seem like I’m going to by only drawing the teapots. Where do you draw the line between the dreaded, “that’s not my job” and “I want to do something that’s actually going to help my career” ? I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not willing to do work, but also, I don’t want to get stuck doing something that isn’t any help to my career whatsoever.

    1. Frank Doyle*

      Hi! I’m a (female) licensed civil engineer. That’s very frustrating that you’re not getting to do any design work! When you fill out the application forms to take the FE exam, you’ll have to provide a detailed work history of the design work you’ve been doing the past four years. Obviously no one does ONLY design work for the first four years out of school, but almost everyone (in civil, anyway) takes the exam for the first time four years after graduation, so some finessing of the experience is required/they’re not super-strict.

      However you do have to show that you have been involved in design work, and it’s supposed to show a progression of responsibilities as well. And that’s how you should approach your boss: “I’m eligible to take the exam in less than a year, but I don’t actually have design experience to qualify to sit for it. How can I start to get some design duties? Who can mentor me through some projects? Where do I begin?” Maybe frame it as less than “I want to do this” and more of “I need to do this in order to get my license.” Hopefully they’re not top-heavy in your firm and will see you as more valuable to them as a PE than an EIT.

      Good luck!

      (Also I would recommend taking a preparation course for the FE exam. I did one, it was one evening a week for a few months I think? Invaluable. Of course I learn better by being lectured to, ymmv.)

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Echoing these comments and suggestion on how to approach your boss. (I’m a mechanical PE.)

        At the end of the day, they may not have enough to keep you busy with engineering. If you don’t get good assignments, I would move again. I’ve seen people get stuck with having too much experience and no PE. But, you are not in the danger zone yet, by any stretch. I’m talking about 10 year people. I had a baby after I hit year 4 and took mine at year 5, and was actually still one of the first from my cohort to get my license.

      2. Frank Doyle*

        Another thing that occurs to me, is that I don’t know if it’s different in your field (and I hope that most of my advice up there is applicable to you; I don’t really know any engineers in other fields, but I assume the FE/PE exam procedures are similar/analagous) but in civil at least, there are other people to learn from besides PEs. Designers who may not have licenses, but have been doing this for decades, can teach you a lot. It might be easier to find designers who are willing to sit down with you and show you how to do certain things. I guess I’m spoiled; not every one of my bosses was fantastic, but at every company at which I worked, there were really great guys who made an effort to make sure I was learning things.

      3. KC without the sunshine band*

        +1 Yep, everything she said. I’m mechanical and have worked in 4 different industries. I’d like to tell you the gender discrimination has gotten better over the 18 years I’ve been working full-time, but that wouldn’t be true. Be 100% clear to your boss on what you need to be prepared to get licensed. If you think it’s going to be tough getting those things lined up, request it in writing in an email, so you can prove later exactly what was requested. So much neglectful management can fly under the radar of “oh, I misunderstood”.

      4. Another Female Civil PE*

        I like Frank Doyle’s thoughts on going to your boss with a conversation about how to get design duties in order to qualify for the PE. Also, is there any way to word your current duties to fulfill the requirements (don’t lie… just make it sound more like a standard design position)? If it sounds like engineering and your reference signs it, the Board is unlikely to question it.

        If I remember correctly, the PE application didn’t require varied experience, just a certain number of years of experience. I got more variety AFTER I passed the exam because people in different areas were more willing to hire me because of the PE.

    2. Artemesia*

      Not an engineer but if you need to design to become licensed then I would sit down with your boss and ask for him (I assume) to help you with a strategy to do more design work over the next few months so you will be able to get the license. Make him your collaborator here ‘how can we involve me more in design projects, so I will be able to attain licensure.’ Many paternalistic bosses actually respond to requests for ‘help’. Hope your paternalistic misogynist boss is one of those.

  9. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Not a question, I’m just exceptionally proud of my office this week. Every December, we do Letters to Santa and donate toys. Every year, my coworkers go above and beyond (one year, a sales guy got bikes for a brother and sister…then our warehouse guys put them together so they were ready to go). This year, we made the woman who runs the charity cry because not only did we fulfill every letter, we had a huge box of toys for their toy drive.

  10. Sharon*

    A general question: How much of your job search correspondence do you tend to keep once the process is over?

    (I.e. Do you keep old offer letters or test results or even rejection letters etc.?)

    1. Courageous cat*

      I don’t make a point to keep any of it – not sure if there’s any significant benefit to that. Most of it’s probably in my email anyway though

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I have the emailed offer letter for my current job but haven’t kept anything from further back.

    3. santa baby*

      I have the stuff from my current job and a lot of my cover letters are on google drive, but the rest lives in the archive section of my inbox.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      Most stuff these days come in via email. I’ve even had offer “letters” come in via email (usually after a phone conversation oral offer). I don’t delete those emails, and my email host doesn’t put a meaningful limit on storage of emails messages.

      1. Amy*

        I recently had mine from 2 jobs ago pop up in a search I was doing in gmail for something else. I totally forgot I even kept it.

    5. voluptuousfire*

      Generally no, but I did save one rejection letter which made me laugh. It was a form rejection from an ATS but they didn’t properly calibrate the form to pull in things like the candidate’s name or the title of the job they applied for.

      It was like “Dear Candidate_Name, Thank you for applying for “JOB_TITLE.” so on. It struck me as funny since they couldn’t even be arsed to ensure the impression they gave candidates was positive.

    6. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

      After my dad died, we found a folder full of every job rejection letter he ever received (Dad, why?). On the other hand, we also found every positive performance evaluation and certification he earned. He kept everything, forever.

  11. Courageous cat*

    Y’all helped me a long time ago deciding between the high-paying management job, and the low-paying optometric tech job which I REALLY wanted but couldn’t make work financially.

    I took the management job, and have regretted not taking the other job ever since. So I decided to go back to school full-time in January for my science pre-reqs, I called the optometry job back up and asked if they still had an opening (they miraculously did, and they hired me!), and now I am starting a whole new career and life in less than three weeks. I will be taking an enormous paycut and living partially off student loans, but if this gets me into optometry school one day, it will all be worth it.

    I just hope I’m not completely insane for undertaking something so big that I may very well not succeed at.

    1. Sue No-Name*

      Wow that’s very cool. You’re doing something that at least some of us wish we had the guts to do.

    2. Emmie*

      I took on degrees I was afraid to do, and afraid I wouldn’t succeed at. It turns out that things worked out. I earned that Bachelors degree. I earned my law degree (a JD.) I earned two other degrees along the way. You’ll do fine! And you’ll be happy in your career. Working in that field puts you a step ahead. I wish you MUCH success and happiness!

    3. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      We only live once. Better well-done than bitterly regretted. Do the math, don’t go so far into debt that you make yourself uncomfortable or feel like you can’t get out of it, and enjoy. Best wishes!

    4. New Window*

      I did something similar earlier this year. There’s always going to be stress of some type, no matter what path we choose, but I’ve been much happier for it. I hope you will be too. Congrats!! :-D

  12. EmC in Higher Ed*

    I need some advice on how to leave a job that I haven’t been at very long without burning bridges.

    I started a new job three months ago, and can already tell it’s a poor fit. I had originally planned to stay for a few years, but now am just aiming for one full year. Is there anything I can do in this one year period to establish a good reputation, and leave as good of an impression as possible with my boss and colleagues despite leaving relatively quickly? I work in higher ed where many people tend to stay in a job for a long time, so a 1-year stint would be unusual. It took my department a full year to fill my position, so I know they’re expecting me to stay long-term. I’m also working at a prestigious university, so I really don’t want to burn any bridges on my way out.

    I know many AAM readers also work in higher ed, so I’d love it if some of you would weigh in.

    1. fposte*

      In my experience as long as you’re a good team player while you’re here people generally don’t hold an early departure against you; the year-long hunt suggests that this may be a tricky position anyway, so people may understand that it wasn’t one you wanted to stay in.

      Of course, it’s always easier to explain leaving for something else–“Couldn’t pass up the opportunity” can cover a multitude of sins. So if you stay professional for the year and move on to something else that’s a better fit, it’s not likely to be a thing.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I left a job after a few months, because it was toxic and not a good fit, but I didn’t burn any bridges. Did the best at the job while I was there. Was cordial and professional with the people I worked with. Did everything I could to help manage the search in finding a suitable replacement for me. Sometimes mistakes happen. If you have many of these short stints, that will make you look like a job hopper. But you don’t necessarily burn bridges by leaving a place early.

    3. Anon For This!*

      This jives with what I wrote down post about wanting to not come back after maternity leave! I’ve been at my job for under two years and planned on staying for a while but the stress is really wearing me down and making my anxiety ramp up. But I was a big hire and it took them a long time to fill the position, so I’m apprehensive about what leaving might be li.e

    4. Buffy*

      I’m in a similar position, just hit my one year mark at a university and moving onto another job within the same school. When you have an offer, I’d say be frank about why you don’t think its the right fit.

  13. Lily*

    Anyone else with seasonal depression or SAD — any tips for coping? I’ve had success with intense exercise and a few herbal supplements, but lamps seem to be worthless.

    1. Cheesecake 2.0*

      Do you have the 10,000 lumen, SAD-specific lamps? I have one that’s a sunrise alarm lamp, and another I use at my desk at work that’s just on-off. They work well if I use them Also Vitamin D supplementation frequently helps people. There is a specific form of cognitive behavioral therapy for SAD too, but I haven’t tried it.

      1. Lily*

        I had a cheapie desk lamp my friend let me borrow but I didn’t notice a difference. Which brand do you use?

    2. anon24*

      Get as much natural sunlight as possible. If you have a long enough lunch break, can you go out for a short walk (or even just sit in your car if you drive to work?) I struggle with seasonal depression and the more sun I can get the better (interestingly enough, I get crippling depression in the summer if I wear sunscreen. So, skin cancer it is). Fresh air is also very good, if it’s been dreary out I like to crack my windows at home for a few minutes, even if it’s 4 degrees out.

      I know this is so cliche, but eat super healthy! I was dealing with some pretty awful seasonal depression earlier this fall. All I wanted to do was sleep all day and eat junk food. In an effort to get my eating on track, I started a healthy food only challenge the day after Thanksgiving. About a week into it, I woke up and spent an entire day trying to figure out what was wrong with me because I felt so odd. Then I realized… I was happy. It had been so long since I’d been truly happy that I didn’t even remember what it felt like.

      Good luck! Depression sucks!

        1. anon24*

          I haven’t checked my vitamin D levels, but I believe it’s the sunscreen. I’m allergic to the vast majority of sunscreens (they cause extremely painful skin reactions) so I just don’t sweat it and opt for sun protecting clothing instead, which does not cause me any problems with depression. Since I already know I’m allergic I assume that depression is just an odd way it manifests.

    3. Ihmmy*

      I take vitamin D to start – the bottle says like 1 pill a day I think (at least the variety I got) but I tend to load up in the winter, anywhere from 2-4 pills depending on how grey it’s been and how low my energy is.

      The biggest change for me was getting a timer for a lamp in my room so it would go off shortly before I got up. I have a terrible time waking up in darkness, and it’s still dark when I leave the house lately (yay Canada). It’s a great time of year to find timers too since there’s oodles out for xmas lights.

      When you have breaks at work go find a window and sit near it. If you don’t have any windows in your building see if you can brave the outside for a couple minutes.

      My light helps but only really makes a dent for myself when it’s in conjunction with these other things.

    4. rosiebyanyothername*

      Going on walks at lunchtime has definitely helped me! And I’ve made a more conscious effort to get lunch or coffee with coworkers I get along well with (nice to have some companionship and a way to bond outside of work conversations).

    5. Dee-Nice*

      I take meds, use the lamps, try to eat healthy, take walks, get extra sleep when I can, just like everyone else is saying. But I also know that winter is a time of reduced functionality for me, so I give myself permission to just… be less functional. I keep up with a few close friends but don’t go nuts socially, I do one or two activities that I enjoy once a week, I read non-demanding books, watch a little extra tv, and put off non-urgent decisions till spring. I also take a lot of pleasure in planning fun things for spring and thinking about how good I’ll feel in April. It happens to me every winter in varying degrees of severity, so I try to prepare myself starting in September/October. Good luck to you, fellow SAD buddy!

    6. EddieSherbert*

      I am on the low end for SAD effects, but hopefully have useful suggestions! Totally agree with the exercise and good eating suggestions. My extras:

      If you have the flexibility at work, take a longer lunch and get outside. I usually eat at my desk and go on a long “adventure” with the dog for about an hour (so with driving, it’s like an extra 20 minutes to my lunch).

      I also take Vitamin D supplements (seems helpful), and have gone tanning (a friend says it helps them a lot; didn’t do much for me).

      My favorite is my “wake up” light that simulates sunrise in the morning. I HATE getting up in the dark. It helps me start the day feeling better and more awake and sets the tone for the day.

        1. tired anon*

          I think that’s the one I have, too, and it’s very helpful. Once I wake up I sit or lay with it for about thirty minutes and it’s very helpful.

        2. Lily*

          You guys rule. Just bought my own wake-up light and am going to give it a try. Thanks for the suggestion.

    7. Bree*

      Sorry you’re struggling with this – I do too. I have found my therapy light very helpful – but it was one of the pricier onces (Nature Bright SunTouch). I know research says they really do have to be pretty powerful and used consistently to make a difference. The other thing I find is that I have to get my face pretty close to it (like well within a foot) to get the full benefits. It feels a little silly, but I cozy up nice and close while I eat breakfast. (My cats love the lamp too!).

      I also use a sunrise-simulating wake-up light alarm clock (Phillips brand), and it has been life-changing. Also kind of expensive, but they go on sale fairly often on Amazon, and it’s lasted two years now with problems at all.

    8. Xennial*

      Take a vacation. Seriously, I never knew how much our dreary winter effected me until I went to Hawaii in January. It was a life changing experience.

      1. Lily*

        So true! Last year I spent a week out in southern CA (I live in the upper Midwest) and my mood completely lifted. Just feeling the sun on my face was incredible. I probably need to move to a sunnier climate but oh well.

        BF and I are talking about Brazil sometime in the next few months, so maybe I’ll push for that.

      2. Specialk9*

        We do that too. Somewhere cheap and very sunny, in January/February. Florida, Nevada, etc. Nothing fancy, but the drench in sun and new location is a huge jolt.

    9. LadyKelvin*

      This is probably going to not be at all helpful, but I solved my SAD by moving to Hawaii. I have never felt better. (And my husband is grateful for it, I really struggled my last winter in DC.)

      1. QualitativeOverQuantitative*

        I am currently sitting in my cubicle in DC looking out at a very grey sky waiting for the snow/sleet to start. You should feel very good about your life choice!

      2. Lily*

        Jealous. I’d love to move to the West Coast and almost did a few years ago, but cheaper living costs and the amazingness of Chicago in the summer keeps me here for now…maybe someday :)

    10. JennyFair*

      I’m in the Northwest and I don’t even remember the last time I saw the sun.

      I use this for one hour each morning from September through April:

      It has to be a 10,000 lumens light to use it therapeutically. Be aware they can cause manic episodes in folks with bipolar disorder. Also using it later in the day can disrupt sleep. (of course, if the ones you’ve tried are similar, than this advice is no help at all)

      Like you, I also have to get a ton of exercise to be anywhere near happy. I also find the SAD is worse if life is difficult. I’ve been pondering moving South :/

    11. ThursdaysGeek*

      Another thing that sometimes works for depression is vitamin B12. It might help for seasonal depression too.

    12. soupmonger*

      ++to those recommending the 10K lumens lights. You need to be close to them, as well – within 50cm usually. I use mine for 30 mins in the morning – not long enough but all I have time for. But yes, get outside! Daylight – even gloomy daylight – helps massively.

      I find that my SAD light works best when I’m in an upbeat mood anyway. This year has been hard and I’ve struggled; have upped my meds and that’s helped some. Best of luck in finding a combo which works for you.

  14. Ella*

    I asked last week about scheduling and handling to-do lists that come across over email last week (I’m a brand new manager), and then I forgot to come back and talk with the people who commented and helped me. (To answer your question: My office uses Outlook for its email). I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who commented and helped! I really appreciate it.

  15. One day I won't be a nobody...*

    Please motivate me to job search! I love my direct boss, but I do not get along with his boss, whom I sadly have to work with on a regular basis. I am stuck and have no career path at my current company. I also know that I could probably make a lot more money elsewhere, which I need to do at this point in my life. I know I need to look, but I keep convincing myself it will get better. I know I need to take responsibility and be proactive, but change is scary…

    Thank you in advance for your support!

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Since you’re currently employed you have more options than if you weren’t employed. You can take your time and search for the right position and find a job that’s a great fit.

    2. clow*

      Change is scary, but you deserve a job thats going somewhere and a fair salary. I had to make myself do the same thing and believe me, it was worth it, really worth it. do not expect that things will get better, you have no evidence of that happening. Just start by applying to one place, see what happens. Good luck and I hope you find something that makes you happy.

    3. Anon Accountant*

      And change can be scary but you can get there and say “wow!! So glad to have taken this job/taken the chance”. Being employed and searching is a strong position to be in do you don’t feel desperate and take a poor fit position.

    4. Iris Eyes*

      1. Your job title and/or career prospects and/or paycheck isn’t what makes you a somebody

      2. I agree, I don’t like change and until I’m pretty much forced to make it I have a tendency not to but journaling and reflecting on how much I enjoy the change within a month or so helps build my confidence for initiating the next change.

      3. All relationships require work, have you worked on things at your current office? Tried negotiating? Looking at other departments? Working out whatever is keeping you from being able to work with Grandboss? Maybe there are lessons and growth available right where you are.

      1. One day I won't be a nobody...*

        #1 – Oh…. My name was more related to going anonymous, not the way I feel in my job!

        #2 – I have recently started journaling and doing more self-reflection, which I am using as motivation. It’s helping a little, but I am terrified of finding myself in a worse off situation. You are right though, I need to just do it and come to a point where I like the change and motivate myself to make changes in other parts of my life.

        #3 – I feel like I have tried most things when it comes to my job and grandboss. I did want a couple of transfers, but they didn’t come through. For negotiating salary, I feel like as long as grandboss doesn’t like me, I can’t ask for anything extra. Personally, as far as my relationship with grandboss, I’ve gone from avoiding him, to trying to force myself to talk to him to trying to force myself to like something about him and use that as a positive energy when it comes to that. None of those has worked. Do you have any other ideas?

        Thank you for the support!

    5. Witty Nickname*

      Look at it this way – a job search doesn’t obligate you to do anything other than search for a job. An interview doesn’t obligate you to do anything other than go to the interview with an open mind. Just because you do these things, doesn’t mean you have to leave your current job. But it does help you see what’s out there, and how it compares to your current job so you can make an informed decision.

      A former manager of mine actually used to encourage her people to job search occasionally (especially those who had been at the same company for a long time); at the very least, it let us know that we were where we wanted/needed to be, and could even lead to us getting some great opportunities in our careers (she was one of the two best managers I’ve ever had – she was actually instrumental in me getting a lot of the opportunities I have had at my company, even when it meant I wouldn’t be working for her anymore).

    6. SpeedyB*

      “I know I need to look, but I keep convincing myself it will get better.”

      This is the trap I fell in. Before I knew it, years passed and I fell behind where I wanted to be with my career by now. What I learned is that there’s no harm in trying to leave. At worst you don’t find something better yet but the benefit is you’ll get pretty good at searching/interviewing. I think getting good practice in that part makes the change less scary too.

    7. Specialk9*

      If you can, cultivate what I call a dude’s mindset. What would a dude do? You’re not making enough money, and other places probably would pay better. Ok, done, let’s find one of those places. Next!

      It’s not a universal solution to all problems, but I find it useful at work. It does cut through my own female conditioning to worry about others’ feelings and hope for things to change. What would a dude do? GET MORE MONEY. That’s the thing to focus on.

      The next way I step around my week spots* is to tell myself I’m not actually going to do any of this, I’m just looking into it and planning stuff as a THOUGHT EXERCISE. Somehow in a thought exercise I make better decisions than if I’m having feeeeelings. Then I just kinda start doing the steps but carefully pretend I’m not, until I’m already in and doing ok before I have the chance to panic.

      And yes, the combo of overthinking and anxiety gets tiring. Fortunately getting older can be awesome – you learn your own buttons and then can push them yourself or coach a trusted partner/friend on just how to push them.

      So all this, OP, to say you’re not alone. Change is hard for all of us. (And if you met me IRL, you’d never guess, I’m told I radiate confidence) But change is inevitable, so do it on your own terms and in a way that suits you.

      *Eg blind panic at change because … Yada yada … I’ll end up homeless eating dogfood living in a box down by the river (a mental process known as catastrophizing, and now mentally shortened to living in a box by the river)

  16. santa baby*

    im finishing up the fifth week on a project that i was originally given four days to do . . . gotta love it when management pulls deadlines out of their asses!

    1. Nanc*

      I know this isn’t helpful but I read that last line in kind of a Bullwinkle voice “watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!”

      God speed, brave project warrior. Once more into the breach.

    2. Anon, obvie*

      On my project that I referred to below, the project lead expanded the scope of the project AND shaved two weeks off our deadline in the same meeting. It’s one reason I was salty about getting the silent treatment for my failure to hit that date.

    3. paul*

      God, back in retail that was constant.

      “Hey, there’s a shift manager and there’s you, by yourselves for 4 hours, but surely you can handle customers and redo this 20′ section of printers and computer monitors right? No, we’re not authorizing overtime”

  17. Anon Accountant*

    Great week! A problematic coworker is resigning for another job. He’s rude, clients have complained but he’s remained employed. He’s leaving in 2 weeks.

    We had a great new hire scheduled to start Tuesday. He’d be working with a difficult boss who believes working you’re “lazy” if you aren’t working 6 days a week year-round. He called and said “I accepted another job and won’t be starting Tuesday. Sorry”. He’s really dodging a toxic situation here.

  18. Not a Real Giraffe*

    I am one month into a new job that I now regret taking and I am considering options for leaving sooner rather than later. A team that I worked with at my last job, who does similar work to my former team but reports up to a different part of the business, will likely have a position available in the coming weeks that would be a good fit for me, if I decided to return to the company.

    The woman who I most closely worked with on that team recently got promoted to be their director, so I’d like to send her an email to congratulate her and express interest in returning to the company if there’s an opening on her team.

    I am having a hard time writing the email without making it sound obvious that the reason I’m emailing is to talk about a job opportunity for myself. Can the wise AAM hive help me with a script? Or am I overthinking it and it’s okay in this situation to be upfront about my reason for reaching out?

    1. fposte*

      I think it’s okay to be upfront. “I always valued you as a colleague, Jane, and I’d love to work with you again. If there’s ever an opening on your team, I hope you’ll let me know.”

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        I guess my obstacle is — do I mention that hey, I know I only left the company a month ago, but I’d already be interested in coming back? And if so, how much do I disclose? (This is someone I have a good, friendly working relationship with, so I could be a little more open with than just a general run-of-the mill colleague.)

        1. fposte*

          I lost track that this was at the same place. I don’t know that it changes things a ton–I might be a little more specific about the roles you’d come back for and that this was a “now” conversation (“If you think I’d be a good fit for your open Spout Fitter role, I’d definitely be interested”), but I wouldn’t feel the need to discuss why you’re open to looking.

  19. Ardita Fitz-Peters*

    Is it weird to give holiday cards to co-workers?

    I’m relatively new to my job (six months) and have been hired to lead a major organization wide change effort. I have a liaison in each department acting as point person and responsible for implementing changes within their department. I’m working very hard to build positive relationships with them as there is a ton of anxiety around my work (plus the organization kind of botched the rollout of my job so we did not get off to a great start).

    I was thinking of sending each of my liaisons a (non-religious) holiday card through interoffice mail. Is that appropriate to do or would it be weird?

    I’ve always worked in a consulting role in the past so I’m new to a lot of the etiquette of office life.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I think you should try to ask around a bit and see what the norms are. In my office this would be weird – in others it wouldn’t.

    2. DC Professional Woman*

      That’s pretty common this time of year. Probably half the the people in my office send cards this time of year, at least to their immediate team. I’d do it!

    3. AnotherJill*

      I’ve gotten lots of general holiday cards at work and they were appreciated. The only time I received a card from a colleague and felt uncomfortable about it was when the card was a very religious one, so your instinct for a more general card is spot in.

    4. Artemesia*

      In any office, the rule of thumb is that as a newbie you observe the norms. Don’t send cards if you aren’t getting cards. Or ask those you are closest too what the custom is.

  20. Jilly*

    I have a former colleague “K” from old consulting gig who is job hunting. I mentioned that my company has jobs A, B, and C open and she might be a fit for at least one. She took a look and said “hmmm, C might be interesting, let me think about it. But if you like, I think I know someone who might be a good fit for A”. That’s totally normal.

    Here is my question though. My company has a decent recruitment referral bonus system, especially because our main customer is the gov’t so niche skillsets are required. If I referred K (which would consist of sending an email to Recruitment saying this person I know has applied to opening #xxxx and I think she may be a good fit, here’s a copy of her CV) and she got a job, I wouldn’t think anything about getting the bonus ($1,000-$2,000 depending on how high priority the opening is) and maybe taking her to lunch – it was my connection that helped move her to the top of the pile. In fact, my office mate is someone I referred and she’s going to hit the end of her probation period next week and I’ll get the bonus in early January. But if K reaches out to her colleague and connects him/her to me and I send the referral email and get a bonus, should I offer to give her a portion?

    1. Anion*

      Ooh, good question!

      IMO this is totally up to you (unless K knows about the referral system, in which case it might be weird not to offer her anything).

      If she does know/you do decide to share, though, you don’t have to split it with her 50/50. Or instead of cash you could get her something really nice you know she’s had her eye on/could use; something in the $100-200 range, assuming you get $1k. I think 10-20% is a good amount to offer or gift–more if you can afford it, sure, but again it’s up to you. Basically, same as taking her to lunch the way you were planning to if she was hired & you got the bonus (and I once worked at a place that did that “bonus for referral” thing, and did exactly that–I took my referred friend out for a nice dinner (we were/are good friends–he’s our daughters’ godfather, so he was/is a dinner friend).

      Personally, I would share. But that doesn’t mean you have to, honest. I just would because I like giving gifts etc. and I’d feel like it would be the right thing to do, but I’m kind of picky/strict about that stuff with myself (I don’t hold others to the same standards).

      Best of luck, whichever you decide–I hope you end up with two nice bonuses!

    2. Specialk9*

      I do this all the time with recruiters, and never expect a cut. I look at it as relationship management (with my contacts and with the recruiters), and more broadly as being a decent person who helps fix problems.

  21. Consulting Gal*

    I am interviewing for a position that will be located in different state (Detroit to NC). My recruiter asked me to send a list of my relocation requirements. What should I ask for? I have never moved further that a hour. I rent my current place and only have one vehicle but I am scared of being stuck with unexpected costs that I wont be able to afford ( and delay a potential start date!!!) Any Advice would be highly appreciated.

    1. Cheesesticks and Pretzels*

      I would call legitimate moving companies, United Van Lines etc. and get a rough estimate for moving costs, i.e. 2 bedroom apartment, bedroom, living room, dining room furniture, personal belongings, no appliances.

      Also figure in your costs to end your current rental lease and how much you would need for a deposit and first months rent for a new place.

      Lastly, estimate your gas cost to drive your vehicle to your new location and other expenses such as meals on the road, snacks etc.

      1. Xennial*

        Don’t forget to factor in your time in doing all of this. The packing and unpacking take time as well as changing your address for everything and getting new services and changing or cancelling contracts.

        1. Yorick*

          These will need to be actual costs that you can list on an expense report. You can’t charge your company for the time you spend packing and stuff.

          1. Someone else*

            That depends…some places negotiate a moving bonus, ie they’re paying you a specific agreed upon amount. Others might simply agree to pay moving expenses, in which case they’d be itemized on an expense report. In the former, you’d obviously want to do research to come up with a number you find reasonable, but in those situations it really is just a dollar figure they’re paying you.

      2. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

        I would ask for;
        – a direct bill for a mover (that includes packing service)
        – Temporary housing (if needed)
        – A discovery trip to locate housing
        – Any fees to terminate your current lease
        – and an amount of money to cover incidental expenses related to moving

        1. LadyKelvin*

          All this plus: if they offer you a flat amount for moving expenses, it’ll probably cost 8-10K to move a 1-bedroom apartment and car that far. So keep that in mind when you are negotiating. (Yes, you can do it cheaper, but moving sucks, moving long distance sucks even more, and you should probably just spend the money to make sure it is done right).

      3. AJ*

        Don’t forget necessary pre-trip maintenance for your car – oil change, tire rotation. I am not experienced in this directly, but if you would need a bigger job done on your car – belts, brakes, etc – maybe you can include that too?

      4. nonegiven*

        There may be a week in a hotel and eating out while you wait for the mover to get there with your stuff. Also, deposits for utilities and internet, etc. Maybe travel to come out and find a place to live, shop, go to the gym, bank, etc.

  22. DC*

    So, after turning down the job that I was offered due to a sexist a** (not sure if I updated on that, but dodged a bullet), the CEO snagged me to say they wanted to keep me, and what could they do. So we had a long chat that included bringing up a lot of the issues I’ve been having, and things that make me want to leave.

    But this is mostly just a venting moment, because this was posted as my co-worker had yet another un-professional crying breakdown. I understand stress. I understand that sometimes emotions overwhelm you. But this is reaching a whole new level that affects the whole office.

  23. AnotherAlison*

    Preparing myself for an interesting afternoon. I have a meeting with my big boss for a discussion on an out-of-state assignment. It has been on the table for about 3 months, but it keeps morphing and my boss will say it’s “X” and then his boss describes it as “Y.” I’ve gone from “maybe I want to do that”, to “no way, to “definitely” 50 times, and I will be happy to finally have all the information. (It has gone from seeming like a good opportunity, to something that could cause me to lose ground, and back, depending on the day and who describes it.)

  24. nep*

    About to enter another year, and it will seem *that much longer* I’ve been away from the industry I’m trying to get back to. It was already tough enough, having my last relevant job in 2013. I really think for my own peace of mind I’ve just got to let it go and move on.
    Hiring managers, could you share your thoughts about candidates who have worked extensively in the desired industry but have been away from it for a year or four? Would you even consider them?

    1. Dorothy Zbornak*

      I think Allison has advised people to take training courses, refresher courses, and those sorts of things to prove that you’re still relevant to the field, even if you haven’t been working in it.

    2. KiteFlier*

      I interviewed someone recently who had been away from our fast-moving industry for some time and asked how she had kept up with the industry in the past several years. She really couldn’t give me an answer beyond “I kept up on the trends” and couldn’t tell me exactly how. I’d suggest anticipating this question and maybe even addressing it proactively in cover letters.

  25. RJ*

    Hi everyone! Quick question on behalf of my husband.
    He works as a health professional at a clinic, part time and contracted. Recently, he was told they will be hiring a second health professional, also part time. The clinic believes that if a patient doesn’t click with one, they can go to the other more easily.
    He will be staying on part time, but will have to get it switched to a permanent position. In your experience, is it better to tell them he will be applying for a second part time position (a common thing in his field) after he has been signed on for a permanent spot? He likes the place, despite it being part time.
    Any advice would be great. Thanks!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Not in the health field myself, but in general good employers realize employees cannot live on half a paycheck. They expect people to take another job. I think as long as he is temp, he should assume they know he could surface with another job at any time. Once he is made permenant then he could mention it and say that he wants them to know it’s his intention to keep both jobs. This is speaking just in general, though.

    2. brushandfloss*

      I know this is late, I’m a dental hygienist which unfortunately has a lot of part time work. Usually they assume you are working elsewhere on you days off. If he has a set schedule, he doesn’t need to inform his current job he is looking for more hours.

  26. BEC mode*

    Any advice on dealing with an arrogant, frustrating, and (unfortunately) talented sub-contractor?

    As you can tell, I’m deep in B.E.C mode with a sub-contractor who is carrying out an evaluation of our project. His team is deep in data collection mode, which is critical for our project, and to disengage with the relationship now would be disastrous for us. His team spends money rapidly and is constantly short on cash.

    However, his team can’t seem to get their act together on the administrative side to send us appropriate supporting documentation so that we can actually pay them. I fully admit that some of this is our fault- we weren’t always 100% clear in our expectations for documentation- and we’ve apologized and tried to be as flexible as possible, but a large part of it is his fault as well! He is incredibly arrogant and frustrating, to the point of: nitpicking through our invoices to correct inconsequential spelling mistakes made by our Financial Analyst (he is aware that she is not an native English speaker); quoting dictionary definitions of “due diligence”; and writing long, multi-paragraph screeds about how his organization is THE ONLY ONE who has to endure such scrutiny and we are SO UNFAIR.

    I am at the end of my rope. How can I keep my sanity? How am I supposed to deal with someone who thinks he can do no wrong?

    1. Artemesia*

      Will you be needing this type talent again? If so maintain current sanity by going into ‘anthropologist’ mode i.e. detach and observe with amusement if necessary his antics, WHILE searching for another sub contractor for future assignments like this. Surely there are a dozen people who can do this job since it doesn’t sound like he is doing it that well. Revel in the knowledge that you won’t be working with him again.

  27. Wondering*

    My boss is recovering well (hooray!) from pneumonia and will be back in the office soon. I am a little concerned about germs due to some combination of being overly careful and the fact that I’ll be visiting an elderly relative soon and do NOT want to chance passing anything along.
    Should I let it go and wash my hands a lot? There’s a small part of me tempted to ask about working from home (not uncommon around here when folks are sick or have other needs, though I’m still newish) but don’t want to overreact or imply that my boss is putting folks at risk…not to mention that there will be a bunch of catching up to do when my boss is back that might be a bit easier in person.

    1. Wondering*

      PS – not being a medical professional,
      I googled a bit and it seems like I’m in the clear if this was bacterial/antiobiotics were taken but less so if it was viral. But that seems none of my business to ask about…

      1. SarahKay*

        Regular use of hand sanitiser, and (if at all possible) don’t let him touch your mouse, keyboard or phone. My parents are retired and it used to be that if one of them caught a cold, the other would have it a few days later. Now if one of them has a cold they both sanitise their hands lots, and also use anti-bacterial wipes to wipe door handles a couple of times a day. Since starting this they’ve only shared one cold (out of four) int he last couple of years, where previously pretty much every cold was shared.

        1. SarahKay*

          Oops, meant to say, I mentioned retired for context as it means they’re doing things together all day every day, so lots of opportunity, theoretically, for sharing germs.

    2. HannahS*

      Someone who’s a doctor can weigh in, but I think I’ve heard that once someone is in the recovery phase of an illness like the flu, they aren’t contagious anymore.

      Personally, I’d go for regular hand sanitizer, washing hands thoroughly with hot water and soap, don’t touch your face or eat without washing your hands.

    3. Health Insurance Nerd*

      Pneumonia is typically treated with antibiotics and shouldn’t be contagious at this point. Working from home when your boss has sufficiently recovered enough to come back to work seems excessive.

    4. Someone else*

      Wash your hands frequently, use hand sanitzer if someone touches your or your stuff directly, keep wipes around for keyboard, mouse and phone, especially if someone might touch yours while you’re not physically at your desk and thus you wouldn’t know. Another thing about the handwashing: it’s not just frequency but thoroughness. Wash both sides, between fingers and an inch or two up your wrists. CDC says 20 seconds minimum (or sing Happy Birthday twice for a sense of timing). It’s probably more helpful to wash your hands realllllllly well less frequently, than do it all day but missing a spot or for too short to actually clean them.

  28. Anon for this*

    So I went to a holiday party a few days ago, and my married, gay great grand boss hugged me goodbye and pinched my boob. When I told someone the answer was “well thats just boss, he gets amorous when he’s drunk”. I’ve never had an issue with him before at all, I actually thought we had kind of a nice working relationship as two of the only queer people at work, I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s a way it was an accident and it wasn’t intentional -it happened mid hug so its not like I could see him doing it, I just felt it, so deep down I’ve been hoping he just accidentally did it, somehow? – because the whole thing is just so bizarre. I decided to just deploy a wait and see if there are other incidents, but its really made me uncomfortable and he is a VERY beloved boss who I was hoping would be a bit of a mentor, so this whole thing just sucks.

    1. fposte*

      Well, crap. I’m particularly unhappy that it sounds like this is actually a known thing there. I hope you find a path that works for you, and I would keep a “WTF, dude–it’s not okay to pinch your employee’s boob!” in my pocket for use at future events.

      1. Anon for this*

        There’s just kind of a weird attitude of well he’s a happily married gay man with kids, so its just all good fun. But the stuff other people have talked about is more like picking girls up when he gives them hugs or kissing them on the cheek, which I don’t personally want but no one else has openly complained about. Straight up boob pinching seems like such a giant step farther that I almost want to have a conversation about it, because what? But since he makes quite literally 9 times my salary, that seems like a dangerious road to go down.

          1. copy run start*

            ^This. The fact that people are shrugging it off because he’s gay is messed up. It is still inappropriate unwanted contact, even if the sexual component is not obvious.

            I understand if this isn’t the hill you want to die on given the power dynamics, Anon for this, but I would recommend at least pushing back against that view of his behavior with your colleagues.

        1. HannahS*

          It’s still sexual harassment. It’s still a man thinking he’s entitled to do what he likes to female bodies. Being gay doesn’t excuse him.

    2. clow*

      Wow I can’t believe people are Ok with this. I don’t know what to say other than I’m so sorry this happened :(

    3. JD*

      I am not someone who is bothered by much touching but seriously, unless you and my boobs already have an intimate relationship, NO! How is this considered ok by anyone. I have no answers here just complete shock.

    4. Lumen*

      Accidental brushes or bumps do sometimes happen (rarely; they are usually intentional and waved off as ‘accidents’ and women being ‘oversensitive’). But pinching is hard to do by accident.

      This would not be okay if he were a stranger you knew nothing about. The fact that he is your boss, that his pay grade is so high, that he is married, that he is gay, that he is a father, that he was drunk: all of that just makes it worse behavior on his part.

      You do not have to wait to see if it happens again, or wait to see if something worse happens again. If he has not sobered up and said “That was not okay and I’m sorry”, then he either has no idea he did this (getting so blackout drunk you harass your employees also makes this worse) or how he made you feel (being so detached from reality that you don’t imagine your sexual harassment had a negative impact on someone you claim to care for also makes this worse).

      He should know what he did and the affect it had on you personally and on his relationship with you. If he values you as a person and an employee, then he should care about this and do everything he can to make sure you are never put in that position again by him or any other coworker.

      I am really sorry that you may have lost a mentor over this. It was not okay and anyone dismissing this as unimportant is not doing an okay thing, either. There is a right way to handle this, and you deserve a boss and colleagues who will do the right thing no matter how much they’d rather brush it aside.

    5. Super Nintendo Chalmers*

      I just want you to know that this isn’t sexual harassment, it’s assault. You could legitimately file a police report over this.

  29. T3k*

    So I know this is just my anxiety talking, but I can’t help but think that every mistake I make, especially when one of the directors here sees them, is another mark to go “nope, don’t extend her contract here”. I’m halfway into my contract now (3 months) and the the worry is starting to settle in about if they’ll extend it or not. On a slightly better note, another contractor gave me a site to check that exclusively lists all jobs in our field all around the world, so I can start looking on there and applying to other places, just in case. But I really want to stay here. (I plan to ask about it next month).

    1. Tara*

      How you respond to mistakes can be half the battle. Try to frame them as you learning. Thank people for pointing them out and try not to make the same mistake twice. Reasonable people understand it takes time to get used to processes, but if you have a good attitude about it and actually show some improvement over time, most people will chalk it up to being new.

      You could do a little small talk around “yeah, Process X [where you previously made a mistake] has been going much smoother for me, it’s been great to better understand the processes here.” Too much of that will be over the top, but every now and then might help.

      Also, we always notice our mistakes more than others do, so try your best to correct and move on!

      1. T3k*

        Thanks for the advice :) Yeah, I’m my own harsh critic but will definitely try to take a more proactive approach to show I’m learning from my mistakes. For instance, I was tasked to get X done, but the director didn’t say how, so I assumed he meant task it out to others, as my boss (around same level management wise with the director) has said I need to do more. Well, apparently the director actually wanted me to do it myself and I got so befuddled I was like “oh sorry, didn’t realize that, thanks” and scurried away to let my boss know about the miscommunication who then asked (with all of us present later) how the director wanted such things handled in the future.

  30. a girl has no name*

    I have been going to interviews with a a handful of different companies recently. I am currently employed, but I don’t want my boss to know. I have been saying I have appointments, and I’ve taken a morning off as a vacation day, but it’s been really difficult to get away. Not to mention that I have to change into professional dress in my car and try to get back in time to make sure my clock in-clock out times don’t seem usual. Has anyone else had this problem? Any suggestions? Trying to sneak around is kind of exhausting.

    1. Moose*

      Here’s how fucked up the penalties for job hunting are at my office- I broke my leg six weeks ago, and I’m relieved that I can use the excuse that I have follow up appointments.

      I know how much it sucks, but if you need to suddenly develop some vague medical issue, all the power to you. I recommend dentistry.

      1. a girl has no name*

        I do! That’s a good suggestion. I always worry that I will be judged for that excuse, but maybe it’s more normal than I realize. (My boss doesn’t like pets, so I think that clouds my judgement on this.)

        1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

          One year my pet chinchilla banged her eye at Thanksgiving and it swelled up a few days later. Drove her to an all night emergency vet – she was completely fine. However………….a few weeks later I had an interview scheduled. Just told my boss it was a follow up for the chinchilla at the vet. They knew the story because I was worried about her, but obviously use whatever storyline works for your office.

        2. Drew*

          If you have a dog, “impacted anal glands” is always a good way to kill a conversation about why you need the morning off.

      1. amy l*

        Some that I used during my year long job search..
        – Dentist
        – Eye exam (I wear glasses)
        – Have to get new lenses put in above mentioned glasses
        – Vet for sick dog
        – Friend having car trouble
        – Me having car trouble (for a morning interview, so l was late getting to work)
        -Neighbor locked out (I need to get her spare key from my kitchen drawer)

  31. Anon Marketer*

    So, I have the issue of overactive sweat glands. I KNOW my co-workers can smell it, but are too polite to say anything. No amount of deodorant, prescription or otherwise, is enough. I really don’t want to be the smelly co-worker. What do I do? :(

    1. Smello*

      As someone who has struggled with this in the past-have you tried using diluted white vinegar on your underarms in the shower to neutralize odor? It gives you a great head start on the day.

      1. a girl has no name*

        You can get body-freshening wipes at Walgreens or Target. I strongly recommend those! Also, witch hazel seems to help as well. (I swear by that stuff.)

      2. KR*

        This! I also have in the past work an undershirt and then taken it off park way through the day so my sweatyness had absorbed into that.

    2. fposte*

      One thing you can do is not be hard on yourself. Another thing you can do is strategically let the information drop about your medical condition to a nice co-worker so it’s known that this isn’t a cluelessness situation but a medical thing.

      Is it for sure an odor issue as well as an excessive wetness issue? Do you have a sense of what the intervals are before the odor becomes a problem and whether it’s solely the armpits that are odor sources? I don’t know how much moisture we’re talking about here, but maybe you can swap out dress shields once or twice a day?

      1. Anon Marketer*

        It’s definitely an odor issue. I can smell but not have much sweat. I wash my bedsheets multiple times a week because it permeates everything. My deodorant lasts about 3-4 hours before I need to reapply and sometimes that’s not possible because I’m in meetings all day. :( I’ve gotten to the point where I can dampen the smell, but it definitely lingers. I haven’t tried a lot of these options presented here, so I will definitely give them all a shot! Thanks so much for everyone’s advice!

        1. AJ*

          Depending on the type of smell, it could be a bacterial imbalance thing. Sounds weird, but if you smell like onions, there are a lot of suggestions in online forums about how to handle it.

    3. Xennial*

      Some people will get botox. It may even be covered under your health plan as it is not for cosmetic purposes.

    4. HannahS*

      Some ideas to explore:
      If you’re not already, try wearing natural fibres only. Polyester is way more smell-friendly than cotton.
      In a pinch, hand sanitizer and a tissue will dry off sweat and take care of the smell. I’ve done that on days when I forgot to wear deodorant; I’d just do it every few hours.
      Sounds like you’ve already talked to your doc if you have prescription deodorant. I know I was offered Botox as a teen, and if my sweating hadn’t gotten better, I’d probably have done it.

    5. NaoNao*

      I also have or had overactive sweat glands and I hated it. A couple things helped:
      Switching to all natural fibers whenever I could. They circulate air and let moisture dry more quickly than poly or other non-natural blends
      Using tea tree or other natural oil soaps to “disinfect” the area before applying deodorant
      Switching to applying deodorant at night. The way most deod’s work is to physically block the sweat glands, and they need time to develop this block. Applying at night is the recommended method (with a backup in the AM) but most people don’t know this.
      Dusting powder can reduce odor but to be honest, it doesn’t stop the truly sweaty
      A drop of scented essential oil in the underarm may make it so that when it warms up and gets damp, the odor is lavender, mint, bergamont, or what have you.
      Stress sweat is different than ordinary exertion sweat. It has an acrid, strong odor. This may not be workable for you, but when I stopped drinking alcohol, my sweat slowed WAY down and it did not smell as bad. There was a kind of “doom loop” of anxiety caused by withdraw, that caused sweating, which caused anxiety, rinse and repeat. Also my body is no longer trying to detoxify all day! If you’re a social drinker, you may want to look at cutting down or quitting and just seeing if that makes any dif.

      1. AAM fan*

        I am NOT a medical doctor but I have a vague memory that some illnesses can have body odor as a symptom, so if you haven’t checked it out medically from that perspective, it might be worth talking to your doctor.

  32. Holiday Generosity*

    First time I’ve been in an office where people actually give gifts to each other! I’ve already gotten two gifts this week. Guess I’ll be doing some shopping this weekend!

    What kind of gifts do you usually get/give to your coworkers? I’ve been given a mug themed with something the receiver knows I love and a geeky action figure to match the others on my desk. It’s so generous and nice, I have to step up my holiday game!

    1. Local Woman*

      I usually find that candles and all candle-related things don’t tend to go too wrong. I know they’re a running joke at this point, but I’m thrilled every time I get a candle or a nice tealight holder!

    2. Llama Wrangler*

      I was super surprised by this last year, and so spent some time strategizing this year for what would be nice but low-cost. I settled on jams and other preserved goods from my farm share, but a few other ideas were small plants (succulents, aloes, etc) or bottle of wine (if it’s appropriate to your office).

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        Also, one year my coworker decorated little mason jars and filled them with cheap, individual wrapped candies. I imagine it took her some time with a hot glue gun, but it was VERY cute, thoughtful, and cost-effective.

    3. a girl has no name*

      Coffee themed gifts seem to do well. I have also done cute ornaments with their initials or favorite foods.

    4. special snowflake*

      Either candles or homemade peppermint bark – the bark is nice because it’s generally easy to make it gluten free and it doesn’t have a scent. Candles are easier for people to regift if they don’t like the scent.

    5. Hallway Feline*

      Both of my past bosses went the gift card route (Starbucks, Target).

      Past coworkers have done giftcards with a nice card, or things I might like (“I Could Pee on This” the book of cat poems), or baked goods (but this is tricky with dietary restrictions so just know your audience!).

      So something small(ish) but thoughtful, I’d say, is what you should do. Heck, you could even take them out to a coffee break and buy their drinks as a way to say you appreciate them, etc.

    6. zora*

      I have to say, I’m relived my office doesn’t do gifts. As the lowest paid person here, I would feel super awkward about having to reciprocate.

      One coworker did bring us individually wrapped baked goods this week, that was sweet. I am planning to get my shit together this weekend and do my holiday baking (skipped it last year) and bring some treats in to share next week.

      If I had more disposable income, I might do pretty office supplies, like from See Jane Work? That’s the kind of thing I don’t want to buy for myself usually, but is really fun to have on your desk to see every day!

    7. Ever the Lurker*

      This year I gave my staff cute mugs filled with some chocolates, chapstick, lotion, and gift card to a coffee shop. I’ve also done candles and fuzzy socks before as a generic gift. For peers I know well I’ve given themed office décor or supplies. Anything that is coffee related is also well received. One year I made hot cocoa ornaments based on something I saw on Pinterest; it was cheap and cute.

  33. beanie beans*

    I have my first ever second interview today! I don’t know how I’ve been in the workforce for almost 20 years and never had to do a second interview before, but here I am.

    Any wise words about how the second one will be different? I basically prepared by going over notes that I didn’t cover in the first one.

    1. Lumen*


      You may be meeting with more of the team/more bosses/higher ups. Be prepared for a lot of handshakes if that’s the case.

      Did they give you a length of time this will take? You may need to prepare for a long day.

      They will probably want to ‘dig deeper’ into anything from the first interview that came up for either you or them. Prepare some additional questions about the role and the company; anything you’re still wondering about. Or make some up. I always like “What do YOU like most about working here?” and “In 90 days, what conversation do you hope to see us having or what new responsibilities will you want to hand over to me in this role?” etc.

      Best of luck!

      1. beanie beans*

        Thanks! It’s at 4:00 (yes, on a Friday!) so I think just an hour? I don’t know yet if it’s with the same panel or new people. Eek! I have a few questions ready but am mostly nervous I’ll answer questions with some of the same examples as the first one since I’ve had 2 interviews with other companies since the first one. I hope this one works out – I’m exhausted from talking about myself so much in the last 6 weeks!

  34. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

    OMG the echo!!!!!

    Sorry have to get this off my chest before I scream outloud. I have an office. An office with really really bad soundproofing. The setup is like this on the wall I’m on. My office is the X and the other offices are O’s: O X O O. All morning the 3 people in the O’s have been on the same conference call, from their individual offices, with the doors open. So I’ve been hearing the same call but echoing because of the different delays. I may be close to a psychotic breakdown soon.

    There’s nothing I can do, if they close their doors, I can still hear it from the walls and the gaps in the walls. I only work in the office part time due to my travel schedule and I’m not really part of the operations in this office. They won’t all go into one office for the calls. Annnnddd nothing changed when I told them it was the most annoying thing in the world.

    Sigh… thank you for the venting opportunity.

      1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

        I think I’m going to have to try something. Anything! What’s funny is, I don’t mind hearing the muffled phone calls or conversations, it’s the echo that drives me bananas.

        Thankfully it’s stopped for the day so I should be in the clear.

        Oh well, if it’s the worst that happens to me today I’m still in the ‘win’ column. Just mostly had to vent.

        1. Artemesia*

          Can you play music at a low level. Maybe even techno music that functions sort of as white noise — or use a white noise waterfall or rain shower. Or ear plugs; they tone it down but you can still hear specific things like someone speaking to you. Or ear phones.

        2. zora*

          omg, I totally know what you mean, and that would drive me INSANE. Gah, why can’t they all just go in the same room???? people are weird.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This may not be helpful. Our space we use has an awful echo to it. My boss hung double the amount of short drapes on the windows. We extended the pole rods so they go a bit wider than the windows and we spread the drapes out to match the rods. Cloth will help with sound dampening. There’s cloth on the walls of a movie theater and pipe organ connoisseurs will tell you that rugs on the floor ruin the acoustic of the pipe organ. Maybe you can figure something creative with cloth.

  35. Redundant Department of Redundancy*

    I had an interview on Monday, it’s an internal position that moves me up a pay band and I’ll be managing two staff!

    Thank you everyone who calmed my nerves when I was fretting about it (as they sought external candidates). I apparently did really well, and as others rightly said they went external in order to legitimize my move.

  36. MoinMoin*

    At my company we have a big whiteboard that says “We are (Company Name)” on it and underneath people sign it with stuff like, “I am (Company) and I bring ownership and pride to everything I do” or whatever and someone else wrote, “I am (Company) and I will have a good attitude no matter how exhausting, relentless, and thankless my job is.”
    It just cracks me up and I wanted to share.

    1. she was a fast machine*

      That sounds like something we used to have to do when I worked retail at the big red circle. I hated it.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      You should put up a sign that says “This is my computer. There are many like it, but this one is mine.”

    3. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      Oh dear, I’m not sure a whiteboard like that would last long in my workplace. It’s a good company, great people, but let’s just say we all sit firmly on the cynical/smart ass side of the fence.

      I love the suggestions so far :)

  37. she was a fast machine*

    My fiance and I eloped and it came out at work and I got mobbed Tuesday by well-wishers…it was pretty rough. And now I have to tell the story to every person I run into. Meh. I wish I could just staple a piece of paper with an explanation to my desk. My introverted brain eloped for a reason!

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      This is why I want to elope. That and I have no interest in planning a wedding. Or doing the family thing. And I highly doubt the current SO ever proposes. Sigh. Mazel tov though!

      1. she was a fast machine*

        I actually love parties and weddings in general but being realistic we just can’t afford that, and we didn’t want to wait anymore. I’m very much an all or nothing kind of girl so nothing it was. I do hope if the day comes for you you get what you want!

    2. beanie beans*

      Congrats!!! Tell us the story!!! ha ha just kidding :)

      I hope you can work the story down to a one line sentence that will get you out of the conversation quickly. “We eloped because we don’t like people.” Ha.

      1. she was a fast machine*

        Over the repeated tellings this week I’ve whittled it down to three sentences and then if they want to blabber more I start going into why we didn’t tell anyone beforehand…because we didn’t wanna hear “well why were they invited and I wasn’t!” like people don’t know what eloping means….

      1. she was a fast machine*

        Yeah, my work breaks for two weeks over the holidays(yay education!) and so hopefully when we return in January everyone will have forgotten/gotten over their excitement. Right now I have a few people very pointedly calling me by my new married name every day when they see me…and that’s a little exhausting.

      1. she was a fast machine*

        Sadly it’s not that kind of office; mass emails are pretty frowned on for non-work related things. Thankfully it looks like it’s winding down and hopefully by the time we return after the holidays nobody will remember.

  38. Half-Caf Latte*

    Calling all benefits experts!!!

    Spouse received an email from HR stating “We have run the discrimination test for the 2017-18 plan year which is based on July 2017 elections and 2016 earnings. For the Dependent Care portion, we do not pass the test. To correct this situation, we must reduce the dependent care election of all HCEs by approximately 49% (remember that the plan year runs from July-June, containing 26 pays). To accomplish this we will be stopping payroll deductions after the 13th pay (pay date December 28th 2017). Example: An employee that had elected 5000.00 for the dependent spending account will now only be eligible for 2,550.00 for the year.”

    1) I had previously understood/thought that the discrimination testing was done in advance of open enrollment, and any caps would be made clear in advance of OE. Is this mid-year review common/legit? I’m interested in both others’ lived experiences as well as the wisdom of anyone well versed in the law here.

    2) Because the plan year covers the fiscal year (July-June), but we now technically have had all of our deductions made in 2017, does this effect when we can spend the money/which tax year we can claim it under?

    1. CAA*

      1) They can’t run the test until after open enrollment is completed because the test is to compare the contribution amounts between HCEs (highly compensated employees) and all employees. If HCEs are contributing too high a percentage, then they get limited. This ratio cannot be calculated until all employees have made their benefit election. The timing can be pretty much any time. If they’ve already deducted too much for some employees, then they will actually refund the prior deductions and that counts as income in the year you receive the refund.

      2) You can spend the money and claim reimbursements any time up to the plan’s deadline date. It doesn’t matter if the deductions are taken equally throughout the year or only at the beginning; you still get the full amount of time to spend it.

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        My employer lets you know up front that HCEs will be limited to X amount for the FSA. How are they able to do that then? Genuinely trying to understand.

        1. CAA*

          You would have to ask your benefits specialist this question to get a real answer. My guess is that they are using past participation data and adding some padding. As long as participation ratios and contributions stay pretty close to what they were in the past, the current year plan will still be in compliance.

    2. Natalie*

      Re: #2, for individual taxpayers, taxes always operate on a cash basis – the fiscal year of the plan has no bearing. Your 2017 W2 will reflect the actual cash amount you were paid on dates in 2017, including all the deductions for the dependent care FSA.

      1. Half-Caf Latte*

        Thanks. I don’t actually understand what this means, though!

        Are you saying we are not able to use the to use the money for the full plan year because of when it was withheld?

        1. Natalie*

          Sorry, I certainly wasn’t trying to add more confusion!

          When you spend the money is determined by your plan. Whatever they say the period for using the money is goes, no matter when the money is actually deducted.

          Taxes, on the hand, operate based on when things actually happen. So you will see all of the tax benefit in 2017 when the money was actually withheld from your paycheck.

          1. Half-Caf Latte*

            Got it, thanks.

            So since there’s a 5k annual limit on contributions, we can theoretically make another 5k contribution for 2018 (my plan, not HCE, new job), but get reimbursed a total ~$7k in 2018….?

  39. Local Woman*

    I have a job interview coming up with a company I’m really excited about. I’m comfortably employed right now and hadn’t planned to start job searching until closer to when I finished my graduate degree, but the company I’ve always wanted to work for posted an opening that I’m qualified for and could excel in. I’m trying to figure out what I should say when they ask why I’m leaving my job/what other jobs I’ve applied for. I’m not interested in leaving my job right now unless it’s for them, and I’m not broadly applying (and didn’t plan to do so until February or March). I don’t want to come off as obsessed or desperate, but this is The Place I’d eventually like to work and I can’t believe I even have an opportunity so soon in my career. How much interest is too much interest? Is it weird to say I’m not applying anywhere else, or that this is my ideal company? What would alarm you in an interview?

    1. Murphy*

      I wouldn’t be like IT IS MY LIFELONG DREAM TO WORK HERE, but I think you can express genuine enthusiasm for the company and give concrete reasons why. You can say something like “Working here would be my top choice” and leave it vague about whether you’re pursing other opportunities (which I don’t think is their business anyway).

    2. fposte*

      I don’t think either of those questions are guaranteed, but I think it’s fine and perfectly reasonable to say “I’m comfortable enough where I am that I’d only consider leaving for a prospect that really excites me. This one does, because [blahblahblah].”

  40. Borgette*

    My partner is job searching, and we will probably have to move when they find work. This potential future move just seems like a logistical nightmare. I’ll need to stay behind to sell our house while job searching, and they’ll need to scout the new city? town? village? for affordable, dog-friendly housing. I can’t even start looking for work or housing until I know if/where we’ll be going. We have a dog who HATES other people and sheds A LOT so I don’t even know what I’ll do with her while showing the house or travelling back and forth. I have a plan, and I’m not freaking out (yet), this just seems really difficult to pull off smoothly.

    Please tell me your stories about job searching/moving logistics as a couple!

    1. rageismycaffeine*

      oh lord we are in the middle of this right now. I’ve had a job offer for about a month that’s been on hold while my husband’s interview process is moving sloooowwwwwlllllly along. I have told my future employer that I can’t accept my job until I’m sure my husband is coming with me, and we’ll then be going together, but I’m still not relishing the whole move process because I don’t know how tf we’re going to find a new house and pack the old one AND move while still getting there in time to start the new jobs. You have my sympathy.

      1. Borgette*

        I hadn’t really thought about the possibility of putting a job offer on hold, hmmm. Good luck with your husband’s search!

    2. periwinkle*

      It was easy! No, wait, it wasn’t easy but it was certainly manageable. We were living on the East Coast: me, spouse, 4 cats, rented housing. We were planning to relocate and I landed an offer for a fantastic job on the West Coast. I had six weeks to move with no relocation assistance.

      I made a lot of phone calls and sent a lot of emails, but lucked out and was able to lease a 3-bedroom apartment in a brand new complex (still partially under construction) near my new work site; their management was anxious to get renters in place and were willing to make an exception to their 2-pet policy so yay for that. My alternative would have been to move into a short-term rental and continue looking. Once I had an address, arranging the other necessities just took a few phone calls.

      I made great use of Google Maps and Google Street View to scope out neighborhoods from afar. Real estate sites like Redfin and Trulia were also helpful to get a sense of the areas, while Yelp and Google Maps helped for checking out what’s nearby. I don’t know how anyone managed a cross-country move before the Internet!

      I packed up the small station wagon and drove west; once I moved into the new place, my spouse started shipping out additional boxes of essentials and later packed a moving container (we used Door2Door and recommend them). About three months after I moved, he shipped the cats via a pet shipping service who handled all the logistics. He joined me about six months after I moved; about a month later I flew back East to pick up our third car and drive it home. Luckily he was able to keep his job and switch to being 100% remote, so we didn’t have to deal with the employment issue (he has since taken a local job).

      Logistics are a pain but the internet and phone are your friends. You can do a lot of scouting from afar! Google Maps/Street View was so helpful – before even setting foot in that state, I knew that the apartment complex was just past the strip mall with the Starbucks and dentist.

      You’ll manage! Just take a deep breath once in a while, maybe stop at that Starbucks for some tea…

      1. Borgette*

        Thanks, knowing that others have done it really helps me feel like we can too! Thank god for the internet right?!

    3. Alex*

      My partner is finishing grad school this spring and is already being contacted by recruiters all over the country. It’s hard for me because I will be leaving my job and hopefully will find something wherever we end up. In the meantime, I can’t really start job searching because I literally have no idea where we will be living. Fortunately we don’t own a house, so breaking a lease early is not a huge deal. Also we currently live in separate cities, so when we do move, it will be from two places. Not horrible, but not ideal.

      1. Artemesia*

        When he does accept a position he should act for assistance with your job search if it is at all plausible. Often executives at one corporation have connections locally to other professions or other ways of helping the trailing spouse jump start their search. Even some informal introductions can really help. Perhaps a spouse of a colleague or manager is in your field and they could make the intro so you could have lunch with them and get their insights etc etc. Or they may know of a local professional group in your field.

    4. copy run start*

      This is me as gap-year kid, but my parents were mid-move across country and so Dad was in NewState working, and Mom was home with me trying to sell the house. Our dog was people/dog aggressive and also very shed-prone! My Mom worked 12 hour days so if she was at work, it was up to me to prep the house for a showing and remove the dog.* This was back in ’06 – ’07 as things started to crash.

      Dad took care of the house hunting in NewState and had everything set up before we left. We ended up leaving before our house sold because my Mom’s company went under. Due to the circumstances, she stayed to get her severance payout. So he was gone for almost a year. There were lots of jobs in NewState in her career, so she didn’t really hunt until she knew when her last day would be.

      Mom and I basically kept the house as immaculate and neutral as possible at all times. The goal was that if we were called for a showing, all we had to do was quickly straighten up, vacuum, wipe down the fixtures and remove the dog. Sometimes we’d only get 1 – 2 hours notice. The biggest thing is to make sure it looks clean at a glance even if it’s been a while since you scrubbed — so for example, no water spots on the faucets, no clutter and low amounts of personal/religious items on display. We weren’t the kind of family that had a parade of photos up the stairwell or numerous crucifixes or crosses anyway, but we removed what we did have so that the house was more neutral. (Most of our neighbors were Jewish because there was a synagogue just down the road. We didn’t think anyone would be offended, but we wanted people to picture themselves in the house, not who was currently living there.) We also didn’t have any carpeting, so I just made it a task to vacuum at least every other day and brush the dog frequently outside (so stray hair blows away!).

      *We tried crating her once in the house but for some reason we got a soft-sided one, and when I returned she had chewed her way out of it. No sign that the prospective buyers had been eaten, but after that I just put her in the car with me. I couldn’t really take her to a park due to her aggression, so we spent a lot of time chilling in my car listening to music or just driving aimlessly for a while.

      1. Borgette*

        Thanks so much for sharing your experience! My biggest fear in this whole thing is a realtor or prospective buyer coming over unexpectedly and getting chomped. I’ll probably send her off to visit the ‘grandparents’ as much as possible when it’s time.

    5. MoinMoin*

      I don’t know how common my experience was, so it may not be helpful, but in our case we wanted to move and agreed he’d take a transfer/promotion if he could get one to a list of locations, making at least $x. When he got the promotion, he had to be out there within a month, so we found a dog-friendly apartment and signed the lease sight unseen. It was basically chosen on price, location, dog-friendliness, cancellation policy (we found it cheaper to do a year lease with the possibility of breaking the lease than to do a month-to-month), and size (we opted for paying for a larger apartment and using the extra bedrooms as storage vs paying for a storage unit). He moved out with as much as he could, and I was left with everything else to be staged, needed for daily use, or organized and packed.
      I met our realtor through a dog park friend and he went over and took our dog for a walk whenever someone wanted to view the house, which luckily sold quickly. If that wasn’t an option for whatever reason, my husband likely would have just taken the dog up with him when he moved or I would have talked to the realtor about setting up viewing windows when I could plan to board or take the dog. I have no doubt a realtor is going to find a way to help out on this.
      So, house closed, husband flew back for the weekend, we packed up a second truck, the dog, etc, drove it to the new location 16 hours away, crammed those extra bedrooms full, helped get the dog accustomed to her new home, and I flew back to the original location.
      Once we had a closing date, I planned on notifying my employer so they had about 6 weeks notice. Since we lived in a snowbird destination, we had family with a winter home in our city, so I was able to offer to stay there and work past my closing date for my employer, if needed. I ended up not telling them at the closing date because of nerves and because we lost two other people in our small department around the same time. But we ended up working it out that I’d stay about an extra month on location to finish a project, then work remotely through year-end and until they found a replacement. It worked out okay. We mutually agreed that we’d give the other party a month notice before separating, and I did end up getting extended a couple extra months while we found a trained someone new. I unfortunately knew they couldn’t just keep me remotely forever as our client contracts limited some aspects of my role. All told, the timeline went like this:
      April 2016- husband gets promotion
      May 2016- husband moves, house on market and sold
      June 2016- close on house, dog moves to husband, I move to temp house
      July 2016- I advise my employer
      August 2016- I move to new location
      March 2017- we buy new house, take time to paint and move in slowly
      April 2017- we finish apartment lease, move to new house
      May 2017- I finish my old job
      June 2017- I start my new job
      Like I said, I don’t know how replicable that all is, but it worked out. Hope that helps and I hope your eyes aren’t bleeding from my longwindedness.

      1. Borgette*

        Awesome, this is pretty similar to my current plan! If you don’t mind sharing, about when in your timeline did you start looking for a new job?

  41. Bobstinacy*

    Resume help!

    I left my last job in Teacup Production in late July, began working in Teapot Production to help out a friend that lost his Teapot Specialist unexpectedly. My plan was to work there for a few months, find a new job in Teacups, and leave the Teapot job off my resume.

    Then in early September I came down with what turned out to be mono and I left the Teapot job first week of October to go on medical EI.

    So now I’m job searching again and I’m not sure which is less sketchy to an employer:

    A) Leave the Teapot job off my Resume, have 5 month gap.
    B) Keep job on, have a few random months of Teapot experience on a otherwise Teacup only resume and a gap of 2 months.

    Any thoughts appreciated :)

    1. Cedrus Libani*

      Did you learn any skills that would be valuable in a teapot shop / achieve anything impressive? If you were just doing monkey work, I’d leave it off, but mention it if asked.

  42. Cheesecake 2.0*

    I have a new direct report (8 weeks) in an entry level job who is really into political activism. She does a lot of rallies and phone-your-senator parties and other things. So far it hasn’t interfered with her work, but yesterday she told me she had joined a group of people who were fasting until a bill is passed to help Dreamers (DACA recipients). She is already someone who struggles with disordered eating (by her own admission) and has had 3 days off in 8 weeks so far for nausea and stomach problems. I did have a more general talk with her about balancing her activism with work duties, and how she should consider going to a doctor now that she has insurance (our employer has really good insurance plans). But I might need to have a more direct talk, any suggestions how to phrase it? Congress doesn’t seem to have this vote on the agenda anytime soon and I’m concerned about her ability to work next week, by then she will have fasted 4-5 days so far.

    1. a girl has no name*

      I would make this about the impact on the office. Also, I would highlight how much you appreciate her passion, but right now this is impacting her work. Others in the office depend on her, and you need her to take care of herself. I don’t think you can really butt-in to her eating situation. Make this about work. This sounds like a tough situation, and your concern shows you’re a good manager. Good luck!

    2. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

      I would frame this conversation this way.

      Hyacinth, You are working in a professional job. As a professional you will have to balance your work life and your non work life. This is something that everyone, including myself has to learn how to do. All of us have lives outside of this office and it’s up to us to make sure that what do outside of work doesn’t negatively affect what happens at work this goes in the opposite way as well.

      You have taken 3 of your allotted X sick days in your short time here. While we do provide sick days for you to use as you need, I’m concerned that your plans to fast will cause you to use up all of your annual sick time. It is up to you to manage that time, and you aren’t being reprimanded for using them, I am cautioning you make sure you are thinking about future consequences which could include X, Y, and Z. <insert things that are relevant, including if she's in a probation period, what happens if she uses all of her sick days then catches a cold in 2 months, how she expects to keep focused on her job/accuracy/productivity while fasting, etc.).

      To be honest I'd keep a tight reign on this, it's a bad sign that she's so new yet letting her activism* affect her this much this early.

      *To be fair, the activism itself isn't the issue, I would have the same advice if you were describing an off hours athlete, moonlighter, gamer, or excessive knitter. The activity isn't the issue it's the impact.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*


        When you mention that she’s already taken three days, I would emphasize that you’re not questioning her use of those days, and that you expect/encourage her to take sick leave when needed. But sick days are there for when you fall sick, and deliberately making yourself ill is not the same thing, no matter how worthy the cause.

        (I also question how fasting is going to have an impact on the situation, but whatever.)

  43. rageismycaffeine*

    Guys my new employee WILL NOT STOP TALKING. She asks a simple question and then talks about the question for five minutes afterwards. I’m trying to find something online for her and she just keeps talking about it while I’m working. She. Just. Keeps. Talking. And I genuinely do not know how to say in a kind, good-boss kind of way “yo, you don’t have to keep talking after you’ve said something. Just shut up.” It’s making me insane. :(

    Also, either my boss is stupid enough to be having an affair at work or he’s too stupid to realize that the way he is behaving around his fifteen-years-younger subordinate is making everyone THINK he’s having an affair. I should just keep my mouth shut and stay out of that, right? There’s no polite, diplomatic way to point this out to him?

    1. fposte*

      You gotta tell her. “I’ve noticed you have a habit of continuing to talk, sometimes at length, after you’ve asked a question. Around here time and focus are really important, so while we’re happy to discuss stuff where appropriate, that’s not the kind of time we can spend on every question. I’m going to ask you to work on that tendency, and I may cue you that you’re going off into talk again. If you’re just processing, that’s fine, but I’m going to encourage that to be done after you break away from the conversation so it doesn’t affect other people’s time.”

    2. Snark*

      In the moment, iterrupt her, as kindly as possible. “Fergusina, you already asked the question, and I’ll answer it if you let me get a word in edgewise.” “It’s really distracting for me when you keep talking at me while I’m trying to find what you need.” I think you can say those things in a neutral and humorous tone to take the sting out, but hints and oblique references aren’t going to work.

      And ultimately, I think this is worth a chat in a “This is a pattern I’ve noticed and this is going to alienate coworkers, so you need to stop it” kind of mode.

      1. rageismycaffeine*

        I honestly didn’t even think of it in terms of alienating people other than me. That’s a really good point, thank you!

    3. A.N.O.N.*

      Could it be that she’s nervous about bringing you questions? If so, you could try: “Jane, I’ve noticed that after you ask me a question, you keep talking about it. I hope you don’t feel like you need to justify your questions to me – I of course welcome your questions! If there’s anything I’m doing that’s making you feel like you do need to justify them, please let me know.”

      1. rageismycaffeine*

        I don’t read it as nervousness, but that’s definitely a possibility. I like this idea. Thank you!

    4. Havarti*

      To address your 2nd concern, it really depends on your relationship with your boss. If you get along super great and he really listens to your input, then you could be like “hey just want to let you know it’s kinda coming across like you’re having an affair so you may want to do something differently.” Otherwise, don’t bother.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. I was close to my boss and he was excellent and so if I observed that I would have given him a heads up (but then my role on his staff was also ‘truth teller’ so there is that). But if you think there is a chance it might actually be true, don’t touch it with a stick.

        1. rageismycaffeine*

          …yeah. Well, when I first heard people talking about this, I thought there was no way it was true. And now I’m genuinely starting to wonder. So… yeah. No touching it.

    5. Drew*

      Not an employee but a peer, but I’ve had to actually put my hand up and say “Stop talking – you’re explaining things I don’t need explained and I can’t find the answer while you talk at me.” I think he thinks he’s being diligent, but he’s rambling.

  44. user42141*

    I’m super scared that I will loose my (new) job. I just started several weeks ago. I receive very good feedback on my work but have had problems with a coworker who reacts very aggressively to me and doesn’t forward me information which I need to do my job. I now raised it up with my boss, as I can’t perform my duties normally because of that. I’m super scared I will be fired as a “bad fit”. Honestly, I’m panicky. I need that job.

    1. rageismycaffeine*

      In my experience when a coworker has that kind of behavior you are not the first or only person who has reported it. You may be drawing more attention to something your employer is monitoring anyway. Do you have any reason to believe that the coworker is well-liked or that their word would otherwise be taken over yours?

    2. NaoNao*

      Can you go to aggro coworker and ask to start over? “Hey Fergus, I feel like we got off on the wrong foot here. I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do to make it right?” Sometimes coworkers can feel territorial or threatened or who knows. If you really need this job, I’d say go to the source of the issue and see if you can smooth it over.
      Also, look at the way/timing you’re asking for information and the source—is there another way you can get information or a different wording on the email that you could use?
      “Hi Aggro Coworker
      Just wanted to request the X report. If possible could I get this by EOB Tuesday? Thanks so much!”
      CC: Boss. ”
      I am reading a very interesting book that (while dated) has some advice for people who are struggling with interpersonal issues between coworkers: try everything you can to work it out between you two, because there is a strong possibility the boss DOES NOT want to deal with it.
      It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.
      Also, take another look at the “defense” that the boss gave. What was it?
      “Fergus is busy”?
      “Fergus doesn’t have that until X date”?
      “That’s just Fergus”?
      Is there a clue on how to handle this in his response?
      For example, if that’s just Fergus, every time he gives you late information or doesn’t give it to you, simply note it.
      “Here’s the X report. Unfortunately, Fergus did not respond to emails requesting X data, so I was unable to include that.”

  45. The Person from the Resume*

    I have a 3 year project concluding not quite successfully. I’m mostly relieved we’re not still on pins and needles trying to make the ever moving deadline. However I got a bit teary eyed in one of our last team meetings today. It was the act of saying good bye that got me. Since we all work from home, I don’t know these folks except through their work. We only had perfunctuary work conversations. I was quite surprised.

  46. Anon for Stress Relief*

    So I’ve posted in these threads on and off about the issues my university was having and how stressful it was making my job. It’s been about a month so I wanted to post an update. My department head resigned before Thanksgiving, and they haven’t posted her job yet. Instead, they’ve divided her workload between myself and one other senior department member, with no increase in title or compensation. I am now part of a major university restructuring process that has made it impossible for me to ignore any more just how disfunctional this institution is. I’ve updated my resume using Alison’s tips and have started applying elsewhere. I had a phone screening last week and a first in-person interview this week for a position at other university I am really interested in, and have a second interview scheduled with the full team after the holidays. Even if I don’t get that position, the fact that I am getting responses already makes me feel a lot less trapped.

    Thanks for letting me vent, commentariat! I appreciate you.

    1. Artemesia*

      Hang in there. Hope it works out sooner rather then later and kudos for smelling the coffee and acting.

  47. Amber Rose*

    Last week I mentioned that my boss was giving me hell for wanting to use sick leave for surgery, and that I was job hunting.

    This week has been chaotic. Our company is having the worst kind of growing pains, and all the little, not so awful things for a small company are turning into huge problems now that we’ve moved to a larger international market. Stuff like our custom teaspouts supplier being the worst but also owned by the spouse of a manager who’s relative is our president, and our utter lack of project flow procedures (currently it’s “just let Wakeen know we need this.”) With two higher ups retiring and work getting complicated, jobs are starting to shift around dramatically.

    Part of that means my boss is probably moving to international work, so he won’t hardly be around anymore. If they give daily operations to the other manager, well, I get along well with him. He’s just awesome. Buuuut, this will still be a pretty toxic place for the above reasons among others.

    My question is, should I wait and see or continue actively job hunting? How many chances do I give this place?

    1. fposte*

      It’s job hunting, not job marrying. Go ahead and look. You don’t owe this job anything, so you don’t need to give it any chances at all if you don’t want to.

    2. Artemesia*

      The surgery thing is ridiculous. The using a bad supplier because married to boss is ridiculous. The lack of process is ridiculous.

      Job hunt away. You aren’t forced to accept a new job, but this place told you everything you need to know when they fussed about using sick leave for surgery.

  48. Goya*

    Co-Worker sent an email to my mother….

    Context: My mother and I work for the same company. Totally different departments and buildings – our company is actually filled with a lot of “family”, spouses, parents, siblings, etc. Mostly because it’s one of the larger companies in our city. So it’s no secret that we are related (especially since our last names match and it’s not a common name by ANY means. Co-worker is younger than I by about 5-10 years (don’t know specifically) – we don’t really socialize at all as we clash personality wise. Co-worker has a weird position in our department – not above the me (or below or parallel), but reports to the same supervisor and I do.

    Co-worker sent an email the other day to my mother regarding an upcoming project that would be taking place in her building. This is a yearly project and is technically my co-worker’s, but it’s a very large project and part of my job has always been support for this certain project because I have certain skills that most others in our office lack. I do a large portion of this project every year, and since Co-worker’s position has a high turn-over rate (seriously, you couldn’t pay me enough to do that job), I have quite a grasp on what needs to happen with this project every year. Email as follows (details changed):

    Hi Jane,
    I’m just letting you know that I will be dropping by Llama herding building around 8:15am to visit the offices that participated in the llama grooming project this year. I attached our schedule here for you. Please let me know if you have any questions. Also, Grace has been a massive part in making the llama grooming project happen; the Petting Zoo Department really couldn’t do this program without her hard work.

    Am I wrong to feel weird by the fact that Co-worker did this. I seriously feel like this was inappropriate….but I know I also tend to over react and internalize things (damn you anxiety!).

    1. Alex*

      I think it is a bit odd, but….more like she was trying to say something nice in front of your mom. While it is uncool to treat your coworkers like they are kids trying to please their moms, I would say it was awkward rather than malicious.

    2. Local Woman*

      It sounds like they were just expressing appreciation. It’s definitely a little weird that it got sent to your mother, since it’s not like she’s your manager, but it wasn’t totally irrelevant and seems to have been in good faith!

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Maybe a bit odd… but I think it was intended as a compliment in that conversational “you should be proud of your kid” kind of way. If it wasn’t sent to your mom, you probably wouldn’t feel so weird about it.
      I’d let it pass unless this coworker is acting inappropriate in other ways.

    4. AshK434*

      Talk about a plot twist – this was actually a nice email! From my perspective, it sounded like she needed to email you mom anyway to send her info and she threw in a nice compliment about you. I mean, I guess it’s weird given that your mom isn’t your manager, but it’s something I would just ignore and not get worked up about.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I think it’s nice. Compliments don’t come around that often.
      You can feel weird if you want, that’s okay. But this is benign, it hurts no one. Try to hold it in the best light possible. She said something kind.

  49. I have just met you and I love you*

    Someone let a squirrel into the office and now no one knows where it is. I hope it left of its own accord, but can’t help but feel like it’s on top of a cabinet or something, just silently judging us.

    1. Goya*

      Curled up in the tech closet on top of the warm computer equipment! Just make sure it doesn’t chew any wires ;)

      1. fposte*

        Okay, it’s slightly hyperbolic, because who wants to underplay a sustained workplace interaction with a squirrel?

        At this point we were working in a rickety old building, a three-story Victorian house that had been converted into apartments and then offices and god knows what else along the way. We had the first floor and part of the second floor; my office and my colleague’s office were up on the second floor on top of the main office area, and I had to go through my colleague’s office to get to mine. Before we moved in we were told that occasionally homeless people were found using one of the many remaining bathtubs; y office faced west, and when the wind blew, the temperature dropped twenty degrees. So, you know, not exactly an impenetrable fortress.

        I was the first person in in the mornings, and when I got to the door to our offices I heard noise where there shouldn’t be noise. Once I got over the first adrenaline spike, I realized that it was pretty clearly a critter running all over my colleague’s office; I made a lot of noise to chase it away from the door and opened it to check out the scene, and it was indeed a squirrel galloping around the perimeter like he was in training for the Derby. I really didn’t want him loose in the rest of the huge house, because we’d never find him, and I didn’t want to risk his coming into my office. So I went downstairs and called maintenance, assuming that a workplace with buildings like this must have a high squirrel savviness quotient on staff.

        Maintenance was a nice guy, but he was not a squirrelman, so it was clear I was in charge of this enterprise. I banished everybody else to outside the door of the office and he and I went in, determined that the squirrel be evicted. The plan was to open the windows wide and shoo the squirrel out into the nearby trees, a nice, animal-friendly, fair-minded plan, but the squirrel saw it as Squirrel Thunderdome. This was a very large office with lots of nooks and crannies, and the squirrel was whizzing around through all of them at eighty miles per hour, with frequent stops on the telephone keypad to make beeps and, I dunno, attempt to phone a friend? We dived and blocked and played defense, but we couldn’t get the damn squirrel into the goal.

        Finally as the squirrel was trying to make one last phone call, I got a really good angle and started moving at him as the window was his best exit. Unfortunately, maintenance guy chose that moment to stand *by* the window, so what actually happened is I convinced the squirrel to leap *onto* the maintenance guy; this was possibly a strategic layup, since the squirrel rebounded immediately out the open window. Or it could just have been that he saw the “holy crap this is not the job I signed up for is there a *squirrel* on me?” face on the maintenance guy, which I will remember until I die, and felt departure was now his wisest move.

        And that was our squirrel rodeo.

        1. SarahKay*

          Squirrel Thunderdome! I mean, all of it had me laughing until I cried, but that bit I particularly loved.

        2. Goya de la Mancha*

          Oh the looks I am getting as I try to stifle my giggles.

          This is just purely delightful while simultaneously being my nightmare! I hate when creatures can move all speedy like that because I fear I will end up like the maintenance guy!

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I’d like to believe you’re teapot makers and it’s found a doormouse to engage in a tea party.

    3. paul*

      hav a hart trap baited with seed overnight may be your best bet to getting it out, but you may also catch other rodents (I’m firmly of te belief that most buildings have mice and/or rats in at least small numbers).

    4. LCL*

      I’m laughing picturing one of the bring your dog to work people arguing they should be allowed to bring their dog in now because of the squirrel problem, and then all the dog people bring in their dogs, and they are tearing the place up looking for the squirrel.

    5. Artemesia*

      A squirrel got into my boss’s office down a chimney and wrecked major havoc over a weekend. Little footprints in soot on paperwork, chewed window ledge etc etc. He was finally found fattened and panicked on top of a bookcase (about 12 feet up) probably silently judging everyone. Any chance of a humane trap?

        1. Natalie*

          Squirrels will chew pretty much anything not made of metal or glass. They’re basically rats with furry tails.

        2. Plague of frogs*

          My pet rats are pretty good about not chewing on walls and furniture, but we had an incident a few weeks ago where they were running loose in their room with the door closed, and I was on the other side of the door doing some stuff and they could hear me. And one of them *really* didn’t see why she couldn’t hang out with mommy and started chewing through the door. She only did it for a second before I opened it and told her to knock it off, but there was already visible damage. And by opening the door I taught her what to do when she wants my attention immediately. Sigh, kids…

        3. paul*

          Rodents have amazing dentistry; most of them have teeth that just continually grow (hence the gnawing).

          I don’t think we can link images on this site, but you should google “squirrel dentition”; it’s seriously impressive looking for such a small critter.

    6. Drew*

      I had an on-campus job in a computer lab as an undergrad.

      One day, another student came up to me and said, as though it were the most normal thing in the world, “We can’t work at our terminals because of the bat.”

      “The bat?”

      “Yes, the bat.”

      Of course, dear reader, I had to check this out for myself. Turns out that one of our local bat friends had somehow flown into the building and found itself in the open ceiling, unable to achieve egress. Occasionally it would swoop down among the students desperately trying to finish term papers, which was discomfiting them something fierce.

      So I called my boss. “We have a bat in the ceiling. What should I do?”

      “Is that broom still behind the desk?”

      She wasn’t kidding. Cue up a half-hour montage of young Drew chasing a confused bat with the business end of a cheap Walmart broom, trying to shoo it toward the open doorway leading outside, surrounded by people who just wanted to finish their damn papers already.

      Total, utter failure. The bat’s mastery of the third dimension, and the high ceilings in this room, frustrated all my attempts. I ended up calling the campus police and asking their advice, and after the dispatcher stopped laughing, she said this was a common problem on campus (which I believe – we had a LARGE bat colony nearby) and I should just prop the door open and it would eventually find its own way out.

      This advice didn’t sit well with the people using the lab AND it meant I spent the rest of my shift explaining to people that, no, the door was INTENTIONALLY propped open and no, I wasn’t going to close it. The bat spent the entire time silently judging us. I assume it eventually found its way outside, because it wasn’t there when I started my next shift, and I hope it had a long life of eating mosquitos and fighting crime.

      1. Plague of frogs*

        It’s fortunate that its shrieks of mockery as you chased it with the broom were outside your range of hearing.

        There was a cute little bat in the lady’s room of a campground I stayed at. I was telling my husband about her, and finally he said, “How do you know it’s female?” I pointed out that I had met her in the women’s bathroom, so she must be female. He got irritated for some reason.

  50. Cake Pops*

    Has anyone here been really bad at interviewing in the past (I know this is subjective, but sometime you just know you bombed) but then turned it around and became really good at interviewing? I’m wondering about specific things people did to address issues and make a change.

    I ask because I, for example, don’t prep enough and try to answer things on the fly (which ends up being a disaster). I was thinking of writing out answers to standard questions, recording the answers, and then listening until it’s just second nature. I like the idea of listening to the answers versus just reading and memorizing.

    Any ideas or details about past experiences would be very helpful!

    1. beanie beans*

      Oh man I’ve gotten so much better at interviewing over the past year, unfortunately due to a lot of practice.

      I write out all of the qualifications that are listed in the position description and then write concrete examples of projects that I’ve worked on that show I meet those qualifications. And think about not just “I did this” but what the outcomes of the project was “the project saved $xxx due to my doing xyz.” And if there was anything that made it successful because YOU did it as opposed to someone else. I find that writing it out helps it stick in my brain better, but everyone remembers things different, so saying out loud with someone else might help you more?

      I also tend to write out all of the revalent projects or major accomplishments in my past work that I might want to use as examples in answers. You don’t know the questions, but you might know that you for sure want to work in how you worked on xyz project that was a huge accomplishment or learning experience or high profile, etc.

      All that said, I still get super sweaty before and during interviews. None of this helps my nerves!

    2. A.N.O.N.*

      Practice, practice, practice.

      The more interviews you go to, the better you become.

      Also, have examples in your back pocket that you know how to reword for a variety of questions. For example, lots of interviewers will ask some sort of variation of “What’s your greatest strength?” This question may be reworded as “What makes you the best candidate for this role/What sets you apart from other candidates” or a whole slew of other things. Make sure you know what trait you’re going to say, have examples of a time when you best exemplified that trait, and how that trait would help in the role your applying for. (Ex: Detail oriented, time when you went above and beyond with attention to details, why you think being detail oriented is an important skill to bring for this role.)

      Same thing for weakness (“what area do you most struggle with?/Tell us about a time you failed?/etc.”). Identify an issue, give an example of a time you struggled with it, and, this is key, what you did/are doing to compensate for it. (Ex: Detail oriented, a time when you could’ve been more detail oriented, what you’ve done since then to be more detail oriented and how that new strategy is helping you improve.)

    3. Alex*

      I’m not great at interviews by any means, but one think that has helped me immensely is to shift my attitude. I used to get so nervous before and during interviews because there was so much pressure. I have to get this job or else…! Now I just see it as something more like a social interaction, like making small talk with people at a conference. It’s not my favorite thing to do but it’s certainly not a disaster. I also tried to be as prepares as possible by reviewing my own accomplishments and researching the organization etc. It’s easier said than done to just change your mind set, but it helped me.

  51. Alex*

    Is it typical for promotions to happen without the participation of the person being promoted?

    This is only my second “professional” job, and I only stayed in my first one for two years, and no one there was ever really “promoted.”

    This job, it seems that the way promotions work is that your boss calls you into her office and says “Congratulations, you are promoted.”

    That has happened to me once, and of course I was happy. In that case, it was basically a promotion to reflect that I was handling my work in a more senior way, rather than adding new work to my plate. It was presented to me as a done deal–no negotiating pay or anything like that. And in fact, they made the promotion retroactive a few months.

    I’ve been wanting to expand my job description to include work that I think would be really helpful to my department. I’m already kind of doing the work, but want it to be officially part of my job description. I want to ask for a promotion of sorts to reflect this addition to my workload, as well as the fact that the work is higher level than what I’m currently being paid for. I have a meeting scheduled with my boss for next week, at which I am going to propose my idea.

    However, a colleague just informed me that he heard that some promotions were being planned to be handed out over the next few weeks, and that I may be included in that group.

    While I of course want any promotion, I want to be part of the conversation! I’d like the opportunity to shape my role, or at least have a say in it. Is that not the way things typically work? I’m not really supposed to know that there might be a promotion brewing for me, but I feel like…it’s a weird secret to keep!

    Different perspectives would be appreciated, thanks!

    1. Local Woman*

      Not super helpful, but I’ve definitely been promoted out of the blue/not as a question before. It happened in a tiny office, I had a conversation with one of my bosses where he changed my title, and later that day another boss mentioned offhand (in a totally unrelated conversation) that my rate of pay had been changed!

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      When I worked for a big corporation (and was promoted several times), the scope of the job and the shape of my role evolved before and after my promotions. Few things were truly formalized. For instance, I was promoted to a director role, then I went into my boss’s office and talked about taking more of a leadership role in certain projects. Promotions were just kind of milestones we hit as we stayed with the department, and people were promoted according to a natural trajectory. We were kind of sorted and reorganized every once in a while based on our skills and interests, but that was kind of parallel to the promotions themselves. A couple of times I was promoted to reflect work that I had already been doing.

      In saying that, what I mean is that in many roles, you don’t need to be promoted or know that you’re being considered for a promotion to have conversations with your boss about how you want to shape the role. The meeting you have is the exact right course. And I’ve often experienced bosses being discreet about “brewing” promotions, especially if there are budget concerns and they may not happen.

      1. Alex*

        Thanks for sharing your experience! I definitely will have the conversation with my boss either way–I just put a lot of thought into my proposal that I want to be “Teapot designer and leak prevention specialist” and a natural promotion would be something like “Senior Teapot Designer” without the leak prevention stuff being part of my job description. I wish I could be part of the process, especially because I’ve been spending so much time lately working on leak problems that aren’t even on my own design projects, and it would be nice if both my title, job description, and pay reflected that. I don’t even want to be a plain old Senior Teapot Designer. That’s just my same job with “senior” put in front of it, and all the rest of the Senior Teapot Designers come to me for help, but then feel uncomfortable when I work on their stuff.

    3. ha2*

      There’s two parts to this and they’re more separate than it seems. Raises and titles: it is quite reasonable for those to be given out as rewards and incentives without consulting the employee first. Job responsibilities: a manager should really discuss with the employee before major changes to job responsibilities.

      But both of those can be independent. It’s possible for responsibilities to change without changes in title and vice versa. So when talking to your boss, be clear add to what you’re asking for and why it’s justified.

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      It’s normal at every place I’ve ever worked. Well, I take that back – my former company (insurance) had some divisions that would post a job and have people apply for the promotion. However, that wasn’t a thing across the board, and the person who either applied for a promotion or was just given one never had a say in what their job responsibilities would be.

  52. Aria*

    How do you deal with a coworker who is saying negative things about her manager?

    Because of the way my department is structured, a new employee, Margaery, reports to three people: Tyrion, Daenerys (Tyrion’s boss), and me. I am the only one of her managers in the same office.

    Margaery has been getting some training from Tyrion and some from Sansa, who is in the same position as Margaery but handles a different state. Margaery greatly prefers Sansa’s training style to Tyrion’s. Margaery says she is nicer and explains things more clearly. I suspect Sansa is also willing to go over the same thing repeatedly, while Tyrion might not be.

    Margaery has been having some problems with the work, and Tyrion decided to take over her training so he could get a better sense of how she was doing. The problem is, Margaery has been saying negative things about Tyrion and how she doesn’t understand when he tries to teach her. Sometimes she will roll her eyes when telling me something he said, or will use a condescending tone that makes it clear she doesn’t like him. It makes me uncomfortable. While Tyrion isn’t my favorite person in the world, he’s good at his job and I respect him as a manager. What can I say to Margaery that makes it clear that while she may not always see eye to eye with Tyrion, he is her manager and she needs to treat him with respect? I think she feels it’s okay to talk about him like this to me because I once made an offhand remark about Tyrion having unrealistic expectations.

    1. Havarti*

      Tell her some version of what you wrote here? “Listen Margaery, it’s ok if you don’t always agree with Tyrion but I really need you to stop rolling your eyes (or whatever disrespectful things she does/say) and focus on learning X so you can do your job well. I know I said he sometimes has unrealistic expectations but he’s good at his job and I respect him as a manager.” Though keep in mind she may decide that makes you the enemy too.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree about the potential for you becoming the enemy here.

        Years ago, I had to wrestle with the issue of always backing the wrong person. Some how I would get myself into a bad space by speaking up on some things. I was pretty naive.

        Instead of lecturing her you might say, “he comes with the job” or “working with him is part of the job”. A casual shrug fits well here. Or you might say, “Please don’t tell me about the boss, that is something you will have to work out.” My fav go-to is, “What do you think possible solutions are here?” Chronic complainers hate solutions.

  53. Desdemona*

    I have a question in how to deal with a difficult “manager” in my volunteer work.

    I am an volunteer in an organisation : we are a big amateur artistic organisation of 400 members and have about 20 events a year and major joint events with professional and recognised artists. The board, though, is all volunteers. As the higher positions in the board are quite time-consuming, we tend to have a new president each year. I am in charge of several projects (some temporary, some permanent), and my major task is running Communications, which I have been doing for a yeah and a half. I also have a small team of 4 volunteers since the summer. I work a lot for this organisation, on average 8-10 hours a weeks.

    Here is the problem I am having.

    The new president is nice and well-intentioned, but she has never had a board job in the organisation before (no one else accepted the job, as it is demanding), so she is not very well informed. She has a tendency to micro-manage, and it has caused issues : she highjacked my first meeting with my team during the summer by taking the lead at the last minute, suggesting several projects that we were 1) already doing or 2) had not worked in the past, but insisted when I explained to her why we wouldn’t be doing it. It now has happened several times that she wants something done, and I don’t think it is a good idea, but she doesn’t trust my judgement or my arguments and we end up spending a lot of time debating the issue. The thing is, Communications is my job, not something I only do in my spare time, whereas she is a scientist, and I also have more experience in this board than she does.
    As far as I have seen, she has a tendency to micro-manage with everyone, but it is especially bad with me and my team. I assume it is because everyone thinks Communications doesn’t require skills, because it it more exposed to criticism than IT / accounting / back office positions, and also because I have no issue pushing back when I think she is wrong. Most people just do as she wants or say nothing but do as they please.

    Now, after another argument yesterday (I advised against a phrasing which would render a grant proposal ineffective and she refused), we really went head to head, and I finally told her bluntly that she really didn’t know what she was talking about as this is not her job. She said that she had the last word, which is technically true and she will handle the document, but we all want the organisation to do well, and if she screws up, we all lose. So she doesn’t have the standing to demand this, in my opinion.

    I planned a meeting with her next week in order to be more effective.

    As far as she told me : she doesn’t trust my judgement (although my work is very good on all fronts) and she feels that I think she is wrong on a lot of things she does.
    On my end : I do think that she doesn’t know how to manage projects and a team. I don’t understand that she doesn’t trust my judgement, I find it really discouraging and uncalled for, and I am tired of spending so much time defending my work, especially since all of this is volunteer work.

    I feel at a loss at how to handle this. Should I just do as I want and stop answering to her requests ? There would not be any consequences as I do my job well and this is not a “proper” job, but I do not want to proceed like that. I want us to be more effective, I want the work my team and I do to be appreciated and our judgement trusted.

    Am I off base here / difficult to work with ?

    1. BoardPrez*

      I came here today to talk about a micromanager on my board! The only difference is that I am the president and the micromanager is a fundraising expert. I have a lot of sympathy. My two cents on your question, specifically about the grant proposal, I think if she says that she has the last word, then she has the last word. She may be wrong about the details, but I think it prevents larger chaos if executives make executive decisions. Check your by-laws though, could be some guidance there.

      I am going to take you at your word that you’re genuinely asking for opinions from internet strangers and say that you do sound difficult to work with. Micromanagers are deeply annoying, but telling someone in a leadership position that they don’t know what they’re talking about is not a good look. I understand that you feel a bit singled out because of your role in communications. It sounds also like you’re tempted to go rogue. Instead, do some research on “managing up” and see if you can find concrete things to do to improve the relationship. Good luck, the problem with micromanagers not just that they are annoying, but that they drive away talented, hard-working people.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, do check your bylaws to see how decisions are made, what is left up to the prez to make the final decision on.

        Micro-managers can be that way because they fail to see the big picture. You may find that your way out of this is by explaining a lot of the basics, “We do it x way to avoid y problem.” Or, “We chose A over B because we get more C that way.”

      2. zora*

        I disagree that she sounds difficult to work with. I think it’s different when you are talking about volunteer positions reporting to a volunteer board. The most effective volunteer organizations I have seen let the people who do the work have a say in what gets done. For a *new* board member to be unilaterally overruling a volunteer who has been doing their particular job for a long time would be very much looked down upon. It’s very much a “if you want to take over this job for 8-10 hours/week, go for it, but you do not throw your weight around without a very very good reason.”

        I do second looking at the bylaws. And also I would recommend talking to some other board members who might be on your side to act as mediators. Honestly, this is the kind of situation that can make or break an organization, if this president drives off an effective, long-serving volunteer staffer, the whole thing could crumble. And you would be well within your rights to leave on short notice if she keeps up this telling you to change things and taking things out of your hands stuff. Good board members would realize this is bad news and jump in the fray to try to sort this out and get her to understand how to be a good team player.

  54. Ms. Meow*

    Does your company ~other~ contractors?

    In my group we have 8 full-time regular employees and 3 contractors (2 FT, 1 PT). My company started hiring contractors to temp during busy times, but it’s switched to a model so they can pay people less money. We all work side-by-side on the same projects and within this group we treat each other the same ways. We’re in the process of trying to get one of the contractors a permanent position but that’s requiring my manager to jump through crazy amounts of hoops.

    Our site holiday party is next week. Every communication makes it painfully clear that contractors are not invited. Typically they aren’t allowed to businessy type things that have confidential information shared, but this is a party! So Tuesday afternoon, all of the regular employees are going off for a nice afternoon on the company dime, while the contractors will be expected to work their full 8 hours (yes, an email was sent out about that, too). This rubs me the wrong way, and I wanted to see if anyone else had any experiences with this kind of situation.

    1. clow*

      Yep. My company does this. We actually have several parties around this time and they are all only for permanent employees. We had one that was literally in a conference room. I used to be a contractor at my company and it hurt, a lot. It makes contractors feel less than, even though they do the same work, have the same responsibilities. Many of these people have contracted here for years which stings even more. It isn’t fair but it def is not isolated to your company.

    2. Sienna B*

      I have! And it can honestly be very alienating. I understand that there must be a line of differentiation, but the extent some people take it is astounding.

    3. Snark*

      Yeah, that happens at my job, a lot. It sucks and it’s pretty counterproductive to ice out people you work with, but.

      The “we’re taking the afternoon off, but you have to work the full 8” thing is petty BS.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      There are legal reasons that contractors cannot be treated exactly the same as employees.

    5. periwinkle*

      I’ve been a contractor and remember how insulting it felt to be fenced out like that. But…

      It’s not personal. It’s a legal thing. If there is evidence to indicate that your company’s contractors are treated like employees, the contractors could sue under the premise that they are common-law employees and thus are entitled to employee benefits. Google “Microsoft contractor lawsuit” or look up “permatemp” in Wikipedia. Ever since Microsoft lost that lawsuit and had to shell out nearly $100 million, companies have drawn more distinctive lines between employees and contractors working on site.

      Inviting you to a company party and paying your time? That would be treating you like an employee. Your company may be particularly strict on this because of how closely the contractors are integrated into the work teams; they need a clear distinction in place for their own protection.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        My former company would invite contractors to parties, but they wouldn’t be paid for any missed time if the party occurred during work hours.

    6. The Expendable Redshirt*

      Yup. Contractors have their own holiday party. Employees have their holiday party. The parties shall never combine into an Epic Festival. It was explained to me as a type of legal thing.

  55. lisalee*

    When is the appropriate time to tell your manager you’ll be resigning, if you already know about it many months in the future?

    I’ve recently been accepted to grad school (fall 2018 start date). I really like my manager so I would like to give her a generous amount of notice. I’m sure she wouldn’t be shocked to hear about my plans either (there’s little upward mobility in my job, I’m underpaid, and we work in higher ed where many people leave for school) and she wouldn’t push me out. But of course, there’s lots that could go pear-shaped between now and August, so I don’t want to tell her just yet.

    The deadline to accept the offer is April–is that still too early?

    1. rosiebyanyothername*

      I’m in a similar situation (accepted to a program that starts in fall 2018). I know it will require relocation and resigning, but I’m sitting tight for now. I had a former coworker who put in seven months notice after he was accepted to grad school, and having a seven-month notice period was just the most awkward work experience ever. He was attempting to transition work when he still had plenty of time left, and it made people a little resentful by the time he left. I plan on giving a month’s notice as per my contract.
      I already accepted the offer and put down my deposit, so I know I’m going. Did you apply to any other schools/are you waiting to hear back on other schools or aid offers from this particular one? If the deadline is April, you won’t really get any sort of advantage to finalizing your plans now. And if you’ve been accepted, you’ve been accepted! Aid might factor into decisions, but putting in notice too soon (or even telling people about your plans casually) could backfire if you do it now.

      1. lisalee*

        I’m waiting on responses from other schools (some of the application deadlines haven’t even passed yet! This one is very on-the-ball). I’m applying for PhD programs, so I already know approximately the stipend/aid amounts although the 2018 numbers won’t come out until January probably. TBH, there is not much question of whether or not I will go–barring some kind of catastrophe, I’ll be accepting *an* offer.

        Hiring moves very slowly here, so I am tempted to give 2 months’ notice, but I have no contractual notice period.

    2. Gloucesterina*

      Hi lisalee–congratulations on receiving an offer! I’m a gazillion years into my degree program so it’s a little hard to excavate my memory of what I opted to do, but I think that I chose to give 4 weeks notice–in other words, longer than the required 2-week notice period but not multiple months. Another factor to consider is if you would like time off in between work and starting school (or can afford to take it health-insurance-wise and otherwise, if you obtain health insurance through your job.) I think I did take a couple weeks off since I was moving to a different state for school. My health insurance status in the interrim was not ideal since I ended up taking out a short-term catastrophic health plan which provided very few protections. In hindsight this wasn’t the best thing to do but I was OK living with the risk at the time. Oh to be young again!

    3. No Name Yet*

      For another perspective, my supervisor in that situation wrote me a recommendation letter for grad school applications (so it was not a surprise), and I told him when I accepted – maybe February? I moved in mid-August, and the whole transition process went quite well.

    4. Ms. Meow*

      When I went off to grad school, I also wanted to give as much notice as possible. I had previously discussed my plans with my manager (she provided a recommendation letter for my grad school apps). When I put in my acceptance to the university in April, I asked her when I should put in my notice. Due to the bureaucratic process at my old job, she said anything more than a month wouldn’t have made a difference. I think I ended up putting in 4 weeks. Remember: 2 weeks is standard, so anything more will be a boon to your manager.

    5. Triumphant Fox*

      This depends a lot on your work culture, but several months is probably too long. That being said, I only recommend that you keep quiet until the last 3-4 weeks at most if you can keep quiet to coworkers and on social media(or make account private, etc.) You could definitely face getting let go earlier than you intend if you give them months to find a replacement.

  56. Holiday Parties Done Right?*

    Do you go to your office holiday party? If not, is there anything would make you more interested in attending?

    At my workplace, I think we do everything right. It’s lunch held at work on the last workday before the holiday.
    Everyone stops work at 12 but gets paid for the full day. It’s pretty low-key but I’ve always enjoyed it. Every year there’s quite a few people who as soon as everyone breaks for the party, theyleave. It’s not required that they stay but I always wonder if there’s anything else we could do to encourage attendance. Any suggestions?

    1. A.N.O.N.*

      All sounds good, except the fact that it’s the very last workday before the holiday. People might be leaving to get a head start on their travel plans. Have you tried holding it on a weekday, say the Wednesday before the last day?

      The biggest draw for my company’s annual holiday party is the food. They always get really high-quality food – in abundance, so it’s not like they run out of anything. People always talk for days after (“Did you try the lamb?” “Oh, that cake was amazing!”).

    2. Havarti*

      We had the problem of people inhaling the food and then bolting. So they would go slightly lower on the food budget and use the extra cash to buy small items and gift cards and raffle them off throughout the meal. Of course the committee would cook up various games that ranged from actually fun to awful but the winners got prizes too. There’s only so much you can do. Some people just do not like parties and refuse to attend every year. Others hate big parties but would attend a smaller party with people they know. Others hate the fact the company isn’t using the money to feed the poor.

    3. Nervous Accountant*

      My office’s parties are always held on a weekday. It’s usually at a nice restaurant with an open bar. Everyone loves the open bar. Food has always been a hit or miss. We’re let out of work 2 hours before closing time. If someone doesn’t want to attend, they have to stay til regular leaving time. There’s always been a 95% turn out rate (am I using that term correctly?). Despite the open bar, peolle still show up to work the next day.

    4. Annie Moose*

      Ours is a fancy shindig with fancy dress, dinner, a band, and an open bar, on Saturday in the first couple weeks of December. (which reminds me, I really should go dress shopping tonight…)

      It’s… well, I’m sure it’s pretty darn expensive. The music and food was excellent last year, and my coworkers are so laid-back I’m fine spending time with them. But I don’t drink, I’m single (most of my coworkers are not), and I’m awkward at parties, so it’s a mixed bag for me. I’m planning to stay for dinner and then clear out before anybody tries to make me dance, as our rather tipsy HR rep did last year. Fancy shindigs can be fun, but I’d honestly rather have a party like our anniversary party this summer–we took the afternoon off and had a nice catered buffet in our building (with alcohol, for those who drink it), wearing our normal clothes, with a bunch of board games, pingpong, etc., with spouses invited. It was loads of fun!

    5. Santa Clarita*

      No, I don’t, and no, there isn’t. What you are doing sounds fine. But unless it’s mandatory, I’m just not going to attend. Those events are always stressful for me, and you can’t change that.

      (And if you make it mandatory, I’ll start job hunting.)

  57. Nervous Accountant*

    It was a good week for me. We had our annual holiday party on Wednesday which was a blast.
    I talked to my boss a few times this week, mostly general non-work chit chat with some work things thrown in there. All 4 conversations I had were positive and friendly (vacation plans, cooking, how cute Trudeau is, makeup etc). At least more than once she mentioned that she’s getting good feedback about me from my manager and others about my work and I’m getting good client feedback lately, so that was nice too.

    The morning after the holiday party, we were chitchatting and she said “I’m so glad A & B were there to take you home” (I went home with A & B bc we live close to each other).

    So…..there’s two ways this could have been interpreted:

    1. “You were so sh*tfaced and couldn’t handle yourself and I’m glad some made sure you got home safe you idiot”(truth was, B was so sick that he was throwing up. I was a little wobbly but my mind was all there and I would have made it home safely if I was alone. I did not throw B under the bus and tell her he was the one who needed help getting in to his bed).

    2. “You’re a female and travelling late at night after a fun night out, and I’m glad someone was there to make sure you got home safe” (A & B are male,s I’m female but I’m sure she would have said this if I’d gone home with females as well.).

    I’m going with the less negative interpretation fo the quote.

    1. soupmonger*

      Or that the boss was just expressing she was glad you got home safely and didn’t have to get there on your own? No subtext?

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        True. I mean generally she’s nice to talk to, but sometimes makes a comment that makes you go “HUH????” and scratch your head. Things have been less than great lately, which I’ve posted about before, but it’s less exhausting to take a positive interpretation.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, it does you no favors to read into this too much. Some people are just glad when people take care of each other. My boss asked me last week who was taking me to the dentist this time. Standing by itself, that comment could have a lot of underlying thoughts. However, we had talked earlier about what was going on with my teeth and she landed on “Driving yourself to these intense appointments is over the top.”

      Time can help with some of these ambiguous statements. For example, you could find out she had a subordinate get killed on the way home from a party years ago. Then this comment would have a lot more surrounding context and give you a different perspective.

    3. AJ*

      I think this was a weird thing for her to say (unless you were sh*tfaced). Maybe she was just trying to make small talk.

    4. Julianne*

      Off topic, but after one of my 5th graders did her social studies project on Canada last year, all of the girls in the class started referring to Trudeau as “Presidente Bonito.” (In addition to being children, my students are also not native English speakers, so the distinction of president vs. prime minister was a bit beyond my ability to clearly explain and their ability to fully grasp.)

  58. Susan*

    So I know the general rule is that gifts flow downward not upward at work….but I’m thinking of getting something for my manager bc he’s really been good to me this year (supportive, helpful etc).. I would usually get him a cup of coffee and donut before he went on a strict diet (so food gifts are out). Any ideas on a small gift? I’d get a card w a message and something else, im not sure what else though.

    1. ZVA*

      I would just write him a heartfelt card thanking him for how good he’s been to you this year, with specifics about what exactly you’re grateful for. I think that kind of thing would be much more meaningful than any gift you could give him and I’m sure he would really appreciate it!

      1. Susan*

        I was thinking of that. I dont’ want to make him feel uncomfortable. We get along well.
        FWIW he’s thinking of getting our boss a gift too and I instantly thought of the rule I’ve read here.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      If you do forge ahead with the gift idea, how about a nice little gift pack of assorted flavor teas?

  59. Higher Ed Database Dork*

    Requesting breast pumping accommodations

    I am pregnant with my second child ( about 8 weeks), and I plan on breastfeeding this baby, as I did with my first kiddo. At my previous job, pumping accommodations were easy – I had my own office with a locking door, no one else used it, so I just pumped whenever I wanted and it was all good. However I’m in a new job now, where I’m in a cubicle. I work at a university, and they have installed lactation rooms all over campus…but I’m not on campus. I’m at our data center (I work in IT), which is about 30 min away from campus. There are no lactation rooms here. There are some empty offices, but those might be filled in the future. Also I plan on breastfeeding my baby for a year, if it all works out well, so I’ll need somewhere to pump for that amount of time.

    I am salaried/exempt. I have a great boss that I know will work with me on this, but I am wondering what kind of accommodations to ask for, or how to get the conversation started. I haven’t talked to HR yet about my pregnancy. I figure I just need to make the request, and then let my boss/HR figure out the logistics. I know the basic rules – a locking space that’s not a bathroom – but I don’t know how much is up to me to find the space, or what. The only other woman who has had a child recently is manager-level and has her own office, so she didn’t really need any special accommodations. Any advice on this is appreciated!

    1. Murphy*

      Just be upfront about it and let them know what you need. If you have a suggestion for a space, feel free to offer it, but it’s really on them to ensure that you have a space. You can bring it up as soon as you’re ready to talk about your pregnancy, or wait til you’re closer to going on leave. (Sooner is probably better.)

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        I’m hoping to also bring some documents or guides or whatever for my boss – he has never had a direct report who had a baby, so this is a new experience for him. I have told him about my pregnancy, and he is very excited and has already started reading up on FMLA and stuff like that – so I don’t feel like the burden of educating him is all on me – but I’d like to point some things out to him if possible so he can get more info.

    2. Sue No-Name*

      Would you also want a fridge and a sink? Maybe you can bring more information about the logistics (and some price quotes for a mini-fridge) and be prepared to describe how this will be beneficial for the employer generally because it puts your facility on par with the rest of the organization and would be a boon for other employees in the same situation in the future.

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        A mini fridge, definitely – our kitchen fridges are disgusting. Also I was reading up on state and federal laws, and my state’s law says a hygienic storage area must be provided. Thanks!

        1. Murphy*

          Ah, mine does not! It says we’re responsible for our own storage. Luckily, our fridges are OK, so I don’t have any problems there.

    3. Drew*

      Would it be out of bounds to ask to shift from your cubicle to one of the empty offices, at least temporarily, so you could set up a fridge and not have to worry about finding space to pump?

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        I am going to ask about that, as that is my preference, especially since I will likely be working while I pump (I pumped A LOT the first time around, out of necessity…if I stopped working every time I had to pump, I’d never get anything done!). We’ve had a lot of reorganization lately and are doing some hiring, so I have no idea if it’s possible, but I guess that’s a question for HR to handle.

  60. Working Parent*

    Parents, particularly parents of kids who go to the doctor more often than usual, how much do you share with your manager when you need to handle doctor’s appointments? Do you just give the minimal amount of information (“I have an appointment, I will be out from x till y times on z day”) or a little more (“Little Johnny has a bad cough, given all the trouble he’s had with breathing issues and asthma I’m taking him in to get checked out.”) My office tends towards the side of oversharing – everyone is friends with everyone else on Facebook to give you an idea – so I was wondering what’s normal in other workplaces.

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      In my first post-college job, I was completely private because I had a horrible director who was very judgemental, so the less info I gave her, the better. She overshared with us all the time about her life, but I never wanted to return the favor (ha!). In my next job, we were mostly private…again, I just didn’t click that much with my boss and most of my colleagues, so I just didn’t feel like sharing. In my current job, I feel a lot more comfortable with everyone and we all get along pretty well, so some things we do share, but other things we don’t – and everyone respects the right to keep things private. I’d say we’re all pretty close at this point and know a lot about each others’ lives, but my coworkers (and bosses) also don’t pressure anything for more info or make me feel like I have to share if I don’t want to.

      My general rule is to stay on the private side, depending on how close to my coworkers I am. Some coworkers in previous jobs I’ve become very close to – we talk often, do lunches and stuff – so there was a lot of sharing there, but not really with anyone else.

      1. Texan at Heart*

        I give some information at the start (my little one has xxxx, and I’ll need to be out of the office more often that I normally would for medical appointments). That way, people know, and you don’t have to discuss each time

  61. Fake old Converse shoes*

    What a week!
    On Monday it was announced that the client’s holiday party was cancelled. People complained, one girl threw a fit because she had bought an expensive dress exclusively for the occasion. Then we were surprised when it came out that the whole thing was organized behind management’s backs! Basically, when an admin found there was an expense report for a events venue, catering and transportation they had no idea of, they reported their manager and everything was shut down quickly. Yesterday we found out why.
    We arrived early to find the floor deserted. Then, around midday we started hearing sobs and angry voices, an lots and lots of people gathering at the building doors. Management had scheduled a round of layoffs, people on other floors were escorted to the exit where they waited for security to bring their belongings. The floor manager had given the day off to everyone because he expected a tough day, but since we’re not employees we were not notified, we had to work as usual in a very tense environment.
    (BTW, none of the “illegal party committee” was even reprimanded, let alone fired).

    1. Annie Moose*

      Whoa!! That’s pretty ridiculous. I’m fascinated by this cabal of secret party planners. Was this the first year they tried something like this, or had they gotten away with it previously? And why did they think it was a good idea to submit expense reports for an illicit Christmas party, anyway??

  62. D.W.*

    What is the protocol for making a lateral transfer into a different department? At which point should I let my manager know? The position is the in the same regional office, so I would definitely see her and tangentially work with her on occasion.

    I don’t want to tell her until I know that I have the position because I don’t want to alert her to the fact that I’m looking to leave our department, but I also don’t want to completely blindside her.

    If I tell her early, and I don’t get the position, then she’ll know I’m looking…

    1. Nanc*

      Treat it the same as giving notice for an outside job–don’t tell until the offer is final. My macabre position is if I were to drop dead on my way out the door to work, they’d find a way to deal with my duties, so the fact that I’m giving two weeks (or whatever) notice is a bonus. You could start prepping a transition plan (on the downlow) now. Make sure all your duties are documented with up-to-date SOPs, have detailed notes on what’s happening with current projects, and if you have a position description, review and make updates so it accurately reflects what you do, which will help them hire a replacement.
      Honestly, if you are professional and productive that’s the best thing. You can’t control how others feel/react–if they get pissy because you resign, that’s on them.

      Good luck and let us know how it goes.

    2. Sunshine Brite*

      Do you have to tell per policy? My old position lateral transfers had the chance of being blocked by current manager and they required providing an opportunity for that prior to accepting the offer.

      1. D.W.*

        Thanks for reminding me of that. We didn’t have a written internal hiring policy, but I just checked and as of October 2017, we do!

        I have to notify if I become a finalist. Well, that answers that!

    3. Anita-ita*

      You should tell them when you apply. It’s very likely that the hiring manager will contact your current manager when they find out you’re applying. You don’t want to blindside them. I worked for a company where I applied for a different department. I let my current manager know immediately.

      I would also recommend you talk to the hiring manager first in confidence to see if you’re a good fit. That way you can gauge your chances of getting the job.

      1. D.W.*

        Interestingly enough, the hiring manager came to me with the job opportunity. And I’d really like to work with them.

        But I just looked up our policy and you have to give notice if you’re a finalist.

        I’m not sure how strict they are with that though. Someone just transferred from my department to another and didn’t tell their direct supervisor until one week before they were start the new position…I knew before their manager did.

  63. seashell*

    I got a new job!! I’m waiting to tell my boss until I receive the final contract offer. They are doing a background check on me now and I also completed drug screening yesterday (no reason for me to fail that but still nervous all the same lol). I should hear by Dec. 22 at the latest but my boss will be out of the office Dec. 22 until after the new year and I really want to give notice before the holidays. Stressing about this!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Isn’t it amazing how there always seems to be something that is concerning when we want to make changes?
      Perhaps you can email your boss after the 22nd. Or perhaps you can give notice to your boss’ boss. Probably I would do both and let each one know how I notified the other one.

  64. questionaire*

    My wife worked unpaid hours this week. She started a part time job 2 months ago and her supervisor isn’t there when she leaves, so supervisor doesn’t know that when her tasks take longer she stays longer. She didn’t submit the hours because she’s not supposed to go over 29hrs/wk as a part-timer, but she worked an extra hour each day this week. She hasn’t had to before and doesn’t think it will be frequent but I told her she should always be on the clock and the company could get in trouble. She doesn’t want to tell supervisor, I think because she’s reluctant for her to know that she’s taking longer to complete tasks than expected, but it’s really because unusual things came up this week.

    1. Murphy*

      Definitely always be on the clock if you need to be. She needs to be paid, and work needs to know how long these tasks take to complete.

      1. questionaire*

        I guess I didn’t really ask a question here…
        I know from reading here that the company could get in trouble for unpaid time, but she said the company could get in trouble if she goes over allowed PT hours too, and she’s more likely to get in trouble for going over hours.
        How should we expect a company to handle a part-timer going over the weekly limit of hours?

        1. Murphy*

          It’s hard to do it in retrospect, but your wife should ask them how they’d like her to handle it. “I’m reaching my limit of 29 hours, but there are still X hours worth of work to complete on this project. What would you like me to do?” Either they’ll tell her to work the extra hours, they’ll tell her to finish it next week, or they’ll get someone else to do it. I don’t know the nuances of why she can’t go over 29 hours, but it’s on them to find a way to solve the problem. They can’t solve it if they don’t know about it.

            1. Artemesia*

              I’d let the past go — she chose to cheat on this and there is no good retroactive response. They can reprimand her, fire her, pay her grudgingly, realize she can’t get the expected work done in the time they expect. No really good outcome here. She needs to work on the clock, to consult her boss if there is too much work and get boss to prioritize or authorize longer hours. But no point going back — do this going forward.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Yep to all this. Adding if this is a retail job they will just tell her to work harder and faster.

        2. KR*

          We had a 29 hour rule at my old job too, but my job was unpredictable and required me to come in for technical issues on days I wasn’t scheduled to work. Most companies pull the 29 hours from the healthcare mandate I believe, but that rule is that employees that work an average of over 29 hrs have to be offered healthcare. One week probably won’t push her over the average for the year. Then again, I don’t know how her office works. I think she shouldn’t definitely tell her boss and frame it like, “I’m not sure how to tell you this because I was worried about how you would react but I’ve been needing to stay an extra hour because of the work load.”. They may tell her it’s okay every once in a while, or that the work isn’t that urgent and can wait until the next day.

        3. Natalie*

          I’m not sure why the company would get in trouble if she worked over part time hours? “Part time” isn’t a government definition, it’s completely up to each individual company how they define and handle it until you get up to 40 hours a week. (I’m assuming you’re in the US here.)

          I’m not sure if this would panic her, but maybe it would help to point out that she is taking a risk by working of the clock, too. The company can’t refuse to pay her, but they can fire her for it.

  65. Me--POOOOOORGS! #TheLastJedi*

    Okay, I’ll be back later to read this thread, but I wanted to post before it got too full. I’m going to see The Last Jedi in a couple of hours. \0/ Cannot stop laughing at this gif: :D

    I had an interview on Tuesday, with the company that called me. I couldn’t tell one way or the other how it went. I thought I did okay, but that doesn’t mean anything. In answer to my question re when they planned to make a hiring decision, they said they wanted to fill the job quickly but that they would probably know in a couple of weeks, because they had other interviews to do. (I always wonder if that’s a dismissal–to me, it sounds like one, but that could just be jerkbrain talking.). I told them I was available and that my holiday plans were flexible. I also made sure they had my reference sheet, so they had AwesomeOldBoss’s information and (hopefully) wouldn’t just talk to NewExBoss. AwesomeOldBoss will give me a stellar reference, I know.

    The job sounded pretty much like what I was doing at Exjob, except instead of tracking revenue, I would be tracking regulatory training. I would take this if they offered it because
    1. I need a job
    2. It’s more copy editing than admin stuff, from the sound of it (more experience, yay)
    3. The title is not admin
    4. If the HR person’s salary info was accurate, and deductions aren’t too much, and they can offer what I was making (and I actually get it), I could save up enough to get out of here when I get a chance. Assuming I’m not tempted to spend it on another trip to London, haha.

    Back later.

  66. Kalliopesmom*

    So I took a retail job for the holiday season, big mistake. I haven’t worked retail in 15 years. I wanted something on the weekends only to not clash with my office job and to have money for Christmas and my daughters birthday in January. This was suppose to be stocking shelves and cleaning the back room, right no big deal. I ignored most of the attitude thrown by the younger girls with their noses stuck in the air about having keys to the store. Thinking to myself, I have those too, but to an office and I really don’t care enough about you to deal with you. 2 months of them complaining about everything, not training me and then complaining about me not being trained. I had enough. I was taking out trash and two of those girls locked me outside (keycode only managers had to get back in), I decided my sanity was worth more than a retail position. 2 days later the store manager called to apologize and blamed it on the fact that these girls were millennials. I found this to be passing the buck. I feel like a great manager would have a better understanding of the team that they have put together. I explained to her several things that I noticed in my time there, OSHA violations, meal breaks not being given. She asked why I hadn’t spoken to her about it before. Well for one I had only met her twice in 2 months and two I had mentioned these things to her other managers, if they didn’t communicate with her, that is hardly my problem. It is not like I think that retail is below me, I believe in an honest days work for a reasonable pay. I went in with a happy attitude, stocked the shelves, helped customers and even the occasional up-sell. I wasn’t hire to run register or anything beyond stocking shelves. Somewhere along the chain of command this was lost, the other managers wanted me to be able to do everything, even though I wasn’t trained. Umm, if you don’t train people how can you expect them to do things right. it just really bugs me that this is a reality for retail workers. I feel that as a whole we can do better than this, or was this just my experience?

    1. Cube*

      No, this was not just your experience. There seems to be quite a lot of pettiness in the retail industry and management is generally not very good (the girls locked you out because they are millennials?? Uh, no. They were being petty and should have been disciplined (verbal warning at the least)).

      There seems to be a lack of training for most retail positions. I think that is caused by people thinking “anyone can do this” and generally a lack of respect for retail workers (as well as fast food workers). I think everyone should be required to work a year in retail/fast food and experience how retail/fast food workers are treated.

      Also, if Stephen from Walmart in Cartersville ever happens to read this, you were the best manager ever in the history of Walmart. You made sure your reports were trained properly, had the tools they needed to do their jobs, were paid fairly and had their backs.

      1. Kalliopesmom*

        It makes me sad to read this. I can’t believe that people treat each other this way. lack of accountability, no respect, and very clique. I just wanted to do the job assigned to me, make some extra cash and enjoy my job. I wasn’t there to say hey, I know I am better than you. I wasn’t after their positions, I had no desire to move up in the company or flaunt my knowledge. I only pointed out the issues that i knew were illegal. Anyone, no matter their title at this store, if they asked me to do something or help, I was more than willing to do so.

    2. AshK434*

      I can totally relate. A few years ago, I took an overnight part-time restocking gig at a Primark that just opened up in Boston and it was a total culture shock from my full-time job. Like you mentioned, the teenagers who worked there were extremely rude to us newbies, reluctantly gave us half-assed training and repeatedly talked crap about how terrible the new people were in front of us. (it was later explained that a few new employees were caught stealing which made management crackdown on everyone). I just laughed at them because I thought it was funny how they thought they were so above everyone else. I eventually quit because I was bored to tears.

      1. Kalliopesmom*

        No one should be treated with such disrespect. I take it as a lesson learned and am trying to move on. I know that there is nothing that I can do about their culture but it is just bugging me.

    3. Kalliopesmom*

      Bonus news – my full time permanent job boss told me today that I would be getting an end of the year bonus! So now I do have the money for my mini me’s birthday party! I weight has lifted off my shoulders and I can breathe again. I really wanted to continue working at retail job just because it was easy but I just couldn’t deal with the lack of respect from what seemed like people just entering the work force. I hope that one day they get a clue on how to behave at work.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I took a retail job because it was near me. The first day the three employees there refused to train me. Later, I got scolded for taking the time to read a computer screen I had never seen before in my life. I had another instance of being trained by the boss on a 27 step process, but he would not allow me to write down the steps. You can guess how that went. It felt like he was setting me up so he could say “stupid old person”. I forged ahead anyway. He had a habit of framing people for “stealing”. When I saw the vultures circling over me, I got out.

      What you are describing here is normal retail. The labor pool is bottomless so it must be okay to treat people like crap.(snark) I have no clue how these managers go to sleep at night.

  67. High School Flashbacks*

    I am so sick of the pettiness exhibited by some of my coworkers and one teammate (Jane) in particular. She’s not going to change – there’s no doubt there but how can I convince Jane and my boss that Jane’s legitimate complaints about another coworker’s work are lost in the fact that Jane spends so much time complaining about her as a person?
    I agree with the complaints and even I tune her out.
    My irritation is colored by the fact that – Jane’s immaturity jeopardized a big project for me because she hates this other person so much, and I was reprimanded for saying that Jane’s complaints were all personal and hadn’t had any relevance to my project.
    I came about 6 months ago from someplace that was far more professional and while I knew this place was having growing pains as they transition to a more corporate and professional model but man I wasn’t expecting it to feel like high school.

    1. Anon anon anon*

      I don’t understand people. I don’t understand why some people behave like 13-year-olds even though they’re . . . in their 60’s? Grandparents? You’d think that would be enough time to learn about the consequences of different kinds of actions and that maturity isn’t just some vague concept? I dunno . . .

    2. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      IMO people look more and more like teenagers the older they get. And some never leave that phase, like the ones I share an office floor with.

  68. Overeducated*

    In the annals of waiting, I’m still waiting for the offer in my city (6 weeks after the informal offer, I’ve had a background check and the position has gone up to a higher level of review due to hiring restrictions, but the hiring manager seems to think it’s a question of “when” rather than “whether”). Meanwhile, spouse did not get an offer for the job 3 hours away, but he does have an interview for a job that sounds like a good fit only one hour away.

    And this feels like it could be the one we’ve been waiting for. IT’S A TENURE TRACK JOB WITHIN COMMUTING DISTANCE, THE HOLY GRAIL! We’re in a sprawling metro area and lots of people in dual-earner households make that commute, annoying as it is; we’d probably move at least halfway and take advantage of flex schedules (his) and partial telework (mine, hopefully). Please wish us luck, we’ve been struggling to find long term, full time work in the same place ever since finishing grad school and this is the first real prospect we’ve both had. I’ve been sort of assuming one or the other of us would just not launch a career and be disappointed forever. This would mean we could both “have it all,” in the way people use “all” to just mean the pathetically minimal basics of a job and a family in the same geographical location.

    Any tips on how to be supportive and help a spouse prepare for a huge interview without making them more nervous or adding lots of pressure?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Ask your spouse how they would like you to help.
      Give them Alison’s interview book.
      Oddly, eating protein the night before and morning of will be very helpful. My favorite is chicken or salmon. It makes me feel sharper and more on top of it. If they don’t eat meats maybe you can find a vegetable based protein drink for them to work with. This will tend to help with the internal shakies and it will tend to help them to feel that their presence of mind is more focused.

  69. Cedrus Libani*

    I had to write a tough job-hunt-related email yesterday, and I’d like a professionalism sanity check.

    So, I’m on the market after a rough PhD. The reference from my thesis supervisor will be awful, for reasons both fair and unfair. (I’m pretty sure I disproved his pet theory; he disagrees. The part that’s on me: after years of getting chewed out for being unable to prove said theory, and 50+ drafts of arguing in circles over my thesis, I started having panic attacks whenever I tried to write. Which…does not do wonders for productivity.)

    I’ve learned from the experience, though I’m not exactly proud of it. Fortunately, I do have several years of real-world work, so I have a list of other references who can vouch for me.

    I went on my first interview this week, and it went well. The hiring manager sent a follow-up note asking for a reference, “PhD advisor is best”.

    Here’s how I responded: (insert contacts for three previous bosses) “Yes, my PhD advisor is not on the list. That reference is not a good one. He really pushed for a different model to fit my results, but I couldn’t make it work. He’ll say I wasn’t smart enough, and also that I gave up; he’s right about the latter, but I’d tried absolutely everything I could think of before giving up. I’ve learned from this experience, but I hope you take the time to contact some of the other people I’ve worked for.”

    Any advice? I have three more interviews next week, I’m likely to need this response again.

    1. Murphy*

      I probably wouldn’t have gone into that much detail. I would say something like “Dr. Smith and I have different theories on modeling llama herding patterns that may color his reference. I can assure you that[other contacts] are well positioned to provide information on my work. “

      1. Snark*

        Even that…..eeeennnnnghhh. “We had professional differences that unfortunately colored our working relationship” is as far down the explanation hole as I’d go, at least outside an interview.

        1. Murphy*

          I might worry that “professional differences” could be too broad. I’d want to make it known that it was an academic difference. I like “colored our working relationship” better than what I said though.

          1. Snark*

            I like Reba’s “we had fundamental differences over the analytical and theoretical approach to my thesis question” language, with “and those differences ended up coloring our working relationship.”

              1. Cedrus Libani*

                Yeah, you’re both right, that’s much better language.

                I’m generally on Team Avoid TMI, but I was worried that they were going to call my advisor anyway, and my “professional differences” would seem like lying/evasion in light of a truly bad reference. Is that me catastrophizing, or is that a thing?

    2. Snark*

      Oy. Too much information, too much justification. Are you looking for jobs inside or outside academia? Would some of your committee members be willing to provide a reference, or someone you worked closely with?

      “I’m sorry, but my PhD advisor hasn’t agreed to provide a reference,” is probably as far as I’d go on that.

    3. Reba*

      Cedrus, it sounds like you have been through a long difficult patch and you’re coming out the other side! Good luck with your interviews.

      I agree with others that your previous response was too much. You put words in your advisor’s mouth, and you self-described as having given up! Not good. I’d start with as vague an explanation as possible, and only provide more details about the relationship if pressed. I like Snark’s “hasn’t agreed to provide a reference” because that should be enough to indicate you had disagreements… but for some that will be a tantalizing mystery. If asked for more you can try “Ultimately we had fundamental differences in our approaches to the problem/results/whatever. So although I’m proud of the PhD work I completed, Advisor did not believe they could speak positively about it.” Maybe?

      I think this is one of those situations where people will take some of their cues from you, so try to treat it matter-of-factly, not as something painful or (gasp) le scandale.

      What about other committee members? They likely want someone who can talk about your PhD work.

    4. Artemesia*

      I really don’t like your response here because it sounds like you are whining about your advisor and the fact that you disagree theoretically doesn’t come through to an outsider. I’d go with something succinct i.e. ‘My advisor will not give me a strong reference because my research confirmed a theory in opposition to his own strongly held theoretical perspective; he pushed me to make my data fit his theory which I could not agree to do.’

      1. Reba*

        Ah, the ethical angle!

        But I think if your advisor is well-known/well-liked you would want to avoid impugning their behavior in front of interviewers.

    5. LibbyG*

      I’m an academic. I tend to think that you would do best to emphasize why your references are good ones (for the hiring mgr to talk to) and say as little as possible about your advisor. Like, “Prof Snufflebottom is most familiar with my teaching and Mx. Winkledoodle could offer a lot of information about my management experience.” Then if you get a question about your PhD supervisor, you could offer a delicate explanation about how, due to differences in findings, you’re not sure your advisor could speak to your strengths in (core responsibilities of the position.)

  70. Not So Super-visor*

    Need a little feedback here:
    As a manager/supervisor should you recommend to an employee that they file for FMLA for a long standing health issue?
    I was pulled into my boss’ office and given a stern lecture about the fact that I had recommended to a direct report that she file for FMLA for a long standing health issue that may result in surgery in January. He told me that I should NEVER recommend this to an employee — that I need to let them figure that out on their own and if they get fired being out and not having enough PTO, that’s on them (essentially, they should have saved up PTO earlier for just such an emergency). I don’t think that I did anything wrong by recommending this to an employee (and helping her get the forms from HR — but he doesn’t know that yet).
    For further history: this is the same boss who has given me such helpful advise as pulling a problem employee into a conference room by ourselves and cussing her out. His rationale: if it was just the 2 of us, it would be her word against mine if she went to HR. Obviously, I DID NOT do this, and it makes me question any advice that he gives me. Unfortunately, he constantly makes comments that I let employees walk all over me, so I also question myself.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow, no. FMLA regulations say that the employee does not have to explicitly request FMLA leave, and the employer has a legal responsibility to initiate or inquire about it if they see the leave would or might qualify. What’s more, if an employer doesn’t designate leave as FMLA leave when it should have qualified AND it causes harm to the employee (which getting fired would certainly be), that’s a violation of the law and would make your employer liable for penalties. Your boss is a huge jerk and breaking the law too.

    1. Anon anon anon*

      The married boss who got a married subordinate pregnant, convinced her to abandon her family, and involved the whole office in the relationship.

    2. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      * The pregnant woman harasser and sexual predator.
      * The one that demanded to be picked up at the airport and criticized the OP for her clothes.
      * The one that didn’t disciplined and employee who drew a penis on an intern’s arm cast.
      * The one that approved and voted an offensive Halloween costume

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I can’t keep track of the year, but the boss of the poor OP whose colleague/report (that she shared an office with?) was hugely sexist and antagonistic. IIRC, there were several updates, and the OP’s boss was on the surface sympathetic but actually didn’t do anything to help navigate the situation.

      Any interest in a best boss category?

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        If there’s a best boss category I want to nominate the very recent letter from a manager who was being fantastically supportive to their new hire who was a former whistleblower.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I remember you saying, Alison, that you were not comfy with the best boss idea because no one is truly an ideal boss. However, it’s often mentioned here that bosses having good behavior should be recognized. I can see this because this is how we learn what good behavior/practices look like. And it is kind of deflating to read of all these bad bosses who are out there. It would be nice to see people doing good things.

          And a collection of examples of bosses doing right could work into a post or, dare I say, another book?
          The word “boss” is not a dirty word, and yet so many people believe this. It’s how the boss plays their hand that is the deciding factor. This can be shown through examples of people making good choices or developing creative solutions for difficult situations.

    4. periwinkle*

      The LW who thought her employee’s TWO bouts with skin cancer was no excuse for trying to minimize sun exposure while outdoors. Grrrr.

      I would have also nominated the LW with the clique but she eventually realized how messed up her decisions were and sought help.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      Also the boss who criticised the maternity clothes and turned out to be asking interns for sexual favours.

    6. PB*

      There were so many this year! Off the top of my head:

      *The employee who was in a severe car accident and everyone was angry at her for not being on top of her work, told her she’d manifested the accident, and suggested MLM treatments instead of surgery.
      *The boss who made the employee leave a note on a grave.
      *The boss who drank too much and got angry that their non-driving employee couldn’t drive them back to work.
      *The employer today who expected their employees to keep working through a gas leak, even after they were showing signs of illness.
      *The employer who revoked their employee’s vacation time after they’d booked an expensive, non-refundable vacation, and refused to reimburse.

  71. Nearly a Fed*

    I posted here a few weeks ago asking if anyone had had success negotiating pay/leave etc. for federal jobs. For some background, my agency had been trying to hire me on as a civil servant for over a year after being a support contractor for nearly 10. They started before the federal hiring freeze last year, which ended up setting me back quite a bit, as I didn’t pass certification for any job openings before the freeze came into effect. Anyway, after applying for an open slot in July, I was notified that I passed certification in September, and they finally offered me the job in mid-Nov. They always start by offering Step 1 in the grade that you’re being offered the job in, and the starting annual leave accrual. I requested a Step that is consistent with my current pay and COL adjustment, and to be credited with 10 years of non-federal work experience for annual leave accrual – per guidelines posted on the OPM website (in the comments).

    As far as I know they put together the appropriate paperwork and it’s going through the process of getting the requisite signatures (it takes 20 signatures to approve my federal travel, so I can only imagine how many signatures it takes to get this pay and leave package approved). My colleague just finished his negotiations for switching from contractor to CS. He didn’t negotiate pay since the Step 1 in his grade was already higher pay than he was making, but they did approve a higher leave accrual consistent with what he was already earning. So, I’m hopeful that right now it’s just a matter of getting it approved and there won’t be any subsequent back and forth – since it’s already taken a month from the original offer date. But man, does the government move so slow sometimes!! I can’t believe I applied for this job in July and I’ll be lucky if I start by January.

  72. Snark*

    So today I’m working a half day and taking the dog for a hike, because if you can’t get it together to respond within a WEEK to a simple email requesting some information you should have at hand and ready to go within 15 minutes, your project doesn’t get moved forward, and that’s how that rolls.

  73. EMM*

    Is it appropriate to ask about work/life balance in interviews? And is there any polite way to phrase the questions besides just “can you tell me about how you value work/life balance here?” or “are employees expected to be reachable by phone/email after normal working hours?”. It is definitely a big concern of mine while job hunting because my last job had zero balance, but I don’t really know how to get an idea of how other companies are, aside from glassdoor reviews

    1. Anon anon anon*

      I think the way to do it is to phrase it in a neutral, matter of fact kind of way that doesn’t imply any kind of preference. You could ask if the hours are traditional or flexible. “Do people come and go as needed but stay on top of things outside of standard hours or is everyone here from eight to five and not necessarily in communication during non-business hours?” Or something like that. And ask if it varies by role and department. In my experience, it usually does.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      It’s totally appropriate. A latter interview (definitely in person and not an initial phone screen) would make the most sense.

    3. Tara*

      Yes to above, you could also ask how they handle internal communication. I appreciated that people at my new job asked me what my preferred communication style was, because I was able to tell them that I prefer email and don’t typically give out my personal cell except for emergencies. If they say they text a lot, that could be a bad sign (in my experience, this means expected availability all the time).

  74. Not Today Satan*

    For about 6 months I’ve supervised someone who’s always had an attitude problem with me (dating back to before I supervised her). About 2 months ago she had an “episode” of insubordination and I had a talk with her that I thought went really well, and afterwards made an extra effort to develop rapport and goodwill with her.

    Then last week, we had a meeting during which she was completely insubordinate—raised her voice, criticized me, said the meeting was ridiculous, etc. I’m a team lead with no authority, so I told my manager about it.

    Long story short, my manager spent more time talking with my supervisee than with me and told her she’d switch her to a different team lead. Then in a company-wide meeting she specifically called out my supervisee and told her what excellent work she does.

    I feel so discouraged. I need a new job.

    1. Anon anon anon*

      Ugh. I feel you. The same kind of thing has happened to me. I don’t know what to recommend, but you have my sympathy.

  75. Career Changer*

    I’m a librarian. It’s not for me. In the beginning, there were things I liked about it. But during the first semester of grad school, it became clear that it was a bad fit. I’ve pretty much dropped out of the field.

    Earlier in life, I was dealing with a lot of family problems. My academic options, academic success, and career options were all negatively impacted by this. I wound up in the humanities even though I didn’t want to be.

    I’m considering making a change and going into the hard sciences. But I would need to fix my academia. My academic record and resume are kind of a wreck because of the complex family issues that I was facing for a long time.

    What would be a good starting point for getting back on track and going in a direction of my choosing? I have a master’s degree in information science, a humanities BA, and a bunch of post-BA undergraduate coursework in the sciences. My grades aren’t that great, though, and I don’t have any references.

    1. fposte*

      I would contact admissions in a program you’re interested in and find out about standards and expectations. One big question is whether your coursework is sufficient, given that you weren’t a major. For most programs I know, you’d need to have references; when you say “no references” do you mean “No PIs” or literally “nobody I’ve worked with as a librarian or as a student has been willing to be a reference when asked”? Some programs have approaches where you can take a course provisionally; that can help with admissions and references.

      1. Career Changer*

        I have references, just not anyone recent who can really speak to my qualifications. My last job started with being switched to a different manager and department between accepting the offer and my start date. I was informed on the first day. The new department had a very old school, socially conservative culture and I was asked not to admit to doing the job I was hired to do, which was more technical, but to present myself as being in more of a support role. I was doing the work of several people, and it was challenging work, but less experienced colleagues received credit for it. (Trying to summarize; there were a lot of issues there.) I left and have been self-employed since. I did some volunteer work, but it didn’t involve submitting a resume and it wasn’t a good demonstration of my skills. And I have some more recent experience that isn’t really in my field or the one I want to go into, but is tangentially related to both. I just feel stuck, trying to get from where I am now to something that’s a better fit. Ideally, I’d like to find a free or low cost class or seminar I could take somewhere to evaluate my level of interest and skill areas in the field(s) I’m considering. Not even for credit. Just as a career exploration sort of thing.

        1. fposte*

          Our (grad) school offers a community credit program, which is pretty much what you’re talking about. I think that in general you’d find researching and connecting with possible grad programs to be a good way to get more of an idea about whether you’d be a fit.

    2. Tara*

      Can you take a couple community college classes? I took a statistics class without a degree path, just to freshen up and look good on grad school applications. It may or may not transfer to another degree, but it could be a relatively cheaper/easier way to show improved academic rigor.

    3. HannahS*

      If you’re thinking of any kind of career that comes via getting an undergraduate degree in the hard sciences, talk to the admissions office of a school, or the department of continuing education. Most science programs require high school prerequisites that you might not have (like calculus, or grade 12 chemistry), but it’s possible that they’d be willing to waive them. And they’d help you use your past coursework to fill whatever breadth requirements they can. But “hard sciences” is really diverse! I’m sure you have some ideas about specific career paths, and I think a plan is important. The plan looks very different if you’re thinking that you want to eventually teach theoretical physics vs. be a doctor vs. teach high school chemistry vs. be a pharmaceutical researcher vs. work in environmental resource management.

    4. lisalee*

      I think your situation is actually pretty common. Do you have a strong writing sample (or whatever sample is applicable for the kind of science you want to do?) and GRE scores? That plus a statement of extenuating circumstances can make up for bad grades in undergrad.

      You could try looking for low-level lab jobs. I work at a major university and we hire a lot of people for technician jobs. That would give you some experience and references. You could also try applying to some less prestigious master’s programs with the intention of then applying to more prestigious PhD programs (if that’s the career path you’re looking for). There’s also some transistional programs being offered here and there now–for example my employer has a 1-year biology program aimed at people with humanities degrees who want to get into science writing or other overlapping careers–but I don’t know enough to say whether or not they are effective.

      1. Career Changer*

        That’s really encouraging. Thank you!

        I have great GRE scores, but I took the exam more than a decade ago. I would have to retake it.

        The problem started when I was in high school. I had bad test anxiety and literally flunked out of science as a result (they kicked me out of the class, I didn’t progress, and then I dropped out but started college early). I took a bunch of science classes as an undergrad and got B’s and low A’s but was discouraged from majoring in the sciences because my grades were higher in humanities classes. Then I took about 30 credits plus a lab internship after getting my humanities BA. But some stuff got in the way and I got C’s in some classes and had to drop one or two. Then one of my parents got angry at me for considering a science career and refused to provide the FAFSA info that you need from your parents. At the time, I was really struggling to make ends so I kind of cracked under the pressure. I didn’t have enough life experience to see it the way I do now – my father felt threatened by the idea of his daughter having a hard sciences PhD because he’s disappointed with some of his past choices and believes in a lot of stereotypes. It takes time to see your parents as flawed humans.

        Anyway, I’m digressing and complaining a lot because this is a big, stressful thing in my life. I think I really should reach out to some admissions departments and see what my options are. That sounds like a good place to start.

        1. Borgette*

          If you’re interested in chemistry or human biology, try looking for lab jobs at hospitals near you, too! It will get you some stronger science-y experience, and the organization I work for offers it’s lab techs lab credential courses and other professional development.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          You are doing a good job of sorting all this right here. This will work in your favor.

          I had to write my work experience up for credits for my degree. I did many rewrites before I pulled my emotions out of the story. My point is that framing your story to tell can be very helpful for moving ahead. Once I framed my complex work history, things got so much easier.

          So here is how I would streamline your paragraph here: I have had consistent interest in science most of my life. Due to health issues I backed away from some intense courses in high school. I took x number of science course in college and had modest success with Bs and low As. I totally enjoyed those classes and knew I found my home. Oddly, I stayed focused on my humanities degree and completed it instead. Later I took 30 credits plus a lab internship. Because of lack of money I had to stop. However, my interest in science has never faded and most recently it has become my goal in life to do X [fill in with new direction you want to go toward].

          Take this and tweak it to suit you best. Now you have how you will present yourself to other people. It’s very hard to move forward when our past life has been filled with a bunch of crappy things. The goal here is to show how you have remained consistent about certain things over time. Making it even more difficult is that the crappy things took up most of our brain space and it’s harder to see how we have been consistent about some things.

    5. Argh!*

      If you’re female, I believe there is (or used to be) a program just for this kind of thing at one of the universities near Philadelphia. You’d take just the sciency things & graduate with a science BS without having to do other BS.

  76. Sarah*

    Any tips for focusing when you’re lacking sleep? I’m pregnant and haven’t slept a normal night’s sleep in weeks, if not months. I’ve been working with grids with lots of data, and I notice my work is going painfully slowly because I keep getting things mixed up. I’m also having to ask people to explain things they are telling me a couple times before it sinks in. I haven’t been able to stomach coffee since I got pregnant, so caffeinating my way through it is not possible. My work knows I’m pregnant and is not unsympathetic, but at the end of the day the core of my job involves thinking. So how do you cope when you are sleep deprived?

    1. Murphy*

      It will only get worse…at least it did for me. I was a zombie my first 2 months back at work. You have my sympathy!

      If you’re able to do so, get up and walk around, even just a lap around the office. Keeping your body moving can help you stay alert. Drinking something cold can help too. Write things down, create checklists so you don’t accidentally forget or skip something.

    2. Tara*

      Yes to above, and also I write everything down. Even just a post-it of the three things I want to get done today, because I keep losing focus and forget what it was I’m supposed to be working on.

    3. Intel Analyst Shell*

      I’d really suggest finding a beverage that perks you up, whether that is caffeinated tea or a sugary drink that gives you an afternoon bump. I kept to the 200mg of caffeine rule while pregnant but fruit juices were a life saver when my brain was in a fog. Walking often, even if it was just down the hall and back, helped a lot too. And I took naps in my car during my hour long lunch break. Everyday.

      Write down everything you need to do or have been instructed on , and there is no shame in asking for someone to repeat themselves. I remember writing a note to myself once to check my inbox…that sat on the corner of my desk. Ha.

      Good luck and remember, it’s temporary!

      1. AJ*

        I agree about finding another caffeinated beverage. If you can’t stand tea… what about caffeinated headache relief tablets? The ones for migraines. I think they have Tylenol in them too… I don’t know how that might affect pregnancy. There is a new caffeinated chocolate bar called AWAKE – it has a picture of an owl on the packaging. It doesn’t taste gourmet, but it’s not bad. I have been seeing this infomercial lately about this powdered beet juice drink that is supposed to be “better than coffee”. If you google beet juice, a lot comes up about beet juice and energy. However, if you can’t stand the taste of coffee right now, beet juice might not be great either! LOL Maybe you could mix said beet powder with a strong lemonade? B vitamins are supposed to help with energy too, but perhaps you are already taking those. Can you get up and do some jumping jacks at your desk when you are getting really tired? Or go on short walks during your lunch break? War Head sour candy? I think the most important thing though is do you have a plan if your workplace becomes even less supportive than you mentioned? I don’t know what that would be, but of course start documenting if things get worse.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      We have to get energy from some where, it’s either sleep or food. People who work long hours tend to pack on weight because of lack of sleep, they eat because they have to have to refuel somehow. My favs are chicken and salmon as they seem to help keep my mind sharp. However, you might find that you would like a protein drink.

      Minerals help brain function also. But test out minerals at night before bed, as opposed to in the morning before work. Minerals can make some people sleepy. I am thinking of drink with electrolytes in it. RW Knudson makes a decent product that isn’t loaded with crap.

      I’m not a doc, so this is based on my experience and may or may not be appropriate given your setting. I am tossing out some talking points for you to consider perhaps with the advice of a health care person.

      Otherwise, I am a big fan of systems, that is doing things the same way each time. If I have habits at work, I can sometimes override brain fade simply because I have done certain things habitually the same way. Where I might forget to do B on it’s own, if my habit is to do A t hen B then C, I am lot less likely to fall victim to my sleepy brain.

  77. Curious Cat*

    Bit of an awkward situation on my hands. I was hired by Company A over the summer, started on a Monday, but on that Wednesday I received a formal written offer from Company B (which I was much more excited about, had better pay, better benefits, better commute). I quit Company A after just four days of working there (I know, terrible on my part, but I just couldn’t turn down the better job offer, plus I figured only four days into a job wasn’t so bad) and burned a couple bridges with that team doing so because of how upset they were.

    Now Company B (my current job) will be working in tandem with Company A to put out some guidelines. I work on the communication team and we’ll be working directly with their communication team (the team I had been hired into). We’ll be meeting with them soon to go over our game plan. Company A does not know that Company B is where I moved to, and Company B has no idea I worked for Company A for four days. How do I address the situation? I know to act professional, but I hope it doesn’t affect our working relationship. Should I tell my current company about my time at Company A, or just pretend it didn’t happen? Am I over thinking this? Any advice is appreciated!!

    1. Anon anon anon*

      I don’t think you need to worry. You said your current company offered better pay, better benefits, and a better commute. Those are very common, understandable reasons for making the choice that you did. A lot of people would have done the same thing. It’s a practical career choice, not anything personal.

      I think the way to go is to be really friendly to them like you’re catching up with old friends. You can acknowledge any awkwardness. But if it comes up, you could also discreetly mention your reasons for the choice you made; they might try to recruit you back or they might just be grateful for the info so they can remain competitive when it comes to recruiting and retaining people.

    2. Borgette*

      I would probably give my manager a heads up. It’s probably NBD, but if it’s an issue and she finds out from Company A instead of from you, that’s not a great look.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep, you can prevent a lot of fallout by preemptively telling the boss about these types of things.

  78. anna*

    Is there anything I should do if the hiring manager for a position I turned down is on the interview panel for another, similar position?

    I work in government, and turned down a position last spring/summer that would have been working in a different area (and local agency) than I currently work in, but in an area that I’ve worked in previously (at my current local agency). I was very conflicted at the time, and very nearly accepted the position, and in retrospect I think I should have accepted it. I’m now applying for similar positions at other agencies, and for one in particular I think there’s a good chance that the hiring manager from the first position will be on the panel because the agencies do related work. Panels are very standardized, they can’t ask questions outside of the pre-approved ones, and interviews are short, typically 30 minutes to 45 at most. I think I probably shouldn’t say anything directly, but should be sure to emphasize how much I’m interested in the area of work.

    1. CM*

      Why would it be an issue?
      If this person previously interviewed you and liked you enough to give you an offer, that seems like a good thing. It doesn’t seem like there’s anything negative about your previous interactions — you didn’t accept the offer, but that’s not a bad thing. You can say hello and that you remember them from when you interviewed at Agency X.

  79. Tris Prior*

    I have some friends who are self-employed in the arts, in roles where they don’t really have clients or supervisors or anyone who can speak to the quality of their work. (they’re artists, authors, etc.) A number of them recently have decided to try to get back into the traditional workforce. I’ve collaborated with many of them on events, and I think because of that, I’m finding I’m getting asked more and more frequently if I’ll be a reference.

    I don’t mind being of help to them, and I always make it clear that I will not lie and say I supervised them when I did not. I’m happy to talk at length about their work ethic and organizational skills and such, but I’m wondering if this would even do any good, as, like I said, I wasn’t their supervisor and will not pretend I was. Should I just say no? In some cases they’re literally facing homelessness due to lack of paying work, so I feel like this is a small thing I can do to help. I just wonder if my reference will carry any weight at all when I’d be giving a reference as essentially a peer.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think you need to make that call. If you’re willing to be a reference and you’re honest about what that means you can and can’t say, it’s up to the prospective employer to decide how much weight to put on your words. You’re not taking the place of people it would be appropriate to include–you are the best authority these applicants have got.

      1. Tris Prior*

        Thanks. I did this once a while ago and I feel like I really flubbed it because the employer was asking me really specific questions about my friend, that didn’t really apply to how she and I worked together. (She and I had worked together, remotely, on a fandom-related newsletter.). Like, the guy asked me to tell him about a time when I noticed my friend properly observing workplace safety rules and regulations. I answered something like, “well, we worked together remotely out of our homes so I had no opportunity to judge that, but I know her to be good at following procedures so I have no reason to think this would be an issue.”

        I felt like an inarticulate ass at the time – but, that was my honest answer so maybe I’m overthinking this whole thing? I imagine that even legit supervisors might sometimes get hit with reference questions that simply do not apply to the employee they’re getting asked about?

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Finding references is an absolute nightmare when you freelance! You’d be doing them a kindness if you’re willing and you don’t need to be dishonest.

  80. LQ*

    Tips for working when what you are doing feels bad even when you are doing the right things. (Like finding problems in the org by doing the work and going, hey here’s a problem (problems here being like we can’t get vendors quickly, we don’t move people off projects when we should, we can’t trust other departments, we have people actively working against the goals explicitly stated) and knowing that we are working toward solutions but it will be slow and that there will be a little bit of a …holding our breath… to see if anything we try works, because it’s not going to work at once, it’s going to take time.)
    My boss is really happy with my work, he’s told me, he’s told others who have told me. But it’s just really hard and it feels like failure every time something we are doing falls down, I mean on the upside we’ve discovered that, that bridge won’t hold so we need to build a new one. And I’m doing it a lot on my own so I’m the only one getting bruised and banged up in the fall. But it still hurts and I’m limping the next day.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am not sure of a number of things here so am just going to answer on general terms.

      The first thing that popped into my head is that you may be in a field that is not meant for you.

      The second thing that popped into my head is that I have seen some of this at most jobs I have had. Companies just do not run that smoothly and it’s amazing they stay in business at all. Some days I have a very jaded attitude and I will say that I believe our systems are a mess everywhere.

      Your boss is very happy with your work. This is huge. But you are not happy with your work, this is also a bfd. It could be the nature of your job that you will continue finding problems for as long as you do this type of work. It could be that you never thought of your position as being a trouble shooter and here you are stuck in it.

      The last thing that jumped at me was that you were doing a lot on your own. I know that feeling and I know it can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. What can you do so you are less alone in your work? Can you partner up with a peer and check in with each other? Can you have periodic check-ins with the boss? Are there publications or websites that talk about what is going on in your industry?

      If nothing I have said so far resonates, then it might be time to look around and see what other opportunities are out there for you. Tricky part, sometimes in looking around at other workplaces it helps us to settle into our own place as we find deeper value in what we already have.

      1. LQ*

        Thank you, this is helpful. I do think it’s the right field (I do I do!) but I think that some of this is more checkins and yes, absolutely want to find places to check in with others to see where they are at and that’s something I’ve been looking for but I’m not sure I’m looking in the right ways. Thank you very much!

    2. samgarden*

      Bit of a late reply, sorry. But try to reframe it in your mind that it’s business, not personal. You’re helping the org.
      It’s like auditing! On the surface it looks like you’re just picking out problems, and as an auditor it can be quite stressful at times. But in the end you’re working on streamlining procedures, finding better ways to do things, etc.
      This was poorly-worded- I am in a rush. But try to take the long view, and trust your boss’ feedback :) best of luck

      1. LQ*

        This is really helpful! I hadn’t really thought of the work this way but you’re absolutely right that it is a kind of auditing. (And I love auditors!) I will try to make this shift. Thank you so much (I know you likely won’t come back and read it but I wanted to say thank you!!)

  81. Teacher switching careers*

    Are there any former teachers here who successfully transitioned to something other than teaching/coaching/school administration? I’ve been a high school math teacher for 11 years and am looking to do something not at a school.

    I think I’d like to work for another nonprofit, but honestly I’m still figuring out what else is out there! I’ve been calling friends of friends for informational interviews, and it’s been really helpful. I’ve learned about jobs dealing with data in charter management organizations and writing curriculum for ed tech companies. I’ve also learned about other jobs that sound interesting and fun but that I’m not at all qualified to do.

    I have three main questions for any former teachers out there:
    1) What did you do after teaching, and how did the skills you built as a teacher help you in your new job?
    2) I’m committed to finishing out the school year, so when should I start looking for jobs? Now? In a few months? My school year ends in late May.
    3) When should I tell my principals that I’m searching for jobs? I’ve been working at the same school for 8 years, so they will need to provide references for me at some point.

    Any advice is appreciated! Thank you so much.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      1. I worked as a database manager, even though I wasn’t officially qualified to do so. The school was a bit desperate to find someone, so it worked out well. No teaching skills directly helped with the job. I just had to learn things quickly.

      2. When I got my first non-school job, I interviewed in February or March for the job I eventually got. They actually put my candidacy aside initially, because I insisted I couldn’t start until the end of the school year (and they wanted someone immediately), but then they found out I was the best candidate, so they circled back later. I think as long as you’re clear that you can’t start until early June, you can search as early as you want. Just keep in mind that non-school jobs will typically want someone “soon” (anywhere between two weeks from now and four months from now, but usually somewhere in between).

      3. It depends on what kind of relationship you have with them. In the search I talked about above, I let my boss know back in November that I was job-searching. We were on really good terms. Even though my boss was sad I was leaving, I knew I could also count on a really solid reference. In fact, my boss said something to the effect of “Just get them on the phone with me, and you’ll have the job.”

      The one non-school job I got was at a for-profit that did work related to schools. Even though it was, in theory, education-related, the work was totally unlike working in a school. Honestly, I missed working in schools (which is why I went back… not to teaching but to working in schools). Corporate culture was not for me. Too many adults, not enough kids. Too much concern about the bottom line (yes, schools care about finances and income, but that isn’t the primary driver for most schools).

      1. Teacher switching careers*

        Thank you! It’s so helpful to hear your experiences. I am also not driven primarily by building profits, so that will probably affect where I apply.

    2. Borgette*

      I’m not a teacher, but I did work for a youth development non-profit. The organization worked with teens and had an in-school program and a summer program. They LOVED hiring teachers as facilitators/specialists, but were rarely able to at the pay they offered. Generally, the facilitators with teaching experience were new parents or semi-retired.

      1. Teacher switching careers*

        Interesting! Once I’m not teaching any more, I hope to have time to volunteer with kids and teenagers.

    3. KMB213*

      Disclaimer: I, myself, am not a former teacher, but I have two close friends who each transitioned from teaching to non-school jobs pretty easily.

      One works for a museum (The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum) in the education department – she loves it! These jobs can be kind of hard to come by and, of course, would be easier to find in areas like DC, NYC, etc. where there are more museums, but can be found at smaller museums throughout the country. For her particular job, teaching experience was a requirement. She develops and presents the curriculum for students who come in for the day on field trips and she absolutely loves it! I actually have several friends who are museum professionals, and, with the exception of the ones who work at art museums, they all work with some former teachers, even the ones who aren’t in the education departments of their respective museums.

      The other works in marketing for a textbook company. She loves it, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the direction you’re looking to go.

  82. Ann O'Nemity*

    Does anyone else feel like your company has gone overboard on accountability processes?

    A few years ago, leadership felt that various teams weren’t making enough progress on priorities and projects. So a bunch of accountability tools and processes were implemented across the organization. And when those didn’t help, we added more and tried new things. Lean, Kanban, Scrum, Agile, Traction, Scorecards, dashboards, KPIs, etc, etc, etc. At this point I feel like we’re spending a ridiculous amount of time on tracking and talking about tracking progress, so there’s even less time to actually work on projects. When year-end numbers are in, I’m worried that our leadership’s solution will be to implement new/more accountability processes. How in the hell do we get out of this cycle!?

  83. L*

    I have a rant oabout the ever-controversial subject of office gift-giving. Our department is headed up by a General Counsel who is clearly wealthy (and not very humble about it). Every Christmas, we get a department-wide email asking us each to contribute $10 to her gift, there are 28 of us in the department so that’s a $280 gift. They also collect for her birthday, and they collected this summer when she got sick. Usually they put the money toward a Spa day. It always sort of irked me but I always contributed not wanting to be controversial. This year, instead of getting her a spa day, they decided to get her a visa gift card so that she could “get what she wanted.” To me, this was the last straw, we all have to contribute to give a rich woman a bit of extra money? If we were actually buying her something thoughtful I’d at least understand the sentiment, but just giving the woman what basically amounts to cash? I find it super tacky, and while $10 isn’t a lot for me, we have support staff that lives pay check to paycheck and I really find it unfair. The worst part about it, I think, is that she always accepts the gift. If I were in her position, I would have put a stop to it after the first time, but at this point it’s becoming an expectation. Anyway, I didn’t contribute this time around, so hopefully I’ll still have a job come January. #rantover

  84. Adlib*

    Just here to say that my boss let me know he put in for a higher merit increase for me next month! It’s a little higher than the rest of the team that he manages, and I have no earthly idea why. This is also after a small bonus this past fall. I think he’s just scared of me leaving. (I’m a team of One basically.) I am taking on a project that really should be under another department tentatively so that could also be why. I was thinking of leaving this time last year, and he knew that, but this year has gone so well I’m much happier. (A work trip to Australia helps!)

    Got a Starbucks card & a mug candle at the white elephant exchange this morning! I also won $10 on the scratch off the branch manager gave us so I was the big winner there too. Have a great weekend, everyone! Off to see Star Wars this afternoon.

  85. Nonny*

    Do I have an obligation to tell my work I’m changing majors?

    Around 9 months ago, I was hired as a teapot counter for a small branch of a company, 15 or so office people. I had applied for a teapot organizer position, but the owner saw I was getting my degree in teapot counting and asked if I would interview for that instead, because they desperately needed one. I am the only person who has anything to do with teapot counting. My job is actually part teapot counter, part general office assistant. Anyone who knows the very basic of counting, not even teapots, would probably be fine in this position.

    Flashing forward to now, between my general dislike of my classes and my job, I have realized teapot counting is not for me, and I’ve worked with my school advisor to change my degree to teapot scematics.

    My current company does not use teapot scematics. I don’t see a potential position for someone who does full time teapot scematics, so I will eventually have to leave this company, a couple years down the road. I probably would have anyway, because there isn’t much growth for a teapot counter. In other branches, the teapot counter has historically been somewhat of a permanent fixture.

    Work isn’t paying for my school, and they certainly aren’t paying me as if I had my degree, but I was hired at least partially because I was working towards it, even if I don’t really need it for this job. Do I have to tell them that’s no longer the case? Can I just do it casually at some point? I’m sure someone will ask me how my classes are going eventually.

    1. Snark*

      If it comes up, I would, but unless they’re paying your way, it’s not really anybody’s need to know.

      1. Tara*

        ^ Just continue to say your classes are going well, it’s not their business unless they are paying for it specifically to help you advance in your job. (This is different, I think, from when you work at a University and get tuition remission as a benefit. That’s guaranteed to everyone and not tied to how it relates to your work.)

  86. Just Peachy*

    Any advice on how to stay motivated in a job that you know you’ll be leaving (within 6-12 months)? I’ve been at my current office job for just over two years. In that time, I’ve gotten three raises, a promotion, and have built great rapport with my peers and management. However, I’ve become more and more apathetic over time. I’m not sure my heart has ever truly been in the work I do, but it’s becoming more apparent every day that it’s time to move on. My husband finishes grad school in 5 months, and will be making about $100-150k right out of school (we are in a very low cost of living area). I plan to pursue substitute teaching and hopefully maintain more of a part time schedule as we plan to have children within the next couple of years. My husband completely supports this (we are financially stable, as we are Dave Ramsey junkies!)

    Anyway – back to my work. How do I stay engaged when my manager always talks about his future plans for me here, tells me how he loves how invested I am in our company, and talks about long term projects he has in mind for me in 2018 (when it’s very unlikely I’ll be here through all of 2018)? Despite my apathy, I’ve been very good at putting on a smile each day, and working hard. However, I feel like a switch has been flipped in me to the point where my apathy will soon become apparent to my peers and management. I want to keep working hard even though I have little interest in the work I do, but it’s difficult knowing that the time is finally nearing where my husband will start making an income, giving me the opportunity to explore another career?

    1. Tara*

      Frame it for yourself as “what can I learn/get better at during my remaining time here?” This will help you set personal goals that fit your timeline.

      But also, my sympathies, I know what it’s like to reach that apathy point. At least you have a plan, I just quit and moved across the country! :|

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Live your resume. Take on stuff now that you can use on your resume or in interviews later on. You are doing it for your career/resume, not your boss or your company. Reframe your motivation that will help.

        Future plans. Hey, we don’t know maybe you will meet some bizillionaire and run off to Bermuda to live out your days. Just because you know you are probably leaving does not change the fact that anyone can leave for any reason and at any time. What if your boss told you tomorrow he had given notice? You would say, “but-but-but you said you would help me!” And he would say he was sorry and tell you that sometimes offers come along and we have to take them. You can say the same.

        Oddly, you might benefit from using time away from work to plan out the particulars of your next career. This might help you stay more focused during work hours because you put time in elsewhere thinking about what you will do and how you will handle things.

    2. Marley*

      Figure out how much money you make a day, an hour–remind yourself what it’s worth to be there! All the way down to retirement benefits and the PTO you’ll get paid out at the end.

  87. cereal killer*

    I am a woman working in a male dominated profession. For many years I also worked in a VERY male dominated industry- the athletic industry. I ended up leaving a couple of years ago because I felt limited in my career because I was a woman. It was very obvious I (and the few other women I worked with) wasn’t given the same chances for advancement as the men. Which stinks because I loved the work I did there.

    Due to my experience, I am frequently contacted through LinkedIn by HR or hiring managers in this industry. I would love to work in the industry again, but from everything I know of my former employer and its competitors, this is deeply ingrained culture. I can’t help but be suspicious that they are just trying to fill some quota of hiring women by reaching out to me. But I truly miss the work I was doing in this industry and am thinking about going back.

    Aside from researching how many women are in high-level positions at a company or getting a vibe from obviously sexist interviewers, does anyone have any ways to screen for sexist environments? Any questions I should be asking at an interview to uncover biases?

    1. Student*

      How to screen for sexist environments:

      {sarcasm} Are all the people interviewing you currently-living human beings? If yes -> expect sexism. {/sarcasm}

      Okay, got it out of my system! More useful metrics:

      How many women are you interacting with in your day-to-day work? If it’s >25% (rough number), then you have a department where women are at “minimum critical mass” instead of quota-created anomalies. It becomes “normal” to interact with women at work at roughly this number (varies from 20% to 30% in articles I’ve read on it), so a decent portion of sexism gets dampened.

      That said, if all the women in the department are the most-junior or lowest-ranked employees, then beware. They have a problem and they are using gimmicks to keep from addressing it seriously. I do science – a science department with a decent number of female science staff is very different from a department with the exact same number of women when they’re all grad students, and that’s still different from when there’s the exact same number of women in the department but I’m the only woman scientist and all the other women are administrative assistants/HR department/janitors. A woman in the corner office is worth two in the admin pool, to re-purpose an old saying.

      In a job interview, somewhat like a first date, everyone is on their best behavior and trying to impress. You may not find out about sexism issues until you’re wading into them, unfortunately. That said, if you do run into sexism issues at the job interview, remember that this is when these guys are on their best behavior around you – things will only get worse, so run now if you see red flags. If you don’t find out about a sexism issue until you’re already on-board, then don’t blame yourself for not vetting for it better – just prepare to move on to somewhere that will value you, and don’t get too invested to a workplace too fast so that this is difficult for you.

      It sucks that there are no great vetting questions you can ask in an interview, but I just don’t think there are. Anything you say that comes close to smelling like “Are y’all sexist?” will get their hackles up, make them defensive, and soil a professional relationship that could’ve been fine otherwise. You have to go into it largely blind, with one hand ready to shake theirs, assuming they will act like reasonable human beings, to have a decent chance at them acting like reasonable human beings, because otherwise people lower themselves to your lowest expectations. Just keep a big knife in the other hand behind your back, ready to cut ties and run if they fail to meet the reasonable-human-being standards.

    2. Anon anon anon*

      Sexism manifests in different ways. I’ve noticed it in most workplaces, but it’s expressed differently. It might be helpful to think about whether you find all forms of it equally difficult to work with or if there’s some stuff that’s harder than other stuff. I say that because people seem to have different reactions to the different forms of it. Not that great example: the dude-bro culture where if you act like a guy and like guy stuff you might fit in VS the old fashioned gender roles culture where you’re rewarded for looking and acting feminine and you’ll get a hard time from people if you don’t.

      I don’t know how one would screen for that during an interview, but maybe ask about the culture? I’ll think about it and follow up if anything comes to mind.

      Side note: I’ve worked in both female dominated and male dominated fields and saw about the same amount of sexism in each. The male dominated fields had an issue with that yucky, “Women should know their place,” mentality. But in the female dominated field, women seemed to be enforcing something similar on each other? There was a lot of pressure to conform to gender stereotypes in order to be a team player, or so it seemed. So I think the issue might not be as much about how many women and how many men make up the team but about the people’s attitudes. Some people like old fashioned gender roles and other people are more inclined to treat people as individuals and see past all the demographic stuff. So maybe try to meet as many people there as possible and try to get a sense of how they treat others – if they’re shallow or if they look at the whole person.

  88. Myrin*

    So I had to meet up with a… reviewer? evaluator? (if anyone knows the right word for “Gutachter”, send ’em my way) for a scholarship I applied for on Thursday and it was basically a disaster. I know after this conversation that I can kiss any hopes of getting that scholarship goodbye but that’s weirdly not the thing that’s been floating in my head for the past few days.

    The guy was polite and friendly throughout but it was very clear that the picture he had in his head of my doctoral thesis was quite different from what it actually is which resulted in the weirdest questions from him and managed to shake me to a degree I haven’t ever experienced with regards to my academic accomplishments before. The whole thing was also meant to be like 45 minutes but I was in there for two hours, in the evening (when I’m a morning person), after I’d had an attack of what was probably noro virus only a couple of days before, and I was definitely not able to show him my best but seriously, the dude talked and talked and talked and sometimes he would ask questions he’d then answer himself so when he threw in the odd pause signalling that now he wanted my input, I was thrown every time because it was so hard to concentrate on listening to hime drone on and on. But even apart from that, he just kept asking questions like “Doing X will take such a long time, don’t you think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?” and my mind is just racing because I won’t be doing X? All that time you just allotted to X won’t be spent because it’s not going to happen?? What is going on??? And the whole conversation was like that.

    I was so frustrated driving home (three hours one way). My sister had accompanied me and basically had a breakdown on the drive home because I cried and Myrin Doesn’t Cry and she didn’t know how to deal with it. I spent the past two days feeling both annoyed and insecure (which is very unlike me; I don’t usually dwell on things) and I wrote to my doctoral advisor and hope we’ll be able to meet up next week so that he can give me Validation. I know that I actually needn’t worry about this – my grade and getting my Dr. phil. in the end depends entirely on my doctoral advisor (and, to a lesser degree, the second assessor) who is 100% in line with everything I’m doing. But somehow, this encounter made me fear that the rest of my field will feel the same way as that one guy about my work and then I’ll make a laughingstock out of myself and whatnot (I’m being very dramatic, I know). I mean, I don’t plan on staying in academia so even that isn’t something I actually need to care about but it’s not a pleasant thought. I also think it’s an unrealistic thought but I’ve been feeling quite anxious the past two days (it’s already become much better by now, thankfully). I’m looking forward to seeing my advisor – I’m predicting that he’s going to have a metaphorical aneuryism when I tell him about that conversation – to build me up but until then, I’m reading fanfiction and moping.

    1. Reba*

      I looked up Gutachter and got “appraiser” which makes it sound like you are a valuable antique!

      This person has no impact on your degree, correct? It was a chance at a scholarship but you’ll be moving forward regardless?

      It seems clear he had no idea what he was on about. Ugh, how awful and exhausting.

      1. Myrin*

        I feel like the most fitting translation would be “assessor” but I’d love to be a valuable antique also!

        No, he doesn’t have anything to do with my degree, thankfully, that’s all my advisor who is in the clear about everything I do in my thesis (in fact, many of the things this guy criticised were actually originally my advisor’s idea – fun times are ahead of me when I tell him about that!). This guy was the last of several factors towards a scholarship I applied for (“last” chronologically speaking, his assessment isn’t actually more important than any of the others) but I’m sure I won’t be getting it – not because of him but because of what he said the scholarship people want. They basically want an, as you’d say in my language, “egg-laying woolly milk pig”, so like a physicist who can also play elaborate violin solos every other evening and also won the Nobel Peace Prize. I actually had a reasonable inkling about that from the very beginning and I didn’t want to apply for it but my advisor encouraged me to toss my head in the ring anyway.

        Yeah, it was a really stressful experience. It’s hard to explain without getting super specific but in this field, the thing I do in my dissertation can be done in Y Way or in Z Way. I’m doing it in Z Way but he kept on talking like I’m doing it in Y Way which of course didn’t go together because they’re different methods. It was very frustrating.

      2. Anon anon anon*

        Maybe he’s really incompetent at his job and will approve you anyway. Maybe the conversation was just filler. It doesn’t sound like he was present, as the saying goes these days.

    2. CM*

      I’ve had interviews like this, where the person is assuming certain things and when you say those things are not true, they just ignore you. It’s bizarre and frustrating, especially when the person is in a position of power over you. Anyway, fanfiction and moping sounds like fun.

    3. Anon anon anon*